When I host a wine tasting, I advise my guests that they can know a lot about a wine by determining where it is from. A little knowledge about the growing areas of California is helpful in selecting a bottle to purchase. For example, some AVA's produce great Merlot and Cabernet but not great Pinot Noir. Generally, the smaller the AVA is defined, the better and more expensive the wine.
The Trader Joe's Grand Reserve St Helena Merlot ($12.99) seemed to have a lot going for it. Not only was it a Merlot from Napa County, it was from the St. Helena sub-appellation.
If you like soft, smooth, easy drinking merlot with not much complexity, this wine is for you. For me, it was a dissappointment. It is a medium berry flavored wine with a small finish. After a glass, I could not remember much flavor to describe. There are better choices available. See my review of the Kirkland Signature Series Oakville Merlot.
SC Wine Joe rating = 86