Wine Talk

Snooth User: EMark

Costco Wines

Posted by EMark, Apr 27, 2012.

I know there have been at least one or two conversations about buying wines at Costco, but I happened to catch the one hour documentary about Costco on CNBC, last night.  They actually spent a significant portion of the program (8-9 minutes) about wine sales.  Here is the thing that blew me away.  Apparently, annual wine sales at Costco exceed a billion dollars.  That makes Costco one of the top wine retailers in the country.

I have previously posted that I do buy wine at Costco.  Not a lot, but it is not uncommon for me to pick up 5-6 bottles in any of my monthly visits.  My purchases are generally evenly split between everyday quaffs--e.g., Clos du Bois Chardonnay or Folie a Dieux Menage a Trois--and better more premium wines--e.g., Mondavi Reserve Cab or Rubicon Estate Cask. 

On the program they showed bottles of Petrus and Mouton Rothschild for sale at a Costco.  I don't know where those stores are because I certainly have not seen those wines at the Chino Hills store.  I think the most spendy wines I've seen are Dom or Cristal during the holiday season.

They also spent some time discussing the Kirkland Signature store brand.  I personnally have had pretty good luck with the Kirkland Signature wines that I have tasted--Sonoma Chardonnay, Alexander Valley Cab and, most recently, Rutherford Meritage--all coming in for less than $20.  The program showed Costco buyers tasting at Kunde winery with the thought of having Kunde do a Sonoma Zinfandel for the Kirkland Signature label.

I have always thought that the wines at Costco were good buys.  Their selection is not massive, but that is consistent with the philosophy of the enterprise.  They don't offer a lot of choices (one kind of catsup, for example), but what they do offer is very well priced.  Nothing in the store, including wine, has more than a 15% markup.    

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Reply by Nathan Ophardt, Apr 27, 2012.

I had the opportunity to sample some Kirkland wine a couple of times, and I also find it quite palatable and would recommend it as an "every day wine." We aren't Costco Members, but I've been in past, and I know the prices are really great. In today's economic world, we have to be careful to save where we can. At the same time, being careful to not edge out small producers and boutique vineyards. Their wines are almost never featured in the big box store.

Your stat on sales of wine there is interesting - I believe it's just plain ole market share (availability) that Costco holds that makes it the #1 wine retailer.   

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, Apr 27, 2012.

I have purchased quite a bit of wine from Costco given its consistent ability to deliver pretty good quality at very competitive price points.  I picked up a 2007 Fronteira Tinto Douro for less than $20 and thought it was excellent.  My opinion is that there are definitely value purchases to be had at Costco.

Reply by robertjcook, Apr 27, 2012.

Costco is the largest retailer of wine according to several sources. The only challengers are the Liquor Controll Board of Ontario (Canada) and the largest UK supermarket. Volunteer-run collects the ratings from all recognised wine critics and the medals from most competitionson their web site of 35,000 wines and has shown that Costco consistently sells the best bargains ("Best Buys") at the lowest prices. They only buy wines that are highly rated and their prices are always the best (WineBestBuys compares the prices of all the large retailers in the country). There is also a Costco wine blog that is independent of Costco.

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, Apr 27, 2012.

Actually, the Costco wine blog ( is also available as an app on iTunes (

Reply by shsim, Apr 28, 2012.

I enjoy browsing at Costco because they have great prices. Everytime I have been there, they never fail to surprise me with what they have. When I check the prices and compare elsewhere, I generally find them very well-priced. Although some local retailers definitely beat them.

I do like the kirkland, had their syrah and cab. It is like the costco's deluxe version of two-buck-chuck. Good value. They also have a fancy box wine from France, which I want to try! Its 30usd compare to the usual 10 for a 3 litres box.

All in all, Costco is a great place for wine shopping. Although yes EMark, they do have limited selection. But even at that, I am not even close to trying everything they have so I am a happy shopper.

Reply by JonDerry, Apr 28, 2012.

Really what's most impressive to me about Costco's wine selection is their committment to world wines, it really seperates them from the run-of-the-mill grocery stores as far as wine.

Reply by EMark, Apr 29, 2012.

