Boston Tea Party Re-Enacted to Celebrate MA Tax Repeal: But Will Retailers See a Difference in 2011?

Friday, December 31, 2010


Thanks to a tip from Jon Chesto I learned that a group of wine retailers and enthusiasts gathered yesterday on the Boston side of the Fort Point Channel yesterday to re-enact the Boston Tea Party.  But instead of tossing tea into the harbor they poured water from empty wine bottles to commemorate the alcohol tax repeal Massachusetts voters passed as part of Question 1 back in November.  Starting January 1st, 2011, alcohol will be exempt from sales tax as it was from prohibition to 2008.

There was also a group present showing their support for maintaining the tax as it was said to fund a variety of behavioral health services.  I won't rehash that argument here.  I'd rather focus today on how what impact this change will have on wine consumers in 2011.

In talking to wine retailers over the past few months I've noticed a few trends:
  • They're surprised the tax was repealed.
  • They're glad the tax was repealed.
  • They saw a huge boost in sales during the 2010 Massachusetts tax free weekend.
  • They're cautiously optimistic about whether the tax repeal will have a sustained positive effect on their business in 2011.
People sometimes find it hard to believe that others were making purchase decisions based on the tax.  And in most low-dollar transactions I'd agree that was the case.  But I think there's two scenarios where the sales tax does have an impact on purchase decisions, and they're both situations where the dollar volume is large and therefore worth paying attention to.

The first is where you're buying a large quantity of wine for an event like a wedding.  Say you're buying 8 cases of $15/bottle wine for a wedding.  The 6.25% tax previous in effect amounted to $90.  That's significant, and would be enough to make it worth your while to take a trip up to tax-free New Hampshire.  Never mind for a moment that it's illegal to import alcohol into Massachusetts -and- illegal to carry more than 15 bottles of wine in your car without a special permit - more on that here.

The second is more relevant to your typical Massachusetts wine enthusiast and that's in terms of a series of high dollar purchases.  When you spend several thousands of dollars on a wine a year, it pays to think about the fully loaded cost of wine.  When I say full loaded I mean thinking about quantity discounts, shipping, and tax.

When the sales tax first went into place in 2008, it diminished the positive effect of case discounts.  If you only got 10% off a straight case, most of that discount came right back as the 6.25% sales tax was applied.  With the sales tax gone the effect of a case discount will be more compelling psychologically because I know when I see a $29.99 sticker on a bottle I'm eyeing I'd be able to knock that down to $23.99 out the door with a 20% discount.  I like that.

Massachusetts will become the only state in the union that taxes goods in general but excludes wine from sales tax.  Prior to the tax going into effect, I don't think as many people realized how unique the situation was.  I know I didn't.  When I was out in California it always seemed like prices were really low.  And they were, but the roughly 9% sure ate into the savings.

I think retailers can really work this to their advantage now, especially when it comes to more expensive wines.  At the higher end, consumers tend to do more price shopping - especially online - because shipping costs can be absorbed if the savings are high enough.  Wine retailers can't legally ship wine to Masschusetts but that doesn't mean they can't ship wine to neighboring states.  Consumers know this, and they also know that most retailers don't charge sales tax when shipping to most neighboring states.  Just like with Amazon.com shopping online can be a beautiful thing in that respect.  It's a gray legal area but when you're buying wine that costs $50 plus dollars a bottle it can make a big difference especially combined with being able to search nationwide for the best prices.

But we've got some excellent wine retailers in the Boston area.  Combine that with a legal tax-free advantage  and free in-store pickup.  Add to that the ability to try wines before you buy, establish relationships with knowledge retailers (especially at higher price points), and the ability to easily return corked bottles and the incentive to patronize local retailers is as strong as it's ever been.

Shipping restrictions continue to limit consumer access to limited production wines (more on that in this brief history of MA wine shipping laws) but for wines that do make it into the state the question becomes whether retailers will be able to put wine on the shelves at compelling prices?  Their prices are dictated by distributors - will they enable MA retailers to compete favorable when compared nationally?

We shall see, but I'm more optimistic than I've been in a long time about buying wine in Massachusetts.

Pro Tip for New Year's Eve consumption:  Drink 1 full glass of water for every 5 ounce glass of wine you consume to avoid a hangover.

Hope you have a safe night and here's to a great 2011 for you and yours.  Cheers!

Read more...

Groupon: $30 for $60 at Wine.com

Monday, December 27, 2010

About a month ago Wine.com did a $30 for $60 deal with Living Social.  They're now doing what appears to be the same deal with Groupon.  I have to say, I wasn't thrilled with the way the Living Social deal was structured and I let Wine.com know about it on Twitter.

There were three aspects of the deal I didn't like:

First is that the $60 Groupon can't be applied towards shipping costs.  To Massachusetts, it costs $12.95 to ship the first bottle so at minimum you end up spending $42.95 for $60 worth of wine.  That effectively makes the deal $30 for a $17.95 discount which is a lot less compelling than $30 for $60.

Second, the voucher isn't a gift card.  It's a discount code.  This is significant because Wine.com only allows you to enter one promotional code per order.  So say for example Wine.com is running a 1 cent shipping on $99 promotion - you can't stack that promotional code with the Groupon offer so you end up having to choose one or the other and the fully loaded cost of the wine shipped to your house isn't a very good deal.

Third, with the Living Social deal anyway, the promotional code didn't trigger until the total value of the products in your cart was $59 or more.  This seems incorrect to me.  Any product total of $60 or less should be free and any total over that should be reduced by $60.  The way it was structured seemed to encourage overshoot.

In total, the deal created a situation where it was impossible to achieve a 50% discount -and- you ended up being forced to spend more than the cost of the voucher.  When I buy a Groupon for a restaurant I can always choose to spend slightly less than the value of the voucher so I don't end up spending more on the deal than the voucher cost me.  But with this deal that isn't possible and that doesn't feel right to me.

All of that said, I'm going to take advantage of this offer too.  Why?  Well, they had a good deal last week on their Steward-Ship program where you could get holiday gift baskets shipped for free if you bought into the Steward-Ship program for $25 (regularly $49).  This program is similar to Amazon Prime (which I'm a huge fan of and almost anyone can try for free with Amazon Mom - check it out) in that it gives you free shipping on any order for a year.  But, a unique aspect of Steward-Ship is that it can be combined with other discount offers.  So say for example Wine.com offers 15% off 12 bottles.  You could then buy a bottle of 2008 Caymus for $50.99 shipped free.  And coming January 1st, 2011 to Massachusetts there's no tax on wine.  A bottle of Caymus shipped to your doorstep in Massachusetts for $50.99 fully loaded?  That's a pretty good deal.

Still, I'm not thrilled about having to read the fine print and fight so hard to get a good deal on wine. 

Click here to check out the deal on Groupon - ends Wednesday December 29th at 11:59 pm Pacific time. 

Bonus Reading: I wrote up some thoughts on a couple of interesting cashback/deal sites I recently discovered called Envaulted and Offermatic.  Good stuff - check it out.

Question of the Day: What do you think of group buying deals like this as they relate to wine?  How would you like to see retailers structuring these deals?

Read more...

The Urban Grape Quintessa Wine Dinner at The Capital Grille


The Urban Grape in Chestnut Hill, MA is hosting a series of wine maker dinners in 2011.  The first is Thursday, January 27th at The Capital Grille in Chestnut Hill featuring Augustus Huneeus from Quintessa.

