Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Buying Wine at the Wineries

When taking guests on tour, I get many questions about purchasing wine while visiting the wineries. The first thing to remember when visiting a tasting room is that, while the wineries want to sell you wine, you are under no obligation to do so. Life is too short to buy wine you will not enjoy.

Prices at wineries are usually not below the prices you might find at a local discount wine shop or liquor store. Wineries will not undercut their distributors on price, so they generally sell at the full retail rate. However, there are some big exceptions:
  • A discount is usually offered if you buy a case (12 bottles). This need not be a case of just one wine. Mixing is permitted.
  • Joining the wine club provides discounts. Becoming a member of a winery's club lets you get a shipment of wine at regular intervals (two to six times per year). Prices are discounted on the regular shipment, plus additional savings are offered on other wines. A wine club is great when you like a winemaker's style and are willing to try whatever the winery sends you. There is no fee to join a wine club and most wineries let you cancel at any time. However, you must live in a state to which the winery may ship. (More on this another time.)
  • There are end of release sales. Sometimes the winery can no longer store old vintages and needs to sell them quickly to make room for new releases. I have bought some tasty wines and saved 40-50% of the regular price at these sales.
  • Many wines are only available at the winery. This is the most important factor to consider when purchasing wines at the winery (assuming you like the wine). Some wineries produce wines that you can easily find when you return home and others that are only available from the tasting room. If you enjoy one of these winery exclusives during your stop at the tasting room, you should buy it while there. Winery exclusive wines are usually produced in small amounts so may not be available if you try to order it directly from the winery at a later date. Plus some states only permit the wineries to ship wine to you when you are physically at the winery.
  • Many wineries do not distribute their wines. I love visiting small wineries. My guests get to taste wonderful wine and have great times talking with the tasting room staff. At times they get to meet the winemaker. Many of these wineries sell all or nearly all of their wine from the tasting room. Even when a winery has limited distribution the odds of 1 of their 3,000 cases ending up in your local wine shop is very remote.

  • I hope this information will help you better enjoy your next visit to wine country. If you want to take a private tour in Napa and Sonoma Counties to some of the small wineries, please call me at (866) 326-4237 or e-mail me by clicking here. I will try to pick wineries for you to visit that produce wines that you are likely to enjoy.

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