Buy from winery or wait and buy later

Just interested in general thoughts.

Im still fairly new to building a cellar, Ive got on multiple lists but as im following things for a few years it seems almost everything comes up later at a reasonable price. Ive seen SVD kosta, Saxum, pisoni, Bedrock, Carlisle all offered in CC for prices very close to release price, these are lists im on.

So my question is are lists the best way to go ? it seems that with the exception of the ultra cult wines like SQN, SE etc that everything else comes up for fairly close to original price so im beginning to doubt the wisdom of buying and storing for years, why not just buy from CC, Winebid etc and get mature versions of what you want for similar prices. Another example would be Shafer HSS, why would you buy from the vineyard when you can mature examples for same price from wine shops.

It was really brought home when I saw 2006 Pisoni Estate Pinot Noir 6 pack on Winebid for $450, even with buyers premium its only about $50 higher than the cost will be for the 2012 release assuming no price increase, with Winebids shipping costs being lower it is probably only $30 higher and your getting a mature wine.

Ive seen multiple listings for Carlisle and Bedrock at cost, two of the darlings of WB, again why buy on release

The only wine I can see that makes sense so far is the MB futures, you will never see that for under $100

Im just trying to understand everything

Provenance is worth a lot to some people. YMMV. I can’t afford bottles that are expensive enough to matter all that much. :wink:

Why not just join the wine club of a producer you follow?


  • you support the producer directly, eliminating distributors/middlemen (no offense to middlemen)
  • most clubs offer a discounted price for members (you save money on release price)
  • most clubs give members exclusive access to new releases (stock your cellar) and access to Library wines (ability to get the mature wine you seek)
  • typically, club members have access to small lot or limited release selections before the general public

As long as you are in a decent state for retail purchases, lists are lousy - especially for someone “fairly new to building a cellar”. You will buy way too much of stuff that you eventually decide is not to your taste. Or you will get so bogged down in a few list producers that you never discover the other guy who makes stuff that you would much much prefer. Buy lightly and experiment for YEARS before going long on particular producers. Your wallet and your spouse will thank you.

Alan, I’m struggling with some of the same issues you are. Basically you have to figure out which of these is most important to you:

  • certainty of obtaining the wine you want risk (i.e. that you get the wine you want, rather than risk not getting it in the future, potentially riskier with very small run producers)
  • price risk (i.e. that you get a lower price now vs. uncertain price in the future)
  • balancing near term vs. long term drinking
  • the pleasure of owning your own wine
  • quality risk – i.e. if you buy it and store it yourself then you’ll know exactly how well stored it has been.
  • community – do you want to drink what your friends are interested in? Or do you have wine producer friends or producers you respect that you want to support?
  • collecting – i.e. building up sets of wines in a particular year, or over multiple vintages

Where I’ve come around to is that the smartest thing to do is to buy the wine you want to try/drink in the next year and don’t worry about trying to store for years or decades. There’s so much wine available via auctions and retail that you can have just about anything you want (i.e. wine/vintage) if you are patient and search. So far I’ve bought a lot of older wine from auctions/retail and have had almost no bad bottles (exactly one so far out of about 100 opened).

But – I’m not that smart. So I do buy some young wines and store them. Also buy older ones and drink them. Basically I buy way too much.

So what “should you do” ? There’s no answer to that. You should save for your grandkids’ college education :wink:. But if you’re going to spend their (LOL) money on wine now, then how you personally feel about balancing all these things is up to you to figure out.

  1. You have to plan your purchases on WineBid or any auction; what you want to pay vs what the auction price is + vig + shipping. You can easily surpass what you’d normally be willing to spend on a bottle. Shipping varies significantly sometimes so keep an eye out.

  2. Provenance is vital when spending $$$ for a bottle so paying a little extra is just insurance. There are very good deals with several retailers so read this blog and take note of the common ones and sign up for their newsletter. Ask the retailer about the provenance on better bottles if it doesn’t tell you.

  3. You made a good point about purchasing bottles on CC. Also, watch the blog for releases people are willing to share. I reviewed my lists last year and decided to stop buying from 50% of them. I looked at each list and thought about which ones I want to cellar numerous vintages of; if I only wanted a few bottles I dropped the list. Plus I had a palate shift and now have allot of CA wines that I’ll be selling…keep an eye out.

  4. Shafer HS can be found in some vintages for a reasonable price. For me, provenance is important with this wine so I purchase from the winery. 2002 HS sells for almost $400 online; how much do you think it was at release? RP scored the 2010 100 pts so the secondary market will be full of people wanting to try it. Not sure what release will be but hoping the price doesn’t jump. (too much)

  5. You have a great idea, I would run with it but keep the lists you want to purchase year after year. Everyone has their own wine purchasing plans, PM some of the wine gurus on this site and ask them questions, most are very generous with their advice. You’ll also probably get allot of good advice on this thread.

