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Drinking Wine with Gary Vaynerchuck #VINOWITH
WHO IS GARY VAYNERCHUCK?Successful entrepreneur, investor, social media influencer, speaker, motivator, content creation machine, digitally savvy hustler - but it all started with wine. Gary took his family wine-retail business in New Jersey, changed the name to Wine Library, started an eCommerce side of the business, and began filming bold wine reviews on a YouTube channel over a decade ago. From there he took a 3 million dollar wine business to a 60 million dollar wine business by using the power of eCommerce, video, and social. With early investments in Twitter and other household technology companies Gary has certainly done well for himself. Gary is a hustler who works extremely hard, can be in your face, but is a person that genuinely cares about people succeeding. I've not met Gary but I've seen and heard a lot of his podcasts, videos, and one-line quotes across the web. The man is everywhere!WHY DO I WANT TO DRINK WINE WITH GARY VAYNERCHUCK?I dig his pulse on culture, and appreciate his focus on today's consumer. The value any brand has is their consumer which I believe Gary would think is key to gaining leverage. It would be entertaining talking to him because he talks a lot, and the smallest prompt can send his mind in many directions. He's an instant dose of energy and inspiration. To vibe with his hustler-spirit combined with his business experience would be invigorating. Also, Gary Vee seems to dig hip hop and sees it as I do - a milieu that moves culture. Plug any brand or product in the hip hop machine and watch it grow exponentially.WHAT WINES I'D DRINK WITH HIMI'd have at least two wines with Gary, the first would have to be an in your face red wine from Washington that is not afraid to be what it is. Big mouthfeel, big fruit, big bite that comes out the gate swinging. For instance, Boom Boom Syrah by Charles Smith. This wine does not mask itself or parade around restraint. This bottle simply tells you as it is, I'm an explosion in your mouth. The second bottle of wine would be something a bit more finessed because it seems to me that as Gary's career advances he'd appreciate a wine that is a little more  focused and subtle that you can enjoy just chilling with the homies talking Gen-X women blogs, hip-hop, future of media and whatever other thoughts pops into Gary's eclectic mind. For instance, a 2009 Vina Albina Grand Reserva.Cheers Gary Vee
Your New Brunch Wine. In Like a Lyon. Out Like a Lambrusco.
Warmer weather is just about here. We all know what that means. Patio furniture gets hosed off, the white & floral print ensembles come out and wide, floppy hats have some faces to smack.  It's brunch season. Wait, brunch happens all year. It doesn't matter - it's a beautiful day out and we're going to day drink over some eggs benny, Jenny.  It's difficult to stray far from the bottomless champagne option. It's a classy, tasty beverage that pairs well with just about any brunch item and cleanses the palate in hot weather.  Even if it's relatively shitty sparkling wine, you'll hardly notice after your 6th "top off".  Despite its comfortable familiarity, sometimes an alternative to champagne is good for the soul. No, not mango juice or a strawberry to toss in it. I'm talking about a fizzy replacement that's just as versatile and twice as interesting.
Photos from SOMMX: Kanye West Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine
Google Slideshow: SOMMX For the past few months we've been working on creating a live event that embodies who we are as a brand- the Voice of Modern Wine Culture. On April 12, 2018 we launched our event platform SOMMX. The theme for our first event was: Kanye West's Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine. It was sold out with a long waiting list!  What is SOMMXA series of themed wine experience events hosted and lead by unique sommeliers intended to evoke multiple senses and delight guests through food, wine, performances, art, special guests, and unique culturally relevant themes.  The experimental event:  5 of Kanye’s songs were interpreted through  5 original oil paintings by local award-winning artist which were each paired with 5 courses of unique food which were each paired with 5 Spanish wines  Oh, and there were ballet dancers and a spoken word artist.    The event is narrated & hosted by celebrity sommelier Amelia Singer who explained each song, each painting, each course of food, and how it tied into a wine. The food was designed and cooked by Top Chef Alum Brian Huskey, and the original painting by visionary artist Kathy Lajvardi.   Enjoy the photos and join the mailing list at SOMMX to be notified of our next event. Google Slideshow: SOMMX
