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Nutritional Facts of Wine
We're now well into the new year, which means everyone has been seeing resolutions blowing up social media feeds. The gym is packed, and we're all reconsidering our diet choices after the rich-and-sweet-holiday-super-funtime-food-bonanza. But what does that mean for your wine?Let’s consider the nutritional facts behind your wines to, at least, knock one worry off your plate and help you plan accordingly for the goals you’re setting. While wines (and other alcoholic beverages) are not required by the FDA to have nutritional labels, there are still some basic facts around calories, carbs, sugars, and dietary sensitivities we know that can help you make the best decision for you.What is a standard serving of wine?First things first: Though I’ve always been a liberal pour-er myself, a standard serving of wine is technically 5 oz (150 ml) and a standard bottle contains 25 oz (750 ml). So, in theory, you should be getting 5 glasses out of that standard bottle of wine you bought. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 2 glasses of alcohol a day for men, and 1 a day for women (::sob::). Stepping over those bounds on the occasion will not mean any guaranteed and/or severe health issues for you; but like in all things, moderation is key to ensuring you stay as healthy as possible. Does wine have calories?Oh, you mean “delicious points?” Yes, it certainly and unfortunately does. Wine Folly has an awesome article that sums all of the details behind wine calories for you, but the gist is this: a glass can have anywhere from 80 to 200 calories per 5 oz serving, depending on the wine’s alcohol content and sweetness level. The higher you go in either of those two categories, the higher the calorie count. In general, dry wines with lower alcohol content will have the fewest calories. Your sweet, fortified wines at 20% alcohol-by-volume (ABV, listed on the label) will be your most caloric at almost 200 calories for a 5 oz pour. If you’re sticking to a 1500 calorie/day (women) or 2000 calorie/day diet (men) to drop some pounds, sacrificing 10-13% of your precious calories on one glass can feel like a lot! But be not deterred, wine lovers - if you’re watching the calories, seek out a dry wine produced in a cooler wine region* as cooler wine regions typically produce lower alcohol wines. In general, keep the ABV below 12%. Then (hydrate, then) consider 30 minutes of a physical activity to put you back on track. *Some cool wine regions to shop from can include the Loire Valley, France; Marlborough, NZ; Rheingau, Germany; Oregon and Washington states, USA; and Northern Italy. Does wine have carbs?Good news: wine is typically low carb to begin with! Dry wines, in fact, have negligible carbs as “dry” means an absence of sugar. Carbs in wine come from unfermented sugars, so apologies again to my sweet wine lovers: the presence of sugars in your wines will mean more carbs. If you’re concerned about carbs (Keto dieters, I’m looking at you) but can’t do without that occasion wine sip, search for still (non-sparkling) wines labeled as bone-dry and sparkling wines labeled as brut nature.Does wine have sugar? This is a resounding yes, and in fact sugar is how the alcohol is produced from the grapes in the first place. As already mentioned, sugar plays a major role in defining the calorie count as well as carbohydrate presence in a wine. Unless you are drinking bone-dry wine, your wine is apt to contain sugar. However, consider this: Is the sugar-free diet you’re on letting you drink milk? Milk contains about 50 grams per liter (g/L) a.k.a. 12 grams per cup of sugar. To stay under that amount of sugar per glass of wine, dry and off-dry still wines and extra brut, brut, extra dry, and dry sparkling wines are now all available to you. However, to play it safest: stick to bone-dry and brut nature.Is wine vegan? Even though wine is made from grapes, most wines cannot be officially labeled as “vegan” or even “vegetarian". Wine naturally clarifies during the fermentation process, but that can take a long time. To meet demand, wineries may use animal-sourced byproducts like egg whites as “processing aids” during the fining process. If a vegetarian and/or vegan lifestyle is important to you, you can find a list of vegan wines HERE.Is wine gluten-free? Generally, YES! However, if you suffer from celiac disease it is still important to consult your doctor and perhaps consider contacting the winery directly to be super sure you can consume their wine.Summary: in general, stick to dry wines from cooler regions with lower ABV to have the least amount of impact on your dietary regime. But rest assured, matter how you’re choosing to get and stay healthy for 2019’s “New You” know that there’s a wine waiting for you!
Top 5 Spring Experiences in Europe 2019 - Why Portugal?
Spring is the most pleasant time of the year. Days start to get longer and warmer, and spending time outside suddenly feels very inviting. The green gets greener, the blue sky turns brighter and flowers blooming everywhere it all seems magical. Well, and it is, at least in Portugal!Did you know that Portugal is the European country with more sun hours? Yes, it is true. And is also under the radar so it is the Europe’s hidden-gem, traditional yet modern and innovative. Its wine tradition is older than its borders and in 1758 was established the first wine-producing region of the world.It´s great to be outdoors during the Spring months. To take a walk along the lavish green Douro's landscape taking your time to relax or to sail the Douro river and breathe for a while. And if you are thinking that the perfect setting would include wine tasting, maybe you would enjoy a Port wine tasting paired with delicious food, Wine Tourism in Portugal is going to make that happen.1 – Sleep in a Barrel This is the perfectly quirky accommodation option for all the wine lovers out there. You may now spend the night in a giant wine barrel, which offers all the comforts granted by modern-day standards. Each of these wine barrels - there are 10 of them - are about 270 square feet (25 square meters) in size and come with a double bed, fully equipped bathroom, and air conditioning. On the outside, there is a deck from where you can enjoy a rolling as-far-as-the-eye-can-see-view of the valley.In addition to the round glass door, there's also a skylight through which the sun shines and you can enjoy the star-filled nights, all the more visible away from the city lights.You can also take a winery tour here, enjoy a wine tasting session paired with cheese and jam, have a picnic in the vineyards, a wine course or - best yet - a cooking class where you will learn traditional techniques while preparing your very own meal. 2 - Picnic in the VineyardsPicnics are a fun thing to do. But when do you have the opportunity to do it right in middle of secular vineyards sightseeing the snake like river Douro in the background?Some wine estates in Portugal are able to provide that unique experience perfect for everyone. Enjoy it with your family, friends or even in a romantic getaway. Go ahead choose your spot in the vineyard and make that the moment when you reveal your feelings to your love ones and then unveil what is inside your basket to celebrate the moment. Everything you are about to taste was carefully selected and the wine will be the perfect pairing. Only the best regional wine and delicacies (or in Portuguese: Petiscos) combined with some charming and distinctive details selected for you will be inside your basket. Immerse yourself in the magnificent scenery and enjoy each flavor and each minute.3 - Cruising 2019 in Portugal  Wine cruises can be relaxing, fun, romantic, you set the tone we provide all you need on board for the smoothest sailing either for a short escape of one or two hours or to spend the night on board.The view is stunning and the wine, by the moment you already know how it is, unique and produced in the man made slopes along the Douro river as far as the eyes can see.  A truly delight for those who need a moment out of the real world, a moment of indescribable beauty.To set sail in Douro river you will be able to go on board of modern sailing boats or boats with a vintage feel. Also if you are visiting Algarve in the south of Portugal a Yacht cruise will take you along the immense bright blue of the Atlantic ocean and you will be able to spot the secret beaches hidden between the rocks.Wine Tourism in Portugal has cruises that are able to suit your particular taste. Everything for the perfect spring day!4 - Cultural Tours - The Locals ChoicesYes, cultural tours can be exhausting, if the only thing you do is to walk around a town and visit platitudinous churches or museums. But what if this tour takes you only to the most beautiful european historic sites and shows you the true cultural heritage? A cultural richness that adds up some top quality wines and delicious petiscos. Yes, your cultural tour magically turns into a once in a lifetime experience. What about now? A Wine Tour in Porto with a River Cruise and Tour to The Port Wine Cellars, or a  Full-day Wine Tour in Alentejo?  Maybe you are more into a city feel, and if that is so: Wine and History Tour in Lisbon.5 - Adventure and sustainable toursAs a wine lover you know wine goes with any activity, mostly if you are on your Spring vacations. So, why not to mix it up with some adventure and nature experiences? OK, as long as the only thing you are driving is a Bike or a Kayak! And since spring is also the last chance you have to stay fit before summer, we have some excellent suggestions for you, that goes from an unique Wine and Golf Tour to Health and Wellness stays. In fact you can mix them and do it all during you stay. What about Bicycle Tours and Bird Watching,  Kayak and Bike Tours or get the adrenaline running in the 4x4 Wine Tour?Probably many other experiences could be on this top as Portugal have so many incredible experiences waiting for you all year long. So now, it is time for you to see, taste, and feel for yourself.  Create your own unforgettable memories of 2019 in Portugal.For more information visit http://www.winetourismportugal.com
Your Ultimate Guide to Wine Holidays in 2019
While the new year technically marks the end of the holiday season, it also means the start of a whole new year of hashtag wine holidays.To help you ring them all in in 2019, we've compiled a 12-month calendar that includes a comprehensive list of each and every wine holiday, from legit ones like Beaujolais Nouveau Day to those that are just for fun (#DrinkWineDay). You'll also find some bonus holidays that we think will pair well – here's to looking at you National Chocolate Day. Download the calendarIf you find this helpful, please share it and make sure to tag us on Instagram at @millennialsdrinkwine!
