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First Time Drinking Wine - Wine Mom & the Critic Tell All
Everyone has their first time. For some it’s magical, but for many it’s something not to be repeated. A popular question from viewers of our Wine Mom & the Critic show is “When was the first time you drank wine, and what was the first wine you ever bought?” Wine Mom Eva Chavez and the Critic Paul Hodgins reveal their first times. Wine Mom’s First TimeSo don't judge me! I just turned 21 and knew nothing about wine. One random weeknight, this guy I was dating (he also knew nothing about wine, but wanted to act ‘sophisticated’) tells me "Come in my jacuzzi. Let's go have a great night. I got us some wine, I'm going to talk dirty…” blah blah blah. I go over and he does a big reveal of his bottle. It was smaller than regular wine bottles which I thought was strange. He then pours the wine into a Solo cup. A red Solo cup. I drink it and I think, "Wow, this is so sweet, it’s amazing." We’re in the jacuzzi, it’s getting hot, and the next thing I know I'm pounding the wine. You know what it was? Port.He gave me Port, for my first wine. As you know, Port is fortified with a spirit, is very sweet (a dessert wine), high in alcohol, and drunk in tiny cups, not 8oz Solo cups. So I'm in the jacuzzi drinking Port wine thinking I'm fancy as f*** and saying, "Oh, this is amazing. I love it, it's fruity, it's delicious, it's swe. .,” -  I threw up all over his jacuzzi mid-sentence. Needless to say we broke up. Tiny bottle dude had to go.The first wine I ever bought for myself was a magnum of Woodbridge Merlot. Ballin’ at $5.99. Drank it with my sister and a friend. The friend threw up. The Critics’s First TimeIt was the 70s, I was home from college. On a day I was alone, and had the munchies so I raided my uncle’s fridge. In it was a bottle of wine. The wine was in a basket. I thought, “I’m an older, smarter, and distinguished freshman, I should be drinking classy shit.” It was a bottle of Ruffino, a very popular wine in the 70’s. It was sort of an oblong oddly shaped wine that came in a little basket. People that drank Ruffino were the modern equivalent to cat-ladies. They drank it because afterwards the basket could be used as a candle holder you could put on the window to light the way for spirits or moths. So there I was. I, a ‘distinguished’ freshman chugging Ruffino at my uncle’s house. Alone. The only thing missing was a quart of ice cream and a Sandra Bullock rom-com. The first wine I bought for myself was something called Lonesome Charlie. Their slogan was "Lookin' for a friend?" It was pink, bubbly, and it came in a four pack. I thought it was terrible. My girlfriend loved it. I moved on - from her and Charlie in search of better friends.Follow Eva Chavez on Instagram Follow Paul's wine adventures 
Interview with Oscar Seaton Jr. of Seatpocket Wines
Wine mingles with musical talent. We've seen the likes of Slayer, Metallica, John Legend, The Rolling Stones, E40, Dave Mathews, etc. They've all succumbed to the powers that are wine. Now, here's a name we don't hear often: Oscar Seaton Jr. Who is he? Well, you've definitely heard his rhythm before. He's an amazing drummer with an exceptional lineup of artists and movies he's been involved with in his professional career.Now you're about to experience some of his influence in wine:Hello Oscar! We know very little about Seatpocket Wine. What can you tell us about its origins? Of course! It really is a simple story! It actually started as a conversation with my good friend, April Richmond, a few years ago when I asked if she thought having my own wine would be a good idea. After looking at the pro's and con's, I decided to go for it! Our initial focus, aside from costs and logistics, was the brand and how we could create a complete experience that intertwined music and wine. We settled on using my nickname as a drummer, "Seatpocket", and decided that each wine would have a music pairing and would be unique in style and varietal.Professionally, you’re now entering another playing field. Is there a significant move that brought you closer to the wine world that we should know more about?YES! I've always loved wine and knew I wanted to do something in that industry, but I had no idea what or how to start. April started a wine business several years ago. Watching her success and talking to her about the industry over the years led me to take the leap with her. I probably wouldn't be doing any of this if it weren't for her. She brings the experience, background and knowledge along with being our Sommelier and winemaker.Music and wine are something we talk a lot about and you’re truly bringing both universes into a bottle. We want to know what fuels your passion for music and wine.I think passion can come and go, I have more of a love for music and wine than a passion. Love is continuous. My love for both is what keeps me really excited about them everyday. They're both so similar in terms of the emotions they evoke and how we use both to celebrate, relax, get hyped up, etc.Where did the main sources of grapes come from?We sourced grapes from 3 different California regions. The Merlot grapes are from Santa Barbara county, the Chenin Blanc grapes are from Lodi, and the Rosé uses Grenache grapes from the Central Coast. What processes went into making Seatpocket Wine?  We didn't do anything outside of the normal wine making processes. We did use Eastern European oak for the Merlot which has helped maintain a full body that doesn't feel heavy on the palate. The Chenin Blanc has slightly riper grapes that gives it the beautiful aromatics we were specifically going for, without the heavy sweetness. Our Rosé is all old school Saignee method using Grenache grapes.What was the most important factor in making the Merlot? In other words, what did you have to taste in the Merlot to say, “YES. This is me.”I really wanted a Pinot Noir at first, but the Merlot won me over. I wanted something that was dry, dark, smooth, rich but still somewhat light and easy to drink. Not an easy order. Your #Rhythmandwine tag will be buzzing real soon, where do you expect to find your bottles traveling to?We'll be on the road with our Rhythm & Wine events throughout California this summer. We will also be pouring at a few other events across the country and we're working on distribution in Illinois and Georgia! Be sure to visit the Seatpocket Wines site where you can find their 2015 Chenin Blanc and 2014 Merlot!
