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6 Unusual Wine Picks From the Northwest

6 Unusual Wine Picks From the Northwest

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Trellis Growth Partners may sound like a bunch of financial planners, but the name actually belongs to a marketing group that represents a dozen clients from Oregon and Washington — 10 small wine producers, plus a maker of olive oil, and a ready-to-launch micro-distiller.

Unsurprisingly, receiving a case of samples from these artisan producers was an interesting experience. Quality varied, but here are the wines that proved to be the most striking:

2011 Stoller Dundee Hills pinot noir ($25). While not a complex wine, it’s a pleasant one — rounded cherry fruit with cola and rooty flavors.

2009 Mackey "Concordia" Columbia Valley red ($38). Mainly composed of syrah with some grenache and mourvèdre blended in, this wine has ripe, rich fruit with cherry and raspberry flavors and pleasant creaminess. Good texture and well-integrated tannins.

2010 Two Mountain "Copeland" Yakima Valley syrah ($22). A troubled, slightly bitter wine when the cork is pulled, but with some decanting and time it becomes more-interesting — earthy with tart raspberries and a bit of funkiness. I would recommend only for you lovers of murky, brooding wines.

2009 Abacela "South East Block" Umpqua Valley tempranillo reserve ($50). Whenever I taste samples, I try to enjoy them with dinner, but I am often obliged to leave barely touched bottles on my neighbors’ doorsteps or dump them. This wine, however, I couldn’t imagine pouring down the drain. It was delicious when I first tasted it with food, and it continued to develop over the next few days — uncorked and unrefrigerated. So it’s by far my Pick of the Litter — ripe, rounded black raspberry and elderberry fruit with a delightful creaminess and a chocolate mocha finish. Very good food-friendly acidity and tasty tannins.

2012 Ghost Hill Yamhill-Carlton pinot noir blanc ($25). A bit of a novelty, but an interesting one. While this wine fades quickly from the palate, it shows a well-balanced apricot/citrus fruitiness and a nice bit of spritz, either natural or induced.

NV Naked Winery "Outdoor Vino" American white table wine ($15). Another novelty, not so interesting for its quality — sweet and somewhat bland — as for its delivery system. It comes in a small plastic bottle and advertises itself as a wine for adrenaline junkies who must bring wine out on the slopes or along the trail. So if you need a mid-slalom burst of sugary energy or a buzz before you bungee jump, this is your wine (but remember — carry out what you carry in!).

Wines to Give … Your Most Special Someone

How should we mark the holidays in this most confusing year? We posed that question to our sommelier friends in the restaurant industry for our "Bottles to Uncork, Bottles to Unwrap" feature in Wine Spectator's Dec. 15, 2020, issue.

Whether you are exchanging presents in-person with your nearest and dearest, or want to remind those you can’t be with how much you miss them, you can show your love in wine form. Here’s the advice drinks pros from Wine Spectator Restaurant Award–winning spots around the country gave us on bottles to gift to our closest family and longest-aged friends. From rare dessert wines to ancient cuvées, plus some accoutrements for true wine fanatics, here’s what they’ll be wrapping this holiday season.

For more gift ideas, see Wine Spectator's 2020 Gift Guide, including more sommelier picks and our Editors' Favorite Wine Accessories.

Parind Vora

Wine Director, chef and owner
Lockhart Bistro, Lockhart, Texas
Award of Excellence

Hands-down, the pair of blends from Chêne Bleu: Héloïse and Abélard. Must give together as one of the world’s greatest love stories that is very well-reflected in the blends’ connections to their respective vineyards.

Jill Davis

If you can get your hands on a bottle of Chartogne-Taillet Les Barres Blanc de Noirs Extra Brut, it is a very small production of 100% Pinot Noir from the Les Barres vineyard (the black label Alexandre Chartogne produces a white-label version too, and it’s Pinot Meunier). Chartogne vinified and blended several years together, 2012 through 2015, to make the first and only bottling so far of this wine. The vines are ungrafted, which is rare.

Matthew Pridgen

Wine director
Georgia James, Houston
Best of Award of Excellence

My personal favorite discovery from the last few years has been Zorah Wines from Armenia. Zorik Gharibian founded the winery after visiting his native country, from which he fled Soviet rule as a child. The region of Vayots Dzor is home to the Areni-1 Cave that is thought to be the oldest winemaking facility in the world, dating back more than 6,000 years. Zorah works with the ancient native varieties Voskeat, Garandmak and Areni Noir. The vineyards are incredibly old and grown at altitudes of around 5,000 feet, where they struggle for nutrients in the poor, rocky soils. The resulting wines are infinitely complex and unique, with incredible minerality. They are truly fascinating wines with an incredible story that, in a way, is just now beginning to be told.

Amy Racine

Wine director
701West, New York
Best of Award of Excellence

I am not the biggest orange wine person, but one that I’ve really come to love is from Channing Daughters. They’re in Long Island. They make this great [cuvée called] Ramato, and it’s a skin-contact Pinot Grigio. It’s traditionally a Friulian style, it has this coppery kind of color to it and this rosy, lemon oil, orange oil perfume to it. And it’s really clean it’s not super funky and chewy like a lot of orange wines can be. It’s really fun. It’s vegan, and they were one of the founders of the Long Island Sustainable Winegrowing viticulture program. And they really, really care about the environment and giving back.

Anthony Wesley

Everyone loves dessert, but when it comes to dessert wines, that’s a finicky territory. The most fuss is about dessert wine being too sweet—of course dessert wines are sweet—but some people are able to experience that the dessert tends to lessen the sweetness of the wine. The Coal Miner Robinson Run No. 95 Sweet Red 2016, a Merlot/Cabernet/Syrah from Brower Family Wines in Monterey, is just perfect for all. The sweetness is mellow, soft and smooth, and goes well with practically any dessert. It’s dedicated to coal miners with health issues upon closure of the mines, and 50 percent of proceeds goes toward helping those families.

Daniel Tucker Jr.

Wine director
Elements, Princeton, NJ
Best of Award of Excellence

I’d probably go with something like Castello di Verduno Basadone. This wine comes from the Pelaverga Piccolo grape, which is pretty cool in and of itself, producing light-bodied wines with inviting red fruit, pepper and floral notes. Basadone is local [Piedmontese] dialect for the poppy flower and also means “little kiss.” It is rumored to be an aphrodisiac. The estate is a landmark of beautiful castle structures overlooking La Morra.

Gretchen Allen

Wine director
The Cheyenne Club, Saratoga, Wyo.
Best of Award of Excellence

Moving forward after COVID, health will be a gift in and of itself. Commandaria St. John is a very special sweet wine from Cyprus, which carries the folklore of being the one of the oldest wines in the world. Because it is aged in a solera system, there is essentially a drop of wine in every bottle that dates back to the Crusades. Makes toasting to a long life special indeed.

What are you asking for this year? Or giving?

Peter Carillo

Wine director
Angler, Los Angeles
Best of Award of Excellence

I’m hoping my stocking is stuffed with Pierre Poupon maps of Burgundy.

Richard Hanauer

Wine director
RPM Restaurants
Best of Award of Excellence

I’m giving 2019 Bordeaux futures. I think that there is a lot to look forward to, and a lot to remember from years past, and that is what futures are all about . no one will mind skipping 2020. The gift of a case of Bordeaux futures is classy, thoughtful, and 2019 looks like an exceptional vintage with approachable pricing.

