Thursday, April 19 , 2018, 9:31 am | Fair 55º


Tara Jones: Rating the Best Local Santa Barbara Wine Clubs

When it comes to prices, perks and splurges, what are your best bets for membership privileges?

Summerland Winery offers a spacious tasting room with high back bar stools and boutique-type items for sale in every nook and cranny. (Tara Jones photo / Eat This, Shoot That!)
Summerland Winery offers a spacious tasting room with high back bar stools and boutique-type items for sale in every nook and cranny. (Tara Jones photo / Eat This, Shoot That!)

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There are two types of decision-makers in this world.

There are those who make decisions right on the spot and never look back. They seize the day with smiles on their faces and don’t know what they’re missing, because they’re too busy enjoying what they have.

Then there are the other kind. The kind who will deliberate a decision to death, only to vacillate between total confidence and a nervous breakdown after the decision has been made. I am the latter.

It once took me two years to purchase my first digital camera, because after painstakingly researching my options for months, I argued with myself about why I should or shouldn’t purchase said camera.

I half expected the grail knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade to show up on my doorstep after I finally made my decision to croak out, “You chose poorly.”

If it weren’t for my friend, identifying with the former description, who pushed me into buying that camera, I probably would have given up being a photographer and gone back to studying medicine, my first college major.

One can only imagine trying to get a diagnosis from this great deliberator.

These days I’ve put my insatiable need to research every purchase to good use and got to the bottom of Santa Barbara’s wine clubs, featuring local wineries.

Using my “gift” of list making, color-coding and hyper organization, I left no stone unturned in search of the very best prices, perks and splurges available.

Best Price: Summerland Winery, 2330 Lillie Ave., Summerland
Runner-up: Riverbench Vineyard & Winery, 137 Anacapa St., Suite C, Santa Barbara

With prices starting at $45 per two-bottle installment, six times per year, one can hardly afford not to join this club!

Known for its pinot noir, Summerland Winery produces very approachable wines great for drinking alone or pairing with a charcuterie spread.

If taste buds could have memories, mine were whisked away to childhood road trips through the Mendocino Redwoods with the 2012 Trio Rhone Blend. A new favorite for this wine snob, this blend has a strong strawberry bouquet on the nose and a unique cedar finish.

Enjoy discounts on newly released wines and complimentary tastings for you and three friends on the sunny front porch of the Summerland Winery tasting room or cozy up inside with the friendly staff.

Best Perks: Carr Vineyards & Winery, 414 N. Salsipuedes St., Santa Barbara
Runner-up: Pali Wine Co., 116 E. Yanonali St., Santa Barbara

If Carr Vineyards & Winery's unblended Cabernet Franc — which pairs perfectly with Mexican food — isn’t enough to get you in the door, let the option of hosting a party in the ultra cool, dog-friendly quonset hut-cum-tasting room make the final decision for you.

Memberships start at $60 per installment, six times per year, where you and a guest will enjoy complimentary tastings during any visit, a 20 percent discount on all purchases and private parties hosted in Carr's tasting room, access to limited production wines, and an invitation to the “members-only” winemaker dinner.

Not to mention, Carr's awesome offering of wine growlers that can be refilled with any of the four wines on tap.

Still want more? Just sweet talk your friends into joining and receive a free bottle of wine for every person you sucker, er, bring to the club.

Best Splurge: Grassini Family Vineyards & Winery, 813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara
Runner-up: Margerum Wine Co., 813 Anacapa St., Santa Barbara

Established in 2002 with its first vintage released in 2006, the Grassini family may be new to the world of wine, but you wouldn’t know it from their complex wines that taste like an older vintage.

One nip of the 2011 Articondo Bordeaux Blend, with hints of cigar and leather on the finish, and you’ll swear the grapes were grown for centuries around a bocce court full of old Italian men.

And the 2010 Estate Sauvignon Blanc Reserve, with its deliciously buttery quality, made this writer go weak in the knees at first sip.

Basic club membership includes a four-bottle shipment, three times per year, with complimentary tastings for four at $200 per installment. Also included in membership is a 5 percent discount on additional wine purchases, discounts/complimentary tickets to special events, and exclusive access to library wines.

Now is the time to start your New Year right. So, get together, join the club, and let the good wine flow!

Tara Jones leads Eat This, Shoot That! and welcomes reader tips and ideas for future columns. She can be reached at [email protected]. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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