Stunning Wine Deal

Byington’s Thanksgiving to CYBER MONDAY Sale

From Byington, a proven, high-quality family winery in the Santa Cruz Mounain appellation.


Best known for its Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

But lately on a roll with all wines.

Byington’s well-established Estate vineyards are real mountain, high elevation sites.

And the winery is 100% solar!!

The deal is 40% off all wines, minimum purchase of $72 and FREE shipping within California.

I have long been a big fan of the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bates Ranch, full price of $47 but around $30 a bottle during this Cyber sale. Go with the 2014 vintage.

After the discount, the 2015 Chardonnay is a steal.

I recently tasted Byington wines at the Wine Bar within the San Jose airport. Great bar and excellent way to relax during a flight delay!

Other Byington Wines that top our highly recommended list:

2015 Chardonnay Tin Cross Vineyard

2016 Pinot Noir Estate

2014 Pinot Noir Block 4

2014 Syrah Pigoni Ranch

Here’s the Deal:

  • What: 40% OFF ALL WINE – $72 minimum purchase – at
  • When: Thanksgiving Thursday-Monday (November 28, 29, 30, December 1)
  • Extra Perk: Free shipping within California (standard UPS delivery; not next day)

Byington Vineyard & Winery
21850 Bear Creek Road
Los Gatos, CA 95033
Santa Cruz County


What are you waiting for?

Full disclosure: happy to say this blog is cleaner than Snow White!

 Black Friday & Wine Affiliates 

Be an affiliate: No experience or expertise required. 

My last post introduced you to affiliates, behind the scenes bloggers/influencers making money.

These affiliate wine programs are not limited to a few small-time bloggers making a few bucks. The popular Wine of the Month Club has numerous, and, of course, everyone wants to have a link that leads to a commission from Amazon.

For example, Vinepair which I like and regularly follow tries to downplay it this way: 

  • “From time to time we work with various partners to highlight wine, beer, spirits and other products that we believe you, our readers, will be interested in learning about. When we link to Amazon and other 3rd parties with affiliate programs (and remember to tag those links) we earn a small commission.”

FYI: Amazon is said to pay a commission in the 1%-10% range, depending on the product. And should you check my review of Amazon’s wine selection at, you’ll see the selection is vast.

 I recently clicked on a review of wine clubs published by CNET. Now we have definitely left the small world of wine bloggers, and CNET lays out an interesting background for why it, of all websites, is reviewing wine clubs:

“So which is the best wine of the month club or subscription for you, your budget and habits in 2019? If all of these choices seem overwhelming, we get it. It’s like being in wine country. That’s why we canvassed the wine club landscape to uncork the best memberships for you.” 

Setting aside the bizarre use of the word “canvassed,” if you read the fine print you are told: “CNET editors pick the products & services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.”

The assumption is that wine and wine clubs are just another product worthy of review and compensation when reviewed favorably. One day you review fitness watches and hotspots, the next wines or wine clubs.

BUT NO. Not so fast. 

As CNET noted, 

“Wine can be “overwhelming.” 

Well, for most people, except for the editors of CNET who can canvass the landscape, wine is complicated and both knowledge of and personal experience with the subject are essential before passing judgment.

But this brings me to the main point: wine continues to intimidate people, unlike shoes, fitbits, appliances, and most other products and personalized services. 

Can’t recall how many people once hearing what I did as a profession would then apologise for some reason for not knowing much about wine.

When buying wine, people still need good, reliable, and unbiased advice. 

It is pretty obvious that most publications mentioned with affiliates are targeting the millennial audience.

Millennials are targeted because, among many reasons, they might subscribe to a wine club. 

One website focuses on financial advice for millennials also explored wine clubs and ended this way:

“You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article.”

“Trust, “integrity,“”independent” and then maybe”compensation “?  

Wine to today’s bloggers and their colleagues is more lucrative than say shoes  and fitbits because it is meant to be consumed and replaced fairly often.

Wine can also be an expensive product, so affiliates can earn much more money through commissions.

And of all possible revenue sources, wine club subscriptions are the most attractive for obvious reasons, the main one being regular repeat sales. 

A commission is paid for the duration of the membership that originated in the blogger/affiliates review.

It is all about the money.

You can google “wine affiliates programs” and, yes. there are lists of the best ones for commissions and financial gain. 

