food finds: wines @ tj's

Trader Joe’s is definitely the place to go to try out new wines since their bottles are so reasonably priced and they always have a great selection on hand! They’re also the exclusive distributor of Charles Shaw brand of “extreme value” wines, which include Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and White Zinfandel. Since these wines sell for a mere $1.99 at TJ’s across California, they’ve been dubbed the ‘Two Buck Chuck’. Quite suitable, don’t you think? They’re great if you’re really on a budget, cause you won’t find a better quality wine for that price! At $1.99 a bottle, they’re even cheaper than the nasty cooking wines you find at regular grocery stores, so if you’re in need of a cheap cooking wine, seek out the ‘Two Buck Chuck’ stuff ;)

Beyond the “extreme value” stuff, there really is a fine selection of wines, all of which are reasonably priced. I found a decent bottle of Le Grotte Lambrusco Reggiano at Trader Joe’s for only $4.99, and it’s the perfect wine for making sangria! It’s a pleasantly sparkling, soft, red wine that I actually enjoy more when chilled. It’s one of those rare thirst-quenching wines that become absolutely addicting when you add in some fruit ;) The perfect drink for a summertime barbecue!

Lately, I’ve been more interested in reds, and at the top of my list is Castle Rock’s Pinot Noir, which I first had at a friends’ dinner party. The wine paired beautifully alongside the spring lamb and mushroom risotto. And when I found out they got it from Trader Joe’s for only $9.99, I stopped by there a few days later and picked up a 2008 bottle for myself =P This wine is so versatile as a table wine, you can pair it with a variety of meat dishes, from grilled steak and burgers to roasted pork chops and of course, spring lamb =)

It seems like nobody can beat TJ’s prices on wines (unless there’s a super sale), and the same holds true for their stock of hard liquor and beer, including a hard pear cider that’s a must-have with fish & chips. Even Costco can’t beat their price and quality! (I’ve purchased wine and Champagne from Costco before and every time was a disappointment… the exact same wines and Champagne I’ve enjoyed elsewhere. Perhaps it’s due to their bulk transportation or poor handling practices? In any case, I’ve learned to spend my money elsewhere.) Grand Marnier is a great addition for chocolate lava cakes, Amaretto for tiramisu, Cognac for flambéed shrimp, and vodka for penne with vodka sauce… no doubt, hard liquor has its rightful place in the kitchen and there’s no better place for me to stock up than my neighborhood Trader Joe’s ;)

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