Banality Gets an Upgrade: the Costco Illusion

the ancient mystical Rioja Alavesa

the ancient mystical Rioja Alavesa

Amazingly, there are respectable wine writers who insist the selection of wines at Costco are worthy of your attention. That would include tBoW. You may consider this strange since everyone knows Costco is the king of ordinary and middle-of-the-road in all things from sandwich bags to 60 inch TVs to fancy watches and diamond tennis bracelets… and First Growth Bordeaux; except the guy who owns the wine blog devoted to Costco wines. It is true the Costco wine buyer has steadily “raised her consciousness” [ed. as we used to say “back in the day”]. She has been profiled on CNBC as the most influential wine buyer in the business. But now… she and her staff of 20 are buying the kinds of wines that even tBoW and other discerning wine drinkers might be tempted to buy. We did. We were amazed…

We were amazed at how these Costco selections from regions for which we are generally on the lookout could be so unimpressive. I am talking Navarra, Rioja and the Maremma. It is remarkable to be able to visit some of the best undervalued regions and still manage to by plonk. Call me a snob [ed. thank you thank you] BUT how do you find a Cab from the Maremma, a Garnacha/Tempranillo from Navarra, and a Temp blend from Rioja that fail to capture any of the qualities that make Bordeaux blends from the southern most region of Tuscany and the oldest and most classic wine regions in Spain a worthwhile expense? And taste almost all alike?

PreliusWEB2010 Prelius Castelprile di Mascheroni Stianti Federica Cabernet Sauvignon $16: This sure sounds good. Organic farming, makes a Cab Fran/Cab Sauv blend, located in THE prime Bordeaux blend region of Italy shared with Ornellaia and Sassicaia. Yet this wine could not be less distinct. Did the Costco team buy the story? Are they telling us something that more Costco wine buyers now get there is a story? Story schmory. The bottom line is the tip of your tongue. This wine is B-O-R-I-N-G. They bought the cheap one. We will never see the premium Morelia blend. 14.5%

Luis-Canas-crianzaWEB2009 Luis Cañas Rioja Crianza $14: The Rioja Alavesa runs down the west side of an imposing dry granite mountain wall that is the Pyrenees broder between Spain and France. Dry on the Spanish side. Wet in France. The same way each does Christianity. This has all the promise of a wonderful early drinking Rioja but it tastes like a Paso Cab. Medium weight, dark red. No character. They bought the cheap one again. $14%

pacored2010WEBPaco Y Lola Red Experience $12: Further proof the Costco wine buyers are still stronger when it comes to palettes. A half Garnacha half Tempranillo from Navarra at a price well into the U20 money zone. However, even with all the right cues to get us thinking this is what we should expect from the largest domestic retail buyer. At the opposite end of Goldun wines. Middle of the road fruity and flavorful and great prices. And boring. This should have captured our attention no matter how hard the Costco buyers struggled to get their price. Navarra wines are supposed to firm, with granite flavors, lean with independent unapologetic Basque character. This was a wimp! Maybe we are overreacting [ed. naw]. Note to self. No more purchases of wines that make it look like the Costco buyer is informed. Not yet anyway. 13.5%

We also saw Gevreys and white Burgs from the worst producers in Burgundy. Don’t be fooled. Get thee to your local fine wine purveyor. Sign on with Eno Fine Wine. If you can take the waiting give Garagiste a go. For the same Costco price you can buy a decent wine from the Languedoc or Rioja or even Maremma.

Clinerose12WEBFortunately, there are a few other wines currently out there worth your consideration.

2012 Cline Contra Costa County Mourvedre Rosé $19: Bought at WHWCo on the rose wall. We love our local wine bricks and mortar retailer because they have stuff like this. The best dark pink wine we have tasted this summer. Great fruit without being overripe. Dark pink color. Serve chilled of course. U20 winnah! 13%

DerthonaWEB2010 Derthona Vignetti Massa Vino Bianco $25 (TAFI): Golden color, oily, tasted like white Rhone but it is another strictly local grape from Piemonte. Dotoré is specializing in odd and unusual grapes from the Nebbiolo region. Good acid spine with strong nutty flavors, not that we have tasted these before. Wonderful. From this website we learn “Timorasso nearly extinct was saved by Walter Massa the maker of this wine who had great faith in the grapes potential to produce beautiful terroir driven wines.” A Liquid Spirits which also specializes in unusual wines from not so unusual regions. Proprietor Peter knows what we like! Bravisimo!! What Goldun would describe as “real wine.” 14%

We saw Sergio Mendes at the Hollywood Bowl recently. Perfect summer setting. Rocky start, sketchy sound BUT the singer-ettes are still worth a look and Sergio remains the bossa nova boss.

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