Article by Kim Hull
At some point, you’ve probably received an email with an offer to receive air miles if you join a wine club. I recently received an email from American Airlines offering 5,000 miles. Other airlines have similar offers as well, such as Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards & Laithwaite’s Wines.
The American Airlines offer was to receive 6 wines for $41.94 + 1 cent shipping, a complimentary six-piece deluxe wine tote, and 2,000 Aadvantage miles. Upon your second shipment, the cost goes up to regular price plus tax and delivery, and you receive an additional 3,000 Aadvantage miles. After that, the pricing stays the same and you earn 5 miles per dollar spent. There is no obligation to purchase more and the program can be cancelled at any time.
I was intrigued. We like wine and we like free airline miles.
I wondered what others thought of the program, flipped over to Google, searched American Airlines wine club, and…wowsa. There were some unhappy stories out there, although most were several years old. Most complaints related to being overcharged, charged twice, not receiving the miles, and not being able cancel.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club: November 4 – The order
I decided to try it and see what happened and signed up on a Wednesday morning at 7:50am. The choices were to receive all whites, all reds, or a mix. I chose all reds.
I immediately received a welcome message, with an online account login and temporary password, advising that the wine would be delivered within 10 days and the next shipment would arrive in 40 days.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club: November 5 – Wine received
The next day at 11:45am the wine was delivered. Impressive. Granted we are on the west coast and the shipment came from Napa, California, but still, for the wine to arrive within 30 hours from ordering was excellent.
The wine was packed in wine shipping crates and arrived in a heavy weight cardboard box.
Along with the wine, we received:
- A letter from the founder of Vinesse that listed a customer service email and a toll free customer service number
- A brochure about the program
- Tasting notes for each wine sent
The 6 bottles of wine received were:
- 2014 Ashfield Cellars California Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2013 Gracenote Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir
- 2014 Dreamtime South Eastern Australia Shiraz
- 2014 Mayfield Cellars Paso Robles Merlot
- 2014 El Tiburon California Malbec
- 2014 Le Monferrine Piemonte, Italy Barbera
I searched the internet for each wine to get a pricing comparison, but only came up with tasting notes and the Vinesse website, so I could not determine their actual retail value.
We did not receive the deluxe wine tote with the wine shipment.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club: November 5 – The Member Service Center
I noticed documentation said the next shipment would be $88-$92 plus tax and delivery, so I logged onto the Vinesse wine club website to check how many bottles that included and what the estimated shipping would be.
After changing my temporary password, I landed at my Member Service Center page where I could view and change my wine shipment selections and update shipping and billing information. I was set to receive 6 bottles on my second shipment. I changed shipment quantities and then changed them back – everything was very easy to navigate.
The website also has a FAQs section, where I learned I should receive my miles “within 6-8 weeks of enrolling in the wine club.”
Regarding canceling the membership and minimums, the website states: “You may cancel your membership at any time, for any reason. There are no minimum purchases in any of our wine clubs. There is no minimum spending amount or minimum time commitment.”
As with any wine shipment, a person over 21 years of age must sign for the delivery, so we had it shipped to our business address. The FAQs states the shipments are sent either by UPS Ground or Golden State Overnight, and that if shipments are sent to a residence there is a $2.50 surcharge.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club: The Wines
The prices listed on the Vinesse Wine Club website for each of the bottles we received were:
- 2014 Ashfield Cellars California Cabernet Sauvignon: $14.99
- 2013 Gracenote Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir $32.99
- 2014 Dreamtime South Eastern Australia Shiraz $15.99
- 2014 Mayfield Cellars Paso Robles Merlot $15.99
- 2014 El Tiburon California Malbec $15.99
- 2014 Le Monferrine Piemonte, Italy Barbera $19.99
Each bottle has a nice description, a member rating and review section, and food paring suggestions.
The next step – trying the wine. We decided to drink them in order of price, from low to high.
2014 Ashfield Cellars California Cabernet Sauvignon
- Price: $14.99
- Described on the Vinesse Wine Club website as: “This fruit-forward Cabernet offers notes of dark plum, cassis, red and dark berries, herbs and mocha.”
- I checked the Vinesse website to see what others thought of the wine and there were no ratings.
Our reaction: It was drinkable, but not great. It reminded me of a wine you’d get at a restaurant or hotel bar for $6 a glass. On a scale of 1-5, we both rated it about a 2.
2014 Mayfield Cellars Paso Robles Merlot
- Price: $15.99
- Described on the Vinesse Wine Club website as: “This concentrated, robust wine offers impressions of assorted red berries, black cherry and cocoa.”
- There was 1 member rating on the Vinesse website with a rating of 2 on a scale of 1-5.
Our reaction: A bit better than the first one, we both rated it a 3. Lots of fruit. Probably wouldn’t buy it a second time.
2014 Dreamtime South Eastern Australia Shiraz
- Price: $15.99
- Described on the Vinesse Wine Club website as: “This juicy, fruit-forward wine offers notes of blueberry, red and black cherries, and eucalyptus.”
- The 2014 Dreamtime South Eastern Australia Shira had three member reviews with an average rating of 3.5.
Our reaction: We both rated a 3.5. We both agree we would buy this one again. Smooth, drinks well, and a good value at $15.99.
2014 El Tiburon California Malbec
- Price: $15.99
- Described on the Vinesse Wine Club website as: “This soft, approachable wine offers notes of various red and black fruits, with a touch of oak in the finish.
