What makes for a successful wine club?

The place for all things wine, focused on serious wine discussions.

Moderators: Jenise, David M. Bueker, Robin Garr

What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby OW Holmes » Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:09 pm

My community (Grand Rapids, MI) has many wine lovers, but no active community wide wine club - at least that I am aware of. I've been talking with some other wine geeks about organizing such a club, that would hold or host events, arrange wine related trips, perhaps help charities raise money, etc. I have talked to Mike Brenton of the Greater Lansing Vintner's club, which is tremendously successful, and he is a fantastic resource. Then the thought occurred to me - with all the wine lovers here from all over the world, doubtless many of you belong to wine clubs and might share with us what you do, what mistakes you have made if any, what successes you have had, what is likely to work and what is not, what kind of events work, how to organize, how to get members, relationships with retailers or others that have proven beneficial, cost of membership and use of funds, etc.
At this point, I'm just looking for ideas. Any ideas would be appreciated, even if you haven't had a chance to try them out.
By the way, Robin, is "WineLovers" a trademarked name, or is it available for club use?
-OW
User avatar
OW Holmes
Wine guru
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:57 pm
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby Peter May » Wed Apr 05, 2006 12:39 pm

OW Holmes wrote: Any ideas would be appreciated, even if you haven't had a chance to try them out.


I belongto 3 wine tasting clubs. All are non-commercial and not connected with retailers.

The one I have been in longest, over 20 years, is run by a committee of 6-8 members who organise about 8 tastings annually, plus a wine tasting comeptition for a nominal prize plus a dinner dance (at which the club profits are spent).

The club organises a speaker who supplies the wines for the tastings. Speakers can be from local merchants, independent consultants etc. Format is a door wine (double measure on arrival) then sit at tables of 12-16 for talk by speaker, punctuated by the wines, followed by a bread/cheese/cold meat supper. Wines placed on each table at appropriate time and are poured by members using a measurer (small port glass)

2nd club is basically run by one man who invites speakers ostly from enthusiasts who present wines from their collections. Meets 3 times a month. Speaker talks about background of wine, but is not allowed to say anythingabout how it tastes. Attendees sit at one large conference table & pour using marked measurer. After each wine attendees speak about the wine. Because of often very critical comments only about one merchant now is willing to present wines :)

£rd club also non commercial run by members committee, members sits at small tabels, wine is poured by committee centrally so members have to go and get their pour, nibbles available. Speakers are mix of merchants and independents.

The major problem and cost of all clubs is finding suitable meeting place at reasonable cost.
User avatar
Peter May
Wine guru
 
Posts: 2065
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2006 12:24 pm
Location: Snorbens, England

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:07 pm

In my experience, the key ingredient to making a tasting group successful is an individual or group of individuals who are really dedicated to making it happen. Lots of people like to attend tastings, but relatively few have the time and the inclination to make them happen on a regular basis.

BTW, OW, if you make a go of it, please let me know. My brother lives in the Grand Rapids area and enjoys wine (even has a few vines of his own going). I think he might be interested in a club or tasting group.


Good luck!

Mike

"An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a very narrow field" - Niels Bohr
User avatar
Mike Filigenzi
Known for his fashionable hair
 
Posts: 6751
Joined: Mon Mar 20, 2006 5:43 pm
Location: Sacramento, CA

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby OW Holmes » Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:23 pm

Thank you Peter and Mike. I greatly appreciate your thoughts. Keep them coming, please.
-OW
User avatar
OW Holmes
Wine guru
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:57 pm
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby Dan Smothergill » Wed Apr 05, 2006 2:52 pm

You might take a look at the American Wine Society page. AWS has chapters all over the country, and I think they have something available on formats found to be successful.

Our Syracuse AWS chapter works well because two very dedicated and knowledgeable people have taken it upon themselves to make sure that it does (Joanne and Jim, take well-deserved bows). Monthly meetings are held at a church hall at an average cost of about $15 per person. Two members take charge of getting food appropriate for the wine, setting up chairs, tables, glasses, etc. At the end of the meeting everyone pitches in to clean up and return the hall to normal. Turn outs range from about 30 to 50.

