Back to the Future: Wine Travels

 

Just because you have enjoyed a Sangiovese or Nebbiolo doesn’t mean you have explored the full range of Italian-inspired wines.

Ever tasted a Charbono, Dulcetto, Grignolino, or Vermentino? Well, if you are still nodding “yes “ to all four, how about a Sagrantino? That one caught my attention during a visit to the Guglielmo Winery in Morgan Hill. 

Guglielmo is a family owned winery that has been making wines for close to a 100 years. It was founded in 1925, in the early stage of Prohibition, which tells you what one Italian-American family thought of that crazy experiment.

Sagrantino is a new addition to the family’s estate holdings and the vines border the imposing brick winery. This red wine grape is at home in Umbria, in Central Italy. It is the grape used for Montefalco wines. Janics Robinson mentions it in her definitive book, and one other California winery grows the grape.

But back to Guglielmo Winery, now run by the fourth generation.

That in itself is amazing for California wine but not that unusual in Italy.

The only other California wineries that have been in family hands longer are Wente and Concannon. The Mondavis bought Charles Krug in the 1940s and for those curious, Gallo started up in 1933.

Guglielmo is a great winery to visit, not only for its history but for its current wines. You feel like you are going back in time, seeing what wineries were like in Santa Clara County before trophy Napa wines and Silicon Valley.

Before Apple and Google, Santa Clara was a major wine region, with more history and vineyards than Napa Valley.

I love the fact that the winery and the 80 acre estate vineyards are surviving today as urban life moves into the neighborhood and Google buses are circling the area.

Tasting five wines will set you back $10. And all of $15 if you want to taste the Reserve line. My favorites are the Barbera, one of the very best, Dolcetto, Grignolino, Sangiovese, and the Sagrantino which was first produced in 2016. 

 It is richly flavored with ripe dark fruit…sort of like Zinfandel with more structure and balance. “Zinfandel without the flab” was my note.

And, Guiglielmo’s Grignolino Rose is a thing of beauty. Old-fashioned Rose in the good sense, meaning best with food.

The winery also makes Teroldego and Charbono which I plan to taste on my next visit. 

If you like history, enjoy trying new wines, and want to travel back in time, then, check out the winery and its wine club.

Guglielmo Winery:

 located at 1480 East Main Avenue, Morgan Hill, CA. The winery is less than 20 minutes south of San Jose, 1.5  hours south of San Francisco and 45 minutes north of Monterey.

Heads Up: Sales Alert

 

Vintage wine estate sale

With some wines offered 50% below retail, vintage wine estate is worth checking out this Tuesday.

It is a one-day sale, February 25, 2020

Many wineries/brands are in the company’s  portfolio. Here’s a partial list:

Vintage Wine Estates includes Clos Pegase, Cosentino Winery, Girard Winery, B.R. Cohn Winery, Swanson Vineyards, Viansa Sonoma, Windsor Vineyards, Cameron Hughes, Firesteed, Tamarack Cellars, Cartlidge & Browne, Sonoma Coast Vineyards…

I’ll be looking to see which wines, if any, will be from Qupe, Swanson, Clos Pegase, Sonoma Coast and Kunde.

The teaser mentioned the 2018 Kunde Chardonnay for $10.80 a bottle and

2014 Clayhouse Malbec from Paso Robles for $9.00

Added incentive: one cent shipping on case orders.

If interested,

Go to: www.vintagewineestates.com

3 Ways Costco Wine Beats the Competition

 

Every wine drinker should try the 2019 Kirkland Sauvignon Blanc, “Ti Point” from New Zealand.

Not any other vintage, the 2019 which I bought for $6.99.

The 2018 is quite different. Not bad, just different. 

Why try the 2019? Well, primarily because the 2019 is an excellent example of Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc. It would be a “perfect” example, but that word is over-used.

The 2019 displays both the good and typical aromas and flavors fans like me look for and it also has the attributes others may find sharp, thin and off-putting.

Another good, even better, reason: it is made by a real winemaker at a real winery.

Tracy Haslam, is a 3rd generation winemaker. Google her. 

And, finally, unlike several popular brands of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc lining shelves everywhere,  it is made and bottled there.

Yes, several big volume Kiwi Sauvignon Blancs are literally shipped to California in giant containers to be unloaded and trucked off to Napa, Acampo, Lodi or Sonoma, and then pumped from the truck to the facility and, finally, bottled. 

Hardly a romantic journey or conversation topic over a glass of wine.

Not saying that the wines shipped and trucked are bad. 

Just saying read the back label.

 

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

“Two buck Chuck,” the Party Wine of the 90s Is Back

With apologies to Prince: Party like it’s 1999!

“Two buck Chuck,” the party wine of the 90s is back.

Yes, the price was reduced this week at Trader Joe’s.

We are talking about $1.99 a bottle from the Charles Shaw brand.

Bring it on, baby: wood chips, acid adjustment, blending, secret sauce, eye of newt, or whatever it takes.

It certainly drives the point home: wine does not have to be expensive.

Because, fyi, I think cheap (make that inexpensive) Sauvignon Blanc is more challenging to make than Chard or Cab, I checked out the 2018 SB at TJ’s.

