Who Needs a Sale When You Have Empire Wine?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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I stopped and visited New York Retailer Empire Wine last summer on our way to vacation in Michigan. What an operation. Located within a large strip mall, I never would have thought to stop in if I wasn't aware of their reputation online. I couldn't believe the volume of wine they were pushing through their registers on a summery Friday afternoon.

One thing I want this site to be about is helping friends find better wine values. Part of that is finding outstanding retailers who sell wine on razor thin margins. As I'm writing this I'm imagining co-workers and cousins looking for specific retailers to order from, and specific wines to get started with. I think 6 or 12 of the wines below would make a great stash of wines for the holiday season.

With deals swirling around this weekend I thought it would be a good opportunity to peruse their selection and make a few recommendations:
  1. Cakebread Cellars Zinfandel 2010 $23.95
    $23 for what's sure to be a delicious red from Cakebread? Sold.
  2. Failla 'Sonoma Coast' Pinot Noir 2011 $31.95
    Great producer. Love the ~$30 price point for high quality California Pinot Noir.
  3. Snowden 'The Ranch' Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $37.95
    Not the prettiest label in the world but this one over delivers for its price point.
  4. O'Shaughnessy 'Howell Mtn.' Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $74.95
    Bumps the price up a bit over the Cakebread/Caymus/Silver Oak ~$60 level, but it's worth the splurge.
  5. Beaurenard 'Boisrenard' Chateauneuf du Pape 2010 $69.95
    97WS, great vintage. Getting harder to find these 2010s.
  6. Soter 'North Valley' Pinot Noir 2009 $24.95
    Soter's a great producer and I'm looking to try more 2009 Oregon Pinots before they disappear.
  7. Marcel Lapierre Morgon 2011 $23.95
    People love this producer and I'm hearing good things this 2011 Cru Beaujolais.
  8. Belle Glos 'Meiomi' Pinot Noir 2011 $15.93
    Stunningly low price, even when shipping costs are included.
  9. Educated Guess Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 $16.95
    Tasty fruit forward Napa Cab at a great price.
  10. Ridge Vineyards 'Estate' Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 $34.95
    Hard to go wrong with Ridge and priced in the mid-$30s this is a nice value.
  11. Bodegas Volver 'Tarima Hill' Monastrell 2009 $8.95
    I always like including a bargain Spanish Monastrell to round out a case. Original referral on this one came from The Capital Grille. Big and bold.
  12. Bodegas Borsao Tinto 2011 $5.95
    Robert Parker called this "Possibly the single greatest dry red wine value in the world" and rated it 90 points. Plug this into the WWP QPR Calculator (what's that?) and you get 3.36: Very Good Value. I've enjoyed other Borsao wines before and I'd bet this one is good too. What do you have to lose at this price point?
Wine Retailers: Do you have an e-commerce site I can peruse and build up a similar list? Drop me an email and let me know.

I'd love it if you subscribed to The Wellesley Wine Press to receive email notifications of new posts. I'm working on some great stuff in the coming weeks.


Groupon: 6 Bottles of Cameron Hughes Wines for $59 Shipped

Monday, November 26, 2012

Groupon is offering 6 assorted bottles (all white -or- all red) of Cameron Hughes wines for $59 including shipping. Choose from one of these two options:

$59 for a Cameron Hughes red-wine bundle ($99.99 list price)
  • Two bottles of 2009 Lake County syrah (Lot 224)
  • Two bottles of 2009 Napa cabernet (Lot 257)
  • Two bottles of 2010 Mendoza, Argentina malbec (ot 258)
$59 for a Cameron Hughes white-wine bundle ($99.99 list price)
  • Two bottles of 2009 Santa Barbara County pinot grigio (Lot 264)
  • Two bottles of 2010 Atlas Peak chardonnay (Lot 324)
  • Two bottles of 2010 Russian River sauvignon blanc (Lot 270)
A quick scan of wine-searcher.com seems to support their claimed list price of $99.99 and since the offer includes shipping I consider this deal "good to very good".

They cannot ship to: AL, AK, AR, DE, HI, KY, MA, MS, MT, ND, OK, PA, SD, UT, Canada or Puerto Rico.

Massachusetts friends: Here's a deal you can take advantage of


20% Off $250 at Blanchards: Six Wines to Buy Now

Blanchards Wine & Spirits is offering 10% off $100 orders with code CYBER10 -or- 20% off $250 with code CYBER20. Discount applies only to non-sale items (prices end in "9"). Full offer details here.

Here are six wines I thought were nice deals for one reason or another:

  • 2010 St. Cosme Gigondas Valbelle $62.99 ($50.39 after 20% off)
    The regular St. Cosme Gigondas (95WS/$41) got all the attention, but this one was rated 97 points. Nationwide low price here. Buy buy buy!
  • 2007 Le Vieux Donjon $64.99 ($51.99 after 20% off)
    Still some great 2007 CdPs around, and this is one of my favorites.
  • Anthill Farms
    Ample availability even for their single vineyard Pinots makes me refrain from buying their wines mailing list. Check out their 2010 Anderson Valley bottling for $37.99 before discount to get a feel for their style.
  • 2009 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel $32.99 ($26.39 after 20% off)
    If there was a "quality never goes out of style" winery for me, it's Ridge. Or maybe it's more like "nobody ever got fired for ordering Ridge". Hard to beat this wine south of $30.
  • 2009 Shafer Relentless $74.99 ($59.99 after 20% off)
    The 2008 vintage of this wine (96 points/$60) was recently named Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year. It was released quite a while ago and is very difficult to find. The 2009 was just rated 95 points and is still available. They have only a few bottles left so act quick especially on this one.
  • 2009 Benton Lane Oregon Pinot Noir $22.99 ($18.39 after 20% off)
    An Oregon Pinot Noir recommendation here on the WWP? You've got that right! I've been on a roll with 2009s from Oregon lately and I've enjoyed Benton Lane south of $20 in the past. Grab this one as a filler.
Blanchards can only ship to Massachusetts addresses. Orders placed online can be picked up free at their West Roxbury, MA location.

Visit their website at http://blanchardsliquor.com to browse their inventory and place an order.

Don't live in MA? Here's an offer from Wine Library with wider geographical applicability.

The deals have been coming fast and furious this CyberMonday. Follow me on Twitter for more wine deals: @RobertDwyer

Question of the Day: What are some of the better deals you see at Blanchards right now?


Liquor Stores excluded from AmEx Small Business Saturday?

Saturday, November 24, 2012

By now, you've probably heard of Small Business Saturday from American Express:
American Express® Cardmembers can enroll an eligible American Express® Card to GET $25 BACK WHEN THEY SPEND $25 OR MOREat a qualifying small business location on November 24th. Cardmember enrollment in the offer is limited. Offer Terms apply to Cardmember participation.
Nice promotion, right? $25 just for registering your card and buying something at a qualifying merchant.

