By VineSleuth California Correspondent, Cortney Roudebush
Practically every winery has a wine club, but the perks and wine offerings vary considerably. If you’ve thought about signing up for regular wine club shipments, here are a few things to consider…
Read the fine print
Enrolling in a wine club is a like signing any other contract and you should read the details before signing at the “x.” Tasting room employees—most of whom have a financial incentive to get new club sign-ups—might tell you that you can cancel at any time. But almost every single wine club I’ve come across declares a minimum number of shipments that you are required to accept (and pay for) before you can cancel.
Before you commit, do the math. Figure out how much you can expect to spend each year and decide if joining a wine club is in your budget. A wine club brochure usually advertises individual shipment costs. When you multiple that by the number of shipments and account for the cost of shipping, it adds up quickly.
Besides the costs incurred with the obligatory wine shipments, the membership itself should be free. If there is a fee to join, drop that pen!
Plan a wine club strategy
It’s not uncommon to return home from a trip to wine country and realize that you either bought a lot of wine or signed up for multiple wine clubs (or both). After a long day of wine tasting, we let our guard down and we’re more prone to making spur of the moment—or otherwise “poor”—choices. You don’t want to make the mistake of joining three clubs that all make the same style of wine; variety is the spice of life, right?
So instead of joining a wine club on the spot (and perhaps under the influence), collect the information from the wineries you really like, take notes about the wines, and then decide—with a clear head—which club(s) to join at the end of your trip.
Do you love Cabernet Sauvignon but your spouse prefers Chardonnay? This is the beauty of enrolling in a wine club. Although some wine clubs offer a “red wines only” option, most memberships provide an assortment of wines with some members-only selections with discounts from 15-25% off [and occasionally free shipping to sweeten the deal].
For some, the reason for joining a wine club is get access to wines they wouldn’t otherwise be able to purchase. For example, the Chappellet Winery Pritchard Hill Club ships all new releases to members first, including their limited production wines that are not distributed. The Chenin Blanc, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel are all delicious wines made in super-small quantities that only members are lucky enough to enjoy.
If you don’t like the idea of not being able to choose which wines you receive, Kunde Winery allows you to put together your own case of wine—twice a year—with 20% off, which includes reserve wines and large formats. If you like playing the guessing game, they also offer 4- or 6-bottle shipments shipped quarterly or bimonthly of wines that you won’t be able to find at your local wine shop.
And if you entertain a lot, becoming a member at a winery that produces sparkling wines is a great idea. Then you’ll always have something to open at parties and you can stock up during the holidays with your discount. Mumm Napa Valley produces terrific sparkling wines that won’t break the bank.
All wine clubs should include complimentary tastings at the winery; some offer discounts on merchandise; and certain clubs—like the one offered at Kunde—offer 12-15 members-only events each year. Even if you don’t live within driving distance of the winery whose wine club you join, many wineries host wine dinners throughout the country. (These aren’t complimentary but they can be a lot of fun!)
If you buy a lot of wine, then you should definitely look into joining a wine club!
Cortney Roudebush is a published author, wine blogger, and social media specialist. Her first book, Where I Want to Be: A Wine Country Novel, is about living in Napa Valley and working in the wine industry. Learn more about the novel and read Cortney’s wine blog recommendations at www.authorcortney.com.