Pinot Noir Deal of the Day

Deal of the Day!

Just noticed one of my favorite Pinot Noirs is being offered at an amazing price of $22.

The offer comes from

Here’s what they have to say:

“Solena Grande Cuvée is the Pinot that led us to rethink the term “quality-to-price ratio” and start saying “quality-to-price disparity” instead. The 2021, from a landmark year, has it all: balance, deep red fruit, cleansing acidity, and a personality that makes it hard to put that cork back in.”

Better yet, here’s my recent review from

Soléna Estate, Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir “Grand Cuvée” 2021 ($28):

This may well be today’s best value in Oregon Pinot Noir.  Made from a selection of the family’s vineyards in the Yamhill and McMinnville AVAs, this Cuvee offers a lovely aroma that is at once complex and compelling.  A subtle melange of raspberry, and truffles with hints of earthiness define both the aroma and flavors.  On the palate it is medium bodied with bright raspberry / blackberry flavors that gain in intensity with airing and take you to a big, rich finish.  With light tannins, it can be enjoyed now or cellared a few more years.  It bears repeating: an excellent value.       

94 Norm Roby Mar 21, 2023



One of the oldest online wine sellers, the California Wine Club has a solid reputation for pricing and reliability. So it comes as no surprise that several small wineries looking for new sales outlets have discovered it.

And you should see what it is offering right now.

The summer sippers for under $20 are led by two of my favorites, each at $10.99:

2021 Clos La Chance Estate Sauvignon Blanc

2018 South Coast Winery Viognier

For the Pinot Grigio lover, check out the Mountain View Winery’s at $16.99

And there are two first rate wines from Brutocao Cellars in Mendocino: Chardonnay and

Cabernet Sauvignon

The selection at the cawineclub changes as new wineries catch on and offer their wine.

Among recent additions that are out of the ordinary are Malbec From Yorkville Cellars, a Carmenere made by Plaisance Ranch and one of the most sought after dry Rieslings, the 2020 Poet’s Leap from Long Shadow.

 the EX Monterey Pinot Noir from Wrath wines is another hard to find wine

Not all wines are deeply discounted as this club also functions like a traditional retailer.

And it offers hard to find wines like this beauty from Joel Peterson:

2020 Once and Future Zinfandel, Teldeschi Vineyard, Frank’s Block

With occasional new offerings like that, you owe it to yourself to check out the site

Specializing in small, family owned wineries, most from California, the site works smoothly with 4 categories: 

Super Savers

Artisan and Under $50

For Connoisseurs

Recent Club Features

Frequently, this club has a $1 case shipping deal, so it is wise to get on the email list.

End of February Wine Sale

Get ready to cherry pick a big wine sale featuring 150 wines at 40-50% price reductions

And $5 case shipping. 

Highlights: 150 wines up for sale

The website: 

On Tuesday the 28th, Vintage Wine Estates will offer 150 wines from its portfolio of wineries. 

The collection ranges from top notch wineries like Owen Roe, Qupe, Kunde, Laetitia, Clos Pegase and several others that are fully functional real wineries.

And, yes, the portfolio includes your basic supermarket brands like cherry pie and layer cake.

VWE as the company likes to be called, has so far encouraged many of its wineries to function as they always have.

It added a new brand “Bar Dog” that may appeal to some of you.

And I do like to fun/pun it created with the brand, “If You See Kay.” 

Here are the wineries to look for in this sale:

Owen Roe Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and other reds from Red Willow Vineyard

Tamarack  Firehouse Red for $12

Qupe Grenache $18

Laetitia Pinot Noir

Kunde Zinfandel

B.R. Cohn Chardonnay, Cabernet

Delectus Napa Valley

Can’t  find anything you like? Well then, just If You See Kay it!

3 Reasons to Shop Last Bottle

When it comes to rating the top online wine sellers today, the last word is Last Bottle.

I’ve been following it and another two dozen sites for several years now and, yes, I faithfully look at everyone’s daily deals, special offers, clearance sales and whatever else. 

Most sites are hyping the same wines after covid and are so predictable.

But not Last Bottle. is great in many ways, but it doesn’t list many of the small, hidden gems that Last Bottle uncovers.

I also think highly of, and

Last Bottle, however, is best at 3 key things:

  1. Big, real discounts!! Often over 50%.
  2.  Great selection, ever changing, not the usual fare.
  3.  Exciting, informative, and fun to read website and wine comments.

All of this along with a proven track record and yet there’s no personality behind it, no person by name.

And therefore no ego in evidence. No sommelier or wine expert showing off.

It is all done by teamwork, by wine competence, and by a crazy, noisy, got you by the throat style.

The question remains: who the heck are the people behind Last Bottle? 

I asked that and several other questions and was surprised at the quick and  informative response.

But I still don’t know that much about the people. The best I have is this photo:

What sets their sales approach apart from the others are the unusual and energized wine descriptions. Here’s a typical introduction to a featured Shiraz:

“Quick poll…who’s seen the video where the guy rescues his dog from the headlock of a big ol’ kangaroo and then squares off (you might want to Google it)!? Man, those Aussies are just the best. Speaking of BEST, how about 94 POINTS and THIRTEEN American dollars (that’s 18.60 Aussie dollars, by the by)??!! Mount Langi Ghiran SHIRAZ!!! Pure craziness.”

