North-Forks recently met with Dana Kowalsick, the multi-talented Wine Club Manager for Lieb Cellars. We say multi-talented because in addition to running a fantastic wine club, Dana is also half of the operatic Belle Voce.
We thank her for taking the time to speak with us and encourage you to check out Lieb at any of their locations: the Oregon Road tasting room and the Premium Wine Group. Taste some wines and see some of the amazing things they are doing: in addition to bottles, they also offer their wine in boxes and kegs, and they also make a hard cider.
Ask for Dana when you decide to join their exclusive club, and tell her North-Forks sent you.
What is the annual commitment required for your wine club? What are we buying and what are we spending?
Lieb wine club has two tiers. Both receive quarterly shipments or pickups. The less expensive tier is Crush Club. They receive four to six bottles priced between $75 and $100 per shipment. The top tier is Vintage Club. They receive between ten and twelve bottles of wine at $175-200 per shipment. Each release can be a mix of new and library wines. Russell Hearn, the winemaker, and one of the managers pick the wines for each shipment so it can be a diverse and often interesting mix. To break that down even further, the Crush Club receives a 15% discount on all wine purchases and two complementary glasses or tasting flights at every visit. Vintage club is 20% and four complementary tastings or glasses per visit. We have over 450 members.
What are the perks and benefits of membership?
We are constantly working on adding events and changing them from year-to-year so nothing gets stale. For instance, we have two annual wine-club exclusive events. Both are complementary to members. One is a barrel tasting in the spring or early summer. The members join Russell at Premium Wine Group, so they get to meet Russell if they don’t already know him, and we go taste through the current vintage, still in the barrel, and paired with cheese. They have the opportunity to ask Russell questions about his winemaking. We also offer futures that day so members have the opportunity, at a higher discount than their standard discount, to purchase full cases of that wine. They’ll be the first to get it once we bottle it. The second event takes place in the winter. It’s a library wine event; this year was the first time we did this one. It’s at the estate. We want members to feel special so we’re inviting them into our house. We picked out a few library wines that we want to pour for the club. Russell was there to talk about the wines and answer questions. We have passed hors d’oeuvre and members had an opportunity to purchase the library wines. These are the two major member-only events. If you’re not a wine club member, you won’t have access to those wines. They each present a really unique experience to learn about the winemaking process and meet the winemaker, and see the winery they’re a part of. We also do pickup parties for members who choose to pick up their wine. The next is from 4 to 7pm on March 15th. We close to the public so it’s all about the members. We ask them to RSVP and we provide table service. We seat them in a reserved spot in the tasting room and then they don’t have to do a thing. We bring complementary cheese boards, and one of the staff members will bring them wine. We’re treating them as though they’re at a wine bar or a restaurant. We want them to have a nicer experience and feel appreciated. There’s also live music. This year we also started offering private tastings in the library room in the back, so wine club members can choose from three types of tastings. Members can book the library room twice a year for up to 12 people. They get the room, one of our staff members pouring and educating their guests about the wines and taking them through the tasting.
What do you do for member that you don’t do for regular guests at your many events?
Wine club members receive a discounted ticket price, which we make available to them before releasing to the public. It depends on the event, but if we have a box launch party for example, they receive a bigger discount. We make sure we can accommodate them.
What do your wine clubs members do to contribute to the winery?
They keep coming back. We strive to create a great relationship with them. Even my father’s a wine club member. They love visiting and coming in frequently. We’re all on a first name basis, and they bring their friends who often wind up as members. They support us through the winter. They hang out when no one else is around because we’ve created a type of home for them to enjoy. They promote us. Some of them are social media savvy and it’s really fun to see them shout out about coming out to us, or if they buy a bottle of wine to bring to a friend’s house, they’ll tag us in the picture, and that creates more brand recognition which is really nice. We have a lot of fun.
What would you like to tell people about your wine club?
I think it goes even further than a club because we’re a family. We have a good group of people working at Lieb, so I would say that if you join our wine club you’re going to become a part of the Lieb family and we’re a lot of fun to be around. We treat you like friends or family and want to make sure that you’re always going to leave with a smile on your face and wine to enjoy. I think it’s all about the relationship they’ll build by becoming members, and getting to know Russ, the wine maker, is one of the perks. I think it’s important to meet the man behind the wine. Also, because our wine club shipments are so diverse, new releases and library wines, they may be exposed to wines that you may not have been open to before.
What should someone consider before signing up?
There’s always something new around the corner, always a new release or Alicia, the tasting room manager and myself are coming up with a new event. We keep everyone on their toes. We don’t want Lieb to be known for one thing. We want to continue to create a new experience for all the people who support us, whether they are wine club members or our regulars who come every week for things like our Friday night concert series. By joining they’re going to have structure of quarterly shipments but the events are new and different. We try to keep whatever we’re doing, whether it’s here, at Premium Wine Group, in the Hamptons, or the City available to our members so they can support us even off site. They should just know that we’re going to be continually grateful that they joined our club and we’re going to strive to ensure they keep having a great experience.
What can members expect in the coming season, year?
We’re incorporating wine dinners at the house. We had one in January with Chef Noah. We’re working on coordinating another one with him soon. We are planning to make that a regular thing in the winter with different chefs coming in and preparing courses. We’re also – and this isn’t finalized yet – working on a member’s-only clambake in July. The last thing we fought for in our production meeting, when we were discussing what wines we were going to produce next year, was to produce a Petit Verdot, exclusively for wine club. It is going to be a small production, only about 60 cases.
What is the overall experience you want your members to have, expect?
I want them to always expect a smile when they walk through the door from team Lieb. We are always happy to see them so I hope they’re always happy to see us. I want them to know that they’re always welcome to come and to ask us anything or to give us any kind of advice. Their suggestions are always helpful. We added structure and tweaked the club based on member suggestions we’ve received. We try to accommodate as best we can and as long as they know we appreciate them, that that’s all that matters.