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5 Top Restaurants in Venice in 1 Night. It's Five Spot Friday.
Experience 5 of the top restaurants in Venice in 1 night. Introducing "5 Spot Friday" Venice, California. Despite massive rent hikes, and a $1,200 price per square foot residential home cost, the famed street Abbott Kinney in Venice, California has kept its 'weird' and charming vibe. Pot shops, art galleries, independent boutiques, yoga studios and pop-up shops from online stores like Warby Parker and Casper keep the funk alive. Venice has become home to fantastic dining spots in the burgeoning Los Angeles food scene with artisanal, in-season, farm to table being par for the course. For your upcoming night in Venice no need to fuss and fight over which top restaurants in Venice to dine at - just visit 5 in 1 evening for your own personal smorgasbord of yum. Ideally you'll end up making new friends at each spot and taking them with you to the next spot! Here's an agenda for this epic night: First Stop: Leona Vibe: mellow. You're a few blocks from the ocean, so come early to take in the sunset. The restaurant is small with high ceilings, a long leather banquette (i.e. big ass sofa) on one end, photographs of old Venice, with an airy living room feel. The patio outside is cozy with beautiful people parading about. They're beer and wine only, but with inventive wine 'cocktails'. Eat: The ridiculously well-prepared cured red snapper ceviche and slow cooked lamb belly wontons. The ceviche is oh so fresh and clean, chilled and awakening. The slow cooked lamb belly wontons come in a broth of savory satisfaction. The wontons are soft, fluffy ravioli-ish dough balls that encapsulate the softest lamb belly you've ever had. Drink: Start slow, remember you have 4 other spots to hit up! Open the night with glasses of champagne - order the Le Perle Blanc NV from Burgundy, France. A light bubbly citrus that's a perfect opener to your epic evening. Splurge on an Uber SUV and head over to Abbott Kinney street. The Uber SUV will make you feel like a balla' and will cost you about $12 to get to the next spot. Second Stop: The Brig Vibe: quintessential Venice. OK, at first blush this may seem like an odd second spot, but hang in there, we have a mission. Modern mid-century decor with pool tables and a bustling scene. It's a great spot to make new friends at the bar, explain to them your evening's journey, and bring them with you. The night is early so you won't seem like a creeper (this applies to men and women!), and given that you've only had 1 drink you'll be in top form with your pitch. Eat: Nothing. It's a bar. Drink: Break up the fatty lamb in your belly with a refreshing Tequila Mule. Made with ginger beer and lime, the ingredients are the same as a Moscow Mule. Don't expect a copper mug though, this ain't that kind of party. Third Spot: Salt Air Vibe: walk across the street to this bohemian bistro. Seasonal and refined food with a nudge towards seafood. The interior is comfortable with skylights and composed atmosphere that can cater to an intimate evening or a jubilant one. Eat: Their pea tartine. Perfectly crunchy bread with goat cheese spread pilled high with smashed peas with lemon. A little messy (in a good way) and fun food to eat with your hands. Next, go for their fried oysters to share with your new friends, and end it with their lobster tartine. Drink: Wine. No full bar here, but a great selection of wine by the glass with inventive wine cocktails. Try the Bobal Tempremento. It's a red wine from Valencia, Spain and the producer uses organic farming methods. Bobal is an obscure grape, but one with good acidity which makes it friendly towards all types of food. It's a funky, cool, and new experience wine that's not typical. Fourth Spot: Tasting Kitchen Vibe: walk across the street to Tasting Kitchen. Hip, upscale, trendy, and fun with an active bar scene. Hipster interior with organic woods and plants. It's just cool. Eat: Go carbs! Get the bread and butter (yes, they charge you for it), it's totally worth it. Big chunk of artisanal bread that's crunch, flaky on the outside and rustic plush on the inside. The butter tastes like it was just churned, and it's all topped with finishing salt. Next, order a classic, yet refined homemade pasta dish like Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Thick spaghetti like pasta with a hole in the middle that houses a classic Roman sauce made simply with cured pork cheeks, pecorino cheese, and tomato. Complement those carbs with their sizzling, simply rubbed ribeye steak. Incredible. Drink: Gotta go Italian, and when enjoying a meal of this proportion go for a bottle of Amarone. The wine is made in a traditional manner of drying grapes in the sun on straw mats and special drying chambers under controlled conditions. The process produces a rich wine that feels like a fluffy cloud in your mouth. Fifth Spot: Any Food Truck 1 Block Away After spending a long and fun dinner at Tasting Kitchen, and after your last drop of the heavenly Amarone wine, stroll over to any of the awesome food trucks near by. Usually they hang out in a parking lot adjacent to The Brig. Have your last delicious meal of the night by splitting it with someone special you sparked with during the night. Break apart a cheesy grilled cheese, or go for the unctuous flavors of the Kogi truck. Any way you go you've won - you've had an epic night in while dining at some of the top restaurants in Venice, all in 1 night. #FiveSpotFriday
Winter Fashions for Women Paired with Bold Wines
Winter Fashions for Women Paired with Bold Wines We linked up with Bask In Style and asked them to tell us their favorite winter fashions for women. Then, in true ILTG fashion (!) we paired each winter fashions with a wine that has similar character. This time of year is great because it's time try risky looks you have lusted after - like mixing textures, prints, and colors. From a wine lens it's time to go big and bold. Not because a big and bold wine will give you a 'warm' feeling; but because it's a time to slow down and truly take your time and enjoy a glass. A favorite staple looks for cooler weather is leather! Throwing on a leather jacket can be your daily go-to during this time of year. Check out Doma Leather’s hooded biker jackets (the hood zips out so it is 2-in-1).  Pair that with a distressed basic tee, cropped frayed skinny jeans and boots - and you are all set for happy hour! While at happy hour skip the beer and rose and instead ask for a Marchesi di Barolo Coste di Rose Barolo 2010. This Italian majestic will need some decanting time. Flavors of roses and aromatic herbs that come at you with both intensity and finesse. One trend we are in love with this year is velvet. It's a rich fabric that has a very glamorous edge. Velvet is coming in all forms this year from plunging neckline shift dresses to booties & even sneakers. We especially love the idea of a velvet burnout mini and some thigh high boots. This statement look is perfect for these crisp days or special nights out. While having a night out have a glass (or two) of 2012 Stag's Leap S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon. The S.L.V. is from a plot of land that is Stag's Leap first vineyard. This historically significant Cabernet beat French wines during the famed blind tasting in Paris back in 1976 in what's known as the Judgement of Paris. (Watch the Alan Rickman film version of it, Bottle Shock.) This wine has a feeling of richness in the mouth. Flavors of dark blueberries, cocoa and oak. This one's a biggie and can sit in your wine fridge for the next decade no problem. Lastly, we;re seeing a ton of embroidery and patchwork. Gucci is blowing us away with their embroidered slide loafers and bags! They are the perfect statement pieces for the season. We are also seeing a ton of embroidery on outerwear and denim so there are some amazing ways to test this trend out. A fun take on this is wearing the Princeton Gucci Slides with a silky slip dress layered over a short-sleeved turtleneck. Even where the weather can be warmer in winter, this is a great way to look current while still allowing you to keep cool! While hanging out at the Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, sip on a glass of Truchard Syrah 2013-Napa, California. Smokey, spicy and full of flavor, this hand crafted wine is a perfect fit for this time of year. Violets and graphite are just a few of the wild flavors that dominate this stuff. It’s Napa for under $35 - perfect! We'd like to thank our friends Breana Kennedy (aka: Ken) and Cybel Castro-Souza (aka Cas) for the fashion tips. Along with blogging for Bask In Style, Ken manages a women's wholesale showroom, works with renowned fashion buyers, and directly with six contemporary fashion brands. Cas is primarily focused on Bask In Style while having a resume that includes work for Reformation, BCBG and John Paul Richard.
