All posts by Gwendolyn

Takeaways from the Wine Spectator Wine Experience

I just returned from 4 days in New York, where I had the privilege of attending the Wine Spectator Wine Experience. The event includes four long days of wine tasting, drinking and education, with renowned winemakers from around the world travelling in to hold seminars, pour wines and generally schmooze with the wine drinking public and trade. While I tasted some great wines, going into specifics on each would be terribly boring. Here are a few general takeaways I got from the event:

  1. I should drink more Burgundy. Let me clarify that – I should drink more Burgundy… if I could afford it. Sadly, prices are still high on wine from this magnificent region, but if I could sip on Puligny-Montrachet and Volnay every evening, I probably would. I tried to run up and down the aisles tasting the Harlans and the Chateau Margaux, but found the most pleasure in the not-too-crowded Burgundy booths, where the wines were delicate and elegant, refined and wonderfully balanced, showing a true sense of place.
  2. A lot of California Cabernet is overrated. There are plenty that are not, but quite a few that are. And some that tasted like they should have been pouring at the Port tables. I enjoy Caymus and Quintessa as much as the next person, but a few “cult” Cabernets I tried did not taste nearly as exciting as their price tag said they should be.
  3. I need to try more Super Tuscans! And Italian wines in general. I spent too much time trying to get to the big names, but exploring some of the Italian wines with which I was unfamiliar was a real treat. It made me realize I need to wait 20 years before drinking any Brunellos, that Sangiovese is a wonderful food wine, and that Italian winemakers are simply charming.
  4. Bordeaux has brett.  Even the first growths. Perhaps I’ve become too sensitive to the spoilage yeast, but some of the higher end Bordeaux I tasted, including first growths, were tainted with notes of brett, otherwise known as brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast that often lives in the barrels of wineries, adding notes of leather in small amounts, aromas of “barnyard” in larger amounts. The potency of it ran the spectrum, overtaking the wine in some cases. Oddly I didn’t find it in any of the Rhone wines I tasted…
  5. Dry Portuguese reds are the next big thing. Tasted quite a few, including one that ranked number 9 in the Wine Spectator top wines of 2010. It was fantastic. Structured, with great fruit and lots of layers of complexity and just a true sense of place – it was different, not trying to be something it’s not, but embracing its terroir and coming out on top. Delicious stuff.

Club 89

One of the most popular sections on is our 90 under 20 list, where we feature wines that are rated 90 points or higher by one of the 10 publications we use for ratings, and priced under $20. We like to call it the list where quality meets value. However, as much as our customers love this list, we often wonder what to do to tout the value and delicious properties of wines rated 89 points, just one point under that magical 90. I mean, it is just one point, after all. But it makes all the difference. A paper that gets an 89 grade is only a B+ while one with 90 gets an A-. With just one point difference, the scoring drastically changes.

But with wine, this is not the case. In most publications, the 86 – 89 score range is described as good, very good, excellent and highly recommended. Heck, I’ll take that for a great everyday wine! Especially at a great price. In fact, I’d personally prefer a wine with multiple 88 and 89 scores than a wine with just one 90 point score. Matt Kramer agrees with me (or perhaps I agree with him, as he has a much more experienced wine history than I) in this article where he says:

“The “gimme a 90-point wine” approach offers, I freely admit, the greatest good-wine-to-least-effort ratio. But you might be surprised to learn that even the folks who hand out points know they’re only one path to wine bliss. (I’m an 88-point buyer myself, as the higher up the point scale you go, the more “drama in the glass” you’re likely to get-and I don’t always want quite so much drama with my dinner.)”

Some wines are underrated – Cabernet Franc, Chenin Blanc and 89 pointers. That’s just my opinion, but I ask you to taste for yourself. Stock up on some 89 and even 88 pointers for your everyday drinking wines and see if you don’t find some amazing winners. You’ll join Club 89 before you know it. Take advantage of our shipping deal (free shipping on orders $89 or more) for this “club” while you discover some new wines.

