7 Boston-Area Weekend Wine Values

Friday, April 30, 2010

Some weekend finds for your consideration:

  1. 2007 Coho Headwaters
    Where: Upper Falls Liquor in Newton, MA @UpperFallsWine
    How Much: $60/btl, but they're running a special for the month of April where 6 mixed non-sale bottles are 20% off so that would bring it down to $48.  Give them a call today (Friday) and they can probably set some aside for you and honor the April sale pricing: 617-969-9200
    More info on this wine here
  2. Sea Smoke Ten Pinot Noir
    Where: New Hampshire State Stores
    How Much: $78.99 (just below the $80 release price)
    I cracked open a 2006 Sea Smoke Ten for my birthday last night and I thought it was a great experience.  Extremely hard to find this wine reasonably priced in retail shops.  I see availability at these locations but the vintage offered is unclear.  Might want to call ahead if it's far away.  Race you there?
    Side note: Why is the NH state store sophisticated enough to update per-store inventory on a nightly basis yet they don't list vintages on their website? Bizarre.
    I hear they also have some of this at Upper Falls.  Be sure to ask- it might not be on the floor.
  3. 2007 Chappellet Mountain Cuvee
    Where: Wine Cellars of Stoneham and Danvers @WineCellarsMA
    How Much: $19.99
    Stopped in at the Wine Cellar of Stoneham this week to pick up a few cases of wine for my father-in-law's retirement party.  I went with the always reliable Columbia Crest Cab and the Dashwood New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.  Great party wines each at $7.99.
    But I've really been impressed with prior vintages of Chappellet Mountain Cuvee and their pricing on the 2007 was the best I've seen around.
  4. 2005 Columbia Crest H3 Merlot
    Where: Wine Cellars of Stoneham and Danvers
    How Much: $11.99
    I've been on the lookout for this wine for a while and despite its high production levels I don't see it in a lot of the shops I've visited lately.  I was pleased to see this one but thought the older 2005 vintage was a bit strange (2007 would be more current).  However, I was blown away by this wine- truly fantastic.  I think the bottle age makes this a great wine right now.
    My tasting notes on Grape Stories here.
  5.  2008 Annabella Pinot Noir
    Where: Wine Cellars of Stoneham and Danvers
    How Much: $11.99
    Really liked the prior vintage so looking forward to trying this one as well.  Great price and they've got the Angeline too so you can compare and contrast.  I prefer the Annabella, but I'll write-up my thoughts on the confusingly-similarly-named Angeline soon.
    More about the 2007 Annabella here.
  6. 2008 Yealands Pinot Noir
    Where: Post Road Liquors in Wayland
    How Much: $13.98 net
    91 WS/$16 release price is an incredible QPR for Pinot Noir, but I was as impressed with it as Harvey Steiman from Wine Spectator.  I'd rate it 87 points- my notes here.
  7. 2003 Villabella Amarone della Valpolicella Classico
    Where: Bin Ends Wine (@BinEndsWine)
    How Much: $28.60 (on a $49 release price)
    Great way to try Amarone without breaking the bank.  Really enjoyed this wine- my notes here.  While there, also check out the Ciglitui Dolcetto (love Ciglitui's Barbaresco but haven't tried their Dolcetto yet) and of course the bargain bins.
Like hearing about finds like these?  I'd love it if you subscribed the site so we can keep in touch.  Or better yet follow me on Twitter to hear about short-burn deals before they're too late. 

Any other finds on your radar screen?  I'd love it if you shared the wealth in the comments section.  Have a great weekend.


Wines of Argentina Dinner at Legal Sea Foods Framingham, MA

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wines of Argentina Dinner
A lucrative offering from Legal Sea Foods with Sandy Block, Master of Wine

WHAT:  Legal Sea Foods will host a very special dinner featuring wines from South America’s #1 wine producing country, Argentina.  Wine connoisseur and Legal Sea Foods’ Vice President of Beverage Operations Sandy Block will highlight the eminent quality and distinct taste of Argentinean wines paired with a unique Legal menu.  Inspired by Block’s selections, Legal Sea Foods has crafted a one-of-a-kind three-course offering that will feature the following:

Hors d’Oeuvre
Calamari Ceviche
Grilled Corn, Roasted Red Pepper, Cilantro, Queso Fresco
Crios de Susana Balbo Rosé of Malbec, Mendoza, 2009

First Course
Scallop Empanada
Tomatillo Salsa, Golden Raisin Jam, Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
Trapiche Torrontes, Mendoza, 2008
Bodegas Lurton Pinot Gris Reserva, Valle de Uco, 2009

Second Course
Grilled Salmon
Crispy Pork Belly, Jicama Slaw, Tamarind Vinaigrette
Catena Chardonnay, Tupungato, Mendoza, 2007

Third Course
Roast Matambre (Rolled and Stuffed Flank Steak)
Green Olive Potato Pavé, Caramelized Garlic Chimichurri Sauce
Catena Malbec, Vista Flores, 2006
Colomé Estate Malbec, Valle Calchaqui, 2008

