FREE! Subscribe to News Fetch, THE daily wine industry briefing - Click Here



epic AD final

Click ad, above, to see how corks with TCA above 0.5 ppt can be removed from production.

Commerce7Click to learn more

Is it crazy to think you can get good wine by spending only $60 for an entire case?

I am a discovery junkie. I crave  novelty in a lot of things: from which trail I take backpacking, to the next glass of wine, beer or spirits.


For several years now, I have been trying to figure out how to select a bottle of wine that I have not tasted before, but which I will like. I rarely have a problem with beer or spirits because most new drinks fit within categories that I enjoy. I can remember BOTH instances over the past 10 years when I had to pour out a bottle of undrinkable IPA. Not so with wine.  Finding a new wine that I will like is a gamble.

The Vino Casino, redux

As I wrote in this Vino Casino post:

I gamble because it takes me outside the industry bubble. (for more 0n that, see Bad Wine & The Industry Reality Check.”)

Outside the industry bubble, there are no trade tastings, winery samples, and judgings for competitions. Just the reality of the vino casino market.

And in this casino, the house doesn’t really win when I lose: bad wine purchases don’t drive re-purchases.

I stick with the gamble it because I have been working to solve this problem for more than three decades.

Admittedly, I have handicapped myself by trying to buy wine like regular consumers: in supermarkets and big boxes, paying $15 per bottle max (after discounts) and never buying a wine that I have purchased before.

Crap wine and the “dead zone”

Since I wrote that Vino Casino post almost two years ago, I have pissed away far too much money on $15 to $20 bottles of crap wine. Like many regular wine buyers, I realize that wine is simply too risky to experiment with.


So, about six months ago, I stopped buying wine, stung by the realization that I had spent nearly $3,000 in 2015 on wine which most got poured into a special patch of ground in the backyard.

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 6.48.52 AM

The vino dead zone. Nothing grows here. Not even weeds.

I had been pouring it down the drain, but I live in the country west of the town of Sonoma and have a septic system instead of sewer. Turns out that I poured so much wine down the drain that it killed the good bacteria in the septic system and that caused additional expense. So, now I have a “dead zone” where the wine got poured and nothing will grow.

The $60 case of wine challenge

I resolved not to buy another bottle of wine until I had tasted it first.

Since I get about six tasting samples a year, that means I have started drinking more IPA, and grappa, a little cider, and more “old reliable” wines (which got boring).


So, in search of affordable wine novelty, I’ve moved from the expensive vino-roulette table to the quarter slots. I have resolved to limit my discoveries to $60 per case.

Below is a case of wine at Grocery Outlet in Santa Rosa for $58 (before tax, 10% case discount) I bought last week.

I’m finding some surprising bargains.

Selection criteria: I prefer reds to whites and “big” reds over the current fashion of thin, ascetic, fruit impoverished styles. My preferences trend toward Zinfandel, Grenache, Carignane, Mourvedre, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Charbono etc.

Here are the results so far:

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 5.58.33 AM

Screen Shot 2016-08-30 at 5.57.59 AM

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 6.52.48 AM

Screen Shot 2016-09-14 at 6.52.24 AM

Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 12.59.40 PM Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 12.59.19 PM Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 12.59.09 PM Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 12.58.56 PM Screen Shot 2016-10-04 at 12.55.57 PM