Organic vs Natural Wine

You have seen the catchwords organic and natural wine popping up on wine labels all over the globe. But what do they actually mean? Are they just the new ‘Reserve’ labeling of the wine world jumping on the marketing train of the man bun, backpacking, I only eat kale trend? Yes and no. As with anything new, where gaining popularity is present, some companies attach the buzz words to their image. Luckily for us, most producers in the wine world care, if labeled, that their wine is authentically organic or natural. Let’s break down the terms so next time you pick up an organic or natural wine you know what you are holding.


Bear with me through this first part, we are in this together. Organic wine is made with grapes grown on an organic farm. However, there is wine that is certified organic wine made with organic grapes but not produced according to the standards set that vary from country to country. Thus “organic wine” can cover a multitude of winery processes and is important to note organic farming is not chemical-free. Organic chemicals are still present. It’s easy to forget that much more than just grapes goes into your glass. Yeast, sugars (naturally occurring or added), residual pesticides, added preservatives, coloring, animal byproducts, and mouth-feel agents can all be found in conventionally produced wine.


The goal of going organic is to produce the most natural and sustainable expression of both the grape and the terroir. The idea is that organic farming is beneficial to our bodies, those who work at the vineyards, as well as our environment. For example, organic vines tend to need less water applied, because soils are built up with compost and contain more organic matter, which holds water far better. Organic vines have been proven more resilient against increasing droughts and temperature spikes. By cutting out harmful and unnecessary irrigation practices organic wineries are protecting local ecosystems and preserving their surrounding flora and fauna.  Organic wine grapes are much healthier and therefore produce heartier skins and higher concentrations of all of those good for you anthocyanins and antioxidants, including polyphenols and cardio-friendly resveratrol.  Also, organic wines are free of residual traces of vineyard additives such as chemical-laced pesticides and herbicides. They also have less sugar on average and don’t contain potentially harmful cellar additives such as flavoring agents or caramel coloring. These additives plus higher sugar levels are what typically lead to headaches. So going organic may help prevent future brain pain. Give us all the hangover help we can get!


Wines that are made with minimal intervention in the vineyards and cellar are labeled natural wine. This is where sustainable labeling can become a bit tricky. All wine is technically “natural” since it comes from the ground; a wine claiming to be natural might mean just that, without any other steps taken to change the vineyard and cellar operations. A true natural wine is better labeled as a low or minimal intervention wine. That could mean anything from dry farming, implementing organic practices, to enlisting biodynamic treatments. is considered a holistic, ecological, and ethical approach to farming. Low intervention wine typically comes from a smaller independent producer who handpicks their grapes and does not add any additional yeast nor any other additives for that matter.


Low intervention wine is considered the #nofilter version of what we are used to in our wine. It can be associated with earthy, funky, volatile, and even flawed characteristics. Some of those traits do not necessarily translate negatively in your glass, in fact, they can enhance the grape’s innate qualities. Unfortunately, on the flip side on that, some producers are using the term natural wine to excuse lazy or bad winemaking practices in which the wines can indeed be faulty yet passed off as ‘natural’.


Some producers boast their country’s own organic or low intervention seal of approval on their bottles. Some producers who are certified by their respective governing bodies chose not to state that fact on their bottles. Winemakers, especially in Europe, have been utilizing organic practices for years, yet do not have the time or the money to get certified, which is expensive and takes at least three years. Here in the States, there are many many guidelines a winemaker must follow to be considered organic. To achieve that status the vineyard and winery undergo intense scrutiny. If a producer starts as conventional and then converts to organic, the financial implication is immense and sometimes unfeasible for smaller wineries. Finding organic or low intervention wine can be a bit confusing because of this. The best way is to do some research on a producer’s vineyard practices or simply just ask one of your favorite Somms! You know, like us, here at Vinum 55, waiting to educate you all on how we can support those producers who are fighting to keep our favorite drink around for as long and sustainably as possible.

More than a Somm

Do you know there are various wine certifications out there besides being a Sommelier? If you do, do you know the difference between them? Sommelier is a familiar term and with the Somm Movies on the rise and wine cultural expanding, this profession is pretty well known. Wine collectors and avid foodies have been aware of these wine professionals, but those that are getting into wine or simply “enjoy” wine may not. We’ll give you quick view into four different wine certifications that cultivate amazing teachers and wine professionals, as well as where you can continue to grow your wine knowledge without the pressure of becoming a Master Sommelier.

The Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) is probably the most well-known of all certifications. They set the global standard of excellence for beverage service within the hospitality industry with integrity, exemplary knowledge, and humility. The Court is perfect for those that want to work within restaurants or wine sales. There are a series of levels: Introductory, Certified, Advanced and Master. The Master Sommelier has been listed as one of the hardest tests in the world, with a pass rate of about 8%. Candidates must be familiar with the minutiae and legality of every wine grape varietal in the world, which is at about 10,000 at present time, not to mention the ever-expanding wine culture. Examinable content expands at a rate of about 5% per year. As of 2018 there are 274 Master Sommeliers in the world. From the American chapter 139 are men and 26 are women. Becoming a Master Sommelier (MS) can take about 5-7 years. The cost of one exam can be anywhere from $595 – $1195. Those CMS certification fees exclude travel costs, study materials, and the likely possibility of having to retake the exam upon failing. Wine education, like any other education, is an investment.

One of the most recent Master’s is a 24 year old women from Japan. AMAZING!

The Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) is a great place to start for those that are getting their feet wet in wine. Are you a wino that just wants to learn more? This educational series is great for you! Do not be fooled, WSET has five tiers of education, concluding with diploma as a prerequisite to apply to become a Master of Wine. The exams are mostly written, with blind tasting coming in for WSET 3 and above. For those that do not want to be in restaurants but want to learn more both Level 1 and Level 2 would be great pathways to gain more in-depth knowledge without the element of service or tasting examination. WSET also has an entire certification on spirits – for those that are equal opportunists when it comes to beverage consumption.

The Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) is for those of you that want to pursue a career in the marketing of wine, or as a wine educator. Becoming a Master of Wine holds a lot of cachet in both fields.  Acceptance into IMW involves already having a strong core of wine knowledge and experience, made evident by a WSET Level 4 Diploma or equivalent, and having the recommendation from a few Masters of Wine (MW). Be prepared to work hard for it, they call you a Master for a reason.

There is also such a thing of a Certified Wine Specialist. The Society of Wine Educators (SWE), founded in 1977, is a membership-based non-profit. The Society is internationally recognized and its programs are highly regarded for both their quality and relevance to the industry. The Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) Exam is a rigorous exam, which tests a candidate’s wine knowledge and mastery of key elements within the worlds of viticulture and wine production. The top achievement with SWE is Certified Wine Educator (CWE). This exam not only tests a candidate’s wine knowledge, but also validated his or her tasting acumen and teaching ability.

It is pretty amazing that there are a wide variety of opportunities available for those that have a passion in wine and growing their knowledge, regardless if you’re in the food and beverage industry or just trying to know more about wine in general. There are also great resources available, remember everyone wino started out the same, we knew nothing! Wine is just like every other industry in that is constantly developing. We promise there is always more to learn, and the more you learn it will feel like the less you know. Keep learning and asking questions! There are plenty of people who are wine educated and certified to help you along the way. You do not have to be a Master Sommelier to have a vast knowledge about wine. Just because someone isn’t a Sommelier doesn’t mean they don’t have any experience or equivalent knowledge.

Uncork a bottle of wine, enjoy the list below of our favorite wino reads. Cheers!

Resources for you

The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil – The best-selling wine book in the U.S., THE WINE BIBLE is used and recommended by every top wine school, every hospitality management school, every wine diploma program, and the Court of Master Sommeliers in the U.S.

Winefolly – Follow them on social media and get any of their books! The Essential Guide to Wine by Madeline Puckette & Justin Hammack is a great introduction into wine.