Cheese Course
Grilled Provoleta
Chili, Oregano, and Sun Dried Tomato Chimichurri
Clos de los Siete, Vista Flores, 2007
Ben Marco Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, 2008

WHERE:  Legal Sea Foods
50 Worcester Road, Framingham

WHEN:  Monday, May 17th at 6:30pm
COST:  $75.00 (including tax & gratuity)

**Reservations required, please call (508) 766-0600**
Click here for more information.


Value Alert: Hall Napa Valley Cabernet

When impressive ratings rained from the sky for Hall Winery's 2006 higher-end Cabs (priced between $75-$150) the natural question to ask was whether their entry-level Napa Valley designated wines would deliver similar excitement at a more affordable price point.

In an effort to answer that question, I sought out a bottle of the 2005 Hall Napa Cab to get a feel for the wine.  The short answer is that yes- their entry-level Cab is very good.  But in my opinion it's a noticeable notch below the pricier wines.

There's been a considerable amount of excitement brewing for the 2006 Hall Napa Cab ever since Wine Spectator dropped a 94 point rating on it.  At $40 this presents a compelling value in Napa Cab- especially given its 18,500 case production level which should make it relatively easy to find.

Strangely, I didn't see a lot of the 2005 vintage of this wine in Massachusetts.  And although Spectator only rated the 2005 86 points I thought it would be good to try it to approximate the style of wine the 2006 might offer.

The wine is released relatively late compared to contemporary conventions for release times of Napa Cabs.  The 2006 is just coming to market (in April 2010 as of this writing when most 2007s are coming to market).  The wine spends18 Months in 100% French Oak, 55% of which is new.  Here are my notes on the 2005:

2005 Hall Winery Cabernet Sauvignon
14.5% Alcohol

Displays markings typical of nice Napa Cab: Fruit forward with some savory components backing up.  In this case, primarily dark plums backed up with some bay leaf.  Full bodied and delicious but I'd call it "plump"- round and juicy with very soft tannins.  I wouldn't mind more "bite" in a wine this age but it's an enjoyable powerful wine at this point in time.

WWP 89 Points/Very Good

Guidance: Wait for the 2006 to come to market and buy a couple bottles especially if you an find it in the low $30s.

Honestly, one thing I think creates confusion around this brand is the number of wines in the market that contain the word "Hall".  Robert Hall, Patz & Hall, Whitehall Lane, etc etc.  Have a look at this Wine-Searcher link to see what I'm talking about, it's confusing!

Search for this wine on Wine-Searcher.com

Buy this wine on Wine.com:
Futher Reading:
Question of the Day: Have you tried the Hall Napa Valley Cab recently?  If so what did you think and where did you buy it?


Grand Tasting at Blanchards West Roxbury

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Blanchards Wine & Spirits in West Roxbury, MA is having their Spring grand tasting of over 100 wines this coming Wednesday April 28th, 2010 from 6pm-9pm.  Wines poured at the event are 20% off which is pretty compelling given that their everyday pricing isn't significantly marked up.  Blanchards is one of my favorite stores in the area and I think this event offers a great opportunity to try a lot of great wines before you buy them.

If you happen to run into Steve Grant or Eden Stone be sure to ask for their top picks.  I think they've both got really sharp palates and they've got a high batting average with recommendations they've given me in the past.

Click here for more information.

Further Reading:

Check 'em out:
Blanchards Wine & Spirits
418 Lagrange St.
West Roxbury, MA 02132

Question of the Day: Are you planning to attend this event?


Weekend Update: Three Things

Friday, April 23, 2010

Three things I'd like to mention for this weekend:

  1. The other day as we were driving to Wine Riot I saw a billboard off the Mass Pike that caught my attention.  It advertised the 2011 Hyundai Sonata which features 200hp, 35mpg, and costs less than $20k.  With such great specs, I wondered why anyone would drive another car.  There are some things we can learn about stocking a wine cellar from this- I wrote a piece on the subject on Corkd- I'd love it if you had a look.
  2. Typo in yesterday's blog entry about the Blue Ginger/Mulderbosch wine dinner.  The correct date is Tuesday May 4th.
  3. By now you've probably heard of HR5034 which threatens direct shipment of wine to all states.  Wine Spectator had a nice write-up on the topic.  And here's a more recent update from Wines & Vines.
    If you'd like to voice your opposition of this legislation, which would almost certainly eliminate the possibility of direct shipping in most states especially Massachusetts click here to send a fax or E-mail to your state representatives.  I did it- it takes less than a minute and it can help.
Oh, and one late-breaking piece I thought was hilarious from Dr. Vino- an interview with Bobby Parkerchuk.
    Question of the Day: Any weekend value plays or wine events you'd like to mention?


