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Interview with Oscar Seaton Jr. of Seatpocket Wines

Wine mingles with musical talent. We've seen the likes of Slayer, Metallica, John Legend, The Rolling Stones, E40, Dave Mathews, etc. They've all succumbed to the powers that are wine. Now, here's a name we don't hear often: Oscar Seaton Jr. 

Who is he? Well, you've definitely heard his rhythm before. He's an amazing drummer with an exceptional lineup of artists and movies he's been involved with in his professional career.

Now you're about to experience some of his influence in wine:

Hello Oscar! We know very little about Seatpocket Wine. What can you tell us about its origins? 

Of course! It really is a simple story! It actually started as a conversation with my good friend, April Richmond, a few years ago when I asked if she thought having my own wine would be a good idea. After looking at the pro's and con's, I decided to go for it! 

Our initial focus, aside from costs and logistics, was the brand and how we could create a complete experience that intertwined music and wine. We settled on using my nickname as a drummer, "Seatpocket", and decided that each wine would have a music pairing and would be unique in style and varietal.


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Professionally, you’re now entering another playing field. Is there a significant move that brought you closer to the wine world that we should know more about?

YES! I've always loved wine and knew I wanted to do something in that industry, but I had no idea what or how to start. 

April started a wine business several years ago. Watching her success and talking to her about the industry over the years led me to take the leap with her. I probably wouldn't be doing any of this if it weren't for her. She brings the experience, background and knowledge along with being our Sommelier and winemaker.


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Music and wine are something we talk a lot about and you’re truly bringing both universes into a bottle. We want to know what fuels your passion for music and wine.

I think passion can come and go, I have more of a love for music and wine than a passion. Love is continuous. My love for both is what keeps me really excited about them everyday. They're both so similar in terms of the emotions they evoke and how we use both to celebrate, relax, get hyped up, etc.

Where did the main sources of grapes come from?

We sourced grapes from 3 different California regions. The Merlot grapes are from Santa Barbara county, the Chenin Blanc grapes are from Lodi, and the Rosé uses Grenache grapes from the Central Coast. 


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What processes went into making Seatpocket Wine?  

We didn't do anything outside of the normal wine making processes. We did use Eastern European oak for the Merlot which has helped maintain a full body that doesn't feel heavy on the palate. The Chenin Blanc has slightly riper grapes that gives it the beautiful aromatics we were specifically going for, without the heavy sweetness. Our Rosé is all old school Saignee method using Grenache grapes.


What was the most important factor in making the Merlot? In other words, what did you have to taste in the Merlot to say, “YES. This is me.”

I really wanted a Pinot Noir at first, but the Merlot won me over. I wanted something that was dry, dark, smooth, rich but still somewhat light and easy to drink. Not an easy order. 


Your #Rhythmandwine tag will be buzzing real soon, where do you expect to find your bottles traveling to?

We'll be on the road with our Rhythm & Wine events throughout California this summer. We will also be pouring at a few other events across the country and we're working on distribution in Illinois and Georgia! 


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Be sure to visit the Seatpocket Wines site where you can find their 2015 Chenin Blanc and 2014 Merlot!

First Time Drinking Wine - Wine Mom & the Critic Tell All

Everyone has their first time. For some it’s magical, but for many it’s something not to be repeated. A popular question from viewers of our Wine Mom & the Critic show is “When was the first time you drank wine, and what was the first wine you ever bought?” 

Wine Mom Eva Chavez and the Critic Paul Hodgins reveal their first times. 

Wine Mom’s First Time

So don't judge me! I just turned 21 and knew nothing about wine. One random weeknight, this guy I was dating (he also knew nothing about wine, but wanted to act ‘sophisticated’) tells me "Come in my jacuzzi. Let's go have a great night. I got us some wine, I'm going to talk dirty…” blah blah blah. I go over and he does a big reveal of his bottle. It was smaller than regular wine bottles which I thought was strange. He then pours the wine into a Solo cup. A red Solo cup. 

I drink it and I think, "Wow, this is so sweet, it’s amazing." We’re in the jacuzzi, it’s getting hot, and the next thing I know I'm pounding the wine. You know what it was? Port.

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He gave me Port, for my first wine. As you know, Port is fortified with a spirit, is very sweet (a dessert wine), high in alcohol, and drunk in tiny cups, not 8oz Solo cups. So I'm in the jacuzzi drinking Port wine thinking I'm fancy as f*** and saying, "Oh, this is amazing. I love it, it's fruity, it's delicious, it's swe. .,” -  I threw up all over his jacuzzi mid-sentence. Needless to say we broke up. Tiny bottle dude had to go.

