Wine Shipping Map

Source: Wine Enthusiast Magazine

map

Does wine ship to your state?  I can remember when North Carolina had restrictions so we weren’t even able to join any wine clubs. Most states have lifted the restrictions, but as you can see from the map above (courtesy of Wine Enthusiast), not all states allow wines to be shipped in.

The “Red” states don’t allow wine shipments at all and the “Yellow” states still have some restrictions making it difficult to have wine shipped in.

Wine shipping regulations are complex and confusing, and penalties for breaking the rules can be harsh. While consumer-to-consumer shipping is prohibited nationwide, most licensed wineries and retailers allow you to send wine to yourself as well as to others as a gift. Whether you’re shipping wine from California to New York, or from Michigan to Missouri, this resource tells you everything you need to know to get your wine from A to B.
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Wine-Stained Fingerprints

“The bare essentials packed into a small bag.  A man on the run; toothbrush, a change of clothes, cash and a few bottles of wine.  Not just any wine – the wine you drink when you know it may be your last.”  Introducing The Fugitive, a full-bodied red blend offered by Truett Hurst.

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Going incognito with the face intentionally left blank, the only way this Fugitive will be caught is by his wine-stained fingerprints all over the label.

Sealed with a real cork, you get numerous suggestions imprinted on the cork on how to disguise yourself as you make your escape into the world of the Fugitive – although I don’t think I would ever really try burning the end of the cork in order to draw a fake moustache on my face.  To each his own.

A daring red blend, this wine is worth capturing.  It is full of flavor.  It pours a deep purple in the glass and has flavors of dark plum, spice and black pepper.

Truett Hurst is one of two wine clubs that I belong to.  Wine club members were offered this wine (2011 Fugitive) by the case at a 50% discount as they were preparing room for the 2012 vintage and I couldn’t resist the temptation.

Varietal:  Red Blend          Alcohol:  14.8%          Price:  $28

Cherry Pie

Explore Italian wines from Abruzzi to Veneto.

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Truett Hurst 2011 Pinot Noir

Truett Hurst 2011 Pinot Noir

I know it’s only Monday, but one sip of this wine and my mind transported me to Friday.  It was like I was like I was starting my weekend.

This is a fabulous Pinot Noir from Truett Hurst.  Truett Hurst is one of only two wine clubs I belong to.  I so look forward to their quarterly shipments.  I don’t pay any shipping charges, get great wines and a special little gift enclosed with each shipment.  I wait with anticipation to see what my extra gift is with each shipment.  I have gotten things such as olive oil, grape seed oil, a specialty lilac salt, honey – always a special treat from a local Sonoma/Dry Creek artisan or farmer.  And of course, I get the wine!

I used to be very stingy with these wines fearing that I might run out before the next shipment and I can’t buy them anywhere!  I have been stingy enough, that I have actually accumulated a few bottles.  :-)  Truett Hurst wines always impress.  I always know without a doubt that these wines will have depth and character and that there is always one that will pair with dinner!

Tonight we chose the 2011 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.  Have you ever heard of the moonshine called, “Apple Pie?”  (That’s another blog post for another time!)  Well, this wine could easily be called Cherry Pie.  It is a wonderfully tart cherry pie with hints of vanilla and butterscotch on the finish.  On the nose I get an earthy raspberry.

Varietal: Pinot Noir          Alcohol:  14.8%          Price: $40

The Lighter Side of Wine

Not everybody is an expert on wine.  Sometimes it seems that all these wine aficionados we see on Twitter and Facebook appear to have all the answers and know all the little tips and tricks to enjoying wine.  I will be the first to admit that I am no expert!  I actually feel inadequate when I look at all the information my counter-parts publish about the technical side of wine on their blogs.  I have learned some of the technical stuff over the last 3 years (that’s about how long I have proclaimed to live a “wine lifestyle”), but I truly try to focus on the lighter side, wine with friends, winery hopping and tasting something new.  Typically my blog posts are as much about the day, the place and the people behind the wine as they are about the wine.

There are a few things, though, that we need to know about wine that will help us more fully enjoy drinking wine and for some, it may even create an appreciation for wine.  This article will be ongoing.  Each time one of you suggest something that should be added, I will gladly add it, and each time one of you asks a question, I will gladly research it and add the answer here.

