Pleasanton Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - June 18, 2010

Nose to glass

Getting deals on wine

By Don Colman

If you have read this column for a while, you know I have a friend that I refer to as Mike, The Everyday Wine Snob. The other day we went over to his house and he pulled out another spectacular bottle from a boutique winery that was from the early 1980s. I tell my wife all the time that I blame him for causing me to like older, more expensive wines.

The problem is that I used to show up at his house with a nice bottle of wine from 2007 and he would pull out a wine from the early 1980s or 1990s. I had to find a way to compete.

A while back, I was stumbling around the web, doing some wine research when I came across a website that solved all of my wine buying problems. The site: www.winebid.com. Imagine, if you will, an upscale eBay that is used only to sell wine. They are an online auction for people, wineries, restaurants, etc., who are trying to unload a wine for whatever the reason.

I had two main concerns. First, how do I know if the wine has turned bad? This is the best part: winebid.com will only sell wine if they have inspected the storage site from where the wine came from. On top of that, they inspect every bottle prior to selling it and give you a detailed description and picture of the wine bottle. You will be alerted to seepage, depressed corks, torn labels, etc. Even with all of that, there is the risk the wine has turned, but they do everything in their power to make sure you get what you paid for.

My second concern, how do I know how much to pay for the wine? The winebid experts know their stuff. They provide an approximate value for each wine and then the opening bid is below that. You start the bidding and hope you get lucky.

There are three ways I use the site. First is to target specific wines. For example, I am a big fan of any Far Niente Cabernet Sauvignon, which normally sells for about $100 a bottle. Recently, I was able to buy a case for about $45 per bottle (plus a buyer's premium -- the amount you pay winebid for selling the item). Second, I use it as a great way to buy cheap wines. For example, every week I search for all French Bordeaux wines from 2005 (this might have been the best year ever for French Bordeaux). Often I will find a bottle for $5-$20 -- which would sell for three to four times that price at a store. Third, I use it for gifts. My brother was born in 1966 -- I was able to buy him a bottle of wine from the year in which he was born. I am sure he will never drink it, but what better gift for a guy who has everything.

One word of caution. As with many auctions, it is very easy to get carried away. I learned that the hard way. Make sure you set your budget and stick to it. If you do that, you very may well find the wine deal of a lifetime. Until next time, cheers!

Don Colman lives in the East Bay and writes a wine blog at www.nosetoglass.com.

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