He always has the best ideas, and this time is no different. “I’ve been thinking about something, honey. Don’t kill me, but I floated the idea to a couple of people already.”
I’m sure my glare was piercing right thru him as he avoided eye contact and pressed on, “I want to start a little wine club. Really informal – a place to test recipes and connect with friends. I think we should start it next week.”
“C’mon – are you serious?”
I thought it was a great idea. But next week? Two huge events a year or more in the making will hit back to back at the end of the month. My plate is already full.
The fact remains that we have a terrific new wine partner to spotlight, and in light of my new gluten-free diet requirements, wine has intrigued me in a new way lately. Baking is out and the study of wine is in. Plus, with our busy work and family schedules, the structure of a wine club would provide a consistent way to connect with our friends and community on a regular basis.
“Let’s do it,” I heard myself exclaiming, and before I could shove the words back in my mouth, the Brown Bag Wine Club was born.
The First Meeting of the Brown Bag Wine Club
First times of anything are always a little tricky. In the case of the Brown Bag Wine Club, we started it in May – a month full of graduations, summer break plans, end of school events and summer sports. A month that might well have anointed death on the fledgling club.
Plus, I almost killed him for adding another course to my week with so many pots already boiling on the stove of our work life. That wouldn’t have been a good outcome for the club either. But instead, somewhere in the fray, I found my peace and had a tremendous time preparing the story of the Brown Bag Wine Club.
Preparing for the dinner, I found myself digging through a cupboard I’d ignored for far too many months. I washed my grandmother’s vintage sherbet glasses that I had rediscovered tucked behind, well, everything else. They’d be perfect for the layers of fresh spring berries and homemade vanilla ice cream that would finish the meal paired with a sip of port from the oldest continuous maker in the world.
An errand to find the perfect cheese board for the occasion helped me stumble across a mismatched set of vintage replica turquoise water glasses. My great aunt, Bess, a third grandmother by every account, had a similar set, and her favorite color – to an unreasonable preference – was unequivocally turquoise. Yes, please, I’ll take any ten.
She and my grandmother were two of the most gracious yet eclectic, consummate Southern hostesses I’ve ever known. Their comfort with entertaining – to my young observation – conveyed a welcoming ease to every guest of all ages. Their smiles were the best table decoration. I miss them terribly lately, but their memories added joy to this occasion. Soon the table was set for the inaugural Brown Bag Wine Club, and I had no doubt, this was going to be a whole lot of fun.
With wine, I’ve discovered that every sip has a story. How such valuable nectar can emerge out of craggy seaside cliffs and rocky hillsides is the stuff of legend. And legends we told. Tasting wine wrapped in brown bags one by one thru the night, we made awkward newbie-style tasting notes on hand stamped kraft paper cards that I had included at each place setting. From the cheese course where a spreadable asiago won our hearts to the entrée of smoked pork tenderloin over a garlicky potato and zucchini hash where the pinot noir faced off with a bold cabernet sauvignon, we swapped the stories of our own food experiences and excitedly talked about “next time.”
The wine notes accompanied the big reveal of each wine at the end of the night when each guest announced their favorites and guessed on the price of each wine. The bold Earthquake Cabernet Sauvignon ruled the night – but only after having at least an hour to breathe. The R2 Red Birds Pinot Noir was voted most interesting – and preferred overall by three of the eight guests.
For me, the first Brown Bag Wine Club reconnected me with storytelling – the good kind. Storytelling hasn’t been natural for me lately, a lost art in the turbulence of life. But deep inside still lives a curious, story-finding, glass half full inquisitor that wants more than anything to inspire people with redemptive stories.
Admittedly, our first Brown Bag Wine Club was a bit discombobulated and awkward, but it was a memorable first time nonetheless. It made us all want to come back for more – and soon. I’d say that’s the mark of a successful first outing.
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