Starting a "Home" Wine tasting CLub...FAQs or suggestions appreciated!

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Starting a "Home" Wine tasting CLub...FAQs or suggestions appreciated!

Postby Ivan_Seligma » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:29 am


I'm new to the group, and have been more than just "fond" of wine and cookery over the years.

I'm, however, in the beginning stages of starting a "home" wine tasting group to include all comers, beginners to gurus...hardest part, can be finding compatible members and egos...It's SO much easier when the fine, local winestores have the event, even if most of the wines are retail $20 or less!

I tried searching for FAQs on creating a Wine Appreciation Club on the Wine Lovers Discussion Group site and must not have the right keywords...Is there an area to go to for FAQs, as others must have considered this path before?

If there's not a FAQ for starting a wine club, I'm open to all suggestions.

How many people is an optimum size, then how many wines to have among them? A mix of reds and whites, or each person brings a favorite , so it's only, say, Chards one time, next time may be Chilean flights of 3? Keep wines in same price point, or pitch in to get some $$$ classics? Should we "limit" wines to those currently available at our local wine stores, to help our merchants, and make it easy to pick up a few bottles or more "discovered" at a tasting? Serve cheese/foods during the tasting, or just bread, and keep food till after the "serious" business at hand? How often to meet?

What are your thoughts and experiences on forming such a club? What would keep YOUR interest growing over a year or two in such a club?

Thank you,

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Re: Starting a "Home" Wine tasting CLub...FAQs or suggestions appreciated!

Postby James Dietz » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:40 am

Try searching Off-lines... that's the terminology often used.. and there is an OL forum here...
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Re: Starting a "Home" Wine tasting CLub...FAQs or suggestions appreciated!

Postby RonicaJM » Tue Sep 26, 2006 2:25 am

Some friends and I just started a wine tasting club. We've only met once, but we are already deep into the planning stages for the next one.

Anyway, the first tasting was a blast!!!! I facilitated and started doing all the research. I even put together our own wine tasteing score card. Since most of us don't know much about wines I put together a mini wine lesson and had hand outs. I even has a quiz at the end w/ a bottle of wine as the prize.

The salesperson at Central Market really helped me to figure out what wines to get. I picked out 2 whites and 4 reds and the average price was about $11. Also, 2 of the ladies bought wines, so we tasted about 9 wines and there were about 8 people there.

The number of people and the number of wines tasted worked out great. Everyone bought an appetizer, so we had lots of goodies.

Our next tasting everyone is bringing a wine and an appetizer. We're going to do blind tastings and the one who brings the winning wine takes a bottle home. I know what everyone is bringing so I can make sure we don't have 6 merlots and 2 chardonnays. We all want to experience different kinds of wines.

I think we'll do this every 2 months. But I think once a month would be better.

If you google "wine tasting" or "hosting a wine tasting" you'll get lots of ideas. Hope this helps.
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Re: Starting a "Home" Wine tasting CLub...FAQs or suggestions appreciated!

Postby David Creighton » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:45 am

Hi - good question! i've been a member of a number of wine groups over the years, so here goes..... the group will probably evolve over time. some members will want to get more serious and taste better wines sometimes and others will not and drop out. that is fine. since you are organizing it, you get to choose. my inclination would be to learn as much as you can since you are sharing costs. of course you can keep the group together longer by having each person or couple organize a tasting in turn - then they get to decide how serious it is.

blind: you will probably want to adopt a blind tasting strategy. get brown bottle bags from your store and put each in a bag. then a different person numbers the bags. that way no one knows which wine is which. they are poured in order and discussed based on their number. in time, someone will offer to make 'socks' that have numbers on them to replace the paper bags.

scoring: you will probably want to adopt a scoring system - 10pts, 20pts, 100 pts - whatever. this gives people a chance to decide just how much they like each wine based on their ideal. the scores are then averaged and the winners are revealed - along with the rest.

note sheets: you can develope a standard sheet that leaves room for adding the name of the wine later. make a space for the aroma, flavor, balance, etc. of the wine. check on the american wine soceity website for a more professional version as a guide.

how it works: the host should pick a theme and purchase the wines - the cost of which is then divided evenly among the attendees. the host provides bread, crackers and cheese - plus a dessert at the end. food gets too complicated and takes the focus off the wines. the host also researches the theme and gives a little summary of what they have found.

number of people: max of 18, min. of 10. that gives 1.5 - 2.5 oz per person per wine - enough to taste.

number of wines: 8-10 would be about right. yes, you can serve them in smaller groups. each person brings 6 glasses.

over the years one can learn quite a bit this way. you may start out with sauvignon blancs from around the world; but latter someone will probably serve 10 of them all from one place - say Sancerre and talk about the soil and location. if the wines are more expensive, you can obviously cut down on the number and therefore the cost.

meeting once every couple of months is good, but you can also meet every month. i belong to a group organized by a retail store and we meet every week.

feel free to contact me with more detailed questions if i haven't covered everything. have fun!
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Re: Starting a "Home" Wine tasting CLub...FAQs or suggestions appreciated!

