Thirsty for Wine? Join the Club!
Do you love drinking wine but feel intimidated by the vast, sometimes daunting, selection of varieties, regions, labels and styles available on the shelf? Joining a local wine club takes the guesswork out of selecting wine by leveraging the knowledge of a wine expert. Not only will you get to experiment with new wines that you might not otherwise have thought to try, but you also get access to exclusive labels and limited distribution wines that you would not normally find in stores. Best of all, wines offered through a wine club are carefully selected by someone who knows wine, so you’re likely to have a better experience than just randomly picking something off the shelf. Trying quality wine at the discounts provided through wine clubs will not only save you money, but will also help you learn what you like and what you don’t, so you can make better informed decisions in the future.
Why Choice Matters
The majority of local wine clubs offer two to three levels of membership at varying monthly prices ranging from $30 to $40 for 2 bottles to up to $130 for 6 bottles. What most of these wine clubs don’t offer is choice. Not only does Vino Venue offer competitive levels of membership and the best value overall, but they are the only wine club in Atlanta that allows the consumer the ability to choose wines from a wide selection of styles and varieties. I did the math on the April selections and the lower level membership of only $67.99 a month provides a savings on retail price of up to $37 and the $99 level membership provides a savings of almost $80. Best of all, you get to select which wines you want to try, and you don’t have to make a long term commitment to take advantage of these incredible savings.
When Less is More
In addition to the exceptional value and selection, Vino Venue is the only club that offers a special trade up program. For instance, on certain months, your allocation of 4 or 6 bottles can be traded out for one exceptional bottle of wine, because for some of us wine lovers, quality is much more important than quantity! This month’s trade in options include a Napa Valley Cabernet magnum that retails for $100 and a classic Brunello di Montalcino. As if the trade out program isn’t enticing enough, bonus wines outside of the monthly allotment are also periodically offered at an incredible discount of up to 50% off and members get complimentary access to weekly drop-in wine tastings.
The Ultimate Vino Lover’s Wine Club
Here’s a peek at the April wine club selections with excerpts from Michael Bryan’s club newsletter, sharing insight and stories behind the label as only he can, plus his tasting notes and my suggested food pairings and recipe links.
2013 Hayes Valley Chardonnay, Monterey, California
This 100% Chardonnay is a real value—a 2nd label made by the Von Strasser Winery from Napa. It is a single vineyard Chardonnay (Scheid Vineyard) that only sees 20% new French oak, and only 20% went through malolactic fermentation (think buttery and creamy). This Chardonnay is heavy enough for cocktailing, yet light and versatile enough for food pairing.
Tasting notes: fresh tangerine, orange oil, ripe pink grapefruit, crisp and quenching.
Suggested food pairings: try a glass with garlicky roast chicken, crab cakes or lobster with drawn butter.
2013 Zenata Lugana DOC, Veneto, Italy
The Trebbiano grapes for this wine come from the south shore of Lake Garda, the “Lake Como”of Veneto, about 45 mins west of Venice. This white wine has noticeable concentration, but comes across as soft and feminine—an alluring combination.
Tasting notes: peaches, bananas and herbs.
Suggested food pairings: consider pairing with a Venetian classic like Ris e Bis, the traditional cheesy rice and peas dish of the region or a creamy Italian Risotto.
2013 Loveblock Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand
This 100% Sauvignon Blanc wine is the creation of Erica Crawford, wife of famous winemaker, Kim Crawford. Oddly enough, the Crawfords sold the uber‐successful Kim Crawford label, a wine they have nothing to do with now. Erica took a sheep paddock, cleared it and planted it with vines. They are 100% organic in their growing.
Tasting notes: passion fruit, crisp white peach, and linear acidity from start to finish.
Food pairing suggestions: according to Michael, this bright wine is killer with Pacific NW oysters! I’d enjoy a glass alongside a salad topped with tangy goat cheese.
2014 Chateau des Annibals Rosé “Cuvee Suivez‐Moi‐Jeune‐Homme” Coteaux Varois en Provence, France
This refreshing Rosé is 50% Cinsault, 40% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 100% delicious. The appellation lies in an area of Provence east of Marseilles and north of Toulon, a region of sun‐bleached rocky soil, dusty fragrant wild herbs and wind‐sheltered pine forests. Vineyard cultivation here goes back beyond the stolid Romans, beyond the wily Greeks to the clever and mysterious Phoenicians. The wine, produced on an estate founded in 1792 and run on bio‐dynamic principles, is made entirely in stainless steel; let no oak tamper with this sheer delicacy and elegance! The wine’s name means “Follow me, young man,” perhaps a reference to Hannibal’s armies, which marched through this , region, with their elephants, in the Autumn of 218 B.C., before turning north to cross the Alps southward on the way to do battle with the Romans on the plains of northern Italy. The golden elephant depicted on the label will be evidence enough.
Tasting notes: the color is the palest of the most pale onion skin, just slightly tinged with watermelon pink; spare yet evocative aromas of dried raspberries and red currants are subtly imbued with melon and peach; the wine is bone‐dry, vibrant, shimmering with acidity and limestone‐like minerality, flush with spice and a hint of thyme, devolving to a finish that manages to be both taut and supple. Really lovely but with backbone.
Suggested food pairings: try this Provençal rosé with rustic French dishes like Tuna Niçoise, Quiche with a baby lettuce salad or a French-style pizza “tarte.” For an unexpected yet delicious pairing, try a glass with your favorite Southern fried chicken!
