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.

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)

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”