2018 Foillard Cote du Py at First Bottle

Friday, August 20, 2021

First Bottle is offering the 2018 Jean Foillard Cote du Py for $39.95/btl:

Compare prices on Wine Searcher

Deals to Stack

1. Buy any 6 bottles and get free ground shipping
2. There's still an Amex Offer for $50 back on $250
Why I'm Recommending It

Next time you're in Paris check out restaurant d'chez eux.

In looking back at pictures of the wine I've chosen the two times I've been there - it was a bottle of Foillard Beaujolais both times. And it was fanstastic.

Defininitely highly recommend - both the wine and the restaurant.


Visiting Dragonette Cellars

Saturday, August 7, 2021

2019 Dragonette Cellars Radian Vineyard Pinot Noir
We're just back from a road trip down the Pacific Coast Highway, stopping in Big Sur and Santa Barbara along the way. Although I've had the pleasure of visiting Napa and Sonoma quite a bit, this was my first opportunity to taste Santa Barbara Country Pinot Noir on-site and in person.

The one tasting appointment I made was at Dragonette Cellars.

I'm not quite sure why it took me so long to discover Dragonette. Wine Spectator has been consistently scoring their wines 90+ for some time.

Tasting in Santa Barbara County
The wine tasting scene in Santa Barbara County is a bit different than what I'm familiar with in Napa and Sonoma. Some of the best producers, Dragonette included, have tasting rooms co-located in one area (the charming town of Los Olivos) rather than spread about at their respective estate vineyards.

This is undeniably Sideways (2004) country, but I get a sense the region is trying to move on from the notoriety attained by association with the greatest wine movie of all time. Still, I couldn't help but drive past the Hitching Post, The Windmill (now the Sideways Inn), Solvang, and the Los Olivos Cafe & Wine Merchant - sites that were notable in the movie.

A follow-up viewing of the movie is rewarded shortly before or after a visit for sure.

But to get to know Dragonette better, we visited their production facility in Buellton. Located in an industrial area with auto repair shops (their resources are focused on the wine rather than a lavish estate) we met with Director of Hospitality Stephen Graham and Co-Proprietor and Winemaker Brandon Sparks-Gillis.
Dragonette Director of Hospitality Stephen Graham

About Dragonette Cellars
The Dragonette logo hints at the letters DC (Dragonette Cellars) with a nod to alchemy.
Dragonette Cellars was founded in 2005 by brothers John and Steve Dragonette along with Master of Wine candidate Brandon Sparks-Gillis.

John Dragonette practiced law before meeting Brandon while working at well-regarded wine retailer Wally's in LA. Brandon brings his background in geology to bear on the winemaking process. John's brother Steve Dragonette, with a computer/tech background, joined them as they collectively explored their passion for Santa Barbara County wine. All three work at Dragonette full time along with seven other full-time employees.

Since their founding, they've remained true to their vision of enabling the grapes to represent their authentic terroir with minimal intervention.

All of their grapes come through long-term contracts tied to specific blocks of specific vineyards in Santa Barbara County.

I became familiar with Dragonette through Wine Access. Regular Wine Access customers will recognize Vanessa Conlin (MW) so it was great to hear from Brandon how real that connection is: It's not some random puffery they make up about a connections to the wines they sell.

Dragonette now produces around 6,000 cases a year selling around 80% direct to consumer with the remainder split between retail and restaurant. It's very hard to find Dragonette in the wild, especially on the east coast, so definitely buy a bottle if you spot one.

Tasting Dragonette
2018 Sauvignon Blanc $50

It's quite unusual to see a California Sauvignon Blanc release 3 years post-vintage. They're aiming for a White Bordeaux style here, far more than a daily drinker and the price point shows how earnestly they persue this varietal.

The Vogelzang is seriously powerful with intense depth of flavor. Spun gold in color, it sees 89% French Oak, 35% of it new, 18 months (!) in barrel. Mango and pineapple aromas, minerality on the backend. The Grimm's Bluff Sauvignon Blanc takes things in a paler, lighter direction.

I always associate Sauvignon Blanc with wine tasting, and this was a very good start.

2018 Chardonnay Duvarita $65

Behind the Pinots, this was my favorite wine of the tasting. Lemon curd and gorgeous florals on the nose. This reminded me a bit of Kosta Browne's outstanding One Sixteen Chardonnay in a very good way. 100% French Oak, 33% new. Outstanding.

2019 Pinot Noir Radian $75

The 2018 version of this is what turned me on to them, and the moment I tasted this 2019 I was immediately reminded what I like so much about their Pinots. Absolutely stunning on the nose and lusciously satisfying on the palate. To me it's like, "This is what wine should be." Absolutely gorgeous.

2019 Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills $50

Having only tasted a single vineyard Pinot of theirs (Radian) previously, I was looking forward to seeing what they do with an appellation wine. Starts off with a gregarious sweet perfume nose, then silky and delicious on the palate. This is a fantastic California Pinot Noir.

2018 Pinot Noir Black Label $95

Aromatically gorgeous with a kiss of oak that balances beautifully with the intensity of the fruit, backed by ample acidity. Comprised of grapes from Radian (62%), Fiddlestix (20%) and Bentrock (18%). 66% new French Oak, 19 months in barrel. This is a special wine: Enjoy on a special occassion with a good meal.

