Quick Deal: 2008 Robert Foley Petite Sirah for $32/btl (MA only) [sold out]

Friday, April 18, 2014

Update (10:15am): They've sold through 5 cases of this wine and it is now sold out. Hop on their email list to catch the next deal.

Bin Ends Wine (with locations in Braintree and more recently Needham, MA) is offering up a strong deal this morning.

2 bottles of 2008 Robert Foley Petite Sirah for $64 ($32/bottle). Compared to a $60 release price that retailers don't often deeply discount this is a very good price.

Bin Ends has 60 bottles of this wine to offer. As of this writing they're down to 54. Better get on it!

I tasted through Robert Foley portfolio at a wine dinner at BOKX109 a few years ago and the Petite Sirah was a standout for me, drinking better than the much more expensive Claret and Cabernet Sauvignon.

And his Merlot is amazing too. I think both the Petite Sirah and the Merlot are the value plays at around $50. So to be able to find them for $32 fully loaded (no additional sales tax on wine in MA!) is a terrific deal.

Bin Ends offers delivery to MA addresses and will hold your wine for in-store pick-up at either of their locations.


Question of the Day: Have you had Robert Foley's Petite Sirah lately? If so what did you think?


QPR Alert: Best California Pinot Noir value ever?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

So I was poking around the Wine Spectator ratings database to see how early reviews for 2012 California Pinot Noirs were trending. For me it's been an inconsistent vintage and a bit disappointing compared to high expectations.

But I spotted a web-only review for a wine I hadn't noticed before. The 2012 Castle Rock Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir was rated 90 points by Wine Spectator. With an $18 release price it's the only sub-$20 California Pinot Noir Wine Spectator has rated 90+ points going all the back to the 2007 vintage.

See also: Cheap Wine Spectator subscription with airline miles

The next closest thing I could find was the 2007 Siduri Sonoma County Pinot Noir at $20/90 points. So going by the numbers this may very well be the best affordable QPR play for California Pinot Noir Wine Spectator has ever offered up.

Although I've had my share of Castle Rock wines in the past (you see it all over the place including Trader Joe's from time to time) I don't think I've ever had one of their "Reserve" wines. Whatever that means. Nonetheless their wines are generally "good" and sometimes "very good" and they're almost always a respectable value.

But this one really has me curious. 90 points for less than $20 in a category I really enjoy drinking? Sold.

See also: Extreme Value - $8 California Pinot Noir

At just 2,600 cases produced expect this one to be possible to find but not necessarily easily. WWP sponsor Liquid Discount has it for $16.95/bottle. Stack it with code WWP7 for 7% off site-wide through April 23rd:

2012 Castle Rock Russian River Valley Reserve Pinot Noir at Liquid Discount


Question of the Day: Have you had this or other Castle Rock Pinot Noir recently? If so what did you think?


This Saturday: Owner's Hours at Ansonia Wines in Newton, MA

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Artisinal French wine purveyor and WWP sponsor Ansonia Wines is making it easier for Boston-area enthusiasts to taste their wines and pick up their orders. Each Saturday their Newton Depot is open for pick-ups and once a month they're holding Owner's Hours which means they'll have 4-6 wines open and owner Tom Wilcox will be on hand to describe the wines and help visitors make selections.

See also: Ansonia Wines, The Garagiste of the East?

This Saturday they're open from 10am-4pm.
Here's their schedule for the next couple months:

Upcoming Depot Schedule:

April 12: Pickup Hours
April 19: Owner’s Hours
April 26: Pickup Hours

May 3: Pickup Hours
May 10: Pickup Hours
May 17: Pickup Hours
May 24: Owner’s Hours
May 31: Pickup Hours

June 7: Pickup Hours

Tastings are free and there's a 10% discount on case purchases.

For more information on their Newton Depot:

If you're not in the area, delivery is available.

Subscribe to their email list for notification of new offers.
Follow @AnsoniaWines and ping them on Twitter if you're interested in learning more about their wines.

I'm pleased to hear friends of the WWP are among their better customers. Definitely check them out.


Antonio Galloni's Vinous Media Aims for a Certain Kind of Reader

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The past decade has been a wild ride for wine critic Antonio Galloni. He founded the narrowly focused Piedmont Report while working separately in business in Italy. His coverage propelled him to being picked up by The Wine Advocate to cover the wines of Italy. Then just as it seemed he was the heir apparent to Robert Parker after being assigned not only Burgundy and Champagne but California in 2010, he left The Advocate in 2013 after the publication was acquired by foreign investors. He then founded the independent online property Vinous Media where he's been focusing his efforts since.

