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 through Rakuten Portal

Monday, May 10, 2021

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

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 promo codes (like these) are found elsewhere.

I haven't placed a 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 gift cards.

But using a 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 Amex Offer that seems to constantly be running.

What To Buy 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 The assortment at 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 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 but calling was easier for my situation.

Further Reading


Deal: 2018 Elk Cove La Boheme Pinot Noir [$40 before discounts, compare at $60]

Saturday, May 1, 2021

  • $40/btl (compare at $60 release price)
  • 13.5% alcohol
  • 92 points Wine Advocate
  • 92 points Vinous Media
This particular bottling wasn't rated by Wine Spectator but they thought highly of Elk Cove's Pinot Noirs from this vintage. 91 points for the appellation wine and as high as 93 for the Mount Richmond bottling.

Deals to Stack
My Thoughts

I've absolutely adored Elk Cove's Pinot Noirs over the years. From enjoying my first taste of their Willamette Valley bottling at Tanglewood, to learning more about them them at smaller events at Blue Ginger, and larger events like Cochon 555. I'd really like to visit their winery some day.

Until then, I'm in for 3 bottles. Wine is scheduled to arrive late May.


A Roundabout Chance at Wine Access Yesterday Oakville Reserve? [$500 for $42]

  • $42 1-5 bottles
  • $39 7% off 6-11 bottles
  • $36 14% off 12 + bottles
  • 15.2% alcohol
The write up from Wine Access implies this wine is similar to Yesterday Oakville Reserve. The Yesterday line has been, in my experience and opinion, the best of the Wine Access NDA wines. 

That they're labeling this one as Halpin is a bit circuitous. Kind of an NDA wine (Halpin) hinted to be a well-regarded prior NDA wine (Yesterday) that's hinted to be a well-regarded Napa producer (Harlan).

Here's a summary of the 2018 Yesterday wines offered so far... 

2018 Yesterday Oakville
  • Suspected source: Harlan
  • My rating: 93 points
2018 Yesterday Oakville Reserve
  • Suspected source: Also Harlan
  • My rating: 94 points
2018 Yesterday Howell Mountain
  • Suspected source: Dana Estates Hershey Vineyard
  • My rating: 95 points
Deal Discussion

On one hand $42/btl is pushing it for a mystery wine. On the other, a friend messaged me the other day fr my thoughts on a $59 sleeper offering. With the discounts you can potentially stack on Wine Access and free shipping I can still see my way to these Wine Access NDA wines being a good deal.
Bottom Line

I've had a good experience with all of the Yesterday wines I've bought so far.

I'm in for 3 bottles. Wine is in-stock and arrives quickly.



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