Mission Impossible: $8 Wedding Pinot Noir

Friday, June 20, 2014

A WWP reader asks...

Hi there Robert,

I found you while browsing lists of inexpensive, yet great wines locally, and your top 8 list at Trader Joe's came up. I'm getting married here in California (northern) in August and we're looking to buy a couple of cases of good Pinot Noir at about $7-8 if that's even possible. Thought I'd give you a shout and see if that exists at any of the small to large stores like TJ's, Safeway, and the like. Hopefully not the stuff that will peel the paint! 

Thanks man.

Thanks for reaching out!

Like you sensed ("if that's even possible") it is tough to find good Pinot Noir south of $20. It's almost impossible to find even an enjoyable one for less than $10.

I do think California Pinot Noir is a nice pick for a summer wedding in California. It's versatile from a pairing perspective and lighter in weight than Cabernet Sauvignon. But if you find a good one, Pinot Noir can be effortlessly full of delicious flavor.

What you'll tend to find for around $10 at Trader Joe's is brands like Mark West, Castle Rock, and Trader Joe's private label wines. Occasionally these wines are enjoyable and some even show desirable Pinot Noir markings like aromas of fresh perfectly-ripened strawberries, supporting brambly notes, and orange oil aromatics. But they lack a certain personalized touch that I'd consider desirable for a wedding wine.

I was thinking back to the last really enjoyable, varietally correct California I had that was in the $10 neighborhood and one that immediately came to mind was the 2012 Ramsay North Coast California Pinot Noir. You can find it for less than $12 on the east coast.

Ramsay is a second label for Kent Rasmussen Winery. A second label typically means it's made by the same people that produce more expensive/prestigious wine but sold under a less expensive label. Kent Rasmussen Pinot Noir historically sold for around $35 whereas the Ramsay sells for $12. Second label wines aren't always as good as their more famous siblings (the grape sources vary, the oak regiment varies etc) but they can potentially be a source of good value.

Here are my notes on the 2012:

2012 Ramsay North Coast Pinot Noir

Inviting nose of ripe black cherries, strawberries, and supporting brambly notes. Smooth on the palate and very easy to drink. If there's a fault, it's a lack of depth and a somewhat short finish. But overall it's varietally correct and an amazingly strong effort in the $12 range. 13.5% alcohol. The perfect weeknight Pinot. Amazing value here.

89/100 WWP: Very Good

The best way to find a specific wine like this is through Wine-Searcher. It allows you to see which retailers have a specific wine for sale for shipment to specific states:

Here is a deep link to search for this wine for shipment to California

Ironically it looks like the best pricing for this wine is from retailers in New York and New Jersey. I'd be careful about shipping wine across the country since temperatures are creeping up and that can destroy wine in transit. I think they might have this at Total Wine locations in California so you may want to check there or at other local wine stores.

I think it's worth stretching from $7 to $12 per bottle to get a little bit nicer wine for your special day.
My best to you and your bride!

Hope this helps!

Question of the Day: What wine would you recommend for this situation?


It's Official: Fells Market in Wellesley now sells Beer and Wine

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Owners Peter and Paul Katsikaris in the newly
expanded beer & wine section at Fells Market
I just got back from Fells Market in Wellesley where I did something historic by Wellesley standards: I bought alcohol.

Believe it or not, Wellesley has always been a dry town. Although you can purchase alcohol at restaurants to accompany a meal, retail beer and wine sales have been outlawed until now. But that changed yesterday when Fells Market became the first retailer in town to sell wine.

See also: Who else is going for a wine retailer license in Wellesley?

And it's only fitting that they were the first given that they spearheaded the movement to allow beer and wine sales at grocery stores and specialty food stores in Wellesley. After being approved by the town they were quickly approved by the state and are now selling beer and wine during normal operating hours.

New signage and awnings recently added
Fells Market is located at the corner of Route 9 and Weston Road which happens to be walking distance from Wellesley Wine Press world headquarters.