I budgeted space for two bottles in my luggage and opted to take home a Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir and a Black Label Pinot Noir. I would have gone for a Radian Pinot Noir, but I have a couple of those back home from Wine Access already.
Dragonette production facility in Buellton
Tasting Room Options

If you're headed to Santa Barbara County wine country, there are three Dragonette Cellars tasting experiences to consider:
  • Tasting Room in Los Olivos
  • Sit Down Tasting at The Study in Los Olivos
  • Private Winery Tour/Tasting in Buellton (what we did)
Dragonette tasting room in Los Olivos

Los Olivos is a charming little town with tasting rooms from:
  • Brewer-Clifton
  • Liquid Farm
  • Tensley
  • Stolpman
  • ...and more
See also the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Cafe where Miles told Jack he wasn't going to be drinking any Merlot. We had lunch there. It's pretty good, but the interior looks nothing like it did in the movie. Check out Panino if you're just looking for a [very good] sandwich or salad.

Bottom Line

Visiting Dragonette Cellars at their production facility in Buellton was a great experience anyone can do. Highly recommended if you're in the area.

Consider joining their wine club if you can't make it out there.

Wine Access still has the 2018 Dragonette Radian Vineyard Pinot Noir [affiliate link] for sale.
Get free shipping on $120+ and $50 off your first $150 order through referral.


Fresh off the Truck: 2018 Wolfe Grade Napa Cab [$350 for $40?]

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Wine Access has been releasing a lot of NDA Napa Cabs lately. I initially thought this was a re-release of a wine they offered earlier (that I really enjoyed) but this new wine is a 2018 whereas previously it was a 2017.

It's important to note that this is more than just a vintage change. With these Wine Access NDA wines one Wolfe Grade vintage might have nothing to do with another. Indeed, the rumored vineyard source of the 2017 is completely different from the 2018.

So if you liked the 2017 Wolfe Grade, will you like the 2018 Wolfe Grade? Possibly, but not necessarily because of the vineyard source.


Sometimes all it takes is one:
From the same 100-point source that Spectator described as “one of the most exciting new Cabernet projects in Napa,” this $40 powerhouse has all the terroir complexity of its perfect-scoring $350 big brother.
From this Wine Spectator article this Wolfe Grade wine appears to be associated with Kinsman Eades whose 2018s have gotten high marks:

I'm not sure where the $350 comparison point comes from exactly, but with these Wine Access NDA wines you've got to be okay with the notion of wines being loosely associated with a high end producer at a much lower price point. 

2018 Wolfe Grade Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain Napa Valley [affiliate link]
75% opaque in an elegant ruby/garnet hue, this one starts off innocently enough with typical Napa Cab aromas. Perhaps a few Leuden's cherry cough drop notes in the background if you search for them.

I really like this wine with its round, satisfying weight on the palate and luscious tendencies.

The core of its appeal is on the finish, where velvet mouthfeel transitions to dazzling silty tannins reminiscent of flourless chocolate espresso cake.

92/100 WWP: Ouststanding

Bottom Line

Another winning Wine Access NDA Cab, this 2018 is pushes the price envelope at $40. You can get some pretty good known-brand wines for around $40 (thinking of maybe a Honig Napa Cab for just a little more).

But I'd say this Wolfe Grade carries its weight and then some, especially if you can use a referral or stack some discounts.


Fresh Off the Truck: Wine Access 2019 Yesterday Napa Cab [$350 for $37?]

Monday, July 26, 2021


"Normally $350, just $37 per bottle today from an estate that many know by a simple two-letter abbreviation. Famous for a “cult classic” beloved by the Hollywood A-list, this is Napa Cabernet at its finest."

The thought is this is associated with ZD and this article supports that.

The $350 comparison price point is puzzling to me though. Most of ZD's Cabs sell for less than $350. And their Abacus bottling (that A-Listers supposedly chase after) sells for $750/btl. You'd think they'd have cited a $750/btl comparison price point if possible.

Oh well. Let's crack it open and see how it tastes...

2019 Yesterday Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley [affiliate link]
Weighty visually, this one clings to the glass. About 60% opaque.
Oak dominates supporting bright fruit on the nose. A bit of distracting woodsy, herbal off-note in the background.
Grippy little tannins.

Very much a study in constituent parts at this point. 
But will it come together?

88/100 WWP: Very Good

This was the most unimpressive Yestserday bottling I've tasted.

Sure, it's just two years old and "fresh off the truck." But others seemed to have more presence, more stuffing, more potential, and - most importantly - were just more enjoyable to drink.

Oh well. On to the next one. 

Coming soon:


Fresh Off the Truck: Wine Access 2019 The Ringer Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley [$250 for $35?]

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Wine Access has released a flurry of NDA wines lately. One arrived today and it's a winner. Not necessarily textbook Napa Cab but a beautiful unique wine in its own right...

  • "Think of some of the greatest Napa Cabernets of the 2010s—a decade of monumental releases from Screaming Eagle, Lail, Chappellet, and the like. Take away the marketing, the scores, the labels (and the three-digit prices), and you’re left with first-class Napa juice in a bottle—an unadorned expression of world-class terroir."

    We're looking for a less than famous producer...
  • "Today’s deal was triggered by a call from a fourth-generation winemaker whose Irish ancestors were among the original pioneers to uncover the greatness of Howell Mountain’s rich, red soils."

