Our Business Model

Eight years ago, I was a business school student while my wife stayed at home to care of our two small children. We focused a lot of our energy on just “making it work” – life, school, and kids – all on a single income. My taste for expensive wine? Not a priority.

How do you drink high quality wine on a budget?

Short of having a friend with a well-stocked cellar, the options for finding great wine on a limited budget are few. I bought wine from flash sale websites, auctions, and Costco to varying levels of success.

In 2015, I was grumbling about my (first world) plight to a friend in Napa who happened to be the general manager at a small but very high end winery, who said they had just completed their blending for the year and had 3 barrels of their first-quality cabernet that wouldn’t be used.

 Why don’t wineries bottle & sell everything they produce?

Three major reasons (and one Invisible hand)

1) Winemakers are painters that want to have all the colors on the palate when they make their wine. They want the Cabernet from one section of the vineyard separate from another; perhaps even aged in different types of oak barrels. The permutations drive the business people crazy, but if your name is Paul Hobbs or Phillipe Melka, you get what you want. At the end of the blending process, there are simply barrels left over that didn’t make it into wine. Just like Bob Ross would never have splashed Crimson Red across a finished landscape painting just because he had some remaining on his palate, a winemaker doesn’t just dump an extra barrel or two of wine in their final blend because it is sitting in the cellar.

2) Harvests can vary up to 40% in volume from one year to the next. Depending on how the buds break in the Spring or the fruit sets in early summer, will determine what the yield will be. When wineries have an abundant crop, the marginal cost (I am revealing my economist roots!) to make that into wine is minimal, so they end up with more wine than what they can sell. When that happens, the economist might tell you to lower the price and sell the wine, however, the brand manager might say, “Protect the price point and get rid of the rest.” Add to that the 3+ years between production and the first sale, and there will inevitably be a mismatch.

3) Unique circumstances lead to wine that need a new home. For example, with the global pandemic of COVID-19, restaurants shut down across the country. Wine destined for restaurant lists suddenly needed a new home. We were able to buy barrels from an iconic producer, sourcing a 98+ point pinot noir at incredible value.

Each wine has a unique story that you can read about on the product page.

The Claudine Wines model

Buying surplus wine is not new. In France, this negociant model has been around for hundreds of years. In America, Cameron Hughes built a robust business buying mega-lots of wine and selling through Costco.

We’re different because we specialize in micro lots (3-5 barrels at a time) and only work with high end wineries. In exchange for the anonymity we give those wineries, they happily sell to us for steep discounts – savings we pass on to you.

- Brian Retherford, Proprietor

P.S. Sign up below to take $50 off your first order!

Current Releases

2007 Ballard Canyon Reserve Syrah
2007 Ballard Canyon Reserve Syrah

2007 Ballard Canyon Reserve Syrah

Regular price $50 Compare at: $150
(intended price to list members for this exact bottling)
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Recognition

Consistently 93+ points from multiple reviewers for Stolpman Syrahs from this producer; this Reserve outshines previous releases.

Arcadian wines have been called "genuine benchmarks" with winemaker Joe Davis recognized as a top 100 most influential winemaker in the U.S.

Tasting Notes

Dense, rich, and vibrant, with no hint of its age besides some slight brick-like color towards the edge of the rim in the glass. The nose gives up dark blue fruits that grows as the wine wakes up from its slumber. On the palate, there is a beautifully rich assemblage of black cherry, spices, white flowers, and mint

Best paired with: Roasted lamb with flavors like allspice, cloves, or mint

The Story

This wine was never supposed to be available outside of the winery, and Joe Davis, proprietor at Arcadian Winery, planned to sell this Reserve bottling for $150 per bottle. 2020 being what it was, some plans laid early in the year did not materialize for him and 80 cases of this wine was made available.

“In 2007, I set aside 5 of my favorite barrels and aged them additional year [in addition to the 22 months for our normal bottling]. These came to be known as Don Julio after my cellarmaster who so loved this wine. After bottling, we tucked them away for a long slumber.”

This is the handwritten note we received from Joe when he sent a sample to us. Says it all!

Wine Stats

- Production: 40 cases
- Blend: 100% Syrah
- AVA: Ballard Canyon (Stolpman Vineyard)
- ABV: 14.4%
- Drinking window: now-2025

- Comparable price: $150

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2018 Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon
2018 Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon

2018 Coombsville Cabernet Sauvignon

Regular price $58 Compare at: $125+
(intended price set by the winery where this was originally destined)
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Recognition

94-95 points on the most recent two vintages from The Wine Advocate

4.6 rating on Vivino with almost 1,000 ratings on Bordeaux blends from this producer (top 1% of wines from Napa Valley!)

