New Vino Collector Advice

newhere

Hi all, newer to wine in general and even more new to wanting to collect / cellar wine. Just purchased a Eurocave and looking for guidance on cellar worthy wines and where to purchase from. Live in the DMV DC area and besides total wine and bassins, haven’t found too many local shops (Vienna vintners was a good one) Recs for where and what to buy? Want to hit the classifieds here but largely ignored since I’m so new. Thanks all!

Primary goal isn’t investing/ profit but more for having known quality bottles to share amongst friends. Have gotten some cult cabs and few bordeaux to start

First off, welcome to the board Chris and to your wine journey!

If you haven’t already, it’s like good a good idea to try a variety of wines if possible. Wines in general comes in various styles and preferences for them vary widely, even mores when you start including aged wines. So it’s worth trying a few different examples to see what both young, and aged wines taste like and to begin understanding how wines age and develop with time.

Then purchasing and cellaring decisions start becoming a bit easier as you learn what you enjoy and don’t.

One of the pitfalls many fall into when starting is buying a lot of wine from the start, only to have their palate grow and their tastes change. So trying a variety of wines and learning what you enjoy and may want to age is definitely worth it in my book. The way I see it, it’s better to try things and figure out you don’t like them at the start, than age a bunch of it, and in 10 years discover you have a bunch of wine you don’t enjoy as much.

There’s also quite a few Berserkers in DC you can potentially connect with to share you passion of wine. I’ve quite enjoyed meeting other Berserkers local to me and have found it pretty amazing. I find that it’s definitely worth investing the time to meet others.

As far as local retailers, some DC-area Berserkers are better qualified to answer that question, but I will say that quite a few retailers ship to other states, including DC and that is an easy way to widen the selection of wines available to you.

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Appreciate that Rodrigo! I started down that route buying $20-$50 bottles with higher ratings of every variety to try and learn. But now that just means that I have a lot of wines without the “wow” factor. As I pivoted to get some Cali cabs and Bordeaux, have been more satisfied with my choices and looking to expand. What are some “must haves” for any Cali cab or French wine collector? Any particular vintages?

Searched on winesearcher but the Ca shippers to DC/VA all have some shady reviews on yelp or Google about shipping horror stories

Also, be aware, if you’re like most here, what you like now will not be what you like 5, 10, 20 years from now. Resist buying full cases. Heck, even 6 of any one wine is probably too many.

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Sounds like a major focus here is to have wines ready to go, i.e. in the zone for drinking now versus purchasing for longterm storing/maturation. IF that is the case, I’d suggest a barbell approach on vintage. I.E., have some younger wines that are not ‘shut down’ and good for their fruit, and combine with a slew of of older wines that are mature/early maturity (or at least not shut down). I would search “library offer” on the site to see which wine retailers here sell more mature wine (e.g., Goodfellow has library pinot and chardonnay at a variety of price points; I am sure others do as well). Middle-aged/mature Bordeaux makes a lot of sense and those prices are only going up from here - there’s an ocean of it out there as well. Same strategy for buying aged Cabs, Rhones, Barolo, Barbaresco etc… focus on something with age and positive CT notes, versus a fairly recent vintage which may be ‘shut down’ (e.g. 13, 16). Backfilling famous Burgundy can be very expensive, but for value, many view 17 as a good early drinking vintage (and they are cheaper), some off vintages have fans (e.g. 13s or 08s if you like higher acid), and less famous appelations (I had a positive experience with a 2015 Bruno Lorenzon).

A secondary question is what do your friends like? If casual drinkers they may prefer the bigger wines (e.g. cult cab over a higher acid burgundy) – so that is something to keep in mind. E.G. they may appreciate a $100 cabernet/bordeaux more than a $200 burgundy, and it makes sense to be mindful of that.

So my approach would be (i) what types of wines do my friends like, and then (ii) search out in-the-zone wines that fit those parameters.

First run away while you still have your sanity

If you still hang around - what are some of these bottles you enjoyed recently? People may have more specific recommendations

I am kind of in the same boat. I’ve used library sales, auctions and benchmark to get stuff in a good zone now and signed up on some lists for long term storage.

And I took about 3-5 years to get here so i quasi locked in on some styles I liked

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This is a great point! Also why I want to buy some more reputable bottles that my friends who understand wine would recognize. I’ve opened “nicer” bottles for casual drinkers and they prefer the 19 crimes / meiomi palate etc. For my friends that enjoy wine, we’ve been into Cali cabs — Dunn, Dominus, Realm, Silver Oak, Mascot. Haven’t opened anything in a higher tier yet.