See also: Swellesley Report with the scoop on other wine retailers coming to town

The family owned and operated market recently expanded into space formerly occupied by a hair salon. Along with this expansion the shopping center where Fells is located got a facelift with new signage and awnings. You might not notice the beer and wine when you first walk in but it's to the back-right of the store.

The first thing you'll notice is a wall of wine, which is about a 50/50 mix of whites and reds at the moment. The selection runs from affordable daily drinkers like Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc all the way up to the Cakebread (they had Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet when I visited).

Off to the left is a refrigerated unit with white and sparkling wines, ready for consumption.

At the other end of this newly expanded area is a beer refrigerator. I went for a Clown Shoes Clementine White Ale. $9.99 for a 4-pack. Oustanding! They're not yet 100% stocked, with staples like Bud and Coors  missing, but expect them in early next week: Peter says he's a Bud guy.

Expect the mix to follow along with the grocery assortment: Favorite brands to get you buy in a pinch and a few items at the high end that customers specifically ask for.

Pricing looked to be reasonable (Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier for $13, Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio for $22, the Cakebread was in the mid-$70s) with mixed/case discounts available. Chat Peter or Paul up and let them know what you're looking for. It's that kind of place.

Pro Tip: When trying to remember which is Peter and which is Paul, remember: Paul is small. He's not really small but he's not as tall as Peter. :)

As a wine enthusiast in Wellesley, Fells Market selling beer and wine is a welcomed change. Personally, I'll probably buy more beer than wine there since I always seem to have plenty of wine on hand and it's nice to pick up some cold beer when the mood strikes. But for many Wellesley residents looking to pick up a bottle of wine to go with dinner I think this is an especially nice development.

Be sure to check out some of their other specialties like Steak Tips (they make you look like a star on the grill), Bonnies Jam's (best preserves around, and cheaper than at Whole Foods!), and made to order sandwiches.

Check 'em out:
Fells Market
326 Weston Road
Wellesley, MA
(781) 235-1555

Other retailers in town will be joining Fells in selling beer and wine. Subscribe to The Wellesley Wine Press for updates to stay in the know.

Question of the Day: What wines would you like to see Fells carry? What else do you buy at Fells Market? Any tips on hidden gems?


20% Off and Free Shipping from Drync

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Mobile-focused wine discovery app Drync is back with 20% off and free shipping on 12 bottles, this time with code #1DAD.

Check out this previous post for some ideas on how to maximize the deal.
Offer expires June 15th, 2014.

You've got to do some sleuthing around to find the bottles they sell which are particularly good deals. And as you can see in my prior post they don't always fulfill. But for me it's worth taking a shot for things like Flowers Sea View Ridge Pinot Noir for $31.99 after 20% off (with free shipping and no tax in MA) when the best price is $51.99+ on Wine-Searcher.

Question of the Day: What are some of the best deals you've found on Drync?


Amazing: 2012 Caymus for $38.90/btl [Regional, Targeted, and YMMV]

Thursday, June 5, 2014

If there's one thing this deal hound loves it's stackable opportunities. By stackable, I mean discounts which can be combined in a single transaction to maximize savings.

An equally enthusiastic deal hound friend in New Hampshire recently pointed out a number of opportunities which can be combined to get some amazing deals on domestic wines right now. Including 2012 Caymus for the amazingly low price of $38.90/btl if you've got the right coupons.

This is an amazingly low price for Caymus when compared to historical pricing for this bottling in prior vintages in the $60-$70 range. We've seen the 2012 offered in the low-$50s recently, but sub-$40 takes this to a whole new level.

Caymus is of interest because it's probably the Napa Cab most reliably rated 91+ by Wine Spectator that costs less than $100. The release price is $72. The wine is typically quite fruit driven, but a scan of early tasting notes for the 2012 indicates it's even riper than most vintages of Caymus. This is a style of wine a lot of people are looking for, so to be able to find it for less than $40 is noteworthy.

Here's how to do it...

First, the New Hampshire Liquor & Wine Outlet is running a 15% off mixed case sale through June 29th, 2014.

