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Trailblazing for Label Transparency in the Wine Industry

Organic, vegan, non-GMO, locally grown, Gluten-free, farm-to-table

I’m sure these phrases look familiar. They are, after all, just about everywhere you look in our current culture. There is so much varying exposure we’ve come to expect from our food industry and grocery stores and - even now - our restaurant. 

But what about wine?

Has anyone noticed that the back of your wine bottle contains no helpful information regarding the ingredients and nutritional gain? Granted, I suppose we don’t expect to gain much nutrition from consuming a bottle of our favorite Cabernet, but as consumers that have come to anticipate so much, how is it we’re satisfied to receive so little info when it comes to what’s in the bottle? 

The CEO of a successful new wine brand that’s taking the UK by storm - Thomson & Scott’s Amanda Thomson - has certainly taken notice of this lack of straightforwardness. 

“When it comes to wine,” she says, “many of the bottles consumers are purchasing are full of chemicals and greatly lacking in story and context.” Thomson & Scott is one wine producer on the market that is making strides to change that.

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Amanda grew up near London with a very forward-thinking mother, one who implanted strong values of food health from an early age.  “It was normal to not have processed food while growing up. We were to have respect for sugar and have respect for food in general.”  

And it was due to this mindset being instilled at a young age, that when Amanda began building a career in broadcasting with the BBC, she developed a palate for Champagne. 

However, after waking up time again feeling less than tip top after a night of sipping her beloved bubbles, she began to question the contents of her favorite beverages. 

This very conscious thought caused Amanda to dream that perhaps there was more to uncover in regards to the unknown ingredients of wine and, just maybe, she could create a brand that led the public to understand more as well through intentional transparency at the helm. 

Just like that, she was off and running; leaving her broadcasting career behind to move her family to Paris and begin her education in wine.  

Shortly after getting her hands dirty in the wine world, she began meeting with and forging relationships with some of the brightest winemakers in Champagne, France and Prosecco, Italy.  It was these relationships with like-minded, quality-driven industry professionals that enabled the brand to develop their distinct product line of Sparkling wines that proudly possess little to no sugar, are certified Vegan & 100% organic.  

Truly their wines being labelled as “Skinny” has much more of a well-rounded meaning that certainly falls in line with the needs and desires of society. 

Outside of their tight handle on quality control, Thomson & Scott hardly loses sight of what their audience desires, a product they can have fun with; after all, it is wine!  “We truly don’t compare to any other wine company in terms of marketing; we are a lifestyle brand.  We focus on being very clear with who we are--our wines are fun! But they had to be top quality as well. Amanda specified taking a lot of inspiration from American culture, specifying that “aiming for a top quality product, doesn’t mean you can’t have an attractive, relatable brand!”

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Thomson & Scott Prosecco is reasonably priced for the incredible flavor profile & mouthfeel. At just $25/bottle with 7 grams of sugar per liter, the wine is a home-run and quite simply, a no brainer!  Lots of bright fruit greet you on the nose as the consistent bubbles meet your palate and wake up your senses.

As for their more prestigious sparkling--Champagne Extra Brut from the hands of winemaker Alexandre Penet--offers consumers a very well-balanced blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir to blow their socks off.  Approachable and satisfying, no need to sacrifice health for desire with this drop as it’s certified Vegan and contains up to 6 grams of sugar per liter.

Needless to say, Thomson & Scott is making waves in the industry by willing to curate a product of status, cleanliness & upfront honesty, without sacrificing a drop of fun, and we certainly have Amanda Thomson to thank for her boldness in making such headway and setting a new bar for wines worldwide. So let’s drink to health! Cheers, sparkling lovers! 


A Tribe Called Quest and a Village Called Gevrey-Chambertin: Meet Edwinn Ferrer

Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on?

Didn’t even have a drink. It was the introductory lecture given in my first wine course. Our sommelier said, “you either get bitten by the wine bug or you don’t”. I really think I caught it when he went on to describe the various countries, techniques, and applications for wine. 

Considering all the places & cultures wine is found in, I honestly found the subject to have a powerful gravity about it – one that pulls in the soul (or the amygdala, to be less mystical). I still firmly love the subject of course but, looking back on it, I think you know you’re bitten when you continue to study it, being fully aware of how much information you actually have to learn.

What drew you to working in the wine industry?

After pursuing the field in subsequent classes & books, I came to see it (and alcohol in a broader sense) as a necessary lubricant to society. Wine lightens the mind and warms the soul. It elevates jokes, conversations, and intimacy.

Since we escape the stresses of work at the dinner table, it only makes sense to have a potion that brightens the mood and makes your food taste better on hand. If we didn’t have pleasures like that to look forward to, freeway traffic (no matter how many podcasts & audiobooks you have) would be a lot more miserable.

What do you see as the next trend in wine? Will it be overrated or underrated? 

A trend I think I see coming up is a rise in popularity for more obscure countries like Portugal, Austria, and South Africa. The current heavy hitters like major French, Spanish, and Italian regions will only continue to rise in price & popularity. I predict audiences will, over time, fatigue from the current choices that saturate the market, and diffuse into countries/regions that offer better value. 

However, the most immediate countries that I think will receive this effect are Argentina & Chile, as they are seeing plenty of foreign investment. Ratings from reviewers will be somewhat accurate, but how proportionate the market will react, I can’t say. All it takes is one overly exaggerated endorsement to set a craze in either direction.

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Favorite varietal that is uncommon to find?

Although it's no secret to Somms, Austrian Gruner Veltliner is a fantastic find. I like to think of it like Sauvignon Blanc, but w/ a dash of spice and a fruit profile that isn’t as eccentric. Its mostly super easy to drink, and pairs w/ a broad range of seafoods, salads, and white meats. The serious examples deliver an amazing level of complexity and weight, and feature esoteric aromas/flavors of legume, watercress and white pepper.

What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?

When I had leftover orange chicken from Panda Express and Rias Baixas Albarino. Before then I’ve almost never experienced such a stark contrast from “ehh just ok” to amazing. For me it was the bit of tangible proof of how a much better drink & food can improve each other when they match just right.

What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?

  • Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly. The book introduced me to the wine world and not only gave me enough worldly depth, without becoming too dense, but also perfectly highlighted the aesthetic romance of wine that captured my imagination when I was just beginning. I consider it the perfect intro to wine book and its my first recommendation to newcomers.
  • Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein. Wine is great. Food is great. Wine + food can be fantastic (or terrible) given the pairing. The foundational knowledge from this book has never left the corners of my mind, and I consider it a must, as the art & science of pairing yields the true potential of wine and food.
  • The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson. My absolute go to for any wine question, no matter how obscure. The amount of information in it is dizzying and all-encompassing. Whenever I’ve needed to buckle down and study, this encyclopedia has never let me down.

Pick a favorite bottle of Burgundian Pinot. What band or musician do you pair it with?

Hmmm. Well, there’s a lot of choices when it comes down to Burgundian Pinots, but my top choice would have to be a bottle from the village of Gevrey-Chambertin (of course Premier or Grand Cru if given the opportunity, but can’t be too picky in this economy!). The Pinots there tend to be firmer, deeper in color, and age longer. 

Music pairing for sensuality & elegance contrasted w/ power & depth? Definitely A Tribe Called Quest. Their samples are always jazzy and silky smooth, while their lyricism is the right mix of romance and vivacity - classy and full if soul, w/ a balanced hand of playful aggression (just like how I imagine good Pinot). And speaking on long aging regimens, Tribe’s music has definitely stood the test of time as well. 

My Wine of the Month: Di Giovanna "Helios"

In October, after checking out more than 100 wines, my choice for November is a red Sicilian: 

"Helios" from Di Giovanna 

Di Giovanna - one of the oldest wine families in Sicily - is located in the province of Agrigento. 

If I have to describe the wine for what it is, I would say: “The quiet before the storm". This blend of Nero d’Avola and Syrah opens slowly and quietly. It then releases incredible sensations - like a storm! 