Sommelier Alex Anderson Tells Us About Okanagan Valley Riesling
The Okanagan is an exciting up-and-coming region in the province of British Columbia in Canada. The terroir screams diversity and tension - which is understandable given the fact that it teeters right on the 50th parallel.One of the promising grapes of the region is Riesling. It shows best in the Northernmost sub regions of the Okanagan Valley and is often found basking in the sun on sloped sites overlooking Lake Okanagan. Riesling grapes thrive in the Okanagan because of the vast diurnal swings and cool moderating breezes that are created by the Lake; ensuring the grapes reach sugar ripeness while still attaining lively acidity. The Okanagan also boasts some of the longest sunshine hours during the growing season in the world due to its Northern latitude. Let's take a look at some of the best Riesling it has to offer:Tantalus’ Old Vines RieslingA winner for all Riesling lovers. The vines that grow this wine were planted in 1978 on a promising slope in Kelowna, British Columbia. The Tantalus Riesling guarantees a deep and concentrated experience — mouthwatering to say the least! Wet stone and slatey flavours balanced by floral tones, a limey spine and ripe apple flavours that are sure you want to pour more. One of my favourites in the whole province.Synchromesh Winery’s Bob Hancock RieslingSynchromesh winery maintains a well respected commitment to minimal intervention with their wines. All their wine growing and making practices are done with utmost integrity to the planet and to showcase the fruit in its truest (and inherently tasty) state. It’s easy to agree with winemaker Alan Dickinson’s philosophy when the resulting wines are this tasty! The grapes from the Bob Hancock vineyard are grown on the northern tip of of the Naramata Bench overlooking  breathtaking views of Lake Okanagan and the city of Penticton. This wine is bright with puckering lime, fresh apricot and a touch of RS that makes you crave another sip. Quail’s Gate BMV RieslingThis off-dry beauty is the perfect companion to South East Asian food that has a little kick of spice and deserves a wine that can kick it right back. The Bouchrie Mountain Vineyard (BMV) in Kelowna has grown this fruit to speak to the terroir of British Columbia and proves its ability to age. This is a wine that has the delicate floral tones and bright acidity we all crave in Riesling. A wine to enjoy now and stock up on for later!Alex Anderson is a Vancouverite with a passion for wine, communication and design. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, holds a WSET Advanced certificate with distinction, and was the runner up in the 2018 Aspiring Sommelier BC competition. You can connect and follow her vibrant and insightful wine endeavours on Instagram @wine.with.alexx 
A Perfect Day in Napa Doesn't Exist
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! 
Top 10 Wine Bargains for Summer 2018
Summer is almost upon us. It’s time to start stocking warm-weather wines for the patio, picnic and poolside.I’ve been diving into a flood of whites and rosés over the last few weeks, and I’ve selected from that gushing inventory 10 summer wines that are worth trying. Some are special-occasion beauties; others show well for the price and could easily be your seasonal backyard wine, since buying a case won’t break the bank. Prices are best available from the usual local sources such as Hi-Time, Costco and Total Wine & More.Amelia Brut Rosé Crémant de Bordeaux  ($19): Made from hand-harvested red grapes grown in the acclaimed Bordeaux region, this blend of 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc is a summer charmer. Amelia ages en tirage (on the lees) for 18 months, double the nine months required by law, giving it aromatic and textural complexity. You’ll also notice nuanced fruit components with a touch of toasty brioche.Anaba 2015 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast ($36): This harvest’s low yield produced concentrated, bright fruit. You’ll get a bewitching duet of orange blossom and lemon custard on the nose. A strong acidic backbone combines with ripe fruit, lemon cream and sweet herb in a balanced finish. A great cool-climate California chardonnay from one of my favorite regions.Bodega de Edgar 2017 Albariño: ($24): This 100 percent Albariño from Paso Ono Vineyard, off Creston Road, in Paso Robles, is one of the area’s most coveted summer sippers. It’s fermented and aged in 100 percent stainless steel, and the result is a Spanish grape with a California accent: honey suckle, zesty lemon, honey and white floral notes. From one of Paso’s best smaller wineries, this beauty sells out quickly every year.Editor's Note: Try this gold medal-winning limited production Cava from Spain. Can't buy in stores, rare to find online. Limited production, limited edition Antoni Gaudi print. Recommended by Our Somms. We're working directly with the producer to offer this to you via our partner Argaux Wine Club from Laguna Beach. http://bit.ly/Cava4pk Perfect for summer BBQs or for taking to a friend's house. 4 bottles $65! The Calling Dutton Ranch 2016 Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($30): Intensely aromatic with notes of honeysuckle, sweet lemon and delicate rose. Crisp acidity is balanced with the vanilla signature of French oak on the palate. The lingering finish offers spicy toastiness that complements the fruit.Daou 2016 Chardonnay ($15): A riot of flavors includes pear, lemon, passion fruit pineapple and banana. Even the nose is aggressive: honeysuckle, nutmeg, almond. But Daou’s Chardonnay isn’t just a frat party in a glass. It has a sumptuously silky texture and welcome acidity on the finish, and leaves a full, plush impression. Quite a talker for the price (you can sometimes find it for $11 at Costco). A great introductory wine from Paso’s flamboyant Bordeaux kings, the Daou brothers.Fleur de Mer Provence Rosé Vintage 2017 ($18): This pale pink beauty balances ripe fruit, bracing acidity and dry mineral finish. Red cherry, raspberry, white peach, lavender, grapefruit and warm-weather herbs, with a touch of salinity. The very definition of an elegant Provencal rosé. Also available in magnum size for $40 – a showy way to kick off a summer party.Robert Mondavi 2016 Napa Valley Fume Blanc ($20): OK, so Robert Mondavi made up the name “Fume Blanc” to help goose the popularity of his dry-style Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is worthy of representing his legacy. Pithy, with grapefruit and lemon peel flavors, it’s deceptively crisp and light on the nose, offering a wealth of body and lushness on the palate, accented with nutmeg and peach. It includes 4 percent Sémillon, partly from the legendary To Kalon vineyard.Rodney Strong 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($25): Normally I shy away from variations on rosé’s Provencal standards, but this rose of pinot noir pulled me in with its electrifying color. The enchantment continues with strawberry, white peach and jasmine on the nose and the palate. The finish is long and luxuriant. Sharply focused acidity but light of body, and it surprises you with a zesty lemon finish.Saint Clair Family Estate 2017 Origin Series Sauvignon Blanc ($28): This worthy New Zealand winery has produced a persuasive example of the sauvignon blanc style from the little land Down Under. Origin Series introduces itself with a mysteriously bready nose, then opens up to rich hits of pineapple and guava with a grassy undertone. There’s a hint of saltiness riding on the long, lively finish.  And yes, there’s a bit of gooseberry, that distinctive New Zealand flavor.Smith Madrone 2015 Estate Grown Riesling ($30): An epic riesling from one of Napa’s best producers of this grape; Smith-Madrone has been growing riesling in the Spring Mountain District since 1971. Unlike the 2014 vintage, which was lush, deep and round, the 2015 is the very definition of racy. It is bright, clean and delicious with a solid core of minerality surrounded by grace notes of citrus fruit and honeysuckle.
