Unbeatable Springtime Wine Deals

Direct from the winery: Navarro Vineyards

take advantage of three wines perfect for casual sipping this Spring:

2017 Chardonnay, Mendocino, $18 $216 case)

2017 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley $18 ($216 case)

2018 Pinot Blanc, Mendocino $13.75 ($165 case)

Now the details:

Bottle Prices are for one case, 25% off regular bottle price

Shipping is one cent, yes, only one penny per case!

Why We Like This Deal:

  • Real wines from a real family winery
  • Great shipping price
  • Better than standard discounts
  • Experienced in packaging and shipping wines direct
  • Wines are not available in shops or supermarkets
  • Hard to find this quality of Pinot and Chardonnay for under $20
  • The Pinot Blanc at this price will make you forget about all watery-thin or over-priced Pinot Grigios and mass produced Chardonnays

Check these and other Spring deals at www. NavarroWine.com

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.

Alerting all Pinot Noir Fans: A Truly Great Discovery


Now offered by a website that usually over-hypes, and over rates every wine. But it got this one right!

2017 Eden Rift Pinot Noir, Valiant is on sale for $22.99

The revamped Eden Rift winery is the old Pietra Santa Winery in the Gavilan Range of San Benito County. That’s not too far from Calera.

I credit SF Gate’s Esther Mobley for discovering this winery and writing about the new developments in San Benito several months ago. She is a brilliant wine writer worth following.

The website offering this wine is http://www.vivino.com which typically mentions Robert Parker and then describes the wine in stange language such as: “A World Premiere — Profound Wild Berries and Violets! Legitimately Spectacular!”

And adds, “This Pinot Noir will put you back in your seat. The tension and vibrance is memorable…”

Impressed by the “profound wild berries,” its sommelier on duty rates it 98 points. Lucky guy, he apparently never tastes a wine rated below 95 points.

My Rating: 94 points

My bad: As much as I enjoy berries, can’t remember any as profound.

Sensible facts:

The winery is owned by Christian Pillsbury.

Cory Walker is the winemaker who was assistant winemaker at Calera.

The Eden Rift name draws from Steinbeck’s East of Eden and the fact that the area sits on the San Andreas Fault.

$22.99 is an excellent price, 40% below retail.

See www.vivino.com

Thinking About Buying 2015 Bordeaux: Start Here

 

Yes, 2015 is an excellent vintage for most of Bordeaux. I was there during the early harvesting.

The vine in the close-up photo is Merlot at Chateau Monbousquet a few days before the harvest. The best winemakers have sorting devices (often people) that remove the raisined grapes prior to fermentation, in case you were curious.

And yes, 90+ scores are so plentiful as reviewers went crazy when the wines were sampled early on. So there’s little meaningful guidance if you go by the scores.

My buying strategy is to prefer the 2015s from St. Emilion by a slight margin. The growing season favored Merlot which made St. Emilion and, of course, Pomerol, the hit of the year.

www.wine.com just announced its first big offering of the 2015s. No discounts but plenty of choices and shipping options. This is a major, well-established, and reliable seller. See my detailed review at http://www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

My focus, as always, is on wines that are authentic, true to their region, can be enjoyed over the next few years and represent excellent value.

My top 5 picks of 2015 Bordeaux under $35.00 at http://www.wine.com:

Chateau de France, Pessac $24.99

Château Haut Brisson, St. Emilion $31.99

Tour Saint Christophe, St. Emilion $34.99

Château Cantemerle, Haut Medoc $34.99

Château Fombrouge, St. Emilion $34.99

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.

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

 

The Best of the Best Of

The Top Wines of 2016 Lists

As The Wine Spectator was unveiling the top 100 Best Wines in its drawn-out dramatic countdown, others were coming out with their versions. Just because the Spectator has been compiling a top 100 list for 30 years did not prevent others for having a say.

A few days  before Randy Lewis of Lewis Cellars was revving his engine for a victory lap celebrating his 2013 Cabernet as the Spectator’s #1 wine, two competing internet sites got into the Best Of 2016 competition.

First, wine.com announced its list of top-selling 100 wines of 2016 and soon thereafter vivino.com came out with its list of” best wines on the planet.”   For detailed and brilliant reviews of both sites, visit www.bestonlinewineshopping.com

This was the 10th year in which wine.com listed top wines of the year. It compiled a top 100 list based entirely on the top wines sold nationally on Wine.com during the first 11 months of 2016.

In a not too subtle way, it added: “While many publications rank wines based on the opinions of wine critics, we wanted our customers to be the judge, voting with their wallets to determine the Wine.com 100.”