Or this one about a Barbaresco:

“WOOHOO!!! If you could make Burgundy with nebbiolo, this just might be it. Fine, elegant texture, no heaviness, but STACKED, simply soaring with beautifully fresh and dried roses, red cherry, orange pekoe tea, a dash of allspice and cinnamon, freshly turned earth, and shaved truffles, some toasted hazelnuts…my, oh my! SO GOOD! This will age like a champ, too – so get a few extra to save. We get all contemplative and nostalgic whenever we drink Rivetti. This is complex, thoughtful, fine, focused, and distinctly reaching for a higher level.”

These atypical wine comments keep on coming and may strike some as silly and irreverent, but their descriptions are clever, creative, and so unlike the mechanical writeups encountered elsewhere.  And the wines are top quality.

To learn more about these folks, see my article posted at

Here’s one question I asked that’s sure to tease you:

Q: You say your team tastes 40,000 wines a year, or roughly 800 a week. Really? Is that true or hype?

A: This is 100% true. When the tasting bar becomes too packed with bottles we set them on the floor, and have to carve little paths to get through. It can seem ridiculous, but it speaks to our commitment to assessing every wine to find the gems that make it into a daily offer. 

Here they are hard at work: the Chateau Les Feet of wine sellers:

A Year End Clearance Sale Not to be Missed has a wine sale unlike any other in my experience.

What a great opportunity to stock up on wines and wonderful way to ring in the New Year!!

The clearance consists of well-established, big names and recent cult-wine candidates like my most recent discovery, Giornata in Paso Robles.

There’s an added wrinkle as in each day the discounts are deeper, but the wines may disappear If you hesitate.

So, first go to the website, study the procedure for its “top secret Clearance” and go through the list to see what appeals to you.

Meanwhile, here’s the list with my suggestions highlighted in bold.

Excellent selection of Napa Cabs and Chateauneuf-du-Pape!!

I could say more, but time is critical.

The list:

Bodegas Corral 2017 ‘Altos’ Single Estate Crianza Rioja
Bodegas Orán 2017 ‘Soleá’ Valdebebas Rioja
The Vice 2020 ‘Carbone’ Single Vineyard Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon
Paolo Manzone 2020 ‘Mirinè’ Nebbiolo d’Alba
Château Grand Moulin 2017 ‘Réserve Elysée’ Corbières
BoutenacXavier Vignon 2020 ‘Cuvée Anonyme’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc
Mazzei 2019 ‘Philip’ Toscana IGT Cabernet Sauvignon
Domaine du Grand Tinel 2019 ‘Classique’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Bodegas Manzanos 2001 ‘Vino de Autor’ Voché Rioja
The Vice 2020 ‘The Hostage’ Single Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Viñedos de Páganos 2007 El Puntido Gran Reserva Rioja
Empress Vineyards 2019 Los Carneros Reserve Pinot Noir
Cuvée Wine Cellars 2014 Carneros Merlot
ALTA 2018 ‘NorCal’ Atlas Peak Napa Valley Cabernet Blend
Luca Bosio 2018 BaroloAveraen 2019 ‘Flood Line’
Chehalem Mountains Chardonnay
CVNE 2015 ‘Viña Real’ Gran Reserva Rioja
Giornata 2019 ‘Gemellaia’ Paso Robles Proprietary Red
Esk Valley 2016 ‘The Terraces’ Hawke’s Bay Proprietary Red
Kendric Vineyards 2018 Petaluma Gap Estate Pinot Noir
Château Magrez Fombrauge 2011 St.-Émilion Grand Cru
Bodegas Manzanos 2009 ‘125 Aniversario’ Reserva Rioja
Gorman Winery 2018 ‘The Devil You Don’t Know’ Columbia Valley Red
Palladian 2018 Napa Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Diego Conterno 2017 BaroloTeso
la Monja 2018 ‘Victorino’ Toro
Domaine de Rosiers 2019 ‘Cuvée Drevon’ Côte-Rôtie
Château Lafleur du Roy 2019 ‘Les Lavandières’ Pomerol
Maison Champy 2017 Beaune 1er Cru
Luigi Vico 2017 Prapò Barolo
Galerie 2017 ‘Pleinair’ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Le Clos du Caillou 2020 ‘Les Quartz’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Domaine Chanson 2018 Beaune Clos des Mouches Rouge 1er Cru
Château de Vaudieu 2019 ‘L’Avenue’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Xavier Vignon 2012 ‘Cuvée Anonyme’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Grattamacco 2018 ‘Grattamacco’ Bolgheri Superiore
Elvio Cogno 2017 Ravera Barolo
Shannon Family 2020 ‘Devil’s Well’ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Bodegas Viyuela 2017 White Label Crianza Ribera del Duero
La Pitchoune 2019 Holder Vineyard Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Rocca di Montegrossi 2016 ‘San Marcellino’ Gran Selezione
Charles Smith 2017 Substance ‘Cs’ Stoneridge Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Frisson 2019 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Domaine Chanson 2018 Beaune Clos des Mouches Blanc 1er Cru
Bodegas Breca 2018 ‘Brega’ Calatayud
Château Montlandrie 2012 Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
GrapeHeart Vineyards 2016 ‘GHV’ Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Caiarossa 2015 ‘Caiarossa’ IGT Toscana
Château Jean Faure 2019 St.-Émilion Grand Cru
Cantina di Negrar 2019 ‘Le Preare’ Ripasso della Valpolicella Superiore
Beau Vigne 2019 ‘Juliet’ Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon
Roberto Cavalli 2018 Tenuta degli Dei Toscana IGT
Talley Vineyards 2019 Rincon Vineyard Estate Grenache
Domaine Bertagna 2016 Les Plantes Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru
Domaine Bertagna 2016 Clos de la Perrière Monopole Vougeot 1er Cru
Domaine Raymond Usseglio 2019 ‘Cuvée Impériale’ Vignes CentenairesChâteauneuf-du-Pape
Domaine Chanson 2018 Corton-Vergennes Blanc Grand Cru
Tenet 2015 ‘GSM’ Columbia Valley Red
Shannon Family 2019 Giannecchini Vineyard Cabernet Blend
Wine Guerrilla 2018 Hemar Vineyard Alexander Valley Zinfandel
Saddleback Cellars 2017 Napa Valley Merlot
Markus Molitor 2019 Zeltinger Sonnenuhr Mosel Riesling GKA***
Domaine du Grand Tinel 2019 ‘Alexis Establet’ Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Warwick Estate 2018 ‘The Blue Lady’ Stellenbosch Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Sanford 2015 ‘Fountain Hills’ Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir
Bibi Graetz 2019 ‘Testamatta 20 Anniversario’ Toscana IGT
Montevetrano 2018 Colli di Salerno IGT Cabernet Blend
Salvatore Molettieri 2012 ‘Vigna Cinque Querce’ Taurasi
Viñedos del Contino 2016 ‘Contino’ Reserva Rioja
Maison Passot Les Rampaux 2020 Régnié Cru Beaujolais
Gagliole 2018 ‘Valetta’ Colli della Toscana Centrale IGT
DAOU 2019 ‘Patrimony’ Adelaida District Cabernet Sauvignon
GAJA 2015 ‘Sorì San Lorenzo’ Barbaresco
Larkmead 2017 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Ad Vivum 2018 Sleeping Lady Vineyard Yountville Cabernet Sauvignon
Apsara Cellars 2015 Amoenus Vineyard Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
Maison Champy 2018 Chassagne-Montrachet

