Pro tip: 6 wines to buy and 1 to avoid at your local grocery store

Pro tip: 6 wines to buy and 1 to avoid at your local grocery store

My local Harris Teeter runs a promotion the third week of every month, and if I time it correctly, I can save 20% off the purchase price of 12 bottles or more. It’s a great opportunity to replenish my cellar and stock up on everyday drinkers. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve taken advantage of this monthly case sale to try out some new wines at a discounted price. In the name of research, I’ve decided to review some of my latest finds. If these are available in your area, you may want to give some of them a try. 

Standouts:
Zardetto Prosecco DOC Brut
J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2019
The Four Graces Pinot Noir Willammette Valley 2018
Louis Martini Napa Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Orin Swift Machete 2017
Grahams 10 Year Tawny Port 

Would not buy again:
Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2017

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For all wines below, the first price listed is full retail price, and the second is what I actually paid.

Zardetto Prosecco DOC Brut $18.00 -> $8.94
Why I bought it: This sparkling wine was on close-out and we snagged the last two bottles in the store. Initially listed for $18, the Prosecco was marked down to $11.18 prior to our 20% discount. While we ultimately ended up purchasing more than the 12 bottles needed to get the discount, getting 2 of these allowed us to meet the minimum threshold for the discount without running up the tab.
Tasting Notes: Perfectly good Prosecco, we tasted it on its own before using it as a mixer for French 75s.
Deal or No Deal? This wine can be found online for around $9-$11/bottle. While we didn’t get the deal of the century, it’s a solid upgrade from whatever you are currently making mimosas with for the same price.

J Vineyards Pinot Gris 2018 $16.99 -> $13.60
Why I bought it: This is on of my go-to summer purchases. You can almost always find a bottle (or two) in the fridge and it is always delivers on a hot afternoon.
Tasting Notes: Crisp, clean wine with the right amount of acidity. I tasted some pear and white peach, but I usually drink it cold enough to mask any real flavor profile (just being honest)
Deal or No Deal? The winery sells this for $20, but I would never pay that. This is a perfect example of “stock up when it’s on sale.” At $17, it’s not a fantastic deal (I remember paying ~$12/btl at Costco a few years back) but for $13, it makes a lot of sense. And since I didn’t have to fight the Costco crowds, I think it is a deal!

La Crema Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2016 + 2017 $29.99 -> $23.99
Why I bought it: Familiar producer with wide distribution. There was a mixture of the 2016 and 2017 vintages on the shelf and we thought it would be fun to purchase one of each and taste them side-by-side.
Tasting Notes: Quintessential Russian River Valley Chardonnay, though somewhat lacking on both fruit and finish compared to some high-dollar Chards from that region. Both wines were overall solid and tasted as expected. Comparing the two vintages, the 2016 was subtly smoother, while the 2017 was somewhat crisper.
Deal or No Deal? The winery lists the wine for $30, while other online outlets retail for as low as $19. I’d say $24 was a reasonably good deal, and a reasonable value for a winery’s entry-level offering.

Gary Farrell Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2017 $55 -> $35.20
Why I bought it: Being one of the Russian River Valley’s best known makers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, I instantly recognized the bottle on the shelf (I was also in the wine club for several years previously and highly recommend a visit if you are in Sonoma as Gary Farrell has one of the best views in the entire valley!). At its $44 full price, I wouldn’t normally buy it, but the $35 final price was lowenough for me to bite.
Tasting notes: As the Russian River Selection, this wine represents Gary Farrell’s entry-level pinot, something I was quickly reminded of once I tasted it. While it had a lovely nose, the wine was a little lacking in body for something coming from Russian River and definitely benefitted from being paired with food. At $35, I’m not sure I would buy this again.
Deal or No Deal? The winery sells the exact same bottle for $45 on its website. A quick internet search returned prices as low as $37, so I’d say all things considered, $35 represents a reasonable price to pay. Interestingly, the grocery store listed the wine as $55 which had been “marked down” to $44 (prior to our discount). Given what we found on our internet price search, I HIGHLY doubt anybody ever paid $55 for this bottle, rather the grocery store portrayed $55 as the “full value” of the wine to make the $44 seem like we were already getting a bargain, before the additional 20%. Beware of this tactic!