The evening includes a cocktail hour followed by a 4-course menu specially created the event and paired wines from Quintessa, Faust, Illumintation and Ritual.

Cost is $125 per person.  Click here for more information and to make a reservation.

Further Reading:
Hope to see you there!

Read more...

Tasting Report: 2007 Red Car Heaven & Earth La Boheme Pinot Noir

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A brief programming note: The Wellesley Wine Press hit 500 subscribers today!  After typing away here for the past couple of years it was a great Christmas present to receive.  Subscribers are, more than anything, what I've been focusing on in the past year.  The idea that so many of you are interested in hearing what I have to say means a lot to me.  Happy Holidays.

Oh, and check out this deal from Petit Robert Bistro from Buy With Me.  $25 for $50 and I hear they're BYOB-friendly at their Needham, MA location every night with a $15 corkage fee.

I usually like to write about current release wines here because they're actionable suggestions.  However, the 2007 Red Car Heaven & Earth La Boheme I enjoyed last week was such a memorable wine I thought I'd share my impressions.

I purchased two bottles of this wine from Lower Falls Wine Co. about a year ago.  The first I considered outstanding (93 points) and the second I had with friends over dinner last week.  An interesting thing about this wine - although James Laube from Spectator thought it was out of this world (97 points), Robert Parker thought it was so-so.  He rated it 88 points.  I think Laube got this one right, and the market seems to have responded accordingly.  Although the wine initially sold for $60 it's now going for around $135.

Here are my notes:

2007 Red Car Heaven & Earth La Boheme Pinot Noir
14.5% Alcohol
292 Cases Produced
97 Points Wine Spectator
88 Points Wine Advocate
92.6 Average on CellarTracker
Release Price: $60
Current Value: $135

I thought this wine was tremendous and it's showing beautifully at this point in time. Vibrant and intense with red raspberry aromas and flavors on top of other typical CA Pinot Noir markers (strawberries, cherries, a little earth, silky smooth tannins). Incredible depth of flavor and length of finish. Up a couple points from the last bottle I tried over a year ago. Drink now but hold if you'd like more secondary characteristics to further develop. 

95/100 WWP: Classic

The call to action is to keep an eye out for their 2009s at retail, and if live in a state they can ship to, consider joining their mailing list: http://redcarwine.com. I hear their 2009s are supposed to be spectacular.

Further Reading: An interview with Paul Sequeria from Red Car from last year when Spectator rated the Heaven & Earth Pinot Noir 97 points. 

Question of the Day: Have you had Red Car Pinot Noirs before?  If so what did you think?  If not, what have you hear about 2009 California Pinot Noir?

Read more...

Coming Soon: Nuance Wine Finer Review

Of the wine aerators I haven't reviewed on this site yet, the one I'm most frequently asked about is the Nuance Wine Finer.  It's a device that's inserted in the bottle, filters out cork and large sediment that might be in the bottle, aerates wine while it's being poured, and serves as a pourer.  Sounds like an impressive collection of features.

You may remember Boston-based CSN Stores who sponsored our Spectating on the Spectator contest - they sell everything from modern furniture to Wusthof knives.  They sell the Nuance Wine Finer for $29.95 with free shipping.  They've agreed to provide me with a sample unit so I'll be looking forward to checking it out and sharing my thoughts soon.

Subscribe to the Wellesley Wine Press and you'll automatically be notified about new posts - I've got some year-end posts coming up I'm looking forward to sharing.  Cheers!

Read more...

How To: Host a Pinot Noir Around the World Tasting for Around $50

Monday, December 20, 2010

Pinot Noir plays well in so many seasons and occasions.  I think of it as a harvest wine.  It's a lighter red and doesn't have drying tannins so it plays well in the summer months.  It's food-friendly -or- depending on the style works well as a cocktail wine.  That pretty much covers 90% of the situations I drink wine in so it's not surprising it passed Cabernet Sauvignon as my most frequently consumed grape variety in 2010.

One of the most interesting things I like to get out of comparative tastings of wines is a general understanding of the styles within that category.  Sure, it's fun to sit down and compare a bunch of wines from the same category to see which you prefer.  But one of the more fun and educational tastings you can do is a comparative tasting of the major wine regions American wine consumers consider when purchasing Pinot Noir: Oregon, California and Burgundy.

The challenge is finding varietally correct examples of each at approachable price points.  Over the past week I cracked open a trio of affordable Pinot Noirs that represent what I look for from each of these regions.  I feel they're each delicious and enjoyable in their own right but if you sit down and compre these side-by-side I think they're even more interesting.

2006 Nicolas Potel Volnay Vieilles Vignes
France, Burgundy, Côte de Beaune, Volnay
$46 Release Price/180 Cases Imported
88 Points Wine Spectator
13% Alcohol
Purchased for $24.99 at The Wine Cellar of Stoneham

What a pretty wine. Light ruby in color and mostly transparent. Austere by new world standards but with food it shines. Sufficient round fruit on the nose that turns more tart on the palate. Wonderful mineral flavors with considerable acidity and a touch of tannic bite. Would like to check in on this wine in a couple years but even now - very elegant.

WWP 90/100: Outstanding

2008 A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir
USA, Oregon
$20 Release Price/62,954 Cases Produced
90 Points Wine Spectator
13% Alchol
Purchased for $15.99 at The Wine Cellar of Stoneham

Starts off with a lot of promise as the nose delivers beautiful cherry and earthy aromas you'd expect from an Oregon Pinot Noir. A nice dose of acidity and a long enjoyable finish. The only thing that's got me down is a green, stemmy aftertaste that lasts just a moment but is particularly distracting and off-putting. Oh, and it was a little thin too. But so close to being great! The green aftertaste seems to dissipate on the second day.

WWP 88/100: Very Good

2009 Michael Pozzan Winery Pinot Noir Annabella Special Selection
USA, California, Napa Valley, Carneros
14.5% Alcohol
Purchased for $12.50 at The Hingham Wine Merchant

After an ever-so-slight step backwards in 2008, I think this 2009 Annabella is back on track as a solid 90 point Pinot Noir. Combine that with its wide availability in the $12 range and I think this deserves a slot in the rotation of anyone who likes fruit-forward domestic Pinot Noir.

Medium-dark in color and ready to go immediately upon opening. Aromas of pomegranates, cranberries, dark cherries, and dusty fresh blackberries in a briar patch. The initial attack is straight fruit. Silky tannins and it finishes clean with a hint of earth and slight tartness which balances out its otherwise fruity nature.

Highly recommended. One of the best Pinot Noirs I've found in this price range the past year.

WWP 90/100: Outstanding

Posted from CellarTracker

So there you have it.  A nice trio of Pinot Noirs that can be had for $52.97.  Enjoy!

Read more...

Value Alert: 2007 Beaulieu Vineyard Tapestry

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why on earth didn't this wine make the 2010 Wine Spectator Top 100 list?  I mean, people were projecting it to be the Wine of the Year.  It didn't make the Top 10.  It didn't even make the list!  The only reason I can think of is that it was rated too late in the year to be considered in 2010 because the metrics are all there.

The wine carries a high score from Wine Spectator (93 points), has wide availability (18,901 cases produced), comes from a hyped-up vintage in a popular category, and for those skeptics out there is produced by a prominent advertiser in the publication.  How did it miss?

