This is how a luxury wine club goes on vacation
Sounds like a wine lover’s dream: Join a globetrotting wine club that gives you access to a postcard-perfect luxury vineyard in Mendoza, Argentina (whose owner, rumored, had to turn down a request to stay from Bono as they were at full capacity).
But even better, it gives you a seat for far-flung journeys with unique experiences like a seat at a gala in Champagne where each house showcases their new wines of the year, or being the first to try small-batch wines. straight from the cellar of a world-renowned winemaker – all in a tight-knit group of like-minded wine lovers.
It’s a no-brainer if you have the $100,000 membership fee and the time to travel the world to pursue your passion.
Priorat: paradise for wine lovers
It’s what brought a group of a dozen members to the Priorat in Catalonia, Spain, an area famous for its robust reds. It’s the third destination on a The-Vines-do-Europe trip that first visited the aforementioned Champagne region and then Germany’s Moselle for their famous white wines.
For the next few days, Dominik Huber, well-known winemaker from Terroir Al Límit, is our man in the field. His award-winning winery and connections form the basis of our trip, while Vines’ resident wine expert, Marie Von Ahm, is there to guide us. It’s an encouraging start that during our orientation tasting session – which takes place at sunset in our luxury boutique hotel Terra Dominicata, cradled in the valley of the Monstrat mountains – it promises not to be prescriptive and compare wines to things like pepper and cinnamon.
“We all have different tastes,” she says, without the slightest pretension. “So the only thing we can comment on is the mouthfeel.” This is followed by three days of wine tastings (more than 50 wines are served during the trip) where you will never see an empty glass unless it is at the request of its owner.
The tour concludes with a wine blending session where each member can blend their own perfect Priorat wine – and possibly purchase a barrel of it for $16,000 for the ultimate souvenir of their trip. As the group gathers outside the hotel for this finale, we realize this isn’t our first morning tasting session.
“It’s because your palette is supposed to be the sharpest in the first place,” club founder Michael Evans chats to the group in the shade of a neat row of cypress trees. “I don’t know,” Joel replies with a smile. “It depends on what you did the day before.”
In this case, the night before was important. It was Evans’ birthday, celebrated at Celler de l’Aspic. The refined restaurant specializes in locally produced wines, but that didn’t stop waiters from pouring bottles of Champagne like Emmanuel Brochet and Bollinger for toast alongside a series of divine sharing plates.
“These are experiences that money can’t buy”
It all sounds incredibly decadent, but the best part is how low-key it is, if you can imagine privately hiring exquisite restaurants and opening double magnums of rare wines that low-key. Delightful conversations take place within the group at all times, but there is no humble bragging in sight, and only light business discussions – which is limited given the valuable networking opportunity for a group of current or former CEOs and senior executives from the worlds of technology, business, finance and law.
Truly, guests are as at home in the luxury of Hotel Dominica’s restaurant, served rare wines by leading Priorat winemakers Sara Pérez and René Barbier from their own collection, as they are at La Cooperativa, a rustic, family-run restaurant in the unspoilt village of Perrora. In fact, on a gastronomic trip, La Cooperativa is the highlight of the gastronomic offer, thanks to the lovingly prepared dishes and age-old recipes. Even now, at home on fun days, their dessert of gooey chocolate chunks topped with flaked sea salt then drizzled with olive oil is now a regular occurrence, though I can’t say I have bought olive oil on the road in Siurana.
“These are experiences that money can’t buy,” says Marcelo, a leading lawyer in Brazil and member and investor of The Vines. We speak in an appropriate situation. We are served a freshly cooked paella after tasting the wines of Terrior Al Limit at the top of the Serra de Montsant wine mountains, where even the chilled water is served in elegant insulated glasses that we will receive later. “In Moselle, we took a boat trip along the Moselle, drinking the wines from each vineyard as we passed,” he explains. “You couldn’t have planned this yourself. And in Champagne, because we were welcomed by a Champagne family, we were invited to the region’s black tie gala where each house offered the Champagne of the year with a course at dinner, at the time of the fireworks.
This trip to Spain is the seventh travel experience for The Vines, and there are plans to expand it to a total of 12 wine destinations in the coming years, with sake brewing in Japan and mezcal making in Mexico. It’s a remarkable idea. As anyone who has tried an unlabeled bottle of house wine in a trattoria in Italy understands, bought a bottle and found it didn’t taste the same at home, the drink is only part of the draw. In truth, it is the whole experience that is the most intoxicating thing of all.
Shilpa was a guest of The Vines.