The first wine I ever bought for myself was a magnum of Woodbridge Merlot. Ballin’ at $5.99. Drank it with my sister and a friend. The friend threw up. 

The Critics’s First Time

It was the 70s, I was home from college. On a day I was alone, and had the munchies so I raided my uncle’s fridge. In it was a bottle of wine. The wine was in a basket. I thought, “I’m an older, smarter, and distinguished freshman, I should be drinking classy shit.” 

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It was a bottle of Ruffino, a very popular wine in the 70’s. It was sort of an oblong oddly shaped wine that came in a little basket. People that drank Ruffino were the modern equivalent to cat-ladies. They drank it because afterwards the basket could be used as a candle holder you could put on the window to light the way for spirits or moths. So there I was. I, a ‘distinguished’ freshman chugging Ruffino at my uncle’s house. Alone. The only thing missing was a quart of ice cream and a Sandra Bullock rom-com. 

The first wine I bought for myself was something called Lonesome Charlie. Their slogan was "Lookin' for a friend?" It was pink, bubbly, and it came in a four pack. I thought it was terrible. My girlfriend loved it. I moved on - from her and Charlie in search of better friends.


Follow Eva Chavez on Instagram 

Follow Paul's wine adventures 


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...

A Perfect Day in Napa Doesn't Exist

The coolest thing about Napa is the diversity of experiences you can have. There is no one way of enjoying wine, and there isn't one way to define what the 'perfect Napa day' is. During one day in Napa you can have a fabulous day tasting an assortment of wines while being blown away by the an incredible collection of contemporary art and art installations that would rival galleries from SF, LA, NYC. 

Hess Collection Winery has pieces that could easily be in the homes of anyone from DJ Khalid to Noah Horowitz. The art on property, that spans over 3 floors, is absolutely incredible. This is the private collection of winery owner Donald Hess, who began his collection out of a passion for art rather than trends, back in '66. 

A particularly powerful piece of a burning typewriter is by Leopoldo Maler, currently head of The Parsons School of Design Affiliation in the Dominican Republic. His works serve as symbols that spark what he calls the viewer’s “creative power of contemplation;” one is completely free to apply one’s own experience and understanding to his pieces. The burning typewriter, entitled Hommage, has a great deal of personal meaning for Maler himself. His uncle, a well-known Argentinean writer, was assassinated for the honesty of his political essays.


The Wines

Sitting with head Winemaker, Dave Guffy, I had the opportunity to taste a panel of wines, but the two that stood out were their Malbec and a special reserve Cabernet project called The Lion. The Malbec grapes are grown right on property in a small block at the summit of Mount Veeder. If you wonder what it means to taste a California style of this famous Argentine grape - give this bold, big, ripe Malbec from Hess a shot. (They do have property in Argentina and sell a Malbec from their Argentine property, but go for the Mount Veeder.)

Most know Hess from the supermarket aisle for around $15 and may not know their next level stuff. When sitting down to a tasting with Guffy, he brought out the special reserve project that he's been working on with superstar winemaker Celia Welch. The Lion - of which they only produce 500 cases with a price tag of $185 - puts it in an upper echelon of Napa wines. 

I had the 2014: voluptuous mouth feel, beautiful red fruit and power, but there is a finesse and softness that is satisfying. In other words it has great balance. The fruit is from their estate on Mount Veeder and that mountain juice is just flat out special. 

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Smith Madrone
The beauty of Napa is that you can be walking through 3 floors of modern art in the morning at Hess, then shooting rattle snakes with the owner of Smith Madrone winery in the afternoon as he takes you through their hillside vineyard on a rugged ATV.  Smith Madrone was founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith, Managing Partner and Enologist who then brought his brother, Charles F. Smith III, along for the ride as the head winemaker. 

These two veterans of the valley are flat out hilarious. Sitting over a picnic lunch the conversation can ping-pong from WWII watches to current issues within the walls of UC Berkeley. Ask anyone in Napa who makes the best Riesling in town and an overwhelming majority will point to Smith Madrone.

The interesting wine they brought out over our 3 hour lunch was their reserve Cabernet called Cook's Flat. They only produced about 1,300 bottles of the 2012 vintage. Before jumping into doing a $200 a bottle reserve, the brothers wanted to find their unique point of view in flavor profiles. Thus, they embarked on research (aka drinking!) of all the top Cabernets from Napa and beyond - then took a hard look at a special parcel of land on their property called Cook's Flat. 

