California is the America’s leading wine-producing state, with over 3,600 wineries currently in operation.
As you can probably imagine, this means that there are some pretty spectacular wines to be had in California. If you live in this state and want to experience the best of Californian wine, a great way to do so is with a wine club membership.
In this article, we’ll go over the best wine clubs in California. Plus, we’ll look at a few things to consider when choosing a California wine club.
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Best wine clubs in California
If you want really excellent wine, you’ll need to know how to pick a good club in California. While there are lots of options out there, some are a lot better than others.
Here are five of the best California wine clubs to consider.
1. California Wine Club
California Wine Club has been around since 1990 and works directly with many of the state’s artisanal boutique wineries.
This wine club focuses on limited wine production, in small batches. These small batch wineries tend to put more of a focus on each stage of production, and generally produce higher-quality wines than large-batch wineries.
Since California Wine Club focuses on working with small batch wineries, you can trust that this wine club offers some of the highest quality wines on the market. To make sure the club consistently offers great wines, they’ve developed a specialized process for selecting the wines they list as part of their subscription service.
First, some of their wine experts visit a winery and communicate with the winery’s managers. Then, they handpick the best wines for the club’s members, and categorize each of these wines into various membership tiers.
Speaking of the membership tiers, California Wine Club has a few different club-level subscriptions. What’s unique about these subscriptions is that, unlike other clubs, they’re based on the quality and style of the wine, as opposed to simply being based on quantity and shipment frequency.
The current membership plans include:
- Premier Series: a mixture of red and white wines with membership starting at two bottles a month
- Signature Series: mostly red wine options, with membership starting at two bottles a month
- International Series: mixed red and white wine, with membership starting at two bottles a month
- Aged Cabernet Series: featuring premium Cabernets from Napa Valley, with memberships starting at two bottles a month
- Pacific Northwest Series: mixed red and white wine, with membership starting at two bottles
- Case Club Series: mixed red and white wine, with memberships starting at 12 bottles
Regardless of which membership you sign up for, you’ll also get serving suggestions, one Uncorked magazine, tasting notes, and inspirational stories about new winemakers.
If you’re a wine enthusiast, these little perks can be great ways to really immerse yourself in what you’re drinking.
Another thing that’s great about this club is that you can connect with personal wine consultants at no extra cost. They’ll help you select wines that suit your tastes and make sure you get blends you enjoy each month.
The one downside to this club is that its membership plans are quite expensive. Still, shipping is affordable, and they give out additional discounts to those who purchase wine memberships as gifts. Both of these factors can help to make a subscription a bit more economical, despite the high price overall.
- Great quality small-batch wines.
- Very strict selection process.
- Lots of subscription levels to choose from.
- Gives you access to personal wine consultants.
- A bit expensive compared to other wine clubs.
2. Firstleaf Wine Club
Firstleaf wine club gives you access to premium wines from Sonoma, Napa, and other parts of California. It’s an award-winning wine club that offers affordable wine bottles curated to suit your tastes.
Firstleaf partners with local wineries, meaning they can offer discounts of between 40% and 60% off the retail prices in most wine stores. And if you’re a new member, you get an initial offer of wine at half price with free shipping. Both of these factors can make this a good California wine club for those on a budget.
When you sign up, you’ll have the chance to complete an introductory wine preferences quiz. If you’re not sure what types of wine you like, this quiz can be a good way to find out. Plus, if you don’t like a wine you try, you can get your money back or the bottle replaced.
Firstleaf also has a policy that allows you to tweak the wines in your shipment at any time before they’re sent out to you but after you’ve placed the order. This means that you have a bit of flexibility in choosing your wines and deciding which ones you want to try on your next shipment.
In terms of shipping options, a Firstleaf subscription offers monthly, bimonthly, and quarterly plans, giving you quite a lot of flexibility in choosing how much wine you want. The only downside to this club is the wines aren’t always quite as good as with a more expensive subscription.
Check on Firstleaf
- Great value for money.
- Introductory quiz for new members proves quite helpful.
