Great Wine Club Discovery

 A Winemaker Rising Above the Radar

Just discovered a winery/wine club that makes high quality wines and, as a bonus, is a two-for-one operation. Located in Paso Robles, winemaker Tyler Russell had created two brands: Nelle and Cordant. As he explains, “Two brands. One mindset.”

Cordant focuses on Pinot Noir and Nelle offers wines from Rhone varietals.

Long story short: the Nelle Syrahs stole the show in my most recent update and tasting.

The mindset seems to be to locate the best vineyards in the Central Coast and then listen to the vineyard. In a Shaksperian aside, the vineyard will say: “to vineyard designate or blend. That is the question.”

In 2017, considered to be an outstanding year, Russell made three Syrahs that should help us understand this mindset.

One is the 2017 Nelle Syrah, “Coastview Vineyard” which occupies one of the high elevation sites in Monterey County. This highly regarded vineyard is part of the Gabilan Mountain Range. 

This Syrah is a deep, dark wine, rich, multi-layered with ripe dark plum

 fruit, that displays the thyme, lavender notes associated with great Syrah. It needs to be decanted/aerated, but keeps on unfolding over time.

115 cases were produced, and the price is $52. My score: 94

Second up is the 2017 Nelle Syrah, Reserve, “The Terraces,” a barrel selection of 50 cases. Well, simply put: this Syrah is amazing. Up there with the best I’ve ever tasted. Reminded me of some great Cornas when I tasted new vintages in the Auguste Clape cellars.  Dense, spicy, leathery, peppery and loaded with flavors but structured and balanced, not over the top, hedonistic style. 

It takes us back to that mindset. As Russell explains:

“The 2017 Reserve Syrah, which we call “The Terraces” happened by chance. We had small few rows at Coastview in a section they call the casita terraces. That we just let hang for a while. The stems developed perfectly with fruit. So we fermented whole cluster. Fermented slowly in the cold room. Put the wine in some nice barrels. I really think this wine is a testament to the vintage. At least for us. My intention was not to make a reserve wine… it just turned out really good so went ahead and did it.” 

115 cases produced. $72. My score: 98

Third, the 2017 Nelle Central Coast Syrah is a blend of fruit from 6 vineyards. Working with grapes from cool climate and warm climate sites, it comes across with only a hint of Paso Robles ripeness and chocolate tones nicely complemented by bright fruit and spice from cooler sites. Make no mistake, this is serious stuff that can be cellared. But, as the French say, “It drinks well.” Sorry, they say this: “Ca boire bien.”

500 cases produced. $40. Score: 93

Contact:

Nelle/Cordant Winery

3310 RAMADA DRIVE SUITE A

PASO ROBLES

(805) 369 – 2313

INFO@CORDANTWINERY.COM

Clueless No Longer

 

Wine Sleuthing 2.0

2020 has quickly provided a great, unexpected surprise. No, I’m not going political on you. This discovery relates to the online wine world.

The clues were there but I just kept getting sidetracked by the silly name and seemingly casual attitude. 

 Then this week with the offer of a fabulous Châteauneuf-du-Pape and special Zinfandel,  it was impossible yto ignore the clues.

Winespies, a wine merchant that I’ve been hesitant to write about,  has totally won me over with its exciting daily specials throughout January.

It meets and often now exceeds my 5 basic criteria:  

  1. Sourcing under the radar, first rate wines from non-corporate wineries

    2. Discounting in the 25-50% range, closer to 50%

   3. Providing informative background material about the wine and people

   4. Avoiding over-hyped, point scores and fake reviews

   5. Offering good free shipping options with temperature control

The standout wines in January that helped make me a new fan are an Oakville Cabernet, Napa Valley Merlot, Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, Brut Premier Cru Champagne and a knockout Zinfandel blend from the Sierra Foothills.

For more detail about http://www.winespies.com go to: www.robywine.com

 

5 Best Somm Sites & Free Wine Education

Somms have come a long way since my years as a wine teacher. The new breed study hard and pass rigorous exams. Whether full on MS scholars or those having attained certain WSET levels, they have soaked up tons of information about the many facets of wine.

Knowing a subject inside and out is essential as a starting point but it does not make one a good or excellent teacher.

