Insider Tips of the Century

What better job to have if you want to join the Wine Century Club? Members Maj Capps, left, and William Holby are wine consultants at Calvert Woodley.
What better job to have if you want to join the Wine Century Club? Members Maj Capps, left, and William Holby are wine consultants at Calvert Woodley. (By James A. Parcell For The Washington Post)
By Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg
Special to The Washington Post
Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Pinela . . . Rebula . . . Hadn't we tasted these Slovenian wine grapes in the alluring 2003 Batic Valentino ($65) dessert wine that had been selected and poured for us by sommeliers Annie Turso and Emilie Garvey, then of New York's Mandarin Oriental Hotel? Bingo! The recollection managed to push our life lists of wine grape varieties sampled over the 100 mark -- and qualified us as two of the more recent inductees of an elite-yet-not-at-all-elitist organization with just 258 members globally.

The Wine Century Club, as we mentioned in our column April 18, admits as members anyone who has tasted at least 100 different wine grape varieties. Since then, founders Steve and Deborah De Long report that the WCC online membership application (at has been downloaded 1,400 times, netting 47 new members. They include wine educators, bloggers, importers, sommeliers and restaurateurs, along with scores of avocational wine enthusiasts in North and South America, Western and Eastern Europe, Russia and Australia.

Want to join, too? We tapped some Washington area members via e-mail for their tips on expediting the process of sampling 100 grape varieties:

· Walt Rachele of Westminster, Md., advises joining a wine tasting group, such as the local chapter of the American Wine Society or the Washington-based Wine Tasting Association. He also suggests visiting local wineries and attending as many wine store tastings as possible. He's a fan of Austrian Blaufrankisch, Swiss Chasselas and Spanish cava (which by law includes Macabeo, Parellada and/or Xarel-lo).

· Bob Gregg of Vienna, after attending tasting classes with his wife, Sonnet, at Whole Foods Market in Falls Church for a year, visited the Vintage Virginia wine festival armed with a game plan that allowed him to sample more than 30 varieties in a single day. ("More than enough to put me over the top -- not to mention under the table," he recalls.)

He is big on Italian Valpolicella (a blend of Corvina, Molinara and Rondinella grapes) and Spanish cava. Gregg says he's noticed more local stores getting savvy about what he terms "the odd-varietal trend" and able to steer customers toward the more obscure wines, such as the 2004 Faunus Cesanese del Piglio ($12 at, primarily Cesanese grapes, which he describes as "a great pizza-and-burger wine I could drink every day."

· Mark and Diane Freeland of Baltimore also count themselves as active members of the American Wine Society and love to promote uncommon wine grape varieties because "it is the polar opposite of wine snobbery." The most interesting among the wines they tasted to qualify for the WCC was Valiant Vineyards Wild Grape ($32 for the 2002), the South Dakota winery's trademark signature wine, made from Vitis riparia grapes.

· Michael Mangahas of North Potomac recommends as a great summer wine the NV Gatao Vinho Verde ($8 at the Vineyard in McLean), a blend of Azal, Pederna, Trajadura and Avesso grapes. His wife, P.T. Mangahas, cites as one of her favorites the 2002 Joseph Phelps Insignia Meritage ($75), a blend of Bordeaux varietals, which she purchased as a birthday gift for Michael.

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