YOU’VE INVITED close friends over for dinner. They’re into wine, and you want to surprise them. Maybe even blow their minds.
So you pull out a bottle they’ve never seen before, perhaps a vineyard-designated malbec or a rare vintage of petit verdot. Expect the “Whoa!” factor to be high.
This is the best — but not the only — reason to join a wine club.
Belonging to a wine club is a ticket to explore the world of wine through one winemaker’s eyes and palate. You have access to special wines, you save money on purchases and tasting fees, and you are invited to exclusive events.
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Perhaps the most famous wine club in Washington is Leonetti Cellar in Walla Walla. Early success put Gary and Nancy Figgins’ winery on the international wine map. Their wines became so in demand, they make them available only to those on “the list.”
Being on the Leonetti list gets you through the winery’s gates the first weekend in May, where you may taste wines and mingle with the Figgins family.
Membership on the Leonetti list is a bragging right for wine lovers. But it isn’t that difficult — it just takes time. Joining the waiting list at puts you in the queue for anywhere from four to six years before you join the list.
The most popular Washington wine club is for the state’s oldest winery. Chateau Ste. Michelle in Woodinville has more than 10,000 members who enjoy access to wines made exclusively for them by head winemaker Bob Bertheau.
Vintage Reserve Club members enjoy an array of benefits, including waived tasting fees in a members-only tasting room, discounts on wine and access to winemaker dinners, vertical tastings and concerts. A recent two-day appreciation event included music by the Turtles and drew more than 7,500 members.
If you are thinking of joining a wine club, here are some questions to ask:
• How much will I pay for each shipment? Ste. Michelle’s club runs $38 to $90 per quarter, depending on which wines you choose. This is a typical price range.
• Are there wine-club exclusives? Many wineries simply send new releases, and that’s good, too, because you can have the wines conveniently shipped to you.
• Will I save money on additional purchases or tasting fees? Most wineries offer discounts on their wines, and they also should waive tasting fees when you visit.
• What other perks are there for membership? Events and recipes, for starters.
A wine-club membership is a great way to get the wines you want and support the wineries you love. With the holidays coming up, a one-year, wine-club membership would be a gift your loved ones, friends or clients will not soon forget.
Andy Perdue is a wine journalist, author and international judge. Learn more about wine at www.greatnorthwestwine.com.