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

 

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!

Introducing An Exciting New Wine Site

 

www.lastcase.com

This relatively new site appeared on my radar screen about 6 months ago. Turns out while also based in the town of Napa, it is unrelated to similar sounding sites, lastbottle.com and firstbottle.com.

I’ve been following it closely and it now deserves your attention.

Why I like  http://www.lastcase.com 

Professional and unpretentious format: no gimmicky taste profiles, no hype, no silly descriptions, no subscription box mentality.

Ratings are reliable: Chris Sawyer is a real sommelier with genuine credentials

Real wines from real wineries: No custom-made, private label rip-offs.

Serious searching is evident in the selection (curating) of many, small, hard to find wines: Good example is the “One” Cabernet Franc from Knight’s Valley, only 3 barrels made.

A few other points:

While the offerings are limited in number, the wines are not your usual suspects. In fact, some of my favorite CA brands are included such as Robert Craig, Madrigal, MacPhail, and Walt. Also, some wines from Biale, Clos du Val, Mira, and Miner Family have recently been highlighted.

Secondly, discounts are attractive, especially for the daily deals. You can pay close to full fare for the likes of Opus One and Jordan.

But most wines are discounted.

Thirdly, shipping costs are reasonable. Typically the fee is $6 for a flat shipping rate. Or, shipping is free on order of $120 or more.

Here are 4 stellar examples, all at 30%-50% below retail:

2016 Robert Hall Cabernet Sauvignon, Artisan Collection, Paso Robles,  $24.99

2016 Foris Winery Estate Pinot Noir, Rogue Valley, $13.99

2013 Madrigal Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $29.99

2017 MacPhail, Pinot Noir, “The Flyer,” Sonoma Coast, $34.95

 

Online Wine Shops: The Final Four

Final Four NCAA basketball, Spring Break, and Baseball is Back.

Add Easter weekend, Passover, and we have all kinds of reasons for special sales offers and deals.

We began the season at www.bestonlinewineshopping.com  by following 36 candidates, each claiming to have the best deals for members, exclusive offerings of super-duper values, rare wines and great vintages and, of course, the next cult wine.

But we are now down to the 4 teams that have been working the hardest to offer exceptional wines and/or exceptional deals.

www.invino.com

has played extremely well over the last two weeks.

It continues to find new ways to score, locating unusual wines such as the

Vaughn Duffy Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc.

Current exciting offers:

2013 d’Arenberg d’Arry’s Original

Grenache, Shiraz | Australia, $14.99

2017 Sancerre, Laporte, $27.00\

www.sommselect.com

Showing great depth with recent selections of a Hermitage, a Tollot-Beaut Savigny, and a Ribeiro Blanco from Galicia, a ballsy play. Also outstanding  Gigondas but the Bouzy Rouge was odd. Here are examples of an unusual find and a rare culty wine:

2017 Ribeiro Blanco, Galicia $22.00

2016 Coche-Dury’s Meursault “Les Chevalières, $75.00

www.napacabs.com

These folks have truly upped their game recently. A longshot a few months ago, this week it turned heads with several exciting wines. I liked the way it balanced big names and excellent discounts:

2015 Beaulieu Vineyard Private Reserve Cabernet, Napa Valley for $89.99 (regularly $149)

2010 La Colombina Brunello di Montalcino, $29.97

2013 Geyser Peak, Alexander Valley Reserve, $19.97 (60% off)

www.gargistewine.com

Made it into the final four for being so unpredictable but always managing to come up with a surprise play. An excellent Muscadet for under $10 or the 2016 Cos d’Estournel for under $200 may seem unlikely, but this site has them both. I am wildly impressed by the depth of the offerings from the Loire Valley.

Two versatile players:

2018 Bourgueil, Domaine Cotellergie, $16.76

2016 Scott Paul Pinot Noir, Chehelam Mts, $19.71

What about the pre-season favorites and especially www.vivino.com with its 35 millions fans?

That’s a story for another time. 

The Best Online Wine Shop?

