Best Deal on a 2015 St. Emilion

Based upon today’s prices, St. Emilion appears to be the hot region for 2015 Bordeaux. The so-called second tier wines being offered on a pre arrival basis are well over $50, averaging closer to $70.

So, here is today’s recommendation for a steal of a deal:

2015 Chateau Haut Brisson St. Emilion Grand Cru, $28.99 offered by

www.winelibrary.com

Brisson, a real chateau with a long but uneven history, is making a strong comeback under its present owner.

The reviewers are talking this one up and throwing high scores around, so better act fast.

Looking for a talking point, I enjoyed this odd comment from a report published by James Suckling:

“The sign of a great vintage in Bordeaux is when even bad producers make excellent wines,” quips Alain Vautier, the owner of St.-Emilion’s great Château Ausone.”

Suckling adds, “But it’s no joke. They are so many excellent wines in 2015, from the top classified growths to simple bottlings.”

 

 

Today’s Best Value Bordeaux

 

2015 Chateau Poitevin Cru Bourgeois Medoc

$14.99, with free case shipping at

www.cinderellawine.com

First of all, this is a good price, but I wouldn’t pay much more. You may see it for slightly less over the next few weeks. Buy now or wait: Your decision.

Second, a real OMG moment for me when I read something intelligent and on point from one of the Wine Advocate folks. On 2015 Cru Bourgeois Medoc wines:

“They are not for label hunters. They are not investor catnip. They are straightforward, no frills, delicious expressions of Cabernet and Merlot cultivated in the region that does it best, frequently bursting with freshness and vitality, structured and complex.”

Wow!  Nicely said.

Today’s Insider Tips:

In St. Emilion, the “Grand Cru Classe” designation means very little these days. However, if  you are a big fan of  St. Emilion, check out wines from the Montagne St. Emilion appellation, always less expensive and often of surprising quality. Also consider wines from the Castillon region, Cote de Castillon.

If you prefer the Medoc, style with more Cabernet in the blend, consider wines from the Graves District of Pessac-Leognan or those simply labeled Bordeaux.

But if you are a real maverick always thinking outside the box, venture a little east of Bordeaux and explore the reds from Bergerac. About 28,000 acres are planted in Bergerac and its two top appellations, Pecharmant and Montraval. Here you’ll find wines from the same varieties grown in the same climate with one main difference: they can be incredibly delicious for the price.

Domaine Haut-Pécharmant and Château Tiregand are great examples I was fortunate to discover when living nearby.

 

 

 Super Deals on Bordeaux to Bowl You Over

 

2015 Chateau Larroque, Bordeaux Superieur, $18.00 with free shipping 

A lovely, solid, beautifully balanced authentic Bordeaux. This is a direct import from:

www.wineaccess.com

Here is another personal favorite known to deliver real value in outstanding vintages:

2015 Chateau Lanessan, Haut-Medoc

Savvy shoppers will snap it up in the $15-22 price range.

This 2015 does not disappoint, delivering refined black fruit

in a supple package. The 2010, as a reference point, is wonderful right now.

Shop the 2015 online at these sites:

www.garagistewine.com has it for $15.97  a bottle and it is ready to be shipped.

The following will ship it in a few months:

www.wine.com has it for $16.97

www.finewinesinternational.com has it for $18. With free shipping on 6

www.lawineco.com for $17.95

Tip of the Day

Who can you trust for Bordeaux ratings and scores?

Decanter Magazine, especially the magazine. Not so much the medals awarded at the annual judging. A positive review from Decanter is well-earned.

The Wine Enthusiast, if the wine is rated by RV, Roger Voss.

James Suckling–more reliable than Parker’s Wine Advocate which has lost its focus.

Writer Jane Anson for on the scene, accurate information and assessments.

Red Wines for Those Dark & Stormy Nights

Focusing on Red Wines offered in Special January Sales, and came up with a stunning deal from a great winery now featured on my website. Too good not to share here.

