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Deal Alert: 50% Off Wine Spectator Subscription

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Deal site Travelzoo is offering a 1-year subscription to Wine Spectator for $25 which is half off the regular price. Deals like this can typically be used to add on to an existing subscription so if you'd like to keep your subscription going this is a pretty good deal:

http://www.travelzoo.com/local-deals/nationwide/Other/41405

Thanks to reader C.S. for the tip!

An alternative that's been available for a while is to subscribe to the magazine with airline miles. A 1-year subscription for 900 United miles is an outstanding redemption rate. Other carriers offer similar deals as well.

Looking to earn some miles and points towards nearly free travel without doing hard time on a legacy carrier? Credit card signup bonuses are the way to go. More on my latest obsession area of interest here: Lessons learned on the way to 270,000 points and miles

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Cakebread Cellars Dinner at Legal Harborside

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

This is a good one! Legal Harborside is hosting a Cakebread wine dinner and Dennis Cakebread will be on hand to share the Cakebread story and describe the wines.

Long time WWP readers will recall that Cakebread is the wine that got me into wine. For more information on what makes the Cakebread brand special check out this in depth trip report. Cakebread is a great place to visit. I'd recommend springing for something more than a quick tasting to get a feel for what they do.


WHERE: Legal Harborside at Liberty Wharf
270 Northern Avenue, Boston

WHEN: Monday, March 11th at 7:00pm

COST: $125 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)

HOW: Reservations can be made by contacting 617.530.9470 or visiting www.legalseafoods.com.

WHAT: On March 11th, Legal Harborside will team up with Cakebread Cellars’ Director of Sales, Dennis Cakebread, to host a wine dinner at Legal Harborside. This four-plus-course culinary adventure will highlight the best tastes from sea and vine. Cakebread Cellars has vineyard properties located throughout Napa Valley surrounding the production facility in Rutherford where it all began in 1972. Today, the winery owns 13 sites totaling 982 acres.

The menu will be presented as follows on Legal Harborside’s scenic second level overlooking Boston Harbor:

HORS D’OEUVRES
vol-au-vent, lobster, tarragon, mascarpone
geoduck clam, yuzu marinated melon, virginia ham
pickled sardines, dill crème fraîche, caraway and rye toast
merguez sausage, fennel vinaigrette and apple hash
Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay, Napa Valley, 2010

FIRST COURSE
tuna carpaccio*
bosc pear, wakame, serrano chiles, wasabi aioli and cucumber
Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, 2011

SECOND COURSE
grilled shrimp
rosemary, smoked and braised chickpeas, chorizo and roast garlic dust
Cakebread Cellars “Reserve” Chardonnay, Carneros, 2010

THIRD COURSE
cast iron skillet-seared duck breast
red rice, golden rutabaga, preserved walnuts and junipers
Cakebread Cellars “Benchland Select” Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, 2009

CHEESE
mountain cheese and dried fruit
Cakebread Cellars Zinfandel, Lake County, 2010

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Tasting Report: Red Wine and Coca-Cola

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A while back Esquire wrote about a unique combination of ingredients I hadn't heard of before: Red wine and Coca-Cola.
 
Looking around a bit we find this concoction has been quite popular in Spain ("Kalimotxo"), South America ("Calimocho") and elsewhere ("Rioja Libre").
 
A situation where the drink is quite popular is where you half-empty a 2 liter bottle of Coke then fill it up with low grade red wine then take it to the beach and pour it over ice in plastic cups. Crafty!
 
Since we're on vacation I've noticed some of the domestic reds I picked up at Costco weren't faring well under a re-inserted cork after a day or two so I thought this would be a good chance to try out the combination of red wine and Coke.
 
In my humble opinion: It's quite good!
 
I took a rocks glass and filled it about 2/3 full of ice. Then I filled the glass about 2/3 up with red wine. I chose a Petite Sirah that was pretty good the first couple nights but not likely to fare well after a couple days on the counter. I then topped it off with Coca-Cola. As you can see from the picture it becomes purple with a bit of foam on top.
 