- Can change your order before it ships.
- Flexible plans.
- Can get slightly better wines with more expensive clubs.
3. Sunset Wine Club
Sunset Wine Club was created by Sunset Magazine, which is a Western lifestyle brand that offers inspiration on home decor, cooking, gardening, and travel from the Western US states.
Their wine club, true to the Sunset Magazine style, focuses on supplying wines from small and medium-sized wineries in Oregon, Washington, and California. It’s also one of the most affordable wine clubs in California.
Sunset offers free shipping, and their prices break down to about $20 per bottle, which is fairly affordable given the quality of wines on offer.
What’s more, getting a Sunset Wine Club subscription grants you an additional 10% off Wine Access’s non-club purchases. If you drink a lot of wine and feel you may want additional bottles, this can be a low-cost way to get them.
Apart from its value for money, what sets this wine club apart is its educational component – members get access to hundreds of wine education videos. This reduces the amount of time you need to spend researching tasting notes and wine history for each bottle. If you’re a big wine enthusiast and are really interested in learning about wine, this educational content is a huge perk.
One thing to note is that Sunset Wine Club offers most wines with fruity and sweet notes. If you like dryer wines, this subscription might not be the best pick.
Also, Sunset Wine Club only features wines from the West Coast. So, if you want to try international wines, it’s probably not the best choice for you.
- Free shipping.
- Good value.
- Gives you 10% off Wine Access purchases.
- Lots of wine-related educational content on offer.
- Not many dryer wines available.
- Mostly just west coast wines.
4. Gold Medal Wine Club
Gold Medal Wine Club is currently the longest running wine club in California under the same ownership, and they’re famous for featuring small-batch wines in California. This subscription gives you access to hard-to-find wines from small family-owned wineries.
If you’re a wine connoisseur who’s already tried quite a few blends, this club might be a good way to branch out and try something new.
Gold Medal Wine Club also offers monthly, bi-monthly, and quarterly shipping. If you don’t drink much wine, you can go for one of the less frequent shipment plans and still enjoy some really good small-batch wines.
Besides their standard Gold Wine Club, the club also offers:
- Platinum Wine Club: featuring premium wines
- International Wine Club: featuring wines from around the world
- Pinot Noir Wine Club: focusing on world-class Pinot Noir options
- Diamond Wine Club: featuring luxury and aged wines
Wine lovers who want really rare blends can opt for the diamond wine club or the international club. But any of these options will give you access to some small-batch blends that you’re not likely to find at the supermarket.
Gold Medal Wine Club doesn’t have any sign-up fees, and they offer free cancellation anytime. This is great for those who aren’t sure they want to commit to a long-term membership. Instead, you can sign up and cancel whenever you decide you’ve had enough.
Just be aware that Gold Medal Wine Club’s pricing is much higher than several other similar subscriptions on the market. This is largely due to their focus on family-owned and small-batch wineries, however, so the quality and flavor is better than with cheaper wine clubs.
- Provides access to lots of interesting wines.
- Good range of shipping frequency options.
- Free cancellation available.
- Quite expensive.
5. Winc Wine Club
If you’re looking for an affordable California wine club, Winc is a good choice. They offer low cost intro offers that are some of the cheapest on the market, at around $6 per bottle. Of course, this only applies to your first shipment, but it still makes Winc a good choice for those just getting started with wine subscriptions.
Winc also has a unique way of getting to know your wine preferences. Before signing up, you’ll take a palate quiz, which helps Winc discover your wine preferences and customize your subscription based on the types of wines you drink, as well as your favorite foods.
According to Winc, they create small batch wines with unique tasting notes. However, most of their wines seem to be easy drinking, as opposed to having unique flavors you won’t find anywhere else. For social drinkers though, this can be a good thing.
If you’re not sure that easy-drinking wine is for you, don’t worry – Winc has an introductory offer that’s about 50% off their normal membership pricing. It includes free shipping and lets you try out four different wine bottles before you commit to anything.
