Best for Cult Wines

Best East Coast Option


www.cawinemerchants.com

Type: Regional Specialist
Size: 224 wines
Strengths: small volume wineries
Discounts: 10%

Pros: Good selection and background info
Cons: Limited discounts

Rating:***

Headquartered in the Financial District of New York, this site tries to fill the East Coast gap for unusual, limited production wines. It has a heavy California emphasis, which explains the name, but this works well for its intended audience, east coast residents

The site is a marvel in simplicity. You can see all the wines available (currently there are 224) with prices, and then click the label for detailed information and general background.

The writing is refreshing clean and crisp, and devoid of heavy sales pitches and other forms of vinous b.s.

Once you get beyond the low-priced wines, the wines offered are quite remarkable and hard to find in most places. Here you’ll see the likes of Pax, Alpha Omega, Cakebread, Larkmead, Nickel & Nickel, and Rombauer, among others.

Though slanted toward Cabernet and Merlot, California Wine Merchants has 2 dozen excellent Pinot Noirs. ​

The Pinots from Rhys, Kosta Browne, Fels, Waits-Mast and a couple of French Burgundies convinced me that these folks are really into wine and know what they are doing. 

For collectors, among the few options, both the 2013 Dominus and the 09 Schrader stand out. The latter sells for $449.99.

​The rare 2006 Ausone will set you back $849.99

Otherwise, the selection of Champagne/Sparkling Wine is exceptional. 

Prices? Not a source of great bargains, but that is asking too much of a site specializing limited volume wineries.

Generally, the prices are what you would be paying at the winery. So you save on airfare and only have to tack on shipping.

www.2020.wines.com

Type: Cult & Rare Wine Specialist
​Size: Under 1,000
Strengths: Cult Cabs, Bordeaux, and Central
Coast Wines
Discounts: Modest at 10-15%

Pros: Excellent selection
Cons: Limited quantities available

       Rating: 

Owned by Robert Golbahar, this LA wine merchants claims to provides wines to Hollywood stars and mentions Sandra Bullock and Jack Nicholson among others as clients.

Whether that impresses you or not, the facts are that Twenty-Twenty Wine Merchants is a well-known store with over 4,000 square feet of refrigerated wine lockers kept at 60 degrees F, which can accommodate up to 400 cases of wine each.

“Now with our new racking, we can store thousands of bottles in the refrigerated showroom, " Golbahar proudly says. Many clients have wine lockers at Twenty-Twenty; indeed, for $500-700 a year, a collector can rent a 25-case locker.

(It is hard not to imagine Barbara Walters having her own wine locker at 2020, isn’t it?)

Moving on to its website, 2020 offers over 375 Cabernets and 118 Pinot Noirs including a few half-bottles. Among the Cabs you might want to hail is a 1997 Screaming Eagle for $5,500 and a rare double magnum of Phelps 1997 Insignia for $3,395.

If you are looking for only one Screaming Eagle and not working on a vertical, you better off considering the 2009 Screaming Eagle which is still in its prime and sells for just under $3,000.

The real surprise here are the Three Shafer Hillside Select Cabs, 2001,  2002 and 2010, all of which are 100 point wines and quite attractively priced at around $650 a pop.

This site has most of the other big Cabernet names...Dalla Valle, Hundred Acres, Opus One, Spottswoode,Stag's Leap, Plumpjack, Tor, and Pride Mountain Reserve.

It recently stocked up on a bevy of 2013 Cabs including newcomers like Cade and Odette.

Of the 200 Bordeaux reds listed by 2020, they range from incredible new vintages to incredibly old and probably over the hill wines. I’m assuming the older wines are appealing to customers looking for a particular birth year or those wanting to experience a 1928, 1929, 1948, 1955 or 1961, all fabled Bordeaux vintages.

I have to admit being just a little intrigued by the magnum of 1947 Chateau Canon, and only wish I had $8,000 in spare change.

Without question, there are truly great Bordeaux wines available here. But keep in mind that when a Parker note says the 1928 Chateau Beychevelle, tasted in 1988, could easily live another ten years, he probably tasted the wine at the Chateau where it has been cellared since 1928.

Also, remember that other older wines such as the 1966, 1985, and 1989 Chateau Lafite were most likely purchased from a private collection and then you have to be ever so mindful of the wine’s provenance.

The Specials include wines that are less well known but high scoring such as the 2103 Etre Chardonnay from the Sonoma Coast. This 93 point unknown is a super Chardonnay for $29.99. The 1999 Beaucastel seems to stand out in a list with Catena Malbec and Concha Y Toro wines.

But if there is a method in their madness, the Specials and the Featured Wines try to include many wines listed in The Wine Spectator’s Top 100 of the year.

The best values are listed in the Featured Wines category which along with the Specials, is well-worth perusing.  It includes a 2001 Chateauneuf-du-Pape from Vieux Donjon for $70, a 2010 Rusack Syrah for $27, a 2010 Rombauer Zin for $24.95 and 2013 Melville Chardonnay for $25.75.

These are excellent wines, reasonably priced, and the kind of wines you can drink over the next few years without dipping into your cellar prematurely.

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