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.
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.
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).
Happy harvest everyone!For those who don’t know, we're smack in the middle of the 2018 grape harvest here at the winery. For winemakers, the grape harvest is really the reason we do this job. We wait and wait all year long watching the vines grow, pushing leaves and popping grapes. That, along with steaming barrels and cleaning tanks in preparation to make the next vintage better than the last's. In reality, winemaking is quite easy. You put some grapes in a bucket, add some yeast and wait a few weeks, press the grapes and voilà…God's gift to mankind has been created. However, making higher-end wines with balanced flavor, acidity and mouth-feel takes a little finesse. The next few months will bring us many highs, many lows, sticky hands, tired feet and hopefully lots of cold beer! So how does one make wine? Well, please allow me to show you…Week 1: Grape Samples, Cleaning and Picking!Before we can just start pressing grapes, we have to pick some sample berries from the vines we think are almost ready. On the farm we have over 30 individual vineyards planted with over 13 varietals. So we we’re looking at Sugar, PH and Acid to determine if grapes are ready to pick. (Winemaker note: Sugar converts to alcohol, pH protects the wine and Acid helps the brightness and balance). The team is also prepping for the grapes to come in, which means an outrageous amount of cleaning. They said winemaking is 90% cleaning and 10% drinking beer! Just cleaning out tanks and pulling out the harvest equipment took about an entire day. Earlier in the week we received nine, open-top fermenters from Napa to ferment our red wines. This makes sanitation a priority - not to mention painting the bottoms blue to match our current tanks. A sexy set of Burgundy barrels from France sailed in as well. Most importantly, the first round of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir for sparkling wine…all within 48 hours.Stay tuned for updates on our progress!
His Instagram is enough to make you drop everything and move to Capri. His job will make you sigh with jealousy. His Italian wine knowledge will make you look like an uninformed chump.Andrea Zigrossi is an Italian sommelier that is living many of our daydreams. He selects wine for the lucky patrons of L'Olivio - a 2 Michelin star restaurant on the ridiculously gorgeous island of Capri. Showy and ambitious, a bit by nature and a bit for fun, the 26 year old has experienced a strong trajectory in the wine biz. Growing up and attending school in Rome, his initial step was in the world of catering via a stint in London. A year later he moved back to Rome and started working for some of the finest restaurants in the city, including the esteemed 3 Michelin star La Pergola. Now, following educational adventures in Franciacorta and Venice, Andrea has landed in Capri, the unofficial ambassador of that Italian sommelier life through his Trotterwine posts. We wanted to get a bit more insight on Andrea's life and knowledge:How did you choose the career path of a sommelier and why?It is a world that has always fascinated me, but let's say that it was more this job that chose me. I started from the bottom, working as a dishwasher in London. But I wanted to get more involved with interacting and communicating with customers. So, once I returned to Rome, I had an interview with (the Roman restaurant) Antica Pesa, who's wine list was managed by Alessia Meli - once voted Italy's best sommelier. Although I knew nothing of this work at the time, I was hired as Assistant Sommelier only for my charisma.You've had experiences in different places. What's the best memory?I left my heart in Venice: a beautiful city, and the restaurant where I worked was fantastic. It is called Il Ridotto by Gianni Bonaccorsi and has 1 Michelin star. There was not the usual tension found in many Michelin starred restaurants, and the environment was very familiar. An amazing restaurant that I suggest everyone try if you visit Venice.You get asked this all the time. But I'll ask it yet again! What is your favorite wine?Difficult question. There are many that I love and cherish very much. But the wine that I will always keep in my heart is Fontalloro, a Tuscan Sangiovese from the Felsinà winery, the first wine I sold in my career.So what's next?Travel, travel and travel. I love moving between cities and always working in different restaurants - to study the local culture, work techniques, know local wines, meet new colleagues and friends. In December I'm planning a move to Switzerland but it is not yet secure. I will let you know!
