Best Wine Sites On Cyber Monday

As the dust settles on Cyber Monday, only 4 wine websites showed any real effort to compete for our attention. The others seem to sleepwalk through the 4-day weekend, offering a super deal or unusual wine among a long list of the usual suspects sold online year-round.

There was one clear-cut winner offering 10 exciting values: www.wineaccess.com, while the three other active sites hung in there with solid efforts.

See my picks and more details at http://www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

Top Ten Values from wineaccess.com:

2014 Three Wine Company, Zinfandel, Contra Costa $23

2013 Bouchaine Pinot Noir Carneros $20

2015 M. Sarrazin Bourgogne Rouge, Vieilles Vignes $24

2015 Akarua Rua Pinot Noir, Central Otago $21.99

2015 Domaine de la Colline, Vacqueyras, $24.99

2015 Albert Bichot Vire Clesse $19.00-30

2016 Lioco Chardonnay, Sonoma County $22

2015 Domaine Roger Sancerre, $20

2015 Richmond Plains Sauvignon Blanc, Nelson, NZ $17

2015 Silkman Semillon Hunter Valley $22

Discounts were as high as 60% on several wines with free shipping. There were other added incentives for bigger orders.

This site is now well-balanced and includes many of the big names for the big spenders such as: Caymus, Amuse Bouche, Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne, Laurent Perrier Rose, Lagier Meredith Syrah, Duckhorn Three Palms Merlot, Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet

www.wine.com was active all weekend and wrapped it up with 1 cent shipping on orders of $29 or more on Monday.

www.invino.com continues to impress as it picks up new wines from around the wine world. I liked the rarely seen Meyer Family Anderson Valley Chardonnay at $19.99, and all Foppiano wines, especially the 2014 Estate Zinfandel at $15.99.

www.cinderellawine.com kept coming up with intriguing deals over the weekend.The most amazing was the 2015 Chateau Saint Roch Chimeres, Cotes du Roussillon, $13.99 and free shipping on 6 bottles. In the Roussillon, Minervois regions, 2015 is an excellent vintage and this is one major league deal!

The other sites I monitor kept a low profile and seemed to have decided to lay low and let Amazon enjoy the spotlight.

Power to the (Wine) People!

 

Or, what Happens when 26 Million People Vote for Best Wines

Vivino just published its 2018 Wine Style Awards which it describes as  “the only awards within the industry wholly decided by the public.”

Here is how it works: “Over 26 million wine lovers from around the world have chosen the 1,490 winning wines, that span 149 wine style categories, by rating them on Vivino over the past 12 months.”

The full winners can be viewed at  www.vivino.com/awards.

Vivino founder and CEO, Heini Zachariassen, commented:

“The Vivino Wine Style Awards showcase the democratization of the wine world, by putting the power into the people’s hands.”

“Through our 26-million strong community, we’re not only able to deduce which are the best wines in the world, but also a host of other interesting wine trends…”

If you don’t know  much about vivino, see my review at www.bestonlinewineshopping.com   which is generally favorable.

Vivino is certainly one of the most dynamic online wine sites. 

A few business articles have suggested it is trying to become the Amazon of the wine world. No harm in trying.

But let’s try to figure out what this list is and whether it has any real value to consumers or the wine trade. Is this a list of “the best wines in the world” or simply the “most popular” to vivino’s subscribers? Or are they one and the same?

Having read through all 1,490 wines listed, I came away thinking it is primarily a re-listing of the most famous, most expensive wines in the world.

With few exceptions. This is especially true of all French and most Italian and Spanish categories. But also of California. And Argentina led by high-end wineries such as Via Cobos and Catena.

I was hoping for some exciting trends to emerge, breakaway producers, dozens of new wineries pushing the old guard aside. But this was not the case. Instead you get all the oldies from Antinori to Petrus to Chateau d’ YQuem with only minor shuffling within categories.

I’m not opposed to ratings from the wine community, consisting of people with widely different levels of expertise. I’m supportive of anything that might be more useful than the 100 point system.

Posting notes and comments empowers some people and makes wine tasting fun. It also forces them to focus on the wine and to develop a vocabulary to support their opinions.

Best of all, it frees wine lovers from relying on ratings from any and all professional critics.

So why didn’t this concept of “putting the power into the people’s hands” yield some amazing newsworthy or at least some totally new stuff?