Tin City: The Other Side of Paso

Topping my to do list over the last two years has been to visit and explore Tin City. Although I researched it in advance, It was not at all what I had expected. In fact, Tin City is simply amazing, an original, creative concept enabling small wineries to get established and allowing winemakers who think out of the box a real opportunity to pursue their dreams.

Best of all,  either can be done without shelling out mega millions.

For those unfamiliar with it, Tin City is located in an industrial area southeast of downtown Paso Robles. With train tracks running along its eastern edge, it began around 2005 and is now home to 25 wineries, a brewery, a distiller, cider works and a market.

 Tin City is not your typical urban winery circuit, however.  It is not the same concept as Santa Barbara’s sprawling “Funk Zone ” with its converted warehouses found along a ten block trail. And it is unlike those wineries clustered in downtown Napa,  along the Sonoma plaza, or Walla Walla, all with tasting rooms lining their main streets. 

Tin City started from scratch. It is the wine world’s version of “if you build it, they will come.”And it is also home to small wineries actually making wines on site. That’s correct, these wineries are crushing, processing and bottling their wines in the area behind their tasting rooms. And they all appear to have forklifts which were quite active during my visit.

Making beer on site, the brewery was the first to settle in and it has been a popular destination with live music and special events ever since.

And soon the concept of onsite, small artisans began to take shape. If you want more background, there’s a documentary on YouTube  produced a few years ago. It demonstrates that Tin City wineries are involved in all of the hands on, messy winemaking stages. The amazing part is that somehow winery owners were able to work through the planning department and cut through the red tape and impact studies required in other wine regions.

One person interviewed in the documentary explains that Tin City’s wineries are owned and operated by “career changers and cellar rats.” My introduction to the wines coming out of Tin City was through Desparada, the creation of Vailia From, owner and winemaker. Described by some as a “rebel winemaker” and “free spirit,” she is definitely unconventional, but also wonderfully creative.  


Here’s Vailia’s background: “I’ve seen every side of the industry, from winemaking to harvesting, to importing, cold calling for sales, to managing brokerages, to working on restaurant floors, and managing a mobile bottling line. There’s something in wine that kept me going. I’m a traveler by nature, and Desparada is what carries me.” 

She made one experimental barrel in 2008, and then made her first commercial wines at Tin City in 2009.

She likely designed the label artwork and prefers giving her wines proprietary names like “Soothsayer” and “Sackcloth & Ashes,” for a Bordeaux blend.  Three separate Sauvingnon Blancs are made, again bearing special names.  My first  Desparada wine was the  2018 “Fragment” Sauvignon Blanc which won me over with its ripe, expansive aroma, and leesy, slightly oaked and herbal personality.  The name Desparada is a play on a female outlaw type.  Yes, she is unusual.  

Here are her tasting notes for Soothsayer: “Calcareous acid trip, mezcal spanked blueberries, fire-roasted poblanos with creme fresh, country club ashtray, three legged cat, first date jitters.”   

She completes her bio with this note: “I spent two years living in a 1977 Royal International trailer on Pine Hawk Vineyard, where the idea of Desparada was born. I make my own deodorant.”

That says it all. 

