A Lawsuit Against Wines ‘Til Sold Out (WTSO)

Many times on this site I have extolled the virtues of the online wine flash site Wines ‘Til Sold Out (WTSO). I have purchased hundreds (yes hundreds) of bottles from the site and I have always been impressed with both the quality of the wines and the company’s customer service. On those occasions when I was not completely satisfied with a given purchase (e.g., a corked or otherwise inferior wine), the company was swift in offering a full refund for the bad wine and any remaining unopened bottles from the purchase (and not requesting those unopened bottles to be returned to WTSO).

I have to say that, along with Last Bottle, WTSO sets the standard for customer service in the online wine retailer business. I think so highly of the company that when I ranked the top online flash sites, they came out on top (an article that remains one of my most visited posts of all time).

Perhaps because of my affinity for the company, I have been reluctant to look into the relatively recent lawsuit that has been filed against them. When I first heard of the lawsuit, I really did not register any concern since there was that term “class action” attached to it. I once considered going to law school and still have an affinity for arcane arguments based on historical precedence, but many class-action suits these days seem to be money grabs by both plaintiffs and lawyers alike.

A recent comment on the aforementioned post on flash sites, however, caused me to delve a little more deeply into the case that has been brought against WTSO. Here is the synopsis of the case on the law firm’s (Giskan, Solotaroff, & Anderson) website (I hope I don’t get sued for cutting and pasting it here)

Investigation of Wine [sic] ‘Til Sold Out

Giskan Solotaroff & Anderson LLP has filed a complaint against Wines ‘Til Sold Out (wtso.com) for deceptive pricing practices, most notablyan [sic] inaccurate or fabricated “original price” of the wine being offered for sale as compared to the so-called and supposedly discounted price at which the site is offering the wine for sale. Possible examples include wines named Iron Door, Pruet, Herringbone, Shadowood, Curlew, Mockingbird Hill, Canyon Creek Winery, Bell Canyon Cellars, Clifford Bay, Kingsford Manor, John William Vineyards, as well as many other wines that do not seem available except on the website. Most of these wines are reviewed by Jonathan Newman (and no one else).
In a recent court filing, WTSO disclosed that many wines offered on the website are actually purchased directly from the same Jonathan Newman, a fact not disclosed in WTSO’s offers to its customers and never before disclosed until the lawsuit was filed. WTSO also asserts that the wineries on the labels of many of the wines it sells are simply made up brand names and not the actual wine vineyards where the grapes are grown.


There is also a link to the full complaint, which I took the time to read over the weekend. While I still remain a happy customer of WTSO, there were nonetheless some disturbing allegations:

  • The primary allegation seems to be that WTSO sells a host of wines that are only available on its site, and the “original price” listed for those wines is a fabrication (since they never have been sold anywhere else). The plaintiffs allege that this price is stated as exceedingly high so as to make the wine appear as a much better bargain given its price as offered by WTSO.
  • As quoted directly from the complaint: “On information and belief, many of these wines offered on WTSO.com, albeit with different names, are in fact exactly the same wines as others offered on WTSO.com, but simply labeled differently.”
  • Again, from the complaint: “On information and belief, many of the wines are in fact produced specifically and only for Defendants for sale on the WTSO.com website…. For purposes of example only, Defendants procure wines from Vintage Wine Estates and Underground Wine Company, as well as other bulk producers of wine, all of which provide custom branded or private labeling for Defendants.”
  • On other wines, WTSO is alleged to have listed elevated “original prices” to make it appear as though the wine for sale is more discounted than it actually is. (The complaint provides a couple of examples, one being a Mer Soleil Chardonnay that was sold by WTSO for $28. The website stated that the wine retails for $45, which would mean a 38% discount. The Plaintiffs argue that the actual retail price is $32 and thus only a 12% savings.)

