The Elusive Gypsy: searching high and low for a filthy $5 bottle

By Jesse on June 28, 2009

Late last year, several members of the Young Winos of LA fell in love with a lady in a red kerchief.  A wine called “Gypsy” threw us into a tizzy for a period of a few weeks, a wine that offered flavors and complexity unheard of at its price point.  Finally, here was a true value wine, a remarkably underpriced cuvée, a sophisticated daily drinker for the slightly-impoverished crowd.  Just when we were ready to enter into some kind of vinous monogamy, however, she was gone — and, by all appearances, was never to return.

The Gypsy is a wine to buy by the case, but good luck finding one.

It was the $4.99 price tag as much as anything else that first led me to randomly grab the 2005 Chariot “Gypsy” Red Wine (California) off the shelf at Trader Joe’s last October, and it wasn’t any special occasion that prompted me to open it; Max and I were editing a video one night, and a cheap bottle of red seemed an appropriate sidearm.  First impressions weren’t tremendous, either… juicy, extracted, a bit hot, about what you’d expect from an anonymous California rouge.  A short while later, however, at some point in our second glass, we stopped mid-batch capture and did a double-take.  “Whoa,” came the mutual realization.  “This wine suddenly got really good.”  For five dollars, the wine was insanely good.  Too delicious to cost that little.  We should’ve known it would never last…

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  1. So I grabbed myself a case on Thursday at the Trader Joe’s in Burbank (on Alameda). They had a good quantity of it — at least five more cases, it seemed.

    Unfortunately, it was out in a big in-store display, so now you’ve got to contend not only with the true devotees, but also with the casual shoppers who buy anything that has a big sign above it.

    If anyone stops by the Burbank store, let us know how things are looking.

    Comment by Jesse — June 28, 2009 @ 2:52 am

  2. I just picked up 3 bottles at the Encino store (White Oak and Burbank). The store seems to have a good supply. I did see a few people loading up their carts while I was there. So I don’t know how long their supply will last.

    Comment by Jeffrey — July 4, 2009 @ 9:37 am

  3. That is so funny! I was just at a pool party over the weekend where someone brought it. She said she got it at Trader Joe’s for 4.99 so I didn’t expect much (I’m not a Trader Joe’s wine fan in general). But she told me a bit about the “Gypsy craze” so I tried it and really liked it! Lot’s of dark Cherry. I’ve been trying to invest in real estate this year but maybe I’ll just seek out some of this wine instead!

    Comment by Jennifer — July 7, 2009 @ 12:17 pm

  4. HUGE stack of The Chariot at Trader Joe’s in Templeton…going fast.

    Comment by Mitch — July 8, 2009 @ 10:35 am

  5. My experience with the ’05 was a classic tale of loss and redemption. After a game-night word to the wise from Jesse, I was lucky enough to procure two cases of the ’05 elixir from a patchwork of TJ’s from the Valley to Santa Monica. The euphoria was short lived, however, when I unwittingly cooked both cases by leaving them under an open window exposed to the California sun, albeit for only a short time. Luckily a few bottles had already been moved to a safe place, so all was not lost, but out of 24 bottles I had maybe 4 left. After calling every TJ’s in L.A. and eventually speaking to an inventory manager at a TJ’s warehouse, I was resigned to my 4 bottles.
    A few days later a call came in. We had ourselves a Broken Arrow; Jesse had spotted a rouge case in Sherman Oaks, and the race was on. Calls to the TJ’s wine counter were fruitless, and a trip up the 405 seemed the only option. Arriving at 9:05, 5 minutes after close, I thought the mission was lost; Not so. In a Navy Seal-like move, I slipped though the dormant sliding glass doors, past the security guard, and immediately blended into the patrons finishing up their evening shopping. The wine aisle came up empty, strike one, the stock room was barren, strike two. The wine counter was now my only hope. As I approached, the ceiling tiles parted and a thousand coruscating shafts of fluorescent light lit up a box of the floor with the name Gene scrolled on one side. Gene had apparently put a case on hold but failed to pick it up the previous day, and I was now the lucky beneficiary of Gene’s busy schedule. My apologies Gene, this stuff is delicious.

    Comment by Noah — July 9, 2009 @ 1:25 pm

  6. It’s Fall 2013 and the Boston Red Sox have just won the World Series (for the 3rd time in 9 years), and Trader Joe’s has AGAIN stocked the wondrous [and CHEAP !] Chariot ‘Gypsy’ CA Red Wine . . . go get some while you can – it’s STILL offered @ $4.99 per bottle and is still as delightful as you can remember from previous vintages.

    Comment by John G. — November 2, 2013 @ 11:08 pm

  7. I have been drinking Gypsy for several years now and stumbled upon it like so many others. I was on my way to a dinner party and looking for a good bottle of wine when my gaze fell upon the lovely Gypsy in the Red Scarf. Then I saw the price and said, “Well this is certainly worth a try!” Ever since then it is my wine of choice and it wins the ‘favorite’ vote at every dinner party we attend. It was quite a shock when I discovered it is ‘seasonal’ (as I was told at TJ’s), and I have yet to discover exactly what season they are talking about because it appears at different TJ’s in what seems to be at random times. Because of this I have begun hoarding it a bit and hanging on to the last bottle I have for a very special personal occasion between my husband and myself. If any person understands exactly ‘when’ is the season for Gypsy , please post it here so we can all benefit. Also, another note, I chanced upon another TJ’s wine called Pontificis (also a Red Table Wine – this cheeky nod to Châteauneuf-du-Pape is perfect. Made from the signature Côtes du Rhône GSM blend – Grenache, Syrah & Mourvèdre). And is only $5.99 per bottle and I have to say I liked it as well as Gyspy, BUT, I only purchased one bottle for a dinner party and when I went back to get more, it was sold out and I was told it was…guess what…SEASONAL! So now…during the ‘season’, whenever that my be, look for Gypsy and Pontificis…you won’t be disappointed.

    Comment by Debra L. — February 7, 2014 @ 3:03 pm

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