Maximizing the AmEx $10 off $50 Offer

Friday, January 20, 2017

$10 off $50 at, expires 3/31/2017
AmEx is back with yet another offer: $10 off $50. Unlike prior $30 off $100 offers, this one is a proper AmEx Offer. By that I mean you activate the offer on each of your AmEx cards then when you spend $50+ at you get a statement credit of $10 a couple days later.

While 20% ($10 off $50) is less appealing than 30% ($30 off $100) the fact that this is a true AmEx offer opens up some interesting stacking opportunities.

How Normal People Might Use The Offer

Normal sane people probably don't waste their time with AmEx Offers. But if they did they'd probably use this offer by buying somewhere just north of $50 worth of wine. charges $13.65 to ship a single bottle of wine so this would amount to less than a free shipping offer. Womp womp.

A Better Way

The nice thing about this being an AmEx offer is that it allows stacking promo codes with the AmEx offer. For example, you could use promo codes like the ones below to get free shipping and get $10 off $50+:

New Customers – $10 off $75 at with code NEW10!

1-Cent Shipping on $99+ with code JANPENNY at! Valid 1/25 - 1/27

$20 off $150+ with code SAVE20JAN at! Valid through 1/31. ONE TIME USE PER CUSTOMER

Extreme Stacking

First, shop through a portal. This will give you 5+% back on your order.

Second, if you have multiple AmEx cards consider buying gift cards to make efficient use of the $10 off $50. For example, if you have 2 AmEx cards you could buy yourself 2 $50 gift cards. Then use those two gift cards to place an order of as close to $100 as possible in conjunction with a 1-Cent Shipping on $99+ promo code. That way you'll get 20% off and free shipping.

Third, if you've got a lot of  AmEx cards you might consider signing up for their StewardShip program. For $49 you get complimentary shipping on all orders for a year. That way you can buy a bunch of gift cards now while the AmEx Offer is valid then spend down those gift cards over time as inventory and codes come together to provide good value.

When I've had StewardShip in the past I've found it useful because you can send wine gifts with the subscription. And you can also send yourself wine to your hotel while on vacation.


Q: Can you use multiple gift cards on a single order?
A: Yes. With gift cards are loaded onto an account and stored as a credit so you can use multiple gift cards to pay for a single order.

Q: Do shopping portals pay out on the purchase of gift cards?
A: No, I haven't found one yet that pays out on gift card purchases. They do seem to pay out on orders which use gift cards however.

Q: Is there a resale market for gift cards?
A: Surprisingly, none that I'm aware of. I bet a lot of points & miles types would love to sell them for anywhere 80+% of face value though (to break even on the purchase while earning credit card rewards) so you might be able to strike a deal if you're entrepreneurial.

Q: How long does it take for gift cards to arrive?
A: Within a few minutes by email plus they mail a physical card out redundantly.

Q: Are's prices good?
A: Not really. But sometimes they're not that bad. Compare their prices to what you see on Wine-searcher to get a feel.

Q: Can I trust the ratings they cite from professional critics?
A: I've never seen them post a false rating but they do cherry pick.

Q: What happened to the StewardShip free trials they used to run?
A: I don't know. They don't seem to offer them anymore. If you can find a way, let me know!

Q: Which wines are good to buy?
A: I'd start by doing an Advanced Search and sorting on Savings. That usually surfaces up some fairly good deals.

Here are a couple suggestions to get you going:
91 WS 2014 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cab for $10.99
92 WS 2014 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir for $23.99
92 WS 2014 MacMurray RRV Pinot Noir for $21.99

Q: I don't see those prices/wines in my state - what gives?
A: inventory varies by state.

Bottom Line

If you have multiple AmEx cards this can be a pretty good deal. Wine margins are thin and if you can get 25%+ off with free shipping on wines you actually want this can be a pretty good deal.

Question of the Day: Any angles I missed?


Insane Value Alert: 2014 Castle Rock Kristy Vineyard Pinot Noir

Saturday, January 14, 2017

2014 Castle Rock Kristy Vineyard Pinot Noir: Outstanding
Wine Spectator quietly released [web only] a very interesting rating for the 2014 Castle Rock Kristy Vineyard Pinot Noir recently: 90 points. That in itself isn't that extraordinary. Lots of wines are rated 90 points or better.
Wine Spectator tasting note
But at a release price of just $18 it's a rather fantastic value. Thinking back to the theory behind the WWP QPR Calculator I ask myself: What do I need to spend to find a reliably outstanding bottle of California Pinot Noir? Probably around $35. Maybe $40.

But it gets better. While this wine carries a release price of $18 it's not that hard to find it for $10 or less.

Plugging this into the WWP QPR Calculator (using a $40 baseline price and a $10 purchase price) we get a value rating of 4: Outstanding.

I was poking around Wine Spectator's ratings database just now and a rating like this is quite the outlier. In looking at 2014 Pinot Noirs rated 90 points or better with a release price of $30 or less only one other wine came up: The 2014 Hahn SLH Pinot Noir at $30 with a 92 point rating. The Hahn is noteworthy in itself especially since the 2013 vintage of the same bottling was also rated 92 points. And you can find it for around $20. I've had prior vintages and was indeed impressed.

But the street price of this Castle Rock is half of the Hahn.

I was looking back at prior vintages for similar QPR ratings I notice this isn't the first time Castle Rock has done this. They had another $18 bottling also rated 90 points a couple years ago. I never got around to tasting that one unfortunately, but this time I was bound and determined to trying this one.

