Best Wine Clubs (with video)
The best wine clubs in the U.S. include several award-winning wineries that produce some of the best wine this country has to offer. Luxist examined the benefits of some of the best, most popular ones, including those from Domaine Carneros, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, Duckhorn Vineyards, Far Niente and Cakebread Cellars. There are certain advantages to be had when subscribing to a wine club offered directly from a winery. Here is what we learned:
St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Located just outside the historic town of Kenwood, St. Francis Winery & Vineyards, is known for its intensely flavored and complex award-winning wines. St. Francis grows 100% of its grapes in Sonoma County and was among the first to plant Merlot in the Sonoma Valley, enduring many a raised eyebrow for daring to plant a blending grape on prime soil. In June, the winery was a Luxist Awards' Readers' Choice Nominee for Best Domestic Red Wine.
St. Francis offers three different wine clubs. Called "The Patrons Society", the difference between the three options are selections and shipping schedules. Its "red wine club" ships four, six or eight times per year. The "white wine club" includes six-bottle shipments four times a year (February, May, September and November). The Zinfandel Wine Club ships three bottles per shipment over a six month schedule (February, March, May, June, September and November).
Benefits of Membership:
Members are given the ability to sample small production wines before they are released to the public. Often, the wines are so exclusive, that only wine club members have the opportunity to purchase them, as most never hit store shelves.
Members receive a 20% discount on all Artisan wines and a 25% discount on all Sonoma County tier wines. They also receive a 20% discount on all retail merchandise and on reserve wine & food pairings for two (reservations required).
Complimentary wine tastings at St. Francis' Visitors Center and opportunities for "members only" activities at the winery. Members also receive recipes from the winery's Executive Chef, David Bush, for foods that pair well with the wines. Invitations are extended to members for St. Francis regional events around the country.
Price varies, depending on size of shipment and does not include tax and shipping (which costs $14 to $21 for a three bottle shipment by UPS Ground). The white wine club ranges from $80 (for a four bottle shipment) to $91 (for a six bottle shipment). The zinfandel wine club ranges from $96 to $108 (for three bottle shipments). Click here to sign up for the wine club. For more information, call (800) 650-5437.
Gallery: St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
Domaine Carneros was founded in 1987 when Champagne Tattinger, along with partner Kobrand Corp., bought a 138 acre parcel in the heart of Carneros in Napa Valley. CEO/Founding Winemaker Eileen Crane has been at the help since its first harvest and continues to oversee and direct winemaking and operational duties. Since then, Domaine Carneros has built a reputation for producing award-winning sparkling wines, in particular its Brut Vintage and luxury cuvee Le Reve Blanc de Blancs. In 1992, it added Pinot Noir to its repertoire. In 2008, the winery received organic certification of all Estate vineyards by the California Certified Organic Farmers.
Domaine Carneros' Chateau Society Wine Club offers several different clubs depending on your preference. The "Classic Clubs" include a choice of classic sparkling, classic red, and classic mixed (sparkling and red). There are also "Premium Clubs" from which to choose, including "La Reve Blanc de Blancs, The Famous Gate, and "Premium Mixed" (Le Reve and Famous Gate).
Benefits of Membership:
There are several members-only wines including Late Disgorged Brut, Demi-Sec, Ultra Brut and Single Vineyard Pinot Noir. Members also receive exclusive access to library wines. Special offers are extended at select Wine Country resorts and hotels to wine club members, as well.
Members receive a 25% discount on 12-bottle case re-orders of current club shipments and a 20% discount on wine by the glass when visiting the Chateau. Members are also given a 20% discount on cheese, caviar and other food service when visiting the Chateau and a 20% discount on merchandise at the winery or online. There's a 15% discount extended on six-bottle purchases and a 10% discount on single bottle purchases at the winery or online. Members also receive a 10% to 20% discount on club shipments.
The winery offers a private club room and terrace seating for its members and their guests on weekends.
