The Best Wine Clubs
We evaluated the type of experience seven of the best wine clubs provided over the course of three months. We prioritized value, personality, and education — all the little extras that make a wine club more than just walking into a wine shop. Don't worry. We sought out consistently delicious wines, too.
Unusual and spectacular wines, coupled with a vibrant experience from sommelier Ashley Ragovin. Everything about this club is Instagram-friendly. ($98/month for three bottles)
The oenophile's wine club. Mark Aselstine's west coast selection is best-in-class, even if his presentation lacks polish. ($55–$225/month for 2–3 bottles)
Clever packaging, detailed media, and dependable, if unadventurous, wines. A great place for newcomers to get started, but experienced drinkers may get bored. ($45/month for three bottles)
Kingston Wine Co.
A few of the wines out of this small New York shop ranked as some of our favorites overall. ($49/month for two bottles)
We originally published this review after the first shipment from each of our top picks. We’ve updated throughout with our impressions after three months of wine deliveries.
Pour This is one part wine club, one part cult of personality. Founder Ashley Ragovin takes a “let’s party” approach to wine, and her club shows it: Our shipments included a dance mix CD, handwritten notes, Instagram-worthy packaging, and (most importantly) some of the most unique wines of the seven clubs we tested. Ragovin was behind the wine programs at a few of LA’s trendiest restaurants, including Animal and Trois Mec, and that experience comes to life in her inspired wine selections. Over three months we tasted everything from a 2014 Château La Rame Bordeaux to an orange-hued rosé from Domaine Philippe Gilbert, and were impressed by the way our shipments seemed curated to mirror the change in seasons — we started getting more reds, for example, as summer transitioned into fall. At $98/month for three bottles, it’s on the spendier side of the clubs we tested, but truly delivers an experience — something you aren’t going to get simply by walking into a wine shop.
If you are someone who likes a more local wine shop feel, Uncorked Ventures delivers it to your door. It’s owned and operated by Mark Aselstine, an expert in west coast wines, and for $55-$225/month, you’ll get two or three bottles of the best from California, Oregon, and Washington State. All the bottles are highly scored and highly acclaimed — his $55 Explorers tier is marketed as “what the wine industry drinks” — and come along with in-depth, industry-filled newsletters penned by Aselstine himself. Granted, what Uncorked Ventures has in truly remarkable wines, it lacks in polish. Its newsletters are in 12-point Times New Roman and seem like they were printed on a home laser printer. Calls to customer service go straight to Aselstine’s personal voice mail. But for the wine drinker whose priority is discovering new and exciting wines, and who could care less about all the little extras, Uncorked Ventures is a winner.
Little extras is where Wine Awesomeness shines. It’s our most reasonably priced pick — a comfortable $45/month for three bottles, and you can choose between all red, all white, or a variety pack — and, like Pour This, feels very much like a club. Shipments are themed (think “Harvest Party” and “New World”), and come with full-color magazines, tasting notes, and recipes from celebrity chefs to pair with each wine. There’s a lot to look forward to in each shipment. We found the wine itself dependably tasty, but experienced wine drinkers may find themselves getting bored. Three of our nine bottles were cabernet sauvignons, and even when you add in a pinot noir, a malbec, and syrah, no one’s horizons are really being expanded. If the name Wine Awesomeness is any indicator, this is a club geared toward younger palates.
We liked a lot of the wine out of Kingston Wine Co. In fact, its 2014 Poggio Delle Baccanti Gragnano Rosso Frizzante still ranked as one of the very top wines across all the clubs we tested, even after three months. Based out of Michael and Theresa Drapkin’s shop in Kingston, NY, it refers to its wine club as a “CSA” or wine share, and emphasizes organic wines, recipes from Alice Waters and Richard Olney, and a personal touch.
How We Found the Best Wine Clubs
We explored seven wine clubs, which each fell into one of two broad categories: slightly cheaper subscriptions that welcome newcomers to the world of wine, and more adventurous (and often more expensive) selections designed to introduce oenophiles to new and unique experiences.
Entry Level Wine Clubs
Winc (formerly Club W)
Gold Medal Wine Club
Tasting Room by Lot 18
More Adventurous Wine Clubs
Kingston Wine Co.
You’ll notice we avoided wine clubs particular to a single winery or winemaker (although some of the experts we spoke with prefer them — Matilde Parente, a certified specialist of wine through the Society of Wine Educators who blogs at Write on Wines, recommends finding a wine club guaranteed to deliver something you want to drink). We also prioritized clubs that offer a variety of varietals, as opposed to just aged burgundy, for example, or exclusively cab savs.
