Part 2: An Interview with Ryan Zepaltas

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This is part 2 of an interview with Ryan Zepaltas from Zepaltas Wines. To read part 1 please click here.

Q: One thing in particular I've been impressed by is the way your marketing is consistent with the wine in the bottle. There's a uniform style you present to the public that must have taken some time. How did you achieve that consistent messaging that aligns with the wine you create?

Ryan Zepaltas: I guess that it is sort of environmental. I owe it all to the people I have befriended in all of my years. I have always been drawn to creative people. I have always been friends with artists, skateboarders, musicians, chefs, etc. People that seem to “get it” when it comes to aesthetics and good taste. Folks that are critical of anything half-ass or phony. When you are constantly around folks who are pushing the envelope in whatever they do it rubs off on you-even if it is completely unrelated to the wine world. It has caused me to have high standards for myself and the winery. I think it naturally inspires me to make better wines, have cool labels, etc. I like to think that everyone of my friends is a champ at what they do best: acting, woodworking, parenting, cooking, golfing, web design, filmwork, whatever. I feel that I have to come to the table with great wines! You have to represent your crew in a good way!

Q: For people who might be reading this across the country, what's the best way for them to buy your wines?

Ryan: Shoot us an email through and we’ll get you set up.

Just this past week (after this interview was conducted) Wine Spectator pre-released their reviews of the 2007 Zepaltas Pinots (as part of their Wine Spectator Insider that is sent in advance of publication to online subscribers.) The ratings will be published in the January 21, 2009 issue of Wine Spectator. Congratulations to Zepaltas Wines on these great reviews.

I'd like to thank Ryan for his time interacting with me for this piece. I didn't know him at all prior to reaching out, and I truly appreciate his enthusiasm for interacting directly with wine consumers like us.

Question of the Day: Do you have any questions for Ryan about his wines? If so, leave a comment below and I'll be sure to pass them along.


Local Wine-Deal Queen Changes Locations

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

For the longest time whenever I received an E-mail from Eden Stone of Brookline Liquor Mart, I quickly gave it a look. You can read my "Mystery Shopper" review of how one of her deals (that I took advantage of) went down while at BLM, however Eden recently changed employers. She is now doing the same work for Blanchards.

I first became familiar with Blanchards in West Roxbury, MA while the heralded 2005 Bordeaux vintage first came to market about a year ago. I called around and searched the Internet for inventory of the highest rated/most affordable picks, and overall I found the best deals at Blanchards. Chateau Pipeau and Chateau Puygeuraud (two of the biggest value plays of the vintage) were in ample supply at Blanchards and available at *pheonomenal* prices.

Fast forward to today when I received a pretty darn good deal from Eden/Blanchards on a couple of closeout Pinot Noirs. Pinot Noir is a tough varietal to dabble in from a value perspective, but these deals were (as far as I can tell) true closeouts with 60% discounts from their original release prices. I don't want to reveal the exact bottles offered- that's proprietary information that Blanchards is entitled to share only with customers on their mailing list and local wine shops are amazingly paranoid about revealing their plays to other shops. But I will say that I took advantage of the offer for sure (4 bottles of the more affordable Pinot, and 2 bottles of the less). Though the wines were not rated by Wine Spectator (my current most trusted source of professional ratings) they did get favorable ratings from Wine Enthusiast and other publications. The pricing was low enough for me to give 'em a try without tasting.

Offers like this are my new favorite way to shop for wine. I don't have to get in the car and drive around town. I don't have to call or even E-mail local shops to see what they're offering. I can just sit back and wait for the perfect pitch and when I see an offer that's tempting enough I can "swing." I save on shipping because I'll pick-up in store, and while I'm there of course I'll have a look around to see what else they have. Given the wacky set of laws conspiring against Massachusetts wine consumers, I think this is the best way for local wine shops to build a relationship with new customers. I love it.

I'll warn you however- even with their recent spiffy remodel, Blanchards is a liquor store- *not* a snooty wine boutique. Complete with lotto machines and situated in a neighborhood where you'd be well advised to lock your car doors- it's the kind of place where I'm right on the edge when deciding whether to take the kids along.

