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Posts Tagged ‘Champagne’

Return of the Flash Sale Sites (part 3)

July 28, 2015 2 comments

It has been forever and a day since we began (and abruptly discontinued) our coverage of the wave of flash sale wine sites that have come into the national marketplace. In that time, there have been some interesting new players to the game, and a bunch of half-assed pretenders as well. But this is America, and any business concept that gains any media traction at all- even if few players are actually profiting- finds a slew of posers and thieves peddling close facsimiles of the most visible early-to-market examples. But the realities of the intersection of wine buying (and collecting) and the flash sale model caught up quickly, and it is no longer a growing landscape. Besides those with massive personal cellars or substantial off-site professional storage, most early flash sale wine enthusiasts learned to curb their impulse buying out of spatial necessity, and the race to replace them with new users is a costly one.Cinderella Wine 7-2015

At this point the growth of flash sale sites has been replaced by email lists which build slower but yield a more consistent audience. But in fairness, the email based offer was the original version of the medium, led by the much lauded Garagiste, with whom I have a long time bone to pick, but that’s a story for another time.

Of the flash sale sites I used to frequent before I had my own retail operation (and access to wholesale pricing) some have undergone unnecessary redesigns, largely for the worse, like the otherwise excellent WineAccess from which I still occasionally purchase west coast wines- for personal consumption- not available in the NY market. My only frustration there involves the ownership of WineAccess and one of our wholesale distributors- here in New York- being the same, but few else will suffer under this conflict of interests, so I’ll spare you my bitching. Before I go a bit more in depth on a couple of standouts in the market, here is a list flash sale sites with which I’ve  had multiple positive experiences (and no significantly negative ones):

WineAccess.com – I don’t entirely understand the recent redesign, or why after many years of successful digital service, the site seems to be in beta, but I have been purchasing excellent west coast wine at lowest available prices for many years. So, I have to give them credit where it is due. While I’ve rarely, if ever, purchased European wine through them, WineAccess continues to source some of the finest, best priced, old vine wines CA has ever had to offer. Over the years, they’ve introduced me to a few of my favorites, and one can get a fairly good free education on the history of American viticulutre, and the nature of the industry, from vineyard to consumer. It’s worth getting on their e-mail list, just for the regular info on CA’s oldest vines. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

Vitis.com – Vitis is the flash sale extension arm of a brick and mortar shop in New York (not The City). They’ve got a couple of fancy MWs making their selections and offer reviews, technical specs, aging potential, cheese pairings, and a suggested recipe for each and every bottle; with a slightly weighted specialty in the Italian direction. It’s a visually attractive site with solid info and little clutter. Every deal I’ve bothered to corroborate has been the best available price in the country. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

WTSO.com – WinesTillSoldOut is the original version of the Vitis model and they move more units, but their content is far less compelling, and visually, it’s as boxy and unappealing as an ’86 Volvo. While they seem have to long since settled into a groove, where long time users have noticed that they seem to run many of the same labels vintage after vintage, their marathon sales can yield some decent scores, if you have all day to continuously refresh and pull the trigger at just the right moment, avoiding the Whammies. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

CinderellawWine.com – CinerellaWine is an extension of WineLibrary in NJ, and whatever you buy from Cinderella gets dumped directly into a shopping cart of said long time margin squeezing retailer. Both operations were grown by the infuriatingly ra-ra Jets fan that is Gary Vaynerchuk, but he’s since run off to be some kind of a motivational speaker and half-assed author that really gets the juices flowing of state school communications majors in fly-over regions across the county. *The liquor laws are different in every state and change frequently. Check the site to see if they can ship to your state (today).

Look for the next installment(s), when we’ll go to the mat for the two most interesting players in the flash sale wine market today. Until then, keep on keepin’ on

WineAccess Three offer 12-14

Another Tasting Night at Apiary – What day is this… man?

October 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I’m insanely behind on my posting; more so than I’ve been since I began doing such things. But helping a guy open a restaurant will do that, and I’m quite proud of what we put together, in a very short period of time. While I still have piles of CA content to get to, here are some tasting notes that should have been posted quite some time ago

A testament to OR fruit, traditional winemaking, and proper cellaring.

[It was] another Monday night at the bar at Apiary and the place is buzzing; not bad for August [yeah, that’s how far behind on tasting notes I am!]. By request, I’ve brought nothing but whites: one long shot, a probable, and a couple of sure things. First, the long shot: Van Duzer Oregon Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise 1991. I bought this wine for basically nothing at all, from an unverified source, assuming– like the seller- that this wine was likely well beyond its pleasurable drinking window. That being said, 1991 has proven to be one of the longest lived vintages ever for most OR wines that have been around that long, and Van Duzer bottles some high art, on their best days. * And I know I’ve said it 1,000 times before, but it bears repeating that Chef Scott Bryan of Apiary (formerly of Veritas) puts out- every night- some of the best, wine friendliest, food that has ever existed on this vile rock they call Manhattan.

