Fresh Off The Truck: 2018 Twomey Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Thursday, January 21, 2021

$50
13.7% Alcohol

This is one of those wines where, as much as I still find numerical ratings useful as a bottom-line impression, the real point is describing what it's like.

It's not like I expected.

Given its association with Silver Oak I expected it to be oaky. It is not.
Given it's from the Russian River Valley I expected it to have cola notes. It does not.

It's lower in alcohol than some of the bruisers I admittedly enjoy in this category. It's medium-bodied and I'd say 40% opaque. It has appealing light floral and mild baking spice aromatics. It has a clean finish and is devoid of off-notes. 

It's a well made satisfying California Pinot Noir.

91/100 WWP: Outstanding

Not your tempo?

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Black Kite, Arnot-Roberts, Hirsch, Bedrock, Gary Farrell and More: Wine Access Does More than "NDA" Wines

Wine Access has been getting a lot of my attention lately with their NDA wines (for example The Ringer, Moundsman, and the soon-to-arrive Yesterday Reserve) where they provide some hints about the source grapes and sell private label wines at deep discounts. 

They've been mostly outstanding wines offered at good prices. I plan to continue buying them.

But the rest of their portfolio is worth exploring as well.

They have a focused assortment of wines that change somewhat-rapidly as they sell through them. Not as fast or singularly focused as a WTSO, but it's not like they've got thousands of wines for sale.

I thought it would be helpful to share some recommendations, but first let's review some ongoing discounts.

Deals to Stack

If you don't have a Wine Access account:
  • Shop through a portal
  • Get $50 off $150 with first-time order through referral
  • New customers get a $100 credit after spending $1,000 in the first year.
  • Check out this Amex Offer (expires 2/28/2021, try purchasing a gift card to see if that triggers the offer if you're running out of time?)
If you do have a Wine Access account get 20% off with this offer.

Recommended Wines

[affiliate links below]


This one just came in today, kind of on the downlow as they're prone to when they've got a small amount of a given wine. I've mostly enjoyed the more affordable appellation "Kite's Rest" bottling so it's a treat to try one of their single vineyard wines.



Friends whose palates I trust immensely say Bedrock is their reliably-outstanding house wine that every time they open one on a weeknight it delivers. At $24/btl before discounts and free shipping on $120 this might well be the value play of the bunch.

It's worth pointing out that if a discount drops your order below $120 they still honor the free shipping which is quite nice.


It's great to see smaller producers like Arnot-Roberts represented here. I've enjoyed their Syrah's tremendous in the past (especially their Clary Ranch bottling). Here's hoping their 2019 Sonoma Coast Syrah is as good.

2017 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast

I always think of Hirsch as a reliable splurge. I'd often buy a half-bottle of it by the glass at Blue Ginger here in Wellesley (sadly, RIP). Looking forward to trying this one at home. They also have an Hirsch Estate bottling.


I recently attended a Gary Farrell virtual online tasting, highlighting "neighborhoods" their Pinot Noirs and Charonnays come from. And speaking of Blue Ginger, it reminded me of this wine dinner back in the day.

This is an appellation bottling, but the single vineyard wines we tasted were classic Russian River Valley so I bet this one is solid as well.


County Line is Radio-Coteau's second label.
I've tried this bottling. It's really good.



I remember this fondly as one of my favorite 2005s [the first of several vintages of the century].
Kicking is really old school here with a post from 2008 on the family wine blog.



I remember being a big fan of Coho Headwaters back in the day, to the point when my then 5-year-old did a painting for kindergarten it was of 3 bottles of Coho. Ah, memories...


Bottom Line

I realized as I was typing these little blurbs how many of their wines are from producers that have a special place in my heart.

Their NDA wines are fun, but it's even better when they pop up and surprise me with a producer I've long admired.

Last tip: Once you subscribe to their emails and demonstrate a purchase pattern they sometimes target you with private emails with limited quantities. Things like Sea Smoke and Kosta Browne.

