The threat of Covid-19 has changed our lives in this country, with fast-moving restrictions announced daily, even hourly. Among the sad casualties for wine lovers, because of travel limitations, is the ability to get to their favorite wineries to take possession of great bottles. And for others, under complete shelter-in-place orders (as in the greater San Francisco Bay area now), even favorite local shops are out of reach. But now, more than ever, we need good wine. (And spirits and beer…)
Enter those who will gladly deliver it to us. A better network than ever of brick-and-mortar retail shops, online retailers and outright alcohol-delivery services is set up to connect wine lovers and collectors with terrific (and sometimes terrifically rare) bottles. On the traditional retail front, K&L Wine Merchants is a familiar resource, and has been shipping with gusto for many years. In the online space, Wine.com is the biggest player, and ready with an expansive inventory. And this week, a raft of wineries themselves are reaching out with shipping relief. We’ve rounded up merchants across the spectrum that will deliver wines to your doorstep at a moment’s notice—well, at least in less than an hour, in some cases.
Brick and Mortar
This St. Helena–based retailer has become known as an inside track to some of Northern California’s most-impressive unicorn wines. So connected is proprietor Karen Williams to the industry that she’s able to set up customers with coveted, allocated bottles (as well as sought-after icons). In normal times, the Acme team builds relationships through tastings in the shop, finding out customers’ likes and dislikes, so they take just the right bottles home for their cellars and wine fridges. In these times, as Williams says, “We’re still here for your needs. Consider us your personal wine stylist.” A simple phone call now—a conversation about your tastes—will get a customized shipment headed your way.
With multiple locations in New Jersey and a brand-new St. Helena hot spot in Napa Valley, Gary’s serves both coasts well. Interestingly enough, according to CEO and owner Gary Fisch, in the week ending March 15, his New Jersey locations saw a 62 percent increase in sales, a 20 percent increase in foot traffic, and a whopping 300 percent increase in local delivery and pick-up orders. The picture has been different in Napa, with a decrease in foot traffic (but an increase in basket size at checkout). With wineries asked to close, and the close-by Bay Area in complete lockdown, Fisch foresees a steep decline in foot traffic. So he’s stepping up. Gary’s has just introduced a curbside local pickup service and a new website called garyslocal.com, which provides a real-time feed of inventory in each store, to make it easier for customers to order from home. And, says Fisch, “we are digging deep into our collection of highly allocated wines, offering them for sale on garysnapa.com and garyswine.com.” You heard it here first.
Cofounder and master sommelier Ian Cauble (who starred in the original cult-favorite movie Somm, chronicling the painful last efforts of a group of candidates leading up to their final exams for the MS credential), knows his digital SommSelect is perfectly teed up to address customer seeking “excellent-quality wines along with entertaining insight into the selections.”
Among other things, the site offers a featured bottle daily, a Fine & Rare section, and several clubs. On that last front, Six Blind Wines might be the coolest club on the planet. A half-dozen bottles come wrapped in black tissue, accompanied by instructions on blind tasting from Cauble, such as an explanation on how to analyze a wine’s body, acidity, tannins, and intensity. You get a tasting notebook, and final descriptions of your bottles that are meant to remain under wraps until you’ve taken a stab at identifying the wines. It’s a hoot. It’s humbling. And now might be just the right time to learn how to taste like a somm. Cauble wants you to pair like a somm too, offering some of his favorite wines with comfort foods (homemade or takeout): for spaghetti and meatballs, a 2017 Conti, Colline Novaresi, Nebbiolo from Piedmont ($38); for an Asian stir-fry, the 2016 August Eser Hattenheim Riesling Trocken from the Rheingau.
This virtual wine store teases with a new offering every day. But the inventory described under various categories shows the extent of curation here—great wines made in small quantities and flying under the radar, as well as well-known icons. Consider this trio of headliners. Collectible Trophy Red: 2014 Contador Benjamin Romeo Rioja ($290); Rare Prize for Cabernet Lovers from Napa Legend: 2014 Stone the Crows Three Twins Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($100); and Northern California Cabernet Icon in Magnums: a 6-liter of 2014 Silver Oak Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon ($1,500). Getting on board for a while might tempt you to take all your wine shopping virtual. And as of March 16, Wineaccess.com is offering a 10 percent discount on its wines through the end of March.