Rules for paring fast food with wine
Just imagine the mouth-coating richness of a fatty Wagyu steak being cut by the grippy tannins of a powerful Barolo. It sets the stage for a contrasted dance between savory red meat and elegant cherries, coupled with dried roses. Similarly, picture a contrast between the brambly berry flavors of a Dry Creek Zinfandel and the aggressive gaminess of venison. Or perhaps the intensity of a strawberry-laden Willamette Pinot Noir against the acrid smokiness of cedar-planked salmon. Sometimes the dance is more compliment than contrast, like the harmony of fruit flavors between duck a l’orange and Alsatian Gewurztraminer. Or even the simple brininess of oysters and the chalky minerality of Chablis.In the best cases, the relationship between wine and food is a happy mix of both. But the stage doesn’t always have to be a ballroom, and the dance doesn’t always have to be a waltz - or in our case, the pairings not as fancy-shmancy. Sometimes the venue is little less classy...saaaay a Taco Bell, KFC, or maybe an In-N-Out (for those of you readers lucky enough to have one around). Rest assured, the pairings can be just as stellar, and that date night you have planned can still go off without a hitch, at least in the department of gastronomy. It is in this article that I hope to arm you with the knowledge I believe can make everyday meals outstanding. There’s enough information to flood pages, but I’ll keep it simple with this metaphor. Picture two salsa partners on the dance floor or perhaps two boxing opponents in a ring. Think of a scenario where these partners have similar builds, and another in which they have dramatically different ones. It’s safe to assume that the first scenario would yield a harmonious, thoughtful, aesthetically pleasing, coordinated interplay while the second results in an undesired black eye. That’s what pairing wine & food is like. The better the match, the better the interaction. Another thing to consider is a wine’s structure (I’ll spare you the metaphor for this one). Fat in any dish is quite an amazing thing. However, it takes up lots of space on our palates, and blocks the way for other things that SHOULD be making an appearance - most notably flavors. Luckily, wine’s answer to this is acidity & tannin, as both precipitate fat, thus clearing the path for all the other cool stuff to make their way to our taste buds (and for all the beer lovers out there, carbonation acts similarly). Using this as context, let’s dive into the delectable, guilt-ridden world of fast food and search for some stellar wine pairings. For the sake of practicality, I will discuss wines that you can find at your local grocery, rather than having to go to a specialty wine store (although if you have one within proximity, then by all means go).With the biggest, heaviest redsUsually the stuff that first comes to our minds. Cabs, Zins, Malbecs, Syrahs, Blends, and the like. They have the most flavor, the most body, the most tannin, and the most of a whole lot more. But just because they’re the most obvious doesn’t mean they should always be first choice. Remember that metaphor from earlier? Keep in mind that these reds represent the far end of the spectrum – the Schwarzeneggers of wine selections. More specifically, the tannins in these wines are extremely abundant, and their weights are all at the top of the (fast) food chain. To keep the interaction balanced & engaging, we must make sure we partner with take-out that’s just as substantial. The most obvious partners to these are heavy duty hamburgers. However, since were discussing the biggest reds available, think BIG like Carl’s Jr (Hardees) Six Dollar 1/3lb Burgers, the Five Guys Double Grilled Cheeseburger, and certainly In-N-Out’s Double-Doubles and 4x4s. Other drive-thru contenders, again, remembering to think big, would be chili cheese fries, Philly cheesesteaks, & fattier iterations of Mexican dishes like barbacoa or beef burritos with gratuitous cheese. In any of these cases, do be careful with anything spicy (jalapenos, red pepper flakes, etc) as tannins in wine, as well as alcohol, tend to exacerbate them for the worse. In the realm of barbeque sauce-slathered red meats, Syrahs (especially Australian Shiraz) & Zinfandels get a notable mention as they have inherent peppery/savory flavors that compliment meat, and fruit intensities that match the sweetness of the sauce. Regardless of which guilty pleasure you may choose, keep in mind that the interaction at play remains the same – your palate will be covered in fats from cheese, fats from meat, fats from rich sauces, you get the idea. When your tongue is coated in so much richness that you can no longer taste the nuances of other flavors, it’s actually those same rough, burly tannins (culprits of the bitterness we so vehemently avoid) that cleanse the palate and restore order to your taste buds - the best partners will bleed grease through the wrapper, clog the arteries, and most importantly give the wine’s structure something more substantial to spar with (although it wouldn’t hurt to schedule that checkup with your cardiologist).With reds that aren’t as bigThink Grenache, Gamays, Pinot Noirs, Sangioveses, and more. When going lighter we naturally become more flexible with our pairings as our drinks are less demanding & aggressive (in the best cases, with no sacrifice to flavor). We no longer need look for entrees that coat our palates in fats & protein, as these reds will be less substantial. Lighter items like deli sandwiches and protein + rice (or other grain) plates can find their way back to our passenger seats. First, Pinot Noir can indeed work with fast foods but a good number (often domestically made) are oaky, bearing notes of vanilla, cinnamon, coffee, and more. While that does sound fantastic, flavors reminiscent of Grandma’s kitchen aren’t the most flexible for pairing. Sweet spices can tend to clash with the saltier, more savory tones of cured meat, or the lively flavors of condiments like ketchup or mustard, or the raw flavors of vegetables, and even peppery spices like cayenne and paprika. However, this same acrid character makes a perfect partner to the deeply charred flavors from grilling, searing, roasting, and so on. Thus, if your meal is just roasted chicken or pork, without excessive salt, spice, or vegetal tones Pinot works great, so long as there aren’t any of the aforementioned flavors to oppose.  If you’re a devout Pinot follower, than opt for versions that don’t stress the usage of oak, and are therefore more flexible (“excuse me, I’m looking for a Pinot that isn’t oaky”). A bit more obscure, but a fantastic alternative, is to reach for a bottle of French Beaujolais, which is based from the Gamay varietal. This red has a structure and berry-tinged character like Pinot Noir, but is unencumbered by a copious amount of oak flavorings. With the primary flavors being red berry fruits, Beaujolais makes a great contrast to cured meats such as ham, roast beef, and pastrami, as well as a match for livelier sauces like mustards, ketchups, and spicy mayos. The applications of Beaujolais extend far beyond conventional sandwiches, as its vivacious fruit tones serve as a great match to strongly flavored and/or spicy foods like Cajun and Middle Eastern – just think of how notes of fresh strawberry & cherry would wonderfully contrast against a savory mouthful gyros from Halal Guys. Another French alternative for pairing would be a bottle of Cotes Du Rhone (based from Grenache) which is delivers loads of baked/dried red fruit flavors alongside secondary notes of herbs and spice, and a fuller body when compared to the former reds. Just like Beaujolais, Cotes du Rhone does well when matched with menu items that put the savory flavors of meat at the forefront, such as those deeply charred chicken & steak bowls from Chipotle or mixed piece meals from El Pollo Loco. Whether it’s Beaujolais or Cotes du Rhone, you have wines that are not very tannic and have livelier red fruit flavors. With this in mind, Mexican dishes that dabble with red pepper flakes, cayenne, chilis, and the like become outstanding partners to either wine as their piquancy will not be offset by an excessively tannic structure (the structure of wines from the former category would make your palate feel like a flamethrower). I will also quickly note that Indian cuisines work with these reds by virtue of the same principle. From another part of the world, Italian Sangiovese, often in the form of a bottle of Tuscan “Chianti”, works great with tomato themed dishes, whose inherent flavors are often hard to pair with. Sangiovese’s own flavors of tart cherry and tomato make it a natural partner to anything that dabbles in marinara sauces – think of your favorite pizza place, or perhaps Subway’s flagship Meatball Marinara. Regardless of the choices in wine or food, lets remember to take the bird’s eye view and repeat our mantra of matching the overall weights & characters of both participants. After conceptually scaling both partners mentioned above, can we see how they make fine dance partners?With Whites & RoseAlthough not often our first thought to accompany fast food, the opportunity for a home-run pairing very much does exist in the realm of whites, and in many more ways than you think. For a good number of these wines, the dynamic is simple – the acidity in whites contrasts with the lighter flavors of white meats & seafood, emphasizing their simplistic character. As MS Evan Goldstein put it in his fantastic book “Perfect Pairings”, the acid in these wines act as “gastronomic highlighter”. Obvious examples of this are Sauvignon Blanc, Spanish Albarino, and lighter iterations of Pinot Gris/Grigio, which prominently feature a lively acidity as well as vibrant fruit tones. When pairing with lighter whites, Tex-Mex-themed joints like Baja Fresh, Rubio's, Wahoo's, and El Pollo Loco are perfect as much of their menu revolves around simply prepared poultry and/or seafood, with minimal intervention from spices or sauce. Again, simple with simple right? However, be advised that when entrees include grilled vegetables or tossed greens, Sauv Blanc usually takes the edge as it has an intrinsic vegetal/herbaceous character that is complimentary. For those of you making New Year’s resolutions to be healthier, yes you should certainly pair Sauv Blanc with your salads. Beyond said varietals, there are a few that have a modest amount of sweetness to them – what is known as “off-dry”. While sugar isn’t always desired in our whites, and a lot of us prefer dry (supposedly), sugar does have its niche in the world of pairing – a prime example being German Riesling (look for “kabinett” or ‘spatlese” on the label when available). Its sugar nullifies heat, thus calming the palate and allowing us to enjoy the other wonderful flavors of a dish without breaking a sweat. Ethnic items that emphasize exotic flavors, like Tikka Masala and Chicken Curry, work great with Riesling as it has plenty of its own perfumed aromas to match the flavor intensity, as well as ample sugar to tame the heat. Another example of this dynamic would be a partnership with Szechuan entrees like Kung Pao Chicken or Mapo Tofu – for those of you who don’t have a local authentic Szechuan joint nearby, much of Panda Express’s menu offers items that dabble in both spice & sugar to dance perfectly with Riesling. Another fast food/wine niche that you might not have thought of (unless you’re German) would be pairing Riesling with hot dogs as the interaction becomes a playful contrast of salty against sweet. The ubiquitous Chardonnay, contrary to its popularity, is actually not as flexible as the other whites mentioned – at least not the oaky, butter-laden iterations from California that we all know and love. Just as in the case of Pinot Noir from earlier, Chard’s hedonistic character of oak driven spices cause it to clash with the saltier and/or vegetal tones often found in drive-thrus (although it should be noted that the case is quite the opposite when discussing dishes in the arena of fine dining). When Chardonnay in unoaked however, it can be treated just like drier whites mentioned before; with simple recipes that put protein at the forefront. Lastly we have Rose to consider. While it is indeed lighter, it's sort of an “in between” style – from its assertiveness & intensity of flavors, to its fullness in texture, and even having a small presence of tannin. The style is characteristically a vino middle ground, never fully committing to either side, and therefore yielding implications in pairing that are synonymously “in between”. Any meal that hearkens to one color of wine, but flirts with another makes a perfect candidate - lighter variations of the items in the earlier sections work swimmingly such as single patty cheeseburgers, sandwiches with chicken or charcuterie, and most ethnic cuisines when the proteins are leaner cuts (like white meat & seafood). Even BBQ sauce items match well against Rose’s sweeter impressions of fruit, again so long as the proteins aren’t big slabs of red meat. More contemporarily, many of the vegetarian themed fast-casual spots that have rightly gained much popularity (like Veggie Grill & Native Foods) are also very much “in between” as they are based on vegetables, grains, and alternative proteins, but aslo have a ramped-up weight & flavor profile, due to their often generous, additions of sauce & seasonings. As we exit the drive-thru As a parting note, the knowledge presented above represents a foundational approach to pairing food and wine - much of these theories are long honored and time tested. However, the world of wine (and food of course) is dizziyingly immense. When attempting to pair our meals & beverages remember that, like a game of chess, there are many moving pieces, and our logical minds may often oversee exactly how intertwined even one piece may be in relation to the rest of the board, leading to minor, and even monumental blunders (last metaphor, I promise!). What I’m trying to say is that sometimes the pairing may not always work out, despite our best calculations. Inevitably our food will be much fattier than we anticipated, or the wine not structured enough, or the flavors just won’t play well together. Regardless of the hiccup, asking why a pairing failed to work teaches us just as much (if not more) than why something did – with the often-crippling amount of choice available, this approach will serve you well (it certainly has for me). Lastly, remember wine should always be, above all else, the fun part of our day, and we mustn’t let the ever-expanding abundance of information impede our enjoyment - or inebriation. Much like tone of this article, keep in mind to approach the subject of vino - and gastronomy for that matter - with a healthy degree of merriment. Don't forget to check out Drive Through Napa, a modern primer on Napa Valley. The quickest and coolest way to learn about Napa Valley. Bonus content from 16 of Napa's top wineries + industry's first Price to Value charts powered by Vinvo.
