Wine Talk

Snooth User: EMark

90+ Cellars

Posted by EMark, Apr 22, 2012.

Is anybody familiar with a company called 90+ Cellars?  I stumbled onto this video, today.  Skip to 4:07.  If the link to the video is broken, here is a link to the 90+ Cellars Website.

I guess 90+ Cellars would be described as a negociant.  They go to winemakers and buy excess supply of wine that has been rated at 90 points or better.  They slap their label on the bottles and sell it at a discounted rate.

The video touts the type of discounts available:

  • A $60 RRV Pinot Noir for $20.
  • A $25 Chardonnay for $17.
  • A $25 Rose for $10.

Obviously, these are some very attractive prices.  However, being the critical guy that I am, several questions immediately arise:

  1. Who says these wines deserve over 90 points?
  2. What is the "pedigree" of the wine?
  3. What if I like it and want another bottle.  How do I know I would be getting the same thing?

In the video there is a view in a retail store that shows shelf talkers that tout ratings from Parker and Wine Spectator. At the 90+ Cellars Website there are lists of wines that can be ordered on-line.  One of Cabernets shows ratings from Wine Enthusiast (92-95) and Robert Parker (91).  A Pinot Noir says "2 out of 3 of the past vintages rated 90 points or above by Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, and Wine News"--not really definitive.  However, I could not find ratings attributions for most of the wines available at their web site.

Apparently, there is information on the back label that discusses the pedigree of the wine.  It is not clear to me how much detail is there.  The video indicates that the back label information includes the wine's grape varietal and "where it's from,"  but that may or may not be enough information for me to buy.

One cool thing is that each different bottling is assigned a "Lot" number.  So, if you buy a bottle of the Lot 56 Pinot Noir and you like it, then you can go back and buy another bottle and be confident that you are getting the same.

90+ Cellars is based in Boston, and it appears that their wines are sold in retail stores in that general geography.  Since I live three time zones away, it is unlikely that I will have the opportunity to pick up a bottle off the shelf and make a buying decision.  My inclination, though, is that I did pick up a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon from, say, To Kalon vineyard for $25, I would be inclined to try it.  I might even go $20 for a Russian River Pinot without knowing the vineyard.

Is anybody familiar with the offerings of this company?  Are there other companies like this that I should look for?


Reply by Craig Bilodeau, Apr 23, 2012.

I watched the video and found the concept interesting.  Seems to me that I have seen the 90+ Cellars label here in the Dallas area, but I can't for the life of me remember where.  Maybe precognitive dream...

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, Apr 23, 2012.

Found it.  I KNEW that I had seen something regarding 90+ Cellars being in Dallas.  Sigel's carries the label.  There is a tasting event this Wednesday (4/25) at the Sigel's store on Greenville.

Reply by Pyrifera, Apr 23, 2012.

I'm sure you've heard of Cameron Hughes.  I've had some nice bottles from the Lot series, but haven't tried any of the others.  You wouldn't get the information (vineyard, etc) you're looking for on his bottles, though. 

Reply by 90pluscellars, Apr 23, 2012.



Thank you for your interest in 90+ Cellars. As one of the people in the video, I hope that I can answer some of your questions.  90+ Cellars was created because we like drinking great wine for less money. Back in the summer of 2009, we called wineries that had a pedigree of 90 ratings from places like the Wine Spectator and Wine Advocate and asked if they would like to sell us some of their wine at price that would represent a great value to customers. For the wineries that were interested, they bottled their finished wines with our label and shipped them to us.

Today, we work with wineries who have established themselves as leaders in the eyes of an influential critic, organization or publication. Thus, our wines come from wineries with a history of 90 ratings, best buys, gold medals or other accolades that demonstrate the quality the winery is capable of achieving.  When we can, we list the awards or ratings pedigree on our website. Sometimes, for the sake of preserving the winery’s anonymity, they request that we do not display it. In other cases, some wineries have left their names on the corks.

For the sake of accuracy, there were a few statements made in the video which need clarification. Due to a misunderstanding (the cause of which I am not certain), the price differences between the source label and ours was exaggerated. While some retailers may have the source label of our Russian River Pinot Noir priced at $60/bottle, the typical price is closer to $40, and the same is true for the Rose. The source label price quoted was $25, but the typical price is between $16-$18. The Chardonnay info is accurate.

Additionally, as I mentioned above, we purchase wines for the label with a pedigree of ratings or accolades. While some of the wines have been 90 rated, others come from wineries with a strong history of making exceptional wine. In the end, we believe that all of our wines represent a great value to you.  However, like any wine that has been rated, only you can tell us if you think it deserves it.

If you are interested in tasting our wines, place an order on our website and we can ship it to California Plus, I will certainly see anyone who comes to the Sigel’s 90+ Cellars Tasting and Food Truck Experience this Wednesday!



Reply by Craig Bilodeau, Apr 23, 2012.

Brett - Thanks much for the clarification.  I hope to see you on Wednesday.

Reply by EMark, Apr 23, 2012.

Thank you for the clarifications, Brett.  I saw the RRV Pinot with the $40 source price at your web site and wondered if that was the one they meant on the video.  I am not a great Pinot lover, but, as I indicated above, if I picked it up and had it in my hand, I might be inclined to buy it.

Craig, thanks for posting the link.  If you do attend this event, please come back and report to us.  The list of wines to be tasted looks very interesting.  I am a California bigot.  So, the Zin and the Cab really catch my eye.  However, the Italian examples appear to be outstanding, also,  And, in fact, if I saw that NZ SB in store for $9, I'd probably pick it up without a taste.   I certainly buy lots of wine for more than $9 on a whim.

