Every Trader Joe's Reserve Wine, Ranked Worst To Best

According to the Inside Trader Joe's podcast, the store sells over 40 million bottles of wine a year. Its wine department is likely most well known for its infamous Charles Shaw bulk wine brand, which is coined "Two Buck Chuck." However, Trader Joe's offerings also include a more expansive selection than these relatively uncomplicated Charles Shaw options. 

The specialty retailer also offers many private-label reserve wines sold in tiers. The Petite Reserve wines are $7.99; Reserves are available for $9.99; Grand Reserve offerings are $12.99. Occasionally, the company will offer Platinum Reserve selections for $14.99 and Diamond Reserve for $19.99. These wines are usually available in limited amounts.

TJ's buys the wines in bulk from national and international producers. The inventory is constantly rotating based on availability. Little is often known about the provenance of the vineyards or specific details on the wine's production, as Trader Joe's usually does not provide technical tasting notes. Still, just because these wines come from the bulk market does not mean they lack quality. Consistently, the Trader Joe's Reserve wines are quaffable, affordable, and over-deliver for their price point. We taste-tested a sampling of the company's Reserve selections and ranked them from worst to best.

9. Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County

We had high hopes for the Petit Reserve Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon. Unfortunately, they were crushed when we tried the wine. With 15% alcohol, the burn of the wine's potency became apparent with the first sniff, giving off reductive, oaky notes of toasted wood, vanilla, and spice. These aromas did soften after allowing the wine to open and breathe for 30 minutes. However, we find it interesting that though there were aromas and flavors of oak, there was little complexity or structure to the wine, which is one of the main reasons wine ages in oak barrels. Instead, it was broad and flabby, tasting unlike a typical Sonoma County cabernet.

Buried Hope Winery vinted and bottled the wine in Kenwood, California. If you are decoding the wine label, you may think the vinted term indicates Buried Hope has something to do with the wine's viticulture or production. However, it refers to finished bulk wine arriving at the noted facility where it was aged or received some treatment before bottling, like filtering or pasteurizing. 

The wine's 2018 vintage was the oldest we tried, as the remaining wines were from the 2020s. TJ's quickly sells through its limited edition reserve wines. As this wine has been available for a few years, we are led to believe this wasn't a big hit with other customers either.

8. Trader Joe's Reserve Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County Lot # 241

Santa Barbara County has a diverse range of wine options, including fresh, cool-climate pinot noir and chardonnay to robust, high-alcohol Rhone and Bordeaux-style reds. TJ's Reserve Lot No. 241 Pinot Noir is a spicy, peppery, fruit-forward example of the variety from the region. 

Central Coast bulk wine producer Bozzano produces and bottles the wine. On the label, Bozzano does not mention the exact location of where it is sourcing the fruit for Reserve Lot No. 241. We suspect it could be from all over the county by the style of this wine. It has an excessive fruit-forward character with a higher alcohol than we expect with pinot noir. Typical ABV is around 12.5-14%, and this wine has 14.7%. 

The wine's taste and style indicate that another variety has likely been added to the blend, presumably syrah. As American Viticultural Area regulations state that only 75% of the noted type is required for any given wine, this offering could contain up to 25% of something different, altering the taste and character. The wine is oak-aged, with distinct vanilla and toasted spice notes mingling with layers of crushed cherries and blackberries. 

We did not find the wine to be flawed or poorly made. And, considering it sells for less than $10, it is entirely satisfactory. However, it needs the typical nuanced refinement and elegant characteristics we expect from pinot noir coming from Santa Barbara, placing it low on our rankings.

7. Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Shiraz Barossa

Syrah and shiraz are the same variety. However, they do not produce identical wines. Syrah clones are grown worldwide, creating wines with earthy, mineral-rich, and savory characteristics, like expressions from the Rhone Valley or Washington State. 

On the other hand, shiraz is almost exclusively grown in Southern Australia's sunny regions, like Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale. When grown in swelteringly hot places, the grape will take on extracted, fruit-forward flavors with high alcohol and robust character. Thankfully, Barossa's evening temperatures drop dramatically, ensuring the full-flavored grapes growing in the region also have freshness, bringing balance. 

