How Do You Define Bargain?

Just because it’s cheap, doesn’t mean it’s a deal.

Finding good wine at low price makes it taste even better.

We’re all looking to save money. Buying something for a bargain makes us feel a sense of accomplishment. It’s easy to agree that getting a new Chevrolet Corvette for $10,000 is a bargain (if not a steal), but is it a bargain to pay $3 for a bottle of wine that tastes disjointed, tart, sour, and thin? The definition of a bargain is “Something offered or acquired at a price advantageous to the buyer.” A used Paul Reed Smith Custom Ten-Top with bird inlays for $2000 would be advantageous to me, but not for everyone.

Grocery Outlet is known for low prices on food items. While I’ve never considered G.O. a place for wine, I learned from my Twitter friends that several often find deals there. Evidently there are more bargainistas out there than I imagined. Ahead of their bi-annual wine sale (March 30-April 3) Grocery Outlet reached out to me with a fun challenge. They offered me two $50 gift cards – one to use to buy wine and the other to give away to a lucky viewer/reader. I have to admit that at first I was conflicted about being “paid” in wine to promote an event, but I see it as an opportunity to uncover a good value for those that read this blog (thanks, Mom). It’s also pretty cool to be able to give someone $50.

So, off I went with my preconceptions in search of the $7 bottle of Opus One, and the $4 Clos de Betz. Each of the 130+ West Coast stores is independently operated, and from what I hear, wine selection varies greatly by location. The Spokane location on Sprague Ave had a decent sized section of wine. If you’re looking for a wine steward, shelf talkers, and organized bottles – go somewhere else. If you’re looking for wine that is as low as $3 and $60 Napa wine (retail) for $15, then you may be onto something.

Armed with my $50 gift card, I walked up and down the aisles looking for labels I recognized, appellations that have respect, and the biggest mark-up. 30-minutes later the till said $61 (pre-tax) for my 8 bottle score ($7.62 average). Sadly I only saw a few labels I recognized. With a low of $3 and an outlandishly expensive $15, I left a little uncertain of how this experiment would take shape.

HOW TO WIN $50

It’s simple. Leave a comment (either here or at my Facebook page). You won’t be added to a mailing list, you won’t be spammed – one lucky reader will win!

The NectarView

2009 Buckley Cove Shiraz

  • The Stuff: This wine comes from AU Vineyards in South East Australia. The winery is responsible for AU, Buckley’s Cove, 12 Apostles, Element 79, Fly, and Tambourine labels. This is a 2009 vintage blend of Shiraz and Cabernet. The web site availability shows US distribution is limited to Grocery Outlet stores.
  • The Swirl: Very bright purple (neon), moderately thin with medium translucence.
  • The Sniff: Sugary grape or cherry jolly rancher and sweet candy. Reminded me of those sugar candy you dip the stick into.
  • The Sip: Very thin throughout. The wine is very off-balanced with a sugary sweet front end and then a bitter tart back end.
  • The Score: At $3, I score this wine a 1 (out of 5). This is a not recommended at any price.

Two Cellar Tracker scores at 77

Okay – so for me this was not a deal. Keeping it real here, this wine ended up down the drain. I’m sure that there are some folks who would be okay with it, but for the majority of wine lovers, this is no deal.

2005 Two Iron Red Wine

  • The Stuff: The bottle says Napa and references Costa del Sol Cellars. My online investigation revealed next to nothing about this wine. The retail on the Grocery Outlet shelf said $60, but I was unable to validate that anywhere.
  • The Swirl: Dark plum with a good color. Thins out toward the edge and is mostly opaque.
  • The Sniff: The nose opens up with a nice black fruit and cassis. Hints of stone and oak come through as well.
  • The Sip: The mouth feel is a Jekyll and Hyde. The initial attack is modest with good fruit but the finish is very bitter, woody and sharp.
  • The Score: At $15, I score this wine a 2 (out of 5). A purchase price of $25 and over, I’d be ticked. At $15, I’m slightly disappointed, at $10 it still doesn’t make the Under $10 Team.