You’ll also read that wine club subscriptions offer a great opportunity to make serious money.

Be an affiliate: No experience or expertise required. 

Looking for honest, non-affiliated reviews? Go to

Sip & Swirl: Wine Influencers on Steroids


With holiday buying kicking off with Black Friday and continuing through Cyber Monday, if wine or anything related to wine is on your shopping list, you need to know about influencers and affiliates.

In the new world controlled by social media, bloggers need no credentials and can write whatever they want to. But thanks to this bullshit notion of influencers, the outer limits of truth and objectivity are being explored.

For centuries, wine lovers have cited the phrase, “in vino, veritas.” That means that after a little wine, the truth comes out. 

But now with a little wine in them, wine influencers are only out to obtain self- glorification, perks, and freebies. And the chance to make a few bucks.

So truth and objectivity are slipping away from the wine world. Posting a bottle photo on Instagram and exclaiming how great the wine is to one’s pod of followers is  only a minor infraction. But if you have hundreds of followers, it might keep the free samples coming your way.

I recently met a “wine influencer.” It (neutral pronoun) did the hand quotation marks when introducing itself. The occasion was a weekend wine event and the “influencer” was invited to enjoy free meals, wine tastings, and at least two nights accommodations.

The meeting confirmed my suspicion a self-proclaimed wine influencer is a sleazy, talentless, free-loader who should be exiled to the next Fyre Festival. (Transportation not included).

But the situation becomes serious as influencers morph into something known as “affiliates” and these people are now taking wine writing and reviewing one major step down the slippery slope. 

Much like influencer, the word “affiliate” is taking on a new definition.

While researching an article on wines for the holidays, I  encountered a list of 32 wines recommended for Thanksgiving on the Oprah website. 

That Oprah, the one person almost everyone still trusts for advice. 

I did think the number 32 was odd, but then digging deeper, things really got my attention. When clicking on more information for specific wines, I was connected to something called “Drizly,” an app set up for selling and delivering many of the wines recommended.

Drizly which operates in all major cities, sent me to e-commerce sites like and or to the wine producer’s website when I clicked on a specific wine.

And then I read this in the fine print on the footer page:

“Do you and your readers enjoy sippin’ on an adult beverage from time to time? If so, we’ve got good news: The Drizly Affiliate Program makes it easy to earn some extra cash through your website, blog or e-newsletter. Cash that could be used for, well, more of those adult beverages we all love. (You could also use it for other things…we guess.)

The nitty-gritty: You can earn up to 8% commission on all sales that are referred to Drizly from a tracked link placed on your site. You’re paid the first time a customer visits to make a purchase, PLUS any subsequent tracked purchases that customer makes for up to 30 days. Average orders are over $70, so those commissions can add up quick. Which means you’ll be ordering the fancy drinks for next weekend.”

As a consumer, Drizly sounds kind of cool to me. Sort of the Doordash for booze.

 But Affiliates? Commissions? Money? 

Then when reviewing for another post published last week, I ran into this on its home page:

 Are you an affiliate looking to run the Winc Affiliate Program? Join now!

This also got my attention and eventually helped me understand why winc is so highly rated in reviews of subscription type wine clubs.

 A reviewer, aka an affiliate, any writer or influencer can enjoy the following perks: 

  • Earn up to $18 commission for every new subscription
  • 10% revenue share on gift card, gift box, and shop purchases
  • Variety of updated creative

Special coupons and seasonal promotional opportunities

  • Performance and bonus incentives for our partners
  • Opportunity to try Winc on the house!

Well, it seems this is the norm today, linking what appears to be advice to a seller like Drizly or winc for commissions. This goes way beyond the “refer a friend and get $20 off your next order.”

But just to be sure, I checked out other subscription wine clubs only to find some like the Cellars wine club that make even more lucrative proposals for affiliates:

  • 15% commission, no joining cost.
  • High average order of $192: That’s an average $28.80 commission on every order!
  • Lengthy 120-day cookie: As long as one customer signs up for one of our clubs within 120 days of their first click-through, you earn a commission.
  • Commission paid daily.
  • Use our high-quality images and easy to share information to assist your promotion.
  • Our staff is available to assist with individualized campaign strategies.
  • Access to special promotions and incentive programs.