Available through January but  wines like the Enigma will disappear quickly. And yes, the Viognier is a big-boy white and suitable for January drinking.

check out the sale at http://www.terrerougewines.com

Online Sale of Terre Rouge & Easton

2010 TERRE ROUGE Enigma ~ $25 reg./ $13.25 sale

  • 2009 TERRE ROUGE Viognier ~ $25 reg./ $13.25 sale
  • 2012 EASTON Cabernet Franc ~ $28 reg./ $17.50 sale
  • 2006 TERRE ROUGE Syrah, Sentinel Oak  ~ $40 reg./ $20 sale
  • 2009 TERRE ROUGE Syrah, Wilderotter ~ $32 reg./ $17.50 sale
  • 2005 EASTON Zinfandel, Rinaldi ~ $30 reg. /$15 sale
  • 2007 EASTON Zinfandel, Estate ~ $35 reg./ $18.75 sale

Case purchases only, but can mix and match.

Naked Truth About Nakedwines

NakedWines may well be the biggest, most successful wine club. But it is also not your typical wine club.

Some might find it a little weird.

Founded by British entrepreneur Rowan Gormley in December 2008, Naked Wines “operates as a crowdfunded business that has grown to over 300,000 subscribers.These subscribers, known as ‘angels,’ help fund more than 130 independent winemakers across 14 countries in exchange for access to exclusive wines at reduced prices.”

It was purchased in 2015 by Majestic Wines, the mega UK superstore. Majestic Wine trades from more than 200 outlets with 640,000 active customers. The firms said the combination would give Naked Wines access to a nationwide store network in the UK to allow a click-and-collect delivery option for its customers.

Founder Roman Gormley is no newcomer to online sales and wine clubs. He was a force behind Virgin Wines which was part of Virgin Air. He was pushed out at some point by the UK-based Laithwaite’s wine company.

Dont know any of the details, but it is interesting to note that the Laithwaite family now operates a major online wine retail site and wine club in the US and Australia.

nakedwines.com  has an office and warehouse in southern Napa and operates in both the UK and Australia.

But let’s Enjoy a WTF pause here.

How does crowdfunding work, you ask? Well, each month subscribers deposit $40 into their account and they can apply funds from that account to purchase wines. Before you say, “This is stupid,” read on because there are a few steps along the way.

The first step is to sign up for the introductory 6-wine pack which costs $59.99 and includes shipping. You can look over a large list made up of specific winemakers around the world. Often, each will offer two or more wines.

These are many established winemakers such as Daryl Groom, the Aussie, who came to turn Geyser Peak around years back. Rick Boyer, Ken Deis, Ernie Weir, Jonathan Maltus are other names very familiar to me.

Next, after your wines arrive, you rate them with tasting notes and that puts you on…a waiting list.

Not to worry, I was on a waiting list.

Amazingly, my prayers were soon answered and my name moved up that list rather quickly. Guess there’s plenty of room in angel land

Winging It

But, I was only an angel for a few days. Though I was de-winged, over the next few weeks I somehow managed to purchase a case for $60 bucks. It was part of a holiday introductory deal.

So along with 6 other wines I obtained earlier, my experience with nakedwines is 18 different wines. I tasted wines from South Africa, Australia, France, Spain, Chile, Argentina and California.

My Assessment:

All wines were sound, without defects, and most offer adequate varietal and/or regional character. This is not a snobby comment because, as you’ll read later, the imported wines travel long distances before being bottled.

The red wines emphasize fruitiness and show little or no oak influence. They lack complexity and should be consumed young. Only the Chilean Cabernet displayed youthful tannic edges.

The 2 CA Chardonnays tended to be buttery with oak notes. Ordinary.

Wines I’d like to try again include the Spanish Tempranillo, South African Sauvignon Blanc (Carmen Stevens), Minervois (Darnault),  Eponina Brut, and the Torrontes from Argentina.

Wines that I’d like to try from their stocks: 2014 Le Lastau St. Emilion, the 2015 Michaud Merlot from Columbia Valley, and Ken Deis Napa Cabernet.

Other Things to Know

Nakedwines positions itself as a company that supports artisan winemakers. Big plus there. Not sure how it works.