    The second I heard this I thought: O'Shaughnessy.
    But I don't think that's it.

    My next thought was "Who was that guy pouring high end Napa Cab at the Boston Wine Expo back in 2011? Was it William Cole?" Amazingly, I think that's it.
  • "Last year, he and his son started a new, luxury-level label dedicated to Cabernet grapes grown on a single seven-acre mountainside vineyard. Total production is less than 300 cases, and mostly allocated to a cadre of Napa power players.."

    This really sounds like Predecessor Estate.
This doesn't drink like a typical Wine Access NDA Napa Cab, but depending on your preferences that may be a good thing.

Most of their NDA Cabs are dark and brooding with a formidable wall of round tannins that are enjoyable now but suggest some aging. 

This wine is lighter than I'd expect for the category - about 40% opaque. It's ready to go aromatically - but with ripe strawberries over dusty briar patch and a hint of cinnamon stick rather than the brawnier notes you'd typically find in Cabernet. It's satisfyingly full bodied on the palate and finishes clean and luscious inviting another sip.

It drinks more like a high end new world Grenache than a Napa Cab. You know what it reminds me of? The 2007 Betts & Scholl Grenache "The OG".

Pretty wild. The kind of wine that's fun comparing notes with friends while tasting, and infinitely enjoyable.

92/100 WWP: Outstanding

Next up: A bottle of 2019 Yesterday Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. Check back soon for thoughts on that.


Deal: Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir

Friday, July 16, 2021

Wine.com has 2018 Goldeneye Pinot Noir for as little as $27.99/btl before discounts.
Wine.com pricing and inventory varies by state.

MA: $27.99/btl, 30 bottles in stock
CA:  $34.99, 120 bottles in stock

The release price for the wine is $58/btl.

Stack this with StewardShip (is it a good deal?) for flat-rate shipping.

Some other Pinot Noirs to consider:


Fresh Off the Truck: 2019 Typicité Pinot Noir Big Pig Vineyard Russian River Valley

Thursday, July 8, 2021

A recent Wine Access Limited Time Offer arrived. Let's get right into it...

The Promise

"This is for fans of Kosta Browne, Williams Selyem, Far Niente’s EnRoute, and other lush Russian River Pinots."

I'm a big fan of this category. Kosta Browne is a common aspirational comparison point for fruit-forward California Pinot Noir, but the EnRoute mention in particular appealed to me.

I think including Williams Selyem in this group was a little disjoint. I've uniformly found their wines to be thin and terroir-driven at best.

This is not an NDA wine. Typicité appears to be a young winery just starting out.

2019 Typicité Pinot Noir Big Pig Vineyard Russian River Valley [affiliate link]
14.2% Alcohol
Free Shipping on $120+

Medium-full bodied, 60% opaque and varietally correct for RRV Pinot in an appealing ruby-magenta hue.

Gorgeous and brilliant on the nose, the wine leaps from the glass with ripe strawberries, dark cherries, and supporting briar patch notes.

Impressive on the palate with silky texture, confident depth, and a bit of grip.

Not an off note in the bottle.

93/100 WWP: Outstanding

Bottom Line

I really like this wine and would put it just behind this Santa Barbara Pinot Noir in terms of high quality non-NDA Wine Access discoveries.

It carries its $48/btl price tag, and perhaps a little more. A good deal if you can stack some discounts on it along with free shipping.

Get $50 off your first $150 order through referral.


Last Bottle $30 back on $100 Amex Offer

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Last Bottle Wines is back with what seems to be a recurring Amex Offer:
  • $30 back on $100+
  • Expires 9/30/2021
Their model is to offer one wine at a time until it sells out. For example, they're currently offering a Rivetti Barbaresco for $25/btl with free shipping on 4+.

If you haven't shopped with Last Bottle before, get $10 off your first order through referral.


First Bottle Wines: 10% Back + $50 off $250 Amex Offer + $10 Through Referral + Free Shipping

Monday, July 5, 2021

First Bottle Wines is offering 10% back towards a future order today. This should be stackable with a number of other deals for some favorable pricing on good wines.

You may be more familiar with First Bottle's sister site Last Bottle. Whereas Last Bottle is a flash sale site with one bottle on offer at a time, First Bottle maintains a medium-sized selection of bottles available with mix-and-match free shipping on 6+ bottles every day.

Deals to Stack

1. Today Only (7/5/2021): Get 10% back towards future purchases.

2. Amex Offer: $50 back on $250 (expires 9/30/2021)

3. $10 off first order through referral

Here's my referral link. Thanks in advance for considering using it:

4. Free shipping on 6+ bottles

What to Buy

Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
Bottom Line

Nice to have another retailer in the mix for deals besides the usual suspects.

They can add ice packs to orders for a fee, or hold for delivery in the fall.


Fresh Off the Truck: 2017 The Phoenix Cabernet [100 Point $500/btl Estate wine for $45?]

Thursday, June 17, 2021

This is a wine that Wine Access has offered before but is back for a return engagement.

$45/btl is pushing the limits of what a mystery/NDA wine can fetch. The prose is quite striking and the price per bottle from the associated winery is astronomical. Let's see if we can figure out who this one is from...


