Just back from China where I conducted a dozen programs in 5 different cities—fascinating! I met so many new, "under 40" millionaires who want to display their wealth by entertaining with wine and food. They like Bordeaux best because it is the most expensive, the color red in China is lucky and they understand it is good for one's health. My observations of many drinking it with fish (out of shot glasses) indicated that there's a lot of room for improvement (LOL). I will be returning to do some corporate entertainment at the 08 Olympics and I'll see if they are chilling their reds yet.
I am often asked "where do you shop for wine?" Allow me to shed some light on this subject. You may recall that I break my wine tasting occasions into 3 levels.
1. Beverage (Everyday wines—up to $15 a bottle)
2. Better (Wines for weekends with good friends—up to $35 a bottle)
3. Best ( Wines that take your breath away for your "foodie" friends who recognize excellence—$75 and up a bottle)
Beverage wines are easily found at the large chain liquor stores. If you are fortunate to have a Trader Joe's in your area you are lucky. Their buyers are very skilled and their selection and value of International wines is spot-on. Better wines are found at your favorite wine shops. COSTCO has the best prices of all—they are the largest wine retailer in the US.
Best wines are the challenge. Some wines are severely allocated. Wines with high scores or those "collector items" vanish the day any press comes out. That said, you need to act fast whenever you taste or hear of something great. One of my favorite websites is www.wine-searcher.com . Here, you simply type in the desired wine, and just like Google it will show you where these bottles exist. It is free but I suggest you invest $29.00 for the pro-version and you will get a better selection from around the country—this is a "must-have" for any of you who want to get in on the wines that stun your guests.
More than 80 % of my cellared wines are from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy and Germanymy favorite places to buy them are Wine Exchange, Premier Cru, The Wine Club, and K & L Wines.
The Burgundy Wine Company - This store is operated in a similar fashion as British wine merchants and has an incredible selection from Burgundy, Rhone and Oregon. You must check them out if in New York City. Get on their email list!
Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant - Here is one of my favorite wine merchants. What's fabulous about this store is that Kermit sources Old World wines that range from $10 - $30 that offer uniqueness (do you drink AOC Irouleguy or St. Chinian?) and superb value. Get this guy's monthly catalog and you will always have stuff that will impress and educate your guests.
Truly Fine Wine - One of the greatest food wines in the world is Rielsing from Germany. The best of these food wines are the dry style "halb trocken" and "trocken". Here is a new company that has some of the finest selections of these wines at extremely reasonable prices. Check out their website and order a sampler pack from Damon.
These wine companies supply me with most of my wines. I love shopping with Wine-searcher.com to find the most competitive prices. Don't overlook your local wine shop owner who will call you to remind you of your favorites and when they will be released. If these aren't enough, I am attaching a great article by Jon Bonnè from Food & Wine magazine who mentions some of his favorite online wine shops as well.
Remember to buy wines "in pairs" for comparison. Serve wines that most people have never had so that they learn something from your efforts. Chill your reds (65F) and make sure they taste the best foods and wines within the first 30 minutes and you'll own them!
From Food & Wine Magazine
By Jon Bonnè
Despite years of shopping for wine on the internet, I still can't quite get used to the idea. Wine, after all, isn't like a book or CD. Holding a bottle, inspecting its label—you just can't replicate that experience inside a browser window. Yet I do most of my wine buying online. Why?
For starters, the comparison shopping is unbeatable. With search engines like Wine-searcher.com and Google (which most retailers love), you no longer have to go to the Montrachet; the Montrachet will come to you. Cross-referencing the latest scores and top recommendations is blissfully easy, and especially pleasurable when you can do it at home in your bathrobe on a Saturday morning.
Certain things separate the top Web sites from the also-rans. Ease of use and good customer service matter, for a start; so does price. But ultimately, what really counts is selection. Maybe that's why so many of the 10 terrific sites below are established retailers with online divisions: They have the best access to a wide range of wonderful wines.
The Top 10 Online Wine-Buying Web Sites
This four-year-old site is the ultimate source for obscure American wines—Merlot from North Yuba, California, say, or Ohio River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. It also offers wines directly from more than 120 wineries. One to try: the appealing 2005 Bowers Harbor Vineyards Semi-Dry Riesling ($14) from Michigan's Old Mission Peninsula. Tip: A search tool parses each state's shipping laws to determine which wines shoppers can buy.
