Costco

You know that something’s afoot in the wine world when wine geeks start touting the selection at their local Costco. This happened a few weeks ago on the Robert Parker forum Web site. That came as a surprise to me. I never would have thought that wine geeks of the magnitude that post on that forum would even step into a Costco

Well, something just may be afoot at Costco, as I have tasted my first few wines bought at a Staten Island store. For $10 to $12 a bottle, these wines okay.

One of the wines, a Pinot Noir, was under the Robert Mondavi label.

I’m unsure how the wines wound up in Costco, but it appears to be a sign that the once famous Mondavi name may be in some over-production trouble. I won’t even go into how sad that makes me feel. The sadness kicked in when I read the news that Constellation Brands bought the Robert Mondavi brand name. Ah well, what to expect from a culture that has become a brand name whore, but I digress.

My friends find the practice of taking notes annoyingly geeky, so when I am in their homes I honor their wishes. Therefore, I don’t have any notes about the wines they served, but I do remember the Mondavi Pinot Noir as a wonderful bargain, and it was joined by one fantastic and one not-so-fantastic New Zealand (Marlborough) Sauvignon Blanc—remember, each wine was from $10-$12.

There was a Chardonnay in the crowd, but it must not have made an impression among the other wines—I remember nothing about it.

My friend said he settled on $10-$12 to see what range of quality Costco offered at that reasonable price. Based on what I tasted that night, I’d say Costco did a good job in that price range.

Of course, I do not consider myself a true wine geek, but still, I have never been in a Costco. Part of my problem is that we have no Costco around my neighborhood. We have a Sam’s Club not far away but two things keep me from shopping there: it’s a Wal-Mart store and it’s a Wal-Mart store.

If Sam’s Club or Wal-Mart were giving away premium wine I’d still rather pay for it. Call me an elitist, but my aversion to that place runs deep. I view such mega-businesses as one major sign of a decaying culture, and I refuse to be made to feel a part of the decay. In my lifetime thus far, I have been in one Wal-Mart; more than enough for me (it’s the same with Starbucks, although I’ve been in that store twice).

I suppose I should feel the same way about Costco as I do about Wal-Mart as I understand the former is trying to gain major advantages in wine distribution and retailing. But since I have never even seen a Costco, the only opinion I can form is based on the decent wines I tasted that didn’t cost my friend a lot of money.

Maybe some of you can enlighten me. Is Costco just another version of Wal-Mart or is there hope?

Copyright Thomas Pellechia
August 2008. All rights reserved.

2 Responses to “Costco”

  1. Keith L. says:

    Thomas – Surprised you’ve missed the discussions of Costco stampedes that come around every big Bordeaux vintage. In this respect, Costco isn’t like Sam’s. Costco is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, buyers of Bordeaux in the US and sells the wines at a standard markup over its (futures) cost. Hence the stampedes from big-spending collectors. We New Yorkers, unfortunately, don’t get to share in the windfall. For whatever reason, the Costcos here can’t sell wine.

  2. Thomas says:

    Keith,

    I missed the stampede because I read fewer threads than are established, and Bordeaux futures is a thread I never read. There isn’t anything left in that activity for me to make fun of 😉

    So, Costco has a wine philosophy?