“The Panel” in Sonoma Disrupts the Wine Club Concept

A selection of Wines at The Panel wine shop in Sonoma.
A selection of Wines at The Panel wine shop in Sonoma.

You know the routine by now: you go to a winery, enjoy the wines, join the wine club, and every few months you get a credit card charge and an invitation to a wine pick up party to mix and mingle with other wine club members.

It’s an investment that requires serious brand dedication. For this reason, wine clubs have become big business for wineries. And for that reason, The Panel is disrupting the concept of the wine club in the way Uber changed the way we get around town.

The Panel has created a new wine club featuring wines crafted by industry insiders (Photo: Jason Tinacci)
The Panel has created a new wine club featuring wines selected by industry insiders (Photo: Allyson Wiley)

Based in Sonoma, The Panel is devoted to discovering small production, unique wines, with the help from literally, a panel. Every month, co-owners Windee Smith and Chad Richards select 12 to 15 wines from around the world. That selection is whittled down by a panel of four industry insiders who select three premium wines for wine club members to enjoy.

This month’s panel included Sondra Bernstein (restauranteur, owner of the girl & the fig), Virginie Boone (contributing editor, Wine Enthusiast), Tracy Hall (wine specialist at Selene Winery) and Mia Klein (winemaker).

The Panel tasting room in Sonoma. (Photo: Jason Tinacci)
The Panel tasting room in downtown Sonoma. (Photo: Jason Tinacci)

“Our goal is to place the absolute best wines into our club member’s hands,” shared Windee Smith, who founded William Cross Wine Merchants in San Francisco and operated the Valley Wine Shack in Sonoma for eight years prior to launching The Panel. “We created The Panel process to eliminate the guessing game everyone goes through when searching for new and exciting wines.”

The Panel also wants wine club members to discover their inner wine geek. Each member gets a notebook that includes information on each wine they receive, so they can create a personal encyclopedia of the the wines they enjoy.

Mia Klein, Sondra Bernstein, Virginia Boone and Tracy Hall participate in a blind tasting of wines at the Panel (Photo: Jason Tinacci)
Mia Klein, Sondra Bernstein, Virginia Boone and Tracy Hall participate in a blind tasting of wines at the Panel (Photo: Jason Tinacci)

The Panel’s wine club starts at a mere $99 – a great price point for a monthly wine club that features three wines hand selected by some of the most respected people in the wine industry. You don’t have to be a wine club member to enjoy the wines selected by The Panel: they have wine shop in downtown Sonoma which is open to the public.

The Panel is located at 535 W. Napa St., Sonoma. (707) 938-7152. panelwines.com

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