Today's Sponsor:
 California Wine Club

In This Issue
 Wine Advisor's Premium Edition Shop with confidence when you're spending a little more.
 Do shelf "talkers" talk to you? "Silent salesmen" at the wine shop: What do you think?
 Laurel Glen 2001 Reds California Red ($8.99) Earthy Zin blend with a Mediterranean accent.
 California Wine Club Ten days left in the Club's March 2004 Spring Cleaning Wine Sale!
 This week on The keys to NZ Sauvignon Blanc.
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index Links to recent articles in the Wine Advisor archives.
Administrivia Change E-mail address, frequency, format or unsubscribe: "Administrivia" at the end of this page.

Wine Advisor's Premium Edition

Cautious about risking $30 or more for a special bottle of wine? The 30 Second Wine Advisor's Premium Edition covers wines in the $30 to $50 range, offering trustworthy E-mail advice that makes it easy to shop with confidence when you're spending a little more.

Our next biweekly edition goes out tomorrow, featuring an exceptional and historic high-end and cellar-worthy Chianti Classico Riserva, along with a frank discussion about finding good value in the tricky niche of upscale Italian reds.

I hope you'll join our Premium Edition community today. Remember, just one high-end wine purchase made with confidence on the basis of its advice will repay the price of a full year's subscription ... and your subscription helps support all our wine-information efforts at Subscribe now:

Do shelf "talkers" talk to you?

Shelf talker If you shop for wine, you're surely familiar with shelf "talkers," those informative little cardboard tags that many retail wine shops attach to their shelves to proclaim a wine's critical rating and to quote accolades from the major critics.

Sometimes called "hangers," these dangling devices serve to inform, and of course they are also intended to encourage sales. (Have you ever seen one cite a negative review or a point rating in the 70s?)

Wine shops vary in their use of this technique. Some, like the Liquor Barn stores in Louisville and Lexington, Ky., are all but festooned with yellow shelf cards. "Sometimes people don't want to take time to ask questions or talk to a sales person," said Ken Berg, wine manager of Liquor Barn's giant Springhurst store in suburban Louisville. "These make it easy for people to get an idea what the wine is like." Berg said he advises people not to buy on the basis of a wine's rating points but to match the detailed descriptions against their personal tastes.

At another top Louisville wine shop, Old Town Wine & Spirits, shelf talkers are thin on the ground. A staffer said management encourages shoppers to ask about wines of interest. "That's part of the service we provide," he said.

Love 'em or hate 'em, it's hard for even the most self-confident wine enthusiast to ignore them. I confess to perusing them myself, when I'm browsing, although as Berg suggests, I try not to be influenced by a 90-plus score from the usual suspects, reading their words instead and trying to "calibrate" their comments against my tastes. (I know, for instance, that the critic Robert M. Parker Jr. usually awards high ratings to big, oaky wine-monsters that I often find too Technicolor for comfort, so a "talker" that quotes him raving about "gobs of hedonistic fruit," I'll take it as a warning rather than the intended encouragement.)

How about you? Do you find shelf "talkers" helpful, or an intrusive bother? Do you rely on them heavily in your wine-buying decisions, or do your best to ignore them? Tell us where you stand, and see how your opinion stacks up against those of other wine lovers around the world, as we ask, "Do shelf 'talkers' influence your wine purchase?"

To cast your "vote," simply click to the Voting Booth entry page,
where you'll find a link to the ballot as well as photos of typical wine shelves that talk and shelves that don't.

If you want to discuss this topic in more detail, you're welcome as always to join in an online conversation in our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group. To join in an interactive round-table online discussion on today's topic, click to

If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.

Reds Laurel Glen 2001 Reds California Red ($8.99)

A blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignane in undisclosed proportions, this inky-dark purple wine shows a distinctly Zin-like personality, but it's built on an earthy, mouth-filling framework that gives it more than a touch of a Mediterranean accent. Smoke and tar add complexity to blackberry fruit on the nose. Cherry-berry fruit is more forward on the palate, structured with snappy acidity and an intriguing whiff of white pepper in the finish. (March 21, 2004)

FOOD MATCH: The back label correctly notes that it's a food-friendly wine, capable of matching anything from Mediterranean fare to burgers and pizza. It made a great match with lamb shanks long braised with Tuscan white beans scented with rosemary and sage.

VALUE: It doesn't get any better than this in the $8 to $10 range.

WHEN TO DRINK: Not a wine made for aging, but previous vintages have lasted for several years with no loss of quality.

WEB LINK: Laurel Glen's Website offers information about Reds here:

FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: The Laurel Glen Website offers direct online sales where the law allows, plus a list of worldwide distributors. Also check vendors for all Laurel Glen wines at

California Wine Club

California Wine Club

Ten days left in The California Wine Club's March 2004 Spring Cleaning Wine Sale!

If you've been putting off placing an order during this month's wine sale at The California Wine Club - don't delay any longer. Their twice-yearly sale ends March 31. You'll save up to 58 percent off an impressive collection of highly rated wines. Every wine featured in this month's sale has been hand-selected by club owners Bruce and Pam Boring. Every wine comes from a real working, family-owned California winery and every wine is 100 percent guaranteed.

to view the full selection on sale. For more personalized service, call 1-800-777-4443 and the folks at The California Wine Club will be happy to help you mix a half or full case of their most popular selections.

TASTING NOTES! To view Robin Garr's tasting reports on six of the wines featured in California Wine Club's sale, see last Monday's Wine Advisor,

This week on

Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:

Sue's Vinous Passion: The keys to NZ Sauvignon Blanc
What is it about New Zealand that makes its Sauvignon Blanc so successful? Prof. Denis Dubourdieu, esteemed researcher and winemaker at the University of Bordeaux, suggests three answers: "Light, water and nitrogen," he said at a University of Auckland Wine Conference last autumn. New Zealand correspondent Sue Courtney reports on Dr. Dubourdieu's presentation and discusses New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc extensively in this report, with many tasting notes.

Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Why drink average, everyday wines?
Would you rather enjoy "average" wine every day, or limit yourself to extraordinary wines on less frequent occasions? There are no right or wrong answers to Walt Carpenter's provocative question on our Wine Lovers' Discussion Group, but it clearly struck sparks with a lot of wine lovers, with nearly 100 replies posted so far. You're invited to read the posts, and add your own comments:

Last Week's Wine Advisor Index

The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:

 Budget Super-Tuscan? (March 19, 2004)

 The many flavors of Pinot Gris (March 17, 2004)

 Amazing grape: Carmenere (March 15, 2004)

 Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:

 Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Thoughts on chicken (March 18, 2004)

 Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:

 30 Second Wine Advisor, daily or weekly (free)
 Wine Advisor FoodLetter, Thursdays (free)
 Wine Advisor Premium Edition, alternate Tuesdays ($24/year)

For all past editions, click here


For information, E-mail


To subscribe or unsubscribe from The 30 Second Wine Advisor, change your E-mail address, or for any other administrative matters, please use the individualized hotlink found at the end of your E-mail edition. If this is not practical, contact me by E-mail at, including the exact E-mail address that you used when you subscribed, so I can find your record.

We do not use our E-mail list for any other purpose and will never give or sell your name or E-mail address to anyone. I welcome feedback, suggestions, and ideas for future columns. To contact me, please send E-mail to

All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.

Monday, March 22, 2004
Copyright 2004 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to the 30 Second Wine Advisor

Wine Advisor archives