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Podcast: Grand Reserve World Mastercard [75,000 point welcome offer]

Wednesday, January 20, 2021


I recently received an email about a new wine-oriented credit card with a 75,000 point welcome offer (worth ~$450 towards wine and wine accessories): The Grand Reserve World Mastercard.

Given my interest in wine and credit cards this was a really good fit, so I reached out to founder and CEO Matthew Goldman for a discussion about the card on the points & miles podcast I co-host over on Milenomics.
Grand Reserve World Mastercard 
Head on over to Milenomics to listen to the podcast.

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2018 Wine Access The Ringer Napa Cab [$650+ for as little as $30 w/free shipping?]

Monday, January 18, 2021

$30/btl (6+ btls)
15.2% Alcohol
Free shipping on $120+

Clues
  • Robert Parker crowned this multiple 100-point icon “one of the wines that redefines greatness in Cabernet Sauvignon” (sounds like Bryant - source)
  • Vinous called it “one of Napa Valley’s most fashionable and expensive cult wines” (again Bryant - source)

Comparison Point

Wine Access says: "The $500+ winery source for The Ringer is among the cult titans of Napa Valley"

It's non-trivial to pin down the release price of some of these high flying wineries, but the $500 claim aligning with Bryant seems reasonable.

Here are Wine Spectator ratings for recent Bryant releases:
What I thought was interesting was exploring the "lesser bottlings" from a winery like Bryant Family.

When Wine Access says we're talking about a $30-$35 wine we're really/effectively comparing it against the price of the source winery's lowest rung bottling. In this case the $95 (in 2013 dollars) DB4 bottling.

Sure, $30-$35 is still a lot less than $95. But it's a more realistic comparison point than $650+.

Bottom Line

This one sounds exactly like the 2018 Wine Access Commission bottling that was one of my least favorite Wine Access NDA wines.

I may try to work one of these into the mix of a $120+ order of more known commodities for free shipping, just to get a taste.

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Tasting Note: 2017 Domaine de la Pousse d'Or Clos d'Audignac Monopole Volnay Premier Cru

Sunday, January 17, 2021

I probably drink 5x as much California Pinot Noir as Oregon Pinot Noir. And 5x as much Oregon Pinot Noir as French Pinot Noir. So this purchase is an attempt to gauge how much value this particular red Burgundy delivers for my taste.

Burgundy is a tricky and expensive category to explore. But regardless of the category I'm exploring I've gone with a couple approaches...

Approach 1: Find one of the more affordable 90+ Wine Spectator-rated wines in the category and give it a try. 

Approach 2: Blow it out. Buy a pricey, well-regarded wine in the category and see if you like the style. If I prefer jammy fruit-forward reds it's just not smart to try finding that in Bordeaux. Better to explore a category that's aligned with what I'm looking for.


Finding red Burgundy Wine Spectator has rated 90+ points is challenging. So this was an attempt aligned with approach "2". But $120/btl is a pretty high bar to clear so let's see how it went...

2017 Domaine de la Pousse d'Or Clos d'Audignac Monopole Volnay Premier Cru [affiliate link]
$120/btl
13% Alcohol

40% opaque in an appealing ruby-red hue. Muted aromatically with subtle early notes and supporting delicate fruit.

Where this wine shows well is on the palate. Satisfying silky mouth-feel with a clean finish. Not an off note in the bottle, but as flawless as this may be it left me wanting for more.

91/100 WWP: Outstanding [but disappointing given the price]

Bottom Line

I don't have a ton of experience with red Burgundy. I bought this one hoping to explore their discernment in a category I'm not as confident in. 

I've had good experiences with Volnay, but unfortunately this wine didn't do much to encourage me to explore deeper at this price point through Wine Access.

I think they're performing better with their NDA wines and domestic wines where the maker is known. Check back tomorrow for some recommendations from the latter category.

Read more...

Fresh Off The Truck: 2018 Wine Access Moundsman Rutherford Napa Cab

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Moundsman I posted about last week arrived yesterday.

