I tend to follow a lot of wine blogs and search the internet for rare wines that I like.  Today I had the pleasure of tasting wines with Lyle from Kermit Lynch and while we were tasting the topic of deceptive wine pricing came up.  Now, this is something that I have written about in the past, but more recently I have been looking at how other wine shops and retailers market their shops or wines.  I came across http://www.letspour.com/deals/795-2011-Herencia-Alt-s-Garnatxa-Negra- and was off-struck on the amount of wine this one site sells.  The funny thing is that all the wines they sell or offer to their clients marked up so high it makes most people sick.  The wine I just found is a $10 bottle that cost a retailer $7 wholesale and I’m sure if you buy in bulk you get a better price.

The problem with sites like this is they offer free shipping and try to make you feel like you are getting a deal.  You are not!  You are actually getting bent over the table multiple times by these sites like Letspour.com!  So far they say they have sold 99 bottles of this wine.  Let’s say for this blog that 99 people bought one bottle each.  This means 99 people are idiots for not looking around and noticing that they could have picked up the same wine at their local merchant for only $10.  What does this say about society as a whole?  Is the rest of the world true in saying that we (Americans) are lazy and just jump at the first thing we see?

People, do your homework before you buy wine.  Don’t buy a wine based on just a score or a point.  A lot of times retailers will post scores or points from a previous vintage or just make shit up.  Letpour.com has nothing to do about wine and has to do with money.  The owner of the site is not a wine specialist nor does he know dick about wine.  He knows the internet and knows how to market his site.  Then I came across another wine that Rain City Wines carries, the Arizona Stronghold Mangus.  Great wine, sell tons of it but I noticed one thing…http://www.letspour.com/deals/204-2010-Arizona-Stronghold-Mangus-Red  the wine is only $25 on the shelf!  Letpour.com states that it is normally $36 but you can get it from them for only $28!  What a F***ing bargin!  This is like playing the slot machines in Vegas…how can they make any money if they are just giving this stuff away?  Wake up people!!!  You are getting screwed over so well you can’t even feel it!

Do yourself a favor..get off your ass, talk to a local wine merchant and save some money.  I’m not talking about going to one of the new liquor super stores, they know as much about wine as most people know about black hole matter.  The one shop I visit in my area is Rain City Wines in Bothell Washington.  They don’t dick around with trying to sell you points or scores.  The guy there is a straight shoot, loves wine and won’t blow sunshine up your ass.  He’ll even admit that he does not like all the wines in his shop.  He said they are good but some are not for his palate.  How many merchants will admit this or just tell you they love everything in their shop?

If you get a chance, check them out.  He is old world all the way and beats all the wine prices that letspour.com has on their site but around $5+ or more!
  www.raincitywines.com  Till later when I pull out another wine shop or site trying to take your money…

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Allocated Wines?

So in the last few weeks I have been getting calls/emails from customers who are looking for  “allocated” wines from Washington.  I’m like, “no prob, let me make a few calls”.  After making some calls, I was shot down from the distributors because I have never purchased from them before.  In fact, I took my name off their list years ago, and the shop has only been open for less than 5 months.  So let me get this straight…I have over X amount of wine in the store with double-XX amount in the cellar that also includes wines dating as far back as 1840 and I cannot get a hold of a wine that was bottled a few years ago?  Makes great sense to me.  To sweeten the deal, you can get this bottle at Fred Meyer’s for well over 65% above what I would normally sell it at, if I could get it.

Then today was the kicker.  I learned that some of the distributors have not been telling me about some of the wine they carry only to hold them for another shop in the area, that is less than ten miles away.  Okay.  I can handle this like a normal smooth talking wine merchant.  One phone call to my state rep and all of a sudden people are telling me about wines they have.  Funny, how all of a sudden allocated wines are now at my door.  I told them they could shove it up their ass and after speaking with my client, she decided that she would tell all her friends to stop buying and to take their names off the list of this one winery.  The best part is…I believe her being that she is one of my favorite customers and Cosimo even loves her.