Cellar Tracker – Seven people have this in their cellar (all purchased from Grocery Outlet), but no reviews.

I had high hopes for this wine, being from Napa Valley. So far, neither of the two wines I selected would qualify as “bargains” for me. Three of the remaining four are from labels I recognize, so I’m hoping for good things.

Stay tuned! Have you ever found a bargain at Grocery Outlet? Want to win $50? Leave a comment.

drinknectar

Owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA. (@nectarwine) Publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine (@spowinemag), author, speaker, consultant and internet marketer with Nectar Media (@nectarmedia)

68 comments on “How Do You Define Bargain?

  1. Alena

    Great reviews!!! I am a huge fan of buying wine at the GO for the bargains! Appreciate your honesty on the reviews, I will stay away from those when I hit thier wine sale next week.
    Looking forward to future reviews.
    Thanks!
    Alena

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Alena,

      I really think there is potential for getting good wine at a amazing deal there. The key is to check in regularly because the stock changes. Thanks for stopping by with a comment. You’re entered into the drawing for $50 G.O. card.

      Reply
  2. @melanie0

    I couldn’t agree with you more. A bargain is totally relative. My latest value find that costs under $20 and drinks like a $50 bottle is Layer Cake. Try it and let me know if you agree. But, a $7.99 bottle of Geyser Peak Sauv Blanc is certainly a pleasant summertime wine as well.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Melanie – thanks for the comment. I really need to try Layer Cake. I’ve heard several people speak well of it.

      Cheers!

      Reply
  3. Ben Simons

    Love digging into the (potential) bargain options. Gotta say, any wine that you feel compelled to dump down the sink, not a good value. :)

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      I really wanted to spit it out, but I don’t use a spit bucket when filming. Thanks for the comment!

      Reply
  4. Emily

    Thanks for the reviews! I too appreciate the honesty. I love shopping at the GO & have wondered about a lot of the wines that I have seen there. Hope that you sample one that you can recommend.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Emily. Thanks for the comment. Wine tastes can be subjective. I’m looking forward to tonights Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Hopefully they prove to be “deals”

      Josh

      Reply
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  6. Mike Supple

    Hahahaha. Your facial expressions after tasting the Shiraz are hilarious. Way to keep the gag reflex down while filming. Nice honest reviews – look forward to the rest of the series.

    Searching for bargains is something I find really important. There are too many cheap wines out there and not enough bargains!

    Cheers,
    Mike (@supplewine)

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Thanks, Mike! I was wondering if anyone would notice. I hope the next 4 bottles show differently…for my sake.

      Reply
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  8. Lisa Spangenberg

    Shopping for wine at BGO is a little different.

    I’ve found a few I really liked–Dancing Bull and a Sonoma, California Black Goose Chardonnay that, honestly, I suspect was at BGO was that it was getting a little old for drinking.

    But I’ve also seen what seem, to may admittedly naive eyes, awfully high ABV for reds–like 14.5 ABV and even 15.0 ABV.

    I have discovered that Precept and Constellation have an awful lot of labels, as does Bronco Wines.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Lisa! Rockin’ comment. Great information for all the readers. Thank you so much for stopping by. If I found Dancing Bull at my Grocery Outlet, a case would be in order. All of their stuff at $10 seems to be pretty trustworth – if it were $3 or $5 a bottle, STEAL!

      Josh

      Reply
  9. Sheena

    Thanks for your honest review, Josh. I’ll stay tuned for tonight’s tasting, hope you find a treasure in the hunt. :)

    Reply
  10. Timothy Nagel

    It seems that just like anything else at Grocery Outlet, it can be hit or miss, but it is worth the money to try anything once, if just for the experience. I have to say I haven’t tried any wines at GO, but am not adverse to the idea. Hope you find some better tasting ones, I imagine you will.

