Advice when buying wine in California

Would be grateful for any advice from members about buying wine when in California.
Current experience reveals that the pricing policy of most retail outlets is insane. Listel Rosé $14 (A wine I have in fact washed my dog with). Innumerable overpriced Zinfandels that all taste the same. Pleasingly there are bargains to be had…Graham Beck fizz at $10 and Vieille Ferme reliable table wine cheaper than I can get it in Asda.
Buying wine from The Winery…that is for residents.

If you want cheap try two buck chuck while you’re there🤪

I travel to the USA usually at least annually, and I’ve been to California since the mid-70’s and yet I doubt I can offer any advice you’d want.

When I am in US I buy local wines; I can get a huge range of non-USA wines at home, why would I travel 6,000 miles to buy them there? There are great local fizzes, why buy a South African when in California?

For cheap methode champenoise fizz look for Korbel ‘California champagne’ which you should get for around $12. Dirt cheap at under $5 (and for very good reasons) is Andre fizz.

California is one of the world’s foremost wine regions yet little of its best wines are exported and I revel in trying wines I can’t get in UK.

Yes, good California wines are expensive. Americans are happy to pay top dollar,assuming that the more they pay means the better the wine.

There are some fantastic Zinfandels: I know to my cost how popular are TWS Ridge Zinfandel packages and how they sell out in hours. Yet there are Ridge Zins available in California we never see here.

I really enjoyed Dry Creek Heritage Clones Zinfandel in November and that retails between $15-$16, which at present exchange rates works out at under £11 which I don’t think is expensive for a top class Zin from old vines.

If you’re looking for the cheapest wine, then the supermarkets are your best bet. Try Trader Joe’s (which is Aldi under another name, and home of '2-buck Chuck, i.e. Charles Shaw.) For dedicated wine stores Total Wine (google them for your nearest store) offer a huge range of wines at all prices. Gallo is a source of cheap wines that are better than one would expect.

Visiting wineries - if you have the time - is a good opportunity to taste a range of their wines, but for various reasons they do not sell wine that you’d find in stores any cheaper.

There are major wine lands close to both San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Two things to note:

  1. Prices quoted in the US do not include local sales taxes, which vary from state and also different cities within a state and are usually around 6% at most. But they don’t have the massive wine taxes we have in UK.

  2. Most restaurants in California are happy for you to BYO. It certainly something I take full advantage of. :slight_smile:


Thank you for the advice about Korbel and Dry Creek Heritage Clones. Do not assume I am indifferent to good quality Zinfandel. Ravenswood is my favourite supplier, they have a pleasant tasting room in Sonoma.
I am however struck by the difficulty of obtaining moderately priced table wine for everyday drinking of a quality that TWS excels in.
I object to paying top dollar for wines that are overpriced. For example Tangent, a delicious unoaked Chardonnay, was available at $17 at the delightfully named Bev ‘Mo last March, is currently available in Bargain Market for $4.

I would take the opportunity to pick up some Sonoma coast Syrah which I think has possibly the best potential of any cool climate Syrah in the new world, and some of the huge range of great wines from Santa Ynez, many of which are in the $20 - 25 range and show real craftsmanship and respect to old world heritage - Consilience is a favourite. Yes their wine is a bit more expensive but the competition is immense and thus quality is high.

Thanks for the Conseillance recommendation. I agree about the cool climate Syrah. Cline made a good one but have stopped - for some reason.

Oh I remember Trader Joe’s fondly…but I’m sure the two buck chick is more than two bucks.
One of my favourite quotes from a student paper was that Trader Joe’s was “a store for the over educated and under paid”.