The Process Behind Our First Book - Drive Through Napa
I'm excited to share our latest project, a series of books under the name "Drive Through". The first book in the series is titled Drive Through Napa, the essential modern primer on Napa Valley. The process of creating the book from ideation to fruition was exciting and for me personally the most rewarding part. I wanted to give you a peek behind the curtains of the process and thinking that went into this unique project.  If you have visited, plan to visit Napa Valley or you drink Napa Valley wine, then this book is for you! Drive Through Napa (pre-order now!)Creative Direction and Design of Drive Through NapaFrom the start of the project we knew the design had to stand on its own. It had to be award worthy. I have never done a book cover let alone a book in wine! I'm a brand strategist who's worked in digital my entire career. Thus, I had to push myself and think about our brand at I lIke this grape, what it stood for, who was our audience, and how we could disrupt the way knowledge of Napa Valley wine was currently being communicated. A simple technique that helps me is to frame a question that may seem a bit silly, but forces outside the box thinking - the answer to this question would define our 'north star' for the project:"If Pharrell or Complex Magazine were to write a wine book, what would it look like? What would it sound like?"It was obvious from that question that our book had to look bold, cool, and different than any other wine book in the market. It had to visually scream, yet be subtle and sure of itself knowing it was timeless. Most importantly the book was not going to have a single photo of a vineyard! Honestly, no one can tell one vineyard from another. Not to mention it's cliche, unimaginative, and Pharrell wouldn't do it!When thinking about our audience the primary attributes of the book is that it could be cover to cover in 1-hour. The challenge here is that the content of the book must also remain highly valuable so taking short cuts or leaving out information was not an option. The solve came from using iconography and font treatments for simple data visualization, along with use of spacing and design elements to help manage a readers pace. Thank goodness the designer behind the book, Kathy Lajvardi, is a multi award-winning art director and graphic artist! Content Ideation So now that we have a killer creative direction, we then tackled the task of focusing the book's content. The 'watch-out' is that this book could have become another guidebook telling consumers where to go while visiting Napa and what to drink. We absolutely didn't want this to be a guidebook. Working with an award-winning wine author and professor of journalism Paul Hodgins made the process easier. Most visitors to Napa Valley and those that drink Napa wines know very little about the 16 AVAs (American Viticulture Areas) or “Napa Neighborhoods” that make up Napa Valley and house the nearly 500 wineries there. An AVA is an officially designated wine grape-growing region in the United States. Currently there are about 242 AVAs in the U.S. These 16 AVAs in Napa Valley have distinctive attributes that are purley their own such as soil, climate, elevation, and grapes that can be grown there. Their unique histories also play a big part in the wine that's produced there. Think of it this way, if before visiting Southern California you knew just a little bit about Santa Monica, Downtown LA, and San Diego, then your experiences when visiting those cities would be richer. Thus, the focus of Drive Through Napa is to provide fundamental information of these 16 AVAs and be a valuable resource for anyone that drinks Napa Valley wines.Taking it to Another Level, 2 BonusesNow that we had clear creative and content directions, the book had to jump to another level so it's clearly an I like this grape project and not just another book on Napa Valley. Bonus #1: Each of the 16 AVAs are being introduced by 16 prominent wineries. Think of these participating wineries as stewards who have a deep relationship with their AVA. These introductions help readers understand, from the point-of-view of those that work the land, what makes each AVA so special and how it impacts the wine. I'm grateful to announce the wineries who are participating thus far: Alpha Omega, Cade, Chateau Montelena, Darioush, Dyer Vineyards, Grgich Hills, Hess Collection, Italics, Raymond, Rombauer, Silverado, Smith Madrone, and Trefethen.Bonus #2: I was discussing the project with Heini Zachariassen, Founder of the Vivino App. I asked him, given Vivino's vast community of wine lovers (over 30mm!) if he would allow us to display the average consumer rating for each AVA in the book. He did me one better and came up with what is now called the "Price to Value" index charts in the book! What we're able to show is the value for money you will get for each dollar spent, for each AVA. Say you're willing to spend up to $30 for a bottle of Napa Valley wine. Our charts will show that a wine from Spring Mountain averages 4.1, but only 3.8 for a wine from Yountville. This means, you will get more value for money in Spring Mountain at that price. The charts do not mention any wineries, but instead are focused on the AVA.Valentine's Day 2019I'm excited, proud. and thankful to see this project come to fruition. The book will start shipping in time for Valentine's Day with pre-orders available now. Pre-order copies are $15 (nearly 20% off the list price of $18), plus each pre-ordered copy is autographed by Kathy, Paul, and myself. Pre-order at http://drivethroughnapa.com The printed book has the beautiful color front and back cover with vividly designed black and white on the inside. The eBook is currently planned to be full color. We plan on having Q&A sessions around Southern California. Click here and tweet us to stay in the loop: http://bit.ly/2LEn5px or email me: cheers@ilikethisgrape.comThank you for your support and I hope you truly enjoy the book as much as we loved creating it! 
Give Sherry Wine a Shot. Secrets of Sherry wine.
Sherry - it's more than your grandmother's beverageWhile on the rise in popularity with some inner circles of imbibers, Sherry is still a relative mystery to most drinkers. A lot of people associate Sherry with a sweet beverage sipped by grandmothers or used for cooking or as a vinegar. The reality of this exceptionally diverse and unique beverage, while complicated, is well worth diving in to. From where it originates to how it’s made to why you should try it, Sherry is a definitely a drink you should get to know.What is Sherry wine?So what exactly is Sherry? Sherry is a fortified wine. Sherry producers first make a base wine and then add 96% abv neutral spirit to the finished product, raising the alcohol level of the wine before aging it. The aging process is the hallmark of Sherry, but before we get to that let’s talk about where it comes from.Where can Sherry wine be made? Sherry can only be made in Spain, specifically in the DO of Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. Geographically this area is located in the in the southwest corner of the country anchored by the three cities of Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, commonly referred to as the Sherry Triangle. Jerez has the distinction of being one of the oldest wine-producing towns in Spain. The whole region of Andalucía was actually the base of exploration for Christopher Columbus, and the port town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda became of great importance to the new trans-Atlantic trade in the late 15th and early 16th century.  It is not unlikely that Sherry was the first wine to enter North America.It’s hot in this region, and dry.  Proximity to the Atlantic does offer mitigating climatic assistance, but that help doesn’t reach very far inland. The main varietal grown here and used to make Sherry is Palomino Fino. It’s a neutral grape with moderate acidity; not much to shout about on its own, but perfect for creating a neutral base for the process of Sherry-making. The process is really the star of the Sherry show.Process of making SherryAs mentioned earlier, Sherry starts its life as a base wine, most made from the Palomino grape. Depending on where the grapes were grown for the wine and how it evolves during fermentation, the base wines are classified in one of two ways: as a Fino or as an Oloroso. After this classification the wines are fortified and begin the aging process in their designated solera.What? This is the key right here: solera.  Solera is both a system and the elements which physically makeup that system. The solera system is one of fractional blending over time, one that defines the characteristics of every Sherry made; the solera is also the name for the grouping of barrels that the wine is aged in. Think of the newly fortified wine entering the top of a pyramid made up of barrels with many layers, and the wine finishing aging at the bottom layer of the pyramid. The finished wine is drawn from the bottom layer to be bottled, but whatever amount of wine is removed from the bottom layer is replaced with the same amount from the layer of wine above it; so on and so forth all the way up to the top of the pyramid, where newly fortified wine is continuously being introduced. In this way a little bit of every addition every harvest is in every layer and constantly being blended.Type of Sherry & alcohol percentage So what does this process do besides blend and age the wine?  This depends on whether the Sherry is a Fino or an Oloroso.  Lighter colored, more delicate wines classified as Fino Sherries and only fortified to 15% ABV before entering their solera. The richer, heavier wines are categorized as Oloroso and fortified too. In both cases, the barrels are only filled 5/6 of the way full capturing air inside.  In the Fino Sherry solera, this extra space of air at the top allows for a thin film of yeast known as “flor” to form over the wine, protecting the wine from the oxygen in the barrel, and feeding off of the alcohol and glycerol in the wine. Aging in solera with the presence of flor is known as “biological aging”, and this process creates lighter colored wines with delicate, nutty flavors and aromas, along with a very lean mouthfeel from reducing the amount of glycerol (glycerol is an odorless, tasteless substance naturally occurring in wine that lends a smoothness to the mouthfeel) and introducing acetaldehydes.  Acetaldehydes are naturally occurring chemical compounds also found in coffee, bread, and ripe fruit, and are imparted to biologically aged Sherry through the presence of flor. The flavor profile of these wines is usually savory, austere and very surprising to someone who has never tasted it before; there is nothing quite like it, and people can be taken aback or dislike it at first. I say give it a chance. 😊Now for Oloroso Sherry, no flor develops in the barrels of the solera because flor cannot survive at 17% ABV.  This means that throughout the entirety of the blending and aging process, Oloroso Sherry is exposed to and interacts with oxygen. This process is therefore known as “oxidative aging”. These wines take on deeply nutty and rich characteristics, are darker in color and have a fuller mouthfeel.A third category of Sherry is Amontillado. These wines begin the same way as Fino Sherry, aging biologically under flor. However, if somewhere along the way the flor begins to die off and the wine begins to be exposed to oxygen, the wine will be re-classified as an Amontilldo, and finish the aging process oxidatively like an Oloroso.  Because it sees both types of aging processes, Amontillado Sherry contains qualities from both: some of the bready, yeasty acetaldehyde aroma of a Fino with a richer, fuller mouthfeel, landing the final wine characteristically between a Fino and Oloroso.Lastly, a rather elusive and highly prized category known as Palo Cortado is said to have the elegance of Amontillado and the power and richness of an Oloroso.  This intermediary style occurs when flor fails to develop properly in a Fino solera, and the wine begins aging oxidatively. Typically a high quality Sherry, the production process is natural but based on a fluke, and can be very difficult to replicate intentionally. Pairing Sherry with food & sweet SherryAll of these wine styles are naturally dry at the end of the solera process, and these dry styles of Sherry are made to pair with all types of food.  The general rule for which style to drink with what food is “If it swims – Fino, if it flies – Amontillado and if it walks – Oloroso”. While this is of course not a hard and fast rule, it is a good way to start thinking about how you might introduce a Sherry to your next meal. A classic pairing is Marcona almonds and Manzanilla (a Fino Sherry made only in the city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda) which also happens to be a great pre-cursor to just about any dinner.Now, some Sherry is definitely sweet.  Sweet Sherry comes in two classifications:Naturally sweet Sherry made from fermentation stopping early, either by fortification or because there is just so much sugar in the must the yeast die off, usually made with the other two varietal of Jerez: Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel.Dry Sherry as discussed previously sweetened by the addition of naturally sweet Sherry or grape must.  