Is Jennifer Bingham of Cru Cellars Tampa’s Wine Whisperer?

Jennifer Bingham Cru Cellars

This is my first ever feature by an author who isn’t me! Gina Girardot Melton runs which aims to give readers easy access to delicious food that’s a little bit off the beaten path, and miles away from the many chains and tourist traps that proliferate Florida’s landscape. Make sure you check out her site!

So what’s my type? Spicy and full-bodied or complex, earthy with at touch of silkiness?

To solve my dilemma, I sought the counsel of Jennifer Bingham, owner of Cru Cellars in South Tampa to fix me up with wines that suit my fancy. While Bingham is not a relationship expert or psychologist, she is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers—and able to crack the toughest wine matchmaking nuts.

Bingham’s wine buzz began when she was studying abroad in New Zealand during college. Realizing that wine could be more than a hobby, Bingham started working at a Chicago wine shop, and later acted as wine director of an uberpopular Chicago wine bar. Today, she and her husband Torrey own Cru Cellars, a wine shop and wine bar on MacDill Avenue.

One of the services Bingham offers is Cru’s Custom Case Club. For a small fee, Bingham sets up a tasting consultation where she sits one-on-one with you and samples wines, delving into your particular likes and dislikes. Then, a custom case is created based on what’s discovered during that tasting.

I showed up to Cru Cellars last week for a taste consultation eager to learn more about wine and the underlying reasons for my preferences.

In the course of our tasting consultation, I sampled four white wines and five red wines (See Tasting Notes for all the details). When it comes to white, apparently I know what I like—and that consistently doesn’t include anything oaky or too fruity. My Type: Dry, aromatic whites, crisp and clean. But, I’m a bit all over the place when it comes to what I want in a red wine. I prefer full-bodied red wines, sometimes earthy or with a little spice.

As we tasted, Bingham was able to offer some advice to this novice winedrinker, like how to find a good budget wine. Bingham suggests managing expectations and to focus on balance because “you are never going to find a complex wine for ten dollars or less, but there are plenty of very drinkable balanced wines out there for that price point.”

I also learned that boxed wine is now chic. Bingham sells a Wineberry Wines Cote du Rhone that was quite good. Plus, it is boxed in cedar, and that somehow makes the whole experience seem significantly less low-brow. As the sole wine enthusiast in our household, a good, boxed wine makes economic sense because there is no waste.

What’s Bingham’s take on the next big thing in wine? She thinks that anything from Spain and Bonarda from Argentina will be the next trend in the wine industry.


Cru Cellars Tasting Notes:

Kofererhof (2009 Mueller-Thurgau), Trentino-Alto Adige, Italy. This was my first experience with this grape. Dry and a little bit mossy, it made a nice first impression.

Pittaro (Pinot Grigio), Delle Venzie, Italy. This wine was crisp and easily drinkable with notes of fresh cut pears and a nice, zippy acidity.

Woollstoon (2009 Sauvignon Blanc), New Zealand. Lately, I’ve been pretty smitten with the elegant NZ Sauvignon Blancs. This one from the Nelson region delivered with a crisp, grass and grapefruit flavor. My favorite white, I brought a bottle of this wine home with me.

Kenneth Volk (2007 Chardonnay), Central Coast, California. This wine has aromas of toasted oak, along with fruit. True to form, this was my least favorite wine of the tasting.

Red Tree (2009 Pinot Noir), California. The darling of the bargain blogger world, this subtle pinot offers a light and silky red cherry flavor. This wine is very drinkable and while I did not buy it, I would recommend. At only $7 a bottle, there’s not much to lose.

Russian Hill (2007 Pinot Noir), Russian River Valley, California. A very pretty pinot, silky and bright, with notes of dark cherry, raspberry, and elegant vanilla spice. This was my second favorite of the reds and my favorite pinot of the tasting. Not surprising, since it’s priced at $22 compared to the $7 Red Tree.

Ali (2007 Sangiovese), Siena, Italy. The earthiness of this wine took me by surprise but ultimately won me over.

Rubus (2007 Cabernet Sauvignon), California. This was a more of a fruit-forward cab on the lighter side. (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). There were good flavors of cherry, with a hint of earthiness.

Durigutti Familia, (2004 Malbec), Mendoza, Argentina. Malbecs are my favorite and this big Malbec did not disappoint with hints of cedar and blackberry. So good, I bought a bottle of this also.

Story by Gina Girardot Melton
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