Helios takes its name from the father, Aurelio, and represents the best expression of the vineyards of the winery. It has a ruby red color with notes of berries and black cherry. The tannins are very soft with an incredibly long persistence.

This wine also awarded by James Suckling with 91 points, deserves all the pride of the Sicilian lands!

How to Taste Wine, as Explained by 90's Hit Songs

A step-by-step guide...

1. Appearance

MC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This 

Checking out the appearance of wine is kind of like judging a book by its cover. Is it a shitty romance novel from the 80's that you probably don't want to read anymore or the latest Gillian Flynn novel? 

Look for things like brown color, haziness. If you see them, consider asking that cute bartender for a new glass (though this doesn't always mean they're bad–more on that later). Hint: lighter colors tend to indicate youth aka the opposite of how we feel when looking back at these old videos.

2. Nose

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit

Stick your nose in there. Swirl your glass to let some oxygen get cozy with your wine to bring out its aromas. Do you smell the grungy basement featured in Nirvana’s video? 

Again, maybe want to ask for a new glass. Do you smell fruits, flowers, spices, veggies, oak, etc. etc.? Take ‘em all in and make sure it aligns with your expectations - does this smell like a Golden Corral buffet or a 5-star meal coming at you?

BOTTOMS UP! Let’s start drinking already...

3. Palate

Usher – Nice & Slow

Here’s the fun part. Start drinking! And in the words of our dear friend, Usher, you ain’t gotta rush. Take it nice & slow, baby. Use both your senses of taste and smell to break down what you’re savoring. The next five songs will take us through what to look for while we taste.

4. Sweetness

Tyrese – Sweet Lady

90% of the time, you’re not going to be finding your “sweet lady.” Even if you’re tasting flavors that generally remind you of sweet things, most wines are dry, aka not sweet, aka don’t have sugar. Just like that word you’re trying to find to describe what you’re tasting, sweetness is most easily identified on the tip of your tongue. 

5. Acidity

TLC – Waterfalls

Does your mouth start watering like your dog’s on a 90 degree day? Bam: that’s acidity! It’s what makes lemons sour and wine taste refreshing. Acidity helps cut through things like sweetness and fat.

6. Tannins

Darude – Sandstorm

This is a cheat guys ‘cause the song technically came out in 2000, but let’s be real, it’s 🔥. Do you drink black tea? You know that feeling your mouth gets from it? Like your mouth is literally filled with sand? That’s the tannins. They come from the skins of the grape, so you typically find ‘em in red and orange wines. 

They’re most easily sensed at the back of your mouth or on your gums and their strength depends on the amount of skin contact during grapemaking. ;) 

7. Body

Sir Mix A Lot – Baby Got Back

Does this baby have back? The easiest comparison to help you guess the body (light, medium, full) is to compare to milk. Does it feel super light like skim milk or more like straight-up cream? A lot of factors contribute to a wine’s body, but alcohol is one of the bigger ones. Fun party trick to know how boozy your wine might be without checking the label.

8. Flavors

Seal – Kiss from a Rose

Mariah Carey – Honey

Spice Girls – Spice Up Your Life

We’re going in on the song variety for this one because this is the part where you just attempt to rattle off whatever you’re tasting. Spices? Floral notes? Herbs? Honey, creaminess, dairy notes? Earth? Animals (yes, seriously)? Colors of the world? And most importantly, do you actually like these things you’re tasting?

9. Finish

The Cranberries – Linger

Notice if the flavors linger and hang around like your deadbeat ex boyfriend (but in a good way this time) or if they’re gone in a flash like a one night stand. Sometimes they can be like that one guy you dated who turned into a completely different person overnight.

Now’s time to act like Simon Cowell and give this guy a brutally honest final verdict. 

10. Balance

The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony

In really, really good wines, all of these things – flavor, acidity, finish, body, tannins – are going to come together in perfect harmony. Does one seem out of whack like Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions? Or do you feel like Reese Witherspoon driving down the highway in the convertible during the end credits when you drink this?

11. Length

Foo Fighters – Everlong

We visited the finish above. The longer the finish, typically, the better quality the wine.

12. Intensity

Backstreet Boys – Larger than Life

How intense are the aromas you smell and flavors you taste? If they’re larger than life, that often indicates good quality.

13. Complexity

Sarah McLachlan – Building a Mystery

Is there so much going on with this wine in terms of flavors that it feels like you’re unraveling a mystery as you drink it? Complexity is a solid indication that this wine is like a boss. 

14. Final Conclusion

Christina Aguilera – What a Girl Wants

N*Sync – Bye, Bye, Bye

Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of your glass and better news: there’s still a whole bottle to go. So tell us: Is it “what a girl wants” or is this “bye, bye, bye?”


Tapas & Tea - Meet Spanish Wine Expert Jaime Fernandez

Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? 

Most of my early wine experiences involve my grandad in Galicia. I would spend 6 weeks a year at my grandparents' house in a small village just outside of the Rias Baixas region called Pobra do Caraminal. 

We had a daily ritual there. My grandma would stay home to prepare lunch and I would walk to the town centre with my grandad and my twin brother for drinks and tapas. 

My grandad would always drink Albarino and sometimes let us have a sip. Even today, some 25-30 years later I will taste some Albarinos that immediately transport me back to those small wine bars with my grandad, watching him drink and argue with people about politics.

Also, Christmas was always a great early wine memory for me. My parents would always buy bottles of Faustino I for our Christmas dinner. Back in those days it was quite expensive and people didn’t often spend lots of wine so it was always a massive treat. Even today when I smell a bottle of Faustino I it takes me back to some great Christmas memories.

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When and how did you realize Spanish wine is your thing? 

I’ve always had an affinity for anything and everything Spanish. I loved the food, the wine, the football, the history and the laid back lifestyle even from a fairly early age. I was fascinated with The Spanish Civil war and The Republicans.  My family in Galicia were deeply connected, particularly after the Civil War, so it was an area that intrigued me. 

As I grew older I became fascinated with Spanish food; paella, calamari, octopus, croquettes, etc.  My parents were a big part of that and we’d watch people like Keith Floyd and Rick Stein travel to Galicia and cook the local cuisine.  To this day I don’t think we will find a better ‘celebrity’ chef than Keith Floyd!  My nan in Spain and my mum were both amazing cooks so we regularly had home cooked Spanish meals with Spanish wine.

I’d always enjoyed the wine but as it was always such a natural part of any of our meals I’d never thought too much about it. 

It wasn’t until I started my WSET studies a couple of years ago that the passion really took off. I’d grown up drinking Albarino during the year and Rioja at Christmas…that was essentially it! The WSET showed me how diverse and varied it was as a wine region and from then on I became obsessed with exploring as much as I could.

What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  

Discovery. I love discovering hidden gems and hearing winemakers’ stories. 

I rarely take much notice to critics’ scores when reading about wines. They’re great as a guideline but wine is such a personal and subjective experience I prefer to consider other factors when looking for a new wine. 

What resonates with me is learning about the winery, the vineyards, the winemaker, their story to becoming a winemaker, the local people that pick grapes at harvest time, the dog that lives on site!…essentially anything and everything that gives me an insight into who and what is involved during the winemaking process. All of these things are linked and have an impact into the final product.

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Most underrated grape in Spain?

Godello. It is such a diverse grape and has the ability to produce wines with the structural finesse of a white Burgundy combined with the aromatic complexity of an Albarino.

If you’re yet to try Godello you’re seriously missing out!

What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?

It’s a difficult one. The natural wine scene has exploded in recent years, not just in London, and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.

I do think people will continue to explore unknown grapes and regions as well as ancient wine making methods and low-intervention wines. Words like "pet-nat", "qvevri", "amphora" and "wild-ferment" are now common knowledge to even the most casual wine enthusiasts – which is a good thing.

I do also think that the more affordable iconic, traditional and old-school wineries will increase in popularity. Guys like Tondonia, Rinaldi, Chateau Musar, Emidio Pepe and some of the 2nd and 3rd wines from some of the top houses.