Too many categories? Too many reviewers? Something clearly did not click when the top White Rioja is one from 1986 priced at $899.99 and when the best Amarone will cost you $546 a pop.  

And for one more example: the best northern Italian white is the 2011 Gaja Chardonnay at $241 a bottle!

Maybe the answer lies buried in the French Burgundy categories. One has to wonder did 194 Vivino members taste and review the 2006 DRC “La Tache?

And did 127 taste the 2012 La Romanee which retails for $14,962?
So how does any of this high priced stuff, to quote from the press release “help producers better understand consumer behavior and demand”? 

The news release mentions the inclusion of Tannat from Uruguay and the growing interest in Cremant as a sparkling choice. Both wines consumers should know better.

The ten best New Zealand Pinot Noir list is excellent with several newcomers to join oldtimerFelton Road. Also found some excitement in the Chilean Malbec list and in the Spanish Syrah list.

In the various California categories, it was newsworthy to see such solid names as Frank Family, Rombauer, and Cakebread continue to be recognized.

And, yes there were a few new names such as Garguilo for its Cabernets, Robert Lloyd for Chardonnay and Arkenstone for Sauvignon Blanc. They google very well.

So what is the takeaway after studying this list of “The Year’s Best wines chosen by 26 million people?

One idea that keeps coming back is that since one assumes these amateurs actually bought the wines with their own money, 

It is normal to want to love the most expensive wine. Especially if you bought it.

Who wants to  shell to out $795 for the Harlan Estate or $1,4962 for the DRC only to admit to friends and family that the wine really wasn’t that great?  And then rate them both 3 out of 5.

Not gonna happen!

Nor am I going to slip in a comment about the occasional failure of the democratic process to come up with the best.

It is an imperfect system.

Awesome Wines Under $15

The Wine Enthusiast magazine just released its Top 100 Wines under $15, and I found the list absolutely fascinating.

To its credit, the web page identifies those wines listed that are also sponsors, as in paid advertisers. So all is above board.

But can you trust the people behind the reviews?  

Well, I happen to know several of them quite well. Two in particular are excellent tasters who cannot be compromised: Roger Voss and Jim Gordon.

The wines from Oregon and Washington State mentioned in this list are also chosen by another highly regarded critic.

Voss is the magazine’s expert reviewer of French wines from Bordeaux, Loire Valley, the Southwest as well as the best reviewer of wines from Portugal.

Gordon is the West Coast reviewer who can be trusted for his ratings of wines from Mendocino, Sonoma, and Napa.

Back to the Top 100

The #1 wine was made by Columbia Crest.  No big surprise there.

Its Cabernet, Merlot and Chardonnay make most top values lists.

But the top ranked wine turned out to be the winery’s 2015 Grand Estate Syrah at $12 which is also one of my discoveries.

Sad. Now, everyone will know and it will disappear quickly.

Bargain hunters can check out the entire list at

http://e.winemag.com/219S-154XX-706QMTTT8B/cr.aspx

To me, the following wines are the Other Awesome Deals under $15:

2014 Bogle “Essential Red,” Old Vine, Clarksburg (often sold under $10)

2016 Gnarly Head  Zinfandel, Lodi

2016 San Pedro Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Chile

2015 Mas des Bressades  Cuvée Tradition Syrah-Grenache (Costières de Nîmes)

2016 Cline Cellars Viognier, North Coast

2015 Château le Payral, Bergerac Rouge

2016 Foris Dry Gewürztraminer Rogue Valley

2014 Hogue Red Columbia Valley

2015 Wines & Winemakers Lua Cheia em Vinhas Velhas Red Douro

2016 Dry Creek Vineyards, Dry Chenin Blanc (Clarksburg)

2016 Domaine des Carteresses, Tavel (a Rose)

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!”

Hangin’ in Monterey Bay

 

Monterey Bay in late September!

Majestic yet small enough to walk around.

Touristy, but still relaxing because the feel is old California.

The restaurant scene is lively ranging from typical seafood menus to innovative bistros and friendly brew pubs.

You can start your day with excellent espresso or whatever at Cafe Trieste and the Paris Bakery.

Now for the real good news: wine lovers looking to enjoy fine wines and discover hidden gems will not go away disappointed.

We certainly were not.