Postby OW Holmes » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:33 pm

I'm a member of two wine clubs.
One is a dinner type wine club. 6 couples. Hosting rotates. Host picks the dinner theme, prepares main course, and provides wine to match. Others bring other parts of the meal, and a wine or two to match their contribution. No judging, just enjoyment. This is a pretty wine savvy group.
The other group is a real floating sized group, our Thursday after work wine group. Expertise varies from none to "pretty savvy" depending on who shows up. I set the theme for the month (a wine region, a grape variety, a style or whatever) and members bring a wine - or not - to my office and we taste for an hour. We usually have 6 to 12 people, and 3 to 5 wines. If we are long on wines, we save them up. If short, we dip in to the reserve. If we have none by noon on Thursday, the event for that week is cancelled. Very loose. The provider is expected to explain the wine, what grapes, region, cost, ratings known to him/her, etc. Again, no ratings, though we usually end up ranking the wines we try. Some weeks, within the theme, we will have a sub-theme. In our pinot challenge month, one week was pinotage, one week was oregon, one Burgundy, and one "left-overs". Some weeks, we serve blind. We did that at one of our Syrah tastings because we had four wines that cost 6, 12, 18, and 24 dollars, and it was fun to pick the wines in order (nobody did). Or we compared old world cabernet to new world cabernet blind. That sort of thing.
It's all fun. Enjoy.
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Re: Starting a "Home" Wine tasting CLub...FAQs or suggestions appreciated!

Postby Jenise » Tue Sep 26, 2006 12:37 pm

Ivan, there 's no one right way vs. a lot of good ways to approach such a thing, and it depends a lot on the sophistication level of the members.

I'm in two groups. My L.A. wine group has met once a month for around 7 or 8 years now. It's a splendid group of people who really didn't know each other at the start but have become fast friends. At the beginning, some of us had pretty established cellars and some did not--we considered that a plus. Those with cellars could share aged bottles, and those without would buy and share new wines that those with aging cellars wouldn't get around to buying. Everyone benefitted. The way that group works is that the hosting duties rotate monthly, and the host decides the theme. Everyone brings a bottle per person on the topic. Sometimes people bring more than one if they want to throw in a ringer, and generally several in the group show up with apertif or dessert wines, too. This group has about 14 regular members because there's always someone who can't make it, but we always have ten-twelve, which we consider ideal. This group goes through a lot of wine. The host always provides a sit-down dinner and the wines are usually arranged in flights around/during the meal. Members are free to offer appetizers, but it's not required. We have one bachelor who doesn't cook, so he provides ALL the wine, usually on a geogrphical topic (he's done Austria and South Africa) while the group brings/prepares the food. Everybody else in the group loves to cook, so these tastings are always bacchanalian excess but in good taste. And over the years, those who weren't really cellaring wines at the beginning have started doing so. The wines just keep getting more interesting.

I joined another neighborhood group here in Washington where I live. We had 15 or so people when we started but now draw 40 on a good night, and it's still growing. These are held in a neighborhood club house. For these, we charge $20 per person, the planners (me and another guy) buy all the wine, and we serve some kind of cheap quaffer while everyone stands around and chats and gets their glassware set up, and then six wines on whatever the topic is. Foodwise, this is a potluck and everyone brings a dish to share.

I like both, but the tasting/interest/wine level is definitely higher in the first group since, for one, it's not limited by circumstance to new releases.
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Re: Starting a "Home" Wine tasting CLub...FAQs or suggestions appreciated!

Postby Ivan_Seligma » Tue Sep 26, 2006 10:21 pm

Dear James, Ronica, David, OW Holmes and Jenise,

What a delight to read your insights , experiences and suggestions when I got home to look at the Forum.

The input from you was much more practical than some of the more rigid formats I found just "googling" about the net.

Ronica, your enthusiam for your first meeting is contagious, and sets me in motion! The idea of a score card is something I shall propose, and I can see that will be a "work in progresss" that, if adopted, can evolve as people help with suggestions on rating characteristics of wines that are important to their palates.

I like the gentle competition to bring "good" wines and have one person go home the "winner" with a special prize!

David, You have me leapfrogging to find a "wine sock" just a little nicer better than what I pull out of my top dresser drawer, to help in a blind tasting. I liek the idea of a host being responsible for an event, so the rest are 'off the hook", and can relax for months, yet plan for their own evening's theme!

I'll see if the group, as it forms, wants to initially limit to 10-18 people, that seems to be manageable..

OW and Jenise, I never thought of belonging to two wine clubs to double the experiences and fun...It's eye opening to see how very different each club it wine only, wine and food, etc. It seems easiest to have the host of the month decide his/her angle on the wine or food choices.

I do like the idea of the host explaining his/her choices and the background history, to further add to people's education.

Jenise, I never thought of those with cellars contributing more mature wines, as they like, as that lends a depth that is just not available at local winestores.

For tasting notes, I am open to suggestions for a "form" as an "assist" or reminder, for a dozen or so grapes so that for say, an oaky Chardonnay, Sancerre's citrus, etc people have an idea of how others have approached the grape and it's terroir...and can appreciate and learn to better appreciate and then use use terms as flinty, the overused "dry", and the associated flower and fruity characteristics that may apply.

Thank you,

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