Reviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month. • Dueling Pistols Red Blend 2016 ($50, sample, 14%): Surprisingly restrained red blend from ...

Mini-reviews 142: Dueling Pistols, Grgich, Frenzy, Louis Jadot and more...

Mini-reviews 142: Dueling Pistols, Grgich, Frenzy, Louis Jadot

dueling pistolsReviews of wines that don’t need their own post, but are worth noting for one reason or another. Look for it on the fourth Friday of each month.

Dueling Pistols Red Blend 2016 ($50, sample, 14%): Surprisingly restrained red blend from California’s Paso Robles, with more juiciness than sweet fruit. Look for cherry fruit, a long, almost stony finish, and and fine, almost earthy tannins. Very nicely done.

Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignom 2014 ($72, sample, 14.5%): This red from one of California’s most respected long-time producers is everything it should be – fruity (dark berries?), rich, complex, and age worthy.

Frenzy Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($12 purchased, 12.5%): Typical “meh” supermarket New Zealand sauvignon blanc – lots of grapefruit and not much else. Imported by Wilson Daniels

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages 2019 ($12, purchased, 13%): This French red might taste better when and if you try it; I found it fruity (cherries?), but so tart as to be unpleasant. This producer’s quality control has become notoriously inconsistent. Imported by Kobrand


How do you make money on the Internet writing a free wine blog?

“Now where’s the link to pay to subscribe to the WC blog?”

You can’t – so the blog is moving to paid subscriptions on March 15

The blog will move to paid subscriptions, beginning March 15. It’s a decision a long time coming, and one I have agonized about for months. But it’s the only way that I can continue to offer the kind of wine writing you deserve and that I want to do.

And, because I value those of you who read the blog, current subscribers will get a chance to move to the new system at a substantial discount.

Otherwise, nothing will change. You’ll still get all of the same features and the blog will still focus on wine that most of us can afford to buy – wine costing less than $15 (and usually much less than that). The Hall of Fame and Cheap Wine of the Year aren’t going anywhere, and you’ll still get 52 wines of the week that focus on value and quality.

Plus, I’ll still keep my reporter’s eye on the wine business, letting you know about all of the foolishness perpetrated to sell you wine that you don’t want to drink at a price you don’t want to pay.

Because, as one subscriber wrote when I was trying to figure out this subscription thing: “I have always thought I got your true opinion on value wines not tainted by big money. No one was paying you for favorable press.”

And that certainly won’t change.

Hence, the same five posts a week, 52 weeks a year, plus access to the website – and, as a bonus, no more ads. What will change is that it will cost $7 a month for the blog, or $70 a year. Current subscribers can continue for a 20 percent discount off of that — just $56 a year. Click this link to subscribe. Otherwise, the daily email will stop coming when I turn it off on March 14.

Yes, I know some of you won’t make the move with the blog. And I’ll be sorry to see you go. You’re one of the best things about doing this, people who are as passionate about cheap wine as I am. But, given the economic realities of the Internet these days, there isn’t much of a choice. If I don’t move to a subscription format, the blog will have to end sooner rather than later, and that might have been at the end of this year.

In fact, the change probably should have happened sooner. I’ve been so hung up on circulation (one of the curses of being an ex-newspaperman) that I didn’t see the larger picture. Circulation doesn’t matter on the Internet anymore; what matters are people willing to pay for high quality, informed, and honest writing.

And, with all due modestly, that’s what I’ve been doing five days a week for more than 13 years. That’s certainly worth the price of a good glass of cheap wine each month, yes?

Photo courtesy of, using a Creative Commons license


The tariff’s damage to the U.S. wine business

BoeigtnPeople are losing jobs and taking salary cuts to protect a company whose stock price has soared almost two-thirds in five years

We can quantify the tariff’s damage to the wine business with one sentence: U.S. companies are paying the tariff – how much sense does that make if the tariff is supposed to be punishing European companies?

I was reminded of this during a recent chat with Patrick Mata of Ole & Obrigado, one of the best Spanish wine importers in the world. You can hear the entire conversation as a podcast next week; what’s worth noting here is Mata’s analysis of the tariff: His company’s sales were down 20 percent in 2020 because of the tariff (and, of course, the pandemic). How is that punishing Europe for subsidizing airline manufacturing?

