Monday, June 13, 2011

Presents every month...aka...the world of online wine clubs

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Editor's Note: Guest Blogger Sarah Gremer lives in Seattle, Washington where she spends hours pontificating on wine. With a move pending, we may convince her to cover the Walla Walla scene for us.

I got into the world of online wine clubs as a way to find some new wines I hadn’t tried before at affordable prices. Tired of going into the grocery store and wandering around until I picked up another bottle of the same old wine just because I knew it was “safe”, I figured why not try a few wine clubs and see what came to my door?

There are many things I love about ordering wine online:
  • I often forget I ordered anything, so when I come home to a case or even just a couple bottles of wine, I feel like I just received a present!
  • I feel like I have good friends who take time to go choose wines for me, and they even send me tasting notes, telling me what I am going to like about the wines and what food it pairs best with.
  • After ordering from a club, I start to receive special offers of more wines at great prices.
  • My two year old loves to help me “unpack” the wines and organize them in the wine fridge. Any box that comes to our house is immediately dubbed, “Momma’s Wine.” (I know, what have I done?)
  • A sucker for a great deal, I love all the first time offers that come with many wine clubs. You can get cases at discounts of over 50%, and sometimes it includes free gifts as well.
  • My favorite thing about online wine clubs is that I always get good bottles of wine. The clubs take great care in making sure that all bottles are tasted and reviewed by multiple people before being included in a shipment. This means that I don’t have to go through the process of trial and error when trying new wines. I always know that I’m going to get something good!
So on to the clubs. Which ones are good? What do you get for joining? Read on to discover a little bit about some of my selected wine clubs.

K & L Wine Merchants

This was one of the first clubs I ever joined. K & L is based in California and they have a number of clubs you can join. I joined the Premium Wine club, which included 2 bottles a month for $29.99 plus shipping and handling (it averages out to about $42 a month to ship to Washington). Other wine clubs they have include the best buy wine club ($19.99 for two great deals a month), the Champagne club ($69.99 for two bottles of wonderful bubbly every other month), and the Italiano club ($39.95 for two bottles of Italian Vino a month). The great thing is if you join ANY of these clubs, you automatically can get any of the other club wines at the discounted club price – it’s a great benefit and you don’t have to join multiple clubs.

The wines themselves are always great. Each month I received one red and one white (occasionally, you might get two reds or two whites). The package includes tasting notes along with what foods will pair best with the wines. The wines are usually from California or Italy, but it can vary. Some of the great wines I’ve tried from this club include the 2008 Château de Montfaucon "Baron Louis" Côtes du Rhône (reorder price $14.99), a light and fruity wine good to the last drop, and the 2009 Cakebread Cellars Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc (reorder price: inquire), a crisp and clean white that would be fantastic with a nice cheese plate.

Overall, K & L is a great club, and I would highly recommend it. Even if you aren’t a club member, you can still order individual bottles from their website, and they are all pretty great.

I came across this one when I saw a great deal - $69.99 (plus shipping and handling) for a case of wines that would regularly be $169.99. Not only would I get a case of wine, but I would also get 4 free glasses and tasting notes in a lovely little binder. How could I resist?

When the wines came to my door, I was not disappointed. The Charles Smith Cabernet alone was worth the whole purchase! The tasting book was great, with color pictures and a binder to keep all your tasting notes in. I was excited about the glasses, but I am sadly down to only one glass, as three of them broke within the first month of having them. Sometimes this deal comes with extra bottles of wine as part of the deal, and I think that’s a much better “free gift”.

The wines from this club are more well-known than what you would expect. The Alma Andina Malbec Reserva is a wonderful Malbec. It is nice and bright, and reminds me why Malbec is one of my favorite wines. The white wine offerings are also a nice surprise, with more complexity than a typical white you might pick up at the grocery store. Even with the shipping price, it roughly equals out to $7.50 a bottle, and who can beat that? Just don’t forget to cancel your membership once you have received your first special offer, otherwise you will be billed for future shipments at the full price.

I did not realize when I joined this club that they are pretty much the same club as I learned that some of the wines they send are duplicates. Still delicious, but just be aware of what you are going to get. Same deal here – purchase 12 wines from $69.99 plus shipping and handling.

I did not cancel out of this wine club quickly enough and I received a second case from their wine club ($139.99 plus shipping and handling). The wines were still as great as the first case, and although I had to spend more for the second case, I wasn’t disappointed with the wines. WSJ wines also come with a tasting binder and notes, which is really great, especially if you continue to be a club member.

Not so much a club as an online wine merchant, has some great wines and great deals. I found this wine site by way of a groupon I purchased. The groupon let me purchase $60 worth of wine for $30 dollars. It is important to note that does not let you combine any coupons, so if you have a groupon coupon, you will not be able to use a coupon for free shipping as well. The site limits you to one coupon per purchase. Even with that minor disappointment, I still felt I was able to get some great deals from this site.

My favorite wine I received from the case I ordered was the Di Majo Norante 2008 Sangiovese ($10.99). This is a great easy drinking red wine. I have really gotten into Sangiovese lately. If you haven’t had a chance yet to try one, this is a good one to start with. My other great find was the Cristalino Brut Cava ($7.99). This is very affordable drier style champagne. I ordered a few bottles and they have been a hit at multiple family gatherings!

In a nutshell, do I think buying online is worth it? Yes. If you like having someone else do the hard work for you and you just want to know that what you are drinking is going to be good, then online wine clubs might just be for you. Many clubs out there offer “first time club member” deals like Zagat and WSJ, just don’t forget to quit the club if you don’t want to pay full price! Also, always be on the lookout for great free or low cost shipping deals. And even if you don’t join the clubs, at least join their mailing lists so you can be aware of their special deals and offers.

My wine club memberships are all currently on hold as I get ready to pack up and move to Walla Walla. Yes, that Walla Walla. Stay tuned for notes from my new wine adventures both online and in my new town!

Until then, happy drinking!


1 comment:

  1. I've often wondered about these wine clubs. Thanks for the info.