By Henry Klein III
Wine clubs are a unique way to explore a variety of exceptional wines with the convenience of door-to-door delivery. These days, wine clubs are a dime a dozen. There are wine clubs for an array of wine enthusiasts: Red Wine Clubs, White Wine Clubs, International Wine Clubs, Dessert Wine Clubs, Wine Clubs for Women, Wine Clubs for Book Clubs, and the list goes on.
Although each club varies, most send two bottles of wine per shipment. Shipments are once a month and usually come with literature about each bottle of wine. Prices vary and can be anywhere from $18 per shipment to over $200 per shipment, depending on which club and which level you are joining. Memberships often are available for 3 months, 6 months, 12 months or monthly.
Additionally, although not as common, but worth mentioning, are wine clubs that don’t ship wine, but send monthly publications about wine. One such publication is the Connoisseurs’ Guide To California Wine. This guide offers unbiased critical reviews of California wines, as well as wines from the Pacific Northwest. Each monthly issue covers one or more wine varieties and contains reviews of 150-200 bottles, as well as broad recommendations of other wines. These publications are a great way to educate and expose yourself to the many wines that are available. Membership for this guide ranges from $60 to $130 for one year, depending on which subscription is obtained.
A closer look
My good friend and fellow wine enthusiast, Bob McNamara (AKA Albany Bob), gives rave reviews to the wine club that he belongs to, The California Wine Club. In his words, he enjoys “receiving a different sample on a regular basis, wines that you’re not going to find on your local shelves, from a place that is knowledgeable about the wine that is sent.” Bob, a financial consultant, enjoys the club so much that he often gives different memberships to clients as gifts.
About the club
The California Wine Club was founded in 1990 by Bruce and Pam Boring after often becoming frustrated trying to select a decent bottle of wine from thousands of pretty labels with a variety of prices. The Boring’s travel California’s wine country from Napa to Sonoma and Temecula to Santa Barbara, in and search of limited production wines from small, family-owned wineries dedicated to the art of making fine wine. The wines selected are typically limited production wines that are not usually found in local wine stores.
Levels of membership
The California Wine Club offers three levels of membership: The Premier Club, Signature Series and International Selections.
The Premier Club is The California Wine Club’s oldest and most popular wine of the month club. It is a great way to learn more about wine and the California wine scene. This level is offered at $32.95 per shipment plus shipping. Each shipment includes two bottles of award-winning wine and a detailed, full color 12 page magazine, Uncorked. Uncorked features the stories behind the wines, one-of-a-kind recipes from the winemaking families, wine country suggestions such as places to stay and dine, fun facts, games, wine trivia and interviews with wine country notables. Membership at this level can be monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly and can include one bottle of red and one bottle of white or two bottles of red or two bottles of white.
The Signature Series is the wine club’s upper-level. The wines sent to these members are highly rated and extremely rare wines. Each shipment includes two to four bottles of hand-selected wine along with detailed tasting notes and winemaker comments. This level is offered at a range of $150 to $225 per shipment depending on the wines being featured (shipping is included in this level). Wines can include either a red and a white or all red, and can be received monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly.
The International Selections Club is California Wine Club’s newest club. It features limited quantity wines from countries like France, Spain, Italy and South Africa, as well as others. The wines are from smaller family-owned wineries, imported directly by the California Wine Club and not available anywhere else in the United States. Shipments include two bottles of wine hand-selected from boutique wineries, along with a full color newsletter about the wines. Shipments at this level cost $50 to $70, and are offered either bi-monthly or quarterly and can include one red and one white, two reds or two whites.
Benefits of membership:
• Receive wine from smaller, boutique style wineries whose wines are not typically found in local wine shops
• Conveniently delivered to your door
• Wines delivered monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly
• No bulk, closeout or private label wines
• Three and four bottle shipments available
• Choose red, white or a combination of red and white wine
• No distributor
• Reorder wine from past selections often at a discounted price
• Experienced wine consultants to assist with wine choices and questions
• Wine Country travel experts to help plan a wine country getaway
• Full color newsletter to learn about wine and California’s wine scene
• No membership fee
• Membership can be cancelled at any time
Wine clubs are a wonderful way to experience an array of exceptional wines, and without a doubt, make a memorable gift for relatives, friends and business associates. You can give as much as you wish, anywhere from one to twelve months, and you can tailor your gift to meet your recipient’s wine tastes and interests. With so many choices available, it’s easy to find a club to meet the style and budget you desire. What better way to celebrate good times and the holiday season than with great wine?
Wine of the Month: Renwood Zinfandel “Sierra Series” 2003. $14/bottle.
Henry Klein III is owner of Cabernet Café, 1814 Western Avenue, Guilderland. For more information call 452.5670 or visit www.cabernetcafe.com.