Yes, we are talking real bucks $$$ and, yes, it is widespread.

A few reviewers, sorry, affiliates, will fess up in the beginning, as did this one:

“This article includes affiliate links. That means we will be compensated if this Winc review convinces you it is the right wine club for you.”

Sometimes on other sites a disclaimer appears in tiny print as a link at the bottom of a website. Such as this one which touts winc:

“Just so you know, this post may contain affiliate links. Meaning I receive commissions for purchases made through those links, at no cost to you. Please understand that I have experience with all of these companies, and I recommend them because they are helpful and useful, not because of the small commissions I make if you decide to buy something.”

Or this one:

“The wine club offers that appear on our website are from wine club companies from which receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). This site does not include all wine club companies, or all available wine club offers.”

Somehow it is worth noting the author who rated winc tops describes himself this way:

“The author of this site is not a professional wine taster but simply loves to cook as a hobby and is extremely passionate about it.”

How about those credentials? Well, hard to say if he’s passionate about wine or cooking. Or commissions.

But who cares. At least he didn’t describe himself as a “ wine influencer.”

Now some will say, “so what?” Websites can be so easily equipped with links and cookies that this is normal and no one is being harmed. 

That reminds me of those famous words recently uttered, “Get over it.”

But I can’t get over it because, as you’ll see in my next post, wine is not just another consumer product and marketing through affiliates is becoming big business.

Just google “top wine affiliates program” and see what I mean.


How Some Wine Clubs Are Rated Best

Whenever someone reviews the best places to buy wines online, the focus is slanted toward subscription box types. Though my preference is for e-commerce sites that aren’t pushing memberships, they are a major part of this fascinating online world. 

And one name that seems to be at the top of almost every review published is  Formerly known as Club W, it is as an e-commerce website  founded in 2012 by Xander Oxman and Geoff McFarlane because of “a shared belief that wine should be more accessible: simpler to get and easier to enjoy. “ 

Bravo, I’m all for that!

They joined forces with winemaker and sommelier Brian Smith to build a personalized wine club that has quickly grown into Winc—”a California-based winery offering an online membership experience.” 

A winery? That’s unusual.

It started out as a wine of the month club and then took off. I’ve read in Forbes they now sell around 200,000 cases a year. 

They claim their wines are featured at select retailers and restaurants nationwide.

Unable to verify this on  but must be true.

Smith has a license to make wines and though I didn’t know you needed one, let’s go with the fact he has made wines at real wineries and some winc wines are bottled at a licensed winemaking premise in California.

Many of winc’s California wines are from the Central Coast, primarily Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.

Great: these are two of  my favorite regions.

Moving on. “The 150 unique wines we bottle each year range from simple blends to obscure, single vineyard fringe projects that span the globe. We feel an obligation to showcase the best that every region, varietal and style has to offer, at the best value possible.”

 “Best” is certainly an admirable goal in just about every endeavor. 

Shipments are once a month. “If you want to skip a month, it’s no problem.”

Initial wine shipments are based on a palate preference test which has such deep questions as how strong do you like your coffee and how do you feel about salt?  

Winc subscriptions begin at $39 a month for three bottles with flat $9 shipping. But Winc offers free shipping on four or more bottles.

Basic Winc bottles start at $13. There are two subscription levels, Featured and Select. At the Featured level, Winc lists wines under $20. At the Select level, Winc offers bottles between $15 and $55.

Well, so far I’ve stuck with the stated positions found on winc’s website. But then at the bottom of the home page, I noticed this:

 ‘Are you an affiliate looking to run the Winc Affiliate Program? Join now!

This got my attention and eventually helped me understand one reason why winc is so highly rated in reviews of subscription type wine clubs. A reviewer, aka an affiliate, any writer or blogger can enjoy the following perks: 

  • Earn up to $18 commission for every new subscription
  • 10% revenue share on gift card, gift box, and shop purchases
  • Variety of updated creative
  • Special coupons and seasonal promotional opportunities
  • Performance and bonus incentives for our partners
  • Opportunity to try Winc on the house!
  • Dedicated Account Management team

In other words,  positive reviews can lead to money, bonuses, and free wine. That might explain the gushy, wet your pants review of winc in Forbes.