Wine drinkers are looking for a combination of a wine ‘experience’ and the ability to ‘flex’ on Instagram without needing a second mortgage – these sorts of wines fit those criteria perfectly.

In terms of regions, I think people should be looking out for still wines from England. There are some amazing producers around such as Ben Walgate from Tillingham, Jon Worontschak from Litmus and John Rowe at Westwell Wines. The weather has been kind in England in 2018 so fingers crossed it produces some amazing fruit.

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What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?

I’m a sucker for a food and wine tasting experience…the more courses the better.

I love the way that wine and food interacts, for me the simpler the combination the better. It’s also the perfect excuse to eat and drink your body weight!

What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?

I’m currently reading “The Dirty Guide to Wine” from Alice Feiring which I’m really enjoying. It’s an area of wine that baffles me the most but she puts a great spin on it and I love the way she categorises the regions by soil type. It’s fascinating how wines from completely different regions in the world have similar soils and tasting characteristics despite being thousands of miles apart.

I also love “The New Vignerons” from Luis Gutierrez. He focuses on 14 key wineries/winemakers from around Spain to discuss their history, landscape and traditions and also ties them in with the typical food of the regions. 

I’m not a huge podcast fan but I really enjoy the UK podcast “Interpreting Wine” from Lawrence Francis.  He’s had some great guests on there from all over the wine world and it’s always relaxed and interesting conversations.

We’ll give you 3 Spanish actors/actresses. You tell us the wine they match with: 

Javier Bardem – Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5o

Both often play a supporting role but frequently win awards for that performance. Lots going on with plenty of complexity which somehow combines into something elegant and though-provoking.

Penélope Cruz – Alavaro Palacios L’Ermita 

Both leaders in their fields with the ability to inspire others. Natural beauty and class…subtle but powerful.

Antonio Banderas – Vina Tondonia Reserva

Both are dark, smouldering and traditional, but with the odd curve-ball thrown in. And ages really well!


Take a peek at Jaime's blog and give him a follow in Instagram.

Winter is coming, and so is Game of Thrones wine

Fall is here. Know how a wine writer can tell? The reds start arriving in the mail, awaiting my assessment. So do the pitches, both predictable and strange.

Along with the usual stuff about Thanksgiving pairings and holiday must-haves, I get a fair share of off-the-wall craziness from the crowded and competitive world of vino. Case in point: Game of Thrones wine

That’s right -- I just received a bottle of Westeros’ best. (Actually, it’s been out since late June, but they’ve decided to hit me up now, at the beginning of the appropriate season – June is not the best month to roll out a red wine, guys.)

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BUY: Game of Thrones Collectible Wine Glass Set (House Stark & House Targaryen)


Created by Vintage Wine Estates in collaboration with HBO Licensing and Retail, the GOT line was introduced in the spring of 2017 with a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a red blend (somehow, I missed that festive occasion). This year, they’re trotting out a pinot noir. Descriptors like “game-y,” “barnyard” and “forest floor,” commonly used for pinot, seem especially apropos here, given the general filthiness of the GOT world. (I shudder to think how they crush grapes in King’s Landing.) 

The justification for this silly piece of cross marketing is explained in the press release: “‘Game of Thrones’ features wine in many of its scenes from the Seven Kingdoms, and the initial launch of Game of Thrones wine gave fans of the Lannisters and Targaryens their own sigil-emblazoned bottlings.”

I don’t know about you, but every time I see a wine-guzzling scene in “Game of Thrones” I think of some of the wilder frat parties I attended as an undergrad. And there are scenes where wine portends disaster. (Remember when Arya avenged the Red Wedding? Glad I missed that particular tasting. “Proper wine for proper heroes” indeed!)

The only character with a discerning palate seems to be Tyrion, the tiniest but classiest Lannister, who often remarks about the quality of the wine he’s tasting and seems to have a knack for sniffing out the best. I have a feeling he’d be a pinot drinker. (His incestuous brother and sister, on the other hand, would drink only Sinister Hand if they lived in the real world. Or maybe 19 Crimes.)

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This newest GOT wine is made by winemaker Bob Cabral and it comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, an area that excels in Burgundian-style pinots with restraint and all the other requisite Old World qualities. 

“The new pinot noir is a worthy addition for the Game of Thrones line of wines, as it was inspired by the complexity and nuances of this riveting drama,” Cabral said. And also by visions of GOT fans lining up in the tasting room, crowds so vast only a fire-spouting dragon could scatter them. At around $20 retail, Game of Thrones pinot noir won’t break the bank, and it’s a welcome departure from the prevailing trend toward premium pricing in the American pinot world. 

I decided not to wait for Thanksgiving (or the beginning of “GOT’s” final season) to crack open the pinot. Inquisitive minds want to know how it tastes, right?

Perhaps HBO will find a way to run me through like Robb Stark for saying this, but I hope this isn’t considered the best wine in the Seven Kingdoms. My assessment:

Color: A pale violet, like a good Burgundian pinot should be. Think of Winterfell snow lightly dusted with blood.

Nose: Bland and veiled, like Littlefinger’s outward appearance.

On the palate: Tame at the start with hints of wildness coming up later – exactly like Sansa Stark.

Finish: A full and noble flavor that cuts off unexpectedly, like Sansa’s father, Lord Eddard Stark.

All in all, I can imagine Tyrion knocking back a flagon or two of this wine, but he wouldn’t be hoarding it for himself either. Would he trade it all for an ounce or two of wildfire? Definitely.


BUY: Game of Thrones Collectible Wine Glass Set (House Stark & House Targaryen)


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The Battle of Old World versus New World Wine

People often come into our shop and, after explaining they are looking for a nice bottle, immediately offer up the caveat “But I don’t really know anything about wine!” These are some of my very favorite people to help. The vast and endlessly complex world of wine is as yet unknown to them, yet the possibilities are still endless.

“I just want something I like,” they tell me. Here, here.

This can of course be a tricky thing to determine for someone else, and even for yourself. Where to begin? How to describe and define those elusive elements of enjoyment that you get from a bottle of wine that you like? Palate and structure analysis and even common flavor descriptors may not be helpful in this situation without a baseline reference, but hey, we’ve got to start somewhere.

I often like to begin with one of my favorite elemental distinctions: Old World vs. New World. While this concept is rudimentary for anyone in the industry, its meaning is not self-explanatory. It is a relatively unknown concept to many general consumers, even some that have a decent amount of basic knowledge. 

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Living in California is both a blessing and a curse; we have a plethora of world class winemakers in our backyard. Yet for many California residents, this is all they know. However, this simple distinction between Old World and New World helps to define in a very broad sense two particular styles of wine.

This is where it becomes exciting - at least for a geek like me. I'll use this distinction to help my customer find a unique and exciting bottle of wine they will enjoy at any price point.

Geographically, the Old World refers to Europe and the Mediterranean basin. The New World refers to everywhere else they make wine. Stylistically, Old World wines tend to have higher acidity, lower relative alcohol, and - most significantly - more minerality and earthy components on the nose and palate.

New World wines tend to have more generous fruit, slightly acidity and generally more alcohol. My straightforward explanation is: stick your nose in the glass. If you smell fruit first it’s probably New World. If you smell dirt or rocks or other funk, it’s probably Old World.

Of course, these days, with so much progress in both the technological and philosophical sectors of wine making, we are starting to see more crossover in these two styles from a geographical standpoint. Yet the styles themselves still maintain their original distinction.

So, what makes Old World wines old world? A lot of it has to do with the climate. European wine-growing regions often have a cooler climate and a slightly shorter growing season. This means grapes grown in these regions will naturally retain more acidity and produce less sugar – which also leads to lower alcohol levels – than grapes grown in warmer regions.

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The old world also has history. Grapevines have been cultivated for the purpose of making wine since the Roman era, on the oldest soils of our planet. This ‘terroir’ is something that is unique to the Old World and cannot be replicated or faked. And, of course, with all that history comes an awful lot of regulation. Old world countries have some of the strictest laws out there regarding how a producer can make his or her wine. These laws help to identify and regulate quality and expectations, and also create a huge headache for the consumer who doesn’t know how to interpret them.

