Weekend Wine Deals: Sonoma

Heading To Sonoma Wine Country This Weekend?

Check out the exciting deals at www.invino.com this weekend.

Maintaining its #1 ranking in my top 7 web retailers, invino is holding a Warehouse sale both Friday and Saturday in Sonoma, just off the Plaza.

For more buying tips and a detailed review of invino.com, go to: www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

 

Weekend Update: Top 7 Online Wine Sellers

(Online only and does not include flash sales.)

1. www.invino.com

Excellent finds/discounts in CA wines and direct imports.

Recent selections demonstrate a serious effort to find hidden gems. Moved to the top with new Italian wines and super California wines like Cuvaison Pinot and the unusual Marsanne from Mendocino’s Campovida. Offering 2013 “Prime Solum” Napa Cabernet from Bill (William) Hill tipped it for me.

  1. www.garigistewine.com

Totally eccentric, often brilliant selection of imports.

Upgraded this week after securing excellent wines under $10 and super older wines like Qupe 09 Syrah. Provides excellent background on Bordeaux vintages.

  1. www.wine.com

Most complete and reliable site with decent discounts.

Showed well this week with 1 cent shipping option and much improved Bordeaux selection.

4.www.wineexpress.com

Solid, all-purpose site, part of the Wine Enthusiast.

Broke into the top 7 list this with several exciting offers.

Among them, Ferrari Carano’s Siena under $20 and lovely, all-purpose Primal Roots red for under $10.

5.www.cinderellawine.com

Solid for discounted Italian and Spanish wines.

Enjoyed a strong week with exciting Barolo and Brunello deals,and specials on imported  Roses. A double magnum of lovely Rose? Worked for me.

6.www.wineaccess.com

Rapidly improving. Best for CA wines.

Added hard to find wines from Tor and Jones Family, and Vermillion from Keplinger. Not all wines are discounted, this is more like a specialty online wine shop.

7.www.winespies.com

A go-to site if you love exploring new, small wineriesfrom Sonoma County. Added a Sauvignon from Bodkin and a new red from Jigar this week.

This site recently showed remarkable versatility with good deals on McLaren Vale Grenache, RustRidge Napa Zin and Phelps Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

 

INSIDER’S GUIDE TO WINE CLUBS OFFERING POINTS AND/OR MILES

Last week, sitting on top of a delivery from Macy’s was a $160 voucher to purchase 15 bottles of wine for $89.99 and free shipping. Two days later, Alaskan Airlines sent a voucher for $130 for 15 bottles of wine. But it included 2,000 bonus miles, and the cost was $69.99 with a shipping fee of $19.99.

Clearly, somebody sensed my wine cellar was shrinking. But before I could decide what to do, my United Airlines card hit me with an offer of 5,000 bonus miles with a purchase of 6 bottles for $41.94, plus 1 cent shipping.  Possibly sensing my dilemma and weakness at basic math, it explained that these “hand-picked wines” would save me $117.

Flush with 3 potential savings opportunities, I did something unusual: I read the fine print and did  heavy-duty research based upon what I read. I then checked out 20 other wine clubs.

Happy to share what I learned.

First of all, these are introductory offers, teasers of sorts, and enticements to get us to join a wine club. Typically, wines are shipped to members’ door several times a year, depending upon your preference. And of course, the per bottle price is 2-3 times higher than that of the introductory offer. Shipping is another add-on.

Knowing that, it becomes important to be able to cancel your membership anytime. Of the two dozen wine clubs I researched, they all had a cancellation clause. However, some, as you discover from the Yelps, are easier to drop out of the others.

What I soon discovered is that the key point to all of these tempting, money-saving offers is the actual source of the wines. That turned out to be far less complicated than it sounds because there are three major suppliers used by most of the airlines, most corporations,  major newspapers, and most organizations from AARP to the NRA offering a wine club.

It is like companies presenting a wine club basically outsource to another company to supply and service their wine clubs.

The three are Laithwaiteswine.com, vinesse.com and tastingroom.com also known as Lot 18.

Over the past year, I’ve reviewed all three in great detail on my website and follow them on a daily basis. Check out www.bestonlinewineshopping.com for more details

Spoiler alert: the best offers are Alaskan if you want the bonus miles and Macy’s if you don’t and prefer free shipping.

Why the tie? Well, they both use Laithwaites and the wines offered are basically the same. Sure there are some minor differences if you select all reds, or whites, or a mix. But the deals are the same.

The more important answer: of the big three, Laithwaite simply has better quality wines and a much wider selection for those who remain members. It is strong in French, Spanish and Italian wines, and shows some depth in its California selections.

Continue reading “INSIDER’S GUIDE TO WINE CLUBS OFFERING POINTS AND/OR MILES”

The Greatest Pinot Noir Deal Ever?

 

Leave it to Jon Rimmerman, the unpredictable guy behind www.garagistewine.com to issue this challenge.

His pick: the 2015 Trinity Hill Pinot Noir, White label, Hawkes Bay for $9.98.

That’s right…under $10.

The average price is $15.00.

You can order up to 20 cases, so he has a sh…or make that boatload on hand.

And yes, this is delicious Pinot from one of New Zealand’s best producers.

It sure beats Cupcake’s Pinot Noir. Or Smoking Loon.

Is there a better deal now?

Ever?

 

 

 

 

March Madness: Crazy Wine Deals

The month begins with several unusually attractive wine deals coming our way.

 One website, invino.com, is offering two high quality Chardonnays for less than $20 a bottle. Both in fact are selling for $19.99, so you can check the full story and decide for yourself.

The Chardonnays are:

2013 Chateau St. Jean, Durell Vineyard, Sonoma County, $19.99

2015 Saddleback Cellars, Napa Valley Barrel Ferment, $19.99

Both wineries have developed a strong track record for Chardonnay and they do not disappoint in these vintages. Neither is your everyday sipping Chardonnay.

Check out the details at:

www.invino.com

Another website is offering two excellent Rhone reds from 2015 for under $30.00 a bottle. This is one of the best vintages for Rhones in several years.

2015 Crozes-Hermitage, Domaine des Entrefaux, $26.00

2015 Le Clos du Caillou, Cotes du Rhone, Vielles Vignes, $27.00

The website is  www.wineaccess.com

And shipping is included with 6 bottles or more.

Zinfandel fans are also in luck with a pair of Zins to celebrate March madness.

2014 Pedroncelli, Mother Clone Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, $13.99

2015 Rucksack Cellars Zinfandel Sierra Foothills, $19.99

Shipping is $1 a case. See the offer at

www.cawineclub.com

 

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.