But Daniel Posner at Grapes the Wine Company noticed something that might affect wine deal hounds. Have a look at the conditions for participating merchants which exclude those that "promote...liquor":
For the purpose of this Program, qualifying small businesses include small, locally-owned storefront and online businesses with $10 million in annual revenue or less. Businesses in the following industries are excluded: government agencies, charities, non-profits, trade associations, shopping property management firms, political, religious and educational organizations. Small businesses that are part of a franchise brand with more than 100 stores are excluded. Additionally, if a franchise brand has more than 20 corporate-owned units, then the entire brand is excluded. Small businesses that promote any of the following are not eligible for the Program: pharmaceuticals, drugs, politics, pornography or sexual aids, diet aids, gambling, liquor, tobacco, firearms/weapons, or any sensitive topic with respect to current events. See Terms of Participation.
It sounds like AmEx is trying to distance themselves from controversial businesses, but it's not clear to me what "promoting" means in this context and further what they mean by "liquor". Did they intentionally choose the word liquor instead of alcohol? Liquor is a distilled beverage which contains alcohol. Wine contains alcohol but is not liquor. And what if a merchant sells wine and liquor - does that disqualify the merchant?

If you look at the Where to Shop Map you can find plenty of wine stores listed. I thought for a moment merchants with the string "liquor" in their name might be excluded but I see plenty of places included - including "Liquor Land" so that doesn't explain it.

All in all, I'm left confused whether my patronage of a local wine businesses will trigger a $25 statement credit.

AmEx: What's the deal? Are liquor stores excluded from Small Business Saturday?

Wine retailers: What are you hearing? Are you eligible for Small Business Saturday this year?

Consumers: If you shopped at a wine store today let us know whether that transaction successfully received $25 back.

Check back later for a roll-up of CyberMonday wine deals. Subscribe to The Wellesley Wine Press for email notifications of new posts.


Free Shipping from Wine Library: Start Building the Perfect Case

Friday, November 23, 2012

Wine Library is offering free ground shipping on 12 bottles with code BLACKFRIDAY

Update: Use code CYBERMONDAY for the same deal

Here's 12 wines that for one reason or another caught my eye to get you going:
  1. 2008 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills $19.99
  2. 2010 Zepaltas Risuena Pinot Noir $19.98
  3. 2009 Merry Edwards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir $38.98
  4. 2009 Hayfork Cabernet Sauvignon Lewelling Ranch $59.98
  5. 2011 Pepiere Muscadet Clos Des Briords $14.98
  6. 2009 Pierre Usseglio Mon Aieul Chateauneuf Du Pape $79.98
  7. 2009 Melka Cj Cabernet Sauvignon $42.98
  8. 2010 Melville Pinot Noir Estate $27.98
  9. 2004 Bodegas Resalte De Restia Crianza Selected Harvest $16.98
  10. 2010 Borsao Tres Picos $11.98
  11. 2009 Cakebread Cabernet Sauvignon $59.97
  12. 2011 Marcel Lapierre Morgon $23.98
Unfortunately, like all out of state retailers, they can't legally ship to MA. But for folks in other parts of the country, or those who can ship to a state which can receive shipments, this is a nice deal. Here is a concise listing of the states they can ship to:

Offer expires November 23rd, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST.

Wine Retailers: Do you have a free shipping offer going that I could peruse online and build up a similar list? Drop me an email and let me know.


$25 for $50 at Lot18

Thursday, November 22, 2012

LivingSocial is offering a $50 voucher for $25 for wine flash deal site Lot 18

If you're new to Lot18 get $10 off your purchase through this link

Looking for a way to spend your voucher? They're offering a trio of gorgeous Cigliuti Barbaresco right now (producer of the WWP wine of the year 2010!) - and they can ship to Massachusetts.

Looking for more wine deals? I'll be tweeting Black Friday wine deals this weekend: @RobertDwyer


Table and Vine Store Review (plus a bonus offer!)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me I should check out Table & Vine over the years I'd have at least a dollar by now. I'd heard it was huge. I knew is was owned by the Big Y Supermarket chain. I'd ordered from them several times. But until I visited the store in person I didn't have a good feeling for what it's like.

Located in Springfield, MA -- about an hour and a half west of Boston -- Table and Vine is pretty easy to find. The store anchors a strip mall about 3 miles south of the Mass Pike off Exit 4. It's about as big as a medium sized grocery store with more than half of the floor space devoted to wine. The remainder of the space is devoted to beer and gourmet food.

Immediately to the right upon entering is an area normally reserved for Bordeaux and New Arrivals. But on the Saturday afternoon I visited the area was hosting a wine tasting. For a $5 charitable donation you could taste wines from a half dozen distributors pouring their wines.
From across the store I recognized Michael Quinlan. I chatted with him a bit to get an overview of their wine program and the layout of the store. I was reminded that Table & Vine is not only a wine retailer but also an importer which gives them sourcing and pricing strength especially on French and Spanish wines. From their offers and newsletters I've always suspected an old world slant, and Quinlan confirmed they probably focus on European wines than domestic. But what struck me most about the store was their strength across the board - in all categories and all price points.
When checking out a new store for the first time, I always like to browse areas of familiarity first to get a feel for typical markups. First off, their discount policy is 5% off a mixed 6+ bottles and 10% off straight cases. Non-sale items excluded. They'll ship 12 bottles to MA addresses for $22 (MA retailers aren't allowed to ship out of state by law). Not bad.

Quinlan said things are marked up uniformly, but in looking around it seemed like some wines were pretty good deals and other weren't. Take for example the 2009 Ridge Lytton Springs Petite Sirah at $29.99 - best price in the country. Contrast this with the Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir at $19.99 which isn't a very good price compared to warehouse pricing.

Quinlan, as kind, genuine and enthusiastic about wine as you can imagine, acknowledged they do buy certain wines in larger quantities than others which might account for some deals being better than others. This kind of variability subtly drives the deal hound in me to seek out the hidden gems; and seek guidance in categories I'm not as familiar with.

Take for example the 2010 Wrongo Dongo Monstrell. I thought it was a great buy when I found it for $8.99 earlier in the year. On vacation in Michigan this summer I paid around $15 for it. They've got it for $6.99 before discounts.

The domestic Pinot selection could use some expansion. Not that I'd expect it to align with my personal collection and account for half the store, but it's currently only half an aisle compared to Australia that's an entire aisle. Quinlan agreed this was out of step with current trends and may be due for an adjustment.

A wine caught my eye that I'd been looking for was the 2009 Beringer's Knight's Valley Reserve Cabernet (now apparently sold out online). It was recently rated 94 points by Wine Spectator and they've got it for $44.99. I knew I'd done a Wine-Searcher search for it recently and wondered why it didn't show up. They do have it listed on their website so I asked Quinlan why it wasn't turning up on Wine-Searcher. He said they choose not to list certain items they don't have a lot of because they don't want to disappoint customers who might place an order only to find out later they couldn't fulfill.

I can accept this, but it makes me less likely to notice they carry wines I might otherwise order from them. And it makes wine hunting online like searching for affordable airfare - you have to check the aggregators and the individual airline websites to make double dog sure you're getting the best deal possible. Sure, there are a ton of retailers out there who don't list at all on Wine-Searcher. But it's got to make you wonder whether you're really catching the best possible prices (not to mention availability) if you're only relying on Wine-Searcher - even Pro.

Anyway - where was I? Oh yeah - perusing the shelves. They had all kinds of interesting stuff. Just when you think you're looking at the usual suspects you stumble onto something unique. Like 2011 Lapierre Morgon magnums for $49.99. Or a 2001 St. Cosme Cote-Rotie for $27.99 in the closeout section at the back of the store. Or Radio-Coteau Zinfandel - didn't even know they made a Zin. Or an assortment of wines from Donkey & Goat - I've wanted to try them forever. Update: I've tried it. It's awesome.

