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(Most) winery clubs are for suckers

Winery clubs (such as Mazocco or Coppola) are a brilliant marketing invention. They are a way to seize the buzzed moment in their tasting room to forge a deeper relationship with the customer, and sell a lot more wine at a much higher profit margin than they can through their distributors.

To this, I say: “Great for the wineries, but what’s in it for me?” When I do the math, and consider my usual consumption patterns, the answer is usually: not so much.

Here’s my story: In 2002, I signed up for 4 clubs (=12 ish bottles per month) on a single trip to the Central Coast. My thinking was simple: we know we love these wines, so why not put the orders on autopilot and let them come to us?

Months #1 and 2 were awesome. We drank half, and happily put away the rest for later. But by month 6, I was starting to dread the next shipment, because we started drinking less of these 4 wineries, so they became increasingly dominant in our cellar. At that point, I realized two things: 1) we rarely drink a case of any producer’s wine in a given year, and 2) the cost of convenience (higher-priced wine, plus shipping) is about 20-35% higher than I would pay if I was buying that bottle at will from my favorite local retailers.

My winery club ‘dealbreaker’ came one September afternoon about 7 years ago when we received 6 bottles from a famous Central Coast winery, 4 of which which were obviously cooked (wine oozing out the cork due to overheating). The winery protested, and told me they (nor UPS) were not liable for the condition of the wine that arrived to my doorstep. Huh?

So that was it. Within 7 months, I fell completely off the winery club wagon and never got back on. I have not since heard of one winery club that was worth signing up for...but I realize that I may be a different kind of consumer...I do really well just rooting around SF shops in my spare time, and lean on about 6 great wine professionals to be my 'club' managers.

Having said my peace about winery clubs, I am curious: is your experience about the same, or have you found some wineries out there that are doing clubs right? (Right = you get tremendous value out of the membership, worth the extra overall cost)?

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  1. Here is my take:

    1. Most wine clubs are overpriced.
    2. If the wine is available through retail outlets, it will almost always be less expensive
    than if purchased through a club.
    3. If you really love the wines of a certain vineyard and it is not available in your area, a
    club may be your only option.
    4. There are a few vineyard/wineries that do offer reasonable buying options and
    excellent customer service. They offer the wines at close to or below retail and
    charge a fair rate for shipping.

    That being said, I am a member of one wine club (winery direct ship) and am pleased with the cost and wines.

    1. because i live about 6 minutes from LA Wine Company, and about 14 minutes from at least 6 additional solid wine stores, i've never been tempted to join a club.
      if i lived in a more restrictive state, or in a more rural area, maybe there would be some advantage.

      also, price, to me, is not an inconsequential factor,
      thus paying for shipping is something i try to avoid.
      i'd rather buy five bottles of an extremely good wine that doesn't need to be shipped than one bottle of an earth-shattering vintage with the attendant costs and risks of shipping.

      1. Likewise, had to cancel a central coast membership since they ignored my emphatic request to not ship inland between May and November.

        1. Kay,

          Well done. I hope people read this and learn they are not a good deal and you are right that they are buzzed and don't know what is going on.

          I would also add the silly wine of the month clubs into this discussion. They prey on the beginners and of course ship during all months.

          1. This is interesting - I appreciate this discussion. I'd been thinking of joining a wine club and was searching for one that offered wines that intrigued me (of course), including hard-to-find or limited releases, as well as fun social events (I take a few weekend trips per year to Northern CA wine country). Ideally it'd be a winery whose business practices I admired as well as one I enjoyed spending time at. Perhaps too tall of an order, but I've been looking.

            This thread is making me think twice about the whole idea - but I'm appreciating hearing about both positive and negative club experiences.

            1 Reply
            1. re: gipsygrrl

              The only wine club I am a member of is Sineann. The wines are great, the prices are fair and shipping is reasonable.

