Two Great Wine Deals

Two Awesome Wine Deals for This Weekend

  1. Winelibrary.com just announced  that it will offer 150 wines from various regions as part of its July weekend sales.

Most of the wines will sell for 50% below suggested retail with free shipping for a case. Just remember that you need to use the code JULY2016 to get free shipping.

As an added incentive, you can mix and match wines to qualify for the free case shipping. That’s an attractive  alternative.

When thinking about case purchases, I looked for wines under $20 a bottle and came up with these five beauties.

2014 Lafage Cuvee Centenaire Blanc, $11.98, lovely, full-flavored white from southern France.

2014 Gabriel Meffre Cotes Du Rhone Saint Vincent, $12.01, from a reliable producer, and a real deal for a Rhone red.

2010 Olarra Laztana Rioja Reserva $12.44, This is a ready to enjoy classy Rioja from the fine 2010 vintage.

2012 Casey Flat Ranch Estate Red $19.99, An excellent combination of Cabernet, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and a dash of Viognier.

2013 Willowbrook Cellars Kastania Pinot Noir $19.99, This delivers pure Pinot flavors and soft,silky texture. Hard to find a better Pinot at this price.

2. As a big fan of Navarro Vineyards, I was thrilled to see this special July 4th offer in my mailbox. For some reason, wineries aren’t allowed to ship totally free, but every now and then a winery will go with the 1 cent per case shipping fee. That saves about $40.

Since the owners, Ted and Deborah, are better writers than I am, I’ll quote their offer below.

The Sauvignon Blanc is one of my all-time favorites and this  vintage is the finest to date.

I’d also go with the 2014 Pinot Noir at the enticing price of $16.50 a bottle. But the Pinot Grigio is a perfect summer sipper as is the Rose of Pinot Noir. Tough to decide, but what great choices!

Here’s the offer:

“The Fourth of July is just around the corner and Navarro has six Gold Medal winning new releases that will make your barbeque taste better than ever, especially since the One-Cent Ground Freight offer is still in effect. Here, in order of popularity, are our bestselling new releases:

2014 Pinot Noir, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $16.50

2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the case: $17.55

2014 Chardonnay, MendocinoBottle price by the full case: $16.50

2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Cuvée 128Bottle price by the case: $17.10

2014 Chardonnay, Première ReserveBottle price by the case: $24.30

2015 Pinot Grigio, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $12.42

2015 Edelzwicker, Anderson ValleyBottle price by the full case: $12.42

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, MendocinoBottle price by the case: $28.80

2014 Riesling, Deep End BlendBottle price by the case: $26.10
Can’t decide which wines to purchase; check out Navarro’s Summer Samplers with savings up to 25%! You can assort twelve bottles of these new releases or any other wines or juices, and qualify for Navarro’s One-Cent Ground Freight and discounted Air Freight. You can place your order online at www.NavarroWine.com

 

 

Wines for 4th of July Parties

With a week to go before the 4th of July holiday, the web wine retailers are already competing to light up the skies with special deals, massive discounts, blowout sales to end all blowouts, and free shipping incentives. You can be sure the wines chosen for your July 4th celebrations will be made by rockstar winemakers, from the greatest vintage since 1945, and have earned numerous 90+ point ratings.
Yes, there is a lot of hot air. For over a year I’ve been following two dozen leading web wine retailers, and if nothing else, I’ve learned how to cut through the hype, and silly descriptors, the aggressive sales pitches, and those numerical ratings to find the websites that have genuine deals and deliver on time.
If flash sales appeal to your independent side, my favorite is www.lastbottlewines. com which is headquartered in Napa.  Usually, offering only one wine daily, these guys have an unpredictable nature and they love holiday surprises. The discounts are usually deep, as in half-off, but to purchase wines, you have to act quickly. I recently missed out on a super Zinfandel from Lake County offered at $10 a bottle.  This is the go-to super source for Napa and Sonoma wines, especially Cabernet. Shipping is free for 4 bottles or more.
Another excellent website is www.cinderellawine.com which offers two daily deals and gives you a little more time to think things over. Though any connection between Cinderella and wine escapes me, this site has come on strong in recent months. Its best deals are wines from Italy, Spain and Australia. If you prefer Italian, this is the site for you. However, in mid-June it began offering unusual 2 and 3 bottle packages, but unlike others who offered “curated” wines, this site offers creative packages. As an example, a 2012 Chardonnay duo consisted of the Auntsfield Chard from New Zealand and a Franciscan Cuvee Sauvage Chard from Napa’s Carneros ($36.99 the pair). That’s an intriguing side by side comparison. Additionally, once a week its parent company, winelibrary.com, offers subscriber a special deal. These usually fall in the under $20 price point and are often good to excellent deals. Continue reading “Wines for 4th of July Parties”

