The Food and Wine Hedonist

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Why I hate Trader Joe’s – Episode 1

For those of you unfamiliar with Trader Joe’s, it’s a California-based chain of grocery stores in about 30 states that has a cult-like following.   They’re not like other grocery stores in that they have a limited amount of items and most are sold under their own brand name.

“Yesterday, on my way home, I stopped at Trader Joes in Ann Arbor.  If you have never been, get there.” – Kayla, Healthy in Heels

Conceptually, there’s a lot of things about TJ’s that I really should like.  They’ve made a commitment to environmentally friendly products by not selling any genetically modified food and non-sustainable seafood.  Also, the products that are sold under their brand name contain no preservatives or artificial anythings.

The best part about Trader Joe’s is you just feel like a good person for shopping there. You swagger outside the land-of-many-adjectives with your canvas bags full of free-range cage-free grade A brown eggs and grass-fed locally-grown organic lean turkey breast so fired up on your healthy finds it powers the rest of your day. – Beth, White Elephant in the Room 

So there’s a certain feel-good element about TJ’s that’s really undeniable. So…

Why, why, why don’t you like Trader Joe’s??? – Laurie, The Cha Cha Mama on my Facebook Page  

My reply:

One Word: Two Buck Chuck.

That’s about as good a place to start isn’t it?

“Two Buck Chuck” is a very popular wine that sells only at TJ’s for the low, low price of $2, hence the name.  (Note: Depending on state laws and taxes, the price may actually be a whopping $3.)  They produce Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and a couple other varietals.  For those of you interested in the appellation, the wines are labeled as “California,” which usually means that the juices can come from anywhere in the state – as opposed to from a specific area like Carneros or Napa Valley.  I can’t verify if that’s the case, because my chronic research laziness has settled in.  And, quite frankly, this a lot more discussion about a shitty wine than I want to give.

Any time I had hear anyone raving about the wine, they always say, “it’s not bad for only $2.”   I admit that’s true.  Back when I was in college, we used to drink a lot of wine in that price range.  These were fortified wines that went by the names of– Mad Dog 20/20, Thunderbird, Wild Irish Rose, and my personal favorite:

I’m going to have to unearth those pictures of I have of us chugging this through a beer bong. (thepintglass.wordpress.com)

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For special occasions, we went with:

winechef.wordpress.com

So yes, it is definitely not bad at that price range.  But does that make it good? I’m happy to urinate in your mouth for a dollar and it’s not going to taste that much different.

You’d think that a store that prides itself on its social conscience would not sell this, but they do.  And for that, I hate Trader Joes.

imposemagazine.com

 ***  By the way, the three lovely ladies I quoted above are AWESOME. Go check them out.  Like NOW!

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About thefoodandwinehedonist

I don't know everything about the world of food and wine, but I'm not going to let a small detail like that stop me from blogging about it.

33 comments on “Why I hate Trader Joe’s – Episode 1

  1. the drunken cyclist
    November 20, 2012

    I agree that $2 Chuck is nothing to write home about, but they do have other wines that are good! I would kill to have TJ’s selling wine here (PA is a control state). More choice is generally better than less…. So if you hate TJs because of Chuck, do you avoid all stores that sell crappy juice (along side other ‘good’ wine)?

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2012

      Was thinking about the control state thing this election season. For us as much handwringing there was over taxes and general overreaching of gov’t, no one ever mentions silly things like that where one elected official might have some ability to influence.

  2. chefconnie
    November 20, 2012

    Good point cyclist. Does that mean Whole Foods Sucks because they have the 3 wishses line of wine that is 3?

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2012

      Yes, it’s a great point. But there are a ton of other reasons why I hate TJs. To be fair, most of them have more to do with the people who shop there. But it’s easier (and safer) for me to say I hate a corporate entity than say I hate a whole class of people. Tho I’m thinking that TJ bears some responsibility in creating the environment. Stay tuned!

  3. Max D.
    November 20, 2012

    I almost stopped going to WF because of 3 Wishes! Not really. But it gave me the feeling we have when, after falling in love, we discover a really bad habit in the object of our desire, like not wiping after going to the bathroom.

