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Wine lovers find huge buys in Ripon bins

RIPON — You want ambience in a wine shop? Go to Napa. You want some decent wines at really low prices? Head out to Highway 120.

The Wine Group is holding one of its occasional sales to clear warehouse space at the old Franzia Winery.

Buyers can browse 11 bins just inside a chain-link fence, amid the rumble of semis going about their business.

"We've been here before and saw some very good wines and thought we would get some for the holidays," said Keith Munroe of Modesto, whose seven-case haul Friday included reds under the Big House and Black Vine labels.

A couple of hundred people had come through by the halfway point of Friday's four-hour session, despite the rain. The sale will conclude today.

The Wine Group is the nation's third-largest producer, with an estimated 44 million cases sold domestically each year, Wine Business Monthly reported last year. E.&J. Gallo Winery of Modesto is first.

The wines at the warehouse sale, sold by the case, are a tiny fraction of the total.

"A lot of the stuff is scratches and dents, older labels and older packages, because we're constantly updating packaging," company spokeswoman Laurie Jones said.

The sale includes the boxed Franzia, Almaden and Inglenook brands. They're selling for the equivalent of 75 cents for a standard wine bottle.

Shoppers can find discounts on imports from New Zealand and products from the Central Coast and other premium California regions. Concannon is going for just $4 a bottle.

"Concannon is one of their premium wines out of Livermore," said Randy Moseley of Ripon. "You're paying 16 to 18 bucks in the store."

His wife, Margie Moseley, picked up some Swirling Dervish cabernet sauvignon at $2.50 a bottle.

"It's a nice everyday wine," she said of the Central Coast product.

Visitors can mix and match within a case. One purchase Friday included $3 bottles of Pinot Envy pinot noir from France; Amani chianti from Italy; and Big House petit sirah, Brophy Clark sauvignon blanc and Big House red blend, all from the California coast.

Martina Hickey, who works in security for the company, bought some Cardinal Zin and Big House reds during her time off.

"There are some really good wines," she said. "You just have to drink a little bit. They are sipping wines."

Bee staff writer John Holland can be reached at jholland@modbee.com or 578-2385.

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