Rating Wines by Points

Once upon a time in a kingdom far away, only Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate  and The Wine Spectator dueled over which one could score the most wines 90 points or more. Then along came Stephen Tanzer, The Wine Enthusiast and others  to jump on the 100 point scoring system with a steady barrage of 90 point scores in their publications.

Then,  things really began to get out of hand. Parker’s onetime protege, Galloni or Baloney or whatever, split off and now pumps out 90+ ratings on hundreds of wines.

Today, I can’t think of a qualified expert who does not rate wines by the 100 point system and now with the bloggers, everyone is an expert.

And as more and more sommeliers land a day job as consultants or advisors to online publications, well, the points just keep on coming at you.

You need  to understand  that this scoring system for wine as it has evolved is all about mutual promotion. By that I mean  every producer whose wine is rated 90 or above is likely to promote that wine and also mention that writer or publication or blogger.

That’s how Parker became so well-known early on and forced The Wine Spectator to start using the 100 point rating system to keep up.

For producers, the 90+point ratings only encourages them to increase prices at every opportunity. That is good for the producers; not so good for the consumer.

Even www.wineaccess which is no stranger to hype and self-promotion had this to say recently:

“But perhaps more than anything, what most has us reaching for the TUMS are the soaring prices of Napa Valley’s (admittedly herculean) 2013 Cabernet Sauvignons.

Wine Spectator primed the Napa Valley pump, calling 2013 “an ideal season.” Then Parker came on like gangbusters, posting a record 19 perfect 100-point ratings, before calling 2013 “the greatest vintage in 37 years.” Finally it was Galloni’s turn. Parker’s former protege has always been stingier than his counterparts, causing many to suggest that if you want to compare a Parker score to Galloni’s, it’s best to just “subtract two.” Galloni poured fuel on The Wine Advocate’s Napa Valley fire, publishing a record 46 reviews of 97 points or more.”

And this week, wine.com emailed everyone announcing that “New Big Scores have been Added.” The wine and/or price is now second in importance to the scores?

The whole system is indeed flaming out of control, rendering most point scores in the 90s, well, rather pointless, when it comes down to being useful information for wine consumers.

visit http://www.bestonlinewineshopping.com  for tips on how to game the system

 

 

Amazon’s Wine Dept

Chances are good if you own a smartphone, have a credit card, and are over the age of thirteen, you are familiar with Amazon. And if you are among those who once enjoyed hanging out at bookstores, you may still be a bit resentful, but for most people, Amazon is the Mother of all online sellers.

So you will not be shocked to hear that Amazon has a large wine department. Not the biggest, but close enough as the most recent listing of available wines exceeds 9,000.  Amazon is a little different from other online wine sellers and Amazon loves to assemble wine packs of 2, 4, or 6 bottles. And toss in a few 12 bottle packs as well. So that 9,000 wine items listed includes these packs.

To digress, it is fascinating to hear Amazon label this category “wine packs” whereas the other sites prefer to label a selection of two or more wines as something curated. And the curation, if that’s a word, is almost always performed by experts curators.  

But Amazon is not without shame as many wine packs are grouped by producer, by region or by theme, as in wines to give to pacify the “Mad Housewife” or some other equally silly theme. Then there are wines sporting  the “Fifty Shades of Grey” theme. That’s pushing it.

That said, now let’s get back to the details. About two-thirds of the wines on Amazon are US in origin, mostly California, but Washington State (1,500) is well-represented as in New York (550). These last two states have earned the recognition, so bravo Amazon.  French wines offered hover around 1,000, and Italy shows up with 485 offerings.

Maybe my expectations were too high, but after the first few hours of checking it out, I felt like I was browsing the wine section at Rite­Aid with so many Barefoot wines and others found in most supermarkets and drugstores with a wine dept.

Amazon invites advertising, and it would appear that many of those wine packs feature wines from their advertisers. No problem with that; it is good business to punch up its featured brands and partners.