            2. I will speak in favor of wine clubs generally. With a winery for which you generally like the wines, it can be a good way to get bottles that may be hard to obtain in your area. That's not so much an issue some place like SF for California wines, but if you live elsewhere, having a winery ship to you can get you bottles not otherwise available in your area. In my state, wine prices are heavily regulated, so I don't really get any price savings at a store, whether out of state or in state wines. I admit to being a Coppola member for more than 10 years (the wine club started 11 years ago, I believe). As the winery has grown, we have been less satisfied generally with the wines we receive, and we have talked about dropping out, but we haven't. On our 10 year anniversary, they sent us a wine fridge as a gift! (I am a sucker for such things). Some of the bottles I really love. We belong to another Cal winery club and are able to obtain bottles of yearly releases that sell out or are only sold at the winery. for both clubs, we get a 20% discount off the list price. We wouldn't do better through wine stores here.

              we also belong to an Oregon pinot club. We get pinots that we have not seen available for sale in our area, and they are as advertised--small local wineries, only pinots. We haven't loved every bottle of wine, but we like the club. Obviously, we have to have faith in the guy that picks the wine each month.

              we have belonged to other clubs as well that suited as for a period of time and then we dropped out when they stopped working for us. all of our current clubs stop shipping when it's hot, and we have not had a bad shipment in 10 years of belonging to several different clubs.

              5 Replies
              1. re: cocktailhour

                Very interesting points here -- winery clubs make a whole lot more sense for folks out of California, and especially where prices are heavily regulated...where do you live?

                  1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                    That is not true in all cases. Sometimes the benefits of the wine club include member-only events at the winery, in which case you would miss those events living out of state.

                    As others have said, you're not going to save much (if any) money by being in the wine club. so you have to look at what other benefits you might get as a member.

                    1. re: Bryan Gros

                      To me, the main benefit of a wine club is having access to small production wines. Many of these wines you will never find at retail, and many are very low in production. The other main benefit to me is the discounts for wine club members. But even with all of that said, I am down to my last wine club these days, as we have dropped all of the rest.

                      Now mailing lists, that is a while other story, and we're on well over 100 mailing lists...but obviously don't buy from them all. -mJ

                      1. re: njfoodies

                        I have also pared the memberships down, to but a few, and those are for wines that will never make their way into AZ, where I live. I care less about prices, and more about availabilities of wines, that I cannot get elsewhere, like Turley, Biale, Steven-Walker Trust and Lambert Bridge. All of the rest have gone by the way-side, at least for me.

                        Hunt

                1. I do not completely agree. If the wine club is narrowly focused on a single
                  varietal (or nearly so) and if you feel it represents the best quality at its
                  price point, a wine club can be a good deal. I joined the Moshin Pinot noir
                  only club a few years ago after deciding I enjoyed best its style of pinot
                  in the sub $40 price range (it is always easy to find great pinots
                  at any price). I never received a pinot I disliked from the club. Same thing
                  with the Vino Noceto club in the Sierra Foothills which is almost 100% Sangiovese.
                  The limited releases of these 2 wineries cannot be found in wine stores.
                  One option which is even better than wine clubs is when wineries have a mailing
                  list and offer a 20% discount for wines ordered before the release date.
                  This allows cherrypicking the list and ordering only the wines that one finds
                  enjoyable.

                  In my experience, the top wines from small wineries can only be found either
                  at the winery itself, or by joining their club. The key is to stay disciplined
                  and resist the urge to join on the spur of the moment.

                  1. Voilà, the latest addition to the ( for suckers? ) list :

                    http://www.zagatwine.com/wine_club/wi...

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: RicRios

                      A hundred and eighty dollars worth for seventy? And a set of glasses? Pray, how do they manage to do it? Couldn't be inflated comparable retail. No way.

                      1. re: Akitist

                        This Zagat program, and the Wall Street Journal's to a lesser degree, are preying on a naive customer who wants ease and convenience above all else.

                    2. I still belong to Talley. They're hard to get and I pass through Arroyo Grande at least once a year so I can stock up on wines at a 20 percent discount.
                      I joined Garretson, though. Wow, that turned out to be a bad idea. Also, I've got Garretson sprinkled in threads all over Chowhound on wineries I'd recommend.
                      Someone like Navarro would be worth joining if they had a wine club because their wines are so hard to get and the prices are fair. You have to buy direct.
                      I'd join Ridge except they ship too much wine for me.
                      Also there's not much Oregon wine sold where I live so I've eyed some of the Oregon wineries.

