Top Online Wine Retailers Compete Over Memorial Weekend: Winners and Also-Rans

 

For online wine sellers, Memorial Weekend is like the first stage of the Triple Crown, with Fathers Day and July 4th to follow.

And as the long Memorial Weekend was unfolding, there was a lot of hyping and prancing around before the race began.

The dust is now settling leaving a couple of questions.

Which websites were better at it than others?

Which ones made a serious effort to offer new wines and attractive prices?

While everyone else was at the beach, tweeting, or walking the dog over the long weekend, we were following the major wine sites to identify the real winners.

Here are the top 3 Memorial weekend wine studs:

1.www.invino.com

According to handicapper Jimmy the Grape, this was the pre-event favorite. After an early technical glitch out of the gate, this site hit its stride and by the final turn, it never looked back to emerge as the top choice.

The usual offerings were greatly expanded and the discounts ranged from 25% to 70%.

It augmented its outstanding roster of under the radar wines from the West Coast  with wines from Meyer Family, Goosecross, Ravenswood and Talisman Pinot Noir,

Imports were led by a super French Rose and 2013 Meursault Rouge, Pierre Matrot, Cote d’Or,  $19.99.

 

  1. www.wiredforwine.com

A real longshot, wiredforwines was a strong finisher with an impressive array of white wines and sparkling wines. Especially liked the 2016 Toutigeac Bordeaux Blanc at $13.99 and a 2016 Rioja for $12.97. Nicely priced Sancerre and Rias Baixas are tempting deals. For high-end fare, hard to beat the

2016 Arnot-Roberts Watson Chardonnay, Napa Valley.

Owned by self-proclaimed foodies operating of New Jersey, this site has come to life recently. Best on imported wines. Look for good deals in the Under $20 category and check out its Most Popular sellers.

  1. (Photo finish too close to call)

www.winespies.com

Sure, the spy thing is silly for wine though it works (for now) for Trump.This remains a go-to site if you love Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from Sonoma County. But it manages to pick up a hidden gem or two from Napa. Recent offering of the Secret Rows Sauvignon Blanc for $14.99 confirms this is a much-improved site for high quality wines at lovely prices.

This may seem surprising but this site recently shows exceptional versatility with good deals on McLaren Vale Grenache, a Paso Robles Syrah at 50% off and Phelps Chardonnay.

3.

www.cawineclub.com

One of the oldest online wine sellers, the California Wine Club was a sentimental favorite viewed as a real workhorse. But while others were saying “Stock up here and Save,” this club was letting the super deals speak for themselves. Specializing in small, family owned California wineries, it stretched Memorial Day offers through June 16 and offered a huge list of wines at 25% below the already discounted prices.

By adding $1 case shipping, it came from way back in the pack to finish a strong third. The following are our favorite wines to stock up now and save big:

  • 2016 Castoro Cellars Estate Viognier, Paso Robles $9.00
  • 2012 Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee, Santa Ynez, $12.75
  • 2013 Bien Nacido Vineyards Syrah, Santa Maria Valley $40
  • 2014 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noir, Rincon Vyd, $32.
  • 2015 Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, $34

The rest of the pack:

http://www.vivino.com.com showed well and made a late move with a deeply discounted Steltzner Cabernet and a Howell Mountain Merlot. But why so many heavy reds weighing it down as June approaches? And it really needs to tamp down the batshit hype and maybe not associate every wine somehow with a winemaker who once made a 100 point wine. Or say every wine is rated over 95 points by somebody

www.cinderellawine.com

Solid for discounted Italian and Spanish wines. From Chianti Classico to the Super Tuscans, this site beats most others for both selection and discounted prices. But otherwise limited offerings from other prime regions.

Enjoyed a decent weekend with specials on imported Roses. Good discounts and shipping options.

www.wineaccess.com

Rapidly improving but did not break away from the pack this week. Best for CA wines from limited production wineries. But also featured several first-rate French wines from Burgundy and Southern Rhone over the weekend.

Added hard to find wines such as the Scribe Pinot Noir,Tor Chardonnay and  Vermillion from Keplinger.

Not all wines are discounted, this is more like a specialty online wine shop.

www.getwineonline.com  

Proved itself once again as the site for stocking up on cases of quality wines to enjoy on an everyday basis. The list of wines under $20 set the stage this weekend.

www.garigistewine.com

Totally eccentric, with often brilliant selection of imports, this site devoted the weekend to offers of “mystery” wines. They were inexpensive, but seemed like a silly waste of time.

www.wine.com

This very complete and reliable site with decent discounts didn’t come up with anything unusual or exciting other than adding a 10% discount

A Real Blowout Wine Sale

The Offer:

From. www.cawineclub.com

“Sale ends June 15, 2018. Use promo code BLOWOUT to take an extra 25% off already discounted prices on selected wines. Prices listed online are per bottle. Half, full and/or mixed cases all ship via ground for $1 to most states. Final order must be in increments of 6 or 12 bottles.”

