To say I’m rather partial to the odd drop of good wine might be just a wee bit of an understatement. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t have to have it, but there’s nothing better than relaxing at the end of a long day with a yummy glass of cold New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc or an Oregon Pinot Noir and a cheese platter. Even if I’m only allowed half a glass because I’m nursing.
I love a bargain. I also love to belong to groups. It’s a thing! So I have found myself “collecting” wine clubs over the years. Yesterday I was chatting with a friend about what makes a good wine club versus a great wine club, versus one that’s not worth it.
Here’s what we concluded:
There are five main benefits of being in a wine club for the consumer (IMHO):
1. Access to unique wines that might not hit the shelves of your local supermarket or liquor store
2. Discounts – who doesn’t love a discount!
3. Free tasting benefits for you and hopefully for your friends – makes for a fun weekend activity!
4. Exclusive wine club member events – ambiance and social aspects and you get to meet and chat with the winemaker(s)
5. You know your money is going to the winemaker and winery, not to a long line of middlemen and stores
What are the benefits to the wine makers?
1. Built in market
2. Ability to budget based on projected sales to club members
3. Feedback from club members
4. Relationship building with repeat customers makes it fun for winemakers
5. Higher returns than selling through a middleman
So what makes a great wine club?
1. No joining fee. A year commitment is fine, but don’t charge me to buy your wine
2. Exclusive wines that are not available to the public. Make me feel special! I love being able to order special wines!
3. Exclusive pickup parties and other events that are not open to the public. See #2 above. Arborbrook vineyard here in Oregon hosts fabulous pickup parties with food and tastings, and we all have a ball!
4. Free tastings for me and at least a few friends. If I love your vineyard and wines, I will become an evangelist. We naturally evangelize when we love something and we can share special benefits with our friends. If I can bring some friends to taste for free, I get to feel generous, they feel special, and you get to introduce your wine to a potential new client and club member. It is win-win. One of my wine clubs, Ponzi, just charged me $15 for a friend’s tasting when she came with me to pick up my wine. It was especially galling since I’ve been pregnant and busy with the twins and haven’t visited in over a year. So it's hardly like I’m there every weekend benefiting from my free tastings! And although Ponzi have a gorgeous new tasting room in Sherwood, it is big and fairly impersonal. This was in stark contrast to my wine club membership at Arborbrook vineyard, where the winemaker remembers us, is super friendly, and lets us bring up to 10 friends for free tastings! We’ve never taken more than two, but knowing we can makes us feel special. Trust us, if we’re oenophiles, chances are our friends are too, and quite a few of the friends we’ve taken to Arborbrook Vineyards have become members. Win win win. I also have to give a shout out to our friends at Vitis Ridge, whose wine club we LOVED – great wine, discounts, and a secret tasting room at the owners house close to our home! Sadly Vitis Ridge is for sale (want to buy a vineyard?) so the wine club has wound down but it was fun while it lasted!
5. Discounts. Most wine clubs give you 10-20% off additional wine that you buy on top of the club selections. I always find things at the tasting that I love and get a few extra bottles.
Online wine clubs
I’m originally from Waiheke Island, New Zealand, often called the “Island of Wine”. Now we live on the edge of wine country in Oregon, so we’re a little spoiled - I'm surrounded by great wine and some great wine-buff friends to enjoy it with. But what do you do if you don't live near any decent vineyards? Or if you love wine that comes from more than 100 miles away? Or you have twins and it is hard to get to go wine tasting and visit the local vineyards? I’ve recently become a member of Naked Wines (affiliate link). This is a variation on a wine club: once you qualify to become an “angel” or member, you pay $40 a month. However, it is different to most wine clubs in that this $40 becomes a credit on your account, and you use it to buy whatever wines you want. Naked Wines use your money to fund a lot of small winemakers to make their dream wines, and you get to chat with the winemakers online, watch videos, and rate the wines that you receive. More win-win. They offer exclusive wines for angels and deep discounts, and it is shipped directly to your door with a money back guarantee. And they often have unique wines from small vineyards in New Zealand, Australia, and other countries (Spanish Rioja!) that you just don't see in most liquor stores or supermarket aisles! We’ve been members for just a couple of months, and three cases in, we’ve been really enjoying it!
Use the links in this blog to NakedWines, and they'll give you a $100 gift certificate to use off any case of 12 wines (the cheapest case is currently $160 meaning you'll pay just $60 for the case). The gift certificate is one time use and for new non members only. There are also some other restrictions that you can read about on their site.
What are your favorite wine clubs and why?
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Hi! I'm Erika and I'm an info addict! I love travel, vacation rentals, online education, primal and paleo living, crunchy (ish) parenting, holistic nutrition, lavender, bees, animals, technology, and sustainable living. This blog is a central space to pull together my research and writing on a wide variety of lifestyle topics! I hope you'll join me for a few minutes and share your thoughts in the comments :)