Four Graces Pinot Noir Willamette Valley 2018 $24.99 -> $19.99
Why I bought it: On a tour of Oregon’s Willamette Valley for my birthday one year, we happened upon Four Graces (named in honor of the owners’ 4 daughters) and I was favorably impressed with the wine. I was leery of the relatively-low price of this pinot but decided to give it a try.
Tasting Notes: Surprisingly well-balanced and a decent amount of tannin. This wine paired perfectly with our dinner of salmon and lentils.
Deal or No Deal? The winery’s website lists this wine for $32. Internet sleuthing, however, found pricing as low as $19.49 with an additional 10% discount for 6+ bottles. It looks like our price of $19.99 was a decent deal, but the high quality of the wine makes this a great value even at slightly higher prices. I recommend this wine.

Louis Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2016 $44.00 -> $35.20
Why I bought it: Louis Martini has been around since 1933 and makes A TON of different wines. Their Sonoma County Cabernet was a staple on my wine rack at home in my younger days, but had tried the Napa County version before and remembered it being significantly better. We had to be careful to ensure we got the bottle we intended, as the shelves were haphazardly stocked with a smattering of the 3 different AVAs of Louis Martini Cabernets the store carried. The labels are almost identical so it’s an easy mistake to make.
Tasting Notes: Wow! This wine packs a mouthful of classic Napa Cabernet, with loads of fruit and nice tannins. This exceeded my expectations for the price point.
Deal or No Deal? While the final price we paid of $35/bottle was comparable to many sites we checked online (and rumor has it that Costco is currently carrying this for $30!), this wine definitely represents a great value at anything under $40.

Orin Swift Machete 2017 $48 -> $39
Why I bought it: Admittedly, Orin Swift isn’t what it was 10 years ago. Their wines are often high alcohol, over the top fruit and oak bombs, and this one is no exception…but I still think there is a time and a place for this kind of wine. When it’s 20% off and a better deal than what I can find anywhere online, sure! I’m in for one.
Tasting Notes: Dark, inky purple in the glass, the first swirl opens up a complex aromatic nose of blackberries, and an overripe plum note. The flavors hit your tongue though the finish isn’t as long and complex as the nose might imply. Tannins are clearly present but not overly harsh.
Deal or No Deal? I’m still a sucker for the Orin Swift brand and even though I believe they are a bit over the top in terms of pricing and flavor profiles, I’ll still buy one every once in a while. 20% off is the perfect time to get one! It’s a deal.

Grahams 10 Year Tawny Port $43.00 -> $34.40
Why I bought it: I love port, especially Tawny Port, and Graham’s is a name I know and trust.
Tasting Notes: Just sweet enough, balanced, classic raisin and maple flavors on the palate, this was everything I had hoped it would be. Unfortunately, our bottle must have had a small leak in the bottom because when we awoke the next morning there seemed to be an awfully lot of port gone.
Deal or No Deal? I found this wine for $30-$40/bottle looking at multiple websites, so $34 is a good deal and for the quality, I would say an overall great value.


The Verdict:
While many wine connoisseurs avoid purchasing wines at the grocery stores due to concerns about quality and value, there are certainly deals to be had with a thoughtful strategy and a little bit of knowledge about pitfalls to avoid. We think our experience was reasonably comparable to what you can find and almost any large grocery store with a dedicated wine section. The prices we paid were – even with a discount – the same or more than what can be found online, however once one factors in shipping costs associated with most online retailers, and the convenience of going to your neighborhood market, we think there is a place for this kind of wine buying.


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