Food & Drink

Membership has its privileges

There are two types of wine clubs that a person can join -- a club that is part of an actual winery that produces the wines which are then shipped to members or one that is not associated with a particular winery where they purchase wine from many different sources that are then shipped to club members.

While the main reason to become a member of a wine club is to receive shipments on a regular basis, there are also other benefits that come with the membership. Most wine clubs give a discount for re-orders of wines that are part of the current shipment. Discounts can be as much as 30 percent off the suggested retail price.

In the winery based club, there are other benefits such as free or discounted tours and tastings of current releases and special access to older vintages, as well as discounted pricing for merchandise. In addition, some clubs invite their members to a variety of private and/or special events throughout the year, including release parties, dinners, picnics, and even cruises with the winemaker or winery owners.

Louis Martini Winery in St. Helena, Calif., sends out two or threebottles each quarter, with an average price of $65 to $85 per shipment. In addition, they have one of the friendliest tasting rooms in Napa Valley, where club members receive complimentary tastings as well as a reserved table to enjoy your samples. In some years, they have offered select wines at half-price during the holiday season.

Larkmead Vineyards in Calistoga, Calif., is one example of a club that only sells certain limited-production wines to their members and at the present time there is a wait list to join. Larkmead has a very comfortable tasting room where club members can receive complimentary tastings for up to four people.

Pellegrini Family Vineyards, in Long Island, N.Y., offers several different options for membership ranging from quarterly shipments of three bottles to 12 bottles per shipment. Members also receive family recipes, offers to exclusive dinners, and invitations to wine and food destinations around the world. As is the case in many clubs, Pellegrini offers red and white only options.

Flora Springs Winery in St. Helena, Calif., has an introductory memberships consisting of six shipments of two that range between $35 and $90 per bi-monthly offering. In addition to the wines, there are invitations to member only events at the winery, discounted lodging at the Rancho Caymus Inn, as well as the ability to host private events at their tasting room.

Being a member of a few different wines clubs provides the opportunity to build up a nice inventory of wine in a short time period, with many of the selections unavailable for purchase outside of the winery or in some cases only ship to members. Another benefit with many clubs is the ability to speak to someone in wine country who is able to assist in making plans to visit other wineries that you may not have otherwise known even existed.

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