    Blue Ginger Mulderbosch Vineyards Wine Dinner

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Blue Ginger (the culinary pride of our fair Wellesley) is offering a paired wine dinner featuring wines from South Africa's Mulderbosch Vineyards on Tuesday May 4th, 2010 at 6:30 PM.  The cost is $100 including tax and gratuity.  Here's the menu:

    Crab, Mango and Avocado Parfait with Lychee-Lime Syrup
    Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc

    Black Bean and Garlic Shrimp Sautee
    Spring Pea Soup
    Mulderbosch Chardonnay

    Roasted Lavender Honey Pork Loin with Garlic Chive Stuffed Yukon Golds
    Grilled Asparagus Salad and Thyme Jus
    Mulderbosch Cabernet Rose

    Blue Ginger Vanilla Dessert
    Klein Constantia Vin de Constance

    Reservations can be secured by phoning (781) 283-5790 ext. 18 or emailing bluegingerevents@ming.com by Friday, April 30th.

    Further Reading:
    Check 'em out:
    Blue Ginger
    583 Washington St.
    Wellesley, MA 02482
    Follow @blue_ginger on Twitter

    Question of the Day: Have you been to a wine dinner at Blue Ginger?  If so, what did you think?


    Product Review: Centellino Wine Aerator

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    The Centellino is a bottle-top wine aerator made in Italy that, like other wine aerators we've reviewed, attempts to improve the aromatics and flavor experience of wine instantaneously.  It is imported by Fiorino Italian Imports.  Here's a video showing the product in action:


    The Centellino takes a bit of getting used to, but once you have the hang of it, it's pretty straightforward.  I think guests who are wine enthusiasts would likely be interested in playing with it- those that aren't might find it a distraction.  Like other bottle-top devices you tend to attach it to the bottle and leave it there until you're done drinking the bottle so if you tend to have multiple bottles open you'd probably want to have multiple Centellinos (else you'll be jockeying the device in and out of bottles).  I like its one-handed operation.

    I like how it effectively measures a 5 ounce pour.  If you're trying to limit your consumption to 1 or 2 glasses a night and you're pouring into oversized Bordeaux glasses it's easy to get carried away.  That said, it takes a little while to pour each glass and if you're in the mood to "just drink the stuff" the theatrics might be unappreciated, as they would with any wine aerator.

    The product is made of glass which I consider a strength and a weakness.  There's no chance of the wine picking up plastic flavors or aromas via contact but it's more breakable than if it were made of plastic.

    When cleaning the device, it's a little hard to get inside the Centellino so without a tool you're only able to rinse it with hot water.  Over the last few months that I've been experimenting with it, I didn't notice any wine build-up so presumably the glass resists wine stains.Water tended to collect in the device as it sat and dried which gave me concern that musty aromas might develop over time if I didn't shake all the water out.  That said, I didn't notice any problematic effects from small amounts of water remaining in the device after cleaning.

    The box it comes in is made of non-water-resistant cardboard and foam.  Some competing devices have storage pouches/containers that seem more water-friendly so keep that in mind as you're shopping for devices.

    Blind Tasting Results

    I'm a big believer in blind tasting when it comes to assessing the effectiveness of wine aerators.  For each of these tastings, I poured 2 glasses- one through the Centellino and the other directly from the bottle.  I then asked my wife to flip a coin and if it was heads switch the glasses, tails don't switch the glasses.  Either way I asked her to move the glasses around so I couldn't tell or hear whether the glasses were switched.

    I first tried the Centellino with a 2007 Vietti Barbera d'Asti Tre Vigne.  For me, the wine was rather closed-nosed and a bit harsh on the finish at this point in time- things I thought he device might help with.  I thought the glass that went through the Centellino was slightly rounder and fuller on the palate, but the glass that did not go through the Centellino was slightly more aromatic.  A tie.

    I then followed up with a 2004 Orlando Abrigo Barbaresco.  I've been on a huge Barbaresco kick lately and again wanting to stay in Italy (to test this Italian-made device) I thought this would be a good test.  Unfortunately, this particular bottle lacked elegance and was quite sediment-laden.  Pouring it through the Centellino reminded me that devices like this tend to churn the wine and aren't really strong at removing larger particles from ending up in your glass.  At any rate, I thought the glass that did not go through the Centellino was actually a little better.  It was slightly more aromatic and felt rounder in the mouth.  A slight edge to the non-aerated glass.


    • Innovative, upscale Italian design has a certain sophistication to it
    • It's made of glass so no concerns about plastic contamination of your wine
    • Two-step pouring ensures uniform 5-ounce pour
    • Cleaning and storage of the device is a little more difficult than competing devices
    • Fared poorly in my blind tasting experiments

    While I can appreciate the Centellino's artistic design, my blind tastings haven't shown a consistent meaningful improvement to the aromatics nor mouth-feel of the wines I tested it with.  I'll update this piece if I see better results in future blind tastings.

    If you're in the market for a wine aerator you might find this 7-way blind tasting comparison useful.

    Sample for review.

    Question of the Day: What do you think of the Centellino?


