The shopping carts encircled a huge display of cabernet as the store employee described the bottle: “It’s Charles Shaw cabernet, we call it Two Buck Chuck and it’s really good.” So reports my wine snob spy in Kansas City, Missouri where a second Trader Joe has just opened in the last couple weeks. Wish I could have been there. The demo station served tapenade and many of the shoppers were unaccustomed to the taste, “Is it spicy?” they asked, needing reassurance. When they found out it was more salty, they did top their crackers and nod in approval.
I don’t drink Two Buck Chuck. I’m more interested in Twenty Buck Chuck, which is the threshold of what I’ll blow on a bottle without knowing a thing about it. Right now my favorite low-priced Trader Joe red is Picket Fence pinot noir ($9). That’s the one you want when buying a case for a big party and need something quaffable. Sure it’s thin compared to MacPhail, Merry Edwards or other big boy names in pinot but it fills the bill and anything left you can use for cooking or making sangria. Comment here with your Trader finds.—Anne Valdespino