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Wednesday, 11 December 2013

A Worthy Wine Club: International Wine of the Month

For my first wedding anniversary, my husband gave me a subscription to a wine club out of California that focused on Sonoma Coast and Napa wines.  I really enjoyed experiencing the wines of California after I had spent many years in the travel industry as a Europe specialist learning about the wines of Europe. It was a pretty basic wine club – two bottles of wine would arrive each month, along with a simple description of the wine’s characteristics.  We continued to receive wine club shipments until we moved from Florida to Oregon, where I instantly dove into the world of fantastic Oregon wine.

Until I sat next to Kristina Manning at the beautiful Tsillan Cellars in Lake Chelan, Washington (for a Wine Bloggers Conference pre-excursion tour), I hadn’t thought about wine clubs for years.  Kristina works for the International Wine Of The Month Club, a family owned business that’s been selecting wines for their customers from boutique vineyards around the world since 1994.  Kristina offered to send me a sample of one of their wine club shipments, and I eagerly accepted.  With a past experience of a wine club I really enjoyed, I was excited to find out what a wine club consists of today.  Wow, things have changed – and for the better.

I was thrilled to see an Oregon wine in my shipment; especially a Willamette Valley Chardonnay from one of my most preferred producers in Oregon: Bergström.  The 2009 Bergström Old Stones Chardonnay is filled with beautiful pear and apple aromas, highlighted by baking spices, nuts and honey.   The mouthfeel is lush, juicy and round, while excellent acidity balances out the fruity flavors that match the aromas.  The finish is super long and simply mouthwatering and delicious. 

The other bottle of wine was a 2010 red from the Montsant DO in Spain, produced by Vespres – a winery located in the Priorat region of Catalonia.  Consisting of 80% Grenache and 20% Carignan, this alluring wine opens with rich, opulent aromas of red and dark fruit highlighted by earth and spice.  It’s also rich and opulent on the palate, with dark ripe fruits and intense earthy notes followed by fine grained tannins and a smooth, palate pleasing finish.

I wasn’t just impressed with the wine selections in this shipment, but the literature that accompanied the wines was also impressive.  Unlike the two-sentence wine description I received in my wine club years ago,  detailed notes – called Cellar Notes –  on the wineries, their regions and the winemakers and owners certainly gave me a plethora of knowledge on each of the wines. Also included were pairing suggestions, recipes and “Terms of the Vine” – a simple glossary of just four terms commonly used in the world of wine (presumably a glossary that rotates with each selection.)  This shipment was like a tasty box of knowledge – much more exciting and in-depth than my previous wine club shipments.

With almost 40 years experience of choosing wines for their members, the staff at International Wine of the Month clearly knows what they are doing.  Using a two-tier tasting panel process, hundreds of wines from around the world are tasted before being chosen as one of two wines that are shipped monthly to their customers.  The panel is led by Director of Product Development, Don Lahey, who has many years of experience in the wine industry as a wine educator, syndicated columnist, wine importer an consultant to some of New York’s notable sommeliers.Don’s years as an importer gained him a reputation that proved his ability to source excellent boutique wines from wine regions around the globe.

Their two-tier tasting panel is pretty intricate: the primary tasting panel consists of 10 sommeliers, prefessional tasters and winemakers, while the secondary panel has a minimum of thirty tasters.  Both panels working together, from amateurs to experts, allows for a diverse selection of wines for a diverse customer base – giving members a chance to experience extraordinary international wines.

Related Post:
How to Choose a Wine of the Month Club
Wine of the Month Club

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