Monday, September 1, 2014

hawking wine at Costco

A short while ago I was perusing the wine section at the Costco in Westlake Village.  We were returning from a short and much appreciated vacation and I wanted to check out the wine selection since it was right off the freeway. 

A wine rep approached me as I was looking at the various bottles and told me about how wonderful the Goyette 2011 Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon was.  A magnificent wine, she raved.  I asked if it was drinking well now.  "Oh yes, definitely," she replied.  She went on to tell me how this wine was being released prior to some wine publication giving it a really high score after which time the price would shoot up accordingly.  

At that time the sticker said $14.69.  I thought what the heck, I'll give it a try, so I bought a bottle. 

There's no doubt that a high score from an influential critic is a sure recipe for moving bottles and moving them at a higher price.  On the other hand, what this woman told me really made no sense because if a very favorable review was indeed soon to be published then why not wait to release it at that time and jack up the price?  

It's like how nearly every piece of audio gear is a "bargain" because it is comparable to (i.e., worth as much) as gear selling for 3x, maybe even 5x its price.  Is that really the case?  If so, is there anything that is truly priced appropriately? 

Getting back to the wine, I recently popped the cork on the Goyette and gave it my usual four day tasting. 

The rep was right, it was ready to drink.  Was it anything extraordinary?  Not really.  It was soft and smooth on the palate, with some tea, red berries and spice on the palate. The nose did have an interesting component, something sort of like mustard greens or bok choy. That sounds weird but it was very subtle and to me was a plus and not a minus.  Would I buy this again?  Nope, because nothing really stood out.  It was decent, no flaws, but that's about it.

At the Costco where I usually go, every so often there is a rep from Cameron Hughes.  I always think it is unfortunate that he can't offer a sample, same as how the Goyette rep couldn't offer any either.  I also wonder how effective they are and if the cost of paying them for the day is a worthwhile investment in relation to the sales they generate that otherwise wouldn't have been made.  Do they work on commission?  

I do think the "personal" touch of conversing with a rep does help to drum up business but at the end of the day I wonder just how much business that amounts to. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Short post today.  I use Cellartracker for looking up consumer tasting notes for various wines and wineries. I've noticed that the word "salinity" seems to crop up quite frequently these days. I don't recall its usage being that prevalent before, but now, lots of folks are using it. 

My observation is that certain terms or descriptors go viral in the world of tasting notes. Salinity is one of the new buzz words?

That said, there's certainly nothing wrong with using that term, or any other term, if that's the best way to describe a wine.  And just how many terms can there be?  I get tired of using the same ones over and over again and wish I could be more creative but on the other hand, what is better: to be creative or to be accurate?  I guess creatively accurate would be best but the inspiration for the synapses in the brain to fire full force isn't always there. 

Same with the audio world.  Over there, everyone likes to use wide soundstage as a positive way to describe the sound of gear they like.  In fact, the wider the better and if you can say it sounds like it extends 50 feet outside the physical boundaries of your speakers and even into the next door neighbor's house and beyond, all the better.  Or pinpoint imaging - like you could get up and point to exactly where the instrument or vocalist was located, even to the size of a dime (never mind that people and instruments are larger than dimes). 

Anyway, I just wanted to point out that I see salinity used in tasting notes a lot more now than before.  The reader should take that observation with a grain of salt, however.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Another New Arrival - Wine Enthusiast 24 Bottle Wine Cooler

Back on July 5, my post was about a 16 bottle Wine Enthusiast brand wine cooler (model 272-03-16A) I'd just purchased from Costco.  So far so good with that one - I have it set for 55 degrees and the separate thermometer I use for an independent measurement is pretty much always in the range of 54.1 - 54.5 degrees, with 54.3 being the most common reading. 

Since then I've added my 3rd wine cooler to the stable, again from Costco. It's another Wine Enthusiast model, this time a 24 bottle unit. I don't have a need for it just yet but I will in a month or so (that's the subject of an upcoming blog post).  I had a sneaking suspicion that this one wouldn't be available that long because it seems Costco is the only store that carried this model (I think it was 272-03-24-2A); it isn't even listed on the Wine Enthusiast site. Sure enough, when I checked today Costco doesn't list it anymore so I'm glad I snapped one up.

[edit: as of today, 8/26/14, it is back on the site and you can see it by clicking here.]

The reason I bought it from Costco is their excellent return policy. If anything goes wrong during the warranty period, I just take it back to the brick and mortar store for a refund - no muss, no fuss. 

Thankfully the cooler arrived safe and sound. It was very securely packaged, with generous use of dense foam padding.  

It's a dual-zone cooler, 12 bottles on top and 12 on the bottom, 3 bottles wide, with a thermoelectric panel for each section.  I like the slimmer footprint (14.25" wide x 19" deep x 33" high) as opposed to having a four-bottle width. Here's a picture:

Oh good grief, what's that silver stuff on the front, you're probably wondering. 