Nakedwines says it offers members the lowest possible prices by eliminating the middleman. But since 99% of its wines are sold to members, sorry to angels, the non-member prices are arbitrary.

Nakedwines encourages interaction between angels and the winemakers. There is lots of activity on the website to verify this. No way to verify if the responses from winemakers are actually written by them or by another hired angel.

Members’ prices range from $9.99 to $29.99 a bottle.

There are about 150 wines available at any one time.

Members, angels, rate the wines they have bought, and group scores are posted.

Nakedwines has the option of substituting wines ordered with similar wines.

Nakedwines gives a free bottle for every case ordered.

Delivery is included in orders over $100. $9.99 for others.

Delivery was on time and the wines were shipped in a holiday themed box.

Nakedwines regularly offers $100 vouchers and coupons for the introductory case offer.

But here’s something BIG you need to know.

Nakedwines in the USA bottles its imported wines at several facilities in California. Yes, wines from Chile, South Africa, France and elsewhere are literally shipped to CA in containers. Then they are trucked to and bottled in places like Healdsburg and Kenwood in Sonoma and Acampo, Lodi’s neighbor.

This is one way to “keep prices down by saving on shipping,” explained a rep.

And it is not unique. Gallo imports New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and bottles the wine in Sonoma County. Smoking Loon bottles a Chilean Cabernet in Lodi.

However, it does raise all kinds of flags relating to quality control, authenticity, and methods used to protect the wines during shipping and trucking.

 Finally Should You Go Naked?

Ultimately, it comes down to value. Since most wines are in the $9.99-$29.99 range, are they better values offered than what is widely available elsewhere?

Of the 18 I tasted,  only 2 wines appealed to me as reasonably good deals: the Tempranillo and the Eponina Brut

But there are many others I am curious about,

Just not enough to join the club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Top 10 Online Wine Clubs of 2018: The Countdown Begins

Well, this past weekend we eliminated a few more teams competing for the Super Bowl of online wine clubs.

2017 was a crazy year for many reasons.

However, we at www.bestonlinewineshopping.com stayed the course and have been faithfully following 36 candidates, each claiming to have the best hand curated deals for members, exclusive offerings of super values, rare wines and great vintages and the next cult wine.

Or all of the above. Along with free corkscrews, aprons, and super-duper introductory offers.

As the suspense builds toward our final field of 10, let’s begin the year with some necessary house cleaning. Time to remove web retailers who played like the Cleveland Browns this year.

So, to mix metaphors, let’s begin by throwing the following wine clubs off the island:

www.wineinsiders.com  A no-brainer here because the prices are simply ludicrous, unless you think $29.99 for a Gascogne white or $39.99 for a common Bordeaux Superieur are awesome deals. Neither coupons or Groupon offers with a 15 bottle introductory cases can save this one.

www.marthastewartwine.com   Yes, we are throwing Martha, our much-beloved entertainment expert, to the sideline. To be frank, there is no evidence her good taste is invoked here. The wines selected are common and appear on several other sites. And there are a number of over-priced private label wines  with cute names. This is a sad case of a celebrity branding a wine club and then allowing others to take over and opt for ordinary, over-priced wine.  No way Martha could have chosen or hand curated such mediocre wines. Sad, but a fail.

www.vinesse.com.  Has been around for 20 years, but has failed to keep pace. No discounts on the few, real wines offered. Sad CA selection (3 Zins, 0 Sauvignon Blanc) and no wines rated over 90 by anybody. Something named Plank Walker is your top Napa Cab? Really? Prices start at $19.99 a bottle. Gone!

While we are at it:

Almost all airline wine clubs. The United Airlines wine club uses vinesse for its member wine deals. So does Alaskan Airlines. Unless you are totally desperate for miles and mediocre wines, forget these clubs.

http://www.virginwines.com  is not as bad as the others, but still doesn’t soar high enough to make our final cut.

www.wsjwines.com  This site once offered members well-chosen wines. But now the Wall Street Journal seems to have outsourced the wine selection process to another website and the wines are quite unexciting. Best advice is to sign up for the 15 bottle introductory offer for $69.59. Then cancel the minute the box arrives.

