Dec 132016

What is The National Tasting Project (NTP)?

The NTP is a wine education and tasting opportunity for AWS Chapters across the US. Each year the NTP committee chooses a theme and selects several widely available wines that show different styles within the theme. Chapters hold tastings to sample the wines and then see how their ratings compare to other AWS chapters.

This year’s national tasting project subject was Rhone Rangers. We held the event at Amy and Pace’s home on June 25th, 2016, (for more details, see the event page.)

The results are in, and I put together a report that you can download: 2016 NTP Report.

Thank you for participating in the 2016 NTP and we look forward to another great year of participation in 2017 where our theme will be Organic, Sustainable & Biodynamic Wines!

Oct 242016

All membership expiration dates are Dec 31, 2016 or later. You can always renew, contact Mike Farren at: or email at .

Dues are now $49 for individual and $62 for households. The membership lasts until Dec. 31, 2017. New members that register in October will receive 14 months of membership.

There is a three year discount offer (15% discount to normal fees) available for $124 for individuals and $158 for households.

Oct 052016

As I mentioned at our last wine education event, we have the opportunity to purchase Riedel glassware at a deep discount.  Many of you know Natalie from the AWS Hudson group or met her at the summer BBQ at Diane’s house in Northborough.  Nat is working directly with the local Riedel glass rep. Please see the information below.  If you would like to place an order, please contact Nat before October 24th.  The more orders we have, the better the discount.

Enclosed is the Riedel catalog to send out to AWS. Here is the scoop and I am happy to help/explain any of this to anyone who needs help. Just give them my email and cell .

We are an existing account so they may have to reactivate us but our minimum that we need to spend is $500 (retail). I think last time our order was somewhere over $2500 retail. However, we want to be over $1000 or $2500 to get better discounts.

If we are over $2500 retail then our discount is 40%/15% versus 40%/10% if we are over $1000. When you look at the discount table on the catalog ignore anything in red. That was for the promo that ends today so we will not be eligible for that. They will not run any end of the year promos so we are not under a time crunch but should do this before the end of the year. We should probably give people a date that we need to have the order info so it can be placed before the holiday rush…maybe 10/31/??

So here is how it works. People should go to this website and look at the glass collections or decanters. Only Riedel products so no Spiegelau. Wine glasses, decanters, beer and spirits glasses are all included…but it must be a Riedel product.

View The Riedel Glass Collection : RIEDEL

Once you know what you want then look at the catalog for pricing. You will need to look at the yellow highlighted column where it says Retail US $ per bill unit. This will give you the price. All bill units are 2 packs unless it is the som series (those are singles). There is a case minimum for each (case of 4 for som series, case of 8 for everything else).

Here is an example:

Let’s say I want the Vinum XL cab glasses, part 6416/00. The retail price on the bill unit (2 glasses) is $69.00. But I have to buy a case which is 8 glasses so I actually have to order (or split an order with someone else) 4 bill units. 4 bill units at $69 each is $276.00 before the discount. If we are over $2500 retail then the discount is 40/15 so it works like this: $276 less 40% is $165.60. Then $165.60 less the additional 15% is $140.76. So for 8 glasses the total without shipping would be $140.76 which makes it $17.60 per glass.

Last time we did have some people split the cases but most people were happy to buy the case. Shipping is additional. I can’t recall how much it was last time but it was minimal. It generally is between 7-10% of the total order and then we would divide this by the number of people who ordered.

It worked really well last time. People sent their order info to me and I created a spreadsheet for it so I could calculate their total. We shipped everything to Noel and he and I sorted it. I put the whole order on my credit card and then people sent me money via Paypal or check. We can discuss where might the most convenient place to ship it based on who might be centrally located for people to pick up their items. Probably since the account is tied to me it would be easiest if I used my card for the order. If someone else really wants to use their card I can explore that.

Call me if you have questions.


