One question I’m often asked is what I think about wine clubs. My typical response? Stick to winery-specific clubs where you’ve visited and tasted the wines.
It’s not that I don’t love getting packages in the mail (just ask the Amazon truck that stops at my house every other day). Especially ones that contain bottles of delicious fermented grape juice.
The problem is that many wine subscription services in the wine industry profit from buying leftover bulk wine, smacking an artsy label on it, and marketing it to you as an “exclusive” brand. Trust me, I was burned by a few back in my early wine-drinking days.
So, when I came across The California Wine Club, I was initially a bit skeptical. But after learning more and experiencing it firsthand, I’m going to have to change my answer about wine clubs (at least this one).
In this post, I’m sharing my personal experience and what changed my mind about this particular club. And why I think it’s one of the best wine clubs for wine enthusiasts looking for great wine from the United States and other exciting wine regions.
BTW, if you haven’t yet, make sure to grab my free Wine Tasting Planner. It has 20+ wine night theme ideas, including the exact ones I’ve used for my wine tastings. Plus, a timeline, food pairings, games, free printables, worksheets, and more. Get your copy here.
Note that I personally joined The California Wine Club and paid for my wine shipment so I could give you my honest opinion. As an affiliate, if you purchase through my links, I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support!
What Is The California Wine Club?
Did you know that 80% of all wine sold in the U.S. comes from three major producers? That means much of the wine you see in a grocery store or wine shop comes from the same big players.
I’m not saying these wines are bad (although I’ve tasted my fair share of gnarly ones). But there’s a whole world of small, boutique wineries out there that are hard for us to access.
They don’t have the money or the time to market and distribute broadly (they’re too busy actually making the wine!). Many also only produce small-batch wines so they may not even make it into the local stores.
What attracted me to The California Wine Club is that the founders, Bruce and Pam Boring, started the club in 1990 to seek out these small gems and make their wines accessible to wine lovers like us.
The company personally visits each winery to vet them. They taste the wines, meet the owners/winemakers, and decide if they meet the quality standards of the club. In their words, they only choose wines they’d serve in their own home to family and friends.
If the winery is approved for the club, two of their best wines are selected to be featured and included in wine shipments.
How Does The California Wine Club Work?
The club offers 6 different series you can join, with value and high-end options:
- Premier – This is the most popular gal of the group. You can get 2 or 4 California wines and your choice of red, white, or a mix. They come in at a little over $20 a bottle.
- Signature – These premium wines are the kings of California. Choose from 2, 3, or 4 bottles of their highest-rated wines at a little under $70 a bottle. See my review here.
- International – Want to go abroad while sitting on your couch? Small production wines in this series are from Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South America, and South Africa. Options include two reds or a mix of red and white at about $50 a bottle. See my review here.
- Aged Cabernet – Like a fine wine, these Cabs really do get better with age. They’re from Napa Valley or Sonoma County in Northern California and are aged 7-12 years. Given that this is the aged Cabernet series, they’re obviously red only. And they average $120 a bottle.
- Pacific Northwest – You’re not finding these wines outside of the winery. Get exclusive access to wines from small producers in Oregon and Washington. Choose from a mix or all red at a little more than $30 per bottle for these limited-production wines.
- Case Club – Need a bit more volume? No judgment here! You’ll get 12 bottles of all red, all white, or reserve red with this series. The prices range by wine type, but it says they’re 50% off the normal retail so you’re getting deep discounts.
The club offers a lot of flexibility with shipment frequency. Choose from a monthly subscription, every other month, or a quarterly shipment.
You can also pause or cancel at any time (select the Hold Indefinitely option in the Make Changes to Existing Membership section).
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I emailed my personal wine consultant (yes, all club members get one) with some follow-up questions. I immediately got a response — talk about customer service! She gave me a few extra tips that I wanted to share with you:
- You can join multiple series at once. They have members who receive the Premier Series monthly, as well as one of the other series (e.g., international) every other month.
- If you’re going on vacation, you can have them store your shipment in their temperature-controlled facility and they’ll send it once you’re back. OR they’ll ship it to your destination so you can sip it by the pool while you’re on vacation.
The California Wine Club Review
I opted for the Premier Series for my first shipment since it’s their most popular option. To give you guys a good range, I ordered 4 bottles of wine — 2 red wines and 2 white wines.
The cost came to $86.90 and because I ordered 4 bottles, I got free shipping (score!). It took about 4 business days for them to cross coasts and arrive at my home in the Bay State.
The packaging was solid, with a good amount of protection for the wine. Each bottle was also nicely wrapped in tissue paper (I do love opening presents!). And it included a handy tag reminding me to wait a few days before drinking the wines so that they can settle from transport.
Every shipment comes with their “Uncorked” guidebook to the winery with tasting notes. I liked getting to know the story of the families and winemakers behind the wines. You can also see the winery write-ups for all their series in the guide so you can get a sneak peek if you want to try other ones.
Plus, the booklet includes a couple of pages with fun facts to help you expand your wine knowledge (e.g., wine labels, what a virtual winery is).
The California Wine Club Wines
Clos LaChance Vineyards
My shipment included two wines from Clos LaChance Vineyards, a certified sustainable family-owned winery in Santa Clara County. Bill and Brenda Murphy planted their first vines in their backyard in 1987 and released their first vintage in 1992. Today, the vineyard is in Hayes Valley, where their wines benefit from the diurnal variation.