Food & Wine has profiled as “one of the valley’s most exquisite small gems.”
This article supports this as being Dana Estate (pronounced Dah-nah).

We’ve celebrated birthdays in the grand, raftered dining room
and sipped wines at the long oak table
Sounds like this could be Dana Estate.

14.8% Alcohol
$45 1-5 bottles
$43 4% off 6-11 bottles
$40 11% off 12 + bottles
Free shipping on $120+
$50 off first $150+ order through referral

Medium to full-bodied visually. About 70% opaque.

An array of ample ripe fruits dominate the aromatic profile. Melted red licorice, poached plums, and just a hint of eucalyptus in the background.

Satisfying weight on the palate.  Pleasantly brooding with formiddable but ultra-plush velvety tannins with the slightest bit of grip.

Not an off note in the bottle.

93/100 WWP: Outstanding

No doubt about it, this wine is a joy to drink. I would have rated it higher if it had more acidity, more structure. It's a "drink now" kind of wine for better or worse which is surprising given the lofty price points of the associated winery.

For what it's worth Dana Estate wines really do retail for $500+ a bottle and the scores from Spectator, while impressive, don't exactly convey value.


It's worth keeping in mind that a lot of these Wine Access NDA wineries and vineyards also have second labels of their own.

I think that's a more reasonable comparison point than to the flagship wine.

Dana Estate has a second label in VASO which Wine Access has offered before and I was similarly impressed with. But at a price point of $85/btl there's still relative value to be had in this Phoenix NDA wine.

It's in stock and ships quickly in the northeast. 

The Phoenix label could use some improvement but I'd say it's worth a try if you, like me, appreciate a fruit-forward Napa Cab that's ready to go.


Grand Reserve Rewards Vault Replenished [Act Fast]

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Grand Reserve World Mastercard has replinished its most lucrative reward option.

"The Vault" was refreshed with four new options, two of which are still availbale as of now.

If you already have a Grand Reserve card with rewards go here to vist The Vault and make a redemption.

If you don't have a Grand Reserve card go here to read (and listen) to more about it. The Grand Reserve World Mastercard is a credit card focused on wine enthusiasts, and The Vault represents the highest value redemption in their rewards catalog.

These redemption options go quickly so I'll update this post when the options have sold out.


Fresh Off the Truck: 2019 Moundsman St. Helena Cab [$200+ for $36 or less before discounts]

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

After a bit of a dry spell, Wine Access is back with some compelling known offerings and some NDA Cabs as well. 

This 2019 is not to be confused with other Moundsman offerings like this one from Rutherford. Or this one from St Helena.

Let's get right into it...

  • Called "drop dead gorgeous" by Vinous
    Antonio Galloni referred to Joseph Phelps and their St. Helena estate using that phrase here
  • Called "just about perfect" by Jeb Dunnuck
    Jeb Dunnuck called Schrader Beckstoffer To Kalon this way here.
  • "tiny-production $200+ wines"
    That description would seem to apply more to Schrader than Joseph Phelps. But could this really be grapes from a vineyard otherwise allocated to Schrader? One of the very few Napa Cabs to earn a 100 point score from Spectator? Seems hard to believe. Let's try to debunk or support the Schrader theory keeping in mind that we're talking about a vineyard source more than anything...
  • Galloni uses this phrase quite a bit, but I can't seem to find a situation where he directly referred to Schrader as "drop dead gorgeous" by way of Google searches.
  • I get the feeling this one winds up as "lofty rumored vineyard source, different winemaker, is it good?" Let's find out...
Jammy and effusive, this wine is ready to go.

80% opaque, it clings to the glass with authority. Chocolate covered cherries, strawberry preserves, and milk chocolate. It's both forbidable and refreshing at the same time. Luscious. An impressive combination.

A quickly emptied bottle says it all...

93/100 WWP: Outstanding

This wine is in stock and ships quickly in New England, so maybe elsewhere as well? If you're seeing slow delivery maybe try excluding other wines that have a longer lead time.

High temperatures are a concern in the summer but temps look moderate in the Northeast for the coming week.

The wine arrived after a short journey with an ice pack and styrofoam. I'm comfortable ordering for immediate shipment under these conditions.

Check back later this week as I'll try some other new offerings from Wine Access...


eGifter: $50 Total Wine Electronic Gift Cards for $45

Thursday, June 3, 2021

eGifter has $50 Total Wine electronic gift cards for $45.

Click on the Total Wine eGC link which should auto-populate the WINE621 promo code.

Key Terms
  • Limited to 5 Promos per customer
  • Offer Ends 6/25/21 or while supplies last
  • Total Wine eGCs cannot be used online (only in-store)
You can goose it a little more by shopping with eGifter through a portal.

Bottom Line

It's hard to say whether stockpiling 10% off gift cards for Total Wine is worth the hassle. Gift cards are a nuisance compared to swiping a credit card but every bit helps.


Fresh Off the Truck: 2018 Elk Cove La Boheme Pinot Noir

Friday, May 28, 2021

2018 Elk Cove Vineyards La Boheme Pinot Noir [affiliate link]

Absolutely gorgeous from beginning to end.

Strikingly dark purple for an Oregon Pinot Noir, the wine leaps gregariously from the glass with violet, strawberry, and earthy forest floor notes. Perfectly pure on the palate with elegant fruit for days and a supple, silky texture.

