When Does Joining a Wine Club Make Sense?

I have a cousin who’s been a member of a wine club for some time now. She loves the winery’s wines, enjoys her visits to the tasting room, and likes going to the events the winery holds. So for her and her husband, joining their wine club makes sense.

I personally have never joined a wine club; never felt the need to, although that could change some day. But I’ve known a lot of people who have joined wine clubs, and most of them love it. They feel a very special, almost personal bond with the winery and the winemaker (who, in most cases, they’ve met, during a visit), and that feeling of a one-on-one relationship increases their wine-drinking pleasure (and gives them a story to tell when they’re pouring the wine for friends).

The main reason for joining a wine club, naturally, is because you love the wines. Why gamble on buying something you’ve never had (even if it got a high score from some critic), when you can drink something you know you like? There’s another advantage to going the club route: You don’t have to go out and look for the wines; they’re delivered to your door. Plus, the price the winery charges for club members is usually discounted. For example, members of Kendall-Jackson’s two wine clubs (either “Signature” or “Estates”) get 20% off all wine purchases (25% off if they buy a case). That’s not to mention discounted prices on K-J wine events (such as the Heirloom Tomato Festival) and other goodies.

The downside of joining a wine club, of course, is that you’re locked into drinking the wines of that particular winery. If you’re the adventurous type who enjoys experimenting with different wines and exploring the world’s varied wine-producing regions, then you may feel a bit restricted. That’s a perfectly legitimate reason not to join a club. (But, of course, the two choices—drinking wines you know as well as wines you don’t–are not mutually exclusive.)

As a home cook of ambitious, if rather limited, talents, I can see another reason to join a wine club: If you’re seeking the perfect wine-and-food pairing, then having access to the same wine over time means you can really perfect that pairing. For instance, I like drinking Sauvignon Blanc with Asian-inspired noodle dishes, and I’m constantly tinkering with the ingredients to make the pairing more memorable. If, on the other hand, you’re always drinking something different—today a Cretan white, tomorrow a Vinho Verde, the next day a Côte de Nuits-Villages—finding the ideal food pairing can be tricky (not that that makes trying any less fun!).

So, in the end, as in most things, it’s up to you. You can always join a wine club and, if it doesn’t work out, let your membership lapse. Like they say, nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Steve Heimoff is one of America’s most respected and well-known wine writers. The former West Coast Editor for Wine Enthusiast Magazine and a contributor to Wine Spectator, he has also authored two books on the subject of California wine, including “New Classic Winemakers of California: Conversations with Steve Heimoff,” published in the fall of 2007.