Champagne Loosens Its Tie And Does The Dab
Champagne and caviar. Champagne and oysters. Champagne and whatever’s on that little silver tray they’re passing around. That’s so Downton Abbey! How about taking off the tux and pairing your champagne with a bucket of popcorn instead, or maybe some deep-fried morsel of heaven or a big, steaming slab of meat? We did some investigating about unusual yet rewarding ways to match up your uncorked New Year’s Eve libation with food. Turns out the monocled world of Champagne is crawling with cheeky iconoclasts who are pairing it with everything except road kill. Who knew? Curveball Pairings A fun curveball pairing recommended by Wine Folly is Champagne with mac and cheese, which is catching on at gastropubs up and down the West Coast. “But consider a softer creamery cheese with flavor such as smoked gouda”. “The Champagne needs to be acidic enough to cut through the cheese without being so strong as to ‘turn’ the cheese.” The great thing about Champagne from a foodie’s perspective is that it contains high levels of acid and very little sugar. Those qualities help bring out a wealth of flavors so they can match up with a huge variety of foods, from mild meats such as poached sole and baked chicken to highly spiced Indian and Thai cuisine. (That’s where the bubbles help – they bring down the heat.) What the experts are saying Elise Losfelt, a young winemaker with Moët & Chandon, toured America last summer promoting her classier-than-thou product. Usually the august French house presents its bubbly like it's the latest Louboutin, but this year the message was more proletarian: Champagne, the people’s drink! One of the themes Losfelt hammered on was pairing bubbly with heavier meats. “(Our champagne) has the presence and maturity that goes with meat or fish – veal, for example; or lamb could be nice.” Trend-savvy California mixologist Jenny Buchhagen senses a sea of change in the way people are pairing Champagne. “I’ve noticed that younger people are drinking Champagne at the beginning of their meal and to start the night off.” There’s been a down-home twist to the trend, too, Buchhagen says. “Our sommelier thinks that the best pairing with Champagne is potato chips. People are trying that quite a bit.” Speaking of somms, a good one should be able to artfully match up bubbly with food throughout a meal. Why not start with a prosecco (the Italian sparking wine) to go with your light appetizer, then go with something heavy for the entrée – some Australian sparkling Shiraz such as Mollydooker’s Goosebumps ($50) to match with that pork belly – and a Ruinart Brut Rosé ($80) to wash down your strawberries and ice cream? I can’t think of a better way to mark the calendar's passing than ending your New Year’s Eve meal with this stunner from France’s oldest Champagne house. Oh yeah, about that popcorn you’re thinking of having with your bubbly – slather it with truffle butter. It’s the perfect blend of crass and class.
Curated Wine Gifts for the Holidays
Here are a few wine gifts we've curated for the wine lover on your holiday gift list. Happy Holidays! Most can ship and be there gift wrapped before Christmas Eve! Enjoy, and if you find something you think belongs on this list then drop us an email: Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine Why: Beautifully done visual graphics and infographics with tons of great information on wine, wine regions, and more Rating: 5/5 $15 BUY Secura Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Wine Opener Why: makes opening the 4th bottle of the night way easier. beautiful design, look, and feel. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $29 BUY World’s First Electric Wine Aerator and Dispenser Why: great talking piece at dinner parties; a unique and useful gift for anyone that drinks wine. Rating: 5/5 $100 BUY The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine Why: Fantastic book (true story) of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine which was supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, a 1787 Chateau Lafite. The bottle is covered in mystery of it being a fake, duped billionaires around the world, and the people involved. (Yes, movie is coming with Mathew McConaughey being onboard.) Rating: 4 / 5 $13 BUY Professional Corkscrew Why: Danish designed, professional corkscrew made of eco-friendly materials of Rosewood and stainless steel. Open your best bottles without any hesitation. Rating: 5 /5 $13 BUY   Hair 12 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cellar Why: This fridge has a nice space saving design, sexy look, and is dual temperature for both your whites and reds. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $128 BUY   Wine Condoms, Wine Bottle Stoppers Why: Protection is a must. A fun gift that’s cheeky and practical. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $13 BUY Vina Wine Travel Bag and Cooler for 2-bottles Why: brining your wine to a picnic or a friends house in a plastic bag is not good for the environment nor your street red Rating: 4.5 / 5 $18 BUY
#SommNextDoor: Island Wines You Want To Get Stranded With
Right about now, you might be dreaming about sitting under a palm tree on an island paradise, tanning oil in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. In support of this daydream, we must ask the classic question - if you were stuck on an island, and you could bring one thing with you, what would it be? The correct answer should always be “a wine glass” for this one reason: a lot the world's best wine is made on islands! So the team here at ILTG compiled a little list of islands we wouldn’t mind getting stranded on. Here are our top five islands and some of the best wines made on each: Corsica, France Domaine Comte Abbatucci "Gris Imperial" Rosé 2013 This Rosé is a tiny grain of sand compared to the amount of rosé floating around the world today, yet this tiny grain happens to be very special and just damn delicious. Made from the grape Sciaccarello, this juice offers bright strawberry aromas with splash of citrus and tons of zesty acidity. Not to mention, the grapes are basking in the sun all day near the sea which adds a touch of salinity from the ocean influence. Life is tough for a grape in Corsica! $25 New Zealand Brancott, Sauvignon Blanc 2016 If you took a fruit salad and served it in a wine glass, you would have a glass of Brancott. Made on the South Island of New Zealand, this sauvignon blanc offers loads of ripe pineapple, honeysuckle, honeydew, guava, grapefruit, apples, pears, quince, etc… the list goes on! The wine is great by itself but even better if used for sangria. Bring your boogie board because this wine offers a wave of flavors! $15 Sardigna, Italy Antonio Sanguineti, Cannonau Di Sardinia 2014 The ever-so-underrated island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy happens to make one of the most highly rated Grenache-based wines in the world! Cannonau is the grape (a.k.a Grenache) and it packs quite the punch. Blueberries and bliss is the best way to explain it. It’s just an easy sipping bottle of booze for less than 10 bucks. Even better when chilled and served in a solo cup! $8 Canary Islands, Spain Suertes del Marques “7 Fuentes” 2012 The Canary Islands off the southern tip of Spain might be the Spaniards' best kept secret. Until now! This tiny chain of islands has been producing wine for centuries...for pretty much nobody besides themselves. 