Wine Wednesday – the Great Costco Experiment Conclusion

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If you remember, a few months ago I ventured over to Gatineau to follow-up on the rumour that they sold wine. Once I confirmed the rumour to be fact, I sampled a bottle of their lowest-end wines, a bottle of Yellow Dune red wine, a not exactly fantastic $11 wine.

Julia Wine is a wine broker. They buy wine in bulk from producers around the world and bottle them in Canada for sale in the province of Quebec exclusively at Costco. Wine brokerage  is not an inherently bad things.  However, in the same way as the ground beef you buy at the grocery store can come from many beef suppliers, the wine that is bottled by this kind of broker can come from a wide variety of producers. You lose the ability to follow the story of the wine, from “grape to bottle,” if you will. Julia Wine appears to try to address this by labelling some of its wines in blocks, the idea, I imagine, being that a block denotes a particular vintage. They also label certain wines as being of a particular origin, such as Argentina, and have created several families of wines with names such as “French Nose” and “Las Mariquitas” or “Bottle Shock”. At the end of the day though, there is limited information available on each bottle. The website is a better source of information but most of us like to read the label.

The most expensive bottle at the LCBO was a bottle of red “Julia Cellier 60” wine at $50. This was a pleasant wine to drink. Although impossible to know how it was made, what grapes were used and how long it had been aged, the best I could say at dinner was that it tasted like a California wine, with oak ageing. Although I can’t be sure, I deduce this from the softer tannins in the wine, the hints of tobacco and the general profile of the wine; it reminded me of some of the red wines that I have had from California. As for the grapes, I would say there was Merlot in the wine because of the red fruitiness I could taste. Alas, the details were not on the label.

Julia Cellier 60 - a numbered bottle

Numbering a bottle of blended wine does not make it more than what it is.

A first search of the  website did not contain information on the Julia Cellier 60. A Google search for “Julia Cellier 60” did bring me to a hidden page on the site that gave me more information: the wine was Californian, the grapes were Cabernet Franc and Merlot, and the vintage was 2007-2009. The use of grapes from 2007-2009 is a first for me: does this mean the grapes were harvested, pressed and the juice held for years before the wine was made? Or does it mean that wines were made from each of these years and the final results blended? Odd, to say the least.

As for the cork on this bottle, it is a patented closure called a “Zork.” A cross between a twist-off cap and a plastic cork, it was a complete failure for me. Chipping my nail as I was trying to get the plastic twist started (and I have short nails), it was impossible for me to pry the plastic stopper out of the bottle. Three of us took turn, spilling wine when the stopper finally came loose. At $50 a bottle, I wasn’t pleased to lose even a drop.

Zork, like a cork but not!

Zork…get it..it’s not a cork!

Conclusion: While the $50 wine was good to drink, not knowing anything about the grapes used, the winery or its history diminished it. Not every wine encounter needs to end in marriage, but, for that price, I’d like it to at least be a good time.

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Although trained as a sommelier, I pay my bills working as an IT consultant. I love what I do for a living and keep wine as my hobby. As it looks bad if you only drink, I have occasionally been known to eat as well. Growing up on four different continents, I love to cook and appreciate the cuisines of the world. But wine is my passion. With a well-stocked cellar, I am always on the hunt for new wines and love hearing from people about their latest find or interesting pairing. My approach to wine: Drink what you like. Wine reviews need not be stuffy. Numerical ratings are meaningless. If it tastes good, drink it! If you don’t like it, then it’s not the wine for you.