Local wine shop owners: Are you interacting with your customers in ways that are most convenient for them? Is it easy for customers to inquire about your inventory? How do you create compelling events for your customers to buy your wines?

Update (1/30/2009): I picked up my order from Blanchard's today: 2 bottles of 2005 Dutton Estate Jewell Block Vineyard Pinot Noir ($54.99 down to $21.99) and 4 bottles of 2004 Carmel Road Arroyo Seco Pinot Noir ($34.99 down to $13.99). Big impressive bottles- nice looking stuff! I had a chance to meet with Eden face to face while I was there along with the very knowledgeable and helpful Steve Grant. Great people. Eden informed me that this deal sold out in an hour and a half. Better act fast next time you see that E-mail come in from Eden Stone!

I'd encourage you to subscribe to Blanchards E-mail list. Visit and submit your E-mail address for their "Special Offers". I think you'd be glad you did.

Does local wine content like this appeal to you? If so, please consider subscribing to The Wellesley Wine Press.


Part 1: An Interview with Ryan Zepaltas

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I am pumped to bring you this interview with Ryan Zepaltas of Zepaltas Wines. As you may recall, I chose the 2006 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast as my wine of the year. Ryan graciously responded to my request for an interview and I really enjoyed the style and substance of his answers. I hope you do too...

Q: So, the first I became aware of your wines was part of the Wine Spectator article on the "Hot New Dozen of California Pinot Noir" back in September, 2007. Your 2005 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast La Cruz Vineyard received 95 points. That's a huge number. Same question I asked Paul Clary- how did you find out about the rating and what was your initial reaction?

Ryan Zepaltas: I was at my desk at Siduri working on something, and my boss Adam Lee called down to me on the phone and told me that I better get ready to start selling some wine. I didn’t know what he meant. Maybe we fired somebody, and I needed to go on the road for Siduri. Then he said “95 points on the La Cruz- ya little bastard!” Then he proceeded to read the review from the WS. My initial reaction was “Bullshit!” then I was overcome by relief! I thought I’d now maybe be able to pay my grape bills and not go out of business! Things were scary before that since Zepaltas Wines had zero momentum at that point, and I was on our second vintage of making wine sans-cashflow.

Q: I loved the way you so openly stated on your website that you feared the "Sophomore Flop" with the follow-up vintage of this same wine. Wine Spectator gave the 2006 La Cruz an 87 which isn't to say that other wines haven't done well since (your 2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir got 91 points and at $39 is actually the most affordable wine you produce if I'm not mistaken). Knowing that folks from Wine Spectator will be reading this piece, what do you make of the La Cruz going from 95 to 87? Did they get it right?

Ryan: Well, with scores you have to take them with a grain of salt-both good and bad scores. You can’t act like you’re the next Sine Qua Non if you blow it out of the park on a wine, and you shouldn’t commit hari kari if you have a bummer vintage especially if you did everything you could to make the best wine possible that year. In the end I was happy with the way the wines turned out in both vintages, I actually thought the 06 was a superior wine to the 05 because my gut feeling is that it will age better and it has more layers and texture. The 05 was a bit soft too early for my palate, but Laube loved it. My feelings weren’t hurt though. I think as long as I have a good overall batting average between all the reviewers (Tanzer, Burghound, Parker, Wine and Spirits, Spectator, etc.) from year to year, I am doing something right. I am fortunate enough to have built a following for my wines that I don’t live and die by reviews. My goal at the end of the day remains to make wines that I want to drink- at home, with food & a little age on them. Getting back to the 06 vintage..... It really hasn’t been the best-received vintage for lots of producers. A lot of winemakers got slammed on the 06s, but I think their wines will need time to show their true colors. There is a lot of tannin in 06 pinots (which I like) and they tend to be very shy. There is not a lot of “bright fruit” in many 06s. I don’t think that 2006 was “vintage of the century” by any means, but there will be some nice surprises in people’s cellars in a couple years.