Run out of a modest Corvallis, Oregon, wine shop of the same name, this is a comprehensive source of top Washington and Oregon wines from producers like Beaux Fr√čres and Leonetti Cellar—though it sells great wines from obscure producers, too. Tip: Avalon's wine clubs, like the Northwest Big Reds Club and the Reserve Pinot Noir Club (membership costs $90 per month), are a great way to access up-and-coming stars, like Oregon's Daedalus Cellars and Washington's O-S Winery.
Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Provisions
Mark Pope's Bounty Hunter is a restaurant in downtown Napa, as well as a catalog and Web site featuring top Napa and Sonoma wines. One recent find: the rare 2002 Mount Veeder Progeny Cabernet Sauvignon ($75) from Marco DiGiulio, who also made the cult Lokoya wines. Tip: Download the catalog; it's an always-enjoyable read.
Brown Derby International Wine Center
Great deals in Missouri on California wines? Brown Derby owner Ron Junge uses his long-standing connections to bring great California wines like Copain Syrah home to the Show-Me State. He also offers hard-to-find gems such as the 2002 Diebolt-Vallois Blanc de Blancs Champagne ($60). Tip: Many, but not all, of the wines here have low markups. Low inventory numbers ("Only 6 left!!") are often a guide to bottles that are going fast.
Chambers Street Wines
Owners David Lillie and Jamie Wolff are consummate wine geeks who have assembled an impressively esoteric inventory in their Manhattan store, and on their Web site, which includes lots of Loire valley wines and biodynamically grown Bordeaux, like the 2004 Chateau Peybonhomme-Les-Tours Premiëres Cùtes de Blaye ($13). Tip: Check out the "Pre-Arrivals" section for Lillie and Wolff's latest finds, like the 2001 Domaine Michel Lafarge Volnay Clos des Ch'nes ($78).
K&L Wine Merchants
Serious wine lovers have been turning to this California retailer for more than 30 years. K&L's wine buyers not only hunt down the best from nearly every region in the world, but also sell hundreds of direct-import wines at great prices. The Web site shows real-time inventory of just how many bottles of, say, 2004 Domaines Schlumberger Saering Grand Cru Riesling ($20) are still available. Tip: Direct-import sparkling wines include terrific bargains such as Tarlant Brut Zèro Champagne ($28).
This no-frills site isn't actually in Napa but Chino, a small city between Los Angeles and San Bernardino. Owners Tom and Kris De Grezia have access to highly allocated wines, which they offer at excellent prices. These include famous names like 2003 Ridge Monte Bello ($105), as well as lesser-known ones like 2005 Rusack Santa Barbara Pinot Noir ($19). Tip: Check out the "90+ Under $20" section for bargains like the 2005 Bodegas Castaño Monastrell Yecla ($6).
Twenty Twenty Wine Merchants
Los Angeles-based owner Bob Golbahar specializes in hunting down impossible- to-find wines for impossible- to-reach clients like Jack Nicholson and Sandra Bullock. The informative and easy- to-use site includes prestige bottles like the 1997 Harlan Estate ($1,695) and the 1996 Denis Mortet Clos de Vougeot ($995), but also great deals such as the 2005 Two Hands Angel's Share Shiraz ($29). Tip: The site contains lists of 99- and 100-point wines for those buying bottles to fill out their collections.
This California wine-storage company's recently launched Web store is packed with more than 1,500 hard-to-find wines, like the 2004 Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos ($47), along with scores and average retail prices based on online data and recent auction sales. Specialists offer to help anyone looking to build a killer collection—and buy at least $10,000 worth of wine. Tip: The site lists great older bottles, like the sought-after 1989 Dominus Estate ($129).
This is eBay for wine lovers, where frenzied bidders vie for wines like a 1979 Ch'teau Pètrus ($650) or a 1999 Screaming Eagle ($1,800). Modest bidders can score bargains, too—there's a no-minimum section where lots open at just a buck. Handling charges nudge up the total but are still quite reasonable. Tip: Watch auctions in the "Closing Today" section and pounce on them, eBay-style.
Jon Bonnè is the wine editor of the San Francisco Chronicle
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