The 2007 Ramey Claret and the 2007 BV Tapestry were both rated 93 points in the October 15, 2010 issue and neither made the Top 100 list.  The 2007 Ramey Annum was rated in the August 31st issue and did make the Top 100 list so perhaps that explains it.  Who knows?  Maybe these are early candidates or speculation on the 2011 Top 100 list!

Diving into the number and looking a little more closely at the other 93WS 2007 Napa Cabs we see 30 wines ranging from $38 (07 Ramey Claret) to $300 (07 Hundred Acre Arc Vineyard) with an average release price of $126.  Not only is this wine's release price very low price compared to its quality - it's readily available for around $30 if you shop around.  I purchased mine at The Wine Cellar of Stoneham for $32.99.

The wine is pretty rough and chewy at this point but I can see it being beautiful in just a couple of years.  You know that coarse, synthetic yellow rope that's like a quarter of an inch thick?  Imagine soaking that in delicious, dense red wine then rolling it in a mix of savory spices and then chewing on it.  That's what this wine is to me now.  But I'd bet money it'll soften up beautifully in coming years to reveal an intense, powerful, and refined Napa Cab.  Here are my notes:

2007 Beaulieu Vineyard Reserve Tapestry
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot
14.9% Alcohol
18,901 Cases Produced
$50 Release Price

A little rough and tumble at this stage but I like it. Deftly ping pongs between sweet and savory. The nose goes more in the savory direction whereas the palate delivers the fruit. Ample acidity, then a long vanilla-laced finish. Multi-faceted. Well done and quite a value if you can find it just north of $30.

93/100 WWP: Outstanding

Recommendation:  Buy 3 bottles.  Try one now and wait a year before opening the next.

Find it on Wine-Searcher
CellarTracker reviews 

Update: I pinged Wine Spectator Executive Editor Tom Matthews on Twitter.  He said that their December 31, 2010 issue was the cut-off for the 2010 Wine of the Year which makes sense but also confirms that both the Tapestry and the Ramey Claret were considered for the list but didn't make the cut.  I think this creates a buying opportunity for these wines.  If they landed on the Top 10 they surely would have been much harder to find.

Have you had this wine?  If so, what did you think?  If not, what are some other 2007 Napa Cab value plays you've found in the $30 range?

Read more...

Winner Announced in Menu Wine Breather Giveaway

Friday, December 10, 2010

It looked a little bleak there early in the week after announcing a giveaway for a Menu Wine Breather.  We didn't get a single entry until yesterday and then we wound up with 10.  Maybe there was a little gamesmanship going on with people trying to keep it quiet and sneak in at the last minute with an entry.

As promised at 7:00 am Eastern I counted up the entries we had.  I numbered the comments we received sequentially: 1 for the first comment, 10 for the last one.  Then I used random.org to generate a number between 1 and 10.  The winning number was 8:

That means that Tara is the winner!  Congratulations!!  I'll follow up via E-mail to arrange for the manufacturer to direct ship you your Menu Wine Breather - a $69.95 value.

An interesting observation in the comments was that the device could have a promising future in winery tasting rooms where they're looking to quickly double decant wine so they can pour it from their own bottles for label/brand recognition.  I think that's a pretty smart idea.  I wonder if we'll be seeing more Menu Wine Breather's in action at winery tasting rooms in the coming year?

Check back early next week - I've got another wine accessory to giveaway.  I'd love it if you subscribed to the site so you'll hear about new updates. 

Hope you have a great weekend.

Read more...

Hyper-Value: A $7.99 Pinot Noir and a $13.99 Napa Cab

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Perhaps more than anything, I want this blog to reflect the natural conversations I have with friends about wine in real life.  A subject that's come up frequently lately is how simple value wines can be as enjoyable to drink and discover as more sought after wines.  My wine collection increasingly has bottles that need to be aged, are better when consumed with food, or are otherwise too stuffy for weeknight consumption.  These wines sit and wait while 20% of the wines I have on hand are purchased and consumed within a month.

It reminds me of the clothes in my closet.  I only wear about 20% of the things I own and the rest just sit and wait for an occasion that may never come.  This being the case, determining which daily drinkers find a slot in our rotations can be as meaningful as the wines we splurge on.

For me, 2010 was a year where Pinot Noir zipped past Cabernet Sauvignon as the most frequently consumed varietal with Nebbiolo in 3rd place.  Since these continue to be popular categories in my house I thought I'd share my thoughts on two wines I picked up at the store yesterday, popped open immediately and enjoyed:

2009 Beringer Founder's Estate Pinot Noir
13.9% Alcohol
$7.99 Purchased at The Wine Cellar of Stoneham

A little bashful upon opening, but after just a little time it delivers round candied fruit backed by vanilla.  Scores points for revealing a variety of aromas as it evolves. However, it lacks acidity, depth, and length of finish so it's hard to be taken seriously.  But as a daily drinker it may deserve consideration in your line-up.  At least once.

Picked this one up on an adjacent recommendation in the comments section of Jason's Wine Blog's piece on the 07 Picket Fence Pinot Noir.  The tip was for an 08 Beringer California Collection Pinot Noir - I found the 09 Beringer Founder's Estate Pinot Noir and went with it.

Interesting side note: On their website this wine is listed as a Pinot Noir/Syrah blend, although Syrah isn't mentioned anywhere on the label.  Very interesting to see this especially considering Syrah is the steroids of Pinot Noir.

Bonus: Beringer donates $1 for each bottle of Founder's Estate sold to charity.

WWP 84/100: Good



2007 RouteStock Cabernet Sauvignon "Route 29"
2,600 Cases Produced
14.1% Alcohol
Cabernet Sauvignon 76%
Merlot 19%
Cabernet Franc 4%
Petit Verdot 1%
$13.99 at The Wine Cellar of Stoneham

Based on the information on their website RouteStock "crafts wines from the signature varietals grown along the wine routes one travels when visiting the world’s most celebrated wine regions" ... "sourced from family-owned vineyards."

The thing I like about this wine is how its aromas and flavor profile align with what I associate with more expensive Napa Cabernet.  As I smell an empty glass I get black currant, rich generous fruit and savory aspects that are extremely appealing. Cinnamon too. Makes me want to refill the glass.

The things separating this wine from one that's more expensive are occasional off notes, a lack of density, and a need to be aged in order for the tannins to soften.  But for immediate consumption I think it would fare better than a lot more expensive wines.  It's delicious and approachable.

Overall, the combination of the flavor profile with its convivial daily drinker nature make it a slam dunk at $13.99.  Well done. 

WWP 89/100: Very Good

Question of the Day: What are some hyper-value wines you've discovered lately?

Read more...

Boston Wine Expo 2011 Discount Codes

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Looking for discount codes to the 2012 Boston Wine Expo? Groupon is offering Sunday tickets for $50 (regular price $85).

You're probably busy thinking about everything you need to get done before Christmas, but I thought to mention the 20th Annual Boston Wine Expo coming to the Seaport World Trade Center January 22nd and 23rd, 2011.  Perhaps you might want to give tickets as a gift?

