Wine Clubs: What’s deal?

If you’ve visited a winery lately, or paid any attention at all to the wine industry, you’ve heard of a wine club. There are more and more club options popping up in all areas as well as solely internet based options. So what’s the deal? Are they worth it? What do you get? Aren’t they expensive?

The answers to those questions are all based on preference. Each club is different, though they mostly follow the same idea, and offers something unique for members. Clubs run by the winery itself often include complimentary tastings for you when you visit, invitations to exclusive events and/or access to very limited production wines. With each payment/shipment, clubs offer anywhere from 2 bottles to a half case and sometimes even a full case, though the last option is much harder to find. The frequency of payments/shipments varies by club. Most commonly I’ve seen quarterly clubs but I also know of a number that are monthly or offer the option for you to choose how often you’d like to receive a shipment with options between quarterly, bi-monthly or monthly. Larger clubs and wineries often offer options like all whites, all reds or a combo of both while others simply decide what you’re getting each time based on what they feel is their best wine available at the time.

Currently, I belong to two very different clubs and love them both.

Boordy large logo in full color

One is through a local Maryland winery which I’ve grown extremely fond of. My fiancé gifted me the membership to Boordy’s Landmark Club for my birthday 2 years ago which originally sparked my interest in wine clubs. The club option I am signed up for includes 3 bottles every quarter. Boordy has three different lines of wine, the Landmark series, the icon series and the just-for-fun series. The Landmark is their ‘nicer’ or higher-end wines which are limited in production so they are the only ones you receive in your club packages. When signing up you can choose whether you will receive 3 or 6 bottles but do not have a red or white option as each package varies and can include any combination of white, red, rose or port. As a member of their Landmark club I am able to visit the winery and receive a complimentary Landmark Series tasting for myself and three friends as often as I like, discounts on wine purchases and the freedom to cancel whenever I want (like that will happen…). Each quarter Boordy hosts a pick-up event for the club which included tastings, small food options (think cheese, bread, soup), a food truck, live music and a unique special event. The special event has ranged from barrel tastings to vertical port tastings paired with chocolates to the chance to taste fresh squeezed chardonnay grapes before they are turned to wine followed by a sample of chardonnay. Each time I’ve learned something about the wine-making process and furthered my exploration of wine. If you cannot attend the event they will hold your wine and the winery or ship it to you.

The California Wine ClubThe other club I’m currently a member of is The California Wine Club which has been around for 25 years now. They have 5 club level options which allow you to explore a variety of wines from small family owned wineries in various locations around the globe. I joined the International Series club because I wanted to opportunity to try wines from around the world that I would not be able to find in any stores around the US. The California wine club allows you to select all white, all red or a mix as wells as shipment frequencies of monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly. One thing I love is that I can change my mind at any time, all I have to do is call and request that my shipping frequency or bottle preference be changed and they take care of it right away. When I need to be more budget conscious I get quarterly shipments, when I’ve got extra money in the budget I can switch to bi-monthly shipments. Now, don’t go calling all the time and be ‘that person’ constantly changing your mind but know that if you sign up for an option and realize it’s not what you wanted to expected, they will help get you into the right arrangement. Another thing I love about this club is the information they send along with your shipment. Since it is internet based and you don’t actually get to pick your wine up from the winery, each package includes a printed edition of ‘Uncorked’ which gives you all kinds of information about the winery, the family who owns and runs it, the history and details on what wine you’ve received including tasting notes and food pairings. I’ve only belonged to the International club for about a year and have consistently received wonderful wines from places like Germany, Austria and Australia. Uncorked came in very hand when the labels weren’t in English! If there is ever a bottle that you absolutely hate you can call to let them know and they will replace it for you, how awesome is that? Talk about a guaranteed way to ensure your money is well spent. As a member of any of their club levels, you have access to order any wines they distribute at a discounted rate, though occasionally very limited productions are limited to only members of the club to which the wine was sent. The prices are fabulous and they often run sales, promotions and free shipping options. The only down side is that when ordering bottles you must order a half case (note this is for individual orders NOT for wine club shipments). Overall this is a great club for exploring wines you may not otherwise get your hands on! They even reward you with $100 for referals, so if you think you’d like to join comment below (or email me) with your email and I’ll send you a link!

