Last night I attended a wine club dinner at Cooper's Hawk Winery and Restaurant. We've been wine club members there for a couple of years and have started going to their dinners about once a quarter. During the dinner when I mentioned that I review wine clubs as part of my job, my tablemates got curious about what I see as the main differences between online wine clubs and local wine clubs and why I join both. It was a great conversation that I think our readers could also benefit from hearing.
Why Join Any Wine Club?
If you love wine you can benefit from joining at least one wine club. Whether it is online or local, you are going to learn new things from the club and try wines that you would not otherwise experience. In addition, wine clubs make great gifts so it is something that you can share with others whether they live close to you or far away (check out our list of clubs that ship by state). Which club you buy from really depends on the benefits you want to receive, whether you are planning on using it yourself, and how much you want to spend. Let's run through the pros and cons of each.
Local Winery Wine Club
Pros: Shipping is not an issue because you can pick up your wine. You'll also have other people you can talk to while doing tastings and buying your wine. Often you can choose between wines or swap out wines that you do not want in a given month. Local events like tastings and wine club dinners are a great way to socialize with other wine lovers. You may also get discounts on repurchases, food, or merchandise.
Cons: You are limited to the wines that particular winery makes. You might like unoaked Chardonnay but they oak all of theirs. You might love International wine selections but will be receiving only domestically produced wine. You are usually billed monthly and have to cancel your membership when you want out. You may also be billed some kind of upfront membership fee. Not usually as good a gift option unless you can pre-pay and are giving it to a friend who will be able to use all of the local “perks” that you are paying for as part of the membership.
Online Wine Club
Pros: Incredible variety in pretty much any price range. You can choose from California clubs, International clubs, Pacific Northwest clubs, etc. Some clubs are paid month to month but others you can prepay in advance. The prepay clubs make great gifts. Wines change every month so that you can get a taste of different varietals across different wineries. Most clubs include some type of background information about the wine, tasting notes, or even recipes. Often you will be able to reorder wines that you like at a discounted price. You may even be able to find a coupon or discount for the club before you join.
Cons: Shipping charges are either added to the price of the club or inflate the price of the wine. You have little choice as what is sent each month except choosing between red and white. While some clubs interact via social media, it's not the same as having in-person discussions about the wine.
Which Club Is For You?
For me, I like having both. I love my Cooper's Hawk membership because they have many wines to choose from plus a different wine of the month each month. My husband and I go once a month to have our tasting and usually end up staying for a meal. We've enjoyed taking our friends there for dinners as well as making new friends when we go alone.
However, I also love getting my online wine club shipments. The best packages that come from UPS are the ones that I have to sign for! Lately I have really been enjoying The California Wine Club's Pacific Northwest Series because I had never focused on wine from Oregon and Washington before but am finding it to be among my favorite. I'll try that club for a few months and then maybe switch back to their Premier series, which is all California wines and in the same price as my local club.
Do you prefer one type of wine club over another?