  6. Most important, set a goal on how much you spend each year and what you want to see in your cellar at the end of the year. I start out with good intentions but always blow away my goal which equals added expense of off site storage, etc.

This can not be emphasized enough


I made the mistake of purchasing allot of wine early on that I now have little interest in. Great advice!

I’ve never had a problem buying at auction and have had the opportunity to enjoy some very obscure older Burgs as a result. But those older bottles tend to be $10 a piece and they are from lesser know winemakers and are generally the result of someone doing some spring cleaning in their basement.

That said if you are shopping for the more well known names I would put provenance at the top of my priorities.

There is a very strong argument for buying bottles from a retailer while you’re learning. Be aware that, in my case, the learning never seems to stop. Which is why I covet my relationship with my local shop owners. I buy a mixed case every few weeks and then, if something really strikes me, I go back for 3 or 6 for the cellar. Obviously when I decide to buy 3 of something I shop around to ensure my local guy is the best deal. And I discuss with him when he isn’t the best deal. Often he will adjust to meet the price or he will offer a few new bottles to balance the scales and keep my learning process moving forward!

Then there is the point when you are confident enough that you like a wine where you would like to purchase the wine annually. Personally this has happened for me with the Lafarge family in Volnay. So I went to meet them. And I visit annually now. This has become a relationship which is about more than just wine. I loved their wines but my appreciation for their family helps to ensure my tastes won’t change. I enjoy visiting them every year too much.

I guess my advice seems to focus on enjoying the relationships which can form around wine. You can purchase online until your mouse clicking finger falls off. Beyond risking to buy a lot of wine which you find you don’t like after a few years, you risk to miss discovering new wines / regions that a shop owner could introduce to you (the continual learning process) and you miss establishing a point of contact in wine regions (for current vintage info, to ask how the 19XX is drinking today and to visit when you’re in the area).

If you are convinced you love some of those wines from your current lists I would encourage you to skip the wine bid purchase and take a long weekend trip to go meet the winemaker. Meeting the guys and gals making your favorite wine(s) is a tremendously gratifying experience.

That’s my 2 cents.

So my question is are lists the best way to go ?

In addition to what was said above, are you only going to buy wine from the US? If you want to drink only domestic Cab and Pinot Noir, get on lists.

There’s a lot of good wine made in the US.

There’s more wine made elsewhere.

Thanks, some very interesting perspectives. Reading the posts the following are some thoughts

1 - I am primarily focused on US wines, at this moment they suit my tastes. I think this might change but with the exception of Port and Champagne I prefer American varietals over elsewhere

2 - I have already seen how I regret overbuying from lists due to being to enthusiastic and not showing patience. I don’t have bad wine but I am feeling that im a ittle trapped with stuff that is not floating my boat as much.

3 - One poster mentioned just stick with a couple of lists that really suit your style, for me that would Be KB and Saxum. Trouble is those are two of the main reasons I wrote this email, with a bit of careful shopping ive been offered two deals on Saxum of $100 for 2006-9 bottles from local cellars. These have been well rated cuvees as well

4 - How much do you worry about the "one bottle " ie one poster mentioned the 2002 HSS another example would be the Saxum JBV 2007, they are both approx. $400 now when starting out at $200 & $70 ish respectively. Is the ability to get these few special bottles worth the cost of all the normal and occasional mediocre stuff you have to take, I am thinking not.

The more I think about how much I am budgeting for wine lists and reading the replys lists are becoming less and less attractive.

Its a fun discussion as well


Alan - I’ve never been big for lists. I used to buy Ridge Montebello but now have plenty of that. You can always find good deals somewhere if you look around. A lot of the really high end CA wines can be found for less, but not all. There are a few CA wines that never seem to drop in price - Screaming Eagle, Bryant, maybe a few more. However, that does not mean they’re the “best” wines, just that they’re the most in-demand wines, or rather, they’re the wines that people are willing to pay extra for. Good for the producers but really, the prices are way out of line with the quality.

Lists are smart for the producers partly because they help build the label or the brand. But that’s not your job. My suggestion is to drink as widely as you can, not with an eye to honing in on something that you like but rather to learn and enjoy many kinds of wine from many places. It’s not a journey with an end point. You keep going here and there and keep learning.

It sounds like you haven’t explored as much as you might and you’re wondering about ending up with a lot of wine that, because you have it, kind of prevents you from trying new things. I don’t believe your palate has to evolve in some sequence and leave one wine for another, but I do believe that your appreciation of wine can continually expand and take in new regions, producers, and types of wine. Why end up with a cellar full of only one wine or type of wine? In the US we have laws that restrict marriage to monogomy. While those laws may be foolish, at least for now they don’t apply to wine!

So ignore the lists. There’s no wine you absolutely must have. Maybe if you end up finding some specific wine that you really love and can’t pick it up anywhere else, you join that list. But unless you’re looking at it as some kind of investment where you can show provenance from winery to your cellar, I would eschew the lists.

