Editor's Note: In this series, we'll share the best deals we find in wine.
I have a new habit. I'm not sure it's a bad habit, exactly, though it adds up. On my lunch break, or as the day quiets down, I find myself trolling the interwebs for wine to buy. My method of choice: sorting by vintage.
Once upon a time, you were limited to the wine store nearest you, and you went there, and chatted them up, and maybe bought a bottle. If they had something special, or some good deal, you'd happen upon it, and that's nice. But now, there's the internet, and if you live in a state that allows shipping, wine shopping is a whole new ballgame. And even if you don't order wine to be sent in the mail (those shipping costs add up), the internet is a handy tool for discovering wine you simply must have, and spotting good deals from the comfort of your laptop.
So I open the webpages of the wine stores near me, and I sort the list of what's available by vintage. Often, you can limit the price, and say, hey, don't show me awesome older wines that cost $50. I don't want to see them, I just can't buy them. (Yes, this is how I talk to websites.) So I set it on under $20 or so, and have it show me the oldest bottles first.
Of course, there's some amount of risk: the wine won't taste good if it wasn't stored well. Unless you know exactly how the wine was stored, there's a chance you get a bad bottle.
But sometimes there are treasures, wines that have developed over time in a cellar somewhere, shed their baby fat or unfolded into something new and delicious. For people who don't have much storage space to age the wine themselves, sortable shop websites can be a boon. I bought a bottle of Heitz Cellar Napa Valley Zinfandel from 1981 this way, and we opened it on New Year's Eve. It was a cold night, a small gathering, and the wine was earthy and murmury, the kind of sip that makes everything go hushed for a moment.
This week, the vintage-sorting process turned up a bottle of riesling from 2007. Now, that's not super-old, but it's enough time for the wine to develop a bit, and I was curious. Especially at the price of $13.99.
The winery, Schloss Schönborn, has been around awhile: it dates back to 1349. Twenty seven generations of the von Schönborn family have made these wines. They have parcels in 38 different vineyards in the Rheingau, where the slopes above the Rhine river face south, bathing in the warm sunlight. And the winery recently released this bottling: they've been storing it since '07.
My curiosity paid off: Schloss Schönborn 2007 Riesling Kabinett is a great deal. Equal parts stony and rich and tart, the wine is part river rocks, part lemon bars. It's delicious on its own, though it'll play nice with a cheese plate or roast chicken or pad thai with shrimp.
If you're looking for me, I'll be back online buying some more...