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Membership has its privileges

Wine clubs provide grape lovers with what they want

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Actor Dan Aykroyd has one and so do Madonna and the Rolling Stones. Kiss and Barbara Streisand have also set up theirs.

These celebrities all produce wine. They have also created wine clubs as a sales vehicle.

The basic premise of the wine club is simple. Club members agree to pay a certain amount of money on a regular basis to the club and in return the club administrators send the club members wine on a set schedule.

Kiss, Madonna, the Stones and Streisand are all working with a company called Celebrity Cellars. The club has a web site along with offices in Sonoma County and Los Angeles. For $59.50 a month the club members get wine from their favourite celebrity each month.

Celebrity Cellars boasts what it calls award winning wines that are "quality crafted" then put into premium-etched bottles.

Many Okanagan wine makers offer their wines through clubs, which are usually made up of people who have an affinity for a certain wine maker. Well-established companies like Mission Hill have clubs, as do smaller operations like Young & Wyse in Osoyoos or the Tinhorn Creek Vineyards, which has dubbed its group the Crush Club.

Jackson-Triggs has partnered with Inniskillin, See Ya Later Ranch and Sumac Ridge in a group called the Great Estates of Okanagan Wine Club.

The Best of the Bench Wine Club features wines from the Naramata Bench. Twice a year, wine from 12 participating wineries is delivered direct to the doors of club members.

The Whistler Wine Club is a whole different scenario. Michael Kompass, the creator of the club, says it is a club for anyone in Whistler who is interested in wine and wine culture.

The sommelier created the club in 2001 and after 13 years he says the club roster has about 180 names with 40 to 60 attending monthly club events.

Kompass says he created the club to build the wine culture in the resort.

"It's very social, it's very interactive," says Kompass. "We work the wines one at a time with discussion. We talk about food and wine. It's very fun. We don't want it to be a lecturing thing. We want it to be fun and involved and engaging."

With all the wine out there in the world and the number of vineyards growing Kompass points out that a club like the one in Whistler is a great way to discover new wines in an affordable way.

The club members simply get an email message announcing each event and the members are asked to respond if they plan to attend. There's no membership fee. Each gathering has an entry fee to cover costs associated with the club event.

The next event will be themed around French country wines, says Kompass. He expects to hold it in the third week of April.

Joining the Whistler club is simply done by sending a note indicating a desire to be a club member to info@blackcombliquorstore.com.

Wine producers like Dan Aykroyd, Canadian golfer Mike Weir or people like Mick Jagger, Paul Stanley and Babs aren't part of the club in Whistler, but the wine with their names attached just might be featured at an event in the future.

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