It’s not, and it’s one reason why we’re still talking about this foolishness almost 18 months after it started. Because, as one trade group executive noted, “The only link between aircraft and beverage alcohol is the fact you can purchase a drink on your flight.”

In this, take one look at any of the numbers, and you’ll be able to see the wreckage – not in phony, sound-bite geopolitical terms, but in human terms – and in the middle of the worst world health crisis in decades:

• One family-owned New York City importer has had to pay more than $2 million in tariffs, so it’s in a hiring freeze. Another had to cut salaries by 20 percent for family members.

The Commerce Department reported that bottled table wine imports fell almost nine percent in 2020 by volume, and a whopping 21 percent in value. Those numbers, and especially the latter, are almost unprecedented.

• France has been especially hard hit. Bottled table wine shipments to the U.S. had recorded 10 consecutive years of volume growth prior to 2020, when they fell by volume and dollars – almost one-quarter of the latter.

So this is where I mention Boeing’s stock price, the company that the tariffs are protecting: It’s about two-thirds higher than it was five years ago. If that’s failing, the blog should fail so badly.


Wine of the week: Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017

Carletto Montepulciano d'AbruzzoThe Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a $10 Italian red that’s a step from most $10 Italian reds

The blog features a lot of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, the red wine from the middle of Italy. That’s because it’s cheap, dependable, terrific with food, and almost always well made. If the wines have a flaw, it’s that they all tend to taste more or less the same. The Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, on the other hand, is cheap and well made – but far from just another bottle of d’Abruzzo.

The Carletto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2017 ($10, purchased, 13%) has a little more interest and heft than similar wines. Yes, it’s made with the montelpuciano grape, like the others, but it’s more balanced and more structured. Maybe it’s the age, unusual for a $10 wine, or paying more attention in the wine room.

Look for lots of cherry fruit, but also some dark spices and freshness in the back that is more than just the contrast between the fruit and the wine’s natural acidity. In this, it’s much more than spaghetti wine; serve it with something more complex and complicated, including roast lamb.

Highly recommended, and a candidate for the 2022 Hall of Fame and Cheap Wine of the Year.

Imported by Arel Group


Winebits 686: Orson Welles, 7-Eleven, Treasury

orson welles
“”Well, yes, eventually I’ll make a wine commercial that will become infamous.”

This week’s wine news: Orson Welles’ infamous history as a TV wine pitchman, plus Canadian 7-Elevens want to sell wine and turmoil at Big Wine’s Treasury

An anniversary: Blame it on the pandemic, but the blog missed the 40th anniversary of Orson Welles’ infamous Paul Masson wine commercial. Given the WC’s critical eye for the subject, that’s more than surprising. Fortunately, Inside Hook’s Aaron Goldfarb has all the details — including that Welles had done ads for a variety of other booze companies before Masson. The piece is well worth reading, not only for the details of Welles’ behavior, but because, as Goldfarb notes, Welles’ “work with alcohol brands that endures as part of his towering legacy to this day.” And why not? Masson’s sales increased 30 percent during the Welles campaign.

No wine here: A Canadian 7-Eleven wants to sell wine to drink in the store, and its neighbors aren’t happy about it. The CBC reports that neighboring bars and restaurants aren’t happy with the plan, which they fear will cut into their pandemic-bruised sales. Note, too, that “corner store” alcohol sales remain prohibited in the province of Ontario, where the 61 stores are located. This, of course, makes the WC smile — a 7-Eleven in Canada can sell beer and wine to drink in the store, but not to go? And we thought U.S. liquor laws were odd. The company. meanwhile, says the wine and beer service will “complement our fresh food and hot food programs.” So what goes with a plastic wrapped salad?

Treasury woes: Australia’s Treasury Wine Estates, one of the biggest wine companies in the world, may get rid of some its U.S. brands in response to a horrific sales slump thanks to Chinese tariffs. The Aussie business press has been reporting about possible Treasury moves for a couple of weeks as it tries to cope with the Chinese duties. One of the latest plans calls for selling $300 million of U.S. “assets” (though without mentioning band names) and to make more upscale wines in the U.S. ass part of premiumization. Among the company’s California labels are Blossom Hill, Chateau St. Jean, Beringer, and Provenance.

Photo: “03-08-1952_10329A Orson Welles” by IISG is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


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