Sweetened sherries are known as cream sherries, named for the insanely popular Bristol Cream, a thick and sweet blended Sherry developed in Bristol around 1860. The category, however, varies in style and levels of sweetness:Pale Cream Sherry is made with a biologically aged wine – Fino or Manzanilla. Will contain between 45 and 115 grams per liter of sugar.Medium Sherry will have between 5 and 115 grams of sugar per liter, so therefore the range is quite wider in level of sweetness. Often based on Amontillado.Cream Sherry will contain between 115–140 grams of sugar per liter, the sweetest style of the three, usually made with Oloroso and sometimes Amontillado.Sweet Sherry, like dry Sherry, can be exceedingly complex and of high quality, and it makes an excellent dessert beverage. That being said, there are many cheap, syrupy sweet knock offs that can easily turn you away from your potential new favorite after dinner drink.  Why I love SherryWhy do I love Sherry? I love its versatility and uniqueness. For me, the nuttiness and austerity make it an excellent food pairing wine in all categories. It is not a shy beverage, it is bold and complex and either you love it or you hate it. The most important takeaway is not to be scared of it. The best way to sample it is the way it was made to be enjoyed: with food of the region. More up and coming restaurants are beginning to revive interest in Sherry through dedicated and thoughtful beverage programs. Vaca Restaurant is a great example in Orange County where the knowledgeable staff can guide you through a Sherry tasting experience with your meal. Sherry use in cocktails is also on the rise. Many new opportunities to try Sherry are popping up in our ever-progressive dining culture, and I encourage to give it a shot the next time you see it on the menu. I hope you will be pleasantly surprised.Want some more detailed information on Sherry?  There is a ton of info out there. In fact, the region’s website https://www.sherry.wine/ can answer pretty much any question you may have about Sherry. The website Sherry Notes is also a site full of great resources and information: https://www.sherrynotes.com/.  Of course, if you prefer a hard copy of something to read, I would recommend investing in the book Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla by Peter Liem.Salud!Photo credit: Deb Harkness
‘Tis the Season for a Wine & Holiday Movie Pairing
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The bakers are baking, the gift wrappers wrapping, and the families and friends are gathering. Everyone is busy with holiday plans and knocking out their end of year work goals. We are now counting down in the single digits to Christmas, and there is a lot happening.All the more reason to optimize the quiet moments for maximum relaxation and enjoyment. For when you foresee (or even need to plan for) your evening ending up with a movie night on the couch with a bottle of wine, here’s our recommended shopping list to pair with some of our favorite holiday movie choices: Elf For this delightful Christmas tale full of cheer and singing loud for all to hear, I suggest you pick up an Ice Wine - extra points if you find one from New York state! While I’m not sure if Buddy would want to put this in his coffee, this wine would surely align pretty closely to the 4th elvish food group: syrup. But this syrup is for adults only, and it is as sweet as Buddy the Elf himself. For those with less of a sweet tooth, seek out a prosecco - The big, clean bubbles mirror Buddy’s pure, effervescent personality.For max enjoyment, pair with a treat from one of the other main elvish food groups: candy, candy canes, or candy corns.The Nutcracker Ballet The Nutcracker ballet, along with The Christmas Carol, are the holiday performances you and your family are apt to make the special trip out to the theatre for. However, if you can’t make the trek out, just tune into Netflix for a performance narrated by Kevin Kline and featuring a young MaCaulay Culkin.For this classic, first performed in St. Petersburg, Russia, on December 18, 1892, I have to recommend another classic - Champagne. Of course, such a prestigious wine region usually comes at a price point that may-or-may not fit the everyday budget. In that case, why not try a traditional method sparkling wine from Moldova? They share history with The Nutcracker’s homeland, and you can find a decade-old Grand Vintage for only $20. For max enjoyment, have sugar plums and chocolate on-hand. It’s a Wonderful LifeThis beautiful Frank Capra exemplar was the Christmas tradition in my house growing up, and I appreciate it more-and-more the older I get. For this, I’d like to pair with a ruby port (tawny if you prefer). Port is refined and elegant, and simultaneously comforting, and you’ll certainly need some comfort as you progress through George Bailey’s Christmas crisis and revelation. The ending is sweet and triumphant, just like the finish of your port. For max enjoyment, have tissues and dark chocolate handy, and watch on Christmas Eve. A Christmas StoryFor this all-American, Cleveland classic, I’d pick up a US-produced rosé. I’m a huge proponent of enjoying rosé all year long, so wine not? It’s the pink bunny of the wine world (but one you’re actually happy about)! Plus, rosés are best in their youth, much like Ralphie’s active imagination. If you can’t find a US rosé at your local package store, you’ll certainly enjoy one from Provence or Languedoc.For max enjoyment, don your favorite onesie in solidarity with Ralphie.Rudolph the Red-Nosed ReindeerPlayful and bright, I want a young, fruit forward wine for this wholesome movie. Look for an Oregon Pinot Noir or California Zinfandel produced in the last 1-3 years, preferably with red cherry and/or strawberry notes as bright as Rudolph’s nose. If New World isn’t your thing, consider a Crianza Tempranillo from Rioja.For max enjoyment, snuggle up for your viewing party with that toy or stuffed animal from your youth we both know you still have. How to Grinch Stole ChristmasAh, what to pair with Mr. Grinch, whether he be animated or Jim Carrey? Baring my husband’s appropriate, but non-grape based suggestions of Absinthe and Gin, I’m going to recommend you seek out the dark horse of the sparkling world: sparkling reds. Give an Italian, secco (dry) Lambrusco di Sorbara a try, with descriptors like tart and tangy red fruit; or if you like the darker fruit spectrum, a sparkling Shiraz from South Australia ought to do the trick. The red fruit in your glass will be festive, plus those bubbles will give you the warm-and-fuzzies when Mr. Grinch’s heart finally grows up from two sizes too small. For max enjoyment, sing out loud and proud when the Who sing their “Welcome Christmas” song because you know you want to. Fah Who Foraze, Dah Who Doraze...The Holiday For this subtle holiday favorite, I’d hands down pair with a California Chardonnay! In THE Let-Go-Bar-Scene Amanda is seen drinking a deep gold, white wine, and I’m making an educated guess it’s a Chard. Plus, Iris’s holiday takes place in Amanda’s home state of California...so off to the white wine aisle you go!For max enjoyment, turn your living or bedroom into a pillow fort (absolutely bedecked with some holiday lights) from which you can enjoy watching the movie. White ChristmasWhite Christmas is a Christmas classic for old Hollywood romantics, with music, fabulous dancing, romance, war-time camaraderie, and costumes to die for. It was released in 1954, and since that was long before the new world markets started to grace the wine world with their presence, I have to recommend pairing an Old World wine with this vintage film. Look for an older vintage Medoc red Bordeaux blend for you red wine lovers, and for the jazzier scenes, maybe consider a Condrieu Viognier to mix things up a bit!For max enjoyment, set up shop next to a cozy fireside and wear something sparkly. Hallmark Christmas moviesGo to your fridge. Pick a wine (any wine). Grab some crackers on the way back to the couch. Voila! You have the perfect wine and snack to pair with all of that CHEESE!! (I can say it, I’m obsessed with these movies)What are some of your favorite holiday movie and wine pairings? What should we try next?
13 gift ideas for millennials who drink wine
The ultimate guide for wine lovers and last minute shoppers like us:1.  Wine Condoms: $14“Practice Safe Sips. Protection for your Pinot.” These guys get an award for the best puns. Yes, this is serious and seriously works. This protective wine covering reseals your opened bottle of wines for future use–helping you avoid having to awkwardly shove the cork back in, and giving your friends some laughs in the process.2.  Porto Vino Wine Purse $50We love, love this purse. It’s got a secret insulated compartment that holds up to 1.5 liters of wine–equivalent to two bottles–and has a nozzle on the side so you can easily pour when you’re on the go. And, it’s super cute. So you can, you know, be sketchy, but also look like you’re not.3. Wine Folly: Magnum Edition ;-): $18.99This book is from our favorite please-explain-to-us-in-pretty-pictures-what-the-heck-this-wine-is blog, Wine Folly. It’s a roundup of all the 101 and 201 knowledge you could ever want to drop on wine in infographic form. Our friends have basically stopped talking to us when they come over in favor of flipping through this guy. Coffee table required. 4.  Coravin: $199+++For all of you serial killers out there who don’t finish the whole bottle in one sitting. Just kidding. Ever opened up a really nice bottle of wine on a random Wednesday night only to find yourself attempting to finish it all alone? Enter Coravin. The wine needle on this system gently pierces through the cork so you can pour your bottle without ever having to take out the cork. This means you can save the rest for later like you never opened it. It comes in handy for wine tastings or nights where you want to dabble with a few different vinos. Drink any wine, any time, without ever pulling the cork. Whether you want a sip, a glass, or more, your last glass will taste just as amazing as your very first.5.  Wine. All the Time.: $10Quite possibly our favorite book about wine in non-picture format. Marissa Ross is hilarious and will teach you everything you want to know about natural wine. It feels like you’re talking to a girlfriend as you read, and also comes with a pretty dope glossary of wine terms so you can sound super smart at the next dinner party.6.  WineBlock Red Wine Stain Preventing Lip & Teeth Balm: $11So you don’t look like a hot mess at the 8AM meeting tomorrow, Karen. Candidly, we haven’t tried this yet, but we are pretty excited about it. There are a bunch of wipes out there to remove red wine lip/teeth stains, but this is the first product we’ve seen that’s meant to prevent it when you’re drinking heartier reds. It works like a lip balm, is all-natural, and is flavorless so that it doesn’t interfere with all the goodness that comes with sipping on wine.7. Wine Stakes.: $20For lawn games with a side of sophistication. These stakes are perfect for the beach or backyard BBQs. If you’re like us and prefer a glass over a plastic cup, these are exactly what you need. You stick ‘em right into the lawn and you’ve got a ready made glass and bottle holder. 8. Uncorked Candles: $24In this process, we realized you can get just about anything with wine scents or flavors. Soaps, salts, jellies, etc. etc. We are obsessed with these candles though. They’re handmade from discarded wine bottles and are made with soy to be long-lasting. Flavors include: cabernet, chardonnay, rose, pinot grigio, and champagne.9. Wine Coasters: $11Vibe your inner Monica and protect your almost “grown up” furniture from the dreaded condensation that drips ever so slowly down the stem. There are an endless number of cute coasters out there with fun sayings for your fellow wino. We’ve found our favorites on Etsy. Take a look - there are plenty to choose from. Link10. Clink & Company Wine T-Shirts: $27Clink & Co. makes some of the cutest shirts out there. If you’re in on the graphic tee phase, you’re gonna wanna snag one of these for your friend that loves wine. They come in a bunch of different styles and are decently affordable. Awesome way for your friend to declare their love of wine to a bunch of people who don’t care, but gently. 11. Shower Wine Glass Holder $16Because sometimes we all need a little extra motivation to wash our hair twice a week. JK, three times a week. If you’re like us and enjoy taking your glass of vino on a road trip into the shower, this glass holder is perfect. It suctions right to your shower wall so you can sip in the shower safely.12. Brads & Chads (Drinking Buddies): $24If you’re looking for a weird gag gift, look no further. With these drinking buddies, your friend will never be alone on the holidays. 13. Vino2Go Portable Wine Glass: $13Good for “imbibing on the move.” This double-wall, insulated cup is a perfect road soda container. They’ve built it to maintain temperature, so it’s good for chilled wines in the summer. Bonus: the silicone lid keeps you from being like us and spilling everywhere.Go forth, buy all the things. 
