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Fall Is Here. Time To Crack Some Chardonnay.
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.
Taste Wine Like a Master Somm - Part 2
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.
Taste Wine Like a Master Somm - Part 1
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.
Cool Kid Juice - Sunday Funday
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.
Hip Wine or Hippie Wine (WTF is Biodynamics?)
Organic…it seems to be the term of our generation right after “gluten free”. Natural food with, what is believed to have, no pesticides, herbicides and cancer-causing agents. Everything nowadays is becoming organic and it's even hit the wine market. There is a new term that consumers are beginning to see on wine labels and it’s creating quite the buzz...mixed with slight confusion. It is a term that makes organic sound like it’s just not trying hard enough. So what is this new category of safety and au naturale that is starting to trend the wine market? It’s called Biodynamics - essentially, organics with a little voodoo, a dash of science and a sprinkle of crazy. Just kidding! It actually encompasses organics, biodiversity and astronomy. Rudolf Steiner: the madman behind Biodynamics This form of agriculture has been around since the 1920’s. The study of Biodynamics was created by an Austrian philosopher, social reformer, architect and esotericist named Rudolf Steiner. Steiner's focus was about finding the connection between science and spirituality. He wrote a few books, gave a lecture here and there and quickly gained a cult following. His theory is quite simple: lose the pesticides, chemicals and all things unnatural in the vineyards. Then replace it with the most natural substances that can be found on earth. If the soil is healthy, the vines will be healthy as well, creating a wine that will be so damn delicious you can easily taste the difference. From afar, this concept sounds great and I like where it’s going. However, there is some crazy hippy shit involved that makes you wonder if Mr. Steiner ate one too many of the magic mushrooms and forgot to pass the J! Now, I am not saying all these farmers are dope-toking stoners. Their work is highly regarded and respected. I mean, Biodynamic viticulture is the practice of balancing this resonance between vine, man, earth, stars and has nothing but the greatest intentions for mankind and the earth we live on. But, you see, Biodynamic farming has rules and ideas that are, for the lack of better terms, “thought-provoking”. Rules that state things such as picking grapes based on lunar cycles and can even go as far as harvesting in the nude. There is a lot to cover here but, for the sake of time, let's discuss a few of the major rules of biodynamics. Rules 500 & 502-507 Rule 500: Horn manure (AKA preparation 500), is composed of cow manure that’s buried inside of a cow horn and fermented over the winter season. The manure is then dug out and stirred in water in a process of “potentization” before being sprayed on the soil. Supposedly, this will stimulate processes in the earth for better root development and water uptake in the vineyard. Rules 502-507: Steiner also recommends six compost preparations that are fermented under, and above, ground. These combinations enrich compost with various properties, from stabilizing nitrogen to stimulating silica to attracting cosmic forces from beyond the solar system to the soil. These are, in order: yarrow blossoms stuffed into urinary bladders from red deer (502), chamomile blossoms stuffed into small intestines from cattle (503), stinging nettle (504), oak bark placed inside the skull of a domesticated animal like a dog or a pig (505), and dandelion flowers stuffed into the mesentery of a cow (506). If you don’t know what a mesentery is, according to the dictionary: A fold of the peritoneum that attaches the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, spleen, and other organs to the posterior wall of the abdomen. Why that part of the intestine is beyond me. And, finally, valerian flowers (507). This all sounds pretty logical right? I mean, we’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of this practice and to explain it all would take me writing a few books and giving a lecture here or there. So, one must ask, is biodynamic winemaking the real deal or just a bunch of hippies trusting the cosmos of space and lunar cycles trying to create the most natural wine man has seen in the last 100 years? You be the judge and tell us if you can taste the difference. Here are few biodynamic wines that I actually love a lot. You can find them online and share with your friends. I would just save the talk about the cow shit being tossed all over the grapes until after the bottle is finished! 1. Clos de la Coulee de Serrant - Loire, France 2. Bonny Doon - Santa Cruz County, California 3. Chateau Beaucastel - Chateauneuf du Pape, France 4. Cooper Mountain Vineyards- Willamette Valley, Oregon  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.
A Toast to Black History in Wine
Black History Month! It's one of my favorite months of the year. We get to celebrate America's diversity and raise a glass to those who helped make this country great. Without diversity, America would be just as boring as Pinot Grigio. Lucky for us, we have options... and lots of them. With diversity, no one wine is the same as the next, nor do they all come from the same place. However, it does have one major similarity: wine brings people together. With that being said, here are a few very influential leaders in the wine industry doing just that…bringing people together. André Hueston Mack André Hueston Mack: Winemaker Ahh Corporate America. It’s not for everybody - especially this guy. Mack left his suit and tie back at Citicorp and headed to Texas to become a sommelier. Quickly earning the title “Best Young Sommelier in America”, Mack’s career rapidly shifted and opened an opportunity to work as the head sommelier for Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City. From there he pursued a real interest of his: winemaking. Through building a brand Mouton Noir (aka Black Sheep), Mack’s creativity in design and marketing has risen him to be a trend setter in the wine industry. His playful wine labels and clothing brand helped take wine away from snobby to just outright hilarious, fun and witty. Watch Grammy award winner Bridget Kelley doing a blind tasting with one of Andre's wines! VIDEO Marbue Marke Marbue Marke: Winemaker at Caldwell Vineyards At the age of 15, Marbue was the first in his family to leave Africa. In doing so, he attended UC Davis for medicine and eventually decided, “Blood and selfishness weren’t going to work for me." So he switched his degree to Enology (winemaking) and went on to attain his MBA from Sonoma State. Working under some of the best names in the wine industry, Marbue began to define himself and craft his own wines under the “Caldwell” brand. Even though he is thought to be one of the most talented winemakers in the world, Marbue keeps a low profile. You can still find him in the cellars of Caldwell, hand-crafting small lots of fine wine every year. Iris Rideau Iris Rideau: Owner of Rideau Vineyards New Orleans native Iris Rideau happens to be one of the first African American female winery owners in the United States. Iris, who was born into poverty back in the 30’s, has built a well deserved name for herself. She produces award-winning wines and is recognized from her work as a local activist in Los Angeles back in the 60’s and 70’s, where she helped secure jobs for ethnic minority women. Her winery, Rideau Vineyards, in Santa Ynez, CA focuses on Rhone varietals and refuses to grow. With a production size of less than 8,000 cases, a bottle of her wine is rare to find. Iris is, truly, a great representation of the American dream. Dylnn Proctor Dylnn Proctor: Sommelier Most famous for his appearance in the documentary Somm: Into the Bottle,Proctor has become a recognized figure in the wine (and fashion) industry. His dapper suits and immense wine knowledge are just a few things that make him a stand out in the wine world. Proctor has not only proven that wine can be easily approachable, but shows the industry is becoming more diverse and a younger generation is slowly taking over.Proctor now represents the finest wine brand in Australia, Penfolds, and travels the world doing what he loves most: sippin wine and spittin knowledge. Red Carpet conversation with Dylnn at the Somm 2 premiere in Napa! VIDEO 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.