2017-12-01 / Wine Notes

Give the Gift of Wine

Robert D. Richards, CSW

Last year the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania gave the state’s wine lovers a gift. That’s when the long-established (euphemism for antiquated!) liquor laws changed, allowing for direct-to-consumer shipments of wine.

While the new law probably meant little to the vast majority of Pennsylvanians, for those who follow their favorite wines and winemakers, it was a game-changer. Most wineries have “wine clubs,” through which they send out periodic shipments of their products (with some varietals available only from the winery itself — i.e., not sold in any stores). The wineries also host several food and wine events throughout the year for their members.

Before last year, the state’s liquor laws prohibited Pennsylvanians from joining out-of-state wine clubs by making it impossible to ship wines directly to residents. Now, those restrictions have been lifted and residents can enjoy the benefits of membership.

If you’re looking for a gift for the oenophile in your life (or want to spoil yourself) this holiday season, consider a wine club membership. They can be pricey, so you’ll want to shop around. Most wineries in California and the Pacific Northwest offer wine club memberships at various levels. The wineries in Napa and Sonoma particularly would welcome new memberships as they continue to recover from the devastating wildfires in October.

Winery websites outline the packages and the perks, including wine release parties, free VIP winery tours, members-only cooking classes, blending seminars, gourmet dinners and, of course, the first taste of the new vintages. You’ll have to visit the winery to take advantage of many of the perks, but it’s great to plan a vacation around the special events that your wine club offers. Most wine clubs give members discounts not only on wine but also other products they offer like olive oil, branded clothing, books and wine tools.

Keep in mind that wine shipments require a signature on the receiving end. If your gift recipient is at work during the day, consider sending it to the office, if that’s possible, or to someone who is often home during the day (and is trustworthy with a case of wine).
This wine columnist is a member of several clubs, including these wineries whose product is available locally. •SCM

Sterling Vintner’s Collection Pinot Noir
(#8578, $18.99)
Raspberry, black cherry and vanilla waft in the glass while the rounded tannins make for a smooth finish in this California Pinot Noi
Hall Sauvignon Blanc 2015
(#32149, $24.99)
Although the price skews toward the high end for Sauvignon Blanc, this wine consistently has notes of citrus and apricot, a crisp mouth feel and plenty of body to make you realize it’s special.
Cakebread Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2013
(#74082, $65.99)
One sip and you know this wine comes from Napa Cab country. Its dark rich cherry and blackberry notes with hints of chocolate and oak will only improve through the years.

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