Wine Club of The Month is an ongoing series of interviews with wine club managers to discuss the privileges of membership.
As Long Island wineries go, Sparkling Pointe differentiated themselves from the rest from the start. They only produce sparkling wines, and they are all made in the méthode champenoise. Technically, only sparkling wine grown and bottled in the Champagne region of France can be called Champagne, so the term is used only when the same methods required by law in that region are used. This involves fermenting the grape juice to wine and then bottling it with additional yeast before allowing it to go through a second fermentation. It’s a time and labor intensive process that many argue creates additional flavors and finer bubbles that cannot be duplicated by other methods. Wines produced with this method often take several years before they are ready for the public.
The winery at Sparkling Pointe is beautiful. Everywhere you look you will find details evocative of the bubbles in their wine. A large, bright tasting room leads out to a back terrace with outdoor seating. Off to the side of the tasting room is the Bubble Room, a smaller tasting room, featuring elegant seating arrangements including a set of couches beside the fireplace.
North-Forks recently spent some time speaking with Cassandra Santoro, the Wine Club and Private Event Manager for Sparkling Pointe in Southold. We asked her some questions about the wine club.
What is the annual commitment your wine club members can expect? What are they buying and what are they spending?
We release to wine club three times a year, four bottles each time. The cost varies depending upon which wines are included and whether the member is picking up or we are shipping. If we’re shipping the cost can vary between $110 and under $200. If we have the Brut Seduction coming out you definitely want to include that, and that increases the cost, but maybe we have the Carnival Rose or the Carnival Rouge, which are less, so the price-point depends on what’s included. If they’re picking up, wine club members can always customize. Some people want four bottles of the same wine, especially since there are wines only available to members, like the Topaz Imperial, but as an average they’re staying in the same price range. By picking up a shipment, members also get the ability to taste all the wines to help them decide. Members also get a bigger discount if they buy cases during shipment time. The discount goes from 15% to 25% so some members make it a point to take advantage of that as well.
What are the benefits of membership?
You get the ability to celebrate everyday with bubbly! They get twelve tasting coupons per year. And they get exclusivity to the Topaz and other wines that are limited in the tasting house and they also get invitations to special events like the harvest lunch. We did not open that event to the public until the wine club had their chance and we only sold two non-wine club tickets to that event.
How often do you have member only events? Describe one.
The big one we have every year is the post-holiday party. We decided that because everyone is so busy in December that we’d rather celebrate when people’s lives are a little calmer. That party is members only. We try to make as many events as we can, but because these events help illustrate membership benefits to non-members, only the holiday party is truly exclusive to members. The others events are always members first, but if there’s extra seating we extend the invitation to everyone. The holiday party is growing. It used to be just passed hors d’oeuvres in the Bubble Lounge with music and wine. Last year it grew into a mini-concert with buffet food. This year we’ve been talking about a dinner dance. The more our club grows the bigger the event.
What do you do for members that you don’t do for regular guests?
There’s the holiday party that is exclusively for members. We have our Topaz Imperial which is a club exclusive wine. Generally we try to be fair. We make it a point to get to know our members. If we see members on a regular day, we might sit with them; sometimes Michael, the GM, will share a glass of wine with them. We’ll make sure they have a taste of whatever just came out. Most members know what they want, they come and they buy a bottle and some food to enjoy and we’ll suggest, hey you’ve got to taste this, it’s brand new. That one-on-one interaction is a big part of the being a member of the club.
What would you say is special about your wine club?
We’re up to almost 600 members and we don’t want the experience to revolve around just picking up the next shipment. We want you to come in, taste the wines in the shipment, decide if you want the shipment as is or if you want to customize it. Then you’re welcome to sit, bring your family and friends, and enjoy. Going back to that one-on-one, Tom and Cynthia, the owners, are very involved with the winery and the club. They know people by first name and make it a point to speak with people they see. I think our team always makes members feel a little more special. We don’t let the fact that our club is growing stand in the way of making our members feel special, and that’s what makes us stand out.
How do your wine club members contribute back to the winery?
I’m always learning from them because it’s really great to have people who know and drink the wines. They are our number one fans and supporters throughout the year, even when the season has slowed down. Mostly we learn what they want. Getting feedback from our members about our events helps us get better, so the club gets better from being critiqued.
What would you like to say to people about your wine club?
If it’s not sparkling, what’s the Pointe! Our 2005 Brut Seduction won best sparkling wine at the New York State Wine and Food Classic, and scored a 91 with Wine Enthusiast. I think sometimes people hesitate because why join an all sparkling club? I would like them to see that sparkling is really up and coming. It’s taken a hold in Europe and it’s really just coming to the United States. It really does goes with everything, it pairs really well with every kind of food, which I’m sure you saw at the Harvest Lunch. People don’t always realize that it goes really well with spicy foods like Indian and Thai, too. People see sparkling wine as something special that you take out only to celebrate, and I think it’s important that you celebrate every day, take a chance and try something new. Sparkling wine doesn’t have to be just about large celebrations, but celebrating the meal you made or the day you had. It’s hard to express, because I’d really like people to understand that sparkling is as popular and as versatile as still wine. As a winery, we’re really growing and for the members, being a part of that is going to be fantastic.
What can members expect in the coming season?
We’re going to be releasing some really great new vintages. Part of making wine in the méthode champenoise means that we can’t release wines right away, it’s a process that takes time, and the wait is paying off. Some wines members have been waiting for, like the Rouge, is coming out and we have just released the 2005 Seduction that won best sparkling wine in NY State. We expect to sell out of that so they should take advantage before it sells out; it’s a very exciting wine. We’re going to have the post-holiday party, which I mentioned. There’s also the Around the World Cheese Pairing where we pair cheeses from all over with our sparkling wines. I also can’t leave out our annual Tête de Cuvée, where we put our sparkling wines in a head-to-head taste test with some of the best sparkling wines and Champagnes from around the world. In the past we’ve tasted Louis Roederer’s Crystal and Moet & Chandon’s Dom Perignon to let people decide where our wines stack up against the best. This event is also in January. It’s past the holiday rush and a great time to come out.
What is the overall experience you want your members to have?
I want them to feel like they’re at home, that we are their friends, and I want them to be excited about our wine, just as excited as we are.
Sparkling Pointe is located at 39750 County Road 48 in Southold, NY.
Friday, November 28th 2014-January 4th 2015
*Members receive 15% off 4 Bottles, 20% 6 Bottles & 30% off 12 Bottles
Signature Wine Club Post Holiday Party
Date TBD January 2015
An evening of bubbly, dining, dancing and a chance to meet new friends!
January 24th, 2015
*Date is tentative but most likely this weekend or the following.
*Opens to members first