We looked for a great experience as well as great wine.
We knew we wouldn’t be able to judge a wine club just on the wines alone. Our lead tester was an experienced wine drinker who strongly prefers reds over white, but it’s not like our top pick would be the one with the most outstanding merlot. We wanted to take into account all the extras that make a wine club different than, say, heading to the nearest BevMo! with a shopping list of recommendations.
So we explored customizability.
All the wine clubs we tested have slightly different models. Some, like Gold Medal Wine Club and Wine Awesomeness, have a wide range of membership tiers that increase in price with more bottles, more frequent deliveries, and/or higher-quality bottles. Others, like Pour This, offer only one option, like a prix fixe menu.
Online surveys that attempt to algorithmically match your flavor preferences to your wines are popular; a few clubs also gave us the option to pre-select “all reds” or “all whites.” Tasting Room by Lot 18 actually ships you mini bottles to pinpoint what you might like before sending you full-size versions that supposedly fit that profile.
Overall we didn’t think any model was inherently better than the other (although we weren’t particularly impressed with any club’s flavor-matching algorithms).
And gauged convenience.
Joining a wine club isn’t particularly challenging, although we did have a few “fine print” moments. It turns out, Tasting Room automatically signs you up for a whole case of wine for every shipment; we had to actually call to change it to the two-bottle subscription advertised on its site. We were really disappointed by that lack of transparency. Other sites, like Uncorked Ventures, don’t make its pricing immediately obvious. Winc offers a discount on your first order, but it takes some digging to find what you’ll be charged for subsequent boxes.
Remember to plan ahead. While there’s nothing more convenient than having a box of wine bottles shipped straight to your door, all wine club deliveries require a signature from someone 21 or older. Plan accordingly.
The most notable difference in the seven wine clubs we tested was their delivery speed. The majority arrived within a week, but there were three outliers: lightening-fast Winc, which arrived overnight, Uncorked Ventures which took two weeks, and slowpoke Kingston Wine Co. which took three. But even slow delivery isn’t going to be a deal-breaker for most people — once you’re in a club, you’ll get your wine at regular intervals. Delays are only really noticeable in the initial shipment.
We put the biggest emphasis on accompanying educational materials.
What comes along with your wine is how wine clubs can really distinguish themselves. The best typically include some sort of literature to help you learn more about the wine you’re drinking, helping you to develop your palate, understand food pairings, and increase your vocabulary — terroir, anyone?
Shipments lacking these resources were disappointing. Take Tasting Room: Remember, its subscription model is to send six airplane-size bottles for you to rate from favorite to least-favorite. From those preferences, Tasting Room develops your wine profile and then sends you full-size bottles that fit.
From his mini-bottle tasting, our tester favored big reds like cabernet sauvignons and downplayed whites, then received a full-size syrah and a white — but with no further explanation as to what to look for or why he might like them. Tasting Room lets you preview what it’s planning on sending, and you can switch out any bottle you don’t want at no charge. But without any educational material to go on, it’s as if you walked into a wine store and no one was working.
And, of course, the wine itself.
We took a two-pronged approach to this step. After we received our first seven boxes, we visited Augustine, a Los Angeles wine bar, to review the wine lists with owner Matthew Kaner, who was named one of Food and Wine magazine’s top sommeliers in 2013. (He also produces his own wine under the AM/FM label.)
Kaner didn’t recognize any of the wines from the entry-level clubs, but he was drawn to the offerings from both Pour This and Uncorked Ventures, complimenting their good taste and selection. (Full disclosure: Kaner is friends with Pour This founder Ashley Ragovin.) Uncorked Ventures’ choices were strong enough that Kaner immediately followed its founder, Mark Aselstine, on Instagram. Points to Pour This and Uncorked Ventures.
We also had two tastings of our first seven boxes with wine lovers — but not experts — to determine each club’s mass appeal.
After the first boxes, we tapped a few as our favorites for further testing (more wine!), and said goodbye to two — Tasting Room and Winc.
Tasting Room had one too many strikes against it: A tricky ordering process, middle-of-the-road bottles in our taste test, and a lack of wine education that is de rigueur for pretty much every other wine club. Two other micro-dings: It’s one of only two clubs we tried that doesn’t give you an easy way to “skip” a shipment, and it sent us by far the most marketing emails.