Personally, none of these allegations really affect me all that much since frankly, I diligently research wines before purchasing them. I first check both the reviews and pricing information on Cellar Tracker. I will often visit the winery’s website and check out what the current vintage and price of the wine in question (WTSO often offers wines from past vintages–wines that wineries are very interested in moving quickly for whatever reason). Last, I will simply Google the wine and see if there is any additional information about the wine (and if there are any clear red flags).

I also tend to shy away from the wines that are only reviewed on the site by Jonathan Newman. Why? Well, for starters, Jonathan Newman used to be the Chairman of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB), an entity that I loathe and that should be abolished. I have also spoken to a few winemakers that have sold their wines to WTSO and they have made it clear that Mr. Newman is very much involved with the business dealings of WTSO and very well might have a financial stake in the company. Third, I have had a few personal interactions with Mr. Newman (and have heard many additional stories about him) that have caused me to be somewhat hesitant.

There are however, countless people, no doubt, that make their purchases based solely on the information provided on the WTSO website (including many of my neighbors and family members, all of whom I have directed to the site). While I advise them all to adopt the same level of due diligence that I attempt to demonstrate, I know for a fact that they usually do not.

Having said all that, I will reiterate the position I stated above: I am a fan of WTSO and will continue to purchase wine from them in the future, but this lawsuit, while perhaps not all that surprising, nonetheless causes me to pause.

I imagine many of you that read this blog buy wine from WTSO and other flash sites. I would love to hear your thoughts.

An update of this story, which outlines the settlement, can be found HERE.

About the drunken cyclist

I have been an occasional cycling tour guide in Europe for the past 20 years, visiting most of the wine regions of France. Through this "job" I developed a love for wine and the stories that often accompany the pulling of a cork. I live in Houston with my lovely wife and two wonderful sons.
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87 Responses to A Lawsuit Against Wines ‘Til Sold Out (WTSO)

  1. talkavino says:

    Never heard of this lawsuit, and having read what you posted here, I have to say that this is complete BS, same as 95% of the lawsuits in this country (sorry) – in the end of the day, there will be no winners there except the lawyers.
    Nobody forces anyone to buy from WTSO – you like what you see, you buy it. WTSO simply makes an offer which is up to others to research and decide if they like it or not. Yes, some of the wines are private label ( not all), and some of the wines can be different bottlings of the same wine. But this is what WTSO does – they sell what the others could not, so you don’t like it – don’t buy it.
    I’m curious if the same law geniuses are planning to go after Amazon (some of their original price makes no sense) or Costco, Trader Joe’s and many of the wine clubs who are offering private labels…
    I hope it will not affect WTSO too much – love the company and will continue buying from them.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree that the vast majority of lawsuits are bogus, but that does not mean that there might be a modicum of truth contained within. I also agree that people have the freedom to buy or not and caveat emptor. BUT. The consumer should have access to all the information available about the product before making the decision. Take, for example. this allegation in the complaint:

      “The deception is so profound and devious in the offers for Herringbone and
      Shadowood labeled wines that Defendant Newman recommends different food pairings for these wines even though they are, on information and belief, identical except for labeling and pricing – and made by the same producer.”

      If true, while perhaps not “illegal” it is certainly shady and calls into question the integrity of the company, no?


      • talkavino says:

        Hmmm, you know more than many others that wine is subjective. IN a blind tasting, one can assess two glasses of the same wine as two different wines. Are you implying that Newman had those two bottles side by side, tasted them and wrote different descriptions and different food pairing recommendations with deceiving purposes? Not sure I see a crime or how this deception can be used to Newman’s advantage? Are you saying that Newman created two different bottlings of the same wine with different labels and put different prices on it, and this is a crime? Or you are saying if a given wine was suggested to be paired with the lamb stew, nobody is allowed to recommend it as a pairing for the short rib? So may be we need to start suing producers for not been able to taste an advertised “raspberries” or “violets” in the wine, when the back label clearly states that they should be in that wine?

