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Being wine members of Keswick Vineyards for just about a year has really shown us that there is a lot to take in at this picturesque vineyard located just out of town of Charlottesville, Virginia. Recently, we had a chance to participate in a barrel tasting that gives you a preview of the up and coming releases. For only $15 a person for wine club members and $20 a person for non-wine club members, we were allowed to taste the 11 wines that winemaker Stephen Barnard has coming down the pipeline.
Stephen, himself, was there to both pour the wine and tell you the stories. It didn’t matter whether you studied wine or just was stopping by he would answer any questions you had both truthfully and honestly. Since there were 11, I want to share my favorites and highlight some of the stuff I think Stephen is doing brilliantly.
First the V2, made from both Viognier and Verdejo, this wine is an amazing dry white wine that can be enjoyed for almost any occasion. Stephen makes some of the best Viogniers and I have reviewed them on this site before. This wine is tank fermented and really has a great grape fruit vibrancy to it. Stephen says it is not done yet and with all of these he is tinkering, but we loved this wine and hope he doesn’t tinker too much.
Next up, (not next we tasted but next I am telling you about) we had a really delicious Norton Rose. For those who do not know the Norton grape, it is a native Virginian vine that produces acidic wines that pair well with chocolate. For me, regular red Norton’s are rarely enjoyable but many wineries in Virginia are working with them. Stephen has taken his Norton and created a beautifully color, lightly acidic dry rose. One that he says he might create a sparkling Rose in the future. I can’t imagine how many Virginians would come running for a chance at a sparkling Norton Rose.
Rounding out the whites and rose, our favorite, the Chardonnay Reserve. Stephen offered a future price on this wine that will be released in August-September time frame. 100% Chardonnay that was tank fermented and maturing in oak. This wine offers the expressiveness of fresh, as it is naturally fermented. Stephen was excited about the fruit and his minimalistÂ approach and now we are excited about our future bottle in the early fall!
Now on to the reds, we have to give Stephen a five out of five on this one. No, not five out of five stars, but a five our of five reds that we will buy heavily and enjoy throughout. He created a Touriga, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and for the first time since 2007 their flagship wine, the Heritage.
The Touriga and their Chambourcin were amazing. Dark and inky, as they are young, and fruit-forward and vibrant. With a little more time in the barrel these should mature to great beauties.
The Cabernet Franc, one of my personal favorite varietals, was also amazing. Stephen claims that this is not your average Cabernet Franc but you still get the spice on the palate. The fruit then comes behind it and smoothes it out for an enjoyable experience.
Excited as we can be the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Heritage were the other two wines we invested in futures with Stephen. It has been hard to grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Virginia and from what I understand Stephen didn’t have good enough fruit to do a vintage since 2009. Sign us up for 2 bottles! This wine is amazing and I will look forward to drinking and cellaring.
Last but not least, the Heritage. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, it has me singing “these are a few of my favorite varietals.” Okay, corny and it doesn’t rhyme but if you made it this far reading about these wines and this vineyard then you are already singing the same tune as me. The Heritage will not be released until Sept 2015 and we bought two bottles. With that much maturing, this wine is set to, and I predict, get in the Virginia Governor’s case for 2015. Wine so good and bought so early, should probably go in my will.
Overall, Stephen did a great job of involving everyone and getting true feedback from everyone that day. My wife and I enjoyed chatting it up with the winemaker himself and as long as he is at Keswick, we will be members. The only downside is it seems that every time I go to one of these events at a vineyard there is always someone their who is trying to show how much they know about wines or steal shamelessly from the great winemakers idea. Sometimes I just want to stop and say everything that I have heard about in the Virginia wine industry is that winemakers will help winemakers, so “dude” set up and appointment. I would have been gladly to pay double to get that guy out of this group. But to not end on a sour note because the wineries cannot help these people…
I have slowed down on my experimentations with wine clubs and saving the best for last. Underground Cellar, who randomly advertised to me on Facebook, has quickly become one of my favorite sites. The reason why I titled this “Wine Website” is because Underground Cellars is not a club in the sense that you are required to buy a certain amount of wine every month or every quarter. Instead, this is a club that is free to sign up and all they do is send you amazing deals on wine with the chance at free upgrades.
For example, you may get an offer for a base bottle of wine usually between the prices of $17-$40 then it will list percentages of possible upgrades of usually 4 or more bottles of wine. It even tells you right away if you get upgrades or not.
Obviously, the more you buy the better chance you have at upgrading to a more expensive bottle. One thing that this website has that no other has is a Cloud Cellar. In the world were everything is “cloud” this and “cloud” that, this is the best use of a cloud that I have ever seen. Only want to purchase 1 or 2 bottles of a deal and do not want to pay $12 shipping? Perfect! Store your wine in the cloud cellar and wait until you get 12 bottles to ship for free.
Could it get even better?