    15% Off at Boston Wine Exchange

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    For the month of April the Boston Wine Exchange is offering 15% off all non-sale wines.  This is the discount normally applied to mixed-cased purchases and presents a nice opportunity to pick up a few bottles without having to stretch to a case to get the best available pricing.

    I had a chance to visit the store last week.  It looks to be a nice downtown store that mixes value-oriented wines from all regions with a nice selection of special occasion wines.  Overall, pricing looked competitive with well-priced suburban Boston retailers.

    If you visit, be sure to check out the back of the store where they keep their nicer wines and their wine tasting machines.  I couldn't pass on a bottle of hard-to-find 2005 Cakebread Cellars Benchland Select.  Offered at $85 (after 15% off) it was priced well below the best price nationally on Wine-Searcher.

    Check out this post from The Passionate Foodie for a nice overview of the store.

    Add them to the growing list of Boston-area wine shops on Twitter.

    Check 'em out:
    Boston Wine Exchange
    181 Devonshire Street
    Boston, MA 02110
    (617) 422-0100
    On Twitter: @BostonWineXchng
    On Facebook

    Question of the Day: Have you been to the Boston Wine Exchange?  If so, what did you think?


    Legal Sea Foods: Benzinger Wine Dinner

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Celebrate the Benziger Family Winery at Legal Sea Foods - Park Square with a very special evening of unparalleled Legal Sea Foods’ cuisine accompanied by hand-picked organic wine selections for each course. Legal Sea Foods and Erinn Benziger (East Coast Regional Sales Manager for Benziger Family Winery) have combined their respective expertise to create and host this unforgettable night to indulge all of your senses: 

    Pan-Seared Scallops and Smoked Salmon Canapes – with Ossetra Caviar and Dill Crème Fraiche
    Benziger “Sangiacomo Vineyard” Chardonnay, Carneros, 2007

    Hickory Grilled Halibut – Perserved Lemon Beurre Blance, Local Pea Tendril Salad
    Signaterra “Shone Farm Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc, Russian River Valley, 2007

    Poached Wild Salmon – Braised Leeks, Wild Mushroom Ragout
    Signaterra “Bella Luna Vineyard” Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley, 2007

    Coffee Encrusted New England Family Farms Filet – Farro Salad with Blackberry and Balsamic Gastrique
    Signaterra “Three Blocks” Meritage Style blend, Sonoma Valley, 2006

    Assorted Cheeses – Shelburne Two-Year Aged Vermont Cheddar, Gruyere, Taleggio 
    Benziger “Tribute” Sonoma Mountain, 2005
    Benziger “Tribute” Sonoma Mountain, 2006

    WHERE: Legal Sea Foods - Park Square Wine Cellar
    26 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116

    WHEN: Tuesday, May 4th at 6:30pm

    COST: $75.00 (excluding tax & gratuity)

    For reservations, please call (617) 530-9397 -or- visit: http://www.legalseafoods.com/index.cfm/page/Benziger-Family-Winery-Dinner/cdid/43845/pid/43564


    Weekend Value Play: Top 10 Wine Spectator Barolo at an Unbeatable Price

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    I was in the neighborhood this morning so I stopped in to check out the latest offerings at Lower Falls Wine Co. in Newton, MA.  I always enjoy chatting with and taking recommendations from the knowledgeable folks there, especially Stephen Pope.

    My perception is that they play in a couple of categories: Obscure small producers they've discovered on their latest trip to Europe -and- hard to find wines.  The hard to find wines are sometimes hard to find because they're from elite producers -or- because they've recently been knighted with a high score/low price from major publications.  Although they de-emphasize points as a viable way of assessing wines they do seem to do a good job picking up high-scoring wines.  I picked up some wines from each of these categories.

    I thought the standout value-play was the 2005 Renato Ratti Marcenasco Barolo at $39.99 net. Number 7 of Wine Spectator's Top 100 list last year, 96 WS/$44 1,200 cases imported.  92 median on CellarTracker, best price on Wine-Searcher.com is $44.95 as of this writing.  I think there's a perception in the local wine community that Lower Falls is pricey but this is an example of one of their better deals.

    Don't live near Newton?  I see it on Wine.com for $44.99.  Prices may vary by state with Wine.com.

    Just to the right of the Ratti is a wine I've had and would highly recommend: the 2005 La Spinetta (Rivetti) Barbera d'Alba Gallina.  Also at $39.99 but eligible for discounting, I thought the wine was fantastic and rated it 93 points.  I'd love to get this wine at $32/btl with discount pricing, but doubt I could get 3 cases of interest from my local case club friends.

    I also picked up a bottle of 2006 Prince Florent de Merode Ladoix
    "Les Chaillots"
    on Stephen's recommendation as a relatively affordable entry point into the ever-tough Burgundy category.  We'll give it a whirl and see how it goes.  I'm still finding my way around Burgundy figuratively and Stephen was there just a week ago literally.

