Slipping out of a wine conference in Winston-Salem, I hit a favorite Stratford Road haunt: Trader Joe’s.
I could spend hours in its wine aisle, pondering off-road options. T.J.’s rock-bottom prices invite low-risk, high-reward, so I routinely build a wine case from the odd and obscure.
Like the 2015 Barbadillo Blanco ($6), crafted from 100 percent Palomino grape.
Palomino is often employed in Spain to make sherry. It’s a workhorse grape that when crafted into a still white requires a healthy addition of acidity. And boy howdy, is this a flinty, citrusy and gum-tingling. Great with shellfish.
I choose two other Spanish whites — the 2015 Lagranja Verdejo/Virura blend ($5) and the 2015 Valdecuevas Verdejo ($6). I’ve been on a Verdejo kick of late.
Both displayed more moderate acidity with hints of pineapple and tangerine.
I picked up four bottles of the 2015 Pontificus ($7), a French blend of Viognier, Roussanne and Marsanne. I had purchased a bottle at the Chapel Hill Trader Joe’s a few months back and after uncorking it, I kicked myself that I hadn’t bought more. This easy-drinking Rhone white — from the Pays D’Oc region of France — shows a complexity that fetches twice the price for similar French blends.
In North Carolina, a number of Italian-styled wineries are producing Vermentino — another dry white that sometimes hints hazel nut and grapefruit — and those wines range $22-$24. So I jumped all over the 2015 VINTJS Vermentino ($8) and was not disappointed when I got home. It was crafted in Lodi, Calif., of all places. I’ll buy more on a return visit if it’s in stock.
For the off-dry, fruit-forward style, I plucked the 2015 Trader Joe’s Petit Reserve Muscat Canelli ($8). Not to be confused with Muscadine, the Muscat family of grapes is among the world’s oldest.
Sanders Ridge Winery in Booneville makes one of North Carolina’s few Muscat Canelli wines and it sells out quickly at $28. This T.J. version competes well at a fraction of the price.
On any visit, I get at least one bottle of the 2015 Honey Moon Viognier ($6). At this price, I don’t bring huge expectations, but the Californian white competes well against French versions at three times the price.
Two other regular picks? From Italy, the 2014 Roso del Olmo Barbera D’ Asti ($7), a light-bodied spicy red with racy acidity, and the 2014 Epicuro Salice Salentino ($6), a medium-bodied red suggesting blackberry and plum. It’s a blend of Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera.
As a lark, I went hunting a really cheap pink. So I picked the 2015 Vinas Chilenas Rosario Rose — a Chilean blush likely crafted from Grenache. It ran all of $4 and I don’t mind saying it drank more like a $5 bottle.
All told, a Baker’s Dozen of international fare returned change from $100. I’ve enjoyed a tasty return on investment.