There are plenty of advantages to wine club memberships, besides wonderful opportunities for oenophiles traveling or dreaming of traveling to Northern California’s wine country (a great place to live in California).
As a club member, you’ll get VIP treatment on beautiful pastoral properties, in cozy tasting rooms, and by mail, plus there are financial benefits, especially for those always looking to stock up your own wine cellar. Rewards range from access to pre-releases, deep discounts and customized shipments.
If you live in or visit Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties, you might be invited to a gregarious pick-up party, barn party, new release party, holiday party or barrel tasting — another reason to retire in California. Wineries also offer complimentary tastings to members and a certain number of their friends. Appetites of those far away have to be sated via virtual tastings, while goodies are sent via special delivery.
Costs and commitment vary, so check the small print before handing over your credit card and agreeing to buy a specific number of bottles or cases per year. Ask what happens if you want to pause or cancel membership, shipping methods and recourse if bottles arrive damaged. Think carefully about the amount of wine you can consume, gift and store, whether you want red, white or a mix.
Here are eight wine club memberships to consider, whether for yourself or as a holiday gift for someone special.
Club members and guests at the historic Farm Stay Inn can indulge in a farm-fresh, four-course wine pairing and dinner prepared by super-talented chef Neil Corsten. Imagine eating at a rustic table in a serene meadow amid oak trees, orchard and heirloom garden. Definitely the most romantic meal I’ve ever experienced.
Ranch-raised produce, free-range eggs, estate olive oil and honey, regenerative wine-making, a helpful team of weeding sheep with a warm welcome from the Wood/Benward family and dog Hank — all put Beltane a cut above. Count on attention to detail as you choose a hand-crafted wine club tier — Canyon Oak (starting at $174 fee paid twice a year), Valley Oak (starting at $326 twice a year) or Blue Oak (starting at $1,305 annually).
From highly successful grape growers (farming in Sonoma County since 1927) to consummate vintners, the Sangiacomo family knows how to make and market their bottles. Fifteen different vineyards of stellar pinot noir and elegant chardonnay are located in the American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) of Carneros, Sonoma Coast, Petaluma Gap and Sonoma.
Pinot from their Roberts Road Vineyard is artful, iconic and highly recommended; large format magnums (1.5 liter-bottles) are celebratory additions to your holiday table. Club Famiglia members in the 12-Bottle tier enjoy personalized, 60-minute virtual tastings and 12 wine tastings per year at the Sangiacomo Home Ranch, surrounded by 110 acres of grapevines, along with 36 bottles per year and 20% off on purchases. The cost is per shipment starting at $560.
As reputed for music festivals and concerts as organic wine and intricate history, Gun Bun is California’s oldest family-owned winery. Now in the hands of the sixth generation, the former Rhinefarm has roots that go back to 1858, with Bavarian immigrant Jacob Gundlach joining forces with German immigrant Charles Bundschu in 1868. Expand your palate with dry gewürztraminer and dense cabernet Franc (wine that “will continue to improve up to 10 years from vintage”).
Privileges at their century-old Bacchus Club extend to Abbot’s Passage Winery and Mercantile in Glen Ellen, where Jeff Bundschu’s sister Katie Bundschu has made a name for herself grafting old vines with new varietals mourvèdre, carignan and petit sirah. Her Rhone-style wines meld with the mercantile: artisanal pieces from “across the road or across the country.”
The Bacchus Club tiers start at four bottles per shipment, starting at $120, and includes discounts on club shipments and complimentary tours and tastings.
For members to be offered an $80-food and wine pairing for $40 may not sound like a big deal until you partake at the Reserve Room in Kenwood. As staff pour and pontificate, starting with sparkling and ending with late harvest dessert, you’re served hearty amuse bouches that showcase aromas and flavors. Who knew ramen and reserve zinfandel were made for each other?
Pick-up parties, held biannually at the Glen Ellen tasting room, are designed for local residents to pick up orders, mingle, munch on delicious snacks and sip. Club members also get access to complimentary tastings, food and wine pairings, and discounts.
Gorgeous, bucolic and big, this Kenwood winery is known for its views from valley floor up into the Mayacamas Mountains, volcanic wine-aging caves, almost 2,000 acres of vineyards and estate wines (only pinot noir is grown off-site, in Russian River Valley).
Membership in the Case Collection (estimated $444) signs you up for 12 bottles, twice a year; Seasonal Six is a personalized six-bottle shipment four times a year. Virtual tasting kits are available, and membership includes complimentary tastings, priority access to new or limited releases, and special pricing on tastings and hikes as well as discounts.
The Roche family operates two tasting rooms: one in downtown Sonoma steps from the city plaza; another at the state-of-the-art, flagship winery in the southern part of Sonoma Valley where there are outdoor fireplaces and lots of space for savoring flights, nibbling cheese and charcuterie, picnicking and relaxing. Walking tours include exploring Tipperary Vineyard, sampling the latest vintage from tanks in the fermentation room and barrels.
Named for the appellation where it’s located (Carneros uniquely spans neighboring, occasionally competitive Sonoma and Napa counties), the Carneros Club makes available dry rosé, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other bottles not sold in stores, futures and invitation-only weekend events.
When famous filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola opened his wineries, connoisseurs were curious if his bottles would be as memorable as his movies. They are. As in cinema, setting is key, and Geyserville is a seductive town boasting old-world and modern charms.
Choose between wine clubs, joining the Amanti or Amici Wine Family. Handsome labels don’t guarantee superior wine, but gold netting covering the Claret wraps a pretty present; as do Sofia (named for his daughter) rosés and bubbly Blanc de Blanc. Director’s Cut Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is classic, “with flavors of raspberry, violet and red cherry.” The Amici member shipments are about $95-145 per shipment, while Amanti are $195-265 per shipment.
When you join Wilson’s wine club, you connect with 11 boutique wineries spread between Philo and Hopland in Mendocino County; Santa Rosa, Windsor, Geyserville and Healdsburg in Sonoma County. Dry Creek Valley’s Pezzi King, on a hillside above restaurant-rich Healdsburg Plaza, produces excellent Zinfandel. Sustainable practices include owl boxes that dot their vineyards for natural rodent control.
Whatever option you choose, there's plenty of experiences and high quality wines in your future.
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