Trailblazing for Label Transparency in the Wine Industry
Organic, vegan, non-GMO, locally grown, Gluten-free, farm-to-tableI’m sure these phrases look familiar. They are, after all, just about everywhere you look in our current culture. There is so much varying exposure we’ve come to expect from our food industry and grocery stores and - even now - our restaurant. But what about wine?Has anyone noticed that the back of your wine bottle contains no helpful information regarding the ingredients and nutritional gain? Granted, I suppose we don’t expect to gain much nutrition from consuming a bottle of our favorite Cabernet, but as consumers that have come to anticipate so much, how is it we’re satisfied to receive so little info when it comes to what’s in the bottle? The CEO of a successful new wine brand that’s taking the UK by storm - Thomson & Scott’s Amanda Thomson - has certainly taken notice of this lack of straightforwardness. “When it comes to wine,” she says, “many of the bottles consumers are purchasing are full of chemicals and greatly lacking in story and context.” Thomson & Scott is one wine producer on the market that is making strides to change that.Amanda grew up near London with a very forward-thinking mother, one who implanted strong values of food health from an early age.  “It was normal to not have processed food while growing up. We were to have respect for sugar and have respect for food in general.”  And it was due to this mindset being instilled at a young age, that when Amanda began building a career in broadcasting with the BBC, she developed a palate for Champagne. However, after waking up time again feeling less than tip top after a night of sipping her beloved bubbles, she began to question the contents of her favorite beverages. This very conscious thought caused Amanda to dream that perhaps there was more to uncover in regards to the unknown ingredients of wine and, just maybe, she could create a brand that led the public to understand more as well through intentional transparency at the helm. Just like that, she was off and running; leaving her broadcasting career behind to move her family to Paris and begin her education in wine.  Shortly after getting her hands dirty in the wine world, she began meeting with and forging relationships with some of the brightest winemakers in Champagne, France and Prosecco, Italy.  It was these relationships with like-minded, quality-driven industry professionals that enabled the brand to develop their distinct product line of Sparkling wines that proudly possess little to no sugar, are certified Vegan & 100% organic.  Truly their wines being labelled as “Skinny” has much more of a well-rounded meaning that certainly falls in line with the needs and desires of society. Outside of their tight handle on quality control, Thomson & Scott hardly loses sight of what their audience desires, a product they can have fun with; after all, it is wine!  “We truly don’t compare to any other wine company in terms of marketing; we are a lifestyle brand.  We focus on being very clear with who we are--our wines are fun! But they had to be top quality as well. Amanda specified taking a lot of inspiration from American culture, specifying that “aiming for a top quality product, doesn’t mean you can’t have an attractive, relatable brand!”Thomson & Scott Prosecco is reasonably priced for the incredible flavor profile & mouthfeel. At just $25/bottle with 7 grams of sugar per liter, the wine is a home-run and quite simply, a no brainer!  Lots of bright fruit greet you on the nose as the consistent bubbles meet your palate and wake up your senses.As for their more prestigious sparkling--Champagne Extra Brut from the hands of winemaker Alexandre Penet--offers consumers a very well-balanced blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir to blow their socks off.  Approachable and satisfying, no need to sacrifice health for desire with this drop as it’s certified Vegan and contains up to 6 grams of sugar per liter.Needless to say, Thomson & Scott is making waves in the industry by willing to curate a product of status, cleanliness & upfront honesty, without sacrificing a drop of fun, and we certainly have Amanda Thomson to thank for her boldness in making such headway and setting a new bar for wines worldwide. So let’s drink to health! Cheers, sparkling lovers! 
A Tribe Called Quest and a Village Called Gevrey-Chambertin: Meet Edwinn Ferrer
Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on?Didn’t even have a drink. It was the introductory lecture given in my first wine course. Our sommelier said, “you either get bitten by the wine bug or you don’t”. I really think I caught it when he went on to describe the various countries, techniques, and applications for wine. Considering all the places & cultures wine is found in, I honestly found the subject to have a powerful gravity about it – one that pulls in the soul (or the amygdala, to be less mystical). I still firmly love the subject of course but, looking back on it, I think you know you’re bitten when you continue to study it, being fully aware of how much information you actually have to learn.What drew you to working in the wine industry?After pursuing the field in subsequent classes & books, I came to see it (and alcohol in a broader sense) as a necessary lubricant to society. Wine lightens the mind and warms the soul. It elevates jokes, conversations, and intimacy.Since we escape the stresses of work at the dinner table, it only makes sense to have a potion that brightens the mood and makes your food taste better on hand. If we didn’t have pleasures like that to look forward to, freeway traffic (no matter how many podcasts & audiobooks you have) would be a lot more miserable.What do you see as the next trend in wine? Will it be overrated or underrated? A trend I think I see coming up is a rise in popularity for more obscure countries like Portugal, Austria, and South Africa. The current heavy hitters like major French, Spanish, and Italian regions will only continue to rise in price & popularity. I predict audiences will, over time, fatigue from the current choices that saturate the market, and diffuse into countries/regions that offer better value. However, the most immediate countries that I think will receive this effect are Argentina & Chile, as they are seeing plenty of foreign investment. Ratings from reviewers will be somewhat accurate, but how proportionate the market will react, I can’t say. All it takes is one overly exaggerated endorsement to set a craze in either direction.Favorite varietal that is uncommon to find?Although it's no secret to Somms, Austrian Gruner Veltliner is a fantastic find. I like to think of it like Sauvignon Blanc, but w/ a dash of spice and a fruit profile that isn’t as eccentric. Its mostly super easy to drink, and pairs w/ a broad range of seafoods, salads, and white meats. The serious examples deliver an amazing level of complexity and weight, and feature esoteric aromas/flavors of legume, watercress and white pepper.What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?When I had leftover orange chicken from Panda Express and Rias Baixas Albarino. Before then I’ve almost never experienced such a stark contrast from “ehh just ok” to amazing. For me it was the bit of tangible proof of how a much better drink & food can improve each other when they match just right.What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly. The book introduced me to the wine world and not only gave me enough worldly depth, without becoming too dense, but also perfectly highlighted the aesthetic romance of wine that captured my imagination when I was just beginning. I consider it the perfect intro to wine book and its my first recommendation to newcomers.Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein. Wine is great. Food is great. Wine + food can be fantastic (or terrible) given the pairing. The foundational knowledge from this book has never left the corners of my mind, and I consider it a must, as the art & science of pairing yields the true potential of wine and food.The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson. My absolute go to for any wine question, no matter how obscure. The amount of information in it is dizzying and all-encompassing. Whenever I’ve needed to buckle down and study, this encyclopedia has never let me down.Pick a favorite bottle of Burgundian Pinot. What band or musician do you pair it with?Hmmm. Well, there’s a lot of choices when it comes down to Burgundian Pinots, but my top choice would have to be a bottle from the village of Gevrey-Chambertin (of course Premier or Grand Cru if given the opportunity, but can’t be too picky in this economy!). The Pinots there tend to be firmer, deeper in color, and age longer. Music pairing for sensuality & elegance contrasted w/ power & depth? Definitely A Tribe Called Quest. Their samples are always jazzy and silky smooth, while their lyricism is the right mix of romance and vivacity - classy and full if soul, w/ a balanced hand of playful aggression (just like how I imagine good Pinot). And speaking on long aging regimens, Tribe’s music has definitely stood the test of time as well. 
My Wine of the Month: Di Giovanna "Helios"
In October, after checking out more than 100 wines, my choice for November is a red Sicilian: "Helios" from Di Giovanna Di Giovanna - one of the oldest wine families in Sicily - is located in the province of Agrigento. If I have to describe the wine for what it is, I would say: “The quiet before the storm". This blend of Nero d’Avola and Syrah opens slowly and quietly. It then releases incredible sensations - like a storm! Helios takes its name from the father, Aurelio, and represents the best expression of the vineyards of the winery. It has a ruby red color with notes of berries and black cherry. The tannins are very soft with an incredibly long persistence.This wine also awarded by James Suckling with 91 points, deserves all the pride of the Sicilian lands!