Barolo: Northern Italy's Sexiest Wine?
There’s something intoxicating about a piece of music that baits you with one chord, and then leads you like an aroused schoolgirl into something completely unexpected. The likes of Coltrane & Zeppelin come to mind when thinking of music that keeps you on your toes, zig-zagging you around until you’re dizzy with melodious ecstasy. The most primal of pleasures lend to that kind of experience; music, sex, and the most hedonistic pleasure of them all, wine. While many have a hard time verbalizing that journey, a bottle of wine of that caliber is hard to forget.Barolo is a region in northeastern Italy synonymous with the grape Nebbiolo, as it is the only red grape the region grows & (like Burgundian Pinot Noir) is never blended. It is a wine that evokes a kind of existential ebb & flow. It reels you in with notes of rose petal, lilac & tar. 15 minutes later, it’s dried mulberries, fresh tobacco leaf & dusty leather boots. It is equal parts sensual & barbaric. Like a woman who knows how to direct her lover, Barolo evolves more every time you lift the glass. As if the bouquet wasn’t enough to entice, the sheer mindfuck of the palate redirects your senses.While Nebbiolo’s thin skin doesn’t cause it to act as controlling (read: unsexy) as your self-conscious fucktard ex, it does cause it to create a wine as pale in color as Pinot, yet packs the tannic punch of a Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Verdot. (Tannin creates the effect of dryness on the palate, sucking all the moisture from it like that sixth cup of black coffee you had this morning.) Most wines with high tannin come from thick-skinned grapes as that’s where tannin is primarily found. There is tannin present in seeds & stems, but high-quality wines are de-stemmed since their tannin is much harsher than grape skin tannin. Anthocyanins are the chemical component that dictates a wine’s color intensity, and thin-skinned grapes have low anthocyathnin’s, just like they (usually) have low tannin.When blind tasting, you first analyze a wine’s color & opacity before even smelling it. Seeing a pale colored wine sets your brain on a path. (Imagine hearing the Black Keys first couple, very blues driven albums...) You’re already racing towards Pinot Noir/Gamay/Cab Franc/Grenache, then you get hit hard with that mouth-draining tannin. (And then hearing the Brothers album & Dan Auerbach’s falsetto...) MINDFUCK. A young Nebbiolo reminds me of my brother's garage punk band when they started out; each instrument competing with the other, none able to stand on their own or come together in cohesion. An aged Nebbiolo, on the other hand, can be orchestral; every individual aspect of the wine coalescing together in unison like Amy Winehouse’s voice enveloping your ear canals. Pure fucking magic. And thus, the love affair with Barolo continues...
Drinking Wine with Gary Vaynerchuck #VINOWITH
WHO IS GARY VAYNERCHUCK?Successful entrepreneur, investor, social media influencer, speaker, motivator, content creation machine, digitally savvy hustler - but it all started with wine. Gary took his family wine-retail business in New Jersey, changed the name to Wine Library, started an eCommerce side of the business, and began filming bold wine reviews on a YouTube channel over a decade ago. From there he took a 3 million dollar wine business to a 60 million dollar wine business by using the power of eCommerce, video, and social. With early investments in Twitter and other household technology companies Gary has certainly done well for himself. Gary is a hustler who works extremely hard, can be in your face, but is a person that genuinely cares about people succeeding. I've not met Gary but I've seen and heard a lot of his podcasts, videos, and one-line quotes across the web. The man is everywhere!WHY DO I WANT TO DRINK WINE WITH GARY VAYNERCHUCK?I dig his pulse on culture, and appreciate his focus on today's consumer. The value any brand has is their consumer which I believe Gary would think is key to gaining leverage. It would be entertaining talking to him because he talks a lot, and the smallest prompt can send his mind in many directions. He's an instant dose of energy and inspiration. To vibe with his hustler-spirit combined with his business experience would be invigorating. Also, Gary Vee seems to dig hip hop and sees it as I do - a milieu that moves culture. Plug any brand or product in the hip hop machine and watch it grow exponentially.WHAT WINES I'D DRINK WITH HIMI'd have at least two wines with Gary, the first would have to be an in your face red wine from Washington that is not afraid to be what it is. Big mouthfeel, big fruit, big bite that comes out the gate swinging. For instance, Boom Boom Syrah by Charles Smith. This wine does not mask itself or parade around restraint. This bottle simply tells you as it is, I'm an explosion in your mouth. The second bottle of wine would be something a bit more finessed because it seems to me that as Gary's career advances he'd appreciate a wine that is a little more  focused and subtle that you can enjoy just chilling with the homies talking Gen-X women blogs, hip-hop, future of media and whatever other thoughts pops into Gary's eclectic mind. For instance, a 2009 Vina Albina Grand Reserva.Cheers Gary Vee
Your New Brunch Wine. In Like a Lyon. Out Like a Lambrusco.