Boston Globe subscribers can get $20 off Sunday -or- Two-Day tickets:

Ticket prices until January 14, 2011  
Sunday ONLY:  Regular Price...... $85  Globe Extras Price..... $65
TWO-DAY Ticket:  Regular Price..... $145  Globe Extras Price.... $125  

Ticket prices after January 14, 2011
Sunday ONLY:  Regular Price...... $110  Globe Extras Price..... $90
TWO-DAY Ticket:  Regular Price..... $145  Globe Extras Price.... $125

Click here to get the Boston Globe Extras discount code

If you're a freelance wine writer -or- wine blogger with more than 10,000 unique page views a month you might qualify for media admission.  Click here to check out the details - thanks to The Passionate Foodie for the pointer. 

Another option: Braintree retailer Bin Ends Wine has some tickets they're offering for $77 valid for either Saturday -or- Sunday (but not both).  More here.

Here's some coupon codes that expire Wednesday January 19th, 2011:

Save $50 on the Sunday Grand Cru Wine Lounge

Interested in sampling wine that retails for $75 and up? Then this offer is for you. The Sunday Grand Cru Wine Lounge is the perfect way to spend an afternoon sampling fine wine and tasting delectable treats from the top restaurants in the city. Ticket includes admission to the Grand Tasting on the same day.
Use Promo Code: CRU50

Save $25 on the Sunday Grand Tasting

 
The most popular event of the weekend, the Grand Tasting features hundreds of wines from around the world, chef demonstrations, restaurant sampling, wine clinics and much more.
Use Promo Code: SUNGT

Save $15 on the Saturday Grand Tasting

The Saturday Grand Tasting features everything happening on Sunday except on our most popular day!
Use Promo Code: SATGT

Save $10 on Sunday's Keynote Seminar

Everything Else You Need to Know About Wine! with Ray Isle
In this one-hour, information-packed seminar, Food & Wine Executive Wine Editor Ray Isle takes on the next level of wine knowledge in a lively but always informative style. You'll taste eight different wines, gaining insight into subjects like why soil and climate differences matter so much, how wines change as they age, and what difference 'old' vines make (or don't). Plus, Isle will give his tips about navigating restaurant wine lists and wine store shelves. Special Prcie: $20
Use Promo Code: KEYNOTE

To buy tickets for the event, click on the "Buy Tickets" link on the Boston Wine Expo site.

Heard of any other coupon codes?  If so leave a comment or E-mail me at wellesleywinepress@gmail.com

Read more...

Menu Wine Breather Review

Monday, December 6, 2010

A few weeks ago I received a sample of a new type of wine decanting product - the Menu Wine Breather.  It's a hybrid sort of device that combines characteristics of single-serving active wine aerators (like the Vinturi and the Soiree) with characteristics of an old school passive wine decanter.  The net result is a device that promises to aerate an entire bottle of wine in a couple of minutes.  I used it for all the wines I served on Thanksgiving so while that experience is fresh in my head I thought to share my thoughts on it for you holiday shopping consideration.

Before we get too far have a look at this video to see how the product operates:



Design

The first thing I noticed when unboxing the product is its contemporary Danish design aesthetic.  It's got a Breaking Bad chemistry lab kind of feel to it, and the fit and finish is thoughtful and high quality.  I was a little confused how the three pieces on the top of the device go together but after some experimenting and an E-mail to the manufacturer I was able to figure it out.  The part that confused me is a rubber gasket that remains on the vessel after you remove the pourer:

Usability

Once I rinsed the product off and put the top on I was ready to decant my first bottle of wine.  From watching the video I understood how the device was intended to be used.  The fact that it aerates an entire bottle all at once makes it a good match for holiday gatherings.  On a weeknight when you're having just a glass or two you probably don't want to decant an entire bottle.  But when you're serving a few bottles in succession to a group, the Wine Breather's ability to aerate an entire bottle in just a couple of minutes is very useful.  A traditional decanter would be sitting there full of the first bottle of wine for an hour or more and subsequent bottles likely wouldn't have time for more than a splash decant (where you purposely pour the wine into the decanter such that it splashes on the bottom of the vessel and aerates the wine a bit in the process) and some aggressive swirling around in the vessel and each glass.

It's a little nerve wracking at first when the bottle is mostly full and it's completely inverted on top of the Wine Breather.  I kept a hand on it to make sure it didn't topple over.  Guests and kids were quite fascinated by yet another wine contraption I've busted out over the years.  Never discount theatrics as a means for getting people interested in a wine accessory.

I like that I can pour the wine into the vessel and let it sit for a few hours if I have the time.  Or, if I'm in a hurry I can quickly pour it back into the bottle (for a so-called "double decant").  I prefer pouring wine from the bottle it came in rather than from a decanter because people can see the label of the wine -and- decanters can be tricky to pour from (the last glass in a bottle especially).

One minor issue I had with my test unit is that the silver part of the pourer separated from its black housing.  This makes it a little difficult to remove the pourer from the neck of the vessel for cleaning the device:

How it Works

The Wine Breather reminds me a bit of the Soiree (review) because of the way wine cascades along the sides of the glass and exposes the wine to air in the process.

I used the device on three bottles for Thanksgiving.  For each, I tasted the wine directly from the bottle to get a feel for how much decanting it seemed to require and then based on that I'd more or less aggressively use the device.

The first bottle was a 2005 Cakebread Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon.  At 5 years old, it was quite open aromatically with soft tannins.  It didn't need a great deal of decanting so I poured it into the Wine Breather, let it sit for an hour or so and then poured the wine back into the bottle and served it from there.  Nice wine - good result.

The next bottle was a young 2008 Sea Smoke Southing Pinot Noir.  The wine was very limited aromatically and although it showed promise on the palate needed some serious encouragement to come out of its shell.  I decided to double decant it with the Wine Breather and then taste it.  It seemed to help a little but I thought it could still use more decanting so I did another pass through the device and then back into the bottle.  A quadruple decant!  The wine was still pretty bashful and tight aromatically but its flavors were more apparent on the palate and its finish was impressive.

The third and final bottle was a 2006 Leonetti Merlot from Washington state.  This wine presented a unique challenge in that it had silty sediment in the bottle.  However, it was quite Bordeaux-like in style (graphite and tar on top of powerful fruit) so I thought it would be a good idea to run it through the Wine Breather.  It ended up jostling the fine sediment quite a bit and each glass was quite murky.  This particular style of wine would be better served by traditional decanting for the purpose of letting the sediment fall to the bottom of the device and gently pouring off wine from the top.  Lesson learned, but this an objection many will raise about wine accessories that involved inverting the bottle for optimal effectiveness.

Blind Tasting

I'm a firm believer in using blind tasting to assess the effectiveness of products like these.  What I'm looking for when tasting is more pronounced aromatics (as opposed to being closed), rounder flavors (as opposed to being sharp), and a smoother finish.

The first test I did was a head to head blind tasting of a glass of wine that was poured right out of the bottle vs. one that went through the Menu Wine Breather.  For this test I used a 2007 Brancaia Toscana Tre - a well regarded quality-price-ratio favorite that seems to catch a lot of comments on CellarTracker that it needs air.  I couldn't tell the difference between the glass passed through the Menu and the one that was not.  Tie.

I thought - hmm.  I need to create a situation where there is a control sample (pop 'n pour) and a should-be-good sample (decanted a couple of hours in a traditional decanter) and then see how the Menu does compared to these other two.  For this test I cracked open a bottle of 2006 Produttori Barbaresco - young for a Barabresco - and invited a friend over.  I then poured the wine 3 ways for him and vice versa.