Swati Bose

Co-owner and wine director
Flight Wine Bar, Washington, D.C.
Best of Award of Excellence

This has been on my list to give for many years, but I am finally doing it. I am getting a Champagne saber for my partner, [Flight co-owner] Kabir [Amir]. It is something that is fun and not serious, but the saber itself is not inexpensive, and so I have hesitated. But he turns the big five-oh this year, and we were nominated as James Beard semifinalists … so regardless of what happens in the world, maybe we can get a saber!

Hello from The California Wine Club ®

Since 1990, it's been our wine club's mission to help artisan wineries share their small-batch wines with wine enthusiasts everywhere. At The California Wine Club we happen to think these wines simply taste better than the mass-produced wines that dominate store shelves.

We visit the wineries, meet the families and winemakers behind the wines and then invite them to share their favorite wines with our wine club members. Every wine featured in our five monthly wine clubs comes from a real-working winery and is proudly backed by our wine club's Love It Guarantee.

If quality and service matter to you, and you've been searching for a wine of the month club to try out, we invite you to give us a try and get to know the artisan wineries we feature.

We also have gift options for all of our wine club levels. Our wine club gifts are perfect for all kinds of special occasions: weddings, holidays, birthdays, and corporate gifts for clients.

Cheers and thank you for supporting our small family business!

6 Cocktails Featuring Scotland's 'Trashiest' Drink: Buckfast Tonic Wine

Buckfast Tonic Wine, a caffeinated, fortified wine, has achieved mythical status in Scotland. Affectionately known as "Bucky," or "The Buck," everyone here in Scotland is familiar with the thin green bottle and its distinctive yellow-and-purple label.

It's normally associated as the drink of choice for hooligans and troublemakers. The former First Minister of Scotland, Jack McConnell, has called it "a badge of pride amongst those who are involved in antisocial behaviour," and its effects have been the subject of much debate.

According to The Telegraph, there have been 6,500 police reports of violence and anti-social behaviour linked to Buckfast over the past two years alone.

However, its unsavory standing has helped sales. The wine’s distributor, J. Chandler and Company, enjoyed record sales of £43.2 million for the year ending March 2017. Though it's most popular in Scotland, sales are increasing in the rest of the U.K. and Ireland.

Despite its Scottish reputation, this is an English drink, with holy origins. It’s produced at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, a creation of Benedictine monks who fled France in the wake of anti-Catholic attacks at the end of the 18 th century. The monks still make it today.

Living in Scotland, I wanted to know more about what Scots think of this drink, especially as I’m used to drinking something completely at the other end of the spectrum - a strong and classy malt whisky (whose origins also come from Catholic monks). So I interviewed a few friends and acquaintances about their Bucky experiences.

What emerged is more than the one-dimensional picture usually given to the drink. Consumption of Bucky has changed over the years with its increasing sales in pubs and clubs. It's become trendy as consumers and tourists want to taste this distinctively "Scottish" drink with an edgy reputation. It’s liked by many as much as it's hated by some.

Ain't no party like a Bucky party, though the guy on the left looks concerned about antisocial . [+] behavior Photo: Marius Thummler

Though it can be enjoyed straight from the bottle, my interviewees also listed plenty more unusual cocktails that make use of Bucky’s syrupy sweet texture, taste and 15% alcohol content. I include their recipes, and their thoughts on what the drink means to them. I've edited their answers for brevity and clarity.

As suggested by Eilidh, 24, from Glasgow.

Recipe: Take equal parts rum and Buckfast, mix them together, and add sugar. Garnish with a lime.

“I like Buckfast. However, I’d say that the consumption of Buckfast, in Glasgow at least, is very gendered. My male friends will often drink a bottle before going out to set them up for the night. This is less common among my girlfriends - we’d usually have a few sips of someone else’s rather than a bottle to ourselves.

I think a combination of factors made Buckfast the drink of choice for young, disaffected working class groups in Scotland (the West in particular). It’s cheap, pre-mixed, and one bottle gets the job done. It’s become a symbol of the ‘ned’ (Scottish hooligan) culture in Glasgow which many young people identify with. However, in recent years I think other groups have latched on to the cult status Buckfast has gained for itself. It’s no longer exclusively a drink of the working class and it’s not uncommon for middle class folk to drink it too, if ironically. It’s now become a popular ‘hipster’ trend and can be found in shops down south far more than it used to.”

As suggested by Scott, 23, from Edinburgh.

Recipe: Mix equal parts vodka, buckfast, and milk. Add ice.

“I like Buckfast because it tastes glorious and it makes me feel like the banter king. I think it occupies such a unique space in Scottish culture because even though it’s an English drink, we made it notorious. It’s become Scotland’s notorious baby and we’re not letting go.

Once, my chums and I were in London and in dire need of the monks’ finest. We managed to track some down in a wee off-licence. £33 down for three bottles was a bit rotten but didn’t dampen the mood. We walked down the street equipped with our Buck when some English punters who were sitting having a pint noticed us and exclaimed with wonder, 'Look! Actual Scottish guys with Buckfast!' Like a wild pack of booze hounds spotted by a cockney David Attenborough, we continued down the road with tremendous patriotic pride.”

As suggested by Roberta (Bob), 32, from Edinburgh.

Recipe: Mix two shots of Buckfast with 275 ml of WKD (a sugary alco-pop), add a splash of vodka.

“I remember my first taste being magical - it had a bad reputation, so I wasn’t expecting it to taste so nice. It’s a genuinely tasty sweet drink. Scottish people are radge, and so is Buckfast. It’s relatively cheap, and it’s got a sort of tongue-in-cheek vibe to it that Scottish folk love.

My band, The Banana Sessions, headlined Edinburgh’s Bongo Club and we offered a free bottle of Buckfast to whoever went the most mental to our medley of Prodigy songs. What happened after that was one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen - a room of 400 or so people going absolutely wild trying to compete for this bottle of Buckfast. We got flashed, someone climbed on a table, I’m pretty sure someone was swinging from the rafters - and in the middle of all that madness were my mum and dad looking pleased as punch. That’s the magic of Buckfast for you.”

As suggested by Tom, 33, from Orkney.

Recipe: Mix equal parts Buckfast and Irn-Bru (an iconic Scottish energy drink, in the same ballpark as Red Bull). Add ice, and the fruit of your choice.

“It's a singular taste, the Marmite of alcoholic beverages. A little Buckfast never harmed a party of good people, though. It’s probably best served by the bottle. No-one drinks Buckfast by the glass, not that I've ever met.

It has built itself a terrible repution thanks to the less desirable folk who drink it and then cause mischief. I don't doubt that those folk would have caused mischief anyway, but that shouldn't entirely reflect badly on the drink. So maybe the rest of Scotland sees it as a bizarre underdog, worthy of championing?"

As suggested by Nat, 33, from Ayr.

Recipe: Take 1 part Buckfast, 1 part vodka, and 2 parts pineapple juice. Shake or stir together.

“It seems like it's cool to drink it now. When I was younger, I associated it with something that neds like. I find tourists love to try it as a novelty as they hear about it being something Scottish people drink and want to know what the fuss is about.

I think it holds a unique place in Scotland as it is nostalgic for some people. In the club I work, if people spot it who didn't already know we sell it, they think it's great that they can now buy it in a club or pub. They will always buy one or many just for a laugh. They always want to get one for their friends to try and then tell all their stories of misspent youth!“

As suggested by Alan, 30, from Edinburgh.

Recipe: Pour a shot of Bucky into a glass of Irn Bru. Chug in one go.

“Bucky is genuinely a nice drink. It has a bit of a rep but it goes down easy and has a bit of a kick. Anyone I've had try it has never been disgusted. I even had my mother-in-law drinking it at a party.