Not an off note in the bottle.

It's all here. For me, a benchmark Oregon Pinot Noir.

94/100 WWP: Outstanding

I've heard Elk Cove reps describe La Boheme as a "slutty" wine. By that they mean it shows more fruit than most Oregon Pinot Noirs, including their own.

For me this results in an Oregon Pinot Noir that drinks a bit more like a California Pinot Noir (which I prefer on average) but does so while remaining true to the terroir it comes from.

I'd put this up there with Domaine Serene Evenstad as one of the best Oregon Pinot Noirs I've had. Costs like $40 (before discounts) and drinks like $80+.

See: The Best Oregon Pinot Noir I've Had

Free Shipping on $120+


Fresh off the Truck: 2018 Head High Pinot Noir [$20/btl before discounts]

Thursday, May 27, 2021

A new batch of wines from Wine Access arrived today, including this one. Let's get right into it...

This isn't an NDA wine, but the write-up gives us insight into where Head High figures into the California Pinot Noir landscape. And how Head High relates to Three Sticks as a second label.

I've never tasted Three Sticks Pinot Noir but they produce (and in many cases own) wine from top Sonoma vineyards like Gap's Crown, Durell, and Walala. These Three Sticks wines sell for $65-$90.

So here comes this second label with a street price around $20/btl before discounts.

It's not totally clear to me that the grape source for this wine includes Three Sticks' top vineyards. But Decanter did rate the wine 92 points. Wine Enthusiast wasn't as generous, rating it only 85 points while noting a Eucalyptus edge that I did not pick up on in my tasting.

Wine Spectator didn't rate the wine, though they rated Three Sticks 2018 Pinots between 91 and 94 points.

A CellarTracker community average of 90.7 is quite favorable for the price.

Free shipping on $120+

Dark in color for a Pinot, but varietally correct in weight.

Classic California Pinot Noir aromas of fresh cut strawberries and supporting dusty notes. The experience is consistent and appealing on entry. Very satisfying. Falls a little short on the finish but otherwise a very strong showing.

In short, it's exactly what I'd hope it would be: An affordable glimpse into high end Sonoma Pinot Noir.

90/100 WWP: Outstanding

This is a great wine for $20 before discounts. Stylistically, it's more aligned with $60+ California Pinot Noir than other $19.99-ish wines in the market.

See: Like Meiomi? Five other Pinot Noirs to try...


[Sold Out] Last Bottle: 2017 San Roman Spanish Red for $35/btl w/Free Shipping

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Last Bottle is offering the 2017 San Roman Bodegas y Vinedos Toro for $35/btl.
Free shipping on 3+ bottles.

I've had prior vintages of this wine and I mention it here for a little diversity. I tend to beat the drum on Wine Access NDA Napa Cabs and California Pinot Noir. If you like big, luscious red wine and haven't explored Spain this is a great wine to try.

If you're concerned about temperature and think and ice pack would help, they'll throw one in for $4 to the east coast. Even that might be getting out of my comfort zone, in which case they can hold until cooler temperatures return.

See: How long does it take wine to overheat in a car on a hot day?

Looks like prices range between $39-72 with a nationwide overage of $59:
Comapre prices on Wine-Searcher

Get $10 off your first order through referral

I'll update this post when this is sold out.

Further Reading


12% Off at Wine Access: What to Buy

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Wine Access is offering 12% off their ready-to-ship wines today. 

Limited Time Offers are excluded and the discount can't be stacked with other promotions.

A lot of the "NDA" Napa Cabs I've written about here are offered as Limited Time Offers, but there are some "back catalog" NDA wines available that do qualify for the discount. They are wines that have been previously offered, sold out, and have made an encore appearance.

What to Buy

[affiliate links below]

2017 Wolfe Grade Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County $38

Outside of the Yesterday line, this has been one of my favorite NDA Cabs from Wine Access. Strongly rumored to be associated with the Immortal Slope Cab they offered just a few weeks later, both wines really delivered in a memorable way.

93 WWP: Oustanding

2018 Moundsman Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena Napa Valley $36

Not quite as good as the Wolfe Grade for me, and not to be confused with the Moundsman Rutherford, this one was (and still is) thought to be associated with Lewelling. Defintiely worth a try especially if that association is compelling.

91 WWP: Outstanding

It's a shame Wine Access doesn't do more NDA Pinot Noirs. But they have offered some compelling brands head-on. Like this one. The stock of Chev, CIRQ, and Kosta Browne has dwindled and may not be available in all areas. If you know Michael Browne's track record you know how good this is. If you're not familiar with his work and you want a taste of a benchmark Russian River Valley Pinot Noir this is a great bottle to try.

94/100 WWP: Outstanding


Bottom Line

Wine Access promos aren't as plentiful as they once were, so it's good to see 12% here.

If you've "squirreled away" some prior promotions in your account and you'd like to prioritze one over the other give them a call. Their customer service is actually pretty great and quick to help.