5 Top Restaurants in Venice in 1 Night. It's Five Spot Friday.
Experience 5 of the top restaurants in Venice in 1 night. Introducing "5 Spot Friday" Venice, California. Despite massive rent hikes, and a $1,200 price per square foot residential home cost, the famed street Abbott Kinney in Venice, California has kept its 'weird' and charming vibe. Pot shops, art galleries, independent boutiques, yoga studios and pop-up shops from online stores like Warby Parker and Casper keep the funk alive. Venice has become home to fantastic dining spots in the burgeoning Los Angeles food scene with artisanal, in-season, farm to table being par for the course. For your upcoming night in Venice no need to fuss and fight over which top restaurants in Venice to dine at - just visit 5 in 1 evening for your own personal smorgasbord of yum. Ideally you'll end up making new friends at each spot and taking them with you to the next spot! Here's an agenda for this epic night: First Stop: Leona Vibe: mellow. You're a few blocks from the ocean, so come early to take in the sunset. The restaurant is small with high ceilings, a long leather banquette (i.e. big ass sofa) on one end, photographs of old Venice, with an airy living room feel. The patio outside is cozy with beautiful people parading about. They're beer and wine only, but with inventive wine 'cocktails'. Eat: The ridiculously well-prepared cured red snapper ceviche and slow cooked lamb belly wontons. The ceviche is oh so fresh and clean, chilled and awakening. The slow cooked lamb belly wontons come in a broth of savory satisfaction. The wontons are soft, fluffy ravioli-ish dough balls that encapsulate the softest lamb belly you've ever had. Drink: Start slow, remember you have 4 other spots to hit up! Open the night with glasses of champagne - order the Le Perle Blanc NV from Burgundy, France. A light bubbly citrus that's a perfect opener to your epic evening. Splurge on an Uber SUV and head over to Abbott Kinney street. The Uber SUV will make you feel like a balla' and will cost you about $12 to get to the next spot. Second Stop: The Brig Vibe: quintessential Venice. OK, at first blush this may seem like an odd second spot, but hang in there, we have a mission. Modern mid-century decor with pool tables and a bustling scene. It's a great spot to make new friends at the bar, explain to them your evening's journey, and bring them with you. The night is early so you won't seem like a creeper (this applies to men and women!), and given that you've only had 1 drink you'll be in top form with your pitch. Eat: Nothing. It's a bar. Drink: Break up the fatty lamb in your belly with a refreshing Tequila Mule. Made with ginger beer and lime, the ingredients are the same as a Moscow Mule. Don't expect a copper mug though, this ain't that kind of party. Third Spot: Salt Air Vibe: walk across the street to this bohemian bistro. Seasonal and refined food with a nudge towards seafood. The interior is comfortable with skylights and composed atmosphere that can cater to an intimate evening or a jubilant one. Eat: Their pea tartine. Perfectly crunchy bread with goat cheese spread pilled high with smashed peas with lemon. A little messy (in a good way) and fun food to eat with your hands. Next, go for their fried oysters to share with your new friends, and end it with their lobster tartine. Drink: Wine. No full bar here, but a great selection of wine by the glass with inventive wine cocktails. Try the Bobal Tempremento. It's a red wine from Valencia, Spain and the producer uses organic farming methods. Bobal is an obscure grape, but one with good acidity which makes it friendly towards all types of food. It's a funky, cool, and new experience wine that's not typical. Fourth Spot: Tasting Kitchen Vibe: walk across the street to Tasting Kitchen. Hip, upscale, trendy, and fun with an active bar scene. Hipster interior with organic woods and plants. It's just cool. Eat: Go carbs! Get the bread and butter (yes, they charge you for it), it's totally worth it. Big chunk of artisanal bread that's crunch, flaky on the outside and rustic plush on the inside. The butter tastes like it was just churned, and it's all topped with finishing salt. Next, order a classic, yet refined homemade pasta dish like Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Thick spaghetti like pasta with a hole in the middle that houses a classic Roman sauce made simply with cured pork cheeks, pecorino cheese, and tomato. Complement those carbs with their sizzling, simply rubbed ribeye steak. Incredible. Drink: Gotta go Italian, and when enjoying a meal of this proportion go for a bottle of Amarone. The wine is made in a traditional manner of drying grapes in the sun on straw mats and special drying chambers under controlled conditions. The process produces a rich wine that feels like a fluffy cloud in your mouth. Fifth Spot: Any Food Truck 1 Block Away After spending a long and fun dinner at Tasting Kitchen, and after your last drop of the heavenly Amarone wine, stroll over to any of the awesome food trucks near by. Usually they hang out in a parking lot adjacent to The Brig. Have your last delicious meal of the night by splitting it with someone special you sparked with during the night. Break apart a cheesy grilled cheese, or go for the unctuous flavors of the Kogi truck. Any way you go you've won - you've had an epic night in while dining at some of the top restaurants in Venice, all in 1 night. #FiveSpotFriday
Winter Fashions for Women Paired with Bold Wines
