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

2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

2016 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

Regular price $40

Compare at: $80 
(intended price to list members for this exact bottling)

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Recognition

This winery and winemaker has a long and storied history, dating back to the late 1970s. They have multiple high-90 point wines and appearances on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year. This wine is on sale right now, with another label, but it will set you back almost $1000 for a case. Honestly, it was a bit of a coup to get our hands on this, but we couldn't be more excited!

Tasting Notes

The Sonoma Coast appellation consistently produces world-class Pinot varietals, and this 2016 Pinot Noir is no exception.  On the nose, dark red fruit and hillside florals explode from the glass. This full-bodied pinot boasts blackcurrants, plum, vanilla and a touch of black pepper on the finish. The finish is impressively long – a fantastic wine!
 
Best paired with: Friends who like to drink exceptional red wine and anything from cool nights & campfires to warm summer sunsets by the lake.  Veggies-on-the-grill, shrimp-and-grits, hamburgers, or even your local butcher’s best cut of filet mignon, this wine has the ability to complement nearly anything you care to cook Monday-Sunday.  It has a foundation that will make it a much-loved favorite and the complexity that will impress even your most diehard Cabernet-loving friends.

Wine Stats

- Blend: Pinot Noir
- AVA: Sonoma Coast
- ABV: 14.6%


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2018 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
2018 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
2018 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

2018 Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Regular price $36
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Recognition

Napa Cabs from this producer consistently score 94-96 points across the board 

Tasting Notes

This is one explodes from the glass with notes of dark fruit, savory spices, and a hint of oak. On the  palate, you get a sense of place with the typical spicy notes indicative of the higher elevation cabernets, with tannins that are neatly integrated for its young age.

The wine saw a significant portion of new French oak and had a nice rest in bottle before its release. This will age gracefully for the next decade+ and at this price, you're going to want to stock up!

Best paired with: Grilled meats or vegetables, hard cheese, and even heavier fish dishes

The Story

This is another casualty of unexpected restaurant closures in 2020. This wine was destined for high end, East Coast restaurants, but the winery made a quick pivot and sold the cases to us for a song!

Wine Stats
- Production: 106 cases
- Blend: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon
- AVA: Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley
- ABV: 14.6%
- Drinking window: This wine will evolve for 15+ years, but the impatient wine drinker is also rewarded
- Comparable Price: $140

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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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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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Shipping calculated at checkout.

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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