5 reasons why we like this deal

A 25% discount on top of any pre-existing discount.

Discounted prices based on real suggested retail prices.

Real wineries, not private labels or made-up marketing brands.

Established wineries, not unknowns. From Davis Estate to Zaca Mesa.

$1 shipping for half or full case orders. This is the clincher.

More about this club:

One of the oldest online wine sellers, the California Wine Club specializes in small, family owned California wineries. By small, we mean case production in the hundreds.  It sprinkles in a few imports and Northwest wines.

The majority of the wines are from the Central Coast region of Monterey, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. Sonoma and Lodi/ Clarksburg are also well-represented.

The background information is refreshingly direct and toned-down. If you are annoyed by the hype and often outrageous comments common to so many wine websites, the California Wine Club is a breath of fresh air.

Or maybe it just takes a more professional approach.

Of the two dozen or more good deals that caught my eye,  I’ve selected my top 6 picks to give you an idea of the range.

The prices are my estimates. And yes,  a Talley Pinot and Chardonnay in the low $30s are real deals.

2016 Castoro Cellars Estate Viognier, Paso Robles $9.00

2016 Pedroncelli Sauvignon Blanc, East Side Vyd $12.00

2012 Zaca Mesa Z Cuvee, Santa Ynez, $12.75

2013 Bien Nacido Vineyards Syrah, Santa Maria Valley $40

2014 Talley Vineyards Pinot Noir, Rincon Vyd, $32.

2015 Talley Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, $34

 

For more wonderful suggestions visit:

http://www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

A Dozen High Quality, Highly Discounted Wines Under $20

 Looking for truly outstanding wines under $20, wines that you can enjoy on a daily basis without compromising your standards?

Not to worry: we got big news for you.

This week, wine.com has gone all out to offer wines for under $20 that have been rated 90 points or more. If you act fast, you may be able to enjoy a special one cent fee for shipping a case or some other promo.

This website is ideal for one stop shopping. However, not all the wines are as good as they sound and not all are discounted. It is a long laundry list with over 900 wines.

However, we are happy to make your life easier by slogging through the list and highlighting the best of the best.

And we are happy to share a few buying tips to make the process less bewildering.

First, after going to “Wines Under $20” on wine.com, click on the sort by “Savings” feature to find the biggest discounts.

Our rule of thumb is buy wines online that are at least 20% below average retail. Otherwise, you might be better off at a supermarket or a Wal-Mart or Costco.

A good way to check prices, if you are concerned, is to go to www.winesearcher.com which is the best for showing average prices.

Also, try to obtain a special shipping price. Without it, you can end up paying $35 or more to ship a case. That likely wipes out any discounts.

What wines are most likely to deliver in the under $20 category?

Start with Argentinian Malbec, a no-brainer, but you still can get burned with a lightweight style. For instance, I’ve been disappointed recently by the Norton Malbec. Dont overlook Cabernets and red blends from Argentina.

Otherwise, for Cabernet, consider those from Australia and places like Paso Robles and Lake County before automatically thinking Chilean. Washington’s Columbia Valley Cabs can be fabulous deals. It is possible to find tasty and on point Bordeaux, especially from 2015.

For white wines, check out those from Russian River, New Zealand of course, and also Pinot Gris from Oregon and Gruner Veltliner from  Austria.

Finding quality, discounted Chardonnay is a real challenge. Of the 86 listed on wine.com, only two appealed to me, the MacRostie and Terlato Family.

If you want wines with those tiny bubbles, Gloria Ferrer is still reliable but see our selection of Alsatian sparkling wine, surprisingly rich and delicious.

As for vintages, go with 2015 for wines from France, Italy, and Spain. Avoid those from 2011 and 2013.

Dont forget old favorites, tried and true places. For instance a 2015 Moulin-a-Vent, Cotes de Rhone, or Bordeaux Medoc can come through as super deals.

A word about point scores and critics.  Honestly, a wine rated 92 is not better than one rated 90.  Rating wine has become a silly game not to be taken too literally.

With these things in mind, we have cherry picked the lengthy list of under $20 wines offered by wine.com.

All of our top wines are sold for at least 20% below retail.

