Reflections on Reflection Vineyards and wine clubs

IMG_1031A long snowy drive over the pass was adequately rewarded with a visit to Reflection Vineyards. Holly was as entertaining as ever. The biggest revelation was that their reds are about as good or better than anything we have ever tasted; the Viognier that first attracted me last summer was just as good. There are a couple of our other wine clubs, yes we joined Reflection, that may not make the cut.

In the current edition of Wine Spectator, James Aube’s column addresses when it is time to leave a wine, time to try other tastes and vineyards. This visit to Reflection sparked that discussion for us, and then a discussion of why and how we are going to choose wine clubs in the future. We are currently members of 8 yet I anticipate that will drop a bit before the spring shipments.

So we needed a criteria to begin the sorting process:

  1. The wine must be above average
  2. The terroir of the tasting room, the staff, and the club is as important as the wine
  3. The wine must not be readily available at the local grocery store.

The first point is obvious, if the wine is average then why bother, part of the reason for a club is to keep good wine on the table. There are plenty of good wines at Trader Joes and Total Wine, we buy our fair share of those and always will. Wine club wine needs to be a notch above.

Secondly, a wine club is more than just a way to make a purchase. It includes the experience of place, and people. The wine clubs that I enjoy most offer pleasant surroundings and people, along with the glass of wine. Reflection does this well. Their tasting room is a small house looking building with a patio as big as the building. It sits on a hill overlooking grassy field with a hammock, fruit trees, and vineyards. The owner and winemaker, Kent VanArnam, was easy to talk to the one time we met, and Holly’s wit makes it work; she also knows wine and what is behind the wine making.

2014-09-14 16.29.45Another benefit of club membership is having a place to visit where you get free tastings, and a place to hang out for a glass. Some wineries even have private rooms for club members, but I am learning that many of those are the larger operations that may conflict with my desire for more boutique wines. Last summer I sat on the deck at Reflection and did a quick sketch over a glass of their Viognier, a pleasant hour for sure.

Clubs are structured in various ways; do be sure that the requirements are compatible with your taste and budget. Reflection’s wine club is one of the easiest of all that we have seen, and great value for this quality of wine. (91 in Wine Spectator, American Wine Society awards)

The third criteria for selecting a wine club is availability, Reflection is only available through direct orders or their club, so if you want to drink it at home, you get it there. There is of course the feeling of exclusiveness; we have a wine that is not on every table. But more than that is the chance to expand your cellar beyond what the grocery store offers.

So we are glad that we stopped by, I am pleased that I stumbled on to Reflection in August when Dineen Vineyards was closed, I still hope one day to get there, I have missed them 3 times now. We tasted some good wine, we found a good club, and it motivated me to consider how to decide to join wine clubs in the future. Wine is a major hobby, and wine clubs are part of what makes it fun.

TheWinesketcher says, “Join the club!” If you are new to wine, find a winery you like, then join the club.

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Travel, we are so much alike

Sitting in a Quality Inn in Pasadena, California, drinking Fess Parker Chardonnay, watching Tony Bourdain on my iPad I relaize how fortunate I am. My gift in life is that I can talk, it drives some people nuts, but it has enabled me to travel the world, with someone else paying the tab. What I know is that the locals people have it right.

The Windsor Hotel in Melbourne is where the queen stays, I stayed there too. I have stayed at the Mandarin in Bangkok, and many other first class hotels. Yet, after 22 years on the road, it is the simple places I remember with the most fondness.

In South Africa people took me into their homes. I made a friend in Melbourne, that has been so special. My first night in London, at the hotel pub, a man went to his room and brought me back a pen with the Rolls Royce logo that I still use today.

One night in England, after landing at Gatwick, I took a train to South End on Sea. There was nothing nor was their anyone at the train station, and it was late in the afternoon, sunset was approaching. I walked in the direction that I thought was toward the inn I was staying at. (No GPS on cell phones in those days)

One advantage of cities in the West of the USA is that they are laid out in grids, not so in Europe. So the numbers and the streets were confusing as I pulled my roller along the uneven sidewalks. It was growing dark and I had not found the inn. A man on a bicycle stopped, I asked him if he knew the place I was looking for, unfortunately he did not. We parted and I walked on, in what I was to find was the wrong direction.

Some time later i heard a frantic bicycle bell ringing, it was the man I had met. He had found the inn I was to stay at and rode back some distance to give me directions. It was dark now, I was so grateful. I asked if I could do anything for him, he asked if I could send him a keychain from Seattle, I do hope he got it.

People like that man are what travel is all about. Not the resorts or cruise ships, but people from one part of the world connecting with people from another part of the world. I really am not thrilled to check some icon off my list, but am excited to talk with a local in that city.

Though I fear Rick Steves has commercialized “common travel” I must agree with him that the secret is to get out of the tourist mode and connect with the people; with their food, their wine, their culture. We are more alike than different.

So travel, talk, eat and drink, but do it always with the goal to understand the locals, wether a hundred miles or 5,000 miles from where you live.

Bunnell Family Wines, they do it all right!

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Bunnell Family Cellar is everything I love about wine. It only takes one tasting flight to know that they make wonderful wines, I am particularly partial to three: Via, Lia, and Syrah. Yet good wine is made great by pleasant surroundings and convivial company, that is what makes Bunnell all that it is.

If you are treated to Susan and Danielle’s hospitality at Wine O’Clock, or Rochelle and Cheryl in the Woodenville tasting room you know that their terroir compliments the skill of Ron, the winemaker.

Susan is the ultimate hostess. She welcomes and makes you feel like you are special, and I truly believe she thinks you are special. We have eaten at Wine O’clock and been lavished on with tasting after tasting, she always has just one more she wants you to try. Some would do that and it would seem like high pressure sales, but with the Bunnell’s it is because they love food and wine, and they want you to enjoy them as well.

Woodenville has become a wine haven, Bunnell sits next to Kestrel, another favorite. We went in a week or two ago because I had to miss the release party. Rochelle and Cheryl gave us what amounted to a private tasting. Now that they have food, cheese and salami plates, it was a wonderful time. We laughed and sipped, they love having you there.

There are those who can write more in depth about the technicalities of the wines they make than I can, so I acquiesce to them. What I know is that I have never had a disappointing wine at Bunnell. Being a family winery, Ron will most likely be the winemaker for many years, that ensures consistency for the long run.

My criteria for a great wine experience is a decent wine, with pleasant people, in a amicable setting, and stories to tell or create. Bunnell excels at all of these. Stop by and have a glass, check out my art that they recently are showing, and tell them theWinesketcher sent you.

Bunnell Winery has my art on display and for sale.

So thrilled! Bunnell Winery in Woodinville, WA has a display of a new acrylic on canvas of mine, and matted prints and cards for sale. Bunnell is one of my favorite wines, their Lia, Via, and Syrah are always the best. Stop by, have a sip, and take a peak.

See more sketches and art at theWinesketcher.

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