Sunday, October 28, 2007

The Wino Club - Wine Across America

What: A wine-tasting club starter kit
Who: Stacy Nelson and Darcy Jones of Pet Rock Inc.
Where: Temecula, California
When: Started in 2006
Startup Costs: $15,000

Stacy Nelson and Darcy Jones were just two people who wanted to have a wine-tasting party without the pomp and stuffiness that often comes with such events. Inviting friends and colleagues, the pair launched the first "Wino Club" and decided so much fun shouldn't be confined to their circle of friends alone. So Nelson, 37, and Jones, 38, launched Pet Rock Inc. and created The Wino Club, a wine-tasting club starter kit.

"Everyone who comes to The Wino Club falls in love with it," Nelson says. The pair found blind tasting to be fun but intimidating for a novice, so they focused on creating a comfortable environment where all levels of "winos" could gather and learn from each other. "We're a club, not a single shot party," Nelson says. "This is an investment in years of fun, not a single night of frivolity."

The creation of the "sacred box" took several months as Nelson and Jones scrambled to find help with the design and licensing. Nelson's garage became a warehouse, and friends and family, including Nelson's 6-year-old son, all pitched in to help.

"I remember Darcy saying to me, ‘It's just a box. How hard could it be?'" Nelson says. "We still use that line and giggle, because forming a product is a very different experience."

All the necessities, besides wine and glasses, are inside the kit, which retails for $33 and is sold through the company's site, in specialty stores and at wineries. There's a wine bottle opener, glass markers, a spout, an instruction book and, most important, score cards to rate the wines. Additional supplies, winery links and an e-newsletter are available on their website.

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