Each meeting has a theme which range broadly across wineries, regions, countries, and varietals. Last month a representative from Banfi led a tasting of Brunello clones. At the previous meeting it was South African wines led by one of our own members. Typically, eight wines are tasted in two flights of four. As each wine is tasted it is rated on standard AWS sheets and discussed. At the end, ratings are tallied to see which were the favorites. Guests often comment on how educational meetings are. Again, that's attributable to our good leadership.
User avatar
Dan Smothergill
Wine guru
 
Posts: 604
Joined: Sat Mar 25, 2006 3:24 pm
Location: Syracuse, NY

What Makes for Successful Wine Club?

Postby Niki (Dayton OH) » Wed Apr 05, 2006 4:23 pm

Hi OW, nice to "see" you! If it's of any use to you, I'll share our experience with forming a local tasting group.

Yvonne and I were both interested in wine and attending local retail tastings here in Dayton, when she saw a post on the old WLDG from someone in the general area who was looking for a tasting group. Yvonne convinced me that the two of us should organize something, so we emailed the poster, who turned out to be the famous JuliaB. We had a couple of other friends who were interested in wine, and invited them to join us, and thus the Motley Cru was born. I posted some tasting notes on the old WLDG, and got a few private emails from folks in the area who were interested in joining us, so we grew to a core group of 8 folks, with others who occasionally join us.

We meet once a month, either at one of our homes or at a local wine retailer shop (there are two different places that have been willing to host us so far; we pay for the wine and snacks and they select them, research them, and talk to us about them). If one of us hosts it, we select the theme (for instance, the last time we hosted, the theme was Malbec, and the time before that, it was wines from the Piedmont, in honor of the Olympics). Sometimes we research the wines and start out by discussing that research.

Typically, at a home tasting, each person brings a bottle of on-theme wine, then we get a spouse or disinterested other to brown bag them. We usually try them in two flights, and we smell, taste, and write down our impressions before we discuss the wines, so that the less experienced tasters won't be influenced by the more experienced (or more confident) tasters.

JuliaB's husband, the elusive Louie, told a hilarious story to his friends after the first tasting they hosted: "They have special bags for the wine, and special glasses for it and special openers. When they finally pour it, they smell it, they swill it, they write notes about it, they talk about it, and the whole time, I'm thinking - would they just drink the damn stuff?"

We've been meeting together once a month for about 3 years now, and really enjoy it, although I'm also aware there is a chapter of AWFI in the local area with a much larger membership. Guess it kind of depends on what you're looking for - something bigger, or something more intimate.
Cheers,

Niki
User avatar
Niki (Dayton OH)
Wine geek
 
Posts: 83
Joined: Mon Mar 27, 2006 12:13 pm
Location: Dayton OH

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby OW Holmes » Wed Apr 05, 2006 4:40 pm

Thanks Niki and Dan. Nicki, nice to see you too. Dan, I checked out the site, and jotted down some ideas it gave me. I appreciate it
-OW
User avatar
OW Holmes
Wine guru
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:57 pm
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby David Lole » Wed Apr 05, 2006 5:54 pm

OW,

My suggestion is based on my experiences with a local wine club which was formed in 1968 and still meets today.

Once a month (say the second Tuesday, for example) the club meets at a local restaurant for a wine dinner. Members take turns in organsing the evening. Given the title of "wine master", the designated member organises the dinner, theme/s, attendees (each member was allowed to bring at least one guest and depending on the numbers required/desired etc more than one guest per member sometimes attends), wines, glassware etc. for a set price preset by the club membership (generally once a year, at the AGM, in this case). The wine master works within this budget to structure/match the food/wine and mostly all the wines are served masked. Between courses during the evening, the club president/wine master asks a few members for comments on the wines just served, followed by the wine master revealing the wine/s, generally with some form of (hopefully) brief entertaining/educational oratory. Guests are sometimes asked for comments, but more as a gentle general question, after the members have completed their bit. Options games are another interesting variation in the evening's format.

The critical determining factor in this success of any club is to effectively control the calibre of the membership. Occassionally, some meetings I attended were very ordinary - the location, ambience, food and/or wine were poor, offence was taken and members (and even more importantly, their guests) received terrible value for their hard-earned. To supposedly counter this, propective members were "supposedly" screened by the president/commitee and a secret ballot of the membership was conducted for each induction. Only one never made the grade while I was a member! For new members, the president should carefully mentor the inducted's first dinner/s to ensure a good night eventuates.

Other activities such as wine tours, tastings, group purchases etc were organised from time to time.

