I’ve written about club membership a few times. I don’t know that my thoughts have changed, though I’ve left a few clubs since the last time I wrote about it all.
It’s kinda funny. I was googling the meaning of “In the club,” and for Brits it means pregnant, but in the US, it can mean you’re a gay person noting that someone else is gay (before you report this as a hate post, I’m gay and have used this slang before). Funny people those Brits are.
But I’m not writing today about slang in different countries and how to understand it all. Rather, this is to share info on the what/how/why in my philosophy of joining clubs and what it means to me. There are lots of reasons to join a winery’s Wine Club, and the clubs I belong to have different models and some have different reasons. I’m going to unpack a few for you here.
Every year I renew my Arterra membership. By now, if you’ve read enough posts here, you know I’m a huge fan. Their membership option is fairly simple – just buy a case of whatever you want and you’re in for a year. Buy a case before that year is up and you’ve renewed. There are good benefits to it – you get advance notice of events (the Tannat Tasting FYI, if it comes up again!). You get 10% off your purchases, which includes classes and art purchases. You can get comped tasting when you come. This is an easy one for me every year because the wine is so consistently good.
I upped myself to case club level at Walsh. The wine is so consistently good. It’s the highest level with the best discounts (20%!!), and gets you access to club wines like What Will the Women Drink and Chenin (mmmmm). Their club pickup events are a ton of fun, and getting to chat with Nate and Sarah (which I rarely get to do now since I live so far away) is an added bonus of membership. I joined shortly after my very first visit here, and gradually increased my membership level over time. Now that I’m far, it stays worth the 2 1/2 hour drive for club pickups, and maybe the occasional event.
Linden…….. I wish I lived closer. I love Linden. Being a Friend of Linden gives you access to relax and soak in the Linden vibe on the property, otherwise you may be limited to the tasting bar. There is a case discount too, and Linden is, of course, just amazing. I do enjoy the release tastings there, though I don’t think I’ve been since before COVID times hit. There seem to be fewer perks with this club, but you get access to the seated spaces to relax and enjoy your wine when you visit, which is worth it. I’ve let my Friend of Linden membership lapse and will need to reconnect with it soon. There is a secret plan to get up and finally check out Crimson Lane and swing by Linden for a case update – hopefully, plenty of Avenius Sauvignon Blanc remains for me.
Now living in the Monticello AVA, I’ve joined Hark. The first time I went, Jake alllllmost got me into the club, but I resisted – I still had like 6 Nova Clubs I was in and couldn’t justify it. Once I started quitting those after I moved, I jumped into Hark with both feet. Of course, you get free tastings and a nice discount, but you also get access to events, like when the 2017 F8 was released and we got samples and got to talk with Jake. I haven’t taken advantage of events like their dinners yet, and we will see where this goes with Jake leaving Hark. I want to see how AJ’s influence changes the wine and will make decisions as we move forward.
Ankida Ridge was totally an impulse join, but I did it for two reasons: 1.Pinot Noir Reserve (2017) and 2. Rose of Pinot Noir. Holy cow. I don’t regret it a bit as we’ve seen fun wines like the Verday and Vin Blanc. I expect to drink a lot of rosé this summer, and if my luck holds out, plenty of it will be Rosé of Pinot Noir. The discounts are good on the purchases too. Unfortunately, they’re a little far to take advantage of the events as I don’t want to drive home on country roads in the dark from many of those. But the wine is very solid and a good value. I’ve got to make time to get back down there for an afternoon in the sun. I also don’t have an Ankida visit post yet, despite going twice and joining the club and loving their wine.
I’ve got the membership at Glen Manor until thanksgiving too, thanks to Favorite Brother in Law splitting a case with me back in November so we could stock up for turkey dinner (and before and after). Again, nice discount, unfortunately currently too far to take advantage of the expanded access offerings for reservations and events.
In terms of what I’m after in a club, it’s primarily access. I want discounts, too, in exchange for agreeing to buy a certain amount of the wines, but I love having access to harder to get wines. I can not pass up What Will the Women Drink or F8, and access to the people who make the wine is even better. The flexibility of the “Buy a case and you’re a member for a year” model is awesome and encourages those who may not buy larger quantities of wine to be part of the club. Something like Walsh’s model, where I was buying 4+ cases a year over the course of many visits, just made sense in terms of getting a better discount and access to benefits. So I join clubs at wineries with wine I consistently enjoy that provide good discounts and access to the wines I really love and winemakers who are interesting to talk with and who are doing something different.
I like the way wineries are prioritizing club members for releases and special events, and it makes sense that they are prioritizing their members in this way in exchange for high-volume and repeat business. I return the favor by bringing friends to these favorite places as much as I can to share what I love about their wines. As time goes on, it will be harder for me to join clubs given my 100 bottle cellar that needs to get “drank down” in the coming months (there’s a lotta red and summer is really about rosé and white wine here).
What makes you want to join a club, and what benefits do you like the most?