Like Drinking a Hug (And That Free Wine I Mentioned)
Last Friday, California Wine Club hosted the Uncorked Tour: in which Jon Boring, sales manager, led five lady bloggers around the Santa Ynez Valley wine country – tasting wine and eating food for one day.
These are our stories.
California Wine Club is a subscription service: you purchase a subscription and then two bottles of wine show up at your door once a month. The bottles come from smaller wineries and are personally selected by the head of the company himself. Oh, other people get to voice their opinions, but the gentleman who founded this company years ago still tastes every single wine himself and calls the final shots.
These are people who know their wines.
Me, I like a good wine tasting. I live close enough to wineries north of Santa Barbara that even a day trip to wine country is possible. But I’m no connoisseur: I am just as happy picking a pretty bottle from an endcap display at the grocery store as I am drinking the special vintage at a winery’s tasting counter.
I’m sighing just thinking about the Pinot Noir I drank at Gainey Vineyard on Friday morning. Yes – I believe it was still morning when we arrived and started tasting. Our group was transported from my house to the winery via a stretch limo. Once we got our bearings, Dan Gainey, the head of the family-owned company himself, came out to greet us, give us an overview of the properties and types of farming they do, and lead us through a very special wine tasting in their VIP tasting room.
One sip of this Pinot Noir and my entire body relaxed. The silky smooth, smoky red filled my senses with all the soothing properties of a good red wine and none of the bite. “Ah,” I purred as I closed my eyes. “Drinking this is like drinking a hug.”
Four crazy women whipped out their phones and iPads and furiously started crafting tweets and Facebook updates, eager to get that quote up on the internets as fast as possible. But they were out of luck because there is no service inside Gainey. That doesn’t matter. When you’re sitting there tasting their exquisite wines, you don’t need to post to Instagram every 5 seconds.
Our “Uncorked” tour (so named because that is also the name of CA Wine Club’s newsletter) took us from Gainey to the Fess Parker Winery and Vineyard, founded long ago by Golden Age actor of the same name who portrayed Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone. Coonskin caps adorn the tasting room and are emblazoned on the tasting glasses and the cement tasting bar. Tiny coonskin cap cozies are sold for the tops of wine bottles, too.
From there we traveled to the tasting room of Dierberg and Star Lane Vineyards, where general manager Kurt Ammann sat outside with us, explaining the wines and humoring us in our impromptu photo shoot. Can you blame us? The scenery was mesmerizing, the cool breeze was a welcome addition to our outdoor tasting experience, and the late afternoon light was irresistible to 5 women who share their every waking move with the internets.
Everything we tasted was delicious. I can’t imagine the life of a person who does this sort of thing for a living. I would always be drunk and very full. Thank goodness this opportunity comes along only once in a while, because if it happened more often, there is no way I’d turn it down.
All of the wineries take great care in making sure that everything they pour for guests is pleasing. We tasted accompaniments of salami, dried fruits, aged cheeses, and thin, wafery crackers that floated on the breeze.
As if that wasn’t enough, CA Wine Club then topped off the evening for us with a tour and a meal at Avant Tapas and Wine. While the CA Wine Club is like the Amazon.com of wine, this place is like the Disney of Wine. Or maybe like the Museum of Natural History of Wine. Because first we took a tour led by proprietor Jose Padilla through Avant’s vast fermenting and aging areas. Avant rents their tanks and barrels to smaller growers and makes their wines for them. Jose travels with something called a “wine thief” – it looks like a turkey baster but its purpose is to siphon wine out of a giant oak barrel. Following him around, we got to taste wine straight out of the barrel. It doesn’t get better than this, wine lovers. I’m telling you.
After our tour we collected, finally, at a long table at the Avant Tapas restaurant, which serves up delicious little plates of meat wrapped in bacon, and the creamiest mac & cheese I’ve ever tasted, and giant piles of chocolate. But what really draws the eye is the giant wall of wine vending machines that runs down the side of the dining room. With a special card and computer robot brains, you mix and match and select small or large portions of about thirty different wines at any one time.
I can’t tell you how many I tasted that night.
Because I certainly don’t remember. This is what I remember – being hungry after tasting wine all day, and people shoving plates of delicious food into my face:
The drive back to my house was…sleepy, to say the least. But I left the day with my head full of new knowledge about wines: terms like vertical shoots and esters and bungholes (yes, bungholes) and appellations are now firmly rooted in my head and I’m sure they mean something but I don’t remember what. Okay, I do remember what a bunghole is – it’s the big hole at the top of the wine barrel. That’s all.
But the point is – you don’t have to travel to the Santa Ynez valley to do all this wine tasting. You can simply visit the California Wine Club’s website and purchase a subscription (with promo code TRIP12 you get one month free when you order 3), then sit back and sip your tasty wine, knowing that it’s good stuff. No driving required.
Here is the part about the free wine:
There are two opportunities to wine a free 3-month subscription to the CA Wine Club. I’m giving away one here on this here blog. Enter to win like this:
1. Leave a comment telling me who would receive this subscription if you win. Would you gift it to an awesome dad for Father’s Day, or keep it for yourself? (I won’t tell.)
2. Additional entry: visit CA Wine Club and click one of the red buttons to find your preferred subscription type. Then leave a comment on this post to tell me what your favorite subscription type is (i.e. the one you’d buy for yourself).
Max two entries per person. That’s it. Entries open until 11:59 PM on June 14, 2012. Winner will be chosen at random from qualifying entries. Winner’s mailing address must be in the 50 United States.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
Join me, Beth, Kadi, Candice and Romy at our Twitter party, to get #uncorked. Be on Twitter Monday, June 11th from 6 PM to 7 PM PST/9 PM to 10 PM EST to talk about wine and Father’s Day – oh, and be eligible to win wine prizes too.
To win prizes all you have to do is RSVP.
Follow your hostesses:
- Beth - @HipMamaB
- Candice - @fashorganized
- Kadi - kadiprescott
- Me - @kimtracyprince
- Romy - @romyraves
I am being compensated for this promotion/wonderland by CA Wine Club with wine, food, and some cash, but all the gratitude and opinions are my own soggy thoughts.