                      9 Replies
                        1. re: shane

                          Yes. Navarro makes some nice wines and claims they don't sell to retail at all. I HAVE seen their wine at one retailer here in OC (CA) but the Navarro people said their owner has known the store's owner for 35 years...........so..........things happen.

                          The Navarro online store has samplers that change, so it's sortof like a club except you have to remember to go online and buy. If you like to think you're getting special pricing as a club member, though, this isn't your thing. Just good wine!

                          1. re: Midlife

                            True that -- Navarro wines can be found at retail from time to time. But certainly restricted availability.

                            I love Navarro, and glad you guys found that club. That is a winery club worth belonging to. Price is right, assortment varied.

                            1. re: kaysyrahsyrah

                              Navarro shows up from time to time at North Berkeley Imports. Oddly enough, though, a wine bar in Mendocino County can't get them.

                            2. re: Midlife

                              Care to share that retailer with a fellow OC resident?

                              1. re: JAB

                                Hi Time in Costa Mesa. Their online store is not showing any Navarro right now, but I've seen it there in past years. I'd bet they sell whatever they get rather quickly, if they still get it. Their staff is usually very helpful, so just call and ask for the California person.

                                Good luck.

                                1. re: Midlife

                                  Thanks, that's my go to location. I was thinking it may have been a small retailer whom I was unfamiliar with.

                                  1. re: JAB

                                    All I know is that when I owned my own wine shop I called Navarro to ask if I could buy from them, I was told they don't sell to retail. I asked how it was that I'd seen their wines at Hi Time and was told that the Navarro owners had been selling Hi Time for 35 years and they were the only account anywhere around here.

                              2. re: Midlife

                                I have occassionally seen their wines at Union Square Wine in New York. But nothing is listed on their website right now. But you really can't beat the online prices if buying by the case.

                          2. I belonged to a couple of winery clubs back before I really knew enough about wine to understand the complete landscape. After a few years I came to realize that there are four valid reasons for belonging to one:

                            1. You live somewhere that lacks general retail availability of the kinds of wine you like.
                            2. You really like the wines from a particular winery, but their production is so small that finding them at retail is difficult to impossible most of the time.
                            3. You really like the wines of a particular winery and they do not release some of their offerings to retail at all.
                            4. The winery does not sell ANY of their wine into retail channels. They're lucky enough to sell all of their production to allocation list members. If you get on the list, that's really the only way you'll be able to buy anything they produce at a reasonable price.

                            All that said.................. In many parts of the country there is enough availability of great, small-production wines to make it more fun to explore and experiment through your local wine retailers. If you have real winery favorites, a combination of club/allocation and retail exploration would be my recommendation. Just know that clubs and allocation lists often charge more than you'll pay at some retailers, so do your homework or just chalk it up to loving wine.

                            Right now I'm on only one list: Kosta-Browne. Their wines are almost impossible to buy at retail here and I love them. Unfortunately they're rather pricey, so I don't buy very much.

                            1. I am sorry to hear of your experiences. I belong to several wineries' clubs, but mainly to get wines that are not available to me in AZ. Of these, I have only dropped one, and will soon drop another, unless they will ship my wines to me, in AZ. I have tired of having them shipped to my locker in Napa, paying for the receiving, storage, and then a major cost to finally ship to me, when the weather here is good. While the do offer some great wines, and several that have never seen distribution in AZ, it is getting to be too expensive. I will just pick up a couple of cases, when I am in Napa, and drive back with them.

                              The other "clubs" are worth my effort, as they provide me with wines that I cannot get here, or wines that are highly allocated, and for which I must pay nearly restaurant prices here. Also, I can get more than 2 btls. of each of these - about what I find at retail.