 Always A Rhone 

 Another wine from Tin City that caught my attention about a year ago was from Nicora. Focusing on small batch Rhône wines, winemaker Nick Elliott works with vineyards on Paso’s Westside, and his lineup today consists of  an excellent Viognier from Denner Vineyard, 3 single vineyard Syrahs and a GSM.  His 2018,  65% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre, is a personal favorite.  My review of that wine noted “it offers plum, leather and spice aromatics in a smooth, savory medium bodied package.  It comes across as delicious and seamless, with light tannins.  More nuanced and layered than ripe and jammy.  Enjoy now and over the next few years.” 

Elliott comes across in his bio as the ultimate “cellar rat” working his way up, willing to do everything himself to learn the winemaking process from start to finish. All that one needed to know to run a small winery.  Here is how he introduces the winery:

“Nicora was started with little resources, and has been built from the ground up.  It truly began in the cellar, where I learned from mentors such as Scott Hawley (Torrin), Eric Jensen (Booker), and Bob Tillman (Alta Colina).  I worked for the funds to buy grapes and barrels, and spent many hours with purple hands and wet boots.  My dream was to hand craft wines that would be both a personal expression and a reflection of the unique vineyards found within Paso Robles, and beyond.”      

Syrah and Rhone wines are, of course, central to the Paso winescape, but in Tin City, you encounter those who go their own way. That leads me to Giornata Winery, my most recent discovery and what a story it comes with. Owned by Stephanie and Brian Terrizzi,  this winery makes nothing but wines from Italian varieties from vineyards in and around Paso. 

Cal-Ital, Again?

Now before you think that’s crazy, some of us remember that in the 1990s there was a mini trend underway in all parts of California in a movement dubbed  “Cal-Ital” which had dozens of wineries working with Babera and a range of Italian wines. It fizzled but that doesn’t mean it was a bad idea. Just bad timing.

Giornata focuses on more than Barbera and Sangiovese. The Italian varieties they work with include Sangiovese, Aglianico, Barbera, Vermentino, Fiano, Ramato, Gemellaia, and Nebbiolo.  Brian’s first vintage was one barrel of Nebbiolo made in the shed in his yard in Fresno.

Today, Brian Terrizzi makes wine from sites his wife Stephanie farms.  They met at Fresno State where he was enrolled in enology, she in viticulture.  One of her research projects was clones of Nebbiolo. She is also a vineyard manager where she gets to work with Nebbiolo, the winery’s flagship wine. She has done a lot of studies on physical ripeness’, Brian explains. “When it comes to vinification, ‘when to pick’ is the biggest decision that we make. We want the purity of Nebbiolo. Picking at the right time, when there is still acidity and that varietal character is essential for us.’ What’s key in the Terrizzi’s approach is their attention to the specifics of the variety.

In 2012, Giornata moved to Tin City into their own facility right next to Field Recordings. “There were no winery signs and only a couple visitors a month,” Brian remembers. Before then, they had moved production around, and earlier had developed the Broadside Winery in Paso. Eventually he sold his share in Broadside to focus on Gionarta. 

 During 2022, Giornata will release around 20 wines. Production ranges from only 35 cases for some handmade wines to 500 cases per varietal. The total annual production will remain in the range of 4,000 to 5,000 cases per year. Among the early proponents of amphora in winemaking, the winery offers several orange wines.

I was lucky to make my way through quite a few wines during my visit, though not 20. I’ve singled out a few for a detailed review. By the time the Aglianco appeared, I decided to just enjoy the wine without writing notes. The Aglianico French Camp Vineyard in Paso Robles is one of two bottlings of this rare varietal that Giornata produces. This is their cooler site, as the vines sit at 1600 feet of elevation. The grapes were originally planted for one of Bonny Doon’s bottlings and only four-tenths of a hectare remains of Aglianico in this vineyard.

 I drove  away with respect for the way the entire roster consists of wines to be ideal food companions, not hedonistic, high scoring super stars. Even the Sangiovese Rose was a surprising, snappy rendition that would show best with food. It is bottled under the “Etto” label, which is also the name of a line of hand made pasta sold at the Tin City market.

I can’t wait to return to Tin City, maybe to check out the wines from Sans Liege or Brian Benson, or all of the others. And then again hand-made ice cream from Negranti Creamery looked good.

Anyone contemplating a visit should set aside at least 3 days. Here are 4 good reasons to include a stop at Giornata. These reviews were first posted on 

Giornata “El Pomar” Paso Robles, Barbera 2021 $25

A relatively cool AVA, El Pomar, which benefits from the Templeton Gap’s marine air influence, contains about 2,000 acres of vines, mostly red varieties. Giornata offers one of the few Barberas from the district and has the food-friendly Piedmonte style in mind. The winemaker’s goal is to make “a light-bodied wine that is at once pleasurable but also intriguing.”  Stainless steel fermented and aged in neutral French and Slovenian oak, the wine is bottled a few months after harvest. Very dark in color and medium-bodied, it emphasizes bright berry fruit with light spices in the background. On the palate it delivers assertive black cherry and strawberry flavors and remains highly energized in its flavors and finish thanks to persistent acidity. With little evidence of tannin or oak, it begs to be paired with hearty main courses.  352 cases


Giornata Adelaida District Paso Robles, Nebbiolo 2019 $50

Located in the northwestern corner of Paso, Adelaida was “discovered” in the 1970s and singled out for its rolling hills and calcareous, limestone soils. Early on it seemed suited to Pinot Noir, but today Its reputation rests with the success of both Bordeaux and rhone varieties. Nowadays Giornata is making a strong case for Italian grapes. Nebbiolo was the winery’s debut wine in 2005 and the learning curve has been steady. This 2019 is sleek and impressive. Fermented with native yeasts, it was aged for two years in neutral oak.  It was also given a lengthy post-fermentation maceration on its skins. As it opens in the glass, this wine shows dark fruit and licorice aromas with a touch of  leather. Medium bodied, it remains lively on the palate and has cherry fruit, light chalky tannins and definite acidity. Overall, it is youthfully tight but beautifully balanced. 


