Total Wine & More is advertised as America’s Wine Superstore, offering more than 8,000 wines, 3,000 spirits, and 2,500 beers at its warehouse-size locations. Currently there are 114 stores across 16 states, with four in Orange County including Brea, Huntington Beach, Laguna Hills, and Tustin. Wine Enthusiast magazine recently named Total Wine & More the 2014 Retailer of the Year.
David and Robert Trone, who initially opened two wine stores in Delaware, started the firm in 1991. In a little more than 20 years, the chain has become the largest independent wine retailer in the United States, carrying a vast selection of both domestic and imported wines, with about half of sales from each category. Total Wine & More will post $1.75 billion in sales in 2014.
This is not a discount operation. Prices are comparable to local wine specialty retailers. I’ve checked prices on a sampling of bottles, and compared the prices to those from a few Orange County wine retailers. Total Wine & More prices were the same for about 80 percent of the wines, and a few dollars more or less expensive for the other 20 percent. So, although the chain advertises that they have the “lowest prices,” for most wines this is not true unless a discount coupon is used.
These coupons are offered occasionally online and in newspaper ads as incentives, such as a discount of 20 percent on a purchase of six wines (mix or match, select wines only). In addition, Total Wine & More has a number of labels produced exclusively for the stores, and these offer good value. Consumers can also shop online and pick up their order in their local stores.
I was overwhelmed by the 20,000-square-foot Tustin store near me when I first visited, but the layout was easy to learn and there are a number of trained employees to assist. I had expected the wines would be primarily supermarket quality, but was surprised to find they also carry an extensive variety of premium wines from top producers. They don’t always have the latest releases, and some wines appear to be close-outs from older vintages. They also don’t have the complete offerings from a winery for a given vintage, but the selection is impressive.
A 120-page buying guide is available that lists all wines for sale with some brief information on some of them. An educational Total Guide to Wine is also given away free. A new $10 million website is scheduled to launch in early 2015 with an emphasis on education. Visit totalwine.com for the location of your nearest store or to order online.