Grocery Outlet


Assessing Bargain Wines from the North Napa Grocery Outlet


THE BAY AREA WINE SOCIETY WAS FOUNDED 15 YEARS AGO TO PROVIDE OPPORTUNITIES TO ENJOY AND EVALUATE MOSTLY CALIFORNIA FINE WINES. WHILE WE HAVE CRITIQUED VALUE WINES FROM TIME TO TIME OVER THE YEARS,  THE CLUB HAS NOW DECIDED TO FOCUS ON A MONTHLY TASTE-OFF OF DISCOUNT WINES TO BE FOUND AT THE NEWLY OPENED NORTH NAPA GROCERY OUTLET TOGETHER WITH NIBBLES AND FOCUSED CONVERSATION (PAIRINGS).  THE TASTERS WILL BE DRAWN FROM THE STORE'S EMAIL LIST.  THE TIMES CALL FOR FRUGALITY.  WE HAVE EMBRACED THE DICTUM OF FRED FRANZIA, CEO OF BRONCO WINES (TWO BUCK CHUCK ETC): “NO  WINE SHOULD COST MORE THAN $10 INCLUDING NAPA CAB”.  UNLESS IT IS FOR A SPECIAL OCCASION OR THE SAVINGS ARE EXCEPTIONAL. 

We base this people’s approach on four principles:
  • In this era of Trip Advisor, Rotten Tomatoes, and Yelp, the people who buy wines for consumption with a mid week dinner--in the form of a representative subset of consumers--are best able to decide on a wine’s appeal not the professionals
  • The rating and ranking reveals at least one wine, based on the odds, that appeals to a broader array of palates This approach rejects the view that different wines appeal only to certain tastes according to a buyer’s  “profile”
  • Wines are best tasted with food
  • Good conversation enhances the sensuous pleasures of the occasion
Members of the Bay Area Wine Society consider themselves reverse wine snobs, taking delight in discovering a deal--what we consider a good enough wine, a wine that ends up receiving  3 1/2 out of 5 wine glasses (i.e., stars) in our scoring system from our email membership tasting panel, roughly equivalent to an 87+/- in the 100 point system. When price is taken into account, these discoveries of decent wines can be just as exciting as purchasing one of the current hot shot wines.
 We subscribe to the technique labeled the “wisdom of crowds” or crowd sourcing  (based on the famous observation by Francis Galton who observed that when attendees at an English county fair were asked to guess the weight of a cow the average total came to within a pound of the actual weight)  For smaller groups, the critiques are not unlike the dynamic of focus groups.
As noted, we have found over the years that a limited number of wines have a special appeal to a broader cross section of different consumer palates.  Each flight invariably produces a favorite wine or two that scores higher. We include some brief tasting notes though we share the view of Eric Asimov, the wine writer of the NY Times, who has no use for tasting notes: “Several generations of wine writers and consumers now believe that rolling out a litany of obscure flavors and aromas actually brings them closer to understanding the appeal and allure of a particular wine.”  Wrong. People really just want to know how tasty a wine is using a numerical system, and in our view a representative tasting panel is best suited to arrive at this finding.
Many of the wines find their way into Grocery Outlet because of a wineries ownership or label changes. We recognize, too, that some of the wines sold by their producers or distributors to GO are often perceived by the sellers as containing flaws of one kind or another.mostly by dint of being an older vintage.  Yet wines pulled from storage to make room for the new release are often quite fine if not sometimes better than the current product. And a portion of the wines are still in a winery’s portfolio at more than twice the price.  In critiquing these wines, we’d like to make their purchase by consumers as well as by our members less of a crap shoot .
Each month, with input by the wine department manager, we select 8 to 12 wines for consumer choice judging usually according to a theme, mostly by varietal or type of blend, or by region or time of year (e.g., wines that might go with Thanksgiving turkey). And in order to get the jump on superior wines that come into the store from the central warehouse weekly and can be depleted, we might select among different varietals.
We would also try to pick wines that could be found in the course of the next month at other Bay Area GOs if not other GO stores throughout the West if our readership of the results enlarges out of the Napa area.
And we also select some food items from the store to pair with the wine choosing the best munchies to match the consumer wine choice of the month.  Or we will prepare a dish consisting of NOSH ( Natural, Organic, Specialty and Healthy )   ingredents available at the North Napa store, similar to Budgetbytes recipes as described in GO Facebook page. Results would be published in our website PAIRINGS and the digital magazine www.wineconsumer.com . The most delicious wine(s) would receive a Consumers Choice award with the best of flight receiving a Value Star.  The results might also be noted in the GO Facebook page.
Over time the results should help Grocery Outlet consumers with their choices since we also provide shelf talkers.
Several existing blogs publish personal views on GO wines. Front Porch Wine Tasting and The Magical World of Wines from Grocery Outlet--which the posters abbreviate to Gross Out wines .The former blog comments on wines from the Manteca store, the latter reviews wines from the Richmond and Oakland stores and occasionally the Palo Alto store.  Wines are chosen individually by the bloggers interest and and wine’s progeny. Our emphasis on a theme and group rating seems to be unique.  We would add our findings to one of the blogs.
Our Wine Rating System
(95+) LOVE IT!~EXTRAORDINARY Platinum Medal -  An exceptional, ravishing wine that sets the standard against which other wines are judged
  (92-94)  SUPERB ~ REMARKABLE  Double Gold Medal
 (90-92)  DELICIOUS ~ EXCELLENT Gold Medal-
A complex, concentrated wine that balances lush fruit flavors
  (87-89) HIGHLY RECOMMENDED~VERY GOOD Silver Medal 
Displaying special qualities of finesse and flavor
(85-87) LIKE IT~ GOOD - Bronze Medal
A pleasing wine with varietal distinctiveness
(82-84) O~ SATISFACTORY Vin de table
Suitable for Tues. dinner
(80-82) NEUTRALFAIR - A simple  quaffer worth the price
Plonk
  (77-79) DISAGREEABLE ~ MEDIOCRE
Not worth the low price
 (75-77) DISLIKE IT ~DEFICIENT -  
An inferior, innocuous wine that borders on the flawed
************************
A few Examples:

Macrae Family Winery 2012 Sonoma Mountain
Hidden Ridge  $19.99

Smooth, dark, classic, dark berry body and pleasing raspberry finish.
Easy to drink.  Robust, full bodied but not fruit heavy like many Cali Cabs. 
Light tannins. Smoothly textured structure, impressive for a wine at this price
Reviewer imageReviewer imageReviewer imageReviewer imageDELICIOUS ~ EXCELLENT  - A complex, concentrated wine that balances lush fruit flavors with refinement


Pra Vinera Reserve 2014 California Cab $6.99

An easy drinking, lively cab that's medium bodied with
Bordeaux tannins that stay in the background. Great for Tuesday night
dinner.  Demonstrates why you don’t have to pay over $10 for a
pleasing wine. One of the favorites of the Grocery Outlet tasting panel.
 Reviewer imageReviewer imageReviewer image HIGHLY RECOMMENDED ~ VERY GOOD Displaying special qualities of finesse and flavor

Sunstar Vineyards 2013 California  $5.99

Subtle yet distinctive earth tones.  Balanced yet concentrated. Lovely
bouquet with an inviting fruit forward body. Delightful lingering finish. 
More tannic than acidic which is true for most Cabs. Versatile wine for
food pairing purposes including dishes with mushrooms.

 Reviewer imageReviewer imageReviewer imageHIGHLY RECOMMENDED ~ VERY GOOD Displaying special qualities of finesse and flavor