As many of you may have read, a fellow blogger recently had a terrible experience with her wine club. Myself, and another blogger and wine industry insider also experienced terrible customer service. In this time of crazy economics and failing companies, I am pleased to report a customer focused and attentive wine club. Recently, I participated in a consumer panel on wine clubs. As a direct result of this panel, where this winery was in attendance, I am thrilled to see their new wine club come to fruition.
Windsor Oaks Vineyards & Winery is a 710 acre property that is nestled in a hilly area just ouside of Windsor, straddling the Chalk Hill AVA. Since Windsor Oaks is known for growing premium fruit that is often sold to ultra premium winemakers, it stands to reason that their own efforts will be nothing less than exception. Producing classically influenced wines, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay is a particular specialty. They sell fruit to over 35 other wineries, and having tasting many of these other wines, it is some of the best in Sonoma. Add in the fact that Windsor Oaks is sustainably farmed, and you have a win-win.
During my visit this weekend for Barrel Tasting, winemaker Julie Lumgair immediately greeted me with recognition and was excited to tell me what they had developed for their loyal customers. The Estate Friends Club has three levels: Oaks; Estate; and Summit. Each level of the wine club enjoys the benefits of discounts, exclusive offerings, and club events. To take this further, they also offer discounts on select lodgings for out of town visitors, and customized tours of their property including (no I’m not kidding here) barrel tasting, picnic lunch, and hikes through the vineyards at a discounted members only price. All with wine of course! For a winery that is only open to the general public 15 days a year, these perks are a real treat, and an incentive to join the club. They even had a Club Barrel, where all the new members signed the end as a stamp of a secret society that no one else is in.
Furthermore, different levels of the club have more benefits. The mid-level Estate Club members recieve a 20% discount on all wines which is the average club discount. The real key to this and the higher level Summit Club is that you can choose your own wines.Yes, you read taht right. You – the customer – CHOOSE which wines you get in your shipment. Of course, if you have a moment or just can’t decide, Julie will be happy to pick the cream of the crop for you. Additionally, you can have a complimentary tour of the property for 2, and additional guests get a discount.
The flexibility that Julie has built in to the club shows that Windsor Oaks is not only dedicated making world class premium wines, but also is dedicated to its customers. They listened to what we wanted, and they acted. In this market, where more and more people are not buying wine at all – but rather drinking their cellars, this is a key component to attracting new business.
Did I mention they make some tasty juice as well? Given that they have created a reputation of being the best of the b
est, the value of Windsor Oaks’ wine is actually quite good. I personally really enjoy the unoaked Chardonnay ($29 retail). It is made sur-lie, and fermented in stainless steel without malolactic fermentation occurring. This gives a bright, fruity chardonnay, with tons of citrus and stone fruit that i really love.
Another personal favorite is theirs is the 2006 Pinot Noir. This is a very limited wine, with only a few barrels made each year. It’s made in a full bodied style, which I enjoy for a sipping wine. The bright Cherry, strawberry and baking spices pair amazingly well with the mushroom & truffle soup they were serving. YUM! The Pinot retails for $35. For a Pinot of this caliber, this is actually excellent QPR for the region.
I hope other wineries will take Windsor Oaks customer focused model as a shining star, and realize that although you can be a small production, highly allocated gem – you don’t have to be snotty.
I”m going to do a little switcho chango myself, and swap out one of my old wine clubs that has gone a bit stale for this one, since I know I can’t go wrong! Hppy drinking!