Take a look at my favorites if you are so inclined! nominated for best Wine Gift Basket

GiftRocket Gift Cards Gift Basket Competition
SuperGrandGourmetsmallGiftRocket, an online gift card service that helps people send gifts to any local business in the country, has been accepting nominations for great gift-baskets and has been nominated in the Best Wine Gift Basket category. The gift basket selection at ranges from wine trios to super grand gourmet collections and a little of everything in-between. We take care in selecting the perfect wines to match up with an array of gourmet foods. You won’t find private labels or cheap mass-produced wine here – these are the kinds of baskets you’ll want to give to the wine loving friends on your gift list.

So, if you love our gift baskets as much as we love putting them together, please vote for our baskets!

It’s All Greek To Me

Last Wednesday we had the distinct pleasure of hosting Christina Boutari in our offices for a brief tasting and overview of Greek wines. Christina is a 5th generation Boutari and head of exports. Founded in Naoussa in 1879, the company is one of the most recognizable names in Greek wines. They account for 40% of wines exported from Greece and they are available in 38 countries. With an 18 million bottle production they are indeed one of the largest, too. In the US alone they account for 20% of greek wines sold.

We tasted a few wines. First up was the Moschofilero (pronounced mas-co-FEEL-er-oh), the first greek wine I ever tried. Bright and floral (really floral!) with fresh acidity and lovely texture. Great wine and it retails for only $14.99.

Next up, a wine from Santorini, the beautiful island where Boutari also has a boutique winery. The nose of the Santorini (also the name of the wine) was quite different from the Moschofilero, with a distinct mineral character. Christina mentioned the volcanic soil and the old, original vines used for this wine, which may account for the aroma characteristics. There is some honey there and almost a nutty character, very similar to Italian white wines. So if you’re a fan of some of Tuscan Italian whites or even northern Italian whites, this is a wine for you to try.

santorini vineSantorini is an ancient, volcanic island, known for its beautiful beaches and water. The vines here are on original rootstock, being immune to phylloxera. Also unique is the method in which the vines are trained, known as “basket” training. Rather than stakes, vines are woven as the grow, creating a basket shape. This ancient method protects the vines from wind and heat. Everything here is dry farmed, using no irrigation, and the resultant wines reflect the combination of distinct contributions from the soil, the old vines and the vine-training.

We also tasted the Elios red, a name inspired by “helios,” the greek word for sun. The Elios wines (they make a white and red) are blends of traditional grape varieties (Chardonnay & Cabernet Sauvignon) with Mediterranean grape varities. Designed to appeal to the wallet and palate, these wines are bright and fruit-forward, ready to drink and enjoy with food. The red was lovely and imediately made me think of Chianti, or other lighter-bodied Tuscan reds. Dusty tannins, plum, some spices – great acid and a perfect food wine.

Loved seeing Christina and tasting these wines – Greek wines are still hard to find in the US market, though Boutari has done a wonderful job bringing their bottles into the country and introducing people to Greek wines. If you have a hankering to learn to pronouce the greek grape varieties and learn more about the country and its wines, check out as they are an excellent resource.

Spooky labels for Halloween!

Our new neighborhood is apparently a Halloween destination. We have been warned of the excessive crowds of children, told to purchase 50 lbs of candy, and to get home early as the street is shut down. Say what? We’ve also learned that our house, situated on the corner, was not only the best decorated home (need decorations, now!), but also the “refill” house of the neighborhood. This is no problem for us, but it got me thinking that I need to serve wine that fits the spooky Halloween theme!

Typically I don’t buy wines for their label.  The saying, “it’s what’s inside that counts” rings most true when it comes to wine, but I feel I can make an exception for Halloween. Here are a few lables I’ll be serving for the adults that  night.

ghostpiensGhost Pines – it’s possible I will get one of every varietal here. The winery produces Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. I have not heard of the winery or tried the wines yet, but they definitely fit into that spooky theme.

Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo – “Cellar of the devil” – got to have these wines on hand for any Halloween festivities as they are great value and actually named for a haunted cellar!

Razor’s Edge – Choose from Shiraz or Shiraz-Grenache. The label harks back to movies with Freddy Kruger or Jason from “Halloween.” What’s inside is that ripe Aussie fruit style – easy drinking and good for watching the kiddos go door-to-door.

hellokitty devil wine


Hello Kitty Devil Pinot Noir – it just speaks for itself…