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Lol good advice. I can tell my palate isn’t refined yet because there is not much that I’ve taken a drink of and did not like. Recent wines I’ve enjoyed (cant remember any vintages but all relatively young) — Continuum, Stags Leap Artemis, Silver Oak, Cadmus, Napanook, Beojulais Morgon (cant remember domaine), Domaine Grand Veneur CDP, Bibi Graetz……really all over the place!

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Hi Chris, to answer your question around retailers, you might check out this thread which includes a few posts recommending DC shops (I’m not from the area or familiar with the shops): https://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=3201&start=50. I saw you posted about Benchmark on another thread in this forum – I’ve had no problem dealing with them, but their shipping costs to the east coast can be high.

You might also check out Chambers Street Wines. It’s a New York shop, but it looks like they ship to DC. They have a good reputation and sell some interesting older bottles.

Having been in your shoes relatively recently, I would stress the importance of trying to maintain balance early on. This can mean doing some backfilling in addition to buying recent vintages, buying across styles and varieties, or buying across the price spectrum, etc. I find this helps with the problem of having a lot of wine and nothing to drink on a given night (say, because you don’t want to open a $150 bottle).

Some people are specialists, but I’m (so far) more of a generalist. One aspect of this journey I’ve really enjoyed has been “traveling” the world, learning about new people, cultures, and pieces of history through this site, books, and bottles. This is particularly fun when there’s not much you don’t like!

If you’re looking to cellar, seek out opportunities to taste mature/maturing wines. Preferences are all over the place with wine, and that includes maturity. You certainly want to find wines that will reach that “wow” factor for you.

There are endless threads to browse in Wine Talk for recommendations.

You mentioned cult Cabs. To me, most of what I’ve tried are out of whack. Most. Gimmicky facades that may have an upfront wow factor, but don’t really drink well. Out of balance, with too much of various things. Tedious to try to drink. I’d really make sure you like a specific producer before buying. There are many producers of CA CS and Bdx I adore that charge a fraction of those cult prices.

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This is a great point. I wish I had gotten this advice when I first started buying wine. You’re much better served prioritizing variety over filling the cellar.

I started my wine journey about two years ago during the original covid lockdowns. The most helpful thing to me was to buy a Coravin and use it constantly. Trying wines on their own taught me nothing–I liked them all and couldn’t remember the differences between them. Instead, juxtaposing related wines has been extremely informative to me. You can take one varietal and try it from 5 or more different regions, side by side, to see how that grape changes around the world. Or take a 3, 5, 10, and 20 year old bottles of Barbaresco to learn what age does. Or take one region, like Alsace, and try each of the local white wine varietals. Even better, cover the labels and only expose them after you’ve tasted, which negates any impact of preconceived notions (I paid a lot for this bottle, so it must be good) or distractions like cool labels. For me, planning all these little lessons has been easiest using wine dot com. An impersonal experience for buying, but an easy way to seek out very specific wines.

Exercises like these are ways to tell your brain these distinctions are important to you. Anyone interested in what I’m saying can look into neuroplasticity. You can actually grow the size of the sensory processing area of your brain. Studies have shown that area in dedicated wine geeks (and similar, like serious chefs) have that area 3 times the size as “normal” people. Of course, some peoples’ paths to wine may be advanced in this way already.

(Also, of course, there’s nothing wrong with just finding what you like and sticking with it, or exploring to the point you find wine that thrills you, then leaving it at that. It’s just not a geeky approach.)

Quick advice based on what I would do if I was starting all over based on my current experience….

First, based on what you’ve tasted so far and enjoy buy other similar producers in minor quantities (2-4 bottles) to taste now and to cellar for seeing how they develop with time. This gives you some breadth in what you currently like, with a few bottles to taste later with no big commitment.

Second, with regions you’d like to explore get some well aged bottles that are representative. For example, if you like Cabernet then look for some older California and Bordeaux examples at auction or a reputable retailer or board member. It seems expensive to pay extra money for well aged examples, but if you don’t like the wine then it saves you money and time in the long run.

In addition, see if people in your area on the board have dinners going on. Great way to taste through wines and see what you like. It may take buying a couple of good bottles to contribute, but you’ll meet great people and get to taste great wines.