It's a different experience drinking this "cocktail" than drinking red wine from a wine glass. The first thing I noticed is that the aromatics were muted. It smelled more or less like grape soda and cola. If you're just trying to get into red wine and it's not working out for you this might be just the ticket to acclimate you!
 
On the palate is where I thought the combination worked well. The satisfying earthy characteristics of the Petite Sirah were unmistakeable, and the cola notes I generally enjoy in wine were tasty. The drink finishes with a refreshing lift provided by the effervescence of the cola.
 
Conclusions and Recommendations:
 
I thought this was a nice way to utilize an already opened bottle of wine that wasn't faring well after a day or two out on the counter. The beverage is refreshing and versatile. I can see this being quite nice in a number of settings.
 
Question of the Day: Have you ever tried red wine and Coke? If so, what did you think? If not, would you be up for giving it a shot?
 

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Sending Money to Wine Friends with Amazon Payments

Saturday, February 9, 2013

When taking advantage of wine deals it's often advantageous to join forces with others to reduce shipping costs and/or share winery allocations.

In doing so we create a situation where we need to settle up financially. Months often go by before the actual wine arrives and exchanges hands but in the meantime you need to float the costs. This is usually manageable  but it's preferable to settle up financially sooner rather than later.

Mailing a check is a nuisance. Who wants to take the time to write a check out, find an envelope and a stamp and get it out the door? Bill pay might work but seems a little clunky too.

I've used PayPal for this a few times, but they make it hard to understand when fees will be charged and you can't use a credit card without paying a service charge.

Enter Amazon Payments


I've been doing some experimentation with credit card signup bonuses lately (270,000 miles and points baby!) and one of the borderline shady techniques folks use to generate spend on cards is to send money to a relative or trusted friend using Amazon Payments. Transactions are limited to $1,000 per sender per month but it can be a quick and easy way to meet a $1,000 minimum spend to get a signup bonus.

That's not the intended use model.

The intended use model is to make it easy to send money to friends.

How it Works


Almost everyone has an Amazon.com account at this point, right? If not, sign up for one.

Step 1: Visit the Amazon Payments website

Go to: http://payments.amazon.com

Step 2: Create an account

At the top right of the page click "Create Account".
Sign in with your Amazon.com credentials.
Complete the form and submit.
Wait until you receive an email confirming your email address.
Confirm your email address to complete the application process.

Step 3: Wait for account to be verified

If you try to send or receive money right away you'll may get a message like this:

"As a result of changes to federal regulation, Amazon Payments is required to verify your identity. This functionality is temporarily disabled, pending verification of your information."

You need to wait for your account to be verified. A little while later you should receive an email saying "Your Amazon Payments account has been verified". This can take a minute or a few hours. You should now be able to send and receive money. You probably already have credit cards associated with your Amazon account but if you don't you can add them while you're waiting.

Step 4: Turn on "Accept requests for payment"

This step is important and non-obvious. By default, accounts don't allow requests for money. So when your friend sends you a payment request it'll say something like:

"The person you are requesting payment from is not accepting payment requests at this time. Please contact them first."

-or-

"Important Message:
The person you are requesting payment from is not able to make payments at this time."


To remedy this situation visit your Amazon Payments account page, click "Edit My Account Settings" and then "Change my security settings". If "Accept requests for payment" is off, click Edit and turn it on. Your friend should now be able to send you a request for money.

Step 5: Link a checking account

If you plan to receive payments you can link a checking account so you can transfer the money friends send you to your checking account. You can leave the money in your account and pay for goods on Amazon or transfer money to friends. But you'd be better off getting cashback/points/miles from a credit card than parking the money there.

It takes 5-7 days to link a checking account and you have to do the "verify small deposits" thing to get it going.

That should be it. If everything goes according to plan you should be able to send and receive money to/from friends.

Conclusion and Recommendations


It took a bit of back and forth with my pal SG to get this going the first time. But once it's set up I think this has the potential to be a fantastic way of settling up wine purchases between friends. No more floating money until the hand off occurs. No fees. Both buyers get points/miles/cashback on their credit cards. It's great.