    I think Lower Falls is a very nice shop.  I only wish their case discounting policy was a little more liberal: 10% off a mixed case, 20% off 3 cases.  3 cases is tough.  That's a lot of wine to buy all at once.  If they did 20% off a mixed case I'd be a lot more likely to get together with a couple of friends and buy more wine there.

    Hey you know what would be great?  If you subscribed to the WWP so we can keep in touch about wine deals like these.

    Check 'em out:
    Lower Falls Wine Co.
    2366 Washington St
    Newton, MA 02462-1440
    (617) 332-3000

    Question of the Day: Any weekend value plays you're scouting out? Share the wealth in the comments section!


    Tasting Report: Lucky 7 Wines

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Late last year a new wine brand launched you may have seen in stores- Lucky 7 Wines.  The seven varietals in the line-up retail for around $9.99 and you may be able to find them for a little less if you look around.

    I tasted through three of these wines recently- a Carmenere, a Sauvignon Blanc, and a Cabernet Sauvignon.  For me, the wines succeeded for offering affordable varietally-reminiscent introductions to each of the grape varieties they're made from.  Without breaking the bank, I believe that anyone who tries one of these wines as the first example they've had of wines made from one of these grapes will get a reasonable feel for whether they want to explore the category more.  And that's a great thing because it's not always something we see at sub-$10 price-points.  Here are my notes...

    2009 Lucky7 Carmenere
    13.5% Alcohol

    From the Rapel Valley of Chile.  Dark magenta/purple in color.  Smells quite delicious with abundant fruit amply backed up a mixture of spices.  Packs a lot of round flavor on the palate.  It's definitely got a little green pepper, a common Chilean Carmenere flavor, but just a touch.  More noticeable are the mix of chocolate and red-candy overtones.  These I thoroughly enjoyed.  Just a hint of tannic grip and acidity.  Quite nice.

    WWP: 87/100 Very Good

    2009 Lucky 7 Sauvignon Blanc
    13% Alcohol

    This wine comes from the Maule Valley of Chile and similar to other Chilean Sauv Blancs I've had behaves like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc without the pungent aromatic edges.  It veers more towards creamy and tropical than citrusy and what it lacks in acidity in makes up for with utter drinkability.

    WWP: 85/100 Good

    Lucky 7 Cabernet Sauvignon
    13.5% Alcohol

    Also from the Rapel Valley.  Luscious and medium-full bodied.  Thankfully avoids the green pepper aromatics present in so many Chilean reds.  I would say "sweet tannins" but there are hardly any tannins to speak.  Would benefit from more grip and acidity but this too is an easy drinking party wine that would play well at an informal party.

    WWP: 83/100 Good

    Samples for review.

    Question of the Day: Have you had Lucky 7 Wines?  If so, what did you think?


    Winery Direct Shipment Inches Closer in Massachusetts

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    According to the good folks at ShipCompliant, Massachusetts will not be appealing the January decision that freed up out of state wineries to ship directly to consumers in the Commonwealth.

    You might recall there being additional hurdles to jump before direct shipping becomes a reality.  Things like per-truck licensing requirements for FedEx and UPS and per-consumer volume caps.  There's been progress on this front as well.  House Bill 317 and Senate Bill 176 have been merged into 4497: Regulating the direct shipment of wine.

    I'm pleased to see things moving along on this front but I still believe 4497 could use some work.  The current discussion has been all about wineries, but retailers still wouldn't be able to ship in and out of the state.  If retailers aren't mentioned as part of this set of changes, we'll continue to have a situation where in-state retailers are limited to the consumers in the state, and consumers can't buy online from out of state retailers.  Better to get the laws right once and for all if you ask me and the right thing to do is open the state to legal shipment from out of state retailers.

    Failure to do so might lead to out of state retailers complaining that they're being discriminated against as compared to out of state wineries.  Further, the state is missing an opportunity to increase revenue by taxing wine shipped from out of state retailers to consumers.   

    Let's free the grapes and allow wineries and retailers to ship in and out of Massachusetts.

    Further Reading: All of the stories we've done on wine shipping laws.

    Want to keep up to date on this issue?  Subscribe to the Wellesley Wine Press and I'll keep you posted.

    Question of the Day: If you could only order wine from one out of state winery which would it be and why?


    Tasting Report: 2007 J.J. Prum Kabinett Riesling

    2007 Joh. Jos. Prum Riesling Kabinett
    9% Alcohol

    This was pretty serious stuff, which surprised me a bit.  For whatever reason I was expecting something more straightforward.  And a bit sweeter.  Whether you'll like this wine will depend, I think, on how dry you like your Riesling.  For my palate, I thought this one was pretty dry.  Starts off with considerable petrol aromas backed by citrus.  On the palate, lots of lime sherbet, grapefruit and flat ginger ale.  Considerable zing with a touch of acidity.  Wanted to like it more than I did, but overall a solid effort from Germany.

    WWP: 87/100 Very Good

    Read other opinions of this wine on GrapeStories
    Search for this wine on Wine Searcher 

    A German Riesling I liked quite a bit more was this one.  What can I say?  I like my wine a little sweeter.