Just when I thought I'd seen it all I remembered we hadn't been to the temperature controlled section of the store where they keep their nicer wines. Oh my - they've got some nice stuff. New stuff and old. Magnums of 2010 Donjon and Clos des Papes made me consider a flipping opportunity should one of them win Wine Spectator Wine of the Year later this week. Alas, they only have a few bottles of each so act now. Update: Neither won.

Peter Michael Les Pavots. 2009 Baron Pichon-Longueville for $174.99. 2004 Harlan for $649. 2009 Lewelling Napa and Wight. Cayuse. All kinds of great stuff, and much of it not listed online. Quinlan rejoined us and I asked him what some of his favorite categories were. Like seemingly all other wine geeks he said Burgundy, but emphasized an interest in Spain. I learned about some of his favorites in the pricey cellar area but in an ongoing effort to keep wine expenditures within reason went for a $13.99 La Cartuja Priorat. Update: I'd open it later that night - outstanding I thought, and a great value.

We'd easily been there an hour and a half by then so we had to get going. All 6 or so of the registers were humming, briskly ringing up customers.

One more stop before we left and that was next door to their temperature controlled wine vault where paid customer orders await pick-up or delivery. A mind blowing assortment of high value wines -- mostly Burgundy and Bordeaux -- along with boxes of varying sizes, sorted by customer. Quite an operation. The sheer volume is staggering, not to mention the dollar value.

All day, I was thinking about why I don't order more from Table & Vine. Not like I need another source of wine-budget draining temptation but for how much I complain about restrictive MA shipping laws it seems like Table & Vine is a retailer I should do more business with. I think there are several reasons why I've only placed a few orders with them to date.

First, I think a small part of it is the shipping cost. $22 per case - less than $2 per bottle -- is very reasonable. But for some reason I have a psychological block against paying for shipping. It seems like a waste of money. I'll always wait for a free shipping special or a wine I can pick-up as part of my normal errands. But this isn't terribly logical considering the cost of fuel and wear and tear on a car so this isn't a rational concern.

Second, I think their case discount policy actually stalls purchase decisions a bit. I know that if I band together with some friends and go in on a straight case I can get 10% off. But I usually want to try just a bottle or two of a specific wine so I don't go forth with the transaction. I wrote about this phenomenon previously here. I like it when the first bottle is offered at max discount. I'd like to see them to go that pricing model.

Third, I haven't paid close enough attention to their email offers. They're not terribly big into the flash sale/deep discount thing and that tends to be where I'm spending a lot of my time lately. There is an ocean of good wine being offered at great prices and each of us only need to swing at the very best deals.

Finally, I just don't spend time perusing their website poking around to see what's new. Knowing that wines like the Beringer Knight's Valley Reserve Cab are out there make me more likely to look around at their site from time to time (and pay closer attention to their newsletters).

Ultimately, I think Table & Vine is best enjoyed in person. I had a great time checking out the store, and I didn't even have time to check out the beer or gourmet food. With the volume they're doing I have a feeling their turn through their 4,000 SKUs very quickly so there's likely always new stuff to discover.

From November 22-26, 2010 they're running a 5% Off Gift Card sale. Stack these with their case discounts for larger savings. I wonder, too, whether credit cards which offer 5% back for grocery store purchases might apply to purchases at Table & Vine due to their Big Y connection. My credit card noted the details as "Grocery Stores, Supermarkets" so I bet it would. Bonus!

Check 'em out:
Table & Vine

Question of the Day: If you've done business with or visited Table & Vine, what do you think of them? If you live in MA and haven't ordered from them or visited what could they do better to earn your business?


Finding Wine Spectator's Top 10 by Seeking out Dusty-Bottled Retailers Off the Grid

Monday, November 19, 2012

Looking to find wines from Wine Spectator's Top 100 list? Especially for wines in the Top 10 I've found Wine-Searcher.com -- usually the most convenient and efficient way to find specific wines -- to be less effective than usual due to listings that lag fast changing inventory. A better approach, I think, is to seek out dusty-bottled stores off the grid and make phone calls.

Some might call the pursuit of the Top 10 wines to be a fool's errand. I disagree. In choosing their Top 10 wines, their senior editors get together and taste a bunch of candidates wines and come to a consensus on the Top 10. This is different than how they normally taste whereby a single editor determine's a wine's rating. So you've got a lot of respected palates agreeing on the top wines, so as long as you don't pay a premium for the Top 10 wines you're getting some of the better values in wine today.

But how do you find them? You've got to act fast and, I think, you've got to employ unconventional techniques. You've got to look where deal hounds aren't looking.

A friend tipped me off that a retailer about 20 miles away had the #7 Shea Willamette Valley Pinot Noir for $44.99 before 15% off a case. $38.29. I wonder how he found it because the retailer does have an e-commerce site, but it's not listed on wine-searcher. Making matters worse for this wine, Shea supplies grapes for a lot of other producers so listings for other wines make it hard to perform a precise string match.

They did indeed have a listing on their site for 11 bottles of 2009 Shea Pinot Noir, but during the course of the week the listing changed to the 2010. Vintage variation being a real thing in Oregon I thought it was a mistake that was corrected after they got a lot of calls about the 2009. But they also had a listing for the 2009 Anderson's Conn Valley Reserve for the impossibly-low price of $23.99. I had to go down there and see what was going on.

So I get there and wouldn't you know it, there's 11 bottles of 2009 Shea Pinot Noir on the shelves for $44.99! I load up a basket and start eyeing other bottles to round out my case. The 2009 Anderson's Conn Valley was, sure enough, a listing for another wine - the Prologue. Good thing I didn't order a case for delivery and then have to get into an ugly discussion about returning it (including shipping costs).

Then I spotted a stack of 2009 Beringer Knight's Valley Cab for $21.99/btl before discount (not the reserve, but still a 91 point WS wine). High volume retailers are on to the 2010s by now so it was great to see the 2009 still for sale. Again Wine-Searcher doesn't turn this one up, but it's because the wrong vintage is listed on their site. They list the 2006 but it's the 2009 they've got stacks of!

I asked the wine director there what the heck was going on with the inconsistencies between the store and the website. He says he runs the bricks and mortar wine business and someone else runs the website.

So I'm thinking I may be on to something. Even for a retailer with an e-commerce site there's all kinds of hidden gems popping up because of inconsistent vintages being listed. Imagine the gems that might be out there for retailers without e-commerce sites. Heck, without websites! The way to find these wines is to look in wine shops off the beaten path. Off the grid. Away from Wine-Searcher types like myself.

Of course, just as I say this I happened to find a bottle of 2008 Shafer Relentless via Wine-Searcher at a nearby MA retailer for $35.99. A $60 release price wine, it was correctly listed as being Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year. But also, incorrectly, from France. (?) After some quick back and forth with the retailer we discovered quite a mix-up of SKUs. They actually had the 2009 Relentless (not the 2008) but it was $74.99. The $35.99 listing was for a bottle of 2008 St. Cosme Gigondas (hence the part about the Relentless being from France). Crazy stuff.

I don't get mad about mix-ups like these at this point. I actually find it interesting. So long as I don't get into a sticky situation where a jerky retailer ships me the wrong stuff then get contentious about rectifying the situation.

One strategy this makes me consider: Use Wine-Searcher to find retailers who list availability of back vintages who might not have updated to newer vintages yet. Then pick up the phone and call them. You never know what a retailer has, and neither do they it seems, until you have it in your hands.

Wine online: What a fun and chaotic circus.