    I know the subject of cheap, mediocre wine is full of complex nuances and perils, not the least of which are accusations of snobbery, but to me the problem with wines like Two Buck Chuck and 3 Wishes boils down (or ferments) to this: those wines do a disservice to small production wine makers, those who want to make good wine regardless of what’s trendy. They are also a disservice to the consumer, but now I don’t have the time or space to into a lengthy argument on taste, consumerism, and economics. (this means I’m not that smart)

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2012

      Yes, but what you lack in smarts you make up for in eloquence. I’ve purchased 3 Wishes, but only for cooking which is what I suspect most WF shoppers do. Because that’s where the REAL cooks shop…

  4. Yinzerella
    November 20, 2012

    Both Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods give me mini panic attacks because I don’t recognize any of the labels and don’t know where anything is.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2012

      Not being able to find anything is the subject of a future WIHTJ post. Don’t rush me!!

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2012

      Holy balls.. First was that breakdancing Schlitz Malt Liquor commercial. Now this! Where the hell do you find these clips?

  5. Whine And Cheers For Wine
    November 20, 2012

    Glad to hear I am not the only one when it comes to TJ. After hearing so much about it I was rather disappointed when I got to visit one in FL. I know and have shopped at their parent company’s ALDI stores in the past and unfortunately have yet to have a good experience with their private label wines. Yet I haven’t given up on them. WTF Why is that? 🙂 I also hate to admit that I am pretty sure I have a Whole Foods 3 Wishes in my cellar: good lord I am going to hell…..
    Thanks for the great post and BTW your “urinate in your mouth” comment almost had my breakfast cereal flying out of my nose LOL.
    Happy Holidays!

  6. thefoodandwinehedonist
    November 20, 2012

    Thanks, you too…. I usually buy 3 Wishes to cook with, so you can always use that excuse!

  7. clubtraderjoes
    November 20, 2012

    That is such a lame argument for not liking Trader Joe’s (BTW, not affiliated with them in any way). We all know that two buck Chuck sucks. That stuff is only good for cooking if even that. Social conscious meets making money that’s the problem here. There are other great values in wine there. Right now there is a Napa Valley Cabernet under the Trader Joe’s name for $12.99 that you can’t touch for double the money for a regular wine label.

    In the broad sense, either you “get” Trader Joe’s or you don’t. Those of us that really get it, like to shop there more than going to another national chain. I may run a blog around their products but I tell it like it is and they have many failures in their product line. You can read them at my blog.

    If you want to stir up a sh&tstorm, you are picking on the right target! Looking forward to seeing the rest of your reasons for hating Trader Joe’s!

    • michelleswordpressyay
      November 20, 2012

      I’m wondering, have you cooked with 2 buck chuck? (i haven’t)

      • thefoodandwinehedonist
        November 20, 2012

        No I haven’t. I try to avoid the place as much as possible and haven’t needed whenever I was there. I’m sure it’s ok. Even though its shitty Chardonnay (or whichever) at least it tastes like Chard. I know a lot of people refuse to cook with something they won’t drink – and they often use expensive wines. I’m not THAT picky. Would rather drink it.

      • clubtraderjoes
        November 20, 2012

        I have and quite a few times. That’s about all I do with it. The reasons that it’s good for cooking are the reasons it’s so crummy as a drinking wine. Typically you want young fruity and slightly sweet wines for cooking. More expensive wines tend to be tannic and dry and sometimes too dense in flavor to be effective in getting that wine flavors that you want in whatever you are cooking.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2012

      I’ll have to keep an eye out for that one…

  8. michelleswordpressyay
    November 20, 2012

    well said! raving about shitty wine just because you were able to buy it conveniently is a lot like buying keystone lite JUST because you happened to be at a gas station that sold it

  9. The Byronic Man
    November 20, 2012

    Trader Joe’s works the way so many chain stores do for me. I eventually forget, and think about all the things I could pick up there… then go and find nothing. And it’s never as inexpensive as their reputations suggest.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 20, 2012

      Yup, both points I have on my list…

      • The Byronic Man
        November 20, 2012

        Yes, sorry – I should have worded better that I’m agreeing, not commenting without reading. I’m a little sleep-deprived.

