As a devoted wineaux I am always on the lookout for a new source from which to acquire interesting wines. As is the case with most of my wineaux friends, I belong to wine clubs, shop any wine shop wherever I travel, browse any number of online retail sites that are allowed to ship to my state (or the other convenient state I live three miles from the border of), receive samples from social media-savvy winemakers, and view several of the new flash wine sale sites that entice me with various twitter and email (in case I didn’t see their tweet) notifications throughout the day.
I recently had the opportunity to sample TastingRoom.com. They are one of many new online retailers trying to distinguish themselves from the rest with a variety of innovative options. Their concept allows you to sample or taste wine in a way that suits you – either by the taste, the glass, or full bottle. Their try-before-you-buy idea is similar to a winery tasting room flight. You can choose a sampler that provides six generous 50ml pours of wines grouped together by varietal, region, or theme. Through partnerships with the wineries they are able to re-package from source bottles (most often 750ml bottles) into smaller bottles, reproducing the original label and bottle information. The re-packaging is accomplished through the use of their own patented T.A.S.T.E. technology and done in a zero oxygen environment to ensure the quality of the wine in the smaller format bottles. Having been re-packaged into smaller format bottles they even have the bottling date on the label and suggest that they be consumed within six months of receipt. These bottles are never intended to be held.
I received one of their Super Flights called Food-Friendly Reds. I was extremely impressed with TastingRoom.com’s attention to every detail. The sampler was shipped mid-August and came in an insulated box with a large ice pack that was still mostly frozen when I opened the box.
The packaging was not just some small bottle shipper. It was gift-boxed, elegant, high quality, and strong, as if I had just purchased it at a high-end boutique. It came with instructions and tips, and a food pairing card with full recipes.
The instructions tell you that the wines are arranged in order from light to full-bodied and should be tasted from left to right.
Also enclosed in the Super Flight is a TastingRoom.com Super Flight card redeemable for two full-sized bottles of any of the wines from the sampler.
A very cool variation on try-before-you-buy. This particular Super Flight retails for $59.99. Below are the wines I received in the Food-Friendly Reds. The selection was heavily weighted towards California. I would have liked to see a more diversity on the choices but they are in fact food-friendly reds and pair well with summer BBQ fare, and Labor Day is just around the corner.
Sticky Beak 2009 Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, CA
Il Cuore 2009 Barbera Mendocino County, CA
Amalaya 2009 Red blend Valle Calchaquí, Argentina
Clayhouse 2009 Old Vine Petit Syrah Red Cedar Vineyards Paso Robles, CA
Vina Robles 2008 Huerhuero Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Paso Robles, CA
Jax 2009 Y3 Taureau Red Blend Napa Valley, CA
I went through the entire tasting over the course of an evening where we enjoyed steak tips on the grill, simply prepared with only salt and pepper. I will probably choose Vina Robles Cab and the Amalaya Red Blend from Argentina for my two full-size selections. I will definitely buy from TastingRoom.com in the future.
TastingRoom.com’s other options include samplers by varietal, region, or theme without the opportunity to select two full-size bottles, starting at only $19.99. Their Wine Your Way option allows you to buy Wines by the Glass, in 100ml bottles.
TastingRoom.com also has a Taste Explorer club. No option requires you to lock into any future commitment or purchase. If you give them feedback about what you liked or didn’t like about any wine and rate them you can earn even more discounts on future purchases. I was very pleased with everything I received, and how it was presented. The messaging enclosed spoke to me as an intelligent person interested in learning about the wine, where it came from, and what it paired well with, but not in a way that was over a novice’s head, or dumbed down for experienced enthusiasts. As a writer who does not often write reviews I can assure you that I would not have written about this if I had not been pleased with my experience, regardless of how the product came to me.