                              As for damaged wines, I have sent about 12 btls. back, or reported them. There has never been an issue. One club wanted to send wines to AZ every quarter, and as soon as they made their intentions evident, I severed ties. All of the rest will hold shipments, until the weather is much better - Nov. thru Mar. Otherwise, there is no way that I can allow wines to be shipped to me, even if it's overnight and I am waiting to sign.

                              From most of my clubs, I look very forward to receiving the wines. One does a lot of "Old World" varietals, that are not common in the US. Not only are most of these great examples, but are examples that I could never, otherwise get, unless I drove to the Santa Cruz Mountains.

                              I recently did an interview on "wine clubs" for a magazine, and shared some of my motivations. Mostly, it's for the specific wines.

                              Again, sorry that things did not work out for you.

                              Hunt

                              BTW - one "club" that I belong to, ships my Holiday orders to my friends. One shipment was delivered in CO in a blizzard. The recipient called about some "crystals" in the Chard. The owner explained what these were, and then shipped replacements for everything, explaining that the wines were safe to drink and were probably not damaged, but he wanted them to have examples of the wine, without tartaric precipitation. In the end, my recipient got 4 magnums of the Reserve Chard, due to the diligence of the owner.

                              1. When I started this sickness I belonged to 3-4 clubs. Now I am just down to one, a very low key one run by Sam in the Red Barn on Warden Road above Dundee. The clubs got me experienced in what good and not so good Oregon Pinot Noir was all about. I have evolved beyond the clubs and have spend enough time in Dundee and surrounds to meet winemakers and develop my own local sourcing. I am always however looking for that next great bottle!

                                Cheers!

                                1. I will second the notion of joining clubs if you don't have access to the wines in your home state. I live in Minnesota, and I am (so far) enjoy getting my club shipments of wine that I cannot buy locally.

                                  I usually just get the smallest membership so I am not drowning in certain types of wine, then I drop the clubs that don't perform. It doesn't break the budget this way, and it is a nice break from my local purchases.

                                  I'll give one good example. I visited Rideau in Central Coast and they had an introductory promotion if you join the club you get 50% off of full cases. I loved their syrah rose and the duplantier cuvee blend, so I signed up for the smallest club (three bottles) and got both selections for half price. Now I have a nice $7 rose for this summer and another of their top wines for half price too.

                                  You can only buy these wines directly from the winery, but you can purchase them online without a membership and still get a 20% case discount, but the 50% discount was worth it alone.

                                  If I don't like how they select the club wines, then I will just quit after a year and enjoy the nice discount.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: smkit

                                    Some good reasons for joining a "wine club." For me, availabilities, or lack thereof, will be a strong motivator for me.

                                    In general terms, I will only go with wineries, that do not have broad distribution to AZ. Though we are "next door" to Cal., we are a non-reciprocal ship state, and our distribution network is very limited to just the "usual suspects."

                                    With clubs, like Jos. Phelps, I keep the membership to get the many great wines, that do not make their way here, like the Viognier, and Marsanne. I can buy my Insignia for about the same (or even better) price, but the others just never make it here - except for my shipments.

                                    Other than on initial purchases and similar, there is usually not a monetary incentive involved.

                                    Good luck, and enjoy,

                                    Hunt

                                  2. Like many, I can't really justify getting a whole case a year from just one producer, since I like to drink a variety of different wines. However, I've been part of a couple "low-commitment" wine clubs that don't have as many shipments.

                                    One is a very small producer (Woodside Vineyards) in the Santa Cruz mountains that I haven't seen in retail (except for one of their cabs that they sell at the Mountain View BevMo only). Their prices are reasonable (especially after the 20% discount) and I only get 4 shipments of 2 bottles each a year (8 total).

                                    The other is the Ridge Monte Bello club, which is just one shipment of 2 bottles a year, and the price is much lower than what you can find at retail stores for Monte Bello. I've been tempted to join Ridge's ATP program which has a lot of single-vineyard wines that you can't buy elsewhere (not even at their winery in some cases)...but it's just too much money and too many wines for me.

