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May 7, 2010 01:49 PM

Anyone been to Trader Joe's for wine lately? (Westfield, NJ)

Always pick up some good tips from you guys, so before I head out tomorrow, wanted to ask if I should be looking/trying anything new.

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  1. I'm on the West Coast, so many things that you get I might not have in my store and vice versa. However, every store should of gotten 6 cases of the following:

    2006 VINTJS Alexander Valley Malbec: $6.99: Delicious
    (Vintage?) Sebastopol Hills Pinot Noir: $ 8.99-9.99(?)
    The last vintage was very yummy and sold out extremely fast

    1. I recently shopped at the Trader Joe's in San Francisco, and got some lovely Stonehedge Sauv. Blanc for $5.95 a bottle. Truly a good wine for the price. Trader Joe's is a great place to buy wine, but the beer is not so great, albeit cheap. Plus, they have a wonderful Junmai sake from Oita, Japan for about $10 for a 720 ml bottle.

      1. Look for the PETS Petite Sirah, a very nice full-bodied red for $5.99 or $6.99. This wine usually sells for $10 or so and has been called a good value at that price.

        1. In general with Trader Joe's, I offer this warning: its wine buyers aren't choosy enough about the quality of their wine. Profit margins and hitting low price points are the top concerns, so you can't guarantee quality is there at every price point. A few great values come through TJs, but more often than not, I believe you get exactly what you pay for.

          Also, watch out for the hypey talk around TJs wine. For some reason, customers get feverish about it, and people talk each other into buying cases of crappy wine. Instead, I recommend that you buy one bottle at a time that YOU think you are interested in, take it home, try it that night, try it the next day. Still like it? Then buy in quantity.

          6 Replies
          1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

            I think that the buyers do a pretty good job with the hand they're dealt and I'd love to see more quality wines come onto our shelves. Unfortunately many of our customers (at least at my store) don't want to pay more than $2-8 a bottle. Of what I've tasted, I think the private labels have been more interesting/better this year, but that's my palate talking and your mileage may vary. BTW, I'm more interested in folks trying several different things than buying a single case of something. I hate crappy wine and it's part of my job to "sort" through the schlock and find something drinkable.

            1. re: BigWoodenSpoon

              BWS - I should cut you some slack on the $2-8 game, which is one of the toughest assignments in wine buying, period. I should also clarify that the 'not so choosy' assessment I have made is in the section of $8-15 wines that I see in San Francisco. I'm connected to the industry enough to know many of these names are highly discounted from the producer.

              I'd never bash a company for trying to make better margins, but as a consumer who shops at TJs every other week, you would get a lot more of my wine buying dollars (currently less than 3%) if I saw more wines chosen because they are best of class in that price range. One example is Cotes du Rhone. I am a huge buyer of this region's wine, but I have rarely found an acceptable bottle in its price range at TJs.

              Because I have no trust in the quality of wines unknown to me on your shelf (ie Italian reds, etc), I rarely buy one blind. On the other hand, I could walk into K&L Wines in San Francisco, throw a dart...and know that I am getting a great example of that wine at that price.

              Make sense?

              1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                Understandable. I wish I had more input on the Corporate buying side myself, but for now I'm just learning the system.

                BTW, some stores do have "Wine Teams" that do Tastings for themselves and the Crew. If I was a regular consumer, I'd seek these stores out (sorry no list available) and get to know the folks and see if anyone has similar tastes to yours.

                Also, if you're curious about any of the Italian or other wines, you're always welcome to ask and I'll either give you my tasting notes or try to put it into the tasting lineup.

                1. re: BigWoodenSpoon


                  I'm curious as to whether you think the folks doing the selecting for TJs have access to the same general range of wine quality as kay's example of K&L. And, also, whether they can handle relatively small quantity.

                  I'd have to wonder whether TJs size limits them somewhat to larger quantity buys that may restrict the overall pool in which they're fishing. Someone like K&L might bring in 25 cases, or even 5, whereas a TJs may need much more than that for a buy to make sense.

                  1. re: Midlife

                    I do think that our size does limit what we can realistically purchase.

                    We're at about 335 stores now and my impression from the e-mails I've seen that the goal is to have at least 4 cases per store available to order. Sometimes Northern and/or Southern CA get special deals with smaller quantities because of our proximity to major vintners, but it also depends on what the winemakers will let their wine go for as far as price is concerned.

                    Still learning the ropes, hope to understand more of the process and pass it along to y'all.

                2. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                  I would agree w/ you 200%. Miss K & L badly. Just moved to Phila. after 27 years in SF, and I am dying here. Actually would even enjoy some of the lesser quality wines from TJ's.

            2. I think TJ does a better job of quality to price in the $4-8 range than most wine shops do in the sub $15 range. It annoys me that most wine shops in America seem to care less about the under $15 dollar week-night bottle of wine and often the $6 bottle I've gotten at Trader Joe's is better than the $13 bottle I got at a wine store.

              Sometimes I just want to have wine with a meal and frankly anything (short of franzia) will do. When I lived in Provence we would often fill large jugs from wooden barrels at the wine store or local cave. Those wines were somewhere around .89 a liter. Often I would buy bottles for 2-3 Euro just to have with dinner. There is absolutely a time for more expensive wine and I love great wine, but I can't afford to be drinking it every night. It annoys me how in America we have fetished wine to such a point that you can't even walk into a normal wine store and pay less than $9 a bottle. At least TJ is seeking out some of the leftoevers or more obscure regions and offering reasonable priced wine. Sure sometimes you get what you pay for, but of everything I've bought over the last few years only one or two bottles were truly "undrinkable" and any others that had some funk just needed a good decanting.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Klunco

                As a former small wine shop owner who's kept in touch with the shop since its sale I have an opinion on your first paragraph.

                For one thing, it's a function of traffic and simple math. A small wine shop will make 30% or so on what it sells. At <$8 it will make $2.50 a bottle. Unless it's in a position where it can sell a whole lot of those bottles, it just doesn't make sense to trade $4 profit a sale for $2.50. I know you'll say they'd do more business at lower price points but that is not necessarily true.

                For another thing, a large retailer like TJs buys in such huge quantity that it's cost is much lower than that of a small retailer. That actual $7.99 bottle at TJs might easily cost the small shop more than TJs pays for it, and the small shop can't afford to work on TJs lower margins.

                And I won't even go into how hard it is to find good quality wine at $7 cost let alone $3 to $6 cost. My palate may have been trained by 'better' wine, but I try a lot of TJs <$8 wines and I've been running about 30% satisfaction of late. At that price I just don't get well-balanced wine most of the time. Most of what I try is a one-time buy. Even following this board and some TJ-centric blogs I don't have a whole lot of success.

                1. re: Midlife

                  also, the overhead/rent costs of keeping a $4 bottle on the shelf are the same as keeping a $20 bottle on the shelf. the landlord doesn't give you a break because your inventory/markup is lower than what it could have been.