Russ Winton: Wine List

Wine Line: Should you belong to a wine club?

Russ Winton

Have you considered joining a wine club? No doubt if you've been out wine tasting you have heard the pitch from the winery on why you should join their club and well, should you?

The main reason for joining a wine club is that you cannot find those wines in the local markets. Two of the clubs I belong to sell only to restaurants or to club members. Another is so small (less than 2,000 cases) they have trouble with distribution outside their immediate area. Here are a few tips from a wine club junkie (me) on what to expect when you join a club.

Most wine clubs send out their new releases to members quarterly, usually with a 15 to 20 percent discount. You should make sure the discount at least pays for the shipping costs (UPS or Fed Ex) otherwise you are not getting a very good deal. If you like the wine you can generally order more at the same discounted price.

Membership should have a few perks such as free wine tastings and/or tours when you visit the winery. The winery usually thanks club members with an annual event at the winery. There should be no cost to join a wine club other than the wine you agree to purchase, which is charged to a credit card. There should be no penalty for terminating a membership.

I currently belong to five wine clubs so Christmas comes to my house throughout the year! I have been a Husch Winery member for many years. They don't charge for shipping in California, they give a 20 percent wine discount and have one heck of a yearly members' only picnic. Navarro Winery is a great producer of Alsation-style wines and Pinot Noirs. They are available only through the club. They waived shipping costs on the last shipment due to tough economic times. They are good people who produce great wines.

Marilyn Remark Winery fills my quest for Rhone-style wines like Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache and Syrah. Winemaker, Joel Burnstein, crafts these award-winning, food-friendly wines, that are available to members for three for the price of two. Hafner Vineyards provides my fix for aged Cabernet Sauvignon (the 2004 this year) and a Chardonnay and Reserve Chardonnay. We had the 2002 Reserve Chardonnay for our 40th anniversary along with Morgan Winery's Hat Trick Pinot Noir and both were spectacular. Morgan's new tasting room hosts unique events for club members (Fromage Fridays and Library Sundays) and produces some of the finest Pinot Noirs from the Santa Lucia region.

So there you have it. Wine clubs from A to Z. Just remember that not all wine clubs are the same but one thing is certain, it costs nothing to join and you can have your favorite wines delivered right to your front door. Merry Christmas!

What's On Our Table

2007 Folie a Deux Menage a Trois Red Wine Here is a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that makes for a great house red. The Zinfandel adds that spicy-jammy character, the Merlot mellows and the Cabernet adds the backbone. It lists for $12 but is available at Costco for $6.99. What a deal. Cheers!

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? You can reach me at rgwinton@yahoo.com

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