        Liked by 2 people

      • I am not saying any of that at all. I am just relaying what is alleged in the complaint. I have no idea why they included that in the complaint. Maybe they have more information than I do. But, if what they suggest can be proven true, that Newman knew he had the same wine under two different labels (and he would know since he provided the wines), but presented them as completely different wines (including different pairing suggestions), that is certainly shady. In my opinion, we will never know since it would be hard to prove if it is based solely on hearsay or opinion.

        Again, I am not saying any of this. I want to make that clear. It is all in the complaint.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Beth says:

    I have purchased from WTSO once, I think? My former employer dropped some older vintage wine to sell there once and WTSO did inflate the actual retail price to appear as if it was a 50% discount. However, Wine Access frequently did the same, as far as our wines were concerned. What gives me pause is selling the bulk wine with custom winery names that don’t exist outside of WTSO. Of course, you and I research, but when these wines are offered in a mix with known wineries, it’s easy for people who don’t know or don’t research to think they are getting something of the same caliber.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The retail price “deception” to me is the least egregious of the allegations since, well, it is incumbent upon the consumer to do a bit of research. If, however, the wine in question is not sold anywhere else, it is impossible to verify the actual retail price (which I will be the first to admit is somewhat arbitrary, but it does provide a reference of some sort).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Beth says:

        I’m more concerned about the perception of the source and perhaps quality of the offering that are really “custom” bulk wines posing as discounted, “premium” wines, especially for less educated buyers. I think the price “deception” occurs with many retailers, not just wine.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I have purchased from WTSO a few times, and will do so again. I’ve never received a bottle I didn’t like. I take the same approach as you, Jeff, and research all online offerings before buying, be they from WTSO, Last Bottle, Underground Cellar, or any other retailer. I also agree with Talkavino’s comment, that like so many class action suits, this one is total BS. Both Total Wine & More and BevMo offer “winery direct” wines (and spirits) that are labeled exclusively for their stores. It is a common industry practice. And as for the “original prices”, who really cares if the discount is 38% or 12%? Either way, it’s a bargain! Maybe it’s just insecure people who feel duped because they didn’t get the screaming deal they thought they did. Once again, the lawyers win.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I, too, will continue to purchase from WTSO (although they do seem to be stuck in a recurring loop of producers and the overall selection is not all that inspiring), but I never did buy any of the wines that are mentioned in the suit–I only bought wines from producers or foreign regions that I knew. Still, as I pointed out in the example I gave in my response to Anatoli, if true, some of the allegations really call in to question the integrity of the company as a whole.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’d never even heard of WTSO! Too bad they don’t ship to Canada…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Trudy says:

    Having been a customer of WTSO for about 8 years, I never once purchased a wine because of the amount it was discounted. I look at the price, rating, alcohol content and decide. For all of these years I have been completely satisfied with the quality and customer service. I know what we like, we are casual wine drinkers, not too sophisticated, but WTSO gives me enough information about the wines and we’re happy!


    • I agree wholeheartedly that your approach makes sense and that it should be a guide for the wine buying consumer. However, I know that there are buyers out there that do not follow your advice (and some are in my family!).


  6. steven mendelson says:

    My wine buddy and I have purchased about 2,000 bottles from them. A few thoughts. In various years the harvests are so big that wineries have too much wine. It is the custom to sell them under a different label so they can cut the price. Much of the TJ and some Costco wine is merely rebottling. Sometimes they new “wineries” are selling great wine. I have noted the close tie between Newman and WTSO and I feel it is improper. It is a conflict of interest and now that we find out that he is actually selling wine to WTSO it is a gross conflict of interest. I have also noted the inflated prices. But we usually check wine-searcher, vivino, or cellar tracker.
    I generally purchase about 300+ bottles a year and will continue to do so. Some of their wines are terrific and now and then a few that I consider plonk.
    One last note, most lawsuits are not bullshit. The Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Manufacturers, and other big business groups like to push that line. If the government sued businesses for fraud then a lot less lawsuits would be needed, but out govt cannot seem to pursue any fraud cases. No one went to jail for all that banking fraud, whereas in Iceland a bunch of the bank fraudsters went to prison. If the government won’t protect people from the rapacious business practice of fraudsters then attorneys are our only line of defense. An imperfect one, but this is a rather imperfect society.
    Again, I will continue to do business with WTSO and enjoy their services.


