Valentine's Day screams for sparkling wine, but it’s important to note that not all bubbles are created equal. When shopping around for the perfect bottle at the right price point, it is extremely helpful to know what the difference is between styles of sparkling wine and where they come from. Champagne – the O.G.This is it, the wine the world defers to as the best sparkling wine ever. The original bubbly, the standout sparkler, the very best. However, NOT all sparkling wine is Champagne; in fact, it can only be called Champagne if it comes from the specific region of Champagne in France. This can be confusing here in the U.S. where you will still see the term Champagne on labels of California sparkling wine, but make no mistake! Those are not the real deal. What makes real Champagne so unique and sought after is the place that it comes from and the way it is made. In Champagne, the wines undergo a second fermentation in a bottle – most often the one that you buy it in – to capture the CO2 and make it bubbly. This process is referred to as the Traditional Method, and while this method is used elsewhere to create similar styles of sparkling wine, Champagne is the hallmark. This is also why Champagne will usually cost you a pretty penny but is pretty much always worth it.Grapes used in making ChampagneAll Champagne is made using three main varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier. These grapes, grown in chalky Champagne soil, are responsible for creating the unique aroma and flavor profiles of the wine. High quality Champagne will deliver wines with racy acidity, a creamy mousse (the feel of the bubbles on your palate), and a toasty quality often described as brioche, biscuit or pastry dough. The official terminology is that these wines display autolytic characteristics. These aromas and flavors come from extended contact with the lees (spent yeast cells) in the bottle during the second fermentation and are the calling card of any wine that is made using the Traditional Method. Which Champagne to buySo which Champagne should you buy? Depends on what fits into your budget, but I recommend going with a Champagne made from Premier or Grand Cru grapes. They may cost a little bit more, but over deliver on quality. Champagne Lallier makes exceptional Grand Cru champagne in both white and rosé style, but there are many others to be found as well.What is grower-producer ChampagneAnother hot trend in Champagne now is buying Grower-Producer Champagnes. Most of the Champagne sold is made by the big houses from grapes they buy from other growers, but there is more availability these days of Champagnes that the individual growers are making from their own grapes. You can tell which is which by looking for a little two letter code on the back label, followed by a string of numbers. If it says RM, it is a Grower-Producer Champagne; if it says NM, that means it comes from one of the big houses. "RM" stangs for récoltant manipulant, a grower who makes champagne out of their own grapes.Photo credit: http://culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.comVintage Champagne – The best of the bestAs discussed above, Champagne is associated with that delicious biscuit aroma and flavor that comes from the winemaking process, but most Champagne is made by blending multiple vintages, so normally the label will say NV, or non-vintage. This allows Champagne producers to make a consistent, high quality product year after year that their customers can rely on and easily recognize. However, in the very best years some producers will make Vintage Champagnes, using only grapes from that year. These wines will reflect the overarching style of the house, but also have unique characteristics influenced by vintage variation. They are also often aged much longer on the lees, sometimes up to eight years or more, developing even more of that autolytic character common to all Champagne. So if that is a quality you like, vintage Champagne will be right up your alley. It will definitely cost you so be ready to throw down some cash, but once you take a sip of, oh let’s say the Henriot Brut Millésimé 2008, you’ll likely be glad that you did.Crémant – Top notch, bottom dollarCrémants refer to traditional method sparkling wines made in France that are not from Champagne, and they represent an EXCELLENT value in the category. Crémant d’Alsace and Crémant de Loire (two other wine growing regions of France) will deliver excellent sparkling wines with a similar autolytic character at a fraction of the price. They can also be made with non-traditional Champagne varietals like Chenin Blanc or Riesling, adding intriguing