The Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay, our next top pick and why Trader Joe's is NOT the best place to buy it.
98% Chardonnay and 2% Gewurtztraminer from Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California. 90% of the wine is barrel fermented in a combination of 60% new and 40% second use French and American oak barrels. 10% is steel fermented. 100% of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation. The wine is then aged sur lie for 10 months in the same French and American oak barrels.
The Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay is available at Trader Joe's for $16.99, Costco for $11.99 and many other stores for around $14.99. Sample submitted for review.
From the bottle:
For five generations, our family has been dedicated to the art of winemaking and to the philosophy that the quality of a wine originates in the vineyard. Our single vineyard Chardonnay is sourced exclusively from our family's Riva Ranch Vineyard in Arroyo Seco, Monterey, and has a perfect balance of tropical fruit and acidity with creamy notes of butter, vanilla and subtle oak from barrel aging.
Recognized as California's "First Family of Chardonnay", our family was the first in California to produce a varietally labeled Chardonnay made from the Wente clone. Today, many of the great Chardonnay vineyards in California are planted with the Wente clone, which originated from our family's estate.
Like we saw with Monday's wine, not all Trader Joe's wines are exclusive. The majority of wines on their shelves are private label brands that cannot be purchased anywhere else, but they also carry quite a few mass market wines. We include these mass market brands in this series for those of you who do most, if not all, of your wine shopping at TJ's.
The reason Trader Joe's focuses on exclusive wines is simple and just like every other industry — private label sales have higher margins. Trader Joe's thrives on this model throughout their store, not just in wine. It’s estimated that over 80% of the product they carry is private label. This, by the way, is totally unlike Costco which dominates by selling large quantities of mass market brands at extremely low margins (as well as a few of their own private label Kirkland Signature products).
The reason these private label products can still be a good deal (despite the high margins) is simply that Trader Joe’s is able to cut out any middlemen and demand super low prices directly from suppliers. On top of that there’s also almost no marketing cost (a substantial part of what you’re paying for in many products) since Trader Joe’s does virtually no advertising.
Widely available products, like the Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay, can be hit and miss at Trader Joe’s in terms of pricing. While they are often priced at least somewhat competitively they are rarely at the low end of the market as Trader Joe's is careful not to steal sales from their higher margin private label wines. Such is the case with today’s wine which can be found at Costco for a whopping $5 (30%) less.
The 2014 Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay begins with a pleasant aroma of green apple, pear, a little lemon custard, a few floral notes and some spice. Tasting shows a very flavorful wine with rich fruit, a great dense and smooth mouthfeel and good balance. The primary flavors are green apple, tropical fruit, peach and lemon all tinged with vanilla and spice notes. Some nice touches of oak and butter take over mid-palate and lead the way into the long finish featuring more of the same tastiness.
As always you can find an updated list of all our recommended wines from Trader Joe's as well as more tips and tricks for shopping the store here.