    • Thanks for the comment and the insight (and sorry it took me so long to respond!). I agree on all of your points, particularly that Newman’s involvement is unsettling, but that does not prevent me from purchasing from WTSO fairly often.


  7. Martin says:

    Hi and thanks for the information you provided. I am pretty much in the same boat as you. I realize that some of the ones that are sold are , shall we say , exclusive. However several times a week I find quite legitimate deals on very good wine such as the amarone that was posted today. It is by far the best wine site I’ve seen on the web. It’s not even close

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Robert Bentley CWE CWS says:

    Some very valuable information here; thank you”drunken cyclist”! You’ve confirmed my suspicions. I’ve purchased perhaps over $4000 of wines from WTSO and been largely quite satisfied
    I’m a certified wine educator, have done many wine programs and know well to research via wine searcher, other reviews to ascertain real valuations. The repetitious, unknown winery brands which you cite that they offer plus the obscure ratings of Mr. Newman have smacked of the typical phony marketing practices you mention, and they may well justify the lawsuit. That being said, what I find is that many, often hard to find small producers, many imports,some I often know are good bargains as they are small lots off priced and often desirable older vintages, not so available to buy in the retail market. Yet, I’ve seldom had quality problems with any wines and twice when reported, WTSO corrected. At no cost to me. Yes, follow your advice, ignore the “house brands, camoflage labels, and phony ratings by Newman, but use due diligence, research and when value warranted, by all means buy at WTSO!


  9. Michael says:

    leave to a few who did not get enough attention in their life to ruin it for those who did. WTSO is a point of sale, and if I save 10% or 38% with free shipping it’s a deal.

    In life you have a choice to buy or not to buy, no one forced you to enter your card # your address and submit an order.

    It is your fault alone that you did not do research on what you were buying.

    We are surrounded by idiots.


    • Yeah, there are a lot of gullible people out there, but I am not sure that I would go as far as you did with that last sentence–my father-in-law buys a lot of those wines that Mr. Newman seems to personally endorse.


  10. Southernwino says:

    Is this why all my “stashed orders” (until it cools down) can no longer be delivered to me in Texas?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I don’t know. I have recently purchased some wine from Last Bottle and I noticed that they are now using a third party shipper. Having just moved to Texas, I am not at all familiar with the restrictions.


      • Southernwino says:

        I finally called WTSO because I didn’t want my money back- I wanted my wine. It has nothing to with lawsuit but rather the TABC law in Texas. WTSO is a distributor rather than a vineyard. WTSO is working on this but it will take time. Until then, I will continue ordering from Last Bottle. Their prices are a bit higher and their reviews are not as thorough but beggars can’t be choosy. Anyone can by a gun here but I can’t buy wine online- unless they are a “Vineyard”. Lol!!!


      • Yeah, I have been trying to figure out what is going on with WTSO and Texas, but people are not really offering up much info. The state (“encouraged” by the retailers in the state) feels the Granholm decision of 2005 that said that shipping alcohol between states was unconstitutional, only applied to wineries, not retailers. It seems as though the state is cracking down on the most egregious violators.As far as I know, LB is getting around it using a Texas shipper.


      • Southernwino says:

        Yes they are. Shhhh! Lol! I just emailed WTSO last week checking on progress of being able to ship to Texas. They are still working on it. Until then LB will need to do. All I want for Christmas is to order from WTSO…

        Liked by 1 person

      • I miss it as well—no end in sight, however….


