The Best Wine Birthday Present?

What is the best wine birthday present?

For us, it’s a bottle of birth year wine.

You can give it to the parents of a newborn, to cellar until

Baby’s 21st birthday…

Or, give a birth year wine to a friend. (The older the friend, the trickier and more expensive that can be!)

 Which wines are best birth year wines?

Definitely, wines that age well.  Most people think of Cabernet Sauvignon, since big Cabs can age for decades.

But don’t’ pass up sparkling wine.  A really well-made sparkler will hold up beautifully for many years.  Our favorites include California Wine Club-featured Schramsberg, Domaine Carneros, Handley and Roederer.

What’s YOUR favorite wine gift? 




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A Toast to the Vineyards


     We love hearing or reading something that gives us chills about wine.  That happened for us in the movie Sideways (yep, it’s one of our favs) when Miles’ love interest, Maya (who wanted to become a viticulturist) started talking about vineyards…

 …I like to think about the life of wine…How it’s a living thing.  I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained.  I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes … I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I’d opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive…

A toast … to the all the vineyards dotting California wine country! 


We’ve Come a Long Way, Baby (that’s California Wine talkin’)

If you’d like to know more about California wine, know this:  it’s come a long way, baby!  Really fast, too.

In the 1960s, new wineries were just starting up in Napa Valley.  Then the wine scene took off, with a bit of a bite taken out by the louse, phylloxera…lots of replanting, but guess what?  That was an awesome stroke of luck, because many vines had been planted for the WRONG grapes types in the wrong regions… because winemakers just didn’t know enough yet about the soils and climate …

So phylloxera gave CA winemakers a SECOND CHANCE to GET IT RIGHT…

When we started The California Wine Club in 1990, we got to see firsthand the incredible boost in quality for California wines … and all these nooks and crannies like Mendocino’s Anderson Valley or the Sierra Foothills where wine was taking off  …

Want to learn about California wines?  Lucky you –you arrived just in time!


Anderson Valley in Mendocino County is still a bucolic, multi-crop region,

and a great place for Pinot Noir … which you’ll find there at Handley Cellars (see the vintage tower!)

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3 Ways to be a Great WINE HOST

     Ever go to somebody’s house for dinner, and you get there and the wine comes out, and you start feeling uncomfortable?  It can happen. 

      The trouble usually is the host.  Maybe he or she is pouring super expensive wines that you are expected to really, really like… and maybe you don’t care for them. 

        Or, your host may name drop a lot of wine terms or wineries that you’ve never heard of.  Or your host acts surprised you’ve never tasted Gewürztaminer or Australian Shiraz.

     After a while, you just start tuning it all out.

     Hey, wine hosts!  If you want your guests to really, really enjoy your wines, here are 3 ways to be a Great Wine Host:

 1.  Pour just a few wines.  One with the appetizer, one or two with dinner and one with dessert. That’s four, enough for anybody.  More wines than that can overwhelm your guests and make the wine more an endurance contest than a pleasure.

 2.  Keep all the insider wine talk to a minimum.  This is important especially if all your guests aren’t wine savvy. 

 3.  Be casual about the wine. Lighten up, and your guests will enjoy that wonderful wine.   That’s why you invited them, right?



A Toast to Our Troops


As we enjoy our glass of wine this Memorial Day, it’s time for a toast to all the men and women who have served our country in the military now and in the past.  We salute their service.  Whether it’s Chardonnay or Cabernet we pour tonight, we will uncork it with appreciation for our troops.

Our Favorite Wine Country Restaurant is…

When we started The California Wine Club 23 years ago, we were really excited about the idea of taking our members along every month on an “armchair tour” with us—we knew it was going to be fun, and it just keeps on getting better.

Part of the fun has been dining out in wine country.  And sharing our “discoveries” with our members.

We were talking yesterday and we realized we DO have a favorite eatery:     the Rutherford Grill in Napa on hwy. 29.

On a sunny summer day it’s cool and inviting as a cave. In rainy winter, its plush red leather booths and warm lighting soothe the soul.  No one does roasted chicken better, or ribs or cornbread….

And guess what? There’s no corkage fee.  And … Rutherford Grill is a favorite hangout of Napa Valley winemakers.  Neat!

So, what’s yours?  Where do you want to always go to eat in California wine country?

“$5 Bottle Beats $100 Bottle!” Really? Look a little closer…

We’ve all seen videos of wine lovers tasting a VERY expensive, snooty wine, right beside a VERY cheap wine … and we’ve seen wine lovers choose the cheapo hands down.

What’s up with that?

     A few things could be going on – take your pick—

1.   The cheap wine could be very good and the expensive wine could be way over priced.

2.  The expensive wine might need a lot of time to “breathe” – so you can actually smell and taste it, especially being stuck in a bottle for years.  Compare a costly wine like that (and don’t give it time to breathe) with a simple, fruit forward wine and voilá Chateau Stuckuppity!  You lose!

3.  The wine lover may have never tasted a complex white or red wine.  And he or she may just like a nice, simple, fruity wine better.

It’s that simple.  We think.  What do you think?

Uncork Happy, or Screw It!

Have you ever battled with a cork?  Tried to pull, prod, drag, or squeeze it out of a wine bottle when it had other ideas?

The ideas corks have are generally bad, like, let’s pop back into the wine, or crumble and then fall into the wine, or, let’s just get stuck halfway up the bottle neck.

Buy a really good opener. Make uncorking a pleasure.

And if all else fails, buy a wine with a screw cap.

Have a Great Wine with a Good Laugh

What’s the funniest thing you ever saw in a tasting room?  Have you been on a wine tour where something really humorous happened?

Send us your BEST funny wine story, and we’ll select the one that makes us laugh the most.  That wine lover will get a bottle of terrific Chardonnay from The California Wine Club.

Get ready to make the ultimate, rare, wonderful blend:  humor with wine!


Remember that movie Sideways?  Remember how Miles was all over Pinot Noir, but trashed Merlot—?

Well, for years after Sideways (it came out in 2004), tasting room managers told us that almost everybody who walked in the door would say something like, “I ONLY drink Pinot Noir,” or “Just Pinot please.”

People were drinking Pinot who didn’t even LIKE Pinot. A good friend of ours hates Pinot.  And that’s okay.

Go ahead and hate Pinot Noir or Chardonnay or whatever.  It’s your mouth, it’s your money, you need to pour whatever you like ~

That’s the way we see it anyway, watching Mendocino wine country roll by out the car window, on our way to find some great wine for The California Wine Club.  And if our members don’t’ think that wine is great—they get a refund or another wine, it’s that simple.

Miles would not be happy.