An Insider's Guide to Buying Wines Direct

Best Holiday Deal

Deal of the Day

Top Websites for Holiday Shopping

Best Offer Yet from

2015 Selene Wines, “Chesler,” Napa Valley, $29.00

Mia Klein is a winemaker with a dazzling track record.

Selene is her own brand, and “Chesler” is her high end Cabernet Franc with 15% Merlot.

This 2015 is beautifully rendered Cabernet Franc with Merlot adding  just a touch of softness.

This hard to find wine, is available for $29.00 a bottle with free shipping on 4 or more.

It normally sells for $40 a bottle.

Worry no more about which wines to serve with typical holiday fare and your fussy family.

Your wine selection problems will be solved with these two whites and 2 reds from

Includes 1 bottle each of the following Thanksgiving classics:
2013 Syrah "Le Pousseur"
2011 Le Cigare Volant Réserve “en bonbonne"
2016 Vin Gris de Cigare Réserve
2015 Le Cigare Blanc

The price is excellent:
$109 Four-pack
(Regularly $149)
More info:
Wine Club Member price: $92.65

Go to

enormous selection, good discounts, reliable shipping.

unusual selection of imports and small wineries; good discounts.

at times uncovers under the radar French and Ca cult wines 
best for high-end imported and CA wines.

excellent CA wines. Improving on French, big discounts. A flash sale site.

Best Wineries for Direct Sales

Cutting Through the Hype & Bull


Many website, particularly those with daily deals, seem  to have magically discovered a treasure trove of older wine or a few cases found hidden in the far end of a winery's cellar.

Here is a rule of thumb: if the wine is more than ten years old, be cautious and a little suspicious.

To me, a wine made before 2006 must have been moved around from one place to another over time.

Although a few old-­style Rioja producers like to hold back multiple vintages, in general no good producer,
 importer, or distributor holds a wine for several years. Retailers, never.

Chances are most older vintages offered were purchased from a private cellar. Or some wholesaler that went out of business.

My advice: stay away from "fabled old vintages."

If Variety and Proven Track Record are Your Thing, check out:

Navarro Vineyard’s Pre Release Tasting Program 


Navarro could well be the granddaddy of all wine clubs. Still owned and operated by the Bennett family, Navarro has been selling direct through its mailing list since 1975.

Over such a long run, the winery fine tuned the wine club program and in many ways wrote the book on how to make it work and, most important, how to  keep members’ loyalty.

First, the staff, many of whom have been there for many years, is extremely knowledgeable and attentive. They have first hand information about the winemaking and get involved in the evaluation and marketing of the wines.

Almost all wines are sold from the winery, and with rare exception, they are not sold in wine stores. So the exclusive aspect is strong.

Members are also offered the wines before non members can buy them.

Normally wines are pre released in the Spring and the Fall. Members are notified about new wines by mail or email, and either way, the information is cleverly presented in a personal, no baloney prose style.

Memberships remain active by purchasing a case a year.

The Wines

Secondly, the wines are of high quality as evidenced by the inordinate numbers of medals won each year.

But there are wide choices for members as the winery normally bottles 20 or so wines per years.

There are 3 different Chardonnays and 3 Pinot Noirs as a rule. All good!


Did You Know?

Today, there are close to 5,000 wineries in California and another 4,000 in other states.

Corporations and giant companies are buying small wineries and getting bigger:

Constellation Brands owns over 100 brands, such as Robert Mondavi, and Ravenswood.

Treasury Wines also owns over 100, including Acacia, Beringer, Beaulieu, Lindemans.

Jackson Family owns over 50, including Arrowood, La Crema, and Freemark Abbey.

Foley Family owns over 50 brands, including Sebastiani, Chalk Hill, Foley-Johnson.

Barefoot Cellars is the top-selling brand and is owned by Gallo.

Savvy Online Wine Shopping 101

Real Discounts or Bogus Prices?

Are Wine Clubs forYou?

Trending Winery Direct

Looking for A Special Wine Club?

Here is A Hidden Gem in the Silicon Valley Area:

Sarah’s Vineyard, Santa Clara Valley, Santa Cruz Mountain Appellation

Quick View:

Strong on small-batch Pinot Noir, Estate Chardonnay, and several Estate Rhone wines. A true artisan winery.

Pinot Noirs from 5-6 appellations….will please any Pinot fanatic.
Cozy and friendly, very modest facility with tons of country charm.

Members receive 3 wines 4 times a year and can select the type: red, white or mixed.

Prices are relatively modest, ranging from $20 for a few white wines to $48 for the high end Pinots.

Members receive a 25% discount on shipped wines; 20% off all other wines.

Wine tastings for members and your guests are comped.

Wonderful offering of tasting room exclusives….small batch wines.

Wine country feel as visitors pass through the small 28-acre estate vineyard as they meander up to the tasting center.

In the familiar digital world of coupons, member discounts and promo codes, we still need to ask ourselves: “How can online wine dealers knock 30%-70% off retail prices? I
That’s a reasonable question to raise and it’s normal to be a little skeptical.

It is also normal to wonder if the wines fell off the back of the truck, were left sitting on the Houston docks in July, are total crap, or are truly a treasure trove discovered in a dark cellar.

Here are several reasonable explanations...                

Over the last three years I’ve been tracking many online wine clubs as part of my reporting on online wine retailers.

As the direct to consumer clubs from wineries continue to grow, we are seeing an increase in independent clubs being offered by publications like the Wall Street Journal and airlines along with totally independent e-commerce businesses like the Wine of the Month Club, Vinesse, and Winc.

The Yelp-like reviews for these e-commerce only wine clubs are mixed and a few are downright hostile. 

More About Us

Point Scores: Helpful or Pointless

As I see it, this Guide is a cross between a website and a newsletter.

Given the fast-changing nature of the subject, it will be regularly revised and updated.

With wine, there is no such thing as a gifted palate or a natural born taster. 

There are no right or wrong answers about what to drink and when to drink a wine you like.

More expensive wines are not necessarily better than cheaper wines.

 Older wines are not better than young wines, and there never has been any system devised that can guarantee wine quality.


​​Once upon a time in a kingdom far away, only Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator dueled over which one could score the most wines 90 points or more.

Then along came Stephen Tanzer, The Wine Enthusiast, Vinous and others to jump on the 100 point scoring system with a steady barrage of 90 point scores in their publications.  The result is too many wines rated 90 simply to make producers happy. And too many wines rated 95 or higher to hype sales

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