Breaking News: Online Wine Giants go head-to-head

 

It rarely happens, but today, both http://www.wineExpress.com and www.cinderellawine.com featured the same wine as the “Deal of the Day.”

Not only was the wine the same, but the promo background stuff was practically duplicated. Both sellers relied on results from Decanter Magazine’s annual wine competition and quoted many of the same comments.

It was rated 95 points by Decanter and was described as the “Best Red Bordeaux under $20.”

To break the suspense, the wine is the 2014 Château Malbec, appellation Bordeaux. Not a big name, but it has a good track record and is part of the Castel Wine Group.

And 95 points is pretty impressive from these judges. (fyi…I once served on Decanter’s panel, so am familiar with the program.)

To get back to the online smack-down, the indisputable winner is….cinderellawine with its $12.98 bottle price and free shopping on 6 bottles.  

The best wineExpress could do was $14.95 a bottle with free shipping on 12 bottles.

Either way, a highly-rated, under $15 Bordeaux is a good find.

Cinderella is part of the mega wine library site, and wineExpress is a division of The Wine Enthusiast.

See detailed reviews of each at www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

Given the super-hype for the 2015 vintage, I’ve been suggesting people stock up on the 2014s, an excellent vintage for Bordeaux wines to enjoy over the next few years.

 

Wine Dancing Coyotes

Forget “Dances with Wolves” and “Dancing with the Stars,” wine lovers will be more impressed by a small winery I’ve recently discovered named Dancing Coyote.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. It is a real family winery focusing on great value, not on getting big scores for over-ripe, over-worked, and over-priced wines.
  2.  This winery is exploring non-mainstream wines such as Albarino, Gruner Veltliner, Verdelho, and one I bet nobody has ever heard of, Loureiro, It also makes a fabulous Tempranillo and Rose of Pinot Noir.
  3. And the quality is high with all wines showcasing the variety in a balanced, polished style. Even the Petite Sirah shows great restraint.

Dancing Coyote makes my new go-to summer white, the Albarino, from vineyards in the Delta region and its winery is based in Lodi.

Yes, you heard right.  Lodi, best known for full-throttle old vine Zins and massive Cabs and Petite Sirahs.

Albarino, the pride of Spain that does not get nearly as much attention in California as it deserves. Does anyone else make a Gruner Veltliner, the main white of Austria?

Dancing Coyote, the winery that dares to be different, is actually located in Acampo with its tasting room in nearby Lodi. It produces most of its wines from the McCormack family farmed vineyards In the Clarksburg-Delta wine region.

It also reaches out to locate Tempranillo grapes from Lodi. And the Dancing Coyote Tempranillo will have you dancing in the streets it is so right on the mark for varietal character. With no sign of oak barrels or oak chips to blur its focus.

The winery facility is known as McCormack Williamson Cellars and they do have a wine club for online sales.

And, did I mention the family produces wines in cans?

As for prices, all of these wines retail for less than $15. I’ve found the whites for as low as $7.99. But I refuse to identify that source because the summer has several more weeks to go.

But here’s the good news for those with no plans to visit Lodi soon: the winery has a wine club: www.dancingcoyotewines.com

I suggest the 4-bottle sample package for $45 for starters.

The back label explains the dancing coyote name.

Also, the wines are available at the independent online site:

www.cawineclub.com  So you can include a bottle or two in your cart if you shop there.

 

Is Amazon Primeday a Wine Day?

Surprise, Surprise! Amazon Primeday is on for July 10th

Amazon was previewing its wine selections and special packs over the weekend. An early Celebration.

And so I spent many hours over the weekend evaluating Amazon’s wine offers.

The Pitch: “Up to 40% off” on many selections

The Good News:

Many wines have special 1 cent shipping promotions

Over 8,000 wines and specials listed

And Amazon is the most trustworthy online presence

The Bad News:

The vast selection is vastly ordinary

The 1 cent shipping often applies only to case orders, 12 bottles

The best wines are NOT heavily discounted ( often less than 20%) and many are not discounted at all.

Many wines are mass-produced brands, starting with Barefoot, that are widely available

Overall, Amazon’s wine site has that supermarket feel to it which may be intentional.

It offers hundreds of made in America wines, but is weak when you look at French wines and South American wines.

It seems to be unloading many French wines from lousy vintages, such as 2011 and 2013.

The Detailed Update

Now that everyone is pumped for the special Amazon Prime Day on Monday the 10th, here are my thoughts.

Amazon has a large wine department. Not the biggest in the online world but close enough as the most recent listing of available wines exceeds 8,000.  Amazon is a little different from other online wine sellers because it loves to assemble wine packs of 2, 4, or 6 bottles. And toss in a few 12 bottle packs as well.