    Question of the Day: Have you tried this one?  If so, what did you think?  If not, what are some of your favorite German Riesling producers?


    Newton Vineyards Wine Dinner at BOKX 109 Newton, MA

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    BOKX 109 American Prime will host an evening of exceptional wines from Napa Valley’s acclaimed Newton Vineyards and culinary creations by Executive Chef Evan Percoco.  Join in this unique opportunity to meet and dine with Dr. Su Hua Newton, owner of Newton Vineyard’s and experience an exclusive four-course wine dinner, specially created for this evening only: 
    Passed Hors D’oeuvres
    Poached Oyster Shooter with Oyster Cracker
    Lobster and Ricotta Cavatelli
    Wing Confit
    Red Label Chardonnay, 2008

    1st Course:
    Seared Petrale Sole: Spring peas, morel cream
    Unfiltered Chardonnay, 2007

    2nd Course:
    BBQ’D Pork Belly: Boston baked beans, sweet corn nage
    Unfiltered Merlot, 2005

    3rd Course:
    Long Island Duck Two Ways: Smoked Breast, Confit Thigh
    Melted leek and lentil fondue, Red wine & shallot jus
    The Puzzle, 2005

    4th Course:
    Dark Chocolate Tart: Drunken berries, toasted meringue
    Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006

    WHEN: Friday, April 30th, 2010 at 6:30pm

    COST: $95.00, excluding tax and gratuity.
    Reservations Required. Call 617.454.3399

    WHERE: BOKX 109 American Prime
    399 Grove Street
    Newton, MA 02462
    (Located inside Hotel Indigo)

    Click here for more information.


    Seth Godin, Tyler Colman, and Daniel Posner on Wine in New York Grocery Stores

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Strange as it may seem to people in parts of the country where it flows more freely, wine cannot be sold in grocery stores in New York state.  Some are working to change that however, and this has New York wine retailers concerned about the competition large grocery store chains present to their business.

    Last week I was reading through the blogs I subscribe to in my feed reader.  First I read Rights and Responsibilities by Seth Godin.  Then I read New proposal offers NY wine stores a transition period by Tyler Colman.  Take a minute and read each of those pieces.  Go ahead- they're both short.

    In Godin's piece, he's talking about taking the long view and focusing on sustainable advantages.  Focus on offering joy in a can rather than fighting those who seek to tax and expose the tooth-rotting good-for-nothing nature of your product. In the case of the retail wine industry, the long view is differentiating retail stores in ways that grocery stores cannot.  Things like personal service, leveraging the Internet/social media, and events and education where grocery stores don't focus.

    But more than that, it's about recognizing that competition from grocery stores might be more of a threat to certain types of retailers than others.  A few years ago when Massachusetts was considering lifting the 3-store-per-chain limit on grocery stores, some of my favorite wine retailers were actually in favor of the initiative.  They felt the competition from grocery stores would only negatively affect old guard package stores that have been resting on their laurels the past few decades and offering consumers high prices and mediocre service.

    So what to do if you're a wine retailer in any situation where more competition is headed your way? Evidently  Daniel Posner realizes the future will bring more open competition and he's focusing his efforts on what could be rather than what once was.  I'm reminded of another piece from Godin: Your "best available strategy" is "providing remarkable service and an honest human connection".  Of course implementing that strategy isn't easy, but what business is ever easy?

    Question of the Day: What do you think of wine in grocery stores in New York, Massachusetts or elsewhere?


    25% Off 12 or More at Julio's Liquors Westborough, MA

    Friday, April 9, 2010

    Julio's Liquors in Westborough, MA is offering 10% off non-sale 750ml bottles of wine and 25% off a mixed case of non-sale 750ml wines this weekend as part of The Phantom Sale.  The sale runs Saturday April 10th from 9am-10pm and Sunday April 11th from 12pm-7pm.

    Here's a review of Julio's I wrote a couple months ago.  Hope it gives you an idea of whether making the trip would be worth it.  I know a lot of us are trying to cut back on wine purchases, but sales like this can be hard to resist. 

    Check 'em out:
    Julio's Liquors
    Route 9 East

    140 Turnpike Road
    Westborough, MA 01581

    Like hearing about about local wine sales like this?  I'd love it if you subscribed to the site via E-mail. 

    Question of the Day: Any value plays you'd recommend based on recent inventory at Julio's?  Looking to split a mixed-cased purchase so you don't have to buy 12 bottles to get the discount?  Leave a comment below or drop me an E-mail at wellesleywinepress@gmail.com and we can try to align schedules to visit the store at the same time.


    One Wine, One Deal Brings Group Buying Power to Wine

    Thursday, April 8, 2010

    Christopher's Wine & Cheese, a wine retailer based in North Carolina, is taking an innovative approach to combining purchasing power to score great deals on wines and pass them along to consumers.  Check out One Wine, One Deal where they offer up a single wine by the case for 24 hours.  If they get interest in 10 cases, everyone gets the deal.  If they don't the deal is off and nobody buys the wine.  Interesting approach.

