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 whitesMartin 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 whitesGonon '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 redsJL 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 redsDomaine 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
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Recently, a reader of I like this grape. asked us to recommend a wine to celebrate getting a promotion. Some more context: she is a 5th year software engineer at a mid-size company in California that builds high-end websites and apps. She’s in her late 20's and this is her first job out of school. So the promotion is a big deal. She plans on having a little celebration with family and friends at her house. We asked some of our sommelier and wine expert friends to weigh in and help our dear reader. Here’s what they said: Alex Sanchez Alex Sanchez, Certified Sommelier and a Somm Next Door! "I’d recommend the 2011 Mascot Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley for $115. The story of this brand is really interesting. Will Harlan, the son of legendary Bill Harlan, created this brand as an experimental project focusing on the younger vines of Harlan Estate. The Mascot has had incredible success since its beginnings in 2008 and it represents the younger generation of winemakers in Napa Valley. This is the perfect wine to enjoy and treat yourself to for your big promotion. After all, you deserve it!" Private tasting room at Aridus Wine Co. Lisa Strid, Winemaker at Aridus Wine Company in Scottsdale, Arizona "I think you have to go for a fun wine - after all, it’s a celebration! If you’re someone who loves bubbles, go for a Franciacorta - they’re Italian bubblies made in the same method as Champagne, and they encompass a huge range of styles at very friendly prices. Get a Riserva if you love bready, biscuity aromas and flavors. But, if you’re a fruit lover, an NV (non-vintage) should satisfy. If you’d rather have a red, seek out an old vine Grenache from Australia. I’m sorry to say that this will probably ruin all other Grenaches for you. Oh, well. Now that you’ve been promoted, you can become the old vine Grenache person that was always there inside you. I especially like the Clarendon Hills Kangarilla. And if you really want to mark the occasion, why not invest in a vintage port, use a marker on the bottle to remind why you bought it, and then hide it from yourself in a place that you won’t bother to look for the next 50 years? Then when you retire and decide to clean out the crawlspace and find the bottle, you can pop it open and praise yourself for being so wise at such a young age to invest in your own future enjoyment." Andrew Cullen , Founder/Editor, CostcoWineBlog.com (no affiliation with Costco) “Since this is a young developer, I’m going to put $100 cap on the wine since that will likely seem like a lot to drop on a wine unless they are really into wine. Given that range, I’d go Old World with something that isn’t the standard Napa Cabs which they might have had at company dinners and see all the time. I would also want something with a little age on it so the wine can change and develop over time in a decanter. That way, this person can really savor and enjoy the wine as well as the fruits of their hard work. So my pick would be a second or third growth Bordeaux, which would fit the bill on all of these points. A Pontet-Canet ($95) from an off year might fall in this price range, as would a Duhart-Milon ($120). You could also move to the right bank and go for something like the Canon La Gaffeliere ($85) or La Dominique ($45) which would save a few bucks. I’d pick one of the above, toss it in a decanter and cook a fantastic meal enjoying a small taste every 30 minutes paying attention to how the wine develops while savoring your success.” Cassandra M Brown Cassandra M Brown, Certified Sommelier, CSW, CWAS, CSP "If money isn't an issue, I would say splurge and pop a nice bottle of Champagne. "Champers" ranges from dry to sweet and works for every occasion. If budget is an issue, popping a bottle of delicious bubbles doesn't always mean you have to pop a bottle of Champagne. It's totally fine to go for something more moderately priced like Prosecco from Italy or Cava from Spain. Cremant de Bourgogne or another 'Cremant' is also a nice choice. 'Cremant' is French Sparkling wine made outside of the Champagne region but produced in other regions of France and is made in the traditional Champagne method. There are also some beautiful domestic sparklers from California and even New Mexico that should not be overlooked. Bubbles...always the way to go! Here are some to try. Great rec's other than Champagne. All these producers have an amazing assortment!: Lucien Albrecht - France, $19 Schramsberg - California, $32 Roederer Estate - California, $45 Gruet - New Mexico, $15 Bien Vivre et Boire le Meilleur!" Naushad Huda Naushad Huda, founder of I like this grape. (not a sommelier, just a wine geek with an opinion) "I’d go with a Cru Beaujolais. Beaujolais is a region in France and the grape used in these red wines is Gamay. Now, don’t confuse Cru Beaujolais with Beaujolais Nouveau, which are uber popular wines that are released the 3rd week of November and heavily marketed. Beaujolais Nouveau wines are bottled just a few weeks after the grapes are harvested, have very little tannins and are typically purple/pinkish in color. It's simply spiked grape juice! They are meant to drink and have a jovial time - think Pirates of the Caribbean! (Nothing wrong with them, but save the Nouveau for Sunday brunch.) The Cru regions of Beaujolais, of which there are 10, produce wines that are very diverse in flavor - though all the wines are made from the same grape: Gamay! It’s fascinating to experience how the same grape can express itself so differently. You can get some vibrant, juicy wines from a region in Beaujolais called Chenas all the way to slightly heavier, minerally, stony wines from regions such as Morgon. You can easily pick up a Cru Beaujolais wine for under $35. They pair with just about everything you eat, can be stored for years, and will be a fun wine to pronounce when you’re tipsy. Tip: buy 3 of the same bottle, one to drink for the celebration and 2 to hang on to for future so you can reminisce about this wonderful achievement in your life years later. Here's one I dig: Duboeuf Morgon Jean-Ernest Descombes 2015 ($19)" If you have any suggestions for our young reader who is climbing the corporate ladder then please join the conversation Twitter: www.twitter.com/ilikethisgrape
Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Like so many French wine regions, it’s fun to say out loud – tres sexy, n’est-ce pas? – yet the average American has absolutely no clue about where it is or what its wine tastes like. Let’s lift the veil of mystery. First of all, Châteauneuf-du-Pape is an ancient town in the southern Rhône Valley. If you were to travel north, up the river from its silt-filled mouth at the Mediterranean Sea, you’d pass Arles and Avignon. Just before you hit Orange, there it is on a high bank about three clicks east of the riverbank: an ancient town of 2,000 people, dominated by the remains of a castle. How ancient, you ask? Well, the Romans colonized the region two millennia ago, when the mouth of the Rhône was several miles north of its present location. The ruins of their public buildings can be found all over this part of the valley, including a kickass amphitheater near Orange. See it smack dab in the middle? The Romans planted wine grapes here, too, and it was a great spot for it: rocks, stone, sand, limestone and clay soil and a warm, dry Mediterranean climate. The village probably dates from the 10th century, but it comes by its name because Pope Clement, who was French, transferred the papacy from Rome to Avignon in 1309. He spent a lot of time at Châteauneuf-du-Pape over the next few years and died nearby in 1314. Editors note: for a beautiful, quality representation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, give the Domaine de la Vieille Julienne 2010 a taste. This legendary estate produces some of the world's best juice and the 2010 is no exception. Drinking young, big and full of grippy tannins, this drop packs a haymaker of dark fruits. Drink now or age it for a few more years. Subsequent French popes also favored the place. Pope John XXII built a large summer residence in town in 1333, the ruins of which still dominate the skyline today. Hence the name: Châteauneuf-du-Pape means “the new castle of the pope.” Though the papacy moved back to Rome in the late 1300's and the castle fell into ruin, the already well-established winemaking tradition continued. By the late 1700’s, Châteauneuf-du-Pape had earned kudos for the quality of its wines, which reportedly combined the best qualities of the Languedoc and Bordeaux. Like the rest of Europe, the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape were destroyed by Phylloxera. In fact, the destructive pest struck here first in 1866 and laid waste to almost everything. By 1880, only 200 hectares of vines remained in the entire appellation. Growers who had prospered for generations went bankrupt. Vineyards were abandoned. It took decades for the area to recover, partly because the wine was being sold at low prices and it wasn’t considered worth the effort to replant. From about 1900-1920, negociants used Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine mainly to add color and backbone to more desirable wines from Burgundy. Editor's note: the Domaine Roger Sabon 2015 is all tart-fruit raspberry on the front and minerality on the back. A charismatic yet elegant take on Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this is an excellent version for both experts and novices alike. The softer tannins won't leave your mouth cottony yet finishes with enough pleasant brute force where laying it down for a few more years will serve you well. In 1924, Châteauneuf-du-Pape applied for official appellation status. It took 12 years for the fussy French wine brain trust to grant it. That sense of being dissed by the wine establishment has persisted over the decades, and Châteauneuf-du-Pape once had a reputation for being a bit of a rustic bad boy. Its red wines (about 95 percent of total production) were considered full-bodied but rough around the edges, and its three dominant varieties – Grenache Noir, Syrah and Mourvèdre – were traditionally not as valued as the characteristic grapes of Bordeaux and Burgundy. In recent decades, though, the area has joined France’s big-boy ranks, with high scores from many judges and rising prices to match. Other nearby regions, such as Gigondas and Vacqueyras, are well regarded, but Châteauneuf-du-Pape is universally acknowledged to be the best wine region in the southern Rhône. The reds share certain traits: red and black cherries, strawberry, kirsch, black pepper, ripe raspberry and garrigue (the quality of the herbs found locally). Its textures can be luscious, big and fruit-forward when young; two or three more years in the bottle gives them silkiness and finesse. Some can be left in the cellar for 8 to 12 years. Editor's note: throw this Domaine Giraud 2015 in your cellar (or wherever you keep the good shit). This fancy fruit and herbal drop has some power behind it. Although totally drinkable now, let it calm down for a few years to soften up the biting finish. Otherwise a great show-off wine to represent the region. The appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape is 3,231 hectares in size. It’s about 8.5 miles long and 5 miles wide, delineated by the city of Orange with its Roman ruins in the north, the town of Sorgues to the south, the Rhône River to the west and the A7, a major highway, to the east. About 13,750,000 bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are produced every year, most by small, family-owned estates.
