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
All Stories in "napa-valley"
It's been a devastating week for Napa and Sonoma counties and, as of this writing, the fires are still raging. There has been loss of life, homes, wildlife, and livelihood for many - specifically to those in the wine industry which spans from the vineyards to various hospitality and tourism businesses. There are many articles on the destruction so we don't need to rehash that information. Instead, we'd like to provide a list of ways to help our Northern California brethren, and highlight entities who are providing assistance. Also, there is a running directory of wineries that have been affected: one way of helping those wineries is by buying their wines in addition to sending them messages of support. Please send us any tips to add to this post and we will update asap: email@example.com Ways to Help The Press Democrat has partnered with Redwood Credit Union, Senator Mike McGuire and numerous business leaders to raise funds to directly help fire victims. Every donated dollar will go directly to fire victims – all costs will be covered. To donate, click here. The Salvation Army NorCal Wildfire Relief - Monetary donations are needed at this time. 100% of your gift will be used in support of the relief efforts. Donate here. Donate to the Direct Impact Fund in partnership with GoFundMe. Your tax-deductible donation will go directly to support charities and individuals with verified campaigns on GoFundMe, donate here The Redwood Empire Food Bank is currently providing critical food to shelters for our neighbors displaced by fires. Donate here United Way of Wine Country. Donate here Sonoma County Recovers, both to donate and also ask for assistance if you've been affected. Click here Sonoma County of Education will be coordinating funds for schools and students that have lost everything. Make a payment to a school district. Click here Running Directory of Wineries Affected Tres Sabores - "Although the fight and worry is not yet over, the winery, Julie & Jon's home, our staff and all our furry/wooly/feathered companions are currently safe. We are indeed the lucky ones at this moment. Our hearts go out to other wineries and residents who are not so fortunate." FB Darioush Winery landscape and vineyard damage, but the winery building itself is still standing. (Take a sip of their '13 Caravan Cabernet, $50) IG, TW, FB Hagafen Cellars, “The winery building appears to be fine. The tasting room also appears to be fine though much of the vegetation surrounding it is black and burned." (Take a sip of their kosher Sauvignon Blanc, $20) IG, TW, FB Helena View Johnston Vineyards, “all is lost.” You can support them by donating even a few dollars to their YouCaring page. Mayacamas Vineyards, “Our team is all well. The winery is safe.” Tasting room is burned down. (Take a sip of their 2012 Chardonnay, highly rated, aromatic, and excellent aging potential.) IG, TW, FB Paras Vineyard, no found website nor social pages, but a this video from SF Chronicle shows a structure property completely engulfed in flames. Patland Estate Vineyards, family is safe, they have not updated as to the extent of the damage. IG, TW, FB Pulido-Walker’s Estate Vineyard, “Pulido Walker suffered a devastating loss of our home, but thus far the Estate vineyards seem to have withstood the destruction from the flames. Most importantly, we and our team are safe.” (Take a sip of their 95 point, 2010 highly acclaimed "killer Cabernet", $150) TW, FB Robert Sinskey Vineyards, no social pages nor updated website, but this Instagram post which indicates loss to vineyard and tasting room. (Take a sip of their biodynamically grown Stag's Leap Cabernet, $100) Roy Estate, no social pages nor updated website, but word is that the winery was extensively damaged. (Take a sip of their 92 point estate proprietary blend red, $70) TW Segassia Vineyard, A company spokesperson confirmed that the winery owned by the Cates family has burned. Signorello Estate Vineyards, “…while the winery buildings themselves had essentially burned to rubble, the vineyards appeared to be in good shape—and ready to bear fruit for another 20 vintages. We can, and we will, rebuild the winery.” TW, FB Sill Family Vineyards, “We will rebuild as soon as we’re allowed to return.” IG, TW, FB Stags’ Leap Winery, “In the face of too much tragedy and loss, we continue to be deeply grateful that our buildings, vineyards and employees have been spared.” (Take a sip of their regularly 90+ point Cabernet, $50) IG, TW, FB VinRoc, no social pages nor updated website found, but owner said “Total loss, everything gone except our (wine) cave,” White Rock Vineyards, “Everyone at White Rock is safely evacuated and accounted for. The whole eastern Napa hillside from Stags leap down to napa is on fire.” Believed to have major damage. (Take a sip of their Bordeaux blend of which they make less than 1,000 cases, $50) IG, FB William Hill Estate Winery, “ we have confirmed that the winery buildings are intact. William Hill sustained only minor cosmetic and landscaping damage” (Take a sip of their Napa estate blend, 90 point offering at $43) FB Ancient Oak Cellars, “I’m very sad to report that our house, two big beautiful redwood barns, gorgeous tasting counter... are gone,” IG, FB Chateau St. Jean, ‘Our employees are safe and accounted for and their continued safety remains our number one priority.” The main structure appeared unharmed. (Take a sip of their 90 point Sonoma Chardonnay for just $25) IG, TW, FB Gundlach Bundschu Winery, ‘I spent some of the day digging through the rubble at my parents’ house, with little to no luck finding anything intact.” Still assessing the damage. (Take a sip of this Sonoma Cabernet that's scored 90+ points across critics, giving Napa a run of its money, $43) IG, TW, FB Nicholson Ranch, “All the people at Nicholson Ranch are fine..Some of us are without power and some are staying with friends. But we are safe.The winery was in the path of the fire but escaped being engulfed by the flames. We have some damage to fix. The wine is secure in our cellars." IG, FB Paradise Ridge Winery, “We are heartbroken to share the news that our winery was burned down this morning. The winery may be broken but our estate vineyards survived, which is foundation of our wine.” IG, TW, FB Sky Vineyards, no updated social page nor website; the extent of the damage is unknown because the fire is still active in that area. FB Backbone Vineyard & Winery,“Our winery burned to the ground along with all our wine made over the past five years.” Frey Vineyards, The country’s first organic and biodynamic winery lost its winery and bottling facility. The wines are readily still available at Whole Foods. IG, TW, FB Golden Vineyards, The vineyards “are scorched but they are not ruined,”. No updated social and website isn’t working. Oster Wine Cellars, destroyed in the Redwood Fire. J Cage Cellars: "We were one of the lucky ones." Their family is safe and their wine is already in barrel. Shout Outs To: Participating wineries from Paso Robles have mobilized and will donate $1 from every bottle sold in the month of October to charities helping those impacted by the fires. Here is a list including these 90+ point Cabernets by J Lohr ($13), Ancient Peaks ($17), DAOU Reserve ($50). Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Tuesday that the company is donating $1 million. The money will be divided among the Red Cross California Wildfires Fund, the Community Foundation of Sonoma and the Napa Valley Community Foundation E. & J. Gallo Winery and Apple are giving $1 million, plus matching employee donations two-for-one. Google said Google.org and the company’s employees are donating $500,000 to help support those affected by wildfires in Northern and Southern California. The money will go to the American Red Cross and to the Napa and Sonoma Community Foundations. Intel said it is matching its employees’ donations. **** 25% of all profits will be donated to the Direct Impact fund for California Fire in partnership with GoFundMe LINK: http://bit.ly/2yAB5eX
Just to clarify, people, we hardly mean the infamous latte here. Even if the title does seem to scream, “it’s autumn!”. However, as it is officially October, the lovers of summer begrudgingly pull out the sweaters and boots in preparation for the colder months ahead. Those devoted to the fall season rejoice...alongside the marketing geniuses over at Starbucks. Might we suggest a winery to accompany your seasonal transition, whether is be positive or filled with dread? Ladies and Gents, we present to you a couple drops from Smith-Madrone. The name of this winery, sitting in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley, found its origin from the brothers who started the establishment - Stuart and Charles Smith circa 1971 - as well as the beloved Madrone tree that has a prominent location on the grounds. Although they have a beautiful Chardonnay and reserve wine in their lineup, today we’re going to take a look at the Smith-Madrone dry Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon. The juice Now for those of you in denial of summer’s end, this Riesling is a fine solace for your woes. The honeysuckle and lemon peel aromas will certainly remind you of warmer weather. The slight, yet distinctive petrol aromas, orange blossom notes and smooth mouthfeel will finish bone-dry. It seems to usher you right into the drier, savory months of autumn. Similar to this varietal’s old world versions, Smith-Madrone grows their Riesling along the steep mountain slopes that assist beautifully to their ripening process and crisp, refreshing notes. Whether paired with crab or seasoned pork loin with root vegetables, surely this wine is truly fit to consume no matter what time of year. For those of you celebrating fall’s arrival one pumpkin recipe at a time, wait no longer than to pop open Smith-Madrone’s 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon. This 100% estate fruit Cabernet sings with an aromatic nose of black cherry, dried herbs and hints of perfume. The mouthfeel continues via flavors consistent with the initial aromas, plus additional flavors of star anise, oak and black cherry skin. A velvety and layered palate bleeds seamlessly into the long, enjoyable finish that extends a warming sensation. In other words, this wine is a flawless pairing for the cooling weather outside. Fair warning: this Cabernet comes with a slightly higher-than-average alcohol level. So take caution with serving at room temperature and instead shoot for a few degrees cooler to get the best expression and balance out of the wine. With this lovely drop, try a pairing of roasted vegetables with parmesan polenta, or skirt steak with rosemary butter. All in all, we say, “so long” to summer and “greetings” to autumn. We hope you enjoy these mountain-bred wines and the seasonal pairings that accompany them so well! Sam Stowell Samantha Stowell began her adventure with wine 4 years ago after quitting her corporate life as an interior designer. After completing the Advanced Level 3 WSET course, she traveled to McLaren Vale, Australia to work for Mollydooker wines on the cellar floor, in the tasting room and, ultimately, their marketing department. Since returning, she has been the resident sommelier of two Southern California establishments, where she focused on developing their wine programs until deciding to retire from the floor and begin her own wine education and recommendation business, Sam(the)Somm.
