A bottle of wine at COSTCO for $2,399 — What’s going on?

During the holiday period, one of the sales days in the wine department of the COSTCO store in Carlsbad, north of San Diego, brought in $120,000, a huge number by any standards.Not only has the volume gone through the roof, the price point for the wines has increased measurably. Witness a French large bottle format wine, the Pontet Canet Red Bordeaux from the Paulac District. It’s a 2009 vintage that scored 100 points in a leading wine publication. The cost is a whopping $2,399. This is not an isolated event. Standing beside it is five other sought-after French beauties with prices ranging from $229.99 to $1,599.

I quizzed Mathew, the department manager, and he said, “We have sold some of these expensive bottles, and I have some names of our regular customers that want to be notified if prices are reduced.”

Napa Valley is also well represented with this new inventory of premium wines, including: Joseph Phelps Insignia, 2007, for $139.99; BV Georges De Latour, non vintage for $179; Hall Cabernet, 2009, $35.

The Italians dominate with three times the space they used to claim. The Banfi Brunello, 2007, is $49.99; Il Poggione Brunello, 2006, was recently $75.99; a Gaja Ca’ Marcanda Promis, 2010, was $34.; and a Guiseppe Rinaldi Barolo/Nebbiolo, 2007, was $199.99.

COSTCO has a very large number of corporate buyers who are scanning the world’s markets for value, and who have parlayed this wine surge into a 1.4 billion dollar business for COSTCO.

The cardinal rule at COSTCO for any item carried, and in particular for special wines at value prices (they state that no wine is marked up any more than 15 percent) is “if you see it…buy it. It may not be there tomorrow.”

6 Romantic Wines to Try for a Special Occasion

Castello di Amorosa La Castellana Blend Napa Valley, 2008. $68. An authentic 13th century Tuscan winery that houses this mix of 70 percent Cab, 16 percent Merlot and 14 percent Sangiovese.

An American Super Tuscan sold only at the castle. Visit castellodiamorosa.com.

Castello Banfi Brunello, Tuscsany Italy, 2007. $49.99. The finest style of Sangiovese; minimum four years in barrel, one year in bottle; intense ruby red color and flavor. www.castellobanfi.com

Arnaldo Caprai Collepiano Sagratino Di Montefalco Italy. 2005. $60.

A unique grape native to Umbria, Italy. Rich and complex. Drink with meats and roasts. www.arnaldocapraiusa.com.

Enza Prosecco Sparkling Wine, Treviso Italy, non vintage. $14.99.

Sensual hints of honeysuckle, green apple and citrus. Clean and crisp.

Try with fine chocolates. www.wjdeutsch.com

Monte De Oro Synergy 65 Owner’s Blend, Temecula Ca. 2008. $33.

Five varieties of grapes aged for 28 months produce plum and pepper accents. Award winner at a recent San Francisco competition. www.montedeoro.com.

Rombauer Merlot, Carneros Napa Valley CA. 2008. $30. Limited production, high quality vintage. A Merlot for Cab lovers. Concentrated flavor. www.rombauer.com.

Wine Bytes

More Valentine’s Day dinner events include: a Prix Fixe three-course dinner from 5 to 10 p.m. at Marina Kitchen San Diego. Call (619) 234-1500. In Temecula Wine Country, Vineyard Rose Restaurant has a four-course feast. RSVP at (951) 587-9463.

At Wilson Creek a five-course prix fixe meal is being presented. Reservations at (951) 699-9463. And Miramonte Winery has a four-course romantic dinner with live music. Call (951) 506-5500.

Adobe El Restaurante at Estancia La Jolla Hotel and Spa presents Napa Meets Verona, an evening of the wines of Trinitas and Fumanelli with owner Marchesi Armando Fumanelli, Feb. 22 from 6 to 9 p.m. A five-course dinner accompanies. $125. RSVP at (858) 964-6521. This event is a launch of the new Meritage Collection of resorts, at Estancia, and in Napa Valley and Balboa Bay Resort Newport Beach Feb. 20 and Feb. 21, respectively. More details at www.estancialajolla.com.




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