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Wine Vultures

Posted by Brian , March 18, 2010

Kerith and I aren’t opposed to getting down and dirty when it comes to ferreting out good wine bargains.  Cleaning out an alcoholic’s wine cellar for “his own good”?  Sure, we’ll do that.  Playing the “trade discount” card at wine tastings?  Heck yeah.  Descending like rabid vultures on a restaurant’s going-out-of-business wine sale?  You better believe it!

I’m a big fan of our local newspaper, the La Jolla Light.  There’s something comforting about a publication that rewards unending local disputes like the great seal debate or the Mt. Soledad cross controversy with a front-page news blitz.  The impassioned beliefs on both sides (combined with the social pages and pending open houses) make for riveting reading. 

But when I saw this headline announcing that longtime La Jolla institution Trattoria Acqua was closing down, I felt legitimately moved.  I skimmed through the article, upset that another neighborhood enterprise had succumbed to the rotten economy.  It’s always depressing for wine and food people like us to witness the local favorites sink, especially at the rate we’ve seen over the past two years.  Another one bites the dust, I thought glumly.

But buried at the end of the article was this gem, “The restaurant will be liquidating what’s left of its award-winning wine list at net wholesale cost on March 14 from noon to 4pm.”  Whoa Nellie!  Screw my heavy heart, there’s wine to grab on the cheap!

Unfortunately, the morning of March 14, we had standing plans for a family brunch.  Not wanting to seem overly rude I waited until at least 11:30am before I began clearing my throat very loudly.  I flamboyantly pointed at my watch before pushing my children out the door towards the car.  Family politics be damned, I’m not passing up on stocking my cellar with wine at net wholesale cost.

We arrived at the sale at 12:07 pm to find both good and bad news. 

The bad news?  Some bastard got there 5 minutes earlier and scooped all of the Kosta Browne pinots. 

We quickly got over our K-B disappointment and got down to business.  Leaving our kids to color on some tables, or chase chipmunks, or drink rat poison, or do whatever they damn well pleased, we hit the bottle selections fast and furiously.  After the war was waged, our loot included a mixed case of Williams Selyem pinots, a mixed case of 2004/5 Barolos, and a couple of other random Italian reds.  As advertised, each bottle was sold at or below the retail price at the time of their respective release (yes, I went home and researched every single bottle to make sure we weren’t getting played).

And the good news?  Actually the great news is that the restaurant worked out a last minute deal with their landlord to stay in place and keep the doors open.  And, because they’d promised the wine sale to the community, they decided to go ahead with it despite not actually going out of business.

To quote the cigar-chomping George Peppard as John “Hannibal” Smith, “I love it when a plan comes together!”

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