It’s got cult appeal. It’s somewhat wild reputation makes it instantly recognisable. Unlike other drinks which can make some people drowsy or whatever, it’s a lively tipple. There’s a widely held myth that the embossed number at the bottom of the glass Bucky bottles is the batch. The lower the number, the sweeter it is. So if you get a number under 10 you are on to a really good one. No idea if there is any truth in this but the lower numbers do seem to go down better. It’s probably in the head.”

Judges at the North Coast Wine Challenge decide this year’s best picks

Click here to see more details about judges and contenders in the North Coast Wine Challenge.

A classic sparkling wine from a well-known producer of chardonnay and pinot noir grown in the Russian River Valley took home the top prize last week in the 2021 North Coast Wine Challenge, rising to the top as steadily as its tiny bubbles.

It was the first time in the 9-year history of the blind-tasting competition sponsored by The Press Democrat that an effervescent sparkler won the Best of the Best award. Although initially a shock to some, the groundbreaking win by the Sonoma-Cutrer 2014 Grand Cuvée, Russian River Valley was not all that surprising considering it was made by one of Sonoma County’s top producers of chardonnay and pinot.

“Classic sparkling wines are made from pinot and chardonnay, and it takes masters of those varieties to get the base wine right,” said Chief Judge Daryl Groom, who organized the contest. “At Sonoma-Cutrer, they do more chardonnay and pinot than anyone else. So it wasn’t a surprise that they could pull off a really fantastic wine out of those two varietals. . It’s a fantastic example of Californian sparkling wine.”

Judge Ellen Landis of Windsor, a certified sommelier and wine specialist, was struck by the overall quality of the roughly 20 sparkling wines she tasted during the first day of judging April 6 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds’ Showcase Cafe.

“The sparkling wines were brilliant and so pure,” Landis said. “They were pinpoint beaded (bubbles), beautifully flavored, Old World meets New World.”

Groom also theorized that the time had come for one of the North Coast’s premium sparklers to win big. With consumer interest in bubbly on the rise, he said, the judges’ choice reflected marketplace trends. In addition, after awarding the top prize to three pinot noirs and two chardonnays over the years, the judges may have felt it was time for a change.

“We tell the judges to absolutely pick the best wine,” Groom said. “But they always vote for a pinot and a chardonnay, and maybe it was time for (a sparkler) to win.”

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards Director of Winemaking Mick Schroeter, who has served as a longtime judge for the contest, said the wine represents the first-ever commercial release of a sparkling wine by Sonoma-Cutrer. It’s a blend of 60% chardonnay and 40% pinot, sourced from two vineyards in the west county, each boasting rolling hillsides and Goldridge soil, a sandy loam.

“We originally made 1,600 cases, of which we disgorged 1,200 cases as a Winemakers Release and kept 400 cases. Last year we disgorged the last 200 cases,” Schroeter said. “I’m just really thrilled with the way this wine turned out.”

Sommelier Traci Dutton, general manager of public wine and beverage studies at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, also was delighted that a classic sparkling wine broke through the ceiling this year as the top winner.

“That wine has just captured my heart over the past couple of years. . The wine is gorgeous and exquisite,” she said. “California sparkling wine is already a shooting star, and it’s because of wines such as this one that it will continue to dominate.”

The winning sparkling wine was disgorged last year by Schroeter and his team after aging for more than five years on the lees (leftover yeast). As a late disgorge, the wine was able to develop the classic, yeasty characteristic exhibited by the fine Champagnes of France.

“When it sits on the lees and you’ve got the carbonation, the wines mature so much more slowly,” Schroeter explained. “Over time, you get the wonderful creaminess on the palate, so it adds to the texture and you get this really finely beaded bubble coming over time.”

Schroeter, who has been with Sonoma-Cutrer for 11 years, said the sparkling wine was part of the winery’s annual Winemaker Release, a program that allows him to experiment with something unique every year.

“The thing that I like about this wine is that it has the combination of a little bit of the complexity that you get with age,” he said. “But at the same time, it’s fresh and vibrant, with green apple and beautiful richness from the pinot and the fresh-baked brioche/bready aroma.”

After the top winners were announced last Wednesday, the Australian-born winemaker went back to work at Sonoma-Cutrer and sent out a congratulatory email to the approximately 100 employees there, including his winemaking team, chardonnay winemaker Cara Morrison and pinot winemaker Zidanelia Arcidiacono.

“The three of us really work tightly together as a team. We make all of our decisions together,” Schroeter said.

The sparkler was not the only wine that made history during this year’s North Coast Wine Challenge. Schroeter also took home the Best of Show Red Wine for the Sonoma-Cutrer 2018 Pinot Noir, making Sonoma-Cutrer the first winery in the contest’s history to nab two top sweepstakes wins.

6 unique pregnancy cravings straight from TikTok moms-to-be

No pregnancy is complete without food cravings. Experts say that hormones, a heightened sense of smell and taste and certain nutritional deficiencies are all factors that lead to pregnancy cravings.

Popular cravings include fast food, pickles and fruit juice. But some pregnant parents-to-be have taken their cravings to new heights and invented recipes that are a bit more, shall we say, unique. Here are six of the craziest pregnancy cravings from around the internet. Maybe don’t try these at home!

Candied pickles

Posted by TikTok user @foreverberries, this recipe for candied pickles calls for putting pickles on a stick and covering them in a hard candy shell and crushed-up sucking candies. They sort of look like corn dogs, but they are definitely NOT corn dogs.

Pickled beets

Nothing against pickled beets, but they’re not necessarily the first thing people reach for when they’re craving a tasty snack. But according to @johannawestbrook, she went through jars of the stuff while pregnant. Remember, this is a judgment-free zone!

Ice cream and chips

User @jessiesayhey shared one of her go-to pregnancy cravings: Crushed-up Takis chips mixed into vanilla ice cream. She even makes a cute little arch design with the chips on top. Like all good pieces of art, this dish actually looks pretty good, even though it’s hard to understand.

Beef jerky with caramel

TikTok couple @thekirkhams19 did a short series where they tried their followers’ strangest pregnancy cravings. This sweet, meaty treat definitely qualifies. According to the Kirkhams, it wasn’t actually so terrible.

Pickles and ice cream

Posted by @harlie-turner, this unique snack combines two of the most classic pregnancy cravings: salty, briny pickles and creamy vanilla ice cream. What could go wrong?

Animal crackers and mustard

TikTok user Naomi Risken asked for her followers’ weirdest cravings, and someone commented “animal crackers with mustard.” As you can see from Naomi’s reaction, this snack was not all it was cracked up to be.

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Create Your Own Signature Jam By Mixing and Matching Flavors

It’s unofficial Preserve Week here at Northwest Edible Life. I know because my floor is sticky with canning syrup and my refrigerator smells like pickle brine. It’s hard for me to think of anything else but putting food by right now, so I’m going to be talking jams and pickles all week long. I hope you enjoy this week’s line up of preserving posts.

If you like what you read here, you might want to join over 1600 other readers who have NW Edible blog posts delivered automatically to their favorite reader or email inbox. It’s free, convenient and helps ensure you don’t miss anything. Thanks for reading!

Adding Zing To Your Jam

There is nothing wrong with a jam that has nothing but fruit, sugar and a bit of lemon in it. The sublime simplicity of pure strawberry has a lot going for it, for example. But when you are ready to get creative with jam making, it is possible to turn a simple fruit preserve into something of a food statement. All you need to do is add a bit of flavor zing to enhance the fruit.