Our list is a mix of whites and reds, and one sparkler to enjoy this Spring. These are wines to buy and enjoy.

Our Recommended top 12 Under $20 wines from wine.com

  • 2012 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Red, Columbia Valley $7.98
  • 2016 Giesen Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, NZ  $10.99
  • 2015 Barossa Valley Estate Shiraz, Barossa Valley, Australia $11.98
  • 2015 Torres 5G Garnacha, Spain $12.98
  • 2014  Antinori Villa Toscana  $14.98
  • 2016 Domane Wachau Gruner Veltliner, Austria $14.99
  • 2014 Vinacious Raconteur Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Australia $15.99
  • 2014 Terlato Family Chardonnay, Russian River, $14.99
  • 2016 High Valley Zinfandel, Lake County  $16.99
  • NV Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace Brut $18.99
  • 2014 Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles Estate $19.99
  • 2013 Seven Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley $19.99

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?

 

 

 

 

A Wine Club: Intimate & Educational

Can a wine club be exclusive, limited to a few hundred members, hosts private special events, make great wines and be non-snobby?  

I added that last point because the ATTITUDE you encounter in some wineries is a real turn-off, at least to me. (Are you listening, Napa Valley?)

Some people may think being made to feel uncomfortable and being talked down to by some twit on a script is part of the wine club deal. And attending over-subscribed winery events with boring speeches is the trade-off for buying expensive wines.

A good club, we can all agree, offers something more than high-priced, hard to find wines. The personal service should be attentive and the events should be more than tasting wines and listening to a sales pitch.

But membership should also be a positive experience, as in fun and a rewarding experience, as in learning.

The educational element is all too often non-existent in wine clubs today.

Drinking wine is easy; thinking about it as in expanding your knowledge, well, that’s a different thing.

So, if you share my interest in a wine club that has it all, except the attitude, look no further.

The answer is a new winery named Clarice, located in Sonoma County.

http://www.claricewinecompany.com

This is the new venture of a seasoned pro, Adam Lee, who founded Siduri Wines in the early 1990s and came to know every unusual Pinot Noir vineyard from Oregon to Santa Lucia Highlands in Monterey. And Santa Barbara. And San Luis Obispo. Well, you get the idea.

I was among his many fans who enjoyed Siduri Pinot Noirs because each was a lesson in its place of origin. Yes, they were great studies in “terroir.” Still are.

I also liked the Syrahs made under the Novy label. Make that: loved them.

Having sold Siduri in 2015 to Jackson Family, Adam has been working on a new brand and a unique wine club concept.

The concept has 3 key elements: fine wines for members only, educational discussions, and community.

It is limited to 625 members, and the wines are offered only to members.

Here’s the deal:

“As part of the Clarice Wine Community, members will enjoy two exclusive parties a year, one focusing on the Clarice Pinot Noirs and the other spotlighting a fellow winemaker and their wines, during which members will learn about their viticulture and winemaking, taste their wines, and receive special discounts. Finally, members will receive a case of Clarice Pinot Noir as part of their membership.”

Membership fee is $964.00 a year. But is it payable in six monthly installments.

The case will be available each October. The first vintage was 2017.

Granted, plunking down $160 a month is a big commitment, and once you begin, well, you are in.

The add-on to me is the personal touch in the educational programs. Members will learn about many facets of winemaking such as oak barrels, how they are made and what they add to wine.

Better to let Adam explain the educational aspect:

“From vineyard management and barrel making, to winery accounting and wine distribution — and so much more — you’ll learn from and interact with the true leaders of wine. In addition, you’ll gain access to a growing library of wine-related articles, written by a who’s who of industry experts.”

So, you will earn what the “MT” designation on an oak barel means.

Also, Clarice will offer private social media forums to handle members’ questions or concerns about wine and restaurants, or in Adam’s words:

“Wondering which restaurants have the best wine lists? Need help deciding what to add to your cellar? Join our private social media groups to share knowledge and recommendations.”

To me, that says they are willing to put a ton of effort into making members happy and a part of the family or community. The number of members is limited by the amount of wine produced each year.

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

 

The Price of Top Bordeaux

2015 Chateau Margaux 750ml (Bordeaux) – $1,268.70

Rated 100 points: (WA98-100)  (JS100)

(JD100)

Offered by     wwwgaragistewine.com

“STRICT LIMIT 1/person until we run out (in the spirit of the community and to allow as many of you as possible to acquire it at this $, please do not be upset with the one bottle limit.

(to be clear, this is $1268+ per bottle)

$1268+ is a Top Deal?”

Could well be. Time will tell.