Gone are the days of loyalty to customers from a winery.  You get some scores and your head grows to the size of Texas.  You piss off a local wine merchant who can break out six bottles of wine and pay for a new Lexus…you now not only look like an asshole, you have the State looking at you, your distributor is now looked at, people leave your list and you’ve lost a sale.  All this for 2 bottles worth $150!  Hope it feels good.  I know my customer loves the Burgundies she got today.  Oh and btw…today was my day off but I met her at the shop anyway.  That’s what you do for people when you are in the wine industry, and no point/score can buy that!

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Hipster Winemakers: Do we need them?

I’ve been tasting a lot of wines the last few weeks that have just tasted like crap.  High alcohol, oak so heavy it makes Jay Miller seem light and fluffy, and no fruit.  They hire marketing teams to run ads for their winery, make up these crazy-ass names for their wines and seem to just make up tasting notes.  All the masses flock to them like they are the greatest thing since sliced bread.  Wine store owners kiss their asses in order to just say “we have this guys wines” yet deep down inside have never even tried the wines.  I’ve even been told from some wine shop owners that they keep asking the winemaker to pour for them, he books it then either backs out or sends someone in his place.  Has life gotten so busy that you cannot support the people that pay your bills? 

In my area we have seen an increase of wineries ten-fold and while some are making great wines at decent price, others are just failing to get it down right although they seem to sell out every year with their HUGE scores, flashy wine names and interesting stories behind each label.  They tell us that they do all this work and just love to be in the vineyard while they have someone else make the wines for them.  Today alone I got an email from one winery that told me I was not able to sell their wines because I had not purchased any in the past.  You are right, we have not bought any from you in the past, because the store just opened a few months ago.  I did have my name on the list for many years until I was told that I had to purchase $2600 a year worth of wine.  Sorry dude, your wines were being flipped on auction and I was using that money to buy “real”wines.  On today’s market…they don’t mean shit!

Today’s hipster winemakers are making fools out of everyone.  They jack up their prices, sing a song and tell a story about how they came across this rare group of vines.  They make you believe they give a rats ass about you and but what it comes down to is money.  I love money, it helps me buy my coffee, gives me the chance to buy wines that are actually good and worth it, you know wines from Burgundy and other winemakers that have earned my respect.  Maybe one day these winemakers will wake up to the sound of nothing.  Probably not, but I’ll do my best to point others in a completely different direction and find wines they can actually palate.

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Lobo Hills Wine Company

 

I’ll have to admit that until recently I had never heard of Lobo Hills, but after tasting the wine…I want to know more.  A few weeks ago I had a customer come in and ask me if I carry of these wines.  I had never heard of them so I looked them up and emailed the winemaker.  He (Tony) got back to me pretty fast and we setup a time for him to come by and taste me.  Here is what I got to taste from this very little but promising winery.

2009 Lobo Hills Dry Rieslings, Yakima Valley

This was a wine I was looking forward to trying.  To be open and honest, the wine was flat, but it was not the wines fault as the ride over on a BWM moto was to blame.  Wine was clear with only a light hint of straw-like color.  On the nose it was beautiful with a hint of light wet-rock, honeydew and just a hint of southern tree-fruit.  On the palate, very clean and fruit forward yet the hint of fizz was gone, I know this wine is amazing and would love to try it again.  I really like it and the price hovering around $12 with only 75 cases made…this is a perfect Riesling.

2009 Lobo Hills Right Bank Red Wine

This is a traditional right bank Bordeaux blend with a blend of 69% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Saugivnon, 5% Petite Verdot, and 5% Cabernet Franc.  Deep color with notes of dark tree-fruit, hints of fig and a very light mint. The palate was awesome!  This really is a great Bordeaux blend and I really think some of the local wineries from Woodinville could learn a lesson from Tony!  I love it!

