Hangin’ in Monterey Bay


Monterey Bay in late September!

Majestic yet small enough to walk around.

Touristy, but still relaxing because the feel is old California.

The restaurant scene is lively ranging from typical seafood menus to innovative bistros and friendly brew pubs.

You can start your day with excellent espresso or whatever at Cafe Trieste and the Paris Bakery.

Now for the real good news: wine lovers looking to enjoy fine wines and discover hidden gems will not go away disappointed.

We certainly were not.

You know you are in for a good wine experience when the top-ranked restaurant you booked, “Montrio,” is featuring a half-off bottle price that night. Excellent wine list.

Discovered a classy wine bar, “Sovino” near the wharf but away from the tee-shirt and chowder shops.

Great selection of wine by the glass, all at-half-price during Happy Hour. Also offers small plates ideal for tasting wines.

Enjoyed a glass, actually a seriously generous pour, of  ‘14 Flora Springs Napa Cabernet and also a big Napa Cab from newcomer Rama.  Both at $8 a glass.  

Sovino earns our highest rating:

Excellent selection from Monterey and other regions

Relaxed, cozy atmosphere

Knowledgeable owners who have fun, We were there on Trivia Night.

Sovino also offers sip and paint classes taught by local artists.

Next day on to another wine bar and bistro, “A Taste of Monterey.”

Close to the Aquarium, but a little hard to find.

But once you get there, what great views!

It features wines from 80 wineries, all from Monterey County. Most are small and many are new to the scene.  

So good place to discover new names as you taste flights of 5 wines by the glass.

But the great names of Monterey like Morgan, Bernardus, and Scheid are well-represented.

Marin’s Vineyard topped our list of discoveries with a delightful ‘14 Malbec and a serious, big-league Petit Verdot.

Travieso could become a name to watch for serious Syrah and

Boete for Cabernet from the Carmel Valley also impressive at $40 a bottle. Offered at $30 to wine club members.

Both Sovino and A Taste of Monterey, happy to note, are wine clubs as well as wine bars.

Check them out:



Your Cheat Sheet for the Sept 19th Cheapskate Marathon


Call me crazy! But this strikes me as betting on certain horses without knowing who is running that day. Or maybe crazier.

What the heck. Here goes with my top picks based upon a review of past offerings at http://www.wtso.com.

If red wine is your thing….you are in luck.

Most Marathon sales lean heavily toward red wine in general. Cheapskate Marathons are no exception.

So look for Pinot Noirs, Rhone blends, Chianti,  Zins and the occasional Cab.

Or else, look to Bordeaux and Rioja for reds from either 2014 or 2015.

Given a choice, go with 2015.

Since I’m just guessing what might be offered, I sincerely hope the following red, a great conversational item shows up:

15 Funckenhausen La Espera Premium San Rafael Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina, $11.99.

It is a solid wine and who can resist serving a Funchen wine to your BFFs. Best Funchen Friends Forever!

Back to the list of suggestions…

‘15 Eola Hills Pinot Noir Reserve, Willamette Valley, $19.99

13 Scheid Vineyard Pinot Noir, Monterey, $14.99

13 Ladera Pinot Noir, Russian River, Pillow Road, $19.99

13 Waterbrook Cabernet Sauvignon Icon Reserve Columbia Valley, $14.99

14 Haynes Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $19.99

‘14 Scott Harvey Winemaker’s Reserve Amador County Zinfandel, $14.99

‘15 Funckenhausen La Espera Premium San Rafael Cabernet Sauvignon Mendoza Argentina, $11.99

‘13 Ribera del Duero La Hormiga de Antidoto, $19.99

‘11 Castellani Chianti Classico Riserva Estate Vigneti di Campomaggio $16.99

‘14 Château Hyot Reserve, Côtes de Bordeaux, $13.99

‘14 Château Haut Bertinerie, Elegance, Côtes de Bordeaux, $13.99

‘15 Farjon Ventoux Rouge, Ventoux $11.99

‘15 Saumur Champigny, Domaine de la Paleine, $16.99

‘14 Chateau Haut Rocher, St Emilion, $19.99

15 Morgon, Cru Beaujolais, Lardy, $17.99

And now, for some white wine suggestions:

‘14 Boedeker Cellars Chardonnay, Willamette Valley, $14.99

‘15 Robert Young Chardonnay, Alexander Valley, $19.99

‘14 Bernardus Chardonnay, Santa Lucia, $18.99

‘14 Neyers Chardonnay, Carneros, $18.99

‘13 Iron Horse Chardonnay, Estate, $16.99

‘15 Bernard Reverdy Sancerre, $17.99

‘15 Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc Domaine Raimbault Les Belles Cotes $18.99

For more, see   www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

Calling All Cheapskates

News Alert

Cheapskate Marathon at www.WTSO.com

September 19th, 2017, 7AM – 11:59PM EST

Products & Pricing:

Deals featured between $8.99 and $19.99 only.

Shipping Minimums:

Free shipping on 4 or more of the same bottle.

Type: Flash Sale

Discounts: Deep, 40-60%

Specialty: Tuscany, Spain,  CA

Pros: Free shipping on the minimum amount, usually 4 bottles, sometimes 2.

Good email confirmation & tracking system.

Great range of wines. Delivery to West Coast is slow but wines are well-packed.

Very good track record and many long-term customers.

Cons: NSFW alert. You really have to be be attentive and tuned in for alerts throughout the day which might create problems in an office setting.

Also, early daily start time favors East Coast followers

Offers an occasional wine that is too old and sometimes of dubious provenance

A few too many private CA labels

  • Rating: ★★★★

The Full Story

WTSO.com (Wines ‘Til Sold Out) is a major player I’ve been following and using since 2012. The concept is based on a “flash-sale” model and a featured wine remains available until sold out.

Each day at least 4 wines are offered; when sales are brisk, the number could be as many as 10.

WTSO is on East Coast time, so sleepy West Coast folks could miss out on a few early specials.

After what seemed to be an off year last year, the site was upgraded and de-cluttered in early 2017

Now relying less on numerical ratings from Parker-types and cutting back on the wildly inflated commentary, the site is much improved both in terms of its design, its wine selections and its wine commentary.

A few wines have reappeared a few months after initial offering, so it is possible if you miss out the first time to benefit from a second chance. I’ve seen one Rioja show up 4 or 5 times this year.

Now for the upcoming Cheapskate Marathon

You can follow the sales online at www.wtso.com, download the app, or use your twitter account for notifications.

So, are you ready for some Flash sales? If you are a newbie at this, it can be a bit unnerving with the time pressure. But if curious, this is kind of like a crash course in flash sales. You can be a spectator or a player.

I went back over the 1,489 wine offers over the last 10 months to get a feel for what might be up for sale.

For wines under $19.99, there were a few exceptional deals, most were decent enough for drink soon wines, and there were some wines I wouldn’t want if they were given to me.


My next post will offer a list of wines I’d buy if they are offered during the Marathon.


Son of A Butcher Wine, Really?

Attention adventurous wine drinkers looking for a truly exciting, unusual California red.

And sorry, Menage a Trois cranked out in large volume is clearly not in mind.

We are talking about a wine that is cutting edge.

The wine recently discovered  at www.invino.com  is…

2014 Y. Rousseau ‘Son of a Butcher’ Red, $15.99

It is made from Tannat blended with Merlot and Cabernet. The grapes came from hillside vineyards in Napa and Sonoma.

Not long ago, I met Yves Rousseau, the winemaker, at a tasting, sampled his wines, and was blown away by the quality and authenticity.

He also produces a varietal Tannat.

Q. What is Tannat, you ask?

A. It is a full-flavored red that is the pride of Madiran in Southwestern France and of every ( or so it seems) winery in Uruguay.

It is the “national pride” of Uruguay. Good to know if you are a trivia buff.

Randall G. at Bonny Doon has explored this unsung variety. Pine Ridge made several red blends named Onyx, and the 2002, 2003 relied heavily on Tannat.

And btw, both these older vintages were wonderful when I pulled the corks last year.

Akin Estates, a small winery in Lodi makes a Tannat and here’s what winemaker David Akin has to say:

Tannat, we say?  Think of a black skinned grape that produces a red wine with the body and muscle of a Cabernet Sauvignon, but without the green herby, bell peppery qualities often associated with cabernets.  Or a red wine with the zippy blackberry/raspberry fruitiness of a good Zinfandel, but without the raisiny sweet tones often found in bigger zins.