Wine Spectator is set to release their Top 100 list today (in addition to their reveal last week of the Top 10). They have free site access through November 27th, 2012 so check it out.

Question of the Day: What tips and tricks have you found work well for tracking down hot wines like these?


Spectator Surprises (almost) Everyone with Shocking Pick

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wine Spectator revealed their 2012 Wine of the Year today and I don't think anyone saw this one coming. The winning wine was the 2008 Shafer Relentless -- 96 WS/$60/3,300 cases produced.

It certainly hits the metrics we've been looking for (95+ points, < $100, 1,000+ cases produced) so why was it surprising? Why didn't we see this coming? I think there are several reasons...

First, Wine Spectator has now chosen a wine from California the last 3 years. Last year was the Kosta Browne Pinot Noir (Sonoma) and the year before that was the Saxum James Berry (Paso). Taking it further, the prior winner was also domestic - the Columbia Crest Reserve Cab. Taking it even further the year before that was the Chilean Clos Apalta. This makes it 5 straight years of new world wines. I think a lot of us thought it was time for an old world wine to win, and with the great vintages from France rated this year the timing seemed right. Further, there's been some speculation that Spectator likes to spread the task of writing up the wine of the year around their senior editors. Poor James Laube had to do the write-up once again! Oh well, I guess he gets bragging rights that he's selected the Wine of the Year 3 years in a row.

Second, I think a lot of suspect that they're going to choose a wine from a region whose story they want to tell. For wines released this year, that story seemed almost certain to be from 2010 Rhone. Or 2009 Bordeaux. But what story is there to tell from 2008 in Napa for a somewhat quirky blend like the Relentless? Not much. It seems to be a play towards telling a story from a specific winery rather than a category.

Finally, Spectator just rang the bell a couple years ago for a California Syrah blend with the Saxum James Berry nod. That wine is a Grenache/Mourvedre/Syrah to the Relentless' Syrah/Petite Sirah but still -- it seems strange to have another wine so similar to the Saxum just 2 years later.

I admit: I was stunned by the California selection. Didn't see this one coming. The only time I had the slightest hunch there might be a California wine selected was when I was watching their Top 10 videos and James Laube (their editor for the wines of California) only made one appearance for wines 10 through 2 for the Beringer Reserve Cab selection. But I didn't expect California to take the top spot this year because there hasn't really been an extraordinary category from California rated this year.

So, it was a well-played suspenseful list from Spectator. And a well-played entry from Scott B!

There's a Wine Spectator connection with Scott B. No, he's not an editor or employee so don't get your hopes up for a scandal - the prize is his. But after noticing he was the winner I recalled he'd written a guest post for us earlier this year on Wine Spectator's Las Vegas Grand Tour. Looks like he deftly used the event to refine his selection. ;)

I do appreciate the actionable nature of this year's pick. I bought the bottle I tasted from Wine.com of all places - not exactly a boutique retailer! Availability at the time of the announcement of the 2008 Relentless was limited to begin with since the wine was released and rated early in this year's cycle. And even the 2009 vintage (which I'd bet is just as good if I had to guess without having tasted the 2009) is vaporizing quickly.

Here are my tasting notes from CellarTracker on the 2008 Shafer Relentless from back in June:

For my taste, this is a gorgeous bottle of wine. A powerful, inviting nose of dried blueberries and black currant with supporting savory notes which translate seamlessly to the palate and finish. 75% Syrah/25% Petite Sirah. 15.6% alcohol. $60 release price. I can totally see my way to the favorable rating Spectator bestowed upon this one. Spectacular.
Somehow I forgot to include a numerical rating. (?) What's up with that? I love scores!

My recommendation would be to remain calm if you're looking for the 2008 Relentless. It's going to be very difficult to find and it's not worth overpaying for. For my palate, it's a nice buy at $50. But north of $60 my enthusiasm tapers off. Best bet would probably be to try it at a restaurant (they tend to go through highly rated wines at a slower clip because point chasers ability to devour the wines is stymied by overall high markups and meal costs). Or perhaps at retailer who doesn't have an e-commerce site. May the best searchers win!

And if it's like the Columbia Crest Reserve - the next few vintages won't be too exorbitantly priced after a while. You can find subsequent vintages of the CC Reserve happily resting on warehouse club shelves with no buyers even in the mid to high $30s. Do you really think the 2005 vintage of that wine was magical and subsequent vintages haven't been as good?

A better strategy, if you're looking to buy wines that tend wind up on Spectator's Top 10 list ahead of time, is to find a retailer who offers them before Spectator recognizes them. My thanks to New York wine retailer Grapes the Wine Co for this sponsorship of the contest this year (a $200 Amazon.com gift card!). If you're on his mailing list you'll note that he offered a bunch of the Top 10 wines in the weeks and months preceding Spectator's list. Well, at least the ones he thinks are good. :)

The fun had to end some time. My thanks to everyone's enthusiastic participation this year. We'll do it again next year!

So that ends the fun for this year. Back to our regularly scheduled programming. I'd love it if you subscribed to the site - we've got a lot of fun things to talk about in the coming weeks. I might even motivate and crank out my own Top 25 this year.

Related Links:
Question(s) of the Day: What do you think of Spectator's Shafer Relentless pick? Have you seen it around at retail? If so, let us know in the comments!


A Return to Normalcy Sets Up a Thrilling Wine Spectator Finale

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wine Spectator revealed wines 5 through 2 in their 2012 Wine of the Year campaign. It was largely a return to normalcy that, in one sense, calmed the experts in our Scoop the Spectator contest, and set up a cliff hanger of sorts to see which wine will be named their Wine of the Year.

More on that in a moment, but here are some thoughts on the wines revealed today...

5. Château Guiraud
Sauternes 2009

What can I say about this one? This wine has won the whole thing before, but I have a hard time even spelling it. Sauternes, a dessert wine from Bordeaux with honey-lemon flavors and a quirky after taste, is a bit of an acquired taste that I haven't acquired yet.


4. Clos des Papes
Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010

I think what we're seeing here is how reluctant they are to repeat a wine. The 2005 Clos des Papes was Spectator's Wine of the Year in 2007 - can you imagine the groans and zzz's they'd hear from subscribers if they repeated the same wine just 5 years later? What new story would they tell?

Great birth year wine (I've got the '05 and '07 set aside for that purpose) but how many $100+ bottles do we need in our lives? I don't think this nod does much to move the market on this wine. All of the good news was already baked into the price. Even when it won it didn't escalate out of control and could still be found months later. And the well-regarded 2007 was widely available for around $100 for a long time as well. It's a great wine, but Spectator can only move the market on a widely available $100 wine so much.


3. Two Hands
Shiraz Barossa Valley Bella’s Garden 2010

This wine is always in the Top 10 and you frequently see at at Costco at a fair price. Spectator seems to love it, and as much as Harvey Steiman (who rates their Australian wines along with other categories) has turned me on to some great values I like the more affordable bottlings from Two Hands better.

Kind of like the Schild they seem to go nuts for every year that's got great QPR metrics but ultimately doesn't taste very good in my opinion, I'm a pass on this one. But I probably shouldn't bash it until I try this vintage.