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, Apr 23, 2012.

Not sure if I am going to be able to go to the event yet.  It is a solid 15 mile drive for me in traffic, so doing an event like this during the week is a bit of a stretch. Regardless, I will certainly report back to the group if I can sweet-talk my wife into saying "OK".  :-)

Reply by joebernardinoATyahoo, Apr 25, 2012.

Only Spectator's ratings are credible, everything else is inflated


Reply by Craig Bilodeau, Apr 26, 2012.

Did anyone go to the 90+ Cellars tasting yesterday in Dallas?  I was not able to make it.

Reply by redwhiteandbrew, May 9, 2012.

I was excited to see a post relating to 90+ cellars. For a while, i thought that these wines were off the general  mindset of most snooth readers. I  became fascinated with this different and new concept and have generally been very satisfied with the quality of their wines(mostly the reds). In relation to EMark s questioning of ratings, I often wondered why  these  wines being so highly rated, have a surplus that enables their wide distrubution.Even so, I am glad they are so widely available.

Reply by GregT, May 10, 2012.

Not sure it's a new concept. It's been done for centuries actually - it's the way Bordeaux was sold into the 1700s when the concept of estate-bottling was able to demand higher prices, and it's the way much wine is still put together today.  A person goes out, negotiates with some growers, buys grapes or juice or wine, blends it, and there you are.  Some pretty good stuff done that way too - try Guigal's Cotes du Rhone for example.  Alternatively, an importer will get a few growers together and create a label - Las Rocas for example, or a lot of wine brought in by Eric Solomon from France and Spain, and a lot of the labels from Argentina are done that way too. As is Dubeouf's Beaujolais and some of the Two Hands wine from Australia and CA, which are perfect examples of doing this well.

The twist here seems to be that the focus is on some score by somebody. Instead of tasting and putting together a kind of "house" style, a la Two Hands or Dubeouf, the selection criteria seems to be that the juice has to be from someplace that produced a wine rated 90 by some critic. That's pretty random IMO. I think it would be more of a crapshoot to end up with a decent wine this way.

Reply by Craig Bilodeau, May 10, 2012.

I wonder if 90+ Cellars has tried to get into Costco.  Seems to me that it would be a good fit for both distributor and retailer.

Reply by EMark, May 10, 2012.

A reasonable question, Craig.  However, I'm not sure the 90+ guys have the volume of any one bottling, to interest Costco.

Greg, the one twist that the 90+ guys have that I thought was interesting was the fact that each bottling had its own Lot Number.  So, if you tried the Lot # 77 Pinot Noir and really liked it, you would be confident in getting the same wine if you bought another bottle of Lot # 77.  If you couldn't find Lot # 77, and tried Lot # 107, then all bets are off.  So, they are completely avoiding the "house style" idea.  I agree that the pedigree that they associate with their wines is not exactly rigorous, and "crapshoot" is exactly the right expression.  A wine they are selling today may have received a 90+ rating from somebody with some influence or, perhaps, a previous year's vintage received a 90+ rating, or, maybe, the company principals just like it.  As I said previously, if I ever found one in a store, and the information that I could glean from the label indicated that the price seemed fair, I would take a shot.  It's good to see that Redwhiteandbrew, who posted immediately prior to yours, has been satisfied with his experiences.

Reply by outthere, May 10, 2012.

Greg, the one twist that the 90+ guys have that I thought was interesting was the fact that each bottling had its own Lot Number.  So, if you tried the Lot # 77 Pinot Noir and really liked it, you would be confident in getting the same wine if you bought another bottle of Lot # 77.  If you couldn't find Lot # 77, and tried Lot # 107, then all bets are off.


Cam Hughes already does this.

It's going to be a crapshoot as Greg puts it regardless. Give me and Wells Guthrie the same fruit from the same vineyard picked on the same day and he will produce a 90+ point wine and I will produce horrid grape juice. Just stating that the fruit comes from a respectable vineyard does not assure anything. Another thin I notice is that winmakers who make very good wines don't have the problem of having leftovers that they need to re-label in order to move out.

It sounds like the way Costco shelf talkers read. Looking at a 2009 vintage wine, the shelf talker says in big print 92pts, yet if you read closer it was a previous vintage that got the rating. Not the one being offered. The 92pts mean absolutely nothing. Ever had a meal at a restaurant that was flawless but on a return visit the same dish left you wanting something else?

Hey, it's your money.

Reply by EMark, Jul 17, 2012.

Well, I sumbled onto one of these at Costco the other day -- Lot 54 Sonoma County Zinfandel.

It was OK for the price.  A tad alcoholic (I can't believe it.  I'm the guy who mocks people who complains about alcoholic levels.), and not as much "In Your Face Zinfandel Character" as I like, but for less than $12, it was fine.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Jul 21, 2012.

Cam Hughes admitted once that he isn't actually sure they bottle what he drank when he decided to buy it.  On the whole, I have found his concept and his wines a little lacking. Makes me wonder if he drinks the bottled product.

Best line:  "Give me and Wells Guthrie..." I love the "good wine begins in the vineyard" line because it susses the whole idea that the winemaker has an impact.  Of course he (or she) does:  Bordeaux made bad, polluted wine until Cali kicked their butt and they got serious again. Sure, they improved the vineyard management, but they also improved the winemaking.

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