Adventures on the Wine Route: A Wine Buyer’s Tour of France by Kermit Lynch

The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson

The Sommelier’s Atlas of Taste: A Field Guide to the Great Wines of Europe by Rajat Parr & Jordan Mackay

Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the Word’s Top Wine Professionals by Rajat  Parr

SommTV – available to stream

Clay to Cork

Have you ever wondered about the evolution of the wine bottle and corks? Or how we have gone from storing wine in underground caves and cellars to storing wine in locker storage? We didn’t wake up one day with all the technology, experience and know how to say “This is it!”. We (humanity) have earned it, worked for it, and now open our bottles while we relish in our temperature-humidity controlled cellars.  What did the wine lovers of the past do to keep their wine drinkable? Honestly, the founding principles have remained the same through the centuries. Kudos to our ancestors for setting us up for success! These principles have proven timeless; keep the air out of the wine, be able to transport it easily, store it and ensure that whatever vessel we choose to store the wine in does not ruin it.

Imagine, it’s somewhere between 8000 B.C and 4100 B.C. and wine making has just began. What do you suppose they were using to make and store wine? Kvevri (also spelled Qvevri) originated in Georgia and was the original pottery used for both winemaking and storage. In early 6,000 BC these massive pots where lined with beeswax and used for every part of the winemaking process; grape crushing, fermentation and even long- term storage. It was the all-in-one wine making vessel – talk about all inclusive! They were capped and buried underground in order to create and regulate a stable temperature. Historians do not believe they were used for transportation based on their sheer size.

Then came Amphora, which were these round ceramic vessels with two handles and long slim neck. They not only were a standardized way to transport wine but were also used for olive oil and other deeply valued liquids. This beeswax coated ceramic container was invented by the Egyptians. They were progressively adopted by the majority of all wine producing/drinking civilizations along the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian regions, reaching their peak in both standardized size and usage in ancient Rome and Greece.

As the Roman Empire expanded, they conquered a number of cultures. Post-defeat they would adopt the technologies that those cultures possessed. When Rome encountered the Gauls they discovered the transport of beer in wooden barrels, bound with metal hoops. The Celts are recognized as the inventors of the wooden barrel, but it was through the Gauls that the Romans adopted them. While the Romans were aware that earlier civilizations used palm wood barrels to transport wine, it wasn’t until they conquered the Gauls that amphorae and dolia (massive containers cemented to ship’s floor) were the transport medium of choice.

Since the Roman army was the leader of new technology, merchants quickly followed suit adopting wooden barrels, replacing the amphorae. Wooden barrels were stronger than clay, weighed significantly less and can be turned on their side and rolled. There were no shortage of trees across Europe, so ease and access made the barrel the best option. The ease and access of storing and transporting wine in wooden barrels ended clay’s 5000 year period of dominance.

The vast majority of wine was stored and transported in barrels well into the twentieth century, but the seventeenth century saw the introduction of the glass bottle and the cork stopper. Advances in glass making allowed for the production of thicker, stronger glass and eventually a point was reached where it was safe to store and transport wine in a glass bottle. Early wine bottles had fat bottoms and short necks. In 1821, a company called Rickets of Bristol received a patent for a machine that manufactured identically sized bottles, in a shape we would recognize today.

Glass wine bottles, like any other vessel, require stoppers. Cork, which the ancient Romans had experimented with, proved to be the answer, although other materials were experimented with, such as oil-soaked rags. (Appetizing right?) Cork stoppers aren’t perfect, but they proved capable of keeping enough oxygen out to vastly extend the practical life of most wines. The small amount of oxygen that permeates through a cork allows wines which benefit from aging to improve over time.

In a world where we are constantly progressing and determined to produce exceptional wines, we are reminded that no matter how great the wine, storage and ease of shipment are key contributors to that greatness. We still have not perfected the art of either! Just imagine what the next few generations of wine lovers will oh-and-ah over when they look at our tactics. However, in the meantime, uncork a bottle and toast to those that led us here, and to those that will keep moving us forward.

Beaujolais – Why It Should Be On Every Thanksgiving Table

Located in eastern France, just north of Lyon lies Beaujolais. Nestled ever so perfectly between Burgundy and Rhône, this lesser-known wine growing region is slowly but surely gaining more popularity. Beaujolais is geographically divided into two sections by the Nizerand River and you’ll find different soils on each side. This is important to note because the soil types are the key to Beaujolais’ flavor. There’s mostly granite and schist (decomposed rock) to the North and clay-based soils (marl) to the South. Known for their production of the Gamay grape, Beaujolais turns out some of the best, no nonsense juice that money can buy.

