Wine Talk

Snooth User: bostonlobsterman

invino, anybody use them?

Posted by bostonlobsterman, Nov 4, 2016.

So several years ago while touring the CA wine country I came across a nice place where I liked both the proprieters and the wine. I signed up for their monthly wine club. A month later instead of getting my wine I get a notice that they can't ship to MA. Somehow I remained on their mailing list and now they can ship to MA so I ordered my very first wine by mail!  Thanks to this forum I have some rejuivenated interest in 1) finding some better bottles of the stuff I have always loved and 2) trying some subtle variations from perfection. I may try one of those programs that ships you some bottles every month. Anybody use InVino?


Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 4, 2016.

Invino?  They are also a flash site, and I have used them for that.  Bought a few things, but their shipping costs are kind of opaque, so I use other sites more.

I have ordered only wines that I am somewhat familiar with from them--haven't really gone out on a limb on things I cannot vet independently.  And here's a reason to be wary:  Jeff HIll, who is facing 20 years on a federal fraud case, made wine with grapes he stole, and also labeled wines with AVAs when the grapes came from elsewhere and were not the grapes they were purported to be.  When all was said and done, no one had any reason to believe that his wines were anything they claimed to be.  (Hill has already been convicted of the thefts of the grapes.)  So what happened to the wines he made after he was arrested? Invino bought them.  I worry that some of those are being foisted on the wine club, although the TTB told Invino they cannot be sold under their current designations in the US. 

Also, Invino, which is basically the Westfalls, sell wines under their own "C'est si bon" label from purchased juice.  They might be great--just as K&L's Kalindas can be, or Cam Hughes's Lot series--but they could be mediocre or worse, as Kalinda and Hughes can disappoint.  You'll be getting those, I bet.  Like the shipping policies, I found the inClub stuff a little vague or opaque.

If you want some interesting wines with small distribution, maybe try Acme in St. Helena.  I haven't shopped with them, but I think at least one of our regulars has.  They have very small, interesting producers, and they have a wine club.  You'll have to see if they can ship to MA, although it sounds like the rules in general are being relaxed.  (When I was a teen there, it was crap European wines at high prices, a trend that has reversed as Cal wines are now culty and overpriced more often than many of the Euros.) 

Invino, when I have used them, has been really good with customer service, shipping, and resolving issues, but I don't think I'd turn to them for a wine club. 

If you want to purchase bottles from different makers in mixed cases, you can also look at K&L, NapaCabs, etc, just snooping around until you can put together a reasonable sized shipment.  I wouldn't say they specialize in out of the way makers, but they are there if you look around. 

Reply by GregT, Nov 5, 2016.

I wouldn't join any wine club. But Invino sometimes has some pretty good deals if you know the wines. They're best at wines from CA although I did get a real nice Italian Nebbiolo from them. They can get some nice closeout stuff once in a while - they had some Randall Graham wines that were not available anywhere else and they have a few wineries that seem to use them exclusively to get rid of wine.

It's like anywhere else - if you shop carefully, they're a great source. Otherwise, you get a lot of dreck.

Reply by bostonlobsterman, Nov 5, 2016.

Thanks for these replies. I thought it might be some teaser thing with an occasional real good deal thrown in to get you hooked, but on the average not worth it. I did not even think of fraud like stolen grapes. I will stick to my local stores which have some good stuff and save the mail order to things I choose for value or that I otherwise could not get. 

Reply by dmcker, Nov 5, 2016.

Don't think the choice should be local brick-and-mortar merchants or Invino, only. Lots of good online merchants--plenty that would give you better access to wines from CA and the Pacific NW.

Here's a thread I put together a couple years ago with tried and proven vendors...

Reply by MJET, Nov 5, 2016.

Yes, I buy from invino 2-3 times a year. You need to know the wines or do a little research. 

Reply by GregT, Nov 5, 2016.

I think D is right. No need to limit yourself, although depending on what state you're in, the rules may be changing from one day to the next. But Invino is not really so much a flash site as it is an online site. You can go to the site and shop. Gotta check prices though - they're not always that good on the site.

Reply by SecretSanta, Nov 5, 2016.

ACME has three different clubs. 

