If you didn't catch last month's piece on how current market conditions are creating buying opportunities, it's worth a read. Not much has changed since then; the normally-dependable Last Bottle Wines, WTSO, and other flash sale sites continue to offer wines at prices that, for the most part, are not as compelling as you'd expect given what's happening out there. On the flip side, de Negoce's offers are increasing in their diversity, building their repertoire of insanely good deals (though we won't know for sure about the quality until the wine arrives and settles down, which could be months from now.)
But a recent grocery trip revealed a new - well, not-so-new - player in the surplus wine market: Trader Joe's.
Trader Joe's has long been heavy on private label wines, so as the aforementioned market conditions shift to provide the bulk market with more high quality wines, they, too, are ideally positioned to acquire and bring those to retail. The questions is, what to look for? Two things: tier and regional specificity.
As it relates to regional specificity, it's not uncommon to see Napa Valley or Sonoma County as the appellation on these labels, but just this weekend there were cabernets from both Atlas Peak and Diamond Mountain, a pinot noir from Russian River Valley, and a petit verdot from Rutherford - all top tier producing regions normally commanding upwards of $60/bottle (though that petit verdot clocks in at an audacious, cranium-splitting 16.5%!)
Now, to be clear, these are not shiners (bottles that were bottled by a winery, but labeled by Trader Joes,) so they are likely subjected to some form of winemaking intervention, manipulation, and/or shortcutting. Nor does the company offer a tantalizing trail of clues (as does de Negoce) as to which cellars the wines came from. Still, at $15, much can be forgiven, particularly if the source fruit is good and hasn't been marred on its way to the bottling line. And initial experimentation with the first three wines listed above are very encouraging. So, if you're hoping to stock your inventory with cold weather wines for the winter months ahead, keep an eye out at your local TJ's. Just don't clear them out before I get there!