Q: Is there a technique you could describe to us non-winemakers that helps give your wine its unique characteristics? What is one little thing you pride yourself on that might be expensive and time consuming that people might not realize you do?

Ryan: First and foremost it is sourcing- where are your grapes coming from? I love cool, windy sites that help prolong hangtime to increase fruit complexity without pushing sugar ripeness through the roof. It seems like the acid hangs around better in cool sites, and the yields tend to be lower which produces more powerful flavors. In the cellar I try to use about 30-40% new oak so I don’t kill the wine with vanilla and burnt toast flavors. I like to showcase the vineyard, and its flavors. I think that oak should be more of a cradle for the wine. The main technique to me is nailing the right time to pick the fruit. Most winemakers that I know regardless of style use the same techniques in the cellar. As a winemaker your goal is to be a good babysitter. If you start with good fruit and don’t do anything stupid you should end up with a decent wine. I pride self on running my program like Vince Lombardi would. I like to do lots of labwork to monitor the wines at all stages, and I probably keep too many records. I believe in keeping the cellar tight and shiny- no scum, no clutter. Topping every other week is key. There are lots of winemakers who claim to be “non-interventionalist”, but that can often translate to “lazy-ass” I was told early on by a legend in the biz “man makes wine, God makes vinegar.” I always liked that line. You can’t neglect your wines at any stage.

Click here for part 2 of this interview.

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10 Things I Noticed at the 2009 Boston Wine Expo

Monday, January 26, 2009

Random Observations from the 2009 Boston Wine Expo:

  1. It's *really* nice to get into the show 2 hours before the general public. Really nice. There are no crowds -and- winemakers are enthusiastic about talking with you in depth about their wines. If you're planning on going next year and don't have a Trade pass lined up, try to angle for one next year starting NOW. Here's what it looks like at 11:24 AM (notice the light traffic):

  2. Martin Yan still puts on a great show. I really enjoyed his 1-hour cooking exhibition:

  3. I ran into Scott Weinstein from Martignetti (distributor). He's a class act- one of the best guys in the local wine scene.

  4. Mourad from WineHug is a really gracious and fascinating guy and I was glad to meet him face to face after reviewing his product.

  5. People from New Zealand are cool. I met Leonie Bowers from New World Wine Imports at the Soiree event Saturday night and she reached out and invited me to a tasting with Andrew Moore from Waipara Springs on Sunday at the Expo. Really nice Sauvignon Blanc and a pretty darn good Pinot Noir too.

  6. Nobody works the audience better than Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV. He's a master glad-hander, and I think (hope?) I've learned some things from his rise in the wine trade over the last few years. I hope to have an interview with Gary regarding forthcoming, and I was intrigued by his introducing me to his colleague Lindsay to talk further about Corkd.

  7. I bumped into Mike Caccavelli from Route 9 Wine & Spirits while talking with Gary V. Mike's a really nice guy and in addition to his wine knowledge knows how to smile and treat a customer the right way. Check him out if you're in the Boston area.

  8. Drew Dickson from Andrew Lane Wines is a great guy too. His Cabernet Franc was *pheonomenal* and I'd encourage you to seek his wines out if you're in California.

  9. I picked up an instant wine chiller from Marc-Andre and Eric from Ravi Solutions. I'm looking forward to putting that wine accessory through its paces over the next few weeks and will follow-up with a video review and interview (as usual) for sure.

  10. It was *really* nice to spend a day out with my lovely wife. We had a great time and enjoyed an amazing meal at Lucca in the North End with friends after the Expo. Here's a picture of us along with the always-awesome Andrew Lazorchak from Soiree (whom I interviewed previously here):

I'll be following up with more stories from the Expo, but I wanted to get these highlights out before they slipped my mind. If I saw you there- it was great to connect further and especially face to face. If I missed you- then I hope to see you at a future event!

Question of the Day: Did you attend the 2009 Boston Wine Expo? What did you think?


