Two Great Wine Deals

Two Awesome Wine Deals for This Weekend

  1. just announced  that it will offer 150 wines from various regions as part of its July weekend sales.

Most of the wines will sell for 50% below suggested retail with free shipping for a case. Just remember that you need to use the code JULY2016 to get free shipping.

As an added incentive, you can mix and match wines to qualify for the free case shipping. That’s an attractive  alternative.

When thinking about case purchases, I looked for wines under $20 a bottle and came up with these five beauties.

2014 Lafage Cuvee Centenaire Blanc, $11.98, lovely, full-flavored white from southern France.

2014 Gabriel Meffre Cotes Du Rhone Saint Vincent, $12.01, from a reliable producer, and a real deal for a Rhone red.

2010 Olarra Laztana Rioja Reserva $12.44, This is a ready to enjoy classy Rioja from the fine 2010 vintage.

2012 Casey Flat Ranch Estate Red $19.99, An excellent combination of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and a dash of Viognier.

2013 Willowbrook Cellars Kastania Pinot Noir $19.99, This delivers pure Pinot flavors and soft,silky texture. Hard to find a better Pinot at this price.

2. As a big fan of Navarro Vineyards, I was thrilled to see this special July 4th offer in my mailbox. For some reason, wineries aren’t allowed to ship totally free, but every now and then a winery will go with the 1 cent per case shipping fee. That saves about $40.

Since the owners, Ted and Deborah, are better writers than I am, I’ll quote their offer below.

The Sauvignon Blanc is one of my all-time favorites and this  vintage is the finest to date.

I’d also go with the 2014 Pinot Noir at the enticing price of $16.50 a bottle. But the Pinot Grigio is a perfect summer sipper as is the Rose of Pinot Noir. Tough to decide, but what great choices!

Here’s the offer:

“The Fourth of July is just around the corner and Navarro has six Gold Medal winning new releases that will make your barbeque taste better than ever, especially since the One-Cent Ground Freight offer is still in effect. Here, in order of popularity, are our bestselling new releases:

2014 Pinot Noir, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $16.50

2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the case: $17.55

2014 Chardonnay, MendocinoBottle price by the full case: $16.50

2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée 128Bottle price by the case: $17.10

2014 Chardonnay, Première ReserveBottle price by the case: $24.30

2015 Pinot Grigio, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $12.42

2015 Edelzwicker, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $12.42

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, MendocinoBottle price by the case: $28.80

2014 Riesling, Deep End BlendBottle price by the case: $26.10
Can’t decide which wines to purchase; check out Navarro’s Summer Samplers with savings up to 25%! You can assort twelve bottles of these new releases or any other wines or juices, and qualify for Navarro’s One-Cent Ground Freight and discounted Air Freight. You can place your order online at



Wines for 4th of July Parties

With a week to go before the 4th of July holiday, the web wine retailers are already competing to light up the skies with special deals, massive discounts, blowout sales to end all blowouts, and free shipping incentives. You can be sure the wines chosen for your July 4th celebrations will be made by rockstar winemakers, from the greatest vintage since 1945, and have earned numerous 90+ point ratings.
Yes, there is a lot of hot air. For over a year I’ve been following two dozen leading web wine retailers, and if nothing else, I’ve learned how to cut through the hype, and silly descriptors, the aggressive sales pitches, and those numerical ratings to find the websites that have genuine deals and deliver on time.
If flash sales appeal to your independent side, my favorite is www.lastbottlewines. com which is headquartered in Napa.  Usually, offering only one wine daily, these guys have an unpredictable nature and they love holiday surprises. The discounts are usually deep, as in half-off, but to purchase wines, you have to act quickly. I recently missed out on a super Zinfandel from Lake County offered at $10 a bottle.  This is the go-to super source for Napa and Sonoma wines, especially Cabernet. Shipping is free for 4 bottles or more.
Another excellent website is which offers two daily deals and gives you a little more time to think things over. Though any connection between Cinderella and wine escapes me, this site has come on strong in recent months. Its best deals are wines from Italy, Spain and Australia. If you prefer Italian, this is the site for you. However, in mid-June it began offering unusual 2 and 3 bottle packages, but unlike others who offered “curated” wines, this site offers creative packages. As an example, a 2012 Chardonnay duo consisted of the Auntsfield Chard from New Zealand and a Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage Chard from Napa’s Carneros ($36.99 the pair). That’s an intriguing side by side comparison. Additionally, once a week its parent company,, offers subscriber a special deal. These usually fall in the under $20 price point and are often good to excellent deals. Continue reading “Wines for 4th of July Parties”

Rating Wines by Points

Once upon a time in a kingdom far away, only Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate  and The Wine Spectator dueled over which one could score the most wines 90 points or more. Then along came Stephen Tanzer, The Wine Enthusiast and others  to jump on the 100 point scoring system with a steady barrage of 90 point scores in their publications.