When Galloni was assigned the California beat by The Wine Advocate it created a stir in the wine community. Terroir-driven producers quietly rejoiced as they anticipated more favorable coverage for their wines after decades of accolades for "bombastic over-the-top fruit bombs" from Parker. But Galloni's reign as California critic for The Advocate was short lived. Yet his coverage was well regarded and fans have followed him to Vinous Media.

What is Vinous Like?

What kind of wine enthusiast does Vinous appeal to? And how does it differentiate itself in an crowded market?

From the Vinous Media Site:

Vinous is our vision of a modern-day wine media platform that places consumers inside the conversation and encourages them to form their own opinions. Vinous brings together professional reviews, the stories behind the wines and the perspectives of our readers in nearly 50 countries using multimedia and leading edge technology. We visit hundreds of wineries each year, allowing us to offer unparalleled, first-hand insight into the world of wine.

Since going live in May 2013 Vinous has become one the fastest growing wine content websites in the world. Regular features include comprehensive reviews of new releases from Italy, California, Champagne and Burgundy, vertical tastings and retrospectives, in-depth videos shot on location, Vinous Favorites - our top picks under $25 - and Vinous Table, where we profile our top eating and drinking destinations.

I'd seen retailers and wineries touting Galloni's scores (for the 2011 Flowers Pinot Noir and the 2012/2013 Arnot-Roberts wines specifically) so I was curious to validate the ratings and get a feel for the Vinous site. I reached out to Vinous and asked for a trial subscription for review. They obliged and I got a chance to poke around and speak with Vinous Co-Founder James Forsyth about the site.

Deep Coverage

Vinous doesn't have the breadth of coverage you'll find on Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate. But it does provide deep, high-quality coverage on the areas it chooses to focus on. There are 35,000 wines in their database. Regional coverage currently includes Italy, Burgundy, California, Champagne, and Bordeaux. Expect that to increase when a new critic is added to cover additional regions later this year. The vision of Vinous is for it to be a multi-contributor site.

Within each region, coverage focuses on wines people are talking about. Wineries reviewed Sonoma and Beyond include Anthill, Arnot-Roberts, Bedrock, Carlisle, Ceritas, Dehlinger, Donkey & Goat, Kosta Browne, Kutch, Littorai, Peter Michael, Radio-Coteau, Rivers-Marie, Rochioli, and Zepaltas. In The Undiscovered California newer producers like Ancillary, Banshee, Cirq and others are identified and reviewed.
Vinous Media covers wines people are talking about
and turns enthusiasts on to new producers
Although Galloni is on the road tasting 6+ a year, he doesn't have time to visit every wine region in the world. He's clearly focused on tasting the wines people are talking about as well as introducing consumers to new wines they may not have heard of. Like the 2010 Macdonald Cabernet Sauvignon. 95 points Vinous Media. $150. Pricey for sure but I've never heard of it. Vinous is sleuthing out producers like these we may not hear about from other publications for a few years.

Tasting Protocol

The overall structure of coverage is more aligned with The Wine Advocate than Wine Spectator. Several paragraphs describe current trends and vintages in each region. Then reviews are primarily sorted alphabetically for each winery whose wines are included in the article. It's easy to get a listing of all the wines reviewed in the piece to sort by price and score. Additional advanced search functionality makes it easy to find wines by region/variety/score/cost etc. I found the site well organized and easy to navigate, which I attribute to their being an online-only publication and their fine work designing the site.

Galloni prefers to taste on-site at the wineries with the winemakers when possible. In doing so tastings are almost always non-blind but enable reviews to contain more context than they otherwise would. They don't take advertisements from wineries.

Style Agnostic

Galloni aims to be style-agnostic in his reviews and along with his team of 3 or 4 others currently they're fairly data-driven in their approach. For example, they'll go back and monitor scores for wines over the last 7 years to see whether score inflation is occurring in Galloni's ratings (they say they're not). And whether the ratings given to wines from more highly rated vintages are actually higher. Sounds smart to me. I like it.

Multimedia and Maps

The site also includes videos and interactive maps of vineyards.

The videos range from Galloni chatting with sommeliers and winemakers to him sitting at his kitchen table discussing newly released reviews. The simple kitchen table review format helps you get a feel for kind of person Galloni is and a feel for his depth of useful knowledge. For example, I was particularly impressed with Galloni's thoughts on 2012 Sonoma Pinot Noir. He went into great detail about how 2012 was an abundant vintage which sounds like it would be a good thing but can create dilluted wines if crops weren't appropriately thinned.

