“Yes, let’s try the rosé next,” I said in my most pompous voice.
I lazily gazed around the decadently decorated clubhouse as Sarah (I think that was her name) went off to fetch a fresh bottle of wine for me to taste. I was standing in the “members only” building of an elaborate vineyard and I had never felt more alive.
It all started a few weeks ago when my parents came to visit. After a heaping dose of guilt for not visiting enough and alcohol they picked up on the way to my apartment (the grape doesn’t fall far from the vine), we set off to explore the city I moved to postgrad. The downside of leaving your home state when you get that expensive piece of paper is, of course, missing your friends and family and having to find your own way. The upside, however, is that whenever you see your parents they spoil the shit out of you because they miss you so much. Not a bad trade off.
Anyways, after hitting up every touristy locale and grimacing at the camera every time my dad said “let’s take one of the girls,” my parents finally insisted that we head out to wine country and do one of the few tolerable things you can do when with family — drink.
“Hey Rach, how does this place look?” my dad asked from the front seat as the car crunched over gravel.
I looked up from the girl’s Instagram I was stalking and felt my breath hitch. The rolling hills. The rows and rows of grapes on the vine. The excessive amount of wide-brimmed hats and girls walking uneasily through the grass in their too-high heels after way too many glasses of wine. I had never seen a place so wonderful. So perfect. So me.
“It’s beautiful,” I breathed, as I pressed my nose against the glass.
As the car settled into park I squinted at the sign hanging near a famously modern cabin that must be the entrance to this heaven.
Oak Ridge Vineyards. I was home.
We walked towards one of the many gorgeous buildings and I all but ran ahead as my father explained the history of the place. It was one of the best vineyards in the area. It was bigger than most of the other ones combined. And it was about to become a part of who I was as a person. Just as I went to reach for the handle my dad tapped me on the shoulder.
“Oh wait, I forgot to give you this,” he said with a smirk that indicated he did not forget but was waiting for the most dramatic moment.
I took the glossy pamphlet he handed to me and tried to comprehend what I was seeing. Pictures of barrels, glasses, and grapes stared back at me. The words “member” “tastings” and “cheese” greeted me like old friends from the pages.
“What…?” I started, too afraid to guess what this meant. Too scared to get hurt if I was let down.
“Mom and I came here a few days ago when you were at work,” he said, unable to keep the grin off of his face, “and we signed you up for a membership.”
I’d like to say that the most basic, embarrassing, white girl thing that has ever happened to me is the fact that my father signed me up for a wine club membership. But it isn’t. It’s the fact that when he told me he signed me up for a wine club membership I left out a squeal, threw my arms around his neck, and started sobbing.
But don’t worry. It gets worse.
Upon entering the coveted “members only clubhouse” I learned the rewards and secrets of the club. I could get half-priced bottles of wine. Every time I came there I got FOUR free tastings. And once a year I could bring ten friends with me to all receive tastings and cheese plates. I didn’t even *have* ten friends. I had never been happier.
After that fateful day, my life has changed. Whenever I go anywhere I can’t help but mention that I’m a “member” of a club, and I frequently take my card out instead of my credit card, just to flash it. When people bring wine over I always check the label with a flourish, and then tell them about the delightful vino my vineyard recently released. I can’t drink wine without doing a five step taste test, and I can’t help but wear oversized hats everywhere I go. Even inside. Even when I sleep.
The truth is, the wine club isn’t even that big of a deal. It turns out my dad only got it for me because if he bought a few bottles of wine it was cheaper than paying for three tastings separately. Plus now he gets cartons of merlot shipped to him every month. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from going there every free night I have. I can’t stop asking anyone and everyone if they, too, are “on the inside,” even when they don’t know what that means. And I can’t help but sneer at all of the normal, silly non-members every time I have to grace them with my presence when the clubhouse kicks me out for trying to sneak their crackers into my purse.
It doesn’t matter if it’s not a big deal. It doesn’t even matter if literally no one cares that I’m a part of it. And it doesn’t matter if it only saves me like 10 bucks when I try six different, one-ounce cups of wine. Being a part of the club, having a wine membership, has horribly, painfully, embarrassingly made me feel like I’m better than everyone else. And it’s pretty fucking great.
“That was just delightful,” I smacked at sommelier Sarah(?) as I slammed my glass down on the counter a little too enthusiastically.
“Is there anything else I can do for you?” she asked with an awkward smile, as she picked up my glass and subtly checked it for cracks.
“No, I don’t think so,” I murmured in what was unmistakably the English accent that I sometimes adapted when drunk.
Sarah pretended not to notice the shift in my native tongue, or how douchy it was to pretend I was Hermione Granger just because I got to sip on some wine for free. As she clicked something on the computer I plunged my hand into the bowl on the counter. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what your thing is. To some people it’s CrossFit. To other people, it’s spin class or Starbucks or Game of fucking Thrones. For me? It’s the wine club. Whatever it is that makes you feel better than everyone else. Whatever it is that gives you so much life you can’t help but talk about it to everyone, even people who don’t care. And whatever it is that turns you into a total a-hole, hold onto it and never, ever let go.
“Uh, excuse me. Miss Halloy?” Sarah called to me wearily as I walked towards the door. “I’ve told you before. You can’t pour the bowl of crackers in your purse. It isn’t fair to the other members.”
She knows my name, I thought, as I dumped cracker crumbs back onto the counter. This is what it feels like to be a member. This is what it feels like to have made it..
This featured image is a stock photo from our database. The people photographed are not in any way associated with the story.