Like wine tasting notes in a flight review, today we get to combine our love of wine with our love of flying in a substantive way. Meghan recently received a note in conjunction with her United Airlines MileagePlus account inviting her to earn 6,500 bonus miles by signing up for the American Cellars Wine Club through Vinesse Wines (you must use that link). While I am a big skeptic of online wine clubs, I am also a big fan of airline miles, so at a risk of $41.95 I signed up to try the introductory offer with an open mind. Consider doing so yourself if the notion of six bottles of wine plus 6,500 United miles in exchange for $41.95 of your hard earned money seems appealing.
Further reading: Adventure, alternatives, and the fallacy of online wine services
The offer here is that Vinesse will ship you six bottles of wine valued in the $12 - $15 dollar range for the first-month price of $41.95 (shipping allegedly accounts for one cent of this). Sign up, and you'll also be rewarded with the 6,500 bonus miles. Technically, I believe this could end up being 6,793 (ish) miles because it appears that one gets seven miles for every dollar spent with this service in general. Members can opt for an all-red, all-white, or mixed set of six bottles (I opted for mixed, just to try it out). My confirmation e-mail provided access to my online account, which handily tells me how many United miles I have earned, as well as an indication of the dates I can expect the next three monthly shipments. I've not yet received the wine, but the first month lineup includes:
- 2015 Braxton Hall California Melange Red;
- 2015 Dreamtime Riverina Winemaker's Blend Australia Red Wine;
- 2015 Iron Rock Cellars Lodi, California Chardonnay;
- 2016 Las Prisas Central Valle Chile Sauvignon Blanc;
- 2016 Scoperta Puglia, Italy Falanghina;
- 2016 Gracenote Edna Valley Valley Pinot Noir.
It's a blunt instrument, but some quick searches on Vivino tells me that all of these bottles fall in the 3.5 - 4.5 star community rating range, which to me says that none are terrible, and some might be worthwhile. I'll return with a review once we've tried them all.
The Points Guy values United miles at 1.5 cents apiece in his latest July 2017 calculations, meaning that one could consider the 6,500 mile bonus to (approximately) be a $97.50 value. Though United has had a really tough year in the court of public opinion and bad press, their MileagePlus program is particularly versatile in that one can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points into their United account. Say, for example, you were eying a long weekend in Europe... combine the 6,793 miles you just earned from the wine club with 23,207 transferred in from your Chase account to get the 30,000 requires to fly from Washington-Dulles to Copenhagen on Thursday 5 October. If you're really feeling adventurous, take the flight that features a 14 hour layover in Amsterdam and explore that city as well! Note that I chose Copenhagen as the example because it's definitely on my list of places to visit, and because United's partnership with SAS and Lufthansa airlines make Scandinavia and Germany particularly accessible for United passengers.
There is definitely more to follow on this, as I am again in no way sold on the value of online wine clubs. I'll cut this one a small break in the interest of promoting your ability to go explore the world. So while you're taking that Copenhagen trip, drive across the Øresund Bridge to southern Sweden and check out the nice whites and rosés of Vingården i Klagshamn winery. Consider it the best of both worlds.