We both preferred the decanted wine over the pop 'n pour wine however we disagreed on whether the Menu was better or worse than the other two wines.  My result:

1st: Menu
2nd: Decanter
3rd: Pop 'n Pour

My friend's result:

1st: Decanter
2nd: Pop 'n Pour
3rd: Menu

Hmm - where to go from here?  I did another 3-way test myself with a 2008 75 Wine Company "The Sum" - fairly big, bold and young Napa Cabernet.  The result:

1st: Decanter
2nd: Menu
3rd: Pop 'n Pour

Conclusion: For me, the Menu performed well in blind tasting overall.  It performed as good or better than pop 'n pour in each test -and- it produced similar results to a 2-hour decant in 2 out of 3 tests.  I like the way it can quickly aerate an entire bottle of wine, and if I feel like a wine could benefit from more air it's easy to run it through the device multiple times back and forth between the bottle and the Menu Wine Breather. 

Strengths:
  • Provides an easy way to double-decant a bottle of wine
  • Can achieve aeration results similar to a decanter in a fraction of the time
  • Easy to decant multiple times quickly for accelerated aeration
  • Relatively compact for a full-size decanter
  • Modern "chemistry lab" styling
Weaknesses:
  • Works best when decanting an entire bottle - not so well for single pours
  • Operates based on inversion which potentially stirs up sediment in some wines
Overall Result:
    WWP: 4/5 Stars (recommended with some reservations)

    Here's some more discussion about the Menu Wine Breather from wine(accessorized) 

    Here is a link to the product on Amazon:
     
    Giveaway!  Leave a comment below by Friday, December 8th at 7:00 am EST to be entered in a drawing to win your own Menu Wine Breather shipped directly to you from the manufacturer.  (United States and Canada only please.)  If you'd rather keep it on the down low drop me an E-mail at wellesleywinepress@gmail.com

    To increase your chances of winning, tweet a link to this blog post and you'll get a 2nd entry.  Click here to pre-populate a Twitter status update (you'll have a chance to edit before sending the tweet).

    Winner will be announced Friday morning.  Good luck!

    Update: Tara is our winner! Congratulations - here are the details.

    Read more...

    CyberMonday 2010 Wine Deals

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    $30 for $60 at Wine.com via Living Social

    Living Social has an offer for a $60 gift certificate from Wine.com for $30.  This is the first time I've tried to take advantage of an offer from Living Social.  The way this one works is that you can buy the offer for $30 and then if three friends also take advantage of the offer yours is free.  Other wine retailers have had trouble running half-off group buying deals in MA so we'll see how it goes.  Update: Three people were kind enough to buy this deal through my link.  Thank you!  If you'd like to go in on this deal, feel free to pass along your unique code so that you can get the deal for free too.

    Wine.com

    Wine.com has 1 cent shipping on orders of $49 or more today.  Like this 2008 Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir.  They'll have revolving specials all week so we'll see whether the Living Social deal can "stack" with the Wine.com specials.

    The Spirit Shoppe

    A half-dozen Cyber Monday specials including the 2008 Owen Roe Sinister Hand for $19.99.  Free shipping to MA with code "freeground". 

    Vintages in Belmont, MA

    Local Piedmont specialists Vintages is having a unique Midnight Madness sale in conjunction with other retailers in Belmont.  They're offering 20% off a new "shelf" of wine each hour tonight starting at 6 pm.  Love it!  Ironically, a local ordinance requires they close at 10 pm.

    Blanchards

    A couple dozen Cyber Monday specials for your consideration.  Prices posted now.

    Grapes The Wine Company

    They can't ship to MA, and their deals are listed via E-mail so I can't link to today's specifically, but I noticed today's special on an aged Zind Humbrecht so thought to suggest that you visit their website and sign up for their E-mail newsletter if you like wine deals and can receive wine shipments to your state.

    I'll update this page if I hear about other deals.  If you're a retailer and would like your offer added E-mail me at wellesleywinepress@gmail.com.  Any other deals you're hearing about?  Leave a comment to share.

    Read more...

    Black Friday 2010 Wine Sales

    Thursday, November 25, 2010


    Here are some notable Black Friday Wine Deals I've heard about.  If you're a retailer and would like me to add your offer to this list drop me an E-mail at: wellesleywinepress@gmail.com 

    Wine.com

    Friday Only: 15% off a mixed case with coupon code BLACKFRIDAY.  For example you could get the 2008 Caymus Special Selection for $84.99 (regularly $99) as part of a mixed case.  Wine.com can ship to Massachusetts.

    West Concord Liquors

    2006 Louis Jadot Vosne Romanee - regularly $56, on sale for $38 for an individual bottle.

    20% off all Wine Spectator Top 100 wines in stock (17 different wines available to start the day) no minimum purchase.  Notable inventory:

    • #2 2008 Two Hands Shiraz Barossa Valley Bella's Garden $52 (was $65)
    • #6 2008 Paul Hobbs Russian River Pinot Noir $47.99 (was $59.99)
    • #9 2007 CARM Douro Reserva $21.60 (was $26.99)
    • #75 2008 A to Z Wine Works Pinot Noir $15.99 (was $19.99)
    • #79 2009 Elk Cove Pinot Gris $14.39 (was $17.99)
    Bin Ends Wine

    10% off anything in the store -or- online with code "Turkey".  Like this 6-pack of Blue Jay Ranch Pinot Noir - very good stuff especially for $9 a bottle.

    The last two times I've been there, they've had 2007 Ridge Monte Bello half-bottles in the bargain bins for $40.  10% off is $36 so the equivalent of $72 for a 750ml bottle of this wine.  Based on a $145 release price, and a nationwide low price on Wine-Searcher.com of $99 I think this is a buy.  Their inventory changes constantly so you never know what you're going to find!

    Wine Nation

    They'll pay the sales tax (save 6.25%) on Friday November 26th and every Tuesday in December.

    Items with prices ending in "4" are excluded from the tax savings deal.  Click here to see their current ad.

    Julio's Liquors

    25%+ off 400 select wines.  Noted the 93WS 2008 Patz & Hall Sonoma Coast for $36 and 90+ Cellars wines at favorably low prices.

    Table & Vine

    Specials on wines from Cadence Winery, Burgundy, and 2009 Cru Beaujolais.

    Wine Library

    100+ items at huge discounts.  Click here for more info starting at 9 AM EST on Friday.  Wine Library cannot and does not ship to Massachusetts. 

    Blanchards

    Holding off until Cyber Monday: Click here to see a preview of their sale. 

    Groupon Chicago

    $25 gets you $75 worth of wine from Barclays Wine.  The selection looks like they're wine of the month club type retailer but have a look to see what you think.  They don't ship to MA.  Use this link if you want to kick back a $10 referral to my Groupon accountUse this link to go directly to the Barclays Wine deal.

    Any good public deals I'm missing?  Which retailers have been offering deals you can't pass up lately?

    Read more...

    An Example of How Social Media Actually Sells Wine

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    A few programming notes...

    I'm still looking for Black Friday Wine Deals.  I've gotten some good ones already but I'd love to have more.  Drop me an E-mail (wellesleywinepress@gmail.com) if you want me to mention a Black Friday wine deal in a roll-up I'll be doing like last year.  That'll go out late Thursday/early Friday.

    Speaking of Black Friday and consumerism, some bonus content that might interest you:

    For Thanksgiving we're staying local and having a small group this year.  How about you?  For the all-important wine selection question I think I'll go with something along the lines of my typical "CPR" play - Cab, Pinot Noir, and Riesling.  