Warmer weather is just about here. We all know what that means. Patio furniture gets hosed off, the white & floral print ensembles come out and wide, floppy hats have some faces to smack.  It's brunch season. Wait, brunch happens all year. It doesn't matter - it's a beautiful day out and we're going to day drink over some eggs benny, Jenny.  It's difficult to stray far from the bottomless champagne option. It's a classy, tasty beverage that pairs well with just about any brunch item and cleanses the palate in hot weather.  Even if it's relatively shitty sparkling wine, you'll hardly notice after your 6th "top off".  Despite its comfortable familiarity, sometimes an alternative to champagne is good for the soul. No, not mango juice or a strawberry to toss in it. I'm talking about a fizzy replacement that's just as versatile and twice as interesting.
Photos from SOMMX: Kanye West Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine
Google Slideshow: SOMMX For the past few months we've been working on creating a live event that embodies who we are as a brand- the Voice of Modern Wine Culture. On April 12, 2018 we launched our event platform SOMMX. The theme for our first event was: Kanye West's Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine. It was sold out with a long waiting list!  What is SOMMXA series of themed wine experience events hosted and lead by unique sommeliers intended to evoke multiple senses and delight guests through food, wine, performances, art, special guests, and unique culturally relevant themes.  The experimental event:  5 of Kanye’s songs were interpreted through  5 original oil paintings by local award-winning artist which were each paired with 5 courses of unique food which were each paired with 5 Spanish wines  Oh, and there were ballet dancers and a spoken word artist.    The event is narrated & hosted by celebrity sommelier Amelia Singer who explained each song, each painting, each course of food, and how it tied into a wine. The food was designed and cooked by Top Chef Alum Brian Huskey, and the original painting by visionary artist Kathy Lajvardi.   Enjoy the photos and join the mailing list at SOMMX to be notified of our next event. Google Slideshow: SOMMX
5 Top Restaurants in Venice in 1 Night. It's Five Spot Friday.
Experience 5 of the top restaurants in Venice in 1 night. Introducing "5 Spot Friday" Venice, California. Despite massive rent hikes, and a $1,200 price per square foot residential home cost, the famed street Abbott Kinney in Venice, California has kept its 'weird' and charming vibe. Pot shops, art galleries, independent boutiques, yoga studios and pop-up shops from online stores like Warby Parker and Casper keep the funk alive. Venice has become home to fantastic dining spots in the burgeoning Los Angeles food scene with artisanal, in-season, farm to table being par for the course. For your upcoming night in Venice no need to fuss and fight over which top restaurants in Venice to dine at - just visit 5 in 1 evening for your own personal smorgasbord of yum. Ideally you'll end up making new friends at each spot and taking them with you to the next spot! Here's an agenda for this epic night: First Stop: Leona Vibe: mellow. You're a few blocks from the ocean, so come early to take in the sunset. The restaurant is small with high ceilings, a long leather banquette (i.e. big ass sofa) on one end, photographs of old Venice, with an airy living room feel. The patio outside is cozy with beautiful people parading about. They're beer and wine only, but with inventive wine 'cocktails'. Eat: The ridiculously well-prepared cured red snapper ceviche and slow cooked lamb belly wontons. The ceviche is oh so fresh and clean, chilled and awakening. The slow cooked lamb belly wontons come in a broth of savory satisfaction. The wontons are soft, fluffy ravioli-ish dough balls that encapsulate the softest lamb belly you've ever had. Drink: Start slow, remember you have 4 other spots to hit up! Open the night with glasses of champagne - order the Le Perle Blanc NV from Burgundy, France. A light bubbly citrus that's a perfect opener to your epic evening. Splurge on an Uber SUV and head over to Abbott Kinney street. The Uber SUV will make you feel like a balla' and will cost you about $12 to get to the next spot. Second Stop: The Brig Vibe: quintessential Venice. OK, at first blush this may seem like an odd second spot, but hang in there, we have a mission. Modern mid-century decor with pool tables and a bustling scene. It's a great spot to make new friends at the bar, explain to them your evening's journey, and bring them with you. The night is early so you won't seem like a creeper (this applies to men and women!), and given that you've only had 1 drink you'll be in top form with your pitch. Eat: Nothing. It's a bar. Drink: Break up the fatty lamb in your belly with a refreshing Tequila Mule. Made with ginger beer and lime, the ingredients are the same as a Moscow Mule. Don't expect a copper mug though, this ain't that kind of party. Third Spot: Salt Air Vibe: walk across the street to this bohemian bistro. Seasonal and refined food with a nudge towards seafood. The interior is comfortable with skylights and composed atmosphere that can cater to an intimate evening or a jubilant one. Eat: Their pea tartine. Perfectly crunchy bread with goat cheese spread pilled high with smashed peas with lemon. A little messy (in a good way) and fun food to eat with your hands. Next, go for their fried oysters to share with your new friends, and end it with their lobster tartine. Drink: Wine. No full bar here, but a great selection of wine by the glass with inventive wine cocktails. Try the Bobal Tempremento. It's a red wine from Valencia, Spain and the producer uses organic farming methods. Bobal is an obscure grape, but one with good acidity which makes it friendly towards all types of food. It's a funky, cool, and new experience wine that's not typical. Fourth Spot: Tasting Kitchen Vibe: walk across the street to Tasting Kitchen. Hip, upscale, trendy, and fun with an active bar scene. Hipster interior with organic woods and plants. It's just cool. Eat: Go carbs! Get the bread and butter (yes, they charge you for it), it's totally worth it. Big chunk of artisanal bread that's crunch, flaky on the outside and rustic plush on the inside. The butter tastes like it was just churned, and it's all topped with finishing salt. Next, order a classic, yet refined homemade pasta dish like Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Thick spaghetti like pasta with a hole in the middle that houses a classic Roman sauce made simply with cured pork cheeks, pecorino cheese, and tomato. Complement those carbs with their sizzling, simply rubbed ribeye steak. Incredible. Drink: Gotta go Italian, and when enjoying a meal of this proportion go for a bottle of Amarone. The wine is made in a traditional manner of drying grapes in the sun on straw mats and special drying chambers under controlled conditions. The process produces a rich wine that feels like a fluffy cloud in your mouth. Fifth Spot: Any Food Truck 1 Block Away After spending a long and fun dinner at Tasting Kitchen, and after your last drop of the heavenly Amarone wine, stroll over to any of the awesome food trucks near by. Usually they hang out in a parking lot adjacent to The Brig. Have your last delicious meal of the night by splitting it with someone special you sparked with during the night. Break apart a cheesy grilled cheese, or go for the unctuous flavors of the Kogi truck. Any way you go you've won - you've had an epic night in while dining at some of the top restaurants in Venice, all in 1 night. #FiveSpotFriday
