We do much of our searching for good values in quality wines at different Costcos in our region and screening discount daily offers from online merchants or big retail chains that help wineries clear inventories as new wines enter the pipeline (WTSO, Garagiste, Wine Access, Vivino, Invino, Total Wine, Wine.Com). Some random forays into local grocery stores in our part of Southern California over the past few months have turned into minor treasure hunts.

At Costco, we go up and down the bins and stacks, looking for the printed signs showing the biggest markdowns. We check the Wine-Searcher application for validation. In the grocery stores, the staff puts tags under each wine to show supposed savings from retail. We scan the shelves for the biggest markdowns and take advantage of an additional 10% discount when purchasing six bottles. Our local stores (Von’s, Albertson’s, Gelson’s, Pavilion) send emails to alert to occasional 20% discounts, often to clear older vintages.

This can be good news when the acids and tannins have softened with some age, making for more pleasant sipping versus trying to get past the tongue-grabbing, chewy, hot finishes of young high-alcohol wines just entering the distribution channels. The wines are in order of price, from lowest to highest ($11 to $30). Enjoy!

Winning Whites

  • $16 white Bordeaux 2020 Denis Dubourdieu Liaison (50-50 Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon). Dark gold, low viscosity (12.5 alc.); herbaceous, citrus, fig, wet stone nose; mid acids; some depth; older, nutty, semi-viscous citrus finish. A little short. w/appetizers. 15.5 UC Davis scale, 89 other scales.
  • ($18 grocery store sale) Napa 2020 Markham Sauvignon Blanc. Sharp mid-straw gold, viscous (14.5 alc.); herbaceous, boxwood, citrus nose; mid+ acids; mid-body; long semi-deep, crisp citrus finish. w/clams. 16/90.
  • Santa Maria Valley, Calif., 2021 Cambria Chardonnay Katherine’s Vineyard, $18. Sharp light-mid green-gold; tropical, stone fruit, peach nose; low acids; soft; mid-body; decent fruit; short semi-lush finish. w/appetizers. 15/88.
  • Mendoza, Argentina, 2020 El Enemigo Chardonnay ($23). Mid-dark gold; viscous (13.5 alc.); tropical, peach, wine lees nose; mid+ acids; mid+ body; fatter style; long semi-hot finish. w/BBQ chicken. 15.5/89.
  • 2022 Dragonette Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara ($23). Light green-straw-gold, viscous (13.9 alc.); grapefruit, herbaceous, wet stone nose; mid+ acids; medium fruit, some depth; long semi-crisp citrus finish. w/shrimp appetizers. 16/90.

    Dragonette Sauvignon Blanc

  • $23 Napa 2020 Hall Sauvignon Blanc. Pale straw gold; herbaceous, boxwood, citrus nose; mid acids; mid-body; good fruit; semi-long citrus finish. w/shrimp salad. 16/90.
  • Good $25 white Burgundy 2019 Domaine R. DuBois & Fils Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune Les Montbatois. Sharp mid-gold; stone fruit, lime, lightly floral, tropical nose; mid+ acids, body; soften with air; long semi-lush citrus finish. w/appetizers. 16/90
  • $25 Edna Valley, Calif., 2019 Ragtag Wine Co. Chardonnay Morro View Vineyard. Sharp mid-dark gold; tropical, wine lees, oak, honey nose; mid acids; medium depth; lush, fatter style; long soft wine lees finish. 16.5/91.
  • 2021 Alphonse Mellot Sancerre La Moussière ($27, Total Wine). Mid-straw gold, viscous (13.0 alc.); herbaceous, citrus, boxwood Sauvignon Blanc nose; mid+ acids; mid-deep fruit; semi-long, balanced, stylish finish. w/shrimp. 16.5/91.
  • 2021 Morgan Chardonnay Highland Santa Lucia Highlands ($28 wine.com). Sharp, mid-dark gold, viscous (14.1 alc.); tropical, stone fruit, oak nose; medium acids; medium-full fruit; long semi-lush peach and oak finish. w/roast chicken. 16.5/91.
  • $29 Aussie Riesling, 2020 Capel Vale Whispering Hill. Sharp mid-green gold; green fruit, apple, petrol, clove nose; mid+acids; mid+body; good structure and style; long semi-lush finish. w/pot stickers, stir fry. 16.5-17 UC Davis scale, 91-92 other scales.

Recent Reds

  • Columbia Valley, Wash., 2018 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot ($11 on sale grocery store; look for newer vintages). Mid-garnet, rim variation, viscous (13.5 alc.); black fruit, cocoa, berry nose; some depth; semi-long berry finish. w/burgers, picnic fare. 15/88.
  • Organic California 2020 Bonterra Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ($12, on sale, grocery store). Mid-garnet, viscous (13.9 alc.); herbaceous, cassis, licorice, berry nose; mid acids; mid tannins; decent fruit; semi-long berry finish. w/burgers. 15.5/89.
  • Mendocino, Calif., 2020 Parducci Petite Sirah Small Lot ($15). Dark garnet, viscous (15.0 alc.); ripe grape, black fruit, pepper, metallic nose; mid acids; mid-full tannins; round, ripe, bigger style; long semi-hot finish. BBQ and burger wine. 15.5/89.
  • $17 (grocery store sale) 2019 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County. Mid-dark garnet, viscous (13.8 alc.); berries, red fruit, smokey, wood, mint nose; low-mid acids; mid-tannins; balanced; semi-long berry and wood finish. w/beans and burgers. 16/90. Look for newer vintages of this on sale, too.
  • $18 Zinfandel Contra Costa, Calif., 2018 Three Wine Company Old Vines. Mid-garnet, rim variation, viscous (15.5% alc.); ripe grape, brambles, red fruit, light oak nose; low-mid acids; mid+ tannins; good Zinfandel fruit; long semi-hot chewy finish; opens with air. w/barbecue. 16-16.5/90-91.

    Three Wines Old Vines Zinfandel

  • $20 (Total Wine) Right Bank 2019 Château de la Chapelle Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux. 85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. Sharp mid-dark garnet, viscous (14.0 alc.); smokey, cocoa, herbaceous, red fruit and wood nose; mid acids; mid+ tannins; some style; balanced earthy wood and berry finish. w/beef. 16/90.
  • Sonoma Pinot Noir 2018 Sosie Pinot Noir Spring Hill Vineyard ($23 WTSO). Just six barrels were made of this wine from a small plot, but the winery is worth following. Mid-ruby, rim variation, viscous (14.4 alc.); red fruit, stems, light oak, rose petal nose; mid acids; mid tannins; tasty Pinot fruit; long balanced semi-lush red fruit finish. 16.5-17/91-92.
  • $29 Sonoma Coast 2020 CrossBarn (Paul Hobbs) Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast. Mid-ruby, viscous (14.1 alc.); red fruit, ripe grape, stemmy, cherries, and wood nose; mid acids; mid+ tannins; bigger style (almost Syrah-like); long hot, chewy finish. 16-16.5/90-91.
  • $30 So. Australia beef, rib, and grill wine 2020 Penfolds Shiraz Bin 28. Dark purple, rim variation, viscous (14.5 alc.); ripe grape, prune, black fruit, peppery nose; mid acids; medium-full tannins; deep fruit; long black fruit, berry finish. 16.5/91.