The cost per shipment depends on club type and the number of bottles per shipment that you choose. Shipping fees and applicable state taxes are added to final charges. Wines are delivered six times per year. Domaine Carneros offers one of the most flexible wine clubs in terms of the size of the membership, starting at one bottle memberships (one bottle shipped every other month) to 12-bottle memberships (a full case shipped every other month). For example, a one-bottle membership for the 2009 Avant Garde Pinot Noir is $21.60 while the 12-bottle membership is $230.40. A one bottle membership for 2005 Le Reve Blanc de Blancs is $68 while the 12-bottle membership costs $816. It is worth noting that 12-bottle club members are given complimentary ground shipping as well as a once-a-year private club event with Winemaker Eileen Crane. For more information, contact Domaine Carneros at (800) 716-2788, ext. 128.
Gallery: Domaine Carneros Winery
Duckhorn Vineyards, the winner of the Luxist Readers' Choice Award for Best Domestic Red Wine, was co-founded by Dan and Margaret Duckhorn in 1976. Since then, Duckhorn Vineyards has established itself as one of North America's premier producers of Bordeaux varietal wines. Duckhorn made an early decision to focus on the production of Merlot. Executive Winemaker Bill Nancarrow, a native New Zealander, uses an artisan's approach to winemaking. He blends from almost 200 distinctive lots using taste and instinct, not formula. Wines are barrel-aged separately by vineyard lot, utilizing an extensive barrel program that sources 25 different types of oak from 13 separate cooperages. The majority of the barrels are made from French oak in the Bordeaux Chateau-style. Its' red wines are ready to drink when released but they can also mature in the bottle including short and long-term cellaring.
Duckhorn Vineyards Limited members receive one bottle of each wine the winery produces. Three to five bottles of its flagship, limited production and vineyard designate wines, are sent four times per year. Members can designate a reds-only option and a Vineyard Selection option, which contains only its most exclusive and single vineyard red wines.
Duckhorn also offers Paraduxx Limited, Goldeneye Limited, Migration Limited and Portfolio Collection club memberships.
Benefits of Membership:
Preferred access to Duckhorn's world-class current release, library and large format wines. Access to winery properties to host a private wine-focused event once per year for up to 12 guests.
Members are given discounts on re-orders and expedited shipping is included.
Use of Duckhorn's private members-only areas including gardens and barrel rooms. Complimentary tours and tastings for up to four guests, with member present. Invitations and special pricing on exclusive events, including Duckhorn's Summer Gala. Members are also invited to elevated tasting experiences and release parties.
The cost for the Duckhorn Vineyards Limited membership is $279 for the regular shipment (four bottles), $252 for "reds only" and $200 for the Vineyard Selection for March. Shipments made in May, September and November feature different wines and vary in price, as well as the number of bottles that are shipped. The Portfolio Collection in March costs $435 (for six bottles) while the "red only" option is priced at $345; shipments in May, September and November vary in price, as well as the number of bottles that are shipped. For more information about the cost of Paraduxx Limited, Goldeneye, Migration Limited, visit Duckhorn's website.
Wine is shipped via FedEx. Shipping rates vary depending on the state. For most states on the east coast, for example, the shipping cost is $20 for one and two bottles, $28 for 3 and 4 bottles and $66 for 10 to 12 bottles. For more information about shipping rates as well as the states where Duckhorn is permitted to ship, please visit its website. For more information about membership, contact Duckhorn at (866) 367-9945 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gallery: Duckhorn Wine Company
Cakebread Cellers, which is the Luxist Awards Readers' Choice Winner for Best Domestic White Wine, is renowned for its Chardonnay wines. The winery is owned by the Cakebread family, who are known for being among the most creative and successful winemaking families in Napa Valley.
Cakebread has a reputation for producing world-class wines. The winery attributes its success to its focus on quality, consistency and continuity. These characteristics are applied to the grapes, its wines, its staff and the operation of the winery, itself.
Cakebread's Wine Club offers five annual shipments with either four or six mottles per shipment. It offers several options: "Classic Red Wine Club", "White Wine Club", "Cabernet Only Club" and "Bakers Club", which includes both red and white wines. For those who want to remain in control of which wines they receive, the "Cellar Club" enables you to purchase just the Cakebread wines you want while receiving all of the club membership benefits. There are no automatic shipments associated with the Cellar Club, however.
Benefits of Membership:
Members receive first access to limited production wine and wine solely available at the winery. Cakebread also offers many events for its wine club members, including cooking classes, vintner dinners, special winery events, excursions and educational experiences. Event attendance fees vary.
