Dracaena Wines

Random Thoughts

Product Review – VinGarde Valise

Mixing Business and Pleasure

If you have been following my blog, you know that we just spent a week on the Central Coast of California. The trip was two fold.  First we had some business with our winery, but we also had time to wine taste. Since this is our favorite region, and we were there for an extended time, we assumed there would be multiple bottles purchased.
Luckily, since we need to travel so much, we were allowed to have five checked bags. This is quite a luxury, I know, but we used it with pure delight. Going out, we packed four empty shippers to check. Additionally, we had already spoken to Barry Wax, the creator of the product I am reviewing. We arranged for him to ship our purchased product directly to our hotel. Proudly, I would like to introduce you to:

VinGarde Valise

Upon arrival at our hotel in San Luis Obispo, we checked with the front desk, and just as Barry had promised, our VinGarde Valise wine suitcase was there.  The suitcase was in a typical shipping box.

 Although there is nothing special about the packaging, I have to admit there is something special about this product.  You may have heard of other products with a similar concept of protecting your wine, but this is an actual suitcase, not a cover for a wine shipper.

Sadly, we have heard stories of people, and know of someone personally, coming home for the wine region and having their wine stolen. There use to be a time that there was a person checking that the luggage you are leaving the baggage claim area with matches the tags you were given.  I have not seen a person in this role in a very long time, and if someone notices where the plane is arriving from, and sees the typical box, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out what is inside. This is one of the main reasons why we initially were interested in this product.  It is a suitcase, not just a cover for a shipper. It does not advertise there is wine inside like the other products do.
Concern about theft may seem pessimistic, and many people will say that would never happen, but we are from the east coast, and yes, we are a little lacking in the trust area.
With that being said, another reason we decided to purchase this product is because it has four spinner wheels to facilitate movement and ease of handling.  It is a solid durable piece of luggage. Other products that are out there, only have two wheels and are clumsy to roll. Reading some of the reviews balance is mentioned as an issue while trying to wheel it. Once again, remember those others are only a case to cover a shipper box.

There is a Difference

The VinGarde Valise is different.  When we took it out of the box, it felt super light.  The suitcase had two straps with Velcro across the outer portion to make sure it stays closed in addition to the dual zipper.

Once opened, as you can see, there are two separate sides each with separate compartments.  There is a place for your business card, and smaller zippered slots to store paperwork.  The zippers are sturdy and glide very easily around the luggage. Inside there is paperwork that details how to care for the luggage and a tag for the outside handles. Plus, there is a little welcome note and a form that describes an optional additional purchase of Trackdot which allows you track your luggage while travelling.

After unzipping the insides, you begin to truly understand why it would be so difficult for a bottle of wine to break while being shipped in this luggage.  There are two additional straps plus a foam cover on each side.

These straps are adjustable so you can really strap them down to keep your wine secure. Each side of the suitcase has high density foam cocoons to secure your wine. These inserts are flexible, meaning you can travel with your choice of  two to twelve bottles. The cocoons are in sets of two bottles, and each side contains three. This allows for removal of any of these insert sets if you don’t need a whole case, providing space for clothing, shoes or toiletries. Additionally, each individual cocoon has removable plugs to allow for space if you are shipping a taller bottle. It is fully compliant with FAA, TSA, and all airline luggage requirements. Beginning this summer, you will also be able to order supplementary magnums and wine glasses inserts.

Wrapped in Security 

While filling the cocoons, you get an understanding of how secure you wine is going to be. It does take a little maneuvering to get the bottles into the sleeves. It was nothing that was overly difficult, but it did take some wiggling to get them in.  Again, if you are placing a taller bottle into the sleeve, you can remove the plug.  If it is a shorter bottle, the plug is very advantageous.  While filling the case, I noticed that a heavy Bordeaux bottle required significantly more finagling.  I contacted Barry through email about this, and he replied immediately informing me, that the foam inserts will loosen up after their first use and it will allow for these bottles with a bit more ease.  He also shared that he is aware of the fact that some wineries use “Italian glass” that is much heavier than a typical California Cabernet.  He informed me that these will not fit, but he is already in the process of getting cocoons made that fit these bottles.  These inserts are expected to be available by the end of September 2014. 
sorry for the darkness of picture, but
it was the only way I could show depth.