When you begin hunting for deals and discounts, Amazon surprisingly is not exactly a savvy wine shopper’s paradise.  In fact, as is often pointed out in their customer’s reviews, quite a few of the wines can be bought at better prices at grocery stores like Safeway and at Costco and similar stores. Cupcake, Layer Cake, Pacific Rim, Smoking Loon, Pepperwood Grove and Barefoot….and many other brands owned by Gallo may be cheaper at Rite-Aid, Safeway and CVS. (Note to Amazon brass: you often get as many negative reviews from your wine customers as 4 stars.)

When it comes to basic discounts, again Amazon pushes its mixed packs, offering 20% off on most of them. All told, there are about 165 “Deals,” many of them packed. But I could not find much to get excited about under that category. Not totally discouraged, I then clicked on  the category of “1 cent shipping,” Eureka! The mother lode. The Mother’s mother lode. If you have some leisure time, you can browse through about a 161 pages with about 4,000 listings.

Better yet, save yourself the time: there’s not much there of interest save for a few French wines.

Best Tip: go to the 20% off list and look for those items that are also part of the 1 cent shipping for the best deals on Amazon.

For more of our review of Amazon, go to: http://www.bestonlinewineshopping.com/amazon

 

 

Best Online Wine Deals

Today’s Best Deals: 

 Best Online Price: The 2014 Caymus Cabernet, Napa, sells for $75 at the winery. Several sites have recently listed it, some over the winery’s price. The best price online today is $64.99 shared by www. ultimatewineshop.com and www. cinderellawine.com
Best Deal, red wine: 2012 Atalon, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. offered at $23 a bottle for orders of 6 or more or $21 for 12 bottles at www. wineaccess.com.. That’s 50% off retail for a full case. Atalon draws from some of the best Napa Vineyards owned by Jackson Family Wines.
Best Deal, bubbly: Bollinger Brut Champagne, Special Cuvee: $49.29 a bottle, 30% below full retail, at http://www.getwineonline.com
Best Deal, White Wine: If you love  fruit-filled, balanced Chardonnay, the 2013 Parducci Reserve, Mendocino, offered at $15.01, hits the bullseye at this price.Find it at http://www.wineshopper.com

Online Wine Websites by Category

Making Sense out of Wine Online Sellers: Step One

Because there is a confusing array of websites, each claiming to be the best, we have first of all divided the field into seven different types.

Secondly,  at our website: www.bestonlinewineshopping.com we provide an in-depth evaluation of the major sites within each category and offer our unbiased opinions on which ones are successful. And which ones are lagging behind or should be avoided.

The Seven Categories are:

Mega-Sites: One-stop shopping with around 10,000 wines listed. The average wine shop carries about 600 wines, btw. Marginal discounts, but numerous shipping options.

Flash Sales: Timed sales; heavy discounts. Some sites offer one wine daily, while others two or more. Whatever, there’s pressure to act before the deal disappears. Good shipping options on smaller orders of 4 or 6 bottles as well as case deals.

Hybrids: Combine store fronts & online sales. Kind of a safe haven. You can order online and then either have the wine shipped to you or pick the order up at one of the real stores. You gain a sense of security but the trade-off is price since discounts are rarely significant and shipping costs can add up.

Specialists: Limited focus on CA wines, Bordeaux, Champagne, etc. This is a big category, but generally each specialist is limited in the number of wines offered. There’s one that’s perfect if you prefer Oregon Pinot of Washington State Reds, and another for Loire Valley wines.

Sites for Collectors: Focus on Cult & Rare wines. We’re talking high-end, expensive; you need to do your homework if you want to play in this arena.

Winery Direct Sites: Wineries with special deals and no membership requirements. This is an exciting category that is sure to expand. Some offer special deals on holidays or will offer good stuff at a special price. A few will hold a special sale with a 1 cent shipping per case deal.

Sites for Clubs, Gifts & Samplers: Like personal shoppers.  Or, like highway robbers. Your pick! Several sites work hard to offer excellent membership deals or gift packs. Others want your money and will send you wines that aren’t worth half the price.

Vintage Guides, help or all hype?

If you research “vintage wine guides,” you’ll find a dozen or more available to download. There’s Robert Parker’s vintage chart for Bordeaux, another writer’s for Australia and The Wine Spectator’s and Wine Enthusiast’s all-encompassing guides, to cite just a few.