If you’re thinking, what the heck is a diurnal and why do I care if it varies? Well, it’s the difference between day and night temperatures in the vineyard. The heat of the day helps the grapes to ripen and develop flavor. And cool nights preserve the acidity that balances the wine.
Clos LaChance makes Bordeaux-style blends, and they use both French and American oak.
The first wine was a 2021 blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. I had it chilled and it was bright, crisp, and had notes of lime, lemon, and minerality. I tried it first with herbed goat cheese (the classic pairing). But I liked it even better with a tuna niçoise salad and preserved lemon dressing. It would also go great with these antipasto skewers for a picnic.
The next one was a 2020 Meritage (rhymes with heritage). This basically means a blend made with Bordeaux grapes (similar to Claret). But since “Bordeaux” is a legally protected name, a California-based group made up their own term — a combo of the words “Merit” and “Heritage.”
The blend of 58% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Petit Verdot was my favorite wine of the shipment. It had floral and black fruit aromas and flavors of blackberry, cherry, and chocolate. I liked it so much that I didn’t get a chance to have it with food. But I’ll definitely be reordering it so I see some mushroom risotto in my future.
Sierra Del Mar Vineyard
The second two bottles were from Sierra Del Mar Vineyard, made by Vinum Cellars. Friends Chris Condos and Richard Bruno founded Vinum and were one of the first of a growing trend of virtual wineries. These are winemakers who buy grapes from vineyards and rent space to produce small amounts of wine.
Vinum only works with sustainable growers and may not make the same wine twice. The Sierra Del Mar wines are grown in the Clarksburg Delta area near Sacramento. It’s a cool climate and they harvest in the early morning when the fruit is very ripe.
I enjoyed the first wine for National Pinot Noir Day. This 2020 100% Pinot Noir was aged in mostly neutral French oak, allowing the fruit to be the star. The silky red cherry, raspberry, and vanilla flavors were a great match with my BBQ grilled chicken.
I was happy to see their 2021 Chardonnay was fermented in stainless steel (I’m not a fan of oaky Chard). It was fruit-forward with green apple, pear, and passion fruit. There was a creaminess to it and a slight bitterness on the finish.
Looking at the winery retail prices, the combined value of the wines was $97. So as a club member, you’re saving about $10 off retail.
What I Like About The California Wine Club
Their “Love It” Guarantee
This is a pretty awesome policy. If you get a bad or broken wine, or even a wine you just don’t like, they’ll replace it or refund you.
If you buy a bottle at a store or order one from a restaurant and you don’t like, you’re SOL. So, the club must have a lot of confidence in their wines to offer this king of guarantee.
VIP Wine Tasting
Planning a trip to wine country? If you’re a club member and you’ll be in an area with wineries they feature, they’ll set up VIP complimentary tastings and tours for you.
That could save some big bucks, especially in places like Napa these days. And who doesn’t want to feel like a VIP?
I’m hoping to get out to the West Coast in the next year, so I’ll definitely be taking advantage of this when I go.
Customizations and Flexibility
I love that there are so many options to choose the types of wines you want, the number of bottles, and how often you receive shipments.
And the flexibility to push out deliveries, put them on hold, or cancel is a bonus. A lot of other clubs make you call them to cancel. And then you have to listen to their whole spiel of why you should stay when all you want to do is get off the phone so you can finish rewatching Schitt’s Creek for the 12th time.
If you get a killer wine in your shipment, you can reorder it at a deep discount. For example, the Clos LaChance Meritage from my shipment retails at $28 through the winery, but my booklet has the reorder price at $17.99.
Members also get shipping discounts through the wine store and deals on wine club gifts like subscriptions and wine gift sets.
Areas for Improvement
The featured wineries outside of California are somewhat limited. It looks like there are 14 wines under the international category and 18 in the Pacific Northwest.
However, it is The California Wine Club, so it makes sense. And getting one of these series every other month would still take you more than a year to get through. By that time, maybe they’ll have new producers for us to try.
(UPDATE: I did learn that the wine store page doesn’t fully represent all of the wineries they’ve partnered with over the years. You can check out the winery library for a more complete list of International and Pacific Northwest wineries.)
Also, the process to switch from one series to another wasn’t immediately intuitive. I was thinking there’d be some kind of dropdown option on my membership page to select a different series.
I emailed them to ask how to do this and quickly got a response that I just need to cancel the current series I’m in and add the new series I want. My personal wine consultant even offered to do it for me if I needed help.
Finally, you do need to have someone 21+ at home to receive the shipment. But obviously, that’s not something the club can change. And I’m sure your 12-year-old-going-on-21 could fool the delivery driver.
My Verdict: The California Wine Club Review
I’m giving The California Wine Club the Wine Travelista stamp of approval.
First, I enjoyed the wines and think you get a good value. And I’m always for supporting small-production wineries and providing greater access to their wines.
The refund policy, customer service, and flexibility are beyond anything I’ve seen with other clubs. Plus, I’m looking forward to VIP treatment, free tastings, and complimentary tours when I visit wine country!
It’s for sure one of the best California wine clubs. And it’s a great way to try new wines from the United States and beyond.
If you’ve read this far and you’re interested in trying The California Wine Club, you can use code YES10 to get 10% off your order.
As always, thank you to my photoshoot assistant, Bella, without whom my photos would take half the time. But how can you resist that cute face?
Have you tried The California Wine Club? What was your favorite wine?