Vineyard map coverage includes Barolo as of now but look for that to expand.
Interactive maps enable navigation by classification
with descriptions and links to reviews

Palate Calibration

To get a feel for whether Galloni's palate aligned well with mine I checked out reviews for some wines I loved and others that I didn't love quite so much. The original review of his that drew my attention were these glowing words for the 2011 Flowers Pinot Noir:

"A model of total elegance and class, the 2011 Pinot Noir from Flowers is absolutely gorgeous. Savory herbs, crushed flowers, licorice, salt, orange peel, mint and plums are all woven together in the glass. Today, the 2011 is impeccably crafted and flat-out gorgeous. Although very much a medium-bodied wine, I would not at all be surprised to see the 2011 blossom with more time in bottle. This is an impressive effort. Unfortunately, the Sonoma Coast was the only 2011 Flowers Pinot I was able to taste, but based on this effort, 2011 is certainly shaping up well here.

91 Points Vinous Media"

I thought the wine was terrific as well.
See: Flowers: A benchmark California Pinot Noir producer

He went nuts for recent releases from Arnot-Roberts, scoring them in the 94-96 point range. I've tried a couple of them and thought they were phenomenal. Another match.
An example review, this one for recent high-scoring
releases from Arnot-Roberts

Then I checked his review of the 2011 Radio-Coteau Robert's Block Zinfandel. I absolutely adore Radio-Coteau's Pinot Noirs. They're one of my favorite producers. But I had a really rough time with the 2011 Robert's Block Zin. 

"Bitter with dusty drying tannins and quirky vegetable notes. A massive disappointment given how reliable RC Pinots have been for me.

72/100 Points WWP"

So I was curious what Galloni thought of it. Out of the 50+ Radio-Coteau wines in the Vinous Media database ranging from 88 to 95 points most are rated closer to 95 points. But the 2011 Robert's Block is the lowest rated Radio-Coteau of the bunch:

"The 2011 Zinfandel Robert's Block boasts tons of depth and intensity but also imposing tannins and high acidity. Today, the elements aren't fully put together and the wine appears to be disjointed, with angular contours and less of the fruit I saw last year. This is an awkward showing from the 2011 Robert's Block.

88 Point Vinous Media"

The 88 point rating seems generous given the words behind the review (disjointed/angular/less fruit/awkward). I do get a sense that when Galloni likes something he's not afraid to give it a big score even if the wine doesn't come from the absolute most prestigious category. But what's important is the rank order of this wine vs others it is compared to. What we both agreed on is that this was the worst Radio-Coteau we ever tasted. So I'll take that as another match.

Note: I still love Radio-Coteau and I will continue buying other wines from them especially their Pinot Noirs. I consider them one of my Top 3 California Pinot Noir producers. I just wanted to provide a sense of what a negative review looks like on Vinous.

The site also includes user forums and premium subscribers get early/preferred access to Vinous events. Like the upcoming Tuscany in the City at Del Posto April 26th.


The market for professional wine criticism is increasingly crowded. Beyond Wine Spectator and The Advocate you've got Tanzer, Suckling and Galloni. Beyond that you've got varietal/regionally focused critics as well. Getting a chance to speak with James from Vinous Media and checking out the site gave me a much better feel for where Vinous Media fits into the mix. I hope this post gives you a better feel for them as well.

See also: Passionate about Western Pinot Noir? This publication might be just for you...


Subscriptions range from $120/year to $210/year for a premium subscription which includes priority access to events and other special offers. They also offer Group subscriptions aimed at folks in tasting groups or friends who want to get together and save money on a subscription.
Visit http://vinousmedia.com/subscriptions for more info
Question of the Day: If you're a Vinous Media subscriber what do you think of it so far? If not, what wine publications do you currently subscribe to and why?


The Best Oregon Pinot Noir I've Had

Saturday, April 5, 2014

If you've been reading the WWP for any length of time you're aware I drink more Pinot Noir than any other category. I love domestic Pinot Noir because it's so versatile, delicious, and relatively affordable. And while Oregon pins its reputation on Pinot Noir I generally prefer California Pinot Noir because it's more fruit forward and at the $30-$40 price point I find it more reliably satisfying.

But when Oregon does Pinot Noir well they do it very well. And the 2010 Domaine Serene Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir is one the best Pinot Noirs I've ever had from anywhere. And it's definitely the best I've had from Oregon.

See also: 5 Terroir Driven California Pinot Noir Producers

The first time I tried the 2010 Domaine Serene Evenstad Pinot Noir was at Todd English's bluezoo at the The Walt Disney World Dolphin hotel. The kids were enjoying themselves at Camp Dolphin and the adults were enjoying a fantastic meal at bluezoo. I spotted the Domaine Serene Evenstad on the list for $100 which seems like a lot for a bottle of wine - and it is - but compared to other wines on the list and its $65 release price I thought it was a good deal. And the wine absolutely delivered. So good.