Cook's Flat Reserve is a proprietary name for a wine that is the culmination of 46 years of growing grapes and making wine in the mountains of the Spring Mountain District. The name refers to George Cook, the first owner of the property. 'Cook's Flat' was the local old-timers' name for the eight-acre plateau-like vineyard block which was replanted in 1972.

The packaging of each bottle is as unique as the Cabernet inside of it. Each bottle is numbered and wrapped in tissue which has been printed with a copy of the U.S. Land Office Patent which granted ownership to George Cook and was signed by President Chester Arthur on December 5, 1885. The wine itself is outstanding, decadent, well structured, and delicious. 

The wines of Smith Madrone reflect the style of the Smith brothers who care about history, land, legacy, and enjoying what they do. 

So here's my point - there is no one day or specific set of adventures that makes a trip to Napa perfect. There are a wide variety of stories, adventures, and people that make Napa so special; just get out there! 

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.

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Fall Is Here. Time To Crack Some Chardonnay.

If you believe rosé was the wine for summer, then Chardonnay will definitely be the juice for fall.

This versatile grape can be found almost everywhere wine is grown. It comes in a wide range of flavors and textures, from crisp-apple versions that are housed in stainless steel, to buttery-rich drops soaked in oak.

As we stare autumn in the face, here are a couple of fantastic Chardonnays to get you rolling:

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Foxen, Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU” 2015 - Santa Maria Valley, CA

Want to get weird? Try this Chardonnay from two dudes named Dick and Bill over in northern Santa Barbara. This wine is crazy cool just for the sheer fact it was grafted onto Riesling vines back in the day. Which, oddly enough, gives the wine some tropical notes of pears, peaches, great acidity and tons of balance.

It's an ideal mix of sprightly, lighter wines and the heftier taste you'd expert from a Chard. Awesome for the smooth transition from summer into fall.

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Jules Taylor, Chardonnay 2013 - Marlborough, New Zealand

New Zealand (aka Kiwi Land) isn’t just Sauvignon Blanc and sheep. It’s also home to some of the best Chardonnay out there! Jules is a sweet lady with a strong passion for winemaking - and an even stronger liver. She pumps out hand crafted classics every year that gain a lot of attention.

This wine has tons of texture. It's packed with layers of complex aromas such as ripe yellow apples, lemon, white peach and a kiss of oak.

Nic-Duc.jpg#asset:1560Nicholas Ducos

Nicholas Ducos is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier. He's 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 the Assistant Winemaker at Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Follow his latest adventures through his website and Instagram.

The Next Rosé? That Would Be Frosé

And just when I thought the rosé bubble was about to burst, along came...frosé.

The French upstart was showing many of the signs that it was about to jump the shark. Albertson’s and other garden-variety supermarkets were featuring huge rosé displays near checkout counters.

The price of Miraval, suavely marketed in happier times by its owners, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, was creeping ever skyward. Neighborhood restaurants were offering more than one rosé by the glass, often charging the same prices for this throwaway wine as they would for good-quality chardonnay.

But then some wiseguy/girl mixologist tried freezing it, mixing it with a tasty liqueur, and viola! A new summertime concoction was born. Frosé first appeared last summer. This summer, it’s everywhere.

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At Daniel Boulud’s Bistro Moderne in Manhattan last month, we tried an elegant variation of the drink, and we noticed it at many Manhattan bars. Orange County, California mixologist Gabrielle Dion has come up with a version for the bar menu at Broadway, a popular Laguna restaurant that features the cuisine of Top Chef finalist Amar Santana. Dion combines two ounces of Blackbird Rosé with Cappelletti Aperitivo, strawberry-rhubarb jam, lemon and grapefruit oils. Many recipes I found online recommend puréed strawberries and a little sugar to sweeten everything.

Another frequent point of advice is to use a stronger, darker rosé. “This is NOT a moment for that nearly clear, Whispering Angel kind of rosé. Look for Pinot Noir or Merlot rosés,” Bon Appetit advises. A couple of recipes even call for a little vodka to strengthen the concoction.

