Yes, It's Okay to Buy Wine at Costco, Part 2

On Wednesday, we reviewed the "Weeknight Wines" you can buy at Costco for under $15. These are the wines that typically line the wine aisle at Costco, standing upright, many times still in the packaging.

But Costco does not only deal in bargain basement wine. They are also a vendor of premium selections, which are usually separated out into their own independent shelves, external to the aisles. And some of them are really, really good wines. Check out these First Growth Bordeaux (sorry for the glare):

And this bottle of vintage 2003 Dom Pérignon:

Let's face it, Costco has some good stuff. And recall that their maximum markup is 14 percent (as opposed to 30-50 percent in other retail stores), so you're getting expensive labels for less than you'd pay elsewhere. No one has to know that you got your first growth Chateau Latour from a big box store, right?

For those of us who can't spring for thousand dollar Burgundies but still appreciate nice wine, there are plenty of other options in the $15-$30 range (thankfully). Here are some of our favorites:

2013 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre $22

Oh, Sancerre. Emma and I have written extensively about our trip to the Loire Valley, and Sancerre, in particular. Sancerre, in France, is famous for Sauvignon Blanc, which makes white wines that are crisp and refreshing with flavors of lemon/lime, grapefruit and grassy notes. There really is nothing like a true French Sauv. They are among the world's best wines to pair with food, and there is no better way to round out a summer evening than by sipping a Sancerre as the sun goes down. If you like crisp whites, Sancerre should be one of your staples.

Louis Jadot Pouilly Fuisse $20

Pouilly-Fuisse is a French appellation located in southern Burgundy which grows exclusively Chardonnay. I love this wine in the fall and winter months. It's a rich, dry wine with good body and good weight, offset by the crisp flavors of Chardonnay - white flowers, grapefruit, ripe lemons and toasted almonds. The wines in Pouilly-Fuisse have an oak influence, so nice hazelnut and vanilla aromas also creep their way in. Louis Jadot is one of the most well-known houses in Burgundy, famous for the quality and regularity of their wines (the company is actually owned by Americans now, the Kopf family, who purchased Louis Jadot in 1985). Their wines at this price point won't be the ones you'll keep to age, but they are excellent quality for the money.

2012 Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma, CA, $19

Emma and I luuuuurve this wine. I'm not a big fan of the super jammy Zins out of Napa, but the Sonoma Coast (slightly cooler than Napa) has some gorgeous Zins that still show good fruit without slamming it in your face. I've been drinking this wine for years at the $23-24 price point, and was delighted to find it at Costco for $19. It's one of my permanent standby wines for it's dark fruit flavor with hints of cocoa, baking spices and cedar.

2012 Two Hands Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia, $23

Australian Shiraz is another staple of our collection, and this one is a solid choice. I love the big, bold and spicy flavors of Shiraz - it pairs well with food but is still quaffable on its own. Two Hands harvests their grapes from mature vines (which results in more concentrated flavors) and the black and blue fruit shows beautifully, rounding out in a nice long finish. For those of you that care about ratings (we don't, but know some of you do), Two Hands is a consistent pick for Wine Spectator's list of Top 100 wines. (Also, handy PSA for anyone who's wondering - yes, Shiraz is the same grape as Syrah. It's Shiraz when it grows in Australia.)

2011 Primus The Blend, Colchagua Valley, Chile, $16

I first tried this Primus Blend several years ago when I was unhealthily obsessed with interested in tasting South American wines. I'd seen it written up with stellar reviews, but I couldn't find it anywhere. No one was carrying it, none of the retailers could locate it for me, and everyone kept pointing me to cheap bottles of Camernere as if that would be a sufficient substitute. I finally managed to track down a bottle at the Ends of the Internet, and this wine knocked my socks off with it's complexity, body and power. Thankfully, the wine is now a lot easier to find, still awesome, and, in my estimation, is a fantastic wine for it's price. The Veramonte winery in the Colchagua (Kohl-CHA-gwa) Valley (called the "Napa Valley of Chile") has been producing the Primus label since the 1990s, but just recently started blending world class bottles. "The Blend" is a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Carmenere, aged in French oak. Chilean wine tends to give a little menthol and eucalyptus on the nose, and this wine is no exception. Blackcurrant, blueberry, cherry, chocolate and pepper follow on the palate. This is a full-bodied wine that packs a punch. For those of you who enjoy sipping big wines by themselves, you'll love this. Otherwise, pair it with lamb, steak, chile (not too spicy), venison, or even burgers.

And finally, one of my favorite sections of the wine aisle at Costco....

THE GOOD BUBBLY.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Champagne, $42 and Moet Chandon Imperial Champagne, $38

I cannot pass this part of the store without attempting to put one of these bottles into my massive cart (some random English trivia - Emma refers to "carts" as "trolleys." Slays me.). My favorite champagne in the world is Veuve Clicquot, and Moet comes in at a pretty close second. Costco has these bottles at GREAT prices. You generally won't be able to find a bottle of Veuve that retails for under $50, and you certainly won't find it under $70 at a restaurant. Treat yourself on your next trip and take home the good stuff.

So, this wraps up our Costco wine assessment. You can, in fact, get decent wine at Costco. But let's look big picture:

The Pros

  • 14 percent maximum markup means great deals
  • Good spectrum of low to medium to premium priced wines
  • Costco's own Kirkland Signature label gives huge bang for its buck
  • Constantly changing selection

The Cons

  • Constantly changing selection means you might fall in love with a wine one week, and find it gone the next
  • Purchasing a Costco membership to get access to the wine (and then dealing with the crowds)
  • No educated staff on hand. Really, no one at all on hand.

Overall, we rate the Costco wine experience a pretty good one. Once you're armed with a little bit of information, navigating the wine aisle is a breeze. We still prefer the boutique shopping experience - with educated staff that can recommend wines based on your palate, preferences and pairing needs - but we also never turn our noses down at a good bargain.

Happy shopping!