Sunday, February 16, 2014

Don't invite American Cellars Wine Club to the party

A luscious Dublin Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon from American Wine Cellars Club, but this is one club I won't be joining.

Editor's note: Today, I discuss a bad experience with one of those online wine clubs, and the newfound pleasure of shopping at Costco Wholesale after 5 p.m.


Some of the best values in wine are found by accepting the introductory discount offers of clubs that send bottles right to your door.

For as little as about $5 a bottle, I have enjoyed delicious, drinkable wines from around the world, with no obligation to buy more at regular prices.

So, I gladly accepted an offer from United Airlines -- six bottles of California wine from the American Cellars Wine Club for $41.95, including shipping ($6.99 a bottle).

And my first two shipments also would earn frequent-flier miles.

But American Cellars Wine Club sent out my first shipment of six bottles and then, without notice, another six that cost me $127.26, according to my credit card statement ($21.21 a bottle).

Unlike other wine clubs, including those sponsored by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Zagat, I wasn't given the opportunity to turn down the wine or cancel my American Cellars membership. 

What followed were a series of calls to customer service at American Cellars -- just one of the clubs operating under the banner of -- and exchanges of e-mails.

I didn't want to return the second six bottles at my expense, so I offered $41.95, what I paid for the first six, and my offer was accepted.

On Feb. 7, a credit of $85.31 showed up in my card account.

Shopping at Costco Wholesale in Hackensack is a pleasure after 5 p.m., as it was on Friday, when only one other shopper was ahead of me in the checkout line, above. I bought salt-free raw almonds, organic baby spinach, fresh blueberries and more.

I use another Costco item, whole peeled garlic cloves from the Christopher Ranch in California, when boiling skin-on sweet potatoes and Kabucha Squash to mash with extra-virgin olive oil, a little salt and Kirkland Signature Organic No-Seasoning.

Liquid egg whites

On Friday, I bought a six-pack of Kirkland Signature Egg Whites for $8.79 or about $1.47 for each 16-ounce carton.

That's about half of what you'd pay for liquid egg whites with coloring or with such additions as diced sweet peppers.

An 18-ounce package of fresh blueberries from Chile were $6.99 and pleasantly sweet. A 1-pound package of organic baby spinach was $4.29, up from $3.99.

A package of Rabbits -- hard, chewy organic granola bars with oats, seeds, nuts and dried fruit -- were $12.74 or about 85 cents each after an instant $4.25 discount.

The product is called 18 Rabbits, but contains only 15 bars.

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