Maybe I should say "bargains," because you always need to be suspicious of deals that look good to be true.
Sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren't, even in the same shop. Or should I say, Grocery Outlet, which lately has had the best deals on interesting wine locally than I've seen in a while.
We know that I can't resist a bargain, so occasionally I check out local Grocery Outlets to see if they have something worthwhile. And no, I'm not talking about 5 year old white zin for $1.99 a bottle that's now turning amber in color.
No, once in a while they have some single digit deals on double digit wines that are pretty decent And for the skeptic, no, these wines usually aren't cooked. Damaged goods do show up at close out prices almost anywhere, but so do perfectly good bottles that, for one reason or another, simply must be priced to go away. And in my experience, the better labels I've found at the Grocery Outlet don't seem any more likely to be compromised than deals you'll find elsewhere.
So a couple weeks ago I stopped in at the McMinnville Grocery Outlet on 99W and found some closed out Italian wines from Castello Panaretta, all $10 or less. In fact, they had the same 2004 Paneretta Chianti Classico I saw as cheap as $10 at Portland retailers in the past few months for just $8. This same wine is back to $18 on local shelves now, as a new importer has taken over the line. Looks like the old importer dumped what stock remained. This isn't uncommon, but I found it interesting that the importer switch came mid-vintage, instead of with a new vintage.
The Panaretta wines all tasted undamaged to me, though only the basic Chianti tastes like Italian wine, so I didn't buy the Terrine or Torre e Destra in any quantity. But if you like them, they're just $10 each. That's well below the usual $20-$30 prices.
Then a 2003 Brezza Nebbiolo d'Alba Santa Rosalia for $6 caught my eye. I enjoyed this authentic Piedmont wine last year for $15 locally, so I immediately bought six bottles. Of course, this one tastes a bit tired as if it were poorly stored somewhere along the line. Live and learn.
After my experience at the Mac Grocery Outlet, curiousity got the better of me and I visited other local Outlets to see if different ones had different things to choose from. And did they.
At one, I found the Panaretta and Brezza deals, but also things like '04 Pieropan Soave for $6, '05 Mastroberardino Lacryma d'Christi and Greco di Tufo for $8, a stray bottle of '01 Panaretta Chianti Classico for $9, and some other unexpected things for low prices.
Then came the mother lode. One Grocery Outlet locally had a few cases of the '04 Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet Laguiche for $17, which I wrote about previously. Had, of course. It's gone now, thank you very much. One stray bottle of '03 Jadot Chassagne Montrachet may still be there.
And this same location also has estate wines from HdV, the Hyde/de Villaine project from Carneros down in southern Napa Valley. There's an '03 Estate Chardonnay for $19, an '04 Estate Syrah for the same price, and an '05 En La Guerra Chardonnay, the second label, for $13. That's a far cry from the usual $50-$60 prices on the first two or the $30 tab for the last one.
Even if these wines aren't your style, you have to admit these are amazing discounts. And nothing besides the Brezza Nebbiolo seems damaged, though taste for yourself before buying in quantity. This isn't a fine wine merchant we're talking about, and who knows what goes on in the back (or front, for that matter) of this chain's locations.
And no, I'm going going to give out specific locations. Do some searching, or email me. These deals aren't meant to be advertised, and even if the old practice of the wines business regarding unmentioned close outs isn't going to last in the internet age, I'm sure I've already said too much to keep from getting angry emails from in the business types who don't like their secrets published.