Michael Perlis: Ways to Buy Wine

I really prefer buying wine direct from wineries. I tend to buy from smaller, artisanal producers of Zinfandel, Syrah and the like. Since the producers are so small and demand tends to be high, many of these wines are not typically available at retail. And I also feel it gives me an opportunity to develop a relationship with the owner/winemaker, even though admittedly this is sometimes just in my own mind. And, for the small wineries, having customers that buy direct is typically much more profitable to them than having to go through the usual distribution system, with all parties getting a piece of the pie.

I’ll also buy from stores I feel comfortable with. I often suggest to people that they develop a good relationship with store personnel so they can be informed of the availability of wines that suit their palate. For example, Vic Herstein of All Corked Up has a very good idea of what kind of wines I enjoy and has turned me on to some terrific juice.

Most of our cellar has been built using the above two methods.

But, there are also deals to be found out there. While I am all in favor of buying the latest and greatest from my favorite wineries and stores, I am not averse to buying prior vintages of wines that are now ready-to-drink, especially if they are offered at a great deal. After all, if I don’t buy them, someone else will.

The recession has affected all of us, mostly negatively. Wine buying is apparently down, as I find myself being offered wines at reduced prices on a regular basis.

I am on a lot of winery mailing lists. Occasionally I receive emails from some of these offering close outs on prior vintages.

But, there are other bargains available as well.

One of my favorite retailers is the Wine Exchange in Orange County [www.winex.com]. It is probably the largest store with the most extensive selection of any store I have been in. I’ve only had occasion to visit them once, as it is pretty far from the Santa Clarita Valley. But, I highly recommend signing up for their email list. As I’ve said, their selection is terrific, and from what I can tell the pricing is pretty good too. But, my favorite emails from them are when they are offering bargains. I first saw most of the bargains with Australian wines, but I’m seeing other things as well.

Speaking of Australian wines, The Grateful Palate [www.gratefulpalateimports.com] is a direct importer of some terrific Aussie bottlngs. Founded by pioneering importer Dan Philips, signing up for their mailing list is a great way to find out about their current releases as well as when they are closing out previous vintages.
There are also websites devoted to wine deals. For example, www.woot.com started out as a site devoted to selling one [non-wine] item per day at a great price. The have developed an ancillary site, www.winewoot.com, on which I have found some good deals.

Other sites that I know of for wine bargains that I don’t yet have experience with are Wines Till Sold Out [www.wtso.com] and The Wine Spies [www.thewinespies.com].

A couple of caveats

It is usually a good idea to do your own due diligence when offered what is purported to be a bargain. An Internet search can typically confirm whether the price is in fact the great deal that you are being told it is.

And don’t have your wines shipped when it is hot. Many sellers will hold your wine until the weather is cooler. Some will put ice packs in with the wine, although I don’t know how effective this method is.

And, make sure you are dealing with a reputable seller.

Bearing these things in mind, Happy Hunting!