7 Fuentes happens to be pretty hip in the wine world for its funky flavors of licorice and spiced cherries. Also, the winery is located on a volcano - so you can trust us when we say, “It’s an explosion in your mouth.”. $17 Sicily, Italy Cos Rami 2011 If you're feeling frisky and want to go “au naturel” I’d recommend trying this beauty from Sicily. It’s a “natural” wine meaning nothing is enhanced. The yeasts come from the air and no sulfur is added to preserve the wine. The grapes, Insolia and Grecanico, are indigenous to the island. Plus, the wine is aged in clay pots called amphora which are buried underground for 16 months and then bottled. A vibrant hue of orange fills the glass with notes of candied orange and sea spray. Perfect for strolls along the beach with a friend or solo if you just want the whole bottle for yourself. $30
#VINOMUSIC: Listen to Tycho and Drink a 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir
Music and wine should be paired. We call this #VINOMUSIC. When was the last time you carelessly floated in the ocean, staring at nothing but the blue sky above you? Or stood on a snowy mountain top, breathing in the fresh, crisp air while enjoying a view that lasts for miles? How about walking through the desert with only the unpolluted, star-filled sky to guide your way? That's what it's like listening to Tycho - an all-instrumental artist that layers rich, electronic sound against airy guitar and percussion. Spend some time with his latest album released earlier this year, Epoch, to get a sense of what I mean. The atmosphere of it is just gorgeous. Much like Tycho's ethereal musical style, the 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir is equal parts luxurious and airy. You might know pinot noir for its cherry-forward palette, light body and silky tannins. It's also a notoriously fickle grape. The varietal is prone to disease while on the vine and requires a cooler climate to really thrive. 2014 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Belle Glos embodies the hell out of a pristine pinot noir. Owning four vineyards up and down the California coast, Belle Glos focuses exclusively on pinot noir. Each vineyard produces its own distinct wine, each carrying a beautiful profile of what a true California pinot noir should be. The Dairyman vineyard is Belle Glos's Russian River Valley version of a pinot noir. The Russian River Valley is a Sonoma County AVA that proudly wears the badge of a world-class region for this grape. The 2014 Dairyman is a killer vintage. You'll get that classic red fruit and vanilla smoothness from the oak, drinking like a cherry cola made for royalty. The price tag for this one is around 50 bucks, but SO worth it if you're hunting for that quintessential Sonoma style in a pinot noir. Plus, every bottle is dipped in a vibrant red wax. It's a sexy appearance to match its identically sexy flavor. Enjoying a 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir with Tycho on the speakers will transport you to a brisk, spring evening atop the dramatic cliffs of Big Sur. With its A+ California terroir on your tongue, and Tycho's sensuous vibes in your ear, this wine is all about getting aligned with nature. Want our sommelier selected wines delivered to you within minutes?! Click the banner below - San Francisco only (for now!)
How To Start a Wine Collection - Tips from Master Sommelier Brian McClintic
We asked Master Sommelier Brian McClintic how a first-time wine collector should start a wine collection. You'll find a handful of articles online about the subject, but each article requires a starting budget of $10,000. We challenged Brian to give tips on starting a collection by spending no more than $1,000. Think of spreading the $1,000 over a year and, preferably, keeping yourself away from the goods!  Have a separate 'drinking' allotment. (I know, it's tough!) "I like the $35-$55 range with starting a cellar.  That's the range I use for 99% of the wine I buy and for Viticole as well." Obviously that's not going to be a lot of bottles before you hit $1,000 but anything lower than that is typically not worth cellaring. There are exceptions but few and far between for something that is farmed and produced responsibly. When it comes to a buying strategy, start with the producer first and work your way out.  In other words, instead of saying you should cellar Northern Rhone Wines or Barolo, start with bankable producers, following them in subsequent vintages. "To me the old world still represents tremendous value." Here are a few thoughts on Brian's favorite producers in different styles. All are farmed organically: Light, crisp whites Martin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling $50 SRP. This Austrian producer has just started being imported to the states and is making some of the finest dry Riesling on the planet. Expect the current release to drink well young and cellar 20+ years. Richer whites Gonon 'Les Oliviers' Saint Joseph Blanc $37 SRP.  This Marsanne-dominated blend will give Chardonnay drinkers something to love. Gonon's Syrahs are extremely age-worthy, but the whites tend to eclipse the reds in the cellar. Light reds JL Dutraive Fleurie 'Terroir Champagne' $44 SRP.  This Cru Beaujolais is so delicious now but in the last couple of vintages ('14 & '15) it demonstrates the hallmarks of a wine that will last 15 years plus in ideal conditions. Big earthy reds Domaine Tempier Classique $45 SRP.  It appreciates in every vintage from the moment the next vintage drops.  The wines are accessible now and can age comfortably for 40 years plus in the best vintages. Parting words of wisdom from Brian as you journey down this obsession: "Too many people get fridge happy after a few drinks and open up something they shouldn't. I've learned this lesson the hard way and now store all my wine off-site for this reason." 
