Why wine clubs are more meaningful than ever and how to make yours a huge success.

ighteen years ago, I wrote my first book—The Wine Club—which was the culmination of so many life goals. I had always dreamed of becoming an author, and after years of freelance writing, researching wine, and traveling around the world to immerse myself in wine culture, I knew this was something I wanted to share. 

But the excitement of selling a book quickly turned to panic. 

It was only a few weeks later when I learned I was pregnant…with twins. Pregnancy and wine tasting don’t exactly complement each other, so I had to get creative—the first of many times motherhood would call for a little craftiness. For the last few months before my boys were born, my husband traveled with me. We would slyly switch glasses, and he would whisper the tasting notes in my ear. I was on track to hit my deadline for the manuscript, but as kids do, they threw me yet another curveball and made their debut 6 weeks early. I had a call with my agent while I was in labor at the hospital. I remember my mom saying to me, “See, you can have it all, but who the hell would want it?” 

The birth of my boys came with complications and plenty of pain, but I never pressed Pause. I finished the book, and 5 months later I went on a book tour. And I have “had it all” ever since. 

The Wine Club turned out to be more than a book; it was a lifesaver for me and many women just like me. New mothers, young career women, or those managing both—it helped us find a way to relate as women, not just as moms. A move from Manhattan to Bucks County had me desperate for female connections. Julie, a new friend at the time, was inspired by the book and started a wine club in Yardley. This club, like the hundreds that popped up across the country, became a monthly haven for us to support each other.

Connection is Self-Care

Eighteen years later, which was both a blink of an eye and whole lifetimes all at once, my preemies were headed off to college. I found myself longing for those chaotic moments of breastfeeding two babies, sleepless nights, tripping on LEGO piles on the way to the bathroom, and rushing from soccer practice to swim lessons—the beautiful mess that is raising kids. It felt like in an instant they were 6 feet tall, getting their driver’s licenses and going to prom.

I suddenly realized that for this part of my life, I needed to make those female connections again, just as I had all those years ago. The idea coalesced in my mind that we needed a new Wine Club, one that fit our lives right now—one in which so many of us crave fewer social media and more meaningful connections. And with that, the new and improved Wine Club, A Monthly Guide to Swirling, Sipping and Pairing With Friends, was born. This time I knew it was more than just young moms who needed it. Everyone should have a wine club.

Wine clubs are like book clubs, but better—it’s the perfect excuse to have a little fun and connect with friends. It’s an opportunity to press Pause on our overscheduled lives and feed our undernourished souls. This book is how I am hoping to be of service to the thousands of women out there who need both. So, get your drinking shoes on and join the club! 

Wine clubs are like book clubs, but better—it’s the perfect excuse to have a little fun and connect with friends.

More Tasteful Tips

All wine club members should be willing to take turns hosting the gathering. 

Be sure to have your designated driver or mode of safe transportation home in place before you start the evening. Leaving this task till late at night will prove to be a bad idea.

One-to-one rule: one glass of water for each drink.

Don’t drink on Empty—always have a little nibble before you start taste testing.

You must at least try all the wines being evaluated.

You must wait until you have tasted and talked about each wine before pouring yourself a grown-up size of your favorite wine from the night.

Avoid perfume or cologne
in general. 

Remember, you only taste test, sip, and sniff the first go-round, so a 1-oz to 2-oz [30 ml to 60 ml] pour is sufficient. If you pour more than that, your guests will end up swirling that wine right out of their glasses.

Spit buckets, or dump buckets, are just about as dainty as they sound, but it’s recommended that you spit after you swish the wine around your palate when tasting wines for learning. This way you’re not influenced by your alcohol intake. I suggest passing out individual opaque-colored glasses or plastic cups so tasters can keep their spit to themselves. Or have a large opaque vase or two in the center of the table for guests to use.

How to Start Your Wine Club

Anyone can start a wine club. All you need are some glasses, a bottle opener, some aluminum foil, a few friends and voilå! You’re ready to kick off your club. There is no need for prior wine experience or training; wine club is for both the novice and the expert alike. The book is based on the calendar year with wine picks and foods to go with every month. But these are guidelines, and I encourage you to use the book to guide your wine club however you like. Wine may be daunting at first, but with baby steps or baby sips, as I like to call them, you’ll be up and running in no time. Each meetup you will explore a variety of wines so you can find your favorites.  

Since I don’t want you sipping on an empty stomach, each chapter also has a few snacks and appetizer suggestions. The recipes are simple but sophisticated and will enhance your wine-tasting experience—but by no means is one person meant to make them all.

Wine of the Month

Each chapter is devoted to a monthly meeting where you’ll explore a different style of wine (like Champagne) or varietal (that is wine made from a specific grape such as Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon). The wines also go with the season. For example, you wouldn’t want a big, jammy Zinfandel on a hot August day, so for that month you’ll be sipping crisp, chilled Sauvignon Blancs.

The Guest List

Once you mention a wine club, people will come out of the woodwork to join. You want to cap the guest list at 10 to 12. I prefer even fewer, if possible. A lovely get-together is great, but beware: the more members, the more you can focus on the wine. As for choosing which mates to toast, keep proximity in mind. (If you live in a locale that allows all members to take public transportation, then this doesn’t come into play.)

My number one rule about wine club is simple—drink with people you like!

Tasting Blind

Each month, you’ll only taste five or six wines. Encourage guests to bring assigned bottles wrapped in foil and numbered. (If you’re be tasting six bottles, they will be numbered 1, 2, 3, and so on). If they do not bring them already wrapped and numbered, the host/hostess can wrap all the bottles in aluminum foil or brown bags as they arrive. If you can’t see the name or price, you are more likely to taste true to your palate and not be swayed. Even master sommeliers have been tricked! By covering the bottles, you learn to trust yourself and learn how to shop for what you like.

Glass It Up

I recommend all-purpose glassware, and don’t be afraid to ask your friends to bring some if you don’t have enough. You can serve your wine in any glass you have on hand, but try to avoid serving in mugs, plastic, or paper cups. My favorite way to serve wine is in different vintage glasses I have collected from garage and estate sales and thrift stores.

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