2009 Sanford “Sta. Rita Hills” Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara, California
We only have 48 bottles of this classy 100% Pinot Noir. This wine is from the first vineyard planted to Pinot Noir in Santa Barbara county, dating back to 1971. The winery got a big break when the winery took part in the movie Sideways. This easy drinking Pinot, at 5 years of age, is nicely knit together. Always serve Pinots at cellar temperature—achieved with 25 minutes in your refrigerator.
Tasting notes: the flavors of cola, cherry, anise, clove, and a touch of spice show on this wine.
Suggested food pairings: truffled cheese, salmon or sautéed chicken and mushrooms.
2012 Chateaumar Cuvee Bastien Cotes du Rhone Rouge, France
This 100% Grenache is kind of like “de‐classified” Chateauneuf‐du‐Pape! The
appellation is so limited in production, that invariably there is fruit that cannot be used to make and label wine as Chateauneuf‐du‐Pape—so it must be sold as the next lower level in the hierarchy, Cotes du Rhone. A single vineyard Cotes du Rhone you say? Oui. The photo above is of the “galets” of this appellation—huge, tumbled rocks that made their way down the Rhone River from the Alps millennia ago.
Tasting notes: look for black raspberries, black pepper, prunes, and chocolate.
Suggested food pairings: try this delicious wine with herbed and peppery beef, lamb or venison.
2012 Enzo Boglietti Barbera d’Alba, Piedmont, Italy
I like my Barbera like my Malbecs—oaked. No oak, no wine. Oak brings out the best in these wines, and the oak‐influenced flavors make them dramatically more interesting. In tasting through the entire line of Boglietti wines, they were all well made; however, this wine was the best value for the wine dollar. This “second most planted red grape variety in Italy” has the noble Nebbiolo grape (think Barolo, Barbaresco) looking down on him constantly. But it makes excellent wines for every night drinking—and because of the shadow cast by Nebbiolo, it is the most under‐valued grape in Italy.
Tasting notes: this wine provided me spiced black cherry, plum, licorice, and ripe red currants.
Suggested food pairings: According to Michael this is a total pizza wine or go schmancy with pasta & shaved parmigiana or a rustic lasagna.
2011 Consul Chileno Reserva Cabernet Franc Reserve, Curico Valley, Chile
Cabernet Sauvignon’s reputation in Chile is established, but Michael believes Cabernet Franc is the future of Chilean reds. His first lesson in “terroir” was in Chile in 2005. “Winemaker/owner Pablo Morande took me into a Cabernet Franc vineyard an hour south of Santiago in the Rapel Valley. We walked down one row during harvest—the grapes were dark and swollen—ready for picking. He asked me to pick from a cluster and taste the grape. Then we moved over 3 rows—the distance of roughly 12 feet. I did the same and the grape tasted ever so slightly different. It was a great exercise in appreciating place‐derived flavors in wine.” This wine only comes into Georgia and Pennsylvania—it is tiny, tiny, tiny.
Tasting notes: the black fruits are there with the tell‐tale Cabernet Franc markers of tea and a nuance of mint.
Suggested food pairings: smoked duck or grilled steak preferably topped with roasted garlic and mushrooms or fresh herbs!
2012 J. Lohr “Hilltop” Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, California
This Cabernet has 10% Petit Verdot in the blend. VV unveiled this wine a few weeks ago at a J. Lohr vineyard‐designated tasting—it was very well received by customers. The “Hilltop” Cabernet is growing in an area with highs approaching 100 degrees and evening temps in the 50’s. This is the perfect diurnal range for growing fine wine grapes.
Tasting notes: this wine spent 18 months in 60% new French oak and gives sweet cocoa, reduced Dr. Pepper cola, and dark fruits.
Suggested food pairings: this Cabernet is excellent with hard cheeses, beef, venison and pork dishes.
2013 Blue Rock “Baby Blue”
This Bordeaux-style blend wine (44 % Merlot, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Malbec, 5% Petit Verdot, and 4% Cabernet Franc) plus an untraditional 6% Syrah, is full in body, rich and deep. If you like full‐flavored wines, this is for you. The fruit is 100% estate grown, located next door to Silver Oak Alexander Valley. The wine spends 12 months in 100% new French oak barrels and is bottle unfined & unfiltered. The winemaker is Nick Goldschmidt, whose wine we sell so much of at VV, and who allowed Michael and his wife to stay in his guest house last year in Sonoma.
The name of the winery comes from the preponderance of Serpentine rock in the vineyard (a bluish colored rock), a very unique geological occurrence because they found out from studies that the rock made its way millions of years ago from the Fiji Islands due to plate shifting!
Tasting notes: the color belies the intensity on this wine—it may look medium‐bodied from sight, but the taste will suggest otherwise. The blend changes annually to suit quality. The Serpentine rock is high in magnesium and tends to de‐vigorate vines, therefore giving more concentration and character to those vines that survive the harsh growing conditions.
Suggested food pairings: try a glass with a savory lamb and herb dish, beef or veal.
2012 Monticello Vineyards “Jefferson Cuvee”, Napa Valley, California
2012 is quite the vintage for Napa Valley. The wines are powerful, but already quite enjoyable. We obtained a killer restaurant‐deal on this 100% Cabernet, hence, the ability to offer it within the Club. It is a great little Napa wine for the money, with the proper “pedigree” meaning it spent 2 years in French oak.
Tasting notes: the 2 years in French oak tamed and shaped the complex aromas and flavors, ultimately delivering a vanilla cinnamon edge to sweet coffee blackberry flavors.
Suggested food pairings: this delicious cab loves prime rib and steak, peppered, grilled or smothered in blue cheese.