layers of aromatics and flavors to these wines that differentiate them from Champagne. The Loire Valley actually produces the most traditional method sparkling wine in France after Champagne, so they know a thing or two about good bubbles, and you can find a great one that will knock your socks off for less than $20.Cava – Bang for your buckCava comes from Spain, and they have been making their bubbles there since the 1800’s. The traditional method is used here as well, but winemaking technology allows them to expedite the process and also lower the cost, meaning it is easy to find an excellent bottle of Cava for often much less than $25. Traditional Cava also uses the indigenous Spanish varietals Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Perellada, which can lend some more tropical Mediterranean notes like melon and peach to the aroma and flavor profile. Cava is, and always will be, a bargain for the traditional method junkie, but it's helpful to know your producers. Bottom shelf Cava from the grocery store will not show the same kind of elegance and complexity you will find from a more quality oriented producer like Juvé Y Camps.(Watch the recap to I like this grape's first SOMMX event? Kanye West's Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine: Video recap.)New World Sparklers – Blow your mind, not your budgetWhen you leave Europe and enter the New World, you will still find sparkling wine made it all countries. This includes South America, Australia, the USA, South Africa, New Zealand, you name it. Sparkling wine is just that popular. It can be hard, though, to readily identify the quality sparkling wine since new world countries don’t have nearly the same number of regulations that old world wine regions do. Knowing your producers and terminology can help. For example, several large Champagne houses have set up shop in California, and produce traditional method sparkling wine in the states: Louis Roederer has Roederer Estate up in Anderson Valley and Domaine Chandon is owned by the powerhouse Moët & Chandon. Looking on the label for the term “Traditional Method” will also key you in to the style and quality of production. Some countries use a different name for it, like the term “Cap Classique” in South Africa. In fact, my recommendation to anyone who wants to blow their mind with a new world traditional method sparkling wine is to go out immediately and purchase a bottle of Graham Beck Brut Zero Cap Classique. It will be the best $25 you have spent all month.Prosecco – Sassy SparkleProsecco is the princess of Italian sparkling wines. This wildly popular wine can be found all over the world, but can only be made in the northeastern region of Italy. It is the aperitif of choice among locals and tourists alike. What makes Prosecco so specifically delicious is that it uses a different method of production from Champagne and all other traditional method sparkling wines. Prosecco does not have a second fermentation in the bottle or extended contact with lees, so the resulting wines are crisp, fresh and fruity without the nuance of biscuit or brioche. This makes it an incredible versatile option to drink on its own or mix in cocktails, and it is always refreshing and delightful. While some Prosecco’s may have a little bit of residual sugar and seem sweeter that other sparkling wines, drier versions are becoming more common and easy to find on the market. Again, these are also incredible value wines, offering up their sassy sparkle in a lower budget bracket. For an added bonus without much added cost, look for a DOCG Prosecco. A smaller category, but worth the investigation.Moscato d’Asti – Sweet and spectacularThis iconic dessert wine of Piemonte, Italy, is often underrated and underappreciated. These lightly sparkling sweet dessert wines are made from the aromatic Moscato grape and offer sublime elegance to any event. Unfortunately, its good name has been tarnished by the flood of syrupy sweet imitations labelled simply “Moscato” that can be found in the supermarket, but these carbonated sugar waters can’t hold a candle to the real thing. True Moscato d’Asti are delicate wines and excellent pairings with lighter desserts that aren’t overly sugary, like strawberries and Chantilly cream, or even as a delightful aperitif. Have any questions on Champagne? Just send us a message on Twitter or Instagram! Cheers!If you're still looking for that perfect Valentine's Day present for the wine lover in your life, then check out Drive Through Napa, a modern primer on Napa Valley. Bonus content from 16 of Napa's top wineries + industry's first Price to Value charts powered by Vivino.
