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Wine clubs — the gift that keeps on giving

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I get a fair bit of PR-type emails (and the occasional bit of snail mail) from wineries and wine associations, much of which I read with passing interest before deleting. But last week I got an email from Nova Scotia's Benjamin Bridge winery that piqued my interest, in that it was sent to me and tailored to the Manitoba market.

With changes to the laws regarding the interprovincial shipping of wine in this country, Manitobans are now able to order direct from their favourite Canadian winery (provided they'll ship to our province) and have the wine show up on their doorstep. Like Manitoba, B.C. and Alberta, Nova Scotia recently began allowing wineries from other provinces to ship directly to consumers, and Benjamin Bridge has seized the opportunity to nurture new relationships with Manitobans in offering access to BB Club (link to membership form PDF).

First, a bit about the winery: Benjamin Bridge is located in Nova Scotia's picturesque Gaspereau Valley, and produces some of Canada's best, most-sought-after sparkling wines in very limited quantities. I had a chance to visit the winery when the Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards were held in Halifax last year, and I can certainly attest to the fact they're making some of the best wine I've tasted — sparkling or otherwise — made in this country.

BB Club offers members the chance to order small-lot wines directly from the winery — wines that won't ever be sold at the retail level or even at the winery's cellar door/wine shop. Their inaugural trio of wines being offered for $130 (plus taxes and shipping) include the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc (a still [i.e. non-sparkling] white), the 2011 Nova 7 (a semi-sweet fizzy wine that's sort of akin to a Moscato d'Asti, their biggest seller and sold out in Nova Scotia) and the 2005 Methode Classique Brut Nature (one of their iconic sparkling wines). Their plan is to do quarterly releases, with prices for the three-lot shipments ranging from $125 to $195 (plus taxes and shipping).

As they make wines in really small quantities and since they're offering exclusive wines, they've limited the BB Club to 150 total members across the country. If you have a wine lover in your life and haven't yet bought them a gift this holiday season, this would be a great option — and they say anyone that joins the BB Club by Wednesday, Dec. 12, should receive their wine before Christmas. There's no fee to join and you can opt out of the club at any time with no penalty, so if it's something you're interested in, I'd urge you to jump at this rare chance to taste some of Canada's best bubbly. (I'll try and post a review of one of the offerings in this space in the near future.)

Now, Benjamin Bridge isn't the only winery offering club memberships to Manitobans. Another press package I received (by snail mail this time) was from B.C.'s Naramata Bench wineries. It turns out many of the wineries from this region in B.C.'s Okanagan Valley have a similar option for us thirsty 'Tobans. Your best bet is to visit the Naramata Bench Wineries website, have a look around at the wineries in the area and see what type of clubs each winery has to offer.

Narmata Bench wineries include some of my favourite Canadian producers like Poplar Grove (not otherwise in the province, to my knowledge), Township 7 (limited availabilty in Manitoba), Perseus (n/a in MB) and more. If you'd rather roll the dice than commit to one winery, the Naramata Bench Wineries website also offers a wine club that offers a case (12 bottles) of mixed Naramata wineries twice a year. 

Don't think Ontario's not getting on this game either. While I haven't had any specific wine club info land in my inbox/mailbox, a quick random visit to a few Ontario winery websites (SandbanksReifWayne Gretzky Estates Wines [which looks to have some nice hockey-and-wine gift sets]) indicates many producers are open for business with Manitoba.

If there are other Canadian wineries that interest you, it's certainly worth poking around to see if they offer similar wine clubs that will ship direct to Manitoba. If you move fast enough, you just might be able to get them shipped in time for the holidays.

Questions? As always:

uncorked@mts.net
Twitter: @bensigurdson 

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About Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson

When he wasn't bashing on a drum kit in local punk rock bands, Ben spent the mid '90s hucking cases of wine around to pay for two English degrees. Now he's the Winnipeg Free Press wine columnist and blogger.

The extent of Ben's wine experience in the mid-90s was memories of accidentally leaving a bottle of White Zinfandel in the freezer overnight, and the ensuing mess he was left with. Between 1996 and 2005 Ben absorbed all he could about wine while working at wine shops to pay for school. Meanwhile, he was churning out papers for his BA and MA in English (from the Universities of Winnipeg and Manitoba, respectively).

Ben became the Winnipeg Free Press' weekly wine columnist in 2005, and two years later joined Wine Access magazine as a contributor, a member of their national tasting panel and a judge at the Canadian Wine Awards and International Value Wine Awards until the magazine closed up shop in 2013.

In 2013 Ben joined the Winnipeg Free Press as a copy/web editor.

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