  • Wine is an acquired taste; for some it comes more naturally than it does for others.  If you don’t like the first wine you try, think about the aspects of the wine that you don’t like such as it tastes bitter (which probably means the wine is too dry for you) or it’s too sweet (it may have too much residual sugar for your taste), the wine makes the inside of your lips feel dry and almost pucker (the wine is probably young and the tannins are too pronounced).  You have to communicate these likes or dislikes to the person behind the counter at either the winery or the wine store so that they can help direct you to something more pleasing to your palate.  There are a LOT of wines out there so there is sure to be one (or many) that will please.  
  • Make it a mission to discover the wines you love.  This can be accomplished a couple of ways.  You can visit local wineries to sample their wines or you can attend wine festivals and special tasting events.  Just know that it is NOT offensive to the winemaker or the employee to spit the wine out and dump the remainder of your glass out.  Look at it this way, if you are at a wine festival with 30 different wineries set up and each winery is pouring 1oz tastings of 8 different wines, by the time you have visited 3 tents/stations and sampled each of their 8 wines, you have consumed 24oz of wine.  This is almost a full bottle of wine that typically runs anywhere from 12% alcohol up to 15% alcohol, so you are drunk and have only tasted from 3 different wineries.  Great Expectorations: The Art of Spitting Wine.  You can also invite a group of friends over and ask each to bring a bottle of wine so that the group can do their own tasting at home.  You can cover the bottles up (a simple brown paper bag will suffice) and do a blind tasting with each person making notes and voting on each wine.  This is another opportunity for you to taste something new that you might not otherwise ever have purchased.
  • The proper way to taste wine is a little more difficult to put into words but let’s start with the 3 S’s – Swirl, Sniff, Sip (or Spit).  Swirling wine has a couple of different components to it.  When you pour wine into your glass be sure to leave enough room at the top of the glass for some good swirling action.  Swirling helps aerate the wine and brings out not only the flavors but also the aromatics.  Give your wine a good swirl and then put the glass up to your nose – actually put your nose into the opening of your wine glass and sniff deeply.  This sniffing is going to tell you the initial smells and aromatics of the wine.  Repeat the swirl and sniff action a couple of times – some people may think you are a wine snob, but what you are doing is identifying the aromas in the wine and preparing your senses for the full flavor and appreciation of the wine.  The next step is sipping the wine.  Take a small sip and  hold it in your mouth as you suck in air through your mouth to aerate the wine even more – go ahead, make a big slurping sound and then swish the wine around in your mouth before swallowing (or spitting).  You won’t need to repeat this process with each sip, just for the first sip or two.  I learned a lot of what I know about wine from Andrea Immer Robinson
  • Wine is meant to be paired with food.  Most wines you can sip and still enjoy thoroughly; but pairing foods with your wine creates a whole different experience for your tasting pleasure.  So how do you know which wines go with dinner?  Well since the day of the wine snob is dead, there is no hard and fast rule for pairing wine.  You can always fall back to the adage that lighter foods should have a lighter wine and rich, heavy foods should have a bolder, more robust wine.  For example, if you are having pasta, seafood, or chicken (all considered light foods), you would probably want a lighter wine such as a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc but you could also go with a Beaujolais, which is a lighter red wine.  But if your pasta happens to be a meaty, hearty lasagna, you would most likely want a more robust wine.  The real answer is, “It depends.”  Think about the components of your meal and then choose your wine accordingly, but keep in mind that if the pairing works for you then it was the right pairing.  Ultimately, you never want your wine to over power your food.

A little side note here, some  people think that chocolate always pairs well with red wine.  It doesn’t!  But when you get it right, it is like a match made in heaven!

