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Tag Archives: Club W

Club W: Part III

club-w-logo-black

At long last, I bring you my third and final installment of my Club W series. Between summer travel and other matters, it’s been awhile since I checked in on this online wine distributor. If you missed the first two posts, you can read them here, and here. Go ahead, I’ll wait…

A few things have changed since my last Club W post.

  • First, a company name change and rebranding. Club W is a part of Winc (Wine, Inc.), and the decision was made to drop the Club W name, and identify solely as Winc. This transition is still in process, and the clubw.com website is still fully functional.

winc-logo

  • Secondly, the minimum purchase requirement has increased from three bottles to four. To qualify for free shipping, you always had to order four bottles, so now all orders are shipped for free. On the bright side, if you enjoy reds and whites equally, this allows you to select two reds and two whites as your default setting. (You can also select any combination of four – all reds, all whites, or three of one and one of the other.) Nevertheless, this also means that instead of $39 per month, plus $6 shipping for a total of $45, the cost for continuing, regular membership is $52 per month.
  • Third, the company has implemented an incentive to encourage customers to rate their wines. When you rate 10 wines, you get a $10 credit. Unfortunately, this is not retroactive, so the seven bottles I’ve already rated don’t qualify. In addition, as I’ve mentioned before, the rating system at Club W/Winc is simply a 1-5 star system; there is no option to enter tasting notes or other feedback.

If you’ve read my first two posts, you know that with both of my first two orders, I ran into some hiccups. (If you haven’t read them, why not? The links are right up there in the first paragraph!) You also know that customer service quickly and efficiently resolved the problems; said solutions including credits and free wine. Always a good thing! For my third order, I decided to let the Club W/Winc algorithm do its thing and select the wine for me, based on the preferences I entered when signing up, and enhanced by my previous orders and ratings. This time, my order was processed and delivered without a hitch! Third time’s a charm, right?

I received my order confirmation e-mail, and within a couple of days, the box of delicious goodness arrived at my office. The box included exactly the four bottles identified in my confirmation notice; two reds and two whites. Also included, as always, were glossy pages with information about the wines, tasting notes, and suggesting recipes for pairing.

Below are my reviews of the four wines from my third Club W order. All wines are $13.00:

Wondeful Wine Co. San Luis Obispo County White Blend 2014

wonderful-wine-co-white-blend

Enjoyable white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Viognior, and Muscat. Straw color with aromas of elderflower and pineapple. On the palate, flavors of white peach, with elderflower, pineapple, and apricot. Pleasantly dry with light acidity and fruit-forward profile, giving it a sweet sensation. Nice on its own, but also pairs well with foods, like baked chicken.

3.5 out of 5 stars (85 – 87 points)

Chommie Pinotage 2015

chommie-pinotage

My first Pinotage. Purple color with a ruby rim. Aromas of raspberry and earthy musk. On the palate, bright red cherries and fresh raspberries excite the tongue with fresh acidity. The wine is medium bodied, with dry tannins and a medium finish. The finish is sour cherry and spice, and a return of the earthy/musky notes. It paired nicely with smothered beef & lamb patties.

3.0 out of 5 stars (82 – 84 points)

Più Gioia Pinot Grigio 2015

piu-gioia-pg

Straw color. Aromas and flavors of white peach and golden delicious apple. Light to medium body with a supple mouthfeel and balanced acidity. The finish is floral, white peach, and a bit of mineral. A nice Italian PG, better than the 2014 vintage (reviewed in Club W – Part II). Served well chilled.

4.0 out of 5 stars (88 – 91 points)

Nouvelle Ère Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux 2014

nouvelle-ere-bordeaux

Ruby color in the glass. Aromas of blackberry bramble, black cherry, and cedar. On the palate, there are flavors of blackberry, raspberry, cherry, and spice. There is also a mineral/earth terroir note common in Right Bank Bordeaux. Medium body with bright acidity. Tannins show late, and are firm and tight, but soften with air. The finish lingers with dark berry, cedar, and spice. As with most Old World wines, it’s good on its own but is best with food – in this case a seared sirloin.

3.5 out of 5 stars (85 – 87 points)

So while the overall experience has improved, and was seamless with my third order, my opinion of the wines is pretty much the same. Good but not exceptional. There are a few gems worth repeating, but overall, there are comparable wines available for less money at retail wine shops. Let’s review the pros and cons, as I see them:

Pros:

  • Supporting the little guy
  • Info cards with recipes
  • Exploring unusual varietals
  • Availability of International wines
  • Personalized, hand-written thank you note!
  • 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 exceptional.

