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

 

A Two Part Wine Quiz for Millennials

 

Recently, one online retailer offered the 2015 Screaming Eagle

Napa Cabernet for $2,499.99 a bottle. That it was available was odd enough but then I asked myself, who would pay that for one bottle? And online?

Since millennials are the usual suspects for things we don’t understand, I created this fool-proof quiz to get some answers.

 

A. Which of the following would you buy for $2,499.99?

                  (hint, this can be pretend money or bitcoins)

  1. One Bottle of 2015 Screaming Eagle Cabernet Sauvignon
  2. 36 bottles of 2015 Caymus Napa Cabernet Sauvignon        
  3. 24 bottles of 2014 Dunn Vineyards Napa Cabernet
  4. 48 bottles of 2015 Jordan Cabernet Alexander Valley
  5. 200 bottles of Prosecco. Maybe as many as 300.   
  6. 10 bottles of 2004  “Dom” Rose Champagne

B. Would you Who Checked “A-1” Buy the Screaming Eagle Based on this Review?

98-100 pts – Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate  

“Blended of 76% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Franc, the 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon reveals a medium to deep garnet-purple color and nose of crushed blackberries, black cherries and wild blueberries with notions of fragrant earth, garrigue, lavender, Sichuan pepper and dried leaves. Medium-bodied with signature elegance and finesse, it’s the incredibly fine, oh-so-pixelated tannins that help to define the signature of this vineyard, beautifully supporting the elegant fruit, finishing with great poise. This is a very sensuous, pensive style and not for those seeking a full-on blockbuster but rather will greatly pleasure lovers of wines with quiet intensity and subtle depth. Note that this was a tank sample, due to be bottled within a week.”

TIME’S UP

Answer Sheet:

A.

  1. You must love eagles and didn’t know this was a wine. Or you have too much money, low self-esteem, and are bad at math. Congrats…you can be a wine collector.
  2. You know your wine history and vintages. Show off!
  3. So you are stocking or starting a wine cellar and want one to hold for several years. Good for you…planning ahead. Are you really a millennial?
  4. You are a lover of “quiet intensity and subtle depth” and are very good at math.
  5. Party On! You might also qualify for…

“I’ll Be There In A Prosecco” T-Shirt offered on Amazon.

6. You know Dom?  Feel free to invite me to the tasting.

B.

Yes, but who or what is a Robert Parker?

Is that an app, new designer running shoe or what?

And why so many, what are they…words?

No. How can you rate a wine before it is in the bottle? Tank sample?

Tank this!

And why does wine need an advocate, anyway?

Must be FAKE wine.  SAD.

 

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.

 

Setting the Bar High for Sauvignon Blanc

WINE OF THE DAY

2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Dry Creek Vineyards, Dry Creek Valley $20.00

Score: 94

Overview: Sets a new Standard for Sauvignon Blanc.

My Tasting Note:

This lively beauty is not your typical Sauvignon. Enhanced by the inclusion of the rare Sauvignon Gris clone and the Musque clone, it is mouth-watering delicious. Lively on the palate, smooth and long in the finish, it sets a new standard and will blow away the competition from New Zealand or anywhere else by combining rich texture with zesty fruit. Emphasizes melon, quince, and citrus flavors. No oak but still mouth-filling.

Note: not to be confused with the winery’s lovely Fume Blanc.

Why Else do I love this Wine:

  • Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite wine and I’ll never miss an opportunity to try one.
  • This easily passes all of my criteria for a great version, and I’m a tough critic.
  • Equally important: It is made by a family-owned winery, the same family that founded it in 1972.
  • Dry Creek Vineyards, along with Robert Mondavi Winery, was a Sauvignon Blanc, Fume Blanc pioneer.

Other info:

There are two other Sauvignon Blancs from Dry Creek. Wine club members have access to all versions at 25% off.