So, I have to confess my picks for the Sweet 16 college teams did not fare well. Each one has, alas, gone home.

My game is online wine shopping, and here is my choice for one of the Final Four

http://www.garagistewine.com

garagistewine.com is the most peculiar online retailer I follow. One reason is that its founder Jon Rimmerman who has been offering wines for over 20 years often presents his daily offers late at night.  He is based in Washington State which may explain some things.

He sometimes seems a bit chatty and becomes so excited and enthusiastic that he might belabor a point about a particular wine or region.

He is also insistent about when he will ship your wines and specifies the required temperature and humidity for proper shipping.

But these minor quirks are greatly offset by the pluses.

  • He seeks out wines that are organic, biodynamic and farmed sustainably  
  • He favors small artisan producers and family owned wineries
  • He obtains many wines direct so truly cuts out the middleman
  • He doesn’t use inflated scores from Somms
  • His wines are attractively priced
  • And he is unpredictable, sometimes offering olive oil, nutella, or food items. All high quality.

I enjoy reading his detailed notes because he truly knows his stuff. His background insights about vintages and regions are extremely useful. He is particularly on top of the vintage variations in France’s Burgundy and the Rhone.

He provided a detailed report on 2016 and 2017 based on travels and tastings throughout France and it is spot on. His remarks about 2015 and 2016 Bordeaux are the most reliable in the wine trade.

His analysis of 2016 in Burgundy and of the 2017 Northern Rhone are some of the best I’ve read.

And to this fellow Loire Valley lover, he has the inside track on Loire Valley wines:

“2018 is one of those “pinch me, this can’t possibly be true?” red wine vintages in the Loire. I can’t really compare it to anything else – it has the ripeness of a vintage like 1989 but the freshness of 1996 (another classic year.”

He also looks closely for super wines from Washington, of course but also Oregon. A recent Washington Tempranillo was remarkable.

He often locates super wines under $15 a bottle.

Here are examples of recent offerings:

  • 2018 Bourgueil, Domaine Cotellergie, $16.76
  • 2016 Scott Paul Pinot Noir, Chehelam Mts, $19.71
  • 2014 Rioja Riserva, Burgo Viejo, $13.98
  • 2017 Sancerre, Dezat $19.99
  • 2016 Renvoise “Jasmieres,” dry Loire Valley Chenin Blanc $16.70
  • 2015 Domaine de Cambes, Bordeaux $33.71
  • 2016 Ribbonwood Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough $7.99

He recently offered a lovely Provence Rose for sale at $9.99.

He found “the best Bordeaux you’ve never heard of” from 2011.

He comes across as frank, as in these recent notes:

“This is fastidiously produced Chardonnay without a smidge of pretense but the stuffing and expression to, well, pummel just about any other example from outside the Burgundian reach under $30. In addition, the impact is from fruit, stone and clarity, not from alcohol, wood or from winemaker strategic manipulation/enhancement.”

Or

“If you think “bargain” wine is devoid of potential pleasure or cannot be in the league of top-drawer entrants, guess again. This wine can easily compete with Sauvignon Blanc at 2-3 times the $ and many of its competitors are not as delicious to drink.”

Sometimes to keep prices low, he suggests buying 6 or 12 bottles or more which may seem like hype and hustle, but I think he is sincere and honest in his emphasis on offering value.

A maximum number of bottles a person may purchase is always listed, ranging from 6 to 60.

Pros:

Wildly eclectic selection not found elsewhere.

Excellent prices

Seeks out biodynamic and other green products.

Cons:

Complicated shipping procedures and delivery dates but only to assure wines arrive in fine condition.

Setting the Bar High for Wine Clubs

  • Yes, there is one wine club that is near perfect and it is the Silicon Valley’s best kept secret.

  • It is family-owned, and has been a successful winery since 1992.

  • The winery setting is fantastic and, for added points, it is Certified Sustainable.

