My wine clubs are simple. You choose the right wine club for you and you’ll receive a couple of bottles of wine, directly to your front door. I’ll spend time in wine country, with winemakers and find you better wine because of it. Why is that? Simple. The folks making the wine, simply know better than the sales guys and seeing someone face to face is worth a lot more than a phone call or email.
A lot of wine clubs, tell you how much wine they drink. Often, they say that they taste through several hundred bottles per month to make their decisions. Others say they have a fancy tasting panel. I want to keep things somewhat simpler. Instead of tasting through what a winery is selling, I want to see what their winemaker is interested in. That’s usually not what’s on sale. It’s normally not offered via email list either. Often it’s only available at the winery, or to their own wine club. It almost always has a story behind it. Sure, I’ll taste it to make sure the quality is good, but if I do a good enough job creating relationships with wineries and winemakers, they aren’t going to try and sell me wine that simply isn’t good.
Unlike all of my competitors, I want cancelling to be easy. You can cancel by emailing me, or calling me. But, you can also cancel by logging into your account and clicking the cancel button. There’s no approval process, no hassle, no follow up phone call. Nothing like that. It’s simple and straight forward because cancelling should be simple and straight forward.
There isn’t one. Small wineries struggle, really struggle to get well known critics to rate their wines. Wine Spectator needs you to be in a set number of major markets before they’ll do so, for a new winery, or a winemaker starting on their own, they simply don’t make enough wine for that to happen. Some of my favorite times have happened when I found a wine, shipped it to my wine club members and then saw it come through with a high score from a major wine critic.
Quality wine, is always for much debate in America. Do I believe that there aren’t great wines produced in other areas of the USA, or the world?
Of course there are plenty of great wines produced elsewhere.
What does change though is my ability to visit those regions. I feel strongly that the best way to source wine, isn’t via emails or phone calls, but instead through personal contact and connections. So I spend time in wine country.
Uncorked Ventures is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. So Napa Valley and Sonoma aren’t even a day trip, they’re less than an hour from my house….you know the distance you go on the weekend when the kids are sick of the parks near your house. Much of the central coast, including Paso Robles and Santa Barbara (where I went to school) is a few hours away, but accessible. Admittedly Oregon and Washington require a plane flight, but those are some of some of the most interesting wine regions in America.
Shipping wine is pretty much the 3rd rail of the wine industry. To start, every state has its own set of unique and usually antiquated laws. After all, Prohibition ended almost 90 years ago and since then, every state has had ample time to create their own set of insane rules and regulations. So yes, technically you’re buying the wine in California since that’s where we’re based. Secondly, we’re going to ship your wine via some common carrier. It might be Fedex. It might be UPS. If you’re lucky though, it’ll be GSO. You’ll normally have to sign for your package, that’s to make sure that you’re over the age of 21. While I completely support any rule that discourages underage drinking, I’m not sure there’s many teenagers ordering $50 single vineyard Pinot and waiting a week for it to be delivered. Lastly your wine can’t show up to a PO Box, or to any other location that doesn’t offer a freely available adult to sign for it. Government’s rules, not mine. If you want a good final note on wine shipping, please remember that first it’s expensive because 2 bottles of wine weigh close to 7 pounds on average and those common carriers tack on an additional $5 charge for that adult signature. Also, please note that as much as we all LOVE Amazon, they don’t offer 2 day shipping on wine, again because it’s too damn expensive, even for them which is saying something.
I hope your take away is that your wine will come via common carrier, as soon as possible and that shipping wine isn’t like shipping t-shirts, so a bit of extra patience is greatly appreciated!
Uncorked Ventures is an online wine club and gift basket business based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I’ve seen the other gift baskets that are being sold online. I like Starbucks and Ghiradelli as much as anyone, but I don’t understand how including them in a gift basket provides a service. Instead, you’ll find
Yes, shipping is free. If you order a $55 box, it’ll be shipped via 2 day shipping and Amazon Prime. For those boxes, Amazon has a supply (which is also sold directly on their site).
For our more expensive boxes, we’ll ship your gift basket ourselves. We do that because of necessity, Amazon won’t handle wine shipping any longer.
The more expensive gift baskets come in hard wood boxes and include wine so they are shipped via ground shipping and can take up to a week to arrive.
Much like our wine clubs, I want quality to be the biggest driver of any product within our gift baskets. Sourcing products in industries that I am not as familiar in often takes quite a bit of research. I’ve already found that certain industries are rather small and tight nit. As an example, every artisan chocolatier, seems to know each other.
I also obsessively read reviews and features on new businesses, in cities I’d like to cover for my gift baskets, with a peculiar focus on food products.
