Update: Direct Cellars has gone “direct marketing”. What that means is that they sell their products via a “direct marketing channel”. (You may know of this better as “Multi Level Marketing”.) Essentially, selling this wine club is now a business opportunity for people to sell instead of a product that is sold in a more traditional retail sense.
(Does that mean anything to us? Not necessarily. Who knows. All we care about is the wine, and generally, we're very impressed with companies like The California Wine Club, Gold Medal Wine Club and Monthly Clubs, which are all more traditional wine clubs.)
Here's our review prior to them switching to the direct marketing business model:
We learned about this new Wine Club called Direct Cellars in January and were approached to review their clubs.
They sent a delivery to Tricia, Eric and I to get our initial thoughts. Before I share them, let me introduce you to this club, how it works, and their pricing.
First, it's nice and simple. They only offer 3 different clubs with a simple range of cost and basic flavor preferences:
- Wine Lovers (2 bottles at $50/ mo)
- Red Fans Trio (3 bottles at $60 / mo)
- Connoisseur’s Choice (2 bottles at $75 / mo)
I like the fact that their clubs options are simple. And I really like that their prices include shipping, as it makes it really easy for us consumers to know the exact amount we're spending.
The differentiation between these clubs are pretty clear, which is another simplicity point that I like. Basically, the Wine Lovers is their “value” club (at $50), and gives you the choice of 2 Red, 2 Whites or 1 of each. Arguably, the Red Fans Trio is their “red wine only value club”, as you get 3 bottles of wine instead of 2 – for $60. But obviously, the Red Fans is dedicated to red wines only. And, their “premium” selection is their Connoisseur's Choice at $75. Most premium clubs like this focus on red only, but I like that this club allows you to select either 2 Reds or 1 Red and 1 White. (There is no white only option in the Connoisseur's Choice club.)
So, once you choose your base club, there is some “customization” available, based on your tastes. That's pretty interesting for us consumers, as we can select our price point and basic wine preferences by selecting the club first, but then further refine the wines delivered within the club by our tastes.
You log in to your account with Direct Cellars and create your Wine Preferences Profile. Update your profile from time to time to be sure Direct Cellars picks the optimal wines for you with your monthly deliveries.
I received the Connoisseur's Choice. The box itself was nicely branded and gave a good first impression before I even opened it. Upon opening the box, the contents were quite simple. Inside I found a simple one-page document with Tasting Notes for the bottles within the delivery, and the two bottles packaged within cardboard bottle protection. (Many wine club boxes are simple boxes with no decoration or branding.)
I told Direct Cellars that I love red wine. So, when they sent me the Connoisseur's Choice, I got the 2 bottles of red version.
Sure, their tasting notes are simple when compared to some other wine clubs that have high production value newsletters (that give a ton of information about the wines, the wine clubs, the regions, the wine makers, recipes, etc). But the important thing is what the tasting notes told me about the wine.
At first glance, I noticed that the red wines they sent me were not simple names that I recognize like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir or Sangiovese. Instead, both bottles were blends of grape varietals that I love. One was from Spain, and the other from California.
…So, honestly, I salivated a bit when I read the tasting notes.
I drank one of the bottles with my girlfriend one evening and we loved it. This one was the Select Opulent from Paso Robles (Jettlynn Winery) and is a multi-vintage blend of Cab, Petite Sirah, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot.
Check out the tasting notes, specific to that bottle (click to enlarge):
Next up: The 2011 Vinho Tinto, from Alverez Nolting, Spain. This is their flagship red blend, made of Merlot and Bobal, “from vines with an average age of 35 years”. Freakin' Yum.
This bottle remains to be consumed, and I look forward to it!
Read more about this wine here (click to enlarge):
Tricia received the Wine Lovers club and was sent a bottle of red and one bottle of white.
Here is what she thought about her wine:
“I tried to look up the red wine online before we drank it to get more information about it. Thanks to Google translate I was able to learn a little bit more from the winery in Portugal, in addition to what came in the tasting notes. But I had no preconceived notion of the VALUE of the wine because I couldn't figure out how much it cost. Although my husband and I are not primarily red drinkers, this bottle was gone in an hour! My husband wondered whether it was the fact that we hadn't had wine in 2 weeks or whether the wine was just that good. I guess we will see when we break open the bottle of white!”
Eric was sent the Red Fan Trio. Thus, he received 3 bottles of red.
He hasn't had a chance to open the wine yet (as he has 23 bottles of wine in his cellar, in the queue to review!), but he did have this to say:
“I liked the sticker / fake wax seal on the outside of the box. That's all I can say right now”
Value of the wine.
When reviewing wine clubs, I often forget to look up the bottles online, in an attempt to find their retail price. Tricia's remark, above, reminded me about that and since the wines delivered were not discoverable online, I realized I should mention the “expected price per bottle”. I'm defining that by subtracting an average shipping cost from the total price and dividing this number by the quantity of bottles in the delivery. On average, shipping should cost around $15 for delivering 2 or 3 bottles. This price would vary based on the distance between the warehouse and the final destination. So, for this calculation, we'll just call the delivery cost $15. (Remember, Direct Cellars includes shipping in their club prices.)
- Wine Lovers: $50 – $15 = $35. $35 / 2 = $17.50 per bottle.
- Red Fan Trio: $60 – $15 = $45. $45 / 3 = $15.00 per bottle.
- Connoisseur's Choice: $75 – $15 = $60. $60 / 2 = $30 per bottle.
It looks like this is a really good club for someone who wants to buy a wine club for themselves. It may not be the ideal “gift” wine club, since the packaging isn't as nice and well-presented as other clubs I've seen. But, if you want to join a solid wine club that delivers delicious wines with good value (and shipping is included), then you may want to consider Direct Cellars.