So that’s the deal. Do some exploring and see what clubs interest you. Check with local wineries, any wineries you visited during a trip and loved or even online! If you gravitate towards wine from a certain region, research wineries in that area and see if they have club options. The possibilities are endless and there is something out there for every wine lover in every price range, you just have to look!

Big Cork Vineyards – Rohrersville, MD

My sister and I visited Big Cork Vineyards back in March during the Maryland Wine Passport Experience. We were fortunate on being able to visit their brand new tasting room which had just opened a few weeks before our visit. So, why am I just now writing this review?

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I’ll be honest, I’ve wanted to write this review and had planned on doing it much sooner. Every time I sat down to write it, I just couldn’t decide what to say. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to say and I liked Big Cork but everything I thought to write sounded contradictory. Now I’ve realized that the contradiction may be somewhat fitting because in a way I felt Big Cork was somewhat of a contradiction in itself.

I know it sounds odd, just stick with me here.

IMAG2084Big Cork was our third stop for the day, preceded by Red Heifer and Knob Hall. As we approached Big Cork there was a giant sign that made finding it super easy but you don’t see their new, beautiful building until you’ve turned into the drive. Upon turning in we were greeted with a cute and comedic sign to direct us the ‘right way’. (It’s a little hard to see in the photo below but the red sign says ‘Wrong Way’ the blue says ‘Right Way.’)

The tasting room sits up on top of the hill and after going the ‘right way’ we wound around up to to find there was tons of parking. Upon approaching the building IMAG2092we immediately loved the grand entrance way made with gorgeous wooden beams. It was a little hard to get it fully into the frame but you can get the idea from the photo. Once inside however, the rustic tone set by the beams and area surrounding the tasting room was instantly gone.

Dressed fairly casually in jeans, a t-shirt and cardigan I felt under dressed and instantly wondered if I should run to the bathroom to brush my wind blown hair. A very nice man working directed us to the bathroom, only partially because I wanted to brush my hair but mainly because wine tasting all day makes a girl have to go! On the way to the bathroom we noticed the waiters looked like people you would find at a nice five star restaurant with towels draped over a stiff arm. The furniture and decor was very modern and industrial feeling, not at all like the entryway.

I loved the light fixture in the bathroom! It was simple, beautiful and I want it in my bathroom at home! We also took an obnoxious bathroom selfie because what better way feel less awkward than by being a little goofy?

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Now, you are probably wondering ‘why is their waiters? don’t you mean tasting room associates?’ I don’t. When you enter the tasting room to the right is a big, u-shaped, beautiful white tasting bar with tall pub height tables around the outer walls. To the left is a small seating area where you can come to enjoy their wine and order from their small bistro menu. It looked like the people seated at the pub tables were also being served by waiters.

We went to the tasting bar and were helped by a very friendly woman who shared all kinds of great information with us about not just the wine, but the vineyard as well. I was pleased with the selection we tried and loved that some were paired with small bites from their bistro menu. The stuffed tomatoes were to die for!

Now, some of you may remember when I wrote a previous review that I mentioned a story revolving around the phrase ‘Smells mayo, tastes like pickles’? Here it is.

Paired with one of the wines was a small dish of bright pink, almost coleslaw looking dip. Writing this review so long after I cannot remember what it was called unfortunately. The woman conducting our tasting told us that the dip seemed to be a love or hate option on their menu. If I recall correctly, the color came from radishes. Being slightly hesitant, I picked it up to smell it before tasting and told my sister ‘It smells like mayonnaise. Must be like a twist on coleslaw’ then I took a bite. Luckily for me, I love pickles and it tasted just like them! After another bite to finish my cracker, I couldn’t decide if I like the dip or not. It was quite the contradiction on smell, appearance and taste!

I can’t say any of the wines jumped out at me. I didn’t dislike them IMAG2088but I wasn’t over the moon about any of them either. However, the whole time we were tasting I was still trying to figure out the decor of the tasting room and figure out what feel it was they were going for which likely distracted me from really tasting the wine.

