How I Find Fantastic Red Cabs From Napa, Sonoma & Chile As Cheap As $3.49
The past several months, I’ve become somewhat of an expert at finding inexpensive – but very good – wines at Trader Joe’s.
It started when I was in walked into the TJs in Monterey CA. I was staying on my friend’s boat and had a few PubClub.com articles to write from my day’s activities in that lovely town and wanted an inexpensive wine to go along with the pizza I was getting, as I was dining aboard that night.
I was hoping to find something from the Monterey area, but I ditched that plan when I saw several bottles on empty barrels touting wines at incredible prices. I settled on a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (pretty much all my TJ finds are Cabs as that’s my favorite wine at the moment) from Napa called Geyser Peak. It was $4,99 and I figured it had to be pretty good since it was from Napa.
Well let me tell you it was sensational. I went back the next day and bought four bottles. I shared it with my good friends Evie and Gary and Evie commented “this is fantastic, and normally I don’t even like Cabs!”
When I got back to L.A., I bought several bottles for several weeks. Until one day the racks were empty, which happens with these spectacular wine specials at TJ’s. The store gets incredible deals from wineries looking to unload wines for whatever reason, and as was the case of with Geyser Peak, buys the entire batch and offers them to customers at incredible values.
Disappointed as I was over the loss of Geyser Peak (I initially found it on the winery’s website for $40 a bottle tho I just re-checked and saw it for $15.) I found a great replacement, Barrel Axe, a blend of California reds from Wine World Estates in Sonoma. I knew a blend of reds from California is always a safe buy and as it runs out I was right again. This is an awesome wine, just a tick below the excellence of Geyser Peak
Barrel Axe was selling for $3,99 a bottle and I bought it up until it disappeared from the shelves (which took about a month). I shared it with friends and one asked me how much it cost because he thought it was a high-end wine and he knew I’m more of a bargain-hunter drinker.
“You won’t believe it,” I said. “Guess how much.” He guessed lowball at $30.
“Nope,” I said proudly, almost as if I had bottled it myself, “3.99.” He could hardly believe it.
At this point, I began to search for $3,99 wines. There are not many of them and you have to walk slowly down the wine aisles to find them, but they are there and worth this small extra effort.
Currently, my “go-to” inexpensive wine is Panilonco 2018 Reserve, the “Chief of Lions” from Colchagua Valley in Chile. It’s $3.99 a bottle and is very close to the excellence of Barrel Axe.
I also like to pick up Vinas Chilenas Reserva Winemaker’s Selection (vintage 2018) from Rosario Estatealso, also in Chile. It’s slightly lighter and a bit “watery” but it’s also a solid wine. I drink this when I have a busy day ahead of me and don’t want something lighter to drink.
One day I walked into the Manhattan Beach store set on buying Panilonco when right in front of me was a display of reds – a Cab and a red blend from California – for $2.99.
As I learned from my previous experiences, when TJ’s puts wines on display at great prices you had better grab them when they are available. These wins turned out to be like the Vinas Chilenas, lighter than the full-bodied Panilonco, but at the same price as Two Buck Chuck and much better. I took full advantage of them. While they lasted. Which was not long for in this case; they were gone within a few days.
My advice is this: If you see wines on sale on display in the aisles, grab a bottle (or two) because chances are it will be very good to excellent, and it will be gone soon. Also, cruise the aisles to hunt for bargains; you may well find one that becomes your “go-to” wine.