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We recently tried Bon Appetit’s frosé recipe and found it hassle-free and tasty:

  • 1 750 ml bottle hearty, bold rosé (such as a Pinot Noir or Merlot rosé)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 8 ounces strawberries, hulled, quartered
  • 2½ ounces fresh lemon juice
  • Pour rosé into a 13" x 19" pan and freeze until almost solid (it won't completely solidify due to the alcohol), at least 6 hours
  • Meanwhile, bring sugar and ½ cup water to a boil in a medium saucepan; cook, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Add strawberries, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes to infuse syrup with strawberry flavor. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a small bowl (do not press on solids); cover and chill until cold, about 30 minutes.
  • Scrape rosé into a blender. Add lemon juice, 3½ ounces strawberry syrup, and 1 cup crushed ice and purée until smooth. Transfer blender jar to freezer and freeze until frosé is thickened (aim for milkshake consistency), 25–35 minutes. Blend again until frosé is slushy. Divide among glasses.

Bon Appetit says that frosé can be kept fresh for a week. It would never last that long in my icebox...

Taste Wine Like a Master Somm - Part 2

This past weekend, I talked about 2 of the 3 ways to savor wine like a master somm. Got those tips memorized? Good. Now comes the best part:

Taste

The final step is, no doubt, to taste. Highly recommend you get yourself a spit cup, but I know you're going to swallow anyway. Cheers!

To analyze each of these elements, we use a range of low-med-high:

Acid. Does the wine make you salivate? On the side of your tongue, near the back of your mouth, is where you can feel this sensation. Some of us call it “The Waterfall Effect”. Acid (not the stuff in college) is great for cleansing your palate after fatty foods like risotto or short ribs.

Tannin. Is your mouth drying up? Tannin is the sensation of dry mouth. It's typically found on your cheeks and gums. Tannin tell us if the wine has been aged in oak (cheeks) and/or has spent extended time on the skins (Gums). Extra time on the skins adds additional bodyweight, as well as color.

Body. How does the wine feel in your mouth? I like to compare it between the feeling of water or milk. Water being of light-bodied weight and milk being full-bodied.

Alcohol. Can you feel the BERN!!! Oh wait, I mean the BURN!! Is the booze burning your senses or can you barely tell the stuff is getting you drunk?

Complexity. Did you have a lot to say as you went through this evaluation or no? If yes, then you have a complex wine in front of you. If not, then your wine is pretty boring and I hope you didn’t pay more than $10 for that shit.

Conclusion

BOOM there you go! That’s the whole wine tasting gig right there. The world's best Sommeliers are expected to do this entire evaluation and a few extra steps...in under four minutes...and not even know what wine is in the glass.

The key is to practice every time you open a bottle of wine. Take the five minutes, learn and enjoy. After that, treat yourself to the rest of the bottle and show a friend what you’ve learned!

Now that you're a bonafide expert, be sure to download the tasting sheet and get into this juice:

About your #SommNextDoor

Nicholas Ducos

Nicholas Ducos is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier. He's 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 the Assistant Winemaker at Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Follow his latest adventures through his website and Instagram.

Taste Wine Like a Master Somm - Part 1

Ever since the documentary Somm was released, everyone wants to learn how to taste wine or is impressed by those you can. The art of wine tasting is something that must be practiced over and over. It took me years to decipher Sonoma Pinot Noir from Burgundy Pinot Noir but now I can tell just by smelling a wine.

You see, the magic to becoming a great taster is learning the basics of “sensory evaluation”. In other words, using your eyes, nose and mouth to figure out WTF is in the glass. If you can understand sensory evaluation, your next wine experience will feel eerily similar to losing your virginity and saying “Oh snap! Did I just do that?!”.

Sight

First things first: use your eyes, homie. Just by looking at a wine in the glass you can pull so much information. Ask yourself the following questions:

Is the wine clear or cloudy? This can tell us if the wine is filtered or not.

Gas or sediments? This tells us if we're drinking a sparkling wine or still wine. Sediments (the dark floaters in the bottom of the glass) are typically found in red wine and are signs of aging.

tasting

What’s the color? This goes one of two ways: red or white. Once you use your wine genius to figure that out, dive a little deeper. For example, is it red, is it Ruby, purple, garnet, etc. For whites, is it gold, straw, pale straw, silver…catch my drift?

How intense is the color? Depending on the intensity, you can already figure out a few grape varietals. Thick-skinned grapes like Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon offer deep, rich intense colors to the point where you can’t see through the wine. Chardonnay has a similar effect. Thin-skinned grapes offer very translucent juice, such as Pinot Noir or Cab Franc would.

