When Groucho Marx said, “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member,” he must not have had wine in mind. The variety of wine club memberships offered by our retailers, wineries, and co-ops assumes nothing more about its members than a shared love of wine. And who doesn’t love wine?
If you are already a fan of a particular winery, or would enjoy the research (read: drinking) involved in becoming one, then consider joining the wine club of one (or several) of our state’s 200-plus vineyards. Benefits and commitments vary, but you can usually expect complimentary tastings for yourself and guests, invitations to special events, and 10 to 20 percent discounts in addition to your regular shipments or pick-ups of wine.
At Blenheim Vineyards, where winemaker Kirsty Harmon selects a trio of wines to distribute every quarter, the club’s 800-plus members can pick up at the winery and pay a flat $50 per trio, or choose delivery and pay an additional shipping and handling fee. The choice is simple when you realize that picking up is half the fun. On the first Saturday in January, April, July, and October, Blenheim hosts pick-up parties with eats and drinks. Some are cocktail parties with cheese and wine and others are brunch parties with doughnuts, croissants, country ham, coffee…and, of course, wine.
Early-adopting red wine types do well as members of Mountfair Vineyards’ wine club. The boutique winery, which produces Bordeaux-style reds in very small batches, does not produce enough of every wine for general purchase. Mountfair’s wine club members receive automatic quarterly shipments (six wines for $144 or 12 wines for $288) as soon as the wines are released (and before anyone else can get their paws on them).
In Front Royal, the purchase of a 12-bottle case each year grants you weekend access to Linden Vineyard’s peaceful climate-controlled deck and grounds. Owner/winemaker Jim Law made the decision four years ago to limit leisure use of the winery on Saturdays and Sundays to customers who spend between $216 and $432 (the range of a case price) in order to maintain the space’s contemplative, zen-like atmosphere.
If variety’s the spice of your wine cellar, check out The Wine Guild of Charlottesville at 209 Second St., next to Bang!, where the goal is to get “more people drinking better wine more often.” Founded five years ago by a small group of individuals that includes Will Richey, this buying club for wine drinkers offers its 100 dues-paying members access to 36,000 wines at prices just 15 percent above wholesale costs. For $200 a year, members pay 23 percent below retail, and for $400, 27 percent below retail. While the Guild stocks a modest supply of wine (and some gourmet foods) and holds office hours Wednesday through Saturday, it’s the popular 5:30-7:30pm tastings held on the first and third Wednesday of every month that give members ample opportunity to try before they buy.
For oenophiles who want dinner, an education, and social interaction along with their wine savings, you can’t beat the Wine Club of Charlottesville. Bill Curtis, owner of Court Square Tavern and Tastings, started the club in 1981 and it’s 60 members strong today. The educational events are held in the dining room at Tastings one to three times a month, and are as much about food as they are about wine. On a Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday evening, two to three flights of wine presented by winemakers, vineyard owners, or importers (representing regions all across the wine-producing map) complement several small plates of Curtis’ European-influenced, locally sourced fare (see All You Can Eat, page 56). For $50 a year for a couple or $30 a year for a single, members pay $10 less for any of the wine club events they care to attend (prices run between $40 and $50) and receive 10 percent off bottles, and 15 percent off cases. Curtis says that for big wine buyers, the discount alone makes the membership worthwhile, saving them an estimated $150-200 a year.
If having a different white and a different red appear on your doorstep every month is more your style, The Wine Warehouse Wine of the Month Club makes that happen for $34.99 a month with free shipping within Virginia. Join a cheese club too and really savor your sense of belonging.
SIX WAYS TO JOIN THE CLUB
The Wine Guild of Charlottesville
Wine Club of Charlottesville
Wine Warehouse Wine of the Month Club