Overall, if you like to taste in your wines a bit of tartness, leafy forest floor or wet rock minerality, then Old World wines are probably right up your alley.

Given all that, the New World seems like a pretty big place…and it is! So-named for the fact that all these areas were initially colonized by the Europeans, and thus christened as nouveau. This is also an important fact to consider because the species of vine we make wine from is indigenous to Europe, meaning that these colonizers had to transport the vines to their new outposts in order to continue their vinous enjoyment.

So, New World winemakers got a later start to the game. Specifically in where they chose to plant their vines, discovering the best areas that produce the highest quality grapes, and attempting to use European techniques that maybe didn’t work as well with their new environment.

The New World has indeed evolved into an entrepreneur’s paradise! Free of the traditions of Old World winemaking, producers can explore, experiment and define their own style of wine with their entirely unique geographical situation. Much of the New World tends to have a warmer climate, resulting in naturally riper grapes that yield higher levels of sugar, and therefore higher potential alcohol as well.

One often defining through-line of New World wines is an identifiable purity of, and focus on, fruit. Pure fruit on the nose and pure fruit on the palate. It is a point of pride to many New World winemakers to protect this expression of fruit quality in their wines. New Zealand is an excellent example of a New World country as a whole that often seeks the purest expression possible of their fruit.

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There are also a lot of New World wines that experiment in other ways through enhancements available on the market, such as additives, shortcuts and fancy gadgets – options not available in most of those regulated Old World areas. This, combined with the fact that these such “experiments” are usually not required to be disclosed to the consumer, can lead to extreme variation of quality from any given New World region.

However, if you tend to enjoy fruit forward, easy drinking wines that are lush on the palate, then New World is likely your style.

Does that mean one style is better than the other? Absolutely not! When it comes down to the nitty gritty, drinking what makes you happy is the right thing to drink. Yet, it’s always great to branch out and try something new every once in a while. You will likely be surprised. This is an easy assignment for newbies to wine, but an even better challenge for consummate wine professionals stuck in their ways.

If you are a die-hard white Burgundy fan, grab a bottle of Margaret River Chardonnay one night just to test it out. Big, bold Napa Cab drinker all the way? Head over to Rioja and check out a Gran Reserva. Or look around for the grape you have never heard of from the country you didn’t know made wine and have that bottle with dinner tonight. Even ask your local wine shop attendant, they’ll likely be chomping at the bit to offer you several new options.

The world of wine is vast and fabulous; our job is to enjoy as much of it as possible while we can.

From Sommelier to Winemaker Meet Nicholas Ducos

Nicholas Ducos has been providing joy to our readers with articles on variety of wine topics from his certified sommelier point of view - but over the last year Ducos has expanded his dominance in the game by becoming a winemaker for a William Heritage Winery in New Jersey (yes, Jersey!). He's doing  experimental winemaking as well as bringing back some traditional techniques. We caught up with our dude to reintroduce him to our audience. Enjoy!

Take us back to your earliest experience with wine, where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? 

It’s embarrassing but here it goes. I went to The Culinary Institute of America for college. As you know, CIA is where some of the most iconic chefs learned how to cook and build the fundamentals to be really great in the Food and Booze industry. Icons like Anthony Bourdain, Charlie Palmer and just about every freaking Celebrity Chef on T.V. is an alumni. They required us to take a mandatory wine class with three weeks of tasting the finest wines from Burgundy, Germany, Napa Valley, and more. 

While I was busy throwing back Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux, poppin' bubbles like it’s my birthday and chasing tail across the room, wine quizzes were being thrown my way once a week and I thought I was nailing them. Actually I knew I was! Turns out… I wasn’t and failed my 1st college course. However, $4,000 later and a spit bucket by my side I passed with an A- and never looked back. This was the beginning of my journey in wine. 

There is so much to do in the wine industry, what do you do? 

I love this question. I am the Assistant Winemaker at William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ. Now before you ask…yes we make wine in New Jersey and yes it is quite delicious. My day to day changes greatly. Some days I am running around the vineyards like a mad man collecting grapes to evaluate the Brix (sugar) and PH (Acidity). Other times I spend hours cleaning barrels, filtering wine and doing lab work.

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What gets your excited in the morning to go to work? 

I think the thing that really kicks me into high gear is my commute. I live in Philadelphia (The Most Underrated City in America) but I work on a farm so as I drive over the river and through the woods. You magically go from the hustle and bustle of city living into a very green lush farmland with cows, produce and, most importantly, vineyards. You would never expect it!

Your top 3 favorite wine regions

Easy question…

- Marlbrough, New Zealand. So much more than just Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of great Pinot Noir and Gewurtztraminer.

- Long Island, New York. World class Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon being grown. Same latitude as Bordeaux but with nicer beaches!

- Bouzeron, France. A little commune in Burgundy that produces minerality-driven wines from the grape Aligoté. The stuff is just sexy winemaking, man. And at a fraction of the cost of high-end burgundy.

What do think about this canned wine movement? 

How can you hate it? It’s booze on the go. I love it so much that we decided to make it here in NJ. We’re the 1st winery in New Jersey to make a canned wine! Obviously... it was Rosé.

What’s the most memorable meal you and your girlfriend had recently, and what wine did you pair with it?

My girlfriend is Italian and there is this amazing old school tradition where every Sunday you invite all your friends and family over to eat tons of food and drink bottles and bottles of wine until you can’t tell the difference between your uncle Giuseppe's left leg and the dog. 

Ironically this event is called “Sunday Gravy”. That being said, we held this grand tradition at the house last week and it surely was a rager! Five courses of pasta, meatballs and cheese followed by some homemade wine I made in a garage with a few old school Italian guys in their 60’s. We only make magnums because no one ever drinks just one bottle of wine in this circle.

Let’s play a quick game, we’ll give you 3 celebrities and you tell us a wine that matches their personality

Beyonce: Cava! She’s got that mystery to her that is very powerful yet under the radar. 

Kylie Jenner:  Is she even allowed to drink yet? She can be a bottle of Barefoot bubbly…..DO I NEED TO EXPLAIN? I hate Barefoot… 

President Trump: A warm can of PBR…

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Follow Nicholas on Instagram @somm_ist

Sommelier Alex Anderson Tells Us About Okanagan Valley Riesling

The Okanagan is an exciting up-and-coming region in the province of British Columbia in Canada. The terroir screams diversity and tension - which is understandable given the fact that it teeters right on the 50th parallel.

One of the promising grapes of the region is Riesling. It shows best in the Northernmost sub regions of the Okanagan Valley and is often found basking in the sun on sloped sites overlooking Lake Okanagan. Riesling grapes thrive in the Okanagan because of the vast diurnal swings and cool moderating breezes that are created by the Lake; ensuring the grapes reach sugar ripeness while still attaining lively acidity. 

The Okanagan also boasts some of the longest sunshine hours during the growing season in the world due to its Northern latitude. Let's take a look at some of the best Riesling it has to offer:

Tantalus’ Old Vines Riesling

A winner for all Riesling lovers. The vines that grow this wine were planted in 1978 on a promising slope in Kelowna, British Columbia. The Tantalus Riesling guarantees a deep and concentrated experience — mouthwatering to say the least! Wet stone and slatey flavours balanced by floral tones, a limey spine and ripe apple flavours that are sure you want to pour more. One of my favourites in the whole province.

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Synchromesh Winery’s Bob Hancock Riesling

Synchromesh winery maintains a well respected commitment to minimal intervention with their wines. All their wine growing and making practices are done with utmost integrity to the planet and to showcase the fruit in its truest (and inherently tasty) state. It’s easy to agree with winemaker Alan Dickinson’s philosophy when the resulting wines are this tasty! The grapes from the Bob Hancock vineyard are grown on the northern tip of of the Naramata Bench overlooking  breathtaking views of Lake Okanagan and the city of Penticton. This wine is bright with puckering lime, fresh apricot and a touch of RS that makes you crave another sip. 