    A friend asked yesterday if I could pass along some wine suggestions for a medium-sized group so I thought to share what I suggested here.  If you want to keep it simple, swing by The Urban Grape and pick up one of their $50/4-pack Turkey Lurkey samplers.  They've put together a really nice assortment I think.  If that doesn't work for whatever reason I thought the follwing three wines were reliable all-American crowd pleasers from the past year:
    • 2007/08 Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon (around $20)
    • 2008 Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir (around $20, more info)
    • 2009 Red Newt Riesling Circle Label (around $12, more info)
    I hope you have a safe and enjoyable Thanksgiving.  I'm thankful for my family, for people who help care for our kids (it takes a village!), and as it relates to today's blog post, friends I've made in the process of exploring the wine world.  Happy Thanksgiving!

    I sense skepticism from some as to whether social media is a worthwhile endeavor for wineries and wine retailers.  I think there may be an expectation that some mention of a specific wine is going to make demand go viral and and when that doesn't happen there's a period of disillusionment where those on the sell side of the wine community question whether time spent on Twitter, Facebook and blogging is an utter waste of time.  Time spent on social networking sites may indeed be a waste of time, but I wanted to share a couple recent examples of wines I purchased solely because of recommendations I receive via social channels because I think they shine light on interesting nuances in human behavior and purchasing decisions.

    I received an E-mail offer from one of my favorite deal-making retailers for the 2005 Scholium Project Babylon Tenbrink Vineyards at a relatively good price.  A couple years ago I remember reading something about their wines on RJ's Wine Blog.  I reviewed what RJ wrote, dropped him an E-mail, and asked whether he thought it was a good play.  He said he thought it was, and I was inclined to buy the wine based on his recommendation, but more importantly than that I bought it because I looked forward to tasting a wine he'd written about.  I wanted to be able to relate a wine from a similar point of a view as a friend who also had the wine on the other side of the country.

    So often there's an interest in a winery trying to get their story conveyed effectively, and a winery's story is indeed hugely important, but just like when I get a Garagiste E-mail I'm as much inclined to buy the wine because I want to relate to what Jon Rimmerman is describing.  The story isn't always the winery's - sometimes it's another person's reflection on the wine that sells the wine.

    Take for example this comment from @joshiemac on a blog post I wrote about Barbaresco.  Joshua mentioned that he's a Northern California guy born and bred but spent 3 years in Italy in his 20's.  He thought that if I liked Barbaresco I might also enjoy some Etna Rossa wines from Sicily.  I followed up and asked for some specific recommendations and he provided a CellarTracker link to a specific wine and, ironically, pointed out that the wine is featured in the Spirit Shoppe image ad that has been running on my site for a few months now - the Tenuta di Trinoro Passopisciaro.  Think about that:  I look at this site a lot as I'm editing and I wasn't familiar with the wine labels I was seeing on a daily basis.  It took someone pointing my nose in the wine and telling my why I might like it for me to try it.  That's the difference between ads and social.  That's how social media sells wine.

    My notes on these wines:


    2005 Scholium Project Babylon Tenbrink Vineyards
    572 Cases Produced
    15.7% Alcohol
    Around $40-$80
    More Information from the Winery

    I thought this wine was rich and satisfying then thought to myself "I'm getting a little heat on the backend". I checked the bottle which revealed 15.7% alc. Wow. I guess it conceals it well for 15.7% but there's a lot of alcohol in this wine.

    Quite opaque and full-bodied. Aromas of red raspberries, black pepper and...bananas(?). Satisfyingly flavorful. Great mouth-feel. Velvety tannins. Interesting stuff.

    90/100 WWP: Outstanding


    2007 Passopisciaro (Tenuta di Trinoro) Etna Passopisciaro
    3,916 Cases Produced
    14% Alcohol
    Around $32-$45
    More Information from the Winery


    It's like a Barbaresco without the tannic bite,which is to say dangerously delicious. This wine is very light visually but satisfyingly flavorful on the palate.

    It's got a unique nose of fresh strawberries with a touch of earth. Very fresh and inviting. On the palate, a touch of acidity with vanilla and more fresh fruit. Freaking delicious.

    Hardest thing about this wine is finding a match in CellarTracker. What the heck is this stuff? :)

    A heartfelt "thank you" to CT user "joshiemac" for the recommendation on this one. Friend or fan that guy up if you'd like solid recommendations for off the beaten path Italian wines especially. 

    93/100 WWP: Outstanding

    Read more...

    Deal: $25 for $50 at JJ Buckley via Corkd

    Monday, November 22, 2010

    Group buying seems to be all the rage lately, and now Corkd is getting in on dishing out the deals.  They're offering a $50 JJ Buckley gift card for $25.  Click here to visit Corkd.com and check out the terms of the deal.

    Unfortunately, JJ Buckley cannot and does not ship to Massachusetts.  You'll have to ship to a neighboring state to take advantage of this deal (or give the gift card to someone who lives in a state they do ship wine to).  I can vouch for them being a reputable retailer as I've ordered from them in the past and had wines shipped to other states.  The deals they offer are pretty incredible, and this deal makes those deals even sweeter.

    When you're placing your order be sure to decline the $1.00 insurance and select "Deliver Gift Card via Email":
    It just occurred to me as I was writing this up how cool this deal is.  Why?  Because Gary Vaynerchuk owns Corkd.  And as a wine retailer (Wine Library and Cinderella Wine) he's effectively a direct competitor to JJ Buckley.  Yet, he's allowing this deal to go through to promote another wine retailer.  My guess as to why he'd do this?  Because he loves the idea of pushing the retail envelope with a deal like this -and- he wants to see Corkd make a play as a wine deal hub.  Pretty cool.

    Further Reading:
    Wine Retailers: I'm compiling a list of Black Friday Wine Deals like I did last year.  If you'd like me to mention your sale or offer drop me an E-mail and I'll include it in my list.

      Read more...

      Support Kids with Cancer by Buying Wine

      Ari Haseotes, Co-Founder of One Mission; President, CEO of Cumberland Farms
      Lisa Hughes, Anchor, WBZ-TV News
      Ashley Haseotes, Co-Founder and President of One Mission
      Dr. Scott Armstrong, Director of Translational Research in Pediatric Cancer and Blood Diseases,
      Children’s Hospital Boston and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

      Photo Credit: Doros Photography
      One Mission is a Boston-area childhood cancer foundation.  Last Thursday they had a benefit wine gala at the Boston Harbor Hotel to benefit Children's Hospital Boston.  A good friend mentioned the event to me and encouraged me to join him - I'm glad he did because I enjoyed the event very much.  They raised $190,000 from 200 attendees plus an additional $45,000 in a silent auction. There's an opportunity to support this cause by buying wine through the end of the month so I'd like to tell you about it.

      Patriots Cheerleader Sara with
      One Mission Founder Ashley Haseotes
      I wasn't familiar with One Mission until attending this event.  I thought they did an excellent job focusing the night on the kids and their families and effectively informing attendees what it is they do and why you should consider supporting them with your charitable contribution.

      Founder Ashley Haseotes' son was diagnosed with cancer 5 years ago.  She told a heart wrenching story about how difficult it was discovering he had cancer, how he almost didn't make it, and how life-altering the process was for their entire family.

      I learned that One Mission focuses their support in two areas: (1) supporting programs seeking cures for pediatric cancer -and- (2) helping kids with cancer and their parents a little bit easier with things like care packages, meals, and parties in the hospital to give kids something to look forward to.

