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.

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

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

 

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)

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.”

A Real Happening App

 

 

Vivino.com,  now the most popular wine App, began simply as a resource tool and has evolved quickly into an all-purpose site.  

It caught my attention about 3 years ago as a clever, useful App that allows you to take a photo of a wine label and get instant feedback and reviews of that wine.

The App is free to download on the apple store, google play, and windows phone. Other sites now have a similar app but these guys started it.

Headed by a couple of techies from Denmark, Vivino is the brainchild of Heini Zachariassen who was joined by co-founder Theis Søndergaard in 2010. The Founding Fathers, as they call themselves, simply saw a need for making information readily available to wine consumers.

Et Voila Vivino! Or whatever they say in Copenhagen.

Vivino now employ 80 people and even have an office in San Francisco to help it deal with its over 18 million subscribers. Yes, 18 million!

As it fine-tunes its own direct wine sales department, Vivino offers wines no other site has. Many are from California, and it is now featuring the 2013 T-Vine Grenache, 2012 Elizabeth Spencer “GPS,” 2012 Seltzer Stags Leap Cabernet,  2012 Lateral Napa Red, and Marietta Cellars Arme.

Vivino is also the only website offering wines from the cult-like Alpha Omega and other hard-to-find wines such as Sbragia  Home Ranch Chardonnay.

Imports, when offered, are equally fascinating, such as a Pomerol, the 2010 Gombaude-Guillot, and the 2013 Ornellaia Serre Nuove.

You also know how many bottles remain for each wine offered and how much time is left before the deal is removed.

New wines are added daily.

As A Search Engine

In the early days,  it occasionally failed to deliver reviews of older vintages or under the radar wines.  But recently, it had reviews of every Cabernet, Pinot or French wine I could think of because it now elicits reviews from its members as well as published reviews from experts.

These reviews from members follow the Tripadvisor 5-star format, and some reviewers are then followed by other reviewers on Facebook.  Several subscribers, mainly sommeliers, have reviewed over 1,000 wines.

According to the Founders, its “users contribute ratings for millions of wines from around the globe, and collectively, this database makes up the largest wine library in the world.”

To make your decision-making easier in this social media world, Vivino now lists the top wines rated by subscribers in specific states. So you can see the top 25 wines from $20 to $40  from Texas or Mass. Washington State, or whatever state you live in.

But the list of lists continues with 11 Malbecs, 10 New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs or 2 California Syrahs. Or maybe that was two turtle doves.

Well, the point is these people like compiling lists.

Admittedly, I was intrigued by the top ten wines sold at Safeway and Whole Foods. Seriously, do people buy Opus One and Dom at a Safeway?  There’s also a top 100 wines list.

As an Online Merchant

Recently, Vivino ratcheted up its own list of wines for sale using a third party retailer for fulfillment.  This exciting development is spearheaded by Peter Ekman who judging from the selections, knows where to find excellent wines at good discounts. Shipping is normally free for 4 or 6 bottles and the discounts range from 25% to 60%.

These wines are offered through a local retailer, Vintage Berkeley which ships out of San Leandro.

A Crash Course in Flash Sales

Hold onto your hat or whatever may blow in the wind, because on Tuesday, July 19th, WTSO (Wines ‘til Sold Out) is conducting its day-long marathon for wines priced at $19.99.

The kick-off is 8:00 am, East Coast time. A new wine will be for sale every 15 minutes or sooner. 

 

To sweeten the deal, they are offering free shipping with no minimum purchases and they will store your purchases for free, should there be concerns about high temperatures.

You can follow the sales online at www.wtso.com, download the app, or use your twitter account for notifications.

So, are you ready for some Flash sales?

If you are a newbie at this, it can be a bit unnerving with the time pressure. But if curious, this could be like a crash course in flash sales. You can be a spectator or a player.

I’ve followed WTSO for about 4 years and reviewed its 1,359 offers over the last 10 months to get a feel for what might be up for sale. At $19.99, there were a few exceptional deals, most were decent enough, and there were some wines I wouldn’t want if they were given to me.

Overall, the best deals were wines from the Rhone Valley, off-brand Champagne, Tuscany, and Australia, along with Pinot Noir and Zins from California.

If you are game and ready to tune into to this upcoming marathon, we are happy to offer a little pre-game advice and pep talk along with a game plan. Go to

www.bestonlinewineshopping.com