I'm here to tell you everything you need to know about Bordeaux. It's really not too painful. I promise. Bordeaux is a region in France, and you can't call it a Bordeaux if it comes from anywhere else in the world. It can be white, it can be red, dessert, rose. All colors of the wine f**king rainbow. First, a little about France being a controlling mom. There are rules. France has laws that dictate what types of grapes can grow where, and what they can use for wine. After hundreds of years, they've figured out which grapes grow best where and they don't want to mess with that. The Banks Bordeaux is divided into two areas known as the Left Bank and the Right Bank. "I only drink wines from the Right Bank. I don't know why." "Ew you drink from the Left Bank, you peasant?" Left and Right Bank wines taste very different because the blend of grapes is very different. Also, why are the labels hard to read? What makes reading French labels difficult is that they name the wines by the place. Since the country has specific laws that indicate where certain grapes can grow, they just label it by the place. Because, obviously, that grape would grow there. You with me? The tricky part is they expect the consumer to just automatically know what their laws are and which grapes are planted where. It's confusing. For instance, instead of saying Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot on the label, they'll say Bordeaux...the place. Sound complicated? It was, until now. The Left Bank is made up of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon, making the wine more full-bodied and darker in color. Like the Pauillac region, for instance. (Editor's note: Take a sip of the Chateau Durhart-Milon 2008 from Pauillac, Bordeaux. It's a soft, dark fruit Cab Sauv/Merlot drop that's an absolute steal of a price point for the region.) The Right Bank is more Merlot dominant, which means the wines are usually lighter bodied and more pale in color. Easy, right? White wines and dessert wines are made up primarily of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. The bottle says Pauillac? OMG it's from the Left Bank! It's probably more Cabernet Sauvignon then. If the bottle says "St. Emilion", it's on the Right Bank and probably going to be more Merlot-dominant as a result. The Buy Oh, that wasn't so hard - agreed? Some Bordeaux is very expensive and collectable, however, most are between $10-25. So go out, try something, and use your fancy buzzwords. Oh, can I have a Left Bank? What about a Right Bank? Right Bank? Left Bank? (Editor's note: A very tasty example of a Right Bank, Merlot-dominant Bordeaux is the Chateau Peymouton 2012. And for just over 20 bucks? Woop!) There it is. Your super basic intro to Bordeaux! Cristie Norman is a certified sommelier and currently helps diners at the acclaimed Spago Beverly Hills as a resident Sommelier. She’s a bikini athlete and her wine creds include CMS and WSET Level 3. Check out her Instagram!