2008 Lobo Hills Fries Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope

This is the left-bank wine form Lobo Hills, mostly Cab Sauv at 95% and 5% Red Mountain Syrah.  Sees 24 months French oak (Vicard & Saury barrels)**side note…I love Vicard barrels!  The wine does not seem like a heavy oak-bomb at all.  Instead it is very rich with dark fruit showing very well, cherries and hints of vanilla but NOT like an over-extracted piece of shit like others I have tasted.  Very well rounded, great structure and silky soft on the finish.

Overall these wines are great and I cannot wait to bring them into the shop.  The reds taste like solid red from WA state without the influence from someone who is only making wines for Parker or Spectator.  I’m sorry but when you have someone who makes wines like these you just want to tell them not to change and fuck all the other point scoring whores!  Wines are all under $20 and I think that is perfect.  If he can keep it there for a few more years while keeping production low, he will in fact become a winemaker that people will want to buy from.  I truly believe that Tony is the NEW breed of winemakers that are coming out of Washington and yet we still have 100s of wineries that only care about getting points to sell their wines…there is no need here.  This is what the people are asking for.  Wines that are made well at a good price and that are fucking amazing!  Tony…rip them a new asshole!  Kudos!

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Deceptive Wine Sales in Seattle

Do you ever think it’s strange that a wine shop or grocery store has so many different prices on their wines?  How can they make any money when they are always having sales or offering deep discounts off the regular price?  Guess what?  This is called deceptive wine sales, and it happens more than you think.  For example, head to your local Safeway or grocery store, and look at the Champagnes.  You walk over to the special glass case and look at a bottle of ’98 La Grande Dame…

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This bottle of Champagne at Safeway costs $221.99 each.  Now, if you use your membership card, they’ll give it to you for $189.99. But if you buy more than 6 bottles you’ll save even more as you’ll get it for $171.00!  That’s a saving of $50.99 but only if you buy 6 or more.  What happens if you go to some place like Wine World Warehouse in Seattle?  **Remember this is the store that claims they are the largest wine store in the Northwest yet are only using about 2000 square feet for actual wine shelving, and tend to have large items in there to take up room, like cars or motorcycles.  They tout themselves as being all knowing yet on one visit when we asked about the Falanghina wines from Italy we were told that they all taste the same! Then the salesperson said they didn’t know much about them!

If you pick up that same bottle of La Grande Dame at Wine World Warehouse they have the bottle marked at a regular price of $189.99, but you can get it from them for only $150!  That’s a savings of $39.99 each.  Wow, how can they do that with such a large overhead?

Now, let’s head over to a local wine merchant in the area (Rain City Wines in Bothell) to see how things compare.  Same bottle, ’98 La Grande Dame, but was not on sale and was sitting on the shelf for $142.99.  Now ask the owner of the shop why his prices are so much lower than everyone else in the area?!  Tell him the price is up to $222 to $189 at other stores in the area.  Out comes the invoice with the wholesale price for the wine.  $100!  The owner goes on to tell me that markup on wine in the state of Washington is only 30% and that is what he sticks too.  He said that ethically he cannot practice deceptive wine sale practices.  We talked for an hour about how he thinks the industry is becoming corrupt with greed, and less about what is in the bottle.  More wines shops are worried about points and scores, rather than how the wine is made and how it tastes to the consumer.

While I was there a wine rep came in and tasted us on about 12 wines.  He asked me to join in on the fun (actually not fun).  We tasted through all the wines and while the rep was talking I could tell the owner of the shop was not happy.  We got to one of the last wines and he said, “here we go”.  I asked how much the wine was, the rep held off for a sec as to look at the owner because he did not want to say the wholesale price.  $12.49 cost so it would land on the shelf for $17.99 per bottle.  He told the rep to give him three bottles and excused himself for a sec to add a few more to the order that he wanted.

