Napa River Merlot 2005, origin a mystery, but poor quality no secret

    The bottle itself offers no more clues aside from the obvious "Cellared & Bottled by Napa River Winery, Napa, CA".

    I know about Napa River. I can find it on a map. People know it exists; it weaves its way through the famous wine regions of Northern California.

    The same cannot be said of this Trader Joe’s exclusive wine from Napa River Winery — a wine with a name, but apparently of secretive origin. I tried in vane to locate information on it, but could find none.  Google produced fleeting information and no link to a winery called Napa River Winery. The bottle itself offers no more clues aside from the obvious “Cellared & Bottled by Napa River Winery, Napa, CA”.

    Evidently this is another of those private labeled wines that TJ’s offers from time to time from large, known wineries looking to dump excess inventory without tarnishing their brand. At least that’s my suspicion. I’m sure someone out there knows the real story.

    So, about this 2005 Merlot then, from the elusive Napa River Winery.

    • Napa River Merlot, Napa Valley 2005
    • Rating
    • 78
    • Clint says:
    • “Pass. I’ve tasted worse at this price point, but there are better choices.”
    • The Wine
    • Merlot 12.5% alc. $4.99
    • The Winery
    • “Napa River Winery”, Napa, CA (apparently)
    • Category
    • Wine reviews

    Well first of all, at $4.99, it definitely falls into the discount bin category.

    Those who have read previous wine articles and review on this Blog will know that I know no price bounds when it comes to exploring the joys of wine. Searching high or low. A good wine is not always aware of its pedigree or price!

    With this in mind, Loni and I loaded up a case of all matter of TJ wines on our last visit to the store in San Jose, with the plan to mix in every day wine reviews with some of our more treasured Napa, Sonoma and Livermore experiences from wineries such as Peju, Artesa, Ehlers, Turnbull, Etude, Caymus, and so many more favorites.

    The flavor itself is unbalanced, with a mix of unpleasant tannins, with occasional hints of blackberry trying to break through. I also found it slightly sour.

    To be sure I’ve tasted far worse in this price range.

    In a pinch you could probably pair it with a heavy BBQ dish and do alright, but I definitely would not drink it on its own.

    After opening, I left it in the cellar for a day or two to see if any characteristics would change. Unfortunately, but not surprising, the answer is no. Bottom line on this one is pass.

    There are many better choices, and if you spend a few more dollars at TJ’s you’re rewarded with much better results.

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    • jason

      There is a very good reason you can't find any information about this one. Just check this <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronco_Wine_Company&quot; target="_blank">Wikipedia</a> entry to see why…

    • jason

      There is a very good reason you can’t find any information about this one. Just check this Wikipedia entry to see why…

      • Clinton Stark

        Jason, thanks! I knew the truth was out there. That’s very helpful. I suspected it may be related to our good friend, two buck chuck. Not to mention a bunch others.

        Basically, almost every wine under $5 at Trader Joe’s comes from Bronco Wine Company.

        Quite a checkered past with their legal and event recent labor problems mentioned in the Wikipedia article.

    • jason

      There is a very good reason you can’t find any information about this one. Just check this Wikipedia entry to see why…

      • Clinton Stark

        Jason, thanks! I knew the truth was out there. That’s very helpful. I suspected it may be related to our good friend, two buck chuck. Not to mention a bunch others.

        Basically, almost every wine under $5 at Trader Joe’s comes from Bronco Wine Company.

        Quite a checkered past with their legal and event recent labor problems mentioned in the Wikipedia article.

    • Clinton Stark

      Jason, thanks! I knew the truth was out there. That's very helpful. I suspected it may be related to our good friend, two buck chuck. Not to mention a bunch others. <br />
      <br />
      Basically, almost every wine under $5 at Trader Joe's comes from Bronco Wine Company.<br />
      <br />
      Quite a checkered past with their legal and event recent labor problems mentioned in the Wikipedia article.

    • The Gourmez

      You might want to give the 2007 vintage a shot. I definitely didn’t get any sourness from it, but at the same time, it’s not a standout wine. Just a good choice for easy sipping. I quoted your review over on my blog today.

      • Phkane

        I thought the 2007 Merlot was great would love to find some more  of  it

    • The Gourmez

      You might want to give the 2007 vintage a shot. I definitely didn’t get any sourness from it, but at the same time, it’s not a standout wine. Just a good choice for easy sipping. I quoted your review over on my blog today.

    • Liptonius

      It is 2013. August.

      I opened a bottle of the very Merlot featured in the picture above. It’s a 2005.

      Cellared properly, but not neurotically, the cork was excellent and firm, with a good, strong scent of black fruits without being cloying.

      In the glass: Pleasant and rich with fruit, mild, yet comfortably dry with a bare touch of tannins and oak This is a bottle that I will pleasantly remember.

      I suppose it is stock-in-trade and ‘fashionable’ to sneer at “bargain bin” wines, I don’t know. I am not so ‘hip’ as to make a living from foisting opinion.

      I found this review peremptory, mean-spirited, and shortsighted. Unnecessarily unkind even.

      But then, I have a natural distaste for people who imagine that they are equipped to tell me what I should like.

      I regret not buying a case.

      • If it came across mean spirited, that’s not the intent. We review films, theater, wines here on SI, and I must admit I cringe when I think of the concept of “reviewing”. It’s as if I’m standing there with my arms crossed, shaking my head, judging something. I guess that’s exactly what I’m doing. There’s times that doing that makes me feel like a complete Boob. I’d much rather be part of the creative process, and contribute. Nevertheless it was my opinion at the time, about five years ago. I buy wine all the time from TJ’s and Costco. Some of it cheap, some of it mid-range. And I never judge a wine by its price or its distributor or its label (well, okay, I do really like the style of the Ehlers Estate 1886 bottles!). Over the years I’ve come to focus solely on wines that I believe are good. Someone once said people don’t make “un-shopping” lists and I think there’s a lot of truth to that.