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Costco? Fuhgeddaboutit. In an update at, Jeff Siegel reported yesterday that while Costco’s apparent practice of requiring any new wine placements <$15 retail to have already scored 90 points was never official, it was verbalized enough in the marketplace to have been communicated by four independent sources. So it may not have been policy, but it’s pretty safe bet it was shmolicy. Costco corporate brass must have had their reasons—heck, one might even argue that they were saving a lot of potential shelf-suitors time/effort. Whatevuh. My overarching argument remains undiminished: scores are prone to abuse once they leave the wine media; and any sales model that hinges on ratings is inherently flawed and a sign of retail ignorance.

It was gratifying to see the depth and range of comments left on the post, stretching from the 100-point scale itself to the way stores buy and how people shop. I was also stupefied to see the vitriolic reaction my “sausage factory” line prompted over at How he took the metaphor as a personal attack I still don’t know. Anyway, I sure didn’t mind the additional traffic to the site, and I was already working on a Sausage Factory sequel of sorts (funnier and more real-world), so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, in the spirit of keeping our bloggin’ eyes on the prize, I’m posting today about the anti-Costco—a brand new retail shop in my general ’hood, Wine Geeks of Armonk {}. Spawned in a renovated vintage gas station, Wine Geeks is a compact one-room joint that could have hardly been imagined 20 years ago. Devoted entirely to artisanal wine, with a special emphasis on organic and bio-dynamic wines, it is essentially a niche within the boutique genre. Read the rest of this entry »


Dear Costco:

I was alarmed yesterday to learn from a colleague—the estimable Jeff Siegel, aka—that Costco has drawn a new line in the 100-point-scale sand, and henceforth will not stock any new wine retailing for $15 or under unless the wine has earned a rating of 90 points or higher.

Presuming this to be the case (and Curmudg is a professional journalist; I trust his sourcing), I must ask: Have you lost your palate and your mind? Was the Costco wine director sidelined by a sizzling hors d’oeuvre, or have you just decided to toss in the towel on having any sense of authority as a wine purveyor?

Setting wine-merchandising policy based on critics’ ratings sends quite the message to your customers and the wine industry. It says you don’t have the sense or sensibility to judge wines for yourself as they walk in through the wholesale door. It also says that corporate-Costco doesn’t have much confidence in its floor staff being able to express what they actually think of the wines they sell (note: not good for self-esteem). Read the rest of this entry »

Let’s start with a reality check: Medals in wine don’t matter much in the 21st century, save for the wineries who win them. It wasn’t always this way. {Insert old geezer voice here…} Back in the 1980s, wine competitions were actual news—press releases were issued (and picked up); stickers from various competitions adorned bottles on retail shelves; gold medals got displayed in tasting rooms, received respect, and medal-winning wines frequently experienced a bump in the marketplace.

Competitions tended to be based regionally (San Francisco, San Diego, Orange County, L.A., Dallas, Atlanta, Buffalo are cities that pop to mind), sometimes connected to specific fairs, groups or publications, and the entrants were predominantly American. Indeed, success at these competitions helped raise the quality profile of California wines in particular. And why not? Winning wines—awarded GOLD, SILVER or BRONZE medals—played right into the American mindset of fair, Olympic-style competition. Hundreds upon hundreds of wines were judged blind at these affairs, by panels, with wines assessed in peer groups. The cream rose to the top, right? Read the rest of this entry »

Those who have followed my writing in recent years are well aware of my disdain for wine ratings done on the nefarious 100-point scale. Call it my 90-point bugaboo. Occasionally I plan to focus on a certain aspect of the ratings issue, making my reasoning as clear as Vinho Verde. Today’s focus—partly in honor of Earth Day—is the forest vs. the trees. Read the rest of this entry »

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