Now some of you may be thinking to yourselves- “What the heck is Gamay?! I’ve never heard of that wine varietal in my life!” Well, let us sum it up for you. Think: the red-headed step child to Pinot Noir. Which is SO NOT TRUE. As Sommeliers, we loooove Beaujolais. It’s light bodied, with bright acid and ripe red fruit and the occasional hint of banana or bubble gum. For the most part, we know we can pull the cork, pour ourselves a glass and enjoy it immediately. You don’t have to think about it too much, it’s just easy drinkin’.

There are three different styles of Beaujolais. Noveau, Villages and Cru. Every year, on the third Thursday of November, Beaujolais Noveau is released to the world. These wines are meant to be consumed right away and have no aging potential. Prominent wine critic Karen MacNeil wrote that “drinking it gives you the same kind of silly pleasure as eating cookie dough”.

Moving up the ladder we come to the 38 official “Village” wines. These areas are a little more specialized and the wines a little deeper and darker in color and character. Many of these villages are located on granite or schist soils, so they have a more “mineral” character but are often times still considered simple or even one dimensional.

And then. Then there is Beaujolais Cru. You have a Beaujolais from one of the ten Crus, and well, everything we previously mentioned goes out the door. Now we’re talking wines that are more reminiscent of red Burgundy, for a fraction of the price. These wines are more complex and known to age well. Fleurie, Morgon, Chénas, Juliénas, Moulin a Vent, Régnié, Saint Amour, Chiroubles, Brouilly and Cote de Brouilly, the ten Cru vineyards, are all located on the North side of the river. Each Beaujolais cru has its own distinct personality – climate, soils, altitude, aspect, and a host of other factors – that are duplicated nowhere else. The crème de la crème of Beaujolais!

Now, why is Beaujolais so great for Thanksgiving? Well, for starters, it’s incredibly flexible and surprisingly powerful. With Thanksgiving dinner, that flexibility is crucial since the range of flavors and sweetness of traditional dishes pushes the boundaries of conventional wine pairing. Unlike big, bold wines that demand the spotlight, Beaujolais goes with the flow. It’s light in body and low in tannin, key factors that make it pair well with everything from roasted Brussels sprouts to cranberry sauce. The light body also means this red defies the white wine with white meat rule, yet it’s still strong enough to accompany a heart stuffing, and won’t be washed away by buttery vegetables. In short, it’s an all-around champion and a must have on turkey day.

Moral of this story- drink more Beaujolais. And drink it often. It’s the consummate crowd-pleaser!

***It’s not too late to get your hands on our November wine club! Included is a fantastic bottle of Cru Beaujolais, amongst several other yummy treats!

Wine Country 101

Planning a trip to wine country? Let us help you! There are a lot of variables that come in to play when planning your perfect getaway. We’re here to give you a few basic tips and recommendations to make your experience easier and more enjoyable!