Tapas & Tea - Meet Spanish Wine Expert Jaime Fernandez
Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? Most of my early wine experiences involve my grandad in Galicia. I would spend 6 weeks a year at my grandparents' house in a small village just outside of the Rias Baixas region called Pobra do Caraminal. We had a daily ritual there. My grandma would stay home to prepare lunch and I would walk to the town centre with my grandad and my twin brother for drinks and tapas. My grandad would always drink Albarino and sometimes let us have a sip. Even today, some 25-30 years later I will taste some Albarinos that immediately transport me back to those small wine bars with my grandad, watching him drink and argue with people about politics.Also, Christmas was always a great early wine memory for me. My parents would always buy bottles of Faustino I for our Christmas dinner. Back in those days it was quite expensive and people didn’t often spend lots of wine so it was always a massive treat. Even today when I smell a bottle of Faustino I it takes me back to some great Christmas memories.When and how did you realize Spanish wine is your thing? I’ve always had an affinity for anything and everything Spanish. I loved the food, the wine, the football, the history and the laid back lifestyle even from a fairly early age. I was fascinated with The Spanish Civil war and The Republicans.  My family in Galicia were deeply connected, particularly after the Civil War, so it was an area that intrigued me. As I grew older I became fascinated with Spanish food; paella, calamari, octopus, croquettes, etc.  My parents were a big part of that and we’d watch people like Keith Floyd and Rick Stein travel to Galicia and cook the local cuisine.  To this day I don’t think we will find a better ‘celebrity’ chef than Keith Floyd!  My nan in Spain and my mum were both amazing cooks so we regularly had home cooked Spanish meals with Spanish wine.I’d always enjoyed the wine but as it was always such a natural part of any of our meals I’d never thought too much about it. It wasn’t until I started my WSET studies a couple of years ago that the passion really took off. I’d grown up drinking Albarino during the year and Rioja at Christmas…that was essentially it! The WSET showed me how diverse and varied it was as a wine region and from then on I became obsessed with exploring as much as I could.What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  Discovery. I love discovering hidden gems and hearing winemakers’ stories. I rarely take much notice to critics’ scores when reading about wines. They’re great as a guideline but wine is such a personal and subjective experience I prefer to consider other factors when looking for a new wine. What resonates with me is learning about the winery, the vineyards, the winemaker, their story to becoming a winemaker, the local people that pick grapes at harvest time, the dog that lives on site!…essentially anything and everything that gives me an insight into who and what is involved during the winemaking process. All of these things are linked and have an impact into the final product.Most underrated grape in Spain?Godello. It is such a diverse grape and has the ability to produce wines with the structural finesse of a white Burgundy combined with the aromatic complexity of an Albarino.If you’re yet to try Godello you’re seriously missing out!What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?It’s a difficult one. The natural wine scene has exploded in recent years, not just in London, and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.I do think people will continue to explore unknown grapes and regions as well as ancient wine making methods and low-intervention wines. Words like "pet-nat", "qvevri", "amphora" and "wild-ferment" are now common knowledge to even the most casual wine enthusiasts – which is a good thing.I do also think that the more affordable iconic, traditional and old-school wineries will increase in popularity. Guys like Tondonia, Rinaldi, Chateau Musar, Emidio Pepe and some of the 2nd and 3rd wines from some of the top houses.Wine drinkers are looking for a combination of a wine ‘experience’ and the ability to ‘flex’ on Instagram without needing a second mortgage – these sorts of wines fit those criteria perfectly.In terms of regions, I think people should be looking out for still wines from England. There are some amazing producers around such as Ben Walgate from Tillingham, Jon Worontschak from Litmus and John Rowe at Westwell Wines. The weather has been kind in England in 2018 so fingers crossed it produces some amazing fruit.What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?I’m a sucker for a food and wine tasting experience…the more courses the better.I love the way that wine and food interacts, for me the simpler the combination the better. It’s also the perfect excuse to eat and drink your body weight!What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?I’m currently reading “The Dirty Guide to Wine” from Alice Feiring which I’m really enjoying. It’s an area of wine that baffles me the most but she puts a great spin on it and I love the way she categorises the regions by soil type. It’s fascinating how wines from completely different regions in the world have similar soils and tasting characteristics despite being thousands of miles apart.I also love “The New Vignerons” from Luis Gutierrez. He focuses on 14 key wineries/winemakers from around Spain to discuss their history, landscape and traditions and also ties them in with the typical food of the regions. I’m not a huge podcast fan but I really enjoy the UK podcast “Interpreting Wine” from Lawrence Francis.  He’s had some great guests on there from all over the wine world and it’s always relaxed and interesting conversations.We’ll give you 3 Spanish actors/actresses. You tell us the wine they match with: Javier Bardem – Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5oBoth often play a supporting role but frequently win awards for that performance. Lots going on with plenty of complexity which somehow combines into something elegant and though-provoking.Penélope Cruz – Alavaro Palacios L’Ermita Both leaders in their fields with the ability to inspire others. Natural beauty and class…subtle but powerful.Antonio Banderas – Vina Tondonia ReservaBoth are dark, smouldering and traditional, but with the odd curve-ball thrown in. And ages really well!Take a peek at Jaime's blog and give him a follow in Instagram.
How to Taste Wine, as Explained by 90's Hit Songs
A step-by-step guide...1. AppearanceMC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This Checking out the appearance of wine is kind of like judging a book by its cover. Is it a shitty romance novel from the 80's that you probably don't want to read anymore or the latest Gillian Flynn novel? Look for things like brown color, haziness. If you see them, consider asking that cute bartender for a new glass (though this doesn't always mean they're bad–more on that later). Hint: lighter colors tend to indicate youth aka the opposite of how we feel when looking back at these old videos.2. NoseNirvana – Smells Like Teen SpiritStick your nose in there. Swirl your glass to let some oxygen get cozy with your wine to bring out its aromas. Do you smell the grungy basement featured in Nirvana’s video? Again, maybe want to ask for a new glass. Do you smell fruits, flowers, spices, veggies, oak, etc. etc.? Take ‘em all in and make sure it aligns with your expectations - does this smell like a Golden Corral buffet or a 5-star meal coming at you?BOTTOMS UP! Let’s start drinking already...3. PalateUsher – Nice & SlowHere’s the fun part. Start drinking! And in the words of our dear friend, Usher, you ain’t gotta rush. Take it nice & slow, baby. Use both your senses of taste and smell to break down what you’re savoring. The next five songs will take us through what to look for while we taste.4. SweetnessTyrese – Sweet Lady90% of the time, you’re not going to be finding your “sweet lady.” Even if you’re tasting flavors that generally remind you of sweet things, most wines are dry, aka not sweet, aka don’t have sugar. Just like that word you’re trying to find to describe what you’re tasting, sweetness is most easily identified on the tip of your tongue. 5. AcidityTLC – WaterfallsDoes your mouth start watering like your dog’s on a 90 degree day? Bam: that’s acidity! It’s what makes lemons sour and wine taste refreshing. Acidity helps cut through things like sweetness and fat.6. TanninsDarude – SandstormThis is a cheat guys ‘cause the song technically came out in 2000, but let’s be real, it’s 🔥. Do you drink black tea? You know that feeling your mouth gets from it? Like your mouth is literally filled with sand? That’s the tannins. They come from the skins of the grape, so you typically find ‘em in red and orange wines. They’re most easily sensed at the back of your mouth or on your gums and their strength depends on the amount of skin contact during grapemaking. ;) 7. BodySir Mix A Lot – Baby Got BackDoes this baby have back? The easiest comparison to help you guess the body (light, medium, full) is to compare to milk. Does it feel super light like skim milk or more like straight-up cream? A lot of factors contribute to a wine’s body, but alcohol is one of the bigger ones. Fun party trick to know how boozy your wine might be without checking the label.8. FlavorsSeal – Kiss from a RoseMariah Carey – HoneySpice Girls – Spice Up Your LifeWe’re going in on the song variety for this one because this is the part where you just attempt to rattle off whatever you’re tasting. Spices? Floral notes? Herbs? Honey, creaminess, dairy notes? Earth? Animals (yes, seriously)? Colors of the world? And most importantly, do you actually like these things you’re tasting?9. FinishThe Cranberries – LingerNotice if the flavors linger and hang around like your deadbeat ex boyfriend (but in a good way this time) or if they’re gone in a flash like a one night stand. Sometimes they can be like that one guy you dated who turned into a completely different person overnight.Now’s time to act like Simon Cowell and give this guy a brutally honest final verdict. 10. BalanceThe Verve – Bittersweet SymphonyIn really, really good wines, all of these things – flavor, acidity, finish, body, tannins – are going to come together in perfect harmony. Does one seem out of whack like Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions? Or do you feel like Reese Witherspoon driving down the highway in the convertible during the end credits when you drink this?11. LengthFoo Fighters – EverlongWe visited the finish above. The longer the finish, typically, the better quality the wine.12. IntensityBackstreet Boys – Larger than LifeHow intense are the aromas you smell and flavors you taste? If they’re larger than life, that often indicates good quality.13. ComplexitySarah McLachlan – Building a MysteryIs there so much going on with this wine in terms of flavors that it feels like you’re unraveling a mystery as you drink it? Complexity is a solid indication that this wine is like a boss. 14. Final ConclusionChristina Aguilera – What a Girl WantsN*Sync – Bye, Bye, ByeCongratulations, you’ve made it to the end of your glass and better news: there’s still a whole bottle to go. So tell us: Is it “what a girl wants” or is this “bye, bye, bye?”