This is my favorite part…The viscosity aka “The Legs”. Give that baby a swirl and watch those legs run down the glass! Thick legs that run fast mean higher alcohol. Thick legs that run slow typically mean higher sugar. It’s that simple.

Smell

Next is the smell. Time to use that honker of yours but heed my words: don’t dig your nose in the glass. Wines higher in alcohol will burn and you'll regret it. Usually three inches out is good and you can pickup more aromatics from the distance. Feel free to use the aroma wheel here as guidance and again ask yourself the following:

tasting

Does it smell clean or flawed? Pretty much, does it smell good or not? If it smells oxidized or like vinegar we can stop here and grab a new bottle. If not, lets continue.

What is the primary smell? Fruit or earth. Are we smelling juicy ripe berries or are we smelling peppery herbs and dirt? This is a MAJOR sign of a new world wine (North America, South America, New Zealand, Australia) vs. old world (Europe and everywhere else). New world wines 99.9% are always going to be fruit forward.

Beyond the primary smell, is there a secondary smell? If so, dive deep but listen here - when you say, “I smell apples.” be more specific! Is it a tart green apple, a ripe yellow apple or a baked apple? Oh, that’s citrus you smell? Great…lemon, lime or an orange? Ya dig?

Is there oak? Most wines are aged in oak and the sign for it is spice, vanilla and/or buttery goodness. Some say baking spices such as clove and cinnamon. It’s somewhat subjective. Oak really adds that layer of complexity and being able to pinpoint that really shows everyone you kinda know what you're doing.

But wait! What about the best part: tasting the wine? Tune in next week for the complete package on how to analyze wine like a master somm.

In the meantime, be sure to download the tasting sheet and apply your new knowledge to these sommelier-approved wines:

Here's our Jennifer Tapiero teaching Jimmy Vestvood (character played by superstar comedian Maz Jobrani) how to taste wine. Memorable quotes include Jimmy comparing the taste of the wine to sex. Yup.

About your #SommNextDoor

Nicholas Ducos

Nicholas Ducos is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier. He's 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 the Assistant Winemaker at Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Follow his latest adventures through his website and Instagram.

Vino Tinto Can Beat The Heat. Here Are The Red Wines of Summer

Don’t be afraid to admit it: you’re a red wine snob. You’re cuckoo for cabernet, super-fond of Super Tuscans, mad about merlot.

In the summer, it can get pretty lonely out there, can’t it? Picnics and parties are an endless round of buttery chardonnays, sweet rieslings and (God forbid) rosé, which you dismiss as little more than pink Kool Aid with a bad aftertaste.

I’m here to help. There are a number red wines that drink perfectly well in warm weather. Many somms use a simple rule when recommending summer reds: stick with the thin-skinned grapes. The most common ones are pinot noir, grenache, sangiovese and tempranillo.

Nebbiolo is also a thin-skinned grape, but it doesn’t behave like one. It’s the main ingredient in barolo and barbaresco. It’s powerful, tannic and hard to tame.

But the other four can be fashioned into light-bodied, fruit-forward wines that often benefit from being chilled or at least served at what I can “northern European room temperature” – 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit.

Pinot noir

The most popular wine in the light-red world. For summer, stick with Burgundian-style pinot – light in color and body, often barnyard-ish and funky when you sniff it, dominated by cherry notes and very light on tannins at the end.

The Burgundy region of France is obviously the first choice for pinot noirs, but Oregon and New Zealand also make excellent Burgundian-style pinots. In California, the northern regions produce the best light-bodied examples of pinot: Anderson Valley, Russian River, the Santa Lucia Highlands. ($19, BUY HERE!)

Go for the 2015 Cloudline Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley - THE region for Oregon pinots.

Granacha

A Spanish grape that also does well in France’s Southern Rhône Valley, where it’s called grenache. It’s the backbone of Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines. But they’re often pretty meaty; far better in summer to go with lighter Côtes du Rhônes grenache. Or, if you want to save some green, go with Spanish granachas, which often have more backbone than their French counterparts.

Run with a 2015 La Maldita Garnacha. A summery version of the grape with bright acidity, lighter fruits, and silky texture. ($11, BUY HERE!)

Sangiovese

From Italy’s Tuscany region. Makes an excellent, all-purpose barbecue wine. Some are blends; Montefalco Rosso, an inexpensive mélange of sangiovese and sagrantino, carries delicate flavors of strawberry, tart cherries and white flowers. Most Chianti is made with 100 percent sangiovese grapes. It’s medium bodied, with crisp acidity and light tannins.