  1. Have a game plan. What specific wineries do you want to visit? Some wineries require you to make an appointment, others are fine with walk-ins. Have your wineries in mind and map them out. Plan your tastings in a way that makes sense logistically if you’re planning on driving. Also, being punctual is important. Some wineries can be real sticklers about being on time. They usually have tastings one right after the other and it’s important to be respectful of their schedule. If you’re running late, give them a call and let them know. A heads up is always appreciated.
  2. If you are planning to visit multiple wineries and not planning on spitting, you should consider hiring a driver or transportation service. There are tons of great options that would cost you a lot less than a DUI.
  3. Avoid brushing your teeth, drinking coffee, chewing gum or spraying perfume right before wine tasting. These things will greatly interfere with the taste and smell of the wines.
  4. One thing is going to save you while enjoying a full day of wine tasting- FOOD. Make sure you eat breakfast, and think about what you’re going to have for lunch ahead of time. Whether you’re picking something up on the fly to have between tastings or wanting to enjoy a sit-down lunch, have some options in mind. Some wineries offer small bites to enjoy with the wines, others offer a 5-course spread. Also, some places allow you to bring outside food on to their property. Always call ahead and ask, you want to be respectful of whatever winery you’re visiting.
  5. Dress the part. No, that doesn’t mean you have to wear a three-piece suit or your mother’s pearls, but casual sophistication goes a long way. Think ‘wine country chic’.
  6. Be familiar with the tasting costs at each winery you decided to visit. Some wineries will waive the fee with purchase of a certain amount of wine, some can be very expensive. If you belong to a winery’s wine club, tastings should absolutely be complimentary. Over the years we have established some incredible relationships with wineries near and far. We are happy to help set up tastings or make introductions whenever we can.
  7. Don’t try to do too much. We recommend two, no more than three tasting per day. After a certain point, the wine has started to do its trick and your pallet isn’t as fresh. We find it best to focus on setting up more intimate, special experiences. Experiences that involve a tour of the property, the caves, something more than the typical scene of standing at a counter in a tasting room with 15 other people. Plan your first tasting for the later morning around 10:30/11AM. When you’re done, take a break to get some lunch. Set up an afternoon tasting for 2/3PM, and plan on finishing your day by 5PM as most wineries are closing at that time anyway. Don’t expect to walk in to a winery 15 minutes before they close and have a memorable tasting experience. The more notice the winery has that you’re coming, the more opportunity they have to set up something really incredible for you and your group.
  8. Get out of your comfort zone. Try varietals you’ve never heard of and things you might not think you like! Wine country is the perfect place to expand your pallet with little to no risk. If you taste a wine that you don’t like, that’s ok. The beauty of wine is in its subjectivity. What Sue loves, Jay may hate. Tasting rooms are usually furnished with dump buckets, or spittoons. Don’t be embarrassed to dump the wine, no one will be offended. On the opposite end, if you taste something you love don’t be afraid to ask for another taste, especially if you’re considering purchasing it.
  9. Is tipping appropriate and customary? We think it is perfectly acceptable and we encourage taking care of tasting room employees that have gone above and beyond to share their knowledge and enhance your visit.
  10. Last but certainly not least, HAVE FUN. Don’t take yourself or the experience too seriously! Wine is meant to be talked about, shared with loved ones and enjoyed. Yes, it’s fun to dress up and play the part of a sophisticated wine drinker but at the end of the day, the people making the wine are some of the most humble, down to earth people you will ever meet. It’s important to remember how much time and hard work goes in to each bottle of wine and to keep that in perspective any time you enjoy a bottle.

Visiting wine country is one of the most incredible and educational experiences you can have. If you have never been, do yourself a favor and go. Like now. It doesn’t matter how many wines you taste or books you read on the subject, there is nothing like being at a winery, standing on their property and looking out at the vineyards that have produced the glass of wine that is in your hand. It’s an entirely different perspective that we highly recommended all wine lovers have.

The Revival of Rosé

As Phoenicians, we are all too familiar with the torture that it otherwise known as summertime in Arizona—your legs stick to the leather seats in your car, the pool becomes so warm it’s like bath water and air conditioning becomes your best friend. The big meals and red wines you’ve been consuming for the last six months no longer have their same appeal. Don’t get us wrong, we still drink red wine during the summer, plenty of it. However, on a day to day basis, we crave something lighter, more refreshing that will allow us to keep our palettes sharp. As sommeliers, we spend a portion of most days vetting wine, and, since red wine will fatigue a palette much quicker, we find ourselves craving the palette cleansing acidity that you find in a lot of white wines as well as rosés.


Rosé’s Resurgence


It’s hard to deny society’s recent obsession with rosé. It’s had a huge resurgence as of late and even celebrities have jumped on the bandwagon. Ever heard of Miraval? Yep, that’s Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s rosé. People are throwing rosé-themed parties, girls are seen donning ‘Yes Way Rosé’ shirts and they’ve even turned it in to a frozen beverage: Frosé. This beverage, which was once considered déclassé, is now the ultimate summer sipper. Whether it’s in cheap cans or high-end bottles, there’s no way around it. Rosé is wildly popular, and we couldn’t be happier about it.


Why is it so popular?


However, as sommeliers, we find ourselves scratching our heads a little with this phenomenon. What can this new-found appreciation for something that other countries have had and loved for years be attributed to? Perhaps people have realized that rosé doesn’t mean white zinfandel and that not all rosé wines are sweet. Or, maybe the palate of the average consumer is simply evolving. As a society, we are moving away from sweeter-style wines and gravitating towards wines that are higher in acidity—crisper and more refreshing. Whatever the reason is, we like it; we’re here for it, and we want it to stay.


