California Wine Club: What to Expect & Subscription Options!

I’ve been dying to try a wine club. Hellooo?! Wine shipped to my door without me having to put my wine glass down and go to the store. Amazing. Did I mention they ship it right to my door? Yeah, amazing.

Because I’ve wanted to try one for so long, I thought what better place to start than with a wine club based in California, because that sounds like it might have the best wines. California is a massive producer of wine in the United States, so it made sense to me.

I was half right and half wrong. The wine I ordered wasn’t bad, and the experience wasn’t bad either, but I’m not sure it would be my first choice after giving it a try. Let me tell you more about it and you can decide for yourself.

The Subscription Options

California Wine Club offers six different subscription options when you sign up. They range in price from $40 to over $200. Prices may change between the time I wrote this review and the time you plan to order, so don’t quote me!

Premier Wine Club

This is the most affordable subscription. It starts at $40.45 per shipment. It’s honestly not a bad price, but you only get two bottles with each shipment. However, this subscription does focus on wines that are value-priced but still high quality.

This subscription includes bottles that are from small family wineries that normally wouldn’t get the exposure that big wineries do. This gives them an avenue to sell their wines and get the word out to a wider audience than what’s local.

California wines are known throughout the world, but not everyone can travel that far for glass, so this makes it easy to try some of the best – albeit unknown – California wines on a budget.

International Selections Wine Club

This one starts at $71, and it still only comes with two bottles, but these bottles are from wineries all over the world. They often feature wines you can’t get here in the United States, which makes it worthwhile.

You can get a better look at wineries you’ve likely never heard of and still enjoy the perks of being a California Wine Club member, like the “Love It” guarantee. If you don’t like the wine for any reason, they’ll replace it with a different bottle for free.

Pacific Northwest Series Wine Club

Starting at $77 for two bottles, this is a more exclusive club where the bottles are handpicked from exclusive wineries in the Pacific Northwest. They focus primarily on wines from Oregon and Washington, which are two of the most award-winning wine regions in the country.

The California Wine Club uses the same proven methods of selection as they do for all other subscriptions, but they’ve isolated their talents to the Bordeaux and Burgundian style regions for this specific plan.

Signature Series Wine Club

If you’re looking primarily for wines that are hard to find and ultra-premium, look no further than this subscription. For $134 per shipment, you’ll get two bottles of rare wines. Not all wines hold the same value as this one, though.

Some months you might enjoy two wines that are $65 apiece and the next month you may get a shipment with one $150 bottle and one $30 bottle. Don’t focus too much on the retail price of the wine.

There are a lot of exclusive wines out there, and they’re not always expensive. This wine club offers exclusive wines that keep your monthly shipments interesting.

Case Club

This is by far your best value in terms of cost and number of bottles per shipment. For $159 per shipment, you’ll get an entire case. That’s twelve bottles. With this subscription, you can take advantage of wines at a value price point and still keep it interesting with selections from various boutique wineries.

Aged Cabernet Series Wine Club

From $240 per shipment, you’ll enjoy the fruits of someone else’s extremely hard labor. If you don’t have the patience to let your red wine age for as long as is necessary, you can explore these fantastic wines right away.

There are two bottles of mostly Napa, perfectly-aged, California Cabernet Sauvignon that you can drink now instead of waiting.

Shipping Locations

California Wine Club will ship any of their subscription boxes almost everywhere in the United States. The only places they won’t ship are Kentucky, Mississippi, South Dakota, and Utah, and that has more to do with the liquor laws in those states than it does California Wine Club restrictions.

What to Expect

Subscription boxes are all the rage, but California Wine Club has been around for a lot longer than that. They’re not meant to be your primary source for buying wine. The goal is to deliver quality wines once a month – sometimes quarterly – at an affordable price.

The beauty of this club is that the value comes from the time and effort they put into sourcing these wines for you and ensuring you enjoy them. These wines aren’t in your local supermarket, and often, they’re not even for sale at the winery.

My Experience

Here’s a little bit more information on how my experience went as I signed up, waited for my shipment, and then tried the wines that were handpicked for me.

Signing Up

The signup process was easy. I signed up to try the Premier Wine Club subscription. The form on the California Wine Club website asks for all of the normal shipping information, but once you select which subscription you want to try, there’s more customization.

You can select whether you want all white, all red, or one of each. I chose one of each, because I love wines of all kinds, and I will give anything a try, especially if it’s coming to my front door and I know I’ve never tried it before.

Upon reaching the checkout page, I went into a tiny bit of sticker shock at $14 shipping. I was only paying $40 for my monthly shipment, and they were charging an additional 35% in shipping!

That’s where the value of a higher-priced subscription comes in. If you’re part of the case club, you’re paying the same $14 shipping for twelve bottles instead of two. It’s a much better value and a lot less ridiculous.

My Shipment

The most fun I had was waiting for my shipment to arrive. It took way too long, but that’s only because I was excited. It took about two weeks, but you can pay for expedited shipping if you really need your wine now. No, thanks. It already cost enough.

While I was waiting, I got a phone call from my personal wine consultant. I wasn’t able to make it to the phone, so she left a message and then followed up promptly with an email to make sure I knew that I could contact her at any time.

