Seasons of the Vine: September/October 2013


Join the Club? The Benefits and Drawbacks of Wine Clubs

While you can always count on finding enjoyable wines at your local liquor store, joining a wine club has plenty of perks. Considering the following benefits and drawbacks may help you decide if membership is right for you.


Joining: Typically there is no joining fee, though some have a cancellation fee if you withdraw before a specified time period. Some clubs are loosely set up, while others require a written contract. Some are in such demand that they have a waiting list.

Releases: Each club has a specified release schedule and delivery/member pickup schedule. Often there are different levels or club offerings in which members can participate. Detailed winemaker notes often accompany the wines.

Special reserves: Wineries may set aside special reserves, estate-grown wines and vintage wines for their club members. These wines are released sporadically in regular club shipments.

Special treatment: Perks may include complimentary tastings (for you and a specified number of guests), access to VIP sections of the tasting room (where applicable), free tours of the winery which may include parts not open to the public, wine pairing dinners for members only or at a reduced price, and discounts on wine purchases and/or other merchandise in the tasting room.

Building relationships: This works in both directions as winery staff reach out and demonstrate that they value getting to know their club members.


Unexpected shipments: New varietals and blends, which aren’t quite to your tastes, may be released and automatically shipped out to you. In addition, vintage differences can arise. If you get a bad bottle, returning it can be a bit of a hassle if the winery is not nearby.

Paying more: A local liquor store may offer a wine of equal quality at a better price— as well as a wine shop consultant who comes to know your tastes and can steer you toward a wine you will like at a moment’s notice.

Often the rewards are worth the risks. For the best of both worlds, choose a favorite local wine shop while still maintaining membership in a wine club or two. Be sure to check with individual Minnesota and Wisconsin wineries you may be interested in, as more are adding club memberships.


Sept. 7-8, Fourteenth Annual Grape Stomp
Saint Croix Vineyards, Stillwater. Open to families with fun events for all including grape stomping competitions for both kids and adults and vineyard/winery tours both days. Enjoy live music from noon–5 p.m.; tasting room hours 10 a.m.–6 p.m. No charge. For a complete schedule, visit

Sept. 13, Beers of the World
Mayo Civic Center, 6–9 p.m., a beer tasting event featuring more than 100 different brews. This event, with fun exhibits and raffles, supports the mission of Bear Creek Services, which provides group homes and support services for people with developmental disabilities and traumatic brain injuries. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. For further details, visit or call 507-288-7195.

Grape Harvest Time!
September is harvest time for Minnesota vineyards. Several area wineries invite volunteers to help pick grapes and enjoy a fun-filled day. If interested, inquire directly about 2013 needs.

Oct. 4, OAKtoberfest
Canadian Honker Events at the Ramada Inn (1517 16th St SW), 6–9 p.m., food, live music and a silent auction highlight an evening’s entertainment at this fundraising event to support RNeighbors, which supports community building projects. Tickets are $30. For more information, visit or call 507-529-4150.

2013 Olmsted County Fair Amateur Wine Competition Results

Best Minnesota Grape Wine: Geo Zett, St. Croix Dry

Best Other Grape Wine: Bob Nelson, Moscato

Best Table or Flavored Grape Wine: Curt Naylor, Blackberry Merlot

Best Country Wine: Zac Fox, Strawberry Wine