  • And, for me, the clincher is the wide range of excellent wines, all nicely priced

Clos LaChance is the winery and is located in the Historic Santa Clara Valley

In addition to several visits, I was recently there for the membership pick-up and special tasting day.

Even on an overcast Sunday, the place was bustling, people were happy, and the live music only added to the atmosphere.

Typically three levels of membership are offered. But you can enjoy most of the perks in the basic Platinum Club, with 4 wines shipped 4 times a year and 25% discounts.

The setting, once you drive passed the long, unexciting entry road, is beautiful. Frequently, a site for weddings, it has super vineyard views with a golf course and mountains off in the background.  

It is the setting for a summer music series which I’ve attended and, along with the sold-out crowd, enjoyed the lively, fun-filled event.

But I’m a wine guy and here’s where Clos LaChance scores bigtime.

(All prices quoted are before member discounts.)

The 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon($25) and the 2015 Reserve Cabernet ($40) are richly flavored and are on a par with Napa’s at only half the price.

The 2016 Viognier Reserve ($20) and 2014 Syrah Reserve ($30) are excellent Rhone-types.

The 2016 Malbec Reserve and 2015 Cabernet Franc Reserve, both at $36 are stunning examples of  each varietal.

For casual entertaining and fun sipping wines, the Grenache Rose and Sauvignon Blanc are hard to beat.

I could go on about other wines, but by now the point has been made: if you are thinking about signing up for a highly-rated wine club, you should visit and check out Clos LaChance.

Clos LaChance

1 Hummingbird Lane

San Martin, CA 95046

(408) 686 1050

www.clos.com

Three Ways to Get Out of the Expensive Wine Rut

When Dealing With California Wine:

The first way is to remind yourself there are other wines besides Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel.

Second, slap yourself around a little and explore wines from places other than Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Barbara.

Third, follow me and explore special sales, clearance sales, whatever sales as soon as they come up online.

Today, www.wine.com  is pushing sales of 40% below average price. Long list, but, hold on, there are many very good wines at great prices.

Here are our 3 suggestions to get you thinking like a good wine shopper again.

2017 Jacuzzi Primitivo, Lake County, $16.99

2016 David Girard Grenache, El Dorado Sierra Foothills, $23.99

2014 Wrath, No Fault Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains $27.99

What is Primitivo, you might ask?  Well, that’s the name of a grape grown in Southern Italy that likely originated in today’s Croatia. It looks, smells, and tastes like Zinfandel, and sure enough Zinfandel was brought into California from Croatia.

Jacuzzi has worked with Primitivo from Lake County for over a decade. This 2017 is an excellent example.

Santa Cruz Mountains may be small and not often in recent wine news headlines, but its reputation for Cabernet Sauvignon was established years ago by Ridge Vineyards. This is also home to legendary Cabs from Kathryn Kennedy, Mount Eden, and Thomas Fogarty,  A recent vintage of tiny Ceritas Cabernet from Santa Cruz went off the charts.

The folks at Wrath heard about the tiny, family run No Fault vineyard and created this typical powerful Mountain style Cab. Enjoy this wine and make any jokes about the Grapes of Wrath that come to mind.

No stranger to Zinfandel and Syrah, El Dorado also grows some of the best, richest Grenache found anywhere. Some people may have heard of the exceptional Grenache made by Withers. This one from Girard is similar in style and a super value.

for more wines go to http://www.wine.com

for more buying tips: http://www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

Three suggestions: carpe diem

Best Black Friday Wine Deal

12 bottles, ready to drink wine for $99, shippng is free

Each pack contains 1 bottle of each of the following:

  • 2014 St Mary’s Bells And Whistles Red Field Blend 
  • 2017 Clark Estate Upper Awatere Sauvignon Blanc 
  • 2016 Marquis D’aqueria Tavel Rose
  • 2014 Westerly Chardonnay Santa Ynez 
  • LC Villa Prosecco Millesimato Extra Dry
  • 2017 Curtis Nova Pinot Grigio 
  • 2016 Mairena Cabernet Sauvignon 
  • 2012 Vinas Viejas De Paniza 
  • 2017 Chateau Bas Pierres Du Sud Coteaux D’aix En Provence Rose 
  • 2015 Herdade De Calda Porta Da Calada Tinto 
  • 2017 Riviera Terre Siciliane Pinot Grigio
  • 2017 Dandelion Wonderland Of The Eden Valley Riesling 
  • No dogs here! All good to excellent quality.
  • Versatile and great tour of the wine world.