The 2012 Arnaldo Caprai Montefalco Rosso will do very well. A nice representation of the blend. ($22, BUY HERE!)

Tempranillo

Another light-bodied Spanish grape, medium ruby in color. It delivers tastes of cherry, plum, tomato and sometimes dried fig, with mild to medium tannins.

New World tempranillos from Argentina, Mexico and the U.S. usually deliver more fruit than their Spanish counterparts – a taste profile highlighted by cherry and tomato sauce, followed by tannins and earthy notes. Crianza rioja tempranillo, which spends a minimum of one year in casks, has long been prized by fans of the grape because it finds a sweet spot of quality and price – it often tastes more expensive than it is.

Let's pop open this 2012 Crianza by La Rioja Alta Finca San Martin. It's fresh yet mature, energetic yet refined. ($15, BUY HERE!)

Beaujolais

Made in France, generally from the Gamay grape, it’s a wonderful wine for summer barbecues. It’s not at all tannic and has a strong acid backbone, and it’s ready to drink as soon as it’s put in the bottle.

But if you’re tired of the late-summer Beaujolais habit, consider a similar grape that’s unjustly overlooked: Austria’s Blaufränkisch. It can be spicy and juicy yet elegant and structured – and it’s seldom expensive.

Before you ease into the adventure that is Blaufränkisch, let's roll with Georges Duboeuf's take on a classic Beaujolais. ($22, BUY HERE!)

Cool Kid Juice - Sunday Funday

It's official, gang: summer has arrived. That means beach, bikinis and, most importantly, BBQ's! Yet aren’t you tired of showing up to those Sunday parties with your friends only to see the same old booze options of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir?

Plus, there's always that one guy with the "Cab blend from California" who micromanages how much to pour everyone because it costs $60, yet somehow his glass is always topped off. We all hate that guy. But what if you could change all that and generate a whole new level of wine excitement at the table and a brand new buzz (pun intended).

Change is good. So when you add these new wines to the beverage options on Sunday, you just might be the coolest kid in the room. Don't be surprised when you hear, “Hey, who brought this bottle?", "It’s SO damn delicious”, or even, “What the hell is a Gewürztraminer?”.

Oh, it's a good feeling. Lucky for you - ILTG always provides the answers to make sure you're just as knowledgable as we are about this kinda stuff. With that being said, here's a few Sunday bangers that will keep you on top of your game:

*Tip: You can purchase all of these wines together for under $50..........and you're welcome!

cool kid juice

Chateau Ste Michelle "Gewurztraminer" - Washington ($10)

This wine is spicy, floral, yet really elegant and different. Stunning acidity and awesome with dumplings (if you're into that kind of thing). Gewürztraminer is the grape and sexy-smooth is her flavor. Forget Pinot Gris or Riesling. This is the red-headed stepchild of wines and everybody loves a redhead. Take a sip!

cool kid juice

Indaba, "Chenin Blanc" - Western Cape, South Africa ($10)

Ahh...South Africa. Home to crazy safaris, lions and really yummy wine! Yes, I said it…Chenin Blanc a.k.a. “Steen” is the grape commonly found all over the southern tip of Africa. This basket of apples, pears and kiwi flavors is so damn good you’ll forget you're partaking in an adult beverage. Sippy cup recommended! #sippycuplifestyle take a sip!

cool kid juice

Domaine des Versauds "Morgon" 2015 - Burgundy, France

Morgon (not to be confused with my ex-girlfriend) is one of ten Cru villages in Beaujolais. These are highly rated towns where the wines go for $80-100! From here I bring you Domaine Des Versauds, a stellar Gamay (that's the grape) with firm minerality and really cool violet and cherry notes. A great, hip alternative to Burgundy Pinot Noir. Keep it chilled for those hot summer nights when you know it's going to get spicy!

cool kid juice

St Cosme "Cotes du Rhone" 2013- Rhone Valley,France ($15)

100% Syrah! This bad boy is a show stopper. Juicy, spicy, and fresh, this wine is begging for food with bold flavors. Light the grill and call over some peeps. BBQ + Syrah = best damn Sunday ever! Great Cabernet Sauvignon replacement. Don’t forget to wear your big kid pants and take a sip!

#SommNextDoor NicholasNicholas Ducos

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.

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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.


Wines to Drink With Angela Merkel and JAY-Z

Diplomacy and hip-hop are two things that should always be celebrated. Let's get into some wines for both occasions.

