Where do you get your wine?
I know it’s sounds like a credit card commercial.
But it’s an interesting question. You see, I enjoy exploring the economics of wine almost as much as the wine itself. Like wine itself the the business of wine is constantly evolving and changing.
For most of you, when the urge or need to buy some wine hits, off you march to your selected wine store, maybe a large super store like Total Wine, with 15 of every type of wine known to man, (trust me they aren’t even close to having all of them), or the local liquor store, or maybe a specialty shop. Where if you are like most people buy the exact same brand you bought the last fifteen times, or armed with a list of recommended best buys, (which you most likely can’t find because of screwy state laws or the tyranny of wine Wholesalers), end up standing, helplessly immobilize because of the shear number of possible selections.
You might be lucky and the shop is conducting a “tasting”, and if the sample does not evaporate before it reaches your lips you might get a hint of the wine actually tastes like. And and then feel obligated to buy it. If your really lucky the person pouring might actually know something about the wine, it’s history, the winemaker’s vision for the wine, the terroir where the wine is made, what it pairs with, hey they might know the varietal.
Then, there’s the internet. This has been a great game changer for wine shoppers. The simple fact is the wine you want is on somebody’s shelf somewhere just waiting for you to buy it. Problem is it’s not in you local shop, nor is it within driving distance, or even in your state, or for several states around you for that matter. But there it is on the internet, yes, you are willing to wait, you want this wine, so you fill out all the blocks on the computer, only to find out the wine can’t ship to your state. The simple truth is in no other time has more wine be available for wine drinkers than right now, the vast amount of which has been made unattainable to you by archaic state liquor laws.
Vineyard direct, this is a very good option if you live around a prime wine producing area, like California, Washington, Oregon, Long Island, Finger Lakes area of New York, Virginia, parts of Texas, Missouri, Colorado or Michigan. Fact is every state in the United States has at least one vineyard. The state of Connecticut has 35 licensed wineries. They produce pretty good wine, however, not one of them makes a Albarino, so if that’s what you want you’d be out of luck. But I do recommend visiting and tasting locally made wines, it’s great fun and a wonderful education.
How about wine clubs. I’ve belonged to one for years. I get new wines, wines I can’t get in stores, picked by experts. I can’t remember ever getting a bad one, but sometimes I hate the fact I can’t pick the wines myself. And to be honest you get a lot of the same types of wine, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, maybe a Riesling or Zinfandel. I’m a wine adventurer I don’t want ordinarily, I want new, different and unexpected. My view is overall this is a great option but it has it’s limitations.
But there is something new Traveling Vineyards. Think Tupperware for wine. In home direct sales. This concept combines many of the good attributes above, with some additional really cool stuff, but unfortunately still has some of the negatives. Here’s how it works; you or a friend agree to hosts a party with 10 to 16 guests. The wine guide, the representative from Traveling Vineyards picks 5 wines to be sampled (just like the wine store). They supply the host with suggested foods to go with each of the wines (pairings). At the event the Wine guide educates and demonstrates attributes and methods you can employ to enjoy your wine more. They also have wine gadgets that you might find useful. You taste 5 wines, with food and get to to purchase a bottle or two of the wines you tried, or a selection of 26 other wines currently in the wine guides portfolio. Your wine is shipped to the host for distribution in about a week. Transportation charges are around $10 for up to one case of wine, that’s about half of what a wine club charges. Traveling Vineyards also has a wine club, where you get 4 bottles every two months of 6 bottles every two months.
The brains, money and palates for Traveling Vineyards is located in Ipswich Massachusetts. Rick Libby owns the company. Francis Sanders is the Wine Director and Huib Geerlings is a partner with Rick Libby and travels the world looking for wines to offer. Both Mr. Sanders and Mr. Geerlings are wine tasting machines. Francis was once challenged to ID 16 wines in a blind tasting, he was able to tell the place, the varietal and year of all 16 wines. He is also a cartoon artist and I think is responsible for many of the labels on the wines. They select wine from smaller artisanal or boutique vineyards, buy the total production and private label the wine, just like Trader Joe’s or a Wine Club.
But they also have a secret weapon Sommology! Developed by Eddie Osterland America’s first master Sommelier, this tool allows you to get pairing suggestions for each of the wines sold by Traveling Vineyards. Each bottle on the back label has a key, scan the key with your cellphone or go to Traveling Vineyard’s website and select the wine you are interested in and click “pair” you be given three groups to select from cheese, small bites or entrees. Need a recipe, no problem, click on the “G” for google and bam! You are ready to cook!
My overall impression of Traveling Vineyards was positive, the wines were tasty, the information was well presented and absolutely will increase your enjoyment of wine. Plus, you’ll have a blast buying wine in your living room with your friends.