Trader Joe’s wine visionary dies

Robert Berning, Trader Joe’s visionary wine buyer starting in the 1970s, has died at the age of 73. His renegade approach, at the time, to bringing bargain priced wine to the masses was key to the way we think about buying wine today.

Through selling various wines under Trader Joe’s own label, he was able to skirt fair trade laws that dictated how wine could be priced and sold in California. Competitors tried to quash TJ’s efforts but in 1978 fair trade was abandoned, ushering in a whole new era in wine production and marketing.

So whether you’re swinging by TJ’s to pick up a few bottles of Two Buck Chuck or any of their other fine offerings, or browsing with the knowledgeable staff at Silver Lake Wines for the perfect wine for a special (or ordinary) occasion, pause and reflect on the man who made it all possible. And raise a glass to him while you’re at it.

Obituary in today’s LA Times by Dennis McLellan.