    Reply
  11. CS Braun

    I am choosing GO wines for my daughter’s wedding. I appreciate all your views. Keep ‘em coming!

    Reply
  12. Heather

    I love this grocery outlet contest, its amazing. I already knew they had great wine though. I love the food bargains as well.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Heather – I agree.

      CS – I’ve four more wines to review – Hopefully we find some great wedding worthy values for you!

      Maija – I was tempted by the 12 Apostles and wish I would have tried it. I’ll check out your review.

      Timothy – These are my first experience of GO wines too. A key might be keeping an eye out for labels that you already trust rather than risking something because the price is right.

      Sheena – ;) Cheers!

      Reply
  13. Craig

    First time to the site thanks to a link from the Grocery Outlet Fan page on Facebook. Looking forward to coming back often for your wine reviews. Enjoyed your video and your honest opinions on the wines you tried and I hope you find a wine from GO that you can highly recommend.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Thanks, Craig! I hope you become a fan! Thanks for the kind words.

      Reply
  14. denise

    We have tried a ton there and most end up being used as cooking wines. But, the gnarly head merlot was good enough for drinking and we have had luck with some of the $7-$10 New Zealand Sav Blancs. We are also hoping to buy in bulk for our upcoming wedding and hope that you can recommend a cab, merlot or sav or flume blanc. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Denise – thanks for stopping by.

      Gnarly Head makes a good Merlot and Zin. Other descent Cab’s that I won’t review during this G.O. series are from Columbia Crest (Grand Estates label) – My favorite bargain Sauv Blanc is Arbor Crest (usually $7 a bottle). Good luck with the wedding.

      Reply
  15. Michael

    I have bought an awful lot of wine from there and have at times been surprised with a good one. So far I am still looking for a good Malbec, do you have any suggestions?

    Reply
  16. Janet

    I too am a first time reader that was directed here via the Grocery Outlet link. I’ve bought quite a bit of wine from Grocery Outlet over the years and I have to say, it’s definitely hit and miss. I try not to go to far out on a limb or to be too disappointed when I get a bad bottle of wine because every once in a while I end up with a gem. That’s part of the fun in shopping at the Grocery Outlet.

    -Janet

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Janet, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed looking around. I like your attitude about being hit/miss, seems to be a general concensus.

      Reply
  17. Joe

    broken record…Rene Barbier Mediterranean Red or White (Catalunya, Spain). I’ll smuggle you some if you can’t buy it there (it’s $5.99).

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Trust me Joe, It’s in my notebook (yes, I carry a recommended wine notebook).

      Reply
  18. Doreen

    I tried the Buckley’s Cove since I’d really liked the AU Shiraz – but I didn’t care for the Buckey’s Cove either. I’m looking forward to seeing your reviews of the other wines you’ve purchased from Grocery Outlet. I buy the majority of my wines from Grocery Outlet – there are definitely bargains to be found … not just cheap – but bargains – good wine at great prices.

    One of my recent bargains is the Scheild Estates Shiraz

    Doreen

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Thanks for the comment Doreen. I’ll check to see if our store has the Scheild Estates Shiraz

      Reply
  19. Terra

    Thanks for the honest reviews!

    Reply
  20. Rachel

    I’m a big GO shopper. I normally stick to brands I know. I’m familiar with their regular prices, so I know if it is a bargain. Not everything there is something I would consider a bargain, but some of the frozen foods are fabulously priced. I typically buy things that are more expensive – organic foods, “premium” brands – so they have more bargain potential.

    I haven’t yet tried wines at GO – I’m not very adventurous when it comes to wine. I appreciate your reviews, even if this post is just what NOT to buy!

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Thanks, Rachel. I think the same approach you take with food purchases can be true of wine. If you recognize the label and know that it originally is $20, but GO has it for $8, then grab some!

