From Rare to Accessible – Cult Wines Make Their Appearance on Retail Shelves


This was the only view I ever had of Shafer Hillside, until I saw it on a retail shelf recently

I found a good article on revolving around a recent and frequently recurring subject the other day.  I also had a first-hand experience related to the article, so I thought I’d write a little bit about the subject.

The link to the article and a related post by another wine blogger are located at the end of this post.

Not a day goes by on the news networks that you don’t hear the words, stimulus package, job loss and sector meltdown.  Like the financial sector and manufacturing sector, the wine business is not without it’s own challenges.

There’s a particular trickle down effect in the industry that has gotten my attention and the SFGate article examines this particular phenomena.  That effect is the ability of retailers to get previously difficult, or even impossible to get allocations of particular bottlings from wineries.

Wineries, for reasons I’m still unclear about, but will soon find out, prefer to have their best wines on the lists of the best restaurants.  Often times these wines will be allocated to restaurants period, while retailers are left begging and hoping that if they’re in business long enough that they’ll one day secure an allocation from the winery.A slowing economy  has caused consumers to scale back their spending in areas such as dining out, which has in turn caused restaurants to scale back their purchases; even on rare winery allocations.  So where do these orphaned allocations end up?  Bingo!  Retailers have been seizing the opportunity to scoop up these homeless, once-elusive-to-retailers allocations.

As a former retail shop owner, I can speak from experience that having these wines in your possession really helps to attract a serious clientele.  Because the price tag of these wines are often in the $100 and up range, it doesn’t take a math genius to figure out the effect on a retailer’s bottom line.  Even more important is the anticipated repeat business a retailer can get from these big spenders looking to scoop up these wines up again, should they see it on your shelves on a consistent basis.

On a personal note, I’m still a little bit of a bitter kitty because I never had a chance to get many of these wines when I had my own shop.  I guess I picked the wrong time to go out of business.

Case in point:  Just this past Saturday, I stumbled across the latest release of Shafer Hillside Select and Peter Michael L’Espirit Des Pavots, on the shelves of one of my local retailers.  What the..?  Whether it’s an allocation that a restaurant didn’t pick up, or simply the retailers present allocation that’s not being purchased by its own exclusive list of customers, it was on the shelf for anyone’s taking.  I know there were others too, but these two in particular stood out.  By the way, the prices for the two aforementioned wines were vvvvery competitive.

So if you’re one who’s constantly in the hunt for these elusive cult wines, start visiting your local retailers more frequently.  You might be pleasantly surprised.  If you’re in Hawaii and are interested in knowing where I saw the Shafer and the Peter Michael, fire an email over to me at and I’ll give you details.  I don’t want to overwhelm the merchants.

For more info, here are the links I promised:

SfGate article, “Suddenly those rare wines aren’t so rare”

Vinography Blog post, “Good Time to Get on Those Winery Mailing Lists”


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