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  • Wine Clubs

    Your intrepid liquor reporter has joined many different clubs over the years.

    There have been running clubs, coin collector clubs, the Stop Clubbing Baby Seals club, which I mistakenly thought was about preventing sea lions from going to the discotheque, the hair club for men, and countless other dodgy organizations of dubious morals.

    However, the wine clubs are the ones that have brought the most enjoyment over the years.

    Yes, gentle reader, clubs exist for no other reason than to drink wine, and your humble narrator is a longtime participant.

    The oldest and most established wine club in Canada is the Opimian Society. Established in 1973 as a non-profit wine purchasing cooperative, it now boasts 20,000 members from coast to coast.

    In addition to regular tastings and events, the most popular service is the cellar offerings available exclusively to club members. With such significant buying power, the Opimian Society will sometimes buy up an entire vintage from a carefully selected winery.

    In a reserved and understated fashion, the Opimian Society has been informing and education Canadian wine drinkers for decades, and has many times been instrumental in nudging a petty bureaucrat in a provincial liquor board in the right direction when considering regressive legislation.

    Your humble narrator enjoys the benefits of his Opimian membership, and receives a mixed case of wine every month, with different bottles from every corner of the world, although this particular club is heavily weighted towards the old-world European producers.

    Closer to home, the cluster of wineries on the Naramata Bench just outside of Penticton in British Columbia have collaborated to form their own wine club. Members get a mixed case of limited production small batch wines twice a year.

    Your globetrotting liquor reporter visited the Naramata Bench section of the Okanagan Valley over the Thanksgiving weekend for the annual Fall Harvest Wine Festival, and the conditions there are superb for making great wines.

    The vineyards are all on the east side of Lake Okanagan, baked by the sun late into the day, and with a good slope to promote soil drainage for robust grape production.

    With over two dozen wineries along a 20km stretch of road, the Naramata Bench has long been considered one of Canada’s premier sub-appellations, and your intrepid liquor reporter always visits a few of the wineries when I pass through the area.

    Our British Columbian neighbors have been reaping the benefits of this wine club quite some time, but it only became available to Albertans when Bill C-311 passed last summer, which finally did away with the ridiculous prohibition-era law that made it illegal for Canadians to transport wine across provincial boundaries.

    As you can imagine, all those former scofflaws from Alberta who would vacation in Okanagan Valley and bring home a few bottles of wine are dancing the dance of joy at the opportunity to have these fine wines delivered straight to their doorsteps.

    Your humble narrator brought home a huge cache of wines from the Naramata bench over the Thanksgiving weekend, many of which were limited production runs that are available only at the winery door, and will never appear in liquor stores.

    With the Naramata Bench Wine Club now available to Albertans, I will be able to resupply those hard-to-find wines without making the drive all the way to BC. Hooray!

    Even closer to home, the Canadian Wine Collective is headquartered in Calgary, and ships out a mixed case to members every month. Just choose one of five different pricing tiers (from chintzy to sky-high), and you receive a dozen different new and exciting bottles every month.

    Your humble narrator particularly likes the Wine Collective, as they have no membership fees, no term contracts, no anything that gets in the way of you enjoying your wine. Once a month, you get the opportunity to order, and the shipment shows up on your doorstep a few weeks later.

    So, if you are looking for a way to expand your wine horizons, joining a wine club not only exposes you to many different wines that you may not have chosen by yourself, but the regular shipments provide an opportunity to build a respectable wine cellar of your own.

    Just google for any of the above wine clubs to find details on joining, and you will be on the road to increasing your own appreciation of wine.