Diners come together over food and drink at new Sea Cliff social club

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After managing a 1,600-member social club in Boulder, Colo., Allan Wright, who moved to Sea Cliff in November, is bringing his gastronomic expertise to the foodies of the North Shore. Earlier this month, Wright founded the Sea Cliff Wine, Beer & Food Social Club to create a place for locals, inviting participants to gather and share worldly tastes in the comfort of their own neighborhood.

“When I moved here, that was the first thing I wanted to do: organize a fun club where I could have a good time doing what I love,” he said.

Wright, a native of Seattle, has lived in 11 cities in four countries on three continents, and his passion for travel is evident in his work. In 1997 he founded Zephyr Adventures, a company that specializes in providing travel tours around the world, with several trips focused on food, wine and beer. Zephyr Adventures also operates annual events and conferences focused on the food, wine and beer industries.

As a longtime tour operator and conference manager, Wright has refined his palate over the years, prompting him to share his appreciation for all things gastronomic en masse. “People don’t have to be knowledgeable [about food or wine]; they just have to like it,” he said. “This group is for people who are interested in, and fans of, good food, wine and craft beer. No expertise is necessary.”

The social club has 44 members and is run on meetup.com, an online service used to organize in-person events for people with shared interests. Signing up is free, and anybody can join. Each event has a specific theme and will take place in or nearby Sea Cliff in a private home or local business (see box). “We might visit the Glen Cove Brewery, do a tasting at the wine shop, go to a local restaurant or caterer and involve other businesses,” he said. “We’re looking to do all kinds of things based on what people want to do.”

The club’s first event, held on Jan. 4, was hosted in Wright’s home, and featured a potluck dinner and wine tasting centered on the flavors of southern Italy. Eleven people attended. “Each person brought a food dish to share, and everybody brought a bottle of wine from that region,” Wright said.

Damian Ross, of Sea Cliff, was among the dinner guests. He said that he was most intrigued by the blind taste test during the cocktail hour, which asked participants to guess which region of southern Italy the select wines came from. (The bottles were concealed in canvas bags.)

“Since we didn’t know what we were tasting, we were discussing our opinions of the different wines to see which ones we liked,” Ross said. “It’s an out-of-the-box way for people to socialize and get to know each other outside of hanging out at the restaurants and bars.”

The wine came from The Village Wine Merchant in Sea Cliff. Wright has partnered with the shop’s owner, Michael Amendola, to supply specific bottles for the group’s wine-themed events. The shop also offers a 10 percent discount for members who purchase bottles for a club event.

The shop’s focus on small producers and unusual brands pairs well with Wright’s mission to promote a more authentic food and wine culture in the area, Amendola said. “As he picks specific themes, we’re well-positioned [to provide more] unusual grape varietals as opposed to the big box stores,” Amendola said. “The idea to have a social club for people who appreciate good food and wine is super. Everyone’s participating and sharing in lively conversation, and we appreciate the local business.”

Ross echoed the sentiment. “We’ve never had anything like this around here, and it’s definitely something the village needs,” he said. “It’s a great way to bring people and businesses together to get to know each other over wine and beer.”

To join the club, visit www.meetup.com/Sea-Cliff-Wine-Beer-Food-Social-Club.