May 14, 2007

Wine Clubs! Or why my budget screams twice a year ...or so

There are wine clubs and there are wine clubs. There are those clubs that charge you a monthly fee and send you several bottles of wine every month. I belonged to one for a while. It was ugly. Each and every wine was, at best, mediocre. There was not a single one that I felt the wine was worth a repeat buy. Let’s just call it an expensive lesson.

Then there are the home wine tasting clubs. If you’ve been a part of this blog for a while, you know that my first wine club disbanded after many years in existence. This club was having home tasting get-togethers long before it became a part of part of popular culture. I now belong to the loosely-knit Tex and Fritz’s Wine Club. Thing. Although very casual in organization and “membership,” it meets several times a month, has blind (!!!) tastings at each meeting, and I have to say that Tex runs a pretty tight ship. This has helped to sharpen my palate and make me really pay attention to the characteristics of the wine that I’m tasting.

And then there are the winery wine clubs. I belong to several, have quit a few, and wish I could belong to more. It would save in shopping. Sort of.

After many months of being on the waiting list, I was finally given the opportunity to purchase an allocation from Kosta Browne. I received my full allocation plus two, and was very happy. Quite broke, but happy. Kosta Browne has great Pinots and a new Rosé, by the way.

I also belong to Hug Cellars, Opolo, Robert Young Estates, and Villicana wine clubs. Robert Young Estates (the makers of Scion), is the only one located in Napa. The others are located in Paso Robles.

Hug makes Pinots. Surprisingly Burgundian in character with the bright fruit you expect from California. I have ONE bottle left from my Paso visit last year, but, thankfully, have several bottles from my shipment. I’m sure Augie will let me know if he makes other stuff, but I absolutely love his Pinots! And the Rosé (see eyeballs rolling back into head).

My favorite wines from Opolo are the Sangiovese, Fusion, and Mountain Zin. They have a new one that’s only available to the membership (I didn’t see it on their website) called Montagne Mare. I haven’t opened mine up yet, but Don and Mark – whose palates I trust – said it’s pretty awesome. That’s true winespeak!

Villicana has astonishingly beautiful Viognier, Syrah, and Rosé. They probably have other stuff, but that’s what I love from them! Alex and Monica are the winemakers (they’re both very cute, and Alex looks like Clark Kent), and do a great job of keeping their membership informed of winery goings-on.

Robert Young Estates was the first wine club I joined, thanks to Khoury’s. Issa and Nura had gotten in a small shipment and had a tasting. I tasted the Scion and nearly died. They were able to order some for me, I joined the wine club, and the rest, as they say, is history. I just received my shipment of the 2003 Scion and plan on having a small vertical sometime later this year. I have five years of Scion (1999-2003), and I think that will be fun. They are largely undiscovered in spite of phenomenal ratings from all of the big guns of the wine publishing world.

I once belonged to Linne Calodo, Robert Hall, Peay, Halter Ranch, and Williams Selyem. The reasons I’m not members of their clubs vary. I “resigned” from Linne Calodo because they charged more for their wines than I could buy them retail. That made no sense to me! That was also a disappointment because I lust after their wines. But since I can satisfy my “Problem Child” and “Outsider” cravings at Khoury’s, resigning my membership was not a loss.

Peay and Williams Selyem are both wineries of extraordinary excellence. Unfortunately, my wallet is not. So it was with great reluctance that I withdrew from their coveted list memberships.

Halter Ranch has begun showing up in retail outlets recently (Valley Cheese and Wine), and Robert Hall has been a retail staple for years, so it wasn’t necessary for me to continue memberships in their clubs.

There are several clubs that I would love to be a member of just to get their wines! One of them is Four Vines. Yes, Four Vines is available locally, but they have such fun wines that I would love to be surprised twice a year. The Four Vines pourers at the winery are a hoot and make wine fun. The only downside is that their washable tattoos don’t wash off very easily. I had some explaining to do about the Naked and ZinBitch tattoos that were prominently displayed on my neckline. But that’s another story.

The other winery I lust after is Dain. Now, I haven’t had any Dain, but according to the Mark Squires Forum (of which David Dain is a member), their Syrahs and Pinots are supposed to be absolutely ethereal. Because they are a small, “boutique” winery, their wines are not available by retail. And since their wines are under $50 a bottle, they aren’t at the gouging stage, either.

Are there more? Tons! So many wine clubs, so little $$$$. To say nothing of my liver …

New discoveries!

If you haven’t been to the Bonjour Bistro on Eastern just north of the 215, you’re missing out on a lovely French experience. If you’re lucky, you’ll have “Tony” (we think he’s actually “Antoine”) who is a hoot with a wicked sense of humor and a great sense of taking care of the customer.

As always, if you have new discoveries, old standbys, tasting notes, or upcoming events you’d like to share, just let me know. Until next time!

Next week, a couple of reviews on places we’ve been, food we’ve eaten, and wine we’ve drunk (drank? drinked?)

To take wine into our mouths is to savor a droplet of the river of human history.
Clifton Fadiman

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