A New Way to Relax - Join a Wine Club!

Have your Friday and Saturday nights become more constricted as you have risen up the company ladder? From extensive travels to late night meetings have you found it difficult - if not impossible - to simply relax from the hectic work week? If you do, you are not alone. Many Americans find it hard to downshift from the pressures of the office to the leisure’s of the weekend, but this dilemma can easily be avoided by participating in a growing trend: join a wine club!

There are several places to join local wine clubs which are popping up all over the country. A popular site to find one of these groups is http://www.meetup.com/. At this site you can scan available groups meeting in your local area and join instantly for free – depending on the rules established by the organizer. If you’re feeling intimidated by the wine community because of your inexperience, don’t. There are groups meeting at every level, from beginner to the most adapt wine connoisseur. Here you can develop your pallet, pair different wines with foods, and just meet other wine lovers in your area.

For those individuals interested in pursuing a more specific involvement with the wine community, I would highly recommend joining a private wine club at any of your favorite wineries. If your taste is so well-rounded that your pocket-book can’t afford the array of clubs you would like to join, pick up a copy of Wine Spectator, a magazine which offers unbiased descriptions of some of the best domestic and international wines there are. Sample some of their recommendations, and par down your choices. Access the winery’s internet site – if they have one – and see if they offer a winery membership.

If after you read Wine Spectator, and have visited several winery websites, and you still are not sure of where to join, please take some of my own suggestions. After going to school with a bunch of viticulturists and enologists, I must admit that my own pallet is passionate about red wines. I have several private winery memberships, but there are three that I wouldn’t hesitate from recommending.

Pine Ridge Winery is located in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley California and offers an outstanding variety of reds ranging from their brawny cabernets to their robust bordeaux blends. Membership in their wine club entitles you to 20% off all your purchases and five shipments of their best varietals over the course of a year. With my busy schedule, a visit to the winery is rare. Hence, the delivery of wine to my front door is much appreciated. The cost of membership at Pine Ridge depends on when you join during the year and the current shipment of wine being distributed - but the cost is well worth it.  As a member, you are invited to attend exclusive events like release parties, holiday events, and the like. Although not highly advertised, each year the winery plans a membership getaway – in 2008 they are planning a Mediterranean Cruise to discover new wines throughout Greece and Turkey! So if your persona bends towards adventure and your pallet towards first-class wine, be sure to include Pine Ridge Winery on your “to join” list.

One of the not-so-well-known wineries I love is Turnbull Winery. Tucked away in the Oakville district of Napa Valley, it boasts some of the most well-rounded reds I have tasted. Visit the reserve tasting room and ask for a sample of their Black Label 2004 release - enough said. Both Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast have taken an interest in the soaring vintages Turnbull has been releasing – buy it before too many people discover how fabulous it is! Membership affords you a 20% discount on all wines, exclusive rights to first releases, and invites to their first rate events. Four shipments are made during the year and there is no membership fee – you simply pay to have this tantalizing liquor shipped and delivered to your awaiting abode.

Last, but certainly not least, I would recommend Clos Du Val Winery because it is outrageous, snazzy, and down-right fun. Prominently situated on the Silverado Trail in Napa Valley, they offer a variety of memberships to conform to the pickiest pallet. The Cellar Club which ships 2-4 bottles four times a year, and offers a choice of either all reds or a varietals grouping – I’ll let you guess which I joined. The Dusty Cellar Club offers its members exclusive rights to buy Clos Du Val’s older vintage Cab’s and are invited to library tastings each year. But if you want to have a good time, this is the winery to join. To give you an insight, this past August they featured 007-themed party named “The Spy Who Loves Clos Du Val.” Guests came bedecked in current and vintage Bond character dress and tasted reserve wines coinciding with the years of Bond movie releases. How much fun is that!

Whatever group you do join be sure to read up on their wine club membership agreement before you sign at the dotted line. Test-driving a winery can be all well and good until you’re tied into a contract for a year or more that you can’t break. Also keep in mind that you shouldn’t feel pressured into joining a wine club. While you can join the prestigious and hoity-toity ranks of Silver Oak, Opus, or Duckhorn wineries if that’s where your pallet takes you; just remember to follow your own nose and choose what you like – not what sounds most impressive. You’ll end up more satisfied in the end.

So this year be sure to make a resolution you can keep and join a wine club!

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