Many people belong to wine clubs – those clubs that charge a monthly/quarterly/periodic fee and will ship wines to the purchasers. Some of these wine clubs are generic, sourcing their wines from different locations, while others are the wineries themselves. Retail establishments (such as WineStyles here in town), offer a wine club experience for their customers. In nearly all cases, customers have the opportunity to experience wines that are not normally available on any retail level.
About two years ago I wrote about wine clubs, and found the old posting as I was mining through my old databases that were damaged during the recent technological meltdown. I reread it, felt it was current enough after a few tweaks, and offer it for your reading pleasure. Enjoy!
There are wine clubs and there are wine clubs. There are those clubs that charge you a monthly fee and send you a set number of bottles of wine every month. I belonged to one for a while. It was ugly. Each and every wine was, at best, mediocre. There was not a single one that I felt the wine was worth a repeat buy. Let’s just call it an expensive lesson learned.
Then there are the home wine tasting clubs. If you’ve been a part of this blog for a while, you know that my first wine club disbanded after many years in existence. This club was having home tasting get-togethers long before it became a part of part of popular culture. I now belong to the loosely-knit Tex and Fritz’s Wine Club. Thing. Although very casual in organization and “membership,” it meets several times a month, has blind (!!!) tastings at each meeting, and I have to say that Tex runs a pretty tight ship. This has helped to sharpen my palate and make me really pay attention to the characteristics of the wine that I’m tasting.
I also belong to the Vegas Wineaux Wine Club which I created because I felt there was a need for a club with a little different take on home wine tastings. It has been wildly successful!
I’m a member of the Bottega Nora wine club, created specifically for locals looking to be able to purchase wines at nearly wholesale prices. I will have a complete article on Bottega Nora very soon, because it is a very exciting concept – a great resource for local foodies and wineaux(z)!
So as you can see, there are a variety of options on the national and local level.
And then there are the winery wine clubs. I belong to several, have quit a few, and wish I could belong to more. It would save in shopping. Sort of. Okay, I say that because the winery wine clubs don’t charge a monthly fee; they charge only at the time of wine release, which, depending upon the club, can be as little as an annual allocation to as often as quarterly.
After many months of being on the waiting list, I was finally given the opportunity to purchase an allocation from Kosta Browne. I received my full allocation plus two, and was very happy. Quite broke, but happy. Unfortunately, in the interim their prices have raised substantially – thanks, Wine Spectator! Not! – so I am only a member in name rather than in purchase. My wallet cried uncle.
I also belong to Hug Cellars, Opolo, Robert Young Estates, Villicana, and Vines on the Marycrest wine clubs. Robert Young Estates (the makers of Scion), is located in Sonoma. The others are Paso Robles wineries.
Hug makes Pinots that are surprisingly Burgundian in character with the bright fruit you expect from California. I have ONE bottle left from my Paso visit last year, but, thankfully, have several bottles from my shipment. I’m sure Augie will let me know if he makes other stuff, but I absolutely love his Pinots! And the Rosé (see eyeballs rolling back into head). (Since I wrote this article, I pulled myself away from just the Pinots and discovered that Hug Cellars makes great Zins, beautiful whites, and Syrahs that are incredible).
My favorite wines from Opolo are the Sangiovese, Fusion, and Mountain Zin. They have a new one that’s only available to the membership (I didn’t see it on their website) called Montagne Mare. I haven’t opened mine up yet, but Don and Mark – whose palates I trust – said it’s pretty awesome. That’s true winespeak! (Yes, I opened it. OMG.)
Villicana has astonishingly beautiful Viognier, Syrah, and Rosé. They probably have other stuff, but that’s what I love from them! Alex and Monica are the winemakers (they’re both very cute, and Alex looks like Clark Kent), and do a great job of keeping their membership informed of winery goings-on.
Robert Young Estates was the first wine club I joined, thanks to Khoury’s. Issa and Nura had gotten in a small shipment and had a tasting. I tasted the Scion and nearly died. They were able to order some for me, I joined the wine club, and the rest, as they say, is history. I just received my shipment of the 2003 Scion and plan on having a small vertical sometime later this year. I have five years of Scion (1999-2003), and I think that will be fun. They are largely undiscovered in spite of phenomenal ratings from all of the big guns of the wine publishing world. (What I wrote here is still very true. I now have a vertical that’s 2001-2005, with the 2006 due for release at any time. I will repost the pictures from the Robert Young vertical tasting at a later date).
I once belonged to Linne Calodo, Robert Hall, Peay, Halter Ranch, and Williams Selyem. The reasons I’m not members of their clubs vary. I “resigned” from Linne Calodo because they charged more for their wines than I could buy them retail, and didn’t offer any special goodies that the other wineries do. That made no sense to me! That was also a disappointment because I lust after their wines. But since I can satisfy my “Problem Child” and “Outsider” cravings at Khoury’s, resigning my membership was not a loss.
Peay and Williams Selyem are both wineries of extraordinary excellence. Unfortunately, my wallet is not. So it was with great reluctance that I withdrew from their coveted list memberships.
Halter Ranch has begun showing up in retail outlets recently (Valley Cheese and Wine), and Robert Hall has been a retail staple for years, so it wasn’t necessary for me to continue memberships in their clubs.
There are several clubs that I would love to be a member of just to get their wines! One of them is Four Vines. Yes, Four Vines is available locally, but they have such fun wines that I would love to be surprised twice a year. The Four Vines pourers at the winery are a hoot and make wine fun. The only downside is that their washable tattoos don’t wash off very easily. I had some explaining to do about the Naked and ZinBitch tattoos that were prominently displayed on my neckline. But that’s another story.
The other winery I lust after is Dain. Now, I haven’t had any Dain, but according to the Mark Squires Bulletin Board (of which David Dain is a member and which is now a pay site), their Syrahs and Pinots are supposed to be absolutely ethereal. Because they are a small, “boutique” winery, their wines are not available by retail. And since their wines are about $50 a bottle – a bargain at twice the price, I understand – they aren’t at the gouging stage, either.
Are there more? Tons! So many wine clubs, so little $$$$. Only one of me. To say nothing of my liver …
As always, if you have new discoveries, old standbys, tasting notes, or upcoming events you’d like to share, just let me know. Until next time!
Next time, a couple of reviews on places we’ve been, food we’ve eaten, and wine we’ve drunk (drank? drinked?)
To take wine into our mouths is to savor a droplet of the river of human history.