Happy harvest everyone!For those who don’t know, we're smack in the middle of the 2018 grape harvest here at the winery. For winemakers, the grape harvest is really the reason we do this job. We wait and wait all year long watching the vines grow, pushing leaves and popping grapes. That, along with steaming barrels and cleaning tanks in preparation to make the next vintage better than the last's. In reality, winemaking is quite easy. You put some grapes in a bucket, add some yeast and wait a few weeks, press the grapes and voilà…God's gift to mankind has been created. However, making higher-end wines with balanced flavor, acidity and mouth-feel takes a little finesse. The next few months will bring us many highs, many lows, sticky hands, tired feet and hopefully lots of cold beer! So how does one make wine? Well, please allow me to show you…Week 1: Grape Samples, Cleaning and Picking!Before we can just start pressing grapes, we have to pick some sample berries from the vines we think are almost ready. On the farm we have over 30 individual vineyards planted with over 13 varietals. So we we’re looking at Sugar, PH and Acid to determine if grapes are ready to pick. (Winemaker note: Sugar converts to alcohol, pH protects the wine and Acid helps the brightness and balance). The team is also prepping for the grapes to come in, which means an outrageous amount of cleaning. They said winemaking is 90% cleaning and 10% drinking beer! Just cleaning out tanks and pulling out the harvest equipment took about an entire day. Earlier in the week we received nine, open-top fermenters from Napa to ferment our red wines. This makes sanitation a priority - not to mention painting the bottoms blue to match our current tanks. A sexy set of Burgundy barrels from France sailed in as well. Most importantly, the first round of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine…all within 48 hours.Stay tuned for updates on our progress!
Nicholas Ducos has been providing joy to our readers with articles on variety of wine topics from his certified sommelier point of view - but over the last year Ducos has expanded his dominance in the game by becoming a winemaker for a William Heritage Winery in New Jersey (yes, Jersey!). He's doing experimental winemaking as well as bringing back some traditional techniques. We caught up with our dude to reintroduce him to our audience. Enjoy!Take us back to your earliest experience with wine, where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? It’s embarrassing but here it goes. I went to The Culinary Institute of America for college. As you know, CIA is where some of the most iconic chefs learned how to cook and build the fundamentals to be really great in the Food and Booze industry. Icons like Anthony Bourdain, Charlie Palmer and just about every freaking Celebrity Chef on T.V. is an alumni. They required us to take a mandatory wine class with three weeks of tasting the finest wines from Burgundy, Germany, Napa Valley, and more. While I was busy throwing back Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux, poppin' bubbles like it’s my birthday and chasing tail across the room, wine quizzes were being thrown my way once a week and I thought I was nailing them. Actually I knew I was! Turns out… I wasn’t and failed my 1st college course. However, $4,000 later and a spit bucket by my side I passed with an A- and never looked back. This was the beginning of my journey in wine. There is so much to do in the wine industry, what do you do? I love this question. I am the Assistant Winemaker at William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ. Now before you ask…yes we make wine in New Jersey and yes it is quite delicious. My day to day changes greatly. Some days I am running around the vineyards like a mad man collecting grapes to evaluate the Brix (sugar) and PH (Acidity). Other times I spend hours cleaning barrels, filtering wine and doing lab work.What gets your excited in the morning to go to work? I think the thing that really kicks me into high gear is my commute. I live in Philadelphia (The Most Underrated City in America) but I work on a farm so as I drive over the river and through the woods. You magically go from the hustle and bustle of city living into a very green lush farmland with cows, produce and, most importantly, vineyards. You would never expect it!Your top 3 favorite wine regionsEasy question…- Marlbrough, New Zealand. So much more than just Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of great Pinot Noir and Gewurtztraminer.- Long Island, New York. World class Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon being grown. Same latitude as Bordeaux but with nicer beaches!