Wine CSAs: Community Supported Alcohol

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Photograph: Klickitat Canyon Winery

A Community Supported Agriculture, or CSA, allows locavores to snap up shares in all manner of produce, meats, cheeses, and more local harvest bounty. including wine.

Here's how it works: thirsty supporters sign up, committing to purchase a share of the product when it becomes available. The benefit is clear for small-scale vintners—they are guaranteed a market for the product when it becomes available. And for the buyer, the benefit is the opportunity to support local producers and secure a limited-edition wine that may be available for retail purchase only in very limited supply (or in some cases, not at all, as some CSAs sell out the run).

Of course, the wines available are recent vintages, so don't expect a bottle of fine aged Bordeaux to land on the doorstep. But there are some great table wines, sparklers, ciders, meads and more to sip alongside your CSA-sourced dinner. And sometimes there's more to be had than just wine, like access to concerts, "pick-up parties," and discounts for other products. Community Supported Alcohol, indeed.

I'm not aware of a site that aggregates all the various wine CSAs (please comment if you know of one!) so here are a few to consider supporting in your neck of the woods.

Charlton Orchards Farm (Charlton, MA)
Cost: $648 for a full share
What you get: Four 750ml bottles and two 375ml bottles. Purchasing wine shares also includes automatic enrollment in Charlton's Wine Club, including a 15% discount on wine purchases throughout the year.

Paradocx Vineyard (Chester County, PA)
Cost: $550 to $650
What you get: Six bottles of wine. You can choose between whites, reds, and "vintner's" share (a selection of red, white and rose). CSA members collect their haul four times a year at a "pick-up party," which includes a wine and cheese tasting and a chance to visit the winery and vineyard. CSA members also can attend one of 10 summer concerts free of charge.

Enlightenment Wines (Brooklyn, NY)
Cost: $250
What you get: a mixed case of twelve 750-ml bottles "or equivalent" (fancy a cask?). Enlightenment's esoteric options change with the season. Right now, sparkling apple meads and wild yeasted apple wines are on offer. Winemaker Raphael Lyon says a dandelion wine, an oaked blackcurrant wine, and a sparkling barley wine are in the works for fall.

Gathering Together Farm (Philomath, OR)
Cost: $100
What you get: One bottle a month, for five months, from one of four local wineries.

Klickitat Canyon Winery (Lyle, WA)
Cost: $175 for a single
What you get: Three bottles of wine, four times a year. In addition, you get first dibs on any newly-released wines, and a 25% discount on any wines received through the CSA. Members also are encouraged to come out for harvest, crush, or wine bottling, so "you're really a part of making this winery happen."

Farmstead Wines (U.S. and Canada)
Note: The wines come from small, sustainable farms, but they won't necessarily be local.
Cost: $475 for the "grapes" package
What you get: 12 bottles of farmstead wines (a mix of four wines) at 20% off retail pricing. All packages also include detailed updates about the growing season and video tours of the vineyards, and invitations to members-only wine-pairing dinners and Europe farm tour experiences (presumably, the dinners and tours cost extra).

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