Giornata, Adelaida District  Paso Robles, Sangiovese 2019 $40

Relying on the Brunello clone, Giornata’s Sangiovese is aged 22 months in neutral French oak and keeps its focus on the grape’s vitality. The winemaker remarks that “foot-stomping and extended maceration facilitate the gentle extraction of color and tannin from the small berried Sangiovese clones that comprise this lot.” Its color is a dark garnet and the aroma is a charming mix of ripe black fruit, tea leaf and dried herbs. On the plate it comes alive with fresh strawberry and savory fruit flavors and the texture is plush. With some tannin poking through in the finish, it remains bright with its balancing acidity. Its lingering finish gets you thinking about food companions.


Giornata Wines Paso Robles “Gemella”  2019  $65

A Super Tuscan style blend, “Gemella” brings together 64% Sangiovese from the Adelaida District with 30% Merlot from Santa Margarita and a splash of Petit Verdot also from Santa Margarita. Aging was in French oak, 50% new. The Merlot portion “undergoes lengthy extended macerations to refine tannins.” With a hint of violets, the aroma shows lots of black plum fruit and baking spice. On the palate the wine’s texture is rich and smooth with flavors of spice, light oak and a little earthy/gamey.  Balanced and ready to enjoy now, it has the depth to age well for several years.  211 cases produced.


More on Labor Day Wine Sales

 Labor Day Wine Shopping

As predicted the deals are heating up. 

Just was notified that the 2013 Alexander’s Crown Rodney Strong Cabernet is a special

Holiday offer direct from the winery for $80.

Given the hyper online wine world, $80 seems sane.

Back to that world, here are my top 7 websites and the reasons for their high ratings.


Based in Napa and having an importer’s license, these folks somehow manage to secure a wide range of wines in all price brackets. 

Discounts are some of the deepest. 50% off is common.

Their strength is California wine, but also amazingly strong in France and Italy.

They also source often hard to find wines.

They don’t solely rely on critics’ scores, and their comments are often amusing.

Frequent all day marathon sales are great buying opportunities.

Best recent offer: Luna Sangiovese Reserve, Napa  2019  $20 (normally $62)


A major retailer, this site offers much more than Napa Cabs and often comes up with unbeatable case prices on Fridays. 

The wine selection is large and includes all types and all regions. 

But the place to look is its list for free shipping by the case and also by 6 bottles. 

The list of 90+ point wines now exceeds 1000. 

Excellent deals on wines for everyday enjoyment, especially Chile’s and Argentina’s favorite producers.

Free shipping on case orders.

Often the lowest prices online for major brands.

Recent deals: 6 bottles of 2018 Silver Oak Cab Alexander Valley

Sean Minor Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2019 $19.97

2018 D.V. Catena Tinto Historico  $15.97


“Curated” is overused by so many others, but it applies perfectly to the wines at this site. Based in the town of Napa, it lists around 100 wines at any one time. But they reflect excellent choices that are not available elsewhere. 

Strengths are in wines from Spain, France, and Argentina with frequent surprises from California.

No crazy BS write ups about the latest cult wine from rockstar winemakers

And, best of all, discounts of 50%-60% 

Shipping rates are usually free for orders of 6 or more. Free for 3 on pricey wines. 

Best Recent Super Deal: Campo alle Comete Bolgheri Stupore 2016 $24.95 (50% off)


Headquartered in New Jersey, winelibrary is a major wine retailer. Its current inventory is around 2,000 wines, with 500 selling for under $20 a bottle. It offers online daily wine deals on its website. Gary Vee, a techie revered by  some people, is part of the team and works with the monthly wine club program. He also rates wines for the site.

Excellent range of good values: My go-to Bubbly, Segura Viudas is only $9.09 here.

Heavy into French wines, especially Rhone and Southern France.

Free shipping on orders of 3 or more.

Best Recent Deals:

2017 Crystal Basin Cellars Reserve Zinfandel, El Dorado $19.99

2018 Molino Della Suga Rosso Di Montalcino $15.44


Each day brings a new deal accompanied by a detailed, informative background.

Discounts are attractive (30%-50%) and the overall quality of the wines is high.

The way it works is to order a minimum of 6 bottles, but for the six there is a flat shipping fee of $5. 

3-bottle packs are sometimes offered. 

The offerings truly are for the non-snob. The site also reviews wines from Costco and Trader Joe’s.

Mostly West Coast wines are presented  but even the imports are often unusual in that few other sites have access to them. 

Best Recent Deal: 

Two Jakes 2017 Petite Sirah, Lake County $18.00

Scott Harvey Zinfandel Amador County 2019 $17.


Wines direct from the source” is the slogan.  

The mantra is that fine wines are made in small quantities.

To shop for the best deals, we suggest going to the “Under $30” list, or see what the daily deal is.  The deals are available for 3 days or until the wine is sold out.

Shipping is free for 6 bottles or orders of $120.

Strong in Napa wines, its lists include Vermillion, Vine Cliff, Grgich Hills, Dalla Valle and Bevan Cellars.  From other places, there is Foxen Pinot Noir, Bedrock Zinfandel, Meyer Family Syrah, and County Line Rose from Anderson Valley.

