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In Good Spirits

A new wine club draws great interest and many members among Oxford wine enthusiasts.


Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem


When Luke McKey returned to Oxford after living for a time in Seattle, he felt the wine culture in the area was missing something. So, in October 2021 — despite the ongoing pandemic, product shortages and at least 20 package stores already in business in Oxford — McKey took a leap of faith and opened Campus Wines & Spirits.


Wishing to cultivate the wine culture in Oxford, McKey partnered with wine enthusiast Joe Bittick and Campus Wines & Spirits’ marketing director, Andie Sanford. The trio set about to capitalize on one of their favorite shared ideas: to create a wine club.


“We started talking about it one night in the middle of June,” Sanford said. “And by the launch date of Aug. 1, 2021, we already had 30 members.”


Here’s how it works: Members pay a monthly fee of $30 (plus tax) and receive two bottles of wine each month, selected by Campus Wines & Spirits. The wines are usually chosen by Bittick. The wine may be picked up at the store on the 1st of each month. But that’s not all. With the wine comes tasting notes and suggestions for food and hors d’oeuvre pairings.


Wanting the wine club to be classy, Sanford designed unique pick-up bags for the wines. Members don’t walk out with their monthly selections in plain brown paper bags.


Memberships are set up as month-by-month subscriptions and may be canceled at any time, though Sanford would appreciate a 30-day notice since the wines are ordered in advance.


Wine club members may also participate, for no additional charge, in Wine-Tasting Wednesdays at the store from 5 until 7 p.m.


“Wine-Tasting Wednesdays are casual and fun,” Sanford said. “And everyone is welcome. It’s also an opportunity to tell more people about wine club.”


A wine club website is in the works, but for now Sanford depends on word-of-mouth to let people know about the club.


“I tell people at the hair salon and at my dentist,” she said, laughing. “That’s how it has grown.”


Sanford, who moved to Oxford from Tuscaloosa with her husband Daniel, the chief of police at the University of Mississippi, and their 8-year-old son Emerson, is amazed at the early and ongoing interest in the wine club. She also has high hopes for its continued growth.


As interest in the wine club grows, Sanford foresees a few changes in the future. For example, she said tiers might be coming in the months ahead. Sanford also plans to create wine club events specific to charities.


“I’d like to do member-exclusive events in which we give back to the community,” she said. “I am so excited to think of how much bigger the wine club is going to get.”


Winter Wine Wisdom

For late fall and early winter wine drinking, Joe Bittick from Campus Wines & Spirits turns to these varietals, which he recommends for everyday drinking as well as special holiday occasions including Thanksgiving and Christmas:


Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is an easy transition wine from the summer heat of drinking Rose, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. The versatility and dynamic nature of the style itself, along with the different terroir varieties lends itself to a plethora of different experiences. The lightest red on this list, it still holds its place at the table.


Bittick recommends:

Try pinots from any region (France, California,

Oregon, Washington) and see what you like best.


Garnacha

The Spanish name for Grenache, Garnacha is a medium-bodied red wine exploding with fruit and herbal notes. With such a depth of flavor that it doesn’t dominate your palate for the rest of the evening, it’s an amazing wine with or without food for when the weather starts to get colder.


Bittick recommends:

Los Dos Garnacha or Campo Viejo GarnachA


Zinfandel

This is a bold red wine that packs a punch. Usually higher in alcohol, this full-bodied red is great for pairing with roasted meats and enjoying on cold-snap nights. This wine is jammy and fruity on the nose with aromas of blackberry, cherry and plums. On the palate you get black pepper, cinnamon and oak. This wine is the perfect marriage of fruity and spicy with a smoky kick. Recommended with food or enjoy a glass after dinner by a fire.


Bittick recommends:

Robert Biale Vineyards Black Chicken Zinfandel or Saldo Zinfandel by The Prisoner Wine Company


What About whites?

For white wine drinkers that just can’t seem to get behind a red no matter how cold it is outside, try a Sauvignon Blanc or a Vermentino. These bold white wines stand up to most dishes served during the holidays. Or, if you prefer a sweeter white wine, pour a glass of Riesling or Gewürztraminer, pronounced “Geh-vertz-truh-meen-er.”


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