See: Tip: Call Wine Access to Prioritize Promo Code Utilization


Fresh Off the Truck: 2019 Echoes in the Canyon Oakville Cab [$185 vineyard source for $30/btl before discounts]

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Wine Access is back with another NDA Napa Cab, this time an Oakville red blend from a $185 vineyard source:
  • Cabernet Sauvignon 58%
  • Cabernet Franc 22%
  • Merlot 17%
  • Tannat 3%

David Crow on Wine Berserkers was quick to identify this one as likely being sourced from Peter Michael Au Paradis vineyard and I think he nailed it.
  • Jeb Dunnuck has called their wines “borderline perfection,” (he uses this phrase in his 99 point review of Peter Michael Au Paradis)
  • Wine Spectator said they’re at “the pinnacle of California,”with multiple placements near the top of their Top 100 lists. (this Spectator Top 100 article uses that phrase)
  • At 500 to 600 feet in elevation, the vines are caressed by cool breezes and warmed by the sun (the Peter Michael website lists the elevation of the Au Paradis vineyard at exactly 500-600 feet)
One thing that doesn't quite line up is the $185 comparison price since Peter Michael Au Paradis goes for $225/btl these days. Perhaps that was the going price when the protagonist in the story first moved to Napa.

  • $30 1-5 bottles
  • $28 7% off 6-11 bottles
  • $25 17% off 12 + bottles
  • 14.9% Alcohol
Elegance conveys here from beginning to end.
At just 2 years post-vintage and fresh off the truck, this shows impressive polish.

Not particularly aromatic at this point, even with some time to evolve. But what it does show is well aligned with the experience on the palate...

...where it really shines. Rich, ripe red fruit for days. Perfect oak regiment for my taste that imparts a well-balanced hint of vanilla. Completely devoid of green or any "off" notes. Well balanced with a touch of acidity and just a hint of tannic grip.

A long pleasant finish invites another sip.

92/100 WWP: Outstanding


This wine is a winner, and I especially appreciate the price point here. When mystery wines get over $40/btl it starts to beg the question whether you could do better head-on with a known brand.

I've never tasted Peter Michael wines, though I've wanted to. It's worth keeping in mind that the "compare at" price of $185/btl here is just the vineyard source and not the finished wine.

All that said this one is a great deal. It ships quickly so it's possible to get a few bottles out to see if you want to go large on a case.

Free shipping on $120+


Dates Set for Wine Spectator Grand Tour 2021

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Buy Tickets

It's great to see events coming back later this year, including Wine Spectator's Grand Tour tasting experiences.

  • Las Vegas Saturday December 4, 2021
  • Washington, DC Friday December 10, 2021
  • Chicago Wednesday December 15, 2021
  • $250 General Admission 7-10p
  • $350 VIP Admission 6-10p
Review of Past Wine Spectator Grand Tour Events

I've called these tastings the best way to quickly get a relatable frame of reference for many of the world's great wines. Here are some thoughts from prior events if you've never been and would like to get a feel for what they're like:


This Week: 15x at Wine.com through Rakuten Portal

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Rakuten shopping portal is offering 15x back at a number of retailers this week including Wine.com.

If you're new to Rakuten, get $30 back on your first $30 spend through Rakuten through referral.

What I like about them is:
  1. Points can be earned as Amex Membership Rewards so they're potentially worth more than 1 cent a piece towards travel
  2. Transactions have tracked reliably for me, and when they don't it's easy to file a claim and they respond quickly
One Hitch

Their T&Cs say:
Exclusions: Use of promo/coupon codes not found on Rakuten may void Cash Back.
That's unfortunate because the better Wine.com promo codes (like these) are found elsewhere.

I haven't placed a Wine.com order through Rakuten in a while, but last I recall they actually did track and pay when using a promo code found elsewhere.

If it doesn't track due to promo code use it's worth submitting a claim. But I just wanted to mention this exclusion as your mileage may vary.

Gift Cards

I have never found a shopping portal that pays out when buying Wine.com gift cards.

But using a Wine.com gift card has never been an issue: Portals have reliably tracked when using gift cards.

This is important because I think that's the best way to take advantage of the Wine.com Amex Offer that seems to constantly be running.

What To Buy

Wine.com inventory varies by state, or more accurately by the warehouse your state is fulfilled from.

I found these two deals below by selecting a varietal then sorting on "Savings." Try the same in your state to see what discounted wines might be available.

Non-affiliate links below since affiliate links would create contention with shopping portals like Rakuten (last one in wins typically).

Regularly $60 they've got this for $35.99 in MA.

I ordered this recently and cracked a bottle last night. It's incredibly light in color (only about 20% opaque) and surprisingly high in alcohol according to the label: 14.9% written in the tiniest font they could find the right side of the label.

It delivers a ton of complexity and interest for the price. I'd recommend checking it out if it's available at this price in your state.

Regularly $60 this Elk Cove single vineyard is just $37.99 in MA.

I wrote recently about a $40 single vineyard from Elk Cove - here's another opportunity. Hard to say where deeper discounts are generally possible (Wine Access or Wine.com). The assortment at Wine.com can get a little boring - though it does seem to be making a return from recent lows.

I'm a buyer on this one at $37.99 before discounts.

Other Deals to Stack

In addition to promo codes and the shopping portal don't forget:
Put it all together and these are some outstanding wines at incredibly deep discounts.


Fresh Off the Truck: 2018 Halpin Reserve Napa Cab

Sunday, May 9, 2021

The 2018 Halpin Reserve Napa Cab I wrote about recently arrived and I cracked a bottle open to compare it to the highly regarded 2018 Yesterday Reserve Napa Cab it was alluded to be equivalent to.

