I violated my cardinal rule of Trader Joes--never buy anything from a big appellation. Of course, there was a reason for this, which is mainly that Bordeaux from 2001 (by all accounts, not the best vintage) for
$12.99 $14.99(I think? I wasn't paying attention...it was less than 15$) looked interesting to me. They also have a 2003 Saint Emilion, which I'm betting that I will not be into, because 2003 was a hot vintage. Additionally (and this generally goes against my wine-buying philosophy because really all those contests are basically bullshit), it had the little sticker for winning some French competition. A rose from Provence that I really liked had the same sticker, and I haven't seen it too many times in the US. Now that I've gotten that out of the way for once, I was actually impressed with a bigger name appellation wine purchased at TJ's. Fronsac is sort of the back woods of Bordeaux--it used to be a big deal, before most of the vineyards got wiped out by phyloxerra, but now it's sort of the red-headed step child. Reading about Fronsac in "The Oxford Companion to Wine," I found out that Christian Mouiex and Michel Rolland both have estates in Fronsac. This is probably because it's Bordeaux, and I would imagine that the cheaper parts of Bordeaux represent good value.
Chateau de la Riviere is the largest estate in Fronsac, growing mainly merlot, with some cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc. Interestingly, the Wine Doctor really liked this wine, giving it a fairly high rating of 16.5+. Strange to see the Wine Doctor and Trader Joes mixing, I think? Perhaps it's just me? 12.5% alcohol. Anyways, this wine has a curranty, tart, black fruited nose, with hints of cedar and earth as well. If there was tannin in this wine, it's completely melted away, leaving lots of acidity and a smooth mouth feel. Surprisingly fresh for a wine that is 8-9 years old. In 04, the Wine Docter said that this "needs 3-4 years." I don't think that's the case now. This may even be on a the downhill side of the hill? Still, this is a good deal in my book, although it should be noted that if you're into really bombastic wines, you might not particularly care for this given its' relatively light frame. I have rarely spent
12$ 15$ at Trader Joes and come away non disappointed. B