Total Wine opens in Natick, MA: 10 Things to know

Friday, November 20, 2015


1. Their Natick store is the first in MA (it opened Thursday, November 19th 2015)


It's located in the Cloverleaf Mall (across the street from the Natick Mall) at 321 Speen St.
They're open from 9am-10pm Mon-Sat and Sun 10am-8pm.
They took over space previously occupied by Cloverleaf Wine & Spirits

2. They carry 8,000 unique wines (plus 3,000 spirits and 2,500 beers)


I've been to Total Wine locations in FL, GA, and AZ. And while I've been generally pleased with the assortment I haven't been overly impressed with the prices on wines I'm interested. That said - the Natick location *at opening* was truly the best assortment and prices I have ever seen in a wine store in my life.


3. They offer 10% off on 6 bottles (for prices ending in "9")


I think this is pretty reasonable - especially considering the non-discounted price of some of their wines ending in "9" or not are already amazingly low.

4. They're notorious for having great coupons (but they can't offer or honor them in MA)


Total Wine is known for mailing out coupons, but coupons for alcohol are illegal in MA. For now, the low prices more than make up for it, but we'll see how that plays out over the next few months.

5. They've got a rewards program (it's not great, but doesn't hurt to sign up)


Sign up for their rewards program and give them your email address when you check out. It doesn't give you a percentage back on purchases or anything like this (I wish!). But it gives you some other benefits that might be useful.

6. Inventory and prices vary by location (and for most stores you can check inventory/pricing online)


You can check inventory and prices for each location online, provided the store has been open a while. In MA you can shop online for in-store pickup but they don't ship wine as of yet.

7. Purchases code as "groceries" on AmEx and Visa (5x+!)


I split tender on my purchase on two credit cards I have that heavily bonus grocery spend and both of them showed that this location codes as a grocery store. That means you can save even more via credit card rewards if you have cards that bonus this category. And you should! Let me know if you need any suggestions in this area.

8. There is no sales tax on wine in Massachusetts


I wouldn't be surprised if this changes at some point, but for now alcohol is exempt from sales tax. Keep that in mind next time you're comparing prices hear vs some deal in a state that does collect sales tax. Buy local! ;)

9. Their opening selection of wines in Natick is incredible (especially for domestic wines)


I was truly blown away by their assortment of domestic wines. Especially Pinot Noir from California and Oregon from truly great producers. Littorai, Elk Cove single vineyards, Radio-Coteau, Roar, Merry Edwards, Revana Alexana, Capiaux single vineyards. I couldn't believe my eyes. I'd highly recommend getting over there soon before the lower production wines are sold out.

10. Their prices on "national brands" are also incredible (but not across the board)


The prices on the wines mentioned in "9" were absolutely the lowest I've seen anywhere. By far. If you know your wine prices you will be rewarded by shopping here because there are some great deals to be had. But there were also amazing prices on higher production wines like Meiomi, Columbia Crest H3, Michael David Petite Petit. Especially for domestic wine enthusiasts - there's something available at every price point.

Conclusion


Total Wine's entrance into the Massachusetts market is a game changer. I don't use that term lightly. It's all anybody in the industry is talking about and it will be interesting to see the impact (intended and unintended) of their presence here.

I'll be following up with many more posts about Total Wine, including specific recommendations at all price points and styles. I'd love it if you subscribed to the Wellesley Wine Press for future updates.

Question of the Day: Have you been to Total Wine in Natick yet? If so, what did you think? If you're not in the area, have you found that Total Wine raises prices a couple months after a grand opening?

Read more...

Sextuple Dip Opportunity at Wine.com

Saturday, November 14, 2015


A number of deals currently available can be stacked to get some seriously deep discounts at Wine.com. Here's how to do it.

Dip 1: Buy Wine.com eGCs from NewEgg through a Portal
(be sure to see item #3 below if you have an AmEx card)


http://www.cashbackmonitor.com/Cashback-Store/Newegg/

You can only buy 1 of each denomination ($25, $50 or $100) every 48 hours.
To optimize the deal in conjunction with the AmEx Sync deal (below) I'd recommend buying a $25 Wine.com eGC, a $50 Wine.com eGC, and gift cards to other retailers to get to $200.

Dip 2: Earn Airline Portal Holiday Bonus

Many airline portals are currently running promos like 5,000 bonus ponits for spending $1,200 and similar. Use this spend towards hitting those thresholds.

Dip 3: Use AmEx Sync NewEgg $25 on $200

In order to get this one you need to have an AmEx card sync'd with the deal. Log into your AmEx account to see if you have this offer available.

Dip 4: Shop Wine.com through a Portal

In some cases, you can earn portal points when using gift cards to purchases things.
It doesn't always work, but it's worth trying.

http://www.cashbackmonitor.com/Cashback-Store/Wine.com/

Dip 5: Earn Airline Portal Holiday Bonus (again)

If purchases made with gift cards count for portal rewards, you can earn a bonus towards holiday bonuses as well.

Dip 6: Use code AMEX15 for $30 off $100

Load up your Wine.com cart with $100 or more in merchandise while going over as little as possible. Sign up with a new email address and start a StewardShip free shipping trial (but be sure to cancel it before 30 days elapse). Apply the eGCs purchased from NewEgg to pay for the order

What to Buy?


The 2012 Aalto was just named Wine Spectator's #6 Wine of the Year. I was pleasantly surprised to see it in stock and available for immediately delivery in MA (inventory varies by state).

This 2010 Brunello has great metrics, especially for the price.

Round out your order with affordable wines like Bodegas Borsao or Columbia Crest H3 Cabernet.

Question of the Day: Any other deals that might be stackable with these? Let me know in the comments!

Read more...

22% Cashback at Whole Foods [including wine] with Discover and ApplePay

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Discover credit card is running a promo whereby if you pay in-store with ApplePay you get 10% cashback up to $10,000 in purchases through 12/31/2016. Gift cards are excluded, and they mean it. Full terms here:

https://www.discover.com/credit-cards/help-center/faqs/apple-pay.html

10% off is pretty great, but it gets even better since Discover is running an overlapping promo whereby all the cashback new cardholders earn in your first year of  membership is doubled at the end of the year.

Discover double cashback terms (click to enlarge)

Since the card earns 1% back on all purchases that's a total of 11% back that will be doubled to an impressive 22%.

The way they're excluding gift cards kind of stinks. But 22% off on groceries including wine is pretty sweet.

If you're an existing Discover cardholder, it's worth calling to see if they will sign you up for the double cashback offer. I did when the offer came and they enrolled me in the double cashback offer.

Putting the Plan to Work


So with 22% in mind, I made my way to a nearby Whole Foods that sells wine. Not all do.

See: Which grocery stores in MA sell wine?

The last time I was at this store they had Alto Moncayo Veraton (read more...) for a fair price. With their typical 10% off 6 bottles (or whatever it is) plus 22% off, I thought I could get a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, they were out of the Veraton. So I poked around looking for some 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir because it's such a great vintage and I love Oregon Pinot Noir in the fall.

Shady Shelf Talkers?


I happened upon some Soter North Valley Pinot with a shelf-talker touting a 92 point Wine Spectator rating. They seemed to have quite a few of these signs in place mentioning Wine Spectator scores. I don't remember seeing them before. It was a little strange through because there were bottles of both the 2012 and the 2013 Soter North Valley Pinot Noir on the shelf. Which one got the 92 point rating from Spectator?

I busted out my phone and looked. Turns out neither vintage got a 92 point rating from Spectator. The 2012 Soter North Valley got a 90 point rating. And none of the Soter 2013s have been rated yet.