I cracked a bottle of Lachini Willamette Valley Pinot Noir last night (that was a great one, went so fast I didn't have time to post about it here) but got a chance to try the Moundsman tonight.

Let's get right into it...

2018 Moundsman Rutherford Napa Cab [affiliate link]
14.9% Alcohol
$36/btl
$33/btl (6+)
$30/btl (12+)
Free Shipping on $120+

Luscious and fruit forward. Bold, confident and elegant. This is an appealing crowd-pleasing wine. Silty slightly-sweet tannins on the finish.

I'd place this on par/perhaps just behind the Yesterday series as one of the better Wine Access "NDA" wines. More drinkable in its youth (less formidable tannins) but try to hold off for 4 years post-vintage and this will be singing.

93/100 WWP: Outstanding

If you don't have a Wine Access account:
If you do have a Wine Access account get 20% off with this offer.

Bottom Line

This wine is still available in most regions. Worth giving a try if you've been on the fence about these NDA wines.

Read more...

January 2021 Wine.com Promo Codes [and 3 buy recommendations]

A few new Wine.com promo codes have surfaced (expiration dates unknown to me):
Don't forget to shop through a portal and use this Amex Offer if you haven't already.
And consider StewardShip to allow stacking of promo codes with an annual flat rate for shipping.

What to Buy

Wine.com inventory varies wildly depending on which of their warehouses fulfill in your state.

I'm in Massachusetts where inventory has been quite constrained but is showing mild signs of improvement. Here are three that catch my eye...

Prices before discount, affiliate links below...


I really like Elk Cove in this category from Wine.com, but they've got that at $29.99 which is quite inflated. This Stoller on the other hand is priced quite favorably even without discounts. After a $30-40% discount this is a fantastic deal on legit Oregon Pinot Noir from a great vintage.


Twenty years ago a friend told me to buy Cakebread Cab if I ever found it for $50 or less. I thought that would be an easy task, but it wasn't then and it isn't now. Especially as prices of climbed across the board.

I know it's $94.99 but stay with me...

If we can get 33% off that knocks it down to $62.69.

If I shop through a portal and get 10% cashback (I use ShopSmarter, though RetailMeNot is sometimes as high as 20% and Rakuten spikes up occasionally as well) that takes it down to $56.42.

If I fold in the Amex Offer (or buy Wine.com gift cards from a friend for 80% of face) that brings the price down to $45.13. That's pretty incredible and, well, "that's why we're here" as they say.



Here's an interesting example. Total Wine has this for $60.29 (after 10% off on mixed 6). So Wine.com's price is hardly inflated from the price at a deep discounter like Total.

Take the example discount percentage highlighted in the Cakebread example above and this gets knocked down to $33.27. This is a tremendous bottle of wine for $33.


Next Up

There's some great deals going on over at Wine Access that I promised to write about. I'll get to that soon but for now I'm looking forward trying some of that Moundsman Napa Cab "fresh off the truck." Stay tuned for that...

Read more...

Another Chance at an Even Better Wine Access Yesterday Napa Cab?

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Wine Access is back with another Yesterday Napa Cab, this time a Reserve bottling based on the Yesterday Oakville (as opposed to the Howell Mountain) wine they offered last year.

15.2%Alcohol
$42/btl
$39/btl (if you buy 6)
$36/btl (if you buy 12)
Free Shipping on $120+

Thoughts

These Yesterday bottlings have been the best of the NDA wines I've bought from Wine Access.

I'm not sure why they decided to market the Oakville and Howell Mountain wines under the Yesterday label, because I believe them to be sourced from completely different producers. That said, they do drink strikingly similar.

My best guess on the source of the original Oakville Napa Cab was Harlan. This Yesterday Reserve is said to be from the same vineyard, just with more time in barrel and in bottle making it richer, smoother, and more elegant. 

Sounds great to me, as the original Yesterday Napa Cab was an amazing wine but a bit rough around the edges when consumed entirely too young.

Discounts Available

If you don't have a Wine Access account:
If you do have a Wine Access account get 20% off with this offer.