Yes, critics offer opinions, pure and simple. Well, not always pure. But price, availability, and production are not considered when critics pass judgment.

However, quite a few online wine sellers rely on the Top 100 lists from The Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast or James Suckling. As an aside, it seems the influence of Robert Parker is definitely fading and the Vinous/Galloni duo has yet to rise to the occasion.

But vivino also does not rely too heavily on critics. With its wine Apps and crowd-sourcing approach, it bases its top wines of 2016 list on its community of 21 million users and the millions of wine ratings they’ve submitted over the past year.

In other words, reviews and scores from your average Joe and Jo, Betsy and Bob, Shawn and John. Some seem to have lots of time and many opinions; one guy named Jack has submitted close to 2,000 reviews.

For each wine style category, the folks at vivino explain, we  “studied the reviews and selected the top ten best-rated wines with at least 50 ratings from the past year. Check out your favorite wine styles, and explore those you are curious about.”

As noted in my review, vivino loves to create categories of wines and wine styles and then compile lists.

For the 2016 results, the site came up with 147 separate categories. For red Bordeaux, there are 11 separate categories which seems excessive.

In the Best Rated category, the 2000 Chateau Margaux is #1 followed by the 1982 Latour. No surprises here! And the Best Wines to Buy Now is another very odd list of fabled names, including most of the Classified Growths including y’Quem.

Furthermore, vivino does not sell wines directly, so there’s no correlation between these community ratings and actual purchases which wine.com uses.

Apples and oranges you might  say.  Regardless, I tried to compare them.

First, the indisputable winner is Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Brancott’s 2015 was wine.com’s #1 and the 2015 Casa del Bosque headed vivino’s list of Top Values.

Almost as fascinating, Rombauer Winery makes wine.com’s top 10 with its 2014 Chardonnay, and the Rombauer Zinfandel is high on vivino’s Best Value list.

When it comes to Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2013 Clos du Val and 2014 Caymus were among the best sellers on wine.com.

And the Hundred Acres Napa Valley Cabernet was #1 overall on vivino.com and rated high in its other categories.

Malbec fans might be excited to see that the 2012 Vina Cobos was tops with vivino and wine.com’s top ranked malbec was the Trivento 2015 reserve.

And this Champagne fan was intrigued to see Clicquot Brut as top rated at wine.com. Vivino’s high ranked non-vintage Champagne was the Jacques Selosse. Some 168 people reviewed it.Most people will never even see a bottle anywhere.

But to return to The Wine Spectator’s top 100 which had a few surprises. Great to see an Oregon Pinot Noir ranked #2 and the biggest surprise was the #3 wine, an Oregon Chardonnay. That was a gutsy call.

However,The Wine Spectator will invariably include a mandatory wine from Antinori in its top 100, as well as some wine from Jackson Family, and whenever remotely possible, a wine from itsother major supporters and advertisers.

Of the three top wines of 2016 lists, the one that stands out as speaking to me and the typical wine buyer is…wine.com.

And you?

November News and Noise in the Online Wine World

1.e-Bay Wine added 38 new wines this week. Included were wines from several Jackson Family properties: Cambria, Freemark Abbey, La Crema, Kendall-Jackson and Champs du Reves. All except for Champ de Reves Anderson Valley Pinot Noir are widely available.

e-Bay also offered five new 6 or 12 bottle packages with a Thanksgiving theme. Grgich Hills  outstanding Chardonnay was in most packs. Free shipping on all with discounts averaging 30%.

The case billed as “The Ultimate Thanksgiving” package featuring 6 varietals is high quality and a good value.

The most notable new wine offered by e-Bay is the 2014 Siduri Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, for $162.00 a case. This is a super deal for a delicious Pinot.

2. National Geographic Magazine introduced its “Wines of the World” sale through Travelzoo. The offering–an assorted case of either red or white wines, with 3 “free” Malbec bottles thrown in. This 15 bottle offer was priced at $89 with 6 free gift bags and shipping included.

The deal is that “Every three months, you will be notified about a new National Geographic Wines of the World club selection and will automatically receive your next case unless you request otherwise. There are no obligations, and you’re free to skip as many cases as you like or cancel your membership anytime at no cost.”

Deal or no Deal? Well, honestly, there was nothing in the wines listed that elevated this Wine Club over others.  Still, $6 a bottle is a decent price for ordinary, everyday wines.

The Wall Street Journal wine club still offers the most exciting wine selection.

3. Biggest WOW!

went to www.napacabs.com

Despite the name this online store is based in southern CA where the owners also run a retail store, tasting room and restaurant.

