Thursday, August 22, 2013

How to Start Your Own Wine Tasting Group

I am often asked by beginning wine lovers, about to embark on their Journey to Discover Wine, amateur wine Frodos just learning their adult drinking Hobbits, “What’s the best way to learn about wine?” Oh, there are so many ways. One can enroll in a wine class at a local college, secure in the knowledge that the instructor knows more than you, and slightly less than the average Amish. Or, better yet, one can read wine blogs and simply be cured completely of the desire to learn about wine. This is often the best way to go. It’s not a good idea for you to learn more about wine. There are enough people already who know a lot about wine, no one wants you to join that pinhead club. Learn about mead. No one gives a crap about mead, so you’ll have the field to yourself. Mead is honey wine. It’s good for you, aids digestion. Particularly useful if you suffer from colon collapse, like bees do lately.

But the best way to learn about wine, I tell these intellectual Hobbits, is to form your own wine tasting group. “How do we do that?” these Dildo Baggins’ ask. Here, then, is a guide to starting your own wine tasting group.

Soliciting Members

No, “Soliciting Members” is not Anderson Cooper’s new CNN show. The first thing you need to do to begin your own wine tasting group is to find a handful of other like-minded wine loving novices who will actually show up for the tastings on a regular basis. Choose friends and other couples who make you laugh when they get drunk. I’m particularly fond of inviting women who like to kiss other women when they get hammered. Watching them with a nice glass of Syrah in my free hand is always fun. Remember, a wine tasting group might be about learning the flavors and structure of a variety to begin with, but as the night wears on, it’s all about wine’s wondrous effects on our inhibitions. Now we’re learning something! If you can’t find five other people who want to spend an evening learning about Tempranillo, fill in the gaps with migrant workers you find in front of Home Depot. Learn about wine and have your garage cleaned out at the same time! A word of advice: Do not let them get drunk and kiss.

Establish a Format

Once you’ve established a group of regulars, you’ll need to establish a format for tasting the wines. There are many formats to choose from, and your wine tasting group needs to find one that will make them comfortable. Many groups choose to taste the wines blind. Each member brings their bottle wrapped in a paper bag, concealing its identity. I know one group that doesn’t bother to conceal the wines, but, instead, wears the paper bags over their own heads. But these are, admittedly, really ugly people. They’re so ugly the bags have to be labeled Hazardous Waste. The more you learn about wine, the more you’ll realize how ugly people are drawn to it. Ever been to a big industry wine tasting? It’s like an Ugly Convention. The more you learn about wine, you'll find, the uglier you get. This explains sommeliers.

Other formats for tasting include tasting without your pants on, tasting from dog dishes, tasting directly out of the bottles (saves a lot of time on cleanup, which isn’t important if you have those Mexicans from Home Depot around), and pairing the wines with Cheese Whiz, or any kind of Whiz.


Every gathering of your wine tasting group will need a theme. Leave it up to the member who’s hosting that evening’s tasting to come up with a theme. With some tasting groups, everyone brings a bottle that adheres to the theme. Other tasting groups have the host purchase all the wines. This is dangerous. You throw a lovely “Wines of Burgundy” tasting, but that cheap prick you invited to the group because his wife likes to kiss other women, Mexican field hands, and pizza delivery drivers decides his theme is “Wines of BevMo.” At this point, it’s probably best to go back to Step 1. Screw it, you’re just never going to know much about wine.

Try to be creative with the themes you choose. Remember, the point of the gatherings is to learn about wine and then get trashed and forget almost everything. You can choose boring and predictable themes like varieties, or regions, or point scores. Or, you can be more imaginative. I always like a blind tasting of “Wines with Things Floating in Them.” I learned a lot from a tasting of “Wines Made By People with Anxiety Disorders.” I love Bonny Doon! The point is, wine tasting can be fun and imaginative. Don’t let reading about wine on the Internet fool you into thinking it’s not.

Relax and Have Fun

Just like book clubs are not about the books but about appearing to be smart, or a cover for infidelity, wine clubs are not really about the wines. You’re not going to learn anything from people equally as ignorant on the subject as you, get over it. You don’t know Viognier from Liquid Plumr, though one is an effective drain cleaner and the other one comes with an easy-to-pour spout. Don’t set your goals too high. Settle for a monthly get-together to get your drunk on. You’re not really going to learn that much about wine. After all, learning about wine is exactly like oral sex—just keep putting it in your mouth until you figure it out.


Unknown said...

holy shit that was hillarious

karlodagrape said...

I recollect a small tasting group that I passed on a park bench while walking my dog...they were passing a brown bag covered bottle (probably Thunderbird, or ?)enjoying the whole experience very much!

PaulG said...

