Wine clubs are a dime a dozen — or, more to the point, $59.99 per month with a 12 month commitment. All too often these clubs feature tired, bulk wines that have been hastily repackaged and had a new label slapped on them. That’s not to say you can’t find value in some of these products, but the reality is you’re likely better off going to your local grocery store and picking up something on sale from a mid-tier shelf if you’re looking for a bargain.
Wine Access does away with that concept, offering real, high-grade bottlings at surprisingly good prices. While you can shop the store on demand, there are also several clubs to consider — seven in total — ranging in price from $120 to over $500 per shipment, each delivered 4 to 5 times per year. Recently, the company signed us up for its Connoisseurs Club, which sends two high-end red wines for the price of $150 total — shipping included. (Wine Access says the retail price of the wines is at least $175.)
While, as always, our review of these particular wines is a look at the club at a point in time — next month’s shipments will be completely different, of course — they should be representative of the kind of quality a customer can expect to receive. (Love the included tasting notes and informative bottle tags, too.)
Let’s dig in. (Prices listed are as listed on Wine Access’s website for on-demand purchase.)
2018 Stephane Vedeau La Ferme du Mont Chateauneuf du Pape “Capelan” – Intense, lush, and filled with delights. Initially a bit tough to get one’s arms around, the notes of currants and black cherries are dominant, dusted with notes of licorice, cloves, dark chocolate, and baking spice. Lots of acidity keeps all that dense, black fruit in check, and while there’s ample alcohol (14.5% abv) here, the wine never feels overblown or washed out. A finish that evokes tea leaves and a layer of bright greenery keeps you coming back for more. An outstanding CdP. A / $80
2014 Luscher-Ballard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley – While Capelan is a study in fruit, this Spring Mountain-grown cab, which is made by John Kongsgaard, is a study of the earth. Leathery and tannic, the experience is rather closed at first, with notes of thyme and blackberry bramble showing quickly. Inky black fruit emerges with some time in glass or decanting, notes of licorice and dark chocolate giving the wine a certain after-dinner quality, with notes of coffee bean coming into focus on the finish. It’s a cliche to say that a wine like this shows best when paired with a rich, fatty piece of red meat… but it ain’t wrong. A- / $95
Bottom line: These are both outstanding wines and while the $25 discount you get for joining the club may not be a doorbuster of a deal, it’s definitely worth considering strongly, especially if you’re working to slowly build out a red-heavy cellar.