- Bouzeron, France. A little commune in Burgundy that produces minerality-driven wines from the grape Aligoté. The stuff is just sexy winemaking, man. And at a fraction of the cost of high-end burgundy.What do think about this canned wine movement? How can you hate it? It’s booze on the go. I love it so much that we decided to make it here in NJ. We’re the 1st winery in New Jersey to make a canned wine! Obviously... it was Rosé.What’s the most memorable meal you and your girlfriend had recently, and what wine did you pair with it?My girlfriend is Italian and there is this amazing old school tradition where every Sunday you invite all your friends and family over to eat tons of food and drink bottles and bottles of wine until you can’t tell the difference between your uncle Giuseppe's left leg and the dog. Ironically this event is called “Sunday Gravy”. That being said, we held this grand tradition at the house last week and it surely was a rager! Five courses of pasta, meatballs and cheese followed by some homemade wine I made in a garage with a few old school Italian guys in their 60’s. We only make magnums because no one ever drinks just one bottle of wine in this circle.Let’s play a quick game, we’ll give you 3 celebrities and you tell us a wine that matches their personalityBeyonce: Cava! She’s got that mystery to her that is very powerful yet under the radar. Kylie Jenner: Is she even allowed to drink yet? She can be a bottle of Barefoot bubbly…..DO I NEED TO EXPLAIN? I hate Barefoot… President Trump: A warm can of PBR…Follow Nicholas on Instagram @somm_ist
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, CAWant 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 ZealandNew 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 DucosNicholas 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.
This past weekend, I talked about 2 of the 3 ways to savor wine like a master somm. Got those tips memorized? Good. Now comes the best part: Taste The final step is, no doubt, to taste. Highly recommend you get yourself a spit cup, but I know you're going to swallow anyway. Cheers! To analyze each of these elements, we use a range of low-med-high: Acid. Does the wine make you salivate? On the side of your tongue, near the back of your mouth, is where you can feel this sensation. Some of us call it “The Waterfall Effect”. Acid (not the stuff in college) is great for cleansing your palate after fatty foods like risotto or short ribs. Tannin. Is your mouth drying up? Tannin is the sensation of dry mouth. It's typically found on your cheeks and gums. Tannin tell us if the wine has been aged in oak (cheeks) and/or has spent extended time on the skins (Gums). Extra time on the skins adds additional bodyweight, as well as color. Body. How does the wine feel in your mouth? I like to compare it between the feeling of water or milk. Water being of light-bodied weight and milk being full-bodied. Alcohol. Can you feel the BERN!!! Oh wait, I mean the BURN!! Is the booze burning your senses or can you barely tell the stuff is getting you drunk? Complexity. Did you have a lot to say as you went through this evaluation or no? If yes, then you have a complex wine in front of you. If not, then your wine is pretty boring and I hope you didn’t pay more than $10 for that shit. Conclusion BOOM there you go! That’s the whole wine tasting gig right there. The world's best Sommeliers are expected to do this entire evaluation and a few extra steps...in under four minutes...and not even know what wine is in the glass. The key is to practice every time you open a bottle of wine. Take the five minutes, learn and enjoy. After that, treat yourself to the rest of the bottle and show a friend what you’ve learned! Now that you're a bonafide expert, be sure to download the tasting sheet and get into this juice: Truchard Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 ($25)- Napa Valley, CALawson's Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($16)- Marlborough, New ZealandRed Car Heaven & Earth Pinot Noir 2014 ($65)- Sonoma, CADuckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($65) - Napa Valley, CA About your #SommNextDoor Nicholas Ducos Nicholas Ducos is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier. He's worked in many prestigious restaurants in Miami, Florida. As a chef and as a sommelier, he is dedicated to creating a memorable dining experience and making wine relatable to others in a witty yet refined style. Nicholas is currently the Assistant Winemaker at Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Follow his latest adventures through his website and Instagram.