Bottom Line

Although it's a pre-arrival it looks to ship quickly. We should have a feel for it late next week.

It's hard to say how long this will last. Other recently-released NDA wines north of $40 are still available. But this is Yesterday so you never know.

I'm in for 6.

Wine Access has some other great wines in stock at the moment. I'll follow-up later this week with some recommendations, but poke around in categories that interest you and see what you find.

Read more...

Deal: Likely Beckstoffer Georges III Vineyard Napa Cab for $36/btl (or less, before discounts, with free shipping)

Saturday, January 9, 2021

2018 Moundsman Cabernet Sauvignon Rutherford Napa Valley [affiliate link]
14.9% Alcohol

$36/btl
$33/btl (6+)
$30/btl (12+)
Free Shipping on $120+

Clues
  • inspired flagship wines for Napa icons like Sojourn ($124), Myriad Cellars ($175+), Alpha Omega ($250), Schrader ($375+)
  • a Grand Cru Napa site, which Robert M. Parker Jr. has called “a first-growth vineyard,” (he's probably said this about a lot of vineyards)
The most telling clue is the wines made from this vineyard. Sojourn doesn't make a ton of Cabernet, and the one they do make from Rutherford comes from Beckstoffer Georges III.

Conveniently (and I don't think I've seen this before) Beckstoffer maintains a list of the wines produced from each of their vineyards. And indeed the producers listed above match Beckstoffer Georges III.

If you don't have a Wine Access account:
If you do have a Wine Access account get 20% off with this offer.

Bottom Line

Wine Access has had a lot of these NDA wines lately, some have been better than others. I like the over proposition here. I'm in for 6 bottles.

Read more...

EuroCave, Sub-Zero, and Wine Enthusiast: Some Thoughts on Wine Refrigerators

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

It doesn't take long once you've gotten into wine to find yourself in a position where you've got a few special bottles you'd like to save for a special occasion. And it doesn't take more than a few hot days in the summer to spoil a bottle of wine unprotected from the elements.

For this post, I'm going to focus on free-standing and built-in wine refrigerators.

By that I mean I'm not going to discuss custom wine cellars where you carve out some portion of your home and turn it into a climate-controlled space. That's a whole other category.

Everyone's Situation is Unique

The wine refrigeration and storage requirements of someone in a small apartment in New York City are totally different from another person with a large home in Florida.

Everyone's constraints are unique: Budgetary, space, capacity requirements, likelihood of moving, etc.

But I think there are some common paths people go down that funnel into a few different segments of the market. I'll cover those below. But first...

Things To Consider

Bottle Capacity: When I was in the market years ago, a friend told me to take whatever size I thought I needed and double it. I thought he was being ridiculous but it's turned out to be tremendous advice.

Bottle Capacity: Every manufacturer seems to greatly over-estimate bottle capacity. I don't think this is necessarily malicious - it's just that wine bottles come in all shape and sizes and storage estimates are based on an ideal collection of identically shaped medium-sized Bordeaux bottles. That's just not realistic, and something to keep in mind as you consider shelving configurations.

Duration of Storage: Some people consider long-term storage "a few years." Others are aging wines for decades. The units we're talking about here are, I think, more appropriate for storage for preserving the integrity of wine for 10-15 years. And most commonly just a few years. I say that because I find I'm frequently rifling through my collection selecting and rearranging bottles. That's sub-optimal for true long-term storage that might be better accomodated in off-site storage or a custom walk-in cellar.

Single vs. Dual Zone: All wines should be stored at the same temperature regardless of whether they're red or white. Dual Zone refrigerators are designed for staging wine for consumption. This is typically a small portion of a collection and the main focus here is longer term storage. So the focus here is mostly on single-zone units.

Electricity: I was really concerned about this when I was shopping. At the time our house only had 100 amp service -and- I was planning to install the unit in my home office. That being the case I thought I might need to run a dedicated circuit for the wine fridge. However, I just plugged the unit into one of the existing outlets and it's been fine all these years. Consult with the manufacturer and ask an electrician for an opinion on your situation.