If we're being honest with ourselves, wine has a cultural stigma that it's still trying to shake. It can feel intimidating, exclusionary, and reserved only for those with "refined sensibilities" or whatever advertisers say. No doubt, that stigma is starting to dissolve as young sommeliers (and the internet) make wine education and discovery more accessible. But there is the lingering question for many, "Is it for me?". Luckily, there is no shortage of people eager to break right through that crumbling, tired mold. Asked why Oakland has been the perfect home for her ambitious wine event, Melody Fuller - founder of the Oakland Wine Festival - had a response that underscores both the city AND wine culture as a whole : "It is my way of pushing the narrative beyond the fading stereotypes of what Oakland is and who her people are". "Oakland residents and the Greater Bay Area residents provide tremendous support to the Napa Valley and Sonoma County wineries. A part of me, being a proud Oakland native, wanted to create a way to let the world know about that", she explains further. Melody's festival ain't no joke...and far from it. As a testament to that tremendous support, she's backed by winemakers of some of the world's best grapes - Silverado, Rombauer, and Opus One to name a few. Those three alone would be worth investing an afternoon in red and white juice consumption. However, it's not just the Oakland Wine Festival's location that intends to plow through barriers. The event's Judgment of Oakland, a repurposed version of the legendary Judgment of Paris blind tasting, brings the entire spectrum of grape lovers into the same room, drinking the same wine and rating them the same way. "The Judgement of Oakland invites wine enthusiasts, novices, buyers, sommeliers, winemakers, winery owners and the curious to taste and privately rank the wines by voting", Melody enthusiastically declares. "It's a rare experience that only select professionals have enjoyed for centuries worldwide". If getting wine owners, makers, and hobbyists together IRL to taste world-class vino from around the globe isn't a catalyst to community building, then we're certainly doing it wrong. Can't swing to this year's event? Get a taste of prime Napa Valley with the 2013 Silverado Cabernet Sauvignon. There are still tickets left for the Oakland Wine Festival on July 15th. $35 for 100+ excellent, rare wines. It's a steal. Follow the community via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
The I like this grape. team is often asked: what wine should one bring to a particular event or for a certain person in their life? Send us your burning questions and we'll have one of our wildly talented #SommNextDoor team members or wine aficionados answer. Recently, we were asked by a young hot-shot attorney from Orange County, California: "What wine should I take to my boss's house? He's having a small dinner with a few young attorneys from the firm. I think he likes California cabernets." For this question, we asked Paul Hodgins (the "Critic" on Wine Mom & the Critic) and bonafide #SommNextDoor, Samantha (Sam) Stowell to weigh in: Samantha: Young attorney wants to impress the big guy at his own house! I would go with a full-varietal Cabernet Sauvignon out of Napa that is produced by Delgadillo Cellars, which is a part of the Mexican American Vintners Association. I got to know Ignacio Delgadillo, who goes by Iggy, and his father of the same name. Ignacio Sr. started in the wine game after years and years working as a vineyard manager on other wineries in Napa. He eventually decided to make wine for himself and opened Delgadillo Cellars 30 years ago. So Ignacio Sr starts producing wine, and they put into barrels to age. The wines hit 36 months and he starts doing barrel samples (i.e. tasting out of barrels before bottling). It's just not good enough yet. Five, seven, nine years go by! Ignacio and Iggy will wait until it is absolutely prime time to release their wines. This past November of 2016 I tasted the current release: a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon. It's fabulous! Velvety, super soft, totally luscious, still had tannins, still had acid. It was beautiful, absolutely stunning. I appreciated the story behind it and the dedication they have to the craft. They simply won't compromise. The Cabernet starts at $95, and they have a red table wine that's about $40. Top: Samantha Stowell. Bottom: Paul Hodgins. In a car on the way to a tasting. (Someone's gotta do it. The wines aren't going to taste themselves.) Paul: If I was a young attorney trying to impress the bosses, I would go with something that's really "culty". A bottle that only a few people know about. You don't want to go with something obvious like Screaming Eagle. That's too big to be culty. Find something that nobody else knows about. I would go with something like Arrow & Branch. The winery is owned by an Orange County couple. They live in Laguna Beach, Steve & Seanne Contursi. Robert Parker goes ape-shit over their wine. Arrow & Branch does Bordeaux blends. But they also do kind of odd one-offs, like 100% Cabernet Franc - which is incredibly silky and smooth and not like any other Cabernet Franc you've tasted. Expensive and hard to find, it's got a story behind it, and it's got a local connection. This is a winning bottle for a fancy law firm's partner dinner! Nice! Be sure to follow Sam's adventures and Paul's critiques for more stellar wine insight.
