some tips for buying wine for your wedding on the peninsula
i just went through the process of picking and buying the wines we're going to serve at our wedding, so i thought i'd share some of my experiences for others out there who might be in the same boat as me.
first off, i'd like to thank melanie, who not only gave me some of the advice i'm about to give you, but also gave me some wines to choose from.
second, i'm down in palo alto so this may not be of benefit to everyone since i basically limited myself to local places, and i also limited my choice of wines to those under $13, calif cabs and merlots, and french (for red) and for whites, just went with a melanie suggestion.
the plan was to pick up a bunch of bottles, get some friends together (from the wedding party, etc), and do a blind tasting party to pick the winners. we did this for the red but not the white.
i bought the whites from vin, vino, wine on california ave in palo alto. for those of you who don't know about this place, it's a tiny little shop that doubles as a wine bar and holds regular tastings. the guy who helped me there was named bob, and he was great. he suggested a couple of bottles for the red tasting and then proceeded to give me a 20% wedding discount off the cases of white i bought (which were fairly priced to begin with). usually, a typical case discount is 10% and wedding discounts if you're lucky are 15, so i was especially grateful for such a generous break (do you know how much weddings cost these days?), and especially one without any prodding or haggling on my part. for that reason alone i'd recommend this place.
then i went to beltramo's. the guy there made a couple of suggestions, so i bought those bottles and headed over to k&l. the first thing i noticed at k&l was that prices were much cheaper than at beltramo's. the guy at k&l then recommended a couple of bottles, so i bought those and headed off to cost plus, where the bottles are really cheap, so i picked up a couple of those (chosen from my wine spectator best buys research as well as a couple of bottles i've liked in the past).
we had our blind tasting (about 7 people), and ended up picking the j.lohr seven oaks cab and the echelon merlot (which is actually 25% cab), both of which were recommended by the guy at k&l. in third came a bottle from bergerac (next to bordeaux) recommended by the guy from vin, vino, wine, then a couple of cost plus bottles, and then clearly (which isn't exactly easy to do in a blind tasting) in dead last came the two bottles recommended by the beltramo's guy.
so the next day i went to k&l to buy the cases and was a bit disappointed to learn that there was absolutely no discount of any kind for cases bought there because the price was already significantly discounted. just to make sure, i went to beltramo's, which also carried the j.lohr cab. they had a 10% discount on all non-discounted wines but no discount on already marked down wines. the j.lohr cab had already been marked down but was still a dollar more per bottle than at k&l. i told the same guy who helped me before about that, and all he had to say was "then go buy it at k&l". not that i need to really spell this out to you, but my greatest bit of advice is to clearly avoid beltramo's. the prices stink, the service is bad, 'nuff said.
so i called around some more and learned that k&l's prices are pretty much just above cost, so i went back there and just bought them. the j.lohr ended up being about 12 or 13 a bottle and the echelon 10 a bottle.
unfortunately, none of the places agreed to store the cases, and the last thing i wanted to happen was to have all this wine i've bought for the wedding go bad sweating it out in my apartment until november. so i called around and found this place called annie's attic in millbrae, which had wine storage lockers in a temperature controlled environment. i got a 12 case locker for $16 a month and now all i have to do is wait for the big day (in addition to the million other responsibilities leading up to it).
well, hope that was somewhat helpful. if anybody wants to ask me for more details, feel free.
Great post, Wonki! Glad that this part is going swimmingly for you.
I had to chuckle at your encounters with Bel, pretty much how I described 'em, right? K&L probably gets more of my wine dollars than any other retailer. Whenever I'm in Palo Alto, I try to make a stop at VVW to browse and/or taste, which is a class operation. Bob at VVW is very knowledgeable, as is Victor.
Glad you found good storage. I wasn't too, too far off in my attempts to recall the name of the wine locker place (Betty's Closet vs. Annie's Attic).
My apologies for not responding to your latest question (which does not need to be your last). Sparkling wine is the most sensitive to poor handling. However, since you've found temperature controlled storage, you should have no qualms about buying the bubbly now and keeping it until November. In fact, it's probably better to buy now. New stock (freshly disgorged) will be arriving in the stores this fall to get ready for the holidays. Newly disgorged bubbly benefits from a couple-three months to settle down and marry from the disgorgement/dosage steps and the shipping. If anything, your bottles might lack a bit of the floral aromas of newly disgorged stock, if that. In general, I think that bubbly you buy now will show better than what's available in November.
Just a little 411. The J. Lohr cab is a widely available wine. Most supermarkets carry the stuff, and it can be had for 10 to 12 bones a bottle, less if it's on their ad. Throw in a typical 10% case discount and you're got a great value. Bevmo also carries the stuff, and is really good about matching or beating the best price you can find.
Sorry for the tardy info. Have a fantastic wedding!