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
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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!
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.
That's right. Don't let the haters nor the reputation fool you. Canned wine is here and it's - actually - pretty damn good. Over this summer, I drank a lot of wine. A fair bit of Aperol and Campari too, but mostly wine. For me, summer is a chance for spontaneity: impromptu trips to the beach or lake, long bike rides or hikes, and big group get-togethers. The one challenge with wine is that it always required a little bit of planning. Spur-of-the-moment wine pairings were challenging, whether that meant I had to quickly chill down bottles of Donnhoff and Saetti before a barbecue (if you've never paired Riesling or Lambrusco with your grilled meat, then you haven't lived). For picnics or day trips, it's easy enough to saber a bottle of Stolpman Vineyard's Pet Nat, but much harder to crack open a bottle of Dufaitre's Côte de Brouilly when you've forgotten your corkscrew. On the flipside, cans have always been supremely easy to pack and even easier to quaff. As drinkers, we've always accepted beer in a can and, with the world domination of La Croix, canned water is now as ubiquitous as its bottled brethren.
If you believe rosé was the wine for summer, then Chardonnay will definitely be the juice for fall. This versatile grape can be found almost everywhere wine is grown. It comes in a wide range of flavors and textures, from crisp-apple versions that are housed in stainless steel, to buttery-rich drops soaked in oak. As we stare autumn in the face, here are a couple of fantastic Chardonnays to get you rolling: Foxen, Chardonnay “Bien Nacido Vineyard Block UU” 2015 - Santa Maria Valley, CA Want to get weird? Try this Chardonnay from two dudes named Dick and Bill over in northern Santa Barbara. This wine is crazy cool just for the sheer fact it was grafted onto Riesling vines back in the day. Which, oddly enough, gives the wine some tropical notes of pears, peaches, great acidity and tons of balance. It's an ideal mix of sprightly, lighter wines and the heftier taste you'd expert from a Chard. Awesome for the smooth transition from summer into fall. Jules Taylor, Chardonnay 2013 - Marlborough, New Zealand New Zealand (aka Kiwi Land) isn’t just Sauvignon Blanc and sheep. It’s also home to some of the best Chardonnay out there! Jules is a sweet lady with a strong passion for winemaking - and an even stronger liver. She pumps out hand crafted classics every year that gain a lot of attention. This wine has tons of texture. It's packed with layers of complex aromas such as ripe yellow apples, lemon, white peach and a kiss of oak. Nicholas Ducos Nicholas Ducos is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier. He's worked in many prestigious restaurants in Miami, Florida. As a chef and as a sommelier, he is dedicated to creating a memorable dining experience and making wine relatable to others in a witty yet refined style. Nicholas is currently the Assistant Winemaker at Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Follow his latest adventures through his website and Instagram.