What Is the Wine of the Month Club?
Wine of the Month Club is the originator of the idea of wine delivery by mail. What started as a liquor store attached to a pharmacy became a trend-setting wine business. There are now countless “wine of the month clubs” around the country, but the original Wine of the Month Club is the original.
Wine of the Month Club History
The story of the Wine of the Month club is as spicy as a good Malbec. The founder of the Wine of the Month Club’s, Paul Kalemkiarian Sr., came to the United States way back in 1949 to pursue a Master’s degree at the University of Southern California. Mr. Kalemkiarian earned his bachelor’s degree in Pharmacognosy at the University of Cairo in Egypt.
It seems Pharmacognosy would have to wait — after getting involved in the pharmacy business (buying and selling more than a dozen pharmacies), Paul made what would be his last purchase, a pharmacy that came with a liquor store attached. Named Palos Verdes Wines and Spirits, this small liquor store project would become one of the top wine shops in Southern California during the 60s and early 70s, and it was at that wine shop in 1972 that the idea of a monthly wine club came to be.
Owning a wine shop means putting wine in the hands of your customers, so when a customer needed advice on a wine purchase, Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. would direct them to the monthly selections he had on display. This monthly group of wines changed at the beginning of each month, so customers would constantly be trying new vintages, new varietals, and new labels. It was only a matter of time before customers started to demand that they have their monthly selections delivered directly to their homes. Paul Kalemkiarian Jr., recently licensed to sell wine, started making monthly deliveries of Paul Sr.’s wine selections, making the rounds in his delivery truck crammed with wine bottles.
By the end of the 1970s, Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. was ready to leave the retail business, selling off his pharmacies one by one. Even Palos Verdes Wines and Spirits was sold, but due to some management problems, the shop closed within a few months. Luckily, Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. was smart enough to retain rights to the mail order business, having trademarked the name “Wine of the Month Club.” With no retail pharmacy or liquor store business to get in the way, Kalemkiarian Sr. started the Wine of the Month Club as a freestanding business. For nearly ten years, the Wine of the Month Club was the only wine mail order service in the country.
In 1989, Paul Kalemkiarian Sr. sold the Wine of the Month Club to his son, Paul Kalemkiarian Jr, the ex delivery boy. Kalemkiarian Jr. waited about six months to make his own career change, purchasing the business from his father. Paul Kalemkiarian Jr. continues the tradition of his father, tasting between 300 and 400 wines a month, appraising them in terms of quality and value, and selecting only four (two reds and two whites) for each of the Wine of the Month Club’s three series of monthly selections.
Wine of the Month Club Details
The original Wine of the Month Club is still one of the best deals you can get — for starters, there is no “membership fee” or other hidden fee. Your membership in the Wine of the Month Club is easy to cancel, and the company guarantees that you’ll never pay more than $19.85 a month for two bottles of wine, which ships with the company’s famous “wine letter” describing and rating the wine. Best of all, if you don’t like a wine, you don’t have to pay for it. If you have a bottle shipped to you that is damaged or has been improperly stored, Wine of the Month Club is happy to replace the bottle or reimburse the cost.
There are three levels of membership at the Wine of the Month Club. The Classic Series membership contains two bottles of wine as selected by Paul Kalemkiarian Jr. from a massive collection of about 400 bottles tasted a month. According to the Wine of the Month Club, only about 15% of wines tasted end up on the Wine of the Month Club list. The next step up, the Vintner Series, promises wines from the best winemaking regions on Earth, and most of the time contains one domestic bottle and one international bottle per month. The high end Wine of the Month Club series is called the Limited Series, and promises to ship two “super premium” wines to you, one red and one white, for just under $40 a month.
Though the Wine of the Month Club cannot guarantee the Wine Spectator or Robert Parker ratings for its wines, the tasting process that lands a given wine at your doorstep guarantees that you’re drinking the best of the best wines that Wine of the Month Club comes across. While many of the wines that end up in your shipment will be rated in the highs 80s and 90s (as arbitrary a thing as wine ratings are, many customers find them important) but some labels are small “finds” that may not even get attention at the national level. In general, the highest rated wines will be available at the Limited Series level, but that doesn’t mean the wines in the Classic Series are anything to sniff at. Rather than focus on what some wine snob thinks of the bottles the WOTM Club is sending you, sit back and enjoy the wines for yourself.
Wine of the Month Club Coupons
There’s usually a promo code or two available for your Wine of the Month Club purchase. Currently, by entering the coupon code “Review”, you get an automatic $10 off your purchase. Wine of the Month Club displays the currently valid promo code on their website, right next to a handful of links to reviews of their service. Check it out here.
Another way to save yourself a lot of money with the WOTM club — ordering multiple months in advance. You don’t need a coupon to get free shipping on your Wine of the Month Club order for a year, just pay 12 months in advance (at a discounted rate of just $36.95 a month) and you’ll never pay a dime for shipping.
See their website for information on joining the Wine of the Month Club or giving a club membership as a gift.
Wine of the Month Club Availability
Not everyone in America has the ability to join the Wine of the Month Club. In fact, Wine of the Month Club is prohibited from shipping to quite a few US states. Twenty American states limit the participation in wine clubs, including Texas, most of New England and the Eastern Seaboard, and many states in the South. To check your Wine of the Month Club eligibility, check out their handy map here.
Wine of the Month Club Shipping Charges
Though the Classic Series membership for the Wine of the Month Club costs less than $20 a month, the shipping charges on something as fragile as wine will naturally be higher than shipping a book or other item. You can expect to pay between $9 and $26 a month, depending on what part of the country the Wine of the Month Club will be delivering to. Generally, the closer you are to Southern California, the less you’ll pay for shipping. The highest shipping rates are in Alaska and Hawaii, both of which will cost you over $25 in shipping costs. Still, two specially selected bottles of wine per month delivered for between $29 and $50 is a good bargain.
Is the Wine of the Month Club worth it?
If you are the type of oenophile that likes wine from lots of different sources, Wine of the Month Club is certainly worth the cost. For less than $50 including shipping (less in some areas of the country) you can have two surprise bottles of red or white wine sent to your doorstep a month. On the other hand, some wine lovers have wine shops they deal exclusively with — that wine shop knows their tastes, their budget, and some customers prefer the intimacy of a relationship with a wine merchant. People who have to get their hands on their wine before they buy it probably won’t like the “surprise” element of the Wine of the Month Club.
If you are located close to Southern California, your shipping costs will be low enough to really make the Wine of the Month Club a good deal. And of course, if someone gives you the gift of the Wine of the Mont Club, you’re getting two free bottles of wine (hand selected by a wine expert) at no cost to you. I can’t think of a better value than that.
There are many “wine of the month” imitators, from region specific wine clubs to “gourmet” wine selection services, but Wine of the Month Club is a true original. For more information on the Wine of the Month Club, check out their FAQ or if you’re ready, go ahead and join the club.
You may also be interested in one of these wine topics:
- What Is a Wine of the Month Club?
- When Did the California Wine Industry Begin?
- How Do You Buy Wine Glasses?
- How to Taste Wine
This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 at 11:30 am and is filed under Wine. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.