The next time I had it was with friends at Sweet Basil in Needham. We get together once in a while to take advantage of the BYOB-friendly policy and their amazing food. We usually taste blind when we do this to see if we can guess what we each brought. It's always risky bringing a lighter bodied wine to a blind tasting situation like this for fear of it being clobbered by bolder wines. But the Domaine Serene showed so well. Its charm and complexity was immediately evident. A friend with a sharp palate first thought it might be Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir but then changed his mind and called Oregon Pinot Noir because he detected a clove note he often picks up in Oregon Pinot Noir.

He nailed it and that sums this wine up stylistically. It's got characteristics I love in my favorite California Pinot Noirs but delivers it in such a graceful package. Effortless power. Depth of flavor without needless concentration. Really spectacular.

Harvey Steiman rated the wine 95 points and it landed at #3 on Wine Spectator's 2013 Top 100 list. I think he nailed it. 95 points for me too. Classic Oregon Pinot Noir.

Winery website: http://domaineserene.com

Zachys is having a 15% off domestic wine sale this weekend which brings the price down to $52.69/btl (plus shipping). I've had a hard time finding this wine for less than $59, especially since it landed in Spectator's Top 10 list so I think this is a great deal. But compare prices on Wine-Searcher to see if you can find a better deal. If you want to buy it I'd act fast - they've got less than a case left.

Question of the Day: What is the best Oregon Pinot Noir you've had?


How Much Wine Do You Buy When You See a Great Deal?

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Back up the truck!

I've noticed a couple things while scouting for wine deals lately. First, there seem to be less truly amazing deals than there were a couple years ago in the depths of the recession. Second, I was noticing that when a good deal comes up there's a ceiling to how much of any single wine I'll buy.

So rather than finish with a question of the day I'll start with one:

How much wine do you buy when you see a truly amazing deal?

I buy about $250 worth.

Think about a wine you really like. I mean reliably like and the only reason you don't buy more of it is because it's expensive. Then say you find that wine for half off retail. Or it's only a 30% or 40% off retail and you hardly ever see the wine at a discount. How much would you buy?

I take all kinds of things into consideration when trying to decide whether a certain wine is a bulk buy. (Hat tip to Jason's Wine Blog for coining the term as far as I know):
  • Have I had the wine before?
  • Can I see myself enjoying it again and again?
  • Is it hard to find the wine at a discount?
  • Is it by far the best price available according to Wine-Searcher?
  • Is it significantly less than the Community Average Value on CellarTracker?
  • Can I easily obtain it?
  • Is the vintage offered past its prime?
  • Is it an "off" vintage?
  • Is the source reputable? (provenance concerns)
One thing I don't do is flip wine. Shipping wine out of Massachusetts is a pain and it's just not something I've gotten into. So I'm always considering wine deals for consumption.

I recently caught a deal on the 2010 Alto Moncayo Veraton for $20. I thought it was a great buy at $24.99. When I found I could get it for $20/btl (with no additional tax here in Massachusetts) I knew I'd have a terrific bottle of wine I could pop open any time for $20. So I bought a case: $240 worth.

I've run into a couple situations where a $100-$200/btl wine is available for half price. If I've had the wine and loved it I'd buy $250 worth of it. But if I've never had it, and I've never done business with the source I'd probably just buy a bottle or two (at most).

The NH Liquor Store recently had a deal on the 2008 Radio Coteau La Neblina Pinot Noir whereby stacking a discount with a gift card promo you could get it down to $29.99/btl fully loaded. The release price is $55 and the Radio Coteau La Neblina is reliably amazing. However I was concerned about storage conditions and the age of the wine. I bought 3 or 4 bottles and...they tasted like a $30 wine (not a $55+ wine like it ususally does). Maybe it was the power of suggestion overwhelming my impression of the wine but it just felt a little tired. Not bad, but it probably would have been better if stored at cellar temp rather than on their shelves.

Another deal the NH Liquor Store had recently was for El Nido proper. It's a $140 release price wine but when combined with a closeout offer and other deals it could be had for $57/btl. It wasn't clear what the vintage was straight away but after some sleuthing I think it was a 2008 or 2009 or something like that. Not old but not quite current vintage. I was up for 2-4 bottles (up to $230 total) but after a lot of attempts that deal never came to fruition. They only had a few bottles and they were spoken for. Those rascals in NH - they love to create puzzles for us to solve. Thanks to my pal in NH for trying!

So my enthusiasm for a deal depends on a variety of factors. How do you play it?

Speaking of deals, WWP sponsor Liquid Discount is offering 20% off select wines with code "wwp20%off":

Good producers like Pride, Shafer, Shea, Sottimano, Snowden, and Two Hands. Check it out. Code expires April 7, 2014.



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