Any trip to California wine country will often result in the same question popping up; should I check my wine as an extra bag or ship it home? This was the quandary I found myself in on a recent trip to the Golden State. On a previous trip, I had checked one case of wine as an extra bag, had no issues and was happy to find my case on the baggage carousel at my home airport. I was even more delighted when I opened the case to find that all the wine had made it through unscathed. On that particular trip, I had a direct flight and was only checking one case of wine. So, the chances of a catastrophe occurring were minimal and because of the high cost of shipping, it made sense to check rather than ship. However, on our most recent trip I had a layover and was planning on bringing home 2 cases of wine. Double the flights, double the wine, double the chances that something would go wrong.
As my first case of wine was filled, I began to weigh the options. Should I ship the wine which would result in expensive shipping, having to arrange for delivery so someone could sign for the box and be forced to wait a week to get the wine? Or should I ship as an extra bag, pay a lower amount to send it home and have the wine as soon as I get home? It was a difficult question; I really wasn’t sure what made the best sense. I knew that with a layover, the chances of cardboard wine cases being damaged or “lost” were high. But the benefits of bringing the wine home with me and saving on shipping seemed to outweigh the negatives.
My real concern was the integrity of the cardboard wine box. I already knew that the Styrofoam inserts would protect the wine, but I didn’t think the cardboard box would make it through multiple flights and handling by airline personnel. I had 6 days remaining on the trip, which provided more than enough time to try and locate a better shipping container before the return trip. After a quick search on the internet, I realized there were plenty of options for those serious about traveling with wine. But you also had to make a serious financial commitment, which I was unwilling to do.
I was beginning to give up hope that I would find an affordable shipping container and then I happened across http://thewinecheck.com/. As the site states; they offer a safe, convenient and economical way to ship wine. The price for the bag was $54.00 or $59.00 for a bag and cardboard shipper insert. I was sold on the idea until I got to the shipping page. If I had been in Napa or Sonoma (Proper), I could have arranged for a free same day delivery. However, since I was in Santa Barbara I would have to ship them and expedite it to get the bags in time. Unfortunately, the cost to buy 2 bags and ship them to Santa Barbara in less than 5 days was going to cost me $279.18. At that price I would end up saving money shipping the wine. Still convinced that the wine check was a great affordable idea, but not willing to spend that much to ship them, I passed on the bags. Instead, I would take my chances with the regular cardboard boxes and I resolved to order the bags when I got back home so I would be prepared for my next trip.
The following day, we decided to take in the sights of downtown Santa Barbara and visit some of the local wine tasting rooms. We stopped at Corks n’ Crowns in downtown Santa Barbara and while enjoying a tasting when I noticed a bright red bag that looked very familiar. I realized that it was one of the wine check bags I had been looking at the day before. I purchased two wine checks and was now prepared to fill the remainder of my wine cases.
The following morning, we were back on our way back to the Santa Ynez Valley with our wine checks in tow. We had planned on a full day of wine tasting in the Valley, an overnight at a local hotel and another full day of tasting the next day before returning to Santa Barbara. The wine check provided a convenient place to store the wine bottles so they weren’t floating all over the car and it made it easy to transport the cases to and from the hotel. We managed to fill both cases in no time and even had a few bottles extra to go in our suitcases.
As the end of the trip neared, I started to have some concerns. Would the whole thing really be less than 50 lbs? Would the bags stand up to the abuse of the airlines? Would my wine be safe from theft? Would the wine bottles make it without breaking?
As we arrived at the airport, I grabbed the wine check bags and we headed off to the check-in counter. As I placed the first bag on the scale, the weight registered as 43.5 lbs, well under the 50lbs limit. The bag was tagged and thrown onto the belt behind the counter. The next bag came in at 44.5 lbs, also well beneath the limit. Again the bag was thrown onto the belt behind the counter. I had answered my first question, but had also witnessed the beginning of the abuse the bags would face.
Following a completely “random” check with the TSA, we finally arrived at our gate. We set up by the window so I could track the progress of the bags as they were loaded onto the aircraft. This would be the last time I saw the bags until we reached New Jersey. We boarded the aircraft and were soon on our way to Phoenix and following a brief layover, were on our way back to New Jersey.
Arriving at Newark Airport, I immediately set out for the baggage claim and after a brief wait the first wine check slid onto the belt followed immediately by the second. A cursory inspection revealed no stains or damage to the outside of the bags, so it was off to the car and home for a better inspection. When we arrived at home I opened the wine checks and was greeted by TSA tape on the boxes and an insert that explained TSA inspection criteria. When I opened the box, I found all wine bottles accounted for and unbroken. The same was true for the second wine check bag and the four bottles we had placed in our luggage.
I was very happy with how the wine check performed on the trip. It provided a convenient place to put all the wine we had purchased while traveling from the hotels to wineries. It held up to abuse by the airlines and came away with no damage to the wine. Most of all, it provided an affordable option to shipping and something that I can use over and over again. The wine check really does live up to all its claims and should definitely be considered by anyone who wants to bring their wine home with them.
If you are interested in purchasing your own wine check bag, you can visit their website at http://thewinecheck.com/
You can also find wine check bags at any one of the several retail locations listed here http://thewinecheck.com/wheretofindthewinecheck.html
The wine check is also a great and affordable holiday gift idea for anyone who enjoys traveling to California and bringing back wine.