Around the tasting room I noticed that their shelving and some surfaces were made to look wood-like and hint at the rustic, rural vibe we had expected. As soon as you noticed a rustic touch however you were instantly thrown off by marble bottle holders, a bold white stone counter or a modern, industrial light. I was so busy trying to understand the intended feel for the room that I admit, the wine tasting was not my focus.

IMAG2091There were very clever stools at the tables around us and a large patio out the window. I’d like to visit again and sit on the patio this summer. Being outside and enjoying the weather would make for a much more comfortable experience in my book.

They have a grand opening event scheduled for May 30, 2015 which may be my perfect chance to go give Big Cork another try. Now that I know what to expect, I hope I can enjoy the environment and take the time to really taste the wines they offer.

One thing I would like all of my readers to take away is that while their seemed to be so much contradiction at Big Cork, it was a beautiful vineyard with great service. If you go in with the proper expectations and with an open mind I’m sure you will have a wonderful time and feel comfortable. The impression I got was that Big Cork is moving to be a higher-end, upscale winery rather than a rural, Maryland vineyard. They are definitely well on their way and I’m sure, with a little more time, they will reach that feel/reputation successfully.

Once I am able to visit again I’ll be sure give an update!

If anyone has the chance to visit and would like to share their thoughts as well, we’d love to hear from you! Comment below or email us at wineandfit@outlook.com

Charles Krug Chardonnay 2013 – Napa Valley

From the Carneros region in Napa valley comes a delightful Chardonnay which
is an excellent pick as spring rolls in. This particular region of Napa valley is ideal for growing two kinds of grapes, Pinot Noir and….you guessed it, Chardonnay!

The Charles Krug Chardonnay 2013 is definitely on the top of my list!CK_Chardonnay

One thing I love about this Chardonnay is it’s traditionalism. So many people are shifting to Chardonnay that is aged in primarily or all stainless steal. Every single time I see a bottle that declares the wine is ‘unoaked’ my heart dies a little and I quickly put the bottle back. Now, don’t worry if you aren’t an oak lover like I am, this particular wine isn’t overpowered by the oak.

The Charles Krug 2013 Chardonnay is light with fresh hints of lemon, citrus and some vanilla capped with a nice buttery note from the oak. It is definitely a wine that goes down easily on a nice spring day without being so easy to drink that it is unappreciated. You could pair this wonderfully with some salmon and asparagus on the grill or with a nice shrimp scampi.

For most people this wine should be easy to find in a store near you and comes in at a great price point, around $21 a bottle. Price will vary I’m sure but in my opinion anything $30 or less is a great value for this wine.

Find a bottle today, open it up and unWINEd outside as spring full arrives!

About the Winery

Originally founded in 1861 by Charles Krug, the winery is family owned and focused. From it’s original founder to the Mondavi family, who runs it today, Charles Krug winery has been a cornerstone in Napa Valley. Peter Mondavi Sr. is the current head of the winery and anyone who knows anything about this amazing 100 year old wine pioneer, knows that he has made endless contributions to the wine world. Had he not been the first to plant Chardonnay grapes in Napa Valley we may not be able to enjoy this wonderful wine!

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	Charles-Krug

“Now under the guidance of Peter Mondavi Sr., the Charles Krug Winery honors its roots while forging ahead to the future. From the Wild West to the twenty-first century, relatively crude beginnings gave way to the finest form of winemaking.

Founded in 1861 by Charles Krug, the 27-year old Prussian immigrant came to America with little besides willpower and a willingness to work hard to build the cornerstone of the first winery in the Napa Valley. He became the major local winery figure of his era, greatly influencing Napa Valley’s development as a world-renown wine producing region.

His leadership was said to be inspirational and his ideas innovative. Charles Krug introduced the cider press for winemaking, the first of which is still on display at the winery. He carefully selected rootstocks, varietals and vineyard sites – a novel concept in late 19th century America.