Angela Merkel

Angela don't take no shit. Germany's Chancellor held the task of hosting the G20 Summit in her hometown of Hamburg last week. It's where the world's most powerful leaders come together to address pressing issues facing humanity...and witness the carnival sideshow that is Donald Trump.

Chancellor Merkel, 1 of only 2 women participants in this year's summit, isn't shy about expressing displeasure. She rolls her eyes when things are "man-splained" and reminds the world how dumb it is to not invest in climate protection.

So what do you (politely) slam on the table when seated next to Angela Merkel? If not a beer stein filled with Bavarian ale, you go with a classic bottle of Gewürztraminer. Gewürztraminer is an aromatic grape where lychee, pineapple, and apricot are the common, dominant flavors. The grape's proverbial roots are German but it has thrived among the foothills of the Alps, particularly within France and Italy.

Let's aim for Domaine Zind-Humbrecht's 2014 vintage of this cold-climate wine. The winery is located in Alsace, technically in France, but the region sits right along the border with Germany. Gewürztraminer is also one of Alsace's four noble varieties produced, which means you're definitely getting the best version of the grape in this terroir.

The Zind-Humbrecht Gewürztraminer is a dry, easy drinker with more subtle notes than a typical "würz". This is probably due to the wine being grown on a completely organic and biodynamic vineyard - a serious plus for the environment. Make sure you tell Angela.

JAY-Z

Hova pulled back the curtains on 4:44, his first album in 4 years, a couple of weeks ago. The kicker: it was only released on TIDAL (JAY-Z's streaming music service) as a one-week exclusive to the frustration of many. The cut is now available on Apple Music and Amazon but still noticeably absent from Spotify.

J is no stranger to throwing velvet ropes around product he's invested in. Surely you've heard of Armand de Brignac, a.k.a. Ace of Spades - a Champagne brand JAY-Z owns that will run you no less than $300 a pop. And you thought having to buy a TIDAL subscription is rough...

If that price tag ain't cutting it for a Sunday afternoon on the patio with Hova, there are potential alternatives that will still impress his palate and your accountant. We'll roll with a bottle of Bellavista's Brut Cuvée Franciacorta - a divine Italian sparkling wine.

Now when you're thinking bubbly Italian vino, Prosecco is probably what first comes to mind. However, Franciacorta - which comes from Lombardy in northern Italy - is, indeed, a closer relative to Champagne as its second round of fermentation happens in the bottle (Prosecco's happens in a tank).

Bellavista's version of Franciacorta is 90% Chardonnay with 10% Pinot Bianco and Pinot Nero (a.k.a. Pinot Noir). The result is a tasty, effervescent mouthful of citrus, vanilla, and bread - like Mama's homemade lemon cake. It's also 90% cheaper at roughly 30 bucks a bottle. No red rope necessary.

Your New Brunch Wine. In Like a Lyon. Out Like a Lambrusco.

Warmer weather is just about here. We all know what that means. Patio furniture gets hosed off, the white & floral print ensembles come out and wide, floppy hats have some faces to smack. 

It's brunch season. Wait, brunch happens all year. It doesn't matter - it's a beautiful day out and we're going to day drink over some eggs benny, Jenny. 

It's difficult to stray far from the bottomless champagne option. It's a classy, tasty beverage that pairs well with just about any brunch item and cleanses the palate in hot weather. 

Even if it's relatively shitty sparkling wine, you'll hardly notice after your 6th "top off". 

Despite its comfortable familiarity, sometimes an alternative to champagne is good for the soul. No, not mango juice or a strawberry to toss in it. I'm talking about a fizzy replacement that's just as versatile and twice as interesting.


Lambrusco


Ever heard of Lambrusco? It's been around forever (like, B.C. forever) and hasn't always had a stellar reputation. Many have regarded it as a sugary, cheap substitute for the inexperienced wine drinker's champagne. 

They're dead wrong. Not only are the best Lambrusco's only a touch sweet and lightly effervescent, they're equally good on their own as well as the foundation of a wine cocktail. 

One of the more interesting and modern Lambruscos out there right now is Red Lyons

Produced in the Emilia-Romagna region in northern Italy - just about the only province you'll find quality Lambrusco made - Red Lyons is an untraditional label on a super old grape. It's irreverent and satisfying in both design and taste. 

By far, the best part of Red Lyons is the overall experience. This Italian juice comes in a blood-red (and surprisingly heavy) bottle that is more opaque than Lambrusco itself. It's difficult to tell what the hell is in it or just how much there is. 