Quail’s Gate BMV Riesling

This off-dry beauty is the perfect companion to South East Asian food that has a little kick of spice and deserves a wine that can kick it right back. The Bouchrie Mountain Vineyard (BMV) in Kelowna has grown this fruit to speak to the terroir of British Columbia and proves its ability to age. This is a wine that has the delicate floral tones and bright acidity we all crave in Riesling. A wine to enjoy now and stock up on for later!


Alex Anderson is a Vancouverite with a passion for wine, communication and design. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, holds a WSET Advanced certificate with distinction, and was the runner up in the 2018 Aspiring Sommelier BC competition. You can connect and follow her vibrant and insightful wine endeavours on Instagram @wine.with.alexx 

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Barolo: Northern Italy's Sexiest Wine?

There’s something intoxicating about a piece of music that baits you with one chord, and then leads you like an aroused schoolgirl into something completely unexpected. 

The likes of Coltrane & Zeppelin come to mind when thinking of music that keeps you on your toes, zig-zagging you around until you’re dizzy with melodious ecstasy. The most primal of pleasures lend to that kind of experience; music, sex, and the most hedonistic pleasure of them all, wine. While many have a hard time verbalizing that journey, a bottle of wine of that caliber is hard to forget.

Barolo is a region in northeastern Italy synonymous with the grape Nebbiolo, as it is the only red grape the region grows & (like Burgundian Pinot Noir) is never blended. It is a wine that evokes a kind of existential ebb & flow. It reels you in with notes of rose petal, lilac & tar. 15 minutes later, it’s dried mulberries, fresh tobacco leaf & dusty leather boots. 


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It is equal parts sensual & barbaric. Like a woman who knows how to direct her lover, Barolo evolves more every time you lift the glass. As if the bouquet wasn’t enough to entice, the sheer mindfuck of the palate redirects your senses.

While Nebbiolo’s thin skin doesn’t cause it to act as controlling (read: unsexy) as your self-conscious fucktard ex, it does cause it to create a wine as pale in color as Pinot, yet packs the tannic punch of a Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Verdot. (Tannin creates the effect of dryness on the palate, sucking all the moisture from it like that sixth cup of black coffee you had this morning.) 

Most wines with high tannin come from thick-skinned grapes as that’s where tannin is primarily found. There is tannin present in seeds & stems, but high-quality wines are de-stemmed since their tannin is much harsher than grape skin tannin. Anthocyanins are the chemical component that dictates a wine’s color intensity, and thin-skinned grapes have low anthocyathnin’s, just like they (usually) have low tannin.


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When blind tasting, you first analyze a wine’s color & opacity before even smelling it. Seeing a pale colored wine sets your brain on a path. (Imagine hearing the Black Keys first couple, very blues driven albums...) You’re already racing towards Pinot Noir/Gamay/Cab Franc/Grenache, then you get hit hard with that mouth-draining tannin. (And then hearing the Brothers album & Dan Auerbach’s falsetto...) MINDFUCK. 

A young Nebbiolo reminds me of my brother's garage punk band when they started out; each instrument competing with the other, none able to stand on their own or come together in cohesion. An aged Nebbiolo, on the other hand, can be orchestral; every individual aspect of the wine coalescing together in unison like Amy Winehouse’s voice enveloping your ear canals. Pure fucking magic. 

And thus, the love affair with Barolo continues...

Top 10 Wine Bargains for Summer 2018

Summer is almost upon us. It’s time to start stocking warm-weather wines for the patio, picnic and poolside.

I’ve been diving into a flood of whites and rosés over the last few weeks, and I’ve selected from that gushing inventory 10 summer wines that are worth trying. Some are special-occasion beauties; others show well for the price and could easily be your seasonal backyard wine, since buying a case won’t break the bank. Prices are best available from the usual local sources such as Hi-Time, Costco and Total Wine & More.

Amelia Brut Rosé Crémant de Bordeaux  ($19): Made from hand-harvested red grapes grown in the acclaimed Bordeaux region, this blend of 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc is a summer charmer. Amelia ages en tirage (on the lees) for 18 months, double the nine months required by law, giving it aromatic and textural complexity. You’ll also notice nuanced fruit components with a touch of toasty brioche.

Anaba 2015 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast ($36): This harvest’s low yield produced concentrated, bright fruit. You’ll get a bewitching duet of orange blossom and lemon custard on the nose. A strong acidic backbone combines with ripe fruit, lemon cream and sweet herb in a balanced finish. A great cool-climate California chardonnay from one of my favorite regions.

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Bodega de Edgar 2017 Albariño: ($24): This 100 percent Albariño from Paso Ono Vineyard, off Creston Road, in Paso Robles, is one of the area’s most coveted summer sippers. It’s fermented and aged in 100 percent stainless steel, and the result is a Spanish grape with a California accent: honey suckle, zesty lemon, honey and white floral notes. From one of Paso’s best smaller wineries, this beauty sells out quickly every year.


Editor's Note: Try this gold medal-winning limited production Cava from Spain. Can't buy in stores, rare to find online. Limited production, limited edition Antoni Gaudi print. Recommended by Our Somms. We're working directly with the producer to offer this to you via our partner Argaux Wine Club from Laguna Beach. http://bit.ly/Cava4pk Perfect for summer BBQs or for taking to a friend's house. 4 bottles $65! 

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The Calling Dutton Ranch 2016 Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($30): Intensely aromatic with notes of honeysuckle, sweet lemon and delicate rose. Crisp acidity is balanced with the vanilla signature of French oak on the palate. The lingering finish offers spicy toastiness that complements the fruit.

Daou 2016 Chardonnay ($15): A riot of flavors includes pear, lemon, passion fruit pineapple and banana. Even the nose is aggressive: honeysuckle, nutmeg, almond. But Daou’s Chardonnay isn’t just a frat party in a glass. It has a sumptuously silky texture and welcome acidity on the finish, and leaves a full, plush impression. Quite a talker for the price (you can sometimes find it for $11 at Costco). A great introductory wine from Paso’s flamboyant Bordeaux kings, the Daou brothers.

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Fleur de Mer Provence Rosé Vintage 2017 ($18): This pale pink beauty balances ripe fruit, bracing acidity and dry mineral finish. Red cherry, raspberry, white peach, lavender, grapefruit and warm-weather herbs, with a touch of salinity. The very definition of an elegant Provencal rosé. Also available in magnum size for $40 – a showy way to kick off a summer party.

Robert Mondavi 2016 Napa Valley Fume Blanc ($20): OK, so Robert Mondavi made up the name “Fume Blanc” to help goose the popularity of his dry-style Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is worthy of representing his legacy. Pithy, with grapefruit and lemon peel flavors, it’s deceptively crisp and light on the nose, offering a wealth of body and lushness on the palate, accented with nutmeg and peach. It includes 4 percent Sémillon, partly from the legendary To Kalon vineyard.

Rodney Strong 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($25): Normally I shy away from variations on rosé’s Provencal standards, but this rose of pinot noir pulled me in with its electrifying color. The enchantment continues with strawberry, white peach and jasmine on the nose and the palate. The finish is long and luxuriant. Sharply focused acidity but light of body, and it surprises you with a zesty lemon finish.

Saint Clair Family Estate 2017 Origin Series Sauvignon Blanc ($28): This worthy New Zealand winery has produced a persuasive example of the sauvignon blanc style from the little land Down Under. Origin Series introduces itself with a mysteriously bready nose, then opens up to rich hits of pineapple and guava with a grassy undertone. There’s a hint of saltiness riding on the long, lively finish.  And yes, there’s a bit of gooseberry, that distinctive New Zealand flavor.

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Smith Madrone 2015 Estate Grown Riesling ($30): An epic riesling from one of Napa’s best producers of this grape; Smith-Madrone has been growing riesling in the Spring Mountain District since 1971. Unlike the 2014 vintage, which was lush, deep and round, the 2015 is the very definition of racy. It is bright, clean and delicious with a solid core of minerality surrounded by grace notes of citrus fruit and honeysuckle.