Then you start to develop flavors like…

  • Pear with Ginger and Rum
  • Strawberry with Black Pepper and Balsamic
  • Sweet Cherry with Mint and Kirsch
  • Nectarine with Lime and Cointreau
  • Plum with Cardamom and Port Wine
  • Apricot with Vanilla and Earl Grey Tea

I tend to think of jam flavoring options as either Dry Zings or Wet Zings. Dry Zings include ground spices, citrus zests or dried herbs and are typically added in small quantity towards the beginning of the jam-cooking process. Wet Zings are liquids like alcohols and liquors, vinegars, maple syrup or citrus juices. They are added in slightly larger volume and are added towards the end of jam making to keep their flavors bright.

I have found that adding one Dry Zing and one complimentary Wet Zing to my basic preserve tends to give me just the right level of creative, appealing flavor without getting into that land of “yeah, that’s just…too much” that can happen when too many flavors are competing. However, just adding either a dry or wet zing is a great way to dip your toe into the world of Signature Jams, too.

I’ve been putting together a remarkably geekish list detailing Dry Zing and Wet Zing options by fruit. These are flavors that will, when used in appropriate quantity and paired appropriately, taste good with the fruit they are supporting.

The list is by no means exhaustive, it’s just my opinion on what spices and herbs and alcohols one can add to particular fruit preserves. It focuses on the fruits I preserve as jams most, and so does not include things like citrus or tropical fruits, which are rarely available in my area except through traditional (expensive-ish) commercial channels.

Do yourself a favor and don’t try to combine multiple spices and boozes like some sort of crazed Swedish Chef of jam making until you have a few solid crowd pleasers, like Blueberry-Cinnamon or Apricot with Nutmeg and Bourbon or Blackberry with Lemon Zest and Grand Marnier under your belt.

Then you can start to really have fun and experiment with some more unusual flavors, like Strawberry with Cocoa and Framboise or Pear with Curry and Maple Syrup or Apple with Rosemary and Calvados.

Get the full, printable .pdf version of this chart for free on the Downloadables page.

Tomorrow I’ll be giving step-by-step instructions on how to incorporate Dry Zing and Wet Zing flavor options into pectin-free jam making. I hope you’ll come back to see how to ditch the pectin box and really become the master of your own jam recipe.

What’s your favorite custom jam flavor? Do you have a family favorite?

April Bloomfield's summer ribollita

April Bloomfield's summer ribollita. Photograph: Romas Foord for the Observer

I learnt this recipe at the River Café. Rose Gray taught me how to make this rustic soup two ways – an autumn/winter ribollita and a summer ribollita.

fresh cannellini beans 225g
garlic 2 cloves, peeled and finely chopped
head of celery 1 whole, cleaned and finely diced (reserve the bright yellow leaves)
carrot 1 medium, peeled and finely diced
red onions 2 medium, peeled, finely diced
pequin chillis 4 dry, crushed (or 2 standard dried red chillis)
olive oil 55ml
heirloom tomatoes 450g, blanched, peeled
flat leaf parsley 2 handfuls or marjoram loosely packed and then roughly chopped
Swiss chard 575g, stems removed and roughly chopped
stale Italian bread enough to cover the cooking pot in one even layer when sliced about 1cm thick
good olive oil to finish

Place the fresh, uncooked beans in a pot and add just enough water to cover them. Then add half as much water again. Bring the water to the boil and turn down to a low simmer and cook until tender, but not mushy. Allow the beans to cool in their liquid.

If using dried beans, add water to cover and then add the same amount again. Cook as you would fresh beans but be aware that dried beans will take significantly longer to cook.

To make the soup, in a wide saucepan, fry the garlic, celery, carrot, onion and chillis in the olive oil over a medium heat.

While the vegetables are cooking, squeeze the tomatoes over a bowl to release their seeds and juice. Make sure to get all of the seeds out. Strain the seeds from the tomato liquid and reserve the juice. Discard the seeds.

After cooking the vegetables for about 30 minutes, until they are soft and lightly caramelised, add the parsley (or marjoram) and fry for another 5 minutes. Next, add the tomatoes with their liquid, and beat the tomatoes with a whisk. Continue cooking for another 30 minutes over a low heat. The tomato liquid should be absorbed by the other vegetables and your soup should be, once again, fairly dry. Now add the beans along with their cooking liquid and cook over a low heat, simmering for 20-25 minutes, or until the soup comes together: the various components should move together when stirred, but the soup should still be moist from the beans' cooking liquid. Add the chard and fold it into the soup. Cover the surface of the pot with the bread and pour just enough hot water over it all to moisten the bread. Give the bread a generous drizzle of good olive oil and remove the pot from the heat. Let the soup sit unattended for 10 minutes, then stir to combine. It should be thick and delicious. Season with salt and pepper.

Wine match
Cascina Fontana Dolcetto d'Alba, Piedmont, Italy 2011 (£13.50, Berry Bros & Rudd)
Dolcetto is the everyday drinking wine in Barolo country in northwest Italy, but this bottle is a cut above the usual in its graceful succulence of red and black cherry fruit.

6 wine making processes and what they do to wine

1. Harvest Date

The moment the grapes are picked is a pretty big deal. It is probably the most important thing a winemaker can do to ensure that they make awesome wine. Picking earlier will produce wines with higher acidity, lower alcohol and perhaps more green flavors and aromas. It could also lend to more bitter tannin. Picking later in the harvest season will produce wines with lower acidity, higher alcohol (or sweetness) and more subdued tannin. Some wines when picked too late must be artificially acidified in order not to taste ‘flabby’ or ‘flat’. Additionally, some will have water added to them (called ‘watering back’) to reduce the alcohol concentration in the completed wine. This could be why many commercial wines have identical ABV levels of 13.5%.

Besides picking the grapes at the moment when acidity level and sweetness are perfectly in balance there’s also a weather problem. Every vintage is different. Sometimes weather takes a turn for the worse at the end of the growing season and can even result in a bad vintage. In a situation where rains are forecasted in cooler climate areas (Northern Italy, Burgundy, Oregon, etc) some winemakers may choose to hedge their bets and pick grapes before optimal ripeness.

2. Cold Soaking and Skin Contact

Winemakers often talk about maceration time (a.k.a. skin contact) and cold soaking. Both of these terms refer to how long the grape skins touch the juice while it turns into wine. Cold soaking is a process that happens before there’s alcohol in the mix. By keeping the grapes cold, the grape must is too cold for yeast to start fermenting. The theory of cold soaking is to carefully extract color and fruit flavors from the skins without extracting bitter tannin. The total time that grape skins touch a wine is maceration time.

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For example, a Syrah producer called Kessler Haak in Santa Rita Hills , California macerates their wines for 50 days to extract the color and flavor. In comparison a few miles east in Santa Ynez, a Syrah producer called Solminer Wine Company macerates for just 28 days. The difference in color of the two wines is remarkable: one is very opaque and rich and the latter is pale and delicate like a Pinot Noir. Normal red wine fermentation generally takes around 2 weeks to complete.

You can understand skin contact by testing the differences in tea flavor by varying how long it sits in hot water.

3. Hot Fermentation vs. Cool Fermentation

Fermentation temperature is another technique that changes resulting fruit flavors and color in a wine. A hot fermentation can get up to 80-100 °F (26-37 °C — nearly hot tub temperature) as the yeasts metabolize and produce alcohol. Warmer fermentations are usually used for red wines for increased color and tannin. There are also several minimalist producers practicing warmer fermentation temperatures on white wines. Their goal is non-interventionist wine making that is more in tune with the conditions of the vintage.