Most of us are aware of the pesticides, fertilizers, and other gross shit that often makes it way into mass-produced crops. Farming techniques are the direct result of this chemical usage. These techniques rely on shortcuts to produce more veggies and fruits with less overhead (i.e. manual labor) that impacts profit margins. Go green Alternative farming methods, specifically organic production, combat these otherwise McMansions of crops. Wine production is no different. As Anthony Perliss of Napa Valley's Perliss Vineyards explains, "Organic essentially implies nothing synthetic in your farming. That includes fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides.". Perliss Vineyards is proud to enforce a strict nature-only approach to its wines. Anthony gave us the lowdown on Perliss's approach to grape farming and what influences their exceptional vino: The goods What are the fundamental differences between general wine production and organic farming? Organic farming is a commitment to nature. It's more labor intensive than conventional farming, but the result is a more dynamic vineyard with a richer ecosystem. Our vineyard is on a slope surrounded by forest; the idea of a natural interplay between these two organic bodies is very important to us. Rather than using synthetic pesticides, we rely on owls, bats, birds, & ladybugs to combat pests. We use organic fertilizers and fungicides as opposed to the synthetic ones. Weed control is done manually instead of using herbicides. Overlooking Perliss vines Wine is taken into your body and is a concentrated product - you're consuming hundreds of unwashed grapes in a bottle of wine. It seems like a good idea to ingest what the body can recognize and assimilate. Fermentation is a powerful thing and neutralizes a lot of what comes in from the vineyard. But I have a hard time imagining it neutralizing synthetic materials. Aaron Pott, Winemaker What was the catalyst for Perliss Vineyards to adopt organic farming? It was never a question to do otherwise. We've lived on our property in Calistoga for almost 30 years and we have a deep respect for this landscape. Our well - the source for our drinking water and irrigating our vines and fruit trees - is in the middle of our vineyard. We prefer not to be drinking Roundup, even if Monsanto says it's safe to do so. For a wine to truly speak of a place, cultivating the diversity and idiosyncrasy of the vineyard is essential. As part of our mission to represent our little piece of the Valley as purely as possible, we don't add yeast to our grapes for fermentation, nor do we filter our wine before bottling. The inspiration What inspires the Perliss brand? Any particular music, film, art? This sounds obvious, but the landscape itself is the huge inspiration for Perliss. For decades my family has been enamored by this rugged, beautiful place - its manzanita, madrone and oak forest, its wildlife, its fierce winds and extreme temperatures - before we ever thought of planting vines. That the resulting wine somehow captures what we love about this site is incredible and deeply inspiring. The names & images of our wines, "The Ravens" & "The Serpents" are nods to the creatures that animate this place. Beyond that, as I worked for years in the perfume business, I see parallels between perfume and wine - the idea of precious essences extracted from a landscape somehow informs our project. What is the ideal song(s) for drinking a bottle of 2013 Perliss The Ravens? Tezeta (Nostalgia) by Mulatu Astatketh - deep, soulful, flowing. Also Brandenburg Concerto No. 1, Second Movement, Adagio by J.S. Bach - sounds like the energy of the forest. Learn more about Perliss Vineyards on their website and pay them a visit in Calistoga on your next visit to Napa Valley.