Winebits 80: Costco and scores, no wine for Amazon, millennials and wine

? Costco loves those 90-point wines: Costco, which may be the country ?s biggest wine retailer, has a new policy for wines it carries in its store. Two people who deal with Costco ?s wine buyers have told me that the chain, with 407stores in the U.S., has told its vendors that it will only buy wines that will retail for $15 or less and have scored at least 90 points. I ?m also told that ?s currently the policy at Walmart ?s Sam ?s Club. This is not only silly, but bad business. Using these guidelines, neither could be able to carry Avalon ?s Napa cabernet, a $12-$15 wine which scores in the high 80s, and Cristalino, the world ?s best cheap sparkling wine, also high 80s. How much more must we do to demonstrate how silly scores are?

? Is Amazon wine deal dead? Wine & Spirits Daily is reporting that ?s plan to sell wine, along with its books and MP3s, is almost certainly finished after the company that was going to handle wine shipping for Amazon closed last week. Writes editor Megan Haverkorn: ?As a result, it ?s looking less likely that Amazon will enter the wine business at all, particularly not anytime soon. ?

? Millennials and wine: All of the people in the wine business who are much smarter than I am (and there are so many) tell me that millennials ? those born between 1982 and 2003 ? are going to reshape wine in the U.S. They won ?t care about scores, they will drink regional wine, and they want value. I love them already. The Bacchus Babes, two Ohio bloggers, put it this way: ?[W]e mean common sense. Stuff you can actually use. ? And the fine wine and food writer Gretchen Roberts has taken it one step further, with a blog called, aimed at millennials. Now, if I can only get Gretchen to write about Tennessee wine.

Anti-spam software

And it ?s free! And it works! Maybe I can make it an honorary member of the $10 Wine Hall of Fame.

The Wine Curmudgeon has been inundated with spam, even with my Outlook 2007 control set to high. But SpamBayes, in a matter of days, has sent almost all the spam to my junk mail folder, and I don ?t have to spend my morning cleaning out the mailbox from the night before.

SpamBayes uses a statistical anti-spam filter, with new-style algorithms to detect spam. Plus, as near as I can tell, it learns from its mistakes. Plus, did I mention it ?s free?

SpamBayes installs as an add-in for Outlook (and apparently works for Thunderbird, Gmail and Mac). After installation, it will ask how to configure it. Just use the suggested method. The software will set up a junk suspect folder, and if it isn ?t sure what to do with email, it sends it there. Then, you can click on a button on the toolbar and send the file to the correct folder. It ?s that simple. I don ?t know that it has sent any legitimate mail to the junk mail folder without me getting a chance to identify. And almost all of the spam has gone directly to the junk email folder.

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Cheap wine and what (some) retailers don’t like about it

I was wandering through the wine department of a national grocery store chain with a marvelous reputation over the weekend when an employee asked me if I needed any help. No, I said, I ?m just looking to see what ?s here and checking prices. Oh, she said, we have some of the best prices in the area.

I just grumbled and moved on. I didn ?t think it would be proper for the Wine Curmudgeon to lecture her on why that wasn ?t true. Instead, I decided to do a post about retailers, cheap wine, and why so many of them don ?t like it. More, after the jump:

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Changing California wine styles

Tired of California wines that are too oaky, too alcoholic and too fruity? Three important California producers have good news for you.

George Bursick at J Winery in Sonoma, Eli Parker of Fess Parker in the Santa Barbara area, and Dave Guffy at The Hess Collection in Napa, each told me, in separate interviews this spring, that they're re-examining how they make their wines. It's one thing to get high scores, they said, by making wines that the Wine Magazines like. It's another to make wine people want to buy.

?Whenever we made market visits, we heard the same thing, ? says Guffy. ?So it ?s a conscious decision on our part. ?

More, after the jump:

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Mini-reviews 2: Fess Parker, Savennieres, Gordon Brothers, Croix de Rambeau

A monthly feature ? reviews of wines that don ?t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the final weekday of each month.

? Fess Parker Sta. Rita Hills Chardonnay 2006 ($28): Classic California chardonnay toned down a notch, which means you can taste the pineapple fruit.

? Domaine des Baumard Savenni res 2004 ($20): This is chenin blanc from the Loire, but more fruity than the usual steely, clean style.

? Gordon Brothers Syrah 2006 ($20): If you want to spend this much on New World syrah, you can do a lot worse. Look for a bit of tar and lots of black cherry.

? Ch teau Croix de Rambeau 2005 ($17): Red Bordeaux that is mostly merlot, made in a more New World style — 14 percent alcohol and more fruit than I would have liked.

International Eastern Wine competition results

Paul Geisz II, Peter Bell, the Wine Curmudgeon, and Phil Ward. Do we look professional or what? The Wine Curmudgeon can ?t decide if the highlight of the the 34th annual competition was the quality of the regional wine we tasted, how many cheap wines won gold medals, or the picture of me in a lab coat.

Probably the first two.

I don ?t think there is any doubt that New York wine, and especially the rieslings, can hold its own with wine from any other region in the world. Yes, some of it is still ?regional ? ? inconsistent and too tasting room in style. But there is a solid tier of affordable, well-made wine that ?s worth writing about. I hope that the wine media in New York is paying attention, and doesn ?t automatically opt for California wine when there is New York wine available.

And the cheap wine? Oh my. One of the finalists for the competition ?s best red wine was a $10 merlot from a Central Coast winery, Five Rivers. It didn ?t win, but I liked it more than the wine that did win.

After the jump, some highlights from the competition.

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Billington Imports closes

Alfredo Bartholomaus And so ends an era in the wine business.

Don Alfredo, as Billington founder Alfredo Bartholomaus is fondly known, is one of the best people I have met in my time writing about wine. (Though his penchant for the pisco sour, a Chilean cocktail, always baffled me.) Bartholomaus was among the first importers to bring cheap, well-made South American wine to the U.S., and every time you enjoy a bottle of Argentine malbec or Chilean sauvignon blanc, you have Don Alfredo to thank.

My pal Dave McIntyre has the sad details about Billington ?s end on his blog and in the Washington Post. It ?s the recession, of course ? the recession that all the wine wise guys said wasn ?t going to hurt the wine business. Well, when it claims someone like Don Alfredo, it hurts the wine business.

I met Bartholomaus several years ago when I took the famous Billington trip to Chile. He was a joy ? understood how wine writing worked, never asked for a favor, and understood that those of us on the trip would write about the wines we tasted because they were good, and not because he was paying the bills.

One of the best parts of the trip, which was a tradition, came on the last night, when Don Alfredo recited Pablo Neruda ?s love poetry after dinner. How do you replace a tradition like that in today ?s multi-national, label-driven,celebrity winemaker culture? You can ?t, and the wine business will be the worse for it.