Riedel Catalog

Apr 012016

I mentioned at the past couple of wine education events that we were thinking about doing a social event at a local restaurant. We have been trying restaurants in the Worcester area with this in mind. Glen and Mary suggested a restaurant called the Metro Bistrot at 176 Main Street, Southbridge, MA. From our home it took about 35 minutes to drive there during rush hour traffic. Coming home it took about 25 minutes. Below I detail the experience we had with Glen and Mary there last night.

The Metro Bistrot is nondescript from the outside, but upon entering the establishment, we immediately began admiring the metal sculptures and colorful impressionist art like small children. The dining room is quaint, cozy and inviting with pale blue walls and vintage French café music softly playing in the background. At the back of the room behind a wooden countertop bar, there is a teeny tiny open kitchen. I felt as if I we entered a portal and were transported to a Parisian Bistro.

We found Mary and Glen in one of the three dining areas at a table next to a stretch of windows framing a large metal sculpture. Even before being seated ourselves, I noticed that Mary and Glen’s wine had been poured into a decanter shaped like a chemist’s volumetric flask and I thought to myself, professional wine service from a BYOB restaurant? The chairs were padded and comfortable and the tables were steady and had adequate space for four people. Rikki leaned over to me and said, “I like this place already”.

With sophistication and grace our server opened our bottle of wine then took our order.

Glen asked the server if the cassoulet was gluten free. Soon, Jay Livernois “the cook” appeared with the large cassoulet tin in hand. It was gorgeous with creamy beans and tender nubs of meat. Oh, and yes was gluten free.

Now for the food. Rikki and I started by splitting an order of escargots. They were cooked with parsley and garlic butter and presented in their shells – very traditional. The plate was accompanied with tiny spoon shaped tongs and pick forks. They were uncommonly tender and assertively flavored things of beauty. I sopped up the butter with a slice of crusty artisanal bread.

For my main, I ordered the boudin noir (blood sausage), since I have never seen it on a restaurant menu in the Worcester area. It was unforgettable, deep and dark, succulent and meltingly soft served with onions and mushrooms in a syrupy reduction. Rikki gave me a taste of her filet medallions with foie gras. The meat was an excellent cut, cooked to perfection, tender, tasty and devoid of any fat. The foie gras was buttery, melted on my tongue, and of superior quality.

For dessert, Rikki and I split the bananes au chèvre—bananas baked in goat cheese with vanilla ice cream. An unlikely combination that proved to be fresh, unctuous and not too sweet.

After dinner, Marie-Paule Marthe co-owner of the bistro and Jay’s wife came to our table to say hello. She was born and raised in France. One side of her family are cheese makers and the others are vintners from Bordeaux. Many of the dishes at the bistro are her family’s recipes. In France, she was an actress and teacher. She treated our table to two songs performed in French. Confidently and effortlessly, she sang in a lovely voice with her hands gesturing at just the right moments and her head gently tilting back and forth. She made eye contact with everyone at the table and had our undivided attention and we listened. It turns out she can sing in 8 different languages.

The proprietor Jay Livernois then joined us. Humbly saying, “I am not a chef, I am a cook.” He was born in Southbridge and received his training in Italy, France, and other countries. He is passionate about food and the proper preparation of traditional dishes. He offered us complementary Calvados Napoléon digestif from his private stash. Of course we accepted. Rikki leaned over to me and said, “This is my new favorite restaurant.”

We talked for a while about a number of topics. Jay was telling about a recent trend of really bad bistro food. Some restaurants use mass-produced frozen food that is reheated just before serving. Also, there is a movement where some chefs are trying to update the tried-and-true classics with cost cutting techniques such as cutting duck fat with cheap canola oil or substituting overly salty bacon fat.

“Want it your way? Go next door to subway.” Jay takes pride in his food. He told us a couple of stories that we found quite entertaining. One customer asked for cheese before the meal. Jay would not serve him the cheese because “it should be eaten at the end of the meal”. One customer said, you have oysters Marsala and you have chicken, take the Marsala sauce and put it on the chicken, I want chicken Marsala. Jay said, “No, that’s not on the menu. Go next door to Subway.”