  • So now you have been tasting wine, finding out which style of wine you prefer and started buying wine to pair with your meals.  The next question is how to store wine after it has been opened.  Once wine has been opened and left exposed to air for very long (let’s say overnight or 24 hours), the wine becomes oxidized.  You will learn to recognize oxidation as you become a more experienced wine drinker – the wine will take on a brownish tint and the aromas could even start to smell more grapey instead of like the intense wine aromatics you would expect.  Severe oxidation could even cause the wine to smell like rubbing alcohol.  There are several different ways to store your open wine and protect it from oxidation; some better than others.  I have tried several.  Sometimes people just push the cork back inside the bottle, especially if they will be drinking the remainder of the wine the next day – which is about how long this will keep the wine and even then it will lose some of its flavor. 

I used to have Vacu-Vin, a device that allows you to pump (suck) the air out of the wine bottle and seal the bottle with a rubber   top.  This tends to keep the wine 3-4 days.   You can also use an argon gas system that forces air out of the bottle as it replaces the air with argon thus preserving the wine until you open it again.  There is also a product called, “Wine Shield,” a really simple little plastic disc that you insert into your open bottle of wine.  It falls into the bottle and floats on top of the wine to form a barrier between the wine and the air.  I typically opt to use a Haley’s Corker - it recorks the bottle with a snug fit that allows you to store the bottle on its side without leaking any wine, works better than recorking with a regular cork, and can be reused for a couple of years.

Something I haven’t tried but intend to is saving a smaller wine bottle, such as the 375 ML so that when you open your wine and you know you won’t be drinking the full bottle, pour half of the wine into this smaller bottle and recork immediately – Haley’s Corkers would be perfect for this.  Obviously the full smaller bottle doesn’t leave room for excess air to oxidize the wine, just be sure to store it at the right temperature (or below) until you are ready to drink it.  I have also heard that you can add clean glass marbles to your open wine pushing the wine to the top of the bottle and therefore, pushing the air out – sounds like it might work, but it also sounds like a lot of work.  But the choice is yours.  Play around and see what works best for you. 

Wine will keep longer if it is kept at colder temperatures.  Go ahead and put that bottle of red in the refrigerator, pull it out the next day and let it warm back up to room temperature before drinking. 

  • Now that you have started appreciating wine, you will be buying more of it and possibly joining wine clubs once you find a specific winery whose style of wines you really enjoy.  So how are you going to store all these wines as you start collecting several favorites?  The most important thing to remember here is that wine is temperamental.  You cannot store it at “room temperature.”  Years ago, people used to store wine at room temperature, but this started way before central heating systems and houses that are insulated well from the weather.  Room temperature used to be 60 degrees (give or take 5 degrees) so wine was always at perfect serving temperature.  The worst thing you can do is set your wine on the kitchen counter right beside the oven or the refrigerator.  The heat from your appliances will leave your wine too warm to serve.  Wine served at the right temperature once again brings out all those great aromatics and flavor profiles that made you fall in love with wine to begin with.  If you are going to start keeping several wines at home, I would suggest investing in a small wine cooler.  You can get one that will hold as few as 12 bottles or one to hold several hundred bottles.

Private Wine Locker

I was on a business outing several weeks ago that took me to City Club in Charlotte, NC.  This is one of those private clubs that is abundantly adorned in rich mahogany wood and you know as soon as you step through the doors that being a member is as much a status symbol as anything else.  I was actually there to network with the local banking community of Charlotte.  Having arrived early, I had plenty of time to wander around – and I am so glad I did!

Wall of Wine

I stumbled upon a Wall of Wine!  I immediately went up to the desk and started asking the receptionist questions.  (1) What are these wines for? and (2) Can I please take pictures? 

Turns out these doors/windows you see in the picture are private wine cellars for club members.  You will note that each one has its own lock as well as the member’s name engraved on a brass plate at the bottom of the door.  Members can bring wine to the club from their private collections at home and have them stored in these temperature controlled wine cellars so that their own wines are readily available for dinner!  Talk about a status symbol!  The members can actually have their own wine menu created from their personal wine collection so that when they sit down to dinner, they are ordering wines from their own private collection!

These lockers are in huge demand at City Club too.  There are not enough to serve every member so you have to put your name on a waiting list to even get one.  The picture above is only one portion of a wall.  When you step into the dining room, there is another wall lined with private wine lockers.  And for the really expensive wines that need to be kept under even more security, the club manager has a wine locker in his office as well for members to lock these up in.  You will notice that each wine has a tag hanging from it.  This tag has the member’s number on it so that he/she can request his reserve by membership number.

