Don’t say you haven’t done it—there you are in a Trader Joe’s grocery store in California or New York faced with a wall of nearly identical Charles Shaw wine bottles in all the popular varietals for $1.99 each and before you know it, you’ve got 30 bottles in your cart.
“Two Buck Chuck” is every oenophile’s dream—a dirt cheap wine that’s won double gold medals for two of its varieties, the shiraz and the chardonnay. That means it’s as good to serve with Thanksgiving dinner as it is affordable enough to take camping, where you don’t really care whether you spill the bottle by the camp fire because you probably bought enough to fill the trunk of you car.
And with all signs pointing to Trader Joe’s at last preparing to open in Colorado—it has filed paperwork with the Secretary of State’s office and the Daily Camera reports that unnamed sources have strongly hinted of a store opening at the Twenty-Ninth Street Mall—its cult-like followers here are already clearing room in their pantries for a stash of Charles Shaw.
But not so fast—while Colorado might be leading the way in permitting quasi-legal sales of marijuana, parts of its liquor laws are still stuck in the Prohibition era. It was only a few short years ago that we did away with silly “blue laws” prohibiting sales on Sundays, but convenience stores are still barred from selling anything harder than 3.2 beer, which, yes, still exists. Grocery stores are not much better off. State law allows each grocery chain to sell beer, booze and wine in only one store in the state, as long as it’s separated from the other products and has its own check-out line … unless, oddly enough, there’s a pharmacist on duty, in which case liquor can be sold in the main store along with everything else.
So if Trader Joe’s opens a store in Boulder, what’s the problem? The problem, according to an article in the Denver Post, is that Trader Joe’s isn’t likely to open just one.
The paper reports: “The specialty grocery chain has ‘a rabid following of people.’ … That necessitates more than one site and means the company will cluster stores to economize on shipments, distribution and advertising.”
And with more than one store to choose from to stock its wine, Boulder might not be the most obvious choice—both Whole Foods and Alfalfa’s Market sell liquor in Boulder. Even though it’s hard to compete with $2 wine, Trader Joe’s might look to other markets without grocery store liquor offerings for that perk.
If that’s the case, there’s still a silver lining. The quality-to-value ratio is favorable enough that it’s well worth a road trip to stock the wine cellar, even if it means driving to Colorado Springs once a month on a wine run.