Best recent Deal: 2019 Chad Merlot Incline 18 Sonoma Mountain $23.95


A recent end of summer sale of white and rose wines clinched it for me. The 172 whites offered with an additional 10% discount were a wide range of quality imports and US wines.

The website lists unusual and many of the best-known, proven brands at discounts ranging from 12% to 25%. 

Excellent selection of Sauvignon Blancs from around the globe.

80 Cabernets start at $15 and show careful curation

Free shipping of 6 bottle orders.

Best recent examples: 

Talley Estate Pinot Noir 2019 $34.99

Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc 2020 $16.99

7 Best Online Wine Sites for Labor Day Sales

Let the Countdown Begin!

As we head into Labor Day Weekend, we all should prepare for major sales and special deals coming at us from all sides. 

And wine will be right there with every major online website aiming in our direction.

That means you’ll encounter plenty of hyped up wine descriptions, a good amount of bs, and messages to act fast or miss the deal.

In other words, same as every other day in the crazy-paced online wine world.

As most of you know, I’m not a fan of subscription boxes since you can find better wines at better prices if you do a little research. Nakedwine, Vinesse, Winc, and Firstleaf seem to make many people content. Good for them. But those are not in my targeted wine-loving audience.

The following recommendations are based upon tracking the major websites every day and over the last five years. I should emphasize that many so-called experts  and self-appointed influencers providing lists of the top wine websites are often “affiliates,” meaning they get a commission.  Not me!

The 7 top websites make this list for several key reasons:

  1. They reflect serious and intelligent selection, aka “curation.”
  2. They include a range of imports as well as US wines
  3. They cover the full price range, from under $10 a bottle, not just expensive stuff
  4. They don’t totally rely on 90+ point scores which today are meaningless and unreliable
  5. They offer decent discounts which mean at least 20% off the verifiable retail price.

And, now with a little drumroll, here are the top 7

http://www.lastbottlewines. com

Surprised? Didn’t see your favorite? Well, first of all, you owe it to yourself to first check out these top 7 sellers.  In a follow-up post, we’ll explain what sets them apart from the others.

And we’ll also say why some of the more obvious, seemingly successful sites such as, and fell short this time around.

Stay tuned!

Exploring Oregon’s Other Pinot

As a judge at the most recent Oregon Wine Experience and having closely followed Oregon and Northwest wines over the last two years, one thing I’ve discovered is that Oregon is successful with a wide range of wines other than Pinot Noir. Some of the most exciting Tempranillo, Malbec, Syrah and Viognier are being produced around the State. Oh, yes, the Rhone and other blends can also be outstanding. 

And then there are the rock sold and widely available Pinot Gris grown successfully in every sub-region. The list of top wineries includes King Estate, Ponzi, Elk Cove, Chehalem. Panther Creek, Eyrie, Earth, Ruestle, Brandborg, Iris, Solena, and on and on. The best Pinot Gris are highly versatile, food-centric wines that can be enjoyed year round and they should be a candidate for your go-to white. 

Why are they still relatively unknown? Pinot Gris is the second most widely planted variety in Oregon, and after a decade of steady growth, it is the leading white grape today, way ahead of Chardonnay. Yet Oregon Chardonnay gets more press largely because Pinot Gris’ reputation is tangled up with its namesake, Pinot Grigio. 

Not trying to start an argument here but Pinot Grigio is a name most wine drinkers associate with inexpensive, light and often slightly sweet white wines from Italy. And, okay, a few from Alto Adige are dry finished and quite good but also a few from California are watery thin supermarket bottlings. 

Gris or Grigio: the Gray Area

Any effort to wine-splain the difference between wines labeled Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio leads to a rabbit hole of confusion and misinformation. Don’t believe that? Well, just Google the simple question: What’s the difference between Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris, and you get this as the first entry: “Pinot grigio, undoubtedly the most popular of the two, is lighter-bodied, crisp, clean, and vibrant with citrus flavors, according to Wine Spectator. Pinot gris, on the other hand, is sweet, and has spicy tropical fruit aromas. It generally has low acidity, higher alcohol levels, and a rich texture.”  

OMG! Where to start?  Well bad English (more, not “most”) but really this is a generalization that is totally misleading, useless, and, well, just wrong. No wonder then that  promoting Pinot Gris has long been an uphill battle for those involved.  

So it came as only a slight surprise to visit the Willamette Valley Winery Association’s homepage and be greeted with this bold heading: “We are Pinot Noir.”  No ambiguity there, and most of the website’s content focuses on Pinot Noir as the region’s signature wine.  It is, of course, but maybe Pinot Gris merits some attention since there are more than 5,000 acres planted and well over 100 wineries produce Pinot Gris.

The Journey

My interest in Pinot Gris began during an early one on one meeting with David Lett of Eyrie Vineyard. Though known today as one of the pioneers behind Oregon Pinot Noir, Lett was keen on showing me his first vintages of Eyrie Pinot Gris. He was convinced it was Oregon’s white of  the future, not Riesling, not Chardonnay. And the quality of his first vintage was as convincing as his enthusiasm. And his inaugural vintage was labeled “Pinot Gris.” That is the name used throughout Oregon today.

A few years later I was invited to visit the new and much talked about King Estate in Eugene, Oregon and was reintroduced to Pinot Gris along with Pinot Noir made from several Dijon clones.