Winter Fashions for Women Paired with Bold Wines
Winter Fashions for Women Paired with Bold Wines We linked up with Bask In Style and asked them to tell us their favorite winter fashions for women. Then, in true ILTG fashion (!) we paired each winter fashions with a wine that has similar character. This time of year is great because it's time try risky looks you have lusted after - like mixing textures, prints, and colors. From a wine lens it's time to go big and bold. Not because a big and bold wine will give you a 'warm' feeling; but because it's a time to slow down and truly take your time and enjoy a glass. A favorite staple looks for cooler weather is leather! Throwing on a leather jacket can be your daily go-to during this time of year. Check out Doma Leather’s hooded biker jackets (the hood zips out so it is 2-in-1).  Pair that with a distressed basic tee, cropped frayed skinny jeans and boots - and you are all set for happy hour! While at happy hour skip the beer and rose and instead ask for a Marchesi di Barolo Coste di Rose Barolo 2010. This Italian majestic will need some decanting time. Flavors of roses and aromatic herbs that come at you with both intensity and finesse. One trend we are in love with this year is velvet. It's a rich fabric that has a very glamorous edge. Velvet is coming in all forms this year from plunging neckline shift dresses to booties & even sneakers. We especially love the idea of a velvet burnout mini and some thigh high boots. This statement look is perfect for these crisp days or special nights out. While having a night out have a glass (or two) of 2012 Stag's Leap S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon. The S.L.V. is from a plot of land that is Stag's Leap first vineyard. This historically significant Cabernet beat French wines during the famed blind tasting in Paris back in 1976 in what's known as the Judgement of Paris. (Watch the Alan Rickman film version of it, Bottle Shock.) This wine has a feeling of richness in the mouth. Flavors of dark blueberries, cocoa and oak. This one's a biggie and can sit in your wine fridge for the next decade no problem. Lastly, we;re seeing a ton of embroidery and patchwork. Gucci is blowing us away with their embroidered slide loafers and bags! They are the perfect statement pieces for the season. We are also seeing a ton of embroidery on outerwear and denim so there are some amazing ways to test this trend out. A fun take on this is wearing the Princeton Gucci Slides with a silky slip dress layered over a short-sleeved turtleneck. Even where the weather can be warmer in winter, this is a great way to look current while still allowing you to keep cool! While hanging out at the Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, sip on a glass of Truchard Syrah 2013-Napa, California. Smokey, spicy and full of flavor, this hand crafted wine is a perfect fit for this time of year. Violets and graphite are just a few of the wild flavors that dominate this stuff. It’s Napa for under $35 - perfect! We'd like to thank our friends Breana Kennedy (aka: Ken) and Cybel Castro-Souza (aka Cas) for the fashion tips. Along with blogging for Bask In Style, Ken manages a women's wholesale showroom, works with renowned fashion buyers, and directly with six contemporary fashion brands. Cas is primarily focused on Bask In Style while having a resume that includes work for Reformation, BCBG and John Paul Richard.
Champagne Loosens Its Tie And Does The Dab
Champagne and caviar. Champagne and oysters. Champagne and whatever’s on that little silver tray they’re passing around. That’s so Downton Abbey! How about taking off the tux and pairing your champagne with a bucket of popcorn instead, or maybe some deep-fried morsel of heaven or a big, steaming slab of meat? We did some investigating about unusual yet rewarding ways to match up your uncorked New Year’s Eve libation with food. Turns out the monocled world of Champagne is crawling with cheeky iconoclasts who are pairing it with everything except road kill. Who knew? Curveball Pairings A fun curveball pairing recommended by Wine Folly is Champagne with mac and cheese, which is catching on at gastropubs up and down the West Coast. “But consider a softer creamery cheese with flavor such as smoked gouda”. “The Champagne needs to be acidic enough to cut through the cheese without being so strong as to ‘turn’ the cheese.” The great thing about Champagne from a foodie’s perspective is that it contains high levels of acid and very little sugar. Those qualities help bring out a wealth of flavors so they can match up with a huge variety of foods, from mild meats such as poached sole and baked chicken to highly spiced Indian and Thai cuisine. (That’s where the bubbles help – they bring down the heat.) What the experts are saying Elise Losfelt, a young winemaker with Moët & Chandon, toured America last summer promoting her classier-than-thou product. Usually the august French house presents its bubbly like it's the latest Louboutin, but this year the message was more proletarian: Champagne, the people’s drink! One of the themes Losfelt hammered on was pairing bubbly with heavier meats. “(Our champagne) has the presence and maturity that goes with meat or fish – veal, for example; or lamb could be nice.” Trend-savvy California mixologist Jenny Buchhagen senses a sea of change in the way people are pairing Champagne. “I’ve noticed that younger people are drinking Champagne at the beginning of their meal and to start the night off.” There’s been a down-home twist to the trend, too, Buchhagen says. “Our sommelier thinks that the best pairing with Champagne is potato chips. People are trying that quite a bit.” Speaking of somms, a good one should be able to artfully match up bubbly with food throughout a meal. Why not start with a prosecco (the Italian sparking wine) to go with your light appetizer, then go with something heavy for the entrée – some Australian sparkling Shiraz such as Mollydooker’s Goosebumps ($50) to match with that pork belly – and a Ruinart Brut Rosé ($80) to wash down your strawberries and ice cream? I can’t think of a better way to mark the calendar's passing than ending your New Year’s Eve meal with this stunner from France’s oldest Champagne house. Oh yeah, about that popcorn you’re thinking of having with your bubbly – slather it with truffle butter. It’s the perfect blend of crass and class.