Un-Wined with Soirée & Friends After the Boston Wine Expo Saturday Night

Thursday, January 22, 2009

I'm really excited about this one. After the Boston Wine Expo this coming Saturday, meet up at the "Un-Wined with Soirée & Friends" event at the City Bar inside the Westin Waterfront Hotel. The event runs from 5:30PM-8:30PM this Saturday, January 24th after the Expo ends at 5:00PM, and is conveniently located nearby.

Come hang out, enjoy some light fare, and get a chance to know the people and wines from these brands and more:

If you'd like to attend the event:
  1. Visit the event info page on Local Wine Events and RSVP
  2. Drop me an E-mail so I can inform the event organizers that you are a friend of the Wellesley Wine Press and I can add you to the guest list
I think this will make for the perfect meeting place after an awesome day at the Expo, and I'm looking forward to seeing my readers face to face. I hope to see you there!


5 Questions with Respirer's Will Priest

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

As I mentioned in my video review of the Respirer, Will Priest was immensely helpful and responsive to my inquiries. He was kind enough to take the time to answer these questions, and provide a free shipping coupon code for Wellesley Wine Press readers (more information at the end of this entry):

Q: What is your role with the Respirer product? What is your background?

Will Priest: I have a variety of roles from ensuring that our Customers and Consumers are happy with each shipment day in and day out to creating our product line(s). First and foremost I’m a wine lover, not necessarily the most sophisticated enthusiast mind you, but an avid one with a passion for learning about wines and people that enjoy wine. I most recently worked in the golf industry for the top 3 manufacturers in the world over the past 2 decades. I’m formally school in mechanical engineering and held positions ranging from Production Engineer to VP of Operations. Golf is a great sport steeped in tradition, yet sadly it’s a steadily declining industry. I love tradition and history. Those are the two reasons why I moved over to the wine industry: it’s growing (perhaps with a bump in the road this year due to current economic conditions) and it’s steeped in history and tradition.

Q: Who invented and designed the Respirer?

Will: The invention comes from a collaborative effort between myself and a much more skilled CAD engineer who is a long time friend and colleague. Honestly, the mechanics of hydrodynamics (the study of liquids in motion) is not very revolutionary. Case in point is that Karl Benz patented the use of a venturi in a carburetor to mix fuel and air way back in 1886. The wine aerator challenges arise around creating a product that is sexy and enhances the wine drinking experience, while overcoming the inherent issues associated with the starting and stopping of the wine flow. It’s more of a challenge that one might first consider. To this end, we incorporated a design feature called the Vortex Impedance Control (VIC), which regulates and conditions the wine prior to the aeration process. I contend that this technology is so powerful that you’ll see the competition attempt to emulate it in the near future.

Q: Are you a wine drinker yourself? If so, which types of wines do you think benefit most from aeration with the Respirer?

Will: You’ll love this one. On my honeymoon I went to a tasting room up in Sonoma, California. It was 9:30 in the morning and my first time at a winery. At this point in my life, 2 weeks away from graduating college, I drank mostly beer and an occasional glass of Chardonnay. When I wanted to be daring, I’d try a White Zinfandel (I was truly cutting edge)! Well, 6 or 7 tastings into the experience, and not knowing that I could spit out the tastings, I was feeling particularly bold and asked to sample the Cabernet. That was it; I was sold. From about 10:00 that morning on the 3rd day of my honeymoon, I became partial to Cabs. Believe me, the honeymoon experience was one to remember. Today I drink mostly Cabs and Merlots, with an occasional trip to a Shiraz, however a big Cabernet hits my hot spot. As for which wines benefit the most, well there are over 6,000 wineries in the USA alone so the list is quite long. In general, you cannot hurt a wine by aerating UNLESS it is an older red that is already showing signs of losing its flavor. As a rule of thumb, I’d suggest to anyone that is concerned about whether to aerate an older wine (usually one that has sediment, therefore is 7-8 years or older) or not to either seek advice from a sommelier or skip aerating altogether. I contrast it would be difficult to “hurt” a younger wine with aeration. Don’t let anyone fool you, it’s a matter of the degree to which the aeration helps. Some wines, not so much, most wines, very much so.

