Last weekend, I was invited on a tasting trip that explored Santa Barbara’s wine country. I thought it would be your standard wine-tasting trip, with visits to state-of-the-art wineries and luxurious tasting rooms overlooking pristine vineyard-lined hills. However, I was surprised when we arrived at our first stop.
We were in the middle of a sun-drenched vineyard beside a tractor, no wine-making facility or fancy tasting room in sight. The hosts, who happened to be three charming and attractive men, pulled out plastic Govino glasses with Club W stamped on the side, popped open a bottle of bubbles labeled with a loud Warhol-inspired design, and started pouring.
One of the men, winemaker and sommelier Brian Smith, began to talk about the wine club he and his partners, Geoff McFarlane and Xander Oxman, founded in 2012. Unlike the traditional wine club, which is winery specific, Smith and Oxman set out to create a club for the young, hip, technology-driven consumer. Club W is a unpretentious app-based wine club that sends subscribers three bottles of wine per month based on their tastes and purchasing histories. After building a massive following of more than 80,000 subscribers, Smith and Oxman realized that in order to meet the demands of their market, they would have start making their own wine.
The Pinot Noir grapes growing in the sandy soil we were standing in were part of a block owned by Club W. A hundred more blocks of vines, located all over the world in regions like Portugal and Australia, are also property of Club W. Under their newly created winery, WinC, the club has started producing countless varietals for thie club and other outlets. Essentially, they are a winery without a specific winery. As I was sipping the next pour, a refreshing dry rosé from France, I couldn’t help but wonder: Is this the future of wine? A universal winery with winemakers producing interesting bottles from around the world, all sold virtually? Only time will tell.
While enjoying wine, be sure to use the proper stemware.
Would you join a wine club that allows you to pick and choose unusual wine from around the world?