      At the event they partnered with Marty's in Newton to pour 75 different wines.  They're offering 10% discounts on 12 bottles and 20% discounts on 24 bottles.  Use Coupon Code "One Mission" when ordering and 50% of the proceeds will go to One Mission.

      Marty's Fine Wine
      http://www.martysfinewine.com
      675 Washington St.
      Newton, MA 02458
      617-332-1230

      I've included some thoughts on wines I tried to help get you started:
      Posted from CellarTracker 

      Note: Some of these wines may not be listed as available on Marty's website.  If you can't find what you're looking for online give them a call or buy in-store and mention this One Mission benefit.  Thanks for your consideration.

      Read more...

      Value Alert: 2007 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon

      Tuesday, November 16, 2010

      The market for relabeled wines is growing and competitive.  What is relabeling exactly?  Well, when a premium winery bottles their wines they sometimes keep a percentage of production unlabeled so they can elect at a later date to sell the wine as their own -or- sell it to another company who places a different label on it and sells it as a different wine.  This practice gives wineries a way to sell excess inventory without tarnishing their brand's reputation and polluting their sales channels with cut-rate inventory.  The economic downturn that began a few years ago has been particularly harsh on the wine trade and value-hunting wine consumers, at least in the short run, have benefited from this process.

      There are some variations on the relabeling scenario described above.  Sometimes it's the grapes, sometimes it's "the juice", and sometimes it's a finished bottled product that's being offered.  Brands you may recognize as operating within some variation of this model include Cameron Hughes, 90+ Cellars, and Newman WinesBanshee Wines aims to "deliver distinctive wines that beat the pants off many costing twice as much."  I think they're pushing the pricing envelope within this model at $35 for a 2007 Napa Cab.  I say it's pushing the envelope because there are some great 2007 Napa Cabs that can be had in this price range like the 2007 Honig Cabernet Sauvignon if you shop around.  With a relabeled wine you forgo the connection with the original producing winery so I factor that into the equation when considering purchase of a relabeled wine.  At $35, a relabeled wine needs to be really good to fly off the shelves.

      The 2007 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon caught my attention because of recommendations from some of my must trusted retailers.  I bought this particular bottle from John Hafferty at Bin Ends Wine in Braintree, MA.  I stopped in a week ago trolling through the bargain bins (picked up some 2007 Ridge Monte Bello half bottles -and- some 2007 Gaja Sito Moresco at unbeatable prices) and he said he this wine was the best deal in the store.  John tastes more wine in a week than I do in a year probably and especially since I love Napa Cab I took his recommendation and ran with it.  I'm glad I did.

      From Banshee Wines: 

      When this wine became available to us, we were blown away by our good fortune.
      Some fun facts:
      The winery where this gem was born has a flagship wine that releases for over $200 a bottle.
      It was made by one of the top 3 winemaking consultants in the world.
      The winery sold this exact wine with a different label for $100 a bottle.
      We bought all of the unlabeled bottles they had and are offering it for 1/3 of the price!
      This big Cab was made to go with a grass fed NY strip. Light up the grill baby!

      I found the Banshee label reminiscent of the Schrader Cellars "Old Sparky" label (below) and I think that's a good thing.  If you don't have a Wine Spectator subscription I'd highly recommend setting aside some time to read this piece James Laube wrote about Fred Schrader while online access if free the next couple of weeks.
      Here are my notes on the Banshee:

      2007 Banshee Cabernet Sauvignon
      14.5% Alcohol
      23 Barrels Produced (575 cases)
      $35 Release Price ($27-$30 street price)

      For how powerful and utterly delicious this wine is on the palate, it starts off slowly.

      Visually, it's about 70% opaque. The nose only hints at what's to come - it actually smelled like a rather ordinary red wine to me. Some fruit, a little iron, a bit of earth.

      But on the palate, this wine is extraordinary, on the mid-palate in particular. It has a powerful mocha streak that I found stunningly attractive. Imagine an iced cafe mocha served in a pint glass with a streak of Hershey's syrup down the side. That's what this wine is to me. A beautifully framed Napa Cabernet wrapped around a core of delicious earthy chocolate notes with a finish that goes on for minutes.

      Highly recommended. I'd rate it higher if it somehow balanced out the deliciousness with just a touch more fruit or acid. But it's so good I'm willing to forgive it. 

      93/100 WWP: Outstanding 

      Further Reading:
      Have you had this wine?  If so, what did you think?  Either way, how do you approach purchase decisions related to relabeled wines?

      Read more...

      Catching a Falling Star

      Monday, November 8, 2010

      Reminder: We're still running the Scoop the Spectator contest where you can win a $75 gift certificate for guessing their 2010 Wine of the Year.  Check it out and lob in your guess now!

      The 2007 Merryvale Profile is a red Bordeaux blend that retails for $150 and was rated 93 points by Wine Spectator.  I think I've paid $20 a glass for the wine at The Capital Grille in the past.  The winery produces a broad range of highly regarded wines including a $35 Syrah that was rated 92 points in 2006 and 90 points in 2007.  As a value hunter, this kind of track record establishes Merryvale as a reputable producer I'd be interested in getting to know better.

      When I saw an offer from Blanchard's for the 2002 Merryvale Syrah for the unbelievably low price of $4.83 per bottle when purchased by the 12 bottle case I was skeptical.  Skeptical about whether the wine was any good in the first place, whether it still had any life, and skeptical about how it had been stored since release.  But at $55 a case - how bad could it be?  It reminded me of the famous $4/bottle Tiz Red Bin Ends offered up last year that's served me incredibly well as a 3rd bottle to open when friends are over when nobody is interested in active assessment of the wine - but rather just one more glass of wine whatever it might be.

      A couple nights ago I had a highly regarded 2002 from Napa - a Switchback Ridge Merlot.  91 Points from Wine Spectator and a release price of $50.  I caught it for $30 and thought it was fantastic.  I thought this gave me a good framework for comparing this 2002 Merryvale Syrah.

      The first thing I noticed when opening the case was that the label looked subtly dated.  I thought I just being picky but have a look at the 2007 label vs. the 2002.  I think the 2007 is a lot sleeker and more contemporary:

      2007 Merryvale Syrah
      2002 Merryvale Syrah
      So how did the 2002 taste?  You know what - I thought it had a lot of similarities with the 2002 Switchback Ridge and that's a very good thing.  The mouth feel of both was round and mature.  Neither wine went pruney, raisiny or porty.  Tannins had faded substantially so the wines were smooth.  They still had a vibrant edge despite their age.  These aren't aged wines - only 8 years old.  Both might have been better a year or three ago but they're both quite enjoyable right now.  Here are my notes on the Merryvale:

      2002 Merryvale Syrah
      15.0% Alcohol
      Est $35 Release Price/$4.83 on closeout at Blanchard's

      Dark in color. Nearly opaque. Slightly murky. Aromas of blueberries, blackberries, and violets. Great mouth feel - round and voluptuous. Just a touch of heat on the backend (it's 15.0% alcohol) but the finish is bright enough for me to say this still has a bit of enjoyable life.

      On the second night, this wine is even more impressive.  Earthy aromas pair beautifully with ripe round fruit.  Very impressive.