If you don’t like any of the bottles, you can take advantage of the company’s 100% money-back guarantee. Or, you can get a replacement bottle. This way, you avoid wasting money on wine that you don’t like.
Another thing to know about Winc is that they have a number of wines suitable for those with dietary restrictions. If you need vegan, sugar-free, or organic wines, these are all available with this wine club.
Check on Winc
- Great value, especially for new members.
- Smart introductory quiz.
- Good range of wines for those with dietary restrictions.
- Mostly only easy-drinking wines available.
Questions to ask when choosing a California wine club
Before subscribing to a wine club, it’s essential to ask yourself a couple of key questions.
Here’s what you might want to consider before signing up for any particular California wine club.
Do they ship to California?
Not all wine clubs ship to every state. In fact, local liquor laws often make it tough for clubs to ship out of the state where the company operates.
Luckily, the five wine clubs listed above all ship to California. However, there are several options out there that don’t ship to CA. Before signing up for a club, double-check that they’ll ship to your state.
Additionally, even if the club does ship to California, be sure to look for out-of-state shipping fees. Some clubs will ship out of state to California but charge extra to do so. This can be a nasty surprise if you don’t read the fine print.
Do they feature micro-wineries or large wineries?
Micro-wineries and large wineries can create some pretty different tasting wines. While one isn’t necessarily better than the other, it’s important to consider what type of wine you’re looking for.
Micro-wineries normally produce less than a thousand cases per vintage, while large wineries are the exact opposite. Wine clubs that source wines from micro-wineries often wind up with much more nuanced, unique, and subtle flavors than those that only offer large-batch wines.
Additionally, small-batch wineries are often more meticulous with their wine processes. This can lead to higher-quality wine.
At the same time, larger wineries have the benefit of being able to produce more wine more cheaply. As a result, wine clubs offering these types of wines tend to be more on the affordable side.
Think about whether you’d like to minimize your cost per bottle or access more unique, better-tasting wine when picking which kind of wine club you’ll be signing up for.
Do they feature California wines only or offer other blends too?
Even if a wine club ships to California, this doesn’t mean that it offers Californian wines. In fact, some of these types of wineries don’t offer any California wines at all.
If you want to join a real Californian wine club, your best bet is to look for clubs that contain Californian blends. Make sure to read the fine print on your chosen wine club to be certain that they offer blends from the state.
It’s also worth noting that California wines tend to have more complex flavors and are fruitier compared to other blends. Make sure to think about whether this is a flavor profile you generally enjoy. If it’s not, you may want to choose a club that steers away from exclusively California wines.
Whichever type of wine club you choose, knowing where they source their bottles from can be a helpful way of figuring out whether or not it’s a good club for you.
Do they offer in-state perks?
Some Californian wine clubs offer special perks to members who live in the state. If you’re a California resident, you may want to consider looking for a club that offers these perks for you to take advantage of.
A few in-state perks you may come across include:
- Free shipping within the state
- Additional discounts on non-club purchases
- Exclusive wine options available only for in-state members
- Being able to accumulate points and deduct the total from the price of the wine bottles you buy
- Exclusive winery visits and VIP tours
- Local wine tastings
Since there are so many wineries around California, it’s not uncommon for these clubs to form special partnerships that let them give even more to their members. Consider looking into these perks before choosing any particular club.
California has some of the best wineries in the country, which is what can make signing up for a Californian wine club so special. Plus, many of these clubs offer special discounts to in-state members, making joining a Californian wine club even more worth your while.
If you still have additional questions about wine clubs in California, leave us a comment. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.
About the author
My name’s Jessica, and I’m a full-time writer and part-time wine lover. I love being able to share expertise through the power of words.
I’m a self-proclaimed wine expert who’s been a patron and member of multiple vineyards. As someone who’s lived in the California Napa Valley and studied wine formally at the university level, I’ve gained a good chunk of knowledge on wine, its origins, and the current market.
I particularly like a good burgundy, but failing that, dry white wine is my go-to. Today you’ll find me sharing my wine expertise with the world. I may or may not have a glass of wine by my desk as I do it.