My notes:

Slightly greenish color with some spice on the nose. Neither grassy nor herbal and without a melon or gooseberry in sight. Make that without much of an identifiable fruit.  Maybe a hint of grape. Medium bodied with a hint of sweetness but finishes with slightly tart acidity. Totally acceptable.

BTW, I prefer to taste white wines not chilled. Chilling a wine can masks any defects and off things.

Somms will be challenged to find a mineral or a crushed rock, scorched earth component. Or whatever the latest show-off terms are.

And the rest of us will wonder how is it possible to offer any wine at this price.

But for $1.99 in a real bottle with a cork, this SB is a party wine…

Note to dinner guests: “dont even think about it.”

 

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?

 

Stunning Wine Deal

Byington’s Thanksgiving to CYBER MONDAY Sale

From Byington, a proven, high-quality family winery in the Santa Cruz Mounain appellation.

 

Best known for its Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon.

But lately on a roll with all wines.

Byington’s well-established Estate vineyards are real mountain, high elevation sites.

And the winery is 100% solar!!

The deal is 40% off all wines, minimum purchase of $72 and FREE shipping within California.

I have long been a big fan of the Cabernet Sauvignon from the Bates Ranch, full price of $47 but around $30 a bottle during this Cyber sale. Go with the 2014 vintage.

After the discount, the 2015 Chardonnay is a steal.

I recently tasted Byington wines at the Wine Bar within the San Jose airport. Great bar and excellent way to relax during a flight delay!

Other Byington Wines that top our highly recommended list:

2015 Chardonnay Tin Cross Vineyard

2016 Pinot Noir Estate

2014 Pinot Noir Block 4

2014 Syrah Pigoni Ranch

Here’s the Deal:

  • What: 40% OFF ALL WINE – $72 minimum purchase – at byington.wine
  • When: Thanksgiving Thursday-Monday (November 28, 29, 30, December 1)
  • Extra Perk: Free shipping within California (standard UPS delivery; not next day)

Byington Vineyard & Winery
21850 Bear Creek Road
Los Gatos, CA 95033
Santa Cruz County

 

What are you waiting for?

Full disclosure: happy to say this blog is cleaner than Snow White!

 Black Friday & Wine Affiliates 

Be an affiliate: No experience or expertise required. 

My last post introduced you to affiliates, behind the scenes bloggers/influencers making money.

These affiliate wine programs are not limited to a few small-time bloggers making a few bucks. The popular Wine of the Month Club has numerous, and, of course, everyone wants to have a link that leads to a commission from Amazon.

For example, Vinepair which I like and regularly follow tries to downplay it this way: 

  • “From time to time we work with various partners to highlight wine, beer, spirits and other products that we believe you, our readers, will be interested in learning about. When we link to Amazon and other 3rd parties with affiliate programs (and remember to tag those links) we earn a small commission.”

FYI: Amazon is said to pay a commission in the 1%-10% range, depending on the product. And should you check my review of Amazon’s wine selection at www.robywine.com, you’ll see the selection is vast.

 I recently clicked on a review of wine clubs published by CNET. Now we have definitely left the small world of wine bloggers, and CNET lays out an interesting background for why it, of all websites, is reviewing wine clubs:

“So which is the best wine of the month club or subscription for you, your budget and habits in 2019? If all of these choices seem overwhelming, we get it. It’s like being in wine country. That’s why we canvassed the wine club landscape to uncork the best memberships for you.” 

Setting aside the bizarre use of the word “canvassed,” if you read the fine print you are told: “CNET editors pick the products & services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.”

The assumption is that wine and wine clubs are just another product worthy of review and compensation when reviewed favorably. One day you review fitness watches and hotspots, the next wines or wine clubs.

BUT NO. Not so fast. 

As CNET noted, 

“Wine can be “overwhelming.” 

Well, for most people, except for the editors of CNET who can canvass the landscape, wine is complicated and both knowledge of and personal experience with the subject are essential before passing judgment.

But this brings me to the main point: wine continues to intimidate people, unlike shoes, fitbits, appliances, and most other products and personalized services. 

Can’t recall how many people once hearing what I did as a profession would then apologise for some reason for not knowing much about wine.

When buying wine, people still need good, reliable, and unbiased advice. 

It is pretty obvious that most publications mentioned with affiliates are targeting the millennial audience.

Millennials are targeted because, among many reasons, they might subscribe to a wine club. 

One website focuses on financial advice for millennials also explored wine clubs and ended this way:

“You can trust the integrity of our balanced, independent financial advice. We may, however, receive compensation from the issuers of some products mentioned in this article.”

“Trust, “integrity,“”independent” and then maybe”compensation “?  

Wine to today’s bloggers and their colleagues is more lucrative than say shoes  and fitbits because it is meant to be consumed and replaced fairly often.

Wine can also be an expensive product, so affiliates can earn much more money through commissions.

And of all possible revenue sources, wine club subscriptions are the most attractive for obvious reasons, the main one being regular repeat sales. 

A commission is paid for the duration of the membership that originated in the blogger/affiliates review.

It is all about the money.

You can google “wine affiliates programs” and, yes. there are lists of the best ones for commissions and financial gain. 

You’ll also read that wine club subscriptions offer a great opportunity to make serious money.

Be an affiliate: No experience or expertise required. 

Looking for honest, non-affiliated reviews? Go to www.robywine.com