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Tasting Room, a personalized wine experience, strives to become the Netflix of wine

Updated: April 24, 2013 9:48AM

Ordering products online — sight unseen — has become the norm for shoppers around the country.

Tasting Room, an online wine experience that hopes to become the Netflix of wine, will be offered to the public by the beginning of May by Lot18.

“The real driver of it is personalization,” said Eric Arnold, Editorial Director at Lot18. “You could equate it to Netflix that based on the past movies you selected, it is representing similar ones to you. What it comes down to is there is no personalization that lets you taste the wine first.”

For $9.95, a tasting kit is sent for someone to go through an experience that will produce a “wineprint” at the end that curates wines that are tailored to the individual’s taste buds. After the tasting experience, which takes about 10 minutes and is six pours of wine separated into miniature bottles, a case of wine can be ordered for 50 percent off and free shipping. Wine orders can be placed as frequent or infrequent as the user desires.

Sarah and Bill Young, both 32, of Homewood, are beta users of Tasting Room and have been through the tasting experience and are awaiting their first wine order to arrive in the mail.

“It was a gift for my husband,” Sarah Young said of her tasting kit purchase. “I got it for him for his birthday. He and I have become more interested in trying different wines and tasting wines in the last couple of years.”

Young was impressed with the wine that she has tasted thus far.

“I liked the quality of the wine that they had and the variety in the tasting,” Young said. “I’m hoping in subsequent tastings, the wineprint will become more personalized. The information it gave us after the first time, we already knew.”

Tasting Room is an idea that has been brewing at Lot18 for a few years, and was a part of the company’s initial business plan.

“The thing we did first is we took all of the wines that had a strong likelihood of being in the calibration kits and staff experts tasted them,” Arnold said. “Basically, it is a massive choose your own adventure map. It is based on whether you like one wine more than the other, or if you like or dislike two wines equally. It does matter, in terms of the algorithm, if you like a wine a lot more or not much more.”

Wines at a local store are likely to be cheaper, and more readily accessible, but the people over at Lot18 think they have the special something to set them apart.

“The main difference is that at your local wine store, odds are you aren’t going to taste something first,” Arnold said. “You’re going to spend money on something you’re not sure about. Unless you are dealing with the same person at the wine shop over and over again, you’re really not going to get the same level of service.”

A social media aspect of the Tasting Room is “coming soon,” and will feature the ability to share with friends and other wine enthusiasts what you have enjoyed or have not enjoyed.

Until feedback from others is available, Lot18 is trying their best to get wines into their customers’ hands that they will be pleased with.

“We take very seriously all of the feedback that we get,” Arnold said. “We want to make sure people are getting wines that they are likely to enjoy. Every other wine club out there, no one will ask what you like. They will send you wine and you are sort of stuck with it.

“We want to make sure it is as personalized and fun of an experience as possible. You shouldn’t be paying for something you’re not going to enjoy.”

Having her first case of wine sent to her for 50 percent off appealed to Young, but she said Tasting Room will have to impress to keep her and her husband’s business.

“The introductory price gives you an opportunity to see the quality,” Young said. “If we like it, we will keep doing it. If not, we will go back to Binny’s.”

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