With 14.9% ABV, TJ's Petit Reserve Barossa Shiraz is plush and well-rounded with fruit-forward layers of dried blueberry, blackberry liqueur, toasted tobacco, and cracked pepper. The full-bodied wine is big and powerful. Still, the tannins are not harsh or astringent. Instead, the wine has a smooth texture, a trademark of Barossa shiraz. We recommend enjoying the wine with food, helping balance the alcohol. Try it with an old-fashioned beef stew or pot roast.

6. Trader Joe's Grower's Reserve Chardonnay

Trader Joe's Grower's Reserve wines are produced from certified organic grapes by California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF). The organization notes that wines that include the CCOF seal on the bottle use 100% organic grapes, following the rules established by the USDA NOP. Incorporating the seal right below the distributor/handler information assures the consumer that the production follows these guidelines. 

TJ's Grower's Reserve California Chardonnay is a medium-bodied white wine with 12.5% ABV. It has a fragrant, floral open, with apple blossom, citrus, and vanilla, leading to juicy melon, golden peach, and apple flavors that intermingle with hazelnut and vanilla cream. There is a slight hint of oakiness to the wine. However, it is manageable, thanks to the fruit's natural freshness. The finish is soft and manageable. 

The wine is not the most thought-provoking or elegant chardonnay wine we have tried. Still, it is better than we expected, given the $5.99 price and the use of organic fruit. Enjoy this wine with a cheese board filled with whipped brie and aged gouda, or create the ultimate grilled cheese sandwich and wine pairing.

5. Trader Joe's Reserve Syrah Wahluke Slope Lot # 237

From Washington State's Wahluke Slope region within Columbia Valley, TJ's Reserve Syrah Lot No. 237 is an inky, aromatic wine. It opens with layers of wild blackberry, raspberry, and cherry, leading into layers of warm spice, woody herbs, and a meaty, savory finish reminiscent of bacon fat. 

The lot number indicates the producer, and every wine that Trader Joe's purchases from this producer — whether syrah, merlot, or any varietal — will include this lot number. Since the grocer does not include specific details on the production, it is a way for consumers to track the producers they like, assisting with future purchases. These lot numbers are usually only on the higher-end reserve wines. In this case, DNA Vineyards vinted and bottled the wine in Ukiah, California. 

Wahluke Slope is one of Washington's driest and hottest regions. Grapes struggle to find water and nutrients. Vines must dig deep into the earth, producing concentrated, structured wines. The wines also have freshness thanks to a dramatic diurnal temperature shift from hot days to cool nights, locking in acidity and ensuring the wines have balance. 

It isn't aggressive or tannic. Instead, the moderate palate is approachable upon opening. A touch of merlot is added to the blend to help soften the edges and mellow the wine's richness. The alcohol is a moderate 13.9%, which is surprising for a wine from such a warm climate where the fruit can become overripe with high sugars, leading to high alcohol.

4. Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley Lot # 116

Sonoma, California's Dry Creek Valley, is one of the country's finest growing regions for zinfandel. European immigrants settled in Dry Creek Valley as they saw grape-growing similarities between the area's terroir and their homeland. A French immigrant planted zin in the region in the 1870s. By 1880, 900 acres of vines were growing. Today, it has some of California's oldest-producing zin vines, with plantings dating back to this time.

Zinfandel's grape bunches inherently are challenging to ripen. As the clusters ripen unevenly, some grapes must be left on the vine well past the complete ripening stage while waiting for others to reach the optimal phenolics. The resulting fruit creates juicy, jammy, fruit-forward wines with high alcohol.

TJ's offering has brawny boldness, fruit-forward intensity, and an edge of complexity. The flavors are rich and fruit-laden with dried plums, wild blackberry, cherry cordial, and toasted baking spice. The American oak aging adds to this spiciness, bringing in a layer of toasted vanilla and coconut. It has a potent 15% alcohol, meaning you want to drink this wine with food, ideally barbecued brisket or fatty, grilled ribeyes.