Second, they're running a sale on Caymus currently, offering it for $59.99. 15% off this as part of a mixed case brings the price down to $50.99/btl.

Note that although the NH Liquor Store site lists inventory for each store it isn't always accurate, and they don't list vintages. So call before going.

Next, in conjunction with a new store opening in Manchester (#10) they sent out targeted coupons to New Hampshire mail boxes for $10 off per bottle of Caymus. Note that this applies after the 15% off so this brings the price down to $40.99/btl. The only way I'd know to get one of these is to ask friends and family in New Hampshire. They didn't send these out to people on their email list.

Finally, there are some $25 off $150 coupons floating around for this location as well that say they can't be combined with other offers but in practice they can. Depending on how you round out your mixed case this brings the price down even further.

Say you bought 6 bottles of the Caymus, and 6 bottles of more affordable wine. That would bring your per-bottle cost of the Caymus down to something around $38.90/btl. An amazingly low price.

And remember, there's no sales tax on wine in New Hampshire (nor Massachusetts at the moment).

What a deal.
A huge shout out to my friend about the heads up on this one.

Question of the Day: Any success replicating this deal? Have you received these coupons? Any tips on where to find them? Any other angles for maximizing this deal?


Patz & Hall Wine Dinner at Legal Harborside

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Legal Seafoods is hosting a four-plus-course paired wine dinner featuring Patz & Hall co-founder Donald Patz at their flagship Legal Harborside restaurant in Boston.

I've come to know Patz & Hall's Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir bottling as one of the most reliably outstanding mid-priced California Pinot Noirs. It's fully of vibrant flavor, balanced and elegant, and for my palate always delicious. It retails for $46 but if you can find it south of $35 I'd highly recommend it as a value play. This dinner provides an opportunity to go deeper into Patz & Hall's single vineyard bottlings and explore some wines with age as well.

WHAT: On June 24, Legal Harborside will team up with Donald Patz, Co-Founder & National Sales Director of Patz & Hall, for an exclusive four-plus-course dinner. Founded in 1988, this California winery has a celebrated portfolio of single-vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines. Patz & Hall uses the very best small, family-owned Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards in California with the talented winegrowers who farm these world-class sites. Built on a shared commitment to quality, these partnerships have led to the rich diversity of the wine portfolio, contributing to acclaimed cuvées and sought-after single-vineyard wines.

The menu will be presented as follows on Legal Harborside’s scenic second level overlooking the Boston Harbor:


Fried Green Tomato, King Crab Salad, Smoked Tomato
Compressed Watermelon, Soy and Yuzu Marinated Tuna, Shiso
Black Bass Crudo, Tear Drop Tomato, Shishito Peppers, Lemon Thyme
Yakitori-style Grilled Octopus, House-made Ponzu, Asian Pear
Patz & Hall Sparkling Wine 2010 


Chilled Corn Soup
Roasted Summer Squash, Lobster Medallion, Opal Basil
Patz & Hall, Dutton Ranch 2012 – Russian River Valley Chardonnay
Patz & Hall, Alder Springs Vineyards 2003 – Mendocino Chardonnay


Skate Wing with Gnocchi al Nero
Tomato Confit, Grilled Calamari, Spicy Brodo di Mare
Patz & Hall, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2012


Roasted Lamb Loin
Braised Lamb Belly, Baby Artichokes, Graffiti Eggplant, Summer Beans
Patz & Hall, Jenkins Ranch 2012 – Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Patz & Hall, Hyde Vineyard 2000 – Carneros Pinot Noir


Maine Blueberry Tart
Sweet Corn Ice Cream
Patz & Hall, Late Harvest Wine 2011 – California

WHERE: Legal Harborside at Liberty Wharf
270 Northern Avenue, Boston

WHEN: Tuesday, June 24 at 6:30pm

COST: $135 per person (excludes tax & gratuity)

MORE INFO: Reservation required by calling 617.530.9470 or visiting www.legalseafoods.com.



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