Look to Your Local Upscale Grocer for Boutique Wines

Unfortunately, all the local Orange County supermarkets stock a very similar line of wines, most of it originating from California’s largest wineries, such as E.&J. Gallo, Bronco Wine Company, and Kendall-Jackson. This limits boutique wine options because the large wineries have the most distribution muscle in the marketplace.

When you shop for groceries, it’s a treat to find special wines for the dinner table on the same shopping trip. If this appeals to you, look to specialty sister grocers, Marbella Farmers Market in San Juan Capistrano, and Pacific Ranch Market in Orange, for a wide selection and personalized service. You may pay a little more than at the big wine retailers, but you’ll receive knowledgeable advice from the wine managers who are on the floor almost daily and eager to assist.

Phil Hall, who has been at Pacific Ranch Market for more than 20 years, stocks about 3,500 wine selections, primarily from California and most of which he personally selects. He chooses wines that offer good value, often under $20, including a “Phil’s Wine Pick of the Week,” and very high-end selections including labels such as Domaine Romanee-Conti, Shafer Hillside, Opus, Blankiet, Insignia, Duckhorn, Silver Oak, Talbott, Rombauer, and Pahlmeyer. When Phil’s unavailable, the equally capable Tony Wilson is there to help.

The wine managers here are not paid on commission, so there’s no pressure to buy expensive wines. They know many customers personally, and remember their preferences. Among local shoppers, Phil notes that cabernet sauvignon is the No. 1 red wine seller, and chardonnay the No. 1 white. The market also offers small, on-premise wine lockers (about 15 cases) for rent. Pacific Ranch Market is at 7540 E. Chapman Ave.

Allen Thomas has been in charge of wine at Marbella Farmers Market for 20 years. His department is a little smaller than Pacific Ranch’s, and carries somewhat different wines—all personally selected by Allen. He covers the entire price spectrum, but offers many “under the radar” bottles you can’t find at your local supermarket. When I checked recently, he had super-premium labels like Kosta Browne, Beaux Freres, Ken Wright, Silver Oak, Leonetti Cellars, Orin Swift, Kistler, Ramey, and Pahlmeyer. Allen also offers an interesting selection of Champagne and domestic sparkling wines. Marbella Farmers Market is at 31109 Ranch Viego Road.

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