                                    1. I have been down this road a lot over 15 years...originally sharing some of your experiences but have now found that selective use of wine clubs can be both a good value and a way to taste things not readily available. What I look for is:
                                      a "real" discount versus retail (check retail prices at "winesearcher.com") ; options on quantities (I too do not want a case of one label all at once unless it is of mixed varietals); low cost shipping and exclusive opportunities for low volume wines and winery events. With this mix I create great value and get some really good finds.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: davidforr

                                        Agree with the OP that winery-based clubs get old fast and deliver less value over time. Instead, I've joined wine clubs from very selective wine retailers who select hard to find wine matched to your exact price and pallet. You call the flavor profile and price range. They select for you.

                                        Ex.

                                        ACME in St Helena. It's "under the radar" club gets you access to premier producers who make only 50-250 cases per year. Impossible to find these wines in big stores or outside of CA.

                                        750 Wines, also in St Helena. Similar to ACME: edited, selective with excellent relationships with top producers in the $35-150 range per bottle. My personal club focuses on reds $35-60.

                                        Backroom Wines in downtown Napa. Strong in California stuff but excellent as well in European selections. My personal club covers European whites from $15-50.

                                        D&M, San Francisco. My French Champagne club focused on small grower/producer (RM) Champagnes. Delicious and reasonably priced. No Veuve, Moët, etc in this group. I receive 2-3 bottles each quarter. $100-130 per shipment.

                                        Because of their variety and customization to my tastes and budget, I've stayed with these clubs for years and dropped all winery-based clubs.

                                      2. It is the search and discovery that makes a wine purchase worth drinking. Now retired, we buy wine when we are in the area for which it is known. Being retired and on the road all year, we are more cost conscious and do not see a reason to accept a "pig in a poke". Many inexpensive but good wines, if you read up, can even be found at Costco (Joel Gott). So, no, we do not do the "wine club" thing unless they run a special on Groupon.

                                        1. Old post, new reply:

                                          One of the wineries I worked for had a wine club. It both works, and doesn't work . . . depending upon the winery AND depending upon the consumer. Some wineries have "inflexible" clubs -- you can get only what they want to send. Others (usually those of smaller producers) can be flexible, e.g.: only send you white wines, or red wines, etc. Some, like (e.g.) Ridge Vineyards, offer wines that are ONLY available to winery club members, period; or offer you first crack at wines still in barrel at a substantially reduced price.

                                          Depending upon the individual tastes of the consumer . . . if you like ALL the wines a particular producer makes, it *can* be a good deal . . . but if you only like ALL their wines, OR don't mind giving a lot away as presents.

                                          / / / / /

                                          The issue re: your overheated shipment is another matter entirely.

                                          / / / / /

                                          I have LONG recommended that people shop in retail stores that specialize in wine (i.e.: not liquor stores, or club stores, but true wine merchants), with knowledgable staff and people who take the time to understand your likes and dislikes and can show you great wines in your price range -- wines you may not otherwise ever know about.

                                          It sounds like you're doing just that . . . good for you!

                                          1. Since this topic has now been resurrected it might be helpful to mention the difference between wine 'clubs' and winery 'allocation lists'. The former is what most of the posts here have referred to. The latter is mostly a phenomenon of 'boutique' wineries who have more demand than supply and 'allocate' their shipments to those who have made it onto their list (sometimes takes years of waiting, though not so much since '08 it seems).

                                            Prior to release, the winery sends out an order form and tells you how many bottles of each wine you can buy. Pro: this is usually the only way you'll be able to acquire these wines. Con: if you don't buy your full allocation you may lose it or at least have it reduced for future releases.

                                            This situation is pretty much relegated to higher-end wines, so it's not something many CHers may be into, but it's often the only way to get those wines. I waited 10 years to get on 'the list' at Sine Qua Non. By the time I made it the recession had claimed by ability to buy. ;o(

                                            11 Replies
                                            1. re: Midlife

                                              Sounds like an excellent way to purchase those wines you love...however I'm thinking most are referring to "wine clubs" that exist to sell off extras from small wineries. Thanks for the info on allocation lists...hubby and I might just contact two of our favorites and see how many we would be required to purchase. Although it is fun to sample along our travels and find new yummy wines to enjoy.

