Wine Talk

Snooth User: jamessulis

New Wine Mega Stores

Posted by jamessulis, Oct 5, 2013.

2013 brought new mega wine/beer/cigar stores to the Portland, Or./Vancouver Wa. area. We went from going from little wine shops with limited selections to 2 stores with over 2500 different wines each.

This is nice because you can plan ahead, check your wine rack or cellar and go on line to pick your selections. Once you've determined what you want by checking reviews and pricing on their websites and backup checking here on Snooth, make a list and go wine shopping.  Both stores categorize wine by country then in alphabetical order on the shelves, it's really easy. Now I can broaden my selections to countries that were not previously and abundantly available to me. The stores that are within a few miles of me are Bev Mo and Wine & More. My wine rack is bulging with new and great selections. I wonder where other Snoothers get their great wine selections?


Reply by EMark, Oct 5, 2013.

I buy wine where I find it.

I am familiar with both BevMo and Total Wine & More.  Personally, I buy a lot of wine at Total Wine.  They have pretty good prices and purchase of 6 or more 750ml bottles (and these can be mixed) gives a 10% discount.  Occasionally, I get a coupon that yields additional discounts.  I like their variety and the fact, like you noted, they have examples from countries that are, even though they should not be, more difficult to find.  More than once I have come out of Total wines with 3 or 4 cases of wines. 

I also shop at various specialty stores.  At these I can find labels that are not found at the BevMo/Total WInes concepts.  Naturally, these wines come with a higher tariff, but, generally, the reward is commensurate with the investment.  A case, or so, is the most that I will usually buy at a time at these.

I love Costco.  Their wine selection, at least in the store that I regularly visit, is not terribly extensive, but the Price/Value ratio is outstanding.  I rarely come out of Costco without 7-8 bottles.  Yes, I know that I am falling into the Costco "treasure hunt" marketing scheme.  

Trader Joe's is usually good for impulse purchases.

For some reason or other, I have never been tempted to order wine on-line.  I guess that's the old fart in me.  The fact of the matter is that I don't buy very much of anything on-line.  (The last thing that I remember is a battery for a cell phone.)  Mrs. EMark does buy clothes and books on-line, but that's about it for this household.

Living in California, it is fairly easy and fun to visit wineries, and, when I do, I buy--generally, 4-8 bottles, but I have bought a case on occasion.  Lately, I find that I am joining wine clubs more than previously.  Part of this has been economic and part has been curiosity.  Prices at the wineries are not cheap at all.  When you join their club, you usually get a 15-20% discount.  So, that's the economic part.  The curiosity part is an attempt to verify my tasting room experience.  In my case, the small taste that they give you can be misleading.  A wine I liked in the T/R, is sometimes not that great at home.  Happily, the opposite is also sometimes the case.  A wine that was not impressive in the T/R is outstanding with a meal.  So, by joining the club I get additional samples to research.  If after a couple shipments, if I decide that I don't care for the offerings of a particular winery, I'll cancel my membership.  That has worked well for me.  So, in the next 4-5 weeks I'm expecting shipments from four wineries whose clubs I joined when I visited them.  My longest membership is now about 6 or 7 years old.

Lately, at the encouragement of various Snoothers, I have signed up for the mailing list of various wineries.  In the next couple months I am expecting the arrival of some very exciting wines.

Wines are sold in supermarkets here in California, and I do pick up everyday drinkers in those. 

Reply by jamessulis, Oct 5, 2013.

@ EMARK, Your shopping habits mirror mine.  Wine and spirits are sold at supermarkets here in Washington. The addition of hard alcohol was voted in this year so I find this a convenient place to pick up some of my favorite wines on a regular basis. I too find Costco a nice place to pickup that unusual stray that I am curious about. I did belong to a mail order wine fulfillment club but most of the wines I received were not to my liking and most of them with untraceable origins. I'm not interested in online wines as I enjoy holding the bottle and perusing the label's descriptions. Washington also has some fine Wineries for Cabs to visit along with Oregon for some great Chardonnays. I recently returned from a trip to the Napa Valley where I stopped at Folie a deux, Robert Mondavi, Andretti vineyards and  Franciscan cellars. This was a great trip and I will remember it well as I sent quite a few bottles back home to rest in my wine rack.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Oct 6, 2013.

In the Bay Area and in the greater LA area, the choices are pretty huge, but that doesn't mean everything is easily available--more on that below. 

