Josh's last article did a great job of summing up what most of us at The Oregon Wine Blog do to pay the bills. Not only do we all work professionally at universities, but almost all of us are alumni of universities surrounded by wine country.
What does that have to do with anything? Glad you asked!
In the past, one would have to frequently ponder the difficult decision of either donating a few bucks to their alma mater's alumni association or subscribing to another wine club. Those days are over because the folks at Alumni Wine Clubs have found a way to allow you to do both at the same time. In short, Alumni Wine Clubs has partnered with select universities to create alumni association-specific wine clubs that its members can join. Each club membership automatically donates a certain percentage of that month's shipment to their alumni association while also helping support alumni-related wineries.
For example, four of us at The Oregon Wine Blog happen to be alumni of Washington State University. Continent upon membership to WSU's alumni association, we can then join Wine By Cougars (operated by Alumni Wine Clubs) and receive four WSU-related wine shipments a year. Each shipment contributes a donation to the WSU Alumni Association and also benefits wineries with some sort of relation to WSU.
I found the idea of alumni association wine clubs a fascinating way to connect alumni to their alma maters and decided to email a few interview questions to Cassie Rothstrom at Almuni Wine Clubs. The following are a few of my questions and her responses:
1. First, please tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested in the wine industry.
I grew up in Walla Walla, and am now married to a wonderful man that actually handles all fullfillment for the wine clubs. And we have three wonderful kids - Matt (16), Abbie (11) and Ellie (9). Living in the Walla Walla Valley, you are surrounded by wineries. So naturally my interest in wine was peaked. At the time that I started the Walla Walla Wine Club (dba Alumni Wine Clubs) I was a partner in another company that produced a product called "Wine Away Red Wine Stain Remover". So the concept of doing some cross-marketing with a wine club seemed natural. People that would have a need for a red wine stain remover obviously drink red wine.
2. What inspired you to create AlumniWineClubs.com? Did you approach universities first or did they contact you?
I'd like to say that branching off from the Walla Walla Wine Club was totally my brain child. But in fact there is this genius marketing guru by the named of Jud Preece who works for the WSU Alumni Association (Senior Associate), and he contacted me about doing a wine club for the alumni association. Being a Coug myself, it sounded like a lot of fun!
3. To date, which club has the most members and why do you think
We have seven wine clubs. WSU's is by far the largest. A lot of that has to do with WSU's impact on the wine industry. With well over 75 Cougar-connected wineries, that says a lot about our Universities' involvement. But the main reason I think this club is so successful is because Cougs are very loyal to fellow Cougs! So if it's branded "WSU" they want to be part of it!
4. How do proceeds to the schools work?
A portion of the proceeds from each box of wine that ships out the door to each customer each time we ship (which can be as many as 6 times per year) is donated back to the alumni association. WSU's alumni Association opted for us to use the funds to endow two different Viticultural and Enology scholarships.
5. Do you anticipate your partnerships expanding to any other states, namely Idaho?
As a matter of fact, yes. We just began dialogue with them earlier this month!
6. Anything else you would like at add?
We have alumni wine clubs for WSU, UC Davis, U of Oregon, OSU, Humboldt, UNLV, and Cal. But if you aren't an alumn or friend of one of these universities, you might want to consider the Walla Walla Wine Club, which features wines from the Walla Walla Valley.
8. This one's just for fun. GO _____!
So there you have it. Yet another innovative way the wine industry is growing and making connections to other facets of peoples lives. Our last article mentioned how little the wine industry is doing to attract young buyers, but Alumni Wine Clubs is doing just the opposite. A huge thank you goes out to Cassie for answering my questions and to all alumni out there supporting their alma maters one bottle at a time.