It does. Most of these wines you cannot find in your local grocery store and, in most cases, at your local wine shop. These wines are coming straight from the wineries and the production is to small to wholesale. I was on their today and there was a $48 dollar bottle that all you had to pay is $28 dollars a bottle and only 45 cases of this wine was made! (Sadly, I did not get that upgrade. I bought three bottles and got 2 of the base wine and the $32 bottle that only 46 cases were made.) Okay, so nothing really to whine about there but really cool deals and really cool stories.
So the moment of truth? The wine deals are great. The website is great. The Cloud Cellar is amazing. But the bottom line is… How are the wines?
Well, first, I have reviewed the Sausal Zinfandel that I acquired from them before here. And soon, I will have a lot more to come. I have yet to have a wine from this website that was no good. In fact, some of them have such great stories or are so exclusive that I have them saved in my own cellar. One example, is the famed Iron Horse. I paid $40 for 2 bottles and received a bottle of their Cuvee LD which retails at $89. Or another I have a bottle from a vineyard that owns the oldest Zin vines in the U.S. President Grant was in office when they were planted!
Okay, so what is bad? Nothing is perfect. Okay, okay, one time they did “misplace” my order for the Cloud Cellar to ship my wine to me. I contacted them and their great customer service team not only fixed the problem but also followed up to see if it was delivered. I have since shipped from the Cloud Cellar and it shipped right away and should be here Monday according to UPS tracking. The only other bad thing that I can say is that this wine is so good and it is near impossible to find another bottle because the wine they curate is so exclusive.
But then again, if you are like me and are stocking a cellar and buying one bottle to save and one bottle to drink. You almost aways end up with two of the same bottles.
Overall, if you are like me and cannot bring yourself to spend $100 on a bottle of wine but wouldn’t mind buying some wine at $17-40 at a chance to upgrade to the expensive bottle then this site is for you. If you plan on finding one bottle that you love and want to drink that same brand and variety for the rest of your life than this is not the site for you.
But, hey! Who wants the same thing day in and day out? So what are you waiting for sign up and we both get credit!
Ring! Ring! Ring! Darn telemarketers always calling at dinner. But wait, the caller ID said “Napa CA.” Could this be a wine telemarketer? Well, kind of. A short while back, I gave a not so positive review of the NakedWines.com. It seems like they knew that I had just opened, what I think is the last wine from them the 2013 Angel’s Reserve Malbec.
Needless to say, somehow my account is active again with a nice credit. The representative was very nice and he told me I made a good argument but that they were a young company with more wines on the way.
But anyways, back to the wine. If you are into wine you might have been wondering 2013? Really? That was 3 months ago. But remember that the southern hemisphere’s growing season is in reverse so my hope is this wine has been able to be barrel aged or at least bottled aged.
Once again, with this wine, you can only be a Naked Wines “Angel” to receive it and until that phone call. I had to be one to even log back on and see a description of the wine. According to their website, it’s normal price is $21.99 but for “Angels” it is $9.99. Now you can see how they get their “Angels.”
Oh wait, there is no description on their website. Interesting. Here is my take:
Color – Very dark purple with little to no transparency.
Nose – Dark berry fruit and some black pepper.
Taste – Blackberry fruit tart. Very smooth.
Finish – Good tannic wine that lingers in your cheeks.
Overall, probably one of the best wines I have had from Naked Wines. Maybe I should consider using my credits to just buy bottles of this.
If anyone has ever received a package from almost anyone, you know they insert some “deals.” Me, being the sucker for any wine deal out there stumbled across Naked Wines. It was a good deal. I cannot remember exactly but I think I paid $79 for 6 bottles of wine.
Their premise really attracts you as well. Instead of being a wine club were you are required to buy x a number of wines per month/quarter. You loan them $40 dollars every month. This $40 goes to small time winemakers to help them make wines that will be exclusive to the “Angels.”
Yes, that’s right. If you do this you become an “Angel.”
So that sounds all fine and dandy but how are the wines. Well, first, the exclusivity is cool. You know you are getting a wine that they cannot get at the grocery store. You also have a label on the back that 99% of the time thanks the “Angels.”
It feels good to be apart of something, but does it taste good.
Most of the wines were decent. They weren’t amazing and they weren’t horrible. They are all screw top so I wouldn’t recommend for people who don’t like them or are into aging wine. This is sad news because most of their wines are super fruit forward. I mean they redefine fruit forward and therefore would benefit from some aging.
Overall, is the wine club bad. No, but there are definitely some better ones out there. This is for your everyday wine drinker who wants to feel good and get some fruit forward wines.
Editors Note: If you are interested in this wine club please click this link and you will get one bottle of wine free! (I will get two!)
Having left Zagat Wine Club, I recently moved over to Club W and am still a member. I wanted to find a wine club in which allowed you to do more customized orders and the customer service at Zagat was very poor.
