Monday, December 28, 2015

In Praise of Wine Clubs

As the Notebook "wines" down another year, we thought a shout-out to Virginia's wine clubs was in order. We're here to plug the three wine clubs we belong to (alas, our respective day job salaries do not allow for more than three). But we are very much interested in feedback from other VAVINO fans and their wine club experiences.

Frequent visitors to Virginia wineries should pick at least 1 or 2 winery clubs to join. Typically, one receives free tastings (for up to 2, 3, or even 4 people), "members only" bottle releases, invitations to members' only events, and many other perks. The price schedules of the wine clubs vary from winery to winery, but the "Joining Fee" that so many wineries in the state required once upon a time seems to be a thing of the past, as the number of wineries in Virginia grows.

Pick a winery(s) near your home, for obvious reasons. Although most wine clubs in the state will ship your order (presuming you're a Virginia resident), driving to the winery to pick up your orders is cheaper and gives you an excuse to visit, even during the off-months (January through March). Plus you get those free wine tastings and the VIP treatment.

Here are the three current wine clubs the Notebook are members of:

Fox Meadow Winery "The Friends of Foxes":
This was the first wine club we joined in the state, way back in 2007 (a long time ago, in Virginia winery terms). Back then, most Virginia wineries had a "Joining Fee," which required a payment up front to join the club. With the number of competitors in the Virginia wine industry now, these joining fees seem to be a thing of the past, although Fox Meadow still mentions their "Initiation Fee" on their website. Fox Meadow Winery is a perfect spot for a "daycation;" an easy drive from the DC area (just be sure to leave your home before 11 AM during the busy wine hopping months, April through November), but far enough away (and deep in the mountains) to feel like you're really getting away from it all.

What you get:
-Two bottles of hand-picked vintages (not a bum note in the winery) every two months.
-Free tastings for two people.
-Special "library tastings" for you and your guest (and sometimes all of the visitors who are tasting at the bar when you are tasting, making you a wine hero for the afternoon).
-Invitations to special members only events, such as the Summer Solstice party, where the winery is open for members only until 9:00 PM.
-15% discount on all bottles and 20% discount on cases.
-Use of the Members Only wood stove room, which adjoins the main tasting room.
-Members can bring their own food into the winery (although we usually end up getting their Amish-made cheeses sold in the tasting room).

Willowcroft Winery "Press-tige" Wine Club:
Willowcroft is closer to DC than Fox Meadow (about 10 minutes south of Leesburg), which makes Willowcroft an easy getaway for an impromptu winery visit. The winery is located on a peak of the Blue Ridge foothills, and affords a western view of the Loudoun Valley (on a clear day, you can see Bluemont Winery on the other side of the valley). The tasting room is the epitome of rustic, inside a historic barn. The loft on the second floor of the barn is a recent upgrade and allows Willowcroft to be enjoyed in all seasons, versus just the spring, summer and fall months.

What you get:
-Two bottles of hand-picked wine every two months, with the option to swap a selected bottle for another one (regardless of the price). This is a particularly nice feature as Willowcroft offers many different wine styles, including a few in the off-dry and off-sweet category (which is not the Notebook's favorite style of wine).
-Complimentary tastings for two people, or two free glasses of wine, per visit. The tastings are very generous and usually include more than the typical allotment of wines.
-Invitations to special members-only evening events held February through December.
-15% discount on all bottles and 20% discount on cases.
-Exclusive reserving rights for the barn loft, if you plan to bring a group of wine lovers to Willowcroft.

North Gate Vineyard Trellis Club:
North Gate Vineyard is the youngest of the three wineries discussed in this post. Located in western Loudoun County, between Purcellville and Hillsboro, the eco-friendly winery offers a relaxing patio facing a pine forest, a wood burning fireplace (which shares a chimney with the gas fireplace inside the tasting room), weekend entertainment, and unique wines. The tastings may be paired with hand-made chocolates for an additional fee. This wine club is ideal for those who can't make it out to the Virginia wineries as often as they'd like, due to their quarterly wine release schedule.

What you get:
-3 bottles of wine every 3 months, chosen by the winemakers (although, as the case with Willowcroft, members can swap out a bottle for a different varietal if they care to).
-Free tastings for two people per visit.
-Once per quarter, a complimentary group tasting for the member and up to three guests.
-15% discount on all bottles and 20% discount on cases.
-Invitations to members-only events, such as release parties held in the wine cellar.
-Advanced access to first release of certain wines, specialty club wines, unique reserve wines, and the ability to purchase limited quantity wines.

We would love to hear from other Virginia winery club members, although we could stretch our wallets even more if some of the other wine clubs sound just too good to pass up.



  1. We are members of North Gate too, along with Breaux, Gadino Cellars, and Keswick. I just did a post about Gadino Cellars.

    1. My wife pointed out I didn't include Granite Heights or Glen Manor.