Wine Spectator has never rated any Soter North Valley
Pinot Noir higher than 91 points
I thought that maybe there was confusion over which specific bottling got 92 points. Turns out - none of Soter's 2012 Pinot Noirs got 92 points from Spectator. The highest score from any of them was 91 points:

Wine Spectator ratings of 2012 Soter North Valley Pinots (no 92 pointers)
And it wasn't a matter of the rating being from the 2011 vintage. That wine was rated 84 points by Spectator. Seems like they just made the rating up. Or mistook one publication for another? I honestly don't know.

2 Points? What's the big deal?


Now, you might say "what's the big deal about a couple points?". Well, in my estimation for every 3 points the difficulty of attaining a score doubles (read more about the WWP QPR theory). So 2 points in the tight band where most wine ratings fall actually is a big deal in terms of quality.

Drunk and Disorderly


I decided to spot-check another nearby wine of interest: The 2012 Benton-Lane Pinot Noir. That shelf talker said Spectator rated it 86 points. Turns out Spectator rated it 88 points! Seems like they're just making up numbers or, I don't know - mistaking Wine Spectator for Wine Enthusiast? I honestly have no idea.

This wine was actually rated 88 points by Spectator,
2 points higher than the shelf talker indicated

Bottom Line


I wrote a piece for Palate Press way back when the publication debuted about Shady Shelf Talkers and how it seemed to me that retailers were using them to deceive customers. I honestly don't think that's the case with Whole Foods. It seem they're just sloppily reporting the numbers.

It's not the end of the world, but I do have an issue with it. I think if they're going to try to provide customers with ratings from they should at least be accurate.

But since, in the 2 cases I spot checked, one rating was higher and one was lower it seems that they're not being shady. They're just being sloppy.

Ultimately, I left without buying anything at all and went to a local wine shop and picked up what I thought was a more interesting assortment of wine.

About that 22% Discover ApplePay Promo...


All that said, I think Whole Foods is a great place to shop for groceries. And the 22% off is an excellent deal. Just be sure to keep your receipts if you do take advantage of the promo. I hear they're policing the gift cards a little aggressively.

If you're not a Discover cardholder, and would like to sign up for the card here's my refer-a-friend link if you're interested. $50 for you after your first purchase within 3 months, $50 for me:

http://bit.ly/20Fj4CX

Further reading:

4 Unusual Ways to Save Money at Whole Foods

Read more...

Tasting Report: New Releases from Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Gary Farrell's Hallberg Vineyard Pinot Noir
Gary Farrell Winery is a Sonoma producer best known for their well balanced Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Gary Farrell began producing wine in the area in the late 1970s. Along with folks like Joe Rochioli, Tom Dehlinger, Davis Bynum, Robert Stemmler and others, Farrell established what Russian River Pinot Noir and Chardonnay would become today. In 1982 he produced his first wine under the Gary Farrell label and gradually built its prominence.

I first got to know Gary Farrell in depth at a winemaker dinner they had at Blue Ginger a couple years ago. Gary Farrell himself sold the winery in 2004. Current winemaker Theresa Heredia joined Gary Farrell in 2012. You may have tasted her wines before since she was the winemaker at Freestone (Joseph Phelps' Pinot Noir project) from its first vintage through 2011.

I had a chance to taste through some of their 2013 releases recently. My notes are below.

Their Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir has consistently been one of my absolute favorites, and this vintage lived up to my high hopes. Hallberg is also the fruit source for Radio-Coteau La Neblina Pinot Noir (read more) and Emeritus (Wine Spectator Top 100 - read more). I hear Scherrer also does a great Pinot Noir from Hallberg. Definitely one of my all-time favorite vineyards in the world. Here's a link to a YouTube video about what makes Hallberg Vineyard special.

2013 Gary Farrell Hallberg Ranch Pinot Noir
$55
14.1% Alcohol
1,290 Cases Produced

Textbook California Pinot Noir. Bright, ripe black cherry aromatics with supporting smoky notes. Silky texture and uttery delicious. A finish that goes on for minutes in amazing fashion. Very special. Outstanding.

93/100 WWP: Oustanding


2013 Gary Farrell Olivet Lane Chardonnay
$45
13.8% Alcohol
987 Cases Produced

Medium-bodied and more enjoyably powerful and weighty than its 13.8% alcohol would indicate. Golden with hints of green around the edge. Glass-coating and satisfying with attractivate aromatics and flavors of ripe pears, golden delicous apples, and a hint of toasted marshmalllows on the finish. Outstanding.

91/100 WWP: Outstanding


2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Pinot Noir
$45
14.1% Alcohol
11,267 Cases Produced

Medium bodied with lively, potent aromatics and flavors. Classic California Pinot Noir notes. This is young and needs time, as there are some sharp edges at points. But after a night or two on the counter (simply recorked) those traits disipated and the wine held up brilliantly. Outsanding wine.

90/100 WWP: Oustanding


2013 Gary Farrell Russian River Selection Chardonnay
$35
14.2% Alcohol
5,861 Cases Produced

Golden-hued with shades of green around the edges. Baked pears on the nose. Satisfying mouthfeel with commonplace Chardonnay herbaceous notes that stop me short of being wholly enthusastic about this medium-bodied white. Still, well-mannered and enjoyable.

88/100 WWP: Very Good


Samples for review.

For more information about Gary Farrell Vineyards & Winery visit their website:
http://www.garyfarrellwinery.com

Tasting room? Yes, by appointment
Available at retail? Yes
Wine Club/List? Wine club
Ship to Massachusetts? Yes

Question of the Day: Have you tasted Gary Farrell wines? If so, what did you think?

Read more...

First Look: Cost Plus World Market Framingham

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Cost Plus World Market in Framingham, MA
National retailer Cost Plus World Market opened recently in Framingham, MA. If you're not familiar with the chain it's sort of a mashup of Pier 1 Imports and Trader Joe's. Funky decor and unique grocery items, along with...wine!

We had a chance to visit recently, about a week after their grand opening. The Framingham location is situated in Shopper's World where Office Depot used to be, next to Chipotle.

I remember visiting their stores back in the day on the west coast. The wine assortment resembles Trader Joe's in that it introduces consumers to funky worldy picks along with a heavy dose of everyday red wines. The average price seemed higher to me than TJ's however, and there were fewer private label wines at World Market.
20% off when you buy 4 or more bottles
The store was still being stocked when we visit, but the wine area takes up about 20% of the floor space, in the back right of the store.

They were running a 20% off sale if you bought 4 bottles of wine. I rather liked that volume requirement. Totally reasonable (though not as good as Trader Joe's where the prices are fixed regardless of how many bottles you buy).

Actually, the discount pricing was a little confusing. There's a regular price, a sale price, then a 20% off discount price if you buy 4 bottles, at leastt when I was there. Now that I look at my receipt I was charged $13.59 for the 7 Deadly Zins rather than the $12.99 mentioned on the sign below. Oh well, new store startup issues I guess, but it's an example of why I prefer a simple pricing structure.
Uh oh, this $12.99 wine rang up as $13.59 for me
Here are four wines I picked up, and what I thought of them.

2012 Michael-David Vineyards 7 Deadly Zins [WWP Pick]
$13.59

There is a lot to like here in the $10-$15 range. Rich, inviting fruit backed by baking spices on the nose. Dark red velvet mouthfeel. Acidity is lacking but the flavors never get overripe nor pruney. Pairs well, for a red wine, with spice-driven dishes. And quite enjoyable on its own. I like it. 15.0% alcohol.