Q: The wine accessory market is very competitive. What has it been like getting the Respirer off the ground?

Will: Each day brings exciting new challenges. I come from an industry that essentially is a zero sum gain; if one company grew, another one lost. The pie was only so big. In wine aeration, we’re just beginning to see the blend of science with style that will continue to grow the aeration market for years to come. Do you remember wood woods in golf? In 1979, Gary Adams developed the first metal wood for Taylor Made and everyone thought it was the cat’s meow, and it was. Today that same club, although precious in its own right, couldn’t hold a candle to the current products in the market place. I see the same in wine aeration. The first one out there was nice. It served a need and grew a market that didn’t exist, but it’s not the end all. The Respirer is a next step. There will be more. My company welcomes the competition. And the best part is that I have yet to meet anyone in the wine industry that didn’t love their job, which is to create memorable experiences for each wine enthusiast.

Q: What is your favorite thing about working with the Respirer?

Will: We’ve just started and there’s so much more to come. I’m looking forward to reflecting back on this period in our lives some 10 – 20 years from now. This is a fun, exciting and special time for the wine industry, more so than some people might think.

I'd like to thank Will for his time answering my questions and for extending the offer of free ground shipping to my readers. To consider the offer:

  • Visit the Respirer web site to learn more about the product
  • Click on "Buy Now" and "Add to Cart"
  • Upon checkout, enter "DWYER09" as your Coupon Code

This offer is good through February 14th, 2009. I hope you take advantage of it!

Don't miss out on future wine deals! Subscribe to The Wellesley Wine Press today.

Question of the Day: What do you think of the Respirer? Do you have any questions for Will about the product?


Reminder: Buy Tickets for the Boston Wine Expo

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Today is the last day for the best pricing on Boston Wine Expo tickets. You can get tickets for the Sunday show (January 25th, 2009) for $55 if you're a Boston Globe subscriber and obtain a coupon code from Pricing at the door is $85 Saturday/$75 Sunday.

I'm planning on attending the Sunday show. If you're going to the Expo and would like to meet up, please drop me an E-mail and I'll look forward to meeting you face to face!


Weekend Value Trifecta

For your consideration while you're running your weekend errands...

I received these tips in an E-mail from a reader. I thought to pass them along especially because they align so well with the way I shop for wine. These shops are in the Boston MetroWest area:

  1. Stop by Post Road Liquors in Wayland, MA where they have the long sought after 2005 Columbia Crest Reserve (95WS/$27 Release Price). This is the first I've heard of this wine in MA. I believe the Post Road price is $38, which is a little high, but you may be able to get it down towards $30 with a mixed case purchase. There have been reports of finding it for less than $20 at Costco (though that sighting came from Plano, TX) so it may be a good time to buy at least a bottle while they have it.

  2. Head over to Costco in Waltham, MA where they have 2 newer wines that were highly rated by Wine Spectator:

    The 2006 Four Vines Zinfandel Paso Robles "Biker" is available for $18.99. The release price of this wine was $25, so this is a great price. With similar quality-to-rating metrics as the highly touted Seghesio Sonoma County Zinfandel that landed in the Top 10 of Wine Spectator's Top 100 list I'll give this one a try for sure.

    The 2006 Querciabella Chianti Classico (WS91, $32 Release Price) that landed at #81 on the Top 100 list is available for $23.99.
Thanks a lot for letting us know about these finds. I really appreciate it, and I think others will too.

Do you like reading about finds like this? If so, please click here to subscribe via a feed reader -or- click here to subscribe via E-mail and have new posts delivered right to your inbox.

Question of the Day: Do you have any wine value finds you'd like to share?


Attention Local Wine Shops and Distributors

Friday, January 16, 2009

Want an opportunity to have premium clientele try your product? Consider making an in-kind donation to benefit a great cause. Your tax deductible donation of wine and spirits can benefit the Franciscan Hospital for Children. The hospital is throwing its annual black tie Friends Ball in February and would like to serve top notch products at the bar. For more information, contact Marisa Podolski at the Franciscan Hospital for Children at (617)779-1414.


