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

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 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.

Best Deal on a 2015 St. Emilion

Based upon today’s prices, St. Emilion appears to be the hot region for 2015 Bordeaux. The so-called second tier wines being offered on a pre arrival basis are well over $50, averaging closer to $70.

So, here is today’s recommendation for a steal of a deal:

2015 Chateau Haut Brisson St. Emilion Grand Cru, $28.99 offered by

www.winelibrary.com

Brisson, a real chateau with a long but uneven history, is making a strong comeback under its present owner.

The reviewers are talking this one up and throwing high scores around, so better act fast.

Looking for a talking point, I enjoyed this odd comment from a report published by James Suckling:

“The sign of a great vintage in Bordeaux is when even bad producers make excellent wines,” quips Alain Vautier, the owner of St.-Emilion’s great Château Ausone.”

Suckling adds, “But it’s no joke. They are so many excellent wines in 2015, from the top classified growths to simple bottlings.”

 

 

February is Best Buy Bordeaux Month

merlotgrapes
Merlot in St. Emilion, 2015

The floodgates are beginning to open for terrific deals, even genuine bargains for 2015 red Bordeaux and a few remaining 2014s.

And we at www.bestonlinewineshopping.com will be alerting you to those unbeatable deals throughout the month. And providing insider buying tips.

So you can be amused by those stories about $500-$1,000 bottles of Bordeaux. And you can pass on the chance to buy “Futures” of 2015 and take delivery (if you are lucky) several months from now.

Time for a reality check and be prepared to ignore online retailers hyping offers of big named châteaux. Unless you want to pay $500 or more for a bottle of Cheval Blanc, or Margaux, or Lafite.

If you are not truly a compulsive collector which we respect or a totally insecure name-dropper, there is no reason to shell out big bucks for 2015 Bordeaux.

To us, “Bargain” does not mean cheap or lower quality. Or lowering your standards. It means high quality wines at honest, down to earth prices.

Though it is just beginning, we have already seen excellent deals of quality Bordeaux under $25 a bottle. And super, age-worthy wines below $50.

Not just attractively priced ordinary stuff, but 2015s that are authentic and capture that special quality that defines Bordeaux.

The following websites are the early pace-setters:

www.cinderellawine.com

www.wineaccess.com

www.garigistewine.com

www.invino.com

www.wtso.com

www.wineexpress.com

www.wine.com

www.vivino.com

Naked Truth About Nakedwines

NakedWines may well be the biggest, most successful wine club. But it is also not your typical wine club.

Some might find it a little weird.

Founded by British entrepreneur Rowan Gormley in December 2008, Naked Wines “operates as a crowdfunded business that has grown to over 300,000 subscribers.These subscribers, known as ‘angels,’ help fund more than 130 independent winemakers across 14 countries in exchange for access to exclusive wines at reduced prices.”

It was purchased in 2015 by Majestic Wines, the mega UK superstore. Majestic Wine trades from more than 200 outlets with 640,000 active customers. The firms said the combination would give Naked Wines access to a nationwide store network in the UK to allow a click-and-collect delivery option for its customers.

Founder Roman Gormley is no newcomer to online sales and wine clubs. He was a force behind Virgin Wines which was part of Virgin Air. He was pushed out at some point by the UK-based Laithwaite’s wine company.

Dont know any of the details, but it is interesting to note that the Laithwaite family now operates a major online wine retail site and wine club in the US and Australia.

nakedwines.com  has an office and warehouse in southern Napa and operates in both the UK and Australia.

But let’s Enjoy a WTF pause here.

How does crowdfunding work, you ask? Well, each month subscribers deposit $40 into their account and they can apply funds from that account to purchase wines. Before you say, “This is stupid,” read on because there are a few steps along the way.

The first step is to sign up for the introductory 6-wine pack which costs $59.99 and includes shipping. You can look over a large list made up of specific winemakers around the world. Often, each will offer two or more wines.

These are many established winemakers such as Daryl Groom, the Aussie, who came to turn Geyser Peak around years back. Rick Boyer, Ken Deis, Ernie Weir, Jonathan Maltus are other names very familiar to me.

Next, after your wines arrive, you rate them with tasting notes and that puts you on…a waiting list.

Not to worry, I was on a waiting list.