Winter Fashions for Women Paired with Bold Wines We linked up with Bask In Style and asked them to tell us their favorite winter fashions for women. Then, in true ILTG fashion (!) we paired each winter fashions with a wine that has similar character. This time of year is great because it's time try risky looks you have lusted after - like mixing textures, prints, and colors. From a wine lens it's time to go big and bold. Not because a big and bold wine will give you a 'warm' feeling; but because it's a time to slow down and truly take your time and enjoy a glass. A favorite staple looks for cooler weather is leather! Throwing on a leather jacket can be your daily go-to during this time of year. Check out Doma Leather’s hooded biker jackets (the hood zips out so it is 2-in-1).  Pair that with a distressed basic tee, cropped frayed skinny jeans and boots - and you are all set for happy hour! While at happy hour skip the beer and rose and instead ask for a Marchesi di Barolo Coste di Rose Barolo 2010. This Italian majestic will need some decanting time. Flavors of roses and aromatic herbs that come at you with both intensity and finesse. One trend we are in love with this year is velvet. It's a rich fabric that has a very glamorous edge. Velvet is coming in all forms this year from plunging neckline shift dresses to booties & even sneakers. We especially love the idea of a velvet burnout mini and some thigh high boots. This statement look is perfect for these crisp days or special nights out. While having a night out have a glass (or two) of 2012 Stag's Leap S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon. The S.L.V. is from a plot of land that is Stag's Leap first vineyard. This historically significant Cabernet beat French wines during the famed blind tasting in Paris back in 1976 in what's known as the Judgement of Paris. (Watch the Alan Rickman film version of it, Bottle Shock.) This wine has a feeling of richness in the mouth. Flavors of dark blueberries, cocoa and oak. This one's a biggie and can sit in your wine fridge for the next decade no problem. Lastly, we;re seeing a ton of embroidery and patchwork. Gucci is blowing us away with their embroidered slide loafers and bags! They are the perfect statement pieces for the season. We are also seeing a ton of embroidery on outerwear and denim so there are some amazing ways to test this trend out. A fun take on this is wearing the Princeton Gucci Slides with a silky slip dress layered over a short-sleeved turtleneck. Even where the weather can be warmer in winter, this is a great way to look current while still allowing you to keep cool! While hanging out at the Penthouse at the Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica, sip on a glass of Truchard Syrah 2013-Napa, California. Smokey, spicy and full of flavor, this hand crafted wine is a perfect fit for this time of year. Violets and graphite are just a few of the wild flavors that dominate this stuff. It’s Napa for under $35 - perfect! We'd like to thank our friends Breana Kennedy (aka: Ken) and Cybel Castro-Souza (aka Cas) for the fashion tips. Along with blogging for Bask In Style, Ken manages a women's wholesale showroom, works with renowned fashion buyers, and directly with six contemporary fashion brands. Cas is primarily focused on Bask In Style while having a resume that includes work for Reformation, BCBG and John Paul Richard.
Champagne Loosens Its Tie And Does The Dab
Champagne and caviar. Champagne and oysters. Champagne and whatever’s on that little silver tray they’re passing around. That’s so Downton Abbey! How about taking off the tux and pairing your champagne with a bucket of popcorn instead, or maybe some deep-fried morsel of heaven or a big, steaming slab of meat? We did some investigating about unusual yet rewarding ways to match up your uncorked New Year’s Eve libation with food. Turns out the monocled world of Champagne is crawling with cheeky iconoclasts who are pairing it with everything except road kill. Who knew? Curveball Pairings A fun curveball pairing recommended by Wine Folly is Champagne with mac and cheese, which is catching on at gastropubs up and down the West Coast. “But consider a softer creamery cheese with flavor such as smoked gouda”. “The Champagne needs to be acidic enough to cut through the cheese without being so strong as to ‘turn’ the cheese.” The great thing about Champagne from a foodie’s perspective is that it contains high levels of acid and very little sugar. Those qualities help bring out a wealth of flavors so they can match up with a huge variety of foods, from mild meats such as poached sole and baked chicken to highly spiced Indian and Thai cuisine. (That’s where the bubbles help – they bring down the heat.) What the experts are saying Elise Losfelt, a young winemaker with Moët & Chandon, toured America last summer promoting her classier-than-thou product. Usually the august French house presents its bubbly like it's the latest Louboutin, but this year the message was more proletarian: Champagne, the people’s drink! One of the themes Losfelt hammered on was pairing bubbly with heavier meats. “(Our champagne) has the presence and maturity that goes with meat or fish – veal, for example; or lamb could be nice.” Trend-savvy California mixologist Jenny Buchhagen senses a sea of change in the way people are pairing Champagne. “I’ve noticed that younger people are drinking Champagne at the beginning of their meal and to start the night off.” There’s been a down-home twist to the trend, too, Buchhagen says. “Our sommelier thinks that the best pairing with Champagne is potato chips. People are trying that quite a bit.” Speaking of somms, a good one should be able to artfully match up bubbly with food throughout a meal. Why not start with a prosecco (the Italian sparking wine) to go with your light appetizer, then go with something heavy for the entrée – some Australian sparkling Shiraz such as Mollydooker’s Goosebumps ($50) to match with that pork belly – and a Ruinart Brut Rosé ($80) to wash down your strawberries and ice cream? I can’t think of a better way to mark the calendar's passing than ending your New Year’s Eve meal with this stunner from France’s oldest Champagne house. Oh yeah, about that popcorn you’re thinking of having with your bubbly – slather it with truffle butter. It’s the perfect blend of crass and class.
