Fort Mill Times

Wine time: Enjoy the benefits of a wine club

By Jim and Marie Oskins

There’s a popular saying among winery owners: “If you want to make a small fortune in the winery business, start with a large fortune.”

While it’s a tough business to make a profit in, there are a lot of people who try. Currently. there are more than 9,000 wineries in the U.S. and one in every state. California has the most with about 4,000, followed by Washington and Oregon with 704 and 632, respectively. North Carolina has 128, and South Carolina 12.

There are some large wineries such as Gallo and corporate groups such as Constellation that control large shares of the market and have marketing clout. Most of the wineries, however, are small and individually owned. For the independent winemakers, they have to use every opportunity available to sell their wine.

It’s legal to ship wine in the U.S., which is why every winery you can walk into and buy wine will have a wine club. If a winery wants to sell their wines through retail outlets then they have to use a distributor. This added middleman increases the cost of the wine to the consumer.

There are good reasons to join wine clubs. You’ll get a discount on your wine. Small wineries often sell out of their premium wines quickly. It always goes to wine club members first. Sometimes the only way to get some “cult” wines is to be a member of the club. You’ll also be invited to their parties and club events. Each club has its own personality.

We’re members of a number of wine clubs. Here are three we recommend. Of course, it’s best if you can visit a winery and try their wines before joining their club. Remember, if a club no longer suits your need, you can drop out.

▪ Lula Cellars – – 707-895-3737. This is a small and personable winery in the beautiful Anderson Valley of Mendocino. The winery is named after the maternal grandmother of winemaker Jeff Hauser, founder of the winery. This area provides unique growing conditions that contribute complex flavors to the ultra premium Pinot Noir, Gewürztraminer, Zinfandel and other wines they produce. Wine club members enjoy much flexibility with wine orders.

▪ Stryker Sonoma – strykersonoma – 800-433-1944. Situated in the Sonoma Alexander Valley, the tasting room is one of the most beautiful you’ll ever visit. Winemaker Tim Hardin produces small amounts of world class Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay and other varieties. Their philosophy is to “embrace life and to share their love of living.” Their wines certainly help to do that.

▪ Tobin James Cellars – – 805-239-2204. Located at an old stagecoach stop in Paso Robles, this is the most unique and successful wine club we know with about 21,000 members. Winemakers Tobin “Tobie” James and Lance Silver produce an array of big, bold, award-winning wines at discount prices to club members. Every shipment arrives with a special gift. They also have three guest room accommodations at the winery, free to club members with wine purchase.

Dan Reed, the friendly tasting room manager at Lula Cellars, gave us this enticing recipe.

Jim and Marie Oskins live in the Lake Wylie area. They can be reached at

Roasted Rack of Lamb with Madeira Sauce

2 racks of lamb, trimmed

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1/4 cup fresh thyme, chopped

3 Tbs. unsalted butter

2 shallots, chopped

1 and 1/4 cup Madeira wine

1 Tbs. green peppercorns, drained

1 Tbs. Olive oil

Zest from two lemons

In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, parsley, thyme and lemon zest. Place the lamb racks on a baking sheet, season with salt and pepper, and coat it with the herb mixture. Roast the lamb in a preheated oven at 400 degrees until the internal temperature is 130 degrees, about 25 minutes. Remove it and let it rest for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, melt 1 Tbs. butter and 1 Tbs. olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender, about 3 minute. Add the wine and peppercorns, and boil uncovered until mixture is reduced to 1 cup, about 10 minutes. Whisk in the remaining butter, salt and pepper to taste. Cut the rested lamb into chops. Serve with the Madeira sauce. Serves 4.