Hooray! I received my second Club W order! I reviewed and discussed my first Club W experience a few weeks ago in Club W, Part I. As you may recall, I ran into a small glitch in my first order; a $26 introductory credit did not apply correctly, leaving me out of pocket for the full price of the order. Faster than a speeding bullet, the Club W customer service team credited my account for the $26, resolving the issue for me, and ensuring a repeat customer for them.
I had high hopes for my second order. Being somewhat underwhelmed by the standard $13 wines, I included in my order a $24 “Porter & Plot” 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, along with three of the $13 selections: 2013 “Likelihood of Confusion” Sierra Foothills Zinfandel, 2012 “La Forza” Super Tuscan, and 2014 Più Gioia Pinot Grigio (IGT delle Venezie, Italy.) Living in the shadow of the Sierra Foothills, I am especially partial to Zinfandel from that region, so I was really looking forward to experiencing a “Likelihood of Confusion.” Purchasing four bottles gets you free shipping, saving $6, so it’s like getting the fourth bottle for only $7.
Unless otherwise specified, Club W orders are processed on the day of the month in which one’s first order was placed. My processing date was March 2. Alas, on March 3, I received an e-mail from Natalie, a Club W Wine Concierge, with some bad news. There had been an accident in the warehouse, and the last few cases of “Likelihood of Confusion” had been damaged. Natalie apologized, and had already credited my account for the $13 cost of that bottle, once again assuring another repeat order from me. I understand that accidents happen, and to the best of my knowledge, nobody was hurt, which is the most important thing. So at worst, I missed out on trying a wine I was looking forward to tasting. Also, this provides fodder for “Club W, Part III” sometime down the road.
Eager with anticipation, my (now) three-bottle box arrived at my office. Like a kid a Christmas, I cut the seal and lifted the lid. There’s my 2011 Napa Cabernet! There’s the Super Tuscan. But…where’s the golden-hued Pinot Grigio? In its place, there is a 2014 Meraki Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles.
Now, I love Cabernet. And I’m starting to explore Paso Robles wines more. Stock-outs happen, I get it. But if that’s the case, substituting a big, bold Cabernet for a light, refreshing Pinot Grigio? That just doesn’t make sense. Perhaps it was an order-fulfillment error. Those happen, too.
I e-mailed Natalie, explained what had happened, and asked that she look into it for me. 12 minutes later, Natalie replied. (There’s that speeding bullet again!) Natalie said she would look into it, but affirmed this appeared to be a warehouse error. In the meantime, she had already submitted an order to send me that missing 2014 Più Gioia Pinot Grigio, shipped expedited service. She also told me to keep and enjoy the Meraki Cabernet, and even recommended it as one of her favorites!
So while my ordering experiences have not been without hiccups, the Club W Customer Service team has been on top of it with prompt, courteous, and satisfactory service. Kudos to Natalie and the rest of the team for providing such good service in a day and age when good service is hard to find! And now, on to the reviews!
Meraki Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles 2014
This is one of the best mistakes I’ve ever received!
“Medium purple color in the glass. Appealing, classic Cabernet Sauvignon aromas of blackberry and cassis. On the palate, flavors of ripe plum, cherry, blackberry, and oak. The tannins are remarkably soft and smooth for such a young wine, giving it a creamy mouthfeel. On the finish there are light berry notes with a hint of leather and tobacco.
Biodynamically produced if that’s your thing. This is the best wine I’ve had so far from Club W! Great value at just $13!”
4.5 Stars (92 to 94 points)
La Forza Super Tuscan 2012
“Ruby-purple color. Aromas of fresh blackberry, cherry, and spice. On the palate there are flavors of blackberry, red currant, black pepper, oak, and just a bit of earthy notes. Medium bodied with firm tannins and bright, fresh acidity, this wine is made for food. Yet is fruit-forward enough to stand up on its own. The long finish lingers with blackberry and spice, and that acidity keeps the mouth tingling for several minutes. A very nicely made Super Tuscan!”
4.0 Stars (88-91 points)
Più Gioia Pinot Grigio 2014
“Light golden/dark straw color. Initial aromas of stone fruit and mango give way to pineapple and grapefruit on the nose. Light bodied with bold, lively acidity. Tangy citrus flavors dominate; grapefruit and lemon-lime, with pineapple, and a hint of pear on the finish. As it warms and opens, I get a whiff of banana candy. Definitely more tangy than most Italian PGs I’ve had; almost more of a Cali Sauv Blanc style, but well made and interesting. Paired well with grilled shrimp.”
3.5 Stars (85-87 points)
Porter & Plot Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
And at last, the $24 bottle I’ve been waiting to try!
“Ruby/purple color in the glass. Aromas of Marionberry pie, black plum, and violet. On the tongue, there are a variety of flavors going on, including Marionberry/blackberry, ripe plum, black currant, and a hint of cedar and spice. The tannins are very soft and smooth, with mild acidity. The mouthfeel is rich and full, coating the mouth. This wine has aged well these five years, (although with the wax seal preventing any air getting in, necessary for long-term aging, I’m not sure how much longer it will continue to improve.) The finish is pleasant and lingers with dark berry, cola, smoke, and mild vanilla/oak notes.”
4.0 Stars (88-91 points)
After two orders, I still think Club W is a novel concept and a good source for people who are newer to wine exploration. As I mentioned in my earlier post, their target market appears to be millennials who are just starting to enjoy wine. In summary, here are the pros and cons, as I’ve experienced them so far.
- They have a wide selection, including some lesser known varietals, and are supporting small production winemakers.
- They have some unique features that other online retailers and clubs do not. For example, it appears that once you’ve placed a bottle in your basket, it’s yours – even if you don’t complete and ship the order for a couple of months, and it otherwise sells out in the meantime.
- Their customer service team is prompt, courteous, and efficient.
- You can easily skip a month, or several, without cost or penalty.
- Their packaging is second-to-none.
- Limited ability to review (1-5 scale ratings, only, and no half-stars), or otherwise communicate with the winemakers. It seems ratings are only used to power the algorithm to determine recommendations.
- The wines are good, but not what I consider great. Of seven bottles, my average rating is 3.7 stars (roughly 86-88 points.) Not bad, but frankly, I can get equal quality for less, or better for the same price. For example, the Porter & Plot 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon was good; I rated it 4.0. However, for the same $24, I can get a Beaulieu Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet, a solid 4.5+ wine, from my local Total Wine & More store.
- While their customer service team is very good, the fact that I have had contact with, or from, their customer service team three times in two orders is telling. Hopefully it’s just growing pains and they’ll get the kinks worked out.
As I’ve mentioned, I foresee continuing to order from Club W once in a while. If you are new to wine, and want to try out the Club W algorithm for recommendations, do us both a $13 favor, and follow this link to sign up!
I think for my next order, I’ll let Club W do all the heavy lifting, and go with their recommendations. I’ll let you know what I think in Club W, Part III. Stay tuned!