 How to organize and convey information is what sets good teachers apart from the bad and the boring.  Motivating students to continue learning after the class is another key.

That holds true for everyone imparting information on every subject.

Somms and MWs are no exception. 

Focusing on free stuff on the internet is like returning to the Wine Library at UC Davis  Or for me, the Healdsburg Library where I spent many hours.

Oh well, enough nostalgia. I’ve recently been following Somms and a few MWs online. I’ve read numerous background articles, wine reviews, and have viewed too many videos and Podcasts featuring Somms. Yes, I’ve seen the movies as well. 

Regarding wine podcasts, I checked out many, including  “Drunk Bitches” and “Wine to Five.” Neither made my list.

As of now based on the latest, five websites backed by Somms lead the field in free online wine education. All 5 should be approached as team teachers, since each brings a special area of expertise and strength to the immense subject.

In other words, no one stands alone in my mind as “the” wine educator. There is no Kevin Zraly among today’s SOMMS.

But here are the 5, each bringing something powerful and rewarding to wine education:

www.winefolly.com 

Begin here: Best on how to taste and talk about wines.

Madeline Puckette, a certified Somm and member of the Guild of Sommeliers is the outfront personality. She and her partners stated Wine Folly in 2011. As she explains, “The goal of Wine Folly is to share wine knowledge in a way to encourage and inspire new drinkers. “

And she does that. She is not, thankfully, talking to wannabe sommeliers, and she focuses on making wine tasting enjoyable.

 Often relying on blind tasting wines side by side, she brings tremendous enthusiasm to the subject. She is basically teaching viewers how to taste and identify wines, and manages to make it lively, if not exactly entertaining. Other than having the credentials, she comes across, and this seems important to me, as a normal person, not a twit or nerd.

I liked her tasting of 3 under $20 Cabernets purchased at a supermarket. It immediately breaks the association of price and quality so common among new wine lovers. As the wines are evaluated, she tends to focus a lot on the appearance, not just color but the overall appearance. Love her use of the wine aroma wheel!

www.guildsomm.com

Second step: Know your grapes and wine regions.

GuildSomm is “a nonprofit international membership organization for sommeliers and wine professionals that promotes education, collaboration, and healthy debate while maintaining the key values of the sommelier profession: integrity, humility, and hospitality. We’re here to help you expand your knowledge of the wine world.”

MS Geoff Kruth launched the GuildSomm website in 2009, joining his career in wine with his early background in technology. He manages the organization, hosts the GuildSomm podcast, develops content, and leads masterclasses. Feature articles, podcasts, and videos are publicly available and cover varied topics on the world of wine. 

The only drawback with guildsomm is information overload. Some articles go too far in depth and and seem to be factoid upon factoid. We have all had teachers who don’t know how to pace a lecture and keep the student’s interest.  

So, for example,  when reading the article on Merlot which is crammed full of information, I suggest you step away from the screen every so often.

But, that aside, there a wealth of information available here and it is accurate and up to date.

www.sommselect.com

Best for Buying and Enjoying Wines

Although this is an e-commerce, wine club site, the head sommeliers, Ian Cauble and David Lynch share many fantastic, personal insights about wines, wine styles, regions, and the people behind the wines.  

For Italian wines, Lynch is the man. For Burgundy, Cauble is hard to beat. For Pinot Noir, he recently wrote: Let’s not forget that Germany has nearly the same deep history with the grape as Burgundy, and that Germany ranks third in the world (behind France and the US) in total Pinot Noir planting.

For a fresh perspective on lesser grapes, you hear this from him: “Be it Tuscan, Ligurian, Sardinian, or Corsican, Vermentino is a distinctively ‘Mediterranean’ grape we all need to get to know better.” 

www.napawineacademy.com

Best for reminding everyone that wine is about people. Real people.

This online site focuses on classes for students of various interests and levels. You can enroll in these classes and attend at several locations in addition to Napa. Or you can enroll online.

The catch is that these classes are offered on a fee basis, meaning you pay. Yes, this is serious and the major part of the program consists of classes for different WSET levels.

The Wine 101 Foundation course is widely appealing and the fee is $125. That’s a bargain for the price.

