The benefits of wine clubs

February 27, 2013 

There are two completely distinct types of wine clubs that a person can choose to join. First, there are clubs that are part of the actual winery which produces the wines that are shipped to members. The other type of club is one that is not associated with any winery, but instead the club purchases the wines that are shipped to their members.

The obvious benefit of being a member of a wine club is receiving shipments of wine, but there are a number of other benefits that may come along with the membership. Usually, there is a discount for re-ordering the wine that was in the most recent shipment, with some clubs discounting their wines by up to thirty percent off the suggested retail price.

The winery based club generally offers additional benefits that the other type of wine club is unable to duplicate. Almost every winery maintains a tasting room where the public can taste current releases and purchase other wine related merchandise. In recent years, it has become more difficult to find wineries that do not charge a tasting fee. Generally, the tasting fee is waived for wine club members and sometimes the member's guests. Further, there may be discounts for any wine or other merchandise that is purchased at the winery.

Additionally, many wine clubs invite their members to a wide array of special events throughout the year. These events include dinners, picnics, release parties, and cruises. I have joined a number of wine clubs that provide numerous benefits and other perks for membership, ranging from the

events mentioned above to discounts for lodging near the winery.

Some examples of the wine clubs that are available are:

n Pellegrini Vineyards, Long Island, New York charges between $60 and $9 per shipment for three wines, four times a year. Members also receive offers to exclusive dinners, wine and food seminars and other tasting events.

n L'Ecole No. 41, Walla Walla, Wash., charges between $75 and $110 per shipment for three wines, three times a year. Members also receive offers to events, wines only available to the club, and trip planning assistance to the Walla Walla area.

n Flora Springs, St. Helena, Calif., charges between $45 and $80 bi-monthly for two wines, as well as an invitation to two member-only events at the winery, a discount at the nearby Rancho Caymus Inn, and a special holiday bottling. The winery also calls members during the years offering deeper discounts on wines and in 2009 is offering special pricing for a 10-day Mediterranean wine cruise with the winery.

The other real benefit to membership, especially if you belong to a few wine clubs, is that you will build up a small inventory of wine in a very short time period. Even better yet, normally you don't have to sign a contract so you can quit whenever you desire.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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