2. Château de St.-Cosme
Gigondas 2010

I definitely had this as the favorite going in. Thomas Matthews' comment earlier this week was interesting. In hindsight it seemed to carry a conciliatory tone:
But I must note the love shown for Chateau de St.-Cosme. Louis Barruoul was at our Wine Experience last month presenting his Gigondas Valbelle 2009, our #10 wine of 2011, and both he and the wine were extremely impressive. I hope you all get to enjoy some of his wines, no matter what rank they may take in our Top 100. 
Kind of a "their wines are great! we love 'em! but we could only have one winner!". I think this wine getting the number 2 nod (as opposed to number 1) is a good thing for people wanting to buy this wine because it won't vaporize quite as quickly as if it had won. But the net of it is St. Cosme is on value hunter radar screens now more than ever. I'm interested in trying other bottlings from them. They crushed it (once again) this year.


Although @EvanDawson (our first entry this year) is in the lead now, I think we all agree it's likely someone has guessed the winner already.

I've got to think it's @RichardPF's entry - the 2010 Le Vieux Donjon. There might be some concern about 2010 Rhones taking 3 of the top 5 spots, but I think since the Cosme is a Gigondas and not a true Chateauneuf-du-Pape the Donjon is still the favorite. I've heard of some panic buying of this wine today - kind of like the rush on D batteries before Hurricane Sandy.

@NWTomLee has been beating the drum for 2009 Bordeaux. It was a great vintage for sure, but so was 2010 Bordeaux. Further the Leoville Barton was already in the top 10 along with Sauternes. I think Bordeaux is done in this year's Top 10. More importantly - where's the value in Bordeaux? I don't see it. But I could be eating my words tomorrow!

If the Donjon doesn't get it, I think it would be a statement from Spectator that the wine wasn't all that great. Remember, a panel of their senior editors get together to taste the contenders for the Top 10. I've tried the wine, and it's tight. It needs time. But I think they can see through that near term stuffiness and I think it will win.

If it does, expect the price to shoot through the roof and further fuel interest in future Top 10s. It's a wine you've likely walked past if you've been an a fine wine shop the past couple months. As of this morning you could still find it in the $50 range. And Magnums for $110. Certainly a great arbitrage/flipping opportunity if you think this is the one! I've never resold a wine ever and I'm not interested in starting. But if I had to bet I'd think this is the one.

But you never know - a Bordeaux could sneak in there.
We shall see tomorrow at 11 am Eastern.

If you haven't already, have a look at the videos Wine Spectator produced for each of the Top 10 wines. They're quite good I think and provide insight into how to pronounce some tricky French wine words.

So what do you think? Will it be Chateauneuf or Bordeaux in the top spot?


Spectator Surprises with Wines 10 through 6

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wine Spectator began revealing their Top 10 wines of 2012 today and there were more surprises than ever. Of the 5 wines revealed only 1 was guessed in our Scoop the Spectator 2012 contest - a shockingly low number.

Here are the 5 wines revealed today, along with some commentary on each along with Wine-Searcher links...

10. Achával-Ferrer
Malbec Mendoza Finca Bella Vista 2010

95 points / $120
1,250 cases imported

Surprising because Spectator tends to favor wines south of $100 for attainability purposes, plus Argentine Malbec is a value driven category so this pick is seems particularly strange. Where's the value?

Wine-Searcher from $88.99

9. Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona
Brunello di Montalcino 2007

94 points / $60
3,750 cases made

A bit of a surprise because it didn't hit 95 points. But $60 is a good price for a really nice bottle of Brunello and thanks to healthy availability it can be had south of $40. Definitely buy a bottle of this one.

8. Beringer
Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley Reserve 2009

94 points / $45
3,602 cases made

This one was the only one that wasn't a surprise. In their 2009 Napa Cab report this wine sticks out like a sore thumb in a good way. It's hard to find a 94 point rated 2009 Napa Cab for less than $100 let alone less than $50. Expect this one to vaporize quickly. Buy buy buy!

7. Shea
Pinot Noir Willamette Valley Shea Vineyard Estate 2009
94 points / $40
3,555 cases made

I think this was the most surprising of the surprising picks because none of the wines from the heralded 2008 vintage made the Top 10 and now a 2009 makes the list? Crazy.

The availability, at least according to Wine-Searcher, is a bit quirky. I'd expect to see more of this wine around given its production level. Maybe they've moved on to the 2010s by now? I'd be up for trying some. < $40 for a 94 point Oregon Pinot Noir is hard to find. Shea puts out a classy bottle of wine.


6. Château Léoville Barton
St.-Julien 2009

95 points / $105
21,000 cases made

Okay, this one wasn't a huge surprise in hindsight either. Bordeaux isn't cheap but the metrics here stack up well and the wine is still available.


I'd expect one more 2009 Bordeaux in the Top 5 (Pontet Canet maybe?) but I'd be really surprised if less than 2 2009 Rhones were in the Top 5.

So as of now, Joe C is in the lead for the $200 Amazon gift card courtesy of Grapes the Wine Co.

Further Reading:

Check back tomorrow as Wine Spectator reveals wines 5 through 3 tomorrow.


Deal Alert: 2008 Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Monday, November 12, 2012

Upper Falls Liquors in Newton, MA is offering the 2008 Le Vieux Donjon Chateauneuf-du-Pape for $35/bottle. With a 93 point rating from Wine Spectator and a $63 release price this is a good buy. But 2008 is one of the least heralded vintages of Chateauneuf in the past decade so let's dig a bit deeper into the numbers...

Parker rated it 88-90 from barrel and evidently never released a rating for the finished product.

Spectator's Vintage Chart for Southern Rhone rates 2008 "88 points":
Cool, wet spring and humid growing season saved by the mistral; a small crop, with many producers eliminating cuvées. Quality very heterogenous, but some excellent wines can be found; stick to top names
Well, Donjon is a top name. I hadn't tried many 2008 CdPs prior to last night when I popped a 2008 Clos des Papes Chateauneuf-du-Pape to get a feel for the vintage. That wine carries a $100 release price and is starting to be discounted as well. I rated it 92 points (to Wine Spectator's 95) and felt it lacked some of the power and flavor markings I look for in CdP. That said, I thought it was an incredibly enjoyable wine.

So what to do? Buy from a great producer in an "off" vintage? Or go for something like the 2010 St. Cosme Gigondas at a similar price point? Decisions, decisions.

The 2008 Donjon currently carries a 90.2 CellarTracker Community rating.

Nationwide best price on Wine-Searcher: $44.99
(one retailer has half bottles for $39.99!)

More information on the offer in this link

To order call Mike O'Connell at Upper Falls Liquors at (617) 969-9200 or drop him an email at postscriptwine@gmail.com

Question of the Day: What do you think? Deal or no deal?

PS If you're looking for Wine Spectator to start revealing their Top 10 wines of the year, it's been pushed back to Wednesday due to Hurricane Sandy. Subscribe to the WWP for the latest on that.


New Service Offers Fast Wine Delivery to Wellesley and Weston

Sunday, November 11, 2012

So I'm driving back running some errands last weekend (a visit to Guitar Center and Home Depot in case you were wondering) and I see an illuminated OPEN sign in the window of Metro West Wines. I'd heard about this business popping up in Natick just over the Wellesley line on Route 9 on The Swellesley Report but I hadn't noticed they'd opened for business yet.

So I pop in and have a conversation with the two guys behind the operation - Fred McIntyre and Paul Lavallee. They've set up Metro West Wines as a DBA (doing business as) of Nine East Wine Emporium which they share a building with. If you've traveled east on Route 9 entering Wellesley you've seen Nine East's "25% 2+ Cases" sign. They're one of several retailers that have set up shop right on the Wellesley border to offer ready access to alcohol for Wellesley residents. Although Wellesley restaurants are allowed to sell alcohol with meals liquor stores aren't allowed in Wellesley.

