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A New Way to Wine

LEARNING EXPERIENCE: CRU Wine Club in Bonita Springs has a tasting room, top left, to allow guests to enjoy Cassata Sonoma wines from its California vineyards, bottom right.

Southwest Floridians needn’t go far for a rich wine-tasting experience comparable to those in California’s Sonoma Valley, one of the world’s top winemaking regions. Ask Tom Cassata, who runs Cassata Sonoma family vineyard in Sonoma Valley with his daughter. Cassata opened CRU Wine Club in March, offering fine wines and olive oils with catered light bites, complimentary charcuterie boards and learning opportunities between each sip. It’s a unique opportunity for Southwest Floridians.

“There’s nothing like this here,” says Patti Genko, marketing director of Cassata Sonoma Vineyards and CRU Wine Club. “There are folks who have wine shops and wine events, but there’s not one where you can go and meet the vintner and have a more private experience.”

Events in the Wine Club room are by reservation only. Guests will sip on 10 Cassata Sonoma Utopium varietals and two Talisman pinot noirs, and taste four Cassata Sonoma olive oils. Cassata is bringing in several Sonoma vineyards wines to showcase in the room, in addition to his own. The space can accommodate eight guests indoors or outdoors with socially distanced tables.

Visitors get to learn about the wine-making process and vineyard in a short video presentation, and have a chance to meet Cassata—who has a home in Naples— and ask him questions about his farming practices at the vineyard and his winemaking philosophies.

Cassata Sonoma uses a bio-sustainable farming technique, “where plants and animals work together with the vineyard to create a very pure product,” Genko says.

“That’s what we love about having this room here,” she adds. “They’ll learn all about the process—not just the bouquet of the wine and subtleties of the wine, or if it tastes like blackberries or cherries, but the whole process of growing it, harvesting it, bottling it and opening it up to enjoy it, right from the vineyard owner.”

The intimate, 650-square-foot tasting room features aspects of the boutique, family-run vineyard and its offerings. Cushy club chairs bear an olive leaf pattern as a nod to its olive oils, and actual grapevine limbs make up the co ee table situated between them. A live wall emphasizes the winery’s true-to-the-earth practices, and a mural depicts the largest bay tree in Sonoma County, which grows right on the Cassata Sonoma property. The art bears the name “CRU,” which refers to the wine club name and highest-quality grapes from the vineyard that are bottled into the wines guests sample.

“It’s a whole experience. It’s not just drinking a glass of wine and going to a wine tasting,” Genko says, “it’s an educational experience that takes them to the vineyard. We hope to transport them in some way to the vineyard. Memories of food and wine are strong, and we hope that when they enjoy the wine in their own homes, it will bring back great memories of visiting our wine room.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy CRU Wine Club

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