About Rosé


Winemakers around the world have also joined in on the rosé movement. Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, one of the most sought after and highly coveted producers of white Burgundy is making rosé and wine nerds everywhere are freaking out. The thing about rosé that makes it so versatile is that it can be made from any red wine grape. You could have something more common, like a rosé of pinot noir or something more obscure, like a rosé of terrano (a Slovenian grape that’s a member of the refosco family). Often times, wineries use their leftover grapes to produce the wine which makes it a viable and profitable product. There is a common misconception that rosé wines are made from blending a small amount of red wine in to white wine, however this practice is frowned upon by most in the wine community. The most common and widely accepted process of producing rosé is called maceration, in which the juice is allowed contact with the skins of the grapes for a very brief period of time, usually only a few days. The resulting product is a beautiful blush wine that over delivers in the glass for the lower price point that these wines usually find themselves at.


Rosé Week at Vinum 55


If you need any more convincing about our love for rosé, well, here it is. Every May, Vinum 55 dedicates an entire week to this glorious, thirst-quenching juice! Over the next month, we will be vetting close to a hundred rosé wines and picking out the very best that the 2017 vintage has to offer. During rosé week, you will have the opportunity to taste and purchase upwards of fifty rosés. The extravaganza will be held over three days, at all three locations. This event is the perfect opportunity for you to get stocked up on all your favorites before summer arrives. Mark your calendars, this is something you do not want to miss!






Ahwatukee Woman Helps Wine Lovers Drink In Knowledge

Check out our very own Raini Keyser, featured in Ahwatukee Foothills News!



Raini Keyser of Ahwatukee manages and is co-owner of Vinum 55.

Raini Keyser helps wine aficionados keep their bottles safe while expanding their knowledge of the fruit of the vine.

“Any problem or issue or help someone might need with their wine collection, we’ve done it,” said Keyser, director of operations and managing partner for Vinum 55, which offers members storage and other services at locations in Chandler, North Phoenix and Scottsdale. “People here drink wine from all over the world,” she added, saying her staff and the people it serves are “just a bunch of wine geeks” who “love to have wine and have fun. It’s about connecting.”

Less than two years after opening, more than half the wine lockers are being rented by members at the Chandler operation, located on West Queen Creek Road. Cellar manager Jared Silverman describes it as a “wine club” that gives members a wide range of services. They can safely store wine in lockers in a cellar where temperatures are kept at 55 degrees with between 60 and 70 percent humidity, which are ideal conditions for preserving the beverage. The company, named after the Latin word for wine, also gives members access to exclusive opportunities to buy wine, as well as tasting events the public would rarely be able to attend.

In Vinum 55’s Wines of the World program, members can soak up knowledge about wines, including facts about the grapes, geography, soil science, history, climate, culture and wine-tasting techniques in that region. Vinum 55, which also has locations in the Scottsdale Airpark and north-central Phoenix, also does a complete inventory of members’ wine, making details about their bottles accessible on an app called CellarTracker. The company will accept wine deliveries for its members so the bottles do not sit outside in the hot sun or other damaging weather conditions when they are not home. As part of its concierge services, members can have wine delivered to their homes or businesses. Vinum 55 also offers logistical help for those moving so their wines stay secure in temperature-controlled vans.

Of the 200 wine lockers in the Chandler Vinum 55, located next to Press Coffee, 115 were rented as of mid-December, Silverman said. The Chandler operation had 162 members as of that date. Members may come to Vinum 55 any time it is open to have a glass or bottle of wine with their family members, friends and business colleagues in the tasting rooms. The tasting room may be reserved for private events. A social membership at Vinum 55 in Chandler costs $65 a month and gives clients a locker/personal wine vault in the cellar to store 12 cases, or 144 bottles, of wine. Customers who pay for a year’s membership up front get a month for free. The cost for a guest of a member to attend a Wines of the World event is $45, but Vinum55 members can bring a guest for free to the wine tastings. Storing up to 24 cases of wine costs $125 a month. Vinum 55 can “accommodate a wine collection of any size,” Keyser said. The prices differ at each of the three Vinum 55 businesses and depend on the size of the locker and the location.

