Thursday, September 18, 2014

Underground Cellar

I received an e-mail to my blog address from Brian at Underground Cellar asking if I'd be willing to share the latest news about his venture with my readers.  

First of all I had to take a look at their web site to learn what they were about since I was not familiar with them. After doing some reading, as well as signing up on their site, I think it is a worthwhile site to write about. Note that the e-mail said they had "something special" for me if I chose to include them in this blog but that has nothing to do with their inclusion; for all I know they could be sending me a dead fish through the mail. 

Underground Cellar ("UC") has an interesting concept. Each day they offer a small selection of wines (four for today as I write this) for purchase. The interesting part is you select the bottle you want to buy but are then automatically given a chance for a random upgrade to a more expensive, and theoretically a better wine for that same price. 

For example, here is a screen shot for one of the featured wines, a 2009 Lake Sonoma Estate Zinfandel:

This particular wine is $21, shown above.  Once you order and pay for it, however, you just might be the recipient of a random upgrade to one of the higher-priced bottles.  

Unlike those discount hotel sites that don't tell you what hotel you are bidding on until you buy, UC lets you know what the other possibilities are, and also tells you your odds of receiving an upgrade. 

Above, it shows you that if you order the $21 bottle, you have a 38.69% of getting the more expensive Seghesio Zinfandel instead.  The different upgrades are listed - see the screen shot below.

Yes, interesting concept, I'd say. Is this a legit site?  It seems to be. They have reached the $1 million mark in seed money, including an investment by Shark Tank celebrity investor Barbara Corcoran.  The way the site operates will appeal to the gambling nature within us by taking a spin for an upgrade.  I like that idea (although what happens if you really really want the original wine and not the upgrade?). 

The option is available to defer delivery by having your wine placed in "Cloud Storage" - a temperature-controlled facility in Napa Valley, until you decide to have it shipped. You can order as little as a single bottle.  Shipping on six bottles is a flat $5 per shipment and a case earns you free shipping.  Therefore you could make several single bottle purchases and have them held in Cloud Storage until such time as you have a case, and then get free shipping.  The Cloud Storage is also very helpful for avoiding shipping in hot weather. 

Are the wines any good? You can see for yourself from the above that these are credible wineries with good reputations.  I looked at previous offerings and these not mystery wineries. My only comment is that some of the vintages are not current releases and some are releases from several years ago (such as the 2007 De Loach Zinfandel listed above) but assuming they have been properly stored, the buyer is getting the benefit of aging without having to pay extra for it. UC guarantees customer satisfaction, and they say the wines come straight from the winery so it sounds like a safe deal.  My Google search didn't reveal anything negative about them. 

Probably the best thing to do is visit their site and check it out yourself.  It's easy to understand what they are doing and it costs nothing to register, then see what is offered each day.  I signed up. I haven't bought anything yet since nothing interested me but I'm curious to see what comes up as time goes by. 

There is also a member forum but I have to say right now it seems pretty lame as not very many people participate and those who do seem to be the same ones in most of the threads. Someone from UC actively participates, though, which speaks well of their desire to be helpful. My two cents - the layout also looks too AOL-ish for me. 

As for the actual operating site - I think it's worth visiting and registering. It's like Forrest Gump's box of chocolates - you never know what you're gonna get. 

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