I agree, Jon.  I have had some excellent samples from France, Italy, New Zealand and Argentina.  In thinking about the store that I normally visit, the wines are clearly divided into lower-priced wines in one area and the more premium wines displayed in another area.  I would say that in the lower-priced category, 90% are U.S. wines.  However, in the premium category, I would say that no more than 35% of choices are U.S.  The Costco future growth strategy is to expand outside the U.S.  So, to fit that strategy, it is difficult to have a U.S.-centric wine department.   

Another interesting thing from the documentary is that the Costco head wine buyer did not start out as a wine buff.  She was buying electronics or some such and was transferred over to wines.  She learned "on the job," and my opinion is that she has learned well. 

Reply by spikedc, Apr 30, 2012.

Costco wine article and video

Reply by outthere, Apr 30, 2012.

The buyer came from audio and electronics, knows really nothing about fine wine and does not consider wine to be any different than any other consumer product. Just think how much more wine they would sell if they ahd someone at the helm who knew their product. What a tool.

I know folks in ther Dallas area who find great Bordeaux deals at Costco, our local stores carry nothing of real substance. Maybe a BV Georges but for the most part they are mid range wines and 6 dollar bargain bottles.

Reply by steve666, May 1, 2012.

The local Costco stores in the Bay Area offer a decent selection of wines at all price points up to $30 or so, with only a few above that.  I have been less than enthusiastic about the Kirkland wines, they are good but not the best selections are their price points.   Think I will try some again and lay them down for a few years and see if they change my mind -- have always drunk them right away up until now.  The various heads of the wine departments are not very knowledgable, they have something to say about the wines they carry, but don't really know much.... nice people tho.   They had a nice CdP on the Kirkland label a year ago, from Naly, but they disappeared fast... really good stuff with lots of aging potential. 


Reply by Richard Foxall, May 1, 2012.

Steve666, I think JonDerry mentioned thatKirkland  CdP here.  Could have been someone else. 

Wasn't CostCo the first place to carry Cam Hughes stuff besides his website?  I'm pretty sure a couple time friends gave me bottles of his stuff--a Stags Leap cab, for one--purchased there.  I have noticed that since I first heard about the Kirkland-labeled wines that Cam Hughes stuff is showing up in other places, including the local discount grocery--I suspect that the Kirkland bottlings are hurting him.

Anyway, tragic that they wouldn't hire a wine guy, but  most of the folks buying wine at CostCo are probably in agreement that it's the same decision making process that they would use to buy a TV or DVDs--"I heard of it and it's cheaper here, I'll buy it."  On the other hand, they have the high-end watch market going strong at the Richmond, CA store, so maybe they just split the market.  (My opinion: Anyone who buys a Breitling watch probably also drinks Silver Oak. ;-) )

Reply by steve666, May 1, 2012.


Yes CamHughes was first at Costco, they basically made him.  I think CamHughes wines are often good, but some of them are rather thin .... I have a CA palate.  I do buy some of his stuff, but my cellar is overflowing so I have boxes in a hall, so trying to use some restraint in buying wine these days.  I shop at the Richmond store also. 

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 2, 2012.

Steve666, I agree with the view that some of the CH wines disappoint. I have a pretty democratic palate--I like everything short of syrupy fruit bombs and green, thin, all-acid cheap Burgundy.  (Well, really any emperor-with-no-clothes Burgundy annoys me.)  But I think some of the CH wines are simple and thin.  He's been asked about his sourcing, and how he knows (since he doesn't bottle the Lot series himself) that what he tastes and is promised at the winery actually goes in the bottle.  He says he cannot be entirely sure.  Which leads me to wonder if he tastes everything AFTER it's been bottled (and gotten over bottle shock) but before he sells it. 

He announced a big partnership with a funder a few years ago to expand the business and now CostCo is doing its own wine, so that's gotta hurt.

On the other hand, he bottled a Lodi PS that I bought at a further discount and kept going back for until it ran out.  If you live in Oakland and missed out on the heyday of Grocery Outlet's wine buyer Stefano, a pity, but there are still deals to be had there.) I'm not a big repeat buyer--too many things out there to try--so that was a ringing endorsement.

Reply by Balthazar210, May 2, 2012.