I tracked down a bottle of this wine and tasted it. Here are my thoughts:

2014 Castle Rock Kristy Vineyard Pinot Noir
$18 Release Price
13.5% Alcohol
4,890 Cases Produced

A tremendous achievement at this price point.
Light in color and full of characteristics I expect in California Pinot Noir.
Fresh, perfectly ripened fruit on the nose.
Satisfying depth of flavor with silky mouth feel. Well balanced.
Most impressively, the wine is free of any "off" notes.

90/100 WWP: Outstanding

Bottom Line

Most times when I hear about a wine that's 90 points and costs so little I'm disappointed. But this is the kind of wine I love to have on hand. It drinks like a $30+ California Pinot Noir and is quite an achievement. Especially if you can find it for less than $10. Highly recommended.


[Sold out] Deal Alert: 90 Point WS CA Pinot Noir for less than $10/btl shipped

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Update: This item has sold out.

New York wine retailer Empire Wine is offering the 2014 Castle Rock Monterey County Kristy Vineyard Pinot Noir for $9.85/btl with free shipping on 12 bottles.

Here's the tasting note from Wine Spectator's James Laube:

With a retail price of $18/btl, $9.85/btl is very good pricing especially with free shipping. I've had Castle Rock Pinot Noirs in the past, but never one of their single vineyard offerings. If we keep our expectations in check I think this should be a servicable daily drinker.


5 Outstanding Italian Restaurants in Boston (that are nowhere near the North End)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Ken Oringer's Coppa in the South End
Last night we took our 9 year old to visit a restaurant I've long wanted to experience: Coppa. I don't know why it took us so long to make it a priority to go there (as opposed to re-visiting an old favorite) but it was tremendously enjoyable and sparked an interest in checking out new places. It was just one of those nights where you park right in front of the restaurant without incident, get seated at a cool table right away, and enjoy experiencing something for the first time. We'll be back.

I got to thinking about how many great Italian restaurants there are in Boston. And how hard it is to find a truly outstanding dining experience in Boston's North End. If you're not familiar with Boston, the North End is an old residential neighborhood packed with Italian restaurants which unfortunately aren't very good in my humble opinion. The North End is a cool place to visit for sure, but I think there are better options elsewhere in and around Boston.

Here are five of my favorites...


Posto in Davis Square is a Wood-Fired Italian restaurant, and part of the amazing Alpine Restaurant Group (along with Rosebud and Painted Burro). Posto means "sit and relax." Chef/owner Joe Cassinelli's restaurants have impressed me across the board with overall excellence. Mouth watering menus, inviting and distinct atmospheres, delicious food, and outstanding service.

Although the main attraction at Posto is the Neopolitan pizza, I find myself wanting to try the entire menu. The Burrata (with roasted peaches, thyme, prosciutto di parma and honey.) The Caprese (heirloom cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, vincotto and cabernet vinaigrette.) The Gnocchi (with braised beef short ribs, red wine sauce and parmesan crema.) Amazing. All served in a lively environment that invites spirited conversation.

Osteria Posto

Osteria Posto features a gorgeous build out more formal than Posto proper, and is more accessible to the western suburbs thanks to its location along 128 in Waltham. Osteria means "a restaurant serving wine and simple food" and the menu focuses on Italian dishes other than pizza at dinner while still offering pizzas at lunch. We visited for brunch on Mother's Day which was outstanding.

The service here is a cut above, and the menu just as interesting and inviting as Posto. They say Osteria Posto is their take on today's Italian Steakhouse, and the menu does indeed feature full-sized entrees rather than small plates. But I'd be tempted to piece together a meal with Charcuterie or their Chilled Shellfish to start, a couple of appetizers, pasta, and sides to share.


Sorellina is a tranquil oasis in Back Bay featuring elevated Italian cuisine. It's part of the Columbus Hospitality Group which also features Mistral and the excellent but unfortunately named Mooo.... steakhouse.

I remember going here for date night when the kids were young and it really hit the spot in terms of providing a getaway. It's elegant and refined. Quiet enough to have a conversation for two, but also enjoyable for a larger group. Absolutely do not miss the Gnocchi (potato dumplings, Maine lobster, Vermont butter.) This is a great place to go for a special occasion or when you want to impress a client.


Babbo is Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's Pizzeria on Boston's Fan Pier. The restaurant is spacious and well-appointed in an upscale yet comfortable way that I sense accomodates larger work groups very nicely. And families with younger kids as well.

If you come here, you're almost certainly going to enjoy small plates along with their signature Neapolitan pies. But they do have some items from the grill and pasta dishes as well. I found the menu format a tad difficult to navigate but the food and atmosphere are no doubt outstanding and I'd gladly return for another visit. And I'll look forward to Eataly Boston opening later this year at the Prudential Center.

And, based on last night's experience, now added to the list...


Coppa is Ken Oringer's Italian small plates restaurant and wine bar in the South End. The guy has closed some of my favorite restaurants in Boston: the amazing upscale Clio and the outstanding Mexican restaurant La Verdad. So I've long wanted to try his new restaurants. Along with Coppa he's currently running Toro (Spanish tapas), Uni (Japanese, expanded at the former Clio space), and Little Donkey (global small plates).

This is a neighborhood restaurant that will make you want to move to the South End. Families with young kids visit early followed by more unencumbered diners later in the evening. The room is small [45 seats] with a cozy but comfortable atmosphere. Highlights included the simply perfect Polpette (Meatballs, tomato, parmigiano cheese- our waiter told us they also use the scraps from the proscuitto slicer in there), the stunningly good Margherita pizza (Tomato, basil, mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil), and an amazing house made Gemelli (Extruded pasta, lobster, brown butter, chanterelles both being enjoyed in the photo below.)

Which ones did I miss? Leave a comment below or ping me on Twitter: @RobertDwyer

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