A few influencers or reviewers, sorry, affiliates, will fess up in the beginning, as did this one:

“This article includes affiliate links. That means we will be compensated if this Winc review convinces you it is the right wine club for you.”

Not being an affiliate, I can say that $18 for an average quality Rose offered by winc is not much of a deal. Going over the list of wines. I find the prices to be a little steep for what you get.

 A Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir for $31.99, and a Mendocino Carignane also for $31.99 are hardly deals. $47.99 for Santa Rita Syrah is really pushing it.

And with just a little effort, you can certainly find  better prices on Santa Barbara Syrah. That is if you are willing to make an effort.

But other high priced wines like a Grenache from El Dorado are not the usual suspects found on other sites. 

Winc likes to give their wines fancy, made up names like Endgame and Baseline in order to convey exclusivity.  But then again, some are becoming brands like the QTY for Pinot and Grenache. But only available from winc.

One that caught my eye is the 2018 Languedoc Red is named “Cherries & Rainbows” and sells for $22.09. Winc explains it is made by Robert Eden, a winemaker in Minervois I just happen to have met several years ago in Minervois. 

Here’s a problem: a Chateau Maris Minervois from Eden’s own winery is selling on for $15.99. Cheaper, authentic, and probably a better wine. But that Eden is part of the winc program is a good thing.

The higher priced wines do come with some interesting background which is better than the nutty hype and point scores splashed all over other sites.

Against its competition like firstleaf, naked wines, and tastingroom, it is on a par with nakedwines. 

Winc’s choices are a little more unusual, more exciting but its prices are no special deals.

And though it should be clear: I am not an affiliate!!



In the Pink

Worry no more about which wines to serve with your turkey, ham, or

whatever tasty food you offer this holiday season. We have a plan.

But you have to be willing to think out of the box. Not the Bota box or taking the easy way out by going with cheap Champagne, French Beaujolais or just plunking a red and white on the table and standing back. The last one was my old approach.

The new way, the perfect solution for this annual wine dilemma at Thanksgiving and other holiday celebrations, is Rose. You heard me …that neither red nor white wine.

But not White Zinfandel or any old cheap, sweet-ish Rose, but dry, full throttle Roses made from Grenache and its Rhone siblings, Mourvedre, Syrah, and Cinsault.

This Epiphany came to me when checking out several wines from Epiphany,  Fess Parker’s brand for Grenache Rose and a bevy of other Rhones. Earlier that week, three other Rose wines completely changed my thinking about Rose as a pleasant light, summertime sipper, sometimes silly and sweetish wine. 

First was a stunning Grenache Rose from Sarah’s Vineyard, followed by Bonny Doon’s Vin Gris de Cigare, and then the Patelin Rose from Tablas Creek. Each came across as full flavored with lively fruit, touches of floral and spice with good acid balance, leading to a palate cleansing finish.

Yes, persistent and versatile enough to present itself as the best wine for family gatherings when the big bird was on the table.

Here’s a little background that might help you see the potential of these pink or salmon-pink wines. Provence and Bandol are the two French regions known for distinctive Roses. Bandol, best represented by Domaine Tempier, is made from Mourvedre. Roses from Provence vary widely but the star brand is Domaine Ott. It offers several dry roses but all rely heavily on Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. I have to break it to you that both standard bearers are expensive.

While so many other Rose wines are light with varying levels of sweetness, my favorite Grenache Roses listed below have depth and complexity. Lacking both, most Pinot Noir Roses won’t hold up to the challenge of the typical holiday fare. 

Best of all, these Grenache based Roses won’t break the budget as most are well below $20 a bottle. Check the winery website or an e-commerce site for the best deal. I found both the Bonny Doon and Sobon Estate Roses nicely priced on

But look at the Rose section on the other e-commerce sites reviewed on my website, Also see The New Pink Wine,  the definitive book on the subject by Ann and Larry Walker.