I have purchased several higher end bottles at Costco. I felt the value was OK for some, and less good for others. The lack of a floor salesman is no problem for me, what I like MOST about Costco wines are the wide selection and the bin labels to remind me what various reviewers thought of the wine, prompting menu & pairing options. You may find a price a dollar lower here on a higher end wine than at a good wine store, but I found fewer great values at Costco overall in the wine department. 

I still prefer buying my wine at higher end shops with high volume, where I get decent pricing but much greater quality in value for finer wines at good prices, as well as really wonderful low end wines which offer better value, which are most easily sourced by people who are simply passionate about wine. I'd rather buy wine at small local stores and big stores like Sherry-Lehmann, while I can get electronics, large volume items & perishables at Costco. YMMV. 

Reply by Lucha Vino, May 4, 2012.

Up here in Seattle we are surrounded by Costco stores.  Each one has a different wine selection.  The Issaquah store has one of the largest and most interesting inventories.  That makes sense since Issaquah is where Costco's HQ is located (and is close to where the $$ is on the East side of Lake Washington).

I find the choices to be pretty wide ranging with plenty of under $10 choices on up to $50+ bottles.  There are lots of quality wines at the 20 dollar price point.  They usually have some interesting large format bottles around Thanksgiving and Christmas too.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the wine section when Costco starts selling hard alcohol up here in June.  I expect that some of floor space allocated to wine will go to spirits.  We'll see in another three weeks.

Reply by napagirl68, May 4, 2012.

I recently decided to buy a bottle of the Kirkland Malbec for my hubby, since he likes Malbec.  I don't tend to like most Malbecs, as they are very astringent to me, and very inky.  I have to say, I tasted this one, and it was very smooth and balanced.  I actually could drink it!!   I bought another bottle for him/us. 

It was by no means my fav wine, but far better than most costlier grocery fare.

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, May 4, 2012.

I'll have to go to the Plano store here in North Dallas and see what sort of higher end bottles they have.  In my previous visits, I have seen bottles prices in the several hundred dollar range.  Not sure who would buy a $500 bottle of wine from Costco, but it does not surprise me that Costco is able to find a market for higher-end bottles of wine sold through a volume discount retailer.  Such is the demographic here in Plano.

Reply by Richard Foxall, May 4, 2012.

CB, my sister and her family lived in Plano back when, so I'm aware of the demographic.  The stores definitely reflect that, and the fact that they locate there at all means they have an upper-end customer willing to shop there.  Willing to spend there upper end wine money there?  It appears so.  As I alluded to before, the market for high end watches at the Richmond, CA, store, which serves Berkeley and North Oakland (areas with higher than average incomes) suggests people will buy luxury goods there.  (I have heard that the watches are "grey market," but I haven't really explored this; I believe the wines are legitimately imported/distributed but there are probably restrictions and the fact that they don't advertise doubtless protects the brands, to a degree.)

We also have a discount grocery chain that extends up to WA and a few other states that pays cash to it's suppliers.  Their business model trains their customer to also be opportunistic and not expect to find the same goods on the shelf on the next visit.  In the immediate Bay Area, the corporate buyer and the store level buyers are often able to get fantastic deals from distributors stuck with stock (less than 90 point ratings, vintages that need to get moved to make room for the next one, regions that didn't turn out to be the next big thing) and from some local wineries that are distressed.  (Usually a sign that Robert Foley has bought something on the distressed list or a trophy winery:  Merus's second label Altus for $10, EOS PS for $6, and so on.) Boutique Napa cabs that were oh-so-hot before the recession and sold out at the winery for $75-85.  There's some dreck there and as you leave the Oakland/Berkeley circle, it gets patchier, but my point is that has to make CostCo's job here a little tougher.  I haven't had a CostCo membership for years, and had it only intermittently, because I have a tiny house and can't buy huge packages of anything, but, with the wealth of wine options around here, I don't think it would ever represent a large portion of my purchases.

Reply by edwilley3, May 7, 2012.

Recently, West Plano Costco has had a number of fine 2009 Bordeaux at quite fair prices. This is the best selection I have seen there in years.

Reply by dryhopped2, May 7, 2012.

The Costco Grandmere Zin. There is only one producer for this famed vineyard and Costco sells it for more than 50% off the retail price.

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