This limitation, along with an interest in providing the convenience of fast delivery to Wellesley and Weston is the main thrust of Metro West's value proposition. Currently, they're asking for a $50 minimum order and charge a $15 delivery fee. They deliver wine, beer, and spirits to Wellesley and Weston within an hour.

I spent about a half an hour or so talking with Fred and Paul. They're enthusiastic, motivated guys. They come from a tech background and paired with Nine East's assortment of products they've got some nice things to offer. By law Metro West's pricing must be exactly in line with Nine East's.

They shared that the idea for the business came from looking around at Weston and Wellesley households who have their dry cleaning delivered, their groceries delivered, their lawns taken care of, and take-out delivered a few times a week. In Manhattan you can have practically anything delivered to your apartment quickly. They feel there's an interest in eliminating "one more stop" from people's hectic schedules and they're here to serve.

I wish them the best in this new endeavor and I'm pleased to have them on board as an advertiser here on the WWP. Hopefully for a long time.
Check 'em out:

Metro West Wines

Question of the Day: Under what circumstances would you take advantage of a service like this? Have you heard of similar services in other locales? What suggestions would you have for a business like this?


Last Call for Scoop the Spectator 2012 Entries

Friday, November 9, 2012

It's been a fun couple weeks seeing the entries pour in for Scoop the Spectator 2012.

A well-timed post by @EvanDawson over on Palate Press -- In Defense of the Wine Spectator Top 100 -- discusses the Top 100 list and has some interesting data on price increases for the winning wine.
the Wine of the Year does indeed see a sharp increase in price. Over the past decade, the average release price for the Wine of the Year was $67.60; the current average price is now $172.50. That’s an increase of 155%. But if we discard the past two winners, the Kosta Browne 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir and the Saxum James Berry 2007 Paso Robles, the price increase falls to 95%.
Dawson goes on to note that the price hike generally evaporates for the next vintage of the winning wine and that the price increases trail off quickly as you go down the Top 10.
How about the rest of the top ten? Turns out only the runner up wine sees much of a spike in price soon after the list comes out. The average release price for the runner-up wines was $68; today you can get those wines for an average of $100.50 per bottle, an increase of nearly 48%. The 10th-ranked wine has seen a price increase of 22%, which is not nothing, but not exorbitant in the higher-end wine market.
The piece goes on to mention our Scoop the Spectator contest and notes that you all have successfully predicted the winner each year the contest has been run.
Now, I used to think the entire concept of a Top 100 list was silly. This year, mine was the first guess on Dwyer’s site. As Dwyer explains, his contest is designed to help consumers. 
“The fundamental motivation for knowing the winning wine ahead of time is to provide an opportunity to buy that wine before the street price goes up,” Dwyer told me. How do you know that you can get the winning wine based on Dwyer’s contest? Well, so far, Dwyer’s contestants have sniffed out the winner in advance.
Have one of you guessed the winner already? I think so.

The Wine Spectator reveal starts Wednesday (pushed back a couple days by Hurricane Sandy). We'll keep the contest deadline tonight - November 9th, 2012 at 11:59 pm Eastern.

While you're waiting, jump on Grapes the Wine Co's wine offer email list. Despite being without power at home and at the store he's still been pounding the offers, with a particular focus on 2010 Rhone (How Could it Not Be 2010 Rhone?). Gotta love it.

Subscribe to the WWP for commentary as the wines are revealed next week

Thanks again to all who have entered. And good luck!


3 Sub-$10 Spanish Monastrell that offer Silly Value

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

At The Capital Grille's Generous Pour event last year, I discovered a Monastrell that sent me off on a value hunt. The category has had an exceptional batting average for me since so I'm pleased to present three particularly outstanding, mind-bending values for your consideration. But first, here's The Capital Grille's Master Sommelier George Miliotes' thoughts on Monastrell:

Wellesley Wine Press: You have a knack for finding wines that appeal to wine enthusiasts interested in discovering delicious new wines without stretching too far out of their comfort zone. In a nutshell, what’s your philosophy for choosing wines by the glass for The Capital Grille or for events like this one?

George Milotes: "For me, it is all about wines that are well-made and taste good. As solid winemaking practices have spread around the globe, there is a greater pool of diverse and tasty wines to choose from. We love to find areas or wines that are overlooked or underappreciated. Hence, the Tarima Hill Monastrell is part of The Generous Pour Wine Event this year. Monastrell is the greatest underappreciated red in the world today from a growing area (Alicante) that is barely known in Spain, let alone here in the US. We feel privileged to introduce the wine to the U.S. while showing our guests something new and delicious."

Here are three winners I've enjoyed. The price points are unreal and the wines are outstanding.

  • 2011 Bodegas Castaño Monastrell Yecla - Spain, Murcia, Yecla (11/7/2012)

  • Medium bodied visually, this wine is ready to go as soon as its screw cap is opened. Quite nice on the nose with flinty raspberries wrapped around an herbal and floral infused rope. Light on its feet but utterly satisfying with chalky tannins and desirable flavors that convey on the finish. (91 points)

    $7.99 at The Wine Cellar of Stoneham (or 4 for $25 - $6.25/btl)

    Bonus: Rated 90 points by Steve Tanzer's IWC (Josh Raynolds)

  • 2010 Bodegas Juan Gil Jumilla Wrongo Dongo - Spain, Murcia, Jumilla (1/14/2012)

  • A tremendous eye opening wine that'll have me hunting more Monastrell from Spain. It's all here and I can't believe the price point. Paid $8.99 in MA without any case discount. Ample clean fruit, some earth, tremendous balance. Wow. Fire up the QPR alert! (90 points)

    $8.99 (before case discount) at Burlington Wine & Spirits

  • 2009 Bodegas Volver Monastrell Tarima Hill - Spain, Valencia, Alicante (4/26/2012)

  • A blockbuster of a wine offering a tremendous amount of tasty fruit and earthy supporting components. Gets a little fakey grapey at times, and the 15% abv shows itself at points. But my goodness - can you complain in the $8-$9 range? Silly value here. Silly. (89 points)

    Purchased from The Spirit Shoppe

    Posted from CellarTracker

    • The Capital Grille has redesigned their website. Have a look if you haven't visited recently.
    • Scoop the Spectator ends Friday! Get your entry in if you haven't already.
    Question of the Day: What are some of your favorite Monastrell?


    $20 for $40 at Wine Enthusiast

    Living Social is offering $20 for $40 at Wine Enthusiast.

    Shipping tends to be pricey from Wine Enthusiast, but I don't see that the cost of shipping is explicitly excluded from this offer. It's unclear to me whether one would be able to stack this voucher with other offers, but I thought to mention this offer if you've been eyeing wine accessories from Wine Enthusiast.

    Limit 1 per purchaser, up to 1 additional as gifts • Limit 1 per person per order • Valid only for online purchases • Entire value must be used in a single visit • Not valid at WineExpress.com, or for the purchases of eCards and Toast of the Town tickets

    Offer ends November 12th, 2012.


    Top Values in 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape (and where to buy them)

    Tuesday, November 6, 2012

    Photo by wburris

    With all the excitement surround 2010 Rhone as it relates to Scoop the Spectator 2012 I thought it would be interesting to pause for a moment and focus on the best actionable values in 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. When I say actionable I mean wines that can still be had at retail for at or below release price.