Then,  things really began to get out of hand. Parker’s onetime protege, Galloni or Baloney or whatever, split off and now pumps out 90+ ratings on hundreds of wines.

Today, I can’t think of a qualified expert who does not rate wines by the 100 point system and now with the bloggers, everyone is an expert.

And as more and more sommeliers land a day job as consultants or advisors to online publications, well, the points just keep on coming at you.

You need  to understand  that this scoring system for wine as it has evolved is all about mutual promotion. By that I mean  every producer whose wine is rated 90 or above is likely to promote that wine and also mention that writer or publication or blogger.

That’s how Parker became so well-known early on and forced The Wine Spectator to start using the 100 point rating system to keep up.

For producers, the 90+point ratings only encourages them to increase prices at every opportunity. That is good for the producers; not so good for the consumer.

Even www.wineaccess which is no stranger to hype and self-promotion had this to say recently:

“But perhaps more than anything, what most has us reaching for the TUMS are the soaring prices of Napa Valley’s (admittedly herculean) 2013 Cabernet Sauvignons.

Wine Spectator primed the Napa Valley pump, calling 2013 “an ideal season.” Then Parker came on like gangbusters, posting a record 19 perfect 100-point ratings, before calling 2013 “the greatest vintage in 37 years.” Finally it was Galloni’s turn. Parker’s former protege has always been stingier than his counterparts, causing many to suggest that if you want to compare a Parker score to Galloni’s, it’s best to just “subtract two.” Galloni poured fuel on The Wine Advocate’s Napa Valley fire, publishing a record 46 reviews of 97 points or more.”

And this week, emailed everyone announcing that “New Big Scores have been Added.” The wine and/or price is now second in importance to the scores?

The whole system is indeed flaming out of control, rendering most point scores in the 90s, well, rather pointless, when it comes down to being useful information for wine consumers.

visit  for tips on how to game the system



Amazon’s Wine Dept

Chances are good if you own a smartphone, have a credit card, and are over the age of thirteen, you are familiar with Amazon. And if you are among those who once enjoyed hanging out at bookstores, you may still be a bit resentful, but for most people, Amazon is the Mother of all online sellers.

So you will not be shocked to hear that Amazon has a large wine department. Not the biggest, but close enough as the most recent listing of available wines exceeds 9,000.  Amazon is a little different from other online wine sellers and Amazon loves to assemble wine packs of 2, 4, or 6 bottles. And toss in a few 12 bottle packs as well. So that 9,000 wine items listed includes these packs.

To digress, it is fascinating to hear Amazon label this category “wine packs” whereas the other sites prefer to label a selection of two or more wines as something curated. And the curation, if that’s a word, is almost always performed by experts curators.  

But Amazon is not without shame as many wine packs are grouped by producer, by region or by theme, as in wines to give to pacify the “Mad Housewife” or some other equally silly theme. Then there are wines sporting  the “Fifty Shades of Grey” theme. That’s pushing it.

That said, now let’s get back to the details. About two-thirds of the wines on Amazon are US in origin, mostly California, but Washington State (1,500) is well-represented as in New York (550). These last two states have earned the recognition, so bravo Amazon.  French wines offered hover around 1,000, and Italy shows up with 485 offerings.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but after the first few hours of checking it out, I felt like I was browsing the wine section at Rite­Aid with so many Barefoot wines and others found in most supermarkets and drugstores with a wine dept.

Amazon invites advertising, and it would appear that many of those wine packs feature wines from their advertisers. No problem with that; it is good business to punch up its featured brands and partners.

When you begin hunting for deals and discounts, Amazon surprisingly is not exactly a savvy wine shopper’s paradise.  In fact, as is often pointed out in their customer’s reviews, quite a few of the wines can be bought at better prices at grocery stores like Safeway and at Costco and similar stores. Cupcake, Layer Cake, Pacific Rim, Smoking Loon, Pepperwood Grove and Barefoot….and many other brands owned by Gallo may be cheaper at Rite-Aid, Safeway and CVS. (Note to Amazon brass: you often get as many negative reviews from your wine customers as 4 stars.)

When it comes to basic discounts, again Amazon pushes its mixed packs, offering 20% off on most of them. All told, there are about 165 “Deals,” many of them packed. But I could not find much to get excited about under that category. Not totally discouraged, I then clicked on  the category of “1 cent shipping,” Eureka! The mother lode. The Mother’s mother lode. If you have some leisure time, you can browse through about a 161 pages with about 4,000 listings.

Better yet, save yourself the time: there’s not much there of interest save for a few French wines.

Best Tip: go to the 20% off list and look for those items that are also part of the 1 cent shipping for the best deals on Amazon.

