The Wine Idiot Reviews: Trader Joe's Reserve Brut Sparkling Wine ($9.99)
Guys, I got really sick of wine over Thanksgiving. I think I did like four reviews that week. But I realized that I would be remiss in my duties if I didn't take one for the team and try some of the bubbly you can get at Trader Joe's as we get closer to Christmas and New Year's. 'Tis the season, after all.
Champagne (or sparkling wine, as the French would prefer I say) is one of those things you splurge on. I get that. But it's also a remarkably festive wine to serve for any holiday shindig--and even at Christmas dinner. Maybe you're hosting or attending an Orphans' Christmas dinner, where having fun is more the order of the evening (rather than impressing your in-laws with your wine selection prowess).
So before any of you get started on me--if you want GOOD affordable sparkling wine/champagne/what-the-hell-ever, go to a wine store like K&L Wine Merchants. They've got great selection, good prices, and a VERY knowledgeable staff.
If, however, you have stopped at Trader Joe's because you really should grab SOMETHING...I'm here to help. I'm starting with Trader Joe's Reserve Brut North Coast Sparkling Wine--at $9.99, it's not the cheapest sparkling wine they offer, but it seemed to me to be the most likely to be one of those really good wines hiding in a Trader Joe's bottle.
I wouldn't say this blew my mind. BUT...I've had worse at this price point. When I popped the cork, even my broken nose smelled peaches. The first sip was fruity for sure, but not too sweet. Honestly, it had a little bit of a sour aftertaste--in fact, the finish was so odd that I wrote, "probably wouldn't buy for toasting." Which means if I was just drinking a glass of sparkling wine, it wouldn't be this one.
However, I made myself some tasty treats to go along with this wine. I tried to suggest flavors from either dinner, or a Christmas party. So I made roasted brussels sprouts with parmesan cheese (a reasonable Christmas dinner side-dish), AND gruyere/emmentaler fondue with seeded baguette (not gonna lie, my parties always have great food).
DUDE IT'S GREAT WITH FOOD. The sweetness was a great balance to the savory-ness of the brussels sprouts, and the sparkly-ness cut through the thickness of the fondue. FANTASTIQUE! It's also not super-carbonated, so I didn't get really burpy. With the addition of food, this bottle went from "meh" to "YEAH."
What the bottle says: "A blend of 50% Chardonnay, 43% Pinot Noir, and 7% Pinot Meunier from the cool North Coast of California."
What the Wine Idiot says: Have never heard of Pinot Meunier so now I feel super-fancy.
ABV: 12.5%, a good level for Christmas parties where you want to have fun but don't want to regret anything you said.
Who's responsible for this? "Produced and bottled by Rack and Riddle, Healdsburg, CA"
Do I need a corkscrew? You need to be able to get a champagne cork out without killing anyone PROTIP: LEAVE THE CAGE ON! THAT'S WHAT IT'S FOR! Loosen it, but don't remove it as you thumb the cork out--the cage will prevent it from flying.
What do smarter people say about it? I can't find ANY reviews for this specific version of this wine (with the Pinot Meunier), but apparently they've been selling something similar for years, so here's a review from 2011: "Made by Rack and Riddle, the only custom Sparkling wine producer in California. This Bubbly is made in the Methode Champagne style, the second fermentation takes place in each individual bottle and not in huge vats, which is the same way they make bubbly in Champagne, France. ... It tastes of very tart apple, non-sweet pear, buttered bread and Sierra Mist. There is a touch of creaminess to the mid palate along with unsweetened pineapple juice. A tart, crisp Bubbly with a little touch of yeasty bread and creamy texture. The acidity helps the finish linger on and on and on."
Should I bring it to a friend's house? If you're not trying to impress anyone. I think for $5-10 more, you could bring a regular crowd-pleaser like Chandon or something. This would be something great to serve at a casual Christmas party--something where there are several options for drinking, but you want to be sure to have something festive. And definitely make sure you serve it with food.