I had no idea that the wonderfully eclectic wine and spirits shop Bar & Garden in Culver City had a wine club until I stopped in on Saturday and spotted a flier by the cash register. The name — "Red, White & Weird" -- says it all -- this from the people who just held an "Unpronounceable Wines Tasting."
Co-owner Marissa Mandel explains that their focus is on "wines from regions that wouldn't normally come to mind, indigenous grape varieties or traditional lost ways of making wines." She and partner Lauren Johnson have two levels, $30 or $50 a month. That gets you two bottles in the middle of each month. "It can be two reds, two whites, or what we call the Zebra Club, one of each."
Note: Most of Bar & Garden's wine club members pick up their wines at the store, but you can opt to have it shipped for an extra charge.
When the bottles are ready, they'll send out an email with information on that month's two wines, the winemakers, and the history of the grape, along with pairing suggestions and directions on how to serve the wine. "Sometimes," Mandel says, "a wine needs to be opened beforehand or decanted. Or chilled or served not too cold."
March's offering is called "the Sierra Foothills Edition" and features a blend of Grenache and Mourvèdre from older head-trained plantings from a "resolute non-interventionist farmer and winemaker." The grapes are foot-stomped! The second wine is a Roussanne called Stonecrusher from the husband-and-wife team behind Donkey & Goat in Berkeley.
The month before, the two proposed what they called "a pickle juice wine, and we freaking love it." A crazy 100% Negrette, an indigenous grape from southwestern France said to have been brought to Fronton, not far from Toulouse, by the Knights Templar on their return from the Crusades, according to the newsletter. And its companion? Brkic Citlucka Zilavka from Bosnia-Herzegovina. The indigenous Zilavka grape goes back 2000 years. How fun is that?
The second wine club came to my attention in an email from sommelier Tina Morey, co-founder of a wine think tank in San Diego called PROTOCOL wine studio. Just under a year ago, she and wine writer Aaron Epstein, who blogs at Winedad.com, started a wine collection subscription called Le Metro - Wine. Underground.
Epstein describes it as a thematic subscription service. "Every edition of Le Metro takes you on a journey to a different part of the wine world and is intended to introduce wine lovers to unknown, small-production wines and to provide the context for those wines."
For each month's collection, Le Metro produces a small wine-zine that highlights the wines with charming illustrations by blogger Elaine Brown of Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews. Her blog is well worth checking out.
Each month, subscribers receive six wines chosen around a theme. March's selections are built around emerging Italian varietals in California from Ryme, Idlewild, Piedrasassi and Giornata. A single edition is $195, or about $32 and change per bottle, plus tax and shipping to your door. But if you sign up as a monthly or quarterly subscriber, the cost drops to $175 a month, plus tax and shipping. April's theme will be "the Lure of the Loire" and May will be all about rosé.
For more information, or to purchase a subscription, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (858) 349-0860.