Cold and cooler fermentations are usually practiced on white and rosé wines. Landon Sam Keirsey explained that cooler temperatures (from 42 – 50 °F, 6 – 10 °C ) help preserve delicate aromas in white wines. The reason for this is aroma compounds are volatile and are more likely to be lost at a higher temperature where reactions happen faster. This is probably why wine serving temperature greatly affects the taste of wine out of the bottle.

4. Pump Overs vs. Punch Downs

Pumpovers can extract higher amounts of tannin in a wine depending on the frequency and force. Some pump over systems are basically wine sprinklers, offering a gentler extraction and some aggressively stir up the fermentation tank. For larger fermentation tanks in commercial operations, much needed oxygen comes through a pumpover device.

Punch Downs
Punch downs, on the other hand, are a very delicate way of stirring a wine. They keep skins from getting too extracted and little to no amount of added oxygen in the fermentation. Punch downs are typically done by hand and are more popular with non-interventionist winemaking.

5. Oak-Aging vs. Steel Tank

Oak aging does more than just add a vanilla flavor to wine. Oak increases a wine’s exposure to oxygen while it ages. Oxygen decreases tannin and can help a wine reach its optimal fruitiness. Wines aged for many years in oak develop nutty flavors. If you’re not that familiar with oak aging, definitely check out this article:

The Surprising Truth About Oaking Wine

Steel tanks are commonly used for zesty white wines like Pinot Gris, although it’s not uncommon to find steel tank aged red wines. Steel tanks limit the oxygen exposure to wine and keep wines fresher. You can learn more about how oxygen affects wine over time.

6. Corks vs. Screwcaps

One misunderstood topic about winemaking is the choice of using a cork or a screwcap. In most circumstances there is no difference between wine in a bottle with a cork or a screwcap. When asked what he preferred, winemaker, Landon Sam Keirsey said:

Personally if it was my decision I would use screwcaps.

The interesting thing about the topic of wine closures is that corks let oxygen in at unpredictable amounts. There is also an issue with TCA ‘cork taint’ that affects about 1-2% of wines. Screw caps (and other cork alternatives), on the other hand, can control the amount of oxygen that comes inside the bottle per year.

There are several other wine making processes not included in this article such as using sorting tables, grape crushing and destemming, and how different kinds of yeast affect wine. Instead of including all of the wine making processes, we asked Landon ‘Sam’ Keirsey to help us focus on some of the most important ones.

2021 Wine Club Reviews

Cellars Wine Club

Cellars Wine Club provides members a complete wine tasting experience. In addition to a variety of wonderful wine you'll enjoy free shipping and membership flexibility that caters to anyone's needs.

Cellars Wine Club is not a one-size-fits-all wine membership program. Instead, they offer a impressive array of wine clubs to meet anyone's needs. At Cellars Wine Club, you can choose from 13 different wine programs, including:

  • Single Bottle Wine Club
  • High End Single Bottle Wine Club
  • Premium Wine Club
  • Red Trio Wine Club
  • Platinum Wine Club
  • Sweet Wine Club
  • Champagne Club
  • Cellars Wine Club
  • International Wine Club
  • West Coast Wine Club
  • 90+ Point Wine Club
  • Quarterly Case Club
  • Half Case Wine Club

Each of these wine clubs feature a different selection or quantity of wines. This way you can tailor your wine club membership exactly the way you want.

For the duration you select, your wine club recipient will receive one or more wines grown and bottled from vineyards either domestically or around the world. Cellars Wine Club allows membership plans for 1 to 12 months. Within the period selected, the wine club member will receive wines monthly, every other month, or quarterly, as you see best. Along with the wine, the recipient receives a monthly newsletter that describes the wines in the shipment, the regions they come from, and other wine related information.

  • Wine Origination: 13 different wine clubs featuring both domestic and international wines
  • Duration: From 1 - 12 months
  • Frequency: Monthly, Every Other Month, or Quarterly
  • Wine Choices: Reds, Whites, or a Mix
  • Membership Minimums: None
  • Shipping: Free Shipping

Wine club memberships also include a custom gift announcement notifying the recipient of their membership plus any personal message you would like to add. There are no monthly minimums, and memberships to any of the wine clubs can be cancelled at any time. If you fall in love with any particular wine you can re-order it at any time and at a reduced price.

We found numerous reviews and comments from satisfied Cellars Wine Club members. We also appreciated the level of customer service and quality of the delivery each month. With free shipping, fair prices, an impressive number of wine clubs, and wonderful wine, Cellars Wine Club earns our highest rating.

Gold Medal Wine Club

In the wine club business since 1992, Gold Medal Wine Club has experience in choosing the best wines that people are looking for. In addition to offering a wide selection of club options, this California based company also allows you to cater your specific wine preferences to your needs. Whether the wine is for yourself or as a gift, you'll be satisfied with the level of professionalism and customer service at Gold Medal Wine Club.

Gold Medal Wine Club stands out from the crowd by offering wines that have received top medals from wine competitions or have been highly rated by national experts. At Gold Medal Wine Club you can choose from 5 different wine club series including:

  • Gold Series. Two or four wines delivered each month. Typically a combination of red and white from small California wineries.
  • Pinot Noir Series. Two or four wines delivered every other month. The pinot noir selections are chosen from top California and international wineries.
  • Platinum Series. Includes two or four rare collectable wines delivered monthly. Selections are from California's top winemakers and include only those wines with 90+ ratings.
  • International Series. Three bottles of hard to find international wines delivered quarterly. Each delivery includes two red and one white.
  • Diamond Series. Provides 2 or 3 premium, top of the line wines delivered quarterly.

The wine club series selected will determine the options that are available. Those clubs listed with a monthly option allow members to select the frequency to monthly, every other month, or quarterly.

  • Wine Origination: 5 different wine clubs featuring red, white, domestic and international wines
  • Duration: Ongoing until cancelled
  • Frequency: Monthly, every other month, or quarterly but based on the series selected
  • Wine Choices: Reds, Whites, or a Mix
  • Membership Minimums: None
  • Shipping: Starts at $10 per 2 bottle shipment

Gold Medal Wine Club membership also includes a copy of the Wine Press with each delivery. This provides details about each wine delivery and the featured wine makers. Members may purchase additional bottles of their favorite selections at a 35% discount. Wine is charged to a credit card on file when each delivery occurs. Memberships to any of the wine clubs may be cancelled at any time.

If you have any questions or problems Gold Medal is there to assist. They have a responsive customer service team and Live Help when needed. In our research of Gold Medal we were excited to see so many positive comments about the company and the products they provide. If you are looking for delicious, highly-rated wines, Gold Medal Wine Club is a great option.

The California Wine Club

The California Wine Club provides members a complete wine tasting experience. In addition to wonderful wine, you can enjoy membership flexibility that caters to anyone's needs. Whether the wine is for yourself, or as a gift, you will be satisfied with the level of professionalism and customer service at The California Wine Club.

The California Wine Club actually features a variety of wine clubs you can choose from. These include:

  • Premier Series. Their original and most popular wine club. They deliver handcrafted wine from some of California's best small family wineries.
  • Signature Series. Features the most coveted of California's wines. Selections are predominantly red, with an occasional white.
  • International Series. Features wines from all over the world. Selections are mostly red, with an occasional white.
  • Aged Cabernet Series. Prestigious Napa Valley Cabernets aged 8-12 years. Recommended by the Robb Report.
  • Pacific Northwest Series. Hand selected, award-winning wines from some of Oregon and Washington state's best small family wineries.