Wine on Tap

An Illogical Argument Against Wine From the Tap. 

Keg wine served through bar-top taps has never caught on in the U.S., and I think I know the reason: romance.

Wine is surrounded by traditions, some of them indefensible. Is cork inherently better as a stopper than synthetic corks or twist-off tops? Of course not – but we still prefer it. We’re creatures of habit. That’s why we like that sleek bottle in front of us, reflecting the candlelight as talk turns intimate and the hour gets late.

In Europe, the wine-tap system has been around for decades; I remember seeing them everywhere during trips there in the 1980s. On a visit years ago to a bar in southern France, the local Beaujolais was served to me directly from a big wooden keg sitting right on the bar.

But for some reason, wine taps have never been widely accepted here, despite attempts to make them trendy in the 1970s and ’80s. I’ve seen them in only a handful of Orange County (California) bars over the last 18 months or so.

But What About the Taste of Keg Wine?

Many in the industry claim that wine stored in kegs is better, on average, than the same product in a bottle. Corks can carry impurities which undermine the taste of a wine. So can oxidation, which happens when a wine bottle is opened and the unfinished portion is exposed to air. When a keg is tapped, the void space inside instantly becomes pressurized by an inert gas, which prevents oxygen from coming in contact with the wine.

There’s the nagging perception that wine from a keg is plonk. But respected wineries such as Au Bon Climat and Qupé are getting into the practice, so that argument doesn’t really hold.

True, not all wine benefits from keg storage. Many require bottle aging. But for wine that’s meant to be consumed when it’s young, kegs are ideal.

Still, where is the romance? I know, I know, it’s not a logical argument. But to me, part of the pleasure of wine drinking involves observing its traditions and rituals – even the ones that make no sense.


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Pinot & Peach: A Chat With Wine Expert Aleah James

We sat down with ILTG's newest contributor, Georgia's own Aleah James, to learn about the overlap of bourbon and wine, and why Portugal needs your attention ASAP. 

Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? 

The earliest wine memory I can recall is when I was studying abroad in Spain junior year of college. I can remember sitting at an Italian restaurant, La Tagliatella, across from Santiago Bernabeu (the football stadium) with some of my classmates as we ordered a bottle of red wine to share...because why not? The restaurant was mostly empty at the time and we had a wonderful time just being together, in Spain!

When did you realize you wanted to make a career in wine? 

This is a relatively new realization for me. I took some "Introduction to Wine" classes at the Atlanta Wine School two years ago, and enjoyed them so much that I picked up a side hustle selling and performing in-home tastings for ONEHOPE wine. I enjoyed that so much, I decided to pursue my WSET Level II certification. Once that was achieved, I started to consider where to go from there. 

My professional background is in corporate learning, and I love encouraging people to learn new things. A career in wine education seemed like the perfect blend of skill and passion!

What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  

There is something for everyone. I believe that 100%! And you don't need to "know" everything about wine to enjoy it - I'm constantly discovering new grapes, wineries, wine regions I knew nothing about. The wine world is vast and dynamic, growing and changing. Opportunities and new wines to try are endless!

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Most underrated wine region?

Portugal in general has a lot to offer that I feel we rarely hear anything about, particularly in contrast to its neighbors Spain and France. Vinho Verdes are so refreshing and usually wildly affordable, it's a wonder more people aren't talking about them. 

What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?

I'd personally love to see more cross collaboration with whiskey/bourbon distilleries to yield more whiskey/bourbon-barrel aged wines - bring the spirit drinkers into the wine space, and vice versa. I know a local brewery that is making a pinot noir barrel-aged belgian tripel, so cross collaborations with craft breweries seems quite likely too. 

That, and I want to see more sparkling red wine!! I've never tried it and I'm so intrigued. Who doesn't love a good bubble?

What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?

I love visiting wineries (the tastings! the learning! the views!), but truly any experience where a bottle is shared among friends and/or family is beautiful to me. 

Your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs and why?

“What to Drink with What you Eat” - Andrew Dornenburg and Karen Page

Particularly for those who are just learning to pair food with wine (or beer or spirits for that matter!), this is a great guide to have on-hand. There is a section organized by beverage, as well as a section organized by food, so no matter what you're building your meal around you have a guide to help you pair the perfect food or beverage with it. I love that it's helpful for wine-o's and foodies alike. 

“The World Atlas of Wine” - Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson

My husband gave me the 7th edition of this incredible encyclopedia a few Christmases ago. For the true wine enthusiast, this atlas is a great way to familiarize yourself with the wine regions of the world including current maps, geographical information, native varietals, and more. 

Wine Spectator Magazine & Online 

I received this magazine subscription as a gift, and I follow WS on social media as well. My favorite aspect of what they offer (and they offer a LOT) is actually the bi-weekly "What Am I Tasting?" wine quiz on the Learn Wine section of their website. These quizzes are a fun way to test your knowledge to identify a wine's varietal, country of origin, age, and appellation solely based off of the tasting notes. 

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Let’s play a quick game. We’ll give you 3 actors/actresses. You tell us the grape they match with: 

- Kristen Wiig - Chardonnay - The most versatile white wine for the lady that could play probably any character.

- Tom Hardy - Syrah - Broody, tannic and formidable. A Cote Rotie Syrah could include flavors of smoked meat, tar, and leather...which basically describes Fury Road, so...

- Jennifer Lawrence - Brut Rose - Bright and quirky with dry sass and sarcasm, but also may be elegant when the situation calls for it. 

How Trefethen Stays Cool After 50 Years of Napa Winemaking

Trefethen Family Vineyards, one of Napa’s most venerable labels, is marking its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, they’ve been throwing some swanky parties, and I was lucky enough to be invited to one earlier this month at the Pelican Grill.

The highlight of the four-course lunch was the wine, of course. Chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons, Trefethen’s flagship varieties, some of them ancient enough to be pulled from the winery’s library. How did they taste, you ask? More on that later.

Trefethen is one of Napa’s modern-era pioneers. It began as a retirement project when Kaiser Industries executive Eugene Trefethen got his gold watch and moved to Napa Valley. In 1968 he purchased six small farms and a tumbledown 19th-century winery, Eshcol, creating a 600-acre wine estate. At the time, there were fewer than 20 wineries in Napa Valley.

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Eugene’s plan was to sell all his grapes to winemakers, but his son John had other ideas. While studying at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, John started experimenting in the basement of his parents’ Napa home.  

After several failures as a winemaker, John improved, and he and his wife Janet produced Trefethen Vineyards’ first commercial wine in 1973. Only a few years later, Trefethen’s 1976 Chardonnay earned the Best Chardonnay in the World honor at the 1979 Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in Paris. After that, Trefethen was part of the wine world’s upper echelons.

During the pre-meal mingle I chatted with John and his son Lorenzo, who has become an eloquent spokesman for Trefethen and did most of the public speaking that day. A graduate of Stanford University, Lorenzo joined the family business in 2007 and has spent several summers learning the trade, including a harvest at Bordeaux’s Chateau Petrus. Lorenzo works with the marketing and sales departments, focusing on direct and export sales.

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Here are some excerpts from Lorenzo’s talk:

As an estate winery, how do you keep pace with consumers’ changing tastes?

There has been an expansion in the interests of the consumer. Certainly with my generation there’s more experimentation in terms of what they’re trying: other countries, orange wine. 

While there are certain big trends, for example rosé at the moment, the wines that do really well over time are the ones that have that built-in street cred. 

So your plan is to stick to what you know and avoid reinventing yourself in a big way. 

That’s always been our approach. As an estate producer we can’t turn the vineyard over and chase any kind of trend. We’ve always made what was, by our judgment, the best wine of its kind in the area. Being an estate winery, for many years that may have hampered us. But it’s certainly one of our great traits right now. 

We sort of bridged the gap from upstart, when Napa was new, to established name. Now we’re a classic: a brand that is getting more recognition for how true we’ve been to the principles that we laid down at the very beginning, which are the principles of great winemaking.

