TASTINGS are held once a month and last for two hours. 12 wines are tasted in blind-conditions (meaning that participants know the varietal, but do not know which wine is in which glass until the results of the tasting are announced).
Each wine is poured into a separate, lettered Riedel crystal wine glass. 12 glasses for 12 wines. The taster is seated comfortably and is presented with a semi-circle of glasses for analysis of the wines. To facilitate concentration, a quiet atmosphere is maintained until each taster has completed his or her evaluation. Then, a consensus discussion begins. White tablecloths enhance visual evaluation. Tasting sheets and other aids are provided. The specific wines are identified only after tabulation of all the scores and rankings has been completed, the consensus discussion at each table has been concluded, and the results announced. These results, which are of tremendous interest to consumers and wine professionals all over the world, are also published electronically. Over the past 44 years, members have been enriched by over 1,500 educational tastings and events.
POST-TASTING DINNERS: Recognizing that wine is made for enjoyment with food and friends, the tastings are followed by an optional moderately-priced dinner at which the tasted varietal is paired with food. These dinners are designed to advance participants' knowledge of the tasted wines and to add to the camaraderie.
PRICE & CANCELLATION POLICY: Tastings are discounted for members and are priced between $75 and $185. Post-tasting dinners, also, are discounted for members and range between $150 and $195 (all wines, 20% gratuity, corkage and taxes included). Non-members are charged higher prices. Tastings and events routinely sell out quickly. Waiting lists are common due to limitations of seating space and Riedel crystal stemware .
Cancellation deadlines are generally one week prior to the tasting. This facilitates proper preparation--- sufficient quantities of wines, sufficient quantities of special German crystal stemware, sufficient numbers of tables, etc. --- and helps to avoid unnecessary expenditures. It also facilitates the efforts of our generous volunteers. Should an unforeseen circumstance present itself after the cancellation deadline has passed, you may send a substitute, provided that you e-mail the Vintners Club with the name and contact information of your substitute no less than one business day prior to the tasting. We regret that we are not able to accommodate anybody who has not made an advance reservation.
OUTREACH PROGRAM: So as to further wine education as a public benefit, and with the goal of educating young consumers, a limited number of half-scholarships are offered to full-time students over age 21. Students at Stanford University, University of California at San Francisco, the California Culinary Academy, University of California at Davis, University of California at Berkeley, University of Southern California, Sonoma State University and University of San Francisco have availed themselves of these opportunities. Students from other institutions are also welcome.
HIGH-END WINE EDUCATION DINNERS are organized from time to time at restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area. Often, the wines for these dinners come from our members who have extensive private wine collections. The Club strives to introduce members to American and foreign wines with which they may not have much familiarity. Appropriate pairing of the wines with food is an important component of these educational events.FIELD TRIPS: Periodically, members enhance their knowledge through trips to various viticultural areas in California and Europe where they are hosted by member-wineries. Visits to the vineyards and tastings of library wines are part and parcel of these invaluable educational experiences. Recently, members were treated to a magnificent two-day gala at Château Brane-Cantenac (classified as Second Growth in 1855), commune of Margaux, in Bordeaux (France). As guests of the chateau, members had the privilege of experiencing scores of rare and exceptional wines, including old vintages of grands vins from the topmost Classified Growth châteaux, and a Methuselah (6-litre bottle) of the 1986 grand vin of Château Brane-Cantenac, all in the company of Bordeaux’ foremost château owners and winemakers.
WHERE THE WINES FOR THE TASTINGS COME FROM: Wines are selected by the Club's Executive Committee; they may be purchased, donated by members, or solicited from wineries. Since a limited number of wines can be poured at each tasting, the wines submitted by member-wineries are generally given priority for inclusion in the tastings, provided they meet Vintners Club quality standards.
THE PANEL: Tastings are open to interested persons who reserve a seat. The panel of men and women varies from tasting to tasting and the level of expertise ranges from professional to enthusiastic consumers. All are encouraged to attend, regardless of their level of experience.
RANKING THE WINES: The final ranking of the wines from first place to twelfth place is based on the panel's overall impressions. The rankings of all the panelists are tabulated, and a wine receiving the lowest overall total of rankings is declared the first-place wine (a low overall total indicates the wine was first-, second- or third-place choice of many tasters, while a high overall total indicates the wine received many tenth- through twelfth-place votes). The U.C. Davis 20-Point Scale can also be utilized as an additional aid in ranking the wines.