Editor’s Note: Here are some wines that are similar in style to the ones above and more readily available to try. If it’s tough to find a Martin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling, then go for either Austria's Pichler-Krutzler Trum Riesing 2013 ($30) or Schloss Gobelsburg Tradition Riesling 2013 ($50). Equally impressive and a beneficial addition to our collection. For a domestic equivalent to the Saint Joseph Blanc give a white Rhone from Tablas Creek out of Paso Robles ($22) or Booker ($48) a shot. Tablas Creek partners with iconic Chateau de Beaucastel, so their wines are remarkably French in style. Booker’s Eric Jensen has a way with white Rhones that make him a standout in California. America has nothing to compare to the Cru Beaujolais, though the world’s favorite light red wine, Pinot Noir, is becoming more entrenched in California, and the quality is rising (as are prices -- expect to pay above $50 for most good-quality examples). Sanford ($60) and Babcock ($21) from Sta. Rita Hills are excellent investments; so are Hahn ($23) and Pisoni ($55) from the Santa Lucia highlands. Farther north, turn to Landmark and Patz & Hall ($87). Brian McClintic is a Master Sommelier and documentary film star of the movies SOMM and SOMM: Into the Bottle.  After 20 years in the restaurant/retail industry he founded Viticole, an online wine club and travel blog that focuses on domestic and import selections that can't be found on the open market.  By the 1st of every month, Brian travels to a wine region and offers out a special cuvee directly from the winery door in real time.  You can follow his travels and join the monthly wine club at:
Best California Wines 2016
California wines keep getting better and better. 2016 was no exception. I did some serious wine drinking in 2016, people. And it was for you, of course -- all for you. Sure it was. (Full disclosure: I spat most of it out. I am a professional.) I also traveled up and down my fair state of California, marveling at the 130 or so wine regions (I didn't get to all of them, of course). There is a huge diversity of choice in this state, one of the world's great viticultural treasures. Here is my list of some of the best california wines - prices vary from $17-$170. A few trends These are things that have been happening for a while, but in 2016 they seemed to break through big-time. 1. More rule-breaking blends: Artisanal winemakers, especially on the Central Coast, are crossing traditional boundaries more frequently in their red (and less frequently white) blends. You’ll find varieties from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône thrown together; zinfandel and other Italian and even Spanish varieties are sometimes added to the mix. 2. Fewer fruit bombs, more balance: Younger winemakers in particular are harvesting their grapes slightly less ripe. This keeps alcohol levels lower and eschews manipulation once the grapes have been squeezed. The result is wine that is less fruit-forward and showy but more balanced, complex, individualized, food-friendly and age-worthy. Donum Estate 3. The rise (and rise and rise) of Pinot Noir: Once a light, mid-priced alternative for cabernet haters, California pinot from Anderson Valley, Sonoma, Russian River, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills and many other cool-climate AVAs is flooding the market. Yet prices are reaching Napa cabernet level: $50, $60, $70 … yikes. And the style, especially from the southern AVAs, is distinctly Californian: heavy and extracted, not light and Burgundian. We make anti-Oregon pinots here. 4. Rosé is here to stay: The French started it, but California winemakers have embraced the summer pink wine tradition wholeheartedly. The domestic version is often a tad sweeter than bone-dry Provencal rosé, and many winemakers depart from the customary Rhône varieties to make rosé from pinot noir and other non-Rhône grapes. Field Recordings 2008 Chenin Blanc 5. Unusual grapes are appearing: Chenin blanc, which has all but disappeared in California, was a surprise hit for artisanal Central Coast winemaker Andrew Jones of Field Recordings. Others winemakers are finding a market for such un-California grapes as vermentino, tannat, alicante bouschet, fiano and valdiguié. For the California AVA to keep an eye on... 6. Paso Robles is a respectable (dare we say world-class?) producer of Bordeaux: In September, Wine Advocate graced Paso winemakers with impressive scores. Those scores included 98 points for Daou Vineyards’ 2013 Patrimony and 96 points for its 2013 Soul of a Lion. Yet Paso’s best are not Napa clones: they have softer tannins, their own distinct terroir, and often much more petit verdot in the blend. And they’re less expensive than Napa cabs, too. Daou 2013 Soul of a Lion The year's best Here are the best 25 California wines that I tasted this year. I don't go all Wine Spectator with this list. I list the wines alphabetically, not in terms of quality. Really, isn't it silly to say "this Bordeaux is better than that sauvignon blanc"? I didn’t discriminate by price, region or type. Some of these babies are easier to find than others. Before you get all up in my piece with accusations like, "No Pinot Grigio -- how dare you!" let me remind you that I tasted a lot of other great wines this year that weren't from California, okay? For practical reasons, I confine myself to the place I know best when making a list like this. If you want to peruse my tasting notes, you can find them here. Top 25 California Wines of 2016 Byron 2014 Nielson Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, $23 (90 points) Calera 2013 Jensen Vineyard Mount Harlan Pinot Noir, $90 (96 points) Castello di Amorosa 2012 La Castellana Super Tuscan Napa Valley Red Wine ($98)   Chalk Hill 2015 Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc, $33 (92 points) Cliff Lede 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap, $78 (93 points)   Donum 2013 Carneros Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, $72 (92 points)  Duckhorn 2014 Decoy Pinot Noir, $25 Franciscan Estate 2015 Equilibrium White Blend, $22 Frank Family Vineyards 2014 Carneros Pinot Noir, $35 (91 points)  Geyser Peak 2013 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $19 Giornata 2015 Fiano, $17 (90 points)  Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee 2012 Sonoma County Red Wine, $19 J. Lohr Riverstone 2014 Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay, $14 (92 points)  MacRostie 2014 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $25 (90 points)  Ramey 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, $38 (90 points) Rombauer 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, $25 (90 points)  Rosenblum Cellars 2013 RC10 Rutherford Zinfandel, $42 (93 points)  Sans Liege 2013 Offering, $29 (91 points) Saxum Vineyards 2013 Broken Stones Paso Robles Syrah, $148 (95 points)  Wente 2015 Morning Fog Chardonnay, $15 ZD 2015 Chardonnay, $42
#SommNextDoor: How To Pick A $10 Bottle That Fools Your Friends
Need a wine that looks & drinks like a 10 but costs around $10 a bottle? Let me show you the ropes. Alright -- next time you’re invited to a shindig, and you volunteer as tribute to pick up the vino, head to the store. If it’s a BevMo or Total Wine type of place, awesome. Don’t be intimidated, I’m here to help you, remember? If not, Trader Joe’s has a selection that’ll get the job done on the $10 bottle too. If you find yourself at Total Wine, go right to the French section. Let’s face it, if you roll up with a French wine in hand, it screams “I know what I’m doing!!”. More folks these days (considering the time of year as well) are red drinkers rather than white, so let’s go with that. Killer wines from the Bordeaux region (Cabernet/Merlot dominate) are gonna be tricky to find for less than a pretty penny, or without knowing what to look for. So, instead, look for the word Rhône. The Rhône Valley is a pretty place in the more southeastern area of the country, and it’s got some stunning offerings. The grapes there are mainly Syrah and Grenache but, for all intents and purposes, you don’t really need to know that. All you need to look for is a Côtes du Rhône. “Côtes”, in French, means “hills”. The term is basically a way of categorizing these wines as entry-level but, again, your friends don’t know that. What you’ll deliver is a smooth red wine with integrated red fruit flavors and non-fruit components like hints of spice and smoke. Sultry, huh? It’ll be dry (i.e. not sweet) but won’t make your mouth feel like you’re playing chubby bunny with cotton balls, kapeesh? The goods Homage to Heritage (H to H) has a good little bottle priced at $8.99. It’s surprisingly layered for the price and going to air on the side of lighter mouthfeel with ripe red fruit. However, if you’re willing to toss in an additional $6, go for the Halos of Jupiter 2014. Talk about sultry! The dark cherry and floral aromas are deeply concentrated and combine with a weighty mouthfeel that makes this bottle drink like it costs at least $25-$30. That’s exactly the message you want to get across to your host, right? You matter to me. I wouldn’t just get you any ol’ bottle. Well done friend, we’ll know the truth. Just in case anyone gets fancy at this Friday night hang out, these wines you bring over will be a marvelous accompaniment to any hard cheese that’s on display. But don’t fret, you’re just as well off with this selection if no food is present, which, let’s be honest, will probably be the case. Happy drinking! Samantha Stowell began her adventure with wine 4 years ago after quitting her corporate life as an interior designer. After completing the Advanced Level 3 WSET course, she traveled to McLaren Vale, Australia to work for Mollydooker wines. Since returning, she has been the sommelier of a wine bar in Downtown Santa Ana, CA, helping to develop their wine program and is currently the resident sommelier at Yves’ Restaurant & Wine Bar in Anaheim Hills, CA.