Curated Wine Gifts for the Holidays
Here are a few wine gifts we've curated for the wine lover on your holiday gift list. Happy Holidays! Most can ship and be there gift wrapped before Christmas Eve! Enjoy, and if you find something you think belongs on this list then drop us an email: cheers@ilikethisgrape.com Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine Why: Beautifully done visual graphics and infographics with tons of great information on wine, wine regions, and more Rating: 5/5 $15 BUY Secura Stainless Steel Cordless Electric Wine Opener Why: makes opening the 4th bottle of the night way easier. beautiful design, look, and feel. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $29 BUY World’s First Electric Wine Aerator and Dispenser Why: great talking piece at dinner parties; a unique and useful gift for anyone that drinks wine. Rating: 5/5 $100 BUY The Billionaire's Vinegar: The Mystery of the World's Most Expensive Bottle of Wine Why: Fantastic book (true story) of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine which was supposedly owned by Thomas Jefferson, a 1787 Chateau Lafite. The bottle is covered in mystery of it being a fake, duped billionaires around the world, and the people involved. (Yes, movie is coming with Mathew McConaughey being onboard.) Rating: 4 / 5 $13 BUY Professional Corkscrew Why: Danish designed, professional corkscrew made of eco-friendly materials of Rosewood and stainless steel. Open your best bottles without any hesitation. Rating: 5 /5 $13 BUY   Hair 12 Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cellar Why: This fridge has a nice space saving design, sexy look, and is dual temperature for both your whites and reds. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $128 BUY   Wine Condoms, Wine Bottle Stoppers Why: Protection is a must. A fun gift that’s cheeky and practical. Rating: 4.5 / 5 $13 BUY Vina Wine Travel Bag and Cooler for 2-bottles Why: brining your wine to a picnic or a friends house in a plastic bag is not good for the environment nor your street red Rating: 4.5 / 5 $18 BUY
#SommNextDoor: Island Wines You Want To Get Stranded With
Right about now, you might be dreaming about sitting under a palm tree on an island paradise, tanning oil in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. In support of this daydream, we must ask the classic question - if you were stuck on an island, and you could bring one thing with you, what would it be? The correct answer should always be “a wine glass” for this one reason: a lot the world's best wine is made on islands! So the team here at ILTG compiled a little list of islands we wouldn’t mind getting stranded on. Here are our top five islands and some of the best wines made on each: Corsica, France Domaine Comte Abbatucci "Gris Imperial" Rosé 2013 This Rosé is a tiny grain of sand compared to the amount of rosé floating around the world today, yet this tiny grain happens to be very special and just damn delicious. Made from the grape Sciaccarello, this juice offers bright strawberry aromas with splash of citrus and tons of zesty acidity. Not to mention, the grapes are basking in the sun all day near the sea which adds a touch of salinity from the ocean influence. Life is tough for a grape in Corsica! $25 New Zealand Brancott, Sauvignon Blanc 2016 If you took a fruit salad and served it in a wine glass, you would have a glass of Brancott. Made on the South Island of New Zealand, this sauvignon blanc offers loads of ripe pineapple, honeysuckle, honeydew, guava, grapefruit, apples, pears, quince, etc… the list goes on! The wine is great by itself but even better if used for sangria. Bring your boogie board because this wine offers a wave of flavors! $15 Sardigna, Italy Antonio Sanguineti, Cannonau Di Sardinia 2014 The ever-so-underrated island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy happens to make one of the most highly rated Grenache-based wines in the world! Cannonau is the grape (a.k.a Grenache) and it packs quite the punch. Blueberries and bliss is the best way to explain it. It’s just an easy sipping bottle of booze for less than 10 bucks. Even better when chilled and served in a solo cup! $8 Canary Islands, Spain Suertes del Marques “7 Fuentes” 2012 The Canary Islands off the southern tip of Spain might be the Spaniards' best kept secret. Until now! This tiny chain of islands has been producing wine for centuries...for pretty much nobody besides themselves. 7 Fuentes happens to be pretty hip in the wine world for its funky flavors of licorice and spiced cherries. Also, the winery is located on a volcano - so you can trust us when we say, “It’s an explosion in your mouth.”. $17 Sicily, Italy Cos Rami 2011 If you're feeling frisky and want to go “au naturel” I’d recommend trying this beauty from Sicily. It’s a “natural” wine meaning nothing is enhanced. The yeasts come from the air and no sulfur is added to preserve the wine. The grapes, Insolia and Grecanico, are indigenous to the island. Plus, the wine is aged in clay pots called amphora which are buried underground for 16 months and then bottled. A vibrant hue of orange fills the glass with notes of candied orange and sea spray. Perfect for strolls along the beach with a friend or solo if you just want the whole bottle for yourself. $30