Respirer Wine Aerator now available through Wine Enthusiast

I noticed from following WineEnthusiast on Twitter that
they're now carrying the Respirer Wine Aerator that I featured in a video product review here last month.

Congratulations to Will Priest at Respirer on being picked up by the premier wine accessory catalog in the country! This is surely a big milestone for Respirer as it enables their product to be considered by a lot more wine lovers through Wine Enthusiast.

Question of the Day: Where do you buy wine accessories? Amazon? Wine Enthusiast? Your local wine store? Somewhere else?


My Wine of the Year: The 2006 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Three reasons why the 2006 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast ($39/91 WS/92 WWP) is the most exciting wine I had in the past year:
  • The people at Zepaltas are awesome: Responsive, polite and professional

    When I was planning a trip out to Sonoma last fall, I only had a fraction of a day to spend in the area. Since I was going to be visiting Clary Ranch I needed to focus on wineries right around Petaluma. When I called to inquire about Zepaltas wines, I was disappointed I wouldn't be able to make it up to see them since Zepaltas is up in Santa Rosa- just a little out of range for this particular trip.

    However, they were *so* accomodating in seeking ways for me to get my hands on their wines. They kindly told me of two stores in Petaluma (La Dolce Vita and Vine & Barrel) that carried their product and which wines they'd recently purchased. If that didn't work out, they offered to meet up with me near where my group was having lunch to hand deliver a bottle or two if that would make things easier for me. Now that's service!

    They play by the rules too- no shipping to MA so that was out of the question. I respect when a winery operates within the confines of the law (even if I don't like the laws.)
  • Their marketing aligns with their product

    First of all, if you look at the Zepaltas website I think it's really well done. The site looks clean and distinctive and effectively represents the personality of their brand. Even their newsletters are gorgeous. Follow that up with their label (see image above) which to me says "funky and artistic, but clean". As I recall, the description on the back of the bottle says something to the effect of not wanting to manipulate the wines- to let the grapes speak for themselves and where they came from.

    Most importantly, all of this aligned perfectly with my impressions of what was in the bottle which was awesome wine goodness. It's really hard to line up a company's image like this, and I'm really impressed with the way such a small winery has done such a fine job. To a skeptic, wine marketing can seem like a bunch of nonsense intended to bamboozle the customer. My view on this is that the whole package is important when deciding where to spend your wine dollars, and I appreciate that the product within the bottle was accurately represented by their marketing. Well done.
  • The wine is absolutely pheonomenal, an awesome expression of California Pinot Noir

    I first became aware of Zepaltas after reading the 2007 Wine Spectator article "The Hot New Dozen of California Pinot Noir" (Wine Spectator subscription required). That piece also featured Clary Ranch (who I've detailed in a 3-part interview with Paul Clary starting here) and another I'm seeking to discover more about: Black Kite.

    The 2005 Zepaltas Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast La Cruz Vineyard garnered the HUGE score of 95 points in that article. Now *that* is a big number. Wow. Since then, they've followed up with favorable reviews from a number of publications. I had this 2006 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast (that I'm calling my Wine of the Year) with family the night before Thanksgiving. It was a hit with everyone. It is a blend of the grape sources that go into their otherwise single-vineyard productions. In addition to being their most affordable offering at $39, it was also their highest rated 2006 according to Wine Spectator (value!).

    Here are my tasting notes:

    "I was thoroughly impressed with this wine in every way. Beautiful earthy aromas on the nose. I noticed two things on the palate- first a tart note, then a spicy strawberry aspect. Finally, a big long finish that went on for minutes. Beautiful bottle and really nice people to buy wine from too. Would definitely recommend and will seek out more in the future."

    The 2006 contains 14.5% alcohol. 103 cases were produced.
Here is a follow-on interview with Ryan Zepaltas with questions (as always) from a consumer's perspective.

Are you currently a subscriber to the Wellesley Wine Press? If not I'd love it if you clicked here to subscribe via a reader -or- clicked here to subscribe via E-mail.