Amazingly, my prayers were soon answered and my name moved up that list rather quickly. Guess there’s plenty of room in angel land

Winging It

But, I was only an angel for a few days. Though I was de-winged, over the next few weeks I somehow managed to purchase a case for $60 bucks. It was part of a holiday introductory deal.

So along with 6 other wines I obtained earlier, my experience with nakedwines is 18 different wines. I tasted wines from South Africa, Australia, France, Spain, Chile, Argentina and California.

My Assessment:

All wines were sound, without defects, and most offer adequate varietal and/or regional character. This is not a snobby comment because, as you’ll read later, the imported wines travel long distances before being bottled.

The red wines emphasize fruitiness and show little or no oak influence. They lack complexity and should be consumed young. Only the Chilean Cabernet displayed youthful tannic edges.

The 2 CA Chardonnays tended to be buttery with oak notes. Ordinary.

Wines I’d like to try again include the Spanish Tempranillo, South African Sauvignon Blanc (Carmen Stevens), Minervois (Darnault),  Eponina Brut, and the Torrontes from Argentina.

Wines that I’d like to try from their stocks: 2014 Le Lastau St. Emilion, the 2015 Michaud Merlot from Columbia Valley, and Ken Deis Napa Cabernet.

Other Things to Know

Nakedwines positions itself as a company that supports artisan winemakers. Big plus there. Not sure how it works.

Nakedwines says it offers members the lowest possible prices by eliminating the middleman. But since 99% of its wines are sold to members, sorry to angels, the non-member prices are arbitrary.

Nakedwines encourages interaction between angels and the winemakers. There is lots of activity on the website to verify this. No way to verify if the responses from winemakers are actually written by them or by another hired angel.

Members’ prices range from $9.99 to $29.99 a bottle.

There are about 150 wines available at any one time.

Members, angels, rate the wines they have bought, and group scores are posted.

Nakedwines has the option of substituting wines ordered with similar wines.

Nakedwines gives a free bottle for every case ordered.

Delivery is included in orders over $100. $9.99 for others.

Delivery was on time and the wines were shipped in a holiday themed box.

Nakedwines regularly offers $100 vouchers and coupons for the introductory case offer.

But here’s something BIG you need to know.

Nakedwines in the USA bottles its imported wines at several facilities in California. Yes, wines from Chile, South Africa, France and elsewhere are literally shipped to CA in containers. Then they are trucked to and bottled in places like Healdsburg and Kenwood in Sonoma and Acampo, Lodi’s neighbor.

This is one way to “keep prices down by saving on shipping,” explained a rep.

And it is not unique. Gallo imports New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and bottles the wine in Sonoma County. Smoking Loon bottles a Chilean Cabernet in Lodi.

However, it does raise all kinds of flags relating to quality control, authenticity, and methods used to protect the wines during shipping and trucking.

 Finally Should You Go Naked?

Ultimately, it comes down to value. Since most wines are in the $9.99-$29.99 range, are they better values offered than what is widely available elsewhere?

Of the 18 I tasted,  only 2 wines appealed to me as reasonably good deals: the Tempranillo and the Eponina Brut

But there are many others I am curious about,

Just not enough to join the club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Top 10 Online Wine Clubs of 2018: The Countdown Begins

Well, this past weekend we eliminated a few more teams competing for the Super Bowl of online wine clubs.

2017 was a crazy year for many reasons.

However, we at www.bestonlinewineshopping.com stayed the course and have been faithfully following 36 candidates, each claiming to have the best hand curated deals for members, exclusive offerings of super values, rare wines and great vintages and the next cult wine.

Or all of the above. Along with free corkscrews, aprons, and super-duper introductory offers.

As the suspense builds toward our final field of 10, let’s begin the year with some necessary house cleaning. Time to remove web retailers who played like the Cleveland Browns this year.

So, to mix metaphors, let’s begin by throwing the following wine clubs off the island:

www.wineinsiders.com  A no-brainer here because the prices are simply ludicrous, unless you think $29.99 for a Gascogne white or $39.99 for a common Bordeaux Superieur are awesome deals. Neither coupons or Groupon offers with a 15 bottle introductory cases can save this one.

www.marthastewartwine.com   Yes, we are throwing Martha, our much-beloved entertainment expert, to the sideline. To be frank, there is no evidence her good taste is invoked here. The wines selected are common and appear on several other sites. And there are a number of over-priced private label wines  with cute names. This is a sad case of a celebrity branding a wine club and then allowing others to take over and opt for ordinary, over-priced wine.  No way Martha could have chosen or hand curated such mediocre wines. Sad, but a fail.

www.vinesse.com.  Has been around for 20 years, but has failed to keep pace. No discounts on the few, real wines offered. Sad CA selection (3 Zins, 0 Sauvignon Blanc) and no wines rated over 90 by anybody. Something named Plank Walker is your top Napa Cab? Really? Prices start at $19.99 a bottle. Gone!