For more of our review of Amazon, go to:



Best Online Wine Deals

Today’s Best Deals: 

 Best Online Price: The 2014 Caymus Cabernet, Napa, sells for $75 at the winery. Several sites have recently listed it, some over the winery’s price. The best price online today is $64.99 shared by www. and www.
Best Deal, red wine: 2012 Atalon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. offered at $23 a bottle for orders of 6 or more or $21 for 12 bottles at www. That’s 50% off retail for a full case. Atalon draws from some of the best Napa Vineyards owned by Jackson Family Wines.
Best Deal, bubbly: Bollinger Brut Champagne, Special Cuvee: $49.29 a bottle, 30% below full retail, at
Best Deal, White Wine: If you love  fruit-filled, balanced Chardonnay, the 2013 Parducci Reserve, Mendocino, offered at $15.01, hits the bullseye at this price.Find it at

Online Wine Websites by Category

Making Sense out of Wine Online Sellers: Step One

Because there is a confusing array of websites, each claiming to be the best, we have first of all divided the field into seven different types.

Secondly,  at our website: we provide an in-depth evaluation of the major sites within each category and offer our unbiased opinions on which ones are successful. And which ones are lagging behind or should be avoided.

The Seven Categories are:

Mega-Sites: One-stop shopping with around 10,000 wines listed. The average wine shop carries about 600 wines, btw. Marginal discounts, but numerous shipping options.

Flash Sales: Timed sales; heavy discounts. Some sites offer one wine daily, while others two or more. Whatever, there’s pressure to act before the deal disappears. Good shipping options on smaller orders of 4 or 6 bottles as well as case deals.

Hybrids: Combine store fronts & online sales. Kind of a safe haven. You can order online and then either have the wine shipped to you or pick the order up at one of the real stores. You gain a sense of security but the trade-off is price since discounts are rarely significant and shipping costs can add up.

Specialists: Limited focus on CA wines, Bordeaux, Champagne, etc. This is a big category, but generally each specialist is limited in the number of wines offered. There’s one that’s perfect if you prefer Oregon Pinot of Washington State Reds, and another for Loire Valley wines.

Sites for Collectors: Focus on Cult & Rare wines. We’re talking high-end, expensive; you need to do your homework if you want to play in this arena.

Winery Direct Sites: Wineries with special deals and no membership requirements. This is an exciting category that is sure to expand. Some offer special deals on holidays or will offer good stuff at a special price. A few will hold a special sale with a 1 cent shipping per case deal.

Sites for Clubs, Gifts & Samplers: Like personal shoppers.  Or, like highway robbers. Your pick! Several sites work hard to offer excellent membership deals or gift packs. Others want your money and will send you wines that aren’t worth half the price.

Vintage Guides, help or all hype?

If you research “vintage wine guides,” you’ll find a dozen or more available to download. There’s Robert Parker’s vintage chart for Bordeaux, another writer’s for Australia and The Wine Spectator’s and Wine Enthusiast’s all-encompassing guides, to cite just a few.

One can only assume they are so readily available because some, perhaps many, wine drinkers need something to assist them in their wine buying decisions and in deciding when to drink certain wines.

Although most vintage guides downplay themselves as mere generalizations about a region’s overall performance, they still suggest we need experts to advise us because wine is too complicated for mere mortals.

The Wine Spectator’s 2016 vintage chart unknowingly undermines that argument as it rates the last ten vintages from every wine region and only one is rated below 85 out of 100. And by the way, 85 is a “very good” vintage. So it’s all good, right?  Or, good enough.

Not quite. Hyping a vintage is one thing that several online wine merchants painfully overdo. One of the tricks is to trot out an average quality wine and then hype it by focusing on the vintage’s star quality as if that carries over into every wine made that year. It does not.

It is even more devious when the vintage rating is based on the 100-point system. The site will rave about the 95 points somebody gave the vintage and then imply the wine for sale falls within that score by some sort of magic.  It does not.

Critics who seem to enjoy ranting on about different vintages are living in the past holding to the flawed concept that ageability is the primary component of a great wine or vintage.

Now before you delete your favorite vintage chart or tear up the printed version you carry with you at all times, hold on. Some information about vintage conditions can be extremely useful when you shop around for wines.

The conditions that made the 2010 vintage in the Medoc, St. Emilion and Pomerol merit a 98 or 99 rating are weather-related. That means the rains came when needed, and the sun shone evenly most of the time and everything was hunky-dory during the harvest days. But those conditions were present everywhere in the Bordeaux region, not only over Chateau Lafite in Pauillac or Petrus in Pomerol.

Our conclusion: in highly rated vintages, look for great values and bargains from lesser known producers and from those regions that are close to the upscale neighborhood.