With wine tastings, home parties, winery trips, speakers, dinners, and more, our latest Trilogy Club of the Month’s social calendar is packed with fun and informative events throughout the year.  Get to know the Trilogy Wine Club of Vistancia through the following interview with Tom Woodruff, our resident “Wine Guy” and a founding member of the club.

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Thanks for taking the time to share the story of the Trilogy Wine Club with us, Tom.

Can you tell us about the history of the Trilogy Wine Club?  When was it founded, and who were the founding members?
About four years ago, a fellow Trilogy member and wine enthusiast named Steve Kenneavy contacted me to ask if I had any interest in forming a wine club. Five or six of us met at the Verde Grill, the restaurant/bar at the golf club and, after a very short discussion, decided this was a great idea. We needed officers, so Steve, who originally thought of the idea, was appointed President right on the spot. We then went around the table: the person next to Steve became VP, next treasurer, and then secretary; I was asked to handle membership.

What is the mission of the Trilogy Wine Club?
Our mission is to offer fun and educational activities to the Wine Club members. We now have wine tastings, home parties, and outside events, including trips to wineries.  Yes – we have over 40 wineries in Arizona!

There are nearly 400 members currently involved with your club.  Are most of the members quite knowledgeable about wine, or is there a range of wine experience/knowledge?
There is a wide range of wine experience and knowledge within our membership.  The Wine Club is open to ALL Trilogy residents, regardless of wine knowledge. At our tastings we keep the proceedings low key and offer a learning environment that is non-threatening.  As is stated on our club’s website, “you don’t have to be wine educated, just wine curious.”

How often does the club gather together?  What do these gatherings typically entail?
We do tastings regularly, both blind and traditional. For example this year, starting in January, we did a blind tasting of Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs.  (The wine bottles are covered in brown paper bags and numbered. At the conclusion of the tasting, the bags are removed to reveal the wines.) In February, Girasole and Barra wines from Mendocino county were tasted; in March, we did a blind tasting of Sauvignon Blancs and Zinfandels; in April, seven wines from Santa Barbara county, were also tasted blind; in May, we enjoyed a selection of summer wines; and in June we had a VIP tasting and BBQ, to which all Trilogy residents were invited. In the summer we see the population of Trilogy drop substantially, so we don’t do any formal tastings. In September, we tasted seven Australian wines.

We have built a very good relationship with a local wine distributor who finds some good but reasonably priced wines. At these events the attendees can buy any of the wines tasted through the Kiva Club. (It’s a state licensing thing!)

In addition to these “formal” tastings, almost every month (including the summer months) we have Home Parties for members, hosted by members. Each guest brings a bottle of wine, chosen by the Home Party Committee and an appetizer to share as the “price” to attend. These are very popular and, because of space limitations, are sold out every month.  During the winter months we may have 150 to 200 members attending the Home Parties. The Home Party Committee has done an excellent job of lining up host homes. Depending on attendance, there are usually two or three homes involved. The tastings at the Kiva club are open to all Trilogy residents, while the home parties are for members only.

Throughout the year we also arrange wine dinners at local restaurants. This year we offered wine and dinner at a Spanish restaurant, a Greek restaurant, and a high-end steak restaurant. We also did a bus trip to a local winery.

The Trilogy Wine Club has held several successful events over the past year, each of which takes a great deal of planning and coordination.  Who plans the Trilogy Wine Club events?
We have committees who are in charge of all the events. Toward the end of the year, we begin planning for next year’s events. There are a large number of clubs here at Trilogy, which means each club is vying for space at the Kiva Club. The sooner a club’s calendar can be set, the better the chance of getting the dates it needs. In addition, the clubs are in competition with outside events wanting to rent the facilities.  As the committee chair for Kiva Club events, I plan and coordinate all activities for these events. But, I don’t do it in a vacuum – I have ample help. For example, this past year, Lynne and Karen O’Connell (2011 treasurer) served on my committee. Without them it would have been nearly impossible to run successful events.

Can you take us behind the scenes and describe the planning process for a Trilogy Wine Club event, such as one of the monthly wine tastings?
Because the Kiva events are the ones I’m most familiar with, let’s start there. Once we decide what the theme will be for the tastings, we meet with the wine distributor and select the wines. We try to plan themes and dates 6 months in advance, and we pre-taste the wines about a month in advance. For example, we will be pre-tasting Seghesio wines in mid-December for a Kiva Club tasting on January 29th.  Why did we choose Seghesio?  Because our distributor has a good relationship with this winery and can get a representative from the winery to talk to the group. They also happen to make some very good wines. At the pre-tasting we will sample eight to ten wines and pick six, or maybe seven to feature at the tasting. Working with the Kiva Club (remember, they have the license), we will establish selling prices for the wines. A sell sheet will be printed with prices so that participants can purchase any of the wines tasted. We don’t hand out the price sheet until the end because we like to have the members try and guess the price. They almost always guess too high. Our distributor has been very helpful in allowing the purchase of anywhere from a single bottle to as many bottles as the club member wishes. In the beginning, we were working with a distributor who would only sell case lots.

