Category Archives: Industry News

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.

Celebrating Cabernet Day!

Today is Cabernet Day, the day you are supposed to enjoy and celebrate with a glass of – you guessed it! – Cabernet!

Primarily a Twitter event, using the hashtag #cabernetday, this is the second year for the event, which spans the globe, starting in Australia and ending in California (or maybe Hawaii…). It’s pretty informal – all you have to do is drink some Cabernet and tweet about it using the hashtag. Doesn’t matter where it comes from, how old it is or who produces it – just drink some Cab!

It’s a fun opportunity to maybe open something you’ve been saving or wanted to try for a while. So drink up and share! And let us know if you have any great finds or good deals -we’re always looking to find something new.

Cheers! Nominated as Retailer of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine has just been honored with a nomination for Top Retailer of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine. We’re quite excited by this honor, especially since we’re the only online retailer recognized. 

About the “of the year” awards:
“Each year, the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine honor outstanding achievement in the wine world, in that given year and over time. Here, we present the nominees in each of the categories. The winners will be announced in our December 15th issue, and the honorees will be presented their awards at a gala black-tie dinner in New York City in January 2012.”

And about, they write:
“ is the nation’s largest Internet wine retailer, and was a pioneer in that arena. In March 2011, it announced fiscal year revenues of $56 million, up 25% over the prior year.”

It’s always nice to be recognized for hard work, so we are super excited about the nomination. Thanks, Wine Enthusiast!

Virginia wines and more

One month ago, I spent 4 days in the balmy, thick air of Charlottesville, VA. The Wine Bloggers Conference of 2011 was held in this lovely city (home of my alma mater) on quite possibly the worst weekend possible.  The 110+ temperatures on Friday were the hottest in over 11 years we were later told. Sadly, that did not make up for the fact that we were there to taste and learn about wine, and being ridiculously uncomfortable and sticky makes it difficult to concentrate or learn just about anything. But determined to triumph, the bloggers mowed through tasting after tasting, thankful for air conditioning, enjoying the hospitality of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Rather than go through tasting notes and descriptions of all the wines I tried, I will instead share the nuggets of wisdom I took away from it all.

1. Virginia wine ain’t bad!
My memories of Virginia wine are actually very pleasant ones: sipping (probably more like drinking) wine at a sorority function in one of the vineyards near University of Virginia. I didn’t know much about wine back then, nor did I care. I was among friends and having a blast. But from what I’m told, Virginia wine has come a long way in the past 13 years.  One reason is that they have started to focus on varietals they do well, namely, Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. (Despite this trend, the best red wines I tried, from Keswick Vineyards, were both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.) The Petit Verdot coming from this state is pretty cool stuff – it is distinct and different. Dense, packed with fruit and age-worthy to boot, this grape handles the humidity, which is in Virginia to stay, so has great potential. On the white side, Viognier is the grape of the moment. Ripe and rich, many of the wines are BIG, some a bit over-the-top. Granted, most I tasted were from 2010, a very hot year, so I take that into consideration. Worth seeking out to taste, if you find a bottle. Some great wineries to note are Keswick Vineyards, Jefferson Vineyards, Blenheim Winery, Virginia Wineworks, Williamsburg Winery (Chardonnay) and Veritas.

2. Alternative Packaging on the rise!
I admit it, I am a sucker for alternative packaging. I like finding new ways (greener ways!) to enclose wine rather than the standard bottle. I’m not saying I want to see Chateau Haut Brion go the way of Tetra Pak, but for my certain wines, I love to see less waste in my recycle bin. A couple I discovered this weekend include CalNaturale, who is putting some yummy organic grapes into a Tetra Pak (Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon). The Chardonnay is crisp and bright and a perfect pack to put in my stroller’s cup holder. Am I allowed to say that? The other great pick was the Climber pouch, made by those behind the Clif bar, which is already a good in a bottle, but is quite fascinating in a pouch. This particular “pouch,” which looks like a giant Capri Sun, holds  a magnum of wine, but weighs as much as a standard glass bottle. After it’s opened, it stays fresh for about 30 days and is perfect for campers or a party. Great packaging and lower footprint.

3. Heat and Humidity make enjoying wine difficult
I wish I had more wines to write about – our delightful jaunt to Monticello was dampered by 100 degree heat and the same level of  humidity. It was pretty incredible to tour Monticello again, but I do wish being outside had been more enjoyable – I would have I’m sure enjoyed many more wines. Even those pouring their wine, trying to look enthusiastic but drenched in sweat, seemed put out.

So, from my few takeaways: try a Virginia wine if you can find one, you may be surprised. Grab a tetra pack or octavin (we love these) for your fridge. And when it’s hot and humid outside, find a pool and drink an ice cold beer!