If he’s new to wines, I would not recommend purchasing ahead, such as EP or any commitments for cellaring. Taste can and do change. I’d advise drinking as widely as possible till he gets an idea of his area of interest.
Also there are an awful lot of good US wines, and very very few of them get to this side of the pond.
Another consideration is whether he will say in the USA indefinitely or will be coming back to UK or to another country. If latter, it will be difficult/costly to transport a cellarful of wines
I don’t know of anything with the same coop structure/ethos as TWS, but that’s not to say there’s not one out there.
What kind of wine (price/style) does he like to drink? Seems like his best option is to find a NY wine store that fits his tastes and get them to put something together for him.
One online wine club that does seem to get recommended regularly is Kermit Lynch’s offering (https://shop.kermitlynch.com/club/). KL has a sterling reputation, only downside is that they’re California based so shipping conditions may be an issue?
A lot of US wineries have their own buyers clubs offering access to their wines at discounted rates and with preferential delivery rates, so if he finds a few brands he likes that could be worth investigating. They do have some excellent wines!
(My first choice would probably be Bonny Doone In California, but there are many and this may not be ideal for New York).
I agree with comments from @Peterm . I’m often surprised by the quality of US wines when I’m over on business (and also pleased to see good English fizz like that from the Wiston Estate on restaurant menus over there!)
This week I tried three US reds, two of which were excellent: Caymus 2015, and Duckhorn 2015, both Cab Savs from Napa. The 2013 Pinot Noir I tried was revolting, but then nothing ventured, nothing gained.
I’ve been buying EP for just under a decade, and am increasingly unconvinced by it as a means for driving value (and I buy to drink rather than speculate).
Oy-oy, I’m in a very similar situation to your son in that I’m in the US for a stint (but based in Boston). It’s only when you move away that you remember just how fantastic TWS is.
Like many things in the US, I find that the US wine industry is incredibly inefficient and fragmented, with different laws in different states, monopolies around import/export distribution etc. which I think generally suits the industry as it means that everyone can get on the gravy train and take their cut with the consumer suffering. It also goes someway explains why Costco is by far the largest retailer by volume in the country.
The decision I’ve made is that given that things can change easily change in the future on the personal and professional front, I’m going to continue to build my cellar in bond in the UK, but weight the collection to wines that need a good decade to age. My thinking being that I can either take things out piecemeal as a I pass through the UK, will always need a stash in UK for celebrations, and then most importantly think that you’d be able to make a plan when the time comes with inventory. There’s always a decent secondary market for aged wines with impeccable provenance. I’m thinking wether direct sales (and try and purchase like-for-like in country/region de-jour) or potentially a trade with someone in a similar position.
As Andy 999 mentions, a lot of US wineries have their own buyers clubs. I’ve signed up for these but it’s just depressing tbh to receive $50-100 of fancy bumph in the post and then get charged extortionate shipping and handling fees from the west coast.
It’s really hard to find “value” in the US.
That being said, he should keep his eyes peeled as you do on the odd occasion find either individual stock pricing errors or discounted stock were the producer/distributor is trying to build market penetration.
An example on two South African wines I know well would be:
Rust en Vrede Cab Sav: R320 in country = $22.3, can be bought in US for $20.
Chamonix Pinot Noir Reserve: R385 in country = $27, can be bought in US for $55-60.
There’s plenty of other examples.
Whilst he should look to strike up a relationship with a local merchant for sure, he should also make a visit to Total Wine for bulk every day drinkers as certainly in Massachusetts, they are far and away the cheapest on the whole.
A final point I’d make is that the US has become really expensive, and they know how to gauge the populous for basic services (I’m not lying when window washing quotes come in at $15-25 per window, summer camps are $25/hour for kids etc). It’s out of control. So in Boston the “best” and they make out they are doing you a real massive favour and undercutting everyone else by 25-50% is $2.50/case per month (minimum $40/month). So GBP 24/year vs TWS at about GBP8.65.
Just to put some numbers around this. You drink 2 bottles of aged wine per week and typically age for 10 years. You’ll end up with 1,000 bottles or 83 cases. Through in a couple of special celebrations and purchases you cant resist and keep secret from Mrs Byrneand (we all do it) along the way, you’re at 100 cases. Your storage costs per year are going to be GBP2,080 vs GBP865. So 2.5x, over 10 years you’re paying an extra GBP15k at least in storage fees.
So you add on something like GBP12 per 10 year aged bottle just in storage fees.
So my strategy, TWS for aging wines. Total wine for everyday drinkers, local merchant for short-life EP/special bottles.
Point him my way if he ends up in Boston and we can crack open a decent bottle sometime!
I have passed on your detailed analysis to Charlie. We are both most grateful to you. He tells me he knows total wine well and buys from there regularly. This thread has set him on his way with some great recommendations. Thank you all very much.
I did a similar strategy regarding my cellar.
I got into wine while living in Singapore, where taxes on wine and storage costs are prohibitive.
So I bought and stored in Europe - with wines to lay for 10y and beyond - knowing I would come back.
I now have wines laid down aging in France and UK, and just moved to London last year.
Regarding the US : I would advise looking at auctions. a friend of mine living in California uses auctions to snap good wines (burgundy village from good producers, etc…) at decent prices.