Ten Wines to Change Your Thinking of Rose

2018 Sobon Estate Rose, Amador County $9.99

2018 Bonny Doon Vineyards Vin Gris de Cigare, Central Coast $13.99

2018 Chateau Routas Coteaux Varois $14.99

2017 Sarah’s Vineyard Grenache Rose, Santa Clara, $17.00

2018 Quady North GSM Rose, Rogue Valley $18.00

2018 Margerum Riviera Rose, Santa Barbara, $18.99

2018 Stolpman Vineyards Rose, Santa Barbara $18.99

2018 P’Tit Paysan Rose, Central Coast $18.99

2018 Tablas Creek Patelin Rose, Paso Robles,  $24.99

2018 Curren Vineyards Grenache Rose, Santa Barbara, $28.00

Re-Visiting An Icon: Randall Grahm

When I recently caught up with Randall Grahm, the man who created Bonny Doon Vineyard and led the charge for Rhone wines back in the late 1980s, he was focused on the changing wine market. 

The main topic was the new style of Bonny Doon’s white Le Cigare Blanc and red Le Cigare Volant, his flagship Rhone-based wines for over 30 years.  Both wines were inspired by Chateauneuf-du-Pape and other wines from the Southern Rhone Valley.

“Wine drinkers today are fickle. They don’t want eloquent style wines, they want blockbusters. They don’t want wines that need long explanations.”

Whatever the reason may be, the fact is both newly re-designed wines are excellent and, better yet, super deals.

And as he later added, “I still want to make wines that matter. Wines that are originals, not copies.”

So here are my reviews. (Spoiler alert: these wines are definitely originals.)

The 2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc combines Grenache Blanc with a newcomer, Vermentino. Not a well-known grape here, the latter, says Randall,”contributes good acidity and a salty tang to the blend.

The 2018 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant brings together Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah.

And it is a gorgeous red with berry fruit and a rich, smooth texture.

Using Cinsault rather than, say Mourvedre, creates a “more youthful, more approachable style.”

Best News: Both are priced at $20 a bottle, before any discounts. 

Before the day was over, we tasted another dozen wines during a visit to the Bonny Doon tasting room in Davenport. That’s a tiny coastal town about 10 miles north of Santa Cruz.

Neither flashy nor funky, the tasting room is set up for drop-ins and winery club members. 

So, if you are adventurous, love to try new wines, and are looking for a club that has it all, then consider joining. Members get 20% off the current featured club wines when signing up.

(And, full disclosure, I’m independent, not one of those influencers, reviewers, or bogus bloggers getting paid somehow to solicit new subscribers.)

Now let’s take a closer look at some of the exciting, unusual Bonny Doon wines.

First up, a 2018 Picpoul from the cool-climate Arroyo Seco region. Picpoul? It is an old, minor white grape in France and is known for being lively and a little brisk. The name literally translates as “lip stinger.”   This wine is bright and delicious. Price: $18.

A few days later when I was visiting Sarah’s Vineyard,  the owner proudly poured his version of Picpoul. So, something is going on with the lip stinger!

Back to Bonny Doon:

2018 Vin Gris de Cigare which is an interesting variation of a Rose. Dry and wonderfully spicy and fruit filled, it has great palate presence, rich texture and slightly creamy. Randall credits extra batonnage, lees stirring as the reason behind the 2018’s texture. Mostly Grenache and Grenache Blanc. $18. But as low as $13.99 at

The 2016 Vin Gris de Cigare Is again lively but with a delightfully long finish. Floral with peach.plum fruit, this is not your grandpa’s white Zinfandel! This would be an excellent Thanksgiving wine. $18.

So too would the next unusual wine:

2018 Bonny Doon Cinsault  Grown in Lodi, this is a refreshing, medium-bodied drink now red. Cinsault is often used to produce Rose wines, This is serious red. $42.

2018 Bonny Doon Grenache which is now grown in Monterey. Again, lots of ripe attractive youthful fruit in a medium bodied package. Not wood aged at all. $20. Also versatile enough for holiday fare.

Syrah, of course, is the best known Rhone grape and Bonny Doon now zeros in on cool-climate sites for this challenging grape. 

We tried 2 Syrah from 2013, the Central Coast and the Bien Nacido Vineyard in Santa Barbara. 

Both are deep, dark, rich and fascinating.

The Bien Nacido Syrah came across as slightly more complex, more layered as it changed in the glass. A wonderful wine for $25, a special price.

Randall Grahm was one of the first winemakers to use screw caps for all his wines. I think he began around 2000, 2001 when it was considered risky.

So it comes as no big surprise that in addition to the 50 or more wines offered in the tasting room, he also has wines in cans. The can brand is “La Bulle-Moose.”We’ll leave the story behind that name for another time.