      Reply
  21. Erik Laursen

    A few months back I bought a couple bottles of Forgeron Walla Walla Syrah for $9.99 each at the Albertsons in Liberty Lake- must of been mispriced because I think the wholesale is around $22? I bought the last two bottles and haven’t seen any since?
    Recently I have been buying Dynamite Merlot, CA for $8.99 a bottle at Liberty Lake Albertsons- quite a steal of a deal- quite an elegant merlot for under $10 with solid scores on cellar tracker!

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Erik! You scored HUGE! Thanks for the tip on the Merlot. A forsee a drive to Liberty Lake in my near future!

      Reply
  22. Doreen

    oops – the correct name is Shild Estates

    Reply
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  24. Melissa Mohr

    I tried a $3 wine there once, and it was awful. I suspect the reason it was so cheap and tasted like it came out of a can was it was stored or shipped at too high of a temperature. I don’t think I’ll buy wine there anymore because even if its a brand I recognize, I don’t know how its been stored. Maybe its cheap because it got left on the loading dock all afternoon in August.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Melissa – you make some good points about storage. I’m giving a few more reviews, so we’ll see how the labels I recognize pan out.

      Reply
  25. Kelly Lancaster

    Thanks for the great post, Josh.

    I have been a long time shopper, yet mostly ‘lurker’ at the GO for wine, which started about 10 years ago.

    My 2 best finds the past decade were
    *Columbia Winery “Millennium” Red Blend out of Columbia Valley, which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc -’97 and a bit of Malbec for the -’98 a real steal for $12. It was released at $40-50. I had a case of two vintages. David Lake ‘legacy’ wine, and both amazing vintages. Sadly, it’s all gone.

    *My other favorite find was Castello della Paneretta Toscana (’03), which is a blend of 50% Sangiovese/Canaiolo, I paid around $10-12 and still see the same wine (& vintage) for $40 in a local wine shop. A wonderful wine with a lot of life left in it. I am cellaring the last 1/2 case and semi-annual bottle sampling is proving this wine has grace and longevity.

    But my philosophy with wine shopping at the GO is the princess philosophy: “You have to kiss a lot of wine-toads before you find your pince charming vin”.

    Best of luck!

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      I love the quote and philosophy Kelly! Sounds like the two you “found” were excellent.

      Reply
  26. Ashley

    Took my first trip to Grocery Outlet in Kennewick the other day, I was amazed at their wine selection!! I’m excited to start my G-O wine shopping adventures!

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Ashley – yeah, my first visit was Monday with these selections. Our store had a decent selection, but a lot of off labels that were unfamiliar. I’ll have to keep checking back.

      Reply
  27. Anthony

    Thanks for the great review and the chance to win!

    Reply
  28. Jill H.

    Great wine review and I love Grocery Outlet! Fingers crossed! Thanks!

    Reply
  29. Gloria

    I enjoyed your commentary!
    It reminds me that I’ve tried some Chardonnays there that I’ve been very pleased with, but can’t remember the names. You always know the good wines because you see them one day, they are gone the next!
    This reminds me that I need to go back…I’ve scored there before!
    Great work. Can’t wait for your next interview.

    Reply
  30. Gina Boysun

    Last summer GO had Dancing Bull Merlot for $4 a bottle, which is more than half what I’d paid at Safeway for a day-to-day bottle.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Gina – Dancing Bull at $4 is a great buy! I would have bought 3 or 4.

      Gloria – thanks for stopping by! A good Chardonnay is tough to pass up!

      Reply
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  32. Eric

    Good stuff. I usually keep a screwpull in my car for trips to the GO: if it passes the Camry Test, I’ll go back in and grab a few more bottles. If not, hey, I’m out four bucks. Good site, good reviews, and I hope I’m not too late for the fifty bones–it’ll certainly get used!

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Eric,

      You’re not too late – I’ll be pulling the winning ticket tonight 3/29!

      Reply
  33. Janet

    *Fingers crossed* I have my eye on a case of late harvest reisling…

    -Janet

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Sweet.