88/100 WWP: Very Good

Dave Phinney "I" [Italy] Locations Red 
$13.59

I was looking forward to trying this as a new world winemaker's take on old world wines. Unfortuantely it didn't delivery a lot of excitement. Hints of Italy on the nose, but after that it was most just "there" with no differentiated appeal.

82/100 WWP: Good

"The Rule" Cabernet
$14.39

Trendy looking label, but not a lot to get excited about. Non-descript entry level California Cabernet. I can usually do better at this price point.

80/100 WWP: Good

2014 Apothic Dark
$8.79

In certain settings I've enjoyed the regular Apothic Red more this "Dark" offering. Didn't seem any darker (visually, nor in weight) and it lacked depth. Rather sickly sweet and a bit smarmy.

78/100 WWP: Mediocre

Bottom Line


Cost Plus World Market continues the commoditization of retail wine market in the Boston area. Whereas we used to have primarly dusty bottled old guard retailers, we now have boutique fine wine retailers, more wine in grocery stores, and more chains coming into the area.

I don't see this particular retailer filling a niche for me. Their sale prices can be beat at many grocery stores, and their assortment isn't particularly exciting.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Question of the Day: Have you shopped at a Cost Plus World Market? If so, what did you think? Where is their assortment strongest?

Read more...

3 of My Definitive Benchmark Wines

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Friday night I got together with friends to record a podcast about another interest of mine - points & miles. There's certain occasions when I want to share esoteric recent finds, but this was an occasion to introduce wines I have a personal connection with. And for times like these I want to "pay it forward" and share wines that friends shared with me that got me into wine.

Here are three wines I chose and why...

2008 Cakebread Cellars Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon

Cakebread Benchland Select was the wine that go me into wine. Me and my wife were newly married and transitioning from drinking mostly beer to wine. A friend came over with a bottle of Cakebread Benchland Select and it was transformative. This 2008 was showing every bit as well. A superb Napa Cab that displayed both rich, inviting fruit with serious supporting balance.

Read more...

2013 Kosta Browne Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

For me, there's no more utterly enjoyable wine to drink than Kosta Browne's rich, fruit forward Pinot Noir. I'm just hard-wired biased towards the flavor profile of California Pinot Noir and KB always delivers. In isolation it's splendid but in comparison it's extraordinary. The stuff just tastes amazing, and it goes much deeper than that.

Read more...

2009 Alto Moncayo

Two definitive wines I consistently adore from Spain are El Nido Clio and Alto Moncayo. I went with the 2009 Alto Moncayo because it's always fun to break out a "100 point wine". The 2009 is a stunning 16% alcohol (how do they hide it?) but showed so well. Spectacular wine. A crowd-favorite among giants.

Read more...

Question of the Day: What are some of the benchmark wines you've discovered over the years? What wines would you break out with friends who aren't yet obsessed with wine to help them understand what makes wine special to you? 

I find that wine pairs brilliantly with travel. And points & miles are one way to make travelling to wine destinations possible. I'd love it if you gave this podcast and a listen and if you've got any questions on points & miles to connect on Twitter (@RobertDwyer) and/or drop me an e-mail.

Read more...

$30 off $100 Expires Soon: Top 10 Wines to Buy in Wisconsin from Wine.com

Friday, September 25, 2015

Wine.com's amazing $30 off $100 deal ends soon. You can use DISCOVER30A (expires 9/30/2015) and WINEAMX (expires 10/9/2015) once each per email address.

I received a request via email to share some picks for the best wines available on Wine.com for shipment to Wisconsin. Wine.com inventory and pricing varies by state because they're individually licensed as a retailer in each state and therefore buy wine for shipment in each state from distributors in that state.

You can't stack other discount codes with this $30 off $100 since Wine.com only allows one promo code per order. But you can get free shipping by signing up for Steward Ship (then subsequently cancelling it before your free trial is over). More on this at the bottom of the post.

If you'd like to use my affiliate link (where I get a commission for your order) click this link or the banner image below:

Shop the largest selection of 90+ point rated wines under $20.

wine.com

The rest of the links in this post are *not* affiliate links. So if you want to get a little extra off your order compare portal rates here, shop through your preferred portal and save a little extra.

Here's 10 wines I'd recommend, and why:

  1. Allegrini Palazzo della Torre 2011
    It's been long enough since our trip at the beginning of summer to Italy that I'm looking back on it longingly. Visiting Allegrini was a highlight and Palazzo della Torre is the first wine I'd recommend trying for an introduction to their lineup.
  2. Walt Blue Jay Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2010
    Here's one I haven't tried in a while but jumped out at me for it's reduced price and pedigree. Formerly labeled Roessler, when acquired by Hall Winery these were renamed "Walt". I remember it being really solid and I like it at $29.99 down from $40 (before discounts).
  3. Losada Bierzo 2011
    I've been trying to track this down locally for a couple years now. Wine.com doesn't seem to restock it in Massachusetts and I've not seen it come up for convenient purchase. I'd love to try more wines from Bierzo (Spain) for their insane QPR proposition one and this one as a great place to start.
  4. Michael David Winery Petite Petit 2013
    I haven't written much about Michael David's wines here but I find them to be a realiably luscious, enjoyable, affordable producer. Check 'em out.
  5. Juan Gil Monastrell Silver Label 2013
    No Top 10 list would be complete without a shout out to Juan Gil. A bit more on why here.
  6. Balletto Winery Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir 2012
    It's been a while since I discovered this by the glass at Sorellina in Boston, but it's an example of a $20-$25 California Pinot Noir that hits the mark. Thanks to $30 off $100 this falls down to just over $18, and that's a bargain for a wine this good.
  7. Tenuta Sette Ponti Oreno 2013
    Oreno is Sette Ponti's flagship wine. After trying them at a Wine Spectator tasting in Boston a few years back I visited them in Italy. Although I like their Crognolo more for daily drinking, Oreno is a very nice splurge when you can get it for less than $50. And thanks to $30 off $100, plus a sale on this wine in Wisconsin currently, you can.
  8. Meiomi Pinot Noir 2014
    Meiomi and Juan Gil. There's only so much of it you can drink. But if you haven't grown tired of it yet, here comes the 2014. This will be the last vintage before people start decrying it wasn't as good as it was when Joe Wagner owned it (he recently sold the brand). Better stockpile it now if you love Meiomi.
  9. Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos 2013
    I mentioned the baller Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi earlier in the week. That might be a little pricey to experiment with at around $70. But This Petalos from Bierzo is a terrific affordable introduction to his offerings.
  10. Sojourn Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2013
    This bottle from Sojourn is my go-to "reliably oustanding, utterly satisfying every time, but not so expensive I'll feel guility about opening it" play. Definititely try this if you haven't before, then join their mailing list and buy some every year. Terrific winery to do business with - they know how to run a mailing list.
Remember, to maximize this deal:
  • Sign up for a Steward Ship trial (one per email address).
  • To get $30 off $100 you have to hit $100 but try go overshoot as little as possible.
  • You can use DISCOVER30A (expires 9/30/2015) and WINEAMX (expires 10/9/2015) once each per email address.
  • The discount should apply immediately on the order. If it hasn't, something has gone wrong.
  • You don't actually have to pay with a Discover or AmEx to use the codes.
  • Don't forget to cancel Steward Ship once the orders have shipped.
Looking for the best deals in your state? Drop me an email or ping me on Twitter (@RobertDwyer) and I'll have a look. Thanks!

Read more...

Tasting Report and Opportunity: Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi

Tuesday, September 22, 2015


When I visited Spain a couple years ago, I was chatting with Loren Gil of Gil Family Estates and asked him: If I like Juan Gil Monastrell, El Nido Clio, and Alto Moncayo - what are some other Spanish wines I should check out?