Tasting Notes

This one bursts out of the glass with a nose of dark cherries and blackberries. Quintessential Napa Cab! One person described the first sip as “Pure velvet” and the finish long but with clarity and crispness.

Coombsville is a relatively new AVA (approved in 2011) and it immediately denoted wines recognized by their typically soft but significant tannins, which provide excellent structure and mouthfeel, along with underlying layers of earth and mineral flavors. If you’re into the “tastes like” thing, it is Stag’s Leap District for me.

Best paired with: Filet mignon, hamburgers, portobello mushrooms, cheese (especially hard cheeses) or nothing at all! The finest red wine glass you own and a good wine-friend.

The Story

I have to confess. We didn’t intend to buy this wine. Let me explain.

We purchased another wine – a fantastic pinot noir – from a stellar producer we had worked with before. When this got to our bottling facility, there was a “whoopsie” and a barrel of grenache was accidentally poured into the tank with our pinot just before bottling. I guess the barrels looked very much the same...

We had a problem. There is no unmixing wine. Luckily, we were working with an upstanding partner who also happened to do small projects for other wineries and private clients. We walked through the options and he sent me a sample of this particular cabernet. I tasted it, was blown away, and negotiated a deal to make everyone whole.

This wine was destined for a winery who would charge $125 per bottle for it. Luckily, we don’t have any of the expenses of those big-name wineries, so we are offering it for less than half of that price.

Wine Stats

- Production: 99 cases
- Blend: 92% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot
- AVA: Coombsville, Napa Valley
- ABV: 14.6%
- Drinking window: This wine will evolve in the bottle beautifully for 15+ years, but it spectacular right now!
- Comparable Price: $125

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2016 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
2016 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

2016 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon

Regular price $42 Compare at: $100-$120
(price for Napa Cabs from this producer)
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Recognition

Napa Cabs from this producer score 94-95 points across the board from well-known wine publications

 Tasting Notes

This is one of the silkiest Cabernets you will come across. After nearly two years in a significant portion of new French oak and a nice rest in bottle, this is beautifully integrated wine from one of the iconic AVAs in Napa Valley.

On the nose are earthy notes, with hints of vanilla and cigar box. On the palate, its fine tannins are present but not overwhelming and melds nicely with a bit of mushroom, deep red fruits and a sweet spice that I can't quite put my finger on.

Best paired with: Grilled meats, pizza, hard cheeses

 

The Story

This wine was offered to us when, like others in our portfolio, the restaurant wine market completely cratered in 2020. We weren't necessarily looking for a Cabernet, but when we taste high quality wine and the price is fair, it simply had to be done. 

Unlike many of the wines we come across, this one had just the right amount of age that it is just starting to show some secondary characteristics that are quintessential Napa Valley Cab.

 

Wine Stats

- Production: 110 cases
- Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
- AVA: Oakville, Napa Valley
- ABV: 14.5%
- Drinking window: This wine is in great form today and should easily spend the next decade in your cellar - if you can wait that long!
- Comparable Price: $120

 

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2016 Russian River Valley Syrah
2016 Russian River Valley Syrah

2016 Russian River Valley Syrah

Regular price $38 Compare at: $60-$70
(price for the same wine under its original label)
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Recognition

Consistently 94-95 points from multiple reviewers over the last five vintages.

Tasting Notes

The 2016 growing season, like many in Northern California, provided ideal conditions for almost all varietals. High-elevation vineyards were used for this wine, and the low-yield vines produced grapes of incredible quality. 

This wine is everything that Syrah should be - bold without being jammy. On the nose, concentrated blackberries. The big fruit is structured with medium tannins and hints of bacon fat and white pepper on the finish.  

Best paired with: Grilled meats & vegetables (lamb is the classic pairing), beef stew, comfort food and a cool fall evening.

The Story

We found this when tasting through the small lots of wine available from a well-known Sonoma producer.

This particular wine had been resting in neutral oak, well-cared for by the cellarmaster for the last two years. Under normal circumstances, the wine would have been bottled by the producer and distributed through their restaurant program. But that channel was nearly shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, we were able to secure 4 barrels (100 cases) of this stellar Syrah.