                                              1. re: Rebekajean

                                                Agreed that the main subject of this topic is third party wine clubs who often sell distressed or totally unknown wine. But many, many very good (and lots of moderately priced) 'real' wineries have wine clubs that ship pre-packaged groups of wines, and many do it at prices below their 'regular' retail pricing. With readers here of all levels of wine knowledge I try to be as specific as possible. Ie- Tobin James (Paso Robles) has a wine "club" using the same word as WSJ or Zagat in its name. Joseph Phelps also calls theirs a 'club'. Not the same thing as WSJ at all.

                                                1. re: Rebekajean

                                                  >>hubby and I might just contact two of our favorites and see how many we would be required to purchase

                                                  In case of "allocation" model there is typically no requirement to purchase anything. However (at least per my experience) the less you purchase the less chance you will have to purchase some of their most limited and sought-after wines.

                                                  I like the allocation model precisely because of its flexibility - no need to purchase anything. But like was said before - only the higher-end wineries have allocations.

                                                  1. re: olasek

                                                    I'd have to insist that how this works must vary by winery. I've been taken off one winery's list because I bought wine at the winery and forgot to check the appropriate box and return my allocation order paperwork when I didn't buy from it one year that we'd bought at the winery. YMMV.

                                                    1. re: Midlife

                                                      >> I'd have to insist that how this works must vary by winery.

                                                      Absolutely.

                                                  2. re: Rebekajean

                                                    >>> . . . exist to sell off extras from small wineries. <<<

                                                    WTF?!?!? Uh, no.

                                                    Let's be really mercenary for a moment: the most expensive place to buy wines in the US, and the place that the (US) winery makes the biggest profit is winery-direct. After all, they (the winery) are selling to you (the consumer) directly, so they are selling wines a) at full retail, and b) without middlemen taking any cut.

                                                    A winery club typically offers to its club members new releases that may be 2, 3, or 4 shipments per year, each containing 6, 4, or 3 bottles -- in other words, you purchase a case of wine (12/750ml) per year. The wine typically is sold by the winery to you at a 10-15 percent discount off of the full retail price but spreading it over multiple shipments, rather than buying a case all at once.

                                                    Generally speaking, club members will also have "first priority" when it comes to re-ordering any wine. That is, let's say included in your "club shipment" is a limited release of a single-vineyard Pinot Noir that you really love. You contact the winery to order a case. Most winery clubs will give you top priority, and if that means "shorting" a wholesaler, so be it. Winery club members are VERY important to the winery, and they will (often) go out of their way to make sure you, the club member, are happy.

                                                    Many wineries will also host "member-only" events, such as a barbecue for winery club members or a special day they can visit the winery with the winemaker, etc., etc.

                                                    / / / / /

                                                    Winery allocation lists are COMPLETELY different. You get what they give you, if they give you anything at all, take it or leave it, and often "leaving it" means you get kicked off the allocation list for future offerings. This is RARELY referred to as a "club." In fact, I don't think I have ever seen it referred to in that way.

                                                    / / / / /

                                                    Third-party clubs, be it one offered by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) or an airline or some other "wine(s)-of-the-month" club setup via the internet are completely different and I personally see NO reason for their existence whatsoever. On the one hand, they may be selling "distressed" wines and, quite frankly, who wants them? On the other hand, they may be selling *either* totally unknown wines (do you feel lucky?) or wines from minor wineries that they negotiate a deep discount from in order to make sure their wine-of-the-month package meets their stated price point with a substantial profit still intact for the club itself . . . it may or may not be a deal for the consumer.

                                                    / / / / /

                                                    And then there are the clubs that are put together by various brick-and-mortar retailers, such as K&L, Solano Cellars, or The Spanish Table, to name but three in the SF Bay Area. They each have multiple offerings. It may be (e.g.) a club for exclusive, private bottlings of single malt whiskies or Cognacs, Champagnes or Ports; low-, medium- or high-priced imported (or domestic) table wines; etc., etc.