I had a hard time understanding the pronunciation of the specific bottlings he mentioned so I gave him my iPhone and had him type them out. The first wine he listed: Alvaro Palacios Finca Dofi.

The wines I mentioned as examples are big wines. They're high in alcohol and can get a bit thick and chewy at times. Even boozy. But when they're presented in the right setting I think they do pull it together successfully thanks to high acidity and overall lusciousness. But I think he mentioned the Finca Dofi for its pedigree and as a gateway to exploring a different style of Spanish wines than what I'd been enjoying.

Priorat


Priorat is a wine region, quite prestigious, located in Northeast Spain not too far from Barcelona. The grapes used in Priorat are Garnacha and Cariñena - along with Bordeaux varietals.

Finca Dofi is the name of a vineyard, acquired in the 1990s.

Alvaro Palacios is the producer.

The overall style is often compared to Napa Valley Cabernet. But I think this one succeeds for the depth of flavor intensity it achieves while remaining decidedly medium bodied.

Tasting Notes


2010 Alvaro Palacio Finca Dofi
14.5% Alcohol
Around $70

It's all here with fresh, elegant fruit accompanied by appealing earthy notes. It's a complete wine with depth of character in the front, back, and mid-palate. Meticulously balanced. Quite an achievement.

94/100 WWP: Oustanding


Tasting Opportunity


If you live in the Boston area and want to try Finca Dofi, along with other wines from Alvaro Palacios (including his terrific Descendientes di J. Palacios wines from Bierzo) you're in luck. Lower Falls Wine Co. in Newton, MA is having a tasting today at 5p.

Bottom Line


Sometimes when I want to check out whether I'll like the style of a certain wine region I nibble around the edges at affordable but well regarded offerings. But perhaps a better approach is to just go for it and try one of the benchmark bottlings from a well-regarded producer. At around $70, Finca Dofi isn't cheap. But it delivers substantial enjoyment and I'll look forward to trying more wines from the Alvaro Palacios portfolio and from Priorat as well.

Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite wines from Priorat?

Read more...

Top 10 Wines to Buy in New Hampshire from Wine.com

Sunday, August 2, 2015

I received a request via email to share some picks for the best wines available on Wine.com for shipment to New Hampshire. Wine.com inventory and pricing varies by state because they're individually licensed as a retailer in each state and therefore buy wine for shipment in each state from distributors in that state.

These suggested are pointed at someone who enjoyed bolder, fruit forward wines with density and luscious appeal. I tend to gravitate toward that style myself, so this was a fun experience.

Here's 10 wines I'd recommend, and why:

  1. 2012 Evening Land Seven Springs Pinot Noir
    2012 Oregon Pinot Noir is tremendous, and with a 96WS here and ~30% off the $53.99 price drops down nicely below the $50 release price. Worth a splurge from this very well regarded producer.
  2. 2013 Sojourn Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
    This has been a very reliable bottling for me over the years. I love Sojourn's style. Hits the spot when I'm looking for the flavor profile of Pinot Noir but don't want to get into heavier varietals. Kind of a poor man's Kosta Browne. Try this, then if you like it get on their mailing list for very favorable terms (free shipping on 6, 10% off on 12).
  3. 2013 Belle Glos Dairyman
    Just delicious. A newer vineyard for them, but I've enjoyed it tremendously. They poured this by the glass at The Capital Grille as part of a great Wagyu burger and glass of wine promo. Definitely big and bold - like all the Belle Glos Pinots.
  4. 2011 Losada Bierzo
    Had this on a flight back from Italy last summer on Lufthansa. I couldn't get enough of it. Surprisingly hard to find here in Massachusetts. Bierzo is definitely an area of interest of mine.
  5. 2013 Meiomi
    We all know this one. $19.99 before ~30% off. No brainer. Always have some of these on hand.
  6. 2011 La Atalaya
    Good price on this one from the Gil Family Estates. A slightly upper quality bottling (as compared to their "Laya" which you'll also see around).
  7. 2014 Honig Sauvignon Blanc
    Can't go wrong with this wine, vintage after vintage. I actually like it more than their upper-end Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc bottling. Crisp, fruity, and satisfying.
  8. 2012 Juan Gil
    Best sub-$15 wine I've ever found. Give it some air, even though you'd think a wine at this price point is a pop and pour kind of thing.
  9. Jeio Prosecco Brut Rose
    Love this stuff. Just bought a 6-pack of it. $1 cheaper in NH than in MA.
  10. 2013 Tarima Monastrell
    $9.99 before discount. Not sure about this particular vintage. Parker has gone nuts for this. Discovered at The Capital Grille as well.
Remember, to maximize this deal:
  • Sign up for a Steward Ship trial (one per email address).
  • To get $30 off $100 you have to hit $100 but try go overshoot as little as possible.
  • You can use DISCOVER30A (expires 9/30/2015) and WINEAMX (expires 10/9/2015) once each per email address.
  • The discount should apply immediately on the order. If it hasn't, something has gone wrong.
  • You don't actually have to pay with a Discover or AmEx to use the codes.
  • Don't forget to cancel Steward Ship once the orders have shipped.
Looking for the best deals in your state? Drop me an email or ping me on Twitter (@RobertDwyer) and I'll have a look. Thanks!

Read more...

The Amazing Aperol Spritz

Friday, July 31, 2015

When we were in Italy a few weeks ago we were staying at this hotel that featured a hip assortment of wine-driven cocktails. The host/bartender, Enzo, buzzed around the place and easily convinced guests to try the interesting drinks on the menu.

One drink in particular caught my eye with its gorgeous orange color: The Aperol Spritz.

Whereas a "white wine spritzer" in the United States often involves combining cheap white wine with Sprite or 7-Up, an Aperol Spritz is a combination of Proescco (an Italian sparkling white wine), Aperol (a unique bitter apertif), and soda water. See the recipe below. 3, 2, 1. Easy.

It's relatively simple to capture the [gorgeous] color of Aperol in a photo. But describing its flavor is more difficult. While it looks like it's going to taste like some kind of creamsicle orange soda, it actually most notably imparts crisp grapefruit peel aromatics to the drink. On its own you'll detect a broader range of aromatics like sandalwood, and herb root. It's really intriguing stuff.

When combined with a fruity sparkling white wine like Prosecco and soda water in the right proportions, an Aperol Spritz is brilliantly refreshing summer treat.

Aperol itself is 11% alcohol, which isn't too far off from the 11% Ninety+ Cellars Lot 50 Prosecco I enjoyed it with tonight. Poured over ice with some club soda and you've got a terrific low alcohol refreshing summer sipper.

Shopping List


Aperol - looks like you can find it for around $20/btl at most liquor stores. I paid $28.99 at my nearest liquor store.

Prosecco - any kind should do, within reason. I found the 90+ Cellars for $10.99 at my local grocery store.

Club Soda - in Italy they used water that was carbonated with a device that added bubbles on the fly. Club soda should suffice. I guess you could make it with Sprite if you wanted it sweeter, but try it with Club soda first.

Ice - get plenty of nice ice cubes unless you've got an ice making setup you're happy with.

Orange - slices for garnish.

Wine Glasses - or a big rocks glass.
Black Straws - for optimal photogenic high style (I haven't got any yet).

Recipe


Over ice
3 parts Prosecco
2 parts Aperol
1 part soda water

Tips


  1. Don't overdo it with the Aperol. Although it looks great it can get too bitter.
  2. Add plenty of ice.
  3. Make sure the Prosecco is well chilled.
  4. Garnish with orange slices.
  5. Enjoy!

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A Gorgeous Brut Rosé Prosecco

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Lunch at Preludio in Cortona, Italy
I'm the last guy you want to consult for advice on sparkling wine.