How do you communicate the wisdom of that logical if unsexy approach to today’s consumer? How do you explain, for example, the advantages of estate wine?

That’s something that I’m thinking about right now. The word “estate” … consumers often have no idea what that means. It sounds a little pretentious. There’s also an inherent dignity in the term. We just need to be better at communicating. 

“Estate” is like a well-kept secret. Some consumers would love to know more about it. I think there’s a really strong story there that starts with, “Did you know most wineries buy fruit from other people?”

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What’s your stand on organic farming and biodynamic farming?

We like the core tenets of both, which are really about creating a farm that sustains itself. And so we are, at our core, both organic and biodynamic; we like to actually say that we’re beyond organic and biodynamic. We’re a couple of months away from our organic certification, but we decided actually not to pursue it because we discovered some ironies in the system – we could do it greener if we worked outside the system. 

Organic farming has been around now for 50 years. We did things 50 years ago that are considered groundbreaking now, such as the installation of reservoirs and a wastewater treatment facility. 

How does the rest of the valley compare to Trefethen in that regard?

Napa in general is getting greener and greener. The growers historically have been the biggest advocates for organic farming and environmental protection. 

The Napa Green program (a comprehensive environmental certification program for vineyards and wineries in the Napa Valley) is doing very well. Just over 90 percent of the county’s acreage is under some form of protection from development. 

What makes your winery unique?

We are more sustainable than many of our neighbors because of who we are – a family-owned, multi-generational company. We’ve always worked to improve the land and pass something on to the next generation. 

That has evolved slowly over time – our understanding of what is sustainable. The thinking that we have now has been developing from good practices we started 50 years ago. 

The Trefethen wines we sampled:

1988 Chardonnay: Sherry-like, raisin-y and deeply honeyed, but still has that characteristic Trefethen chardonnay fruit taste.

1996 Chardonnay: Beautifully perfumed, balanced, light in viscosity. A wonderful, quite dry finish.

2001 Chardonnay: Large in the nose. Slightly over-ripe. A bit sweeter than the 1996, with lots of fruit.

2016 Chardonnay: Full-bodied, balanced, good acidity, not too much oak. Finish is quite long.

1991 Cabernet Sauvignon (8 percent merlot): Notes of cocoa and chocolate. Dry, slightly bitter finish.

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon (10 percent merlot): Lots of fruit promised in the nose. Smooth, balanced, with definite spice box notes.

2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (8 percent merlot, 1 percent cabernet franc, 1 percent petit verdot): Violets and floral perfume in the nose. Big, full mouth feel. Lightly oaked, hint of black olive. Finish isn’t huge.

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (6 percent petit verdot, 5 percent merlot, 4 percent malbec): A bit closed and ascetic. Not ready yet.


Acting Chops & Grape Fluency: Meet Sommelier Sasha DeJaynes

Recently, Sasha DeJaynes lended rich insight on choosing Old World vs. New World vino. She's got a special penchant for helping amateurs and experts alike choose a grape flavor akin to their palate preference.

So we wanted to get some more background on Sasha - including the kinds of questions she gets at LCA Wine, and the role Franzia plays in her appreciation for fine wine.

I ain't lying about that last part. Check it out:

Take us back to your earliest experience with wine, where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? 

I definitely come from a family that enjoys imbibing, so there has always been wine and beer in my world. Looking back now specifically with wine, the earliest memory I have from when I was 5 or 6 is of my parents' boxed Franzia in my Grandmother's fridge. We would always have BBQs and get togethers at their house, and there was always Franzia. 

My parents were never shy about letting us try stuff, and as a kid you usually hate the taste of alcohol anyway, but I remember not hating it because it was pretty sweet. Still didn't really like it though. Fortunately now both my and my parents' palates have matured to enjoy some more complex stuff, but seeing boxes of Franzia always makes me nostalgic.

What were you doing professionally before you got into the wine world? 

I was an actor and performer in Chicago, doing mostly fantastic storefront theatre. I was also part of the burlesque revival and used to perform and compete all over the world. I loved every minute of it, but unfortunately none of it was particularly lucrative, so as many actors before me I also waited tables and bartended.  

Through that I had exposure to some pretty spectacular wines and the art of craft cocktailing, which peaked my interest and made me want to learn more. Of course, when you scratch the surface of wine you uncover this huge and majestic universe of endless pursuit, and I fell in head first and happy about it.

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What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  

The discovery of new flavors, places and people. There's always so much that you don't know, so the world of wine gives you endless opportunities to learn new things and have remarkable sensory experiences wherever you are.  

We have tastings almost every day at the shop with distributors and producers, and every wine is a unique experience with a different story. I love the endless discovery.

What are some questions you get at the wine shop over and over again? 

I get a lot of questions about structure, people trying to understand what tannins are, or what acid is, what minerality is, terms they hear thrown around a lot but are still confused about. Understanding those elements are key to picking out the wines that you like, so answering those questions is a win for everyone. 

We are also pretty geeky at the wine shop, so our regular customers enjoy asking us about more technical things like soils, climate, winemaking techniques, stuff like that.

What do think about this canned wine movement? 

As someone who enjoys camping and hiking I am all for it, as long as the product within is quality. Packaging-wise it is convenient, easily transportable, secure and is great for storing wine in the short term. I would never age wine in a can, obviously, but for fresh, clean drink now wines I think it is great. It's also half a bottle of wine, which I think most people don't realize. 

The greatest hurdle is consumer perception; for most people canned wine = cheap wine, and they can balk at the price of higher quality wines packaged in aluminum. But I think the trend overall is bringing people around.

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The last 3 wines you drank (outside of work) and why, how were they?

Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Vin de France "Clos de la Bretonniere" 2015: my selection for a sunset duffy cruise, absolutely delicious and one of my favorite wines to drink right now and ever. Technically dry Vouvray by Jacky Blot, but since his facility is on the other side of the river has to be bottled as Vin de France. Outstanding.

Guado al Tasso by Marchesi Antinori, DOC 2016 Vermentino: best by the bottle option for an impromptu afternoon snack at an OK seafood joint. Delivered exactly as expected: fresh, clean and quaffable.

De Toren Z 2012: surprise take home from work to have with dinner. Elegant and rich right bank style Bordeaux blend from Stellenbosch. Complex and nuanced with ripe tannins and smooth texture. Really lovely.

Let’s play a quick game, we’ll give you 3 actors and you tell us a wine that pairs with their personality: 

Samuel L. Jackson: Triton Tinto de Toro 2016; rich, bold, dark and smooth with spicy bite.

Lucille Ball: Sommariva Prosecco Superiore Brut; bubbly, light, fun & classic.  Great anytime.

Margot Robbie: Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2016; tart, sharp, striking and Australian. Love it or hate it (but probably love it).

Tales From Week One of Wine Harvest

Happy harvest everyone!

For those who don’t know, we're smack in the middle of the 2018 grape harvest here at the winery. For winemakers, the grape harvest is really the reason we do this job. We wait and wait all year long watching the vines grow, pushing leaves and popping grapes. That, along with steaming barrels and cleaning tanks in preparation to make the next vintage better than the last's. 

In reality, winemaking is quite easy. You put some grapes in a bucket, add some yeast and wait a few weeks, press the grapes and voilà…God's gift to mankind has been created. However, making higher-end wines with balanced flavor, acidity and mouth-feel takes a little finesse. 

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The next few months will bring us many highs, many lows, sticky hands, tired feet and hopefully lots of cold beer! So how does one make wine? Well, please allow me to show you…

Week 1: Grape Samples, Cleaning and Picking!

Before we can just start pressing grapes, we have to pick some sample berries from the vines we think are almost ready. On the farm we have over 30 individual vineyards planted with over 13 varietals. So we we’re looking at Sugar, PH and Acid to determine if grapes are ready to pick. (Winemaker note: Sugar converts to alcohol, pH protects the wine and Acid helps the brightness and balance). 

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The team is also prepping for the grapes to come in, which means an outrageous amount of cleaning. They said winemaking is 90% cleaning and 10% drinking beer! Just cleaning out tanks and pulling out the harvest equipment took about an entire day. 

