There are roughly nine weeks left of “traditional” summer—Memorial Day to Labor Day—and hopefully you’ve been able to buy and enjoy some lovely wines.  I’m betting that you’ve quaffed a few Rosés, ideally some of them with some aroma, fruit, and character (and not those watery, pale and insipid ones). Anyway, I’m hoping you’ll make a pledge to just this once, stay away from the big 4: Chardonnay, the Queen; Pinot Grigio, the rook; Sauvignon Blanc, the knight; and Riesling, the King. There are so many other wonderful whites out there, so please give them a try. Look at them as varietal treats during the Pandemic: if you can’t get out and about, stay in and luxuriate!  Here they are,…

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I don't know about you, but a quick scroll down my Facebook page a moment ago brought up ads for no fewer than 13 online wineries or wine clubs: Buy Wines Online - Dry Farm Wines - Duckhorn Vineyards - Empathy - Firstleaf - Justin Vineyards & Winery - Last Bottle Wines - Naked Wines - Soujourn Cellars - Tasting Room - Twisted Vine - Vinesse - Winc - Winetext.com A couple, such as Duckhorn and Soujourn, may be names you already know as "traditional" wineries; others such as WineText.com are relatively new, and a bit different--in this case, just sending a text to order once you've signed up. Some are private-labeled proprietary wines while others offer either a selection,…

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I’ve seen a lot of ads on Facebook lately for the Firstleaf wine “club.” The ad takes you to a 13-question quiz, kinda like a junior high “pop quiz,” (because you can’t really prepare for it) to “scientifically” determine the wines you like in order that Firstleaf can then send you wines you’ll want to drink. Evidently, it’s based on a “proven” algorithm…’cause, well, impenetrable and opaque mathematical formulas are always the way you should select wine. Evidently. The first question was a linear “slider” that asks you to select white wines at one end, red at the other, and “a mix” in the middle. OK. But what about Rosé wines? Ports and dessert wines? Sherries and Madeiras? Champagne, Prosecco,…

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Six lovelies from Last Bottle Wines

I’ve been a customer of Last Bottle Wines for years, and it’s been mostly a Love-Like relationship. It’s certainly been all Love lately, and I’ve gotten some really great stuff in the last few weeks alone including two Champagnes (+ my favorite Philippe Gonet), an almost-cult Napa Cabernet, three very diverse gems from Paso Robles, and a lovely Bordeaux that I gave as Christmas gifts (after saving only one for myself, sadly).

I have had a bit of an issue with their descriptions, and while my mantra is that wine should just be fun, some of their over-the-top narratives consume 40 exclamation points and they’re silly.  My real issue is that saying it’s “just fabulously awesome!!” and “a SCREAMINGLY yummy bottle!” simply doesn’t help the customer understand what they may be buying. Nonetheless, I’ve really enjoyed almost all the wines I’ve bought, with the exception, strangely, of Italian wines. And I do know and drink many Italian reds including Amarone, Brunello di Montalcino, Primitivo, and Nero d’Avola.  For some reason, I’ve had no luck buying them from Last Bottle.

As for prices, they range from pretty good to great. Occasionally—after I check them out on Wine-Searcher.com—I’ll find that their offerings are not quite as rare as advertised, nor quite as inexpensive. But most of the time they are real bargains, and wines that are rarely or not available elsewhere. And the variety of offerings is outstanding.

Shipping is great, fast, and secure. The containers are typically strong cardboard boxes with custom inserts made of a kind of fabric-y recycled cardboard that hold the bottles securely in place. I’ve gotten a few shipments over the years that use styrofoam, which I’m not fond of for environmental reasons, but these have been almost exclusively for Champagnes, or for orders made in summer months. And in the warm months, the bottles automatically come with a cooling insert that works pretty well. Deliveries do require an adult signature, so it’s wise to send them to your office (unless your employer frowns on that), or if you’re in an apartment, alert your super to sign for you.