Unless you're like me and gravitate towards bold, fruit forward new world reds with underlying acidity and luscious appeal. And you're looking to change things up a bit this summer while the temperatures are high.

Last summer while visiting Tuscany we stopped in at Ristorante Preludio in Cortona for lunch. The restaurant was listed in the Gambero Rosso according to information provided by the villa where we were staying (review). But other than us, the place was empty from the beginning of our meal through the end.

Complimentary quail egg amuse-bouche 
The meal was amazing. So much for the theory that you should select crowded restaurants as part of a follow the herd mentality.

The meal started off with a complimentary pour of a delicious sparkling rosé. In my experience I've found that yes - starting off with bubbles is a great way to set the stage for an enjoyable evening. But some dry sparkling wines are too yeasty and hard to enjoy. I find that sparkling rosé is a perfect crowd-pleasing alteration.

I snapped a picture of the bottle, hoping to track some down back home. I've looked around at a few wine shops but haven't seen it. Wouldn't you know, Wine.com carries it? And it's not too expensive - $16.99 here in MA (Wine.com's prices and availability vary by state) before $30 off $100. For less than $12/btl fully loaded this is a spectacular wine.

I ordered a bottle recently and enjoyed it here at home nearly as much as I did at Preludio. Just wanted to make sure I wasn't under the ether of Italy when assessing it initially. It's a fabulous, totally elegant way to start the evening. Crisp and fruity. Delicate but full of flavor. Highly recommended.
Jeio Prosecco Brut Rose
I wish we could have stayed longer and enjoyed our meal in a more relaxing manner, but we were off to Tenuta Sette Ponti and had to hustle. But don't you worry, Cortona, I'll be back. And I may spend a night or three.

To buy this on Wine.com through my affiliate link:
Bisol Jeio Prosecco Brut Rose

Without an affiliate link:
http://www.wine.com/v6/Bisol-Jeio-Prosecco-Brut-Rose/wine/107177/Detail.aspxicon

Follow the tips in this post to get $30 of $100 at Wine.com.

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2012 Ridge Lytton Springs for less than $21 fully loaded [MA only?]

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Stack this good pricing with $30 off $100 to get a $35+ wine for $21
Wine.com is running 2 concurrent promo codes that provide $30 off $100+ orders:
  • DISCOVER30A (expires 9/30/2015)
  • WINEAMX (expires 10/9/2015)
As you'd guess from the naming convention, these deals are joint promotions with Discover and American Express. But they work a little differently than other offers. Rather than resulting in a statement credit on your credit card, the discount is triggered at the time of ordering.

So if you don't see the discount, don't place the order. In my experience you don't actually need to use an AmEx or Discover for the codes to work. You just need to have precisely $100 or more to trigger the discount.

The key to maximizing the deal is to find wines you enjoy at good prices and avoid shipping costs.

I noticed Wine.com has the 2012 Ridge Lytton Springs on sale for $29.99 in Massachusetts. Inventory varies by state, but here's how I'd work it to get a great deal on this terrific wine. I just opened a bottle and it is outstanding.

Step 1: Go through a portal (optional)

Start your shopping by checking http://www.cashbackmonitor.com/Cashback-Store/Wine.com/ to get some extra cashback on your purchase. You can get around 5% off your order as cashback through a portal this way.

Step 2: Select your wines

The idea is to hit $100 without too much overshoot. For example, add 3 bottles of the 2012 Ridge Lytton Springs for $29.99 and one bottle of $10.01 or more wine. Like this 2012 Clos de los Siete for $13.99. Inventory varies by state. Ping me if you'd like some help finding good deals in your state.

Step 3: Sign up for a Stewardship free trial

Stewardship is Wine.com's equivalent to Amazon Prime. You get free shipping for a year, but you can also get a free trial for a month. If you've ordered from Wine.com in the past, try signing up with a new email address to get a new free trial.

Step 4: Place up to two orders

The nice thing about there being 2 promo codes is that each can be used once per email address. So you can place 2 orders (ideally for just over $100) one with each promo code for each email address.

Step 5: Cancel Stewardship

To make sure you're not billed for a year of Stewardship, cancel your trial after placing your last order. This could be 1 or 3 - but be sure to cancel.

Conclusion


This can be a great deal, if you know how to optimize it. Lytton Springs for less than $21 fully loaded is a tremendous deal.

Question of the Day: What wines have you found that work well with this deal?

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Deal Alert: Bodegas Juan Gil Variety Pack [MA Only]

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Boston-area retailer Bin Ends Wine is offering a mixed case of wine from Gil Family Estates for $79.20 ($6.60/btl). If you like the Silver-labeled 12 Month Juan Gil proper (the mind-bendingly good QPR red I discovered years ago at The Capital Grille) this is a great opportunity to explore other offerings from Gil Family Estates.

These wines normally sell for around $10-$12/btl. I've tried most of them. Although none of them quite rise to the level of excitement Juan Gil Silver does, they are solid wines and a great low-risk way to explore the wines of Spain from an outstanding producer.

Expect contemporary, distinctive labels. Old world grapes crafted in a luscious new world style. And great value.

When I visited Spain a couple years ago Juan Gil was often sold out at local restaurants. In contrast, when I visited Italy a couple weeks ago I saw Santa Margherita in supermarkets for 7.99 Euro (as opposed to the $20 it sells for here). My point: In Spain the locals like Juan Gil as much as we do. They make tremendous wines at compelling price points.

I was so taken by the Juan Gil wines I wanted to start a Juan Gil blog. Or at least take this space over for an entire month dedicated to the subject. Call it "Juanuary!". I regularly use the #JuanGilFanClub hashtag on Twitter. Clearly I've got enthusiasm for the producer, and you should to.

Click here to check out the offer

I'd love it if you subscribed to the WWP for future updates.

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Visiting Allegrini's Villa della Torre

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Villa della Torre c. 1560
We're just back from Italy where we tasted at Allegrini's Palazzo della Torre vineyard. I've seen the Allegrini label around for years but it wasn't until tasting their wines at Wine Spectator Grand Tour Dallas that I mentally put the location of Valpolicella and Amarone on the map.

Valpolicella is situated just north of Verona and makes for a perfect day trip pairing. We were staying on nearby Lake Garda and were able to visit both on the same day with ease.
Valpolicella is between Milan and Venice, just east of Lake Garda
Allegrini is a high quality, high volume producer. We had our kids with us so we were looking for an informal visit that we didn't need an appointment for. Villa della Torre hit the spot.

Allegrini has other projects in other parts of Italy but we chose to focus on their local offerings, which meant Valpolicella and Amarone.
Allegrini's lineup: Valpolicella, Valpolicella Ripasso, and Amarone
First, a little background. Valpolicella is a place. The main grape in a Valpolicella wine is Corvina Veronese, along with Rondinella and Molinara - and some other permitted varieties. Valpolicella is typically light to medium bodied, with appealing fruit and, for me, often presents distinctive black pepper aromas.

Amarone (also known as Amarone della Valpolicella) is a bold red wine made from dried grapes. Alcohol levels are higher (often north of 15%) and the wine can be quite rich.  It invites another sip with its luscious personality balanced with acidity.

Situated between these two, price-wise and stylistically, is Valpolicella Ripasso. Made with fresh wine "re-passed" with dried grapes in a second fermentaion.

Valpolicella


We started off tasting their two Valpolicella wines, denoted by the DOC labels around the neck of the bottle. They were terrific. My first experience with Valpolicella was on our honeymoon Mediterranean cruise. We drank an entire bottle of wine together for the first time and felt like party animals. It was "just" a cheap bottle of Bolla but I really liked the style.

