The papers are loaded with grocery store wine ads touting 30% off sales.
Without sounding too snarky at Christmastime, are you really excited about saving 30% on Cupcake Red Velvet?
The latest round of ads limit the 30% off "deal" to wines over $20 a bottle and exclude Champagne and sparkling wine, conveniently two weeks before the biggest bubbly day of the year, New Year's Eve. It seems grocery chains need to thin out their poor-performing high-end inventory, providing more evidence our "Main Street" economy still isn't very happy.
I've kinda noticed people are a little more glum this season than in past years. Usually when people walk into our store in December there is a little spring in their steps--after all, next to Disneyland The Wine Country is the world's happiest place. But this year so far it looks more like the walk of the living dead. I have this nagging sense people are shopping for presents because they have to, not because they want to. And I want The Wine Country to be a refuge for people who get depressed other places, but not here. I hope that changes during the last week before Christmas.
I always envisioned our store being a community stop-over for sound and sometimes thrilling wines at day-to-day prices. For example, I'm absolutely nutty about the new category of moderate-alcohol dry white wine bargains we're stocking from France's Cotes de Gascogne with names like Tariquet and Bidalere that sell for $8.99 and taste more like Sauvignon Blanc than most Sauvignon Blancs.
I realize that a $9 bottle of wine is still not a $4 wine, and we'll have to concede that market share to Trader Joe's and Albertson's. As our colleague Bennett Traub noted recently, "there is a floor to the price of quality wine--and it isn't $4." But there is plenty of thrilling wine available for under $15 if you know where to look. And getting 30% off industrial, mass-produced, overly manipulated corporate wine marketed in corporate venues isn't where you'll usually find them.
In this new Post-Parker world, enlightened wine shoppers care less about $500 Grand Cru Burgundies with 94 points than they do about finding affordable wines that'll taste good with their roast tonight. Even those folks who just want to drink wine--and could care less about wine "pairing"--are aware that there is a lot more flavor out there than Cabernet and Chardonnay, the chocolate and vanilla of restaurant wine lists. And many of them cost a heck of a lot less than they were paying before.
That's something to get excited about this holiday season.
With a week left before Christmas and two weeks before New Year's Eve there is ample time to become a hero at work and with your significant other at home.
1. Buy a case of J. Laurens bubbly and twelve bottle bags and you have gifts for your office staff that'll bring smiles to everyone. It'll set you out only about $200, but the good-will you establish at your workplace will last all year long.
2. Serve Gaston Chiquet's delicate Blanc de Blancs champagne as an aperitif for New Year's Eve dinner and Mark Hebrart's Special Club at midnight and you will get laid. Maybe not then, but soon.
3. Your important clients deserve one of Dale's beautiful gift baskets. If you've forgotten anyone on your list, they present an impressive, thoughtful, delicious solution to your predicament. From $29.99.
4. Don't wait until Christmas or New Year's Eve to open a bottle of grower champagne for your wife, your husband, your partner or your girlfriend. This is a stressful time of year for a lot of folks, and a surprise "pop" from a bottle of Camille Saves or Agrapart will soothe the nerves and raise more than just your spirits.
5. Make plans to join us Thursday December 29 for the first of two nights of enjoying The Best Champagnes of 2011 with Samantha Dugan, our Champagne Mistress at only $55 per person. (Earlier that afternoon from 4:30 to 6:45, Samantha will be offering her finest five Champagnes under $40 at our last Commuter Tasting of the year. Cost is just $15.)
6. If there are spirits drinkers on your shopping list, we have some of the coolest bottles in town, including Del Maguey's Vida Mezcal and Domaine de Boingneres incredible Bas Armagnac Reserve. Giving a gift like those will demonstrate you not only have impeccable taste, it'll prove you went the extra mile and didn't pick up a bottle of booze along with your Whitman's Sampler at Rite-Aid.
7. You may discover the Santa Cruz Mountains are producing some of the most sophisticated wines in California right now, particularly Ridge Vineyards and Mount Eden Vintners.
8. Bring a bottle of McEvoy's Marin County olive oil as a hostess gift this holiday. If there is a better oil produced in California, we haven't found it. While you're visiting our gourmet food section, also pick up some Brittany butter caramels made with fleur de sel, or Happy Goat Winter Spice or Vanilla Bean goat's milk caramels, or locally made artisan caramels from Little Flower Candy Company. The sea salt ones are my favorite.
9. Buy a case of Bidalere or Tariquet white for everyday and splurge on a fun bottle for the weekend. Then invite some friends over to share both.
10. Just stop by and say hi. It gives us a lift to see all of you this time of year. It reminds us how lucky we are to be working in a field that lets us live out our passion and serve our community in a most important way.