Wine Stats

- Production: 100 Cases
- Blend: 98% Syrah, 2% Viognier
- AVA: Russian River Valley 
- ABV: 14.5%
- Drinking window: 2020 - 2030

- Comparable price: $60 - $70

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2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

2018 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

Regular price $40 Compare at: $90-$140
(price for the same wine under its original label)
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Recognition

Multiple mid-90's reviews from reputable wine publications

Tasting Notes

The Russian River Valley needs no introduction, for those who know good Pinot Noir, and the 2018 vintage is considered one of the appellation’s best in recent memory. The excellent growing season produced grapes of exceptional balance that yielded a wine resonate with dark and red fruit flavors accented by spicy notes of berry jam and framed by a savory edge of truffle, roasted root vegetables and a hint of bacon. The wine’s enticing aromas of fresh strawberry and other dark fruits are complemented by more savory essences as everything comes together in a long and refreshing mouthfeel that showcases the vintage’s outstanding structure  

Best paired with: Anything you like. Good pinot is one of the most versatile wines and while I might avoid a very fatty cut of red meat, this would be a great warm-up bottle  while you sear ribeyes in the cast iron

The Story

Let's say that it wasn't 2020 and EVERY restaurant in America wasn't shut down, and you were going to a not-to-be-named 2-Michelin starred restaurant. You might then peruse the wine list and ask the Somm for a recommendation and she would tell you about this fantastic small-production Russian River Pinot from a Sonoma winery that is highly acclaimed. She insists it's a steal for $140 

But we are in 2020 and restaurants were closed for months. Originally destined for restaurants, this wine had no place to go. We made a connection with the owner, tasted the wine, and confirmed the provenance, then made a deal that we could all be happy with

Wine Stats

Blend: 100% Pinot Noir 
- AVA: Russian River Valley 
- ABV14.1%  
- Drinking windowThis wine will hold up at least fifteen years, no problem. Open your first bottles in mid-2020

- Comparable price: $90 - $140

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2017 Yountville Deux
2017 Yountville Deux

2017 Yountville Deux

Regular price $32 Compare at: $100+
(price of Bordeaux blends from this producer)
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Recognition

Recent Bordeaux blends from this winery scored 91-93 points from Wine Enthusiast and James Suckling.

Tasting Notes

Deux means two. But you knew that. This blend of Cab Franc and Merlot is phenomenally rich and if you managed to snag a bottle of our Diamond Mountain version of this wine a couple of years back, this wine is a step ahead! 

The wine delivers focused dark fruit and vanilla aromas, with a core to match that surround the  fine tannins. Yountville is one Napa's smaller AVAs and probably better known for The French Laundry, but its location near the southern end of the Valley means that it is slightly cooler and has a bit longer growing season. That allows for the depth of flavor to develop in red wines without super-high alcohol. 

Best paired with: If it goes in your mouth, it will go with this wine. Five Guys? Absolutely. Cold pizza by the light of the refrigerator, you bet. Maybe avoid spicy foods though. 

The Story

Summer of 2019, I (Brian, Claudine co-owner) was vacationing in Provence and met the owner of a well-known Napa winery in Calistoga. One thing led to another, and a few weeks later, I found myself in their cellar, crawling over barrels that needed to move to make room for the rapidly-approaching harvest. We were able to negotiate incredible pricing on these delicious wines on two conditions: we had to commit to purchasing a bit more wine than we normally would - and we had to take possession quickly. As Retherfords, we appreciate a serious deal and relish a serious challenge (in that order) and this proposal afforded ample opportunity for both. 

Wine Stats

- Production: 214 cases - most ever 
- Blend:  50% Cabernet Franc, 50% Merlot 
- AVA: Yountville, Napa Valley 
- ABV: 15.0% 
- Drinking window: 2019-2029
- Comparable price: $100+

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2017 Yountville Malbec
2017 Yountville Malbec

2017 Yountville Malbec

Regular price $28 Compare at: $75+
(price of comparable wine from this producer)
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Recognition

Recent Bordeaux blends from this winery scored 91-93 points from Wine Enthusiast and James Suckling.

Tasting Notes

Deceptively smooth, elegant, with a long (and very purple) finish. 

Indeed, this is not an $8 Argentinian Malbec (that said, if I only had $8 to spend on a bottle, I am going with a Malbec from Argentina). Taste it blind next to your favorite $40 blend and we're sure this one will win - hands down. 