All Stories in "napa-valley"
I'm excited to share our latest project, a series of books under the name "Drive Through". The first book in the series is titled Drive Through Napa, the essential modern primer on Napa Valley. The process of creating the book from ideation to fruition was exciting and for me personally the most rewarding part. I wanted to give you a peek behind the curtains of the process and thinking that went into this unique project. If you have visited, plan to visit Napa Valley or you drink Napa Valley wine, then this book is for you! Drive Through Napa BUY eBook $10BUY paperback $18Creative Direction and Design of Drive Through NapaFrom the start of the project we knew the design had to stand on its own. It had to be award worthy. I have never done a book cover let alone a book in wine! I'm a brand strategist who's worked in digital my entire career. Thus, I had to push myself and think about our brand at I lIke this grape, what it stood for, who was our audience, and how we could disrupt the way knowledge of Napa Valley wine was currently being communicated. A simple technique that helps me is to frame a question that may seem a bit silly, but forces outside the box thinking - the answer to this question would define our 'north star' for the project:"If Pharrell or Complex Magazine were to write a wine book, what would it look like? What would it sound like?"It was obvious from that question that our book had to look bold, cool, and different than any other wine book in the market. It had to visually scream, yet be subtle and sure of itself knowing it was timeless. Most importantly the book was not going to have a single photo of a vineyard! Honestly, no one can tell one vineyard from another. Not to mention it's cliche, unimaginative, and Pharrell wouldn't do it!When thinking about our audience the primary attributes of the book is that it could be cover to cover in 1-hour. The challenge here is that the content of the book must also remain highly valuable so taking short cuts or leaving out information was not an option. The solve came from using iconography and font treatments for simple data visualization, along with use of spacing and design elements to help manage a readers pace. Thank goodness the designer behind the book, Kathy Lajvardi, is a multi award-winning art director and graphic artist! Content Ideation So now that we have a killer creative direction, we then tackled the task of focusing the book's content. The 'watch-out' is that this book could have become another guidebook telling consumers where to go while visiting Napa and what to drink. We absolutely didn't want this to be a guidebook. Working with an award-winning wine author and professor of journalism Paul Hodgins made the process easier. Most visitors to Napa Valley and those that drink Napa wines know very little about the 16 AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) or “Napa Neighborhoods” that make up Napa Valley and house the nearly 500 wineries there. An AVA is an officially designated wine grape-growing region in the United States. Currently there are about 242 AVAs in the U.S. These 16 AVAs in Napa Valley have distinctive attributes that are purley their own such as soil, climate, elevation, and grapes that can be grown there. Their unique histories also play a big part in the wine that's produced there. Think of it this way, if before visiting Southern California you knew just a little bit about Santa Monica, Downtown LA, and San Diego, then your experiences when visiting those cities would be richer. Thus, the focus of Drive Through Napa is to provide fundamental information of these 16 AVAs and be a valuable resource for anyone that drinks Napa Valley wines.Taking it to Another Level, 2 BonusesNow that we had clear creative and content directions, the book had to jump to another level so it's clearly an I like this grape project and not just another book on Napa Valley. Bonus #1: Each of the 16 AVAs are being introduced by 16 prominent wineries. Think of these participating wineries as stewards who have a deep relationship with their AVA. These introductions help readers understand, from the point-of-view of those that work the land, what makes each AVA so special and how it impacts the wine. I'm grateful to announce the wineries who are participating thus far: Alpha Omega, Cade, Chateau Montelena, Darioush, Dyer Vineyards, Grgich Hills, Hess Collection, Italics, Raymond, Rombauer, Silverado, Smith Madrone, and Trefethen.Bonus #2: I was discussing the project with Heini Zachariassen, Founder of the Vivino App. I asked him, given Vivino's vast community of wine lovers (over 30mm!) if he would allow us to display the average consumer rating for each AVA in the book. He did me one better and came up with what is now called the "Price to Value" index charts in the book! What we're able to show is the value for money you will get for each dollar spent, for each AVA. Say you're willing to spend up to $30 for a bottle of Napa Valley wine. Our charts will show that a wine from Spring Mountain averages 4.1, but only 3.8 for a wine from Yountville. This means, you will get more value for money in Spring Mountain at that price. The charts do not mention any wineries, but instead are focused on the AVA.Valentine's Day 2019I'm excited, proud. and thankful to see this project come to fruition. The book will start shipping in time for Valentine's Day with pre-orders available now. Pre-order copies are $15 (nearly 20% off the list price of $18), plus each pre-ordered copy is autographed by Kathy, Paul, and myself. Pre-order at http://drivethroughnapa.com The printed book has the beautiful color front and back cover with vividly designed black and white on the inside. The eBook is currently planned to be full color. We plan on having Q&A sessions around Southern California. Click here and tweet us to stay in the loop: http://bit.ly/2LEn5px or email me: email@example.comThank you for your support and I hope you truly enjoy the book as much as we loved creating it!