Question of the Day: What was your "Wow" wine of the past year?


WineHug Video Product Review

Monday, January 12, 2009

Today, we take a look at a brand new wine accessory of a unique nature. WineHug launched on January 2nd, 2009 and is a self-inflating protective travel pouch targeted at providing a snug enclosure around your wine within your suitcase. See it in action in this video review:

As I say in the video, WineHug reminds me of the technology used in camping sleeping pads. It is a cool looking, well put together product. My only minor gripe with is that I wish it self-inflated a little more aggressively, but given the price-point and the easy work it takes to "top it off" with a few puffs of air, I'd say it's alright in my book.

I think there *is* a market for a product like this. I frequently pick up a bottle or two of wine while on a business trip and stuff it in my suitcase only to be afraid that my luggage is going to come bounding down the carousel as a big wet, red mess.

There are a number of things conspiring against us as we attempt to bring wines back from a trip:

  • Interstate shipping laws continue to be difficult to navigate
  • The cost and hassle of shipping wine home is a significant deterrent
  • FAA regulations no longer permit bringing liquids through security
I think this makes WineHug's market entry well timed, plus they've got a cool product! I wish them luck and hope you'll check them out. I'd like to thank Mourad ( for his enthusiastic assistance equipping me to provide this review.

If you'd like to order WineHug, or learn more about the product, please visit their online store at

If you're going to the Boston Wine Expo, be sure to stop by their booth to buy WineHug and avoid shipping costs (don't forget to check here for a $20 OFF coupon code for the Sunday session if you're a Boston Globe Subscriber -and- you buy your tickets before January 17th).

Question of the Day: What do you think of WineHug? Any questions you'd like to ask me or Mourad?


20% Off Wines from France and the Southern Hemisphere

Friday, January 9, 2009

I drove by Post Road Liquors in Wayland, MA this morning (on the way to Whole Foods for our weekly family shopping.) Their sale wine category for January-February, 2009 is "France and Southern Hemisphere". This is a bit of a tricky mash-up, but I think we can figure it out. All wines in this category (mixed OK) are 20% off if you buy 6 or more. This sale holds at all three of their locations. More info about locations can be found on their website.

Some recommendations from wines in this category that I believe they carry:

Do you own a local wine shop and would like to see your sales and deals featured on this blog? If so, drop me an E-mail so we can connect.

Are you currently a subscriber to the Wellesley Wine Press? If not I'd love it if you clicked here to subscribe via a reader -or- clicked here to subscribe via E-mail.

Question of the Day: Do you have a wine from the Southern Hemisphere (perhaps South Africa, Chile or Argentina) you'd recommend? I'm looking to explore especially Chile lately. Let us know if you've got some picks from these regions.


Buy Less Wine, Save More Money at Whole Foods Wayland, MA

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Whole Foods in Wayland, MA is one of the 3 Whole Foods stores in the state that is allowed to sell alcohol. Due to some arcane and wacko Massachusetts law, grocery stores are allowed to sell wine; but each chain can only do so at 3 of their locations. What is even wackier is that voters decided against allowing all grocery stores in the state to sell wine. Some of the laws in this state are truly bizarre- especially surrounding wine sales.

Anyway, I lobbied hard for our grocery shopping this past weekend to be done at this Whole Foods because they sell wine (and there's no better place to hide out than the wine section when the kiddos are fussy.) I was pleased to find that their normal case discount policy of 10% off 6 mixed bottles/20% off 12 mixed bottles was temporarily sweetened. Through January 19th, 2009 you only need to buy 6 mixed bottles to get 20% off. To make the deal even sweeter, the discount applies to wines on sale. That's a pretty good deal! I dislike having to buy a whole case to get a decent price and it's pretty easy to find 6 wines you'd like to try, especially when the discount applies to sale wines. Most local wine stores do *not* offer quantity discounts on sale items so I thought this was worth mentioning.

It's up for debate whether Whole Foods everyday pricing is good or not. Looking around I would say in some cases it was a little high and in others it wasn't too bad. I think with the discount most wines would be a good deal. Their product mix is an interesting one; dissimilar to what I typically associate with "supermarket" wines. Check 'em out if you're in the area- I think it's a decent place to buy wine.

