Value Burgundy Battle: The NEW Cellar Direct

20 10 2016

[These bottles were provided as samples for review purposes.]

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Cellar Direct Does Burgundy.

Conscientious readers may remember this post from over a year ago where I introduced Cellar Direct, an Alberta-based online national wine club featuring subscription-based access to a specially-curated selection of non-interventionist natural wines.  Thirteen and a half months later, Cellar Direct is still doing its thing, but under a revamped and significantly more flexible business model.  Now, instead of paying a fixed amount per month for semi-recurring shipments of pre-selected wines, you simply keep an eye out for regular wine offers (generally to be unveiled weekly on Saturdays) and then place an online order for as few or as many bottles as you want, which are shipped to you shortly afterward in temperature-controlled trucks to keep your wines in cellar-like comfort during transport.  This simpler, less demanding offer-based approach is a boon to buyers in the tighter economic times in which we currently find ourselves in this province, and Cellar Direct’s streamlined e-commerce interface allows them to keep prices reasonable even while offering highly researched, quality-focused wines from traditional producers that truly pop and that you won’t see at your neighbourhood wine store.  If any of that piques your interest, you can sign up for the club’s offer newsletters and find out more info at cellardirect.ca.

Cellar Direct’s first online offering under its new and improved structure was the excellent  Senorio de P. Pecina Rioja Crianza that I have already gleefully tried.  The next offer is due out this Saturday and tackles what is often considered (including by me) to be the biggest oxymoron in the world of wine:  value Burgundy.  Wines from Burgundy can make the toughest weep and turn the deepest skeptics into lifelong followers of the vine; unfortunately, they can also empty your wallet with shocking efficiency and leave you feeling underwhelmed and disappointed.  It can be exceedingly difficult, especially at lower price points (which for Burgundy can mean anything under $50ish), to know what you’re going to get in any given bottle, and finding anything $30 or less that properly showcases the region can be a massive challenge, especially when you’re not sure where to look.  Cellar Direct’s upcoming offer this week, as well as a further offer coming in mid-November, try to be your map and compass to this frustrating yet enchanting region of legend.  Let’s see how they do, starting with a bottle due to hit your inbox in a few days… Read the rest of this entry »

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PC Wine Fall Collection Faceoff

22 10 2015

[These wines were provided as samples for review purposes.]

Grocery store wines are making strides.  Supermarket labels are no longer (or at least not all) resigned to Two Buck Chuck ignominy, and a select few are starting to pair their expected wallet-friendly price tags with actual quality inside the bottle, making them legitimate value plays in a competitive buying environment.  The Kirkland label from Costco comes immediately to mind, a negociant-style operation that sources wines from prestigious regions across the globe (even Champagne!  And it’s not bad!) and makes them accessible at a fraction of the cost of other bottles from the area.  Now Loblaws is making its own foray into the value wine world with a curated lineup of stylishly branded PC Wines, currently only available at an Alberta Superstore liquor store near you.  Take that, rest of Canada.

A step up from the No Name wine labels.

A step up from the No Name wine labels.

 

The PC Wines approach differs from similar supermarket offerings in a couple of ways.  First, the wine collections will be seasonally rotated, so the five bottles in the fall collection will be replaced with a whole new set of wines in a few months.  Second, the pricing is uniform:  all of the bottles cost exactly $20, but that price drops to $15 in each case if you buy 3 or more.  The fall collection was hand-selected by Aaron Bick, founder of local vino e-commerce site wineonline.ca, and features offerings from four different producers in California, Italy and Spain.  Although each bottle bears a PC Wines label, it still recognizes its original producer on the front, which is a nice touch.  There’s even some back-vintage stuff in the mix!

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An Albertan’s Guide to Grabbing US-Only Wines

29 03 2015

You may have experienced the frustration of being a wine-loving Canadian.  You finally get on the mailing list of your favourite cult US winery – only to find that they don’t ship to Canada.  You track down a rare bottle on an American retailer’s site or win an online auction – but they won’t get your wine across the border for you.  As far as I know, it’s not illegal to ship wine from the US to Canada, but if you try to get FedEx or UPS to do just that they generally won’t touch it with a ten foot pole.  I have heard of the odd case where people have successfully had bottles sent to them up here, but I’ve never had any luck with it myself.  So I decided to do it a different, admittedly less convenient, but far more fruitful way.  Here’s how.

Want to be on a US winery mailing list?  It's possible, but complicated.

Canadians: Want to be on a US winery mailing list? It’s possible, but complicated.

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Calgary Wine Life: Meet Alberta Winestein

30 01 2013

[Cross-posted at www.calgaryisawesome.com]

AlbertaWinestein_logoJPGHow much of your 2012 Christmas shopping did you do online?  In my case, the answer comes perilously close to “all of it”.  No malls to brave, no parking to find, no bags to carry, just page after page of every imaginable type of gift easily accessible from the comfort of my house — it’s hard to see the downside.  The Internet has increasingly become my retail destination of choice, and over the past few years I have purchased any number of things online:  books, movies, furniture, shares, even (sort of) a dog.  But wine?  Forget about it, at least in Alberta.  While e-commerce has started to become an important part of the wine industry in the US, there has been almost a total vacuum in the local market, with no retailers offering a comprehensive online ordering platform and no other service providers stepping up to fill the void…until now.  With its formal launch earlier this month, Alberta Winestein (http://www.albertawinestein.com) is making online wine ordering a reality in our province and is seeking to bring high quality boutique products to every corner of Alberta.

The idea is a simple but powerful one:  find some way to connect the scores of wine buyers across the province to the wares of some of Calgary’s most respected and prestigious shops, to the benefit of all parties.  After a couple years of intense planning, Alberta Winestein founder and CEO Guillaume Bedard is now ready to implement his strategy to realize this goal.  “As a consumer, it was difficult and time-consuming to know what unique products were offered in Alberta from all the best boutique retailers,” Bedard explains.  “We dreamed of a way to ease our search while using state of the art e-commerce services.  We then realized that boutique retailers are themselves under increasing pressure from large surface retailers and are now facing greater competition than ever while trying to address a growing market demand.  That is when Alberta Winestein went from concept to reality:  a central e-commerce platform for amazing boutique retailers in order to ease the purchasing process for consumers.” Read the rest of this entry »








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