It turned heads, not by its location but by offering two wines from Heidi Barrett’s own brand.

2013 La Sirena ‘Pirate TreasuRed’ $59.95

2013 La Sirena Grenache $39.95

The first is her super blend of 7 varieties, and like the limited production Grenache, plays to rave reviews. Both Napa wines from this exceptional winemaker are rarely available beyond the mailing list.  Free shipping for a case, and you can mix and match.

4. Good to Know

“Americans are buying more wine than ever without going to a wine store. Direct-to-consumer sales increased 66 percent from 2010 to 2015, with 4.3 million cases valued at nearly $2 billion shipped directly from wineries to consumers last year.”

With Massachusetts, the nation’s seventh largest market for wine, open for direct shipping, 90% of the American population located in 42 states can with some limitations receive direct shipments of wine from bonded wineries.

ShipCompliant estimates that outside wineries will ship $73 million in wine to The Bay State by 2018, rising to nearly $105 million by 2023.

5. Silliest Wine Description Spotted this Week

As seen on www.wineaccess.com

“The Puig-Parahy 2011 Cotes du Roussillon Georges – a bit more Syrah than usual blended into its Carignan and Grenache – is intriguingly and delightfully scented with Ceylon tea, ripe elderberry and blueberry, accompanied by striking intimations of shrimp shell reduction in its combination of sweet-saline savor and tincture of iodine. A nutty, piquant, and positively vegetal note of Swiss chard adds to the stimulation of a juicy, vivacious, mouthwatering, and remarkably mineral palate presence and finish. Look for this extraordinary value to perform superbly at table through at least 2016. (The 2010 “Georges,” incidentally, had taken on a slightly reductive and animal aura when I tasted it form bottle but still exhibited the dynamic on which I commented in issue 195 and all-in-all performed at the lower end of the projection I published there.)” – David Schildknecht, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate

6. From an interview with Michael Mondavi:

“The United States is the number one wine consumer in the world,” Mondavi says. “We have about three-hundred and fifteen million cases of wine a year that are consumed in the United States, and it’s growing nicely. It’s interesting, the lower priced wines – below $5 a bottle – are shrinking by about two to three percent a year. The wines from $5 to $10 dollars are growing slightly. But then, from $10 to $20, are growing just under double digits, they’re growing beautifully. So, people are trading up to better quality wines. And you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a delicious bottle of wine today.”

Rating eBay’s New Wine Dept.

 

The highly anticipated expansion of eBay into online wine sales took place a few months ago. This was in fact the second major effort to ramp up eBay Wine, so it seemed timely to look closely at what eBay now has to offer wine lovers.

Through a partnership with mobile app Drync and its retail partners, eBay Wine greatly increased its wine focus and now claims it is able to deliver wine to 45 of the 50 US states.

The Drync-eBay platform offers real inventory from large and small retailers throughout the US. So none of the pay now, and take delivery sometime in the future stuff which is far too common in this online world.

But that real inventory situation applies primarily to the Drync partners.

And according to Decanter Magazine,  eBay has stepped up its presence in wine by joining forces with mail order merchant Laithwaite’s in the UK. “eBay said that ‘a wide selection’ of Laithwaite’s red, white, rosé and sparkling wines, plus mixed cases, were now available on its UK site. That brings its total number of wine listings to more than 3,500.”

That all sounded like this time around eBay was ready to blow away the online competition, so I subscribed to see how the planned  attack would unfold.

And waited for a few days.  Every now and then subscribers are notified of new wine matches which range from 30 to 48 in number. The emphasis is on either 6 or 12 bottle deals with free shipping.

What’s new is that many of the featured wines are presented by a company called “The Wine Spies” which has been in business since 2007. It says it is not a retail outlet and offers new wines to eBay in the 20-60% discount range. This partner is based in Sonoma County and there are probably other similar retail partners in other states.

Today on eBay there are 36 wines offered by The Wine Spies, mainly from California.  Napa Valley is well-represented. And most are well-known , mainstream names such as Grgich Hills, Beringer, Flora Springs, Clos Pegase, Frank Family, St. Supery, and Saddleback. Hahn Family Central Coast Pinot was another match, and an Aussie Chardonnay was the only import when I last checked.

Except for Saddleback’s Albarino which I tasted last month and is wonderful,  the offerings are mainstream varietals from Cabernet to Zinfandel. So for those who like to stay within their comfort zone, these wines are from reliable wine producers.

With free shipping on six bottles or more and discounts of 25% or more, the deals are more than decent.

So, the new eBay wine section has improved, but in an oddly limited way. Continue reading “Rating eBay’s New Wine Dept.”