You know you are in for a good wine experience when the top-ranked restaurant you booked, “Montrio,” is featuring a half-off bottle price that night. Excellent wine list.

Discovered a classy wine bar, “Sovino” near the wharf but away from the tee-shirt and chowder shops.

Great selection of wine by the glass, all at-half-price during Happy Hour. Also offers small plates ideal for tasting wines.

Enjoyed a glass, actually a seriously generous pour, of  ‘14 Flora Springs Napa Cabernet and also a big Napa Cab from newcomer Rama.  Both at $8 a glass.  

Sovino earns our highest rating:

Excellent selection from Monterey and other regions

Relaxed, cozy atmosphere

Knowledgeable owners who have fun, We were there on Trivia Night.

Sovino also offers sip and paint classes taught by local artists.

Next day on to another wine bar and bistro, “A Taste of Monterey.”

Close to the Aquarium, but a little hard to find.

But once you get there, what great views!

It features wines from 80 wineries, all from Monterey County. Most are small and many are new to the scene.  

So good place to discover new names as you taste flights of 5 wines by the glass.

But the great names of Monterey like Morgan, Bernardus, and Scheid are well-represented.

Marin’s Vineyard topped our list of discoveries with a delightful ‘14 Malbec and a serious, big-league Petit Verdot.

Travieso could become a name to watch for serious Syrah and

Boete for Cabernet from the Carmel Valley also impressive at $40 a bottle. Offered at $30 to wine club members.

Both Sovino and A Taste of Monterey, happy to note, are wine clubs as well as wine bars.

Check them out:

www.TasteMonterey.com

www.sovinowinebar,com

Wine Dancing Coyotes

Forget “Dances with Wolves” and “Dancing with the Stars,” wine lovers will be more impressed by a small winery I’ve recently discovered named Dancing Coyote.

Here are three reasons why:

  1. It is a real family winery focusing on great value, not on getting big scores for over-ripe, over-worked, and over-priced wines.
  2.  This winery is exploring non-mainstream wines such as Albarino, Gruner Veltliner, Verdelho, and one I bet nobody has ever heard of, Loureiro, It also makes a fabulous Tempranillo and Rose of Pinot Noir.
  3. And the quality is high with all wines showcasing the variety in a balanced, polished style. Even the Petite Sirah shows great restraint.

Dancing Coyote makes my new go-to summer white, the Albarino, from vineyards in the Delta region and its winery is based in Lodi.

Yes, you heard right.  Lodi, best known for full-throttle old vine Zins and massive Cabs and Petite Sirahs.

Albarino, the pride of Spain that does not get nearly as much attention in California as it deserves. Does anyone else make a Gruner Veltliner, the main white of Austria?

Dancing Coyote, the winery that dares to be different, is actually located in Acampo with its tasting room in nearby Lodi. It produces most of its wines from the McCormack family farmed vineyards In the Clarksburg-Delta wine region.

It also reaches out to locate Tempranillo grapes from Lodi. And the Dancing Coyote Tempranillo will have you dancing in the streets it is so right on the mark for varietal character. With no sign of oak barrels or oak chips to blur its focus.

The winery facility is known as McCormack Williamson Cellars and they do have a wine club for online sales.

And, did I mention the family produces wines in cans?

As for prices, all of these wines retail for less than $15. I’ve found the whites for as low as $7.99. But I refuse to identify that source because the summer has several more weeks to go.

But here’s the good news for those with no plans to visit Lodi soon: the winery has a wine club: www.dancingcoyotewines.com

I suggest the 4-bottle sample package for $45 for starters.

The back label explains the dancing coyote name.

Also, the wines are available at the independent online site:

www.cawineclub.com  So you can include a bottle or two in your cart if you shop there.

 

Summertime Sippers for the Serious & Semi-Serious Wine Crowd

The prolonged. blistering heat wave here in the Napa-Sonoma area pushed

 many of us into re-thinking about the best wine to beat the sizzling summer heat.

Anyone paying attention to trends would immediately suggest Rose wines since pink wines are being touted by everyone, everywhere,  Or so it seems.

Nest up on the trendy charts would likely be a craft brew, a tangy IPA comes to mind.

Though personally delighted to see the new excitement around Rose wines and a major fan of IPAs,  I’m looking at a long hot spell and the possibility of this being a recurring pattern (yes, I’m thinking climate change.). So, I’m interested in a long-term solution.