#VINOMUSIC: Listen to Rodrigo y Gabriela and Drink a 2013 Lapostolle Carménère
Music and wine should be paired. We call this #VINOMUSIC. Chileans know BBQ. Much like their Argentinian neighbors, meat is a critical staple of a Chilean diet and is prepared in countless ways. A classic Chilean asado is definitely the way to go. The asado includes an expansive range of pork, beef, chicken and lamb -- all grilled over a wide open flame. This traditional yet straightforward method delivers a flavor, and experience, that is unrivaled. However, there are a few other key elements to the asado: wine, music, and community. Chileans love a good excuse to get together and the asado is an invitation that works every time. The wine and music selection can, and should, round out this perfect Chilean experience. The music For the tunes, go with the catalog from Rodrigo y Gabriela. Their take on flamenco music is simply awesome. Both Rodrigo and Gabriela honed their musical roots with a passion for heavy metal while growing up in Mexico City. The heavy metal background directly influences the Rodrigo y Gabriela sound: a whirlwind of charisma and insane flamenco-style finger work. One of Rodrigo y Gabriela's latest, 9 Dead Alive, or any of their live albums will get the party on its feet. You'll need that energy on the speakers for the coma-inducing meat and wine that are sure to be consumed. Speaking of wine, Carménère will be an ideal choice for this shindig. The Carménère varietal is a predominately Chilean grape that is medium in body, high in acidity, and forward in red-fruit flavors. Its style is very similar to Merlot. In fact, Carménère in Chile was mistakenly thought to be Merlot for decades until winegrowers rectified its true varietal. The mixup was an "oops" for the better as now you don't find good Carménère outside of Chile too often. The wine Let's roll with a 2013 Lapostolle Casa Grand Selection Carménère for the party. This is a versatile Carménère, as much of the grape is, that will fit like a glove with the array of asado meats in play. You'll get some darker fruits, a little raspberry, as well as punches of smoke, spice, and minerality on the tongue. The wine balances well with the grilled meat spices, without one head-locking the other into submission. The 2013 Lapostolle Carménère comes from the Rapel Valley region, right smack in the middle of Chile's Central Valley. The Rapel Valley is lucky. Wine produced here often contains grapes from both the Cachapoal and Colchagua valleys, which border Rapel on the north and south respectively. Flirting with these two heavy players in the Carménère game yields a solid vino. Besides, at roughly $14 per bottle, you can easily stock up for the asado as this is a big victory for the price. Flip on the grill, turn up the Rodrigo y Gabriela, and get yourself into a 2013 Lapostolle Casa Grand Selection Carménère. You'll be swaying, dressed in your chupalla and chamanto, in no time. Want our sommelier selected wines delivered to you within minutes?! Click the banner below - San Francisco only (for now!)
East Coast vs. West Coast: Wine from the Northeast
It’s a classic tale of east versus west. Old school vs. new school. In the world of wine, the U.S. West Coast seems to dominate the game with its bold styles, vibrant labels and young hitters. The region continually pushes the envelope, redefining itself and its flavor. However, most tend to forget where it all originated from. They overlook the roots and where the style was created. Those who established the foundation they stand on. While it currently seems West Coast wineries and winemakers are the only thing defining what wine is in America, the East Coast is where it all began and deserves a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. East Coast A few American classics & up-and-coming names we should all recognize: Dr. Konstantin Frank, Finger Lakes, New York Founded in 1962, this winery is older than most American wineries. Dr. Konstantin Frank created world-class wines, especially sparkling wine, utilizing fruit found only in the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York. Some of the most bomb bubbles you can find for under $30. Lenz Winery, North Fork Long Island, New York Lenz sits on the same lateral line as the finest chateaus of Bordeaux. As a result, they produce some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot America has to offer. Their claim to fame is the infamous “Pétrus Tasting”, where they blind their wines against the most expensive wine in the world: Chateau Pétrus ($4,000). Let's just say….M’erica! Barboursville, Monticello, Virginia “We could, in the United States, make as great a variety of wines as are made in Europe. Not exactly of the same kinds, but doubtless as good.”- Thomas Jefferson. The 3rd U.S. President also happened to plant some of the first vines in the United States back in 1771, right here in Monticello. Barboursville highlights the grapes of this region and is quickly becoming a world renowned winery. Amalthea Cellars, New Jersey Amalthea has been in the game jut as long as the heavy hitters of Napa Valley. Focusing on Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, these Jersey boys are throwing some serious shade! The wines have beaten some of the best vino in France and continue to make people rethink where quality wine comes from. The armpit of America isn’t so smelly after all. Urban wine Brooklyn Winery, New York Located in the heart of Brooklyn, BKW is doing some BIG things! They create wine in an urban space yet source fruit from some of the finest vineyards New York has to offer. The urban winery concept is turning the wine scene upside down. Keep an eye out for these wines. They are bound to be hitting the top of the charts soon. Your #SommNextDoor: Nicholas Ducos. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier, Nicholas has worked in many prestigious restaurants in Miami, Florida. As a chef and as a sommelier, he is dedicated to creating a memorable dining experience and making wine relatable to others in a witty yet refined style. Nicholas is currently traveling the world learning the art of winemaking and plans to create his own label in the near future. Follow Nicholas's latest adventures through his website and Instagram.
