Inside Lincoln Park's Secret, Private Wine Club

By John Lenart in Food on Apr 27, 2016 4:29PM

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Inside Birch Road Cellar Photo Courtesy of Birch Road Cellar

When you hear the words “Private Wine Club,” they conjure up images of stodgy old white guys sitting on high back leather chairs in wood paneled rooms attended to by tuxedoed butlers wearing white gloves. That anachronism is about as far as you can get from the reality of Birch Road Cellar, the nearly two years old private wine club located at a secret location in Lincoln Park.

The idea behind Birch Road Cellar actually started decades ago in suburban Northbrook when two little girls living on Birch Road just knew they’d have a business together. After a brief run in the bracelet business as 9-year-olds, Kim Bosse and Sharon Provins founded Birch Road Cellar two decades later.

According to Bosse, “Birch Road Cellar is a neighborhood private club. It has all the things associated with being a member of a private club but in a comfortable, casual setting. What we really are is a small community of people seeking a space where they have conversation with friends, drink some good wine without the distractions of a bar or restaurant.”

For your membership ($89 per month for an individual, $119 per month for couples) you get access to the club from 9 a.m. to 2 a.m., accessed through fingerprint scanning, and a storage locker in a temperature and humidity controlled environment that holds up to two cases of wine. You also can attend free events held two to four times per month. These events range from winemaker visits and tastings to member cocktail recipe contests.

You see, Birch Road Cellar isn’t just for the wine lover. “Our membership is about half wine lovers and half spirits and cocktail lovers,” Provins told Chicagoist.

The benefits of membership also include access to a private dining room, which member Eric Chmiel takes advantage of regularly. “My wife and I like to host dinner parties, but now we don’t have to do them at home, we can reserve the dining room here through an online booking system,” he said.

Birch Road Cellar offers several comfortable, cool spaces to hang out in. One room has a bar stocked with a variety of glassware, loaded ice machines, coffee and tea as well as hardware for cocktail mixing. Several high-top table are placed throughout this room. There’s also a room with several lounge areas with comfy chairs and couches and cocktail tables. All areas of the club have Wi-Fi.

Finally, if you’re a member of a wine club, you no longer have to worry about being home to accept shipments. “We actually have all of our wine club deliveries sent here. So there’s no worry about having someone home to sign for it when it arrives. They take care of everything,” Chmiel said.

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Private lockers at Birch Road Cellar. Photo via Facebook.

While all of those benefits are awesome, what makes Birch Road Cellar special is its members. “The members are the soul of the place along with the interesting conversations that happen here over delicious wine that somebody has just opened,” Provins said.

“Even if you’re not looking to meet other members everyone here is positive, friendly and respectful of one another,” Bosse said. "I’ve been a guest at Birch Road on a few occasions and the vibe is always relaxed and fun. Groups can be seen hanging out sharing wine, cocktails and craft beer. “We have a very diverse membership. Which is why our price point is what it is. We don’t believe in pricing out any demographic.”

According to Provins, the club's members are diverse and the club has an everyman feel.

“Members come in here and you don’t know if you’ll be sitting next to a CEO or a teller,” Provins said. It’s that everyman approach to a private club that makes Birch Road Cellar unique and interesting. Unlike many private clubs which have strict membership application processes or are by invite only, according to Provins, “The joke is that the hardest part of becoming a member is finding out about us in the first place.”

“We meet with everyone that applies and talk with them to see if they’re a fit and that we are right for them," Bosse said. "That said, we are probably the most inclusive, exclusive club there is.”

Chmiel looks at his membership and the club in a pretty no-nonsense way.

“The way that we see it is as an alternative to going out to a bar, and we can drink what we want to drink while hanging with friends and other members,” he said.

For membership info click here.