Want to start a Wine Club...
A few friends and I want to start a wine club here in Mpls and are kind of wondering the how's and what's and such? This is just a really informal type of thing that we want to do and meet once a month and discuss certain wines and drink them as well. Is anyone a member of a wine club? If so what do you do? How is run? Have I already answered my questions already? We kind of know what we want to do, but would like some advice and ideas from others.
Another thought - check out the Washington Post's wine writers, Dorothy J Gaiter and John Brecher. I just started reading one of their books ("Wine for Every Day and Every Occasion"), and there's a great chapter on wine-tasting groups.
They've also written a column or two on this topic, including one titled "Swirl, Sip, Discuss":
I've been part of a wine 'salon' for the last four years now in NYC. We meet every two weeks at one person's house. We have a treasurer that is responsible for the cash kitty and also for announcing the salons via e-mail.
We pay 'dues' every other salon ($30 to $50, depending on how depleted the kitty is) to cover the cost of food and wine. We have been doing this for four years -- so, as for themes, we've exhausted some of the more basic ones and on occasion do more esoteric ones, like wine made by monks and autumnal wines. Some ideas: obviously, you can go by region (big or small -- The Loire or Savenniers), by varietal (classic or less well known: chardonnay or falanghina), different quality levels from one region (VdT, VdP, AC or village, PC, GC wines) -- sometimes we taste these blindly and see if we can nail the quality level), wine making style (oaked wines, spakling by traditional method vs other methods), new world vs old world (this is great with Savignon Blanc).
The person that hosts cooks - sometimes the food matches the theme for the night, like when we did wines from siwtzerland and austria and made fondue. Each couple of single that comes bring a bottle of wine. We usually have 7 people each time and 4 bottles of wine. If we buy wines around $15 and spend about $45 to $60 on food - we are able to keep dues around $30 per month (two wine salons). Sometimes we pay extra to buy better wines. And, we usually plan to leave a little extra in the kitty each salon, so that on our salon that falls around Xmas/NYE, we buy a really nice bottle or two of champagne. And, the people that bring the wine are expected to do some small level of research on the region or the wine to present to the group.
I'm in a wine-and-food tasting group that meets once a month. It's a great way to sample and discuss lots of wine, without a restaurant mark-up. Plus, everyone is a great cook, so we have wonderful food at these tastings.
Over the years, we've developed logistics that work well for us.
One person hosts the gathering. (Often, two people pair up to share the work.) They choose the theme, buy the wine, make the food, and print notes on the wine - name, year, price, and any information they care to include, such as tasting notes or information on the grape or region. Usually, we get the notes when we arrive, but we've had a few blind tastings where we don't see the notes until the end of the evening.
Our themes vary wildly. Many focus on a specific varietal or type, geographic area, or winery. Other themes have been celebrity wines, silly wines (Bonny Doon, etc.), cheap wines, Halloween wines, wines with animals on the label, and organic/biodynamic wines.
We keep our group small (12 max) so that we need only one bottle for each wine we taste. You can get 12+ two-ounce pours from a bottle of wine.
We generally taste 6 wines at each tasting, hence the two-ounce pours. We use wine pourers, because it gets harder to eyeball the amount as the evening progresses. We keep the amount of wine small - 1-1/2 to 2 glasses over 3 hours, because we all need to drive home. And we make sure there's enough food to soak up the alcohol.
The attendees bring their own glasses. I have a "travelling set" of generic, inexpensive glasses, because they break occasionally. Mine are standard in shape, but some people use specialty glasses (one member uses German white wine glasses for everything except sparkling wines).
We split the costs at the end of the evening - our tastings run anywhere from $11 - $30 each, depending on how many people attend and how pricey the wine and food is. (Sometimes the cheese bill exceeds the wine bill - good cheese is expensive!) Then we draw numbers to divvy up the leftover wine and food.
We also vote on our favorite wine of the evening, and the host buys two more bottles. Once a year, we have a "best of" tasting to which we invite friends and family. This gives us a chance to revisit our favorites to see if we still like them.
My suggestion is to start with a basic framework, then discuss it with everyone to figure out the logistics that work for you. Be flexible and have fun!
I took a Wine Professional Certification course and let me tell you, drinking wine each week with 20 other people makes for a nice bond! We formed an informal wine drinking 'group' (hate the word 'club'...too clique-y) that meets once a month or every six weeks, however it works for everyone involved. We pick a theme, make sure there is plenty of food and then we gather, sip, talk, laugh and enjoy. Most of us aren't blessed with a permanent wine drinking companion, either on the home front or elsewhere, so this is a nice way to enjoy our passion, learn about some new wines and socialize. Anyone is welcome to join the group, it's totally informal.
The one thing that we stressed in starting this was that everyone be committed to making it work. We all have our lives, schedules and stuff that we do, but when our group is set to meet, all other bets are off and the date is carved in stone. We take turns hosting our gatherings, planning for food and drink and offering up suggestions for themes. It's really a great way to explore and sample a lot of different wines since everyone has their own ideas about what they want to bring. We try to stick within a price range too, which helps everyone's budget. Two of our friends are wine reps with local companies too, so they tend to bring a lot of samplers.
Bottom line....have fun and explore the great world of wine, but make it a commitment and an educational experience. Don't just gather to drink.
We have a group of wine fans/foodies that meets on a semi regular basis at local restaurants, each person bringing a bottle of wine with them for the meal. We normally have a theme (Big Cabs, Rhones, CA Pinot Noirs, etc) and over the meal discuss and compare the wines. This way we all get to try some great wines and have a good time too.
On a small, local level, I’d gather a half-dozen couples for a food/wine, informal gathering, say once per month, or every two months. In the past, I’ve done these, and we usually had about five couples for each “event.” The host/hostess set the theme, provides the main course and the wine to accompany that. The other guests do additional dishes with wines (per the theme) and are ready to discuss these wines and the recipes for the dishes. Get more folk involved, than are likely to show for each event, though the host/hostess should have the capacity to handle all, who do attend. Once the theme is set, the host/hostess then must coordinate the other dishes/wines, and we did this on a first-come, first-served, basis. If you go this route, let me know, and I’ll share some successful themes with you.
On a much larger level, I’d look into the International Wine & Food Society. It’s an international society, with chapters across the globe, including the US, http://www.iwfs.com/americas/am.htm There is a branch in the “Twin Cities,” and in Rochester, already. Some metro-areas, like Phoenix, have two chapters, some more. If you decide to go “big-time,” let me know, and I’ll get you even more info on the IW&FS chapters.
I’ve been a part of each, and each has its own pluses and minuses. It really depends on what you really want.
Whatever, do not loose your love for wine and sharing it with your friends!
You might check the suggestions already on this board on how to host a wine-tasting party. You can decide to focus on a varietal, like Syrah from around the world, or a varietal and country, like German Rieslings. Or a country alone, like Spain. Or a region: Southern Rhone. Provide a small pad of paper and pen so folks can take notes. Some nibbles that go with the food. Etc.