What to do with a Somm Degree? Path Taken by Master Sommelier Ian Cauble
My latest online obsession is a website called SommSelect. Its concept is simple: a well-connected sommelier recommends one wine every day for your consideration. The parameters vary crazily – sometimes it’s a $10 steal, sometimes it’s an $80 Bordeaux that drinks like a prized grand cru priced at hundreds of dollars more. The site is well organized and sharply written, with an air of cocksure authority. (Hey, it's a legitimate word, look it up.) That's not surprising, considering its author: Ian Cauble. Does that name ring a bell? He was one of the four wine geeks in “Somm,” the 2012 movie about the trials and terrors of studying to pass the incredibly challenging Master Sommelier exam. Cauble, who grew up in Huntington Beach, was the dude you loved to hate. Pushy, nervous, a fast talker, he stayed up all night poring over his flash cards and drove his fellow test-takers crazy with his anxiety. He failed (the success rate is around 5 percent) but retook the exam the following year and was triumphant, thank God. I would have worried about the boy’s sanity if he'd failed again. Ian Cauble Now 36, Cauble hasn’t stood still since becoming a big wheel in the somm world. He launched SommSelect in 2014 and it took off, expanding to several thousand clients and 10 employees. The roots of SommSelect I asked Cauble how he came up with the idea, since the last time I checked in on him he was the U.S. brand ambassador for Krug, the French champagne maker, and seemed headed for a more straightforward career. “My friend Brandon Carneiro noticed these flash sites online that sell wine every day,” Cauble said. “It was often heavily discounted wine that was distressed inventory – a $90 Napa cab that was going for $19.99. Of course, when you taste them they taste like shit. Brandon said, ‘Let’s take your brand as a somm and just select some of the greatest wines of the world. They don’t all have to be expensive. But they have to taste good.’ So that’s how it started.” Most of the wines Cauble selects for SommSelect are between $20 and $50 a bottle, and they’re usually European, reflecting his own taste for French and Italian wines. Cauble estimates only 10 to 20 percent of his choices are from California and Oregon. SommSelect includes the price of shipping on any order over $100, which means ordering two or three bottles usually puts you over the top. Sample collection of SommSelect wines Cauble’s site offers some benefits for members. “We have a wine club called the Somm Six, which is six wines selected by me – three whites and three reds. That’s $199 per month. And then we have the Blind Six. It’s fun to get a glass of wine and guess where it’s from. It’s really a blind-tasting education kit. Most people who buy it are wine consumers who are curious. It’s $199 per month too. The bottles are usually about $32 to $35 retail.” Stop. Ruining. Nature. Cauble is also a fan of organic winemaking, as reflected in his choices. “Most of what we look for is organic or biodynamic. The most important part is they’re reducing the use of chemicals and pesticide. I’m a believer in removing chemicals from the winemaking process. You’re killing natural things that produce a symbiosis – fungi and other important elements. Nature is a lot smarter than chemistry in the lab.” Cauble said it isn’t just his own preferences that led him to emphasize European wines. He feels that the people who use SommSelect appreciate his expertise because they’re not secure in their knowledge of Old World labels and varieties. “A lot of people already have knowledge and a trusted source on where they can buy California wine and what to buy. No matter where you come from in America, you have a pretty good idea what Napa cabernet sauvignon and Santa Barbara pinot noir taste like. But most Americans don’t have a vetted source for European wine. It’s a complex place. For example, in Burgundy there are two main grapes, chardonnay and pinot noir, but each village has several producers. Not all are good. So consumers want someone to kiss the frogs so they don’t have to.” “Frog kisser.” I dare Cauble to put that on his business card.
Put a Cork In It - A Lesson on Corks from Traditional Wooden Wine Cork to Wine Bottle Caps
The tradition of the wine cork is almost as old as wine itself. For thousands of years, the preservation of wine has always been done with a piece of bark from a tree that solely grows in Portugal. That’s right, that cork you pop every time you open a bottle of wine is literally tree bark. The look is classic, the feel is empowering, and it requires a little care and skill to open up that time capsule of juice. However, as wine production increases every year the cork tree population is decreasing just as fast. The tree itself cannot be harvested for the first 25 years and after that, one must wait 9-12 years to harvest the bark again. With thousands of wineries popping up yearly, the demand is getting higher which increases the price. Now winemakers are seeking new cheaper alternatives that are proving to be just as good, if not better at sealing that precious liquid. Here's just a few... Screw Cap: Invented by the French, Yes it’s true. The screw cap is dominating the wine industry with its aging ability and price effectiveness. The main reason that bottle is so cheap is not because the wine is garbage but because that screw cap cost nearly nothing to the price of a traditional wine cork. The discount gets passed on to the consumer. Talk about a twist! Synthetic Cork: We’ve all seen it… you rip off that fancy foil at the top of the bottle only to find a plastic imposter inside. A synthetic cork usually means the wine is meant to drink young. As long as that bottle is less than 5 years old, you're good to go. Crown Caps: It’s not beer I promise! This is a new but it’s headed down the path of becoming a 'trend'. Crown caps also known as a beer cap is actually a major part of sparkling wine production. However, these caps are by far the cheapest way to secure the wines and just look cool AF. Glass Stoppers: Big in Austria not so popular anywhere else, the glass stopper is making its rounds. Currently only those crazy Austrians are using this method but it works well and you can even reuse the glass stopper in other wine bottles! Buy a bottle of Austrian wine! It’s the wine equivalent of a cracker jack! Delicious and you wine a prize… Growlers: Lose the bottle homie! Growlers are moving from breweries to wineries, and for good reason. Wines on tap are cool now and a refillable growler is much cheaper than buying bottles every week. As long as your drinking that growler within a week, that wine is still mighty tasty. A growler cost around $10 and refills are around the same price. Let your inner hipster out and buy a growler.
#VINO4: Chemicals GTFO - How Perliss Vineyards Champions Organic Wine
Most of us are aware of the pesticides, fertilizers, and other gross shit that often makes it way into mass-produced crops. Farming techniques are the direct result of this chemical usage. These techniques rely on shortcuts to produce more veggies and fruits with less overhead (i.e. manual labor) that impacts profit margins. Go green Alternative farming methods, specifically organic production, combat these otherwise McMansions of crops. Wine production is no different. As Anthony Perliss of Napa Valley's Perliss Vineyards explains, "Organic essentially implies nothing synthetic in your farming. That includes fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.". Perliss Vineyards is proud to enforce a strict nature-only approach to its wines. Anthony gave us the lowdown on Perliss's approach to grape farming and what influences their exceptional vino: The goods What are the fundamental differences between general wine production and organic farming? Organic farming is a commitment to nature. It's more labor intensive than conventional farming, but the result is a more dynamic vineyard with a richer ecosystem. Our vineyard is on a slope surrounded by forest; the idea of a natural interplay between these two organic bodies is very important to us. Rather than using synthetic pesticides, we rely on owls, bats, birds, & ladybugs to combat pests. We use organic fertilizers and fungicides as opposed to the synthetic ones. Weed control is done manually instead of using herbicides. Overlooking Perliss vines Wine is taken into your body and is a concentrated product - you're consuming hundreds of unwashed grapes in a bottle of wine. It seems like a good idea to ingest what the body can recognize and assimilate. Fermentation is a powerful thing and neutralizes a lot of what comes in from the vineyard. But I have a hard time imagining it neutralizing synthetic materials. Aaron Pott, Winemaker What was the catalyst for Perliss Vineyards to adopt organic farming? It was never a question to do otherwise. We've lived on our property in Calistoga for almost 30 years and we have a deep respect for this landscape. Our well - the source for our drinking water and irrigating our vines and fruit trees - is in the middle of our vineyard. We prefer not to be drinking Roundup, even if Monsanto says it's safe to do so. For a wine to truly speak of a place, cultivating the diversity and idiosyncrasy of the vineyard is essential. As part of our mission to represent our little piece of the Valley as purely as possible, we don't add yeast to our grapes for fermentation, nor do we filter our wine before bottling. The inspiration What inspires the Perliss brand? Any particular music, film, art? This sounds obvious, but the landscape itself is the huge inspiration for Perliss. For decades my family has been enamored by this rugged, beautiful place - its manzanita, madrone and oak forest, its wildlife, its fierce winds and extreme temperatures - before we ever thought of planting vines. That the resulting wine somehow captures what we love about this site is incredible and deeply inspiring. The names & images of our wines, "The Ravens" & "The Serpents" are nods to the creatures that animate this place. Beyond that, as I worked for years in the perfume business, I see parallels between perfume and wine - the idea of precious essences extracted from a landscape somehow informs our project. What is the ideal song(s) for drinking a bottle of 2013 Perliss The Ravens? Tezeta (Nostalgia) by Mulatu Astatketh - deep, soulful, flowing. Also Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, Second Movement, Adagio by J.S. Bach - sounds like the energy of the forest. Learn more about Perliss Vineyards on their website and pay them a visit in Calistoga on your next visit to Napa Valley.
