I have a few thoughts on who wine's king of the hill is, and one clue about my choice as you consider yours: She is not a he.
When he was alive, Ernest Gallo was certainly king of the hill, heading up the world's largest wine company. Big distribution companies flex muscles in many states.
Robert Mondavi, at the height of his career, was the most influential, at least in this country.
For a long time, Ab Simon, when he ran Seagram Chateau & Estate Wines Co., presided over the largest importer of classified-growth Bordeaux and many of France's and Europe's finest properties.
No, the person I'm thinking of is a petite young woman who heads up one of wine's biggest sellers. Annette Alvarez-Peters heads up Costco Wholesale Corp.'s alcohol sales, the nation's largest retailer of said products. Sales totaled $2.3 billion last year, and about half that is from wine.
Most wine lovers are keenly aware of Costco's approach to wine. Most of the stores are well-stocked with marquee names and high-quality wines. Markups are 15 percent above wholesale. Selection ranges from very good to astonishing at times. One thing the company does is gear its wine sales to its local clientele, including local wines that you might only find in a traditional wine shop. Each store's buyer is charged with mixing up the products so customers find new discoveries.
Alvarez-Peters, in an interview with Wine Spectator sister publication Market Watch, in which she is named retailer of the year, cites examples. The Santa Maria store features more Santa Barbara wines, while the Paso Robles store promotes wines from that area. Costco even has its own line of regional wines under the Kirkland Signature label. A few years ago Costco was the largest importer of classified-growth Bordeaux.
Sometimes what you find in different stores can be startling. This past month readers forwarded two links to rarities being sold at Costcos in different parts of the country. One showed a photo of a three pack of 2007 Screaming Eagle at a Redwood City, Calif., Costco, for $1,500 a bottle. Another showed a magnum of 2000 Pétrus for sale in Texas for $11,699.
I'd like to hear your thoughts about which person or people in the wine world have the most power or influence today. Alvarez-Peters is my candidate.
Ivan S Robles — Jacksonville, FL — November 3, 2011 3:24pm ET
Scott Elder — The Dalles, OR — November 3, 2011 3:32pm ET
Michael Myette — Sacramento, CA USA — November 3, 2011 3:50pm ET
Steven Mirassou — Livermore Valley, CA — November 3, 2011 3:56pm ET
Michael Henderson — Martinez, CA — November 3, 2011 8:10pm ET
Daniel Braun — Princeville, Hawaii, USA — November 3, 2011 8:26pm ET
Robert Lapolla — san diego, CA USA — November 4, 2011 1:24am ET
Tim Mc Donald — Napa,CA — November 4, 2011 1:57pm ET
Lora Pallatto — San Francisco, CA — November 4, 2011 2:36pm ET
Homer Cox — Warrenton, VA — November 4, 2011 8:23pm ET
Jonathan Lawrence — somewhere in the world — November 5, 2011 9:18am ET
Brent Wingett — Paso Robles, California — November 5, 2011 11:00am ET
Jeb Singleton — Fairfax, VA — November 6, 2011 8:46am ET
Homer Cox — Warrenton, VA — November 6, 2011 4:07pm ET
Kevin M Regan — DeBary, FL — November 7, 2011 10:10am ET
Kc Tucker — Escondido, CA USA — November 8, 2011 8:15pm ET
Josh Moser — Sunnyvale, CA — November 8, 2011 9:29pm ET
Dr. John Maxwell — Carbondale, Colorado — November 9, 2011 7:04pm ET
James Sirna — Tampa, FL — November 9, 2011 9:09pm ET
Steve Stein — Cincinnati OH USA — November 10, 2011 2:07am ET
Kc Tucker — Escondido, CA USA — November 12, 2011 3:18am ET
Mary Jane Phillips — Farmington Hills, MI — November 12, 2011 3:36pm ET
Morewine Bishar — Del Mar, California — November 12, 2011 7:57pm ET
Igor Kravtchouk — Canda,Quebec, city of Montreal — November 19, 2011 12:39am ET
Joseph Byrne — Gardiner NY — November 19, 2011 8:28pm ET
Sips & Tips | Wine & Healthy Living
Video Theater | Collecting & Auctions