The 3 Best Napa Wine Clubs That You’ll Love

2020 hasn’t been the best year for wine–but wine clubs may be a saving grace, and that’s especially true for the best Napa California wine clubs. While wine tourism has taken a hit, vineyards have innovated by joining the subscription trend, even offering virtual tastings, and new ways to enjoy wine from home.

In Napa, some winemakers are also making a difference–which is the case for Judd’s Hill Winery, who decided to partner with others within the Napa Community to prepare backpacks filled with basic essentials for the homeless.

Despite initially grim predictions, the wine industry has proved resilient–in part because, from wine with food to enjoy a bubbly glass of sparkling wine with a loved one, shows just how much wine can connect us. So no matter how much longer we’ll be social distancing, it’s clear: we are all still connected, and we can also still enjoy wine.

In this article, I’ll tell you the 3 best Napa Wine Clubs for you to enjoy from the comfort of your home, and end 2020 on a great note.

How do I find the best wine club?

wine club

Before I jump into my review and personal recommendations for the best Napa wine clubs, let’s discuss how they find the best wine clubs, and the factors I took into consideration when selecting the 3 best options for Napa wine.

Company Reputation

Yes, reputation does matter–and that’s especially true when you’re considering a subscription-like a wine club. Here, I’m not just concerned about prestige, but how well the winery delivers on its promises. All of the wine clubs on my list have an A-minus rating or above on Better Business Bureau, and an above-average rating on consumer aggregate sites.

Of course, a wine club that’s been around for many years and is acclaimed not just for its wine but also for its service is an added bonus. Finally, it’s best practice to make sure there are no publicly filed unresolved, serious complaints.

Delivery and Shipping

Looking at the wine offered may be your first instinct, but if I’m considering ordering a wine club, my go-to is to check the shipping and delivery options. In other words, you very well could be looking at a winery with excellent wine but doesn’t offer the best service for a wine club.

For shipping and delivery, free shipping is a great perk, although not a necessity–just make sure they are transparent about fees and where they ship to. I also look for a reasonable processing time ( a few business days) and an estimated time on delivery. Secure packaging to keep the wine fresh, and clear policies if you miss a delivery are also needed. Finally, an added perk is the ability to ship to alternative addresses.

Refunds and Returns

Unfortunately, with almost any wine club, there will be limits to what can be returned because wine is perishable. That said, I like to see a clear cut as possible policy of what happens if you receive a damaged package or one missing bottle. A bonus would be a wine club that allows you to exchange if you don’t like a wine, but this is fairly rare.

Subscription Options

Pricing, flexible shipping frequency, the ability to change orders before they ship, and different varieties (flavors and prices) are all factors I look for. I also consider secure payment methods and no fuss selection.

Wine Selection and Quality

For wine quality, some of it comes down to transparency: can you actually see what wine they source, and where it’s from? The best case is seeing at least a selection of examples of wine, complete with information about the vineyard; year; tasting notes; grape varieties; and even a little background.

Even if they supply just a little information, you can also search for yourself to see what kind of wine you’re getting. Be wary of wine clubs that don’t supply much information and are mostly shipping out wine blends– while not inherently bad, wine blends without any additional information could indicate bulk wine, which you want to avoid.

In terms of selection, it’s a matter of personal preference: I prefer subscriptions that combine recommendations with the flexibility to see what wine you’re getting. However, some may prefer to be surprised completely, or have a selection curated for them.

What are the best clubs for Napa wine?

Now let’s dive into the 3 best wine clubs you can order from today. I’ll also give my honest opinion not only about the pros but also the cons of each wine club. While I consider these your best options, no wine club is flawless, and wine clubs certainly aren’t one-size-fits-all.

Best For Full Experience: Cake Bread Wine Club

Cakebread Cellars began selling wine in Napa Valley in 1973 when they sold 157 cases of their Chardonnay. Through the years, Cake Bread began to diversify, adding Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and vintages.

After establishing a new winery, Cake Bread made a splash in the wine industry by marketing abroad in the UK, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore during the 1980s. Today, they’ve established tasting rooms, wine classes (during nonpandemic times), and of course, a wine club. Cake Bread celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2013.

Company Reputation

Obviously, Cakebread Cellars has been in the wine industry for a while and has established an international reputation. As a company, Cake Bread has an unofficial A plus rating on Better Business Bureau, with 0 filed complaints. While it’s difficult to find reviews specific to the wine club, aggregate consumer reviews averaged 4 out of 5 stars.

