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Once you’ve built that kind of devoted following, the next logical step is a wine club — guaranteed consistent sales to a customer base that trusts you to pick their wines for them. The club is humming along at almost 300 members, thanks in part to Bankerd’s tweak on the typical structure. “We have three levels, and I pick around 18 wines a month for people to choose from. There are five options at the Winemaker level, eight in the Smart Buy, and five to seven in the Estate. On the second Wednesday or Thursday of the month, we have a pickup party, with all 18 wines available for tasting. You have to pick your wines from your membership level, but you can taste everything. It’s become very, very popular.”

And recently, it became very, very local. “I was in back, making gift baskets,” recalls Bankerd. “Will Burtner, who runs our tasting room, came back and said, ‘Kathy, I really want you to taste this wine. I’m thinking it would be a good candidate for the wine club.’ I tasted it and said, ‘This is really good. Where’s it from, Paso Robles?’ He said, ‘No — Temecula’ ” — it was the Chapin Family Vineyards Cabernet. “I said, ‘No, no — we cannot give our wine club a Temecula wine.’ ” Whether or not the wine was good, the local stigma made it too much of a risk. “Will said, ‘Kathy, I think you’re wrong. This is really good wine.’ I sat back there and sipped on it a little bit more, and it endeared itself to me. When we did it for the wine club, we tasted it against a Gigondas and a 90-point Malbec. They were both excellent, but the Chapin won hands down. We had people clamoring.”

More next week.

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