Let's just hope Amazon doesn't shut this off. They're taking the hit on the credit card fee as it stands now, and if I had to guess why it would be to beef up their subscriber base to compete with PayPal.

Making friends in the area who have a similar interest in wine has been one of the best things about writing this blog the past few years. If you'd like to connect you can always drop me an email (wellesleywinepress@gmail.com) or reach me on Twitter: @RobertDwyer
I'd love it if you subscribed to The Wellesley Wine Press for future updates.

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Saving at Wine.com by Double Dipping

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wine.com is our nation's largest online wine retailer. They're the only national retailer I'm aware of that's gone through the trouble of obtaining a Massaschusetts retailer license so they can legally ship wine to residents here. They've gone to similar lengths in other states and as a result have the widest reach of any online wine retailer.

But their prices are high.

And they're not exactly the most favored of wine retailers thanks to antics like a sting operation targeted at other wine retailers who ship illegally.

So as consumers we interact with them in a "special" way. We'll buy from them if there's a good deal to be had, but we don't exactly "like" them.

One of the central problems, from a consumer's perspective, is how expensive shipping is. This is true for wine in general but Wine.com seems to be pricier than most. So this post will serve as a description of a way to get their fully loaded prices down out of the stratosphere with their Steward Ship program combined with a little trickery called The Double Dip.

Here's how to do it, step by step.

Step 1: Sign up for their Steward Ship program

Steward Ship is their equivalent to Amazon Prime. It provides shipping for 1 year for a fixed price. It "retails" for $49 but they've been known to offer it for half price from time to time. Go here for more information if you don't have it already, but if you can wait until it's on sale:
Steward Ship shipping for a Year icon

Step 2: Buy a Gift Card through an Online Portal

This is step one of the double-dip. You'll can get "x" % cashback by buying a Wine.com gift card through an online Portal. I chose uPromise because when I was performing this experiment they explicitly stated they offer 5% back on gift card purchases:


Bonus: When I ordered the gift card I was emailed a code for $10 off my next order of $75 or more.

There are tons of different cashback portals out there. Some of my favorites lately are Ebates and Fat Wallet, not to mention shopping portals associated with credit cards.

There are even sites which try to dynamically compare cashback amounts across the various portals. Try CashbackHolic.com and CashbackMonitor.com.

Step 3: Redeem that Gift Card through an Online Portal

Once my gift card arrived (Wine.com chose to mail a physical gift card out) I went back to Wine.com to redeem it through a different online portal. I chose SavingsWatch this time because it offered the largest percentage at the time - 7.5%.

I loaded up my shopping card with $75 worth of wine, applied the $10 off $75 coupon I received when buying the gift card, used my Steward Ship benefit that's tied to my account for the year, and applied the $25 gift card. The remaining balance went on my credit card. I was able to find a few wines at good prices I was genuinely enthusiastic about purchasing.

Pro tip: Try sorting on Wine.com by savings - one time I found a wine being sold for less than $2 on sale. Not that I was enthusiastic about trying that wine but it was pretty amazing they'd conceivably ship it out for less than $2 fully loaded.icon


A few days later the transaction appeared in my SavingsWatch.com acount.

Notice in the image below how each of the 4 bottles I ordered were credited for cashback. The $10 coupon was charged back against that, but the free shipping didn't come into play (nicely) and most importantly the amount I paid for with the gift card didn't negate the cashback. A successful double dip!

Discussion:

Ironically, two things went wrong while performing this experience I didn't expect.

First, uPromise still hasn't credited me 5% of the $25 gift card purchase although their terms explicitly say gift cards qualify. I called them about the missing transaction and they said it can take up to 40 days to process. I'm not so much concerned about the $1.25 of course, but it's annoying chasing these things down. Some portals are better than others. uPromise has frequently failed to credit me for transactions.

Second, my order actually still hasn't arrived. Wine.com has reliably fulfilled orders for me in the past, and this one has been mostly FedEx's fault, but after missing a couple of delivery attempts and requesting it be routed to a nearby FedEx location the order seemed to go into no man's land. It illuminates one of many ways this is not the most efficient way to get a few bottles of wine delivered.