  11. Kristine says:

    Interesting to understand the lawsuit. I still plan to buy from this site because it’s not always easy to come across Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame at $100 a bottle. I also do research before I buy, but sometimes you can’t pass up a deal of $10 for a bottle of prosecco and you can buy 4 for free shipping, I don’t care if it’s under a WTSO exclusive label. And if I’m not a fan of the bubbles, I’ll use for sparkling sangria or mimosas. Sparklers just don’t seem to go to waste around my house!!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Camille Pinkerton says:

    Thank you for writing this article. I hardly buy wines now from any other place besides WTSO. It’s crazy that some money grubbing law firm wants to make money out of this deal~ But so typical for this day & age! I hope individuals will stop using this law firm, especially if they win since our prices will certainly go up!

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is certainly one way to look at it! Having met the former chairman on a couple of occasions, though, I do not trust his assessments of wines on WTSO.


    • steven e mendelson says:

      Camille, so you would prefer that companies commit fraud and suffer no consequences? Let Goldman Sachs and all the other bank fraudsters rip off the world, and cause several million Americans to lose their life savings because that is better than letting some attorneys who work 80 hours a week and invest a fortune into suing big companies make a profit? So you hate capitalist drive when it interferes with big companies profit? But it is okay for capitalist drive to commit fraud? Yes, we live in an imperfect system, but denying small people the keys to the courthouse that lawyers provide and only giving it to big business that can afford lawyers by the hour is the way to go? Hardly. Our society is screwed up and unfortunately plaintiff lawyers are about the only ones who hurt big businesses enough to make corporate fraud hurt the wrongdoers.
      By the way, I have placed something over 300 orders with WTSO, typically ordering 5-15 times a month, but this doesn’t stop me from decrying their fraud.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Steve Bunten says:

    Thanks for the posting and have not heard anything about the lawsuit. I’ve purchased from WTSO for several years (put it on hold when we moved last March and was waiting for my wine cellar to be completed before buying more–it is done!) Like you I will check out the prices of the same wine on other sites–google makes it easy. If I can’t find the wine anywhere else I’ll get suspicious about the price, especially as it climbs. But have been very happy with the vast majority of wines I’ve purchased there over the years and will continue to buy from them when I find good deals

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Bob Koken says:

    I too have purchased a lot from WTSO, perhaps close to 200 bottles over the years. Many have been marginal at best and most have been reviewed by Newman. So this news, frankly, disturbs me. But it makes me wonder how many other hot internet deals aren’t so hot. I have bought from L.A. Wine Company and have never been dissatisfied. The same goes for Schneider’s. In fact, WTSO has raised my eyebrows numerous times when they tout a label I’m unfamiliar with, such as Heritance. Perhaps in the future I should just visit Total Wine for any deals, and buy directly from the wineries I’m familiar with. But, who knows how honest Total Wine is? But back to WTSO, I’d certainly feel cheated if the same wines were getting imaginary winery labels slapped on them. I’LL check my cellar to see which ones I have in stock, and look for an address of each winery.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Did you ever find any wines in your cellar that were “questionable”? I would never buy anything on WTSO unless I found some other reviews, even if they were community reviews on a site like Cellar Tracker.


  15. Bob says:

    I’m in total agreement with most of you.
    I’ve been purchasing wine from WTSO since 2009, and am very satisfy with almost all my purchases. Although in few rare occasions when I did not enjoy the wine, IT IS NOT because the fault of WTSO. But, mostly due to the fact I found/realized that particular wine profile just not for my taste!
    Like most of you, I will only make my purchase after I’ve done my do diligence in researching the wine, and usually will not buy wine that I can’t find any information at all on the internet. And so what, if they sale the wine with a different label ? If at the end you ENJOYED the wine.