Both Tasting Room and Winc couldn’t compete when it came to labels. They source wine from various wineries (as our experts liked to refer to it, “the juice”), blend it themselves, and rebottle it under their own brand — think Trader Joe’s, but with wine instead of cookies.
This doesn’t make the wine necessarily bad. There are lots of wineries that do the exact same thing, and it makes for reasonably priced table wines. Monique Soltani of Wine Oh TV says this is one way clubs can keep costs low and give wine drinkers a chance to discover something great they may not otherwise get the chance to.
But Matthew Kaner, who also spent time as a consultant for Winc when it was still Club W, helping the company choose wines to buy and repackage, doesn’t recommend this for a wine club. To him, it depersonalizes the experiences of wine and obscures its true origins. If you find a wine you do love, you’re also unable to branch out to join that specific winery’s club, or shop around for it at brick-and-mortar stores. You’re limited to ordering through their websites.
Five clubs were left in the running.
We ordered wine from Pour This, Uncorked Ventures, Wine Awesomeness, Kingston Wine Co., and Gold Medal Wine Club. We wanted to test multiple months worth to gauge their momentum. Did our initial favorites, Pour This and Uncorked Ventures, continue to impress month over month? Could Gold Medal Wine Club recover from sending two of the same bottle in our first shipment? (Answer: Yes, but not well enough to come out on top.) Could an entry-level club compete with the higher-end players?
After 43 bottles of wine and three months, it became clear that you get what you pay for: The most interesting and delicious wines typically came from the more expensive and more carefully curated clubs. But we were pleasantly surprised to find perfectly pleasant offerings from some of the entry-level clubs as well.
Our Picks for the Best Wine Clubs
When our first delivery from Pour This arrived, one thing was immediately clear: These were unusual wines. They straight-up looked different than the wines other clubs were sending. The bottles were odd shapes (one was so tall you’d struggle to fit it in a wine cooler); the wines came in atypical colors; and the labels were sophisticated and compelling. Our first shipment of Pour This wines included a delicious 2014 Coffele Soave that tasted like apples and citrus; as well as a soft white from France, a violet-accented 2010 Domaine Dupasquier — Marestel — Roussette de Savoie; and a brisk, almost orange-colored rosé from Domaine Philippe Gilbert. Consider us impressed.
Pour This wines even look different from everyone else's.
Pour This features a single $98 plan for three expertly sourced wines not typically available in stores (daily specials run for $28, but they sell out quickly) shipped once per month in a cleanly designed blue-and-white box with the Pour This logo.
To our dismay, our first Pour This shipment didn’t include any of the promised literature beyond a handwritten welcome note; customer service also took a hit when we tried to make contact through its website to find out why and reps initially failed to respond. After another follow up message, we got profuse apologies and a PDF of that month’s literature, which we were told was accidentally left out of the box.
When we received the second shipment from Pour This, the promise and potential of the club was more fully realized. Not only did it include literature cards for each of the wines printed on high quality card stock and gathered in a translucent paper envelope, but it also had a punchy letter of the month from the founder, and a frenetric-but-fun CD that you were instructed to listen to while drinking (you can sample the mix here). This was exactly the kind of thing we were hoping to find from a wine club: a full, immersive experience, not only teaching you about the wines you were about to drink, but providing you with something that you can’t replicate simply by going to a quality wine shop and talking to the person behind the counter. That experience might not be for everyone. Ashley Ragovin, the company’s founder, has managed wine programs at chic Los Angeles restaurants like Animal and Trois Mec, and is definitely more party than prim.
Regardless, her taste in wine is impressive. Five of the six bottles in our first Pour This shipments were whites, but as summer moved into fall, it added two reds in its third box: a dark, full-bodied, and mineral Chateau le Puy and a clean and floral Domaine de Galouchey. Both were the perfect complement to the cooler weather of the changing seasons, and reinforced that there is a thoughtful wine connoisseur running the show.
At $98 a month, the club is on the pricier side, so iffy customer service and a strong “cult of personality” might be a deal breaker for some. But this club stood out from all of the others for truly unusual and surprising wine discoveries.