Available online:

www.wine.com   $17.99, reasonable shipping rates

www. k&lwine.com $14.99, limited and shipping extra

 

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”

A tale About Hubris & the Exclusive 100 Point Wine Club

 

Part 1

Last Wednesday, during my habitual walk through Costco’s wine department in Santa Rosa, I was blown away to see at the end of an aisle bottles of 2014 Le Dome offered at a discounted price of $69.99.

Surprised, stunned and maybe a little sad, I didn’t buy the wine. But did return to make sure I read the label correctly.

Ten years ago, one of the most famous, most sought-after wines in the world was this very same “Le Dome” from St. Emilion. The 2005 was a great wine and its reputation soared even higher when the 2009 was rated 99 points by Robert Parker.

Then, it went off the charts when Parker rated the 2010 a perfect 100 points. With that, Le Dome joined an exclusive club.

A website, Cult Wines for investors, provides ratings and prices from 1996 onward, if you are interested in all vintages.

Mere mortals could not buy a bottle of Le Dome even if they were willing to pay the $300 asking price.

Almost every bottle of “Le Dome” went to the UK market where it was as much of a national treasure as Judi Dench.  The British wine press could not hold back its praise for “Le Dome.”

Jonathan Maltus, the man behind Le Dome is British, and he was frequently introduced in wine circles as” the first English winemaker to make a 100 point wine.”

When living in the Bordeaux region, I was served Le Dome on several occasions, always by proud British friends. All vintages were extra-ordinary, unusually opulent. Jonathan was at 3 of the dinners and he was quite pleasant, quiet & easy-going. I later visited and tasted many more of his wines at Chateau Teyssier, his primary Chateau on the outskirts of St. Emilion.

Le Dome, made from a small 4-acre parcel, near Chateau Angelus in St. Emilion, was a strong player in the Garagiste movement that shocked the old guard in St. Emilion and rattled the Bordeaux wine trade. Many trace the small production, hands on garagiste movement to Château Le Pin. Others who joined it and Le Dome were Chateau Valandraux, Rol Valentin, and La Mondotte.

Le Dome is made from Cabernet Franc with a small percentage of Merlot, similar to the well-established Cheval Blanc.

Decanter Magazine and other British publications still closely follow Le Dome and gave high scores to the 3 most recent vintages, 2014, 2015, and 2016.

Several of the online  wine retailers I follow have recently listed vintages of the previously impossible to find Le Dome. And http://www.wine.com lists the 2014 for $125 a bottle. Other sites have offered the 2012 at discounted prices.

About a month ago, when reviewing www.nakedwines.com, I noticed 2 St. Emilion wines made by Malthus for less than $30 a bottle. Neither was Le Dome, but there clearly is something going on.

Is the garagiste movement over in Bordeaux?

Or is Le Dome the only star that has crashed down to earth?

Around 2005, I heard from other wine writers that Malthus was launching a similar wine in Australia, and had shipped over those special sorting machines used for Le Dome. Located in the Barossa Valley, that project is known as The Colonial Estate.

Later, around 2008, Malthus launched another project, this time in Napa Valley. The brand is World’s End and the wine, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Syrah, is called “Wavelength.”

Invino, an excellent web retailer that secures great deals, recently offered the 2009 Wavelength for $59.99 and mentioned it had also picked up the 2010 from a broker handling the brand.

Wavelength wines were made from the Stagecoach Vineyard in Napa. A few months ago, Gallo purchased the entire vineyard. So, that’s probably the end of that project as we know it.

But going back to the excitement over joining Bordeaux’s exclusive 100-point club, one line from an article in the British press about Maltus struck me: “I remember seeing [Mr. Parker] after he gave the 100 point score,” recalls Mr. Maltus. “He just smiled and said: ‘Don’t worry, it’s all downhill from now.’ ”

Wow!  I bet Parker would like to take that comment back

That remark now seems somewhat prophetic, but the truth more likely is that the road has had a few major bumps in it.

I hope Jonathan bounces back.

It does seem as if he got caught up in his own hubris and way over-extended himself.

Any return to earth might be easier if he threw away all of the old press clippings about superstar status along with membership in the exclusive 100 point club.

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?