Members only: How to pick the right Virginia wine club

Most Virginia wineries have three things in common: a signature blend, a lovely view and a wine club. From pick-up parties to members-only bottles, here are the perks to consider before joining.

White wine glass in an Italian wine bar.
© isaac74, Adobe Stock

Worth the Trip

Williamsburg Winery
Instead of local guitarists strumming in the tasting room, Williamsburg Winery offers its 1,500 club members discounted tickets to the twice-annual Uncorked & Unplugged music series, which previously brought in LeAnn Rimes, Grace Potter and Andy Grammer. There’s three dates a quarter for pick-up parties at the winery—located on a 300-acre farm complete with two restaurants and a luxury inn—and members also get discounts for on-site overnights and meals. Flagship red blend Adagio changes annually, and the 2015 release—heavy on Petit Verdot—garnered a 90-plus rating from Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate in 2017. // 5800 Wessex Hundred, Williamsburg

NOTES:
• Three options: $70-$300 a quarter for three to 12 bottles (plus a choice of reds-only)
• Quarterly pick-ups or shipments ($15 flat fee for up to a case)
• Private barrel tastings, club-exclusive selections and discounts for events

Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
Chef Ian Rynecki makes the most of Pippin Hill’s year-round garden (overseen by certified horticulturist Diane Burns) for cooking classes, demos and special events. Members receive priority reservations and meal discounts at the winery’s Vintner’s Table. Renowned winemaker Michael Shaps (based nearby, with exceptional knowledge of the area’s soil) and vineyard consultant Chris Hill oversee the vino operation and are a one-two punch of Virginia winemaking power. // 5022 Plank Road, North Garden

NOTES:
• One-year commitment of three bottles for $80 every quarter
• Free tasting for two people per visit
• Discounts for classes and meals, plus 15 percent off bottle purchases
• First access to newest vintages and special pre-release tastings, with 8,000 bottles reserved annually for members
• Holiday member-only pick-up party

King Family Vineyards
From Memorial Day to mid-October, members can head over to Sunday matches at the on-site Roseland polo grounds, where King Family’s vino is sold field-side from a roving golf cart. The games are fun, but the wine is serious. Winemaker Matthieu Finot produced two bottles featured in the Governor’s Cup Case in 2017: 2014 Petit Verdot and 2015 Loreley, a dessert Petit Manseng. // 6550 Roseland Farm, Crozet

NOTES:
• $65-$250 per quarter for sets of three, six and 12 bottles, with choices of red- and white-only
• 10 percent off items in tasting room, and multi-bottle discounts from 5 percent for three bottles and up to 15 percent for cases
• Free classic tasting for member and guest per visit
• Access to member-only wines, including small-batch selections, such as skin-fermented Viogner and single variety Merlot, bottled without the addition of sulfur

For Connoisseurs

Linden Vineyards
Owner/winemaker Jim Law started Case Club a decade ago after longtime customers admitted weekend crowds were prompting them to skip visits to the tiny winery. To address the issue, Law restricted access to the winery’s grounds and deck on Saturdays and Sundays to visitors, with up to three guests, who purchase a case of wine annually. (Non-members may taste and buy bottles only.) In colder months, the porch is heated by a wood stove, providing a cozy spot to enjoy a bottle of Law’s Bordeaux-style Claret. // 3708 Harrels Corner Road, Linden

NOTES:
• Automatically become one-year member after purchasing a case (must be renewed annually)
• Free tastings for member and three guests
• Early access (information released in members-only newsletter) to winemaker dinners at Virginia restaurants, such as L’Auberge Provencal in Boyce and Airlie in Warrenton

Breaux Vineyards
A recently completed multi-year expansion added a dedicated tasting area, the Grand Oak Room, for wine club members. Members receive complimentary tastings of several members-only releases, including Six Degrees, a 2016 Nebbiolo and Barbera blend, as well as half-off regular tastings in the main area. Bottle discounts increase with volume—up to 20-percent off for case purchases—and members also get additional discounts on all merchandise. // 36888 Breaux Vineyards Lane, Purcellville

NOTES:
• Four shipments a year, ranging from $75-$100, for three Cellar Club-only bottles
•Pick-up parties featuring food, music and tastings
• Retail, event and food discounts, plus members-only events
• 20 percent off additional bottles of current Club selections if purchased within 30 days of release

Rappahannock Cellars
Rappahannock Cellars faced a dilemma: it was running out of space for club members. Instead of limiting access to this valuable customer base—marketing director Allan Delmare says members drive nearly 80 percent of all sales—the winery converted its private event space into a club-only area (three club-only rooms total). About half of the 25 wines produced are reserved for members, who are on the hook for two bottles a month but are privy to one of the most generous case discounts in the state: 50 percent off. // 14437 Hume Road, Huntly

NOTES:
• Memberships range from $51-$57 per month for two bottles
• Free tasting or glass for member, plus five guests
• 10 percent off bottles and 50 percent off cases (includes mixed)
• Winery can hold bottles for up to 13 months