For additional dues that Vinum55 did not want to disclose, members can buy concierge services, including having their wine delivered to them at a home or business. Assisting members with moving outside Arizona is also an additional, concierge service. Members also can rent a rooftop area at Vinum 55 in Chandler for special events if they give 45 to 60 days notice. “The social aspect is huge, but also, people have less room in their homes but they also love wine,” Keyser said. She said most members are over 40, but that some are in their 30s. They are upper middle class to affluent and many form friendships through Vinum 55. Some are just learning about wine while others are already knowledgeable. Usually, about 40 people gather for the wine tastings and 25 to 30 folks attend the Wines of the World gatherings. Several events are held every month at Chandler Vinum 55. Wines from California, Oregon and Washington state are popular among members, Keyser said.

Everyone on staff is highly trained in wine, said Keyser, who is a certified specialist of wine through the Society of Wine Educators. To earn that certification, one must pass a rigorous exam that tests knowledge of wine and mastery of major elements in the worlds of wine production and the science and study of grapes. Cellar manager Silverman has a level one sommelier degree from the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas. That is a certification for which wine and hospitality professionals complete a thorough study of wines and spirits and undergo an intensive review by master sommeliers on their knowledge of wine and spirits, proper wine service as well as deductive tasting. Staff members involved in the wine tastings and Wines of the World seminars all have at least the level one sommelier degree or an equivalent wine degree. Silverman creates and teaches the Wines of the World seminars at the three Vinum 55 locations.

At each monthly event, students learn about “one of the world’s most important wine regions.” “We taste, on average, 10 wines per seminar and we focus on the main grape varietals and producers of that particular region,” Silverman said. “Our intent is to provide members with opportunities to learn more about known and lesser-known wine regions and producers across the world. We take people on a journey.” At the tastings, Silverman said sommeliers “bring in winemakers from all over the world for our members to meet and learn from.” Clients learn how to taste and evaluate wine in the tastings, he said. Wine lover Mike Finney, 68, has not tried Vinum 55 but likes the concept. “I think the idea sounds terrific,” Finney said. “We have over the years been members of some wine clubs like the Wall Street Journal’s WSJ Wine Discovery Club and the New York Times Wine Club, where they make periodic deliveries. It’s always fun. Sometimes we’ll do wine battles.”

While those wine clubs are fun, he said it would be more enjoyable to get together with wine experts to talk face-to-face. Finney created branding for several wineries and tasting rooms in the Verde Valley for the Verde Valley Wine Trail through his company, AZ Communications Group. “I think the thing I enjoy most about wine is the opportunity to get together with people and share the experience,” he said. “Whether it’s reds or whites, there’s such an abundance of really, really credible good wine. Our wine storage is pretty nominal; we abuse our wines and I think having an alternative to be able to do something like with the Vinum experience could be interesting.” Arizona has other wine storage businesses, but they don’t also sell wine and offer all of the other types of services Vinum 55 does, Keyser said.

The Vault Wine Storage on North 44th Street offers enough wine lockers to hold 8,000 cases of wine, owner Deborah Fortini said. Customers can’t buy wine through The Vault, though, as they can through Vinum 55. “They (Vinum 55) differ a little from me in that they have more of a bar element to it,” Fortini said. “I have really exclusively focused on wine storage. Most of my clients are entrepreneurs or workaholics.” Members of  the Vault Wine Storage, which opened in 2013, can access their wine in their lockers any time, even when the business is closed. A biometric access security system means members’ fingerprints allow them to get into their lockers. “It’s very high security. It alerts me on my phone so I know who’s in there,” Fortini said. “Some of them just keep the really special bottles there so they don’t have to worry about things like power outages or break-ins or family members or guests opening up the wrong bottles.” Fortini is not sure whether the number of wine storage businesses will expand in the Valley. “The market is only so deep,” she said. “There’s only so much wine. If you have too many or they’re too close together, then what happens is you end up with a lot of occupancy in your wine storage facility. The electricity bill goes down as you become more occupied.”

Vinum 55 is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Fridays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Information: vinum55.com.


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