The Holiday Food & Drink Spectacular!
There comes a point when you’re faced with grabbing the same $7 bottle of wine—you know, that one with the naked lady petting her cat at Trader Joe’s?—and wondering if there’s more out there.
Exploring new styles, varietals, and regions of wine is daunting, but we’ve found five local monthly clubs that curate a world beyond Yellow Tail Shiraz.
Vino — Price Winner!
This wine shop is fantastic for finding tasty wines that are also super reasonable—I’ve never dropped more than $15 a bottle here, yet have never had a bad recommendation.
The deal: $20 for two bottles once a month, no contract required.
Tastiness: Vino isn’t breaking new ground with a 2014 Chateau Ste. Michelle Syrah, but it’s a bold red that does its job well for about $4 off. I liked October’s 2016 red blend from Cuvée Jean-Paul, a fruit-forward bottle perfect with a braised short rib on a rainy Friday.
The perks: None, except getting two solid bottles for an unbeatable price.
vinobuys.com, 137 SE 28th
Ardor Natural Wines — Taste Winner!
Ardor has a gorgeous array of natural wines, the darling of the drinking world. Made with the least amount of chemicals and additives possible, natural wines tend to be from smaller wineries and often cost a bit more. Still, owner Victor Martinez does a great job keeping them accessible.
The deal: Two bottles of natural wine for $48, two bottles of fancier wine for $68, or all four for $108 a month.
Tastiness: October’s $48 selection was a charming duo of a white and red from California’s Populis. But the standout was an almost-orange Grüner Vetliner from Tapl Vineyards in Austria from the $68 set. Fermented in an amphora, or clay pot, the wine is super lively and mineral in flavor; I’m gonna make sure I have a glass with my holiday birds.
The perks: A 10 percent discount on any additional retail wine purchases throughout the month; drink a wine club bottle in-store without corkage fee.
ardornaturalwines.com, 729 SE Morrison
Division Winemaking Company — Perks Winner!
Portland’s dominant urban winery is the clubbiest of the clubs on this list as far as price and commitment, but boy howdy do Kate Norris and Thomas Monroe craft great wines. With the wonderful Oui! Restaurant inside, this is worth picking up in person.
The price: Six bottles for $180, twice a year. One-year contract required. Twelve bottle membership and additional six Gamay-only club add-on available.
Tastiness: I like all of Division’s wines, but it was a Gamay club selection, the 2017 Gamay “Lutte,” that was my favorite. The first vintage of this wine, it’s fruity and light—my sipping companion said it tastes like going out to eat with me... so basically, perfect.
The perks: 10 percent discount on all bottles under a case, 15 percent discount on more than a case; complimentary SE Wine Collective Club Flights for two people two times a year at SE Wine Collective; yearly tasting appointment with winemaking staff; invitation to release parties; invitations to national in-market events.
divisionwineco.com, 2425 SE 35th Pl
1856 Beer Wine Cider
This is a great neighborhood shop that also has a good selection of beer, vermouth, and other goodies.
The price: $60 a month gets you three discounted wines, mostly European and always seasonal.
Tastiness: We got to try just one of November’s picks, an organic Emilio Bulfon Cjanoros from Italy. It was light, with tasting notes of currant, rose petal, and herbal.
The perks: Complimentary tasting of club wines on the day of pick-up; 10 percent off all additional bottle purchases of any alcohol day of pick-up; hand-drawn info cards and maps on the wines.
1856pdx.com, 1465 NE Prescott
Cellar 503 is the official wine club of the Oregonian. The Mercury doesn’t have a wine club partner, unless you count whatever comes in a can at Plaid Pantry.
The price: Two bottles of red for $55 a month, two whites for $45, or both for $50. There are four bottle options as well.
Tastiness: I tried September’s release of lesser-known grape varietals. Some should stay that way, like a vegetal Mencia from Analemma in the Columbia Gorge. But Welsh Family Wines’ unique Blaufränkisch was a great discovery.
The perks: Free tastings for you and up to three guests at monthly wine club events in Portland; a 10 percent discount when you buy two or more bonus bottles in addition to your subscription; members-only pricing for Cellar 503 special events; members-only pricing for renting the Cellar 503 tasting room for private events.
shop.cellar503.com, 4407 SW Corbett (open only for events)