But why I include these folks here is that there are free podcasts, audio only. But they are wonderful interviews with wine people, winemakers, winery owners, 

and marketing types. About an hour long, the Cathy Corison audio is wonderful and typical of the others offered.  You can also read the blogs, basically well-researched timely articles on grape varieties, regions, and events.

www.vinosity.com

This site wraps it all up nicely.

The wine world is immense, but wine is all about people and places as well as wine. At vinosity, over two dozen writers report from regions around the world.

The trick here is to be alert and sign up for a two week free trial. Then immerse yourself in articles from writers around the world. Several authors are MWs.

This is Steven Spurrier’s new pet project to revive wine journalism. He has two articles online that are brilliant, one on Okanagan wines and the other on the most recent San Francisco International wine competition.

South Africa’s leading expert, Michael Fridjhon, contributed a lively, insightful view of Stellenbosh. Don’t miss the conversation about Wachau, one of Austria’s amazing wine regions.

And, of course, the update on California Rhone wines goes off the charts.

So, to sum up:

Use these 5 websites offering free stuff to learn as much as you want to about wine. 

7 Top Websites for Wine Gifts

Where do Wine Shoppers Shop?

Wouldn’t we all like to know where Jeff Bezos shopped for holiday gifts and what he purchased?  Well, though the main thing I have in common with Jeff is lots of visible scalp, many of you are probably wondering where this self-proclaimed, indisputable leader of the online wine shopping world ended up buying wine gifts this year.

And because a list is now the primary form of communication, here is a list of my 7 Top  E-commerce wine sites:

But before I do, here are the 3 Basic Reasons why lists are becoming so popular:

  1. Little or no thinking required, especially for original ideas, so much beloved by influencers.
  2. No need for writing complete sentences, whatever they are or, ugh, paragraphs
  3. Easy as sin because you can borrow from other lists or re-work you old ones, and since words are not that necessary you can attached favorite pics of your awesome canine or self.

Ok, enough toying with you, listen up.

Here’s my “list-icle” of 7 Best Wine Websites fror wine gifts going into 2020:

  1. http://www.wine.com
  2. www.sommselect.com
  3. www.invino.com
  4. www.wineaccess.com
  5. www.garagistewine.com

    6. www.lastbottlewines.com

  1. www.wtso.com

For detailed reviews of these 7 Top websites see www.robywine.com

Super Pre-Christmas Wine Sale

Going into the weekend before Christmas,  we checked out the deals from  all major websites and came up with a clear winner: http://www.wineExpress.com

Billing the sale as “Red Friday,” http://www.wineexpress.com offered  5 deeply discounted red wines.

And came up with these 4 winners:

  • 2014 HW Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi $12.47
  • 2017 Syrah Cowan Cellers, Bennett Valley $12.47
  • 2016 Chateau Violette, Moulis en Medoc, $19.47
  • 2015 Belle Fiore Red Blend (Cabernet, Malbec, Merlot), Rogue Valley, $12.47

Shipping is free on orders over $149.00

These four first-rate wines are offered at 40-50% off.

We know them well.

The only odd thing is the recurring “47” cents in all prices.

Read the detailed review ofwineexpress at http://www.robywine.com

 

 

Two Day Holiday Mega Marathon starts December 12

 

at www. lastbottlewines.com

This two-day marathon promises to be excellent for bargain hunters.  These folks usually offer wines 50% below full price, but sometimes are closer to 70%.

lastbottlewines.com is a highly-rated, reliable site rated in my top 5 online wine sites.

This is a flash-sale. Starts at 9:00 West Coast time. NSFW.

To hear more about flash sales and to mentally prepare yourself for this marathon, see my detailed review at www.robywine.com.

Remember I’m not an affiliate out for easy, sleazy commissions. Or any kick-back deal.

And I’ll be following it for sure, looking for Rhone and Bordeaux wines along with Napa Cabs and Pinots from CA. Also, Zinfandels from Sonoma.

But there is one important point that you should be aware of:  the wines wont be delivered until after the New Year.

If that’s okay with you,

Here’s the lastbottlewines.com pitch:

 “In addition to hoarding small batches of killer wines for the past 6 months, we just received a container from Europe with a mind-bending amount of great bottles. The madness truly does get bigger and better every year — we promise. Oh, and Happy Holidays.”

