Once a month, you get two or more interesting bottles to drink now — or stash in the closet for drinking later. If you opt for delivery, no driving is involved. And no agonized minutes at a wine shop or the grocery trying to pick out something — anything — new and different.
Spend less time picking out the wine and you’ll have more time to drink it.
Lou Wine Shop & Tastings is such an unusual and personal wine shop that it's no surprise owner Lou Amdur came up with something different in terms of a wine club. The store is the kind of place where wine geeks will come in and hang out for hours, checking out the shelves or waiting for one of the three weekly tastings to begin.
The idea behind his club, says Amdur, is “to put truly exciting wines in the hands of customers immediately.” Only available in very small quantities — often just two or three cases — these beauties never last long on the shelves. By designating certain wines for the club, Amdur is able to buy a little more to reserve for members. He’s keeping it simple with just two wines a month, usually two reds, but occasionally a red and a white.
“I’m trying to put compelling wines into people’s hands, as opposed to the wines coming into the store in dribs and drabs,” says Amdur. Each month's offering will also include a recipe or two for dishes that pair well with the wines. Members will also get a 10% discount on anything they buy in the store. That means for those who pick up a bottle or two every week, the club membership will practically pay for itself.
Amdur’s “senior wine analyst,” JD Plotnick, picked the club’s first offerings for August and they’re enough to compel any Spanish wine enthusiast to sign up immediately. The first is a really unusual Vara Y Pulgar Vino de la Tierra de Cadiz, a red wine from sherry country, made with indigenous varieties that had almost disappeared after the phylloxera plague. The second is the 2011 “Dargo” Vino de Mesa Mencia from the great Raúl Pérez, made from old-vine mencia. Plotnick, who is also a trained cook, provides the recipe for dry-aged rib-eye with oven-dried tomatoes and a wild mushroom puree that comes with this first wine club selection.
For September, Amdur says he’s planning on presenting a very traditionally made Grignolino d’Asti from Francesco Rinaldi. Only about 15 cases come into the country and he’s taking 10 of them. “It’s a delicious wine and I want you guys to drink it,” he says.
For the second selection, he’s thinking maybe a rare and underrated Pineau d’Aunis from the Loire Valley — if he can get hold of it. “I’m always rooting for the underdog,” says Amdur, laughing. Both wines are lighter-bodied reds. “Given the weather prediction for September, you want a little more juicy wine that you can put a chill on,” he explains.
Lou Wine Shop & Tastings, 1911 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Angeles (323) 305-7004, www.louwineshop.com.
In Westwood, at Fundamental LA, GM and wine director Alicia Kemper has launched her own Tipplers Wine Club. After doing the wine list for the restaurant and bar for the past 3 1/2 years, Kemper says, “I wanted to do a side project that offered customers wines they wouldn’t normally see. A lot of people shop at grocery stores and I wanted to share some of the exciting, hard-to-find bottles from smaller production wineries.”
A couple of weekends ago, she held a Summer Sips event to introduce customers to the wine club. Tickets to the tasting of all six wines offered that month cost $25.
Tipplers Wine Club has three levels: primed (2 wines a month, $50); tipsy (4 wines a month, $100); and sozzled (6 wines a month, $150). Kemper's choices are seasonally driven, so for August’s grouping, she explains, “we did cooler climate reds, some lighter reds and lighter bodied whites. And we did a cool climate rosé as well.”
All six of the wines go up on the website so members can choose which wines they’d like. Click on the name of the wine and you can read the back story of the producer she’s written herself.
Up right now are Eladio Pineiro’s Albariño “Envidia Cochin” from Rias Baixas, Spain (hand bottled and hand labeled), and a Pinot Noir from the tiny appellation of Côtes de Toul, France, made by brothers David and Vincent Lelievre. "Tipsy" level subscribers will add a rosé from the Hautes-Alpes in France and a Chenin Blanc/Chardonnay blend from the Loire Valley to their haul.
Those who sign up at the “sozzled” level will get all that, plus a Scheurebe Halbtrocken (half dry) from the Rheinhessen in Germany and a Piedirosso (a grape varietal that means “red feet”) from Campania in southwestern Italy. That’s quite a range of wines for one little club. Online, you can also see Kemper’s previous selections to get a better idea of the kinds of wines a subscription might bring you.
And with membership come invitations to Sippers events where you can taste the wines selected for the club.
Fundamental LA, 1303 Westwood Blvd., Los Angeles (310) 444-7581, fundamental-la.com.
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