Besides, so far in my experience many Roses now playing to rave reviews are hardly cheap as in over $20  for a summer sipper and not always as dry as advertised.

The goal is a summer sipper. No need for a 94 point blockbuster Rose which, I believe, is an oxymoron. Whispering Angle may be a “hot” seller, but it is really not worth 20 bucks.

Honestly, you might be better off buying a cheap Pinot Noir, adding an ice-cube or two, and a twist of lemon for a more satisfying experience.

So, returning to white wines and to finally get to the main point: Sauvignon Blanc is the obvious choice. The best are fresh, zesty, medium-with (not syrupy or ponderous like typical Chardonnay), offer a range of tropical fruit and, the clincher, they can stand up to a big chilling.

Lately, I’ve enjoyed several fine Albarinos which are another good choice for many of the same reasons.

But what makes me stand behind Sauvignon as the ideal summer sipper is its availability and, best of all, so many outstanding examples are priced below $20.

If you are with me, the easiest online shopping if you don’t want to work up a sweat is to open www.wine.com where you will find hundreds of Sauvignons offered. In the under $20 category, it lists 463.

Many wines are discounted and wine.com always has some added incentives. Currently, first time buyers get $20 off an order of $100. Usually there’s a shipping deal on a case, sometimes on 6 bottles,

In my recent tasting experiences, In the under $20 bracket, Chile dominates with New Zealand a strong second.

Okay, sure, we should try to Buy American. But, frankly, the low-end Sauvignons from the likes of Murphy-Goode, Joel Gott, Dark Horse, Geyser Peak are disappointingly bland and zest-less.

There are many other bland brands without a soul.

For lively, zesty, true to type Sauvignons, check out those from Chile’s   cooler regions: Casablanca, Limari, and Leyda.

My personal favorite turns out to be one of the least expensive, 20 Santa Carolina Reserva which offers all of the fresh tropical fruit you’d expect in a fine wine with the bonus of rich, smooth texture and good acidity. Santa Rita offers several Sauvignons, and the cheapest, the “120” is hard to beat at $6.99.

Matetic is another Chilean winery with several fine Sauvignons well worth your attention. Look for the Matetic “Corralillo”  or the Leyda Valley Sauvignon

From New Zealand, you can’t go wrong with Sauvignons from Brancott, Villa Maria, Gissen and The Crossings.

Many of you might be wondering, “What about Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc?” Well, it is everywhere…in every supermarket, in every wine shop,mega-store, and in every corner liquor store.

No need to look for Kim online.

Here are my top -12 recommended Summer Sipping Sauvignon Blancs:

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Santa Carolina Reserva, Leyda Valley, Chile $9.99

2016 Matetic EQ Coastal, Chile  $16.99

2016 Santa Rita Reserva, Casablanca, Chile $9.99

2016 Vina Leyda Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley $16.99

2015 Gissen NZ Marlborough, $11.99

2014 Château La Verriere Blanc, Bordeaux $13.99

2016 Santa Rita, Reserva, Chile $9.99

2016 Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, $16.99

2016 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc $12.99

2015 Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc,  $13.99

2016 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $14.99

2016 La Playa Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Colchagua, Chile $7.99

All are available from www.wine.com and I have no relationship with this website.

Thank Your Mom for these Wines

Today’s outstanding online deal:

Two High-end Wines from a first-class winery, with free shipping from:
TESTAROSSA WINERY * 300A COLLEGE AVE, LOS GATOS, CA 95031

 408.354.6150 * www.testarossa.com

“This year, give the mothers in your life what they really want- a bottle of Testarossa’s award winning Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, like the
Wine Enthusiast Editor’s Choice 2015 Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay
or the 94 point 2014 La Rinconada Vineyard Pinot Noir!

We know it can be hard to live far from Mom on this special day, so we will include shipping with all orders placed before May 10th.

Just use code WELOVEMOM at checkout to save!”

 

Millennials, Malbecs, & Magical Moments

 

Millennials now represent a major force within the wine market that will increase in importance. And for that reason, they are being surveyed, prodded, and studied by every wine marketing geek and MBA grad.

Everyone agrees, millennials are definitely drinking more wine on a per capita basis than either the Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, and more females are making the wine buying choices.