These offerings from Allegrini, both the entry level and the Superiore, are solid wines I'll definitely work into the mix next time I'm looking to round out a mixed case of daily drinkers. You can find their regular Valpolicella at retailers for around $16.

Palazzo della Torre


This is a wine worth spending some time considering, having made Wine Spectator's Top 100 list 6 times. I've seen the label around forever but hadn't internalized that it is essentially a Valpolicella Ripasso but not labeled as such. It's made from 70% Corvina Veronese, 25% Rondinella, and 5% Sangiovese.

From the company's literature:

Most of the grapes are fermented as soon as they are harvested, while the rest are set aside for appassimento. In January, the pressed, dry grapes are added to the previously made wine, giving rise to a second fermentation.

It's bright and fruit forward with a hint of the stuffing that makes Amarone so appealing. It's got balanced acidity and tremendous structure that's very difficult to achieve at this price point. You can find this wine for $14.99 here in the US if you look around. I've got to try more of this on my home court - might need to nominate it to the QPR Hall of Fame. 220,000 bottles were produced and 30,000 cases were imported to the US.

The Palazzo della Torre vineyard is cited adjacent to the gorgeous Villa della Torre we visited.

La Grola and La Poja


These two wines were presented side by side, although their price points are quite different. La Grola (not to be confused with La Gerla) goes for as little as $20 here whereas La Poja sells for well north of $60. La Grola is a blend of 80% Patrimonio delle Corvine, 10% Oseleta, and 10% Syrah. La Poja is 100% Corvina Veronese. Man, I'm getting thirsty just writing about these wines.

La Poja is a big, serious, wine that competes on the international stage for acclaim.

I didn't realize the La Grola was so affordable. With a retail price of $35 and street pricing in the $20s I'd pick up a bottle of it if I saw it. I didn't take great mental notes on these two as I was both pondering the Palazzo della Torre and looking forward to the Amarone.

Amarone



Tasting Allegrini's Amarone was the main reason I wanted to visit and it didn't disappoint. It is an absolutely beautiful wine. A gorgeous nose of perfectly ripened fruit with silky mouthfeel and a luscious finish that keeps inviting you back for another sip. The 2010 vintage was rated 93 points by Wine Spectator. With an $85 retail price it's not cheap, but you can sometimes find it at discounters in the $50s. More commonly in the $60s.

The 2010 Allegrini Amarone was a delight to taste, both at the winery then later at dinner at Parco San Marco on Lake Lugano. They've got a kids club there so we enjoyed dinner just the two of us on their glorious La Masseria terrace overlooking Lake Lugano. It was hot as blazes while we were visiting but the waiter chilled it down to the perfect drinking temperature for us. So good.

Villa della Torre


After our tasting I got a quick tour of Villa della Torre. Originally completed in the 1500s, it has been painstakingly restored. I especially appreciated the sight lines you'd get as you looked from an entry point of the property through aligned archways with an amazing view in the distance. Truly spectacular.





Bottom Line


A visit to Allegrini's Villa della Torre is highly recommended if you're in the area, or need a reason to be in the area. Their Amarone is a benchmark bottling you'll likely see around, and worth a splurge for a special occasion.

The Palazzo della Torre bottling is one I've seen around and should have tried sooner - it's a great QPR wine. Their Valpolicella is a textbook example, and their La Grola bottling is compelling if found in the $20-$25 range.

Visit the Allegrini website: http://website.allegrini.it
Follow them on Twitter: @AllegriniWine

Related Reading:
Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite Valpolicella and Amarone wines?

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Anatomy of a wine deal: The process I go through when considering an offer

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

A compelling local offer [MA only] hit my inbox today. After watching this space for several years, I've become quite systematic in how I consider an offer.

Quite of few retailers subscribe to this site, so I thought it would be interesting to walk through the process both from a consumer's perspective as well as to those who write the offers.

This particular offer came from Mike O'Connell from Upper Falls Liquors.

Here is a link to the offer.

Am I interested in the category?


The subject line is key and goes a long way towards determining whether I'll open the email or click on the tweet. This one was well formed because it told us a lot about the offer without revealing the producer:

Preposterous Pinot deal. Over 50% off 92pt Gap's Crown Gem.

California Pinot Noir continues to be one of my favorite categories so I'd be inclined to look at the offer based on a mention of a "preposterous Pinot deal" alone. But adding the Gap's Crown vineyard really had me intrigued. Some of my favorite producers source fruit for single-vineyard Pinot Noir from Gap's Crown: Kosta Browne, MacPhail, Sojourn, Patz & Hall, plus many more.

I've really liked what I've tasted from Gap's Crown so as I clicked through the link I kind of hoped it would be from a producer I was familiar with. At 50% off!

Producer Pedigree


But no such luck. The wine being offered is the 2012 Guarachi Gap's Crown Pinot Noir. I've heard the name Guarachi, but I've never tasted their wines before and I've not heard much buzz about them. I don't know anything about them.

The first thing I do in this case is go to CellarTracker to get the community read on the wine. Here's the link for the CellarTracker page for this wine.

In this case, there aren't a ton of notes for the wine, which is to be expected given its low production level.

I look at the average community rating. In this case, a couple 91s and a 93.

If I didn't know the retailer offering the wine, I'd be on the lookout for recent reviews "planted" by someone to bolster the offer. You never know.

Then, to get a feel for how each reviewer generally scores wines I might click through to their profile to see how generous they are with big scores. In the case of the reviewer who rated the wine 93 points I see that they also rated the 2010 Saintsbury Brown Ranch Pinot Noir 97 points. So it's clear they're not afraid to toss around big numbers and their 93 might not mean as much as it otherwise would.

Overall, it sounds like a solid bottle of Pinot Noir. Not amazing, but certainly very good at least.

I consult CellarTracker for Community Ratings,
Average Price paid, and more

Validating Data


A 92 point rating by Wine Spectator is compelling. I've been watching Wine Spectator's ratings for years, and I have a good handle on the realtive scarcity of a 92 point California Pinot Noir.

Primarily, I'm looking to see that the retailer's facts check out. Sometimes people make mistakes and refer to the wrong rating. In this case, the data checks out. The retailer cited a 92 point rating, and that is indeed the rating. The Release Price cited by Spectator is $75. The retailer cites a Shelf Price of $79.99. Close enough.

I also look at the production level, which Spectator cites as 827 to get a feel for whether it is a widely available wine. If it is, I'll expect to see more competition on pricing. For example, take Meiomi Pinot Noir with its 317,000 case production. I'd never go for an online offer that didn't include shipping for Meiomi given its price point and broad distribution. However, with a wine like this Guarachi, I'm not likely to find a lot of global price competition so if I want it, I should go for it through this deal.

I consult Wine Spectator (subscription req'd) to
validate ratings and check release prices/production levels

Finally, I check Wine-Searcher to get a feel for what the wine is selling for across the country. Not that I'd actually buy it from an out of state retailer (who likely can't ship here anyway) but I want to get a feel for what this wine is going for. In this case, it supports the numbers in the CellarTracker community average.

I consult Wine-Searcher to get a feel for how much a
specific wine is selling for across the country

Moment of Truth


So everything checks out. This is indeed an opportunity to buy a 92 point Wine Spectator single vineyard California Pinot Noir that normally sells for around $60 for $35 a bottle.

The final thing I check, if I'm interested in the wine and perhaps ironically, is the retailers description of the wine. Some people might start there but that's now how I tend to operate. Mike describes it as "Meiomi on steroids". It's as if he's targeting me, knowing I'm a fan of Meiomi.

