With B.C.’s wine industry booming, more wineries are offering clubs with member perks, ranging from discounts and special bottles to home delivery. Some are upping the ante with benefits that particulary suit seasonal or year-round wine country residents: drink in these options.
By Gail Johnson
ROAD 13 VINEYARDS, OLIVER
The origins of this Golden Mile Bench winery go back to the early 1920s, when then-B.C. premier Honest John Oliver stimulated farming in the area by building an irrigation canal. True to that agricultural history, the motto of owners Mick and Pam Luckhurst is “it’s all about the dirt.” Club members can get the dirt on the latest releases with complementary tastings for four in the Castle Tasting Room. The ivy-covered castle is a holdover from the winery’s original owners, Peter and Helga Serwo, who built the structure, complete with a drawbridge and carved wooden entry, in honour of their Bavarian roots. COOL PERK: Members have an in on popular offerings like sparkling chenin blanc and the holiday Wine Advent Calender.
ELEPHANT ISLAND WINERY, NARAMATA
The way Elephant Island founders Del and Miranda Halladay see things, life’s a circus–and their wine club is themed accordingly. Strongman members and their guests get exclusive, personalized tours of the farm’s crabapple and apricot orchards and viognier and cabernet franc vineyards with a winery principal (or “ringmaster”)–complete with rubber boots and spectacular views. A guided tasting in a special outdoor area or (at Mother Nature’s discretion) in the cellar follows, for an intimate taste of fruit wines from one of the five original wineries of the Naramata Bench. COOL PERK: Club members get two tickets to the winery’s popular summer party.
CEDARCREEK ESTATE WINERY, KELOWNA
A B.C. industry leader, CedarCreek has more than three decades of winemaking experience in residence at its 50-acre property overlooking Okanagan Lake. Now in the final phase of its transition to organic farming, the winery has also opened Home Block, a new year-round restaurant. Three times a year, club members are invited to a tutored, seated tasting event with winemaker Taylor Whelan, giving them the chance to hear first-hand accounts about the making of each vintage. Chef Neil Taylor creates food pairings for each wine to showcase the associations between his seasonal menus and Taylor’s expressive wines. For non-Okanagan residents, CedarCreek holds similar wine-club member tasting events annually with partner restaurants in Vancouver, Victoria, Calgary and Edmonton. COOL PERK: CedarCreek’s club-member bottle offerings are fully customozable–a relative rarity.
FITZPATRICK FAMILY VINEYARDS, PEACHLAND
In 1994, Ross Fitzpatrick, former owner of CedarCreek Estate Winery, bought Greata Ranch, a heritage property dating back ro 1895. Today, Fitzpatrick Family Vineyards specializes in traditional method sparkling wine–and at making wine-club members feel like part of the family. Members can actually take part in the winemaking process itself at the annual disgorgement party, and get exclusive access to the vineyard’s own on-site Bunk House accommodations. COOL PERK: Members get first crack at in-demand concert tickets, like this past summer’s performance by Jim Cuddy (of Blue Rodeo fame).
BLUE GROUSE ESTATE WINERY, DUNCAN
Situated in the Cowichan Valley, Blue Grouse is one of the oldest estate vineyards on Vancouver Island. Its cool climate is ideal for grape varietals like bacchus, ortega and siegerrebe. For its wine club members, cheekily named “pickup parties” are highlights. Held three times a year, they provide opportunities for members and their guests to savour meeting and learning about the artisans behind local products. Past parties have featured an ice-cream maker and a chocolatier who crafted treats using some of the family-run estate’s vintages. COOL PERK: This past summer, members attended a garden party at Grouse House (the winery’s converted original tasting room), with lunch, wine and live music.