This is my wine club. There are many like it, but this one is mine. (I shouldn’t have shown this introductory sentence to my husband. Because now he’s flashed back, and I’m going to have to listen to the USMC Rifleman’s Creed – and all of it’s less than official iterations – for the duration of today, and maybe tomorrow).
Almost every winery on the planet offers some kind of wine club membership — with special discounts and access to special wines. Once upon a time, I had a pretty serious wine club addiction. I’m on the wagon now, and I’ve purged my wine club memberships down to an extremely sane two. I’m still on waaaaay too many wine mailing lists, but that’s a problem for another day.
There are also wine clubs run by companies that act as a clearinghouse for wines — offering exposure to a huge variety of wines, tailored to your wine preferences. I joined one of these clubs once, but quickly resigned, after they sent me one too many bottles of really boring wine. I realized one of the things I enjoy most about wine is the hunt — I like to research and choose my own wines.
And then there are social wine clubs — these might be the very best kind of wine club. I’m part of a fantastic little wine club called Carpe Vinum — Seize the Wine (I’m not the only one to splice those two words together, but I like to think my two years of high school Latin are paying off in spades).
Carpe Vinum is on a self-guided wine education tour. We meet once a month to learn about wine and how to pair it with food. I know what you’re thinking — this is probably “wine club”. Wink, wink. But cross my heart and hope to open a corked wine, this isn’t just an excuse to drink wine in the middle of the day. We have fun (a lot of it) but, there is an academic focus. We choose a different theme each month — it could be wine focused, or it could be food focused. But it comes with an expectation that we’ll do some research about the wine we bring and the food we pair it with.
And as proof that we actually do research, here’s my Wine Bible — all the research and notes I’ve accumulated over the past 5 years (the recipes are in a separate but equally stuffed binder). And yes, I’m a touch OCD.
One of the things I love most about Carpe Vinum is the infinite number of themes and ideas available to explore. We’ve traveled the world through wine, studying the major wine regions and grape varieties. That said, I’ve excluded those themes on this list. Why? Because I figure they fall under the Captain Obvious heading — you don’t need me to suggest Bordeaux or Chardonnay as a wine tasting theme.
I don’t have detailed blog posts for all 29 themes — just the first 14 (I’ve only been writing this blog for 18 months). But it occurred to me that we’ve had have some pretty great theme ideas beyond those 14 . . . why not share them all? Maybe you’ll pick up an idea or two for your own wine club.
Some of my favorite recipes are Carpe Vinum recipes — the ones in constant rotation at my house are listed below as must-try recipes.
- Veggie Tales — Pairing wine with vegetables. No carnivores. Must-try recipe: Glazed Beet and Burrata Toasts.
- The Governor’s Six-Pack — A look at six of the winners of the 2014 Virginia Governor’s Cup. Must-try recipe: Gnocchi with Wild Mushrooms.
- Passport to Catalonia — A study of Catalonian wine and food. Must-try recipe: Potato Chip Omelette.
- Carpe Vinum takes a Roman Holiday — A study of the wine regions and foods in and around Rome. Must-try recipe: Parmesan Crusted Pesto Grilled Cheese Sandwich.
- Under the Radar Wine Regions — A study of some of the world’s lesser known wine regions. Based on an article in The Week Magazine by Alexis Korman. Must-try recipe: Chicken and Wild Rice Soup.
- Holiday Traditions — Pair your family’s favorite holiday food with wine. Must-try recipe: Maple Glazed Bacon with Candied Pecans.
- Cru Beaujolais — It only sounds like a French Gang. A study of the 10 Crus of Beaujolais. Must-try recipe: Guinness Beef Stew.
- Soup’s On! — Pairing soups and wine. Must-try recipe: Lobster Bisque.
- Carpe Vinum Goes to Portugal — A study of Portuguese wines and food. Must-try recipe: Fennel, Orange and Apple Salad with Mint.