For the duration you select, your wine club recipient will receive unique, hand-selected wines. The California Wine Club allows membership for 1, 3, 6, 9 or 12 months. Within the period selected, the wine club member will receive wines monthly or quarterly, as you see best. Along with the wine, the recipient receives an education in California wines, a full-color wine magazine, and food pairing suggestions for the delivered wines.

  • Wine Origination: California Wineries
  • Duration: Monthly, 3, 6, 9 or 12 months
  • Frequency: Monthly or Quarterly
  • Wine Choices: 2 reds, 2 whites, or 1 red and 1 white
  • Membership Minimums: none
  • Shipping: Free Shipping for some wine clubs

The California Wine Club allows you to access new and hard-to-find top quality red and white wines. With most of their clubs you can select either 2 reds, 2 whites or 1 red and 1 white wine for each delivery. If you fall in love with any particular wine, you can re-order it at any time and at a reduced price.

We found numerous reviews and comments from satisfied members of The California Wine Club. We also appreciated the level of customer service and quality of each month's delivery. With fair prices, easy to read education, and wonderful wine, The California Wine Club earns excellent marks.

Something is immediately obvious when visiting the Winc homepage: Winc isn't your typical wine club. In fact, Winc is more than a wine club. First of all, before showing you (their potential customer) any information about the wines they offer or membership perks, they focus on you and what you like. With a short series of 6 easy questions (about coffee, citrus, berries, etc.) they build your flavor profile. With that, four bottles of wine are specifically matched to you. Two other unique features of a Winc membership are: 1) you get to see what wines will be sent to you, and 2) if you aren't into one of the selections you can easily substitute another in its place. Some shoppers will love this option!

As stated above, Winc isn't just another wine club. They're also a California based wine maker (sourcing grapes from the top regions around the globe) and national distributor to select retailers and restaurants. They call themselves a "direct distribution wine company with an online wine membership experience". As the founders state in a short video on the website, they started the company with the customer in mind. It's no wonder their wine club is both unique and popular.

  • Wine Origination: Wines made by Winc with grapes from around the world
  • Duration: Ongoing
  • Frequency: Monthly
  • Wine Choices: All red, all white, or a red/white mix
  • Membership Minimums: None, cancel anytime
  • Shipping: Free

Winc offers a single wine club that delivers 4 bottles of Winc wine to you each month. Remember, these bottles are picked based on flavors you enjoy. Here are the details:

  • 4 bottles each month based on your preferences
  • Wines made, packaged, and distributed by Winc
  • Choose 4 red, 4 white, or any combination (3 red and 1 white, 2 red and 2 white, 1 red and 3 white)
  • Ability to see which wines will be coming to your door
  • Option to replace individual bottles

At the time of our review Winc offered a $20.00 discount for new members. We also found many solid reviews from satisfied Winc club members.

Winc is a unique wine club providing high quality wine. Doing everything from making to distributing all the wines in their club allows Winc to financially compete with other wine clubs. We think Winc is a great option for your next wine club membership.

International Wine Club

The International Wine of the Month Club has been delivering high quality wine from around the world since 1994. The monthly newsletter arrives with each shipment and includes wine profiles, detailed vineyard histories, tasting notes, and food pairings.

These wines come exclusively from boutique vineyards and are estate bottled. Estate bottling uses only grapes from vineyards the winery controls. This allows the winemaker an extra level of discretion in the development and harvesting of their grapes. Many mass produced wines of lower quality, which may be made from grapes not as thoroughly controlled, do not have the same consistency and varietal character as these boutique wines.

With all shipments from the International Wine of the Month Club you receive either 2 red wines, 1 red and 1 white, or 2 white wines As with any good wine club, there are multiple options to accommodate any palate.

International Wine of the Month Club options:

  • Premier Series - The original option that started in 1994 delivers premium wines from around the world. Because of their reputation and more than 20 year relationship with wineries around the world the International Wine of the Month Club is able to deliver these wines at the very best prices.
  • The Bold Reds Wine Club - This option features 2 robust red wines with deep color and complex flavor profiles. You should expect pronounced ripe tannins and integrated oak tones from barrel aging. Examples include Cabernets, Zinfandels, Priorats and Malbec blends from California, Spain, South America, and the Rhone Valley..
  • Collectors Series - This series includes exceptional wines which are borne of the finest vintage grapes on the oldest vines and live longer in a barrel before bottling. This production style yields wines suitable to drink soon after delivery or you can age them in your wine cellar. Perfect wines to save for those special occasions.
  • Masters Series - The Masters Series merges the other club options into one unbeatable package. You get a bottle from each the quality and value inherent in their Premier Series along with extremely limited production wines from the Collectors Series. Many customers who order this series drink one and save the other.

Perhaps the nicest feature from the International Wine of the Month Club is the Design Your Own Club option. Here you are able to customize your order by mixing and matching any Series with another. Also, you can include their beer club or even gourmet cheese or chocolate, premium cigars, or fresh flowers. You even have the choice of which clubs and on which months you want delivered (with no minimum), a perfect gift for that difficult-to-shop-for person on your Christmas list.

  • Wine Origination: International, from top wine producing regions worldwide
  • Duration: Anywhere from 2-12 months, or open-ended which is ongoing until you choose to cancel
  • Frequency: Monthly or any combination of months with the Design Your Own Club option
  • Wine Choices: 2 reds, 2 whites, or 1 red and 1 white
  • Membership Minimums: none
  • Shipping: $13 per month

The International Wine of the Month Club is an established company with an A+ BBB rating. They also have a 100% Satisfaction Guarantee their goal is to provide only the highest quality products and if you disagree, they will replace or refund your purchase.

High quality, limited production wines from the best wine regions in the world delivered to your door for wine lovers it is hard to beat. The International Wine of the Month Club has competitive pricing and customizable delivery options. Those benefits, along with their experience and international reputation earn them a spot near the top of our rankings.

Amazing Clubs

Amazing Clubs provides monthly memberships to a variety of food and beverage clubs such as wine, chocolate, lobster, cheese and much more. With their wine club, recipients can anticipate two bottles of red, two bottles of white or a combination of wines sent monthly or bi-monthly. This company has serviced over 1 million customers and has a strong history of delivering on time and as promised.

Amazing Clubs samples hundreds of different wines each year to find the best selection for their wine club. Selections come from independent, boutique wineries located across the world. Wine recipients can also anticipate a newsletter with each delivery that explains the wine selections and provides information on the respective wineries.

As with any Amazing Club membership, the wine club options are extensive and flexible. You can choose from a variety of membership durations including 3, 6, or 12 months. Additionally, membership shoppers may choose between monthly, every other month or quarterly deliveries. Wine club membership costs are priced affordably at Amazing Clubs with lower pricing for longer.

  • Wine Origination: Small domestic and international boutique wineries
  • Duration: Monthly, 3, 6, or 12 months
  • Frequency: Monthly, every other month or quarterly
  • Wine Choices: 2 reds, 2 whites, or 1 red and 1 white
  • Membership Minimums: None
  • Shipping: Included in price

Wine club gift memberships include a custom gift announcement notifying the recipient of their membership plus any personal message you would like to add. If at any time you or a gift recipient is not satisfied with the order, Amazing Clubs will work through the problem and even cancel the membership if so desired. If you're looking for a straightforward, tasty and affordable wine club, Amazing Clubs is one worth consideration. This company has membership clubs down to a science.

Martha Stewart

As the author of books, editor of magazines, and star of television shows, Martha Stewart has been a trusted cooking, entertaining, and lifestyle expert since the 1980's. The Martha Stewart Wine Co. Wine Club is yet another way she is able to help her fans (and in this case, fans of wine) live better.

