A winery’s greatest success comes in the form of its loyal customer base. In an effort to cultivate and grow that group, many have started their own versions of a wine club.
In essence, wine clubs serve to provide customers with shipments of wine bottles on a regularly scheduled basis. In many cases, they also offer exclusive deals and opportunities to club participants.
“We want our wine club members to feel like this is their winery,” says Adam McBride, owner and winemaker at Hickory Creek Winery in Buchanan. “Not only do they get to taste for free, but they can bring guests with them and have their guests taste for free. It’s like they introduce them to the wines and show them around a bit.”
Hickory Creek’s wine club offers three levels. There’s no cost to join, but membership comes with a commitment to purchase. The tiers of three, six and 12 wine bottles, sent out twice per year, come with discounts of 10 percent, 15 percent and 20 percent, respectively. Key benefits include free tastings for members and their guests, exclusive invitations to pick-up parties and early access to new releases.
“They’re very enthusiastic about the wines,” McBride says. “It’s a cool community of like-minded people who are excited about wines, small production and drinking local and Michigan wines.”
12 Corners Vineyards in Benton Harbor also offers a wine club program. There, customers can join for a nominal fee of $12. Members can choose between dry, semi and sweet wine clubs for shipments sent out bimonthly. They also enjoy a 20 percent discount on wine purchases, 12 free tastings and invitations to special 12 Corners events and tours.
“In terms of national turnover, a lot of people join a wine club and drop out after 18 months. We retain a large portion of our wine club,” says Doug Oberst, 12 Corners owner. “Our wine club members really like to come and visit the winery, talk with the winemaker and get samples downstairs in the cellar.”
Mari Vineyards in Traverse City uses a similar model for wine club members. Their six variations include two bottles of white, two bottles of red, one bottle each of red and white, three with a mixture related to the season, four bottles featuring a mix of reds and whites, and four dry reds. That last group is capped at 100 members and is currently full. Members also receive discounts and free tastings along with their quarterly shipments.
“We really work to cater to everybody’s budget and wine style,” explains Andy Jacobson, Mari tasting room manager. “We have a fun relationship with our club members.”
Over in Berrien Springs, Lemon Creek Winery offers three wine club options: the Sauterne (sweet) Club, the Varietal (dry, semidry) Club and the Reserve Club, which incorporates older vintages and best-sellers. Shipments of four bottles are sent three times throughout the year. Interested customers can join for free while committing to three shipments. Benefits for members include complimentary flights and discounts.
“Once COVID happened, things froze. But now we’ve been able to allow folks to access our wines through flights, and people are joining like crazy,” says Kait Lemon, tasting room manager at Lemon Creek. “I’m also a part of a number of wine clubs. It really feels like Christmas when you get this package in the mail. It makes you giddy like a kid.”