There seem to be more combinations of Game of Thrones wines (listed as the #1 best seller) than there are episodes of that show. The label art is quite detailed.

So that 9,000 wine items listed includes the various packs.

That said, now let’s get back to the details. About two-thirds of the wines on Amazon are US in origin, mostly California, but Washington State (1,500) is well-represented as in New York (550). These last two states have earned the recognition, so bravo Amazon.  French wines offered hover around 1,000, and Italy shows up with 485 offerings.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but after the first few hours of checking it out, I felt like I was browsing the wine section at Rite­Aid or Target with so many Barefoot wines and others found in most supermarkets and drugstores with a wine dept.

And yes, I check out the wine selection of every store visited. It is a habit.

And, yes I have tasted many Barefoot wines. NOT a habit, a duty.

When you begin hunting for deals and discounts, Amazon surprisingly is not exactly a savvy wine shopper’s paradise.  In fact, as is often pointed out in their customer’s reviews, quite a few of the wines can be bought at better prices at grocery stores like Safeway and at Costco and similar stores.

Apothic, Menage a Trois, Dark Horse, Smoking Loon, Pepperwood Grove,  Barefoot and a large number of other Gallo-owned brands may actually be cheaper at Rite-Aid, Safeway, Target and CVS.

Two of my favorite bargains, Columbia Crest Cabernet and Merlot, are cheaper at Costco and other outlets.

(Note to Amazon brass: you often get many negative reviews from your wine customers for this reason.)

As for small, family owned wineries, the choices are few. I did note that Brophy Clark wines are available as are a few from Hartwell, Peju, Anthem, Dry Creek Vineyard, Zaca Mesa, Qupe, Leeuwin from Australia, Ojai, and Chateau Diana.

All of Parducci brands are listed as are many Coppola wines. But both Parducci and Coppola which offer reliable wines are ramping up production in a big way and are widely available.

To summarize:

Shopping on Amazon Prime is appealing for three reasons: convenience, better pricing, and locating things not readily available from real stores.

When it comes to wine, Amazon scores big on convenience. Only convenience.

Best Tips:

First, check out the “Best Deals” by category.

Also, click on the 1¢ Shipping deals

And, go to the 20% off list and look for those items that are also part of the 1 cent shipping for the truly best deals on Amazon.

Summertime Sippers for the Serious & Semi-Serious Wine Crowd

The prolonged. blistering heat wave here in the Napa-Sonoma area pushed

 many of us into re-thinking about the best wine to beat the sizzling summer heat.

Anyone paying attention to trends would immediately suggest Rose wines since pink wines are being touted by everyone, everywhere,  Or so it seems.

Nest up on the trendy charts would likely be a craft brew, a tangy IPA comes to mind.

Though personally delighted to see the new excitement around Rose wines and a major fan of IPAs,  I’m looking at a long hot spell and the possibility of this being a recurring pattern (yes, I’m thinking climate change.). So, I’m interested in a long-term solution.

Besides, so far in my experience many Roses now playing to rave reviews are hardly cheap as in over $20  for a summer sipper and not always as dry as advertised.

The goal is a summer sipper. No need for a 94 point blockbuster Rose which, I believe, is an oxymoron. Whispering Angle may be a “hot” seller, but it is really not worth 20 bucks.

Honestly, you might be better off buying a cheap Pinot Noir, adding an ice-cube or two, and a twist of lemon for a more satisfying experience.

So, returning to white wines and to finally get to the main point: Sauvignon Blanc is the obvious choice. The best are fresh, zesty, medium-with (not syrupy or ponderous like typical Chardonnay), offer a range of tropical fruit and, the clincher, they can stand up to a big chilling.

Lately, I’ve enjoyed several fine Albarinos which are another good choice for many of the same reasons.

But what makes me stand behind Sauvignon as the ideal summer sipper is its availability and, best of all, so many outstanding examples are priced below $20.

If you are with me, the easiest online shopping if you don’t want to work up a sweat is to open www.wine.com where you will find hundreds of Sauvignons offered. In the under $20 category, it lists 463.

Many wines are discounted and wine.com always has some added incentives. Currently, first time buyers get $20 off an order of $100. Usually there’s a shipping deal on a case, sometimes on 6 bottles,

In my recent tasting experiences, In the under $20 bracket, Chile dominates with New Zealand a strong second.

Okay, sure, we should try to Buy American. But, frankly, the low-end Sauvignons from the likes of Murphy-Goode, Joel Gott, Dark Horse, Geyser Peak are disappointingly bland and zest-less.

There are many other bland brands without a soul.

For lively, zesty, true to type Sauvignons, check out those from Chile’s   cooler regions: Casablanca, Limari, and Leyda.