Beyond the Grape: Applying Wine Principles to Cider
Go to your local bar, grocery store, or liquor shop, and ask for a bottle of cider. More likely than not, you’re gonna be offered something that tastes like apple-flavored beer. These sugary-sweet suds still work when consumed out of Red Solo cups on a college campus, but are hardly worth pairing with your dinner. But there’s hope for fermented apples. Beyond the plonk plastered with humanized apple trees on the bottle, there’s a deeply traditional style of European cider. The old-world approach is catching on amongst beer nerds and hipster sommeliers alike. The geography Nestled in the Cantabrian Mountain Range along the Bay of Biscay is the fiercely autonomous Basque Region. Spanning across the Northeastern quadrant of Spain, and spilling into the French Pyrenees, is El País Vasco. The area is known for its vast heritage, extending back to the late Paleolithic period. Some of the oldest recorded cave paintings have come from this part of Europe. Running parallel to these advances in cognition came the alcoholic revolution. This region of France and Spain is the origin for grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon. Grape geneticists have traced the heritage of some of today’s most well-known varieties to this region burrowed between the French and Spanish border. Traditional cider pouring from a porron pitcher The wines from the Basque region are extraordinary: look no further than the affable white wine called Txakoli from the coastal region of Getaria. But the most unique beverage from this region is the cider made from the apples grown planted along the rolling foothills of the region. The indigenous apple varieties rank in the hundreds, and often producers (called sagardotegis) will blend upwards of 20 different varieties together to make their cider. Making the juice The ancestral method of breaking down sugar means that yeast ferments the apple juice into alcoholic cider. Natural yeast fermentation exists at breweries like Belgian O.G., Cantillon, and naturally-driven wineries like LaPierre in Beaujolais. By not suffocating the juice and letting a slow, more natural fermentation take place, the resulting cider has a vivacity and sense of place. This kind of output is not typically found in sterile, modern facilities. Also, Basque cider traditionally is unfiltered, so all those byproducts of fermentation are kept inside the cider, imparting even more flavor in your mouth. Comparing the aromatics and flavor of a naturally fermented, unfiltered cider to something saturated and completely strained is like comparing Tang to pulpy, fresh-squeezed Orange Juice. Isastegi's apple orchards The other major difference is the lack of carbonation. These ciders are fermented in large wooden casks called kupelas. This low and slow fermentation can take months to fully mature. The small amount of residual CO2 from fermentation is bottled in with the cider, resulting in a faint fizziness, about as much as you’d get in a bottle of kombucha. Reaping the rewards Since fermentation takes months to finish, sagardotegis will typically celebrate the start of cider season with a large party in late January. These producers will open their doors and turn their fermentation rooms into bars, where guests can drink directly from the barrel, a time-honored ritual called Txotx. Txotx Season continues through the winter and spring. All throughout the French and Spanish Basque Country, you can find ciderhouses serving up a traditional Txotx menu of Bacalao (salt cod) and steak. Like any high acid beverage, these ciders can cut through marbled beef or frame the briny qualities of seafood. When picking a Basque Cider, there’s a couple of things to look for. Hold the bottle to the light: if the cider is flecked with floating chunks, you’re on the right track! Is it under a screwcap or cork rather than a traditional crown cap? If all else fails, look for Isastegi, Txopinondo, or Shacksbury’s Basque Collaboration. Basque Cider isn’t for everyone. It’s more tart than sweet, more funky that fruity. But when you’re looking for something complex that can offer an alternative pairing to your dinner, bust out a bottle of Isastegi. Chris Poldoian is a certified sommelier and a member of the Houston Sommelier Association. In his position at Camerata, he brings experience in the Houston market and a vast understanding for the hospitality industry. After spending a harvest in Jerez and Rioja, wine experts and novices can expect small producers in Spain – from the traditional to the avant-garde – to grace Camerata's menu.
A Closer Look at Grapes in Supporting Roles
In the world of wine there are the shining stars; the household names that don’t have to be a contributor of a blend to get some recognition. These grapes are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, even Riesling just to name a few.   Then there are the grapes intrinsically used for the said purpose of producing the ever-popular blend. Blending wines have been given the explicit task of hanging out with two-plus varietals for their entire existence. Sad times. But how like our world, really, that we would have varietals that accept award after award for their beauty and brilliance, while their supporting actors do everything they can to measure up and yet still remain secondary in popularity. Well, this is 2017 and we’re saying hello to equal rights.  In light of Oscar season, we’re shedding some starlight on the grapes that tend to slip between the cracks of your prototypical wine lists and give credit where credit is due! The characteristics theses blending varietals possess may need some warming up to. But once offered the opportunity, they deserve quite the standing ovation. Let’s roll the film, shall we? Today we’re taking a deeper look at three varietals that are infrequently given the chance - but perfectly able - to stand alone. Lucky for a few select regions on the entire planet, we now have some wonderful ones to explore. Without further ado, I present to you: Cabernet Franc, Mourvédre and Sémillon! (Enter frantic cheers here). Cabernet Franc Let’s start off easy here with a word that sounds familiar: Cabernet. Phew, see! We can do it! Now add Franc, and you have a whole separate varietal to play around with: Cabernet Franc. We have this fine varietal, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, to thank for getting grafted and producing our beloved Cabernet Sauvignon. The two grape vines got together a looong time ago and churned out what we now have as one of the leading varietals on Earth. Talk about the family favorite. Cab Franc is a bit less friendly to the California palate than its offspring and, thus, has gotten a bad wrap. But its peppery, crushed violet, flinty, dark chocolate-ness is absolutely superb in the correct setting. It originally got its big break in the land of Bordeaux, France as part of the infamous blends that are mainly composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Nowadays, the varietal has gotten around a bit and is making its big domestic debut in Washington, New York and California. The goods: Cabernet Franc If you want to ease into the idea of this “blending grape” taking center stage (and happen to have some extra jangle in your pocket) give Spring Valley Vineyard’s Katherine Corkrum Cabernet Franc a try. This Washington jewel is, truthfully, a blend as well, but with 90% Cabernet Franc leading the way, we’ll let it slide.   In other news, hailing from a small region of North Fork on New York’s Long Island, is the 2014 Harbes Family Vineyard’s version of the grape. Give their herbaceous yet plump Franc a try and you might just have found your new favorite varietal.   Lastly, let's assume you don't want to spend this week’s paycheck on an experiment. Give the 100% Cabernet Franc from Reserve des Vignerons Saumur Champigny, in the Loire Valley of France a shot. Peppery to the max and combined with touches of violet and perfume make for a pleasant experience to be sure. Let this one aerate for a hot second. Otherwise the grip of the structure might leave a bad taste in your mouth - pun intended. Katherine Corkrum Cab Franc Mourvèdre Alright, raise your hand if you’ve heard of this guy? Hmm. A sparse few. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the blend abbreviation GSM? Ah! There we go!  GSM is a palate-pleasing blend of three grapes you truly can’t go wrong with. That to say, you may only know what the “G” and “S” represent as the varietals have stood on their own for ages. It’s now time for our “M” friend to step into the limelight. Say it with me now, “Mourvèdre”. Originally part of the Rhône Valley’s admirable line up of varietals, Mourvèdre is now being planted all over, and incognito as well.  You may have had this grape before and not even realized it, for in Spain its name is Monastrell. In Australia? Mataro. It does extremely well in hot regions. So it’s no shock that Australia, Spain, Southern France and the booming California region of Paso Robles have each staked their claim with the varietal. The goods: Mourvèdre So let’s break this down. Ever crave BBQ, short ribs, pork sausage? Pair it with Mourvèdre. You enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah? Give this plum and blackberry, deep maroon colored, full-bodied drop a try. For example, $40 can buy you an excellent version of the varietal from Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles.  Want to try a version from foreign soil? Tesoro Monastrell offers spice, lots of just ripened blueberries and a surprising touch of orange zest for less than a pretty penny. Cheers to exploring new territory! Sémillon Lemme tell you about this gem. Talk about a diamond in the rough of a Chardonnay dominated white wine community! Sémillon is the blending partner to Sauvignon Blanc, both possess the fame of original Bordeaux roots. The match is one made in Heaven to be sure, as they share the crisp flavors of citrus, green apple and pear. But what Sémillon offers to the blend is a fuller mouthfeel; a softer, waxy sensation. It truly rounds out the racy herbaceousness that is Sauvignon Blanc. The goods: Sémillon Don’t be dismayed that this understated wine has a lower average ABV (alcohol by volume). There’s nothing wrong with having a ridiculously easy drinking white on hand for those sunny afternoons that you’d actually like to remember enjoying. However, Sémillon changes a bit depending on the climate it’s planted in. You can expect a touch higher ABV from warmer climates such as South Australia and California like Cuda Ridge Wines’ 2015 Semillon from the Central Coast. If you're curious for seeing what Oz has to offer, try this delectable drop from Hunter Valley Australia. Tyrrell’s Old Winery 2012 expression of the grape is one that will keep you going back for more and, at around 12 bucks a bottle, I suppose you could afford to do just that. Cuda Ridge Barrels So next time friends, let’s remember the little people that helped the big bad varietals of our day get to their place of stardom. After all, it’s clear that everyone deserves a shot at the big screen. Happy drinking! Sam Stowell Samantha Stowell began her adventure with wine 4 years ago after quitting her corporate life as an interior designer. After completing the Advanced Level 3 WSET course, she traveled to McLaren Vale, Australia to work for Mollydooker wines. Since returning, she has been the sommelier of a wine bar in Downtown Santa Ana, CA, helping to develop their wine program and is currently the resident sommelier at Yves’ Restaurant & Wine Bar in Anaheim Hills, CA.
Wine Mom & the Critic - Playful Weekly Wine "Review" Show
We're super excited to announce the launch of Wine Mom & the Critic, a playful wine review show that features Eva - a young mom who loves wine, and Paul - a 20+ year wine journalist and critic. They taste and ‘review’ wine in their own unique way. The purpose of the show is to visually showcase the juxtaposition between Paul, who represents the way wine is 'traditionally' talked about against Eva, who represents the more relatable way wine is talked about. In each episode Eva and Paul taste and discuss a wine, while describing them through their own lens. We end up learning a good bit from each episode including regions, wineries, varietals and, of course, a 'word of the day' (a fan favorite has been "quaffable"!). Wine Mom & the Critic is available on our YouTube channel and the plan is to release a new episode each week. It's a labor of love so we may not make every week, but we'll give it our best! We'd love to get your feedback on what appeals to you, what you didn't care for, the overall production, and suggestions you may have to make each episode better. Feel free to email us:, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment below each episode! If you're with a winery and would like to have your wine "reviewed" on Wine Mom & the Critic by Eva and Paul, then please email us! Thank you for the continued support and we look forward to hearing from you! BTS Photos! (Find more on our Instagram!)
#VINOMUSIC: Listen to The Black Angels and Drink a 2016 The Black Stump Durif Shiraz
Are you familiar with Californian Syrah? It's that inky, peppery grape flavored up on dark fruits and topped off with a generous heap of oak. How about Petite Sirah? Another opaque colored wine that blankets your tongue with vacuum-like tannins ("petite" is the irony of it all). Blend these two varietals together and you have some crazy good black magic - or as Karen McNeil, author of The Wine Bible, says about Syrah by itself, "Like wearing cowboy boots with a tuxedo. Rustic yet elegant". Petite Sirah adds the spurs and 10-gallon hat. Now, has Shiraz or Durif ever touched your lips? Well, you may or may not know these two grapes are actually the Australian (and South African) equivalent of Syrah and Petite Sirah. Same grapes, different location. Australia's sun-kissed terroir gives their version a little bit more fruit. In either case, both varietals thrive in dry, hot climates where wide-brimmed hats are fashionable AND functional. A wine that is spicy, bold and punchy like a Shiraz/Durif blend deserves an equally rugged soundtrack: The goods Let's crack open a bottle of 2016 The Black Stump Durif Shiraz, created by winemaker Alan Kennett. This beast's grapes are grown in South Eastern Australia, which is notorious for its distant vineyards and producing the country's best wines. In fact, "The Black Stump" often refers to the Australian Outback where going "beyond the black stump" means heading into a remote or uncivilized area. A pretty killer fit for the label, right? This wine will come at you with Durif leading the charge at 60% and Syrah's peppery fruit rounding it out at 40%. The result is a spiced jam hit that is brawny yet easy to drink - like a bodybuilder serving a savory but light breakfast. It'll finish dry but carrying a smooth chocolate undertone with it. In other words, a solid select for easing into the "grippy" world of earthier wines. For less than 14 bucks to get a bottle, this is a pretty easy call. Also feel free to rack it for a few years. The tunes Austin's The Black Angels are an excellent choice to complement the Durif/Shiraz. These Texans exude a psychedelic sound that is rugged while ethereal in its delivery - much like The Black Stump's peppery foundation that leaves your mouth with a souvenir of dark fruit and chocolate. Imagine kicking your feet up on the fire pit (not too close, dammit!) on a chilly night in Joshua Tree. You've got the sprawling, minimalist desert landscape ahead and nothing but time on your hands. The Black Stump will bring out the harsh terroir in front of you while The Black Angels' trippy vibe will do the same. You'll easily get lost in your own head. The combo translates well to a chill hangout just as much as it does a rowdy night dancing around said fire with friends. Joshua Tree The Black Angels have a new album this year, but I'd recommend going back to roots with their 2008 release Directions To See A Ghost. The psychedelic tone is thick on this cut and marries with the Australian Durif Shiraz incredibly well. Turn it up, pour it out, and enjoy!