Category Archives: Industry News

Ode to Australia

Happy Australia Day! On January 26th, Australians celebrate the arrival of Captain Phillip and the First Fleet into Sydney in 1788 with this national holiday aptly named, Australia Day. And we toast them on this day with, what else? Australian wine. Australia is one of the top producers of wine in the world, known for their big and juicy take on the Syrah grape, called Shiraz down under.

The wines of Australia range from darn-good values in the $10 – $15 range to incredible and complex collectibles. The latter has started to gain more recognition with collectors and fine wine lovers. The former has always been a hit and both have helped Australia maintain a strong foothold in the world wine industry. offers a large range and selection of wines, and for Australia Day, we’re offering free shipping on purchases of $99 or more on all Australia wines. Woo Hoo!

Here are my favorites from Australia:

Riesling from Clare Valley or Eden Valley: Crisp, dry, mineral-driven whites that are excellent with food, extremely refreshing and downright complex in their Riesling character.

Cabernet from Coonawarra: Due to the unique Terra Rossa (‘red earth’) soil here, the wine has a very distinct aroma and flavor. Cabernet has taken to this soil and climate quite well, though Shiraz is also popular. The Cabs here give a very clear eucalyptus note, with great structure that holds together the soft fruit. Delicious and food-friendly.

Shiraz from Barossa: Dense and delicious, some wines from here define what “jammy” really means in a wine. That said, there can be a lot going on behind all that dense fruit. Big and bold, these wines are not for the light-bodied wine drinker.

Pinot Noir from Yarra Valley: The cool climate of the Yarra Valley, which enjoys coastal breezes of the Pacific, is excellent breeding ground for Pinot. Light, fresh and fruit-forward, the Pinot Noir of the region can offer excellent values. Don’t be afraid to try some Shiraz from the area as well. That cool climate gives the wines a nervy, herbal backbone that is absolutely unique.

Rhone blends from McLaren Vale: Yangarra, d’Arenberg… both make delicious Rhone blends from this area that show what the cooler hilly region is all about.

Chardonnay from Margaret River: Also known for Cabernet and Bordeaux blends, the Chardonnay here is just outstanding. Leeuwin and Cullen are my favorites and they are incredible examples of the complexity that Australian wines can have.

Here’s to you on Australia Day! Cheers!


The Zinfandel Grape

With #ZinFest by #ZAP fast approaching, I thought it appropriate to define the grape that we shall all celebrate this weekend: Zinfandel.

Zinfandel is known as the”California” grape, but is it? Eh, not really. When it comes to the US and to the New World of winemaking in general, Zinfandel is definitely a California grape. However, DNA testing (yes, they do this on grapes) has traced the origin of Zinfandel back to the Croatian variety, Crljenak Kaštelanski (I can’t pronounce it either). It is also the genetically identical to Primitivo, a grape variety grown in Southern Italy.

Zinfandel first found its way to California in the mid-1800s, and since then, has made a name for itself making big, fruit-forward wines, ranging in flavors and structure depending on where it is grown. It can be super intense and fruit forward, like blueberry jam rolling off the tongue, or it can be structured and spicy, like brambly raspberries off the vine. It is, in fact, a red grape, though in the 1980s you found it much more often in the pink form, known as “White Zinfandel.” The grape increases in flavor and intensity as the vines age and old-vine Zinfandels are quite unique and sought after.

Need more Zinfandel education? Get yourself to the Saturday Grand Tasting at the ZAP festival. We promise your head will be filled with more Zin knowledge, and your teeth will be stained purple.


What’s “Trendy” in Wine – the 100

Today we release our 5th annual 100. It’s our list of the Top 100 (or top 1%) wines sold on for the first 11 months of 2011. It’s the only 100 list compiled based on customer activity rather than critics ratings. That said, since we do use a number of 3rd party scores, many of our customers DO buy based on ratings and reviews. Here are some trends (some old, some new) we noticed in 2011.

- People still love a good value! Our number 1 wine, the Tilia Cabernet Sauvignon, is a great red, under $10. Our number 1 wine last year was also a red wine under $10.

- California & Cabernet still top the lists. Though other regions and varietals have grown, almost half of our list is from California, about a third of it is Cabernet. There are 80 reds on the list, 25 of which are Cabernet.

- Nothing like a good value bubbly… Cristalino is #2 on our list for the 2nd year in a row. This $8 Cava has been in the top 10 in EVERY list we’ve done. And Veuve Clicquot is number 6 – people also still love Champagne!

- Generation counts! For the first time, we broke down some numbers by age, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and the Greatest Generation (GG). Some cool stats? The Tilia was across the board #1 for all age ranges. The Veuve Clicquot, which came in at #6 overall, was #3 for Gen X & Millennials, while it was #19 for Boomers and #70 for GG!!! Meanwhile, in the big California Cabernet area (think Cakebread and Caymus), it ranked super high with Boomers and Gen X (top 10), but was way down there (in the 50s!) with Millennials and GG. To sum up, Millennials care about name brand Champagne, but not so much on high end California Cabernet. Boomers and Gen X, however, dig the Cali Cabs and rank those higher than other values more popular among Millennials. Not a hard science, but fun numbers.

Check out our entire list at

What are your favorite wines of 2011?

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.

California Wine Month

It’s California Wine Month! This marks the seventh consecutive year that the state has recognized September as the month to celebrate California wine. According to Governor Jerry Brown’s statement, “Our state’s wineries create jobs for 330,000 Californians and revenue from retail sales of $18.4 billion, including $1.14 billion in exports sales to 122 countries.”

That’s a hefty dose for the California economy!

A few other fun facts about the California wine industry:
– California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world
– The state grows grapes in 48 out of 58 counties, and has 112 declared American Viticultural Areas (AVAs)
– More than 90% of all wine produced in the U.S. comes from California

So raise a glass of California wine and toast the state that put American winemaking on the map.