2014 Coffele Soave, Italy
2010 Domaine Dupasquier Marestel Roussette, France
2015 Domaine Philippe Gilbert Rosé, France
2014 Domaine Les Deplaude Des Tartaras Ciel D’Orage, France
2015 Quinta Do Ameal Loureiro Vinho Verde, Portugal
2014 Johan Vineyards Petillant Naturel, Oregon
2015 Chateau La Rame – Bordeaux Blanc, France
2011 Chateau Le Puy – Bordeaux, France
2014 Domaine de Galouchey – Bordeaux, France
If you already know a little bit (or a lot) about wine and are looking to expand your horizons with the guidance of a passionate and committed expert, Uncorked Ventures excels. It offers three pricing options for shipments of two wines per month: $55, $115, and $225. All wines are highly rated and handpicked, but as plans get more expensive, they feature wines from smaller vineyards and more exclusive production runs. Our first month, we tried the highest and lowest tiers. The least expensive wine was spectacular. The top-tier was even better.
If detailed curation and passionate wine selection is your priority, you'll appreciate Uncorked Ventures.
Our testers all agreed Uncorked Ventures’ wines rose above the pack in flavor. A high-end Vellum red from Napa Valley and a Kinero Grenache from the central coast of California were both genuinely incredible, with rich and subtle tasting profiles that revealed delicate new layers with each sip. The entire tasting party was also delighted with a smooth Hobo Wine Company cabernet sauvignon. But the wine from the lowest price point — a refreshing 2010 Wind Gap White — also delivered. You may not have any choice in picking what wine you’re delivered, but in our experience it didn’t matter.
One thing to note. Uncorked Ventures limits its selection to west coast wines, where owner/operator Marc Aselstine’s expertise lies. If you’re interested in a more global selection, Pour This or Wine Awesomeness may be your better choice.
Our subsequent shipments continued to impress, with a full-bodied, organic Chardonnay and a tart, autumnal pinot noir from Neighborhood Vineyards (an “urban” winemaker using communal gardens in San Francisco), followed by sangiovese from Adretti Winery and a sauvignon blanc-viognier blend from Bravium wines. The sangiovese was fruit-forward with plenty of complex berry notes, but with the compelling spiciness typical of the blend. Meanwhile, the white wine was sharp and crystal clear. Like Pour This, the wines felt curated to match the changing seasons.
Mark Aselstine, the owner/operator of Uncorked Ventures, delivers a level of knowledge, curiosity, and detailed explanation that we didn’t find in any other club at any price point. Each delivery comes with a no-frills, letter-size page that looks like it was created on Aselstine’s word processor and printed from his home office — but what it lacks in slick production value, it more than makes up for in meaningful information about each wine. Some details are biographical ephemera (Aselstine points out that Hobo Wine Company founder Kenny Likitprakong is a former pro skateboarder), while others are focused more on education (the grapes used in the light and crisp Wind Gap White are Italian arneis, which translates to “little rascal”).
Aselstine clearly loves what he does, having dropped out of unfulfilling careers in mechanical engineering and real estate to dedicate his life to his passion for West Coast wines, and becoming a self-taught expert in the process. We wondered if by avoiding the high costs of color-printed cases with plastic handles and full-color magazines, Uncorked Ventures could afford to spend more on the wine itself.
One downside of being so personally curated: Aselstine is truly a one-man show, which means customer service requests, complaints, and questions can’t get the attention that a larger company with a dedicated customer service department can provide. Our check-in call to customer service went to Aselstine’s personal voicemail – but on the plus side, when you do connect with him, you are talking to the man in charge. Based strictly on the quality of the wines and the passion behind his selection, if detailed curation is your priority, you won’t go wrong at any price point.
2013 Vellum Red, Napa Valley, California
2014 Kinero Grenache, Central Coast, California
2015 Hobo Wine Company Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma, California
2010 Wind Gap White, Sonoma, California
2013 Pine And Brown Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa, California
2012 Andretti Winery Sangiovese, Mendocino, CA
Bravium Wines White Wedding, San Francisco, CA
For the beginning wine enthusiast, Wine Awesomeness (even its name seems targeted at a younger audience) delivers a great experience at an affordable price. A comfortable $45 gets you three wines a month, and you can choose among red only, white only, a variety pack (including the chance for rosé or bubbly), or a $75 mondo pack featuring six wines. Instead of gauging personal tastes, each month features a themed shipment filled with dependably tasty wines.
Wine Awesomeness’ packaging, clever literature, and tasty wines made us want to join the club.
Our first shipment theme was “Wines of South America: Argentina and Chile,” which included a fruity Hacienda Araucano Pinot Noir from Valle de Lolol, Chile; a nicely mineral Recuerdo Malbec from Uco Valley, Argentina, which was a huge hit at our tasting; and a robust Calcu Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile’s Valle de Colchagua that paired especially well with steak. Pinot noir, malbec, and cabernet sauvignon aren’t as adventurous as the wines we received from Pour This or Uncorked Ventures, but we think they are a perfect place for more novice oenophiles to start.