And before we close, we have also dismissed as losers the wine clubs from wine of the month club, national geographic, AARP, Walmart, Hound & Hare, and my local pet store.

Finding the Right Wine Club

If Quality, Variety and A Proven Track Record are Your Thing…

Navarro Vineyard’s “Pre Release Tasting Program” is highly recommended.

Overall Rating 4.75 stars.

Rated 5 out of 5 in 4 of 5 main categories

Background

Navarro could well be the granddaddy of all wine clubs. Still family owned and operated by Deborah Cahn and Ted Bennett, Navarro has been selling direct through its mailing list since 1974.

Over such a long run, the winery fine tuned the wine club program and in many ways wrote the book on how to make it work.

And, most important, these guys how to keep members’ loyalty over the years.

Almost all wines are sold direct from the winery, and with rare exception, they are not sold in wine stores. So the exclusive angle is strong.

Quick View:

First, the staff, many of whom have been there for many years, is extremely knowledgeable and attentive. They have first hand information about the winemaking and get involved in the evaluation and marketing of all wines.

Members are offered all wines before non members can buy them. This is a big plus.

Normally wines are pre-released in the Spring and in the Fall. Members are notified about new wines by mail or email, and either way, the information is cleverly presented in a personal, no baloney prose style.

Memberships remain active by purchasing a case a year. The choice is yours, but the winery also offers special case samplers around a theme like “Springtime Whites” or “Hearty Reds.” Typically, six different case samplers are offered.

The Wines

Without question, the wines are of high quality as evidenced by the inordinate numbers of medals won each year. I’ve judged their wines on several occasions and they almost always steal the show.

The flagship wine is the high end Pinot Noir, “Methode a l’Ancienne.” closely followed by the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay.

But if you have never liked a Gewurztraminer or a dry Riesling, you owe it to yourself to try Navarro’s, each  the best of the breed. My favorite is the Sauvignon Blanc.

But there are wide choices for members as the winery normally bottles 20 or so wines per year. There are 3 different Chardonnays and 3 Pinot Noirs as a rule.

And there is always something new going on…a new varietal to the roster, a new vineyard source, or a new technique.

Some wines are offered in half bottles and a few magnums are available.

Prices: range from $16 to $50 a bottle. There normally are 3 or 4 wines priced below $20 a bottle.

Discounts range from 20% to 25% for members

Twice a year timed with the Pre-Release events, the winery offers 1 cent shipping on each full case.

Special Events and Member Perks

Located in the remote town of Philo, the winery makes its facility open to members. Two Pre-Release events are held each year.

The picnic area is tranquil and lovely.  Non alcoholic grape juice is available for kids to sample.

The family also owns the successful Pennyroyal cheese company, so often a selection of cheeses is available.

Insider Tips

Best deal:

Pinot Blanc, new to the roster and far better than any Chardonnay below $20. A super everyday white!

The Anderson Valley Pinot Noir at $22 a bottle is a fantastic red wine deal.

When to buy. Wait for the window of one cent shipping and stock up.

When not to visit. Late afternoon on any Friday when tourists heading to the Mendocino Coast clog the tasting room and slam down the samples.

The Basics:

The Happy Family Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn

Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett

Address: 5601 CA-128, Philo, CA 95466, USA

Hours: · 8AM–6PM

www.NavarroWine.com

Phone: +1 800-537-9463

 

Looking for A Special Wine Club?

How About A Hidden Gem in the Silicon Valley?

Here it is: Sarah’s Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountain 

http://www.sarahsVineyard.com     

Located at 4005 Hecker Pass Highway, West of Gilroy

Quick View:

Sarah’s Vineyard is strong on small-batch Pinot Noir, Estate Chardonnay, and several Estate Rhone wines. A true artisan winery.

Pinot Noirs from 5-6 appellations….will please any Pinot fanatic

Cozy and friendly, very modest facility with tons of country charm.

