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.

Clinton shoots videos for Stark Insider. San Francisco Bay Area arts, Ingmar Bergman and French New Wave, and chasing the perfect home espresso shot 25 seconds at a time (and failing). Peloton: ClintTheMint. Camera: Video Gear