Wine Awesomeness stood out from the three other entry-level wine clubs we tested with a full-color magazine that comes with each shipment, a detailed description of each wine’s origin and tasting profile, and recipes to pair with each wine. (Our first month’s recipes came from chef Francis Mallmann — the culinary mad scientist from Netflix’s Chef’s Table who cooks on the isolated tip of Patagoina.) Wine Awesomeness is not the only club that informs its members about its wines with colorful literature, but it was the best, featuring, for example, essays on South American viticulture and the migratory lineage of various grapes from Europe to South America.
Our second month was themed “New World,” and we unfortunately saw some patterns beginning to emerge. We received two cabernet sauvignons and a syrah, and while they were all perfectly drinkable, they weren’t broadening any wine-drinkers horizons too much — especially considering there was a cab sav in our first shipment too. We appreciate an easy entry into the world wine, but month two felt limited. That’s why we were happy to see Wine Awesomeness bounce back in month three. “Harvest Party” celebrated the end of the harvest along with various cultures of the world, and we got a fun and funky Austrian Zweigelt and a nice, bold rioja from Spain that went perfectly with the farmer’s market tacos recipe included in the booklet.
Each delivery arrives in a fun blue box with white plastic handles — a far cry from the many anonymous brown boxes we had arrive at our door. Out of all of the clubs we tried, entry level or adventurous, Wine Awesomeness’ packaging, literature, and clever themes made us feel most like part of an actual club. The fact that it’s about half as much as some of our other favorite clubs made it all the better.
2013 Hacienda Araucano Pinot Noir, Chile
2012 Recuerdo Malbec, Argentina
2012 Calcu Cabernet Sauvignon, Chile
2014 Zuccardi “Serie A” Cabernet Sauvignon, Argentina
2012 Paxton, “MV,” Cabernet Sauvignon, Australia
2013 Baker Lane “Colors” Syrah, California
2015 Pfneiszl “Birgit and Katrin’s” Zwëigler, Austria
2015 Nexo Rioja, Spain
2014 Hedges Family Estate CMS Red, Washington
This adventurous club’s first shipment included a nice, slightly spicy 2015 Luberri Orlegi Tempranillo and a 2014 Poggio Delle Baccanti Gragnano Rosso Frizzante, an unusual sparkling red wine that ranked among our testers’ absolute favorites. It was in the running to be our favorite overall, but after three months, it just couldn’t compete with the spunk and character of Pour This and Uncorked Ventures, or the glossy slickness of Wine Awesomeness. That said, for $49 a month, Kingston Wine Co. delivers two bottles of very drinkable wines that we think anyone would enjoy.
2015 Luberri Orlegi Tempranillo
2014 Poggio Delle Baccanti Gragnano Rosso Frizzante
2015 Ravines Keuka Village Road Cabernet Franc, New York
2014 Domaine Ledogar “La Mariole”, France
2015 Kermit Lynch Vaucluse Rouge, France
2013 Cascina Barisel Dolcetto, Italy
The Best Wine Clubs: Summed Up
Heads-up: There are easier things to order online than wine.
While wine clubs offer a thoroughly modern service (wine delivered to your door at the push of a button!), wine is a controlled substance and therefore justifiably harder to get than an Uber. Like we mentioned, someone who is 21 years of age must sign for the boxes when they are delivered, which makes scheduling deliveries and returns difficult. Many clubs have no return policy whatsoever.
Of our top picks, Pour This will replace bottles that arrive damaged and will “make best efforts” to replace a wine you dislike. Wine Awesomeness accepts returns subject to a restocking fee. Uncorked Ventures responds to returns with trademark personality: “I want you to be happy with the wine that you’re receiving. That being said, you can’t legally ship wine back to me, so if you’re unhappy with a bottle please let me know. I’ll replace it during your next shipment.”
Aselstine’s response highlights a complicated fact about wine clubs: Shipping alcohol across state lines is a complicated and sometimes illegal affair (most wine clubs can’t even ship to Utah, for example). Curious what the rules of your state are? Here’s a primer.
The Bottom Line
Your personal taste and familiarity with wine is always going to be a factor in choosing a wine club — but in our experience, the more you pay, the more unique the wine is going to be.