Class Is in Session

Up Your Wine Knowledge at a Michael's Wine Cellar Gathering

The Wine Cellar Social Club and Saturday Open House tastings each offer a chance for wine lovers to up their game.

By Bob McGinn July 10, 2024

A recent Saturday Open House event at Michael's Wine Cellar

Wine tastings are everywhere. You can get a free glass of plonk at an open house, better wine on a Saturday at Publix or spend two grand for the best at the New York Wine Experience.

Each will give you a glass of wine, but will deliver a very different level of understanding of the wine you're sampling. Budding wine lovers hoping to expand their knowledge and tasting skills can accomplish that through retail store tastings and the occasional wine dinner. In Sarasota, there are two events that entice the novice and aficionado to reach an even higher level of insight and enjoyment, and both are hosted by Michael’s Wine Cellar.

The Wine Cellar Social Club originated during the Covid-19 pandemic to allow homebound individuals to enjoy wine in an arranged group environment with social distancing. The event today is a structured tasting accompanied by small plates that highlight the wines being tasted and give the participant a better grasp of the relationship between wine and food. At one recent Social Club gathering, there were seven wines, ranging from a Crémant De Loire sparkling wine to selections from Spain and chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon from California, Oregon and Washington. Food selections included a Brie and raspberry phyllo purse, spiced beef tips, grilled shrimp and deviled eggs with caviar.

A qualified moderator from the distributor or importer typically covers the wine evaluation basics of color, aroma and mouthfeel, and the opportunity to socialize and build camaraderie is another added benefit. (After all, wine is meant to be a social beverage.) Wines might range from $20 to $70 a bottle and are available at a discount; the cost of the event is $56.

Michael's Saturday Open House Wine Tastings, which take place on the first Saturday of each month, are a bit more traditional, but with a higher level of education and elegance. Participants are given a nicely produced tasting sheet as they enter, with all the wines listed by table and local distributors showing wines they represent. At one recent event, there were eight tables with 36 wines, with origins ranging from our the West Coast to France, Italy and beyond. Prices ranged from $17 a bottle to $70, and attendees were encouraged to mark off their favorites for a later purchase. The cost of attending is $25, and substantial quantities of food are available. The next open house will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14.

“From the beginning, my concept was to bring new experiences to people that they never had before," says Michael's co-proprietor Michael Klauber. "I wanted to get people into a comfortable environment with no pressure. My goal is to show value wines and not have consumers feeling guilty about deciding what they like or don’t like, but rather use these decisions for greater enjoyment.”

Bob McGinn has spent his entire career in the wine industry—forming wine clubs, working in wine sales marketing and engaging in all facets of the winemaking process, including vine management, fermentation and yeast analysis. He has developed wine programs for companies such as Marriott, Sheraton and Smith & Wollensky, and consults with local restaurants. You can read more of McGinn’s work at

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