Wine Clubs

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wine_club.jpgThe Gift That Keeps on Giving - in a good way

by Robert P. Farmer

'Tis the season to shout at your steering wheel while parked in the lot of the local mall - furious in frustration over what the heck to buy that special someone. Yes, the holidays are here and in the spirit of giving I offer some solace to the confused shopper, yes, I count myself among you.

Whether you've got a wine enthusiast on your list or you just hope to create one, a gift membership to a wine club is a gift they won't soon forget. After all, how could they; the wine will keep arriving periodically at their door for at least the ensuing year. Wine clubs are an excellent way to demonstrate your thoughtfulness while also showing in no uncertain terms your good taste. It's sure to be appreciated with each pull of the cork.

There are countless wine clubs available in Wine Country and dozens more to found throughout the nation and reachable via the Internet. The trick is to locate the right club to join - whether for you or on behalf of your gift recipient. Most respectable wine clubs are designed to keep members abreast of their favorite wines while offering them first-look insight into new wines or wines they might not otherwise find on their own. Most wineries operate wine clubs through which members are offered first dibs on reserve vintage orders, exclusive discounts, and invitations to private tastings, classes, and parties.
Other wine clubs are more like clubs in the traditional sense. They have members from far and wide and offer those members diverse benefits. A good example is The California Club (800-777-4443), a well-run club that, for 16 years, has kept its members in touch with the best in small-batch, family-run wineries.

The wines featured by California Wine Club are often not available in stores. Members of the club - there's no initiation fee - get a subscription to the club's excellent newsletter, monthly or quarterly shipments of wine to their door, and exclusive savings of as much as half off the retail price on reorders of favorite wines. The club also offers expert advice on selecting wines that suit individual tastes. There are many gift membership options available, but the club's most popular is its "Premier" level, which includes two bottles of award-winning wine and the newsletter for $34.95 plus shipping.

The American Cellars Wine Club (800-823-5527) offers its members access to wines from around the world, delivered in two or four-bottle shipments along with extensive tasting notes, background information and a few food-pairing tips and recipes to boot. The ACWC offers six different membership types: The namesake club, which includes shipments of bottles averaging $12 - $15 from vineyards throughout the nation; the California Treasures club, focusing on Golden State wines also at the $12 - $15 price point; the Four Seasons Sampler Series, with a shipment four times per year; and the World of Wine Sampler Series, with a half-case in each shipment. Elevant Society Wine Club, which features Big, Bold Reds, and Light & Sweet round out the membership types.

Whatever membership you choose, a wine club gift will ensure they're raising a glass to you long after the holidays.

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