- There were 3 member ratings on the Vinesse website with an average rating of 1 out of 5.
Our reaction: We both rated 2.5. Drinkable, but not special.
2014 Le Monferrine Piemonte, Italy Barbera
- Price: $19.99
- Described on the Vinesse Wine Club website as:”This food-friendly wine offers notes of red berry, red cherry, caramel and toast.”
- The 2014 Le Monferrine Piemonte had 4 member ratings averaging a score of 3 out of 5.
Our reaction: Our consensus was 3.5. Probably the best of the bunch.
2013 Gracenote Carneros, Napa Valley Pinot Noir
- Price: $32.99
- Described on the Vinesse Wine Club website as: “This nicely textured wine offers notes of red cherry, strawberry, raspberry, cedar and bay leaf.”
- 3 member ratings on the Vinesse website with an average score of 4.5 out of a possible 5.
Our reaction: We rated 3. An okay wine, but probably not worth the higher price.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club: To continue or not
Obviously, a big factor in the ongoing shipments of wine is the non-promotional price with shipping included.
I went back and checked the offer email and it said I’d receive 2,000 points with the first shipment and 3,000 with the second shipment – it didn’t say I couldn’t change the quantity on the second shipment.
I did not find any estimate on shipping in FAQs section of the Vinesse Wine Club website, so I went to the sales section, where you can purchase additional wine. When I placed 1 bottle in the shopping cart, the estimated shipping was $18. The shipping increased slightly with every 2 bottles:
1 bottle = $18
2 bottles = $18
3 bottles = $21
4 bottles = $21
5 bottles = $25
6 bottles = $25
Next, I went to the AA.com to check the value of the Aadvantage points. If purchasing, the cost of the American Airlines Aadvantage points is $59 for 2,000 points and $88.50 for 3,000 points.
For the first shipment, we paid $41.95. With the 2000 points valued at $59, making the wine basically free, so the first shipment was a great deal.
We now had a decision to make on the second shipment. Using the top end of the estimated cost for 6 bottles of $92, each bottle would average $15.33. The estimated cost with shipping, but without tax would be:
1 bottle = $33.33
2 bottles = $48.66 ($24.33 each + tax)
3 bottles = $66.99 ($22.33 each + tax)
4 bottles = $82.32 ($20.58 each + tax)
5 bottles = $101.65 ($20.33 each + tax)
6 bottles = $116.98 ($19.50 each + tax)
With the value of the additional 3,000 miles at $88.50, the additional shipment of six bottles seemed like a pretty good deal as well. The estimated total of 6 bottles would be $117, so after receiving the 3,000 points, the wine would cost about $28.50 plus tax. Even with hit and miss quality of the wines in the first shipment, we decided it was probably worth $28 to try 6 more bottles – assuming we would receive the miles as promised.
On November 27, I had not received the first 2,000 miles in my Advantage account and we never received the “deluxe wine tote.”
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club: Shipment two
Our second shipment of wine arrived. The wine was shipped on December 16 and we received it on December 17, exactly as the Vinesse website had stated it would.
The six bottles received were:
- Two bottles of 2014 Mayfield Cellars Paso Robles Merlot $15.99, which we had also received in the first shipment and rated 3 and noted, “Lots of fruit. Probably wouldn’t buy it a second time.”
- Two bottles of 2014 Ashfield Cellars California Cabernet Sauvignon: $14.99, which we had also received in the first shipment, rated a 2, and noted, “It was drinkable, but not great. It reminded me of a wine you’d get at a restaurant or hotel bar for $6 a glass.”
- Two bottles of 2014 Chalkstone Vineyards Paso Robles Syrah $16.99 – a new wine
The total for the shipment was $117.49, of which $95.49 was for the wine and $21.55 was for shipping and tax, which was not broken out on the shipping details, but was very close to the amount I’d estimated, if not slightly less.
With regard to the new wine…
2014 Chalkstone Vineyards Paso Robles Syrah
- Price: $16.99
- Described on the Vinesse Wine Club website as: “This full-bodied wine offers notes of black cherry, black berries, coconut, wood, chocolate and espresso.”
- There were no member ratings for this wine.
Our reaction: We both rated at 1, didn’t finish the bottle and poured it out. I plan on using the 2nd bottle for cooking.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club: Canceling the membership
I didn’t want to cancel the Vinesse Wine Club membership until I’d received the 3,000 miles for the second shipment, so I changed the account status on the Vinesse Wine Club website to delay the shipments for 3 months.
On January 8, 2016 the 3,000 miles hit my AAdvantage account, so I headed over to the Vinesse Wine Club website to cancel our membership. I couldn’t find a way to cancel on the website so I sent their customer service an email to cancel.
I received a message back stating I needed to call to cancel.
Personally, I believe if you can order something online, you should be able to handle all customer service online. The email resolution would have been acceptable, but requiring you to call after sending customer service an email appears to be an effort to place one more hurdle in front of members to discourage them from canceling.
I called and the membership was canceled.
American Airlines AAdvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club: Summary
- Overall, the American Airlines Aadvantage Miles / Vinesse Wine Club experience was a good value. The general quality of the wine was okay for most of the wines, with the one exception.
- The program was managed as was described in the initial offer and the Vinesse Wine Club online account management tools were easy to use and straightforward.
- We received the points we were offered.
- We didn’t ever receive the wine tote.
- No cancellation option on the website, then not handling the cancellation by the email sent, showed a lack of customer service by Vinesse.
Disclaimer: The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. We received no compensation for this article. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.