Both encounters convinced me that Pinot Gris deserves to be taken as a serious white, neither a minor mutation nor a grape for cheap bulk wine. And that eventually led me to Alsace. Visiting the region to research a touring article later published in Decanter Magazine I left with no doubt that Pinot Gris can be a complex, intriguing and, in some cases, age worthy wine.  

My follow up article in Wines & Vines focused on the widely varying styles of Alsatian Pinot Gris  with so many off-dry, sweet finished versions, various Grand Cru bottlings, and many late harvest. Many of the leading winemakers insisted on showing their Gewurztraminer and late harvest Rieslings. But the dry versions of Pinot Gris  from Ostertag, JosMeyer, Kreydenweiss, Domaine Paul Blanck, Bott Freres, and Zind-Humbrecht were a whole different story. Yet not that well-known even in Alsace. I remember being “schooled” by a waiter in one of Alsace’s fine restaurants when I asked for a dry Pinot Gris. The answer was simple: “If you want a dry white, select a Riesling.”

If there’s such confusion in Alsace, then it is understandable why Pinot Gris grown elsewhere has yet to be fully understood and appreciated. Then too you factor in the boatloads of Pinot Grigio and the way the trade, especially restaurants, list the imported Pinot Grigios and  Pinot Gris as one wine, and the problem is compounded. 

So to get a handle on what’s the present status and future prospects of  Pinot Gris in Oregon, I decided to explore the latest offerings from King Estate. Afterall, King Estate has been working with it for 30 vintages and has become practically synonymous with Oregon Pinot Gris. When I contacted Ed King, he concluded our conversation with this overview:  

“I have seen the “death” of Pinot Gris in Oregon announced at least twice, as well as the advent of Chardonnay in Oregon at least three times.  And yet, by far, Pinot Gris is the most successful white wine in Oregon.”

Still family owned, King Estate was founded in 1991 and now has 465 acres planted in what is “the largest certified Biodynamic vineyard in the U.S. Pinot Gris accounts for 314 acres. 

While the winery has expanded and is highly successful with Pinot Noir, it remains firmly committed to Pinot Gris. One of the largest producers of Pinot Gris, the King family did not want to risk its reputation or take a step backward with Pinot Gris from the smoke prone 2020 vintage. So not one bottle of 2020 Pinot Gris was sold. 

That’s a major decision because in the 2021 vintage, King Estate produced over 100,000 cases of Pinot Gris!

My notes on the currently available King Pinot Gris:

King Estate Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley 2021 $19.

If this is the basic benchmark of Oregon Pinot Gris and the winery’s flagship, this is one amazing wine setting a high standard! 92-93 points.

Over half of the grapes for this wine are from the estate with the remainder from several independent vineyards, all following sustainable practices. This 2021 tends toward a ripe fruit, mouth filling style that can be enjoyed as an aperitif or as a first course companion.  Showing a little bronze tint, it offers plenty of ripe melon fruit with some honeysuckle, peach and jasmine in both its aromas and flavors.  Remarkably fleshy and rich on the palate, its lush fruit and citrus personality persists and concludes with a pleasing touch of acidity in the aftertaste. This is a terrific all-purpose, versatile white with tons of character.

2019 King Estate Pinot Gris “Domaine,” Willamette Valley  $30

 Made 100% from King’s estate vineyard, this Domaine is a food-centric version that can be paired with whatever you usually match with Chardonnay. 94-95 points

Stainless steel fermented and aged 6 months on the lees, it is straw colored and  opens with bright aromas of melon, lime, and citrus that lead to a medium-bodied, generous palate. It continues with lively, crisp flavors of meyer lemon and grapefruit. Its persistent acidity keeps it on course leading to a lovely finish. With its vibrant melon fruit and touch of lime, this is a  smoothly textured well-structured wine held together by brisk acidity. A wine to drink now but it also has good aging potential. 

A selection of the best small lots assembled by the winemaker. “Backbone” is an incredible, rich, beautiful example. 95 points 

King Estate Willamette Valley “Backbone” Pinot Gris 2019 $ 28

Made from selected blocks as a winemaker’s cuvee, the 2019 “Backbone” consists of 41% estate grown fruit with the remainder from 4 neighboring, compatible vineyards.  The lots are whole cluster pressed and cold fermented in stainless steel. The wine was then aged 5 months on the lees with periodic lees stirring. Medium full bodied, this wine is brisk and concentrated with youthful aromas and flavors of fresh cut melon with tangerine and a hint of minerality. Much like the “Domaine” bottling, this wine also offers a lovely, smooth rich texture leading up to its palate cleansing, long finish. Enjoyable now and very food-centric, it has all it needs to age gracefully over the next several years. 500 cases made.

King Estate Willamette Valley (Oregon) “Paradox” Pinot Gris 2019 $35

Pinot Gris and oak Aging. Fascinating, but while oak is added, the overall impression is that the best features of Pinot Gris are compromised. 92 points

This tiny production (100 cases) is part of an ongoing experimental program. 100% estate grown, Paradox refers to the fact this is oak aged by a winery that has long championed un-oaked Pinot Gris. It was aged in new French oak for 3 months, followed by aging on the lees for 5 months. Straw yellow in color, it needed time to open. But soon displayed a melange of baked apple, lemon, vanilla and light oak toast. Medium full bodied, it is concentrated in flavors with lemon curd, apple fruit, and some yeastiness in equal parts. Tightly structured, it finishes long with good acidity to accompany the light touch of oak. Well, definitely different, and well made and attractive. I prefer the other 3 with no oak aging. 