While we are at it:

Almost all airline wine clubs. The United Airlines wine club uses vinesse for its member wine deals. So does Alaskan Airlines. Unless you are totally desperate for miles and mediocre wines, forget these clubs.

http://www.virginwines.com  is not as bad as the others, but still doesn’t soar high enough to make our final cut.

www.wsjwines.com  This site once offered members well-chosen wines. But now the Wall Street Journal seems to have outsourced the wine selection process to another website and the wines are quite unexciting. Best advice is to sign up for the 15 bottle introductory offer for $69.59. Then cancel the minute the box arrives.

And before we close, we have also dismissed as losers the wine clubs from wine of the month club, national geographic, AARP, Walmart, Hound & Hare, and my local pet store.

Finding the Right Wine Club

If Quality, Variety and A Proven Track Record are Your Thing…

Navarro Vineyard’s “Pre Release Tasting Program” is highly recommended.

Overall Rating 4.75 stars.

Rated 5 out of 5 in 4 of 5 main categories

Background

Navarro could well be the granddaddy of all wine clubs. Still family owned and operated by Deborah Cahn and Ted Bennett, Navarro has been selling direct through its mailing list since 1974.

Over such a long run, the winery fine tuned the wine club program and in many ways wrote the book on how to make it work.

And, most important, these guys how to keep members’ loyalty over the years.

Almost all wines are sold direct from the winery, and with rare exception, they are not sold in wine stores. So the exclusive angle is strong.

Quick View:

First, the staff, many of whom have been there for many years, is extremely knowledgeable and attentive. They have first hand information about the winemaking and get involved in the evaluation and marketing of all wines.

Members are offered all wines before non members can buy them. This is a big plus.

Normally wines are pre-released in the Spring and in the Fall. Members are notified about new wines by mail or email, and either way, the information is cleverly presented in a personal, no baloney prose style.

Memberships remain active by purchasing a case a year. The choice is yours, but the winery also offers special case samplers around a theme like “Springtime Whites” or “Hearty Reds.” Typically, six different case samplers are offered.

The Wines

Without question, the wines are of high quality as evidenced by the inordinate numbers of medals won each year. I’ve judged their wines on several occasions and they almost always steal the show.

The flagship wine is the high end Pinot Noir, “Methode a l’Ancienne.” closely followed by the Barrel Fermented Chardonnay.

But if you have never liked a Gewurztraminer or a dry Riesling, you owe it to yourself to try Navarro’s, each  the best of the breed. My favorite is the Sauvignon Blanc.

But there are wide choices for members as the winery normally bottles 20 or so wines per year. There are 3 different Chardonnays and 3 Pinot Noirs as a rule.

And there is always something new going on…a new varietal to the roster, a new vineyard source, or a new technique.

Some wines are offered in half bottles and a few magnums are available.

Prices: range from $16 to $50 a bottle. There normally are 3 or 4 wines priced below $20 a bottle.

Discounts range from 20% to 25% for members

Twice a year timed with the Pre-Release events, the winery offers 1 cent shipping on each full case.

Special Events and Member Perks

Located in the remote town of Philo, the winery makes its facility open to members. Two Pre-Release events are held each year.

The picnic area is tranquil and lovely.  Non alcoholic grape juice is available for kids to sample.

The family also owns the successful Pennyroyal cheese company, so often a selection of cheeses is available.

Insider Tips

Best deal:

Pinot Blanc, new to the roster and far better than any Chardonnay below $20. A super everyday white!

The Anderson Valley Pinot Noir at $22 a bottle is a fantastic red wine deal.

When to buy. Wait for the window of one cent shipping and stock up.

When not to visit. Late afternoon on any Friday when tourists heading to the Mendocino Coast clog the tasting room and slam down the samples.