Results:

In all, this technique should save the following on this sample $75 order:
  • 5% back on the original gift card purchase (I did just $25 as a test but you could do more)
  • 13.3% off (thanks to the the $10 off $75)
  • 7.5% back when redeeming the gift card through an online portal (the double dip)
uPromise hasn't paid the 5% back yet, but I think they will if I submit a missing transaction after 40 days have elapsed. Plus the wines I chose were on sale and priced pretty well. The Sanford Pinot Noir sells in the $30s at most online retailers in the country.

Here's the potential net of it:

$75 - 5% - 13.3% - 7.5%
$75 - $3.75 - $9.95 - $5.62 = $55.68
That's a total savings of 25.76%

That's like paying $19.23 fully loaded for that $25.99 bottle of Sanford that sells for $35 and up in most stores. Plus no tax on wine in Massachusetts.

And that doesn't include the cashback/points/miles/signup bonuses you might be getting on your favorite credit card. If you consider that you might call this a triple dip.

The Steward Ship benefit has cost me $25 or $35 per year over the last few years. I typically use it 6-12 times a year. What's nice about it is that you can ship out a single bottle if you like. For example, when the 2010 Cosme Gigondas got 95 points from Spectator I ordered a single bottle and it showed up a couple days later.

Subscribe to The Wellesley Wine Press and I'll mention next time I see Steward Ship on sale. Sometimes Steward Ship also includes a Wine Spectator subscription extension.

Conclusion:

The actual amounts you could potentially save using this technique will vary over time, and it's a rather complicated transaction. But I thought it was an interesting exercise that might provide a way to help get more value out of their Steward Ship program.

Related Reading: Wading into the credit card signup bonus game

Question of the Day: Any other tips and tricks for getting the best deals from Wine.com?

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Needham Awards Five Liquor Licenses

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A couple weeks ago we ran a poll to see which of 10 applicants we'd prefer be granted liquors licenses on newly-wet Needham. The town had up to 6 licenses to dole out, but no obligation to let them loose all at once.

The results of that poll were:

1) Bin Ends
2) Volante Farms
3) Vinodivino
4) Gordon's
5) Craft Liquors
6) Blanchards

There was a public hearing this past Saturday and five licensees have been selected:

http://needham.patch.com/articles/five-liquor-stores-coming-soon-to-needham

The five retailers selected were:

1) Needham Wine & Spirits

This will be the fourth store under the same umbrella which includes Upper Falls, Post Road, and Auburndale. Nice stuff presented in a bare bones layout with rotating regions categorical discounts. You'll see Sea Smoke and similar baller wines offered here occasionally.

2) Volante Farms

Similar to Wilson Farms in Lexington and recently ambitiously expanded. Looking forward to seeing a wine shop, garden center, and grocery rolled into one!

3) Needham Center Wine & Spirits

I hear the owner here is the same as Ball Square in Somerville.

4) Vinodivino

Boutique retailer with locations in Newton and Brookline. Heavy slant towards wines highly rated by prominent publications. Nice aesthetics and well run. Full review.

5) Bin Ends

Everyone loves Bin Ends for their affordable exciting wines. This will be their second location, their first being in Braintree. My favorite part? Their bargain bin. Can't wait to see them closer to Wellesley.


Noticeably excluded? Gordon's and Blanchards.

And I would love to see Craft Liquors given a node thanks to their swanky renderings. Who knows maybe we'll see their first location appear in Wellesley?

Congratulations to the new licensees! I'm looking forward to seeing what they offer to wine enthusiasts in the area.

What do you think of the selections?

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2013 Boston Wine Expo Promotional Code

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The 2013 Boston Wine Expo is coming up February 16-17 2013.

If you'd like $10 off tickets to the Sunday Grand Tasting use promotional code WELLSWINE. Here's how to use this code step-by-step:

Step 1: Visit http://bwetickets.eventbrite.com

Step 2: Scroll down and "Enter promotional code":

Step 3: Enter WELLSWINE (note the spelling) and Apply:
You should then see Sunday Grand  Tasting tickets discounted $10 (from $85 to $75):
Hope this helps!

Related Reading:

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