Posted by: David Stewart | July 17, 2013

The Clubbing Set

If you come to wine country to visit, you might walk away with a bottle or two of a wine you like, perhaps even a case. But once you get your find home and drink it, how can you extend the experience? Most small wineries won’t have their product available on your local store shelves.

The modern answer is the wine club. Frequently available in California and Oregon, you can sign up for a regular allocation to be delivered to your home. Or, if you live reasonably close to the wineries, you can pick up your bottles in person.

Beyond the wines themselves, club members are privileged with some added benefits. Most of these clubs have events for locals. For example, this summer we’re enjoying a multi-course sit-down dinner on the patio of one winemaker’s home. At another, we tasted through a “vertical”, the same wine pulled from a library from every year dating back to 2004.  At still another, we’ll sample pizzas cooked by the owner. These are all great opportunities to meet the interesting characters who make wines and those who enjoy them.  Club members often get rare and unique bottles such as single-vineyard wines.

But there are some cautions as well.

  • Club social events are special treats. But they are usually opportunities to sell you more wine. I don’t begrudge them this. Many times the wines available at a special event are rare and will not be available otherwise. Just be clear that your judgement may not be the best when you have had a lavish dinner.
  • You are pretty much stuck with the wines you have been allocated. Although most wineries will let you swap out a bottle for some other selection, or have an “all red” option, you might find yourself blessed with a wine that you don’t really care for.
  • Some clubs will offer a price discount on their wines. But if I really like a particular wine and want more of it, it’s usually cheaper to acquire it away from the winery.

You are not married to a club. If you don’t like it, you can easily terminate your membership. I have friends who will leave a club quite happily. Recently they dropped one because the winery changed tasting room staff and really don’t like the people they were dealing with any more.

We joined a club for the first time only a couple of years ago, so it’s a relatively new thing for me.  I definitely have been happy with the move. As hard as it is for me to spend money, I find it encourages me to leave my comfort zone and buy a few bottles I might not otherwise get.

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