This personal wine consultant is your personal contact for anything California Wine Club related. You can tell her your preferences and she’ll update your file, request a replacement bottle if you didn’t like what you received, or give her any sort of feedback you feel she might need to improve your experience.

My wine arrived, and because it contains alcohol, someone 21 or older has to sign for it. That means you have to be home when it arrives. The great thing is, I continued to receive updates on the shipping status of the package, so I knew when it would be here. I also work from home, so that made it easier. I’m always here!

When my wine arrived, it came in a very nondescript brown box. No California Wine Club logo on the side, no bright colors, and nothing very exciting at all. Maybe they pull out all the stops for their higher-paying members, but my box certainly didn’t get any extra attention.

There it sits, on my kitchen counter, in all its glory.

The only excitement regarding this package was the excitement I still had bubbling up inside for what might await me when I opened it. So open it, I did.

Unboxing

Here’s where the fun began. I cut off the packing tape and bent the flaps back. The first thing I saw was a paper containing the shipping contents of the box. Maybe I opened the wrong end because that’s kind of boring.

Except I didn’t. Right on the top was the shipping contents.

I moved it aside. Under that was a welcome packet.

That’s more like it.

In the welcome packet was a pamphlet called Uncorked, giving me some details of the selections that were in my box. Next to that were some welcome papers describing to me the benefits of being a California Wine Club member.

None of those things are inherently bad. In fact, I enjoyed reading about where my wines came from, who made them, and what I could expect to enjoy while drinking them. But the welcome paperwork was a waste. I ended up recycling it. All of that information can be found on their website.

When I removed the welcome packet from the box, it revealed my selections for this month.

Is it too much to ask that they package it with the labels up?

I was so excited to see what I got. I know it’s a tiny complaint, and they may have even gotten jostled in transit, so perhaps they do package them nicely before they get sent. But the reveal was a bit anticlimactic.

My Selections

I received a bottle of white and a bottle of red. They were both from the same winery, which didn’t bother me, but I wonder if it’s always like that, or if sometimes they switch it up. At any rate, I thought the labels were attractive. Once I pulled them out of the box and could actually see them, anyway.

I like Mediterranean flair.

Turns out, Myka Cellars is, in fact, a Mediterranean winery in the middle of El Dorado County, California. So now the labels make sense.

I tried white wine first. It was a Chardonnay. I don’t dislike Chardonnay, but I do think it’s typically a bit abrupt. It’s flavorful but dry, and it’s not often smooth. On rare occasions, I’ll find a Chardonnay that’s perfectly balanced and as sweet as I like it to be.

I went into this Chardonnay thinking I wouldn’t like it much. Myka Cellars proved me wrong. It was crisp, refreshing, and delightful. My husband even said, “Not bad.” That’s a compliment coming from someone who doesn’t have a taste for anything less than overly sweet.

It wasn’t nearly as acidic, tart, or dry as I thought it would be. After a couple of sips, it occurred to me that it would be delicious with potato chips. I grabbed a handful, and they hit the spot. The wine and salt tingled on my tongue and created an explosion of flavor that I was really pleased with. It was a nice afternoon snack.

Then I tried the red. It was a Pinot Noir, which I am typically a big fan of. Immediately after opening the bottle, I smelled blackberries, which made me happy, because they’re one of my favorite fruits.

The bottle recommends enjoying it with seared tuna, which, upon tasting, I agreed would be an excellent pairing. However, this particular Pinot Noir was not my favorite. It could use some oomph. That’s the only way I can describe its flavor.

It wasn’t bad, but it was relatively boring. It didn’t dance on my tongue as I wanted it to, and the flavor wasn’t very deep. It wasn’t tart or crisp, but I will say it’s the smoothest Pinot Noir I’ve ever tasted. So while I didn’t find the flavor that appealing, I did enjoy how easy it was to sip.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions people ask about the California Wine Club, in case I haven’t already covered them in my review.

What if I don’t like wine?

California Wine Club has a Love It guarantee, which means if you don’t like something they send you for any reason at all, they’ll send you another bottle of something else to replace it, for free.
If you’d prefer a refund, they’ll do that, too. You don’t even have to send your bottle back. Let someone else drink it if you don’t like it!

Which membership option is right for me?

This is largely a personal choice, based on budget and preferences. The case club is a fantastic subscription if you drink a lot of wine or you can foot the bill. However, the Premier Wine Club offers the lowest cost subscription and is relatively affordable for most people.

How do I order?

Simply to go cawineclub.com and choose the subscription level you want. It will guide you through entering all of the information it needs to get you signed up and send your first box. Shortly thereafter, your personal wine consultant will call you and welcome you to the club as well as let you know when your second box will be shipping.

How long does it take to receive your subscription?

It takes about two weeks to receive your first box. Unless you pay for expedited shipping, they claim it takes 8-10 business days to receive your order, and that was about right for me.

Can I choose the type of wine I get?