We also talked about his service staff. Jay has a rule that the staff must eat the food at the restaurant which he provides free of charge. How else can the service staff offer advice and describe the dishes?
We discussed the possibility of having a wine dinner at the bistro. For $40 inclusive of tax and tip, Jay can offer us a 5 – 7 course gourmet dinner. The courses would include soup, fish, poultry, meat, cheese, and dessert. Jay gets raw milk cheese from a small local farm in Douglas. I found it amusing, he’s allergic to raw milk, but will eat the cheese knowing the consequences because he enjoys the taste so much.

When Jay creates the menu, he will also give me some pairing suggestions and I will acquire the wine. Our wine budget will be $30. The dates we are looking at are the evening of Saturday, May 21st, or the afternoon of Sunday, May 15th. If we go with Saturday evening, there is a limit of 20 people. If we go with Sunday afternoon, we can accommodate up to 40 people.

For those that are traveling a long distance, the Sturbridge Hotel and Conference Center is a 5 minute walk to the restaurant.

We hope you can join us. Use this link to vote for your preferred day:

Jan 072016

By Al Vuona
Posted Jan. 7, 2016 at 6:00 AM
Updated at 11:12 AM

For Worcester native Joe Paparella, wine has become a deeply rooted passion. He describes the experience this way, “While in my 20s beer was the beverage of choice. Then slowly this evolution began whereby I became captivated with wine.” Today as chapter chairman of the Worcester Wine Society, Paparella continues to extoll the virtues of wine appreciation with others.

The Worcester Wine Society is the local branch of the American Wine Society, the oldest and largest consumer organization in the U.S. dedicated to promoting wine appreciation. The Worcester group, with its 40 or so members, meets regularly to taste, discuss and evaluate wines from around the world. In addition, they attend social events, winery tours and wine dinners. While learning and education is certainly a big part of the group’s focus, it’s the enjoyment of tasting wine and sharing ideas with one another that members find most appealing.

According to Paparella, membership at the local level is free and prior wine experience is not required. The Worcester chapter was formally launched in 2012 and since that time has attracted wine lovers from Worcester and surrounding communities.

“We don’t expect people to be wine experts,” Paparella says. “We want our members to enjoy wine and not feel intimidated, that’s really what it’s all about. Each meeting features samplings of wines from a particular region of the world along with food and appetizers. Note-taking and discussion is a big part of what we do, along with enjoying one another’s company.”

I asked Paparella who he felt were better wine tasters, men or women.

“I would have to say that based on my experience women tend to pick up aromas and nuances that most men overlook. I think it has something to do with how keen their sense of smell is.”

The monthly wine tastings are usually held in members’ homes, hotel meeting spaces and other spots in and around Worcester. Participants feel comfortable getting together in smaller venues where they can freely discuss the wines being tasted. This is especially true for new members, who sometimes feel overwhelmed.

Founded in 1967, the American Wine Society has more than 125 chapters throughout the US. Membership fees start at $49 and members must be at least 21 years old. In addition to national conferences, the association hosts wine judging and competitions, which are open to all members.

As for future plans, the Worcester chapter is exploring the possibility of hosting a regional symposium in which tasting groups throughout Central Mass. will gather to taste wines from various regions of the world. Now that’s what I call a wine loving society.

Original article:

Dec 102015

What is The National Tasting Project (NTP)?

The NTP is a wine education and tasting opportunity for AWS Chapters across the US. Each year the NTP committee chooses a theme and selects several widely available wines that show different styles within the theme. Chapters hold tastings to sample the wines and then see how their ratings compare to other AWS chapters.

This year’s national tasting project subject was Wines of Austria and Hungary ~ “A Well Kept Secret”.  We held the event at Alex and Jonathan’s home on July 25th, 2015, (for more details, see the event page.)

The results are in, and I put together a report that you can download: 2015 NTP Report.

Thank you for participating in the 2015 NTP and we look forward to another great year of participation in 2016!

Sep 082015

found this interesting article in the September 2015 issue of GQ magazine and scanned it to PDF to share with us.  Please enjoy.