Like many available wine clubs, club members of the Martha Stewart Wine Co. receive quality wines sourced from every great wine producing region in the world. But unlike all other wine clubs, this is the only one in which Martha Stewart hand-picks each and every wine shipped to members. Along with her selections you also get Martha's serving, pairing, and entertaining suggestions and tips included for free. And free shipping. And the Martha Stewart Wine Co. Wine Club offers their selection of wines from around the world at a low cost.

You can choose from two distinct clubs:

  • Half-Case Wine Club - receive 6 bottles every six weeks, only $8.33/bottle
  • Case Wine Club - receive 12 bottles every 8 weeks, only $7.49/bottle

Both the Half-Case and Case clubs are available in all red selections, all white selections, or a mix of the two.

  • Wine Origination: Sourced from around the world, selected by Martha Stewart
  • Duration: Ongoing
  • Frequency: Every 6 or 8 weeks
  • Wine Choices: Red, white, mix of both
  • Membership Minimums: None, cancel anytime
  • Shipping: Free

With many wine clubs offering one and two bottle monthly memberships, we like that the Martha Stewart Wine Co. Wine club offers full case and half-case club options. We also like the Martha Stewart "seal of approval" that is inherent with wines hand-picked by her. If you are looking for a low cost per bottle wine club which allows you to taste several wines with each shipment, the Martha Stewart Wine Co. Wine club may be a good option for you.

Wine creates a convenient wine experience with quick shipping and three different club offerings to meet your needs. The club choices are Discovery Tour, Wines of the World, and 90 Point Rated wine.

In the event that you decide to give a wine club gift, the wine ships the first order in 1 to 5 days so that it will show up by the celebrating event in time. Subsequent monthly club shipments usually ship during the 2nd or 3rd week of each month but no later than the 25th.

  • Wine Origination: 3 different clubs (domestic and international)
  • Duration: Monthly, 3, 6, 9, or 12 months
  • Frequency: Monthly or Quarterly
  • Wine Choices: 2 reds, red and white mix
  • Membership Minimums: None
  • Shipping: Included in price

Wine allows you to learn the story behind your wine. From where the grapes were grown to the critics opinions, providing an abundance of information. Ongoing memberships are shipped monthly until cancelled, you may cancel at any time prior to the shipment going out.

While Wine lacks some of the glitz and glamour of the higher ranked providers, but we liked the nuts and bolts of the company along with the terms of the membership. Offering two white wines as an option would have created more flexibility for wine drinkers that prefer white wines, but we still liked the different club offerings for variety.

Wine is not for the safe wine drinker - anticipate variety and some new tastes. The pricing at Wine makes this an affordable gift option for those hard to buy on your list.

Plonk Wine Club

  • Cost: 2 bottles: $64.99 per month (3 months - $194.97, 6 Months - $389.94, 12 Months $779.88)
  • 4 bottles: $89.99 per month (3 Months - $269.97, 6 Months -$539.94, 12 Months - $1079.88)

For all of Plonk's Wine Clubs, including the Mixed Wine Club, Red Wine Club and White Wine Club, you can choose to receive 2, 4 or 12 bottles of wine in your monthly shipment. All of Plonk's Grape Variety Wine Clubs, including the Cabernet Wine Club, Pinot Noir Wine Club, and Sauvignon Blanc Wine Club, include 2 bottles in each monthly shipment. The costs vary, of course, based on how many bottles per month and how long the membership.

  • Wine Origination: Domestic and International Wineries
  • Duration: 3, 6, 12 months, or monthly ongoing
  • Frequency: Monthly
  • Wine Choices: Wines determined by Plonk, no customer choice
  • Shipping: Free Shipping on case reorders

Though members can choose the grape variety or color of the wine they receive, there is no specific choice of wine Plonk determines which wines will be shipped each month. Two-bottle memberships include one bottle of two different wines each month, and four-bottle memberships ship 4 different bottles. The twelve-bottle per month options ships three bottles each of four different wines, so this option offers a volume discount but the same monthly variety as the four bottle option.

Plonk Wine Club members can review past orders to see what wines are offered, but don't know what they will get each month until the orders are shipped. This surprise factor may appeal to some and not to others who may prefer to select their wines from an inventory.

The wines we see on the Plonk website are indeed uncommon offerings, many of which we had never heard of before. Certainly Plonk is a good option for anyone who would like access to wines that they don't see every day in a local wine shop. The value of the monthly memberships is the question here. We looked at a sample of a recently shipped four-bottle delivery and we found the wines on other sites for an average of $6-20 a bottle. This didn't seem like much of a discount over other sites where these same wines were available.

Wine Country Gift Baskets

As the name hints, Wine Country Gift Baskets helps its customers with their gift giving needs. They've been at it for a while - since 1984 - and with "Wine Country" in their name it is no surprise one of their specialties is gifting wine clubs. Their 30+ years of experience have earned them an A+ accreditation from the Better Business Bureau.

Wine Country Gift Baskets wine clubs come with either all red wines or a mix of red and white wines, and all their options feature wines only from California. You are able to choose from these two clubs in a few different commitment lengths - 2, 3, or 6 month, with monthly delivery. Each delivery includes 2 bottles of wine along with food pairing recommendations and tasting notes. Each monthly club shipment from Wine Country Gift Baskets is free

  • Wine Origination: California
  • Duration: 2,3, or 6 months
  • Frequency: Monthly
  • Wine Choices: All red or a mix of red and white wines (2 bottles per month)
  • Membership Minimums: The length of gift purchased - there is no option to cancel anytime
  • Shipping: Free

Wine Country Gift Baskets offers a gift service many of your family and friends may enjoy. A Wine Club! That said their wine selection is limited to only California wines. While many great wines come from the region, higher rated competitors (with international wine choices) compete or beat Wine Country Gift Baskets on price and especially on selection.

Laithwaites Wine Club

Laithwaites Wine is a UK based company that offers a quarterly wine club for US, UK and Australian customers. At Laithwaites you'll find fewer membership options to select from and unlike most wine clubs, Laithwaites sends customers 12 bottles of wine every 3 months instead of 2 or 4 bottles per delivery.

The Four Seasons Wine Club at Laithwaites includes the option for all reds, all whites or a mix of both. Each delivery will include wines from across the world and 12 bottles typically from 8 different wineries. A sample might contain wines from California, Chili, Washington, US, Italy, New Zealand and more.

Laithwaites has customer friendly policies such as no minimum order, prior notification of the delivery, cancellation or suspension of membership at any time, a free deluxe corkscrew, and free tasting-notes. Club members will also receive a 20% discount on all future wines purchases. Laithwaites also offers a 100% money back guarantee if you aren't satisfied with any aspect of the wine.

  • Wine Origination: 1 wine club with option for red, white, or a mix of wines from domestic and international wineries
  • Duration: Ongoing until cancelled
  • Frequency: Quarterly with the option to skip or hold
  • Wine Choices: Reds, Whites, or a Mix
  • Membership Minimums: None
  • Shipping: $19.99 per delivery

Laithwaites Wine caters to the quantity wine customer. We trust that Laithwaites years of experience in wine tasting will yield quality wines but at such a low cost per case pricing it's hard to be confident that quality exceeds quantity. We were also concerned that first time customers will assume each delivery of wines will cost only $69.99 - the introductory price. Each additional delivery will cost $139.99 plus shipping.

Overall we were less impressed with the lack of information and methodology of selecting wine available on the Laithwaites website. We wanted more wine club options and a choice to select a frequency that fit everyone's individual needs. For better flexibility and customization we recommend you choose a higher ranked company.