Trefethen Family Vineyards, one of Napa’s most venerable labels marked its 50th anniversary in 2018. To celebrate, they’ve been throwing some swanky parties, and I was lucky enough to be invited to one at the Pelican Hill Resort in Newport Beach.The highlight of the four-course lunch was the wine, of course. Chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons, Trefethen’s flagship varieties, some of them ancient enough to be pulled from the winery’s library. How did they taste, you ask? More on that later.Trefethen is one of Napa’s modern-era pioneers. It began as a retirement project when Kaiser Industries executive Eugene Trefethen got his gold watch and moved to Napa Valley. In 1968 he purchased six small farms and a tumbledown 19th-century winery, Eshcol, creating a 600-acre wine estate. At the time, there were fewer than 20 wineries in Napa Valley.Eugene’s plan was to sell all his grapes to winemakers, but his son John had other ideas. While studying at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, John started experimenting in the basement of his parents’ Napa home. After several failures as a winemaker, John improved, and he and his wife Janet produced Trefethen Vineyards’ first commercial wine in 1973. Only a few years later, Trefethen’s 1976 Chardonnay earned the Best Chardonnay in the World honor at the 1979 Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in Paris. After that, Trefethen was part of the wine world’s upper echelons.- Our favorite $10 corkscrew with a rosewood handle -During the pre-meal mingle I chatted with John and his son Lorenzo, who has become an eloquent spokesman for Trefethen and did most of the public speaking that day. A graduate of Stanford University, Lorenzo joined the family business in 2007 and has spent several summers learning the trade, including a harvest at Bordeaux’s Chateau Petrus. Lorenzo works with the marketing and sales departments, focusing on direct and export sales.Here are some excerpts from Lorenzo’s talk:As an estate winery, how do you keep pace with consumers’ changing tastes?There has been an expansion in the interests of the consumer. Certainly with my generation there’s more experimentation in terms of what they’re trying: other countries, orange wine. While there are certain big trends, for example rosé at the moment, the wines that do really well over time are the ones that have that built-in street cred. So your plan is to stick to what you know and avoid reinventing yourself in a big way. That’s always been our approach. As an estate producer we can’t turn the vineyard over and chase any kind of trend. We’ve always made what was, by our judgment, the best wine of its kind in the area. Being an estate winery, for many years that may have hampered us. But it’s certainly one of our great traits right now. We sort of bridged the gap from upstart, when Napa was new, to established name. Now we’re a classic: a brand that is getting more recognition for how true we’ve been to the principles that we laid down at the very beginning, which are the principles of great winemaking.How do you communicate the wisdom of that logical if unsexy approach to today’s consumer? How do you explain, for example, the advantages of estate wine?That’s something that I’m thinking about right now. The word “estate” … consumers often have no idea what that means. It sounds a little pretentious. There’s also an inherent dignity in the term. We just need to be better at communicating. “Estate” is like a well-kept secret. Some consumers would love to know more about it. I think there’s a really strong story there that starts with, “Did you know most wineries buy fruit from other people?”What’s your stand on organic farming and biodynamic farming?We like the core tenets of both, which are really about creating a farm that sustains itself. And so we are, at our core, both organic and biodynamic; we like to actually say that we’re beyond organic and biodynamic. We’re a couple of months away from our organic certification, but we decided actually not to pursue it because we discovered some ironies in the system – we could do it greener if we worked outside the system. Organic farming has been around now for 50 years. We did things 50 years ago that are considered groundbreaking now, such as the installation of reservoirs and a wastewater treatment facility. How does the rest of the valley compare to Trefethen in that regard?Napa in general is getting greener and greener. The growers historically have been the biggest advocates for organic farming and environmental protection. The Napa Green program (a comprehensive environmental