But that description doesn't quite jive with Laube's where he calls it "tannic and slow to unfold". I'm beginning to see why this wine isn't flying off the shelves perhaps. High price, conflicting descriptions. Hmm. I'm starting to get cold feet...

And speaking of Meiomi - that wine can be had for like $14/btl if you're clever and it too was rated 92 points by Wine Spectator. $14 or $35 - which would you choose? I tend to think I would enjoy the Guarachi but having never had it I'm starting to make a different comparision.

See, I've been reading this fascinating book called Predictably Irrational. It talks about "anchor pricing" and how we view purchase decisions in relative terms. In this case the anchor price is the $79.99 and we're viewing $35 as a deal relative to the retail price. But at the same time, $35 can be viewed in comparison to the $14 Meiomi since they were both rated 92 points, right?

Finally, I start to think abour procurement. Local pick-up. Not super-convenient to me, but not terribly difficult either. This is where things like "free" shipping come into play. Ariely's book also talks about "the power of free". I think free shipping is most powerful in terms of relieving the final objection a customer might have before clicking "buy".

Truly finally, I think: Do I want to risk buying 6 bottles of a wine I've never had before that I might not enjoy? Maybe I should go in on it with some friends? Maybe I don't need any more wine right now. I don't know...

It's this final bit of indecision that consumers and retailers will both acknowledge is key. If you don't buy something in the first 10 minutes you're probably never going to buy it. Because there's always a better deal right around the corner and your credit card can live to fight another day.

Bottom Line


I still haven't decided whether to go for this particular offer, but I thought it would be interesting to pause and write about the thought process I go through when considering an offer.

From a consumer's perspective, if you're actively buying and building up your cellar I hope some of the tips are useful. CellarTracker, Wine Spectator, Wine-Searcher.

From a retailer's perspective, the fine folks who craft these offers, I hope this is useful as well. I really appreciate what you do. The more you do to make it easy for us to make informed decisions the better. I really like Wine-Searcher and CellarTracker links in offer emails for example.

If you'd like to go for this particular deal you can find it here:

Preposterous Pinot deal. Over 50% off 92pt Gap's Crown Gem

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[Dead/Alive/Dead] Quick Deal: 20% off eBay means 36+% off at The Capital Grille

Monday, June 15, 2015


Update: 20% off site-wide at eBay is dead as of 7:30a eastern, but you can still get $50 Darden eGCs for $40.

Update 2: The CTWENTY code started working again this afternoon around 4:00p eastern.

Update 3: Shortly after 5:00p eastern this was dead again. Never hurts to try! Even 20% off on The Capital Grille is pretty good.

Evidently, eBay is offering 20% off everything site wide with code CTWENTY.
HT: FrequentMiler, DoctorofCredit

DoC suggests that although you can use this code multiple times, it may be wise to use it only once to avoid getting banned by eBay. In that case, it may be wise to buy an eBay gift card for around $400 (the offer is capped at $77 off) then use it to buy a discounted gift card or something else in the future.

Stack this with the gift cards they're selling at 20% off at retailers like Darden and you can get $50 gift cards valid at The Capital Grille and Seasons 52 for $32 - a savings of 36%. Limit 5 for Darden, other retailers have different limits.
HT: DoctorofCredit

Make it even sweeter by starting your shopping through on online portal for an additional 1% off or so (compare rates here).

Then, sign up for eBay Bucks to earn a little more off towards a future eBay purchase.

Finally, if you have a Chase Ink Business credit card you may be able to get 5X Ultimate Rewards on the purchase if seller is PayPal Digial Gifts and the transactions rings up as "Utilities" and that's somehow considered to be telecom. Crazy, right?

Question of the Day: Any other great uses for this 20% off code? I don't buy much off eBay other than gift cards...

Subscribe to the WWP for future updates...

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Quick Deal: $30 off $100 Wine.com with DISCOVER30A

Friday, June 5, 2015

(click to enlarge)
Get $30 off $100+ orders with code "DISCOVER30A". This deal is exactly the same as the AMEXSPRING offer we discussed earlier and this time orders really do need to be $100 to trigger the $30 discount.

And like the AmEx deal, this one is quirky compared to other AmEx Sync/Discover Deals offers. This is good news and bad news. It's good news because although the terms state you have to use your Discover card to check out that doesn't seem to be enforced. It's bad news in that these savings aren't doubled as part of this amazing promotion Discover is running.

In simple terms that offer can be used to get 10% off on Apple products. And up to 40% off (by double dipping) at retailers like Sears. Plus credit card rewards. It's really quite a bonanza. If you don't have a Discover card and would like one you can get $50 back for signing up (and $50 for me) using this refer-a-friend link: http://bit.ly/1IhFY9K

You may want to wait, however, as signup bonuses go up and down all the time. I got my Discover card last year for a $150 signup bonus.

Bottom Line


This can be a nice way to get slightly less than 30% off at Wine.com. You have to choose wines with low markups relative to street price, and you have to finagle free shipping (and remember to cancel it before it auto-renews) to maximize savings. More details on the finer points of this deal here.

It's not necessarily a huge deal, since you can repeatedly use the AMEXSPRING offer by registering with multiple email addresses. But this new DISCOVER30A code can be used for the same Wine.com in addition to the AMEXSPRING, enabling you to get $30 off $100 twice for the same Wine.com account.

I'd love it if you subscribed to the WWP for future updates.

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Event Report: 2015 Wine Spectator Grand Tour Dallas

Thursday, June 4, 2015

2011 El Nido at Wine Spectator Grand Tour Dallas
Wine Spectator has wrapped up their Grand Tour events for 2015. This year's stops included Chicago, Las Vegas and Dallas. I had the pleasure of attending the event at the Hyatt Regency Dallas.

These events are stand-up/walk-around tastings that stop in three cities each year. To me they're noteworthy because the wineries pouring at the event are top-notch, and most are pouring their top wines. Attending one of these events provides an opportunity to taste for yourself the wines you may have mostly just read about in the pages of Wine Specator.

This year's Dallas event was mostly the same as prior Grand Tours. A rather long line forms outside the entrance before it begins, but the admission process runs smoothly and although the event was well attended, lines for tasting were rarely more than one or two parties deep.

See these previous event reports:
2011 Grand Tour Boston
2012 Grand Tour Las Vegas
2013 Grand Tour Chicago

A few changes I noted from prior events...

Rather than conventional banquet fare, light food offerings were served from local "food trucks". I thought this was a very cool change in the line-up and enjoyed snacking on tacos during the event.
"Food trucks" featured local eateries #streettacos
Additionally, each table seemed to have at least one winery rep as well as one person from the hotel pouring the wines. This kept tasting opportunities moving when the winery rep would get engaged in conversation with an interested party. Very nice.

Crowds were managable. I didn't see any long lines in front of any of the winery tables. I didn't see any wineries running out of product early. The venue was well-lit (in contrast with Chicago which was a little dim) and well-run.

I attended the event with my wife and met up with a couple friends I've conversed with for years on Twitter. Dallas was a great central location for this kind of meet-up. I hope to pull it off again in the future.

On to the wines...