And if you don’t already have a “private” collection of wine at home, the wine manager at the club is constantly finding great wine deals that he passes along to members.  Members can order wine at his discount and either take them home or keep them in their private wine locker and have them added to their own personalized wine menu!  If you are not fortunate enough to have one of the private wine lockers, you can still bring your own bottle (BYOB) to the club and enjoy it with your meal.

Needless to say, I was duly impressed!  I wonder how this would compare to being in a wine club.  You would have options to purchase great wines at bargain prices plus get all the added perks mentioned above.

To Wine Club or Not to Wine Club?

I visited wine country back in May – Sonoma County, Santa Rosa and absolutely loved it (didn’t even get upset over the parking ticket). However, I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of requests to join wine clubs. Yes, we have wine clubs here in North Carolina, but they seem to be an after thought when you are getting ready to pay for your purchase, not the main focus of your tasting. I ended up joining three wine clubs, mainly because I couldn’t get those wines any other way, especially back in North Carolina. Another misconception on my part was thinking that ALL California wines are widely distributed and that I just wasn’t shopping in the right places. Wrong! Most of these wines can only be purchased at the winery and the majority of them are only available to wine club members.

So this started me thinking about the criteria I consider important in choosing a wine club. Not all of these questions will apply to you, but some of them will. At any rate, don’t join a wine club just to be joining. Make sure you get what you want and expect out of membership.

1. Does the wine club offer exclusive wines to the members? (Not all the wines need to be exclusive, but every wine club shipment needs to have wines included that ARE NOT available for everyone to purchase.)

2. Does the winery offer special discounts to wine club members? (Discounts are important. Keep in mind that the winery is guaranteed a certain level of income every time a wine club shipment goes out; therefore, when you visit the winery, they should be willing to give you a substantial discount on your purchases. I would suggest as much as 30-40% on case purchases.)

3. Does the winery offer special events for wine club members only? (Once again, the winery knows exactly how much they are going to make off you with every wine club shipment. They should want to keep you happy and one way to do this is to offer special “exclusive” events that only wine club members can attend.)

4. Are there costs associated with joining the wine club? (There should be no fees for joining the wine club. Obviously the winery needs to know they can count on you as a member to fulfill your obligation to them for the discounts and parties they give you. Members should be required to sign an agreement stating that they will stay in the club for a set amount of time and credit card information should be furnished at the time of joining the wine club so that shipments during this “set amount of time” can be paid for timely. This creates a win/win situation for both the winery and the wine club member.)

5. Do you have the option of selecting your wine preference? (Most wine clubs will give you the option of choosing all reds, all whites, or a combination. If you only drink reds, don’t join a club that doesn’t offer the option of choosing only red wine in your shipment.)

6. Can you select the time of year you want your wine club shipments sent out? (This is not an issue if you live close to the winery and can drop by to pick up your wines; however, if you live on the “other” coast, this is an important consideration. All the wine clubs I joined in California had to agree to NOT ship my wines during the summer months because of the excessive heat.)

7. Do you receive anything from the winery for bringing new members into the wine club? (The winery should offer something “special” if you bring someone to the winery that joins the wine club while they are visiting with you. I would suggest a free bottle of wine to show their appreciation for you, their loyal customer.)

8. Do you get a free tasting or a free glass of wine when visiting the winery? (All wine club members should get their choice of a free tasting or a glass of wine when dropping by the winery to visit or bring a guest.)

9. Can you sit and enjoy a bottle (or glass) of wine in comfort at the winery? (This doesn’t just apply to wine club members, but if it is 95 degrees outside and the humidity is 98%, the winery shouldn’t expect you to sit outside to drink your wine. The same goes for cold weather. The customer’s satisfaction and comfort should be a priority for the winery.)

My example would be Kunde Estate in Kenwood, CA. They offer a special area in the tasting room referred to as the “Kinneybrook Room” for wine club members to sit, enjoy a cheese tray and sip their wine. This type of treatment should be the norm, not the exception.

So what is your criteria for the “perfect” wine club? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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