On a related note, I was not pleased to find out that Wayne Dills was no longer with Whole Foods. Wayne was previously the Wine Buyer for the store and lauded for his salesmanship and customer service attitude in my previous entry entitled "Why You Should Always Return Corked Wine". I believe he has moved over to Horizon Beverage distributor and wouldn't you know it- they're the distributor for my long-time crush Cakebread Cellars! Hey Wayne- how about you hook me up with some Cakebread?

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Question of the Day: Is Whole Foods a good place to buy wine?


Part 3: An Interview with Paul Clary of Clary Ranch Wines

Monday, January 5, 2009

This is Part 3 of a 3 part interview series with Paul Clary. Part 1 can be found here. Part 2 can be found here.

Selling Wine

Q: So, the first wine you ever submitted for rating to Wine Spectator received 91 points and you landed on a list of "The Hot New Dozen of California Pinot Noir" (along with some good company I might add- Black Kite and Zepaltas come to mind). If you could- walk me through how you first heard of the rating- and what was your initial reaction to such a high rating?

Paul Clary: I had been scanning the Spectator's website, looking for any word. I think that I was tipped off by Jeff Maddux, then president of the Petaluma Gap Grape and Wine Alliance. Frankly, I had a very emotional reaction. It was validation at a time when I was still adjusting to a gut-wrenching divorce. Cathartic, really.

Q: What's the process like for submitting a wine for rating? Do you just pop a couple of bottles in a box and drop it off at Wine Spectator's offices and say "please consider rating this"? Do you fret over whether the bottles you choose might not be the best ones of the batch?

Paul: Yes and No. Submitting wines for review, I drop a couple bottles off at the Wine Spectator's back door. There's a doorbell, usually answered by a lovely young woman who graciously takes in the precious elixir. No, I don't really fret about it. I mean, there IS a lot riding on how the wine is received, but I can't open a bottle to check it before I send it in... So what use is there in worrying about it?

Q: How do you determine pricing for your wines? Production levels? Production costs? Perception of quality?

Paul: All of the above.

Q: What are your thoughts on wine ratings? In a sense as consumers, it's the first order sort that's applied to the thousands of bottles of wine we could spend our hard earned money on. But in another sense- to peg a single number on a bottle of wine is a little ridiculous. Where do you stand?

Paul: Wine ratings give the consumer some means of differentiating between this bottle or that. The only way to know for sure if you like a given wine is to open it and drink it. Barring that, there's not much else to go on. Tasting notes certainly help. Just saying that a wine is a "91" doesn't tell that it smells of rose petals and leather, and that it tastes of candied cherries and plums with a luscious, long-lingering finish...

Q: Direct shipping laws are confusing to everyone- what resources do you consult to determine whether you can ship to a given state?

Paul: There are folks who work for Clary Ranch Wines who take care of those issues, freeing me to create wines. Clary Ranch Wines is a tiny operation (est. 2007 production = 600 cases), and consumer-direct sales are vital to our survival. Unfortunately, the Repeal of Prohibition left us with a patchwork of various State regulations. What is routine for one state is a felony in another. Free the Wine!

Other installments of this interview:
If you'd like to purchase Clary Ranch wines, we've put together a *special* offer for Wellesley Wine Press readers. Clary Ranch has agreed to extend their Holiday Gift Pak offer through January 15th, 2009 for all orders mentioning "The Wellesley Wine Press". When placing your order over the phone or in the comments section of your order, just mention this web site and you'll receive FREE SHIPPING plus great pricing on 2 bottles of Clary Ranch wines.

Click here to visit the Clary Ranch Web Site.
Click here to Order Clary Ranch wines and take advantage of this special offer.

If you have any comments or questions for Paul, please leave them below and I'll be sure to pass them along. I'd like to thank Paul for the time he took answering my questions for this interview so honestly and enthusiastically, and especially for the special offer he's extended to my readers.



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