My personal favorite turns out to be one of the least expensive, 20 Santa Carolina Reserva which offers all of the fresh tropical fruit you’d expect in a fine wine with the bonus of rich, smooth texture and good acidity. Santa Rita offers several Sauvignons, and the cheapest, the “120” is hard to beat at $6.99.

Matetic is another Chilean winery with several fine Sauvignons well worth your attention. Look for the Matetic “Corralillo”  or the Leyda Valley Sauvignon

From New Zealand, you can’t go wrong with Sauvignons from Brancott, Villa Maria, Gissen and The Crossings.

Many of you might be wondering, “What about Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc?” Well, it is everywhere…in every supermarket, in every wine shop,mega-store, and in every corner liquor store.

No need to look for Kim online.

Here are my top -12 recommended Summer Sipping Sauvignon Blancs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Santa Carolina Reserva, Leyda Valley, Chile $9.99

2016 Matetic EQ Coastal, Chile  $16.99

2016 Santa Rita Reserva, Casablanca, Chile $9.99

2016 Vina Leyda Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley $16.99

2015 Gissen NZ Marlborough, $11.99

2014 Château La Verriere Blanc, Bordeaux $13.99

2016 Santa Rita, Reserva, Chile $9.99

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, $16.99

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc $12.99

2015 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc,  $13.99

2016 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $14.99

2016 La Playa Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Colchagua, Chile $7.99

All are available from www.wine.com and I have no relationship with this website.

Insider Tips on Buying Bordeaux

The best Bordeaux tasted recently is the 2015 Chateau Corbin from Montagne St. Emilion. So good I bought another, and if I published scores, it would get a 92-93.

Oh, and the price was $12.95 at Trader Joe’s.

No, this wasn’t a total surprise.  I lived part-time in Bordeaux from 2000-2010, return frequently, and tasted many wines when there last September-early October.

The fact is that there has never been a better time in recent memory to check out and stock up on Bordeaux red wines. And not just the famous, high-priced stuff; you can find authentic, beautiful Bordeaux for under $25.

Here are five reasons why every red wine lover should be focusing on Bordeaux now for good wines at great prices. We are also offering five buying tips to help you stay focused on value.

Recent vintages, 2014 and 2015, are of consistent high quality across the board, from the least expensive appellations to the fabled names.

The strong dollar versus the Euro (thanks Brexit) is playing to our advantage. (And, no Donald, you cant take credit for that.)

Bordeaux needs to be reasonably priced  to regain its market share after 3 mediocre vintages (2011, 2012, & 2013) that allowed Cabernet and Merlot from California, Washington, and South America to come on strong. Actually, 2012 wasn’t that bad.

Now that China’s brief romance with high-priced, legendary chateaux is over, Bordeaux winemakers have experienced the wake-up call, come back down to earth and are re-focusing efforts on making the best Bordeaux wines which feature balance, subtlety, harmony, and elegance.

The 2016 vintage, still in oak is being touted at greater than 2015, and the pressure of a third consecutive fine vintage will motivate the wine trade to bomb out the remaining 2014s to make room for the 2015s.

So how to take advantage of the present situation?

First, get re-acquainted with how things work in Bordeaux. A quick review would be helpful to get a feel for the interplay of multiple grape varieties, the existence of numerous sub-regions and tiny appellations, and the background of the classification systems.

Hint: go to www.winesearcher.com, click on France and then on Bordeaux. Or for a shorter review, go to http://www.wine.com.

Then, ram dump the stuff about the 1855 Classification and the St. Emilion classification system. And don’t pay too much attention to the high scores and hype from Parker and The Wine Spectator.

To me, James Suckling and The Wine Enthusiast Magazine are much more reliable, if you need a guide.

Third, understand that vintage ratings are all weather-related. Bordeaux is a large region but the weather conditions are generally shared in all. When the spring weather favors a good crop, and when the summer weeks are dry and warm but not too hot, and when the harvest conditions are favorable, these conditions hold true for the entire region.

Fourth, therefore, in good to excellent vintages, like 2014 and 2015, look to less prestigious appellations which enjoy the same conditions. They often are the neighbors of a famous chateau. In St. Emilion, for example, check out wines from Montagne St. Emilion or from Castillon which is on the eastern slope as you head out of St. Emilion.

Fifth, in these less prestigious appellations, look for wines made by a real chateau-owner. Wines from co-ops and private labels from negociants are less likely to offer authentic Bordeaux.

Best Bordeaux Buys at www.wine.com

2014 Chateau Cap de Faugeres, Castillon $16.99

2014 Chateau Clement Pichon, Haut Medoc $19.99

2014 Chateau de France, Pessac-Leognan  $24.99

2015 Chateau Fourcas Dupre, Listrac-Medoc, $15.99

2015 Chateau Lanessan, Haut Medoc, $16.99

Best Buys from www.getwineonline.com

2014 Chateau de Parenchere Bordeaux Superieur, $13.99

2014 Chateau Hyot Cotes de Castillon $13.99

One from http://www.wineexpress.com

2014 Chateau La Grange Clinet Grande Reserve, Cotes de Bordeaux

14.95 by the case

Millennials, Malbecs, & Magical Moments

 

Millennials now represent a major force within the wine market that will increase in importance. And for that reason, they are being surveyed, prodded, and studied by every wine marketing geek and MBA grad.