    But determining value is a little more complicated. Sometimes when people talk about value wines they really mean wines under some arbitrary price. But the deal hound knows that value can be had at all price points - it depends on what you get for your dollar.

    When scanning through the ratings and prices in Wine Spectator's recent 2010 Rhone issue I noticed they didn't have a Top Values section for 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Although they did have a Top Southern Rhone Values section (CdP is part of the Southern Rhone) it was capped at $20. That being the case there were no CdPs in the value rankings.

    We can scan the Top CdPs for good Quality-to-Price Ratio (QPR) wines but I thought I might be missing some good wines because the lowest rated wine in that list is 94 points.

    To determine value within a category I use the wwpQPR equation (Wellesley Wine Press Quality-Price-Ratio). There's a JavaScript implementation of this calculator on the right side of my site. Give it a try if you're interested, but I've pulled Spectator's ratings for 2010 CdP and put them through the equation:

    More on the WWP QPR here if you're interested, but here's what the wwpQPR scale looks like:

    Interpreting the wwpQPR's Normalized Scale:
    • >8.0 Incredible value
    • 4.0-7.99 Outstanding value
    • 2.0-3.99 Very good value
    • 1.5-1.99 Good value
    • 1.01-1.49 Above average value
    • 0.5-0.99 Below average value
    • 0-0.49 Poor value
    Normally I try to obtain these wines and taste them to offer an additional opinion to consider. But these 2010s, from what I've tasted, really need time to be enjoyable. Compared to the gregarious 2007s, these 2010s are more classically styled. That being the case, I doubt I'm going to pop a lot of these in the near term, least of all before the best values have disappeared from retailers.

    All of these are 2010 Chateauneuf-du-Papes, sorted by value according to the wwpQPR Calculator:
    1. Domaine St. Prefert Charles Giraud 99WS/$75/3.20 wwpQPR (Very Good Value)
    2. Domaine St. Prefert Auguste Favier 97WS/$58/2.16 wwpQPR (Very Good Value)
    3. Domaine de Beaurenard Boisrenard 97WS/$70/2.16 wwpQPR (Very Good Value)
    4. Chateau Fortia Tradition 93WS/$31/1.94 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    5. Kirkland (Costco) Signature Cuvee de Nalys 91WS/$20/1.89 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    6. Le Vieux Donjon 96WS/$66/1.82 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    7. Domaine Giraud Les Grenaches de Pierre 98WS/$105/1.81 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    8. Domaine Giraud Tradition 95WS/$54/1.76 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    9. Domaine Giraud Les Gallimardes 97WS/$88/1.72 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    10. Domaine Ferrando Colombis 95WS/$58/1.64 wwpQRP (Good Value)

      How about that Costco wine sneaking in there? Don't think I would have caught that if I hadn't done this exercise. (PS I've tried had the wine, didn't much like it. 86 points WWP)

      Some of these we've talked about before -- Four 2010 Chateauneufs that have a very real chance of slipping away -- but those four wines were more through the lens of which CdPs have a shot at winning WS Wine of the Year.

      I wanted to push a little further to find the 5 best CdP values you can still actually buy.

      So I had to press on to the next 10 wines. I started catching white CdPs - had to filter those out of course ;)
    11. Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe La Crau 96WS/$75/1.60 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    12. Domaine de la Cote de L'Ange 93WS/$39/1.54 wwpQRP (Good Value)
    13. Clos des Papes 98WS/$128/1.49 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    14. Domaine Tour St.-Michel Feminessance 95WS/$66/1.44 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    15. Tardieu-Laurent Vieilles Vignes 96WS/$85/1.41 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    16. Chateau Fortia Cuvee du Baron 92WS/$55/1.37 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    17. Domaine de Cristia Renaissance 96WS/$88/1.36 wwpQPR (Good Value)
    Of these 17 wines, here are the 5 best 2010 Chateauneuf values you can still buy along with some commentary:

    Domaine de Beaurenard Boisrenard CdP
    97WS/$70/750 Cases Produced
    2.16 wwpQPR: Very Good Value

    Still available between $60 and $70 but only from a few retailers: Wine-Searcher

    Best East Coast play: Empire Wine at $70
    Best West Coast play: K&L at $60

    Note: Beaurenard also makes a regular CdP bottling that's also a nice value (93WS/$44). RP only went 91 points on this one so this should temper enthusiasm a bit.

    Chateau Fortia Tradition CdP
    93WS/$31/9,000 Cases Produced
    1.94 wwpQPR: Good Value

    Still available between $28 and $38 from numerous retailers: Wine-Searcher

    Best East Coast play: $28 at Gary's
    Best West Coast play: $28 at Vinopolis

    Note: There is a 92WS/$34 "Cuvee de Baron" bottling as well (also a good value) and some retailers list a Rouge bottling which I don't see a rating for from Spectator.

    Domaine Ferrando Colombis CdP

    95WS/$58/400 Cases Produced
    1.64 WWP QPR: Good Value

    Some east coast availability between $60-$90: Wine-Searcher

    Best East Coast Play: Grapes the Wine Co
    Best West Coast Play: None

    Note: A whopping 97 points from RP on this one so I'd expect it to go quickly.

    Domaine de la Cote de L'Ange CdP
    93WS/$39/6,000 Cases Produced

    Better availability on the east coast south of release price: Wine-Searcher

    Best East Coast Play: Gary's and Wine Library both at $32
    Best West Coast Play: Vinopolis at $36

    Note: They also produce a pricier Vieilles Vignes bottling (94WS/$62). 93 RP as well.

    Clos des Papes CdP
    98WS/$128/5,600 Cases Produced

    Availability beginning to diminish at favorable price points but the ship hasn't sailed yet: Wine-Searcher

    Best East Coast Play: Grapes the Wine Co
    Best West Coast Play: Premier Cru
    Best Massachusetts Play: Gordon's (though I doubt their pre-arrival offers are still actionable)

    Note: Even when the 2005 won Wine of the Year it could still be found for just slightly over retail. I wouldn't go too nuts trying to track this one down. It's out there. 99 RP.

    Hope this is useful. If you haven't already, don't forget to get your entries in for Scoop the Spectator 2012! Many of these wines haven't been guessed yet. Contest ends Friday and we're playing for a $200 Amazon Gift Card. Thanks for the entries so far! I've updated each of the entries with Wine-Searcher links to make it easier to find these wines.


    Costco Value Alert(s)!

    Sunday, November 4, 2012

    Just back from a shopping trip to Costco in Waltham, MA and they had what I thought were some very good deals for wine enthusiasts.

    First off was a nice price on Riedel stemware. $99.99 for 8 Vinum Bordeaux stems. Compared to around $25 per stem that you typically see these going for this is a fantastic deal. Riedel sells these for $177 (buy 6 get 2 free supposedly). Amazon sells them for around 2 for $50:

    ...so $99 for 8 Vinum stems at Costco ($12.50 per stem) is a great price. If you're not near a Costco that carries these -- or if you're looking for a dishwasher safe, lead-free option -- I continue to think these Schott Zwiesel Tritan Fortes are the best $10 stem you can buy:

    Next up was a closeout on the Vinturi Wine Aerator:

    Vinturis normally sell for closer to $30 on Amazon. The price ending in "7" at Costco is our cue that it's a closeout so buy now if you want one at this price. Full video review of the Vinturi wine aerator here.

    So two nice deals and we haven't even hit the wine section yet.

