Wines with Club W

My recent entry for the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge covered the first time I really experienced wine and how enthused that experience left me for this rich world. However, as an unemployed ex-college student, my price point and palate do not always meet up in a place which keeps happy. With this in mind and a promo code in hand, I decided to try a month of Club W, an online service that tries to figure out the wines that suit you and subsequently sends three or more right to your doorstep.

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After taking a quick quiz which included questions on my preference for coffee and salt, Club W presented me with three choices of wine that I might like: two reds and a white. In addition to these three selections, there were a number of other wine suggestions that started at thirteen dollars and moved upwards from there. Even though I wanted to try this service out, I was a little hesitant to go through with my purchase, especially when I saw a white blend recommended. Personally, I’ve tried several white blends before and they’ve all just tasted marginally better than the flavorless Pinot Grigios that I have come across. Since I was getting a deal on this first month, I decided to just go through with it and order three wines to check out. In my mind, it could easily turn out to be a train wreck, but what was the fun of wine without trying new things?

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A few days after placing my order, a black and magenta box arrived on my doorstep. If I didn’t think this was a gimmick skewed towards the women who enjoy cuddly animals on their wine, I certainly thought so now. Although wine may be gender neutral, the company itself seems to have a bit of a slant towards women and the ideas people have about women and wine. While I do have a billion opinions on marketing, wine, and women, that isn’t the purpose of this post today, so I’ll just leave my observation at that and move on.

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The first wine I popped open was the 2013 Grand Vidure Carmenere. The wine wasn’t giving me anything after my initial sip, so I gave it some time to open up and mellow out. After letting it sit for at least an hour, I poured myself a glass and sat back to dull the pain of the Orioles game my family had on. Unfortunately, this dark cherry colored wine wasn’t quite what I was hoping for when I brought it up from the basement. I tried my first Carmenere when I was in London, and it was such a fantastic wine to pair with a rare grilled steak as it had a lot of spiciness and bell pepper flavor to it. However, this one was much milder than the others I’ve tried and felt a bit dull in comparison.

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There were more red berry notes than pepper ones and it was a bit smoother than I was expecting, but none of these things made it stand out. Coming back to this wine on day two was extremely helpful, though it still wasn’t anywhere near stellar. The peppery notes, particularly those of pimento and jalapeno, were more pronounced on the second day. Coffee grinds also came through strongly with each sniff and sip. There was additionally a tobacco flavor towards the end each mouthful which had been essentially nonexistent when I first popped the cork. This wine certainly was more enticing after it had a while to sit around and develop its flavors for a bit; however, I like my Chileans exciting, so it wasn’t a bottle I would really bother to pick up again.

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Since the Carmenere was not a champion for Club W, I was even more hesitant to pop open my white blend. However, on a rainy day that was filled with Netflix and would end in a fishy dinner, I decided to pry this cork out of the 2012 So This Happened… White Blend and enjoy. This blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Viognier, and Chenin Blanc came with a Club W information card that featured a recipe that might work well with the wine. I didn’t bother doing this the night I opened it, but I appreciated the extra effort Club W took and only wondered why these little cards didn’t come with all three wines.

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Once I actually got around to shoving my nose into my glass, it gave off light, floral aromas that reminded me of lily-of-the-valley, but had fruitier flavors of white peach and apple when I tasted it. With a pale yellow, translucent color, this wine had a fantastic light acidity. Although I usually think that the more acidic wines are the best, this milder selection was a surprisingly good choice. Needless to say, the acid in this wine, though it wasn’t heavy handed, didn’t really pair well with the citrusy fish I was having for dinner. It was much better suited for either drinking on its own or pairing with a great charcuterie board. While this might not be amazing enough to impress wine snobs, I’d imagine it’d be a pretty big crowd-pleaser at a holiday party or get-together. My admittedly low expectations of this wine were more than surpassed and it was my favorite of the three I was sent. I didn’t think I’d come out of this experience saying I appreciated a white blend, but this wine wasn’t boring and renewed my interest in exploring more California whites.

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The last wine that I tried was a 2013 Alcalá Monastrell, a jammy Spanish wine from the beach town of Alicante. Given my experience with Spanish wine, this bottle pretty much lived up to everything I’ve come to count on from their reds. With a clear ruby color, a lot of berry flavor came through at the beginning with more earthiness and bitterness towards the end of each sip. Despite a dustiness highlighted within this wine, it was another that would please many. It’s a good one to pour on a summer night during a casual BBQ because it would not be too fussy. This was definitely more appealing than the Grand Vidure I initially checked out from Club W and pleased way more than I was expecting; however, it wasn’t that memorable nor did it sway me enough to continue with the service.

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I think Club W is a good service; it just isn’t the service for me. It’s efficient and while that may work for the masses out there who want to drink wine with ease in front of the next episode of Real Housewives, it’s not the relationship I want with my wine or its winemakers. At a minimum of forty-six dollars a month, I would much rather go to my local store and pick out new wines myself. It’s what I find exciting and fun, so it’s not something I’m really willing to give up. I have the time to go searching for great, affordable things, but I understand that others don’t. Therefore, while I won’t be continuing with Club W, I can see the value of a site like this to most people. It’s a service that delivers decent wines at an affordable price and I have more than a few twenty-something friends who would love this; so, think over what I’ve said and if Club W is something you might adore, try a month to figure out your own opinions on this online club!

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About A Famished Foodie

Food geek, wannabe Parisian, and lover of polka dots. Author of A Famished Foodie and Superior Spider-Talk contributor. Bold wine, sour beer & dessert make me nerd out.
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8 Responses to Wines with Club W

  1. Very cool. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Interesting experience with the Club. It sounds like they might be assuming that, after the initial questions, you are going to love all the wine since it is “scientific” or some such nonsense. Way to keep an open mind and evaluate the wines objectively. I consider it my fault that I did not help you out on your journey into wine while you were still here in Philly. Not looking good for your O’s….

    • It’s always your fault, Jeff. All the 20-something age mistakes I will make in wine will be your fault now.

      Yeah, the questions are supposed to help you parse out what kinds of wine you’ll like- but frankly, I don’t know how my saying “Salt is okay.” will help a computer pick a wine for me. You can go back and rate the wines after you try them, so theoretically the picks would get better as time goes on, but I just wasn’t clicking with the service.

      I can’t imagine the O’s will be playing after tonight.

  3. foxress says:

    Great review of the service. If you like salty foods then they will send you acidic and tannic wines. Those are the elements that work with salty. The ‘how you take your coffee’ question is to determine how much of a tolerance for bitterness (tannins) you have. But for someone like yourself who has an enthusiastic curiosity about wine, having someone pick it for you doesn’t make sense. As you point out, choosing the wine is all part of the pursuit and study. It’s an interesting idea, but definitely not for everyone.

    • Oh yeah, I definitely got the intent behind the questions and they would work for most people, but I just don’t think they meshed well with my wide approach to food and drink. Obviously food and wine are linked closely and the questions could give an idea of appropriate wines, but as you said, the service just wasn’t the right one for me. Most of my girlfriends would jump on this service though! Glad you enjoyed the article, and thanks for the feedback!!

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