Wine connoisseur? Or, like the rest of us, are you more than a little intimidated by bottle shopping? Here’s our breakdown of wine clubs around town with a little something for everyone.
3023 W. Diversey Ave., Logan Square
Ideal for: The easygoing neophyte
The goods: Small-batch natural wines. Don’t sweat it if you don’t know what that means — owners Bradford Taylor, Mac Parsons, and Ann-Marie Meiers care about making exciting wines accessible to everyone. Each month’s selections come with a fetching pamphlet in which staff members introduce producers and explain why they love their wines in personable, punchy paragraphs. There’s usually something non–wine-related, too, like a recipe, drawing, playlist, or, most recently, a William Blake poem.
“A lot of wine clubs can be overly educational,” Parsons says. “People can say to customers, Come to me, I’ll teach you everything. That’s just bullshit, because you don’t know everything. Oftentimes we’ll buy a wine we’ve never tasted. We like our staff to learn with the customers because what individual wines are are less important than their greater message.”
Recent picks have included a “glou-glou” Gamay from the Loire Valley; a dark Petite Sirah from an OG California producer; and a funky blend of Syrah, Merlot, and Gamay from France that is, in Taylor’s words, “No bullshit — you could drink it with turkey.”
The deal: $50 a month for a pair of wines
Perks: Free tastings for you and a pal on pickup days, plus 10 percent off all in-store purchases
Perman Wine Selections
1167 N. Howe St., Near North Side
Ideal for: The no-nonsense enthusiast
The goods: Quality wines for everyday drinking, mostly from Western Europe. One month might see your shelf loaded with all-Portuguese offerings; another might deliver a diverse range of French and Spanish picks. The club also likes to think seasonally. Expect more whites and dry rosés in the summer, while a winter box might bring you a red-heavy collection. Among your December options: an Auxerrois varietal from Alsace with aromatics of ripe pear and red apple; a ruby red California Gamay noir; and a barrel-fermented white wine from Portugal with aromas of stone fruit and citrus peel.
Perman’s is also great for those who aren’t seeking out the social aspect of a club. Simply drop in to pick up your reserve or have it delivered through Postmates. Either way, owner Craig Perman makes sure your package comes with thoughtfully written descriptions and tasting notes.
“A lot of people don’t really want to engage when they come in,” he says. “We want people to have a mini-education every time they take home a bottle.”
The deal: Choose from two monthly plans: six $15-or-less bottles ($89) or six $30-or-less bottles ($156)
Perks: None. “We offer the best prices we can,” Perman says. “I know the prices of all the wines through Chicago and the United States. What customers are getting is my expertise as a person in this business for over 20 years.”
All Together Now
2119 W. Chicago Ave., West Town
Ideal for: The fun-loving devotee
The goods: A real grab bag of vino — many by female-led wineries — that balances tasty flavor, cool backstories, and dynamic design.
“We try and keep everything very fun and approachable,” says co-owner Erin Weber. “We often say the wines are serious but we are not.”
The community is worth joining even if you’re a regular of the all-day cafe: Look forward to getting first crack at new releases and exclusive, members-only options. Previously, these have ranged from an Illinois Sparkling Co. pét-nat that flew off the cafe’s shelves to a Gewürztraminer from Oregon producer Fossil & Fawn that was kept in contact with grape skins for 236 days.
“[That’s] an absurdly long time to spend on the skin,” says Weber. “It smells and tastes like an orange.”
The deal: Two bottles a month, in intervals of three or six months. Choose from three tiers: Acoustic, for wines you could reach for every day ($150 or $290); Electric, for slightly more eccentric picks ($250 or $485); or the Dylan ’65 ($400 or $775), the best of both worlds.
Perks: Monthly pickup shindigs where you and a guest can taste wines designated for different tiers. Plus, you get a 10 percent discount off retail purchases and all café corkage fees waived.
Honey Butter Fried Chicken X Vinejoy
3361 N. Elston Ave., Avondale
Ideal for: The aspiring cognoscente
The goods: Rare wines from California’s central coast, produced exclusively for the club. The subscription service is a new component of Honey Butter Fried Chicken’s Sunday Dinner Club, a series of intimate dinner parties its team has hosted for years. For this boozy society, the dinner club is working with Steve Sullivan of local wine company Vinejoy, which has developed personal relationships with winemakers. Club members can look forward to ultra-special barrels that aren’t available anywhere else.
“One of the appeals about our wine club is you’re committing to a membership,” says Honey Butter cofounder and chef Christine Cikowski. “Members are coming along on the journey with us and can get used to the winemakers.”
Expect to get well-acquainted with producers like Graham Tatomer — who provided a stellar, nicely acidic Riesling for the club’s inaugural release — and Angela Osborne, who produced a complex but very drinkable whole-cluster Grenache. Because of Vinejoy’s close connections, those who sign on get to collect super-special wines at exceptional values; according to Cikowski, some selections would likely go for $100 a bottle at a retail store.
The deal: $240 for six wines every six months or $480 for 12 bottles (two of six wines) every six months.
Perks: Pickups (April and October) coincide with tasting and food pairing events, produced in collaboration with Honey Butter’s chefs