    We've done some things with case clubs here on this site and we previously discussed the Capitol Case Club which similarly aims to bring consumers together.  These are private consumer-originated efforts whereas what One Wine, One Deal is doing is retailer-originated.  The advantage in retailer-based efforts is that they can sniff out smokin' deals from distributors.

    There are a few challenges I can see for the retailer.  First, to minimize per-bottle shipping costs as a percentage of the overall cost of the order, more expensive (and hard to find) wines sold by the case work better.  The problem with this is it becomes expensive to buy an entire case and consumers might be hesitant to bite.

    Another challenge is the Internet's nature of driving prices down as low as possible.  A consumer considering a deal will immediately compare the deal on a site like Wine-Searcher.com.  If the wine being sold really isn't the cheapest by a significant amount- no deal.

    Finally, it's got to be hard keeping the deals fresh.  As a retailer you can't let too much time go by without an offer and invariably the pressure builds and the deals aren't compelling.  The retailer's relationships with distributors (and favorable shipping laws in the state they're shipping from) are important if the retailer is to be a viable conduit of the wines they're offering.

    There's a lot of competition in the short-burn wine deal space.  Especially lately.  Woot, Cinderella Wine, Wines Til Sold Out, and CellarThief come to mind amongst a long list of others vying for dollars.

    But I like the model One Wine, One Deal brings to the table.  I think it has a lot of potential.  If they can keep shipping costs low, offer unique well-regarded wines, and unbeatable prices I think they've got a shot.  If they offer leading-edge clarity in the wines they're selling, insight into total costs including shipping and a concise listing of states they ship to it would really help consumers make quick decisions on whether they'd like to buy.  And if they can build up a community of trusting consumers who spread the word about their site- I'm convinced they'll have a winning model.

    Hop on their E-mail list or follow @ChristopherWine on Twitter to hear about their latest offers.

    Direct shipment to Massachusetts consumers from out of state retailers is, sadly, not possible due to stifling Massachusetts wine shipment laws.  More about MA wine shipping laws HERE.

    Questions of the Day: What do you think of this business model?  Deal or no deal?


    Top 10 Things to Check Out at Wine Riot Boston April 16th and 17th

    Wednesday, April 7, 2010

    Wine Riot, the twice-yearly expo-style wine event targeted at a younger crowd and put on by the folks from The Second Glass, is coming to The Boston Center for the Arts in the South End on April 16th and 17th, 2010.

    What to Expect

    You taste wine and eat food at the event- bottles of wine are not available for purchase.  Here are some suggestions I pulled together for enjoying Wine Riot II held last fall.  Compared to the Boston Wine Expo, expect a smaller more accessible event, a younger crowd, and more food.

    The Wines

    Scanning through the list of 250 wines being poured at this event the following stood out.  If this list is useful, you can print out this cheat sheet using the "Print Friendly" button at the bottom of this piece:
    • Check out the 90+ Cellars Shiraz Viognier.  It was one of the best wines I tried last year offering an incredible mixture of blueberry pie and savory bacon overtones.  An amazing value at $17.  90+ Cellars has advertised on the WWP in the past.
    • Charles Smith Wines/K Vintners will be there.  I was quite impressed with their Syrah in a recent TasteLive event featuring Washington Syrahs.  And their Velvet Devil Merlot took the top spot in our Holiday Gifting blind tasting.
    • Check out the Dr. Loosen Kabinett Riesling for an amazing spring/early summer white.  I think it's hard to go wrong with quality German Riesling, especially from a producer like Loosen.
    • New Zealand Pinot Noir is really picking up momentum with relatively low prices and a string of recent 90 point ratings from Wine Spectator.  Check out Oyster Bay's offering in this category (in additional to their surely-enjoyable Sauvignon Blanc).
    • Travessia's semi-sweet Vidal Blanc is a domestic wine I think compares favorably to German Riesling.  I had a bottle of this for the first time last spring and it blew me away.  It's been a go-to wine for sharing with people who don't normally drink wine.  Travessia has also advertised here in the past.
    • I've not had it, but the Layer Cake Malbec has received high praise from Robert Parker.
    • Wines from Owen Roe will be poured.  I've been impressed with their Abbott's Table red in the past and would be interested in trying their Sinister Hand red and Sharecropper's Cabernet.
    The Food

    Lots of good food available in tasting portions under $5 with suggested pairings.  Here are some brand I'm looking forward to checking out:
    • The Upper Crust Pizzeria recently came to Wellesley (here's a review I wrote based on ordering for delivery the first night they opened).  They'll be at the event and I think pizza pairs brilliantly with lots of different wines- especially reds.
    •  Legal Sea Foods has an impressive focus on wine (read more here).  They'll be at the event which is sure to serve up some exceptional white wine pairings.
    • Dessert from Taza Chocolate, and KickAss Cupcakes along with SmartWater to keep us well hydrated round out the event.  Nice touches.
    Click here to buy tickets online and learn more about the event.
      I'm planning on attending the Saturday 1-5p session.  Hope to see you there.


