Sunday, December 9, 2018

Elevant Wine Club by Vinesse Wine Club

Elevant Wine Club by Vinesse Wine Club Review

Wine Clubs

Product Grade
Report Card Grade
0 Reviews
Best Feature:
Provides unique, bold reds with 100% satisfaction guarantee
Worst Feature:
Exaggerated marketing / website doesn't list previous wines
Best Uses:
Sample interesting, robust reds from small wineries
Pricing:
$29-$35 per Bottle (S&H NOT Included)
Manufacturer:
N/A

Where to Buy

Store Name
Price

Overview

After nearly 20 years in the wine club business, it is not surprising that Vinesse manages a total of 15 different wine club memberships. All of their clubs share the common goal of exposing the average consumer to interesting, unique wines that aren't likely found in their local wine shop due to the wine's limited production or the size/location of its winery. Vinesse's Élevant Society is currently the most premium wine club membership that they offer with bottles ranging from $29 - $35. The focus of the club is on "big, bold" reds from around the world, however, Vinesse admittedly chooses many of their featured wines from domestic wineries. Vinesse's customer service representative explained that the wine selection process is managed by a tasting panel of wine experts (including some club members), but they were not able to provide the exact number of panelists or elaborate on their backgrounds. Regardless, Vinesse is so confident you will love their wine selections that they offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee and will replace or refund any bottles that you don't like. Members are also strongly encouraged to submit feedback on the featured wines by using the comment card that is included in each shipment or by using Vinesse's online rating system.

There are no signup fees or annual dues required to become a member of the Élevant Society, and you can cancel your membership at any time without incurring cancellation fees. As a member, you will have the choice between receiving 5, 7 or 14 shipments per year and whether you want 2, 4, 6, 8 or 12 bottles in each shipment. Individual shipments will contain 2 different types of red wine for you to try, and, if you order more than a 2- bottle shipment, you will just receive multiples of the same wine. Vinesse also includes 2 handouts in the shipment that provide tasting notes on the featured wines, as well as background on the wineries, winemakers and growing regions. There will also be food pairing suggestions and re-ordering information.

You can purchase an Élevant Society membership online at www.vinesse.com. Prices will vary depending on your membership level and on the featured wines that particular month, but each bottle will cost between $29 and $35 (tax and shipping are not included). According to Vinesse's website, shipping costs are typically around $16 for 1 - 2 bottles, $19 for 3 - 4 bottles, $23 for 5 - 6 bottles and $32 for 7 - 12 bottles. Please note that an 8.5% surcharge will be added to your shipping costs if you are shipping to NY, NJ, MD, ME, DC, PA, MA, IN, AZ, KS, MT, DE, RI, FL or MI. If you are shipping to AK or HI, please expect a 20% surcharge to be added to your shipping costs. Lastly, if you ship to a residence (instead of a business), Vinesse will charge an additional $2.50 to your order.

Product Report Card Grade

We give the Élevant Wine Club by Vinesse a B because we agree that the club delivers interesting, robust red wines at a good value. We are also impressed that Vinesse backs up their wine selections with a 100% satisfaction guarantee and will replace or refund you for any bottles that you don't like. We deducted a few points however because we feel that their marketing claims are a bit over the top. A $35 bottle of wine is expensive but definitely not considered "super-premium" or "ultra-premium" by wine industry standards. Also, we are disappointed that Vinesse doesn't publicly archive previous wine selections on their website and that they don't offer members discounts for reordering additional bottles of favorite wines. We do recognize that Vinesse has received some negative feedback on another wine club (see "Reputation" section below), but we are only grading their Élevant Wine Club in this review.


