San Miguel? But exactly where you’re probably saying? Well it’s actually very, very convenient, no matter where you live in town. This shop is in your own living room. Or your kitchen. Or your patio. Or perhaps even your bedroom. It’s anywhere you can access the internet.
This new wine store is an online store. But not your usual online wine store. This one has a marvellous selection. Competitive prices. Is never out of stock (so far). Gets things to you in two or three days. Packages things to withstand an earthquake. Documents everything diligently. Takes a Mexican credit card. And will even include a couple of 24-packs of toilet paper in your order.
The best wine store in the history of San Miguel is called Costco Wholesale.
That’s right, Costco.
Online, you say? No more fingernail-biting trips to Celaya or Queretaro on that two-and-three-quarter lane highway? No more excuse to have those hotdogs? No more California Prime Rib (if someone else is paying)?
And no more of a few other things as well. Getting there and back is not my only complaint about Costco. Call them the number 15 complaints: That cutting the top 15 inches off wine cases so all the bottles fall out. That 15 minutes in the checkout lane. That security guard who 15 seconds after I paid for them now has to go through all of my bottles one by one (if you want to drive him crazy, as he’s inspecting your Kirkland Meritage, say “¿De verdad crees que vale 50 pesos más que la Cab?”).
Now those complaints are all gone and, unless it’s time to get one of those handsome 15-inch hunks of choice boneless ribeye, I may never grace Costco’s aisles again. Only their website. And this is from a guy who suffers from severe old dogs/new tricks phobia.
It was my San Miguel neighbor Jean-Louis Hotte who told me about Costco products being available online. “You have to order two of those 24-packs of toilet paper but I think you can order just one bottle of wine” said Jean-Louis. I ran and got my iPad.
Costco is the number one wine retailer in the United States, perhaps the number one wine retailer in the world, with estimated sales of a billion dollars a year according to CNBC.
Year by year, I’ve been allocating more of my wine allowance to this mega-retailer.
Now that I can do it while sitting in front of Seven Seconds (a very, very good new Netflix series…but it needs an editor to shorten it by about four episodes), I expect that Costco is going to get almost all of my allowance.
What makes Costco such a good place to buy wine? For people in the United States, low prices are what’s cited most. In the U.S., wines average about 15% less a case at Costco. But that’s not the case in Mexico. I did a little research. Checking out wines that were all available at all of my three favorite Mexican suppliers. La Europea came in as the cheapest, La Comer second, and Costco third. But the difference? Less than 10%. And the other benefits of buying at Costco? They’re well worth the extra.
Both La Comer and La Europea offer online purchasing. My advice? Don’t even think about it. I could tell you so many stories of heartbreak. Worse than “the heartbreak of psoriasis” as Paul Lynde used to say (did anyone else watch Hollywood Squares?).
Ordering online at Costco, so far, has been unadulterated joy!
The biggest plus for me is selection. Yes, La Europea has a lot more on their website but, like I hinted at before, getting them from cyberspace to that rack in your dining room is a long, twisted and rocky road.
What I like about Costco’s selection is not that it’s so big; it’s that it’s so well chosen. Lead wine buyer Annette Alvarez-Peters and her team are amazing (and yes, Annette, I will consider coming out of retirement…maybe pay you to employ me instead of you paying me). I have actually bought wines at Costco that I’ve never tasted, never read about, never even heard of. That’s how much I trust them.
I’m not sure exactly how the selection compares with in-store shopping. I haven’t been in a Costco store since I discovered I could buy online. I do know that, in my favorite category, vinos tintos, there are 188 different ones online which seems to be about the same as what there is in the Celaya store.
As far as favorite reds that they do have online, I’ll just name a few. The first four are cheapies (under $150), the second five are splurges (under $400), the last is a hope Don Day’s Wife doesn’t check the bill ($539).
Caleo Montepulciano, Vivolo di Sasso, El Circulo Joven, La Vieille Ferme
Cuna de la Poesía, Viu Manent Carmenere, Liberty School, Pruno, Rutini Encuentro
Six Eight Nine
And I can’t write about wines at Costco without mentioning the house brand, Kirkland Signature. I haven’t had a single disappointment with those two words on a label. I’ve even been able to trace some of the wineries that these bargains come from and, with what seems like an identical wine on the inside and the winery’s own label on the bottle, they’re almost twice the price. Yes I know Kirkland Signature labels aren’t exactly the most prestigious to take to a dinner party, but I’m a self-admitted wine snob and I’ve gotten over it.
Four favorite Kirkland reds to perhaps take to that party that are currently online are Mendoza Malbec, California Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford Meritage and Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.
OK, good wine selection, competitive prices, but what about the fine print.
Well first you have to join a club (which I can’t write about without mentioning Groucho Marx’s “I wouldn’t want to join any club that would have me as a member”). It’s a bit of a pain because they want a photo for your membership card. They also charged me 450 pesos for the membership and card but, if you do go ahead and buy one, do it in Mexico where it’s cheaper and you can still use it anywhere else in the world.
Then paying can be a bit tricky because they only like credit cards that originated in Mexico. The easiest way I found to get around this was paying by PayPal where, if you don’t have an account, it’s reasonably easy to open.
Next comes the delivery. It’s absolutely free. They exclusively use a company you probably know called FedEx. I like FedEx. I think they’re Mexico’s most efficient delivery company. And I like that, at Costco, garantuza su satisfacción en cada una de sus compras. The shipping method is called small parcel economy which they say takes up to three days to San Miguel de Allende but, so far has only taken one or two.
The arrival is a little weird though. Say you ordered a certain quantity of six different wines. A box of the one wines may arrive the next morning. A box of two of the others may arrive the same afternoon. And the rest may all come the following morning. Seems very inefficient but, as long as it all arrives…and it always has…no complaints from me.
There is one last complaint I must tell you before I go and open a bottle of Liberty School (it’s not only five o’clock somewhere, it’s five o’clock here). There is an enormous amount of protective packaging…cardboard, foam and some nifty inflated individual bottle wraps…but I can’t help thinking of the cost and how that’s being added to the price somewhere and I can’t help thinking of how our more than beautiful deserts are going to become even more decorated with waste. I love that there’s about a zilch chance of a bottle being broken but maybe one, once in a while, is worth the cost.
I might just go back on the site again now. Check to see if they have any new Spanish Cavas online for Don Day’s Wife. And about my only regret: No hot dog. Costco only delivers meat in Mexico City. But I’ll bet they’re working on it.
You will find Costco online at costco.com.mx.