Is This 2018 Halpin Reserve the same as the 2018 Yesterday Reserve?

I thought pictures might be useful here since tasting notes and ratings are so subjective. And you can tell a lot from photos. The opacity of the wine in the glass, how stained the cork ends are, how the wine clings to the glass...

Visually, I think these wines look absolutely the same.

Do They Taste the Same?

Looking back, here is my tasting note on the 2018 Yesterday Reserve:

2018 Yesterday Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley [currently sold out, affiliate link]

Decanted for two hours.
80% opaque in an appealing ruby hue that thins on the edges.

Serious and subdued aromatically with cedar notes dominant over supporting fruit.

The experience improves dramatically on the palate.
Lands with mouth-filling authority and dazzles with vibrant appeal.
Gives way to energetic silty tannins and a long satisfying finish.


94/100 WWP: Outstanding

Here's what I think about the Halpin:

2018 Halpin Reseve Napa Cab [currently sold out, affiliate link]

Pop and pour, but tasted over the course of four hours.

Aromas of ripe plums, dark cherries, and a hint of savory green herbal mint in the background.

On the palate it envelopes and delights with a blanket of luscious and weighty velvet liquid.

The tannins in these NDA wines are consistently notable. This one, like others, displays almost chewy/sweet lipid molecules of tannins that dissolve in your mouth. I can't wait to see how they evolve and integrate over time. But for now they provide an interesting finish and invite another sip.

These wines are young but you can tell a lot about a wine by how it shows the next day. By this standard, this wine shows very well with gorgeous milk chocolate and black currant preserves the next night. Almost Insignia-like.

92 the first night, 94 the second.

92-94/100 WWP: Outstanding

Bottom Line

For what it's worth, the 2018 Yesterday Reserve comparison bottle I opened alongside the Halpin trended exactly the same: Better on the second day than the first with strikingly similar tendencies along the way.

I really think the Halpin is the same wine as the Yesterday Reserve. Unfortunately both are currently sold out.

Looking for another outstanding Wine Access NDA Napa Cab that's still in stock? Check out this one from St. Helena.


"Free" Wine Spectator Subscription

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Dans Deals shares a link for complimentary subscriptions:

Get A Complimentary Magazine Subscription Of Your Choice Including Food Network, Car & Driver, HGTV, Country Living, Runner’s World, And More

After entering an email address I see the following magazine options provided:
They ask for your address and no credit card is required. In my experience these subscriptions tend to extend the life of any current subscription you have in place.

I'm sure the site running this promotion sells your contact/interest info, and they'll surely hound you with cancellation notifications when your subscription runs out. So that's why I call it "free".

But I do enjoy having print magazines around the house and these kinds of deals have worked out for me in the past.


Deal: $110 Total Wine eGC for $100

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

PayPal Digital Gifts has $110 Total Wine eGCs for $100, a 9.1% discount.
Thanks to GiftCardReport for the heads up.

Direct Link

Key Terms
  • Limit 1 per PayPal account
  • Does not expire
  • Cannot be used online (in-store only)
  • Cannot be used in NY state
This pairs well with a $30/month PayPal credit on the Amex Personal Platinum card (through 6/30/2021).

Full T&Cs

Purchase, use or acceptance of this Gift Card constitutes acceptance of these terms and conditions. Gift Card is redeemable up to balance only to purchase goods or services at participating Total Wine & More retail locations in the United States. Gift Cards are not redeemable in NY locations. Not a debit or credit card and no warranties apply. Not refundable or redeemable for cash except as required by law. Not reloadable. Does not expire and no fees apply. Safeguard this Gift Card, as it will not be replaced if lost, stolen, damaged or used without authorization. Gift Card is issued by and represents an obligation solely of Retail Services & Systems, Inc. or its assigns. Gift Card cannot be resold and is not valid and will not be honored, and Retail Services & Systems, Inc. will not be liable, if obtained from unauthorized sellers or resellers, including through Internet auction sites. For balance inquiries and for complete Gift Card terms and conditions (including arbitration agreement and class action waiver), which are subject to change, please visit Totalwine.com/gift-cards. Must be 21 or older to redeem gift cards with valid ID. Spirits available in select stores. To check your balance, call toll free 1-866-794-4839. Gift cards only redeemable in store, not redeemable online.


Deal: Vaughn Duffy Pinot Noir 6-Pack

Sonoma producer Vaughn Duffy is offering a 6-pack of Pinot Noirs that caught my eye.

  • Two 2018 Vaughn Duffy Suacci Vineyard Pinot Noir
  • Two 2018 Vaughn Duffy Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
  • Two 2018 Vaughn Duffy Sonoma County Pinot Noir
  • $229 + $15 Shipping
  • $194.65 for Wine Club members + $15 Shipping
Long-time readers will know how highly I regard Vaughn Duffy wines.

Checking in with recent releases it's been great to see the quality continue. There's something special about their wines that just makes them jump out of the bottle, and I regularly find they hit the spot and my stash is depleted.

