This cool new wine club walks you through terroir, taste, and history with a sommelier's hand-painted maps

My friend James Sligh is a brilliant sommelier (and writer) with an uncanny ability to talk about wine and figure out exactly what you want to drink. I don't even care for wine (I like malted barley more than grapes), and I've always been impressed at his ability to find precisely the right drink for every occasion—and serve it with a fascinating story that dives deep into regional history. "I fell in love with wine because you can see the entire world through it," he likes to say. "What do you want to think about? Geology? History? Culture, money, chemistry, ethical philosophy? It's all in the glass."

Unfortunately, COVID-19 means that Sligh won't really be able to show his stuff at any more famous NYC wine restaurants any time soon. So he's found a new way to connect people, wine, and history with the Children's Atlas of Wine. Here's how this unique wine club works:

Over a weekly slate of unique and changing class topics, we'll explore regions whose connection is obscured by national borders, grape varieties overlooked or forgotten, and emerging producers who picked their first vintage during the Obama administration. We'll learn how to talk about what we like, how to serve and store wine, and what might be fun to cook for dinner after the tasting ends.

Class kits start at $108 plus shipping, and include food pairing suggestions, a weekly playlist, materials, a link to an hour and twenty minute Zoom tasting with sommelier James Sligh, and three bottles of wine to enjoy during class, afterwards with dinner, or over a few days.

Here are a few samples of the kind of classes you can get:

Not Red, Not White. Wine color is a myth. The idea of a couple of boxes that all wine can be sorted into? We made it all up.

What if we thought of wine styles as sitting on a spectrum, one shading into the next? You don't even have to that far back in time to find a world where this would have been the rule, not the exception.

But it's not just history. Today, in our present moment of rediscovery and experimentation, wine styles that are somewhere in between can be the perfect balm for the moment, and answer to a changing season.

Age-worthy pink wines? Wines that are amber, or salmon, or rose gold, or brick-colored?

We'll taste a few of my absolute favorites, learn how they got that way, and explore how they can help us deal with our own indefinite present.


+ Catalunya + Roussillon + Corbières. National borders can get in the way of us seeing what wine regions have to say to one another.

We'll drink our way up the Mediterranean coast to find out why Roussillon and Catalunya speak the same language, why Corbières is the freshest part of the Languedoc, and just how many colors of grenache there are.

It's a zone where we'll find an awful lot of value, a young generation making moves, and brighter, more vibrant wines than you might expect given the climate.

So these aren't just Yellowtail bottles — Sligh is curating these sessions with bottles that tend to retail between $20 and $35, themed around political and social engagement. Along with each of these classes, Sligh is also selling these gorgeous hand-painted maps of wine regions he's been making in his spare time which look like something out of Lord of the Rings.

Sligh has been hosting impromptu versions of these classes on Instagram over the past few months, and they're utterly fascinating (even if you don't have the wine to drink along with him). If you're a fan of wine, history, or geography, and looking for a cool new way to learn and drink, I can't recommend it highly enough. They're truly a great way to connect in the pandemic age, and actually learn something while you drink.

The Children's Atlas of Wine