Members receive 3 wines 4 times a year and can select the type: red, white or mixed.

Prices are relatively modest, ranging from $20 for a few white wines to $48 for the top of the line Pinots.

Members receive a 25% discount on shipped wines; 20% off all other wines.

Wine tastings for members and your guests are comped.

Wonderful offering of tasting room exclusives….small batch wines.

Wine country feel as visitors pass through the small 28-acre estate vineyard as they meander up to the tasting center.

Background:

Marilyn Otterman purchased 10 acres in south Santa Clara County’s Hecker Pass area in 1977. She began the vineyard with an initial planting of seven acres of Chardonnay which she named “Sarah.” The winery itself was founded 1978.

She had a magic touch and quickly made the winery known for ultra-rich Chardonnays. They defined the term “blockbuster.”

The label design was beautiful, way ahead of its time. She priced her wines on a par with the Napa folks.

A few years later, the winery expanded into Pinot Noir from its estate vineyard.

It now makes a Pinot from the famous Chalone appellation and Santa Lucia Highlands.

It now offers five very distinct Pinot Noirs, all exemplary of the place.

In 2001, current proprietor Tim Slater, a Silicon Valley veteran, added

Rhone varieties and blended wines to the mix. Both the Roussanne and Grenache Blanc are  beautifully balanced and delicious

And over the next several years he began fine-tuning the Pinot Noirs.

Overall quality is very high.  The Pinots also represent superb value.

Slater is a music fan, so several musical events are held per year.

Tasting Room Exclusives:

Highly enjoyable Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Syrah top the exclusive items along with an Old Vine Zinfandel and powerful Cabernet from the historic Santa Clara Valley.

Relaxed tasting room atmosphere. Friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Good-sized pour with the daily flight of 5 wines.

Our Scorecard: 4.5 stars

  • High marks for wine quality and exclusive offerings
  • Excellent score on tasting room, special events
  • Basic Prices are reasonable but discounts are average.
  • One downside may be the tasting room which is, well, plain and lacks sizzle and off the beaten path.
  • But the views offset the tasting room building

 

Awesome Wines Under $15

The Wine Enthusiast magazine just released its Top 100 Wines under $15, and I found the list absolutely fascinating.

To its credit, the web page identifies those wines listed that are also sponsors, as in paid advertisers. So all is above board.

But can you trust the people behind the reviews?  

Well, I happen to know several of them quite well. Two in particular are excellent tasters who cannot be compromised: Roger Voss and Jim Gordon.

The wines from Oregon and Washington State mentioned in this list are also chosen by another highly regarded critic.

Voss is the magazine’s expert reviewer of French wines from Bordeaux, Loire Valley, the Southwest as well as the best reviewer of wines from Portugal.

Gordon is the West Coast reviewer who can be trusted for his ratings of wines from Mendocino, Sonoma, and Napa.

Back to the Top 100

The #1 wine was made by Columbia Crest.  No big surprise there.

Its Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay make most top values lists.

But the top ranked wine turned out to be the winery’s 2015 Grand Estate Syrah at $12 which is also one of my discoveries.

Sad. Now, everyone will know and it will disappear quickly.

Bargain hunters can check out the entire list at

http://e.winemag.com/219S-154XX-706QMTTT8B/cr.aspx

To me, the following wines are the Other Awesome Deals under $15:

2014 Bogle “Essential Red,” Old Vine, Clarksburg (often sold under $10)

2016 Gnarly Head  Zinfandel, Lodi

2016 San Pedro Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Chile

2015 Mas des Bressades  Cuvée Tradition Syrah-Grenache (Costières de Nîmes)

2016 Cline Cellars Viognier, North Coast

2015 Château le Payral, Bergerac Rouge

2016 Foris Dry Gewürztraminer Rogue Valley

2014 Hogue Red Columbia Valley

2015 Wines & Winemakers Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas Red Douro

2016 Dry Creek Vineyards, Dry Chenin Blanc (Clarksburg)

2016 Domaine des Carteresses, Tavel (a Rose)

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:

www.TasteMonterey.com

www.sovinowinebar,com