      Literally. Late Harvest = Sweet ;)

      Reply
  34. Linda Lind

    I live in Gresham near the Grocery Outlet store on Division Street and we always pick up a few bottles of wine there and they always have great prices. Love this store and don’t forget to buy their cheese too and I usually find great prices on cheese there.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Good call – pick up some wind and don’t forget the cheese. Thanks for the comment, Linda

      Reply
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  36. Muranojo

    Haven’t tried the Buckley’s Cove Shiraz, but have tried the Cabernet and LOVE it! In fact, have been back twice to buy a case, and one time had to fight over the last case with another customer. It flies off the shelf fast around here. Also tried the Cab/Shiraz blend and thought it was good, plus 12 Apostles and Fly, all good. I think their sign said the original price was $13.99/bottle, but I’m not sure if this is correct, and I can’t find it anywhere online for sale.

    I love finding a good, cheap wine, and GO is a fab place to explore and try.

    Reply
  37. David

    I have shopped GO for wine for about ayear….some good finds if you keep checking back. My currenet favorite is Burgess Syrah 2005..yum..yum
    Burgess is a napa winery that has produced great wines for decades.

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Cool! I’ll have to keep my eyes out for that one!

      Reply
  38. Mikala

    Sipping the Buckley’s Cove Shiraz at this very moment and I guess it is back to the 3 buck Chuck for me. I was hoping that this wine would be as managable to drink as what I get at TJ’s because GO is closer to home. Wish I could pony up $130 every night for a nice bottle of Far Niente CabSav it is positively psychedelic. Cheers

    Reply
    1. drinknectar

      Mikala – if you would have read my review prior to buying it, I could have saved you $1.99 – It was absolutely horrible, huh!

      Reply
  39. nanschocolate

    Have you checked out the recently(G.O.)promoted, “Archetype” wines?
    I was tickled to find them at $3, either the Shiraz, or Cabernet+Shiraz.
    I would happily serve them to even picky guests.
    I’d love to see your reviews.

    Reply
  40. Dave

    I thought Buckley’s Cove was great then read your review. I’m sure you’re the expert but some of these expensive wines taste like crap to me, You gave it a “1″ but I find a lot of Australian wines taste better than the “complex” California varieties. Oh the 2.99 bottle was on sale for 2.39. It doesn’t deserve a “1″, that’s reserved for Gallo, Pagan Pink. Please. don’t insult our Aussie friends. by the time that bottles empty it will be an 8 or 9. If I ever want to become a wino, I would always shop wine at G.O>

    Reply
  41. David

    I bought one bottle of the 12 Apostles Cabernet Sauvignon. It was one of the best red wines I’ve had under $20 in ages! I went back and bought the last case of it at my local GO – $2.99 a bottle, and 20% off that!

    Reply
  42. Daniella

    My experience at Grocery outlet is mixed. But when i find a good wine, I buy lots of it. The trick is to call the store (or stores and have them set it aside as soon as y’ouve tasted and liked the wine). A couple of years ago they had a bordeaux for $5 or $6. It was great. I bought 2 cases and I drank it at bbq’s, and brought it to parties. As soon as I made a dent in the first two cases so started calling out to other stores. I found 5 cases at another store and i had a friend pick them up for me.

    Last year and this year, however, I found a better bargain at Costco. Chateaux Bell Air, also a Bordeaux. I remember seeing this winery when I visited Bordeaux if im not mistaken it was at the start of the D2 (as you left the city). For $7.99 this was a way better buy. I bought several cases last year and found a couple of cases this year at another Costco. This is what i serve to the masses, rather than giving them a first or 2nd growth or older “library” wines, when they don’t have a developed pallet. But even for someone with discerning taste, it is always good to have an accessible wine to recommend to friends that aren’t big spenders. I look for one every year.

    Reply
    1. Daniella

      forgot to mention. Ive had better luck with Sauvignon Blanc at G.O.

      Reply

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