Curated Wine Gifts for the Holidays
Here are a few wine gifts we've curated for the wine lover on your holiday gift list. Happy Holidays! Most can ship and be there gift wrapped before Christmas Eve! Enjoy, and if you find something you think belongs on this list then drop us an email: cheers@ilikethisgrape.com Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine Why: Beautifully done visual graphics and infographics with tons of great information on wine, wine regions, and more Rating: 5/5 $15 BUY Secura Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Wine Opener Why: makes opening the 4th bottle of the night way easier. beautiful design, look, and feel. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $29 BUY World’s First Electric Wine Aerator and Dispenser Why: great talking piece at dinner parties; a unique and useful gift for anyone that drinks wine. Rating: 5/5 $100 BUY The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine Why: Fantastic book (true story) of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine which was supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, a 1787 Chateau Lafite. The bottle is covered in mystery of it being a fake, duped billionaires around the world, and the people involved. (Yes, movie is coming with Mathew McConaughey being onboard.) Rating: 4 / 5 $13 BUY Professional Corkscrew Why: Danish designed, professional corkscrew made of eco-friendly materials of Rosewood and stainless steel. Open your best bottles without any hesitation. Rating: 5 /5 $13 BUY   Hair 12 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cellar Why: This fridge has a nice space saving design, sexy look, and is dual temperature for both your whites and reds. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $128 BUY   Wine Condoms, Wine Bottle Stoppers Why: Protection is a must. A fun gift that’s cheeky and practical. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $13 BUY Vina Wine Travel Bag and Cooler for 2-bottles Why: brining your wine to a picnic or a friends house in a plastic bag is not good for the environment nor your street red Rating: 4.5 / 5 $18 BUY
#SommNextDoor: Island Wines You Want To Get Stranded With
Right about now, you might be dreaming about sitting under a palm tree on an island paradise, tanning oil in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. In support of this daydream, we must ask the classic question - if you were stuck on an island, and you could bring one thing with you, what would it be? The correct answer should always be “a wine glass” for this one reason: a lot the world's best wine is made on islands! So the team here at ILTG compiled a little list of islands we wouldn’t mind getting stranded on. Here are our top five islands and some of the best wines made on each: Corsica, France Domaine Comte Abbatucci "Gris Imperial" Rosé 2013 This Rosé is a tiny grain of sand compared to the amount of rosé floating around the world today, yet this tiny grain happens to be very special and just damn delicious. Made from the grape Sciaccarello, this juice offers bright strawberry aromas with splash of citrus and tons of zesty acidity. Not to mention, the grapes are basking in the sun all day near the sea which adds a touch of salinity from the ocean influence. Life is tough for a grape in Corsica! $25 New Zealand Brancott, Sauvignon Blanc 2016 If you took a fruit salad and served it in a wine glass, you would have a glass of Brancott. Made on the South Island of New Zealand, this sauvignon blanc offers loads of ripe pineapple, honeysuckle, honeydew, guava, grapefruit, apples, pears, quince, etc… the list goes on! The wine is great by itself but even better if used for sangria. Bring your boogie board because this wine offers a wave of flavors! $15 Sardigna, Italy Antonio Sanguineti, Cannonau Di Sardinia 2014 The ever-so-underrated island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy happens to make one of the most highly rated Grenache-based wines in the world! Cannonau is the grape (a.k.a Grenache) and it packs quite the punch. Blueberries and bliss is the best way to explain it. It’s just an easy sipping bottle of booze for less than 10 bucks. Even better when chilled and served in a solo cup! $8 Canary Islands, Spain Suertes del Marques “7 Fuentes” 2012 The Canary Islands off the southern tip of Spain might be the Spaniards' best kept secret. Until now! This tiny chain of islands has been producing wine for centuries...for pretty much nobody besides themselves. 7 Fuentes happens to be pretty hip in the wine world for its funky flavors of licorice and spiced cherries. Also, the winery is located on a volcano - so you can trust us when we say, “It’s an explosion in your mouth.”. $17 Sicily, Italy Cos Rami 2011 If you're feeling frisky and want to go “au naturel” I’d recommend trying this beauty from Sicily. It’s a “natural” wine meaning nothing is enhanced. The yeasts come from the air and no sulfur is added to preserve the wine. The grapes, Insolia and Grecanico, are indigenous to the island. Plus, the wine is aged in clay pots called amphora which are buried underground for 16 months and then bottled. A vibrant hue of orange fills the glass with notes of candied orange and sea spray. Perfect for strolls along the beach with a friend or solo if you just want the whole bottle for yourself. $30
#VINOMUSIC: Listen to Tycho and Drink a 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir
Music and wine should be paired. We call this #VINOMUSIC. When was the last time you carelessly floated in the ocean, staring at nothing but the blue sky above you? Or stood on a snowy mountain top, breathing in the fresh, crisp air while enjoying a view that lasts for miles? How about walking through the desert with only the unpolluted, star-filled sky to guide your way? That's what it's like listening to Tycho - an all-instrumental artist that layers rich, electronic sound against airy guitar and percussion. Spend some time with his latest album released earlier this year, Epoch, to get a sense of what I mean. The atmosphere of it is just gorgeous. Much like Tycho's ethereal musical style, the 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir is equal parts luxurious and airy. You might know pinot noir for its cherry-forward palette, light body and silky tannins. It's also a notoriously fickle grape. The varietal is prone to disease while on the vine and requires a cooler climate to really thrive. 2014 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Belle Glos embodies the hell out of a pristine pinot noir. Owning four vineyards up and down the California coast, Belle Glos focuses exclusively on pinot noir. Each vineyard produces its own distinct wine, each carrying a beautiful profile of what a true California pinot noir should be. The Dairyman vineyard is Belle Glos's Russian River Valley version of a pinot noir. The Russian River Valley is a Sonoma County AVA that proudly wears the badge of a world-class region for this grape. The 2014 Dairyman is a killer vintage. You'll get that classic red fruit and vanilla smoothness from the oak, drinking like a cherry cola made for royalty. The price tag for this one is around 50 bucks, but SO worth it if you're hunting for that quintessential Sonoma style in a pinot noir. Plus, every bottle is dipped in a vibrant red wax. It's a sexy appearance to match its identically sexy flavor. Enjoying a 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir with Tycho on the speakers will transport you to a brisk, spring evening atop the dramatic cliffs of Big Sur. With its A+ California terroir on your tongue, and Tycho's sensuous vibes in your ear, this wine is all about getting aligned with nature. Want our sommelier selected wines delivered to you within minutes?! Click the banner below - San Francisco only (for now!)