Delivery and Shipping

Shipping and delivery isn’t the strongest point, but not unreasonable. Shipping depends on your location, and like all wine clubs, you do need someone of legal drinking age to be there to sign, but you do have an option to ship to your home or a business.

You can cancel your membership at any time and skip one shipment per year. If you do cancel your membership, there is no waiting period to begin it again. Shipping updates are sent via email, and you can email or call for support. For refunds, you can contact customer service–luckily it doesn’t seem many have problems, but there is no clear policy.

Subscription Options & Perks

Where CakeBread Cellars Wine Club does shine is in the many perks you’ll enjoy with a subscription. These include wine club events (now virtual); cooking classes; monthly Friday tastings; the ability to purchase limited-production wine; discounts of special tastings; and access to the Wine Club Lounge and the ability to purchase all wines year-round plus 15% new wine releases and merchandise.

It’s important to keep these perks in mind, as the four wine club choices cost an average of $1,000 for the calendar year–but these perks go far beyond what I normally see with wine clubs, and truly give you a full wine experience, much in the way if you want on a wine tour.

Most wine club perks are limited to the wine itself. The four subscription options are organized by personal taste, and you can change your wine club as you wish.

Wine Selection and Quality

As I mentioned, there are four wine subscription options, each with a set of expertly curated wine. While this wine is selected for you, you’ll know exactly what you’re getting: each wine club shows the current bottles included in each shipment, as well as the shipping schedule.

Reserve wines from 2018 to 2020 include options for Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Red Blends, and Sauvignon Blanc. Not only is there a nice selection, buy Cakebread Cellars wine is well received, average 4 to 4.9 out of 5 stars on online wine stores like wine.com.

All wine is sourced from one of the eleven vineyards owned by Cake Bread, meaning more transparency and quality control. I also love that shipments come with digital wine notes and even recipes.

Pros

  • Full wine experience
  • Immersive perks (cooking classes, tours, and more
  • Sense of community
  • Quality controlled wine

Cons

  • Inflexible Subscriptions
  • Can’t hand-select wine
  • Expensive

Shop Cake Bread Wine subscriptions here

Best Within Budget: Gold Medal Wine Club

The Gold Medal Wine Club has been operating for over 25 years and has established a solid reputation, not just as one of the best Napa wine clubs, but one of the most popular wine clubs in the United States, known for its curation of small-batch, family-owned wines, and more affordable prices than some of its wine club competitors.

In many ways, Gold Medal Wine Club, with its history and easy to navigate site, is not only for wine enthusiasts but also those just looking into wine.

Company Reputation

Gold Medal Wine Club holds an unofficial A plus rating on Better Business Bureau, with just one filed public complaint.

On consumer sites, it’s earned over 4 out of 5 stars on average, and many especially praise it for excellent customer service, and a large inventory, despite the more affordable price point. This Napa wine club has also been featured in Forbes magazine, WallStreet Journal, and other prominent publications.

Delivery and Shipping

Shipping is fairly standard: you’ll get items shipped to the address or your choice, and need someone of legal drinking age to sign.

Orders are processed 1 to 2 business days after, and you’ll receive your first shipment within 10 to 12 business days, though they note that delays may occur due to COVID. Taxes and fees are determined by your state; while you do get free shipping for orders or 6 bottles or more, typical subscriptions come with fewer bottles per shipment.

Refunds on damaged packages are offered up to two weeks.

Subscription Options & Perks

Gold Medal offers 6 wine subscription options, in addition to the Plus Program. For each, you can choose the frequency (monthly, quarterly, or every other month), how many shipments per that time period, and how many bottles per shipment (up to 4) allowing for some of the greatest versatility for budgets.

Prices range from around $40 per shipment (2 bottles; Gold Club) up to $400 per shipment (diamond; 4 bottles). The flexibility is something I really admire.

Subscriptions come with full-color newsletters with tasting notes, wine history, recipes, and information about the winemakers. The Plus Membership allows you to add on additional bottles with your subscription. They’re also easy to cancel.

Wine Selection and Quality

The wine selection and quality varies a bit by subscription, but a few things are consistent. All wines from a small batch, family-owned wineries are able to be found on wine rating sites, such as Wine.com. In addition, with the information about the winery itself, you’ll be in the know about what’s in your bottle.

