Friday, May 10, 2013

Grocery Outlet Wine Bargains

Robaire showing off one his wine picks at Grocery Outlet in Berkeley

I've been buying wine at Grocery Outlet for a long time and I've always been curious about Robaire, the manager in the store who picks the wine. At Grocery Outlet you won't find a lot of "shelf talkers" or ratings and descriptions of the wines, but sometimes you will see "Robaire recommends" at the Berkeley store or a sheet with details on the wine that Robaire has printed out.

When Robaire took over the wine department at the store he was a cognac and scotch drinker. He told me he thought a lot wine was "just hideous." But he started reading about it and tasting and over the course of about six months, he became something of a wine lover. Today he recommends wines he thinks his customers will enjoy and not just the ones he prefers. Likewise Andy, the wine buyer at Grocery Outlet says he never buys for his palate.

The wines at Grocery Outlet all have stories. Not just the story of how they came to be, but also, how they came to end up at Grocery Outlet. Grocery Outlet choses wine based on value. According to the Andy, up to 40% are purchased below cost. How can they do that? I'd say it's because the wine business is very complicated and risky. The slightest little changes can mean a producer ends up with wine they cannot sell. Here are just some of the reasons why:

Uh oh...

Please, don't let your children design your wine label
The label was really awful. The bottle changed.  Stores or restaurants want to carry only a newer vintage. It's a brand created for a restaurant. Ownership of the winery changed. A newer vintage got high ratings or reviews. There is no space to store it.

The thrill is finding something really special, that is just too good for the price.

Right now Grocery Outlet has a sale on wine, and everything is additional 20% off through May 12, 2013.  So I talked to both Andy and Robaire to get some of their top picks:

Pope Valley Merlot
2008 Napa Valley
This wine has the scent of red fruit with spice and violets, it's earthy and has velvety tannins. It generally sells for over twice the price.

Wild Oak by St Francis Winery Syrah
Sonoma 2007
The Syrah is a Rhone style, with blueberry and black fruit and a hint of violet, it typically sells for $30 or more.

Swanson Instant Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
2009 Rutherford
Swanson is very well respected for their Merlot, and you'd be hard pressed to find a Napa Cab of this quality, this reasonably priced. It's a blend of Cab, Merlot and Petit Verdot, and it includes fruit from Rutherford, near the Mayacamas range in Yountville, Oakville and Oak Knoll.  

Three Rivers Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 Washington
From Walla Walla Washington, this sells for over twice the price, and got 89 points from Wine Spectator it's a big "chewy" Cab with cherry, vanilla, blackberry and earthier notes of tobacco.

Wilson Daniels Chardonnay
2010 California
Known mostly as a negociant, they also bottle some wines under their own label. It sells for about $14
and is from Paso Robles, it's lemony, with melon and tangerine.

Monsanto Chianti Classico Riserva magnum
2008 Italy
A favorite among chianti lovers and (Wine Spectator), this needs decanting but would be great for a party. Check out this review.

Michel Schlumberger Merlot 
California 2011
I haven't tried this wine yet, and plan on holding on to it for a bit. This winery is known for particularly elegant wines and
Schlumberger Merlot generally sells for $35 a bottle.

Disclaimer: My thanks to Grocery Outlet for providing me with a gift card so I could buy some wines, they did not pay for me to write this or any other post. I've been a fan of Grocery Outlet for a long, long time and was paid to create some recipes for them in the Fall of 2012.