You really hit this one out of the park. Bravo!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hey Gang,
Change of pace is the rule around here. I thought after the Stolpman piece I should post something that's mostly just nonsense. Glad you liked it, Gabe and Paul.

Karlodagrape, are you any relation to Carlos Danger?

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,
Our little tasting group has taught me to be a whiz bang at pairings...I love you!

voice of reason said...

funny! especially the "with my free hand" line...)

Thomas said...

Yeah, I laughed so much at the "with my free hand" line that I forgot for a moment what I was doing with my free hand while reading this blog. Oh, sorry: I thought this was

This was a funny entry, Ron.

Unknown said...

As one of my heroes, Stephen Colbert said, with his exquisite straight face and timing, "Now folks, we don't need self-cutting golf greens, that's why we have Mexicans... "

Drew M. said...

Genius. I've been to that tasting. Many times. Thanks for the suggestions on how to change it up!

Unknown said...

I'm in several tasting groups.

One group is big on "blind tastings" and we had quite a mess at our inaugural tasting the other night when virtually everyone knocked over a few of the thank you for your idea about brown-bagging the bottles. I think that's going to result in fewer laundry bills when we ditch the blind-folds.

Another group is an off-shoot from a fashion club, so we had a tasting of Wines Made by Winemakers Who Wear High Heels. A Paul Hobbs Cabernet won that tasting.

One group only tastes wines with high scores in the Connoisseur's Guide to California Wines. A Fume Blanc from the To-Kalon (or Toke Alone? I can't recall) won that event. Now we know why you call him Puff Daddy, though.


The Sommeliere said...

Rondearest, where to start? This one was so good, I almost peed my pants (not that I am ready for Depends, yet)!

The line about Viognier and Liquid Plumr, the line about Cheez Whiz, the "Themes" piece, etc, cracked me up when I really needed it most.

Never, never stop writing this stuff!
Love, from your other internet wife.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Isn't a whiz bang what a squirt gun does?

Ah, yes, the gratuitous sneaky joke, the throwaway. Always gets 'em.

Are you reading my mail?

I once Google translated my blog from German, and I was called the TrousersMaster of Wine. Always loved that.

David Pierson,
I thought I was one of your heroes. Well, not really.

Drew M.,
Yes, wine tasting groups are a fantasy that everyone seems to have. "I know, let's get together once a month and taste really great wines!" It's a lovely fantasy, and there are some groups that have been doing it for years. But, for the most part, it's hard to find people desperate enough for entertainment to make it a regular thing. Unless the women start kissing.

Anonymous 1,
Ah, a rare sighting. Nice to have you.

Hobbs needs the high heels. Makes his ass look nicer.

Great stuff!

Marlene Darling,
Always happy to help. "Never" is a long time. How about I keep writing for at least another week? I've only got so much left. I'm dead, you know. Like blogging.

Unknown said...

When I took a shot at a Ted Baxter like blowhard in our local media, I wrote, as that migraine inducing Bette Midler song about heroes said, "you were the wind that came out my rear" er something like that... yes Ron you're my hero...thank God for you...thank God for you.. etc.. etc...

Samantha Dugan said...

Ron My Love,

Uh-huh, (see you can't see me right now but I am giving you those uppie-downie, suggestive eyebrow deals.

Thomas said...


Once, I was asked to give a talk at a wine tasting group. This person was to become a customer at my retail shop, so I agreed.

I knew it would be a group of novices, but I did not know it would be a group of Jehova Witnesses.

After I asked about the group and was told that it was a Witness meeting, the look on my face precipitated a thousand apologies and assurances that I was not to be subjected to proselytizing or was not going to be kidnapped.

I spent the rest of the evening proselytizing to them!
I didn't know hat they could drink wine, but was told that they interpret the scripture literally, and, literally, there's wine in it. Unfortunately, I held out no hope that any of them would learn much about wine--and a few did become customers.

Thomas said...

Notice where that errant t wound up. How does that happen?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

I was kidding about the hero thing, not fishing for, well, anything. I'd rather be your hoagie. Is that actually a joke?

My Gorgeous Samantha,
Yeah, I know, stupid joke. But, hey, it's a stupid joke kind of post.

You can't see me now, but I'm giving you an uppie thing myself.

I thought I knew you! Weren't you the wine critic for AWAKE magazine? Yes, I thought so.

Jehovah's Witnesses can drink wine. They just can't act like assholes afterwards, which, to me, is a total waste of vino.

Dean Tudor said...

I loved the bit about the colon collapse...that`s what George III did to you guys...and now to Senator Cruz.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

That "colon collapse" line is one of those cases where you know the joke is in there, but it's a struggle to get it out, and then it's not worth it. Like the prize in a CrackerJack box. I'm glad you liked it--that made me feel better.