Everyone agrees, millennials are definitely drinking more wine on a per capita basis than either the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, and more females are making the wine buying choices.

Recently, two insightful online articles added a little more to the emerging profile. One was featured on Yahoo Finance, “Millennials Creating Wine Industry Change.” It verified that millennials represent 29% of wine drinkers but consume 34% of all wines. It made the point that the group also favors organically grown things, including wine.

Even Fox News got into the act with a lifestyle story, “Why millennials can’t get enough wine.”  Surprisingly,  it was a fairly coherent, albeit a cut-and-paste article, and ended with this quotation:

“Millennials are adventurous in their choices, too. They like to choose  lesser-known varietals from regions that are under the radar.They want to create their own cool,” said Marc Irving, the sommelier at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

So there is a rough sketch, a basic profile, emerging and these are the main attributes of Millennial Wine Buyers (MWB):

Confident and adventurous, willing to explore new types of wines

Impressed by brands with clever images but authenticity and organic practices are important

Not very interested in traditional wine types, the kind the Brits swoon over like Bordeaux, French Burgundy, Port, Sherry and others that come with vintage baggage.

Ratings from wine critics have little impact on buying decisions

Social gatherings like special events/ activities at wine clubs are a major part of the lifestyle, something to be shared

Wine is an event, an experience; collecting and cellaring pricey, famous wines for future drinking is, like, totally stupid

Buying wines online is a natural thing and a good reason to be constantly checking your messages. Even when on a date.

The same day those two articles appeared, several websites featured deals on Argentinian Malbecs, including two that rank among my current favorites. Here are the two beauties offered online at great prices that deliver the goods:

2015 Proemio Malbec, Argentina, $10.99 and free shipping on 6

At http://www.cinderellawine.com

2015 Amalaya Malbec, Argentina, Salta region, $13.99 @ http://www.wine.com

These two are stunning values that outscored my benchmark Malbec, Norton Reserve.

The Amalaya with a dollop of Tannat and Syrah is as bold and lively as its colorful label. Delivers big-time flavors from start to finish.

Over the last few years,  Malbec has become my go-to red wine by the glass because it is so versatile and well-priced.

And when talking about Malbec in these terms, the automatic assumption is that it is from Argentina. I have tasted wines from Cahors and Malbecs from Chile and Washington only to conclude Malbec is synonymous with Argentina.

But to return to the subject of millennials and wine, Malbec seems to be the perfect fit. It is a lesser known wine flying under the radar from a fascinating region, and with so many versions being featured by the online wine merchants, it is definitely up and coming and so much fun to explore.

Textbook Malbec is big, bold, dark, deep, dramatic and flashy.  It offers immediate pleasure from its lively aroma,  deep, delicious flavors, and great, round, satiny texture leading to a long aftertaste.

And, the clincher: Excellent Malbec need not be expensive. There are at least ten now available online for way under $20 a bottle.

2015 Proemio Malbec, Argentina, $10.99 and free shipping on 6

At http://www.cinderellawine.com

2015 Amalaya Malbec, Argentina, Salta region, $13.99 @ http://www.wine.com

2014 Fabre Montmayou, Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, $14.50

2015 Norton Reserva, $15.99

2015 Zuccardi Series A Malbec, $15.99

2015 Bodega Viamonte Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, $15.99

2015 Recuerdo Malbec, $16.99

2014 Kaiken Ultra, $17.99

2014 Ben Marco Malbec $17.99

2015 Susana Balbo Malbec, $19.99

Absolutely, The Best Under $15 White Wine Today

The quest to discover the greatest value and top all-purpose white came to a surprising end this week.  

No, it is neither a slick Chardonnay or fruity Pinot Gris nor is it among my long-time go-to whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Blanc.

It is made from the most underrated, overlooked variety and by a winery with an amazingly consistent track record.

The wine: 2016 Chenin Blanc,  Dry Creek Vineyards

No, this is not an April Fool’s Joke.

It is the most versatile, most subtle, most intricate, most complex and most complete white wine under $15.

It is the complete package:

Authentic with real history

True to type

Subtle in its aromatics, multi-leveled in flavors

Complex but without heavy oak; lingering, vibrant palate-cleansing finish

Shows old vine character with its lush texture

With genuine minerality

Online deals from $8.95 at www.empirewine.com and $13.99 before discounts & with special shipping options at www.wine.com