3. Trader Joe's Petit Reserve Rosé Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence

In 2022, the southern region of Provence, France, produced 157 million bottles of rosé wine. We're hoping several thousand of those were for Trader Joe's Petite Reserve Rosé from the Coteaux d'Aix-en-Provence sub-region, as the wine is delicious. Though the label does not list the grape varieties, we expect the wine to include a blend of the typical varieties grown in the sub-region, including syrah, grenache, cinsault, and a mix of other Rhone varieties. According to French regulations, the wine must include a minimum of 20% grenache.

Unlike many of Trader Joe's wines with non-descript closures, this rosé's cork includes the notation "Mis en Bouteille A La Propriete," meaning the winery's estate made the wine from its vineyards. The wine's back label includes the haute valeur environnementale seal (high environmental value), a farming certification noting the achievement of environmentally friendly farming techniques. A minimum of 95% of the finished product's raw materials must follow these practices to carry the logo. 

The wine's color is an intriguing pale salmon pink. Its aromas include red apple, lemon blossom, and honey, leading to cherries, apples, ripe melon, and guava flavors. There is a nice weight and texture to the wine, making this an excellent choice for pairing with a broad mix of Mediterranean recipes or fresh sushi and sashimi. With the juicy, refreshing taste, provenance, 12.5% alcohol, and $8 price tag, this is one of Trader Joe's best wines.

2. Trader Joe's Grand Reserve Pinot Noir Carneros Lot # 104

One of the best wines from Trader Joe's must be the Grand Reserve Pinot Noir Lot No. 104 from Carneros. Pinot noir is a challenging grape to grow. Very thin, fragile skin makes it susceptible to disease due to the grapes growing in tight clusters. It ripens late in the season, prolonging the chance that problems can arise throughout its growth. Care must go to the vines to keep them healthy throughout the season.

Luckily, California's Carneros region offers assistance naturally. The San Pablo Bay influences the area, blowing constant breezes through Carneros's rolling hillsides. These winds keep grapes free of mold and mildew. An evening layer of fog also settles on the vineyard through mid-morning, providing chilly nighttime temperatures that lock in freshness.

The wine opens with wild strawberry and cherry aromas, with fresh rose and toasted oak. These aromas lead to pomegranate, red berry, and toasted caramel flavors. The surprisingly soft wine has well-integrated tannin and bright acidity, making it a perfect food wine. It is not the most complex wine, but it is an above-average offering considering the $12.99 price. Enjoy it with a classic pairing of crispy roast duck or salmon. Or stock up now to serve with this year's Thanksgiving dinner.

1. Trader Joe's Diamond Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville

When TJ's releases a Diamond Reserve wine, you expect it will be something special. The chain typically releases a Diamond Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon or Bordeaux blend around December to pair perfectly with your holiday meal. The price is the first indication as it is the store's most expensive private label offering at $20. It is also usually from a prestigious growing region. In 2020, the store released a well-regarded Paulliac Bordeaux. In 2021, it offered a robust Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon, and in 2022, the selection came from Napa Valley's Oakville sub-region. 

The wines are young, often released shortly after the previous year's vintage,so they lack the secondary flavors of aged wines with tertiary notes of dried fruits, woody herbs, and earthy tobacco. If these characteristics are what you long for in a well-aged Bordeaux of classic Napa Valley cabernet, Trader Joe's may not be for you. However, the grocer successfully provides a solid offering in the Diamond Reserve wines priced well below the average for Napa Valley cabernet today. 

You'll be pleased if you can still secure a bottle as the Trader Joe's Diamond Reserve Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon shines. After allowing the wine some time in a decanter to breathe and open, layers of toasted spice and tobacco mingle with red and black fruits, cedar, and vanilla. Though youthful, the wine's character with chewy tannin and zesty acidity leads us to believe it is delicious now and has aging potential.