Valentine's Day: Decoding Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, etc
Valentine's Day screams for sparkling wine, but it’s important to note that not all bubbles are created equal.  When shopping around for the perfect bottle at the right price point, it is extremely helpful to know what the difference is between styles of sparkling wine and where they come from.  Champagne – the O.G.This is it, the wine the world defers to as the best sparkling wine ever. The original bubbly, the standout sparkler, the very best.  However, NOT all sparkling wine is Champagne; in fact, it can only be called Champagne if it comes from the specific region of Champagne in France.  This can be confusing here in the U.S. where you will still see the term Champagne on labels of California sparkling wine, but make no mistake! Those are not the real deal. What makes real Champagne so unique and sought after is the place that it comes from and the way it is made.  In Champagne, the wines undergo a second fermentation in a bottle – most often the one that you buy it in – to capture the CO2 and make it bubbly.  This process is referred to as the Traditional Method, and while this method is used elsewhere to create similar styles of sparkling wine, Champagne is the hallmark.  This is also why Champagne will usually cost you a pretty penny but is pretty much always worth it.Grapes used in making ChampagneAll Champagne is made using three main varietals: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier.  These grapes, grown in chalky Champagne soil, are responsible for creating the unique aroma and flavor profiles of the wine. High quality Champagne will deliver wines with racy acidity, a creamy mousse (the feel of the bubbles on your palate), and a toasty quality often described as brioche, biscuit or pastry dough.  The official terminology is that these wines display autolytic characteristics. These aromas and flavors come from extended contact with the lees (spent yeast cells) in the bottle during the second fermentation and are the calling card of any wine that is made using the Traditional Method. Which Champagne to buySo which Champagne should you buy?  Depends on what fits into your budget, but I recommend going with a Champagne made from Premier or Grand Cru grapes.  They may cost a little bit more, but over deliver on quality. Champagne Lallier makes exceptional Grand Cru champagne in both white and rosé style, but there are many others to be found as well.What is grower-producer ChampagneAnother hot trend in Champagne now is buying Grower-Producer Champagnes. Most of the Champagne sold is made by the big houses from grapes they buy from other growers, but there is more availability these days of Champagnes that the individual growers are making from their own grapes. You can tell which is which by looking for a little two letter code on the back label, followed by a string of numbers. If it says RM, it is a Grower-Producer Champagne; if it says NM, that means it comes from one of the big houses. "RM" stangs for récoltant manipulant, a grower who makes champagne out of their own grapes.Photo credit: http://culinary-adventures-with-cam.blogspot.comVintage Champagne – The best of the bestAs discussed above, Champagne is associated with that delicious biscuit aroma and flavor that comes from the winemaking process, but most Champagne is made by blending multiple vintages, so normally the label will say NV, or non-vintage. This allows Champagne producers to make a consistent, high quality product year after year that their customers can rely on and easily recognize. However, in the very best years some producers will make Vintage Champagnes, using only grapes from that year. These wines will reflect the overarching style of the house, but also have unique characteristics influenced by vintage variation. They are also often aged much longer on the lees, sometimes up to eight years or more, developing even more of that autolytic character common to all Champagne. So if that is a quality you like, vintage Champagne will be right up your alley. It will definitely cost you so be ready to throw down some cash, but once you take a sip of, oh let’s say the Henriot Brut Millésimé 2008, you’ll likely be glad that you did.Crémant – Top notch, bottom dollarCrémants refer to traditional method sparkling wines made in France that are not from Champagne, and they represent an EXCELLENT value in the category.  Crémant d’Alsace and Crémant de Loire (two other wine growing regions of France) will deliver excellent sparkling wines with a similar autolytic character at a fraction of the price. They can also be made with non-traditional Champagne varietals like Chenin Blanc or Riesling, adding intriguing layers of aromatics and flavors to these wines that differentiate them from Champagne. The Loire Valley actually produces the most traditional method sparkling wine in France after Champagne, so they know a thing or two about good bubbles, and you can find a great one that will knock your socks off for less than $20.Cava – Bang for your buckCava comes from Spain, and they have been making their bubbles there since the 1800’s.  The traditional method is used here as well, but winemaking technology allows them to expedite the process and also lower the cost, meaning it is easy to find an excellent bottle of Cava for often much less than $25. Traditional Cava also uses the indigenous Spanish varietals Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Perellada, which can lend some more tropical Mediterranean notes like melon and peach to the aroma and flavor profile.  Cava is, and always will be, a bargain for the traditional method junkie, but it's helpful to know your producers.  Bottom shelf Cava from the grocery store will not show the same kind of elegance and complexity you will find from a more quality oriented producer like Juvé Y Camps.(Watch the recap to I like this grape's first SOMMX event? Kanye West's Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine: Video recap.)New World Sparklers – Blow your mind, not your budgetWhen you leave Europe and enter the New World, you will still find sparkling wine made it all countries. This includes South America, Australia, the USA, South Africa, New Zealand, you name it. Sparkling wine is just that popular. It can be hard, though, to readily identify the quality sparkling wine since new world countries don’t have nearly the same number of regulations that old world wine regions do. Knowing your producers and terminology can help.  For example, several large Champagne houses have set up shop in California, and produce traditional method sparkling wine in the states: Louis Roederer has Roederer Estate up in Anderson Valley and Domaine Chandon is owned by the powerhouse Moët & Chandon.  Looking on the label for the term “Traditional Method” will also key you in to the style and quality of production. Some countries use a different name for it, like the term “Cap Classique” in South Africa. In fact, my recommendation to anyone who wants to blow their mind with a new world traditional method sparkling wine is to go out immediately and purchase a bottle of Graham Beck Brut Zero Cap Classique.  It will be the best $25 you have spent all month.Prosecco – Sassy SparkleProsecco is the princess of Italian sparkling wines.  This wildly popular wine can be found all over the world, but can only be made in the northeastern region of Italy. It is the aperitif of choice among locals and tourists alike. What makes Prosecco so specifically delicious is that it uses a different method of production from Champagne and all other traditional method sparkling wines.  Prosecco does not have a second fermentation in the bottle or extended contact with lees, so the resulting wines are crisp, fresh and fruity without the nuance of biscuit or brioche.  This makes it an incredible versatile option to drink on its own or mix in cocktails, and it is always refreshing and delightful. While some Prosecco’s may have a little bit of residual sugar and seem sweeter that other sparkling wines, drier versions are becoming more common and easy to find on the market. Again, these are also incredible value wines, offering up their sassy sparkle in a lower budget bracket.  For an added bonus without much added cost, look for a DOCG Prosecco. A smaller category, but worth the investigation.Moscato d’Asti – Sweet and spectacularThis iconic dessert wine of Piemonte, Italy, is often underrated and underappreciated. These lightly sparkling sweet dessert wines are made from the aromatic Moscato grape and offer sublime elegance to any event. Unfortunately, its good name has been tarnished by the flood of syrupy sweet imitations labelled simply “Moscato” that can be found in the supermarket, but these carbonated sugar waters can’t hold a candle to the real thing. True Moscato d’Asti are delicate wines and excellent pairings with lighter desserts that aren’t overly sugary, like strawberries and Chantilly cream, or even as a delightful aperitif.  Have any questions on Champagne? Just send us a message on Twitter or Instagram! Cheers!If you're still looking for that perfect Valentine's Day present for the wine lover in your life, then check out Drive Through Napa, a modern primer on Napa Valley. Bonus content from 16 of Napa's top wineries + industry's first Price to Value charts powered by Vivino.
Pinot & Peach: A Chat With Wine Expert Aleah James
We sat down with ILTG's newest contributor, Georgia's own Aleah James, to learn about the overlap of bourbon and wine, and why Portugal needs your attention ASAP. Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? The earliest wine memory I can recall is when I was studying abroad in Spain junior year of college. I can remember sitting at an Italian restaurant, La Tagliatella, across from Santiago Bernabeu (the football stadium) with some of my classmates as we ordered a bottle of red wine to share...because why not? The restaurant was mostly empty at the time and we had a wonderful time just being together, in Spain!When did you realize you wanted to make a career in wine? This is a relatively new realization for me. I took some "Introduction to Wine" classes at the Atlanta Wine School two years ago, and enjoyed them so much that I picked up a side hustle selling and performing in-home tastings for ONEHOPE wine. I enjoyed that so much, I decided to pursue my WSET Level II certification. Once that was achieved, I started to consider where to go from there. My professional background is in corporate learning, and I love encouraging people to learn new things. A career in wine education seemed like the perfect blend of skill and passion!What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  There is something for everyone. I believe that 100%! And you don't need to "know" everything about wine to enjoy it - I'm constantly discovering new grapes, wineries, wine regions I knew nothing about. The wine world is vast and dynamic, growing and changing. Opportunities and new wines to try are endless!Most underrated wine region?Portugal in general has a lot to offer that I feel we rarely hear anything about, particularly in contrast to its neighbors Spain and France. Vinho Verdes are so refreshing and usually wildly affordable, it's a wonder more people aren't talking about them. What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?I'd personally love to see more cross collaboration with whiskey/bourbon distilleries to yield more whiskey/bourbon-barrel aged wines - bring the spirit drinkers into the wine space, and vice versa. I know a local brewery that is making a pinot noir barrel-aged belgian tripel, so cross collaborations with craft breweries seems quite likely too. That, and I want to see more sparkling red wine!! I've never tried it and I'm so intrigued. Who doesn't love a good bubble?What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?I love visiting wineries (the tastings! the learning! the views!), but truly any experience where a bottle is shared among friends and/or family is beautiful to me. Your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs and why?“What to Drink with What you Eat” - Andrew Dornenburg and Karen PageParticularly for those who are just learning to pair food with wine (or beer or spirits for that matter!), this is a great guide to have on-hand. There is a section organized by beverage, as well as a section organized by food, so no matter what you're building your meal around you have a guide to help you pair the perfect food or beverage with it. I love that it's helpful for wine-o's and foodies alike. “The World Atlas of Wine” - Hugh Johnson and Jancis RobinsonMy husband gave me the 7th edition of this incredible encyclopedia a few Christmases ago. For the true wine enthusiast, this atlas is a great way to familiarize yourself with the wine regions of the world including current maps, geographical information, native varietals, and more. Wine Spectator Magazine & Online I received this magazine subscription as a gift, and I follow WS on social media as well. My favorite aspect of what they offer (and they offer a LOT) is actually the bi-weekly "What Am I Tasting?" wine quiz on the Learn Wine section of their website. These quizzes are a fun way to test your knowledge to identify a wine's varietal, country of origin, age, and appellation solely based off of the tasting notes. Let’s play a quick game. We’ll give you 3 actors/actresses. You tell us the grape they match with: - Kristen Wiig - Chardonnay - The most versatile white wine for the lady that could play probably any character.- Tom Hardy - Syrah - Broody, tannic and formidable. A Cote Rotie Syrah could include flavors of smoked meat, tar, and leather...which basically describes Fury Road, so...- Jennifer Lawrence - Brut Rose - Bright and quirky with dry sass and sarcasm, but also may be elegant when the situation calls for it. 