Wine of the Month

Great Clubs offers wine, cigar, flower, beer, coffee, and chocolate clubs - you name it. However for wine shopping, the website and shopping experience are a bit flat and sterile. It's hard to get excited about buying wine from a company that focuses on clubs and not the underlying product.

With their Wine of the Month club, each month you will receive 2 different bottles of hard to find wine from both domestic and international wineries along with a club newsletter called "Wine Expeditions" and a free Wine Tote Bag. Shipments are made on the 3rd or 4th week of each month.

  • Wine Origination: Domestic and International Wineries
  • Duration: 2 - 12 months
  • Frequency: Monthly, Every Other Month, Every Third Month
  • Wine Choices: 2 reds, 2 white, red and white mix
  • Membership Minimums: None
  • Shipping: Free Shipping

Wines are selected by a screening panel and consist of award-winning wines seldom found in stores. Wine of the Month offers 6 different wine clubs if you're looking for something more specific. Club memberships vary greatly in price and cater to the cream of the crop wines, red wine lovers, and four seasons for holiday entertaining.

Expertise is not found at Wine of the Month, as Great Clubs caters to all clubs and are not wine specialists. However, Great Clubs is customer oriented and does attempt to please the customer if an issue arises.

For those looking for a wonderful wine experience, we recommend selecting a higher ranked provider that focuses on quality wine and all that entails.

Grapes Wine

Grapes Wine bills itself as "the easiest way to experience the world's best limited release wines", and they offer two club options in an effort to do just that. The regular club membership is set up to bring value to their customers by delivering 12 bottles every month for a year. Choose between reds, whites, or a mix of the two.

Yes, one full year is a large commitment for the average wine drinker, but with it comes a smaller price tag per bottle: less than $11.00. The second club option is the John Craig Society membership. This is an upscale version of their regular club membership, delivering premium and super-premium wines. John Craig Society members will receive shipments every 6 weeks for 12 months. Choose from these John Craig Society options:

  • 9 different categories - Selected Big Reds, Selected Elegant Reds, Selected Red Burgundy, Selected Red Bordeaux, Selected Red and Whites, Selected Fresh Crisp Clean Whites, Selected Rich Whites, White Burgundy, and Selected Rose
  • Premium and Super Premium packages
  • 6 or 12 bottle packs per shipment

As you may have guessed with a high-end wine membership, the John Craig Society is expensive. If you choose the Premium package the 6 bottle packs cost $270.00 per shipment and 12 bottle packs are $480.00 per shipment. For the Super Premium package, 6 bottle packs cost $420.00 per shipment and 12 bottle packs are $720.00 per shipment.

  • Wine Origination: From around the world
  • Duration: 12 months
  • Frequency: Monthly or every 6 weeks
  • Wine Choices: Red, white, a mix of both
  • Membership Minimums: 12 months, there is no option to cancel anytime
  • Shipping: Free for most club options

The John Craig Society may be, as they say "the easiest way to experience the world's best limited release wines", and we really like that Grapes Wine offers this high-end option (something most clubs don't have). The problem with the John Craig Society, for most wine drinkers, is the price. Few wine club members are able to shell out that much money 8 times per year.

As for the regular membership, yes, the cost per bottle is lower than most other clubs but the commitment is significant. A year's worth of deliveries adds up to a lot of money - providing less flexibility for those looking for 1 or 2 bottles per month. Because of this and the lack of a "cancel anytime" membership Grapes Wine receives a lower rating in our review.

Uncorked Ventures

  • Cost: Explorations Club: $55 per delivery (2 bottles)
  • Special Selections Club: $115 per delivery (2 or 3 bottles)
  • Reserve Selections Club: $225 per delivery (number of bottles not listed)

On the Uncorked Ventures Wine Club website, founder Mark Aselstine says he still feels like his wine club is a startup business. After our review of the Uncorked website we tend to agree, but aren't quite sure if this is a good or a bad thing.

The main page of the website advertises Uncorked Ventures as "delivering the best of wine country" in the form of a wine club and gift baskets. There is a scroll under the main section with a few positive testimonials, and at the top of the page are links to the wine clubs and gift basket pages, as well as a blog and a standard "about us" link. The about us link gives a very short biography of the inspiration that drove Mark and Matt to open Uncorked Ventures, and the blog is Matt's daily post with links to local stories primarily about the West Coast wine industry. There is nothing specifically wrong with any of the content here, it's just that is all very minimalist and there isn't very much to see.

Moving on to the wine club link, we find a similar bare bones approach. There are three choices available to prospective members the Explorations, Special Selections, and Reserve Selections memberships. The pricing structure is a little confusing as listed, and becomes even more so as we proceeded to place an order. The Explorations membership is listed at $55 per delivery, and advertises one red and one white bottle with each delivery.

This seems straightforward enough, but when we chose, for example, the 6 month membership the price came up as "Free for 6 months, with a $330 sign-up fee." The math adds up to $55 a month, but it wasn't clear why the membership was being categorizes as free with a sign-up fee. Moving on to the Special Selections club we noticed the same thing. On the front page this option is listed as $115 per delivery but selecting any number of months again shows the "free with a sign-up fee" notation.

Even more confusing in the case of the Special Selections option, the website says you'll get "2 or 3" bottles per delivery. We felt there was a big difference between 2 and 3 bottles when the price tag is $115. The Reserve Selections is the most costly membership at $225 per delivery, but did not specify the number of bottles in each delivery. The whole thing left us feeling unable to determine what we were really getting for our money.

  • Wine Origination: Wines from California, Oregon and Washington State
  • Duration: 1, 3, 6, 12 months, quarterly, every other month or monthly ongoing
  • Frequency: Monthly or every other month
  • Wine Choices: Wines determined by Uncorked Ventures, no customer choice
  • Shipping: Fee for Shipping via UPS

We researched some of the wines offered in the Reserve Selections membership and found that some of the offerings were $100 bottles of wine. Pricing out some of the bottles in the other membership levels, we found that the prices generally lined up with the Uncorked membership fee for that membership. There is no member selection, however, as the wines delivered with each delivery are selected by Uncorked Ventures.

There may very well be some great wines available here at Uncorked Ventures, but with minimal information on the website and a very confusing pricing structure we don't love this club as much as some of the other wine clubs reviewed.

Spain has been invaded over the centuries by various peoples, including the Phoenicians, the Romans, and descendants of Berber. Spain also invaded regions in North and South America. For centuries Spain was divided into small feudal kingdoms that had their own money, culture, languages, and food. Although Spain is one country and two basic ingredients common to all regions are garlic and olive oil, there are large regional differences in cuisine.

Generally, Spain can be divided into six culinary regions:

  • The North of Spain where we find lots of sauces and seafood, such as the regions of Galicia and Asturias.
  • The Pyrenees, home of the chilindrones, sautéed peppers, tomatoes, and onions dish that accompanies many of the region's dishes.
  • Cataluña region where casseroles or cazuelas abound.
  • The Eastern region, which includes the Autonomous Community of Valencia, where the primary dishes are rice-based like the popular Paella Valenciana.
  • Andalucía, where fried fish is a staple and bars don’t serve a drink without a tapa to munch on.
  • Central Spain where roast meats and cocidos or stews dominate the daily diet. This would include the region of Castilla-Leon.

Watch the video: Βασιλακόπουλος: Ο Τσιτσιπάς είναι τενίστας, περιμένουμε να ωριμάσει και να γίνει μεγάλος αθλητής (June 2022).


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