Alan - we’ve all bought too much of an offering prompted by shear excitement. And it is possible to buy too widely and realize your cellar is suffering for better focus of investment. I’m guilty of both. If the high end bottles are the only ones you want to cellar I suggest dropping the lists, paying the margin to buy them on the secondary market but saving the money you would have had to invest in the list purchase to get those high end bottles. I get the feeling you would have money left over to use to explore other wines.

I used to buy Bordeaux exclusively. Burgundy didn’t pack the “necessary” punch and I couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. But then friends and dinners introduced me to aged Burgundy. My tastes changed. Same for Cali cabs. I detested the stuff my friends served when I came home. Then I went and purchased a six
Pack of old Cali cabs. My tastes changed again.

That’s how I discovered “what” I wanted to put in the cave. Trying older wines and learning which wines fascinated me. And finding plenty of wines that didn’t catch my interest too. There are old Burgs and Bordeaux that I don’t find interesting at all. And there are lots of lower level wines that are advertised as “amazing qpr’s” that simply don’t improve with age which found their way into my cellar. Yes they age just fine but no they don’t improve. Again, a lesson learned. Buy less lower level wines and invest the savings in adding wines which improve with age.

You might want to divide you cellar. Some 10+ year that you want to age. Some now - 10 years. The mid level stuff that ages just fine, might improve / might not and provides you the needed fix when you want to reach for one of those +10 year wines before 10 years. And some current stuff. New regions. New producers. Quaffable wines. Daily drinkers. Etc. some of you current wines will turn into medium term additions ideally when you open a wine from the mid-tier you notice the step up over the daily drinkers. And obviously the +10 year wines should provide a memorable experience.

Great thread. Thanks for starting.

Join lists for wines you want but can’t buy at retail.

Ditch lists/clubs for wines you want but can buy at retail unless you want to support the winery directly. (keep in mind you will usually end up with way too much wine from these wineries).

I’m not on the SQN/SE lists… but i keep Cayuse, Rhys, and a few others.

^^^^^^^^^^^^main reason why I am on lists. I simply can’t get the lower production offerings retail. Most people can’t. So if you are happy buying the “big” runs, then buy retail.

How many “other” bottles do you end up purchasing along with those special ones? Maybe in the full context it’s not as good a deal as it seems.

It all depends on the lists and what you enjoy about wine. There’s so many great wines out there. Your own interest in exploring, your level of enjoyment of the hunt, where you live and what opportunities are available and many other things are factors. Does market recognition matter to you? Say there’s two equally good very similar wines. One sells out to local customers for $50, doesn’t get reviewed and has no market recognition, the other sells on an allocated list for $70, is rated highly and appreciates greatly in value.

Obviously, if there is something you really love, and you cannot get it via retail consistently at a reasonable price, the mailing list thing is the way to go.

But how many are like that? For me, the number has dropped a lot in the past few years. I tend to only stay on lists if they let me miss an order here and there, and don’t have minimum purchase requirements. I want to stay on a budget and keep some diversity in my collection. Plus I want to have some $ available to source some older stuff from time to time.

I like Kosta Browne wines quite a bit, but they are pretty tightly allocated, and I can buy Siduri or Loring or Pisoni if I want the Cali PN experience. I like those about as much. They are available via retail (except the uber high scoring 08 Pisoni), but I do buy a little from the mailing list offers.

I buy Cabot because their wines and prices are great, and I don’t have some crazy 3-day window to make my purchase. I love being able to buy when I am ready…naturally understanding the wines will sell out - I wish I had bought a few more of the Nash Mills PN. But that is the way it goes.

I do buy from the Rivers-Marie mailing list, because the Sonoma Coast is a screaming value and if you find it via retail it is almost certainly higher in price. I buy a few of their other bottlings as well, depending on my budget.

My lone “highly allocated” winery is Rochioli, but I don’t have to buy certain quantities…as long as I buy something I stay in good graces. I really like these wines so I plan for it.

I am happier to be less reliant on the allocation model and chasing the next big thing…it was really stretching my budget.

I would +1 a few thoughts above including:

-I prefer to directly support the wineries I particularly like and I feel doing so has allowed me to build some long-lasting personal relationships that I really value

-I like having no doubts about provenance

-while you can usually buy almost anything at auction at a price, I do think it’s a generalization to say that (for example only) KB SVDs are available at offer price. While some may be, if you simply must be sure you have the X year from X vineyard, then I think it makes sense to buy direct.


Because most ‘wine clubs’ suck… require minimum purchases (i.e. 12 bottles a year minimum), not very flexible (i.e. limited ways to customize your order)… so you end up with some great wines you like but u get stuck having to receive some wines you don’t. And for someone who’s just discovering/building a cellar, 12btls a year, every year adds up really fast…

huge generalization… there are good wine clubs/lists… but those are more the exception than the rule. (or so i find at least)… I’m not saying this to bash winery owners/wine makers… there are some awesome ones, especially on this forum (and i buy from their lists)… but there’s soooo many bad ‘clubs’ out there…