Making Wine Tasting Great Again

 

Sensible and Informative

Just when I was about to give up the search for an online wine site that not only offers good wines at good prices but also serves as a vehicle for educating and teaching about wine, I found one.

The Weekly Tasting, a relatively new site related to WTSO.com,  is refreshingly sensible and informative. No membership requirements or hard sales tactics involved. No superficial program or pretend algorithm to create your tasting profile. Just two sommeliers working hard to select wines and to help you learn more about wine.

Such a change from the many sites that use sommeliers to shill for some overpriced wine by their rambling wine descriptions, overflowing with buzz words and baloney, to lead up to a rating of 95-100 points.

Each week, The Weekly Tasting usually offers 4 wines organized around a theme, and the packages are selected by two sommeliers, Elizabeth Schneider and Laura Maniec. Both are the real deal.

The themes are usually on a region or a varietal. As someone who has taught wine classes for many years, I can say It is not as easy as people think and so much comes down to selecting the best wines to illustrate the point or points you are trying to get across.

So, to get to my point, I find the wines selected for the different weekly tasting themes to be first-rate and reasonably priced. The package includes a video, tasting notes, wine pairing suggestions, all arranged in the box containing the bottles.

Let me cite a few examples to demonstrate why this is a vast improvement over the other so-called “curated” packages found elsewhere. The current weekly package focuses on Cru Beaujolais, a type that is probably not known to many, is not sexy or trendy, but might just appeal to red wine lovers looking for something different and delicious.

The current package is brilliant and performs a real service to those who truly want to learn about wine.  Here is it:

“Cru Beaujolais. Do not confuse the Cru of Beaujolais with Beaujolais Nouveau or even regular Beaujolais – these are serious wines. In fact, the region of Beaujolais has officially designated these villages as the best of the best. Many people compare Gamay, the grape in Beaujolais, to Pinot Noir in Burgundy. They have similar textures, but Gamay has softer acidity and is more plush on the palate. At this price point, I’d go so far as to say these four wines have more finesse and elegance than any Pinot Noir.” -Jennifer Simonetti-Bryan, MW

The price is $69.99 but with free shipping.

Then, I suspect many new wine drinkers buying Malbec by the boatload are curious about the difference between Malbecs from Argentina and France. So, here’s what is selected in another package:

What Elizabeth Schneider Has Picked For This Tasting

  • Domaine Des Bateliers Cahors 2009
  • Château Vieux Poirier Bordeaux 2014
  • Pascual Toso Reserva Malbec 2014
  • Famiglia Bianchi Malbec 2014

The price for this is $59.99, with free shipping.

Though everyone reading this is a wine expert, if you happen to know someone who would like a solid introduction to different wine varietals, consider this 6 bottle package:

See What Laura Maniec Has Picked For This Tasting

  • Seven Hills Oregon Pinot Gris 2015
  • Bernardus Monterey County Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015
  • Domaine Les Chenevieres Mâcon Villages Blanc Chardonnay 2015
  • Windmill Valley Vineyards Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
  • Metz Road Pinot Noir Mesa del Rio Monterey 2013
  • Château Tour du Moulin Les Terres Rouges Fronsac 2014

While unfamiliar with Windmill, I can understand how the other 5 are typical examples of the respective varietal.

Now don’t get me wrong; this is not master sommelier classwork. But the site and its packages are excellent starting points to wine education. The list of terms is solid as in the breakdown of the major wine varieties.

And yes, the point is to sell more wine.  Learning about the wine before you buy it is not a bad thing.