And ordering is remarkably easy once you have an account. You’ll typically get at least one email a day with the offer, description, and price—typically showing the discount you’re getting. If you’ve got an account set up, all you have to do is select the number of bottles, and in three mouse clicks, or three screen touches on your iPhone, your order is on its way. Generally, if you order six or more bottles, shipping is free, and for fewer, it’s just a few bucks. You cannot beat the convenience. And they have a warehouse on each coast.

The bottom line for me is that this is a “tremendous!!!!” service with great convenience and value.

 

Thanksgiving will soon be here, and you're probably starting to put together your menu. Well, if you're not...get on it!  No matter what you're having, you'll want some great wines to go with the big meal. And this year, think about ditching the "standard" stuff -- Cabernet and Chardonnay -- to expand your horizons. Your guests will love it! Vouvray/Chenin Blanc:  This is among the best wines in the world for Turkey. Vouvrays are Chenin Blanc-based wines from France, and come in a variety of styles, from dry to off-dry, semi-sweet and sweet.  South Africa makes great Chenin Blancs, too, which they call "Steen": try Raats Family, Indaba or Cederberg.  And Napa's Pine Ridge makes a wonderful mixture of Chenin…

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I’ve been a very steady customer of Last Bottle Wines (LBW), an interesting and fun wine sale and delivery service. The way it works is simple - you subscribe, and they send you emails--daily--with an offer of a specific wine that is supposedly at a moderate- to deep discount. You set up an account, and if you want what's on offer, you log in, select a number of bottles and it gets charged and shipped based on your profile into. The good: MOST of the wines have been good, and good value. Their interface is great, and ordering is painless. The packaging is excellent and every one of my orders has arrived in great shape. For a few bucks more they throw…

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I know that Spring isn't here yet, and spring is the traditional time to drink Rose. But you don't have to wait for spring to stock up on--or even drink--this incredible and remarkably inexpensive wine. And here in New Jersey, it's like spring anyway. From South Africa, this is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and I don't know another Rose made from 100% Cab. It's dry but mouth-filling with a fruit bomb of red cherries, strawberries and pomegranates. This is not a wimpy Rose - it's a relatively big wine, and it'll stand up to a lot of food. You can find this wine at about $9-11.         

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House Resolution 5034, introduced by the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), is supposed to be heard in June before the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Michigan’s John Conyers. If you don’t know, Michigan was the losing plaintiff in Granholm v. Heald, the 2005 case that liberalized wine shipments, and the NBWA was one of Rep. Conyers’ top five donors in the last two elections. HR 5034 would exempt anti-competitive and discriminatory state alcohol beverage laws from most federal review, including capacity cap laws. In other words, states could freely write laws making it difficult or impossible for consumers to get direct shipments of wine from wineries within and outside their state. If it passed, HR 5034 would be a complete reversal…

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I get lots of newsletters from wine merchants, including some big names in USA, Europe and the UK. I don't buy a lot of wine from them, but I do enjoy keeping up with prices of wine around the world, especially new releases and futures. One thing that's easy to notice is how much these guys depend on Robert Parker to do their marketing. So that leads me to ask the question: Does Parker single-handedly determine what we buy, what we pay, and really, what we all want to drink? Lots of people think so, including many in a position to know. Tomas Clancy of Ireland's Sunday Business Post has written: "His (Parker) ratings, along with his florid tasting notes,…

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No, I don't mean a Bartles and Jaymes Strawberry Wine Cooler from a carry-out outside the university. You should not buy those under ANY circumstances. They were good commercials, though, right? As for a wine keeper, wine refrigerator, wine cellar, wine cabinet - whatever you want to call it - yes, you should, if you drink wine and keep more than a few bottles on hand at a time. Until I built my own wine cellar when we remodeled our basement, I had a 200-bottle wine cabinet, about the size of an average refrigerator. It was a single temperature model that I kept at 57 degrees, perfect for storing and preserving almost any wine. Of course, I needed to let the…

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