BevMo is headquartered here, and its ancestry can be traced back to the beginnings of a wine program at CostPlus and to Safeway's launch of Liquor Barn.  Short version is that Steve Boone more or less launched the fine wine program at CostPlus aka World Market.  At the time, he was barely old enough to drink.  He brought in inexpensive wines and a smattering of higher end stuff from overseas and marketed it with the romance of foreign places, consistent with the store's merchandise.  Safeway hired him to start Liquor Barn, which grew to over 100 stores before they sold it to two clowns from Great Britain.  I was involved in helping them search for a CFO and I never met two bigger twits in my life.  (Safeway had little need to keep Liquor Barn as they have developed a surprisingly good wine department in many of their stores, largely through the consolidation of many better Cali wines under Constellation and Diageo, as well as Jackson family and to a lesser degree on Safeway's shelves, Terlato, to name a few conglomerates with substantial Cali holdings. They can also sell hard liquor and do a pretty good job on that--biggest problem they have there is shrinkage, aka theft.) Liquor Barn soon went into bankruptcy and almost as soon as the stores were empty, Boone was back and in many of the same locations (including three within a short drive of my home) with Beverages and More, now called BevMo.  I found this cool article about his opening. The corporate headquarters are in Concord, California, right next to WaterWorld, a waterslide park, and just down the road from Sunvalley Mall.  Not exactly wine country, but near to a good workforce and freeways.  I buy some things at BevMo, but I try to patronize my local shops more and I am leery of anything that Wilfred Wong rates, since he is an in-house shill.  Also, BevMo does a lot of promotion on wines that are their exclusives, or does these 5 cent sales that inflate the real market price or move some mediocre wines, IMO.  However, now and then a good bottle like a Fess Parker or a Fort Ross or even Au Bon Climat gets into the mix and I go down and snag a few, taking care not to get sucked in by other stuff around me.  Also, at the "end of a vintage," they'll knock down the price maybe 30% and that will get my attention.  I buy nearly all of my hard liquor there because they have a deep selection of bourbon and rye, and I've gotten some terrific deals on Perrier Jouet champagne, a favorite of mine, so I am on balance glad they exist, same as I feel about Robert Parker.

Total Wine, or Total Beverage as it was also known, hasn't really caught on here.  I don't think they would be very successful because BevMo has a pretty good grip on that space.  I have shopped there online when traveling somewhere to make sure I had wine available in some wine desert (like, in Florida), and my sister in law liked that she could taste wines in Virginia at Total and then order them for her son's wedding rehearsal in a different state.  Total Wine would also be competing against the supermarkets, mostly Safeway up north, which does the 6-pack pricing promotion, as do some other retailers.  And, of course, in California, there's an abundance of Trader Joe's at the low end. 

But it's even better than that:  We have K&L, which is both an online powerhouse and a retail outlet.  I can order wine from my desk--usually because they sent me an email about a promotion--and they'll put the order together and hold it up to 90 days in their store in temperature controlled conditions.  Then I can pick up my consolidated orders and shop some more in the store, or I can have them send it.  (I always pick up, because it's right across the bay in SF and I can also have my friend pick it up because our accounts give permission to grab each other's wines--very convenient.)  I find their recommendations hit or miss.  But I've also bought really good bottles of (esp) French wines for really good prices and I cornered the market on Mauritson Cemetery Zin through them at the end of a vintage one year.  They have one store in West Hollywood, so LA isn't left out, either.  LA has Wally's and Woodland Hills Wine and also Wine Express--and I've had JD pick stuff up WineX as we call it when the price justified paying him to ship it.  BevMo has a lot of labels, but when you get down to it, there's a lot of repetition of same-o wines that people may have a brand loyalty to but are, in reality, probably the same wine at different price points, made by Constellation or Diageo or The (dreaded) Wine Group. K&L has a nauseating (maybe I should say dizzying) array of Bordeaux at all price levels, also probably quite similar but independently owned.

We also have lots of independent wine shops.  Huzzahs to WineMine and Wines on Piedmont, props to FPWM, WineHouseSF, North Berkeley Imports.  We even have two specialists in Italian wine, but even with this abundance, I have a very hard time finding Ghemme, a Nebbiolo from the northeast of Piedmont.  It's a lovely alternative to Barolo or Barbaresco, but there aren't three bottlings available in the whole area, and they are overpriced, compared to what those bottles go for in Italy.  Lagrein and Dolcetto are making the scene, but even they can be a little hard to find.

I do buy wine online, through K&L and lately JJBuckley, but I try to limit myself to recommendations from trusted sources or things I know.  Right now, WineAccess is writing the best wine porn, and I'm done with Garagiste, but I might not be if I lived close enough to pick up an avoid the mysterious shipping charges.  (Lefty, that's you.)  PremierCru is like the Maybach to K&L's Passat--the store, the selection, it's all just so perfect--and I look there sometimes when I want a special bottle. BPWines totally messed up their site, IMO--they must have hired someone from Yahoo to make it so unusable.

Wine clubs or mailing lists: Mauritson so I can get Rockpile Zins from the guy whose family has owned most of the AVA for 140 years; Roar because Franscioni is growing the best grapes for Pinot that anyone else can get their hands on, and making great wine out of them.  (His pal Gary Pisoni is too heavy handed for me.) And Halcon because it may be the best QPR for fans of N. Rhone/cool climate Syrah anywhere, and the winemaker delivers it to my wife's office personally, or OT's house, or wherever.  I'm on a bunch of waiting lists or mailing lists, but even where I have an allocation, haven't bought some because they were too expensive or others for lack of excitement.

But I try to give my business to my local, especially WineMine, where they know me by name and palate, even as that has changed, and when I say, you ought to get in more dolcetto/lagrein rose/alsatian wine, they listen and sometimes when I go back, they point at the near-empty case and say, we did and it sold, but we held a bottle back if you'd like it.  BevMo and Total will never do that for me.

Reply by Gregory Dal Piaz, Oct 9, 2013.

I shop almost exclusively online, which might not be surprising.

My favorite wine stores include

Chambers St Wines

The Rare Wine Company



Woodland Hills


Astor Wines

Gary's Wines

I also belong to both the Carlisle and Bedrock lists, and might be fortunate enough to make the MacDonlad list some day.




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