Monday, December 28, 2015

The Original Wine Of The Month Club In Vintage Form Despite Legions Of Imitators

The Wine of the Month Club has history that dates back to the early 1970s in the dusty upstairs room of a Palos Verdes liquour store…

Yes, There Is An Original Wine Of The Month Club

 

How did I not know this? There actually is a monthly wine club that is the original and much imitated Wine of the Month Club. I’m very familiar with winery wine clubs and their regular shipments. From my youth I recall the Book of the Month Club and the Columbia Record Club.

For those last two, I believe much of their sales originated from the fact that the books or records kept on coming unless you were wiley enough to, through great effort, cancel the membership. Today there are plenty of wine clubs, many with a unique twist. One offers to help you figure out your wine style and ship you wines that are in harmony. The Turner Movie Channel Wine Club pairs vintage wine with vintage movies. Others specialize in California wines and some from other specific regions.

Wine of The Month

How It All Started

 

Acording to Paul Kalemkiarian Sr., he invented the idea of mail order wine in 1972. He points out that many of the competitors mimic the original with newsletters, recipes and free binders.

The company, now owned by son Paul Kalemkiarian Jr., says the difference between the original Wine of the Month Club (WOMC) and everyone else is its history – which allows it to command better quality wines at better prices.

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Paul Sr. studied Pharmacognosy (study of plant based medicines) at the University of Cairo, Egypt. He then moved to America and got his Masters degree at USC. He began working in a pharmaceutical company and opened his first pharmacy in Inglewood in 1955.

His company grew to a point where he bought and sold 12 pharmacies and had five open at one time.
One of these purchases was key to the origin of WOMC.

A Package Deal

One of the Kalemkiarian pharmacies was located in Malaga Cove Plaza, but oddly enough, there was another drug store in the same plaza. The owner of the drug store owned a liquor store next door. Paul Sr. agreed to buy the pharmacy, but only if the liquor store was included.

The liquor store became Palos Verdes Wine and Spirits. To help patrons who would walk in and say, “My boss is coming for dinner and I need a nice wine,” he started to pick monthly wine selections.

The monthly selections were the root of the WOMC. As time went on, patrons would rely on the monthly selections that were pre-screened for quality, variety and value. Store customers soon wanted their monthly selections delivered.

Hand delivery continued until it was no longer practical. Delivery then moved to UPS. Paul Sr. sold Palos Verdes Wines and Spirits, but retained the mail order rights and trademarked the name “Wine of the Month Club.” The club operated as a freestanding entity and they continued to be the only service of its kind until the mid-80s. Today Paul Jr. is the owner, president and cellarmaster.

Just What Is Offered?

 

The flagship offering of WOMC is the two-bottle clubs. The two-bottle Classic Series is $454 for a 12-month members and you can also purchase four and six-month options. That comes out to about $38 a month – not bad to have two interesting wines delivered to your door.

Three other series are offered. The Vintner Series, designed for someone who is interested in a variety of grapes and regions, is $589 for 12 months. The Limted Series, their top tier, includes unique wines that have aging potential. The cost is $725 per year. There is also a California Series at a $535 price tag.

The wines listed in the materials are interesting. I am not familiar with most of the wineries producing the monthly selections, but upon checking, these are choices I’d be interested in trying.

The November 2015 Classic club had four offerings. Two were produced by Spur Ranch. Spur Ranch is a brand of O’Neill Vintners, which specializes in bulk wines and private label wines. These wines might be quite good, but there isn’t a Spur Ranch winery.

The Vintner club offered a 2013 Skyline Pinot Noir. Skyline is a brand of the Owl Ridge Wine Services, which is a custom crush pad. Customers provide the grapes and the crush pad provides the equipment and expertise. The wine is produced by winemakers Joe Otos and Chris Loxton. So this could be a limited production gem.

The suggested retail prices for the bottles are very reasonable. Based on the materials I reviewed, wines in the Classic line are under $22, the Vintner line under $25 and the Limited Series under $35. The prices are lower to WOMC members and are quite a deal when reordering.

I’m a sucker for surprises, especially with wine. Receiving two new wines each month, learning about them and (especially) quaffing them is a fun idea for yourself or as a gift. If you are interested in a wine club – here’s the granddaddy of them all, the original Wine of the Month Club.

Full Disclosure: We received the wine basket as a marketing sample



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