Cons:

  • Inability to review wines; only assign them a 1-5 scale rating. It has been my experience that, for me, writing a review and describing the flavors and elements in the wine enhances my enjoyment of the wine. Rather than simply knocking back a glass, I become more attentive and contemplative, and enjoy the wine more.
  • I’d also like the ability to communicate with the independent winemakers. Placing a face, personality, and story with the name on the bottle makes enjoying wine a much more personal experience.
  • While their customer service team is very good, the fact that I had contact with, or from, their customer service team three times in my first two orders is telling. Hopefully it’s just growing pains and they’ll get the kinks worked out.

In conclusion, I do think Club W/Winc is a good place to experiment for those just getting into wine. Based on their marketing materials, their target audience is clearly Millennials who fit that category. They allow you to receive different wines from around the world (depending on individual state shipping restrictions) on a regular basis without having to put any thought into buying decisions. Nevertheless, those who have a broader, deeper level of wine experience may find these wines wanting for complexity and depth. If you’re new to wine, and like the simplicity and ease of this business model, I heartily recommend Club W/Winc!

Have you purchased wine from Club W/Winc? Let me know about your experience in the comments.

Cheers!

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Club W, Part II

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.  ExcitedThere’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. 11275856-Confused-emoticon-Stock-Vector-smiley-face-cartoon

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! 61_1_blue-ribbon-perfect-logoAnd 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)

Conclusion

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.

Pros:

  • 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.

Cons:

  • 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!

Cheers!

Club W, Part I

Club W Stock Photo

I first learned of Club W more than a year ago, from a Facebook ad. Already happily participating in NakedWines.com, I didn’t really give Club W much thought. However, after some of my wine friends shared their favorable experiences with Club W, I decided to check them out.

The premise of Club W is similar to other monthly wine clubs, but it does have some distinctions that help to set it apart. When you first sign up, you answer six questions that are intended to help identify your flavor and taste profile. Questions like:

  • How do you like your coffee?
    • Strong & black.
    • Mild but nothing in it.
    • With cream and/or sugar.
    • Frappuccino’ed.
    • I don’t
  • Do you like earthy flavors like mushrooms and black-truffles?
    • Yes. I’ll more-or-less eat dirt.
    • Yeah, I like these flavors.
    • In moderation, as a secondary flavor.
    • No really my thing.
    • Gross. No.

Club W uses your responses to recommend wines they think you’ll like. Later, when you purchase Club W wines, you rate them (1-5 scale) and those ratings help to refine the recommendations. I’m sure there are other wine clubs that use similar algorithms to match you to wines you’ll love, but Club W was the first one I encountered.

Club W partners with independent winemakers to direct-market their wines. Thus, the wines they sell are available exclusively from Club W. This cuts out the middle tier of the archaic U.S. distribution system, and keeps costs down. The majority of the wines offered through Club W are $13, with a few higher priced options. I have not seen any wines for more than $35. In my book, that’s affordability!

Club W is a monthly club, with a welcome twist. When you sign up, you are agreeing to monthly shipments of three, $13 bottles of wine. By default, they will ship the recommended wines they have selected based on your profile. However, you can substitute different wines if you prefer. Shipping on three bottles is a flat $6, but they offer free shipping on orders of four bottles or more, so it’s like getting a fourth bottle for just $7. Here’s the welcome twist: you can skip a month, or two, or more, with no charge or penalty. Just remember to log in and click the “Skip” button each month before your default order is processed.

My First Club W Experience

To explore the company, I had to create an account, which I did several months ago. New customers get a credit for a free bottle ($13). Perhaps because I delayed in placing an order, upon logging in a few weeks ago, I discovered I had a two bottle, $26 credit. I’m no rocket scientist, but getting three bottles of wine for $13, plus tax and shipping, is kind of a no-brainer.

As I browsed the available wines, I noticed that among the tried and true regulars; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and the rest we all know, there were a large number of lesser known varietals. I selected a Lodi Alicante Bouschet, a Portuguese white blend of Arinto and Fernão Pires, and a Paso Robles red blend of Syrah, Barbera, and Valdiguié.

Then I ran into my only real problem. At checkout, when I clicked “Purchase”, my $26 credit did not apply to the order. I immediately e-mailed customer service and asked that they apply my credit to this order. Since this was Saturday morning of a holiday weekend I had to wait a couple days for a response, which came first thing Monday morning. Polite and professional, Jenna apologized for the mix-up. She posted a new $26 credit to my account, and assured me it will apply on my next order. However, the order had already been processed (and my account charged) so they could not apply the credit retroactively. Not exactly what I wanted, but with this resolution, I still get my credit, and Club W gets a repeat customer. Win-win.