Best paired with: You name it. This wine is versatile enough to pair with anything: from cold Chipotle leftovers to a sous-vide steak dinner.

The Story

Summer of 2019, I (Brian, Claudine co-owner) was vacationing in Provence and met the owner of a well-known Napa winery in Calistoga. One thing led to another, and a few weeks later, I found myself in their cellar, crawling over barrels that needed to move to make room for the rapidly-approaching harvest. We were able to negotiate incredible pricing on these delicious wines on two conditions: we had to commit to purchasing a bit more wine than we normally would - and we had to take possession quickly. As Retherfords, we appreciate a serious deal and relish a serious challenge (in that order) and this proposal afforded ample opportunity for both.

Wine Stats

- Production: 104 cases 
- Blend: 75% Malbec, 12.5% Cabernet Franc, 12.5% Merlot 
- AVA: Yountville, Napa Valley 
- ABV: 15.2% 
- Drinking window: 2019-2026
- Comparable price: $75+

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2016 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
2016 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir
2016 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

2016 Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir

Regular price $34 Compare at: $60-$80
(typical price for pinot noirs from this producer)
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Recognition

Every pinot noir offered by this winery on its website today has received at least 94 points from a major publication. 

For the wine geeks, the grapes come from the Sanford and Benedict & La Riconada vineyards.

Tasting Notes

This weighty pinot from the Sta. Rita Hills AVA in Santa Barbara County represents our first foray outside of Napa/Sonoma. This pinot saw 16 months in French oak barrels, with 20% being new. Notes of dried cherry, plum and savory spices make this a food-friendly wine for all occasions. 

Best paired with: lean roast beef, roast chicken, duck, salmon, lamb and mushroom dishes (also good slightly chilled on your front porch).

The Story

Winemakers are artists, and in true artistic form the winemaker for this wine decided he wanted a new challenge – working with Central Coast fruit rather than Sonoma. So he sourced grapes from notable vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills AVA, worked his magic, and produced an incredible wine. Then, he waited – 16 months in barrel. 

By the time it was ready for bottling, the business side of this notable, allocation-list only winery interceded: “Our philosophy is to produce world class Sonoma County wines!” The Sta. Rita Hills offering, while majestic, simply didn’t fit the brand portfolio. Luckily for us, this type of story fits the Claudine wine brand perfectly, and we’re now able to offer this delicious wine at incredible value. 

Wine Stats

- Production: 147 cases
- Blend: 100% pinot noir
- AVA: Sta. Rita Hills
- ABV: 14.5% 
- Drinking window: 2018-2028
- Comparable Price: $60-$80

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2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay
2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay

Regular price $36 Compare at: $65-$110
(price for the same wine under its original label)
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Recognition

Multiple 94+ ratings from well-known publications

Tasting Notes

The 2018 Russian River Valley Chardonnay comes from three of the oldest vineyards in the Green Valley area of Sonoma County’s Russian River Appellation, which is one of California’s most celebrated sources of Burgundian varietals. Excellent conditions throughout the 2018 season allowed the grapes to mature slowly picking up fresh fruit flavors of apricot, nectarine and lemon zest while they maintained their crisp, natural acidity. In addition to giving the wine a refreshing finish, it’s structure also delivers a lightness on the palate that will make this your go-to white wine. 

Best paired with: Your last Zoom call of the day; maybe in your coffee mug to give the allure of "I'm having a late afternoon caffeine-fix so I can power through until 7pm" vibe.

The Story

Let's say that it wasn't 2020 and EVERY restaurant in America wasn't shut down, and you were going to a not-to-be-named 2-Michelin starred restaurant. You might then peruse the wine list and ask the Somm to pair something with your Atlantic Halibut. She tells you that the '90 Montrachet is one of kind, though you're not quite ready to part with a house payment to make it your own. She then recommends a special Russian River Chardonnay from an exclusive Sonoma winery. $110 seems like steal and you pat yourself on the back for showing real restraint.

But we are in 2020 and restaurants were closed for months. This wine had no place to go. We made a connection with the owner and picked up a small parcel of this wine along with its brother, the Russian River Pinot Noir, and we're happy to bring it to you at a steep discount.

Wine Stats

- Blend: 100% Chardonnay
- AVA: Russian River Valley (Green Valley area)
- ABV: 14.1%
- Drinking window: 2020-2030
- Comparable price: $65 - $110

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