Last month my Wine Club met in our camper. We really should have thought of it long ago, because it turned out to be one of our favorite nights. Not that there's ever been a bad Wine Club, because c'mon, wine, friends and fancy food, what could be wrong with that? I think the difference was that we could really let loose, with no eavesdroppers.
What's a wine club, you ask? It's like a book club, only the focus is WINE, not books. Best and I started it a few years ago when we returned from our wine country trip. We had so much fun tasting all the different varieties and styles, but our budgets go more in the wino direction as opposed to wineaux. How could we keep trying new wines without breaking the bank? Best and I each chose a friend who wasn't a mutual friend to join us and Wine Club was born.
We took this fun seriously. Matching t-shirts.
Little notebooks for, you know, notes.
We take turns hosting this monthly gathering. What's wonderful is that three of us live within a half block of each other. Really convenient because driving home after wine club is not usually a good choice. The fourth is about a mile and half away, and teaches Jazzercise at 8 am. She's usually the most restrained, and leaves first anyway.
The hostess picks the theme. We each choose a wine which follows the theme, and then bring a dish that pairs with the wine. Some previous themes have been summer, anger, Italian, decadent. When I hosted in my camper, the theme was, “You are stuck camping for a day longer than expected, what will you eat and drink?”
Regardless of theme, we approach our tasting the same way. We number the bottles #1 to #4. Each of us has four mini-glasses (these are my late grandmother's cordial glasses, meant for an after dinner sherry, port, or some sort of luscious libation, perfect for a taste)
Once we've debated the merits of each, laughed at the ridiculous label descriptions, then we pick a wine for our big glass. I should say first big glass. We try to stick to wines we could actually afford for a special occasion, as opposed to going nuts and buying something we could probably not buy again. In my notebook, I keep track of what I think it tastes like, what the price was, and where it places among the four in ranking. This works for the most part, but how do you compare one evening's #2 with another evening's #3? That is hard. Sometimes we really like all four, and some nights we actually don't finish one of the bottles. Believe me, wine has to be pretty stinkin' bad for me to leave an open bottle. We consider that alcohol abuse ;-)
We really have fun with the food. Three of us still have picky kids in the house, so getting to cook something fancy that people will actually appreciate is a treat. We don't usually plan out our menu ahead of time, at all. Makes it truly potluck. However, we must have some 6th wine-sense, because we have never ended up with more than one dessert, and we've never been salad-less. One night we ended up with a full, four course meal. Appetizer, salad, entree, dessert. YUM!
On camper night, I didn't set the table as above. Instead, it was paper plates, plastic silverware, ceramic coffee mugs for wine, and dixie cups for the tasting glasses. We had a blast! I sorta cheated on the food, though. I'd been to a bridal shower the week before and had a fabulous appetizer. I made a croissant roll crust veggie pizza. (Bake the crust according to roll directions, then top with flavored cream cheese and assorted veggies.)
Our Jazzercize member, however, really stuck with the theme and brought cold fried chicken. I have this thing about fried chicken. I'll eat it like green eggs and ham: anywhere, anytime, any style. My neighbor across the street came in her bathrobe and husband's slippers and told stories of childhood camping trips where she'd steal her brother's shoes and robe, not bothering to look for her own. Best got in the spirit by bringing two 1.5 L bottles, “When you're camping, you don't want to run out!”
You saw the “group therapy” shirts, and probably snickered, but it truly is group therapy. After three years, we are so comfortable with each other that everything gets said. We have a confidentiality agreement, too. It's been tremendously helpful for me to have listeners as I've fought my way through the last year of challenges. I know I'm not the only one who feels this way.
I started this with, “it's all about the wine” but what it's really about is friendship. Whatever form it takes, true friendship is something we all need and can all provide. It just takes some figuring out what's going to work for you. As for me, I'll take my friendship with a glass of wine and good conversation.