Dallas Winery Floorplan
(click to enlarge)

Domestic Pinot Noirs


My first stop at these events is almost always Kosta Browne. Though I've mercifully attained an appellation-level allocation and have enjoyed visiting them a couple times, it's always a treat to taste their latest delicious offering. They were pouring their 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, which was good, but also had what seemed like a secret extra bottle of their Chardonnay behind the table early on. This is unusual because each winery only pours a single wine at the event, and their official wine was the Pinot Noir. If you ever get a chance to taste their Chard I highly recommend it. Absolutely my favorite domestic Chardonnay I've ever tasted.
Dan Kosta of Kosta Browne (left)
Across from Kosta Browne was Flowers, pouring their 2010 Sea View Ridge Block 11 Pinot Noir. What a contrast in styles between the KB and the Flowers. Kosta Browne unabashedly makes "the best damn fruit forward Pinot Noir" they can. And they do it very well. But this Flowers goes in a different yet compelling direction with lithe elegance and gorgeous perfumed aromatics. $75/91 WS.
Elegant 2010 Flower Sea View Ridge Block 11 Pinot Noir
Speaking of elegance, the 2012 Elk Cove Mount Richmond Pinot Noir was spectacular. Drop-dead gorgeous aromatically with floral notes, perfectly-ripened strawberries, and supporting structure that come together magnificently. $60/94 WS.

I can't say enough good things about 2012 Oregon Pinot Noir. I'm certain the vintage is going to pass me by without having purchased enough. But then again the 2012 Domaine Serene Evenstad hasn't been released yet so maybe there's still time.
2012 Oregon Pinot Noir is spectacular
This Elk Cove Mount Richmond is a great example

Napa Cabs


The 2010 Caymus Special Selection was probably the most utterly delicous wine I tasted at WS Grand Tour Chicago so I had take the opportunity to try the just-release (and not-yet-rated) 2012. The wine was showing well, and I'm sure it'll garner a high score (the regular bottling was rated 91 points by Spectator) but I wasn't blown away by it at this particular tasting.
Always good, but not quite as great as the 2010 Special Selection at this tasting
You know what did blow me away? The 2005 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Cabernet. My goodness, that wine - with 10 years of age - was fully formed and absolutely spot-on just what a Napa Cabernet should be. Fruit for days and very generous, but balanced and extremely classy. The complete package. My wine of the night. 98 points for me. But only 93 from Spectator at release. It's no bargain though at $150.

Their regular Napa Cab available for $40 at discounters can be a really good alternative. I loved the 2007 Heitz Napa Cab. But I had the 2010 recently and it didn't satisfy nearly as much. A bit disappointing because otherwise my recent experience with Heitz has been terrific.
2005 Heitz Martha's Vineyard
One of my Top 2 wines of the night

Spain


A few weeks before the event I emailed Loren Gil from Gil Family Estates, the producer behind El Nido. I'd met him in Spain a few years back while tasting at El Nido so I wanted to see if he'd be there and check what they'd be pouring. You see, for as much as I love El Nido Clio (~$40) I really wanted a chance to try El Nido proper ($100+) again. The first time I tried it, it was at the tail end of a long hot day and I really didn't appreciate it fully. So it was great to see El Nido pouring their top cuvee - the 2011 Bodegas El Nido proper.

Whereas Clio is 70% Monastrell/30% Cabernet, El Nido flips it. 70% Cabernet/30% Monastrell. The result is spectacular, and I enjoyed "tasting" it tremendously. Several times. And each time it got better. Funny how that works.

That said, Clio delivers 90% of the enjoyment of El Nido for me. And I can't justify spending $100+ when Clio is available for less than $40. So what's a guy to do? Drink Clio for $35 and feel like you're getting away with something. I know I do every time I'm enjoying a bottle.

Absolutely terrific
One of my Top 2 wines of the night
Right next to El Nido was Triga (read more...) and Alto Moncayo. Unfortunately, Alto Moncayo wasn't pouring their top wine (Aquilon, 200 cases produced $160/btl) since production levels are so low. But the 2012 Alto Moncayo was showing so well they are to be forgiven.

Parker rated the 2009 Alto Moncayo 100 points but I've enjoyed other vintages even more. Like the 2010. And I think this 2012 is shaping up to be every bit as good. So consistently amazing. The whole Bodegas Borsao lineup (the producer behind Alto Moncayo and a number of other great values) is mind-bender. Borsao red, Monte Oton, Tres Picos, and the full Alto Moncayo range. I'd love to get over there for a visit.

Clio and Alto Moncayo are big, bold wines you've got to have in your arsenal if you like that style of wine.

Italy


After adoring the high scoring 2006 Casanova di Neri Tenuta Nuovavisting the winery last summer, and seeing scores as high as 100 points roll in for the 2010 Tenuta Nuova I was looking very forward to trying the 2010. It did not disappoint at all but still - even a new-world leaning old world wine like Tenuta Nuova has a hard time competing with bombs like Special Selection, El Nido, and Alto Moncayo. But it satisfied and I can get behind the hype surrounding 2010 Brunello. I'd love to try this again in a few years and with more focus.
2010 Tenuta Nuova
100 points Wine Advocate, 99 points James Suckling
One of my favorite things about these Grand Tour events is the way you can meet the very same people who you'd meet if visiting the winery. See this guy below? He's Stefano Maggini, export manager for Tenuta Sette Ponti. The very same guy we met while visiting the winery last summer. How cool is that? Not every table is staffed as well, but each of these tastings has the potential to be a mini-visit to the winery.
Tenuta Sette Ponti Export Manager Stefano Maggini

Other


We tasted a few high end Malbecs like the 2012 Vina Cobos Marchiori - the top wine from Paul Hobbs' endeavors in Argentina at over $200/btl. The wine was good, but I've had a tough time finding the enthusiasm for Argentina Malbec that I've developed for new-world leaning Spanish reds.
High end Malbec from Argentina
We tasted a few nice Bordeaux like the 2011 Pontet-Canet. I distinctly recall switching gears between new world and old as I tasted this wine, hopping from table to table. The Bordeaux were elegant no doubt, and tasting classy sit-down wines next to bolder "cocktail" wines was interesting.

But mixing things up like this was no way to go. It was like having KoRn play your wedding. Two great things that don't go well together. Best kept separate.
This Pontet-Canet was terrific as you'd expect
But best not to taste old and new world back to back

Bottom Line


Wine Spectator Grand Tour Dallas was another wonderful evening of wine tasting. Nobody gets the top producers together (and keeps the riff raff out) like they do.

Try as I might, I couldn't resist the temptation to revisit old favorites. Every time I'd try, for example, a sparkling white I'd go scurrying back to the safe familiarity of producers and categories I know I enjoy. Next time I attend I'll try harder to branch out more and try new things. Next time for sure!

The wine of the night for me was the 2005 Heitz Martha's Vineyard Napa Cabernet. The takeaway on that wine is that 10 years is a really nice amount of bottle age for my taste and reconfirmation that Heitz has made some really nice wines in recent times. The Martha's Vineyard bottling is too expensive for my blood but I'd definitely buy more of Heitz's more affordable bottlings if I can find some.

Tasting El Nido proper was a thrill, and was my #2 wine of the night. It's so good, and I'm thankful Clio exists south of $40. It provides such a similarly enjoyable experience without the guilt of a $100+ price tag.

The themes of the night for me were contrast (old world/new world), diminishing returns (on very expensive wines vs. their more affordable counterparts), and consumption (I should have taken my own advise of spitting everything you possibly can at a tasting like this to stay sharp). I enjoyed myself very much at the event, but so much for the theory that you can't get a hangover drinking expensive wine.

Next Steps


If you'd like to attend a tasting like this, there's one more tasting like this in 2015. It's the Wine Spectator New York Wine Experience in October. Not only is there a Grand Tasting similar to this one, but additionally there are multiple days of moderated sit-down tastings as well. If you're just looking for the Grand Tasting portion use code NYWE by June 30th, 2015 to get $30 off.

Question of the Day: Did you attend any of the Wine Spectator Grand Tour events this year? If so, what did you think? If not, have you had any of the wines being poured there? Any favorites?

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