certification program for vineyards and wineries in the Napa Valley) is doing very well. Just over 90 percent of the county’s acreage is under some form of protection from development. What makes your winery unique?We are more sustainable than many of our neighbors because of who we are – a family-owned, multi-generational company. We’ve always worked to improve the land and pass something on to the next generation. That has evolved slowly over time – our understanding of what is sustainable. The thinking that we have now has been developing from good practices we started 50 years ago. The Trefethen wines we sampled:1988 Chardonnay: Sherry-like, raisin-y and deeply honeyed, but still has that characteristic Trefethen chardonnay fruit taste.1996 Chardonnay: Beautifully perfumed, balanced, light in viscosity. A wonderful, quite dry finish.2001 Chardonnay: Large in the nose. Slightly over-ripe. A bit sweeter than the 1996, with lots of fruit.2016 Chardonnay: Full-bodied, balanced, good acidity, not too much oak. Finish is quite long.1991 Cabernet Sauvignon (8 percent merlot): Notes of cocoa and chocolate. Dry, slightly bitter finish.1999 Cabernet Sauvignon (10 percent merlot): Lots of fruit promised in the nose. Smooth, balanced, with definite spice box notes.2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (8 percent merlot, 1 percent cabernet franc, 1 percent petit verdot): Violets and floral perfume in the nose. Big, full mouth feel. Lightly oaked, hint of black olive. Finish isn’t huge.2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (6 percent petit verdot, 5 percent merlot, 4 percent malbec): A bit closed and ascetic. Not ready yet.Want to hear more from Lorenzo and other top Napa Valley winemakers & vintners about what makes their specific "Napa Neighborhood" worth visiting? Check out Drive Through Napa!
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 WinesSitting 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. Smith MadroneThe 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!
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, 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!"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, 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, $19Schramsberg - California, $32Roederer Estate - California, $45Gruet - New Mexico, $15Bien Vivre et Boire le Meilleur!"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
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: firstname.lastname@example.orgWays to HelpThe 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 hereThe Redwood Empire Food Bank is currently providing critical food to shelters for our neighbors displaced by fires. Donate hereUnited Way of Wine Country. Donate hereSonoma County Recovers, both to donate and also ask for assistance if you've been affected. Click hereSonoma County of Education will be coordinating funds for schools and students that have lost everything. Make a payment to a school district. Click hereRunning Directory of Wineries AffectedTres 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." FBDarioush Winery landscape and vineyard damage, but the winery building itself is still standing. (Take a sip of their '13 Caravan Cabernet, $50) IG, TW, FBHagafen 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, FBHelena 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, FBParas 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, FBPulido-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, FBRobert 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) TWSegassia 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, FBSill Family Vineyards, “We will rebuild as soon as we’re allowed to return.” IG, TW, FBStags’ 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, FBVinRoc, 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, FBWilliam 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) FBAncient Oak Cellars, “I’m very sad to report that our house, two big beautiful redwood barns, gorgeous tasting counter... are gone,” IG, FBChateau 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, FBGundlach 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, FBNicholson 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, FBParadise 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, FBSky Vineyards, no updated social page nor website; the extent of the damage is unknown because the fire is still active in that area. FBBackbone 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, FBGolden 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 FoundationE. & 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.