Members receive a 12% discount on current release wines and merchandise. Wine club members also receive a discount for themselves and up to three guests at specialty tasting programs led by a winery educator in an intimate seated tasting area.
Complimentary tastings for members and up to three guests in a special wine club area at the winery. Wine notes are sent with each shipment featuring winemaking and tasting notes, recipes and a calendar of wine club events.
The "Bakers Club" club costs $775 for five shipments of four bottles each, or $1,150 for five shipments of six bottles each. The cost for the "Classic Red Wine" club is $1,150 for five shipments of four bottles each. The "White Wine Club" is priced at $825 for four shipments of six bottles each. The "Cabernet Only" club which is four shipments of six bottles is $2,025. Prices do not include tax and shipping fees. The "Cellar Club" is the option for those who want to purchase specific Cakebread Cellars wines. There are no automatic shipments, though you will need to purchase a minimum of five cases (60 750ml bottles) in a calendar year to receive club membership benefits. For more information about the various clubs, contact Cakebread's Guest and Member Services Team at (800) 588-0298.
Gallery: Cakebread Cellars
A Luxist Awards Readers' Choice nominee for Best Domestic White Wine, owns 250 vineyard acres located in some of the most coveted regions of the Napa Valley. Far Niente only produces two wines--Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Such a limited production is somewhat rare among California wineries, but Far Niente made a decision in the interest of achieving the highest quality wines possible. There are no other products to distract the winemaker's focus and potentially compromise quality.
Far Niente is perhaps best know for its Chardonnay wines, which are marked by classic proportions of structure, elegance, style and length. The absence of malolactic fermentation provides the Chardonnay with the ability to age gracefully for several years after its release, which is unusual for California Chardonnay. Far Niente's Chardonnay has subtle, tropical flavors, complex aromas and an uncommon richness often associated with the winery. Like its Chardonnay, Far Niente's Cabernet Sauvignon (which display cassis and blackberry notes along with spicy oak aromas), is also widely recognized by critics, the trade and collectors, as being among the most consistent wines produced in every vintage.
Far Niente's Wine Club, offers several different memberships. The first, called the Dolce Far Niente Society, features wines from Far Niente, as well as its sister wineries, Dolce and Nickel & Nickel (see video of the winery below). The second club membership, called "Far Niente Collector's Club" was created specifically for lovers of Far Niente who wish to receive one case of chardonnay and one case of cabernet just prior to release. The Far Niente Cave Club is designed for the Cabernet Sauvignon lovers. It includes one case each of Far Niente's Estate Cabernet and Cave Collection Collection Cabernet, delivered biannually. The Club Cabernet includes four shipments per year, consisting of six bottles---2 bottles each of 3 different Cabernet Sauvignons from the Nickel & Nickel & Far Niente portfolio.
Benefits of Membership:
The Dolce Far Niente wine club offers four shipments per year that include a combination of wines from Far Niente as well as its sister wineries, Dolce and Nickel & Nickel. Shipments may include pre-release and current vintages, as well as offerings from the Far Niente Cave Collection library. Invitations are given to members for exclusive winery events, tastings, and release parties at Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel. The Far Niente Collector's Club offers two deliveries: a fall shipment consisting of 12 bottles of its newest vintage of chardonnay and a winter shipment consisting of 12 bottles of its newest vintage of cabernet sauvignon.
Members receive a 20% discount on the price of the wines, as well as a 15% discount on all purchases of wine from Far Niente, Dolce and Nickel & Nickel. There's a 20% discount offered to members who purchase six or more bottles. A discount of 20% is offered on additional purchases of the featured wines in each shipment for 30 days after delivery.
Complimentary tour and tastings by advance reservation at Far Niente and Nickel & Nickel, up to a party of four.
Shipments are made four times a year. The price per shipment for the Dolce Far Niente Wine Club is $250 to $285 (plus tax and shipping). The price of the Far Niente Collector's Club is approximately $540 (plus tax and shipping) for the fall delivery and $1,056 (plus tax and shipping) for the winter shipment. The Far Niente Cave Club costs approximately $1,056 (based on a 20% discount off the new release price) for each shipment (fall and winter) plus tax and shipping. The price per shipment of the Club Cabernet is between $450 and $600, (based on a 20% discount), plus taxes and shipping. For more information, contact Far Niente at (800) 363-6523.
Gallery: Far Niente