Delicious Discounts

Potomac Point Winery & Vineyard
Potomac Point offers several custom club options, including one targeting food lovers. The D’Vine Food & Wine club is focused on pairing gourmet food, olive oils and specialty salts with wine, and includes two wines and two pairing items each quarter. Members can continue their tasting experience with priority access to reservations at the on-site bistro. The winery plans to add restaurant discounts for its members in 2018. // 275 Decatur Road, Stafford

NOTES:
• One-time fee of $49.99; $59-$99 per quarterly shipment, plus a holiday box
• Two free tastings per visit
• Discounted glasses, 10 percent off bottles, 20 percent off wine of the month, 20 percent off cases and 10 percent off merchandise
• Free access to take photographs in the vineyard (normally $250)

868 Estate Vineyards
Echoing the trend nationwide, 868 Estate turned its fine dining restaurant into something slightly more casual, reflecting its farmhouse feel. Grandale Vintner’s Table features dishes such as short rib poutine, crab cakes and lamb-porcini croquettes, and members get a quarterly 10-percent discount on meals. Another perk is access to the private lounge in the winery’s 1840s Manor House, ideal for winter sipping. // 14001 Harpers Ferry Road, Purcellville

NOTES:
• Quarterly selections of three bottles for $75-$90; one-year commitment required
• 10 percent discount on wine and merchandise and 20 percent case discount
• Free tastings for member and guest
• Club-only selections and early access to limited production and reserve bottles

Early Mountain Vineyards
Club members get early ticket access and discounts for up to three wine dinners per year, ranging from $80 to $125 and featuring library or small-production selections. Executive Chef Ryan Collins (alumnus of Jose Andres’ ThinkFoodGroup) oversees a tight menu featuring cheddar pimento with pickled ramps and pork and veal bolognese over tagliatelle, and develops dishes for quarterly club wine parties to pair with special pours and barrel samples. // 6109 Wolftown-Hood Road, Madison

NOTES:
• Quarterly shipment ranges from $70 for three bottles to $160 for six bottles, depending on club option
• 15 percent discount on all wine and retail items, including online purchases
• Free tasting for member and guest, each visit
• Priority access to newest vintages and special allocation wines
• At least two wines made for members annually

Outside the Box and Bottle

Trummer’s on Main
Last year, the restaurant launched a wine club offering an inside look at its expansive wine cellar—it has one of the largest collections of Austrian wines in the region—and the opportunity to pick the brain of sommelier Nicole Bernard. Club members meet twice a year with Bernard to taste selected labels and she will choose three bottles from wine-making regions around the world for club members each quarter. // 7134 Main St., Clifton

NOTES:
• One-time membership fee of $150, plus $75 per quarter for three wines • 20 percent off bottles of wine during meals at Trummer’s (excludes holidays)
• 20 percent off two seats to any wine dinner, once a year

Grape Intentions
Friends Alex DelSordo and Brett Freeman, a Culinary Institute of America graduate and pastry chef, started this virtual wine club in 2016. Members answer a series of seemingly off-topic online questions (e.g. garden or Caesar salad; favorite season of the year), and Freeman individually selects wines. Bottles from Chrysalis, Barboursville, Linden and Stinson vineyards in northern and central Virginia are a part of D.C.-based Grape Intention’s initial portfolio of local bottles.

NOTES:
• Three, six or 12 bottles, delivered monthly or every other month
• Pricing starts at $20 for monthly single bottle and up to $460 for a monthly case
• Club members select from a list of charities at checkout and a portion of proceeds is donated

Notaviva Vineyards
In 2017, the Purcellville winery reconfigured its tasting room as a coworking space, allowing what it calls “digital nomads” to work alongside visitors exploring Loudoun County wine. CEO and winemaker Stephen Mackey says he hopes the space will serve as an incubator, offering networking events and seminars. Packages can be customized to accommodate recurring meetings and corporate offsite events. // 13274 Sagle Road, Purcellville

NOTES:
• Range of packages from $25 day pass to $1,000 per month with a private office and four bottles of wine
• Traditional club membership also available: $60 for three bottles per quarter; quarterly free tasting for member and guest
• Amenities include wireless access, printer, coffee, snacks, private patio, hiking trails and meditation treehouse
• Airbnb rooms also available onsite

The Ashby Inn & Restaurant
Last year the Inn started a series of themed wine meet-ups, held the first and third Wednesday of the month in its upper dining room and led by sommelier Stuart Brennen. Four wines are featured and paired with cheese. Event wines are offered at half-off the ticket price, ranging from $36 to $450, the majority under $100. Space is limited to 12 members per event. // 692 Federal St., Paris

NOTES:
• $35 per person, per event
• 15 percent off post-event dinners in the restaurant
• Bottles are offered for purchase to-go at 30 percent off the night of the event

(February 2018)

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