Updated: Nov 16, 2019
If you live near a wine region or are traveling to one, it may make sense to purchase a local membership wine pass. A wine pass – sometimes called a wine passport – enables you to take advantage of discounts and other offers at local wineries, such as two for one tastings, waived tasting fees if you buy a bottle, or a bonus pour.
You can easily recoup the cost of the pass with the benefits it provides. A wine pass may also introduce you to a great winery you had not heard of or a type of wine you haven’t had.
But there are ways to get the most use out of a wine pass. Below are some of our recommendations to keep in mind about using a membership wine pass.
Check what the wine pass includes before buying it. Are there many wineries participating? Are they ones you are interested in visiting? It’s a good idea to consider whether the pass will be useful to you. If not, it may not be worth it to invest in the wine pass.
Try to buy the wine pass on sale. Wine passes are periodically offered at a discount, such as mid-year or at renewal time, so check the wine pass website. Wine passes are also regularly offered at a reduced price on websites such as Travel Zoo or Groupon. Buying a wine pass itself at a discount is an even sweeter deal!
Keep an eye out for special wine pass events. Sometimes wineries band together to offer a promotion. For instance, several of the wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, like Chateau des Charmes and Jackson-Triggs Winery, are currently participating in a Winemakers’ Selection Tasting Pass. One easy way to find some of these of offers is localwineevents.com, which lists not only wine and food events but also other resources, such as ticket deals.
Be strategic about using the wine pass. For instance, if you’re planning on buying wine at a discount with your wine pass, go to that winery last so the wine doesn’t overheat in the car. If a wine pass offer provides a free bottle with two tastings, that may be a good winery to bring a picnic.
Assume that only new, unknown, or nondescript wineries participate. A growing number of award-winning or well-established wineries are part of their region’s wine pass. This includes Virginia Wine Pass member Michael Shaps Wineworks in Charlottesville Virginia, whose wine is offered in many fine restaurants. Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville, Kendall Jackson Wine Estate and Gardens in Fulton, and Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville are just a few of the famous wineries on the Sonoma Passport.
Be afraid to reach out to wineries and ask if they are a member of the wine pass. Wine pass programs are continually signing up new winery members. It never hurts to ask, either before or during your visit to a winery. If it’s not a member, no harm no foul. But if it is, you can get some pretty good discounts!
Think that your wine pass is limited to wine offers. Some wine passes include cideries, distilleries, or wine-related vendors, such as limousine services. Check the wine pass website for updates.
Forget the wine pass at home! A wine pass is no help to you if it doesn’t make it to the winery. Make sure to remember to bring the wine pass, or else you won’t be able to benefit from the deals.
It pays to be prepared. Now I keep my wine pass in my wallet.
Have any other advice regarding using a wine pass? Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Always feel free to reach out to us with any questions or feedback.
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