    BTW, does anyone really believed the MSRP is the ‘True Price’ for a given product anyway 😉
    I will also continue to purchase wine from WTSO based on my research, not the usual marketing blah blah blah stuff most site published.
    As a matter of fact, I’ve just made a purchase at WTSO today!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Russ says:

    Thanks for the post. WTSO has no competition in my opinion. I only buy European wines and doubt they can “interfere” with production or pricing of wine from there so i guess this does not really affect me..
    My question is why did they stop delivery to Texas 6-8 weeks ago?
    I had about 15 cases of Spanish, French, and Italian red being held in their free a/c’d storage unit through the hot weather and slated for delivery Oct 31st. Instead I got a full refund but no wine and no explanation as to why they are no longer able to service Texas. Any ideas?
    Thanks for the post and your great perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. kaarby1 says:

    I have been buying wine from WTSO for a couple of years now, and do research before I buy, I have noticed that on CellarTracker, if there is only 1 review of the wine, it is 2-6 points lower then my score, in MHO, I wonder if Mr. Newman is the one that goes on CellarTracker website under a fake names and gives a wine a 92 points when it’s only an 88 point wine.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. HB says:

    I like WTSO and have bought from them probably 50 times. Only once did I get something I didn’t like and they happily refunded my money. Of the “fake” wineries listed, the only one I bought was Kingsford, and the wine was ok, not great, but ok. That said, I pay no attention to Newman’s reviews. If you subtract about 4 to 5 points from his numerical rating, you get it about right. So most of WTSO’s wines are about 87-88-89 on a Parker scale vs 91-92 on a Newman scale, which is consistent with the prices of about $15-25 / bottle.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, don’t get me wrong: I have had the absolute BEST customer service from WTSO. If there is a problem, however slight, they refund immediately and tell me to do what I like with the unopened wine—no need to send it back. As for the reviews, if it is only Newman reviewing, I pretty much avoid it at all costs.


  19. Vince B. says:

    Thank you for your research and comments. I also am a fan of WTSO and realize that the “retail or current” price comparison may be inflated. What I personally must consider for myself is the convenience of delivery. I live in a rural area where the closest decent wine store is 24 miles away. There are Pennsylvania state stores 16 miles away. Talk about inflation and lack of selection and would never buy at those stores. I do research the wines I purchase from WTSO and consider all factors.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. jswede says:

    I’ve ordered 300+ bottles from WTSO over 3-4 years. While the “retail” (now called ‘comparable’) price is clearly inflated, at worst the wine is a good value and at best a steal.

    Yes, many of the wines are not available elsewhere and as such are hard to compare, but nearly half have a bona fide WA/WS/WE rating that I feel I can trust. The wine may be exclusive to WTSO at this time, but it must’ve been widely available at some point to garner such rating, right?

    I’m thrilled with several 94/95pt WE/WS/Parker Spanish Riberas and Riojas, and Italian Super Tuscans, all in $25-30 range. $15 Pouilly Fumes and $11-12 red blends I’ve taken some shots at have also mostly worked very well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Indeed. Your phrase “at worst the wine is a good value and at best a steal” I could not agree more. My real problem with the situation is exactly that—the wines are a good/great/phenomenal deal why do they feel the need to embellish at best or stack the deck at worst? Nixon did not need to break into the Watergate to win that election….


  21. Erich says:

    This is disconcerting. Fairly new to WTSO and wines in general, I started researching why Newman’s reviews seemed so far off from my perceptions. While I have yet to get a “bad” wine from WTSO, some of them are nowhere near what I would expect from a 92 pointer. I don’t really look too much at the original price, but the fact that WTSO buys these wines from Newman and then sells them based on his inflated score certainly seems like a conflict of interest. Unfortunately, it appears that some of these rebranded house wines won’t have any reviews at the other sites (Cellartracker, etc) – mostly because they’re freshly rebranded and nobody has had a chance to try them. Is there a full list of the WTSO house brands? I’d at least like to take these brands with a grain of salt…

    At the very least I guess the fact that there’s no reviews of a 2009 vintage should be a red flag.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Pingback: What We Have Been Drinking—3/6/17 | the drunken cyclist

  23. Steven says:

    This is correct. The prices are inflated, the reviews are garbage, and most of the wines are sub standard. If, you like this site so much you need a wine class. Invino, is 100 times better than wtso. Expand your knowledge . Mr N is an attorney, and is very deceptive.


