www.wineexpress.com
Size: around 500 offerings
Focus: Cellar worthy reds from CA, Washington, and Tuscany
Discounts: 10%-40%
Shipping: free on order over $99

Pros: Quality selection; good videos
Cons: Limited French wines

Rating: ****

winexpress.com tries to balance “value and service” which suggests it is neither a giant warehouse nor a down-and-dirty discount site.  It is the exclusive online wine shop partner of The Wine Enthusiast catalog and website. So it is well-financed and has an excellent facility for storage and shipping.

The site works through the usual sorting procedures with click on searches by variety, price and region. It also offers several wine club options and gift packages. One special touch is a series of videos taking you through tastings that are conducted by Josh Farrell, its Wine Director.

He often runs through the daily wine special which can then be purchased. He is one excellent swirler, btw, and he encourages decanting and/or aerating  young wine.

You can learn a lot about judging wine by watching a few of his videos.

Recently, this site beat everyone's online price for a lovely 2010 Rioja Reserva by Montecello and a fine Chilean Cabernet Reserva.

And it is hard to find a better value than the 2013 Montevina Cabernet at $13.95 or the 2013 Davis Bynum Russian River Valley Chard for $19.95.  Bynum is now owned by the Rodney Strong proprietors, which would be significant information that I feel should be provided.

But overall,  this online site sticks to the high road ($50 and up) and allows some wriggle room for choices within each category.

The strength here is California Cabernet. Recent specials included the 2012 Phelps Insignia, 2012 Cakebread Cab, 2012 Santa Cruz Mountains Cab and 2013 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace. Not deeply discounted, these Cabs are not normally offered online, either.

From Washington, this site featured Mullan Road’s first vintage of a Bordeaux blend as well as the lovely Ste. Michelle Eroica, a special Riesling, which usually flies under the radar.

Overall: There’s an excellent balance between good deals under $20 and high-end wines like the lovely 2013 Stag’s Leap Artemis at 20% off and a 2011 Antinori Tignanello for less than $100. This is also one of the few sites carrying the terrific Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc.

Except for a few classy Champagnes, the French wine selection is unexciting and the Bordeaux offerings are not much of a deal.

I was pleasantly surprised to find few references to The Wine Enthusiast magazine, its major partner, allowing other critics’ voices to be heard.

But occasionally the site gets a little too aggressive in its sales pitches..."100 cases sold in one hour so you better act fast"...is kind of pushing it.