#VINOMUSIC: Listen to Tycho and Drink a 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir
Music and wine should be paired. We call this #VINOMUSIC. When was the last time you carelessly floated in the ocean, staring at nothing but the blue sky above you? Or stood on a snowy mountain top, breathing in the fresh, crisp air while enjoying a view that lasts for miles? How about walking through the desert with only the unpolluted, star-filled sky to guide your way? That's what it's like listening to Tycho - an all-instrumental artist that layers rich, electronic sound against airy guitar and percussion. Spend some time with his latest album released earlier this year, Epoch, to get a sense of what I mean. The atmosphere of it is just gorgeous. Much like Tycho's ethereal musical style, the 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir is equal parts luxurious and airy. You might know pinot noir for its cherry-forward palette, light body and silky tannins. It's also a notoriously fickle grape. The varietal is prone to disease while on the vine and requires a cooler climate to really thrive. 2014 Belle Glos Pinot Noir Belle Glos embodies the hell out of a pristine pinot noir. Owning four vineyards up and down the California coast, Belle Glos focuses exclusively on pinot noir. Each vineyard produces its own distinct wine, each carrying a beautiful profile of what a true California pinot noir should be. The Dairyman vineyard is Belle Glos's Russian River Valley version of a pinot noir. The Russian River Valley is a Sonoma County AVA that proudly wears the badge of a world-class region for this grape. The 2014 Dairyman is a killer vintage. You'll get that classic red fruit and vanilla smoothness from the oak, drinking like a cherry cola made for royalty. The price tag for this one is around 50 bucks, but SO worth it if you're hunting for that quintessential Sonoma style in a pinot noir. Plus, every bottle is dipped in a vibrant red wax. It's a sexy appearance to match its identically sexy flavor. Enjoying a 2014 Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir with Tycho on the speakers will transport you to a brisk, spring evening atop the dramatic cliffs of Big Sur. With its A+ California terroir on your tongue, and Tycho's sensuous vibes in your ear, this wine is all about getting aligned with nature. Want our sommelier selected wines delivered to you within minutes?! Click the banner below - San Francisco only (for now!)
How To Start a Wine Collection - Tips from Master Sommelier Brian McClintic
We asked Master Sommelier Brian McClintic how a first-time wine collector should start a wine collection. You'll find a handful of articles online about the subject, but each article requires a starting budget of $10,000. We challenged Brian to give tips on starting a collection by spending no more than $1,000. Think of spreading the $1,000 over a year and, preferably, keeping yourself away from the goods!  Have a separate 'drinking' allotment. (I know, it's tough!)"I like the $35-$55 range with starting a cellar.  That's the range I use for 99% of the wine I buy and for Viticole as well."Obviously that's not going to be a lot of bottles before you hit $1,000 but anything lower than that is typically not worth cellaring. There are exceptions but few and far between for something that is farmed and produced responsibly.When it comes to a buying strategy, start with the producer first and work your way out.  In other words, instead of saying you should cellar Northern Rhone Wines or Barolo, start with bankable producers, following them in subsequent vintages."To me the old world still represents tremendous value."Here are a few thoughts on Brian's favorite producers in different styles. All are farmed organically:Light, crisp whitesMartin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling $50 SRP. This Austrian producer has just started being imported to the states and is making some of the finest dry Riesling on the planet. Expect the current release to drink well young and cellar 20+ years.Richer whitesGonon 'Les Oliviers' Saint Joseph Blanc $37 SRP.  This Marsanne-dominated blend will give Chardonnay drinkers something to love. Gonon's Syrahs are extremely age-worthy, but the whites tend to eclipse the reds in the cellar.Light redsJL Dutraive Fleurie 'Terroir Champagne' $44 SRP.  This Cru Beaujolais is so delicious now but in the last couple of vintages ('14 & '15) it demonstrates the hallmarks of a wine that will last 15 years plus in ideal conditions.Big earthy redsDomaine Tempier Classique $45 SRP.  It appreciates in every vintage from the moment the next vintage drops.  The wines are accessible now and can age comfortably for 40 years plus in the best vintages.Parting words of wisdom from Brian as you journey down this obsession: "Too many people get fridge happy after a few drinks and open up something they shouldn't. I've learned this lesson the hard way and now store all my wine off-site for this reason."