Unfortunately, no. You can’t choose the type of wine that gets sent to you. You can choose whether you want all white, all red, or a mix of both, but you cannot choose the variety. That’s the whole point of the club. They’ll choose high-quality artisan wines for you and then you can provide feedback about what you like and what you don’t.

California Wine Club Pros: What I Like

  • You get a great selection of high-quality wines from small wineries in California, Oregon, Washington, and overseas.
  • You can choose from multiple membership options to find the perfect one for you.
  • It makes a great gift.
  • Online tools provide recipes, help you understand your wine, and allow you to create favorites.
  • You can cancel at any time by contacting them. No questions asked. No extra cost.
  • If you like wine and want to reorder it, you get 50% off the retail price as a member.
  • Shipping on reorders of cases and half cases are only $1.
  • You can choose monthly, every other month, or quarterly shipping frequencies.
  • Your personal wine consultant can answer your questions and help you solve problems with your subscription.
  • This small family-owned company puts extra time and effort into each membership.

California Wine Club Cons: What I Don’t Like

  • Deliveries require a signature, which is typical of alcohol subscription services.
  • Many wines aren’t available at the store so you have to reorder through the club or directly through the manufacturer.
  • All subscriptions continue automatically until you cancel.
  • The selection of wines is limited.

Alternatives to California Wine Club

There are a lot of other wine subscription services out there. Martha Stewart Wine Club, Vinebox, Cellars Wine Club, Napacabs, Gold Medal Wine Club, Winc (formerly Club W), and Splash Wines just to name a few.

Each has its own set of pros and cons that you need to evaluate before subscribing. Some charge extra for shipping and some don’t. You can even get package deals from food subscription services like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh.

Martha Stewart Wine Club

Martha Stewart Wine Club charges the same monthly subscription cost as California Wine Club, but you get six bottles instead of two. However, you don’t get the same personalized service.

Shipping with Martha Stewart Wine Club is comparable to California Wine Club, but it’s a little easier to stomach because you get so many more bottles. There has been a lot of research done on the wine that Martha Stewart’s club offers, and it’s not all favorable, but you can find out more about that in my review here.

Vinebox

Vinebox is a little bit different. You can taste your wines before you buy a bottle. The wines come in a small box containing nine vials of wine samples. Pick what you like and order more, or request more samples based on the feedback you provide from your current shipment.

Vinebox is quite a bit more pricey. You save more the more often you order, but of course, the more often you order, the more you spend on a monthly basis. The idea is unique, though, and quite a bit different than other wine subscription services.

Winc

What used to be called Club W, Winc offers four bottles for about $40, which isn’t a bad price. It’s a bit less than California Wine Club and a bit more per bottle than Martha Stewart, but the great thing here is that shipping is free.

Winc tries to find out a little bit more about you before selecting your wines, which is more than a lot of other wine subscriptions do. They make you take a quiz before ordering so they can pick wines based on what you like and what you don’t.

My Recommendation

 

There are some things about the California Wine Club I enjoyed, like the Uncorked brochure and the wine consultant. But there were some things I didn’t, like the shipping prices and the higher monthly cost for only two bottles.

They do strive to provide artisan wines you can’t find anywhere else, which is a great thing if you’re adventurous or really like the idea that you’re getting exclusive access to great wines. It’s not a great thing if you’re looking for an affordable wine club.

I think the value really comes into play when you order at the higher price points because you’re clearly looking for something very exclusive and can afford to indulge. For the average wine consumer, it’s not the best deal I’ve found.

To be fair, they offer a Love It guarantee, so if you don’t like the wine, they’ll replace it with a bottle of something else for free. You could get your money’s worth there, I suppose, but I tend not to be a complainer or someone who takes advantage of getting things for free just because I can.

I also found it very difficult to transact much online after I became a member. If I wanted to pause my shipments because I was going on vacation, I had to email or call during normal business hours and speak with someone. I couldn’t do it via my account online.

Membership gives you exclusive access to wines and you can always order and upgrade via your online account, but it felt like the dark ages when I wanted to do anything other than spend more money.

The same goes for cancelling your membership. You have to speak to someone. You can’t simply log into your online account and discontinue service. It just doesn’t feel very convenient, to be honest.

Having never tried a wine club before and having nothing to compare it to, this is my raw, honest opinion of California Wine Club. I did a lot of research before I decided to try this one, and I honestly thought it would be my best choice for a great first experience.

Unfortunately, I think I might have been better off with one of the other subscription boxes. Because California Wine Club was around before the subscription box craze, they have some antiquated practices that need updating.

I think a lot of other subscription services offer an experience that’s more unique, tailored to your tastes, or features special touches that make you feel valued. For instance, my experience with a clothing subscription has been that they put more effort into understanding my needs and preferences and then learn to adapt my box as we go.

California Wine Club could be a great service with some adjustments to pricing and ease of online use, especially if they put some of these principles into practice.

Image Credits

All screenshots and images taken by author September 2019.

Justin Caldwell

Justin likes to think he has a sophisticated palette, so he enjoys everything from sweet white to hearty red. His personal favorite is Fireside Winery's Glow, but he's open to trying anything at least once. His house is always full of wine, because his wife likes it even more than he does, and together, they share their affinity for the finer things in life.

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