Now let's walk through some commonly considered options...

For a Kitchen Remodel Consider Sub-Zero
I think highly of Sub-Zero refrigerators and they do a great job in this space. They have a lot of built-in and undercounter options that accomodate custom paneling to compliment the environment they're installed in. 

But they are expensive. Small 48-bottle units start at $3,700 and that's before any customization.

I think the best situation for an undercounter wine fridge is if you have a large kitchen (or butler pantry/beverage center) where you want to stage wines for ready consumption. Most likely you'd have additional storage solutions elsewhere on-site because 48 bottles just isn't a lot if you're collecting wine.

More here:

EuroCave Sets the Standard
If you're going to buy a wine fridge in the US, you'll probably at least consider EuroCave. They focus exclusively on wine storage & refrigeration and they've been doing so for a long time. 

I bought one of these about 13 years ago and I've been very pleased with it. They're constantly tinkering with the naming conventions, but this is the closest match to what I got:


Fully loaded I think I spent $2,500 back in 2013. Looks like it goes for closer to $4,000 now.

If you're in the market, I'd encourage giving Wine Enthusiast a call. Their salespeople helped me work through some things I hadn't considered, and answered questions on things like electrical requirements, shelving, and configuration options.

I was also pleased with their service after the sale. 12 bottles of wine weighs like 40 pounds so it's important that the shelves are sturdy and roll smoothly. A couple of the shelves I received were a little "warped" and would bind up when used. Wine Enthusiast quickly sent out replacements.

Wine Enthuiast also sells more affordable private label options, like this one:


A More Affordable EuroCave Option
Wine Enthusiast makes their own private label wine refrigerators, but if you want to stick with the EuroCave brand and spend less consider this option from Costco:


It matches the look of the EuroCave option above, and is quite a bit more affordable. 

A friend who has been shopping in the space recently settled on this one. It matches the look, and hopefully the quality, of the $4,000 EuroCave option mentioned above. And Costco tends to stand behind their merchandise.

I wish it had more rolling shelves, and I'm unsure of how readily additional shelves can be ordered. But all things considered, it's probably what I would go with if I was in the market now.

Lower Cost Options
If you look around in-store and online you'll surely find more affordable options. It's hard to say how good or bad they are universally, and it would be even harder for any consumer to do a long-term review of a meaningful number of units.

But I do have some experience in this range, and I think it's a reasonable starting point for smaller homes and/or where you might be moving a bit over the next few years.

Years ago, I was sent one of these as a sample to review:


This 50 bottle unit has quietly and faithfully served alongside my larger EuroCave for years. The only thing I don't like about it is the wire non-rolling shelves. They're rather close together and anything other than a standard Bordeaux bottle is an awkward fit. And since the shelves don't roll out I tend to forget what's in there.

But other than that it's done it's job: It keeps wine cool, looks reasonably nice, and costs less than $500.

I keep saying I'll give it away once I can whittle down my collection to fit in the EuroCave but try as I might - I just haven't been able to make that happen. There's just too many wine deals out there.

Bottom Line

If you're going to store wine for a future occasion, it's worth it to make sure you've got a decent storage solution. While this post just scratches the surface on a complicated topic with many considerations, I hope this overview is helpful.

Read more...

20% Off at Wine Access (plus an Amarone recommendation)

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Get 20% off a future Wine Access order by clicking this link and adding it to your existing account:

http://wineaccess.com/memories
(source)

If you don't have a Wine Access account:

Free shipping on $120+

Amarone Buy Recommendation
They've got a terrific Amarone available at the moment for $25/btl:

Wine Spectator rated it 91 points with a release price of $45
91 Points Wine Spectator
Pricing checks out favorably relative to pricing on Wine-Searcher.

I cracked a bottle of it tonight and it's terrific.


2016 Antiche Terre Venete Amarone della Valpolicella
15% Alcohol

An impressive combination of fresh aromatics, weighty mouthfeel, and racy acidity. A brilliant window into the category without breaking the bank.

90/100 WWP: Outstanding

Read more...

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