Editor’s Note:Here are some wines that are similar in style to the ones above and more readily available to try.If it’s tough to find a Martin Muthenthaler Bruck Riesling, then go for either Austria's Pichler-Krutzler Trum Riesing 2013 ($30) or Schloss Gobelsburg Tradition Riesling 2013 ($50). Equally impressive and a beneficial addition to our collection.For a domestic equivalent to the Saint Joseph Blanc give a white Rhone from Tablas Creek out of Paso Robles ($22) or Booker ($48) a shot. Tablas Creek partners with iconic Chateau de Beaucastel, so their wines are remarkably French in style. Booker’s Eric Jensen has a way with white Rhones that make him a standout in California.America has nothing to compare to the Cru Beaujolais, though the world’s favorite light red wine, Pinot Noir, is becoming more entrenched in California, and the quality is rising (as are prices -- expect to pay above $50 for most good-quality examples). Sanford ($60) and Babcock ($21) from Sta. Rita Hills are excellent investments; so are Hahn ($23) and Pisoni ($55) from the Santa Lucia highlands. Farther north, turn to Landmark and Patz & Hall ($87).Brian McClintic is a Master Sommelier and documentary film star of the movies SOMM and SOMM: Into the Bottle.  After 20 years in the restaurant/retail industry he founded Viticole, an online wine club and travel blog that focuses on domestic and import selections that can't be found on the open market.  By the 1st of every month, Brian travels to a wine region and offers out a special cuvee directly from the winery door in real time.  You can follow his travels and join the monthly wine club at: http://viticolewine.com
Best California Wines 2016
California wines keep getting better and better. 2016 was no exception. I did some serious wine drinking in 2016, people. And it was for you, of course -- all for you. Sure it was. (Full disclosure: I spat most of it out. I am a professional.) I also traveled up and down my fair state of California, marveling at the 130 or so wine regions (I didn't get to all of them, of course). There is a huge diversity of choice in this state, one of the world's great viticultural treasures. Here is my list of some of the best california wines - prices vary from $17-$170. A few trends These are things that have been happening for a while, but in 2016 they seemed to break through big-time. 1. More rule-breaking blends: Artisanal winemakers, especially on the Central Coast, are crossing traditional boundaries more frequently in their red (and less frequently white) blends. You’ll find varieties from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône thrown together; zinfandel and other Italian and even Spanish varieties are sometimes added to the mix. 2. Fewer fruit bombs, more balance: Younger winemakers in particular are harvesting their grapes slightly less ripe. This keeps alcohol levels lower and eschews manipulation once the grapes have been squeezed. The result is wine that is less fruit-forward and showy but more balanced, complex, individualized, food-friendly and age-worthy. Donum Estate 3. The rise (and rise and rise) of Pinot Noir: Once a light, mid-priced alternative for cabernet haters, California pinot from Anderson Valley, Sonoma, Russian River, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Rita Hills and many other cool-climate AVAs is flooding the market. Yet prices are reaching Napa cabernet level: $50, $60, $70 … yikes. And the style, especially from the southern AVAs, is distinctly Californian: heavy and extracted, not light and Burgundian. We make anti-Oregon pinots here. 4. Rosé is here to stay: The French started it, but California winemakers have embraced the summer pink wine tradition wholeheartedly. The domestic version is often a tad sweeter than bone-dry Provencal rosé, and many winemakers depart from the customary Rhône varieties to make rosé from pinot noir and other non-Rhône grapes. Field Recordings 2008 Chenin Blanc 5. Unusual grapes are appearing: Chenin blanc, which has all but disappeared in California, was a surprise hit for artisanal Central Coast winemaker Andrew Jones of Field Recordings. Others winemakers are finding a market for such un-California grapes as vermentino, tannat, alicante bouschet, fiano and valdiguié. For the California AVA to keep an eye on... 6. Paso Robles is a respectable (dare we say world-class?) producer of Bordeaux: In September, Wine Advocate graced Paso winemakers with impressive scores. Those scores included 98 points for Daou Vineyards’ 2013 Patrimony and 96 points for its 2013 Soul of a Lion. Yet Paso’s best are not Napa clones: they have softer tannins, their own distinct terroir, and often much more petit verdot in the blend. And they’re less expensive than Napa cabs, too. Daou 2013 Soul of a Lion The year's best Here are the best 25 California wines that I tasted this year. I don't go all Wine Spectator with this list. I list the wines alphabetically, not in terms of quality. Really, isn't