Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wine Club Wines..I Admit I Was Skeptical Too..

If you're like me, you look at those "_____ of the month" clubs and roll your eyes. Tucked away in the back of Time, Motor Trend, National Geographic and other fine publications are offers for some product that a company is kind enough to ship (and charge you for) once a month. In my experience, the goods featured have often been over-priced or of questionable quality.

So it has been with "Wine of the Month" clubs, I take one look at the wines offered and shake my head. Slightly off topic, a Bacon of the Month club would be great, since seemingly everyone is obsessed with bacon, you could make a quick bag of cash before that trend dies down. My prediction, another year or so before enough health warnings about bacon seep into the consumer consciousness and it becomes evil (again). Till then though, give me some damn bacon on my burger..or my donut!

Sorry about that. Back to the topic at hand, the purpose for your visit..Wine!

Recently, The International Wine of the Month Club, a wine club (duh), contacted me about evaluating a couple of wines in their September shipment to members. I agreed, mainly out of curiosity (why lie?). How good could the wines be, I reasoned?

This is the part where I admit to being surprised and even impressed. Check out the two wines I was sent.

2009 Domaine Talmard Macon-Chardonnay

Click here for a pretty neat description and some tasting notes, or just read my tasting notes in the upcoming paragraph.

Macon-Chardonnay is a real appellation and there actually is a village of Chardonnay. This is within the confines of the appellation of Burgundy. According to the link and some background research, the village of Chardonnay is thought to be around 1100 years old. Napa who? Since I'm already a huge fan of Burgundy wines, this was a welcome surprise.

The website of the IWotMC lists this Burgundy at about $20 to it's members. For 20 bucks, you get a light straw colored wine with soft florals, hints of green apple and Anjou pear. Serve nicely chilled and the acidity shines, keeping your palate refreshed. Good minerality and a clean if somewhat abrupt finish. I enjoyed the flavors but did wish for a bit more depth. Had I paid $20 in a wine shop, I would have gotten what I expected, nothing more and nothing less. Solid B-, I'd recommend this to people who want to get to know the white wines from Burgundy.

The fact that the IWotMC sends this to their members (at that membership level) was encouraging, I find myself forced to reconsidered my perceptions of mail order wine clubs. A few days later I opened the red wine I was sent, which proved to be a delicious bottle of wine, even if the accompanying tech notes were a bit overblown.

2007 Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon California

The IWotMC put their write-up of this wine here. Rather effusive, I will say. Anytime I see claims of "Best _____ under $____" I get skeptical. I can't help it, I've seen a lot of those claims by people who want to sell you (or me) wine. Is this the best, or one of the best $20 Cabernet's in America? I don't think it is, but I haven't tasted nearly enough wines to make any kind of definitive statement.

This is very good wine though, make no mistake. 85% Cabernet, 12% Syrah and 3% Merlot, I suspect that the Merlot is there to provide some ripeness through the mid-palate. Fresh black cherries, oak, hints of earth and spice, and a touch of vanilla wafted up from the glass. One of the best parts of the Cannonball is the wall of flavor that washes over your senses with each sip. Great structure, you get a lineup of flavor that pleases the palate. I paired the wine with homemade meatballs and some linguine, for sauce I used olive oil and shaved some Parmesan cheese on top of it all. The pairing worked out well and I was happy that the wine and meat played off each other so well.

 For a wine that costs about $22 shipped from the IWotMC, the 2007 Cannonball is impressive and delivers at it's price point. I feel I should say though, when I was doing some research via Google, I found this wine at under $15, before taxes and shipping. That's a bargain, if you're like me and enjoy Cabernet that resists being overly oaked, and instead lets the ripe fruit flavors come through, you'd enjoy this wine. Solid B, and a BUY recommendation.

The way the International Wine of the Month Club works is that you can purchase different wines at different price points or membership levels. I was sent the lowest tier of wines, at the upper end were a Muscadet that costs about $42 shipped, and a McLaren Vale Shiraz at about $37 per bottle, both including shipping. Based on the two wines I was sent to review, I would assume the high-end offerings were superb, well chosen wines.

Should you join this club? I can't tell you yes or no, all I can tell you is that if more "wine of the month" clubs are like this, they're good ways to expand your palate. Check out the website, I think you'll be impressed.

Beau Carufel


  1. Hey Beau-

    There is a bacon of the month club. My parents bought it for my brother in law for Christmas last year, I'll ask them where they found it. As for these types of wine clubs I was a part of one early in my wine education and also often found the items for less money elsewhere. However they did offer me a good opportunity to taste a variety of decent quality wines without feeling overwhelmed to pick them out myself. This works for many people, and may be worth it to them. I now want to find values and stock up on my known preferences, but hey to each their own huh?

  2. Nice reviews. I could see this being really useful for someone who lives in a place without many good wine shops.

  3. Subtlet makes a good point which should not be missed, that BFE is most likely their niche market and this time Scott[y] really does know!

    On another topic, bring on the evil bacon, it makes everything better and could make the pork bellies in your portfolio soar as well! But once you see the first report on PMS/nbc about "evil bacon", issue a sell order asap!


  4. Scott, if you do get that bacon club info, please by all means share it here, I'd love to check a club like that out.

    Dan you make an excellent point, and it ties in along with what Scott said about people early in their wine education. I believe a club like this does it's members a great service by shipping out wines like they sent me. It's all about expanding your palate, till you get a more clear and defined sense of what your taste(s) is/are.

    Bill..we need to get a Bacon of the Month club to sponsor a SDWM Zin tasting! ;-)