- The War of the Roses — Yes, this is technically a repeat of our Pink! theme, but can you ever have enough Rosé? I didn’t think so. It’s great fun to compare Rosés from different regions around the world. Must-try recipe: Grilled Avocado with Melted Cheese and Hot Sauce.
- Carpe Vinum Tackles the Iron Chef — Our spin on The Iron Chef. Our secret ingredient was artichokes. This was a lot of fun, especially since artichokes have a reputation as a wine killer. Must-try recipe: Agginaropita (Greek Artichoke Pie).
- Old World vs. New World — The Whites — Old World vs. New World Chardonnay, Riesling & Sauvignon Blanc. Must-try recipe: Thai Ground Pork Salad.
- Old World vs. New World — The Reds — Old World vs. New World Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir & Merlot. Must-try recipe: Turkey Sandwich with Red Pepper Pine Nut Pesto and Caramelized Onions.
- Horizontal Syrah — A Horizontal tasting of 4 different Syrahs, all from 2008. Must-try recipe: Brie Cakes with Sundried Tomatoes.
- Family Heritage Recipes — Food that represents your family’s cultural heritage, and wines to go with it. I made a Swedish almond cheesecake called Ostakaka . . . talk about a wine pairing flummox. My detailed post about Ostakaka can be found here.
- Food with Booze — Bring a dish with booze as an ingredient, and a wine to go with it. This was one of our favorites! Must-try recipe: Eggplant, Pear & Pecorino Salad.
- Light Whites — A study of lighter white wines. Surprise of the day? Hondarrabi Zuri (Txakolina). Must-try recipe: Avocado & Grilled Corn Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette. (I make it with basil vinaigrette).
- Tempranillo & Tapas — Spanish Tempranillos and Tapas. Must-try recipe: Croquetas de Jamón.
- New to You — Bring a wine that’s “new to you”. Our newcomers: Zweigelt, Vouvray, Semillion, Lagrein, Piquepol, Grenache Blanc and Cahors. Must-try recipe: Tequila Flamed Shrimp Tostadas.
- Cheese Pairings — Pairing wine with cheese. Not as easy as you think! Must-try recipe: Kentucky Beer Cheese on Toast.
- Merlot (Sideways) — We watched Sideways and, in direct defiance of Miles Raymond, spent the afternoon pairing foods with Merlot. Must-try recipe: Mushroom, Butternut Squash & Gruyère Tart.
- Winter Foods — Foods you love to eat while hibernating, and wines to match. Must-try recipe: Grilled Manchego Cheese & Serrano Ham Sandwiches.
- Splurge vs. Economy — A splurge bottle vs. an economy bottle of the same grape variety. Is the expensive bottle always better? Disclaimer: I don’t really remember much about this meeting. It was three days after I had back surgery, and I was hopped up on painkillers, but I was not going to miss Carpe Vinum! I remember I brought Ruffles potato chips (to go with my Champagne), but I didn’t write down what everyone else brought, and now I can’t remember. I know it was great, though.
- Surprise (Whites) — Brown bag, blind tasting of Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Viognier & Sauvignon Blanc. We got most of them, but didn’t bore down on the location, producer or vintage like those über-intense guys in Somm (the movie). Must-try recipe: Sweet & Spicy Mac and Cheese from Deschutes Brewery.
- Pink! — Pairing food with Rosés. Must-try recipe: Triple-Decker Baked Italian Cheese Sandwiches.
- Aphrodisiacs — Pairing foods that are known aphrodisiacs (asparagus, avocadoes, cucumbers, pumpkin, mussels, and almonds) with wine . Must-try recipe: Chilled Mango & Cucumber Soup.
- Cocktails — Cocktail party foods and wines to go with them. Must-try recipe: Roasted Rosemary Cashews.
- Thanksgiving — We made a full Thanksgiving dinner and tried to figure out the best wines for Tom Turkey & his side dish friends. Must-try recipe: Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds with Garlic Oil and Fried Sage.
- Bubbles — A study of Bubbles from around the world. This is a theme that never gets old! Must-try recipe: Olive Cheese Balls.
Do you belong to a wine club?