                                                    These can be a great way to discover new wines or spirits IF you the consumer like the sort of wines (or spirits) that the specific retailer is offering . . . .

                                                    1. re: zin1953

                                                      We are not talking apples to apples...You are talking wineries direct. I'm talking "clubs" that offer wines from a variety of wineries. Totally different. But then even direct from the winery, we found inconsistencies. We are touring the wineries in Oregon and found that all of their Malbec's were sold out. When asked, as they are our favorite, it wasn't members that got them. That makes us wonder why you would believe that their "members" or "allocation clubs" or whatever you wish to call it, get the good stuff, or even a choice. In talking with the owners, they try to get you to join, but can't assure that you would get what you wanted, i.e., only reds. That was 7 of the wineries we visited so far. Don't know about CA...maybe OR is different?

                                                      1. re: Rebekajean

                                                        >> We are not talking apples to apples...You are talking wineries direct

                                                        zin1953 mentioned them as well, he referred to them as third-party clubs. And I agree with him, I see little sense belonging to such clubs.

                                                        >>That makes us wonder why you would believe that their "members" or "allocation clubs" or whatever you wish to call it, get the good stuff,

                                                        My experience with the direct-winery clubs follows exactly zin1953's write-up. You get the good and the best stuff. But they can warn you some wines may be so limited that not everyone gets them. You can often see that based on how many cases they produced (this number should be available to you). They can sometime limit number of bottles you can purchase of certain wine. But I belonged to some higher-end California wineries, wines weren't inexpensive to begin with, have no experience outside of California. I don't ever recall feeling cheated out of some favourite wine (sometimes they were out of my price range anyway). They applied rules to their limited supply fairly and they were trying to be nice to you and work with you and make you happy to the extent it was possible.

                                                        1. re: Rebekajean

                                                          >>> We are not talking apples to apples...You are talking wineries direct. <<<

                                                          Yes, as was the original poster in this moribund thread. You are the one who shifted to those which offer wines from various sources, and I agree it is "totally different." You are speaking of what I referred to above as "third-party" clubs, for which -- personally -- I see little reason for their existence, other than to sell off absolute plonk while proclaiming its greatness.

                                                          All of the wineries for which (or with which) I worked *always* gave top priority to club members when it came to re-orders. Am I speaking for all 3,000+ wineries in California? No, of course not; I am only speaking of those with which I have direct, personal experience.

                                                          On the other hand, what you refer to as an "allocation club" makes me feel as if you haven't read my reply at all, or at least not in context. It's not a club of any kind, nor have I said -- EVER -- that people who receive allocations can go back and buy more. Generally speaking, they cannot! They either take their full allocation, or they take nothing; no re-orders, and quite often, historically, NOT taking your full allocation meant you were off the mailing list and someone "who wants our wines" was added in your place. Again, only speaking from direct, personal experience. But an allocation -- whether to a retailer, a restaurant, or to a consumer mailing list -- is just that: an allocation. We made 1,000 bottle of X; you can have six, and you can have six; he can have three, and that retailer can have 12; etc., etc., etc. Total: all 1,000 bottles are spoken for.

                                                    2. re: Midlife

                                                      I am member of both.

                                                      One is Peter Michael which is an allocation version. Took me about 18-20 months to get off the wait list. I usually order 4 bottles at each allocation.

                                                      The other is Alpha Omega's wine club. I receive 4 bottles a quarter. This wine is not available in my state and I have yet to have a bottle that disapointed. Most of the reds are for holding onto, I am just starting to drink the the ones from when we first joined. The whites are for special occasions but we have been known to chill one on a Tuesday when the meal warrants it.

                                                      What I find better that most wine clubs is getting to know the owner/manager of wine store. I have one near my office and he and I have very similar tastes. He's the guy you can call with a pairing "emergency", when you need to something special for an occasion and who will call you to say he just got in an XYZ and you need stop by and try a glass. I have another near my house who is the same way. Both keep my cellar diverse and eclectic. The other bonus is when you are a regular you often get better pricing.