From the comfort of my home, I attended an online wine tasting this evening held by a new San Francisco-based Web site called Brixr.com. Its model is to sell wines on the Web by offering you the chance to taste them first, along with sommeliers brought in for the occasion, in a live streaming video feed. How does it work? You sign up for the tasting at Brixr and then buy samples of the wines that are shipped to you in little 1.7-ounce bottles by Brixr’s parent, Crushpad, a Napa-based custom wine company that repackages the wines into the mini-bottles with their screw caps. Then, at the appointed hour, you log in and participate in the tasting along with the hosts, posting your comments or questions on the site as you taste and watch. I’m including a short video clip of my experience below.
The theme of this preview tasting for the wine media was France’s Rhône Valley and Rhône-style wines from California. We tasted six of them in all as the hosts, Raj Parr and Christie Dufault of the restaurant RN74 in San Francisco, described the wines and offered their impressions.
I was prepared for a bit more of a hard sell by the hosts but was pleasantly surprised by the relatively straightforward nature of the commentary. If that’s the tone for what’s to c0me, there should be considerable interest in the idea, although at $25 for the “tiny bottle” sample collection required for the tasting, the entry price is not inconsequential. Novices could conceivably skip the “tasting” part of it and learn a good deal just by watching the videos (maybe I’m not supposed to suggest that).
As for the wines, three of the six stood out for me. The first was Château Rayas’s 2006 “La Pialade” Côtes-du-Rhône, a stunningly beautiful $34 grenache-based wine that had the light color of Burgundy and classic southern Rhône white pepper and grenache’s cherry notes. From the northern Rhône, Gilles Robin’s 2006 Crozes Hermitage “Cuvee Albéric Bouvet,” a $30 syrah, had a funky yet pleasing earthiness with notes of spicy blackberry and tobacco. Perhaps the most intriguing and unexpected wine was a genuine California oddity – an 11.5 percent alcohol red wine, Arnot-Roberts’ 2008 “Clary Ranch” Syrah, $38, from the Sonoma Coast. It was a real treat, showing a beautifully balanced combination of fig, mushroom, earth and eucalyptus notes.
I’ll certainly follow up on the Arnot-Roberts wine, which, by the way, was the only one of my three favorites not listed as “out of stock” on Brixr’s Web site. You might want to order a bottle before it goes the way of the others.