Recently, two insightful online articles added a little more to the emerging profile. One was featured on Yahoo Finance, “Millennials Creating Wine Industry Change.” It verified that millennials represent 29% of wine drinkers but consume 34% of all wines. It made the point that the group also favors organically grown things, including wine.

Even Fox News got into the act with a lifestyle story, “Why millennials can’t get enough wine.”  Surprisingly,  it was a fairly coherent, albeit a cut-and-paste article, and ended with this quotation:

“Millennials are adventurous in their choices, too. They like to choose  lesser-known varietals from regions that are under the radar.They want to create their own cool,” said Marc Irving, the sommelier at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

So there is a rough sketch, a basic profile, emerging and these are the main attributes of Millennial Wine Buyers (MWB):

Confident and adventurous, willing to explore new types of wines

Impressed by brands with clever images but authenticity and organic practices are important

Not very interested in traditional wine types, the kind the Brits swoon over like Bordeaux, French Burgundy, Port, Sherry and others that come with vintage baggage.

Ratings from wine critics have little impact on buying decisions

Social gatherings like special events/ activities at wine clubs are a major part of the lifestyle, something to be shared

Wine is an event, an experience; collecting and cellaring pricey, famous wines for future drinking is, like, totally stupid

Buying wines online is a natural thing and a good reason to be constantly checking your messages. Even when on a date.

The same day those two articles appeared, several websites featured deals on Argentinian Malbecs, including two that rank among my current favorites. Here are the two beauties offered online at great prices that deliver the goods:

2015 Proemio Malbec, Argentina, $10.99 and free shipping on 6

At http://www.cinderellawine.com

2015 Amalaya Malbec, Argentina, Salta region, $13.99 @ http://www.wine.com

These two are stunning values that outscored my benchmark Malbec, Norton Reserve.

The Amalaya with a dollop of Tannat and Syrah is as bold and lively as its colorful label. Delivers big-time flavors from start to finish.

Over the last few years,  Malbec has become my go-to red wine by the glass because it is so versatile and well-priced.

And when talking about Malbec in these terms, the automatic assumption is that it is from Argentina. I have tasted wines from Cahors and Malbecs from Chile and Washington only to conclude Malbec is synonymous with Argentina.

But to return to the subject of millennials and wine, Malbec seems to be the perfect fit. It is a lesser known wine flying under the radar from a fascinating region, and with so many versions being featured by the online wine merchants, it is definitely up and coming and so much fun to explore.

Textbook Malbec is big, bold, dark, deep, dramatic and flashy.  It offers immediate pleasure from its lively aroma,  deep, delicious flavors, and great, round, satiny texture leading to a long aftertaste.

And, the clincher: Excellent Malbec need not be expensive. There are at least ten now available online for way under $20 a bottle.

2015 Proemio Malbec, Argentina, $10.99 and free shipping on 6

At http://www.cinderellawine.com

2015 Amalaya Malbec, Argentina, Salta region, $13.99 @ http://www.wine.com

2014 Fabre Montmayou, Malbec Reserva, Mendoza, $14.50

2015 Norton Reserva, $15.99

2015 Zuccardi Series A Malbec, $15.99

2015 Bodega Viamonte Malbec, Lujan de Cuyo, $15.99

2015 Recuerdo Malbec, $16.99

2014 Kaiken Ultra, $17.99

2014 Ben Marco Malbec $17.99

2015 Susana Balbo Malbec, $19.99

Absolutely, The Best Under $15 White Wine Today

The quest to discover the greatest value and top all-purpose white came to a surprising end this week.  

No, it is neither a slick Chardonnay or fruity Pinot Gris nor is it among my long-time go-to whites, Sauvignon Blanc and Grenache Blanc.

It is made from the most underrated, overlooked variety and by a winery with an amazingly consistent track record.

The wine: 2016 Chenin Blanc,  Dry Creek Vineyards

No, this is not an April Fool’s Joke.

It is the most versatile, most subtle, most intricate, most complex and most complete white wine under $15.

It is the complete package:

Authentic with real history

True to type

Subtle in its aromatics, multi-leveled in flavors

Complex but without heavy oak; lingering, vibrant palate-cleansing finish

Shows old vine character with its lush texture

With genuine minerality

Online deals from $8.95 at www.empirewine.com and $13.99 before discounts & with special shipping options at www.wine.com