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Enough with the unboxing of tablets, mobile phones and other tech gadgets. It’s time to unbox — and uncork — some Amazon wine.

The Seattle online retail giant made its long-awaited move into the world of online wine sales this morning and GeekWire is putting the service to the test.

We spent some time this afternoon using Amazon’s new wine platform to delve through all the cabernets and pinot noirs. Our final order: one bottle of merlot from Ukiah, Calif., and one bottle of white wine from Kelso, Wash.

We’ll be documenting our Amazon wine-buying experience from start to finish, including an unboxing when the packages arrive at GeekWire HQ. Let’s review the online buying process now.

 Above is a snapshot from the Amazon Wine homepage. There are a few featured wineries and then five categories to click on: Red, White, Rose, Sparking, Dessert.

And what’s an Amazon product page without a plethora of filters? Here the categories in the left-hand column that you can use to filter results and help find that perfect wine:

  • Type (red, white, sparkling)
  • Grape variety (Merlot, Pinot Noir)
  • Taste notes (blackberry, citrus)
  • Professional rating
  • Alcohol volume
  • Vintage
  • Brand
  • Customer review
  • Price (Under $10, $10-$20, etc.)
  • Country

I also loved the “top-rated wines under $25” on the front page. There aren’t many reviews, given that Amazon just launched this service, but once the feedback rolls in I’d expect this to be a very useful function for those on a wine budget.

I wanted some red wine so I set some parameters. Similar to other Amazon product pages, you can also sort at the top right corner by either “New and Popular,” “Price: Low to High,” “Price: High to Low,” and “Avg. Customer Review.”

On a budget, I wanted to see the cheapest red wines available and filtered by all red wines priced below $10. The first one I looked at was a cheap-o bottle for just $9. Here’s a look at the product page:

As you can see, users have three buying options: by the bottle, a box of three or a box of six. Each selection has the same $9.99 shipping charge, and Amazon shows you how much it costs per bottle. Shipping for big purchases are cheaper by the bottle because of the consistent rates.

The shipping charges run $9.99 per box, and each box fits up to six bottles. That could influence the number of bottles you decide to buy. For example, if you buy up to six bottles of the same wine, the shipping rate is $9.99 no matter the quantity. Once you go over six, you’ll get an additional shipping charge of $9.99, up to 12 bottles. The same thing happens when you add more than 12 and up to 18, and so on. So, if you buy seven bottles, you’ll pay $19.98 in shipping, which is the same as for 12 bottles.

Unfortunately, though, Amazon told me that this NV Atwater Estate Sweet Chancellor can only be shipped to California, Florida, Illinois and North Carolina. I tried adding it to my cart anyway and this was the error message on the shopping cart page.

Why I couldn’t ship this wine to Washington? The “Learn more” link tells us that that each winery chooses which states it ships to. Amazon also advises you to filter out your search results by choosing your state on the category home page.

Learning from my mistake, I started over and selected “Washington” as the shipping state.

 From here I clicked on “Red,” at the top. The banner automatically switched to “Grape Variety,” and I went with Merlot.

Then I narrowed the selection down to the $10-to-$20 price range. I came across a Rolling Stones Forty Licks Merlot that looked cool so I added it to my cart.

I wanted one more bottle, but this time white. I filtered out everything else and set a price range for under $10. For some reason, Amazon still showed me products that were over $10. Though it was $13.99, a 2008 Kelso White Washington Wine caught my eye and I added that to the cart.

Then it was time for checkout. There was a $9.99 shipping charge (3-to-5 days) for each bottle and after $4.58 in taxes, my total ran up to $55.32. If I wanted either bottle in two business days, shipping went up by $10 for each bottle. One-day shipping was available for the white wine, but that runs at nearly $25 more than 3-to-5 days.

But being Amazon Prime members, we expected free shipping. Yet for both bottles, I was told that the wine wasn’t eligible for Prime. (The wine is shipped directly from the wineries, not fulfilled from one of Amazon’s distribution centers.)

I clicked on the “Why?” link, but couldn’t find anything related specifically to wine. I also checked out the “learn how weather can affect shipping” link and learned that wine shipments may be held up for 30 days if the weather is not suitable for shipment, which usually happens when the temperature is below 45°F or above 85°F.

I also had to verify my age. An adult signature is required at delivery.

A little frustrated that I couldn’t get free shipping, I still went ahead and placed my order. We’ll wait a few days for the packages to get to GeekWire HQ and document our unboxing.

Here’s a toast to testing Amazon’s new wine service. Cheers!

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