it silly to say "this Bordeaux is better than that sauvignon blanc"? I didn’t discriminate by price, region or type. Some of these babies are easier to find than others. Before you get all up in my piece with accusations like, "No Pinot Grigio -- how dare you!" let me remind you that I tasted a lot of other great wines this year that weren't from California, okay? For practical reasons, I confine myself to the place I know best when making a list like this. If you want to peruse my tasting notes, you can find them here. Top 25 California Wines of 2016 Byron 2014 Nielson Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay, $23 (90 points) Calera 2013 Jensen Vineyard Mount Harlan Pinot Noir, $90 (96 points) Castello di Amorosa 2012 La Castellana Super Tuscan Napa Valley Red Wine ($98)   Chalk Hill 2015 Estate Bottled Sauvignon Blanc, $33 (92 points) Cliff Lede 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Stags Leap, $78 (93 points)   Donum 2013 Carneros Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, $72 (92 points)  Duckhorn 2014 Decoy Pinot Noir, $25 Franciscan Estate 2015 Equilibrium White Blend, $22 Frank Family Vineyards 2014 Carneros Pinot Noir, $35 (91 points)  Geyser Peak 2013 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, $19 Giornata 2015 Fiano, $17 (90 points)  Gundlach Bundschu Mountain Cuvee 2012 Sonoma County Red Wine, $19 J. Lohr Riverstone 2014 Arroyo Seco Monterey Chardonnay, $14 (92 points)  MacRostie 2014 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, $25 (90 points)  Ramey 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay, $38 (90 points) Rombauer 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, $25 (90 points)  Rosenblum Cellars 2013 RC10 Rutherford Zinfandel, $42 (93 points)  Sans Liege 2013 Offering, $29 (91 points) Saxum Vineyards 2013 Broken Stones Paso Robles Syrah, $148 (95 points)  Wente 2015 Morning Fog Chardonnay, $15 ZD 2015 Chardonnay, $42
#SommNextDoor: How To Pick A $10 Bottle That Fools Your Friends
Need a wine that looks & drinks like a 10 but costs around $10 a bottle? Let me show you the ropes. Alright -- next time you’re invited to a shindig, and you volunteer as tribute to pick up the vino, head to the store. If it’s a BevMo or Total Wine type of place, awesome. Don’t be intimidated, I’m here to help you, remember? If not, Trader Joe’s has a selection that’ll get the job done on the $10 bottle too. If you find yourself at Total Wine, go right to the French section. Let’s face it, if you roll up with a French wine in hand, it screams “I know what I’m doing!!”. More folks these days (considering the time of year as well) are red drinkers rather than white, so let’s go with that. Killer wines from the Bordeaux region (Cabernet/Merlot dominate) are gonna be tricky to find for less than a pretty penny, or without knowing what to look for. So, instead, look for the word Rhône. The Rhône Valley is a pretty place in the more southeastern area of the country, and it’s got some stunning offerings. The grapes there are mainly Syrah and Grenache but, for all intents and purposes, you don’t really need to know that. All you need to look for is a Côtes du Rhône. “Côtes”, in French, means “hills”. The term is basically a way of categorizing these wines as entry-level but, again, your friends don’t know that. What you’ll deliver is a smooth red wine with integrated red fruit flavors and non-fruit components like hints of spice and smoke. Sultry, huh? It’ll be dry (i.e. not sweet) but won’t make your mouth feel like you’re playing chubby bunny with cotton balls, kapeesh? The goods Homage to Heritage (H to H) has a good little bottle priced at $8.99. It’s surprisingly layered for the price and going to air on the side of lighter mouthfeel with ripe red fruit. However, if you’re willing to toss in an additional $6, go for the Halos of Jupiter 2014. Talk about sultry! The dark cherry and floral aromas are deeply concentrated and combine with a weighty mouthfeel that makes this bottle drink like it costs at least $25-$30. That’s exactly the message you want to get across to your host, right? You matter to me. I wouldn’t just get you any ol’ bottle. Well done friend, we’ll know the truth. Just in case anyone gets fancy at this Friday night hang out, these wines you bring over will be a marvelous accompaniment to any hard cheese that’s on display. But don’t fret, you’re just as well off with this selection if no food is present, which, let’s be honest, will probably be the case. Happy drinking! Samantha Stowell began her adventure with wine 4 years ago after quitting her corporate life as an interior designer. After completing the Advanced Level 3 WSET course, she traveled to McLaren Vale, Australia to work for Mollydooker wines. Since returning, she has been the sommelier of a wine bar in Downtown Santa Ana, CA, helping to develop their wine program and is currently the resident sommelier at Yves’ Restaurant & Wine Bar in Anaheim Hills, CA.
