Wine Club 101: The Intro Class for Membership

A wall of wine at Empire State Cellars.

photo by Jason Nadler

So you’ve been to a winery or two, or seven. You’ve tasted a few wines, even found a couple you really like. You bought a bottle or two. What’s next?

Let’s really think this through: you had a great time, really enjoyed the experience of tasting a few wines, of seeing the vineyards. Why would you want to let this become a one-time experience?

Sure, you can come back some time in the future, taste a few more wines, buy another bottle.  There’s another option: Wine Club!

Wine club rules differ for each winery. Most involve purchasing a case of wine in one year (averaged out that’s just one bottle per month).  For some there is no structure, you buy whichever wines suit you over the course of a year.  You can buy one today and three next month, so long as you make it to a dozen, when the privileges kick in — but more on that later. Other wineries have specific events when you pick up your wine (pickup parties), and you’re usually getting three to four bottles, three to four times a year. The same dozen, often at a discount from what you would have paid for the individual bottles.  The last type of wine club requires you to pay for all your wine in advance.  This is similar to buying futures, as you pick them up at scheduled intervals.

What are the benefit of Wine Club?  Well, to get totally cliché, the first rule of Wine Club is to talk about Wine Club!

You’ll get invited to pickup parties, get discounts on events at that winery, sometimes even get invitations to member-only events.  Most, but not all, pickup parties are the same: there’s some sort of food or nosh and the wines you’re getting in your shipment are being poured, usually by the glass.  Some of these parties get pretty elaborate, with multi-course meals cooked on premises by the owners (I’m looking at you Chris). What they all share is that they are really enjoyable events attended by people who all share a love of the same winery, and the winery is recognizing that love and giving you some love in return.  You can often bring friends to these events, and when you visit the wineries on regular days, membership has its privileges.  In addition to discounts on purchases, you may receive a free tasting, not to mention the fact that the staff will get to know you as a member.

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