Trader Joe's has some very inexpensive wines, but most of the best values are in the Trader Joe's Grand Reserve line--wines costing $12 to $16 but from excellent New World appellations. Elsewhere, I rarely see a Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir for less than $20, so I considered this a real bargain at $12.99. And it met my expectations.
At this stage, the wine is very oaky, of course, and difficult to judge. But even this oaky quality can be very attractive for many wine drinkers. The wood tannins are not at all mouth puckering, although they may hide the qualities that will eventually make this wine either sensational or ordinary.
Deep ruby. Brilliant and beautiful. Scents of cherries and flowers, but flavors are better than aromas at this stage. It's the peppery, spicey finish that is most attractive to me. Given the Santa Lucia appellation, I am confident this wine will emerge as a winner after four or five more years in the bottle.