There you have it. Pinot Gris is well-worth exploring.

Top 10 Wineries to Follow for Holiday Wine Sales

Now that Memorial Day blowout wine sales have finally ended and with Father’s Day and July 4th sales straight ahead, let’s review what happened. And, better yet, let’s apply what we learned to improve our savvy shopping skills.

Now, more than before, I encourage people to buy direct from smaller wineries rather than from online retailers, supermarkets and subscription box companies. But of course, that is a real option only when prices are attractive and shipping costs are sometimes cheaper than a gallon of gas. Happy to note many wineries are working hard to make that happen.

5 Reasons for Going Winery Direct for Holiday Sales

First, and this is big: you don’t have to join a club. No contracts!  Offers for non-members are usually at a slightly lower discount. But not always.

Shipping costs are attractive, ranging from $1 a case to $20. (A case normally ships for $40-ish)

Discounts often start at 20% and range up to 50% and higher

The wines are authentic, not custom made, cutesy labeled stuff from virtual wineries

Many of these wines are not widely available, not supermarket wines from a giant corporation

The following real example beautifully demonstrates all 5 key points. Last November, Navarro Vineyards in the Anderson Valley made a special, timed sales offer. Here it is: “Navarro’s six-bottle Black Friday Sampler is only available through Monday, November 29, or until the sampler is sold out. The six bottles of 2017 Méthode à l’Ancienne Pinot Noir in this sampler—three of them unfiltered—are being offered for $108.00, a savings of $108.00! There is a limit of one sampler per household; however, you can also add six bottles of any Navarro wine or non-alcoholic juice of your choice and the twelve bottles will qualify for One-Cent shipping

 For those unfamiliar with Navarro wines, you need only to look over its reviews in the database. There, you’ll see the many high (94+) ratings from numerous critics, and notice that even its Roses have been rated in the mid-90s!.

That is not an isolated instance. There were many sales over this year’s Memorial Day weekend.

Wineries willing to offer free shipping as part of a special sale or an attractive flat rate opened the door wider to buying wines direct. And, many like the folks at Tank Garage in Napa Valley,  make it easy: “Need to get your hands on cool wines from Tank Garage Winery? Whether you’re shopping gifts for the season or stocking your cellar for days to come, we’ve got you covered with $1 shipping on any order, all weekend long. No code is necessary, this rad deal applies automatically at checkout.”

Even a flat rate of $10 for 6 bottles or $5 for a case is attractive when you remember a case of wine normally ships for around $40.

Getting the message is simple and only requires you to enroll for email/text alerts. That normally sends up the red flag about junk mail, spam, and clogged mail boxes, but I’ve never experienced much to worry about from most wineries. It’s easy enough to unsubscribe from the annoying ones whose wines are of little or no interest at any price.

Top 10 Wineries to Follow for Holiday Wine Sales

Rather than suggesting everyone now randomly subscribe to a bunch of wineries, I will list a few that have a proven track record and are known to offer special holiday deals during the year.

Navarro Vineyards: See the example above. A great source of Pinot Noir and also a wide range of small batch wines.

Beaulieu Vineyard: This Napa icon needs no introduction. There’s a summer sale with many wines at 40% off a bottle, 50% off for a full case. Shipping is, alas, on you.

Sterling Vineyard: Another well-known Napa name also offering a wide selection of discounted wines online. Might combine shopping with Beaulieu and then hit the road to Napa to pick up your wines.

Clos LaChance: This family owned beautiful Santa Clara winery often offers super deals (like 50% off) of its Sauvignon Blanc, Pirates blend Rhone, and Meritage. It also makes a fine Cabernet Sauvignon. Good shipping deals.

Trentadue Vineyards: Rock solid winery in Alexander Valley frequently offers one day Holiday sales. Look for “La Storia” wines, its high end line. But also  don’t pass by its Zinfandel or Sauvignon Blanc. Trentadue makes one of the finest Petite Sirahs. Good shipping rates.

Fritz Winery, also in the Alexander Valley, announced its Father’s Day specials way ahead of everyone else. It often offers a case of Fritz wines with $1 case shipping. The 2018 Estate Dry Creek Zin and 2019 Russian River Chardonnay are its top rated wines.

Testarossa Vineyards: The best kept secret for fabulous Pinot Noir. Look for discounted prices and free shipping on 3 or more bottles. Also the Chardonnays are exceptional.

Ponzi Vineyards: This proven Willamette Valley pioneer caught my attention with its Memorial Day  major sale of a Pinot Noir Rose…and free shipping on 6 or more bottles. Key an eye on this site

Rodney Strong Vineyards: In good hands with the Klein family, this winery is worth following for special sales. Here’s one for Father’s Day: “Enjoy 30% off when you order 6 or more bottles of the 2014 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Offer ends Sunday, June 19 or until sold out.”

Tooth & Nail Winery: Looking for something totally different and unconventional? With Tooth & Nail, one of my recent favorite discoveries, signing up for email alerts gets you a 15% discount. Frequent holiday specials are at 20% off with free shipping on orders of $50 or more. This Paso Robles winery offers wildly creative reds and whites and  all have rated in the 90s. Great Rose, Rhone blends, and Cabernets with labels that literally sing for you. But that’s another story.

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