Buying wine at Trader Joe's is similar to what it was like buying wine in the late 1970s and early 1980s. With no Wine Advocate, no Wine Spectator and no points as a guide, you have to be cautious as you try and taste inexpensive wines. But there are still some good values.
Like many of the low-priced European wines at Trader Joe's, this Valreas comes from a grower's cooperative, Les Vignerons de L'Enclave des Papes. These coops are dependent on the surplus grapes they get from growers in the area so there's no assurance that the wine will be the same year after year, as is the case with estate-bottled wine. At the same time, I have found that they are usually better than wine from the biggest negociants such as B&G. Generally speaking, I would expect cooperative wines to be better in top vintages, and this Valreas Cuvee Prestige was certainly very good in 2001 and 2004. 2005 is an equally good vintage for Southern Rhones, maybe even a little better than 2004, according to some sources. But this wine, while pretty good, is still not measuring up to what I tasted from the 2001 and 2004 bottlings.
The color is a medium to light crimson. It smells ripe--raspberries, candied cherries and only a slight hint of pepper and herbs. It's also very ripe on the palate--almost too ripe for my taste and without the depth of the previous bottlings. I have two or three more bottles but plan to wait a few months before trying it again so see if it puts on some more weight. For $5.99 a bottle, though, it's certainly a pleasant drink and much better than anything you could get from a California jug wine.