One can only assume they are so readily available because some, perhaps many, wine drinkers need something to assist them in their wine buying decisions and in deciding when to drink certain wines.

Although most vintage guides downplay themselves as mere generalizations about a region’s overall performance, they still suggest we need experts to advise us because wine is too complicated for mere mortals.

The Wine Spectator’s 2016 vintage chart unknowingly undermines that argument as it rates the last ten vintages from every wine region and only one is rated below 85 out of 100. And by the way, 85 is a “very good” vintage. So it’s all good, right?  Or, good enough.

Not quite. Hyping a vintage is one thing that several online wine merchants painfully overdo. One of the tricks is to trot out an average quality wine and then hype it by focusing on the vintage’s star quality as if that carries over into every wine made that year. It does not.

It is even more devious when the vintage rating is based on the 100-point system. The site will rave about the 95 points somebody gave the vintage and then imply the wine for sale falls within that score by some sort of magic.  It does not.

Critics who seem to enjoy ranting on about different vintages are living in the past holding to the flawed concept that ageability is the primary component of a great wine or vintage.

Now before you delete your favorite vintage chart or tear up the printed version you carry with you at all times, hold on. Some information about vintage conditions can be extremely useful when you shop around for wines.

The conditions that made the 2010 vintage in the Medoc, St. Emilion and Pomerol merit a 98 or 99 rating are weather-related. That means the rains came when needed, and the sun shone evenly most of the time and everything was hunky-dory during the harvest days. But those conditions were present everywhere in the Bordeaux region, not only over Chateau Lafite in Pauillac or Petrus in Pomerol.

Our conclusion: in highly rated vintages, look for great values and bargains from lesser known producers and from those regions that are close to the upscale neighborhood.

Flash Sale Sites

 Of the several active flash sales websites, I’ve found lastbottlewines to be rapidly improving in its wine selections and to be the most fun to follow on a daily basis. 

www.lastbottlewines.com

Rating: 41/2 stars

trending up

 

Based upon the flash sale model, http://www.lastbottlewines.com is headquartered in Napa Valley and has been gaining momentum and clients since its humble beginning in 2011. Its Three partners (Cory Wagner, Stefan Blicker and Brent Pierce) are young-ish with good connections in the wine world.

Each day, one wine is offered, and the site gives you 3 prices: the current retail price, best web price of the day, and their buy it now price. Discounts vary with each wine, but are usually deep.  If your order is too late, you get an empty wine case image with its not so subtle snooze you lose message.

Most of the wines are from California, but recently they have expanded their scope and are coming up with many wines from France and elsewhere.Two finds in April were great deals in Cotes du Rhone reds. Sometimes a magnum or double magnum of wine pops up. A double magnum of Grgich Hill Cab was the star of a Leap Year mini-marathon. That was preceded by an excellent Bordeaux from the Fronsac appellation and an exciting 2012 Spanish red from Elias Mora.

Earlier, Zinfandel lovers pounced upon an offering of 2011 Elyse, Napa Valley, Morisoli Vineyard for $16.00. The site  also recently featured a  2013 Luna Merlot for $13, a super Russian River Syrah, the 2011 Martinelli for $22, an Oregon Pinot Noir, the 2011 Et Fille, and somehow the guys wrangled some of Sterling Vineyards’ 50th Anniversary Red. And talk about creativity, they found the Rangeland “Mistletoe” Red, a blend of Paso Robles Cab and Syrah,  to offer at Christmas.

Suffice it to say, you never know what’s coming next from these guys and, well, that makes you wait for the net offering, doesn’t it? Last Bottle makes no effort to disguise its appeal to an audience that grew up  on social media.  The comments are obviously aimed at millennials with an overuse of CAPS, preponderance of buzz words from awesome, bang, boom, wow, and “killer Vintage” or killer wine” along with more exclamation marks and 3 dots than your English teacher ever thought possible in one paragraph.

However, I like the fact that they don’t rely too much on reviewers’ point scores, reinforcing the feeling that they know what they are doing. Some people may not be comfortable without reviews from the pros or their peers. But you will still enjoy the sheer enthusiasm conveyed here and the fact that these folks enjoy what they are doing. Nothing wrong with having fun while you make a buck, is there?

