Today’s Best Online Wine Deal

 

Wine Buy of the Day: Sheltered In, Day #2

offered by    http://www.garagistewine.com

2017 Matthews Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $19.94

Perfect example of high-quality Columbia Valley Cabernet and why this region is one of Washington’s best.  Winery bottle price is $34.

 

More About this Site

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 was way ahead of the competition by offering Wind Gap wines months before the others.

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

Here’s what he says about this  Matthews’s wine: ”This is a coddled, “handmade” wine that deserves to be tasted and enjoyed. It’s on the same level (easily) as $50-75+ Napa/Sonoma bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon with a drive, energy and intensity (plus a downright regal stature) reserved for upper-tier examples. In other words, this is not some $19+ plonk, this is serious wine.”

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 these 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 or Parker types

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.

And 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.”

Check out garagistewine.com for this Cabernet and look for Loire wines.

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

 

Classic Wines for Winter Solstice Celebrations

 

Coincidence maybe but three e-commerce wine sites I follow are offering classic wines. 

Good reason to celebrate changes and longer days.

By classic, I mean wines true to the type and region, and with some history. Not the over-blown bombastic style often referred to as “hedonistic” made by an unproven twit.

Classics, not wannabe cults.

Real wines, folks.

Like the www.sommselect.com offer of this one:

2017 School House Vineyards Syrah Blend, Spring Mountain, Napa $29.00

Now this is a coup! 

From one of Napa’s truly legendary vineyards. Owned by John Ganter. Google him.Read the story. It was made at Pride Mountain which knows how to make Syrah. 

I can’t believe this is offered anywhere, let alone online.

Next, www.napacabs.com scored big with two quite different classics:

2017 Castello di Volpaia Chianti Classsico $15.97

2017 Catena Malbec, Mendoza High Mountain Vineyards, $15.97

Hard to find a better example of classic, classico Chianti. Drink now or hold. Volpaia has been at it for 100 years or so.

Catena is “the” name in Argentinian Malbec, but in my humble opinion, Malbec has its limitations. It can be pushed into a hedonistic cookie cutter style, but then it doesn’t taste like Malbec.  

There is a reason why Malbec is the 4th variety in Bordeaux: the other three are more essential and capable of more complexity.

But Malbec can be a perfect, widely appealing, easy drinking red.

This Catena is a pure expression of Malbec. 

And not to be left out:

The fun guys at http://www.lastbottlewines.com found this gem:

2016 Bien Nacido Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, $49.00

Bien Nacido was at the forefront of the Pinot revolution thanks to Sideways. And it remains one of the standards of Santa Maria/Santa Barbara Pinot Noir.

A classic!!

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

 

 

 

Biggest Wine Myths Found Online

MythBusters Takes on Web Wine Sellers

Rid yourself of these top 5 myths about wine and become a Savvy online wine shopper

1.A Gold (orwhatever) Medal Winning wine is Special 

Hard fact: It is not unusual for 75%-90% of wines entered into a competition to walk away with a medal. There are far too many wine competitions that are organized into for too many categories. Keep in mind that in general an Award Winning wine is most likely to be solid, of average quality. In other words, no big deal.

Barefoot wins tons of medals! Firstleaf.com relies heavily of medal winning promotions, but others are guilty.

2. Made by a “100 Point Winemaker”

Okay, at some point in his/her career, a wine made by the winemaker was rated 100 points, often referred to as “a perfect wine.”  The vineyard and the winery also deserve considerable credit, but rarely do. What’s misleading logic here is, for example, me saying I’m a perfect golfer because I onced scored a hole in one. Or you got 100% on your driving test, so you are a perfect driver ready for the Indy 500. www.vivino.com loves to undercover a wine made by a 100 point winemaker.

3. A Cult Wine, Cult Winery

Cult wine is now so overused that it basically indicates a high priced, often overpriced wine that some reviewers went ape over many years ago. If it also happens to be discounted heavily, it aint no cult. www.wineExpress.com overdoes this one.

4. From a Legendary Vintage, a Vintage of the Century

Now that some smart ass critics think rating vintages on a 100 point scale demonstrates their talent and superior knowledge, let’s take the wind out of this

quickly. In a given vintage, wines are made by humans, and some are better winemakers than others. Thus, quality varies from winery to winery in a given vintage. Also, the vintage usually stretches out over 8-10 weeks, so these overall ratings are unrelaible for all wines made in a given year.

Good wines have been made in poor vintages, and mediocre wines are made in vintages rated 95 to 100 points by some know-it-all. The vintage date has nothing to tell you about the quality of what’s inside the bottle. Used by too many sites to list the guilty.

5. Priced below retail, average retail, best web price or market price

This is tricky to explain. But as an example, nakedwines.com offers a Columbia Valley Cabernet for $12.99, well below the market price of $27.33. Such a deal, but the problem is this wine is an exclusive with this site, not sold anywhere else.

So the market price means little, being an estimate or a guess or a made up price. Discounts are unreliable when the wine is custom made, a special label, or an exclusive.

And this is true of so many wines offered by subscription box approaches.

 

 

 

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