    For those unfamiliar with Massachusetts liquor laws, it's illegal to sell wine contingent on a club membership so alcohol needs to be sold separately from other goods. Non-Costco members are allowed to buy alcohol without a membership. So alcohol is sold past the register in a separate caged area. Crazy, right?

    Anyway, they've usually got pretty good deals on wine but the inventory is rather static. When they do get something good in it goes quickly. If you had a mole inside Costco it would be handy.

    They had a few wines I took note of that I hadn't seen before.

    First was the 2010 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet for $14.99. With no tax on alcohol in MA this is a phenomenal price. The lowest I see nationwide on wine-searcher.com is $16.98. The 2009 rendition of this wine was rated 91 points by Wine Spectator. I popped a bottle tonight and it's a very nice bottle of $15 Cabernet. I'd say 87-89 points in my book.

    They also had the 2009 Robert Mondavi Napa Cabernet for a little over $18. That's nothing new, but as we wander around the wine world seeking out obscure producers, Mondavi is one to come back to for palate calibration. I'll let you know if it's worth mentioning when I open it but I expect it to be what it always is: A solid Napa Cab for less than $20.

    Finally, the Vieux Telegraphe CdP has clicked over to the 2009 vintage. At $58.99 it's on par with nationwide low pricing, but 2010 is a regarded as a better vintage. Maybe buy a bottle of the 2009 and stalk the bin to see if it ever clicks over to the 2010 vintage. Let us know if it does in the comments okay?

    Don't forget - Scoop the Spectator 2012 runs through Friday. Get your entries in if you haven't already.

    I've got a bunch of good stuff in the hopper for future posts including a write-up on the best California Pinot Noirs available at Warehouse clubs now. The suspense! Subscribe to the WWP to receive new posts via email.


    $8 vs. $108

    Friday, November 2, 2012

    Our Scoop the Spectator 2012 contest runs for another week so you still have time to get your guesses. We're playing for a $200 gift card. $200! Check it out and if nothing else you'll find some great wine picks.

    I've updated each of the entries (hit the comments and look at the replies for each wine) with wine-searcher.com links to make it easy to check retail availability of each of the wines. I'm sensing some panic buying occurring for wines like Donjon with folks sensing they want to buy their favorites before they might win and prices shoot up. Combined with Parker releasing his 2010 Rhone ratings yesterday these 2010 CdPs are hot.

    If you're like me, you buy wines at all price points. Sometimes you might feel like you need to spend more than $30 to get a memorable bottle of wine. Other times you find a tasty value wine and you wonder why you'd ever consider spending $50 on a bottle of wine.

    I thought it would be fun to compare two seemingly incomparable wines. A $100+ Tuscan red and a well regarded sub-$10 value play from California.

    2006 Setti Ponte Oreno
    96WS/$110 Release Price/3,250 Cases Produced
    Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Sangiovese

    This shows shades of brilliance but at its core it's still a Tuscan red: Brooding and relatively reserved aromatically, especially in its youth. Layers of aromas -- inviting dark fruit, tar, bay leaf -- reveal themselves bits at a time, but this may need more time to come out of its shell. Rating it for now.

    91 WWP: Oustanding


    2011 Apothic Red
    Zinfandel, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon
    Around $8

    Sweet fruit, brambly berries, and a hint of briar patch dustiness on the nose. This continues on the palate but are joined by a touch of appealing earthiness, hard candy, and caramel apple. The skeptic might sense some artificial influence here. But if it's manipulated, it's well manipulated.

    88 WWP: Very Good

    Purchased At

    You know what? I may have enjoyed the $8 a bit more at times. Lots of delicious flavor. No fuss. No guilt. I'm not saying the Apothic Red is better than the Oreno. I'm just saying that sometimes $10 is all you need to spend for a perfectly enjoyable bottle of wine. And if you don't find yourself in a situation to truly enjoy a wine like the Oreno it may be a waste of money.

    Footnote: What's up with the price of Oreno in Massachusetts? It sells for over $100 here and I regularly see it offered in other states for around $50. Even as low as $40. And often in California - further from Italy. I know it's different distributors offering it at different prices in different states so retailers aren't to blame. But c'mon - how can consumers be expected to buy from local retailers with price disparaties like this?

    What do you think?


    Four 2010 Chateauneufs that have a very real chance of slipping away

    Thursday, November 1, 2012

    I'd estimate there's a 60% chance a 2010 Rhone is named Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year this year. And a 40% chance that wine will come from the Southern Rhone - specifically Chateauneuf.

    If that happens to any of the 4 wines listed below there is no chance you'll be able to buy them for less than $100/bottle so it might make sense to buy some now before the opportunity gets away.

    One thing that's nice about being on the buy side of the wine game is that you can be selective about how you buy wine. You only have to swing at the perfect pitch.

    Here are 4 2010 Chateauneufs Wine Spectator rated 95+ points, have a release price of $100 or less, with 1,000 or more cases produced. They're good buys and they're good picks for Scoop the Spectator. One of these hasn't been guessed yet!

    DOMAINE ST.-PRÉFERT Châteauneuf-du-Pape Auguste Favier Réserve
    97WS/$58/1,665 Cases Produced

    St. Prefert seemed to crush it across the board this year. All of their wines scored well relative to their production levels and price points but this one seems to hit the sweet spot.

    I caught a bottle of this at $48.95. Best price I see now is $69.99:

    Recommendation: I think the ship has largely sailed on this one. Check out their entry level bottling if you're looking to get a feel for this producer. I thought the 2009 St. Prefert Giraud bottling at $55, especially given that the 2010 Prefert Giraud is completely sold out in the US after raking in a 99 point rating from Spectator (and was it a potential perfect score from Parker?)

    LE VIEUX DONJON Châteauneuf-du-Pape
    96WS/$66/8,000 Cases Produced

    I like the way Donjon produces a single bottling rather than fracturing up their offerings in a confusing manner. But beware that this 2010 isn't as approachable in its youth as the gregarious 2007. That said, I've adored their brambly style across several vintages and this is my favorite play in Chateauneuf.

    Although this carries a $66 release price, it's available for around $50 if you look around. But it's drying up quickly.

    Recommendation: Buy now from a favored retailer. Even if it doesn't win the top spot it's a great buy at $50. Give it the time it needs and enjoy it over the coming decade. While it's aging consider buying some of the amazing 2007 - you can still find some if you look around.


    DOMAINE DU VIEUX TÉLÉGRAPHE Châteauneuf-du-Pape La Crau
    96WS/$78/4,200 Cases Produced

    I put this wine on par with Donjon in terms of prestige. It's fantastic. But it's also a little pricier. I've often seen off vintages of this wine in the mid $50s at Costco but better vintages don't seem to make it there.

    Recommendation: Buy selectively in the low $60s. Even if this one wins and it escalates into the $150+ range, it's not like $60 is an affordable wine.

    DOMAINE GIRAUD Châteauneuf-du-Pape Tradition
    95WS/$54/1,300 Cases Produced

    I have no experience with this producer but I love the metrics. Parker rated it 92-94 points so it's not like Spectator's 95 is an anomaly. Nobody has guessed this one in Scoop the Spectator yet!

    Recommendation: Give it a try. A $40, 95 WS 2010 CdP? Sold.

    They even have it on Wine.com icon

    If you haven't gotten your entry in for Scoop the Spectator 2012 you still have time. We're playing for a $200 Amazon gift card so it's worth taking a moment to see if you can find an angle:




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