As you might expect, I also do taste and confirm the quality of anything that I will be shipping (which is admittedly, part of the fun part of the job).
Unfortunately, no. I wish I could give you an exact list, but it’s too complicated. Basically wine comes with its own set of obscure and often, interesting, rules. States have the right to govern alcohol sales (both online and in person) and have done so since Prohibition ended about 80 years ago. As you might expect, each state has a specific set of rules. Some, like Utah don’t allow shipping at all. Others, like Texas, have dry counties.
Still other states, still won’t allow food and wine to be delivered in the same package. Weird right?
In any case, if you put in your address, you’ll get a real answer. For most, you’re likely already aware of any challenges in regard to alcohol shipments. We follow all applicable laws. If you have any questions about your specific situation, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
When Matt and I first started Uncorked Ventures, we definitely wanted to offer gift baskets. Much like wine, we saw a giant, gaping hole in the market for higher quality products. As it turned out, that hole existed for a few reasons, not the least of which is that the packaging was a major issue from the beginning. I think our hard wood boxes really show a higher quality of care, than do any of our competitors offerings. I think you’ll find, even if you haven’t heard of the products included in our gift baskets, that you’ll end up happy with the quality.
Uncorked Ventures gift baskets are only offered through our own website and our Amazon online store.
Ok, so here’s my chance to tell you what I really think, without all the sales propositions, the calls to action (IE, buy now!) and everything else.
First, I believe that the way that we buy wine in person is broken.
I’ve seen you all do it, you look in a category that you recognize, like Cabernet Sauvignon as an example, for the cheapest bottle rated 90 points or above.
Heck, I used to do it too.
That’s actually one reason I started my wine club. At the time we were founded, my original business partner and brother in law lived here in San Francsico. I was living in San Diego. The type of wine that he had access to, vastly surpassed what I could find. My relatives outside of New York City? Yeah, significantly worse still.
How does that knowledge effect what did I want to do with my monthly wine club? Basically I know that buying wine at a grocery store, or even your local wine shop can get dull. As you get further and further from where wine is made, selection is dependent on the so called 3 tier system. A winery sells to a distributor, who sells to a store or restaurant. The only issue with that? The system was designed after the end of Prohibition and the aim was to keep bootleggers like Al Capone at bay, not to deliver a large amount of choice to American consumers. My wine of the month club aims to take the distributor step out of the process.
How I Choose Wine
Instead of throwing darts at the wall, I learned from winemakers. Instead of buying from an email list, I asked questions. I wanted to learn. Luckily, they were willing teachers. I worked a harvest, to better understand the frustration and pressure that happens during harvest. I tasted as much wine as I could (yes, the fun part) but I also wanted to learn and understand why a wine was made.
Too often, the wines that a winemaker wanted to make, even if it was excellent, couldn’t be sold. I ran into an amazing bottle of Cabernet Franc. It was grown in the Russian River Valley, the winery had only 2 rows of Cabernet Franc vines in their Pinot Noir vineyard and they made about a barrel of wine per year from those vines. They couldn’t sell it though, because there wasn’t enough of it for their distributor. Eventually, about 2 years after we shipped it, they started selling it in their tasting room and only in their tasting room. Now, it’s only offered to their own wine club customers. It is those kind of stories that only happen, when you speak to and spend time with, the people making the wine, not the people selling it. If I never spend an afternoon with another wine salesman, I’ll be better for it.
My wine of the month club should support winemakers when they take risks, especially new winemakers.
Over the years, not surprisingly, a number of newer wine clubs have popped up into the marketplace. That’s to be expected as the amount of wine sold online has grown, while subscription businesses have grown as a whole. Some of my competitors do a good job. Others are really wineries dressed up as wine clubs. Still others take cheap, non descript wines and bottle them themselves-hardly the mark of a high quality wine business.
Where I want to be different, is that I want to support the wine trade while telling a story. Sure, half of all white wines sold today at Chardonnay, but does that mean that I should do the same? I don’t think so, in fact, I think it largely means that my wine clubs should do the opposite. My local Safeway has at least a hundred bottles of Chardonnay at a variety of price points from $4 to $75. What they don’t have though, is Rousanne, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc or any number of lesser known whites. Part of having people pay for shipping is that they should not only get a good bottle of wine, at a fair price, but they should try something new that they can’t get elsewhere, while hopefully learning enough to be able to better buy wine on their own in the future.
Before you go, I’d like your email address. I won’t send a lot of emails, I know you’re busy. I am too. But, I will send some of my best content, and I’ll start off by sending you a coupon, in case you’re interested in buying a wine club or gift basket (that one looks awesome up there, doesn’t it?)