  10. the winegetter
    November 20, 2012

    I have to say I avoid Whole Foods like the plague because of its insane pricing and the people that shop there…

    I like Trader Joe’s, some of their frozen meals are better than anything I have yet to find. And the wine selection is not bad. Sure, you can find better wines, but for my everyday drinking wines, the $5.99 range is fine. I never had a two buck chuck and I don’t plan on…

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 21, 2012

      I’m a huge fan of he new Whole Foods because they have the beer and wine bar. There are some deals on wine on occasion…As for frozen food, the holy grail is at Costco!

      • the winegetter
        November 21, 2012

        Frozen foods and Costco: agreed. But the frozen Indian dishes at TJ’s are really good – and they don’t come in bulk. I just cannot get over the insanely high prices at Whole Foods. It is clearly not geared to anyone on a smaller budget.

        • Max D.
          November 24, 2012

          I had to go to TJs and do some research. I was there a little longer than I wanted to (about ten minutes). The sign in front read, “90 wines under $5). It was hard to argue with the sign since the wine section was crowded with people of all ages (and presumably all budgets). I’m not planning not making TJ my food and wine stop of choice, but even ten minutes was all I needed to be reassured: if I were in a desperate situation lacking sufficient funds or time, I could find something good to drink that I wouldn’t be ashamed to share. To wit, TJs carries Luois Jadot wines. Louis Jadot is a Burgundy negociant with a damn fine portfolio. Their white Burgundies and their Beaujolais are enjoyable and surprisingly complex. If it’s Spanish red I crave, I can get a decent Rioja from Marqués de Cáceres. Oddly, things seemed dicy with American wines. I found Cline Zinfandel, but I’ve never been impressed by their zins. Clos Du Bois and Martini seemed the safest bets, but even those I would drink with little enjoyment. But I would drink them, eventually.

          All of those are in the $12-$15 range, maybe less. But here’s the thing, right across the street from TJ is Wenk’s, a drugstore with a very quirky wine selection and an even quirkier wine guy. If you haven’t been there, it’s a definite stop.

  11. foxress
    November 26, 2012

    I don’t like TJ either. Most of the wines I’ve bought from them (and I’ve given them plenty of chances) have been anywhere from mediocre to poured down the drain. Their cheese department is equally disappointing. I think they’re great at marketing and completely miss on delivery.

    • thefoodandwinehedonist
      November 26, 2012

      Thanks for commenting! I recently had a Gorgonzola that was so-so, but that was my first cheese purchase there. I have a more than a few other reasons for future posts, so say tuned!

    • clubtraderjoes
      November 26, 2012

      That’s crazy! What wines are you talking about? Trader Joe’s branded wines? Like I mentioned there is a $12.99 Napa Valley Cab Grand Reserve that should be priced at double that. (Full disclosure, I’ve been working in the wine industry for 14 years). There are plenty of good to great wines at Trader Joe’s you just need to know where to look. Many of their Grand Reserve wines are from top producers in California at a great discount. I agree that 2 buck chuck sucks.

      Same for the cheese. For what they are (a national grocery store chain) they have a great cheese selection and at decent prices.

      If you would have said their vegetables suck, I could agree with that.

  12. foxress
    November 26, 2012

    Love the Night Train Express label ‘serve very cold.’ That is hilarious!

  13. WhiteElephantInTheRoom
    November 28, 2012

    My early twenties wouldn’t have been the same without MD 20/20. Classic. I recently attended a wine tasting party at a friend’s where we blindly rated 8 reds in order of preference. 80% of the group had two buck chuck as #1 or #2. The other 20% thought we were idiots. Can’t wait for part 2!

  14. Pingback: Why I Hate Trader Joe’s – Episode 2 « The Food and Wine Hedonist

  15. Anonymous
    August 12, 2015

    my feeling is:
    you got to write badly about this wine simply because you’re making a living write/blog about wine. there’re absolutely no other choices.

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This entry was posted on November 20, 2012 by in Ann Arbor, Drinking and tagged , , , , , , .
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