Pulse - hip new stuff

Under the Radar - Small production, good to great wines, not widely known labels

Big Kahuna - big dollar bottles

While I'm not a club guy I find that their choices are interesting. I shop there twice a month. The staff are all great, knowledgable wine people. No markups on Winery pricing, even on semi-cult stuff. Not always the lowest price but sometimes the only place you can find that small production stuff short of being on the winery mailing list. Their website shows most but not all of their inventory.

Reply by rckr1951, Nov 7, 2016.

The worst of the wine clubs are the kind that have several listed separately but in reality are all made and bottled in the same place.  They buy and list the wine companies under their umbrella, buy juice and bottle and sell.  You the kind...12 bottles for $59....The wine and bottling cost them $2.25/btl and they still make a decent profit.

They above talkers are absolutely right - DO YOUR HOMEWORK.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 7, 2016.

SS, way to give yourself away!

I think the OP really just wanted to find a way to get a variety of under the radar wines from California or wherever in the way you wander into a tasting room out on the road, not so much that he was going to order things after researching for himself.  Basically, find someone to "curate" them for him.  Which is what your wine shop can do if you live in an awesome place with good liquor laws, and what a good wine club could do.  California is one of those places with both shops and liquor laws that are favorable for the most part, whereas Boston and environs, where I went to my last two years of high school, was not.  Our correspondents on here always express that sentiment:  "You California guys can get stuff we can't."  I think most of us (all of us?) have no experience with Invino's wine club aspect, which is what he was asking about; many of us have experience with Invino's flash sales.  Heck, my own ratings have been marketed to me by them. 

So I went for Acme as a way to accomplish the curated, surprise-me ideal.  Seems you can even get wines that are "allocated" to the final bottle. Of course, it's a badly kept secret that some folks flip their allocations or part of them, but Acme may also just have some access as locals who bought stuff when a maker started out, and get rewarded for their loyalty. 

Santa, we'll have to have a meet up at one of their tastings.  Even if I don't believe in you.

Reply by dmcker, Nov 8, 2016.

"SS, way to give yourself away!"

I thought Kris Kringle qualified all vendors worldwide, at least when he had to outsource (and I think even elven magic would find grape growing difficult at the North Pole)? Fortunately good that the Internet reaches that far...

MA still have that 'package shop' BS going on? As far as 'curating' goes, that's a whole can of worms. Who's doing the curating, towards what ends? No wine club I've ever seen will keep me happy after a couple of months at most. Ian Cauble and Last Bottle and Garagiste combined are better, and doing some simple searches to find a particular type of wine won't take much longer than applying for a wine club and dealing with their processing and then (particularly) getting frustrated both with what they send and the price they're charging for it.

In an IT-intensive work environment, or basically any stripped down and efficient business operation these days, I've found since last decade perceived experts tend to look askance at people asking questions about how things work, for example, without having Googled first. A little research can be fun, too. A lot more fun than having to curl lips when wading through wine-club marketeering muck.  ;-(



P.S. Just bumped that thread listing online vendors that I've personally qualified, which I'd provided a link to above. Some overlap with Fox's list, but we both have some that the other doesn't. Seems like there should be a lot to work with combining both.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Nov 8, 2016.

The list of places I have bought wine online for various reasons, or have researched a price to compare but lost out, is longer than anything I've posted.  I live in a wine-shop rich environment, but having the ability to go online and find obscure things (not to mention hammer down a local price with some of my vendors) is just irresistible to someone like me.  I'm on Astor, Zachys, Chambers St. out of NY; HDH, BWG and BPWines probably see me the most for libraries.  I regularly check out deals in SoCal at Wallys, WHWC, Winex--JD has picked things up for me on occasion.  Garagiste, LB, WTSO, WineAccess and Invino get looks for their flash offers.  JJBuckley is the one place where I actually have a rep and can offer them a price I am willing to pay, with some success. I order a lot from K&L for pickups; Flatiron is a mixture of online research and walk-in, since it's not my neighborhood shop exactly.  But in those cases, I am already looking for something.  I think almost all the non-winery wine clubs are pretty useless, but I do like the idea that Acme has boots on the ground and might find something before I hear about it... except that I know OT and he probably heard about it even sooner than Acme did.  That's the great thing about the Forum--you learn about stuff like you would if you had boots on the ground, or like you had a really good wine shop nearby.  No one of us has drunk everything anyone else has, so we curate for each other.  But not everyone has the ability to buy what they hear about here, so maybe there is a place for an honest wine club. 

Who could possibly be Secret Santa and go to Acme?  Hint: It isn't me!

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