You can get this for 10$ at Trader Joes; naturally, I was inclined to purchase it on the off chance that it was good. It is, after all, Chateauneuf-du-Pape at prices last seen before I began to drink wine. According to my older and wiser neighbor, "those were the days." You could get Vieux Telegraphe for 25$ a bottle, or something like that; something more pedestrian was inevitably cheaper. This was also before the days of the super luxury cuvee, all tarted up with oak, slutty, and giving a come hither gesture to our munificent friend and benefactor Bob. (I kid, I kid!) This was when CdP was a reliably good source of good wines--and not just some region for neophyte wine drinkers with lots of money to focus on that crass and ultimately status conscious system that we call points.
The CdP that Trader Joes carried last year for 20$ and ultimately discounted to 9.99$? A miserable failure, if there's ever been one in Trader Joes wine program. This wine is better, but not by much. I've had two bottles of it, because the first bottle was consumed a little bit to hastily and carelessly. What I've noticed is that there must be some bottle variation. The first bottle I had mimicked the plush, structureless mess of wine that was the CdP that TJ's carried last year. (Near as I can tell, these are different wines?) The second bottle featured persistent tannins. Not being an expert on CdP by any means, I'm not sure if this is because the wine is so young or not. This wine is certainly an early release--it's only been around a year since the grapes were harvested--not what you normally see with CdP as far as I'm aware. Anyways, this wine drinks like a not very interesting Cotes du Rhone. Muted on the nose, but with some indistinct black fruit (blueberry, plum, and cherry), dried strawberry, and some mint. Persistent and drying tannins in one bottle; Coke-ish Kool-Aid with flabby, chocolate tones in the other bottle. Almost non-existent finish. If you happen to get one of the more tannic wines will it improve with some time in bottle? Perhaps. Based on my experience, it's only a 50/50 chance you're going to get one of those more structured bottles. Is it worth the risk? Probably not. You'd be better off just going and buying a reliably good CdP in the 30$ range. Or, you could buy three interesting Cotes du Rhone (lots of vintages available--05, 06, 07, or if you're like me and like more acid, 08; 09 should be coming out soon) for around the same price, or a couple bottles of one of the other appellations that are basically Villages Cotes du Rhone like Vacqueyras. If you want to get something at Trader Joes, you might as well go and get the Perrin Cotes du Rhone for $6.99. Not only is it cheaper, but it's a better wine. The problem with the appellation system is that you only have to own land in the appellation or buy grapes from the appellation and follow the rules. It doesn't mean that the wine will be good. Better than last years cluster-fuck, but still not all that great. D+/C-