        Tasting Report: 2007 Roessler Pinot Noir Sonoma County Red Label

        Tuesday, April 6, 2010

        Roessler Cellars is a Sonoma winery focused on producing Burgundian-style wines (most Pinot Noir but some Chardonnay too) from designated vineyards.  Wine Spectator rated 15 different Roessler Pinot Noirs alone from the 2007 vintage ranging in price between $28 and $56.  Being the cheap skate that I am, this Sonoma County Red Label came in at the bottom end of the price range but towards the top end of the ratings range: $28/92 WS and was therefore a notable value-play in looking at Spectator's ratings of '07 California Pinot Noir.

        I was pleased with this wine and would consider it a good recommendation from James Laube who does most of Wine Spectator's tasting of California Pinot Noir.  Here are my notes:

        2007 Roessler Pinot Noir Sonoma County Red Label
        14.2% Alcohol/1,075 Cases Produced

        Visually, this medium bodied red presents itself in a shade of magenta.  Very clear visually- not cloudy at all.  Classic Pinot Noir ripe strawberry aromas on the nose, which evolved over time with hints of spice and chimney smoke at Christmas time.  Floods the palate with vibrant flavors of red raspberries, and slightly sour cherries.  Silky smooth finish.  Quite enjoyable and not disappointing at all.

        WWP: 91/100 Outstanding

        Find this wine on Wine-Searcher.com
        Look up ratings for this wine on CellarTracker

        Purchased from VinoDivino in Newton, MA.  They don't show availability of this Red Label anymore, but they do carry the similarly highly-rated 2007 Roessler La Brisa.

        Further Reading:

        Question of the Day: Have you had Pinot Noirs from Roessler before?  What did you think of them?


        Tasting Report: 2006 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

        Monday, April 5, 2010

        On the cover of Wine Spectator’s issue on 2006 Napa Cabernet Sauvignons were 3 wines: The 2006 Kathryn Hall, a 2006 Schrader, and the 2006 Robert Mondavi Reserve.  I thought the Hall was amazing (as I wrote here) and the 2006 Schrader was a wine I wrote about as being a $125 value wine.

        I recently had a chance to sit down and try the 2006 Mondavi Reserve Cab alongside two other vintages of the Mondavi Resreve Cab: 1994 and 1999.  It provided a fascinating opportunity to try a wine of consistent quality across a number of years to assess what happens to Napa Cab as it ages.

        I met up with a couple of good friends at West On Centre in West Roxbury, MA last Tuesday night to try these wines along with food.  The restaurant has a Bring Your Own Wine night every Tuesday night I highly recommend for wine enthusiasts.  Make a reservation and ask for Lawrence as your server.  The lamb chops were delicious.

        The '94 seems to be substantially more highly regarded than the '99 in terms of retail/auction prices and CellarTracker reviews.  I thought both were outstanding and unique.

        The 2006 Mondavi is composed of 95% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc.  91% of the grapes are from the famous To Kalon Vineyard.  The wine aged for 18 months in 100% new French oak barrels.

        Here are my notes on all the wines:

        1994 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
        13.5% Alcohol

        Red/brownish in color.  Spice on the nose along with some menthol.  An exceptionally smooth wine.  Hardly any tannic bite to speak of, which depending on what you’re looking for could be a good thing or bad.  Long, heartwarming finish.  Delicious aftertaste.  This wine is subtle greatness.

        WWP: 92/100 Outstanding

        1999 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
        14.1% Alcohol

        Brighter and more similar to younger Napa Cab than the ’94.  Less brown in color than the ’94- this one was more ruby-red.  Enjoyed the grippy tannins in this wine, which were surprisingly present after 11 years.  Complex nose.  Surprisingly earthy.

        WWP: 90/100 Outstanding

        2006 Robert Mondavi Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
        15.5% Alcohol

        Wow.  Beautiful stuff.  Dark purple in color with classic Cab aromas of black currant and blackberry.  Full of delicious flavor.  Firm, chalky tannins.  Stunningly good and surprisingly different than the prior wines.  Delicious wine.  One of the best Napa Cabs I’ve ever had.

        WWP: 97/100 Classic


        As we were trying these wines I was thinking about the following story lines:
        • Alcohol levels.  The upward trend in alcohol levels in this wine over the years (13.5%/14.1%/15.5%).  Did this wine drive the trend?  Or follow it?
        • Aging.  What does this tasting tell me about aging Napa Cabs for my palate?
        • Branding.  Would you rather have a wine like this that’s a top offering from a famous high production brand -or- a wine that’s at the entry level of a smaller producer?  Does the answer change depending on the occasion?
        I'd like to come back and talk more about each of these subjects in future blog entries. 

        The 2006 was a sample for review.

        Question of the Day: What do you think of Mondavi's Reserve Cab?



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