Thrifty and Thirsty Thursday

One of the more maddening aspects of the current situation here in the U.S. (and the world for that matter) is the complete lack of a common message. There are countless outlets telling us what we should (and should not) be doing, but they are all sending (at least slightly) different messages. Heck, we can’t even agree on what to call the damned virus that has changed all of our lives: coronavirus? Covid-19? SARS-CoV-2? (I have chosen to leave out the inherently offensive missives from the White House–you don’t think it’s offensive? I’ll let you speak to my American-Asian wife).

What is not in dispute is that this shut-down might cause irreparable harm to many businesses, particularly smaller, family-run outfits. This is particularly true in the wine industry, where margins are already tight and any disruption in “normal” business could be catastrophic.

Restaurants, for the most part, are closed. Most tasting rooms are shuttered, as are many wine shops (I read that the state-run Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has closed all its stores as well–as a former resident of that state, I consider that a positive development, but that is for another post). Traditional outlets for wine are no longer available.

Many wineries are now forced to look to direct-to-consumer avenues to hopefully stay afloat. I sent out an appeal on Facebook for those who are offering creative ways to encourage consumers to look to the wineries directly to get some wine in their hands–let’s face it, if there were ever a time to need a bit of wine, that is now.

The response was a bit overwhelming, so I have decided to make a few posts highlighting those wineries that I know well and have no hesitation touting. I start with a few that I have known for years and wholeheartedly endorse.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more.

The Winery: Onward Wines & Farmstrong Wines

The Skinny: I have not tasted Faith Armstrong’s wines for a couple of years now, but she is one of the more talented and passionate winemakers I have met. Plus, she makes some crazy wines (Malvasia Blanca) from some places you likely have never heard of (Suisun Valley). She also has a nice selection of wine in cans!

Wines to Buy. All of Faith’s wines are fantastic, but the Cerise Pinot Noir is other-worldly (but also $58). If you want to add a bit of sparkle to your life, her Pet-Nats are great (and it will instantly make you a hipster to your friends). Both the Onward and Farmstrong Rosés are superb. The coolest choice? That might be the Carignane–not much of it is made in California and it comes from some fairly old vines.

The Deal: Free Shipping on all orders.

The Link: Onward Wines

The Winery: Purple Star/Muret-Gaston/Native Sun

The Skinny: Kyle and Amy Johnson were two of my earliest supporters and make some incredible wines in Washington State (including Red Mountain). I have told them countless times that they do not charge enough for their wines, but luckily, they have not listened to me (at least thus far). Plus, Kyle has an awesome head of hair.

Wines to Buy. The star here (see what I did there?) is the Purple Star Syrah. At $20/bottle it is an insane value. I also love the PS Sauvignon Blanc and the Rosé (even though it’s a saignée). All of the Muret-Gaston wines I’ve tried in the past have been stellar, and the Chard at $30 is fantastic. Try to get Kyle to sell you some of the M-G Merlot (I know, I can’t believe I said that either). There is likely very little left, but it is stellar.

The Deal: 1¢ Shipping on all orders of six bottles or more.

The Link: Purple Star

Kyle and Amy Johnson of Purple Star Wines. From

The Winery: Stephen Ross, San Luis Obispo.

The Skinny: Stephen and Paula Dooley have been making wine in San Luis Obispo since 1987 and I have known them longer than any on this list. Stephen Ross (Ross is his middle name) specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and every wine I’ve tried has made me kick myself for the way that I handled our first encounter (click on the link above to read about that).

Wines to Buy. You literally can not go wrong here–all the wines are top-notch. There are a few more vineyards sourced than the last time I tried Stephen and Paula’s wines, but you can never go wrong with his Bien Nacido Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (both $42). I would also guess that the rosé is pretty darned good, and at $25 it merits a flyer. Which reminds me, I need to call Paula and get her to send me a bottle for my Rosé tasting this Spring.

The Deal: $1 Shipping on all orders.

The Link: Stephen Ross

The Winery: Flaunt Wine Company

The Skinny: Way back when, I was a French wine snob (I know, most of you think I still am, but I have far more American wines–if you exclude champagne–in my cellar). As Burgundy became stupidly expensive for a guy on a then teacher’s salary, I turned to California wines, particularly Pinot Noir. At the time I was living in Sausalito, CA, and the drive up the 101 to Sonoma was fairly easy. Pretty much the first Pinot house one could visit was Siduri, which was in an industrial park on the outskirts of town. I would stop at the tasting room just about every trip north, where I usually tasted with Dianna Novy, the far better-looking half of the Adam Lee-Dianna Novy partnership. After they sold Siduri a few years ago, Dianna started her own brand, focusing exclusively on sparkling wine, which was right up my alley. Did I mention I have a bit of champagne?

Wines to Buy. Easy, as there is only one: Flaunt Brut. It is a fantastic bottle of bubbles and with the discount, there is no reason not to stock up.

The Deal: 10% off 3-5 bottles, 20% off 4-6 bottles, and 30% off 12+ bottles. Free shipping on all orders of three or more bottles.

The Link: Flaunt Wine Company

Dianna Novy. Photo by the Housewrighter.



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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