Later I asked him if I wanted to pick up 6 bottles of the La Grande Dame, how much would the price drop to?  He told me $128.69, 10% off anything 6 bottles of more.  I started to look around at the shelves of wine, the prices are better than any other places I visit in the area.  How can this be?  the owner said…30% markup and I don’t play the regular price versus the sale price bullshit.  I left Rain City Wines with 6 bottles of wine of which the owner knew the tasting notes for every single one, and even looked up one of the wines in his tasting book.  He said that the 2009 vintage was a little more lean but the ’10 was more solid but he just wanted to make sure he got the vintages correct.

This is what a “true” wine merchant is all about.  The only question I have now goes out to Wine World Warehouse and all the other price screwing wine people.  How long do you think it will take before people realize you are screwing them and that all you really care about is the overall dollar?  You don’t need a fancy 32 foot wine bar with loads of TVs.  You don’t need a lot of space to sell quality wines.  What you do need is someone who is willing to walk you through the store and answer all your questions.  Kudos Rain City Wines and you have gained a friend and follower for life!

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Celebrities and Wine?

So I was reading an article the other day that stated Drew Barrymore was putting her online of Pinot Grigio from Italy out in the California market this year.  http://www.hauteliving.com/2012/02/drew-barrymore-enters-the-wine-business/  This article got me thinking, why would anything with a known history of alcohol abuse at the age of 12 and possible drug use at the same age want to get involved with wine?  Further more, what does Drew Barrymore know about wine for her to start her own label?  Is the wine any good and how much is she involved with it?

The point is, why are all these sports starts, actors or musicians starting their own wine labels?  I’ve tasted wines from Coppola and there might be a reason why the winery is doing so well right now (yeah right).  They there is Brew Blodsoe and his wines that are made by one of the Figgins (Leonetti), guess what his third vintage is going for…$85!  Figures!

The lead singer from Queensryche has his own label and I’ve tried that.  It you like high alcohol, loads of tannins, over-extracted fruit with a hint of VA…it might be the wine for you.  Again, above the $30 mark for the first vintage.  Another musician came out with his own line of wines but in this case he partnered up with someone who is basically his mentor, used his own money.  Has screwed the vineyards a few times costing millions of his own cash and admits he is still learning.  Does everything  from soil to bottle.  Some of his wines are kinda spendy at $48 per bottle but from what I have tried, they are pretty nice wine.  Here is the kicker…wines are from Arizona.

I know it is the “in” thing to open a winery and put your name on it but if you are going to do so, there needs to be some kind of law stating you actually do something or know something about the industry other than being able to pick out a wine from a score or having your agent pick bottles out for you.  I have been in the wine industry since 1997 meaning I have been doing this for 15 years now.  I’d like to think I know something about how things work, but I do know this.  I may never be a quarterback in the NFL, I may never be an actor and I know I’ll never be a lead singer for a rock band…so why try to be a winemaker when you have no fucking clue what is involved?

Buy it, share it, love it, but don’t pretend you make it, you understand it or are even involved with it.  When you strap your name to a label and tell people you are involved, you not only insult the wine in the bottle, you insult all of us who are actually involved.  I won’t pretend to win a grammy so you don’t pretend to be hands on.

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Why Not To Carry Local Wines

One of on my past complaints was that people want buy local wines but they don’t want to play local prices.  I am fortunate enough to be only 35 years old while owning my wine shop but there are times when you pretty much have to tell a grown man that you don’t bring in local wines because they do not sell.  Although he may love local wines and be on every list in town, my clients could give a shit about a wine from Red Mountain.  They want wines from around the world and wines they have never heard or seen.

Can you imagine walking into a wine merchant and seeing the same wine everywhere?  Well if you are in my area, chances are you will, which is one reason whey I actually taste everything that comes through the door.  I owe it my customers to at least make sure the wines are well made, are priced decently and most of all, people want to try them.

Every wine shop in the area carries all the local wines, but mine does not.  Today someone told me he did not know any of the labels on the shelves and wanted to know about them.  Good, that means I am doing my job as a true wine merchant and not following the rest of the flock.

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