It's aluminum foil. 

The foil is there to keep the light out.  It's only on top because the bottom half has some black plastic thing inside the glass to block the light. Take off the foil and it's a pretty attractive unit with a solid glass door.  I'd say Costco's price of $199 shipped is a bargain. 

As you can see, I monitor the temperatures using a pair of thermometers; the one of the left which also has a hygrometer, is for the top and the one on the right is for the bottom.  Both panels on the cooler are set for 56 degrees. The thermometer readings are typical, with a variance of about half a degree in either direction during the day. The probes are set in the middle of each section. 

It's a hot summer here in Southern California and the ambient temperature goes as high as 87 during the day.  This cooler does an admirable job of maintaining a constant temperature.  The only complaint is a constant soft buzz that emanates from the electronic section.  It's not loud but it is audible. 

The racks are serviceable.  Nothing special and in fact they don't seem to be perfectly straight so they wobble slightly unless there are bottles to weigh them down. They're wide enough to hold Burgundy bottles side by side, although it's a tight fit. 

I've only had it less than a week so far but at least it performs very well.  I don't know if they're temporarily or permanently out of stock at Costco but I'm happy I was able to get one. 

As for what's going in it, I'll blog about that soon. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Wowzer Pinot Noir from Toretti's Family Vineyard

During a short vacation up north we visited several Costcos along the way.  I spied the object of today's review at their Santa Maria location and thought about buying it but passed. After we left, even though I'd never heard of Toretti's Family Vineyard, I kept thinking I should have bought it because it seemed interesting.  Don't ask me why some wines look more interesting than others; they just do.

Well, I was redeemed with a second chance at the Goleta Costco.  That same wine was sitting there in the bin. There was another bottle that looked interesting too. Being that I had already bought some bottles earlier, I decided I would just get one.  I asked the guy in charge of the wine department which one he would recommend, saying I was looking for a more Burgundian style.

Without hesitation he pointed to the Toretti bottle, telling me it was a good one. Not one of those overblown fruit bombs. So without hesitation I purchased it.  This was back in May.

The other day I popped it open.  Good recommendation!  This is one mighty fine Pinot Noir that has plenty of varietal character. I guess I ought to specifically identify it - the Toretti's Family Vineyard Pinot Noir Inocencio Pinot Noir, 2009, Santa Barbara County (there's a picture of the label below).

I sensed it was going to be good when I saw the color - very light, somewhat translucent, like a Pinot Noir ought to look, rather than those opaque things that California likes to produce. The aromas - like the title of this post says, wowzers. It had that barnyard funk but very well integrated with strawberries and other red berries and an earthy character.  I just loved swirling the glass and waving it under my nose.

The promise of the color and the aromas followed through to the palate.  Nicely concentrated flavor, great backing acidity and a long, sort of peach pit minerally aftertaste made this all in all one really nice wine. The good thing is I am writing this after only consuming the first 1/4 of the bottle so I have my three 187 ml shares left to enjoy.  Of course the wine could just fade away over the next three days but I doubt it. I got so excited about how good of a Pinot Noir this was that I had to write about it right away.

The good part: it was $18.99 at Costco, a total bargain for a Pinot Noir of this quality.  I don't know if they have any left.  It is still available from the winery but there it is $44.00.  Is it worth $44.00?  Given what wines of this quality and character cost these days, especially from smaller producers, my answer is yes, it is. The Costco price was just a very fortunate bargain for me but this wine is worth what the Toretti family is pricing it for on their site.

This is a darn good wine and it has the acidity and balance to last longer but it sure is good now.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


In my last post I mentioned how some of the wine-related links on my blog were out of date. Just now I went and cleaned them up so what you saw in this blog yesterday ain't what you are seeing now.

Over half of the links were deleted. A couple of them changed URL's so I updated those. I am glad to see that El Jefe of Twisted Oak is still writing his twisted blog posts albeit at a different web address and also with less frequency before.  I hope he isn't untwisting himself.

Some of the sites still exist but haven't been updated in a long time.  I was sad to see Dr. Debs Good Wines Under $20 site hasn't been updated since 2012 (almost as sad as my not even realizing this until just now since I haven't been keeping up with reading wine blogs), since that was always good reading.

Wine marches on, though. There's a whole slew of blogs out there that are waiting to be discovered and I need to get back into things.  Every day is so busy I barely have time to write this one, though, much less visit other sites but then that's probably a sign that I need to get my priorities straight!

Quick wine review - just finished the Kirkland 2012 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, and it's a very nice bottle especially for a very reasonable $12.99.  No point in holding it, this is ready to drink now.  I noticed that over my normal four tastings that the aromas seemed to subside a bit and the oak got a little more prominent, but overall everything remained in balance.

Aromas of ripe tropical fruit and blossoms were pleasing to me, and they carried through to the palate. The fruit, oak and zippy acidity balanced each other and it was just a nice, tasty wine to sip.