How To Start a Wine Collection - Tips from Master Sommelier Brian McClintic
We asked Master Sommelier Brian McClintic how a first-time wine collector should start a wine collection. You'll find a handful of articles online about the subject, but each article requires a starting budget of $10,000. We challenged Brian to give tips on starting a collection by spending no more than $1,000. Think of spreading the $1,000 over a year and, preferably, keeping yourself away from the goods!  Have a separate 'drinking' allotment. (I know, it's tough!)"I like the $35-$55 range with starting a cellar.  That's the range I use for 99% of the wine I buy and for Viticole as well."Obviously that's not going to be a lot of bottles before you hit $1,000 but anything lower than that is typically not worth cellaring. There are exceptions but few and far between for something that is farmed and produced responsibly.When it comes to a buying strategy, start with the producer first and work your way out.  In other words, instead of saying you should cellar Northern Rhone Wines or Barolo, start with bankable producers, following them in subsequent vintages."To me the old world still represents tremendous value."Here are a few thoughts on Brian's favorite producers in different styles. All are farmed organically:Light, crisp whitesMartin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling $50 SRP. This Austrian producer has just started being imported to the states and is making some of the finest dry Riesling on the planet. Expect the current release to drink well young and cellar 20+ years.Richer whitesGonon 'Les Oliviers' Saint Joseph Blanc $37 SRP.  This Marsanne-dominated blend will give Chardonnay drinkers something to love. Gonon's Syrahs are extremely age-worthy, but the whites tend to eclipse the reds in the cellar.Light redsJL Dutraive Fleurie 'Terroir Champagne' $44 SRP.  This Cru Beaujolais is so delicious now but in the last couple of vintages ('14 & '15) it demonstrates the hallmarks of a wine that will last 15 years plus in ideal conditions.Big earthy redsDomaine Tempier Classique $45 SRP.  It appreciates in every vintage from the moment the next vintage drops.  The wines are accessible now and can age comfortably for 40 years plus in the best vintages.Parting words of wisdom from Brian as you journey down this obsession: "Too many people get fridge happy after a few drinks and open up something they shouldn't. I've learned this lesson the hard way and now store all my wine off-site for this reason."
Editor’s Note:Here are some wines that are similar in style to the ones above and more readily available to try.If it’s tough to find a Martin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling, then go for either Austria's Pichler-Krutzler Trum Riesing 2013 ($30) or Schloss Gobelsburg Tradition Riesling 2013 ($50). Equally impressive and a beneficial addition to our collection.For a domestic equivalent to the Saint Joseph Blanc give a white Rhone from Tablas Creek out of Paso Robles ($22) or Booker ($48) a shot. Tablas Creek partners with iconic Chateau de Beaucastel, so their wines are remarkably French in style. Booker’s Eric Jensen has a way with white Rhones that make him a standout in California.America has nothing to compare to the Cru Beaujolais, though the world’s favorite light red wine, Pinot Noir, is becoming more entrenched in California, and the quality is rising (as are prices -- expect to pay above $50 for most good-quality examples). Sanford ($60) and Babcock ($21) from Sta. Rita Hills are excellent investments; so are Hahn ($23) and Pisoni ($55) from the Santa Lucia highlands. Farther north, turn to Landmark and Patz & Hall ($87).Brian McClintic is a Master Sommelier and documentary film star of the movies SOMM and SOMM: Into the Bottle.  After 20 years in the restaurant/retail industry he founded Viticole, an online wine club and travel blog that focuses on domestic and import selections that can't be found on the open market.  By the 1st of every month, Brian travels to a wine region and offers out a special cuvee directly from the winery door in real time.  You can follow his travels and join the monthly wine club at: http://viticolewine.com
Best California Wines 2016
California wines keep getting better and better. 2016 was no exception. I did some serious wine drinking in 2016, people. And it was for you, of course -- all for you. Sure it was. (Full disclosure: I spat most of it out. I am a professional.) I also traveled up and down my fair state of California, marveling at the 130 or so wine regions (I didn't get to all of them, of course). There is a huge diversity of choice in this state, one of the world's great viticultural treasures. Here is my list of some of the best california wines - prices vary from $17-$170. A few trends These are things that have been happening for a while, but in 2016 they seemed to break through big-time. 1. More rule-breaking blends: Artisanal winemakers, especially on the Central Coast, are crossing traditional boundaries more frequently in their red (and less frequently white) blends. You’ll find varieties from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône thrown together; zinfandel and other Italian and even Spanish varieties are sometimes added to the mix. 2. Fewer fruit bombs, more balance: Younger winemakers in particular are harvesting their grapes slightly less ripe. This keeps alcohol levels lower and eschews manipulation once the grapes have been squeezed. The result is wine that is less fruit-forward and showy but more balanced, complex, individualized, food-friendly and age-worthy. Donum Estate 3. The rise (and rise and rise) of Pinot Noir: Once a light, mid-priced alternative for cabernet haters, California pinot from Anderson Valley, Sonoma, Russian River, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills and many other cool-climate AVAs is flooding the market. Yet prices are reaching Napa cabernet level: $50, $60, $70 … yikes. And the style, especially from the southern AVAs, is distinctly Californian: heavy and extracted, not light and Burgundian. We make anti-Oregon pinots here. 4. Rosé is here to stay: The French