Seeming to enjoy surprises, lastbottlewiness.com broke the daily pattern and offered 6 attractive wines on Black Friday.They also has fun with several Leap Day offerings on February 29th. And no surprise, there was an April Fool prank. There will likely be other surprises in the months ahead to keep you guessing. You can download their app to keep informed.  

Last bottle shipped about 1 million bottles in 2015 or close to 300 cases a day. Local buyers in Napa and Sonoma enjoy free shipping, and that is as cool as the refrigerated delivery van they use.

lastbottlewines.com  is an emerging KILLER online wine seller. (BOOM! I nailed it!!!!)

Pros: Shipping is free for 4 bottles or more. Good discounts.  Checkout is simple and clean. Delivery was on time. Free local deliveries.

Cons:  Wines are offered at different times of the day so you have to be on alert and some disappear quickly.

Styrofoam shippers, really?

For Collectors

 

www.2020wines.com

***

2020 Cotner Ave. – West Los Angeles CA 90025 – 310.447.2020

Owned by Robert Golbahar, this LA wine merchants claims to provides wines to the hollywood stars and mentions Sandra Bullock among others as clients. Whether that impresses you or not, the facts are that Twenty-Twenty Wine Merchants is a well-known store with over 4,000 square feet of refrigerated wine lockers kept at 60 degrees F, which can accommodate up to 400 cases of wine each.

“Now with our new racking, we can store thousands of bottles in the refrigerated showroom, ” Golbahar says. Many clients have wine lockers at Twenty-Twenty; indeed, for $500-700 a year, a collector can rent a 25-case locker.  It is natural enough to envision Barbara Walters having her own wine locker here, isn’t it? Or Hugh Downes.

Moving on to its website, 2020 offers over 300 Cabernets and 118 Pinot Noirs including a few half-bottles. Among the Cabs you might want to hail is a 1997 Screaming Eagle for $5,500 and a rare double magnum of Phelps 1997 Insignia for $3,395. If you are looking for only one Screaming Eagle and not working on a vertical, you better off looking at the 2009 Screaming Eagle which is still in its prime and sells for just under $3,000.

The real surprise here are the Three Shafer Hillside Select Cabs, 2001,  2002 and 2010, all of which are 100 point wines and quite attractively priced at around $650 a pop.

This site has most of the other big Cabernet names…Dalla Valle, Hundred Acres, Checkerboard, Tor, and Pride Mountain Reserve.

Of the 200 Bordeaux reds listed by 2020, they range from incredible new vintages to incredibly old and probably over the hill older fare. I’m assuming the older wines are selected for for customers looking for a particular birth year or those wanting to experience a 1928, 1929, 1948, 1955 or 1961, all fabled Bordeaux vintages. I have to admit being just a little intrigued by the magnum of 1947 Chateau Canon, and only wish I had $8,000 in spare change.

Without question, there are truly great Bordeaux wines  available here. But keep in mind that when a Parker note says the 1928 Chateau Beychevelle, tasted in 1988, could easily live another ten years, he probably tasted the wine at the Chateau where it has been cellared since 1928. Also, keep in mind that other older wines such as the 1966, 1985, and 1989 Chateau Lafite were most likely purchased from a private collection and then you have to be ever so mindful of the wine’s provenance.

The Specials include wines that are less well known but high scoring such as the 2103 Etre Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast. This 93 point unknown is a super Chardonnay for $29.99. The 1999 Beaucastel seems to stand out in a list with Catena Malbec and Concha Y Toro wines. But if there a method in their madness, the specials try to include many wines listed in The Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of the year. Since quite a few are priced below $50 a bottle, you can visualize Sandra Bullock adding several bottles of 2010 Quinta do Crasto Old Vine Reserva at $44.77 because she knows this is a great wine to serve to friends.

The most unpredictable list and well-worth your time, if you are not a Hollywood celebrity,  is the Featured Wines. It includes a 2001 Chateauneuf-du-pape from Vieux Donjon for $70, a 2010 Calcareous Syrah for $42.00, a 2010 Rombauer Zin for $24.95 and 2010 Melville Syrah for $29.75. These are excellent wines, reasonably priced, and the kind of wines you can drink over the next few years without dipping into your cellar prematurely.

Pros: Offers most of the top-tier producers from CA and France.

Good selection of older vintages

Cons: No discounts and no shipping breaks