An Insider's Guide to Buying Wines Direct

 Deal of the Day

​​No April 1, Joke!

No laughing matter! Here’s your chance to check out or re-discover what Australian red wines have to offer.

2013 D'Arenberg 'Laughing Magpie', McLaren Vale, Australia, $19.99


From one of the best winemakers, this is mostly Shiraz/Syrah co-fermented with a splash of Viognier. Adding a little white to a big red is a classic winemaking practice.

Available from www. invino.com


And another great $19.99 deal is a personal favorite, offered by this site:

www.wine.com

2016 Clos LaChance, 22 Pirates Blend, $19.99.


The name may be silly, but there's a fun story behind it.


This is a rich, exciting Rhone blend that sells for $42 at the winery.



BEST WEBSITE FOR CULT-LIKE WINES

We know there’s a market for 95+ point rated wines priced on the high end.

 Though not hard-core collectors, some people are interested not only in the California cults (Cade, Pahlmeyer, Insignia, Shafer, Harlan) but also in the top rated Bordeaux and Brunello, as well as the Super Tuscans like Sassicaia.

Over the last year one site I follow  has proven itself to be the one-stop shopping for the cult and cult-wannabe wines of the world.

The average 10-20% discount and free shipping on orders of $149 or more cemented its place on the top.

The proven track record for reliability doesn’t hurt either.

And that site is:

www.wineexpress.com




Top Websites for Daily Shopping

An enormous selection, good discounts, reliable shipping.

unusual selection of imports and small wineries; good discounts. Love their case specials!

at times uncovers under the radar French and CA cult wines.

www.napacab.com 
This one is best for high-end imported and CA wines. Dont let the name fool you.

excellent CA wines. Improving on French, big discounts. A flash sale site.


 Speciality Websites


BEST for Genuine​​
WINE DISCOVERIES

Looking for wines that are not available either in traditional wine shops or on most websites?

The focus for me must must be on discoveries of unusual, limited production wines that are true to their type. But NOT EXPENSIVE.

Such as outstanding wine from Greece, Austria or Slovenia as well as unheralded or overlooked wines from Germany, Spain, Italy and France.


Part of the enjotyment of wine is to discover a lovely wine that, you learn,  comes with a rich and exciting history.

And the current 2019 leader for presenting the best wine discoveries is:


www.sommselect.com

Cutting Through the Hype & Bull


ON OLDER VINTAGE


Many website, particularly those with daily deals, seem  to have magically discovered a treasure trove of older wine or a few cases found hidden in the far end of a winery's cellar.

Here is a rule of thumb: if the wine is more than ten years old, be cautious and a little suspicious.

To me, a wine made before 2009 must have been moved around from one place to another over time.


Although a few old-­style Rioja producers like to hold back multiple vintages, in general no good producer,
 importer, or distributor holds a wine for several years. Retailers, never.

Chances are most older vintages offered were purchased from a private cellar. Or some wholesaler that went out of business.


My advice: stay away from "fabled old vintages."


Factoids

Did You Know?

Today, there are close to 5,000 wineries in California and another 4,000 in other states.

Corporations and giant companies are buying small wineries and getting bigger:

Constellation Brands owns over 100 brands, such as Robert Mondavi, and Ravenswood.

Treasury Wines also owns over 100, including Acacia, Beringer, Beaulieu, Lindemans.

Jackson Family owns over 50, including Arrowood, La Crema, La Jota, Lokoya, Matanzas Creek, and Freemark Abbey.

Foley Family owns over 50 brands, including Sebastiani, Chalk Hill, Foley-Johnson.

Barefoot Cellars is the top-selling brand and is owned by Gallo.

Hope that news didn't ruin your day.

Savvy Online Wine Shopping 101

​​
As I see it, this Guide is a cross between a website and a newsletter.

Given the fast-changing nature of the subject, it will be regularly revised and updated.

With wine, there is no such thing as a gifted palate or a natural born taster. 

There are no right or wrong answers about what to drink and when to drink a wine you like.

More expensive wines are not necessarily better than low-priced, reasonably priced wines.

 Older wines are not better than young wines, and there never has been any system devised that can guarantee wine quality.



Real Discounts or Bogus Prices?

In the familiar digital world of coupons, member discounts and promo codes, we still need to ask ourselves: “How can online wine dealers knock 30%-70% off retail prices?

That’s a reasonable question to raise and it’s normal to be a little skeptical.

It is also normal to wonder if the wines fell off the back of the truck, were left sitting on the Houston docks in July, are total crap, or are truly a treasure trove discovered in a dark cellar.

Here are several reasonable explanations...                


Are Wine Clubs forYou?

Over the last five years I’ve been tracking many online wine clubs as part of my coverage of  online wine retailers.

As the direct to consumer clubs from wineries continue to grow, we are seeing an increase in independent clubs being offered by publications like the Wall Street Journal and airlines along with totally independent e-commerce businesses like the Wine of the Month Club, Vinesse, and Winc.

The Yelp-like reviews for these e-commerce only wine clubs are mixed and a few are downright hostile. 
But, many people subscribe or are thinking about joining a club, so I follow, explore, and rate these clubs.

Trending Winery Direct


Looking for A Special Wine Club?

Here is A Hidden Gem in the Silicon Valley Area:

Sarah’s Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountain Appellation
www.sarahsvineyard.com

Quick View:

Strong on small-batch Pinot Noir, Estate Chardonnay, and several Estate Rhone wines. A true artisan winery.

Pinot Noirs from 5-6 appellations….will please any Pinot fanatic.
Cozy and friendly, very modest facility with tons of country charm.

Members receive 3 wines 4 times a year and can select the type: red, white or mixed.

Prices are relatively modest, ranging from $20 for a few white wines to $48 for the high end Pinots.

Members receive a 25% discount on shipped wines; 20% off all other wines.

Wine tastings for members and your guests are comped.

Wonderful offering of tasting room exclusives….small batch wines.

Wine country feel as visitors pass through the small 28-acre estate vineyard as they meander up to the tasting center.



                                           
                                       
 


Point Scores: Helpful or Pointless

​​         

​​Once upon a time in a kingdom far away, only Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator dueled over which one could score the most wines 90 points or more.

Then along came Stephen Tanzer, The Wine Enthusiast, Vinous and others to jump on the 100 point scoring system with a steady barrage of 90 point scores in their publications.  The result is too many wines rated 90 simply to make producers happy. And too many wines rated 95 or higher to hype sales

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