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A Visit to Total Wine and a Value Alert: 2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

I stopped in at the Total Wine in Naples, FL yesterday to replenish my mother-in-law's wine stash. You might recall I wrote up a shopping list of affordable value plays for this Total Wine location recently; this was the first time I'd visited the store.

I'm not really sure what the wine community's position on Total Wine is. I imagine there's a lot of different viewpoints. If someone is adverse to big box chains they probably don't like Total Wine. For those who don't really care whether they buy from a large or small retailer - so long as they get great prices on wines they're looking for that are well cared for - I'd consider Total Wine a fun place to shop. They've got so many SKUs it's hard to imagine you won't be able to find a few bottles you'd enjoy at good prices.

It's been a while since I visited a Total Wine location so the assortment remains novel to me and it's fun to poke around each section.

Based on my experience yesterday, which was mostly positive, I've only got two knocks on them:
  1. Their mark-up is highly variable so you can't reliably say everything is a good deal
    For example they had 2011 Williams-Selyem appellation Pinot Noirs for $98. At a $49 release price (and ho-hum 88 point Wine Spectator ratings across the board) these present an abysmal value and restaurant-like markups.
    It's this kind of thing that makes me wonder what other wines they're marking up more than street price. Not that I'm overly concerned about someone's wallet if they're buying $100 Pinot - but it gives me pause telling my mother-in-law everything there is well-priced.
  2. The case discount policy is confusing and poorly signed
    While walking around the store I quickly found 6 domestic reds I thought were nice values. Then I realized I hadn't even checked their Spanish reds nor picked up a couple white wines.
    Someone else was asking what the mixed case discount was on 6 or 12 bottles. I thought I overheard it was 10% so I started working my way towards 12 bottles. Before I checked out I asked someone working the floor again what the case discount policy was and he informed me it was only on straight 12 bottle purchases. No mix and match. And no discounts on wines whose price ends in a "7".
    So, I put the $52 2012 En Route Pinot Noir and a couple of other spendier wines back and focused on the well priced every day drinkers. It would have been nice to see the case discount policy more clearly laid out in signs around the store. I'm sure it's a question they're asked frequently.
I remember thinking the 2010 Alto Moncayo at $36.99 was a nice value play when I was shopping online. Empire Wine in Albany, NY seems to have the best price on the planet on this wine and a seemingly endless supply. It's fun to watch retailers bash each other over the head trying to maintain the best price on Wine-Searcher. But that doesn't do me much good here in Florida. 

So I would have been up for buying a bottle of Alto Moncayo but sadly they were sold out.

But I spotted the 2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton for $24.99. Although I've developed a reliable friend in Alto Moncayo proper and the 2010 is phenomenal (even better in my book than the 2009 Parker rated 100 points) I've never tried the Veraton.

If you're not familiar with the Alto Moncayo line-up, they produce 3 wines:
  • Alto Moncayo Veraton - $28
  • Alto Moncayo - $45
  • Alto Moncayo Aquilon - $155
I can't imagine what the Aquilon does to take it to the next level beyond Alto Moncayo (though if I see an offer for a 2010 Aquilon for $99 I don't think I could resist the splurge!).

The Alto Moncayo wines are made in a partnership between Bodegas Borsao, Super-Importer Jorge Ordonez, and Australian winemaker Chris Ringland.

You can think of Alto Moncayo's bottlings as similar to Gil Family Estates and Clio with this analogy:

Bodegas Borsao : Alto Moncayo :: Gil Family Estates : El Nido

So the Veraton and the Alto Moncayo are the wines to consider for regular enjoyment like Clio is the wine to cherry pick from the El Nido line-up. I think they're all tremendous values. And don't forget to check out wines from Bodegas Borsao and Juan Gil if you want to nibble at the edges before going for a $25-$40 bottle.

Here are my notes on the 2010 Veraton...

2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton
15.5% Alcohol
$28 Release Price

Before this I'd never tasted Veraton. Alto Moncayo proper has been a reliable mind-bending-value friend and - going only off price point and esteem - what I was hoping for with the Veraton was a slightly lighter bodied version of Alto Moncayo with a similar (or same!) flavor profile. This wine delivered that and more. That perfect combination of perfectly ripened fruit with supporting savory characteristics. This stacked up just the way I hoped it would. These 2010s from Alto Moncayo are mind-blowing values. I don't think I've ever seen a bottle of wine disappear as quickly between 3 people as this one. Keep this on hand as a guilt-free alternative to Alto Moncayo, and while you're at it think how favorably the price point of these wines compare to your favorites from California.

92/100 WWP: Outstanding

Read community notes for this wine on CellarTracker
Search for retailers offering this wine on Wine-Searcher

Bottom Line: If you can find this wine south of $25 I'd highly encourage you to give it a try. If you can find it for close to $20 I'd back up the truck.

Question of the Day: Have you tasted through the Alto Moncayo line-up? Does the Veraton deliver similar enjoyment as Alto Moncayo proper? Is the Aquilon worth the splurge? 

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