    • Southernwino says:

      Do you treat and/or come across to everyone in this manner? I respect the first amendment so I will leave it at that.


      • Well, before this gets out of hand, I guess I need to step in and at least make a comment. First, I have bought some wine from WTSO that I have been very happy with—and there is no denying that they have wonderful customer service. Having said that, they also seem to put some wine up on their site about which they are less than forthcoming. I would feel much better about it if they were up front and just said something to the effect of “This is one of our own wine brands. We think it tastes like a wine three times what we are selling it for today.” Or something to that effect. By saying that the normal retail is, say $80 and they are selling it for $25 is shady. Many people (like my father-in-law) will look at that and think they are getting an incredible deal, but really they are just getting some bulk wine that was purchased and bottled by Mr. Newman or one of his associates. That is why I steer clear from those offers and only consider actual brands. And, as I said, there are some deals to be had with that approach (although they seem more rare these days).


    • steven e mendelson says:

      I believe Invino uses ratings by unknown people or should I say unknown to most people and they seem to be in its pocket giving astronomically high ratings. Their wines are generally not so good, never a great deal. I used to buy stuff from them but quit, but I still get their ads and look on line.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Winoveteran says:

      A lot of the US wines have been bulk; private label wines benefiting from high yields and exceptional quality the last 4 years. Private label wines selling for @ 50 cents on the dollar. Interesting to see what will happen now that the bulk market has been drying up and wines are back to @ 80-90 cents on the dollar. A lot of the wines can be purchased under other labels at lower prices. Most of the prices are inflated from what I have been able to source. Not sure how they rate the scores from WTSO members?? I think the hunt and adrenaline rush for the wines is delivering more entertainment thrills than quality on most of the wines. There is value in a lot of the imports-but the best quality for the price will come from a trusted wine merchant.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Just from anecdotal conversations that I have had with winemakers over the years, it is clear that there is a ton of bulk wine on the market. Where does it all go?I imagine some goes into the vats of large producers, but some has to go straight into bottles and sold under a different label. Does that make it bad? Not at all. But saying that the wine is even comparable (either in quality or price) to the wine that the winery actually bottled is disingenuous at best.


  24. T J Tritsch says:

    I was first made aware of Mr. Newman when he was still at the P.L.C.B. by a New Jersey wine distributor, who was complaining that PA State Stores were selling certain wines cheaper retail than he was able to attain wholesale. A quick check with relatives in PA (my home state) verified that the experience of buying wine in the state had improved five-fold in a relatively short amount of time considering it was run by a state-owned monopoly. Say what you want about the stupid institution and the system it serves, but I got the impression that in Mr. Newman Pennsylvania (finally) got the gift of somebody that actually knew wine in a position to do something about it. Think about it: as a senior executive in the PLCB, he was effectively the largest wholesaler of wine in the country, possibly the world. He used that leverage to the benefit of the poor sops who have to rely on their state government to decide what wine they have to choose from.

    As I understand the story, the Governor reorganized the PLCB at some point, effectively demoting Mr. Newman subordinate to a politically connected appointee that was owed a favor. So he quit.

    When I first learned of WTSO and then its connection to Jonathan Newman, I assumed that Mr. Newman took his experience, knowledge, and acquired contacts to continue doing what he was doing for the state of Pennsylvania, but now for his own benefit. Heck, I just assumed he owned WTSO or at least had a significant stake in what had been a previously established New Jersey distributor re-invented as WTSO.

    I did not know WTSO was establishing its own labels for Newman as middleman, but it makes sense. It is unfortunate that feel the need to be deceptive on this part. “From a famous vineyard we can’t name” would be more honest, but sounds more cheesy. I will give them the benefit of the doubt that it is just their way of respecting the time-honored tradition of obscuring the true source of the over-produced stock that Newman acquires.

