I’ve worked in the wine world for decades, so I’ve been a member of numerous wine social clubs and actually formed a few.
Why join a club? Wine is a social beverage, and enjoying it with others enhances the experience.
The premise behind these gatherings—whether they’re in a home or in a store—is to arrange a wine tasting for people with various levels of wine experience and aid everyone in becoming more knowledgeable. Wine clubs can be loosely structured, where a speaker describes a certain wine and the group discusses it, or they can be more structured, where rating sheets are issued and members analyze and critique various aspects of the wine. You might find yourself in a debate in the latter type of club, but both groups encourage harmony, and attendees get to know each other quickly. Many become friends.
Many wine tasting groups start with retail store tastings. Like-minded individuals meet at a store, then start meeting in someone’s home or restaurant to taste and discuss wine. Local wine shops such as Michael's Wine Cellar, Total Wine and ABC still offer these tastings and they are well attended. Now there are sites like Meetup or Local Wine Events to allow organized tastings even more accessibility. Meetup listings in Sarasota include Social Lovers Wine Group, Bacchus Meetup Group, and Gulf Gate Village Socialites.
Wine pairing dinners are also a great way to learn about wine and socialize as well. For singles who want to meet others, a call to the restaurant maître d’ could place you with other singles or a small vetted group. Local restaurants offering wine dinners include Mattisons, Siesta Key Wine Bar and Café Venice, among others.
Want to start your own? Here’s how:
Find like-minded people. Start with friends and friends of friends. Ten to 15 is a good start.
Attend retail wine tastings and restaurant wine dinners. Create and pass out flyers to others describing your plans.
Have a theme clearly identified, such as “Pinot Noir tasting at my house. Everyone brings their favorite bottle. Minimum bottle cost $15. RSVP.”
Designate a leader to instruct and manage the tasting.
Pass out evaluation sheets if desired. One wine can be discussed or several wines can be poured and compared. Tasters are looking for varietal integrity (does it taste like Pinot Noir), mouth feel, color, overall taste and finish.
Have clear rules on consumption to prevent inebriation and possible DUI. This is essential for you and your group. Since host liability must be considered, you can also consider a community clubhouse or a hotel. Meeting rooms there can be inexpensive and guests can even order food. Liability is reduced and setup and cleanup are the hotel’s responsibility.
Bob is a wine professional and has organized numerous wine clubs. His blog is Gulf Coast Wine Journal.