At Club W they sometimes have a really small batch of wine but each wine has a video, and therefore, each wine has a story. I can promise you that their videos are so good that you could watch a video they made of Boone’s Farm and you would buy a bottle at the end. Here is how they describe themselves:
“Learning about wine should be fun, not overbearing or pretentious. We produce a short video for every wine featuring one of our curators that includes tasting notes and other background information such as the producerâ€™s story, an explanation of the growing region or a primer on the varietal. A QR code on every bottle that we ship will take you directly to the video. Itâ€™s an easy, un-obtrusive way to learn about the wine youâ€™re about to enjoy, if youâ€™re so inclined.
A Club W monthly Experience starts at 3 bottles a month for $39 + $6 flat rate shipping.
Order 6 or more bottles andÂ shipping is FREE!
Not a wine geek? No worries. If youâ€™re not sure what kind of wine you like, our Palate Profile will help us tailor recommendations based on your tastes. The more we get to know you, the better our recommendations will become.”
Sorry about some of the formatting there but I think it is important to showcase their much lower shipping than Zagat and how if you order 6 bottles it is actually free. This is a great benefit of this wine club.
They have a great app that you can use to pick your wines or scan past wines to see the video, which is super helpful for people like me who sometimes save the wines. They also have a really cool box that is easy to carry and we have been saving them for basement storage.
But, of course, I can talk about the benefits all day long but if the wines stink then the wines stink.
I will tell you I haven’t had a bad wine from them yet. We have had red, white, and rose and all of them are great. Even their $13 Malbec was one of the best I have ever had. They always keep the selections great and from all over the world. You can order as much as you want or as little as you want. You can even skip a month, but why would you!
Overall, I have nothing bad to say about this wine club. I have joined and quit a few others (later posts) and this one remains. I do know a friend that I told about that has had some shipping problems with damage of the bottles by the time they come in but I have had 4 shipments and no problem. It might be their DC.
The idea of random wines that you cannot find in Total Wine or even a local wine shop coming straight to your door seems very appealing to me. Of course, due to shipping laws, when I mean to your front door I mean to a business door so that someone will be there on normal business hours to sign for it. Here is how they describe themselves:
“Now choosing your wine is as easy as choosing a restaurant”
30 years ago Zagat Survey was born out of a wine tasting group â€” a weekly get-together with good friends. Wines sipped and rated, notes scribbled. Much lively debate. Talk often turned to recent dining experiences â€” the good, the bad and the ugly. What if we could rate restaurants in the same way as we were rating wines? To share things we liked, things we didn’t.
Today thousands of Zagat surveyors worldwide help guide each other to better restaurants. But for many choosing the right wine remains a daunting challenge. Zagat Wine is set to change that …
Confidence in whatever you choose
While we’ve been guiding you to better restaurants, wine merchant Tony Laithwaite has spent the last 40 years recommending the best wine buys. He has put small estates and new regions firmly on the wine map, and his customers ahead of the game.
As with the Zagat Guide, these recommendations are based on personal research. Tony and his team spend their lives in the vineyards and amongst the barrels. This direct approach allows you to share the adventure and benefits of an insider’s world. Like us, he understands that price is not a true guide to quality. Often a new discovery brings the greatest pleasure.
It’s a philosophy that has seen Tony’s company named Decanter Magazine’s Independent Wine Merchant of the Year â€” and saw Which? (the U.K.’s independent consumer watchdog) describe Laithwaites Wine as “just what customers are looking for in a wine merchant.”
The start of something special …
As a part of the Zagat Wine community, you can explore hundreds of special small-production wines from around the world. And as this community develops, you’ll be able to share your wine experiences, and access reviews and ratings from fellow customers.
The best way to enjoy these is through theÂ Zagat Wine ClubÂ , with a special introductory offer that saves you $110 on your first case.
I have been doing the Zagat Wine club for two shipments and did one shipment of their Red’s that they had on sale. The very first shipment with the introductory offer of saving over $110 is a great deal. With shipping, your first shipment for me was around $94 and they even threw in 3 more bottles. So that is 15 bottles for $94, you can’t beat that.
On the second shipment it went up to $168 for a shipment of 12 bottles.
For the quality of wine, so far the quality and variety of the wines have been very good. I have reviewed a couple on here so far. I have hardly touched my second shipment but have pretty much finished the entire first shipment.
Usually the shipment is from different regions. For example in my last shipment, I received 2 bottles of Bordeaux from France, 2 bottles of the Cuvee I reviewed from California, 2 bottles of Merlot from Chile (reviewed), and 2 wines from Australia and so on. I think you get the point, this wine club hits almost every major wine region and gives you different types to try.
They also send you a binder and sheets that go with each wine for you to make notes on and to tell you more detail behind the wine, which I really like.
The website is not so easy to use and is pretty dull on the member site. In fact, I recommended some friends and family to join and if you register it you get credits for them signing up and none of the people I referred got invites. They also give you telemarketing calls to tell you about specials, but I just ignore them.
Overall, it is definitely worth trying. The wines are good, the price isn’t horrible for the case but I am currently trying out other wine clubs and seeing if they are better or not. Looking around at other clubs it looks like Zagat is behind on some technological upgrades.