 
This Product
Overall Score
Our Awards
Date Reviewed
May 2013
May 2013
June 2013
Pros
100% satisfaction guarantee; interesting bottles of red wine at a good value; encourages a lot of member feedback; friendly, helpful customer service is easily accessible by phone or live chat on website
Premium, limited-supply wines at exceptional values; strict selection process; previous wine selections publicly archived on website; great, responsive customer service; flexible membership; great discounts on reorders; excellent discounts on reordering (up to 35%); referral bonus; gifts are beautifully packaged; if you request red-only shipments, you'll still get 2 different kinds of red wine
Premium, limited-supply Pinot Noirs at great values; excellent reordering discounts (up to 35%) and easy online reordering system; great customer service; all previously featured wines publicly archived on website; referral bonus; gift shipments are beautifully wrapped
Cons
Previously featured wines are not publicly archived on Vinesse's website; no reordering discounts offered; exaggerated marketing ($29 - $35 bottle of red wine is "super-premium"?); $2.50 surcharge to ship to a residence; doesn't offer gift notification by email or traditional mail; currently cannot ship to Utah and South Dakota
Doesn't offer instant email notification for gift recipients
Bimonthly shipping is only option; doesn't offer instant gift notification by email; domestic Pinot Noirs only produced in California wineries (none from Oregon)
Shipping Included
No
No
No
Cost per Bottle (Est.)
$29 - $35
$39.50 - $49.50
$34.50 - $44.50
Membership Minimum
No
No
No
Wine Options
Red
Red or Combination
Red
Domestic and/or International
Mostly Domestic but some International
Domestic (California)
Domestic (California) and International
Selection
Variety of "big, bold" reds from boutique wineries primarily in the US and occasionally from other countries around the world.
Premium, hard-to-find California wines that have received at least a 90-point rating from a national wine publication and won multiple medals at major wine competitions.
Premium Pinot Noirs from boutique wineries in California and around the world that have (mostly) received 90+ ratings from a national wine publication and may have also been awarded a Gold Medal at a major wine competition.
Newsletter
Yes
Yes
Yes
Shipping Options
Monthly (plus 2 holiday shipments), Bimonthly (plus 1 holiday shipment) or Quarterly (plus 1 holiday shipment)
Monthly, Bimonthly or Quarterly
Bimonthly (February, April, June, August, October and December)
Shipping Details
First shipment will arrive with 3 - 10 days of placing your order. Subsequent shipments are sent out around the 15th of each month and will arrive with 1 - 8 business days depending on how far away from CA you live.
First shipment will arrive within 7 - 10 days of placing your order. Subsequent shipments will arrive sometime after the 15th of the month depending where you live.
Shipments will arrive sometime after the 15th of the month depending on how far away you live from California.
Gift Information
Vinesse doesn't offer gift notification by email or traditional mail.
Offers a free gift card that you can customize and include in your 1st shipment. The bottles are beautifully wrapped and packaged in gift box that features specially commissioned artwork of wine country on the outside.
Complimentary and customizable gift card is included with gift purchase. Bottles in gift shipments are each wrapped in colorful tissue paper, placed in gift bags and stored securely in a beautifully illustrated gift box.
Extras
None
Offers the PLUS! Program that allows current members to add an extra bottle of high quality wine to each shipment for an additional $35 - $45 (or $39 if you pre-pay).
None
Satisfaction Guarantee
Yes, Vinesse offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee! If you don't like a wine or receive a corked bottle, you just need to report it within 30 days and Vinesse will replace it or refund your money. You can also cancel your membership at any time without incurring any cancellation fees.
No satisfaction guarantee, but they will replace any bottles you receive that are corked/damaged at no additional charge. They will refund you for any returned unopened bottles unless they are unable to restock the wine back into inventory for any reason. You can cancel your membership at any time without incurring cancellation fees.
No satisfaction guarantee, but they will replace any bottles you receive that are corked/damaged at no additional charge. They will refund you for any returned unopened bottles unless they are unable to restock the wine back into inventory for any reason. You can cancel your membership at any time without incurring cancellation fees.

ProductReportCard Editors' In-Depth Review


Pros And Cons

Pros

  • 100% satisfaction guarantee
  • Interesting bottles of red wine at a good value
  • In addition to the typical wine newsletter, shipments also include a nice note from the founder of Élevant with his thoughts on the featured wines and food pairings
  • Shipments include comment card to encourage member feedback on wines
  • Helpful, friendly customer service representatives that can be reached by phone or by live chat on Vinesse's website

Cons

  • Previously featured wines are not publicly archived on Vinesse's website
  • No reordering discounts offered
  • Describing a $29 - $35 bottle of red wine as "super-premium" or "ultra-premium" is a reach
  • $2.50 surcharge to ship to a residence
  • Élevant has received generally positive feedback, but one of Vinesse's lower-end wine club memberships has gotten a lot of complaints from customers which has hurt the brand's overall online reputation
  • Doesn't offer gift notification by email or traditional mail
  • Currently cannot ship to Utah and South Dakota