Winter is coming, and so is Game of Thrones wine
Fall is here. Know how a wine writer can tell? The reds start arriving in the mail, awaiting my assessment. So do the pitches, both predictable and strange.Along with the usual stuff about Thanksgiving pairings and holiday must-haves, I get a fair share of off-the-wall craziness from the crowded and competitive world of vino. Case in point: Game of Thrones wine. That’s right -- I just received a bottle of Westeros’ best. (Actually, it’s been out since late June, but they’ve decided to hit me up now, at the beginning of the appropriate season – June is not the best month to roll out a red wine, guys.)BUY: Game of Thrones Collectible Wine Glass Set (House Stark & House Targaryen)Created by Vintage Wine Estates in collaboration with HBO Licensing and Retail, the GOT line was introduced in the spring of 2017 with a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a red blend (somehow, I missed that festive occasion). This year, they’re trotting out a pinot noir. Descriptors like “game-y,” “barnyard” and “forest floor,” commonly used for pinot, seem especially apropos here, given the general filthiness of the GOT world. (I shudder to think how they crush grapes in King’s Landing.) The justification for this silly piece of cross marketing is explained in the press release: “‘Game of Thrones’ features wine in many of its scenes from the Seven Kingdoms, and the initial launch of Game of Thrones wine gave fans of the Lannisters and Targaryens their own sigil-emblazoned bottlings.”I don’t know about you, but every time I see a wine-guzzling scene in “Game of Thrones” I think of some of the wilder frat parties I attended as an undergrad. And there are scenes where wine portends disaster. (Remember when Arya avenged the Red Wedding? Glad I missed that particular tasting. “Proper wine for proper heroes” indeed!)The only character with a discerning palate seems to be Tyrion, the tiniest but classiest Lannister, who often remarks about the quality of the wine he’s tasting and seems to have a knack for sniffing out the best. I have a feeling he’d be a pinot drinker. (His incestuous brother and sister, on the other hand, would drink only Sinister Hand if they lived in the real world. Or maybe 19 Crimes.)This newest GOT wine is made by winemaker Bob Cabral and it comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, an area that excels in Burgundian-style pinots with restraint and all the other requisite Old World qualities. “The new pinot noir is a worthy addition for the Game of Thrones line of wines, as it was inspired by the complexity and nuances of this riveting drama,” Cabral said. And also by visions of GOT fans lining up in the tasting room, crowds so vast only a fire-spouting dragon could scatter them. At around $20 retail, Game of Thrones pinot noir won’t break the bank, and it’s a welcome departure from the prevailing trend toward premium pricing in the American pinot world. I decided not to wait for Thanksgiving (or the beginning of “GOT’s” final season) to crack open the pinot. Inquisitive minds want to know how it tastes, right?Perhaps HBO will find a way to run me through like Robb Stark for saying this, but I hope this isn’t considered the best wine in the Seven Kingdoms. My assessment:Color: A pale violet, like a good Burgundian pinot should be. Think of Winterfell snow lightly dusted with blood.Nose: Bland and veiled, like Littlefinger’s outward appearance.On the palate: Tame at the start with hints of wildness coming up later – exactly like Sansa Stark.Finish: A full and noble flavor that cuts off unexpectedly, like Sansa’s father, Lord Eddard Stark.All in all, I can imagine Tyrion knocking back a flagon or two of this wine, but he wouldn’t be hoarding it for himself either. Would he trade it all for an ounce or two of wildfire? Definitely.BUY: Game of Thrones Collectible Wine Glass Set (House Stark & House Targaryen)
How Trefethen Stays Cool After 50 Years of Napa Winemaking
Trefethen Family Vineyards, one of Napa’s most venerable labels, is marking its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, they’ve been throwing some swanky parties, and I was lucky enough to be invited to one earlier this month at the Pelican Grill.The highlight of the four-course lunch was the wine, of course. Chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons, Trefethen’s flagship varieties, some of them ancient enough to be pulled from the winery’s library. How did they taste, you ask? More on that later.Trefethen is one of Napa’s modern-era pioneers. It began as a retirement project when Kaiser Industries executive Eugene Trefethen got his gold watch and moved to Napa Valley. In 1968 he purchased six small farms and a tumbledown 19th-century winery, Eshcol, creating a 600-acre wine estate. At the time, there were fewer than 20 wineries in Napa Valley.Eugene’s plan was to sell all his grapes to winemakers, but his son John had other ideas. While studying at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, John started experimenting in the basement of his parents’ Napa home.  After several failures as a winemaker, John improved, and he and his wife Janet produced Trefethen Vineyards’ first commercial wine in 1973. Only a few years later, Trefethen’s 1976 Chardonnay earned the Best Chardonnay in the World honor at the 1979 Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in Paris. After that, Trefethen was part of the wine world’s upper echelons.During the pre-meal mingle I chatted with John and his son Lorenzo, who has become an eloquent spokesman for Trefethen and did most of the public speaking that day. A graduate of Stanford University, Lorenzo joined the family business in 2007 and has spent several summers learning the trade, including a harvest at Bordeaux’s Chateau Petrus. Lorenzo works with the marketing and sales departments, focusing on direct and export sales.Here are some excerpts from Lorenzo’s talk:As an estate winery, how do you keep pace with consumers’ changing tastes?There has been an expansion in the interests of the consumer. Certainly with my generation there’s more experimentation in terms of what they’re trying: other countries, orange wine. While there are certain big trends, for example rosé at the moment, the wines that do really well over time are the ones that have that built-in street cred. So your plan is to stick to what you know and avoid reinventing yourself in a big way. That’s always been our approach. As an estate producer we can’t turn the vineyard over and chase any kind of trend. We’ve always made what was, by our judgment, the best wine of its kind in the area. Being an estate winery, for many years that may have hampered us. But it’s certainly one of our great traits right now. We sort of bridged the gap from upstart, when Napa was new, to established name. Now we’re a classic: a brand that is getting more recognition for how true we’ve been to the principles that we laid down at the very beginning, which are the principles of great winemaking.How do you communicate the wisdom of that logical if unsexy approach to today’s consumer? How do you explain, for example, the advantages of estate wine?That’s something that I’m thinking about right now. The word “estate” … consumers often have no idea what that means. It sounds a little pretentious. There’s also an inherent dignity in the term. We just need to be better at communicating. “Estate” is like a well-kept secret. Some consumers would love to know more about it. I think there’s a really strong story there that starts with, “Did you know most wineries buy fruit from other people?”What’s your stand on organic farming and biodynamic farming?We like the core tenets of both, which are really about creating a farm that sustains itself. And so we are, at our core, both organic and biodynamic; we like to actually say that we’re beyond organic and biodynamic. We’re a couple of months away from our organic certification, but we decided actually not to pursue it because we discovered some ironies in the system – we could do it greener if we worked outside the system. Organic farming has been around now for 50 years. We did things 50 years ago that are considered groundbreaking now, such as the installation of reservoirs and a wastewater treatment facility. How does the rest of the valley compare to Trefethen in that regard?Napa in general is getting greener and greener. The growers historically have been the biggest advocates for organic farming and environmental protection. The Napa Green program (a comprehensive environmental certification program for vineyards and wineries in the Napa Valley) is doing very well. Just over 90 percent of the county’s acreage is under some form of protection from development. What makes your winery unique?We are more sustainable than many of our neighbors because of who we are – a family-owned, multi-generational company. We’ve always worked to improve the land and pass something on to the next generation. That has evolved slowly over time – our understanding of what is sustainable. The thinking that we have now has been developing from good practices we started 50 years ago. The Trefethen wines we sampled:1988 Chardonnay: Sherry-like, raisin-y and deeply honeyed, but still has that characteristic Trefethen chardonnay fruit taste.1996 Chardonnay: Beautifully perfumed, balanced, light in viscosity. A wonderful, quite dry finish.2001 Chardonnay: Large in the nose. Slightly over-ripe. A bit sweeter than the 1996, with lots of fruit.2016 Chardonnay: Full-bodied, balanced, good acidity, not too much oak. Finish is quite long.1991 Cabernet Sauvignon (8 percent merlot): Notes of cocoa and chocolate. Dry, slightly bitter finish.1999 Cabernet Sauvignon (10 percent merlot): Lots of fruit promised in the nose. Smooth, balanced, with definite spice box notes.2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (8 percent merlot, 1 percent cabernet franc, 1 percent petit verdot): Violets and floral perfume in the nose. Big, full mouth feel. Lightly oaked, hint of black olive. Finish isn’t huge.2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (6 percent petit verdot, 5 percent merlot, 4 percent malbec): A bit closed and ascetic. Not ready yet.
Acting Chops & Grape Fluency: Meet Sommelier Sasha DeJaynes
Recently, Sasha DeJaynes lended rich insight on choosing Old World vs. New World vino. She's got a special penchant for helping amateurs and experts alike choose a grape flavor akin to their palate preference.So we wanted to get some more background on Sasha - including the kinds of questions she gets at LCA Wine, and the role Franzia plays in her appreciation for fine wine.I ain't lying about that last part. Check it out:Take us back to your earliest experience with wine, where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? I definitely come from a family that enjoys imbibing, so there has always been wine and beer in my world. Looking back now specifically with wine, the earliest memory I have from when I was 5 or 6 is of my parents' boxed Franzia in my Grandmother's fridge. We would always have BBQs and get togethers at their house, and there was always Franzia. My parents were never shy about letting us try stuff, and as a kid you usually hate the taste of alcohol anyway, but I remember not hating it because it was pretty sweet. Still didn't really like it though. Fortunately now both my and my parents' palates have matured to enjoy some more complex stuff, but seeing boxes of Franzia always makes me nostalgic.What were you doing professionally before you got into the wine world? I was an actor and performer in Chicago, doing mostly fantastic storefront theatre. I was also part of the burlesque revival and used to perform and compete all over the world. I loved every minute of it, but unfortunately none of it was particularly lucrative, so as many actors before me I also waited tables and bartended.  Through that I had exposure to some pretty spectacular wines and the art of craft cocktailing, which peaked my interest and made me want to learn more. Of course, when you scratch the surface of wine you uncover this huge and majestic universe of endless pursuit, and I fell in head first and happy about it.What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  The discovery of new flavors, places and people. There's always so much that you don't know, so the world of wine gives you endless opportunities to learn new things and have remarkable sensory experiences wherever you are.  We have tastings almost every day at the shop with distributors and producers, and every wine is a unique experience with a different story. I love the endless discovery.What are some questions you get at the wine shop over and over again? I get a lot of questions about structure, people trying to understand what tannins are, or what acid is, what minerality is, terms they hear thrown around a lot but are still confused about. Understanding those elements are key to picking out the wines that you like, so answering those questions is a win for everyone. We are also pretty geeky at the wine shop, so our regular customers enjoy asking us about more technical things like soils, climate, winemaking techniques, stuff like that.What do think about this canned wine movement? As someone who enjoys camping and hiking I am all for it, as long as the product within is quality. Packaging-wise it is convenient, easily transportable, secure and is great for storing wine in the short term. I would never age wine in a can, obviously, but for fresh, clean drink now wines I think it is great. It's also half a bottle of wine, which I think most people don't realize. The greatest hurdle is consumer perception; for most people canned wine = cheap wine, and they can balk at the price of higher quality wines packaged in aluminum. But I think the trend overall is bringing people around.The last 3 wines you drank (outside of work) and why, how were they?Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Vin de France "Clos de la Bretonniere" 2015: my selection for a sunset duffy cruise, absolutely delicious and one of my favorite wines to drink right now and ever. Technically dry Vouvray by Jacky Blot, but since his facility is on the other side of the river has to be bottled as Vin de France. Outstanding.Guado al Tasso by Marchesi Antinori, DOC 2016 Vermentino: best by the bottle option for an impromptu afternoon snack at an OK seafood joint. Delivered exactly as expected: fresh, clean and quaffable.De Toren Z 2012: surprise take home from work to have with dinner. Elegant and rich right bank style Bordeaux blend from Stellenbosch. Complex and nuanced with ripe tannins and smooth texture. Really lovely.Let’s play a quick game, we’ll give you 3 actors and you tell us a wine that pairs with their personality: Samuel L. Jackson: Triton Tinto de Toro 2016; rich, bold, dark and smooth with spicy bite.Lucille Ball: Sommariva Prosecco Superiore Brut; bubbly, light, fun & classic.  Great anytime.Margot Robbie: Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2016; tart, sharp, striking and Australian. Love it or hate it (but probably love it).