Shipping and delivery were smooth and fast. I was very impressed with the packaging, including the nifty carrying handle. Inside, I found half-page, glossy information sheets. On one side, detailed information about the wine, and on the other, a recipe with which to pair it.

To top it all off, about two weeks after my wine arrived, I received a hand-written note from Aaron at Club W, thanking me for my business. Impressive.

Hand Written Note

A hand-written thank you note! How cool is that?

 

Most importantly, though, is how the wine tastes! Which brings me to…

Wine Reviews:

Riddle Bricks

Riddle Bricks Alicante Bouchet California 2014

Deep purple in the glass. Plum and black pepper aromas. Flavors of plum, dark berry, and baking spice. Fruit forward with a full, rich mouthfeel, smooth tannins and soft acidity. Short finish. Not overly complex or deep. Aerating opens it up a bit, but it’s still fairly one dimensional. Still, it is an easy drinking wine, good on its own or with food.

3 out of 5 stars

Passarola

Passarola Vinho Branco 2014, Portugal

Golden color in the glass. There are aromas of apricot, pear, and mango. In the palate there are flavors of lemon, lime, and pineapple, with hints of mineral/wet gravel on the back of the tongue. The body is light with bright, lively acidity. The acidity carries into the finish along with fresh citrus. This is a delightful white, that would be quite refreshing on a hot summer afternoon. At just 12% ABV, it’s definitely a gulpable quaff.

4 out of 5 stars

Alcymist

Alchymist Red Blend Paso Robles 2013

An interesting red blend: Syrah, Barbera, and Valdiguié (the grape formerly known as Napa Gamay.) Ruby/purple in the glass, with initial aromas of raspberry, bramble, and some spice. On the palate, there is raspberry, strawberry, and a little smokiness. As it opens up, cherry flavors emerge. The tannins are edgy, but not overpowering, and are met by bright acidity. I would say this is medium bodied, with a medium finish of red fruit and spice.

Based on the description that accompanied the wine: a “big red” with the recommended pairing of dark chocolate, I was expecting something bolder, almost port-esque. It does go nicely with chocolate, bringing out more cherry notes. However, it also is a nice general food wine. Overall, it is another pleasant, easy drinking wine from Club W.

3 out of 5 stars

So…

What I like:

  • Ability to easily skip a month, or several months
  • Supporting the little guy
  • The packaging
  • Info cards with recipes
  • Exploring unusual varietals
  • Availability of International wines
  • Personalized, hand-written thank you note!

What I’d like to see:

  • Club W does not offer the ability to review wines; only assign them a 1-5 scale rating. In my experience with NakedWines.com – where they encourage both ratings and reviews, I have found that, for me, writing a review and describing the flavors and elements in the wine enhances my enjoyment of the wine. Rather than simply knocking back a glass, I become more attentive and contemplative, and enjoy the wine more. True, there are nights that knocking back a glass or two is exactly what’s needed, but for me those nights are the exception.
  • I’d also like the ability to communicate with the winemakers. Through NakedWines.com I have gotten to know several winemakers, meeting many in person. Placing a face, personality, and story with the name on the bottle makes enjoying wine a much more personal experience.
  • At the risk of sounding like a snob, and in fairness I’ve only tried the $13 level wines, but I’d like to see wines with more depth and complexity. (My next order will include at least one of their higher priced Napa Cabernets. This way I can evaluate their upper tier line, and compare quality of a varietal with which I am very familiar.)

Many of the marketing materials I have seen for Club W, including television commercials, Facebook ads, and the photos on their website, suggest to me that their target audience is 20-somethings who are just getting into wine. (I haven’t been in that demographic for 30+ years!) This is certainly an important and potentially lucrative market. Based on my experience, I’d say they’ve hit their mark. The wines are good, and easy-drinking, but not overly complex. If this is the type of wine you enjoy, check out Club W.

All in all, I like the Club W business model. Club W is a convenient source for approachable, easy-drinking wines, and is very customer-friendly. Although not monthly, I will buy from Club W in the future. When I receive my next order, including that Napa Cabernet, I’ll review the wines in another post, Club W, Part II. Stay tuned!

If you are interested in giving Club W a try, do yourself and me a favor and use this link: https://www.clubw.com/kreynolds11. We each get a $13 credit when you order!

Cheers!