“PLUS — FREE GROUND SHIPPING on ALL

And this: “We will require several weeks to stage and coordinate all the shipping (begins January 6th)”

But hey, after the holidays, who among us will not need to replenish our wine cellar?

 

Go Big on Cyber Mega Magnum Monday

 

http://www.WTSO.com is one of the very few e-commerce sites offering magnums for sale every so often.

And tomorrow, it goes all out with nothing but magnums. And a few double magnums.

Big bottles for big occasions!

Wines to look for are 2016 and 2016 Bordeaux ( St. Emilion, Côtes de Bordeaux, and Medoc) and wines from the Southern Rhone.

Also some killer Spanish reds.

Maybe a Champagne or two will be offered.

If so, Champagne, the real bubbly made in Champagne, develops more complex flavors and richer texture when fermented in a magnum or bigger bottle. Honest!

WTSO has been coming up with top notch California wines lately.  Keep an eye out for Caymus Cabernet and wines from Cuvaison, Cornerstone, Maroon, Saintsbury, Blackbird, and Encantado.

For a detailed review of WTSO, go to http://www.robywine.com/wtso

The Essential Facts:

Date & Time: Monday, December 2, 2019 8am-8pm EST (12 hours)

Bottles: A variety of red, white, and sparkling large-format bottles between 1.5L and 3L

Deal: 10-15 new bottles every hour for 12 hours — all bottles available on the home page. No other shopping options will be available on Marathon day.

Shipping Details: FREE shipping with all orders, no minimum required. Orders placed at different points in the day are able to be combined and shipped together. All orders ship Monday, Dec. 9

Free shipping on magnums is a big deal!

And, yes, wines age slower in magnums.

And, as mentioned, Champagne taste better…if you believe in science.

 

 

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 www.wine.com.

But look at the Rose section on the other e-commerce sites reviewed on my website, www.robywine.com. 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

Today’s Best Deals for Pinot Noir Lovers

My 5 Top Pinot Noir Picks

Offered by www.wine.com

Cherry picking through the lengthy list, these 5 are absolute deals:

2016 Artesa Estate Carneros $29.99

2016 Sarah’s Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains, $29.99

2016 Rex Hill Willamette Valley, Oregon $27.99

2017 Hahn Winery Santa Lucia Highlands $20.99

2017 Schug Sonoma Coast $19.99

All offered at 30-35% off actual retail

My belief is that a wine must sell for at least 20% below the real cost to make shopping online worthwhile.

And as a bonus, these 5 represent a super tasting opportunity showcasing 5 distinct regions.

Full disclosure:  

I have absolutely no agreement or arrangement or affiliation with http://www.wine.com or any other website mentioned  in this blog or on my own website: http://www.robywine.com

 

The New #1 Wine Website

Wines Til Sold Out or wtso.com was one of the first and has made so many recent improvements that it has broken away from the pack and has emerged as a leader in this fast-paced, competitive world of online wine selling.

Over its 13 year history, Wtso.com has experienced a few ups and downs, and I have been critical at times.

But as one of the oldest wine websites, it just may be the #1 place to buy wines online today.

It has matured and is now more than a flash sale.

Here are 3 top deals featured this week that won me over:

2016 Torii Mor Pinot Noir Reserve Selection, Willamette Valley, $14.99

with free shipping on 4.

2016 La Croix Saint-Christophe, St. Emilion, $19.99

2016 Faite Pinot Noir Paraiso Springs, Santa Lucia Highlands $14.99

These two Pinots are excellent values from super producers and vintages.

Tasted side by side, they display the best features of each appellation.

But the Torii Mor Pinot is an absolute killer deal!

The Grand Cru St. Emilion which is Merlot and Cabernet Franc is one of my favs in an extra-special vintage. Oh yeah, famed consultant Michell Rolland also blessed it. Did I mention the price is 70% below retail?

Also, fyi–the 2016 Encantado Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville offered by wtso.com at $24.99 is made by Pine Ridge which sells an Oakville Cab for $100 a pop.

Learn more at http://www.robywine.com