People often come into our shop and, after explaining they are looking for a nice bottle, immediately offer up the caveat “But I don’t really know anything about wine!” These are some of my very favorite people to help. The vast and endlessly complex world of wine is as yet unknown to them, yet the possibilities are still endless.“I just want something I like,” they tell me. Here, here.This can of course be a tricky thing to determine for someone else, and even for yourself. Where to begin? How to describe and define those elusive elements of enjoyment that you get from a bottle of wine that you like? Palate and structure analysis and even common flavor descriptors may not be helpful in this situation without a baseline reference, but hey, we’ve got to start somewhere.I often like to begin with one of my favorite elemental distinctions: Old World vs. New World. While this concept is rudimentary for anyone in the industry, its meaning is not self-explanatory. It is a relatively unknown concept to many general consumers, even some that have a decent amount of basic knowledge. Living in California is both a blessing and a curse; we have a plethora of world class winemakers in our backyard. Yet for many California residents, this is all they know. However, this simple distinction between Old World and New World helps to define in a very broad sense two particular styles of wine.This is where it becomes exciting - at least for a geek like me. I'll use this distinction to help my customer find a unique and exciting bottle of wine they will enjoy at any price point.Geographically, the Old World refers to Europe and the Mediterranean basin. The New World refers to everywhere else they make wine. Stylistically, Old World wines tend to have higher acidity, lower relative alcohol, and - most significantly - more minerality and earthy components on the nose and palate.New World wines tend to have more generous fruit, slightly acidity and generally more alcohol. My straightforward explanation is: stick your nose in the glass. If you smell fruit first it’s probably New World. If you smell dirt or rocks or other funk, it’s probably Old World.Of course, these days, with so much progress in both the technological and philosophical sectors of wine making, we are starting to see more crossover in these two styles from a geographical standpoint. Yet the styles themselves still maintain their original distinction.So, what makes Old World wines old world? A lot of it has to do with the climate. European wine-growing regions often have a cooler climate and a slightly shorter growing season. This means grapes grown in these regions will naturally retain more acidity and produce less sugar – which also leads to lower alcohol levels – than grapes grown in warmer regions.The old world also has history. Grapevines have been cultivated for the purpose of making wine since the Roman era, on the oldest soils of our planet. This ‘terroir’ is something that is unique to the Old World and cannot be replicated or faked. And, of course, with all that history comes an awful lot of regulation. Old world countries have some of the strictest laws out there regarding how a producer can make his or her wine. These laws help to identify and regulate quality and expectations, and also create a huge headache for the consumer who doesn’t know how to interpret them.Overall, if you like to taste in your wines a bit of tartness, leafy forest floor or wet rock minerality, then Old World wines are probably right up your alley.Given all that, the New World seems like a pretty big place…and it is! So-named for the fact that all these areas were initially colonized by the Europeans, and thus christened as nouveau. This is also an important fact to consider because the species of vine we make wine from is indigenous to Europe, meaning that these colonizers had to transport the vines to their new outposts in order to continue their vinous enjoyment.So, New World winemakers got a later start to the game. Specifically in where they chose to plant their vines, discovering the best areas that produce the highest quality grapes, and attempting to use European techniques that maybe didn’t work as well with their new environment.The New World has indeed evolved into an entrepreneur’s paradise! Free of the traditions of Old World winemaking, producers can explore, experiment and define their own style of wine with their entirely unique geographical situation. Much of the New World tends to have a warmer climate, resulting in naturally riper grapes that yield higher levels of sugar, and therefore higher potential alcohol as well.One often defining through-line of New World wines is an identifiable purity of, and focus on, fruit. Pure fruit on the nose and pure fruit on the palate. It is a point of pride to many New World winemakers to protect this expression of fruit quality in their wines. New Zealand is an excellent example of a New World country as a whole that often seeks the purest expression possible of their fruit.There are also a lot of New World wines that experiment in other ways through enhancements available on the market, such as additives, shortcuts and fancy gadgets – options not available in most of those regulated Old World areas. This, combined with the fact that these such “experiments” are usually not required to be disclosed to the consumer, can lead to extreme variation of quality from any given New World region.However, if you tend to enjoy fruit forward, easy drinking wines that are lush on the palate, then New World is likely your style.Does that mean one style is better than the other? Absolutely not! When it comes down to the nitty gritty, drinking what makes you happy is the right thing to drink. Yet, it’s always great to branch out and try something new every once in a while. You will likely be surprised. This is an easy assignment for newbies to wine, but an even better challenge for consummate wine professionals stuck in their ways.If you are a die-hard white Burgundy fan, grab a bottle of Margaret River Chardonnay one night just to test it out. Big, bold Napa Cab drinker all the way? Head over to Rioja and check out a Gran Reserva. Or look around for the grape you have never heard of from the country you didn’t know made wine and have that bottle with dinner tonight. Even ask your local wine shop attendant, they’ll likely be chomping at the bit to offer you several new options.The world of wine is vast and fabulous; our job is to enjoy as much of it as possible while we can.