Review: Winc Wine Club
Winc is a monthly wine club from Northern California that, like most, works via an online subscription service. We had the opportunity to give them a try and were fairly impressed with the offering.
First, a bit about Winc. When you first sign up, you are asked several questions to determine your “Palate Profile.” They ask about how you like your coffee; your salt and citrus preferences; how much you like berry and earthy flavors; and how adventurous you are with trying new foods. The wine recommendations sent are based upon these questions. Most of their wines are around $13 a bottle but can be as much as $35. Rate the wines you get and you’ll improve the next set of recommendations. If you don’t want any wine this month, you can skip it.
A basic subscription includes three bottles plus a flat rate shipping. We received four bottles and a copy of the Winc Journal. The journal is particularly interesting. This one contained articles on terroir and an interview with winemaker Markus Bokisch. The journal talks about their featured wines with food pairing suggestions and rates the wines with regards to body, fruit, woodiness, earthiness, and sweetness.
Inside the journal are also cocktail recipes, using wines from your subscription box. Of our four, two were featured in cocktails in the journal and so we gave them a try as well. (See below.)
But first, on with the wines.
First up is 2015 Forma di Vida Graciano, a Spanish style red wine. Light on the sweetness, this wine has fruit flavors like dark cherry and plum. If you like your wine with lots of body, you’ll want to try this one, though it may be too heavy for people who don’t like strong flavors like we do. A / $13
Next, we have 2016 Summer Water Rosé, which is aptly named as it is so light the alcohol content is barely noticeable. The cocktail included using Summer Water would be nice for the warmest summer days ahead. It gives the impression it would be right at home poolside. B / $15
Summer Water Shim
½ oz. fresh tangerine juice
1 ½ oz. Jardesca or Lillet Blanc
3 oz. Summer Water
1 fresh Bay Leaf
Chill the cocktail glass. Fill a shaker with ice and pour in the tangerine juice and Jardesca. Shake until the shaker feels frosty to the touch. Then strain into the glass and top with Summer water. Garnish with a Bay Leaf before serving.
Our third wine is 2015 Field Theory Abariño, a white wine from Andrus Island Vineyard. This one is extremely fruity and a touch sweet, but not overly so. It might be a favorite of the ladies. B /$18
The fourth wine is 2016 Finke’s Widow Sparkling White Blend. A little sweeter than the Field Theory, it has a slight earthy undertone (like mushrooms) which gives way to the fizziness. B- / $13
1 oz. shiso syrup
1 oz. fresh lime juice
¼ oz. fresh cucumber juice
4 oz. Finke’s Widow
2 shiso leaves
Shiso is Japanese basil but has a mixture of basil, anise, and mint flavors with grassy elements. You can substitute fresh mint if need be.
This recipe called for cucumber juice in the ingredients but coconut juice in the instructions. We chose to make it with the cucumber and adjusted the instructions. You could probably substitute coconut instead.
Puree a cucumber in a blender and then strain to extract the juice. Then combine all the other ingredients, except the shiso leaves, with the juice and stir. Pour into a medium sized glass and garnish with the leaves.
3 oz. Finke’s Widow
2 oz. Campari
splash of soda
1 orange slice
Fill a rocks glass with ice, along with the orange slice. Pour the Campari and sparkling wine into the glass and top with a dash of soda. Mix gently before serving.
Winc’s website includes a recipes section for great food to serve with your wine. Here’s one example:
Garganelli with Lobster and Caramelized Fennel Puree
1 lb Garganelli pasta
1 1/2 pounds of lobster meat
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. red chili flakes
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 bulbs fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup white wine
¼ cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¾ cup toasted slivered almonds
4 Tbsp. butter
½ cup torn basil leaves
Find a pot that is large enough to fit two live lobsters and fill it with water. Set the pot over high heat and bring the water to a boil. Lightly salt the water. Add the lobsters to the pot, reduce the heat so that the water is gently simmering, and cook for 7 minutes.
Remove the lobsters and run them under cold water to stop the cooking process. Extract the meat from the lobsters—kitchen shears work great for this task. Cut the meat into bite-size pieces. Store the lobster meat in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
In a large skillet, over medium heat, add the olive oil and the red chili flakes. Wait one minute while the skillet gets hot, and then add the onions. When the onions are soft and translucent, add the fennel. Season with salt. When the fennel begins to soften, turn the heat down to low.
Slowly caramelize the fennel and onion, transforming them into something very soft and sweet. When the vegetables are sufficiently caramelized, add the garlic and the white wine; increase the heat, and cook until the wine has almost entirely evaporated. Add the heavy cream and cook until the cream has partially reduced.
Transfer the contents of the skillet to a blender and add the lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Add scant amounts of water if the puree is too thick. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. If you want, you can store this puree in the refrigerator for a day or two ahead of time before completing this dish.
Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, except under cook the pasta by one or two minutes. While the pasta is cooking, set a large skillet over medium heat and add the fennel puree, stirring occasionally.
When the pasta is cooked, transfer it to the skillet with the fennel puree, making sure to reserve a cup of the pasta water. Add a little of the pasta water to the skillet and stir. Add the butter and the lobster. If you know how to flip the pasta in skillet with your wrist, do that now. Otherwise, keep stirring. Add the almonds and basil. If the pasta looks too dry, add more of the pasta water.
Taste the pasta while it is still in the skillet and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Before serving, garnish the pasta with lemon zest.