Choosing a wine in a restaurant or a wine club to join can be an intimidating and confusing process. It’s really where a great sommelier comes into play. Now, a new Bay Area company is looking to act as your own personal online sommelier.
Club W was started by Mark Lynn, Geoff McFarlane and Xander Oxman, three young entrepreneurs who are wine enthusiasts, but not particularly enthused about the stodginess of the industry. “It can be intimidating, especially for the younger generation,” said Oxman. “There are so many producers, so many varietals and wine can be so expensive in restaurants with prices being marked up by distributors. We want to introduce the millennial generation to a different type of wine.”
Here’s how Club W works. Members sign up through the website and answer six questions, which will give Club W’s curators a sense of that user’s tastes. Each month, the team of curators selects 12 bottles from around the world, all small producers. Than, users can select 3 bottles at a total cost of $39 (free shipping included). If they’d like to try an additional bottle or two, it will be $13 apiece with no additional shipping charges. Oxman said that the idea is to introduce users to brand new wines that they may have never heard of.
“We focus on small producers. Our curators scour the world, looking for the best wines that also offer customers great value. Club W gives these producers a platform,” said Oxman. “We love the backstories that we have heard and want to expose those great stories to our members.”
Oxman, who has a technology background, said there are also plenty of things they are doing to make the club both user and web-friendly. “Each bottle of wine has a QR code and members can scan the code from a smartphone, tablet or computer, which will take them directly to the Club W curators’ video tasting notes for that bottle,” Oxman said. “We also like to get reviews and comments on each bottle so that other members can browse our website and find out more about the wine before making their selections each month.”
Some other interesting aspects of Club W: if a user doesn’t like the wine they choose, they are free to select a replacement or get a refund. People can also cancel their membership or skip a shipment at any time. And the prices are kept down because as Oxman said, they have taken out “the middleman or distributor” from the process.
Oxman said that the goal is to make the wine club as easy as possible for users and offer them some wines that are “a little off the beaten path and more adventurous in nature.”
Club W is also planning on hosting a series of live events in 2012. They will have a casual, laid-back feel where members can meet the wine producers and hear those back stories in person.
Click here for more on Club W and membership information.