With the bottles in place, you just place the foam cover over the bottles and re-secure the straps. Zip up each of the sides, close up the suitcase like any other suitcase, and secure those outside straps.  Securing the outer straps with the velcro. You are ready to go.  You can pull up the handle and move it easily wherever you need to go. Below see a video of me moving the suitcase.  It is sideways, sorry. But it does demonstrate how easy it rolls.

A much better video is the one that Barry has on Vimeo that shows him dropping the suitcase down several large flights of stairs. You can see this video here. This video is an introduction to the VinGarde Valise.  It discusses its flexibility, insulation properties and the best part, its durability.
In the  two minute video, it shows that a full suitcase weighs in at about 41 pounds.  Honestly, the weight would depend on the wines that are inside.  There are many different bottle weights out there.  We are currently going through the process of choosing a bottle for our wine and discovered that in addition to bottle color, there are differing bottle weights. Our full suitcase weighed in at 47 pounds.  This is still below the allowable 50 pounds, and we did have some heavier bottles in the case.

Judgment Time

So, what’s my overall opinion?  There are so many positives, that I have to say I LOVE this product. I’d give it two stellar thumbs up, 5 out of 5 stars, an A+.  Do you get where I’m going with this? From the ease of maneuvering around, to the solid construction, to the security of the bottles in their cocoons, this suitcase is a winner all around.  At this point, you are probably asking what the price tag is on this suitcase. Well, it is $229.00 plus shipping.  At first, you may think this is steep, but considering what a normal suitcase costs, it is not out of the ordinary.  Plus, after experiencing the ease of use during this trip, I have to truthfully tell you, IT IS WORTH IT! Compared to shippers, it was so much easier to move through the airport.  It was also easier to check in at the counter. Anyone who has checked in shippers, knows that there is additional paperwork. The airline personnel needs to print out those special tags that you need to sign as a waiver. Once all shippers are checked in, the shippers go to a separate area than luggage.  All of this leads to additional time at the airport and additional time that your wine is sitting out separated from the rest of your luggage.  Since the VinGuarde Valise is luggage, it is checked like a regular suitcase, so it is a simple process.
As I said, we had four shippers in addition to the suitcase. In order to make it easier on us when returning to the airport, we always have to bring the wine to the curb check-in, drop off the wine while leaving the car in the no parking zone, then return the car to the rental place. Which again requires you to waste more time at the airport. Trying to get that many cases of wine on and off a car rental shuttle is tough. But using the suitcase(s) would be so much easier.  If you are going to purchase multiple cases, there is no other way to go.
While trying to drop off the wine this time, we couldn’t get a spot right in front of the airline curb check in.  So we needed to rent one of those carts to move them.  As you know, shippers provide protection, but they are not the easiest to lift and move.  Boxes, that size are more difficult to manipulate.
If you tend to purchase less wine, trust me, this is still so much easier than dealing with the shipper. Think about it this way, would you rather bend down, lift (always lift with your legs, not your back) a 40+ pound box, carry it from the hotel room, to the car, then from the car to the airport or would you rather wheel that weight.  If you are thinking to yourself, I can get one of those cheaper covers, remind yourself four spinning wheels are a lot easier to move than two non-spinning wheels. Finally, do you really want to advertise that there is wine sitting in a box on that baggage carousel? (especially if you don’t get to that carousel before the box comes down)  I think the choice is obvious.
Let’s look at this from another angle. You are not always going to travel on a plane.  Maybe you are just taking a drive to a lake house, or the beach, or anywhere.  Often when we go on a vacation, we bring our own wine.  This is ideal for that situation.  You can bring  as much wine as you want, and it will be secure in your car.  The fact that you can pull some sleeves out and use it for clothing just adds to the benefit.
I can not praise using VinGarde Valise enough.  If you would like to purchase this product you can click here.  These opinions are my own. I have not been compensated to review this product.  I just really liked the product and thought I’d share.  If you have any questions about this product please feel free to leave a comment. Heck, even if you don’t have a question, leave a comment about what you’re thinking. Finally, if you haven’t already done so, please scroll to the top of this blog and sign up to keep up to date on my blogs through email and follow me on Google+. As always, thanks for reading.

-Slainte!