Thinking of starting 2013 with a wine club membership for yourself or as a gift for a fellow wine lover? Afraid of commitment? Looking for special access to members only wines? Discounts? Today, we compare some online and local options, all of which have free membership.
Page Spring Cellars Page Spring Cellars offers three levels of membership: Friends, Family and Cellar Door. They also have an "inner circle" membership, but that's by invitation only. (Sad face.) According to their website the Friends level membership is full at this time. All membership levels are free to join but require a one year commitment. Membership includes discounts on all wine purchases, free tastings in the tasting room, access to special wines before release and members only wines, exclusive invitations to special events, pre-sale and reduces price tickets for their annual Harvest Festival. Page Springs ships to 24 states, but currently membership is currently only open to Arizona residents, which is a little strange but does make one feel a little special.
The Family Club level offers 15% discount on regular Page Springs wine purchases and your quarterly wine shipment will not to exceed $110-$125 (prior to tax & shipping). You get 18 bottles of wine per year in quarterly shares of bottles chosen by a winemaker. It is also possible to pick up your quarterly share in Cornville; the schedule for distributions is February, May, September and December.
Right now Page Springs Cellars has a website special: Sign up as an Arizona Shipping Member online and receive free shipping on your Wine Club Releases through the end of 2012! You must live in AZ and select "shipping" as your delivery method to qualify. They also have a $20 credit if you sign up before December 31, 2012.
Overall grade: B+ We like the prices, generous discount and local support, however it can also be frustrating not to know exactly what you're getting each quarter.
Club W Club W claims not to be a "club" but offers 3 bottles of small production wine from around the world, each month, for $39 per month. If you buy 6 bottles or you're your shipping is free. Sound like a good deal? It is, however you only get to choose from 12 bottles of wine each month.
Wines are chosen by 6 "curators," like Brian Smith who is listed ad "Sommelier, Winemaker, Ex-Pro Snowboarder" who "usually wakes up to Brooklyn." As long as they have inventory you can order more of your favorites from a previous month. Club W is a mostly online experience, you can connect your account to Facebook if ya like to share and they have Pinterest contests etc. You can take a pallet profile quiz before you join to view recommendations and you're charged each month. There's really no commitment and you can skip months if you choose that option before that month ships, of course.
Overall grade: B- We like the flexibility, and the opportunity to try something new, however it seems Club W is trying a bit hard to be hip and it would be nice to mix in some better known labels.
Gold Metal Wine Club This wine club is an old stand by for 20 years now, for good reason. They have 5 packages to choose from, but the Gold Series is the most popular. This package ships monthly and you can choose from two bottles for $35 per month or four bottles for $63 per month. There's a just a monthly commitment until you cancel and this programs offers lots of flexibility. Choose from shipping every month, every other month or quarterly; choose two (or four) of the same bottles or a mix. You can even choose two whites of the same bottle or two reds of the same bottle. (It's a lot of choices.)
Gold Series members can reorder their favorite wines at up to 45% off winery-direct prices in their online wine store. Four-bottle members receive an additional 10% discount on their monthly wine club shipments and also earn a higher reorder discount. Of course there's the typical newsletter with recipes and pairings but the high level wines offered in this club and online store make it a stand out. Overall grade: A- Not the hippest of sites, but its solid reputation stands strong due to flexibility and quality wines.
Arizona Stronghold Arizona Stronghold has three options for membership. Site Archive 6 Bottle, Site Archive 3 Bottle and Stronghold. The 6 Bottle Level is currently full but you can join the 3 Bottle level for $80-$100 per shipments at a 15% discount and Stronghold is $60-$80 per shipment at a 10% discount. Members receive club level shipments of Arizona Stronghold Vineyard's wines selected by winemaker Tim White. These wines are released 4 times a year (February, April, October, December) and may include red, white or a mix based (just like Page Springs Cellars) on the season and what the winemaker wants to convey.
Your wines can be shipped or held for pickup at Arizona. Of course as a member you'll get invitations to Member Only events (they have "Release Pickup Parties" at the tasting room in Old Cottonwood) and members also have access to members-only wines and merchandise. Membership is a minimum one year commitment, but after that you can cancel with 30 days notice. Overall Grade: A We like the price, supporting Arizona wineries and parties.
Apparently, those Wall Street types like wine. This wine club includes 12 bottles shipped quarterly. You can change the mix or timing of delivery and with this club, like others, you can cancel at any time and skip deliveries. The club features wines from around the world and with the holidays, there's a special happening at this time.
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Your first case (delivery of 12 bottles) is just $69.99 and then after that, every 3 months, each case is $149.99 plus shipping and tax. This breaks down to roughly $13 per bottle, a similar price to Club W. This wine club also specializes in small production wines and seems to have a very diverse mix of wines, which is great if every now and then you'd like to try something new.
Overall grade: B The value is there, the flexibility is there, but this is a relatively large monetary commitment and who knows how long it's going to take to drink all of that wine.
Editor's note, this entry has been changed slightly since its original version.