Key Features

Products
Vinesse sends Élevant Society members a variety of ready-to-drink bottles of red wine. Vinesse chooses robust red wines from boutique wineries around the world, but they have a particular affinity towards big, bold American reds.
Membership Options
There are no signup fees, no annual dues, and no minimum obligation to be a Élevant Society member. You will choose between 2-, 4-, 6-, 8- or 12-bottle shipments and whether you want to receive 5, 7 or 14 shipments per year. Essentially, 5 shipments is a quarterly delivery schedule that includes 1 holiday shipment, 7 shipments is a bimonthly delivery schedule that includes 1 holiday shipment, and 14 shipments is a monthly delivery schedule that includes 2 holiday shipments. Unless you buy a gift membership that is limited to 3, 6 or 12 shipments, you will continue to receive and be charged for wine shipments until you call and cancel your membership with Vinesse directly.
Recently Featured
Some of the recently featured wines include: a 2008 Mathis Sonoma Valley Grenache, a 2007 Bodegas Balbas Ribera del Duero Crianza and a 2010 Crawford Family Wines Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir.
Newsletter
Each shipment comes with a thoughtful note from the Élevant Society founder and 2 handouts with information on each of the featured wines. In addition to providing background on the varietal, winery, winemaker and growing region, the handouts will also include tasting notes, food pairing suggestions and reordering information if you want to receive more bottles.
Extras
Currently, Vinesse doesn't offer any bonus gifts with the Élevant Society membership.
Gift Information
If you are giving Élevant Society membership as a gift, you can choose between sending 3, 6 or 12 shipments of either 2, 4, 6, 8 or 12 bottles. Vinesse doesn't offer gift notification by email or traditional mail, but you can submit a gift message for the recipient that will be placed in their 1st wine shipment.
Shipping Schedule
According to Vinesse's customer service, shipments are typically sent out around the 15th of the month. When you place your order, it will take Vinesse 48 hours to process your 1st shipment, and then the shipment will be in transit for another 1 - 8 business days depending on how far away you live from California.
Satisfaction Guarantee
All of the wine you receive as an Élevant Society member is backed by a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If you receive a corked bottle or simply don't like the featured wine, you can call Vinesse within 30 days and they will either replace the bottle or refund your money. In each shipment, they encourage members to submit honest feedback on the featured wines, and they use this feedback to constantly improve their selections. With that said, if you ever want to cancel your membership, you can do so at any time without incurring a cancellation fee. As with other wine clubs however, you just have to cancel before your next shipment is processed or you will still get charged one more time.

Reputation

Vinesse has gotten a bad rap from customers online, but it is important to note that its Élevant Wine Club has actually received pretty good feedback, and that the vast majority of the complaints against Vinesse are directed towards its American Cellars Wine Club, which is one of its lower end memberships ($12 - $15 per bottle). To make a long story short, certain airlines partnered with Vinesse's American Cellars club in order to supplement their revenues, and they offered bonus miles to any of their frequent fliers who purchased a membership to American Cellars. Customer complaints were generally about not receiving bonus miles, about the quality of the wines, about the overall value of the offer and/or about ongoing shipments/ credit cards charges. While the airlines and American Cellars share the blame on all of these issues, we didn't feel that Vinesse demonstrated any ill intent in the situation, and, according to the BBB, it sounds like they have been able to resolve the complaints. Regarding the ongoing credit card charges however, it is really the responsibility of the customer to understand the Terms & Conditions of ANY ongoing membership/subscription service that they sign up for. Whether it is with a wine club, gym or newspaper, our advice is to just assume that you are going to continue to be charged until you actually call and cancel your membership.

With all of that said, we are not recommending the American Cellars Wine Club to our readers, but we would recommend trying the Élevant Society if you want to sample "big, bold" reds in the $29 - $35 price range. In the interest of full disclosure, when we told Vinesse that we wanted to review the Élevant Society, they sent us 2 free bottles of wine to try out. While we appreciate free stuff, we made sure to reiterate that we couldn't guarantee them favorable review. Fortunately, we didn't have to worry about it because we were very impressed with the bottles that we received: a 2008 Mathis Sonoma Valley Grenache and a 2007 Bodegas Balbas Ribera del Duero Crianza. My husband and I tend to purchase classic varietals from classic growing regions, but we have recently been trying to expand our knowledge of Spanish wines, and I personally had never even tried Grenache. Obviously, Vinesse could never have known these things about me, but, as promised, they delivered very interesting, robust reds that I would never have found at my local wine store. While I wouldn't call the bottles "super-premium", they were really good and definitely fun for a tasting party or to pull out for a dinner party.


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