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Wine Clubs

By Amy Simmons · February 9th, 2005 · Uncorked!
If you're like me, winter can't pass fast enough in Cincinnati. These dreary days are a great time to think about starting a wine club. What better escape from the gray days of February than exploring and experiencing the fruits of the Loire Valley of France, the hills of Tuscany or the open, blue skies of Napa Valley?

Starting a wine club isn't difficult, even for the novice of wine lovers. Begin channeling your inner Julie McCoy, Love Boat cruise director, and follow these steps.

Find like-minded wine buddies: Wine clubs work best when everyone is generally interested in the same type of wine experience. It's less important whether people are beginners or veterans -- it's about what people want to get out of the group. How much energy do they want to put into it? What kind of experience do they want out of it? A wine club is only as good as its members.

Create some guidelines and structure: As you invite members to join, there are some key things to propose and agree on now to save headaches later.

I recommend developing a short description of the group to capture its focus. Is it purely wine education and exploration? Does it include food? Is it mostly social? It's also helpful to decide on the size of the group, location of the tastings, how and when new members will be introduced. Don't forget to address a schedule for tastings/ meetings, fees and roles and responsibilities for members.

Arm members with helpful tools: Create a scorecard to outline the criteria for judging the wines. I recommend blind tastings which make the experience more objective and suspenseful. I also suggest providing members with a copy of the University of California-Davis "wine wheel," an excellent resource for identifying and classifying taste and smell characteristics. There are also several excellent kits for wine tasting. Check out The Wine Spectator's wine tasting kit, available online.

Look for ways to spice it up: Invite a guest speaker -- someone from your local wine store or a friend or family member who can share a great wine experience or perspective. Check out a local tastings. Head out to a terrific wine-friendly restaurant such as the new Boca in Oakley, where sommelier Paul Ortiz will happily work with neophytes and experts alike.

Make it fun: Don't let learning and exploring wines evolve into a tedious academic exercise. Make adjustments to help keep the group fun for everyone involved.

Like most social groups, it takes time and consistency to get into a groove. Once you find the formula, you'll find that it almost runs itself. Cheers!



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