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Jan 12, 2007 04:24 PM

SF Bay Area Wine Outlet question

I'm working on a story about a woman infatuated with wine and one of the things the plot requires her to do is amass cases of inexpensive cases of wine. I remember Liquor Barn in SF and Shopper's Corner in Santa Cruz being good sources when I lived in the Bay Area 15 years ago, but can folks name a few currently popular wine emporia of note for wine?

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  1. Odd Lots in Albany might be best for your purposes.

    On occasion, Trader Joe's or Grocery Outlet will have insanely cheap prices on good wines. Once in a while Premier Cru in Emeryvile blows out excess inventory. Search the SF board for past topics on exceptional bargains.

    Of course there's Charles "two-buck Chuck" Shaw at Trader Joe's. Plonk but you can't beat the price.

    1. You could also check out the wines available at the Bargain Bank stores. They have a number of wines in the $4 to $8 range. They have stores on Polk Street, Clement Street and Minnesota (on Potrero Hill). Their inventory changes often and you never know what you will find there or how long it will stay in stock.

      4 Replies
      1. re: DavidT

        We received an email today from Bargain Bank announcing that they're closing their warehouse on Minnesota St. It's a bummer.

        1. re: Atomica

          Thanks for letting us know. That is a shame, as that is/was where they had their largest wine inventory. I wonder if they will be moving to a different warehouse location or will do all their selling thru the Polk and Clement Street stores.

          1. re: DavidT

            I should have said it was because they lost their lease and they will be closing on Feb. 25, 2007. They will continue selling through the other 2 locations and are looking for other retail locations as well.

            1. re: Atomica

              Thanks for the additional info.

      2. Liquor Barn has been reincarnated at "Beverages, & more!" -- totally different company, but the same concept and many of the same managers, buyers and employees. They just traded Liquor Barn brown in for BevMo green.

        Shopper's Corner is still magnificent and keeps Santa Cruz going!

        In Berkeley, I would have to recommend Vintage Berkeley -- it's a small store but dedicated to the concept that fine wine doesn't have to be expensive. Very little of their inventory is over, say, $30-35 -- and that's mostly Champagne -- and the vast majority of it is between $10-24. Like I said, small store, but with a great selection and knowledgable staff.

        In Oakland, in MarketHall, is Paul Marcus Wines: similar concept, but they also have the "high priced spread" -- Burgundies, Rhones, Baroli, etc. up to and over $100.

        Certainly Trader Joe's has the cheap stuff, but a lot of it is swill.

        Over in the City, The Wine Club has a great selection and good prices on higher-end wines; so, too, does K&L. And no one does Champagne like D and M.

        7 Replies
        1. re: zin1953

          I don't think Paul Marcus is a place someone looking for inexpensive wine by the case would frequent. Pretty well-heeled clientele.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Depends on what you look for . . . I've found some very nice inexpensive wines there. Even though I absolutely agree with your suggestion of Oddlots (their original name of "Oddbins" having already been taken), I've always found better wines at Vintage Berkeley and, yes, Paul Marcus.

            Although it's certainly not in the same category, but it's the same with places like Trader Joe's, Cost Plus and Grocery Outlet . . . lots of inexpensive wines can certainly be found in these places, but -- I don't often find much to get excited over in these stores.

            It all depends upon your personal tastes.

            1. re: zin1953

              True, but the question in the original post seems focused mostly on cost.

              Odd Lots is cheaper. His current newsletter lists a couple of dozen wines at $6-7. The tradeoff is that the wine's more variable in quality. Out of my usual mixed case of 12 different wines, I often find only one I want to buy a case of, or none. Same goes only more so for Grocery Outlet and Bargain Bank.

              These days I buy more wine from Vintage Berkeley than anywhere else because they have a lot of wines I like and the location is convenient. They don't usually have much under $10, but these days I have more money than time.

            2. re: Robert Lauriston

              I have to disagree, Robert. One of the things I miss about my weekly drive through the East Bay is that I would stop at Paul Marcus and get really great wine at less than $10 a bottle (they give a 10% discount on the case). I was buying two cases a week; one white and one red and haven't found that kind of quality at that price in the city.

              1. re: Carrie 218

                $10 (or $9 after case discount) is relatively expensive compared with $6-7 at Odd Lots or $2-4 at Trader Joe's / Grocery Outlet / Bargain Bank. The extra money does mean you get more consistently reliable wines.

                Places with a good selection of interesting ~$10 wines in SF include Arlequin, Ferry Plaza, the Jug Shop, and the San Francisco Wine Trading Company (formerly Mr. Liquor).

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  The $10 limit was set by me -- they certainly had more in the $6-$7 range. I've simply had consistently better wines in the "under $10" range at Paul Marcus than I have had at Oddlots.

                  I will look into the others (except Ferry Plaza, which I mostly avoid due to the crowds).

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    I said $10 because in my experience that's pretty much the bottom price point for those wine shops. Odd Lots' last newsletter was full of wines in the $6-7 range. Paul Marcus's didn't mention anything under $9.99.

                    That's not a criticism, they're very different shops.