      88/100 WWP: Very Good

      This deal sold out in just a couple of hours.  I share this tale with you to encourage you to get on Blanchard's E-mail list.  It's one of the better lists in Massachusetts.

      Further Reading:
      • It's almost time to roll-up the best wine deals of 2010.  Here's my list from 2009 - I think I'll have even more to draw on this year.
      • It's also almost time to take stock of the best wines of 2010.  I have one in mind that's still haunting me and ironically I had it New Year's Day.  Subscribe to the WWP so we can keep in touch.
      Where are you finding hyper-value these days?  The $5 category at Trader Joe's?  Closeouts?  What's working well for you?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.

      Read more...

      Thursday November 18th: One Mission Wine Gala for Pediatric Cancer

      Sunday, November 7, 2010

      Here's an opportunity to enjoy an elegant night on the town to benefit a great cause - pediatric cancer patients and their families.

      Click here for more information about One Mission and this event specifically.

      Read more...

      Scoop the Spectator and Win $75

      Friday, November 5, 2010

      This contest is sponsored by CSN Stores who sells everything from dining room chairs to wine aerators and Henckels Santuko knives.  The winner gets a $75 gift certificate that can be used in any of their online stores.

      This is a great time of year for wine enthusiasts.  The holidays are coming so we'll have opportunities to crack open those special bottle with friends and family.  It's a chance to take stock of the year that was and think about which wines delivered the most excitement. 

      Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year isn't necessarily the "best" wine they found in the past year.  That would be too easy to identify - we'd just look up the wines they rated the past year, sort on rating, and flip a coin as to which 100 pointer should win.  Rather, my view of the list is it's a list of wines that in their view defined the current state of the wine market.

      Judging from past results, the wines selected are higher production, rated 95 pointers or better, are a good value, and somehow represent a statement the publication likes to make about a specific wine region or category.  Their stated criteria:

      Each year, Wine Spectator editors survey the wines reviewed over the previous 12 months and select our Top 100, based on quality, value, availability and excitement.

      I think it's fun to think about which wine will win.  Not so much because it's a wine you must have but rather because it's interesting to see how the market moves in response to the award being announced.  Consider last year's winner the 2005 Columbia Crest Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.  Its release price was $27 and now sells at auction for $100.  In short, if you can scoop the Spectator there's an opportunity to be had flipping wine!  Well, unless you live in Massachusetts which is the only state in the union that you can't ship wine out of.

      I won't steal anyone's thunder by sharing my guesses - though there's been some chatter about this subject on Twitter.  I hope we get a lot of entries because the prize is good -and- we'll wind up with some great QPR plays from the list of guesses.

      Rules:
      1. Leave your entry as a comment below.
      2. One guess per person.
      3. The first person to guess a specific wine "owns" that wine as their entry.  Subsequent guesses of the same wine aren't useful so look at the previous comments before submitting your entry.
      4. If nobody guesses the 2010 Wine Spectator Wine of Year, the guess with the highest position on the list will win the gift certificate.
      5. Not that they'd try, but Wine Spectator editors aren't allowed to enter.  And if you have inside information please don't spoil the fun for others by entering.  But if you do know please E-mail me and let me know. ;)
      6. Contest closes Sunday November 14th at 11:59pm because Wine Spectator starts revealing the Top 10 Monday November 15th.
      Good luck!

      Bonus: WineSpectator.com is opening up for free access to their articles and ratings November 15-28 so if you're not a subscriber this is a good chance to see whether you'd find an online subscription useful.

      Read more...

      Massachusetts Voters Repeal Alcohol Sales Tax: What Happens Next?

      Wednesday, November 3, 2010

      Interactive map available on Boston.com
      The initial returns didn't look promising, but on a night expected to be filled with tight races, one actually ended up being close.  By a 52%-48% margin, voters said "yes" to Massachusetts Question 1 which would repeal the sales tax on alcoholic beverages (full story from WBUR).  If enacted, this means that sales tax on beer, wine, and spirits will return to it's pre-2009 rate of 0% from its current rate of 6.25%.

      I watched the returns closely all night and found them fascinating.  Looking at the map above, larger cities generally voted in favor of keeping the tax while smaller towns voted to repeal it.  Meanwhile, the eastern part of the state wanted to repeal the tax while the western part of the state wanted it maintained.  I'm still thinking about what exactly those trends imply in terms of public opinion but at the same time I'm looking forward to the future.

      A few questions come to mind:
      1. When will the alcohol tax repeal take effect?
        When the tax went into effect last year it took one month from when Governor Patrick signed the bill into law and the tax started being collected.  Something tells me this will be like credit card charges: Applied almost instantly when it's a purchase but seemingly takes forever when it's a refund.
        You can bet retailers and consumers will be anxious to see this take effect, especially since we're entering the busiest time of the year.  I look forward to putting a sales-tax-free bottle of wine on our holiday table.
        Update: According to @CurtNickisch from WBUR the sales tax is set to be removed January 1st, 2011.
      2. Will the excise tax be increased?
        I suggested in this piece that if the intent of the alcohol sales tax was to discourage excessive consumption, the right thing to do is to increase the excise tax.  Whether that was indeed the intent is unclear, but we'll see if an excise tax increase comes along with the alcohol tax being repealed.
      3. Might the state legislature ignore the result and decide not to repeal the alcohol sales tax?
        I guess that's possible one way or another.  It wasn't like they asked our opinion when they put the tax in place last year.  We shall see, but I hope it's not like when courts decided earlier this year that wineries should be able to ship wine directly to Massachusetts consumer only to have the state legislature utterly fail to take the common sense action of passing a direct shipping model bill.
      4. If I live in another state, can I buy wine from Massachusetts tax-free online and have it shipped to my state?
        MA retailers can't legally ship out of the state so if you find a MA retailer who ships out of state they're probably doing so illegally.  That being the case I find it unlikely that they'd remit taxes to your state.  It's also illegal to import or export wine into the state so you can't technically come here and buy wine to take home.  Nobody has ever been formally cited for this act that I'm aware of, but just so you know. 
      5. What's going to happen to the behavioral health services the sales tax funded?
        I don't know.  During the campaign, there was disagreement on whether the alcohol sales tax exclusively funded these programs or whether the sales tax went into the general fund.  I never gained full clarity on how exactly these programs were funded prior to (and after) the alcohol sales tax was in place.  My guess would be it will revert back to its prior state of funding which I assume came from the general fund.
        Another thought: Since we have mandatory health insurance in Massachusetts might it make sense to include behavioral health services in the health insurance mandates?
      Thanks to everyone who voted yes on this question.  And thanks to everyone who engaged in an enlightened discussion about the issues even if you came to a different conclusion than I did.  It was a complicated question and to be honest I'm surprised it passed.  The "no" vote enjoyed the equivalent of an incumbent's advantage because when people are confused by a question (and it was a confusing issue especially as stated on the ballot) the default response is to say "I'm not convinced: No."

      Let's hope this is the beginning of a series of wine enthusiast-friendly changes in Massachusetts.  Pair this with freeing up some shipping laws and creating more competition at the distributor level and we could be on to something.  Let's hope!  Here's to buying some sales-tax-free wine in the near future.

      Stay tuned for answers to these questions.  I'd love it if you subscribed so we can continue the conversation.

      Learning how to help an alcoholic can be quite useful, especially when you have friends or loved ones who drink alcohol excessively.

      Read more...
      Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

      Topics

        © Blogger templates Newspaper by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

      Back to TOP