Earlier in the week we received nine, open-top fermenters from Napa to ferment our red wines. This makes sanitation a priority - not to mention painting the bottoms blue to match our current tanks. A sexy set of Burgundy barrels from France sailed in as well. Most importantly, the first round of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine…all within 48 hours.

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Stay tuned for updates on our progress!

Meet Italy's Most Promising, Young Sommelier

His Instagram is enough to make you drop everything and move to Capri. His job will make you sigh with jealousy. His Italian wine knowledge will make you look like an uninformed chump.

Andrea Zigrossi is an Italian sommelier that is living many of our daydreams. He selects wine for the lucky patrons of L'Olivio - a 2 Michelin star restaurant on the ridiculously gorgeous island of Capri.  

Showy and ambitious, a bit by nature and a bit for fun, the 26 year old has experienced a strong trajectory in the wine biz. Growing up and attending school in Rome, his initial step was in the world of catering via a stint in London. A year later he moved back to Rome and started working for some of the finest restaurants in the city, including the esteemed 3 Michelin star La Pergola

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Now, following educational adventures in Franciacorta and Venice, Andrea has landed in Capri, the unofficial ambassador of that Italian sommelier life through his Trotterwine posts. We wanted to get a bit more insight on Andrea's life and knowledge.


Decoding Italian Wine: A Beginner's Guide to Enjoying the Grapes, Regions, Practices and Culture of the "Land of Wine"


How did you choose the career path of a sommelier and why?

It is a world that has always fascinated me, but let's say that it was more this job that chose me. I started from the bottom, working as a dishwasher in London. But I wanted to get more involved with interacting and communicating with customers. 

So, once I returned to Rome, I had an interview with (the Roman restaurant) Antica Pesa, who's wine list was managed by Alessia Meli - once voted Italy's best sommelier. Although I knew nothing of this work at the time, I was hired as Assistant Sommelier only for my charisma.

You've had experiences in different places. What's the best memory?

I left my heart in Venice: a beautiful city, and the restaurant where I worked was fantastic. It is called Il Ridotto by Gianni Bonaccorsi and has 1 Michelin star. There was not the usual tension found in many Michelin starred restaurants, and the environment was very familiar. An amazing restaurant that I suggest everyone try if you visit Venice.

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You get asked this all the time. But I'll ask it yet again! What is your favorite wine?

Difficult question. There are many that I love and cherish very much. But the wine that I will always keep in my heart is Fontalloro, a Tuscan Sangiovese from the Felsinà winery, the first wine I sold in my career.

So what's next?

Travel, travel and travel. I love moving between cities and always working in different restaurants - to study the local culture, work techniques, know local wines, meet new colleagues and friends. In December I'm planning a move to Switzerland but it is not yet secure. I will let you know!


Decoding Italian Wine: A Beginner's Guide to Enjoying the Grapes, Regions, Practices and Culture of the "Land of Wine"


The Battle of Old World versus New World Wine

People often come into our shop and, after explaining they are looking for a nice bottle, immediately offer up the caveat “But I don’t really know anything about wine!” These are some of my very favorite people to help. The vast and endlessly complex world of wine is as yet unknown to them, yet the possibilities are still endless.

“I just want something I like,” they tell me. Here, here.

This can of course be a tricky thing to determine for someone else, and even for yourself. Where to begin? How to describe and define those elusive elements of enjoyment that you get from a bottle of wine that you like? Palate and structure analysis and even common flavor descriptors may not be helpful in this situation without a baseline reference, but hey, we’ve got to start somewhere.

I often like to begin with one of my favorite elemental distinctions: Old World vs. New World. While this concept is rudimentary for anyone in the industry, its meaning is not self-explanatory. It is a relatively unknown concept to many general consumers, even some that have a decent amount of basic knowledge. 

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Living in California is both a blessing and a curse; we have a plethora of world class winemakers in our backyard. Yet for many California residents, this is all they know. However, this simple distinction between Old World and New World helps to define in a very broad sense two particular styles of wine.

This is where it becomes exciting - at least for a geek like me. I'll use this distinction to help my customer find a unique and exciting bottle of wine they will enjoy at any price point.

Geographically, the Old World refers to Europe and the Mediterranean basin. The New World refers to everywhere else they make wine. Stylistically, Old World wines tend to have higher acidity, lower relative alcohol, and - most significantly - more minerality and earthy components on the nose and palate.

New World wines tend to have more generous fruit, slightly acidity and generally more alcohol. My straightforward explanation is: stick your nose in the glass. If you smell fruit first it’s probably New World. If you smell dirt or rocks or other funk, it’s probably Old World.

Of course, these days, with so much progress in both the technological and philosophical sectors of wine making, we are starting to see more crossover in these two styles from a geographical standpoint. Yet the styles themselves still maintain their original distinction.

So, what makes Old World wines old world? A lot of it has to do with the climate. European wine-growing regions often have a cooler climate and a slightly shorter growing season. This means grapes grown in these regions will naturally retain more acidity and produce less sugar – which also leads to lower alcohol levels – than grapes grown in warmer regions.

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The old world also has history. Grapevines have been cultivated for the purpose of making wine since the Roman era, on the oldest soils of our planet. This ‘terroir’ is something that is unique to the Old World and cannot be replicated or faked. And, of course, with all that history comes an awful lot of regulation. Old world countries have some of the strictest laws out there regarding how a producer can make his or her wine. These laws help to identify and regulate quality and expectations, and also create a huge headache for the consumer who doesn’t know how to interpret them.

Overall, if you like to taste in your wines a bit of tartness, leafy forest floor or wet rock minerality, then Old World wines are probably right up your alley.

Given all that, the New World seems like a pretty big place…and it is! So-named for the fact that all these areas were initially colonized by the Europeans, and thus christened as nouveau. This is also an important fact to consider because the species of vine we make wine from is indigenous to Europe, meaning that these colonizers had to transport the vines to their new outposts in order to continue their vinous enjoyment.

So, New World winemakers got a later start to the game. Specifically in where they chose to plant their vines, discovering the best areas that produce the highest quality grapes, and attempting to use European techniques that maybe didn’t work as well with their new environment.

The New World has indeed evolved into an entrepreneur’s paradise! Free of the traditions of Old World winemaking, producers can explore, experiment and define their own style of wine with their entirely unique geographical situation. Much of the New World tends to have a warmer climate, resulting in naturally riper grapes that yield higher levels of sugar, and therefore higher potential alcohol as well.

One often defining through-line of New World wines is an identifiable purity of, and focus on, fruit. Pure fruit on the nose and pure fruit on the palate. It is a point of pride to many New World winemakers to protect this expression of fruit quality in their wines. New Zealand is an excellent example of a New World country as a whole that often seeks the purest expression possible of their fruit.

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There are also a lot of New World wines that experiment in other ways through enhancements available on the market, such as additives, shortcuts and fancy gadgets – options not available in most of those regulated Old World areas. This, combined with the fact that these such “experiments” are usually not required to be disclosed to the consumer, can lead to extreme variation of quality from any given New World region.

However, if you tend to enjoy fruit forward, easy drinking wines that are lush on the palate, then New World is likely your style.

Does that mean one style is better than the other? Absolutely not! When it comes down to the nitty gritty, drinking what makes you happy is the right thing to drink. Yet, it’s always great to branch out and try something new every once in a while. You will likely be surprised. This is an easy assignment for newbies to wine, but an even better challenge for consummate wine professionals stuck in their ways.

If you are a die-hard white Burgundy fan, grab a bottle of Margaret River Chardonnay one night just to test it out. Big, bold Napa Cab drinker all the way? Head over to Rioja and check out a Gran Reserva. Or look around for the grape you have never heard of from the country you didn’t know made wine and have that bottle with dinner tonight. Even ask your local wine shop attendant, they’ll likely be chomping at the bit to offer you several new options.

The world of wine is vast and fabulous; our job is to enjoy as much of it as possible while we can.