    Some of my facts in the story may be inaccurate, it is how it came to me.

    Thanks for the info. My wife and I have enjoyed many wines from WTSO, but we will be more diligent in the future.


    • I do not know any more than you (although living in PA for 16 years, I asked a lot of questions, which were rarely accompanied by answers from people “in the know”), but I think you assessed the situation as well as or better than I could enunciate myself. The only part to add is that I met Jonathan on several occasions and even though we share an alma mater (and a good friend of mine was Newman’s brother’s roommate), he came off every time as, well, a complete ass. So although I agree with every point you made—including the fact that he turned a pathetic system into one where some value could be had—I doubt, even if given the opportunity, I would ever ask him to share a bottle.


  25. Satisfiedwith WTSO says:

    I have been a WTSO customer for years. I am completely satisfied and I have bought some very good french wine from the site. I will buy from WTSO again.

    I do my research on the wine before I buy. Sometimes, I miss out, but that is OK with me.

    I have purchased the Mockingbird brand. Not good wine. Never bought it again. Luckily, I never bought any of the other brands that were listed above.

    I was in Paris and I purchased wine there that was inflated in pricing. I was in California and purchased wine there that was inflated in pricing. Heck, how come restaurants can charge 10 times what the bottle costs? This lawyer is just an ambulance chaser.

    Any time I see Jonathan Newman as the sole reviewer, I never buy the wine. There is the lesson that should be taken out of this.

    Caveat Emptor. Everyone is always trying to get everyone else’s money in their pocket.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. John Fahey says:

    Newman’s reviews appear to have disappeared (as of a week or two ago) from the WTSO daily emails. I wonder if someone cut the cord?

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Gerry Strid says:

    We are customers and feel we have gotten fair value for everything’s mh we have purchased

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Bamboo Dave says:

    We’ve bought hundreds of bottles from WTSO and have always been fans of the company. I normally stay away from the Jonathan Newman reviewed wines because he’s an unknown and his reviews are always unaccompanied by other reviews. Also, I’ve been burned by a few of his recommendations. One of the best indicators that I have found to be consistently accurate is the customer ratings. When I choose a 93 or 94 average customer rating, the wine is almost always delicious.

    This is a great article and I appreciate all of the details provided in the comments. Salud!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. themnmoores says:

    I have bought many wines through WTSO, including the private label wines, and have been very happy with the wines. Some of the private label wines from Mockingbird Hill, Shadowood, Castlebank, and Bell Canyon have been really good and I have actually stocked up on them as they seemed like really good wines for the price. Having said that I have received wines from WTSO (real wineries and private label) that were not very good and have always received a refund when I requested one for sub par or damaged wines (I had a 4 pack of French wines that were heat damaged). I continue to buy from WTSO and find their information about the wines to be pretty good, and I realize that the pricing is subjective. If I compare the WTSO private labels to Total Wines winery direct I feel that WTSO delivers a much higher quality overall (IMHO).

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Stephen Gessner says:

    From the WTSO web site: *”Comparable Price” means the price at which the same or a similar wine with the same primary grape varietal and appellation or sub-appellation has been offered for sale to consumers directly by a producing winery or through retailers.

    This seems pretty straight forward

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Joseph says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have been a very satisfied customer of wtso but as you do, I also do my homework. No one makes anyone buy the wine from them so hard to throw blame at the company for business practices that help them sell….I do appreciate them being taken to task of they are in fact overstating prices etc but I will continue to use them.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. Lynn Wood Hart says:

    I have bought many, many wines from this company. Yes I do rely on them to let me know, and trusting them for honest sales of wines they offer. I have I been disappointed, yes a few times, but never have I thought they might be playing with ratings and prices.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Mike B says:

    Recently bought some Red Mare Chard +/- $16 that Total Wine had on the shelf yesterday for $49!. Agree with all the caveats. Thanks to all for the info on Newman and the house brands. On the plus side he did a fabulous job in PA.


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