After his death in 1892, James Moffitt held the winery in proprietorship through Prohibition. By 1943, he found a pioneering spirit in Cesare Mondavi, an Italian immigrant with a passion for wine, and sold the winery to his family for $75,000.” (Quoted from the Charles Krug Website)

The Charles Krug history is captivating and inspiring, read more here.

A Trip To NYC …wine included

What makes great trip?
A new, exciting city
Good friends
A few glasses of wine
& lots of planned spontaneity

One of my favorite things is going new places and trying local places. Often times this mean the opportunity to try new wines that aren’t available in my area. This weekend I will hopefully have that opportunity!

On Saturday, I will be traveling to New York City with my fiance to meet some great friends. I have never spent more than a few hours in NYC so going for an entire weekend should be quite exciting. I am definitely not a city person, but I love to visit and see the hustle and bustle, tons of lights, new restaurants etc.

Corkbuzz Wine Studio - Chelsea Market
Corkbuzz Wine Studio – Chelsea Market

The itinerary for the weekend includes a trip to Chelsea Market, probably what I’m most excited to see, and research says there is a great wine bar there called Cork Buzz. We will also be stopping by lots of bars, the 9-11 memorial and seeing an off-broadway show. Can we say super excited?! As long as I can squeeze a hot dog from a street vendor in there once or twice, I’ll be a happy girl!

If anyone has recommendations of places to see or try please share! Especially if I can enjoy them with a glass of good wine! 😉

Knob Hall Winery – Clear Spring, MD

    Tucked away in beautiful Clear Spring, MD is the fabulous Knob Hall winery. It may seem a little out of the way for many but let me tell you, it is more than worth the detour!

Knob Hall Winery SignKnob Hall Wine Tanks

Now, I typically I like to know where exactly I’m driving, what to expect when I arrive and what kinds of wines I will be tasting before visiting a winery. I had done a little to no research on Knob Hall before my sister and I visited during our Maryland Wine Passport Experience. I’d heard of Knob Hall and seen some of their bottles in a local store but didn’t know much beyond that. In this case, I was blown away when I arrived thanks to my lack of research!

Knob hall is tucked back a winding road in the middle of western Maryland farm country. The winery itself is a farm and the tasting room is inside of the original 1860 barn. How cool is that?! It is a beautiful, cozy barn with plenty of space to sit and enjoy the wine food with your friends after your tasting at the rustic wood tasting bar. We couldn’t stop looking around and admiring the barn with it’s twinkling lights!

Knob Hall Barn - Inside

Knob Hall has a variety of animals on the farm, including peacocks! We didn’t see any of the animals, partly because it was a little chilly for us to leave the cozy barn, but what a cool thing to enjoy if you bring the kids along. There are a variety of festivals and tons of live music when the weather is nice. The girl who conducted our tasting (she was such a sweetheart! I can’t remember her name for the life of me though 😦 ) told us that during the warmer months they open the barn doors and people can enjoy the music from inside or outside. Definitely planning on coming back to check that out!

Knob Hall Cheese-Meat PlateOur tasting was absolutely wonderful. We were able to take our time, chat and just relax. Since we were visiting as part of the Passport Experience, we also got a giant plate of cheese, meat, crackers and jam. If I recall correctly, all the goodies on our plate were local.

Our tasting included and array of wines which were all great and clearly show that Knob Hall knows what they are doing. My favorite was their ‘Le Rêve Rouge’ which they describe as a “light bodied with soft tannins red blend wine. Flowery and fruity notes on the nose. Fruity raspberry flavors.’ This wine they serve cold, a twist on how most typically enjoy a red, and I found that it just works better that way. It is light and sweet without being too light or too sweet and sangria-like. Le Rêve Rouge is an extremely versatile wine that I can see myself enjoying alone or with a meal any time of year.

Knob Hall - Le Reve Rouge

My sister and I both enjoyed a glass of Le Rêve Rouge while we polished off our snack plate because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to leave the cozy atmosphere.

After finishing our glasses of wine we sauntered out, sad to leave the beautiful barn and good wine, but excited to hit our next stop. A trip up during the spring or summer for live music is definitely on my to-do list! I highly recommend getting out to Knob Hall for a tasting and relaxing afternoon! You can check out their upcoming events here.