SURE, WINE CLUBS offer a promising solution for oenophiles wishing to save time and gas money. But there are those of us who prefer to think of wine-of-the-month clubs as opportunities to discover wines we might not have otherwise tasted. Unfortunately, few clubs focus solely on our region’s viticultural offerings.
To find out which local clubs we can count on, we polled a few top wine retailers and sommeliers: Pacific Northwest Wine Club and Avalon Wine rose to the top. Not only are both located in or near Willamette Valley’s wine country—which means they’re especially privy to local trends—but they’ve offered some of the most obscure of our region’s wines for 16 and 10 years respectively.
“We’ll send pinot noir, merlot and pinot gris once a year, but you’re also going to get limberger or marechal foch,” says PNWC’s owner Dan Paynter. Catering to what he calls ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) drinkers, Paynter ships two varietals to some 1,200 members each month. And he relies on 12 industry veterans and everyday imbibers to choose them.
For oenophiles with more specific tastes, Avalon offers four clubs: Oregon Reserve Pinot Noir, Northwest Big Reds, Northwest New Discoveries, and the Northwest Dessert Wine club, each offering up to three bottles of wine per month to some 200 members. Avalon is particularly known for singling out lesser-known vintages before they receive accolades. “We’re committed to finding the next big thing,” says Marcus Looze, vice president of sales and marketing.
Joining one of Avalon’s clubs will run you between $420 and $850 per year, and PNWC averages around $360 per year, but figure in all that gas money you’re saving, and these sips are a steal.