started it, but California winemakers have embraced the summer pink wine tradition wholeheartedly. The domestic version is often a tad sweeter than bone-dry Provencal rosé, and many winemakers depart from the customary Rhône varieties to make rosé from pinot noir and other non-Rhône grapes. Field Recordings 2008 Chenin Blanc 5. Unusual grapes are appearing: Chenin blanc, which has all but disappeared in California, was a surprise hit for artisanal Central Coast winemaker Andrew Jones of Field Recordings. Others winemakers are finding a market for such un-California grapes as vermentino, tannat, alicante bouschet, fiano and valdiguié. For the California AVA to keep an eye on... 6. Paso Robles is a respectable (dare we say world-class?) producer of Bordeaux: In September, Wine Advocate graced Paso winemakers with impressive scores. Those scores included 98 points for Daou Vineyards’ 2013 Patrimony and 96 points for its 2013 Soul of a Lion. Yet Paso’s best are not Napa clones: they have softer tannins, their own distinct terroir, and often much more petit verdot in the blend. And they’re less expensive than Napa cabs, too. Daou 2013 Soul of a Lion The year's best Here are the best 25 California wines that I tasted this year. I don't go all Wine Spectator with this list. I list the wines alphabetically, not in terms of quality. Really, isn't it silly to say "this Bordeaux is better than that sauvignon blanc"? I didn’t discriminate by price, region or type. Some of these babies are easier to find than others. Before you get all up in my piece with accusations like, "No Pinot Grigio -- how dare you!" let me remind you that I tasted a lot of other great wines this year that weren't from California, okay? For practical reasons, I confine myself to the place I know best when making a list like this. If you want to peruse my tasting notes, you can find them here. Top 25 California Wines of 2016 Byron 2014 Nielson Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, $23 (90 points) Calera 2013 Jensen Vineyard Mount Harlan Pinot Noir, $90 (96 points) Castello di Amorosa 2012 La Castellana Super Tuscan Napa Valley Red Wine ($98)   Chalk Hill 2015 Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc, $33 (92 points) Cliff Lede 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap, $78 (93 points)   Donum 2013 Carneros Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, $72 (92 points)  Duckhorn 2014 Decoy Pinot Noir, $25 Franciscan Estate 2015 Equilibrium White Blend, $22 Frank Family Vineyards 2014 Carneros Pinot Noir, $35 (91 points)  Geyser Peak 2013 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $19 Giornata 2015 Fiano, $17 (90 points)  Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee 2012 Sonoma County Red Wine, $19 J. Lohr Riverstone 2014 Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay, $14 (92 points)  MacRostie 2014 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $25 (90 points)  Ramey 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, $38 (90 points) Rombauer 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, $25 (90 points)  Rosenblum Cellars 2013 RC10 Rutherford Zinfandel, $42 (93 points)  Sans Liege 2013 Offering, $29 (91 points) Saxum Vineyards 2013 Broken Stones Paso Robles Syrah, $148 (95 points)  Wente 2015 Morning Fog Chardonnay, $15 ZD 2015 Chardonnay, $42
#SommNextDoor: How To Pick A $10 Bottle That Fools Your Friends
Need a wine that looks & drinks like a 10 but costs around $10 a bottle? Let me show you the ropes. Alright -- next time you’re invited to a shindig, and you volunteer as tribute to pick up the vino, head to the store. If it’s a BevMo or Total Wine type of place, awesome. Don’t be intimidated, I’m here to help you, remember? If not, Trader Joe’s has a selection that’ll get the job done on the $10 bottle too. If you find yourself at Total Wine, go right to the French section. Let’s face it, if you roll up with a French wine in hand, it screams “I know what I’m doing!!”. More folks these days (considering the time of year as well) are red drinkers rather than white, so let’s go with that. Killer wines from the Bordeaux region (Cabernet/Merlot dominate) are gonna be tricky to find for less than a pretty penny, or without knowing what to look for. So, instead, look for the word Rhône. The Rhône Valley is a pretty place in the more southeastern area of the country, and it’s got some stunning offerings. The grapes there are mainly Syrah and Grenache but, for all intents and purposes, you don’t really need to know that. All you need to look for is a Côtes du Rhône. “Côtes”, in French, means “hills”. The term is basically a way of categorizing these wines as entry-level but, again, your friends don’t know that. What you’ll deliver is a smooth red wine with integrated red fruit flavors and non-fruit components like hints of spice and smoke. Sultry, huh? It’ll be dry (i.e. not sweet) but won’t make your mouth feel like you’re playing chubby bunny with cotton balls, kapeesh? The goods Homage to Heritage (H to H) has a good little bottle priced at $8.99. It’s surprisingly layered for the price and going to air on the side of lighter mouthfeel with ripe red fruit. However, if you’re willing to toss in an additional $6, go for the Halos of Jupiter 2014. Talk about sultry! The dark cherry and floral aromas are deeply concentrated and combine with a weighty mouthfeel that makes this bottle drink like it costs at least $25-$30. That’s exactly the message you want to get across to your host, right? You matter to me. I wouldn’t just get you any ol’ bottle. Well done friend, we’ll know the truth. Just in case anyone gets fancy at this Friday night hang out, these wines you bring over will be a marvelous accompaniment to any hard cheese that’s on display. But don’t fret, you’re just as well off with this selection if no food is present, which, let’s be honest, will probably be the case. Happy drinking! 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. Since returning, she has been the sommelier of a wine bar in Downtown Santa Ana, CA, helping to develop their wine program and is currently the resident sommelier at Yves’ Restaurant & Wine Bar in Anaheim Hills, CA.