Red Lyons


"That mystery is completely intentional", Chris Lyons, proprietor of Red Lyons, tells me. "The bottle should be reflective of the environment you're enjoying it in; care-free and without worry about what remains."

Just as striking as the bottle is the actual juice. This Lambrusco is dark, dark red yet deceivingly light. It's wild to see a layer of foam on top of a deep purple wine as it comes out of the bottle. Almost like a barrel-aged stout wearing lipstick. 

Red Lyons, like most Lambruscos, is mild in alcohol content. Its 8.5% buzz level has the day drinking seal of approval. Which also means it's a great mixer for batch-style drinks such as sangria

The fruit-forward, frizzante foundation of Lambrusco inherently lends a refreshing flavor to a brunch cocktail that doesn't need much else. Except, perhaps, more of it. 

Lambrusco is typically easy on the wallet and a quality one will range you 30-40 bucks. You can snag Red Lyons in packs of three or six via a direct order. Enjoy!

Drinking Wine with Gary Vaynerchuck #VINOWITH

WHO IS GARY VAYNERCHUCK?
Successful entrepreneur, investor, social media influencer, speaker, motivator, content creation machine, digitally savvy hustler - but it all started with wine. 

Gary took his family wine-retail business in New Jersey, changed the name to Wine Library, started an eCommerce side of the business, and began filming bold wine reviews on a YouTube channel over a decade ago. From there he took a 3 million dollar wine business to a 60 million dollar wine business by using the power of eCommerce, video, and social. With early investments in Twitter and other household technology companies Gary has certainly done well for himself. Gary is a hustler who works extremely hard, can be in your face, but is a person that genuinely cares about people succeeding. I've not met Gary but I've seen and heard a lot of his podcasts, videos, and one-line quotes across the web. The man is everywhere!

WHY DO I WANT TO DRINK WINE WITH GARY VAYNERCHUCK?
I dig his pulse on culture, and appreciate his focus on today's consumer. The value any brand has is their consumer which I believe Gary would think is key to gaining leverage. It would be entertaining talking to him because he talks a lot, and the smallest prompt can send his mind in many directions. He's an instant dose of energy and inspiration. To vibe with his hustler-spirit combined with his business experience would be invigorating. Also, Gary Vee seems to dig hip hop and sees it as I do - a milieu that moves culture. Plug any brand or product in the hip hop machine and watch it grow exponentially.

WHAT WINES I'D DRINK WITH HIM
I'd have at least two wines with Gary, the first would have to be an in your face red wine from Washington that is not afraid to be what it is. Big mouthfeel, big fruit, big bite that comes out the gate swinging. For instance, Boom Boom Syrah by Charles SmithThis wine does not mask itself or parade around restraint. This bottle simply tells you as it is, I'm an explosion in your mouth. 

Boom Boom Syrah

The second bottle of wine would be something a bit more finessed because it seems to me that as Gary's career advances he'd appreciate a wine that is a little more  focused and subtle that you can enjoy just chilling with the homies talking Gen-X women blogs, hip-hop, future of media and whatever other thoughts pops into Gary's eclectic mind. For instance, a 2009 Vina Albina Grand Reserva.




Cheers Gary Vee

Photos from SOMMX: Kanye West Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine

Google Slideshow: SOMMX


For the past few months we've been working on creating a live event that embodies who we are as a brand- the Voice of Modern Wine Culture. On April 12, 2018 we launched our event platform SOMMX.

The theme for our first event was: Kanye West's Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine. It was sold out with a long waiting list! 

What is SOMMX
A series of themed wine experience events hosted and lead by unique sommeliers intended to evoke multiple senses and delight guests through food, wine, performances, art, special guests, and unique culturally relevant themes. 

The experimental event: 

5 of Kanye’s songs were interpreted through 

5 original oil paintings by local award-winning artist which were each paired with

5 courses of unique food which were each paired with

5 Spanish wines 

Oh, and there were ballet dancers and a spoken word artist.   

The event is narrated & hosted by celebrity sommelier Amelia Singer who explained each song, each painting, each course of food, and how it tied into a wine. The food was designed and cooked by Top Chef Alum Brian Huskey, and the original painting by visionary artist Kathy Lajvardi.  

Enjoy the photos and join the mailing list at SOMMX to be notified of our next event.

Google Slideshow: SOMMX

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: http://viticolewine.com