On the day of the event, the committee members and volunteers get to the club early to help prepare the wines: putting the whites on ice, if needed, and uncorking the wines to be tasted. We also place a score sheet and pen at each place. (We have been using the Robert Parker 100 point scoring system, which most participants find useful.)  Also placed on the table will be a dump bucket.

We have enjoyed a very helpful relationship with the Kiva staff, especially Gregg Snyder, Director of Activities. The Kiva club staff sets up the tables and chairs, and also supplies water and a very light snack usually consisting of water crackers, cheese and salami. We pay the Kiva club a fee for the set-up. They also supply a sound system. Our ticket prices are based on the total cost divided by the number of participants. Past experience guides us in guessing the number and, if it looks like sales are going very well, we usually can add a table or two, providing it’s not too close to the event date. We try to keep our prices below $20 per person. Because we are using the Trilogy facilities, we open up the tasting to all Trilogy members and charge from $3 to $5 extra for non-Wine Club members.

We assign one person to be a “Wine Steward” for each table. We find that we can get at least 10 pours from a bottle, so 1 bottle per table (or 10 people) is our goal. Any wine left in the bottle is left at the table. The wine stewards are pretty good at pouring the right amount. Any wine not opened will be put into our stock to be used at our annual holiday party. After each pour, the distributor rep will offer some information about the wine. Our rep is very knowledgeable and well liked. He does an excellent job as the moderator.

When all the wines have been tasted and discussed, we reveal the prices by handing out the price sheets. The wine buyers are informed of the total price and told when the wine will be delivered, usually two or three days after the event. When the wine arrives, the buyer is notified and asked to come to the club to pick-up and settle the bill. Yes, a lot of wine is sold – our distributor rep loves us because we are one of his biggest accounts. The Kiva club loves us because they sell a lot of wine.

This month, you’re holding your annual holiday party, the Wine Club’s biggest event of the year.  Can you tell us what is planned for this much-anticipated, sell-out event?
This event has turned into the “Event of the Year” at Trilogy at Vistancia – at least that’s what we’ve been told. Each year we learn a little more about how to run this event. This year, for the first time, we sold reserved seats. (In past years, the people buying tickets had no idea where they would be sitting. Many wanted to sit with friends, so they had to get their friends together and arrive at the club early to get in line for seats. With reserved seats, the attendees can come to the club at their leisure.) We started advertising the event about 30 days in advance, at which time we told the members (as this is a member’s only event) about this change. We gave a date and time when tickets would go on sale. The start time for ticket sales was 11:00 AM; people were already starting to line-up as early as 7:30 AM.  At 11, tickets went on sale and by 12 there were only 6 tickets left out of 150. The size of the room limits us to 150, and that is tight. In addition to the 15 tables there is just enough room for two bars dispensing wine and the band.

On the night of the holiday party, we’ll have two check-in tables near the front entrance to the Kiva club where our partygoers can show their tickets and get their hands stamped. The Kiva club will have a cash bar open from about 5:00 PM for those who want mixed drinks or beer. (Remember, this is a WINE CLUB) Inside at the two bars will be all that luscious wine we’ve been saving for the party. At 6:00 PM I will signal the band to start playing holiday music, and at the same time the inside hosted bars will begin serving the wine. The price of admission gets the members all the wine they can drink, as well as ample food and a great band playing mostly old time R & B and rock and roll – the kind of music many of us grew up with.   The band is actually led by a former Trilogy home rep named Lucius. He and his brother have been playing for many years and have gained quite a reputation around the valley.  This will be the third year he has played for us and I still hear people rave about his group.  We have already booked him for our 2012 holiday party.

Back to planning – without the help of my committee and the entire board, this party would never get off the ground. Planning starts a year in advance with the hiring of the band. Wine has to be collected and stored so that at year’s end we have ample juice of the grape. As we get closer to party time, we meet with the food and beverage people to plan the food. It would be cost prohibitive to do a sit-down dinner, so we have, for the last 3 years, opted for heavy appetizers. The Kiva staff has done an outstanding job of creating tasty tidbits for the party. This year we are having a cheese and fruit platter, fresh baked pizzas, sliced hero sandwiches, cheese ravioli with a butter-basil sauce, teriyaki meat balls and more, plus two desserts. Oh, did I mention plenty of wine?

Is the Trilogy Wine Club open to all members of Trilogy at Vistancia?  If new members are interested in joining, how can they do so?
Any resident of Trilogy at Vistancia can join the Wine Club. Dues are $15 for a calendar year and $10 to renew. The home parties and the Holiday Party are limited to members only. The Kiva tastings are open to all residents.

Any Trilogy resident interested in joining should go to our website at www.trilogywineclub.com and download a member application. Instructions for handling are on the application. On the site you will find more information about the club and our activities, as well as photos of past events.

Is there anything else that you’d like to share about the Trilogy Wine Club?
It’s a lot of work, but the kind of work that is very satisfying. In the end, we know we are providing a fun time for our members.

Thanks, Tom!  Cheers, and happy holidays to you and all of the Trilogy Wine Club members!

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