The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness: The California Wine Club Review
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

The California Wine Club Review

I am not a wine expert but I occasionally like to indulge. My theory on wine is if I like it, I buy it. I wish I knew more to make an educated purchase but I usually find wines I like through word of mouth. I also know that Californian, Chilean and Spanish wines are among some of the best I have had so I tend to stick to those when I can. I don't drink a lot of wine because I don't drink all that much but I always love to have wine in the house, just in case. I also have it on hand because the main thing I use wine for is for cooking. I love cooking with wine.

I recently had the opportunity to review some wines from the California Wine Club. I had heard of The California Wine Club and many times have looked at the site when wanting to purchase a gift for a friends. I never actually did it because I wasn't sure what to expect. But now I know.

I was sent a shipment of two wines. I received a bottle of Robledo Family "Los Braceros" Red Wine and a bottle of Robledo Family Lake County Sauvignon Blanc White Wine. When I received the shipment, I liked that the box was marked with exactly what was in it and that it was shipped FedEx requiring a signature by an adult. That is the way it should be.

I loved that the bottles came in a foam encasing. This guarantees that they will not get broken. I kept the foam case because I know sometimes when we go to a party, picnic or other event that requires us to bring wine, I can reuse it and ensure my bottles do not get broken. Yes, I have broken wine bottles when traveling.

Once I got the wine out, I was impressed that inside the box was a newsletter that was completely dedicated to the wine that was delivered. This was a great help since I am wine clueless. I found out about the winery. I loved that it included a recipe (I am all about recipes) for Chiles Rellenos that used the wine I was shipped. I will definitely have to try this recipe.

It also gave a lot of information on the wines shipped. It included the price of the wines and also some tips on what to serve with the wine. I loved the fact they highlighted the family who runs the winery. If I am ever in Northern California again, I am so visiting this winery!

Okay, onto the wine review. Again, I am not a wine expert. But what I do know about wine is cooking with it. First, I take the experts advice and never use a wine to cook with that I wouldn't want to drink. Thus, I tend to stick with the wines I have already used. But I have found that certain wines just don't cut it.

I decided to use the Robledo "Los Braceros" Red Wine to make a bolognese sauce to go with spaghetti. Bolognese sauce is a bit time intensive. You need a mirepoix to start. Remember mirepoix is: onions, carrots, celery. You cook that down, add spices and then add ground pork and ground beef and brown that up. Once that is done, you add the wine and some tomato paste. Remember this is willy-nilly cooking and my own recipe. For a true bolognese, you better look up a real recipe online!

Anyhow, you let that cook down and it gets thick and wonderful and delicious. Let me tell you that this was delicious. Because you have to add at least 3 cups of wine to the recipe and really no other liquid, the wine has to be good or you will have a nasty sauce on your hands. This wine was perfect for this recipe.

Of course, the cook must sample the wine before using it and I did. It was rich and full-bodied (see I know some wine lingo) and very tasty. What I loved about it was that it had a light sweet and spicy taste. The best thing though was that it was not bitter and didn't leave any aftertaste. Sometimes when I use red wine in cooking, I can only use a little bit because it is too bitter. But this wine was not bitter at all. It made the sauce so delicious. With a recipe like this you need a wine that will stand up to the richness of the sauce yet mellow it out and this Robledo wine did just that. I would buy this again in a heartbeat.

The Sauvignon Blanc was tasty too. I prefer to drink white wine and cook with red. I do use white wine in some recipes but not that many. This Robledo wine was clear and crisp. It had a fruity taste that actually went really well with some bread, cheese and fruit I had made as a snack. It was refreshing and quite good. Like I said, I am not a wine expert but I know what I like. I think this wine would be great for making some chicken in wine and pasta with mushrooms. I have a little left so I might give it a try this coming week.

Overall, I felt the whole California Wine Club experience was great, from delivery to consumption! The California Wine Club Site is easy to navigate. If you want to join, all you do is sign up. There is no membership cost and you can cancel at any time. There are four different wine clubs to choose from. The price varies depending on how many bottles of wine you want to receive per month. I priced all the clubs out at 2 bottles of wine per month and here is the breakdown:

* Premier Club - The most popular club - about $36 per month
* Signature Series - For collectors and connoisseurs - about $94 per month
* International Selections - From small "mom & pop" wineries around the world - about $62 per month
* Aged Cabernet Series - Napa's most prestigious Cabernets aged 8 - 12 years - About $241 per month

Again, I priced these out for 2 bottles per month, so you will have to go and check out the prices based on your preferences. I spend about $20-$40 a month on the cheapo wine at the grocery store. If I were a real wine expert, the prices I see seem reasonable to me. Plus, it is shipped and I love that the wine is from wineries that the proprietors of the California Wine Club know and visit. On the site they have a quote that says they started the wine club so it is like "one friend recommending a great bottle of wine to another friend".

It is because they are the experts and as a consumer, it is great to have someone send me wines that they believe are good for me to try. I know I would consider giving some friends this as a gift for a few months. I would even like to this myself for a few months. Since I am wine clueless, it is a huge help to have someone recommend wines to me.

If you are looking for wine or gifts for friends and family, you should check out the California Wine Club. I think the concept is pretty cool and the wines are pretty tasty!

Disclosure: I received a sample product for review purposes. No other compensation was given and the opinions in this post are solely mine and are based on my experience with the product.

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