All in all, this format worked well most times. My decision to leave the club was due to the club becoming too big and somewhat unruly (24-30 members meant you got to do a wine dinner every 2 to 2-1/2 years), with too many dinners not to an acceptable standard. Some members were incredibly generous, copping, in some instances, a whopping loss on the night's offerings (i.e once the restaurant was paid and the wine master reimbursed the remainder for his/her wines supplied). Others, seemingly, thought profiteering was the order of the day by what they put on (perhaps I should give some the benefit of doubt here) or were just incredibly naive.

IMHO, the secret to the success of groups like this is to foster the concept of building a cellar or in the best possible scenario, all the membership having established a decent cellar some years ago.

Good luck with your venture.
Cheers,

David
David Lole
Wine guru
 
Posts: 1556
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 4:49 am
Location: Canberra, Australia

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby David Lole » Wed Apr 05, 2006 9:17 pm

OW,

Just some detail on some of the other issues you raise re funds, finances and ideas in your original post.

1) The president holds his/her post for a maximum of 1 year with the honour of organising/running the first dinner of the stewardship. The president's position can't be held again until all others members are given the opportunity of accepting the post.

2) The president-elect (in this club's case the vice-president) gets to do the next "handover" dinner 12 months down the track, giving plenty of time to get organised and also can fill in if the president's away/sick etc.

3) Annual membership fees are the cost of the next handover dinner plus a surcharge for administrative costs (which shouldn't be too much). If a member resigns for any reason these "moneys" stays in "consolidated revenue".

4) This club also has a 5 year "anniversary" dinner and charge members an annual surcharge amount (say $20) which the committee, in consultation with the membership, secure or set aside wines to be put down for these special dinners. Depending on the grandeur desired, any other costs required to be recouperated can be evenly split by the membership at the time of the dinner. The few dinners I attended were quite spectacular, the generosity of some of the "donor" members of many of the wines was humbling, to say the least. Some, I believe, were supplied at the cost of original purchase, some free of any charge at all!

5) Etiquette and Formalities

- most meetings are set down for 7 for 7.30 pm for example. A sparkler or pre-dinner drink is usually served in that period.

- at the commencement of the meeting the president or his stand-in offers any apologies, introduces the wine master, welcomes the guests and proposes a toast! The wine master is asked to give a brief rundown of proceedings. At this point any club business should be done with as quickly as possible, if at all, and comments from the pre-dinner drink can be asked for, prior to the serving of the first course.

- at the conclusion of the meeting the next venue and wine master is always announced.

That's about all I can think of at this point.
Cheers,

David
David Lole
Wine guru
 
Posts: 1556
Joined: Thu Mar 23, 2006 4:49 am
Location: Canberra, Australia

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby OW Holmes » Fri Apr 07, 2006 3:16 pm

David, I have printed out all your extensive and helpful notes. Thanks.
-OW
User avatar
OW Holmes
Wine guru
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:57 pm
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Apr 10, 2006 12:23 am

OW Holmes wrote:By the way, Robin, is "WineLovers" a trademarked name, or is it available for club use?


OW, "WineLoversPage" and "Wine Lovers' Page" are trademarked and registered service marks, but I doubt that "WineLovers" is trademarkable, and not wanting to get a Gallo reputation, I wouldn't even try!

Sorry I missed this question before ... I've been following this thread with interest, but didn't see this.
User avatar
Robin Garr
Forum Janitor
 
Posts: 16659
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:44 pm
Location: Louisville, KY

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby OW Holmes » Mon Apr 10, 2006 10:12 am

Thanks, Robin. As you can see, I've received a lot of very good suggestions, and expect more when we meet with Mike Brenton. We will select a name at the first meeting (assuming we decide to organize this thing) and I'm pushing for "WineLovers of West Michigan" so I am glad to hear the name is available.
-OW
User avatar
OW Holmes
Wine guru
 
Posts: 745
Joined: Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:57 pm
Location: Grand Rapids, MI

Re: What makes for a successful wine club?

Postby Robin Garr » Mon Apr 10, 2006 10:42 am

OW Holmes wrote:I'm pushing for "WineLovers of West Michigan" so I am glad to hear the name is available.


Hey, maybe I should issue franchises! :-D

(You guys can have the first one free ... )
User avatar
Robin Garr
Forum Janitor
 
Posts: 16659
Joined: Fri Feb 17, 2006 2:44 pm
Location: Louisville, KY


Return to The Wine Forum

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], Google Adsense [Bot], Patrick Martin and 11 guests