If you're not familiar with their wines and would like more variety check this other offer out:

  • 2019 Vaughn Duffy Bricoleur Vineyard Pinot Noir 
  • 2019 Vaughn Duffy Bartolomei Brothers Vineyard Carignane 
  • 2020 Vaughn Duffy Kick Ranch Sauvignon Blanc
  • $99
  • Free Shipping on two 3-packs
Bottom Line

This is a good time to reload on Vaughn Duffy or give them a try if you haven't already.

Another Sonoma Pinot Noir producer I've been enjoying lately is Scherrer. I wrote about this 40% off offer a while back. The wines arrived and they are outstanding. Offer is still available last I checked - could be worth a look if you were on the fence previously.


Deal: Shane Wines Constant Disruptions Pinot Noir Mixed Case [$20.42/btl w/Free Shipping]

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Shane Wines is offering:
  • 6 bottles of 2019 Constant Disruptions Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
  • 6 bottles of 2019 Constant Disruptions Anderson Valley Pinot Noir
  • Shipping Included
  • $245
Direct Link

Offer expires 5/14/2021.


Winemaker/owner Shane Finley is one of the "great connectors" in Sonoma wines. He's worked for Copain, Paul Hobbs, Kosta Browne, Lynmar, AldenAlli and more. He maintains friendships with so many winemakers whose wines I appreciate and personally admire.

Visiting him at the winery has almost always included copious amounts of barrel tasting, down to earth charm, and amazing Pinot Noir.
Barrel Tasting w/Shane at Lynmar c. 2013
These "Constant Disruptions" bottlings retail for $25/bottle so $245 for the mixed case works out to a great deal at $20.42/btl and includes shipping. Most of Shane's Pinot Noirs sell for $42/btl which is extremely fair pricing given the quality.

He describes the Constant Disruptions line as follows:
These wines are classic representations of their appellations and show the dynamic difference between each growing region. This combination case is guaranteed to appeal to every Pinot Noir drinker.

Shorter barrel aging, no new oak, and fermented with native yeasts and minimal extraction to allow for an early release.

All in all, a great chance to try some value-priced California Pinot Noir before it's officially released.


Limited: Kosta Browne on Wine Access

Wine Access has a collection of Kosta Browne wines available at the moment:

Deals to Stack
Bottom Line

It's unclear whether Kosta Browne is what it was was since they were acquired by Duckhorn. The fully loaded pricing here after discounts surely beats winery direct or at retail from say Total Wine. I've increasingly seen their wines available at retail which never used to be the case.

If you're interesting in Michael Browne's new projects Wine Access has us covered as well:

And don't forget Dan Kosta's collaboration with Emeril:


Something Completely Different: Samuel Adams "Just The Haze" Non-Alcoholic IPA

Samuel Adams "Just The Haze" Non-Alcoholic IPA
Tasting Notes

Not quite as hazy as say a Treehouse Julius visually, it looks more like a Hefeweizen to me.

Appealing pineapple and mango aromas and flavors, with just a hint of artificial banana notes in the background that I could do without.

Easy drinking with just the right amount of carbonation, but lacks the satisfying dry "bite" I appreciate in a full-throttle IPA.

84/100 WWP: Good

Bottom Line

I can see this being enjoyable and useful in a number of situations.

First, with Covid vaccinations coming up I hear it's a good idea to lay off the alcohol before and after your doses. This can help with that.

Second, at a ball game or summer picnic where you have to drive after. It's absolutely not worth driving with even a little alcohol in your system. This works great in that situation. It's more interesting and flavorful than water or seltzer, and it's more appealing to me personally than soda (diet or otherwise).

Third, to reduce overall daily consumption especially for longer social engagements at home. I've got a feeling we'll all be hanging out with friends a lot more this summer and switching to a NA beer or mixing them in between regular drinks could be a good thing.

Give it a whirl if you can find some in your area. I bet you can find some utility in it.

Further Reading


Tip: Call Wine Access to Prioritize Promo Code Utilization

Monday, May 3, 2021

Wine Access does promo codes a little differently than other online retailers. Rather than having a box to enter a promo code at check-out, promotions are "attached" to accounts for later use.

This creates a situation where you might have multiple promotions associated with the account, some of which might lead to a larger discount than others.

I thought for a while that their system would select the discount with the great dollar savings but I ran into a case recently where that wasn't happening.

For example I have an ongoing 10% off (through FoundersCard) and a $50 off $200 offer.

I wanted to use the $50 off $200 but the system was priorizing the 10% discount for $20 off.

To check your Credits & Promotions go here:

Wine Access customer service is generally well-regarded so I gave them a call to see what my options were:

(866) 946-3923 from 7am – 5pm PT Monday – Friday

I selected Option "1" for new orders and Laura answered right away. I explained what I wanted to accomplish and she said she could temporarily remove the 10% FoundersCard discount so the $50 off $200 would trigger, then she could re-attached the 10% FoundersCard.

I placed a $50 off $200 order while I was still on the phone then she re-attatched the 10% discount once that went through.

Tip: Personal Amex Platinum cards have a $30/month PayPal credit. Wine Access takes PayPal and you could use promotions and credits and pay for the remaining balance with PayPal.

In talking with Wine Access recently they say this is something they're working on. That in the [hopefully] near future you'll be able to select which discount you want to apply at the time of check-out. That'll be nice but for now it's not so bad calling.

I probably could have achieved similar by emailing help@wineaccess.com but calling was easier for my situation.

Further Reading



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