By Rick Riozza

WE KNOW—you’re a wine lover and wish to try new wines but you find yourself in a bit of a rut buying the same or similar ones continuingly. Or maybe you’ve been so busy that you find less and less time to shop around for wine. Add to the fact that perhaps you need a break from all that busyness and it would be nice to meet up socially with like-minded vino lovers.

So how does the idea sound of having a wine expert choose your wine, order it and deliver it; then occasionally, meet up with the expert and others at a local venue to enjoy that wine. These are major reasons wine lovers join a wine club. Wine clubs have been around for a while now, and they are the perfect solution to a problem like this. Most people even say that joining a wine club is the perfect option for those who wish to know more about wine.

The new wine club in town is called Mood Wine and their members are affectionately known as “Moodies. This wine-themed social group meets up quarterly to enjoy and discuss the wines they’ve just purchased, to sample tasty wine pairing dishes, and to join in fun conversation.

A couple of years ago, Patrick Bartlett, a WSET graduate chef and wine educator, started Mood Wine with his partner, photographer/graphic artist Jake Stanford, here in the Palm Springs area. Their goal was to connect wine lovers to fine wines, and vine lovers to each other. Bartlett is also a seasoned winery management consultant, wine event planner, and social media specialist. And Jake is a true artist behind the camera. Follow him at http://www.moodcreative.co/jake/ and take in the view.

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At Mood Wine, there is no membership fee, but the Moodies agree to buy the “club wine package” of three bottles four times a year. The selection of boutique and artisanal wine is California, West Coast and international, and, discounted at least 20%. According to Bartlett, The “Red Wine’ club typically cost around $100 four times per year. The ‘White Wine’ club cost around $75 four times per year. Some members belong to both clubs because they enjoy the wines selected.

The idea was to make it a social wine club and not just another box of bottles” says Bartlett. “The first 45-60 minutes are for socializing and enjoying tasty nibbles and reception wine.” He then leads the group through a tasting of each of the current three club wines paired with a gourmet bite that he has prepared as well. Bartlett often conducts fun culinary discussions enlightening the group to wine culture, geography, and travel.

The group is made up of both singles and couples and growing. “We have over 60 people from all walks of life and the networking opportunities for those in business are great,” comments Bartlett. “And by the way—there is no shipping charge when picking up the wine at the event.” The club generally meets at “the Loft” in Palms Springs but other venues—such as local restaurants, are varied to add to the experience.

Lori Cohen-Sanford of Nourishfoods, says, “We moved down from the Settle area over a year ago and joined the club to meet up with other wine lovers in this area.  We didn’t know much about California wine but Patrick has acted as a personal “wine concierge” for us customizing our wine collection.  We enjoy his wine and food “bites” tasting at our wine parties and we’ve come to know a large cross-section of people here in Palm Springs socially and business-wise as well.”

Activities and services seem to be evolving. Bartlett tells us, “We’ve launched a new program via Mood Wine – Wine Wedding Registry. It’s super simple. All you do is contact us, we set-up a link for your invited guests to shop, and they in turn click on the link and shop in increments of $25. Then after the wedding the couple shops for wine from our extensive wine catalog via our many distributors.”

To learn more about Mood Wine and the “art of living well” go to www.moodwine.com.

Besides the social aspect, others advantages to wine club membership are the access to small-production “boutique” wineries, for connoisseurs who want specialty wines not widely available at retail, and wine newbies who want selections that will help them explore and refine their tastes.

Some wine clubs are established by wineries to primarily assist in selling wine and providing discounts to their loyal clients. The Tulip Mania Wine Clubis run by the Tulip Hill Winery, a boutique winery that produces close to 20 different wines and offers tastes in its tasting room located at The River at Rancho Mirage. Membership includes receiving four bottles of wine shipped four times a year at a 20% discount. Members are invited to the tasting room for complementary tastings, wine release parties, and exclusive winery events.

Other wine clubs are casual meetings where wine is offered. The Palm Springs Public Library Wine Book Club is more of a discussion group celebrating books and wine.This group meets at Azul Tapas Lounge on the last Wednesday of each month (unless otherwise noted) at 6:00 p.m.in the dining room. All attendees must be 21 years of age to attend. Wine and other food items are available for a nominal fee. Neither wine tastings nor purchases are required to attend the club, which is FREE and open to the public. For the list of monthly book selections go to www.palmspringslibrary.org and click on Book Clubs.