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The foil off, and the cork still has some pressure behind it, the CO2 persists, and the initial pour shows a respectable head for a 21 year old American bubbly. It’s pale gold, or brilliant straw, bubblier than expected, and it’s rather captivating immediately. The nose is deeply yeasty, but subtly, not pungent. The palate shows bright integrated Meyer lemon zest over a broadly bready body, with a slightly creamy texture in the mid-palate, and faint mingling notes of raw honey and honeysuckle…. Van Duzer Oregon Sparkling Wine Methode Champenoise 1991 is unquestionably one of the most pleasant palate surprises of the year, to date. At the price that was offered, I should have grabbed the 2 cases that were available…

Can’t believe I didn’t make note of the appetizer in the foreground…

While unanimously declared a tough act to follow, the hesitating beauty to my right, Roy (Apiary’s Wine Guru), and I moved on to the Vincent Girardin Chassagne Montrachet Le Cailleret 1999. I can’t overstate how universally fantastic and underrated world wine is from 1999. It’s a solid- if not classic- vintage in many major wine regions from the Rogue Valley to Ribera del Duero, and represents many of the last “bargains” from overpriced earth, like that of Bordeaux and Burgundy.

Not sure why this guy is staring at me…

In the glass the the Girardin Chassagne Montrachet Le Cailleret ’99 is as much caramel as gold, though the pictured softness is condensation on the glass, not the telltale cloud of oxidation. The nose is ripe with a damp earthy funk over a building tide of increasingly prevalent salt air. The palate is soft and integrated, with a citrus spike, punctuated by a flutter of honeybell rind, dancing about a tight mineral core. I would love to blind taste this one on a roomful of Burgundy snobs who scoff at such negociant wines.

It would be dishonest of me to give full tasting notes on this Guigal St Joseph Lieu Dit 2007 as I can’t locate my notes on the matter. But I do have a small list of bullets from Roy: “apple, papaya, lychee, white river stones, limestone, calcium- medium long finish, med+ weight.” The wine was quite beautiful and deserves a more considered review, but the above list represents the only primary resource I have from that evening.

Free Royal Wedding Champagne!*

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

I care about these people as much as they care about you.

For those of you who live under a rock, in a cave, at the center of the earth, a couple of pretty Brits known as Royals plan to wed tomorrow, but wealthy attractive people, who don’t invite any of us to the party, get married every day. I’m fairly cynical and while I don’t have the words to explain how little I care about this, it seemed as good an excuse as any to have a tasting of non-vintage Champagne, including Pol Roger, the official Champagne of the Royal Wedding. So I assembled a small group of revelers, two boxes of organic strawberries (which were inexplicably less expensive than the same size package of non-organic strawberries) to accompany 3 NV Champagnes in the under $40 (pre-tax) category: Nicolas Feuillatte Blue Label Brut NV ($29.99), Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV ($34.99), and Pol Roger Reserve Brut NV ($39.99), which of course is the official Champagne of the Royal Wedding.

Not the Palmes d'Or, but not bad.

These retail prices reflect prices paid today at Sherry-Lehmann, one of New York‘s oldest and finest wine retailers, know largely for being deep in big Bordeaux. Historically, their prices are all over the map. In the case of the NV Pol Roger Reserve Champagne and the sadly now sold out (and quite stunning) Evening Land Pinot Noir, they have/had some the better available prices on the vile rock they call Manhattan (and certainly in the neighborhood), yet the fees for their marquee Bordeaux and Burgundy, can be considerably higher than other merchants, but the rent on Park is pretty steep. I’ve been buying wine on and off there for years (previously on Madison), going back to the days when one was able to pick up an ’86 La Mission Haut Brion for around a hundred bucks.

I am not a Champagne drinker generally. I’ve tasted many of them and I certainly have my favorites at a number of price ranges from the almost free to the borderline obscene, but the place Champagne holds in the universe of my wine consumption is as a high quality cocktail for a celebratory moment. I rarely drink more than a glass before moving on to wine sans gas. That being said, my favorite summertime brunch beverage consists of decent cava and Red Jacket Orchard Fuji Apple Juice. But on to the tasting.

The packaging may be its finest quality.

Nicolas Feuillatte is primarily known for the reasonably profound Palmes d’Or, but to stay within the NV (and the price cap), the Blue Label Brut NV was the first Champagne of the evening (in line only, all bottles were opened, poured and tasted within minutes of each other). The Feuillatte has small tight bubbles, is visually pale and soft in the glass, and the palate is a touch sour, but not the least bit unpleasant. It has a nose that’s almost salty, with white peach, pear, and a hint of green apple on the palate. For under $30, this is a very nice bubbly.

Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut NV displays larger looser bubbles, much more apparent yeast on the nose, the sweetest of the trio, by a fair margin, and with the least discernible character. Compared to its compatriots, it’s the light beer of the bunch and gives the impression that one could suck down a pint of it and not recall many specific flavors, not to mention eventually waking with an earth-shattering headache. It’s simply an irrelevant wine at its price point, but much like it’s higher priced, hand-painted big brother, the bottle is quite attractive.

The Royal Bubbly.

Pol Roger Reserve Brut NV, the official Champagne of the Royal Wedding, shows the smallest bubbles, has a crisp mouthfeel, and is by far the most complex palate of the evening. It was an unfortunately attractive wine and the crowd favorite, unanimously, which is a problem because I had prepared a bunch of toothy comments with which to bad-mouth the the Royal selection. But as the sharp French gentleman who sold me the wine told me this is his favorite Champagne under $40 and amongst it’s company tonight, I begrudgingly agree. Pol Roger Reserve Brut NV is a class above and a truly palate-smacking experience. Slightly more golden in color, the nose displays a balance of fruit and yeast, it’s rich and creamy with enough acidity to keep it short of over-bearing. So, they picked a nice Champagne. Bah Humbug.

*Pol Roger Champagne is being held hostage by the Royal Family of England and it must be freed! If you don’t think that’s funny and actually only clicked through because you thought you were getting free Champagne, please fee free to send hate mail. If your hate is sufficiently humorous, I’ll bring you a glass myself. Cheers!