The Basics:

The Happy Family Ted Bennett and Deborah Cahn

Aaron and Sarah Cahn Bennett

Address: 5601 CA-128, Philo, CA 95466, USA

Hours: · 8AM–6PM

www.NavarroWine.com

Phone: +1 800-537-9463

 

Looking for A Special Wine Club?

How About A Hidden Gem in the Silicon Valley?

Here it is: Sarah’s Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountain 

http://www.sarahsVineyard.com     

Located at 4005 Hecker Pass Highway, West of Gilroy

Quick View:

Sarah’s Vineyard is strong on small-batch Pinot Noir, Estate Chardonnay, and several Estate Rhone wines. A true artisan winery.

Pinot Noirs from 5-6 appellations….will please any Pinot fanatic

Cozy and friendly, very modest facility with tons of country charm.

Members receive 3 wines 4 times a year and can select the type: red, white or mixed.

Prices are relatively modest, ranging from $20 for a few white wines to $48 for the top of the line Pinots.

Members receive a 25% discount on shipped wines; 20% off all other wines.

Wine tastings for members and your guests are comped.

Wonderful offering of tasting room exclusives….small batch wines.

Wine country feel as visitors pass through the small 28-acre estate vineyard as they meander up to the tasting center.

Background:

Marilyn Otterman purchased 10 acres in south Santa Clara County’s Hecker Pass area in 1977. She began the vineyard with an initial planting of seven acres of Chardonnay which she named “Sarah.” The winery itself was founded 1978.

She had a magic touch and quickly made the winery known for ultra-rich Chardonnays. They defined the term “blockbuster.”

The label design was beautiful, way ahead of its time. She priced her wines on a par with the Napa folks.

A few years later, the winery expanded into Pinot Noir from its estate vineyard.

It now makes a Pinot from the famous Chalone appellation and Santa Lucia Highlands.

It now offers five very distinct Pinot Noirs, all exemplary of the place.

In 2001, current proprietor Tim Slater, a Silicon Valley veteran, added

Rhone varieties and blended wines to the mix. Both the Roussanne and Grenache Blanc are  beautifully balanced and delicious

And over the next several years he began fine-tuning the Pinot Noirs.

Overall quality is very high.  The Pinots also represent superb value.

Slater is a music fan, so several musical events are held per year.

Tasting Room Exclusives:

Highly enjoyable Roussanne, Grenache Blanc and Syrah top the exclusive items along with an Old Vine Zinfandel and powerful Cabernet from the historic Santa Clara Valley.

Relaxed tasting room atmosphere. Friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Good-sized pour with the daily flight of 5 wines.

Our Scorecard: 4.5 stars

  • High marks for wine quality and exclusive offerings
  • Excellent score on tasting room, special events
  • Basic Prices are reasonable but discounts are average.
  • One downside may be the tasting room which is, well, plain and lacks sizzle and off the beaten path.
  • But the views offset the tasting room building

 

Class Acts in the Wine World

I just discovered this super online offer:

October is Adopt a Dog Month, and we are celebrating with MIXED BREED, a delicious red blend handcrafted specifically to help shelter dogs and cats.  With every sip of this rich Sierra Foothills red from C.G. Di Arie Winery, you can take pride knowing that $6 of your MIXED BREED purchase price will be donated to help fund a shelter for homeless, lost or abused pets, low-cost spay/neuter services, humane investigations and increased public awareness.

But it is not just a wine for a great cause, it is great wine!  The C.G. Di Arie 2014 “Mixed Breed” is a blend of 45% Zinfandel, 31.5% Syrah, 13.5% Petite Sirah and 10% Cabernet Franc. Every component has been individually crafted and aged in French oak barrels for 2 years. The wine has a ruby color with strong blackberry aromas which carry to the palate adding hints of chocolate and spice. The finish is long with a firm but delightful grip of tannins. We are offering it for $19. See the wine. 

C.G. Di Arie Winery works to support regional animal welfare organizations in the area this wine is sold. The winery will be donating $3 for every bottle of Mixed Breed sold through The California Wine Club to the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center (SPARC). Sparc’s mission, in addition to helping critters, is to develop a template for “No Kill” animal shelters that can be used in any municipality.

The California Wine Club will be matching their donation with our own $3 per bottle sold donation, for a total of $6 per bottle going to this worthy rescue center.

“Enjoying a world class wine while helping animals in need,” says Proprietor/Winemaker Chaim Gur-Arieh “is a win-win!”