Growing up in a blue collar midwest suburb of Detroit, in the long shadow of the auto industry, wine wasn't a part of my family's lexicon or culture. Therefore, I had very little first-hand exposure to wine.
Before my early 20's, the most experience I had with wine was spent moving cases of large jugs of Julio & Gallo Rossi as the stock boy of a local pharmacy. (Have you seen those? They're huge!)
The first time I truly remember trying and enjoying wine was near the end of my college years, when I lived in Greece for a couple months.
When I first saw an acquaintance drinking red wine in the studio apartments we were renting in Greece, it seemed so mature, so cosmopolitan. I decided then, that it was time I improved my status and expanded my horizons and try wine!
I still have a lot to learn about wine.
Over the years, I've tried almost every type of wine and have a general sense of where my tastes now lie. I've always leaned toward bold, rich, spicy reds – but the strength of this preferences hasn't always been so pronounced. In the past I've had a number of favorites wines that would probably be more universally appealing and ‘middle of the road', like a few Merlots, Cabernets.
I've learned a little about different wine regions and the types of wine they are known to produce. I've learned some terms like “terroir” and that certain growing conditions affect grapes and the resulting wine.
Although I've learned a little, I know there is a LOT more to learn. Luckily, I thoroughly enjoy the topic and the research.
My varied history with wine.
It's been 20 years of wine exploration for me, and I've got quite a bit of history to draw upon over that time. I'll share a few of them with you.
“Home Wine Tasting Parties”
Many years ago, before any of my large group of friends started their own families, we spent a few evenings with a wine distributor who presented his companies wines, under a theme of a “wine tasting party”. Now that was fun! For a few years thereafter, I would have a case or two of their Merlot or Cabernet delivered to my office. I always had plenty of their wine in stock.
Northville “Custom Winery”
Here in my home town, there is a little store that sells grape juice for a couple hundred dollars. The best part about buying this grape juice? The owner, Mark, distills it and turns this juice into 30 bottles of delicious, fresh wine! The customer brings in empty, cleaned wine bottles to fill. It's called “Vine2Wine” and you'll never taste fresher wine, and I doubt you'll encounter preservative-free wine like this. My biggest challenge with this wine is waiting the suggested several months before opening the bottles!
In my personal and professional lives, nice nights out would most often include a bottle of wine at the dinner table. I've spent countless nights in fine restaurants, national chains and local favorites. During these evenings, I've been exposed to a wide variety of delicious wines: some were “one time only treats” and a few have become my favorite “go to wines”. I've found that dinners out at different restaurants with different company has been the largest contributor, over time, to my exploration and education of wine.
If you ever get a chance to visit Napa Valley, I highly suggest it. I've never had a chance to spend more than a day in Napa, and can see the appeal of a more extended visit, as the area is gorgeous, the wine is outstanding and the overall experience is amazing. Sitting in the wine tasting rooms of various wineries and learning about their wines is a must-have experience for any wine lover trying to expand his or her wine knowledge.
My Local Wine Club
Beyond the grocery stores that carry all the big-brand wines, I'm lucky enough to have a really cute, “boutique” wine store within 10 minutes of my home, in my town's “downtown”. It's called Simply Wine, and I'm part of their Wine Club, which costs $25 per month, yet provides $30 – $35 of wine at the beginning of every month, among other great values. The owners hand-select the wines that are featured in the monthly wine club and teach us a bit about these wines. Also, they hold wine tasting events, featuring a specific winery and their wines.
My Favorite “Home Delivery” Wine Clubs
As part of the Wine Club Group, producers of this site, I am exposed to a number of different wine clubs that can be delivered to your home or office. Some of these wine clubs are winery-direct, some are from wine merchants like my local store, some are companies that specialize in wine and wine clubs, and others are big-name wine marketing machines. The quality, price and value of these wine clubs vary tremendously, as does the overall experience, wine choices and gift-giving options. Thus, our wine club reviews are extensive (including wine clubs from WSJ Wine Club and Zagat.) My favorites can shift over time, but my current favorite Wine Club Vendors are Gold Medal Wine Club and The California Wine Club.