For members only...wine clubs!
These days, any number of online businesses specialize in sending subscription boxes of curated items direct to your door – including food, clothes, beauty supplies and more.
But did you know wine clubs were the OG subscription service?
Paul Kalemkiarian, Sr. dreamed up the very first Wine of the Month Club in 1972 while managing a small liquor store in SoCal. And the rest is history.
Wine clubs continue to grow in popularity, keeping members well-stocked with regular shipments of vino — curated to individual tastes, grouped by theme (vintage, taste, color, among others), and showcasing exclusives and rareties, or any other number of variations.
What's the big deal?
Today, any winery worth its grapes offers at least some type of wine club. Many clubs come with multiple levels to meet members where they are in their wine journey — from novice to master. But for many, it's the deals and discounts (usually somewhere between 10 to 20%) that make wine clubs worthwhile.
Here are just a few of the other popular reasons people join:
- Gain knowledge - If you're too busy to explore new wines or visit a wine store, have them come to you.
- Get exclusive bottles - Wineries store special reserves, wine-club exclusives, estate-grown wines and vintage wines for members only.
- Stock up on faves - If you love a particular brand, this is the best way to show your support at preferred prices!
- Never run dry - Most wine clubs deliver three or more bottles monthly or quarterly.
- Enjoy VIP treatment - As a member, you get special treatment with every visit.
- Reap the perks - It's pretty standard to receive free tastings and even free glasses of wine when you visit the winery.
Wine clubs are now a regular fixture of Idaho wineries. If you've been thinking about joining a local wine club, here are seven, in no particular order, we believe should be somewhere on your list.
1. Clearwater Canyon Cellars
At Clearwater Canyon, located in the Lewis Clark Valley, you're not just a member — you're an enthusiast. Joining their 'Enthusiast Club' lets you pick (or have picked for you) 12 bottles a year (six in the spring and another six in the fall) plus exclusive access to special 'club only' wines and all Clearwater Canyon events, including:
- Spring and Fall Club Release
- Annual Enthusiast Club Barrel Tasting
- Annual 'Dinner in the Vineyard' the last weekend in July
There's no fee to join. Membership gets you additional savings — 10% off all wine and 20% off 12 bottles or more.
2. Vine 46
Located in Lewiston, Idaho, Vine 46 is a boutique winery featuring an eclectic variety of reds and a small sampling of whites. According to the website, their wine club (aka the 'Topflight Circle'), "represents the circle of friends who gather to create and share experiences in the winery as well as the mission to bring people together in conversation over a glass of great wine."
There are three membership levels, based upon how much wine you tend to buy. Minimalist (2 bottles per shipment, 10% discount), Adventurer (4 bottles per shipment, 15% discount) or Entertainer (6 bottles per shipment, 20% discount).
There's no membership fee, no matter what level you choose. Additional benefits include:
- Exclusive access to limited releases
- Invitations to members-only spring and fall release parties
- Inside access to winemaker’s dinners, private tasting sessions and events
- Member-only Topflight Circle-branded memorabilia
The 'Founders Club' is is your exclusive ticket to Rivaura's most recent releases and other enticing member benefits, including:
- 10% off 6-bottle level, complimentary tastings for 2 people at the winery
- 15% off 12-bottle level, complimentary tastings and tours for 4 people
- First access to library wines and special vintages
- Members-only events (barrel tastings, harvest parties, winemaker dinners...)
- Discount on event spaces
- Enjoy $15 flat rate shipping on your wine club shipments
There's no fee to join. However, there is a waitlist. New members will not begin receiving wine until Spring 2021.
4. Fujishin Family Cellars
According to winemaker Martin Fujishin, "Our wine clubs are a great way to get an up-close and personal look at what makes Fujishin unique." Choose from 3 different levels, including:
- Owyhee River Club - For casual wine lovers, and those who enjoy a mix of red and white wines
- Snake River Club - For wine enthusiasts, red wine lovers and corporate clients who entertain in style
- Boise River Club - For the serious collector or cellar geek, the most exclusive tier with Reserve Series wines
There's no fee to join any of the clubs, but the number of bottles, exclusivity and price increase with each level.
5. Hells Canyon Winery
Nothing devilish here except the hella good wines you can get from one of three wine club levels:
- For $46 per month, Grab Bag Wine Club membership gives you three wines chosen for you
- For $66 per month, upgrade to the Red Only club for a trio of reds
- For $106 per quarter, Heritage Club gives the serious sampler access to three Reserve or Library wines
Sound too expensive for your taste? According to the website, Wine Club members saved more than $300 each in 2019. Plus, you can get a free glass of wine or trio flight when you pick up your club wines.
There are also discounts on the month’s featured wines and special events like Yoga at the Winery.
6. Huston Vineyards
And the award for the most originally named wine club goes to Huston Vineyards, whose Chicken Dinner Circle gives you exclusive access to three wine releases per year (February, June and September).
Choose from the following three circles for the low price of $1 (that is not a typo):
- Mixed Flock - 8 bottles per year on whites and reds
- White Flock - 8 bottles per year on all whites
- Red Flock - 8 bottles per year on all reds
Receive an additional 10% discount on all Non-Reserve Wines Receive and a 20% discount on any full-case purchase of Chicken Dinner Wines (Mix & Match Chicken Dinner Red, White, and Rosé).
7. 3100 Cellars
Named for the number of miles of whitewater in Idaho, 3100 Cellars offers a wine club with three levels to choose from:
- The Have/Will Have Club - Offers three bottles twice per year ($93 per allotment)
- The Read and Run Club - Offers six bottles twice per year ($186 per allotment), plus 5% off any additional purchases outside of spring and fall allotments
If you're a fan of 3100 Cellar wines, not joining the wine club is like going down whitewater without a raft. This winery makes a limited amount of wine each year and wine-club members get first dibs. If you're not a member, once it's gone, you're out high and dry.
To join or not to join?
Of course, like all the subscription boxes out there today, wine clubs come with pros and cons. Though many of them promise the opportunity to taste wines that you otherwise may not have considered, there’s an inherent risk in not quite knowing what you’ll receive with each shipment.
What do you do if you open an unknown bottle and just don't like it? Money literally poured down the drain. However, with the amount of control you have to tailor your membership around your personal palate, this scenario is increasingly rare — and well worth the risk.
Consider this: a carefully-chosen selection of interesting wines delivered right to your door on a regular basis is hard to turn down.
But before making committing to any club, we recommend you call or visit the winery of your choice to confirm the details of their wine club membership (timing of shipments, subscription costs and fees, perks, etc.) and ask any questions you have.
Drinking during COVID
If you're thirsting for a taste of the way things used to be, Idaho wineries are ready to welcome you back with a socially distant pour.
However, visiting a winery certainly is a different experience during COVID-19. Most Idaho wineries welcome consumers to their tasting rooms with specific safety guidelines in place: wear a mask; wash your hands; use hand sanitizer; keep six-feet away from strangers; don't move the tables.
You can guarantee you'll have a table by making a reservation, which some now require. Others limit groups to six people or less. You may also notice many Idaho wineries offer outdoor seating only under their guidelines or are offering glass pours and/or bottle sales only. We recommend visiting the winery's website first so you know what to expect before you arrive.
What hasn't changed? Experiencing all the great wine that Idaho has to offer along with the same great customer service that's come to define the industry.
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