Burgundy Wines for BeginnersThis is a real basic primer on a complicated topic. Burgundy is like next level confusing. Yes, I've cried at times when studying Burgundy. Just, like, a little tear. Just one...I'm here to tell you some foundational information you need to know about the Burgundy wine region and why it's one of the most amazing wine regions on the planet. (Also, one of the most expensive! For example, recent vintages from the iconic Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, often abbreviated to DRC, go for tens of thousands of dollars per bottle!Firstly, Burgundy is an area of France. You can only call wine a Burgundy if it comes from the area of Burgundy. Over 200 million years ago, there was a tropical sea where Burgundy is today, and it left millions of fossils that created a soil that's unique and rich in limestone. The soil actually makes the wine taste brighter and more mineral. It's like this rocky thing that you can't really describe, nor find, anywhere else in the world.What regular person needs to know about wines from Burgundy.Chardonnay is the major white grape in Burgundy, and Pinot Noir is the major red grape in Burgundy. Burgundy is a big, general area of France that has a lot of different places in it that you've probably heard of, a lot of really famous areas.You also might notice that a lot of Burgundy producers have the exact same last name. That's not a coincidence. They're probably related. Napoleonic inheritance laws in France basically said that if a man owned property, like a vineyard, when he died, it would be split evenly among his children. A couple of generations later, each kid had, like, two rows of vines each. Not exactly conducive to excellent wine making...So, some winemakers, called negociants, would go up to all of the little vineyards, the little, tiny parcels, buy all of their wine, and create their own wine under their own name. Efficiency!Styles in the major areas.Chablis is the northernmost area of Burgundy. Known for super-crisp, minerally white wines made of Chardonnay with a little to no oak. Next area is the Cote d'Or. "Cote" means slope or hill, and Cote d'Or means "golden slopes" in French. Sounds fancy already. The Cote d'Or is divided into two areas, the Cote de Nuits and Cote de Beaune.(Editors Note: This is a great intro Chablis that's sure to please most any wine drinker. It's a Premier Cru for $35 - delicate, no butter-bomb here, flowers, lemon, and that Burgundy minerality. Take a sip here!)Cote de Nuits, or "Hill of Nights" is known for Pinot Noir. Super famous areas for Pinot Noir include Gevrey-Chambertin and Vosne-Romanee are in the Cote de Nuits, so that's kind of easy to remember. The Cote de Beaune is known for Chardonnay - easy to remember, because it sounds like bone, which is white. Cote de Beaune. Super famous areas for oaked Chardonnays like Meursault, Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet all are in the Cote de Beaune.Feelin' fancy yet?(Editors Note: Giving Vosne-Romanee a try can be a bit pricey, but well worth the exploration. Do it in the name of discovery! For around $70 try a Louis Latour Vosne-Romanee. Enjoy this while listening to Khalid's layered, soulful, and addicting voice while enjoying a pleasant conversation with a couple of friends. Take a sip here!)Beneath the Cote d'Or is the area of Cote Chalonnaise, which makes a really great range of red, white, and sparkling. Below that is the Maconnais, which is known for a more full-bodied Chardonnays, because as we get closer to the equator, it's hotter. Just bigger, riper styles. Maconnais is probably best known for the area of Pouilly-Fuisse, and not to be confused with the area of Pouilly-Fume.(Editors Note: For a great expression of the chardonnay grape from the Pouilly-Fuisse region, look no further than most any bottle produced by the Drouhin family. They've been producing top quality Burgundy wines for over 130 years, and the house is now run by the their 4th generation. Try Joseph Drouhin Pouilly-Fuisse 2015. For around $26 you're getting a delicious, solid representation of the region by a top quality producer. Take a sip here!)The last thing that you need to know about Burgundy if you want to be a serious, certified wine geek is the area of Beaujolais. Is that fun to say? Beaujolais. Beaujolais. Beaujolais. Beaujolais. The area of Beaujolais actually doesn't use Pinot Noir. It uses the grape, Gamay. It's lighter-bodied like Pinot Noir, but it has more of a grapey flavor.Beaujolais is made in a lot of different styles. There's Nouveau that comes out in November every year, and it's meant to drink young. Then there's Cru Beaujolais that is made from really, really special producers that are meant to age. Beaujolais is a gateway wine. It's delicious. You've got to try it.(Editor's Note: Cru Beaujolais wines come from 1 of 10 designated areas. So when searching for Cru Beaujolais look for these 10 areas; Brouilly, Régnié, Chiroubles. These three are known to be lighter in body. For medium body Cru Beaujolais, look for Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, and Saint-Amour. For bolder, heavier Cru Beaujolais that can age in your cellar go for these regions: Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon, and Moulin-à-Vent. For under $20, go for a critically acclaimed Duboeuf Morgon Domaine Mont Chavy 2015. Take a sip here!)That's it, my super-basic entry to Burgundy. I hope that wasn't too overwhelming. I know there's a whole lot more to cover. We'll get there. Don't worry.Now, check out my video episode below on Burgundy!Cristie Norman is a certified sommelier and currently helps diners at the acclaimed Spago Beverly Hills as a resident Sommelier. She's a bikini athlete and her wine creds include CMS and WSET Level 3. Check out her Instagram!
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! 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! 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! 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! 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! Nicholas 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.