Ever since the documentary Somm was released, everyone wants to learn how to taste wine or is impressed by those you can. The art of wine tasting is something that must be practiced over and over. It took me years to decipher Sonoma Pinot Noir from Burgundy Pinot Noir but now I can tell just by smelling a wine. You see, the magic to becoming a great taster is learning the basics of “sensory evaluation”. In other words, using your eyes, nose and mouth to figure out WTF is in the glass. If you can understand sensory evaluation, your next wine experience will feel eerily similar to losing your virginity and saying “Oh snap! Did I just do that?!”. Sight First things first: use your eyes, homie. Just by looking at a wine in the glass you can pull so much information. Ask yourself the following questions: Is the wine clear or cloudy? This can tell us if the wine is filtered or not. Gas or sediments? This tells us if we're drinking a sparkling wine or still wine. Sediments (the dark floaters in the bottom of the glass) are typically found in red wine and are signs of aging. What’s the color? This goes one of two ways: red or white. Once you use your wine genius to figure that out, dive a little deeper. For example, is it red, is it Ruby, purple, garnet, etc. For whites, is it gold, straw, pale straw, silver…catch my drift? How intense is the color? Depending on the intensity, you can already figure out a few grape varietals. Thick-skinned grapes like Malbec or Cabernet Sauvignon offer deep, rich intense colors to the point where you can’t see through the wine. Chardonnay has a similar effect. Thin-skinned grapes offer very translucent juice, such as Pinot Noir or Cab Franc would. This is my favorite part…The viscosity aka “The Legs”. Give that baby a swirl and watch those legs run down the glass! Thick legs that run fast mean higher alcohol. Thick legs that run slow typically mean higher sugar. It’s that simple. Smell Next is the smell. Time to use that honker of yours but heed my words: don’t dig your nose in the glass. Wines higher in alcohol will burn and you'll regret it. Usually three inches out is good and you can pickup more aromatics from the distance. Feel free to use the aroma wheel here as guidance and again ask yourself the following: Does it smell clean or flawed? Pretty much, does it smell good or not? If it smells oxidized or like vinegar we can stop here and grab a new bottle. If not, lets continue. What is the primary smell? Fruit or earth. Are we smelling juicy ripe berries or are we smelling peppery herbs and dirt? This is a MAJOR sign of a new world wine (North America, South America, New Zealand, Australia) vs. old world (Europe and everywhere else). New world wines 99.9% are always going to be fruit forward. Beyond the primary smell, is there a secondary smell? If so, dive deep but listen here - when you say, “I smell apples.” be more specific! Is it a tart green apple, a ripe yellow apple or a baked apple? Oh, that’s citrus you smell? Great…lemon, lime or an orange? Ya dig? Is there oak? Most wines are aged in oak and the sign for it is spice, vanilla and/or buttery goodness. Some say baking spices such as clove and cinnamon. It’s somewhat subjective. Oak really adds that layer of complexity and being able to pinpoint that really shows everyone you kinda know what you're doing. But wait! What about the best part: tasting the wine? Tune in next week for the complete package on how to analyze wine like a master somm. In the meantime, be sure to download the tasting sheet and apply your new knowledge to these sommelier-approved wines: Truchard Vineyards Chardonnay 2015 ($25)- Napa Valley, CALawson's Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015 ($16)- Marlborough, New ZealandRed Car Heaven & Earth Pinot Noir 2014 ($65)- Sonoma, CADuckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 ($65) - Napa Valley, CA Here's our Jennifer Tapiero teaching Jimmy Vestvood (character played by superstar comedian Maz Jobrani) how to taste wine. Memorable quotes include Jimmy comparing the taste of the wine to sex. Yup. About your #SommNextDoor Nicholas Ducos Nicholas Ducos is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier. He's worked in many prestigious restaurants in Miami, Florida. As a chef and as a sommelier, he is dedicated to creating a memorable dining experience and making wine relatable to others in a witty yet refined style. Nicholas is currently the Assistant Winemaker at Heritage Vineyards in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Follow his latest adventures through his website and Instagram.
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.