Gold Medal wine club specializes in mostly red and white California wines, in addition to some international wines offered through the International Wine Club.

You can’t select your own wine, but you can preview specific past wines. Wines are selected by high ratings, and, in the case of the Platinum Club, wines are rated 90/100 points are higher (Diamond ups the standard to 93 points and above.)

Examples of varieties include but are not limited to: Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Malbec, Blends, and countless others, including reserve wines. Interested in a Subscription? Shop Gold Medal Memberships Here.

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Many Subscription Options
  • Small Batch Wine
  • Lots of wine variety

Cons

  • Can’t hand-select wine
  • Shipping and fees

Best Overall: California Wine Club

The California Wine Club is perhaps the most well-known wine club on this list, but it’s actually a small, family-owned business, meaning that all wine is produced and inspected by them.

First founded in 1990, it’s now the most prominent subscription/ mail order wine service in the United States and ships also internationally. They’re also known for their program to recycle corks and their wine newsletter, Uncorked.

Company Reputation

The California Wine Club holds an unofficial A plus rating on Better Business Bureau and averages 4.5 out of 5 stars amongst customer ratings. It’s considered an established and well-respected company, both for its wine and its service.

Delivery and Shipping

California Wine Club ships to all states and averages $14 handling and shipping fees, though those can vary some based upon location.

You’ll need to have someone of legal drinking age to sign, and you’ll be sent a tracking number via email. They do say that shipping times can vary as widely as a few days up to three weeks for the first shipment. The refund policy is generous: the 100 percent Love It Guarantee means that you’ll get a replacement bottle for any reason at all.

Subscription Options & Perks

Another thing I love about California Wine Club is that there’s a subscription for a wider range of budgets. The Premier Club is the most affordable option, at $39.95/ month; the Aged Cabernet Series costs the most, at $219/ month.

It’s contract-free, meaning you pay on a monthly basis and can cancel at any time. You can opt to receive shipments monthly, every other month, or quarterly. Wine club perks include a subscription to the newsletter; access to personal wine consultants; VIP tours of wineries; online wine cellar digital manager and 10 percent off wine club gifts.

Wine Selection and Quality

Regardless of the subscription, you’ll receive Artisanal California wine (aside from the International Club). Every month the selection changes and features different wineries operated by California Wine Club. Wineries are small but well respected, and each wine comes with specific labeling information.

While you don’t hand select your wine, you do have an option to reorder favorites. If you’re especially interested in wine acclaim, the Signature Series includes only wines rated at 90 points or above.

Varieties include nearly any kind of red and white California wine, as well as Aged Cabernet and reds and whites from around the world.

Why Go With California Wine Club?

California Wine Club is the best service for DISCOVERING wines you would never find in your local store, from small artisanal winemakers. Pick from 5 different series of wines, then get delighted with amazing wines.

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We may earn a referral fee if you purchase with our link at no additional cost to you, the reader.

Pros

  • Wide range of budgets
  • Great selection of California wine
  • The overall balance of service and quality
  • Company reputation
  • Flexible cancellation

Cons

  • Not as large of a wine selection
  • Mostly focused on California wine
  • Some plans can get pricey

FAQs

Question: What is a good wine club?

Answer: The best wine clubs balance service, wine quality and convenience. Always be sure to check out policies, where wine is sourced from, and if the wine club has flexible subscription or delivery options that meet your lifestyle and needs.

Question: Is a wine club worth it?

Answer: A wine club won’t save you money, but it will give you access to wines from around the world you might not have otherwise tried. Plus, its convenient and can even be a way to share your love of wine with others. You’ll have to decide if a wine club fits within your budget.

Final Thoughts

Finding the best Napa wine club may seem at first difficult, but I chose to focus on wine clubs that were highly recommended by customers; offer small batch and high-quality wines; and a degree or either flexibility or special perks that make them stand out. I’ve also included two honorable mentions below.

Honorable Mentions

Napa Valley Winery Exchange; shop here.

Sterling Vineyards; shop here.

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Erin Jamieson

Erin Jamieson brings the latest information to you on wine flavors and types so you can enjoy your next glass to the fullest. In the past, she covered wine selections for weddings and engagement parties. She also previously worked with a private chef company to suggest the perfect wine pairings and believes there is a flavor for every occasion. Erin Jamieson holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Miami University of Ohio.

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