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 www.cinderellawine.com 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, winelibrary.com, offers subscriber a special deal. These usually fall in the under $20 price point and are often good to excellent deals.
If you will be hosting big parties around the barbecue or pool and are looking for cases of fine wine under $12 a bottle with free shipping, then check out www.ultimatewineshop.com. This big site offers many gulpable red wines for your tri-tip such as the 2015 Paso a Paso Tempranillo (think Rioja) for $8.69. Others to buy by the case are the 2014 Les Garrigues Cotes du Rhone for $8.49 and the 2014 Cousino Macul Cabernet from Chile for $7.99.
If you celebrate by hanging poolside, the lively white, 2013 Marques de Riscal Rueda, at $8.73 is certain to please.
Check out the complete list and remember that shipping is free for the first case ordered.
My career as a wine journalist/critic began in 1975 when my article about California Petite Sirah was published. My focus remained on California as I edited a monthly wine magazine and then moved on to The Wine Spectator in 1981. Over the following years, my column appeared under the banner of “Stormin’ Norman, and I also wrote articles about wine collectors and wine auctions.
Without getting into a year by year bio, let me try to summarize here. During my time with The Spectator which I enjoyed immensely, I taught wine classes at a culinary school and at other venues in San Francisco. Before venturing into wine, teaching was my thing, English Lit and Rhetoric.
After The Spectator I was the U.S. Contributor to Decanter Magazine, writing mostly about California, but also expanding into Washington State and Oregon. My Decanter years began in 1992 and after buying a summer home in France in 2000, I traveled throughout France and eventually published articles about St. Emilion, Castillon, Bergerac, Minervois, Roussillon,
Luberon, Provence, and Alsace.
Also, around 2000, my wife began working for Cousino-Macul in Chile, so we tasted and traveled our way through Chile and, of course, managed to fly over the Andes and explore and taste our way through Argentina.
As travel lovers, we have also spent many interesting days visiting the wine regions of Spain, Italy, Portugal, Sicily, Greece, and New Zealand.
And to come to a close, I was Director of a Charity Wine Auction for 20 years, 1992-2000 that benefitted a local hospital. That brought me in contact with wine collectors and to the auction scene. And finally, I co-authored a book, The Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wine published by Alfred A. Knopf. It went through 4 editions and sold over 500.000 copies.
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