When one thinks of products synonymous with their merchants, Trader Joe's Two Buck Chuck is right up there with Big Macs and Slurpees. Unfortunately, value aside, Chuck is not a consistent companion. He suffers from . . . "mood swings." One day, Chuck is as enjoyable as he can be, an easygoing bargain; then, sadly, on your next visit he can be downright awful. So much so that you'll be suffering from a near migraine 15 minutes into your first glass.
For all its notoriety, Chuck is not the most sought-after of TJ's wines, says Claire of Trader Joe's Ballard. Their most popular price point is around the $7.99 range. Lovely Claire helped me assemble some best sellers and staff picks in this range to be sampled by a collective of not-so-discerning winos. After some labor-intensive research and a wicked hangover, here are the results:
Rabbit Ridge Rhone Style Red: $5.99
Medium-bodied and rich with raspberry, blackberry, black currant, and pepper, Rabbit Ridge had the most overly present tannins of the wines sampled. It is a sweet-ish sipper, and would pair nicely with a croissant or other buttery pastry.
Cocobon California Red Blend: $6.99
Cherry and mocha are the dominant notes in this tasty blend. Our testers ranked it "the best of the reds" for its mellow smoothness. This a great option to enjoy on its own, as its flavors speak for themselves.
Velvet Moon Cabernet Sauvignon: $5.99
This wine proved to be as "juicy and ripe" as it was billed. A nice addition to your table with red meat or poultry, and a bargain at $5.99.
Linen Chardonnay: $7.49
The overall winner in our taste test, Linen boast hints of pear, golden apple, and honey. This Washington wine begs to be paired with a delicious cheese plate on a summer day. It would also nicely suit a fish course or serve as a wonderful spritzer base.
Amusant Bubbly Pink Moscato: $5.99
This is what you imagine champagne tastes when you're 14 years old. Over-the-top with sweetness and pinker than pink, it's like someone liquefied Hello Kitty and bottled her. Pink Moscato's suggested pairing is chocolate, and I'd recommend a semi-dark one to balance this effervescent sugar bomb.