Nationwide, Drizly.com has partnered with local retailers, like Beacon Hill Wine & Spirits in Boston, to deliver wine and spirits in an hour or less. While they’ve instituted some precautions—such as arranging for an outside delivery location and trying to forgo the need to touch a signature device—they’re still in the business of spreading cheer (the delivery service just clocked its largest day in sales ever over the weekend, beating out New Year’s Eve and Halloween). Just enter your zip code and start shopping. One note: Emphasis is generally on value over luxury products.
Consider this app the ultimate alcohol aggregator. Just enter your delivery address, and up pop products available to you from local wine, beer and spirits retailers they’ve partnered with, with a 30- to 60-minute goal. When I entered my own address, the top-line bottles offered included Bulleit Bourbon, Espolon Tequila Blanco, and Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Apparently Minibar knows I need a stiffer sip than wine at the moment—as, apparently do plenty of others: Last Thursday, March 12, sales were up 80 percent over the previous Thursday.
Because Saucey believes “instant gratification is underrated,” it offers 30-minute delivery on alcohol of all stripes. The catch: You have to be in California—or Chicago, Dallas, or Washington, DC. That said, the 30-minute delivery is free, with no minimum orders and available from 8:00 am to 2:00 am.
In Chicago: Foxtrot
Now would be a good time to take advantage of the one-hour delivery service these local shops offer. For especially bored wine adventurers, the “Somm Picks” sets, bundling bottles of like varieties, regions, and so on, would make life more interesting. Edition 04—“Fancy-Ass Wine”—appears to include a bottle from Ridge Vineyards, which is promising.
Through the online reservations system Tock, you can add a bottle of wine to your takeout order from the group’s restaurants like Next and Roister.
In Los Angeles: Wally’s Wine & Spirits
Southern California wine collectors are no strangers to Wally’s Wine & Spirits, with its incomparable range of bottles, overseen by president and principal Christian Navarro, nicknamed “Wine Therapist to the Stars.” Now, though, a service beyond expert cellar advice is worth noting: Starting this week, Wally’s local delivery and nationwide ground delivery are free on purchases of $99 or more.
In Santa Monica: Esters Wine Shop & Bar
This Santa Monica favorite offers curbside pickup—but even better, free wine and beer delivery within 5 miles on orders of $99 or more.
In New York: Chambers Street Wines
In normal times, Chambers Street Wines keeps its doors open to the public, but since nothing is normal about these times at all, they will deliver wine and spirits with same-day service in Manhattan. Below Canal Street, delivery is free (orders have to be placed by 7:00 pm to be delivered that evening; above Canal Street, delivery is free for orders over $175 (might as well stock up); and in Brooklyn, over $200 (a $15 fee applies for orders under those amounts). Throughout the rest of the state and beyond, FedEx rates apply.
This New York City retailer, too, has a brick-and-mortar showroom, but restrictions have made delivery their strong suit (including both wine and spirits). Between 9th and 29th Streets and 3rd and 8th Avenues, delivery is free (noon until 8:00 pm Monday through Saturday; 1:00 pm until 7:00 on Sunday). Same-day orders have to be placed by 1:00.
And from wineries, some direct-to-consumer relief
Benovia Winery: Shipping is included for 3 bottles or more.
Boisset Collection: Free ground shipping on 6 or more bottles of wine.
Charles Krug: Ground shipping is included on all orders within the standard shipping restrictions.
Grounded Wine Co.: 25 percent discount on shipping for 6 bottles, and 1-cent shipping for a case.
Hamel Family Wines: Free shipping to all customers.
Inglenook: $5 shipping on orders of 6 bottles or more.
La Crema: 15 percent discount on wines ordered online, and free ground shipping.
Lail Vineyards: Wines that are usually available during allocation periods, like J. Daniel Cuvée and Georgia, are now available online, with ground shipping included on orders of any size.
Oak Farm Vineyards: Free shipping on 3 or more bottles.
The Donum Estate: $10 shipping on any volume of wine, and the fee will be donated to the World Health Organization’s Covid-19 Response Fund.