Bottles and glasses of Sanborn and Buena Vista Chardonnays from Traders Joe's

Two Great Under $10 Chards from TJs – and a warning…

Fast facts:

  • 2018 Sanborn Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills, California ($7.99 @Trader Joe’s,  California)
  • 2018  Buena Vista Chardonnay, Los Carneros, California ($9.99 @Trader Joe’s,  California) 

Stop the presses…

In the most recent posts, we have been swapping high fives about how darn good the market for fine wines in California is right now due to Covid.  But that is changing quickly.  Here’s why…

All those big wildfires in Northern California have come earlier than usual. In typical years, if and when they arrive it is after most of the harvest in done.  Not this year.  Which means the risk for grapes being affected by “smoke taint” is a big deal right now.  So much so that it is not a question of whether some of the Napa/Sonoma crop will be worthless, but how much of it will be.  Even if it can be treated to mitigate smoke taint, the process adds cost and that means that the 2020 vintage is going to be tighter, and more expensive.

Almost remember those college economics classes that rhapsodized about “supply and demand?”

In anticipation of shortages, prices on the grape and bulk wine markets have already moved sharply higher.  Which means that in short order, these higher prices will show up on store shelves.  I haven’t seen it yet at retail, but I expect that we will over the next month or two.

Until then, we can revel in the market that was and is.  You know, The Power of Now.  And now Trader Joe’s has these two incredible Chardonnay values from the 2018 vintage.

We often talk about the importance of looking for the right grapes from the right places. These two wines are a really good example. Santa Rita Hills and Los Carneros are most definitely “the right place” for Chardonnay grapes.  (And Pinot Noir grapes for that matter.) While finding Carneros Chardonay for under $10 in recent years hasn’t been that unheard of, finding one from the Santa Rita Hills region most certainly has been. To see one this good for $7.99 is just nuts…

Good Chardonnay usually comes from grapes grown in a cooler climate. In its vastness, California has a number of regions where Chardonnay can flourish, including the Santa Rita Hills AVA. Situated in Santa Barbara County, this area is close to the coast (west of the 101) where ocean breezes carry fog inland. Guided by hills that run east to west, the fog helps create a microclimate ideal for Chardonnay. The proof that this works is in wines like this Sanborn Chardonnay.

Front label of Sanborn 2018 Chardonnay from Trader Joe's
Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay – for under $10?!  Not for long.


Tasting Notes:

Made from 100% Chardonnay grapes, Sanborn is blond colored with a soft, full-bodied character. It emits aromas of roasted almond, lemon curd and baked pears. On the palate, the stone-fruit base presents hints of guava and lime with well-integrated vanilla. And like a good California Chard, this one has perfectly poised acidity, as experienced through a citrus-peel finish that leaves the drinker with a real sense of balance. It’s a great partner for a Mediterranean style pasta salad, white fish dishes or grilled vegetable kabobs.


I have a special place in my wine-soaked heart for the Buena Vista Winery.   I am a Massachusetts native, and on my very first visit to Sonoma (and California for that matter) it was the first winery I visited. It was love at first sight.  I dare say (since I was not working in the wine business at the time – this was the mid- 80s) it changed my life.

So I was pleasantly surprised to find one of their wines on my Trader Joe’s store shelf recently.  I held my breath hoping it would not let me down once uncorked. It did not dissapoint.

Front label of Buena Vista Winery 2018 Carneros Chardonnay from Trader Joe's
Classic Carneros Chardonnay at a killer price – for now.


Tasting Notes:

Tropical aromas spring from the glass with a note of lemon custard pie. Mango and pineapple flavors are layered with baked peaches and creamy vanilla that spreads across the palate. This Chardonnay has crisp acidity, and rich notes of apple, pear and pineapple introducing a lingering finish.

Before there were vineyards in every valley north of San Francisco, before Napa and Sonoma were household names, before there was a California wine world at all, there was Buena Vista. Founded in 1857, Buena Vista is California’s first premium winery, and its history is as colorful as it is proud. Today, the legend is being re-born under the vision of Jean-Charles Boisset, along with Winemaker Brian Maloney in the cellar.

Buena Vista Winery has a rich, delicious heritage as the first premium, and certainly the most colorful, of all of the wineries in California. Founded in 1857 by Agoston Haraszthy, – the self-proclaimed “Count” – Buena Vista Winery is California’s first premium winery. The Count’s passion for innovation and excellence not only led to California’s first premium winery, but also to the development of the California wine world as we know it today. The Count saw the grand vision for producing fine wine in Sonoma, and Buena Vista was his vinicultural laboratory. He created the first gravity flow winery in California, excavated the first wine caves. and brought over 300 different varieties from Europe to California.

Known for elegant wines that combine power and finesse, Carneros is set in the rolling hills that straddle the southernmost parts of both Sonoma and Napa counties. The cooling winds from the abutting San Pablo Bay, combined with lots of midday California sunshine, create an ideal environment for producing wines with a perfect balance of crisp acidity and well-ripened fruit.

The envelope puh-leez!

So you’re probably wondering if we are going to recommend a “winner” between these two wines.  The answer is no.  They are both winners.  (Remember, we don’t review losers, we pour them down the sink!)  Which one you like best will depend upon the style of Chardonnay you prefer.  The Sanford is restrained, more Burgundian in style.  If you like your Chards more buttery, you will likely prefer the Buena Vista.

If you’re prepared to put a $20 note at risk, I would suggest you try them both. And if you find these wines at your local TJ’s, and put them to the test, let us know what you think by leaving us a note in the comments section or on our Facebook page. And if you have a wine tip, by all means let us know about that too!

If you’re  shopping finds you at Trader Joe’s, keep an eye out for our Lucky 13 list of TJ’s wine.

If you’re headed to Costco soon, you can find our most recent reviews of Costco wines here in our Lucky 13 list.

Happy hunting!


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