A Closer Look at Grapes in Supporting Roles
In the world of wine there are the shining stars; the household names that don’t have to be a contributor of a blend to get some recognition. These grapes are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, even Riesling just to name a few.   Then there are the grapes intrinsically used for the said purpose of producing the ever-popular blend. Blending wines have been given the explicit task of hanging out with two-plus varietals for their entire existence. Sad times. But how like our world, really, that we would have varietals that accept award after award for their beauty and brilliance, while their supporting actors do everything they can to measure up and yet still remain secondary in popularity. Well, this is 2017 and we’re saying hello to equal rights.  In light of Oscar season, we’re shedding some starlight on the grapes that tend to slip between the cracks of your prototypical wine lists and give credit where credit is due! The characteristics theses blending varietals possess may need some warming up to. But once offered the opportunity, they deserve quite the standing ovation. Let’s roll the film, shall we? Today we’re taking a deeper look at three varietals that are infrequently given the chance - but perfectly able - to stand alone. Lucky for a few select regions on the entire planet, we now have some wonderful ones to explore. Without further ado, I present to you: Cabernet Franc, Mourvédre and Sémillon! (Enter frantic cheers here). Cabernet Franc Let’s start off easy here with a word that sounds familiar: Cabernet. Phew, see! We can do it! Now add Franc, and you have a whole separate varietal to play around with: Cabernet Franc. We have this fine varietal, as well as Sauvignon Blanc, to thank for getting grafted and producing our beloved Cabernet Sauvignon. The two grape vines got together a looong time ago and churned out what we now have as one of the leading varietals on Earth. Talk about the family favorite. Cab Franc is a bit less friendly to the California palate than its offspring and, thus, has gotten a bad wrap. But its peppery, crushed violet, flinty, dark chocolate-ness is absolutely superb in the correct setting. It originally got its big break in the land of Bordeaux, France as part of the infamous blends that are mainly composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Nowadays, the varietal has gotten around a bit and is making its big domestic debut in Washington, New York and California. The goods: Cabernet Franc If you want to ease into the idea of this “blending grape” taking center stage (and happen to have some extra jangle in your pocket) give Spring Valley Vineyard’s Katherine Corkrum Cabernet Franc a try. This Washington jewel is, truthfully, a blend as well, but with 90% Cabernet Franc leading the way, we’ll let it slide.   In other news, hailing from a small region of North Fork on New York’s Long Island, is the 2014 Harbes Family Vineyard’s version of the grape. Give their herbaceous yet plump Franc a try and you might just have found your new favorite varietal.   Lastly, let's assume you don't want to spend this week’s paycheck on an experiment. Give the 100% Cabernet Franc from Reserve des Vignerons Saumur Champigny, in the Loire Valley of France a shot. Peppery to the max and combined with touches of violet and perfume make for a pleasant experience to be sure. Let this one aerate for a hot second. Otherwise the grip of the structure might leave a bad taste in your mouth - pun intended. Katherine Corkrum Cab Franc Mourvèdre Alright, raise your hand if you’ve heard of this guy? Hmm. A sparse few. Raise your hand if you’ve heard of the blend abbreviation GSM? Ah! There we go!  GSM is a palate-pleasing blend of three grapes you truly can’t go wrong with. That to say, you may only know what the “G” and “S” represent as the varietals have stood on their own for ages. It’s now time for our “M” friend to step into the limelight. Say it with me now, “Mourvèdre”. Originally part of the Rhône Valley’s admirable line up of varietals, Mourvèdre is now being planted all over, and incognito as well.  You may have had this grape before and not even realized it, for in Spain its name is Monastrell. In Australia? Mataro. It does extremely well in hot regions. So it’s no shock that Australia, Spain, Southern France and the booming California region of Paso Robles have each staked their claim with the varietal. The goods: Mourvèdre So let’s break this down. Ever crave BBQ, short ribs, pork sausage? Pair it with Mourvèdre. You enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah? Give this plum and blackberry, deep maroon colored, full-bodied drop a try. For example, $40 can buy you an excellent version of the varietal from Tablas Creek Winery in Paso Robles.  Want to try a version from foreign soil? Tesoro Monastrell offers spice, lots of just ripened blueberries and a surprising touch of orange zest for less than a pretty penny. Cheers to exploring new territory! Sémillon Lemme tell you about this gem. Talk about a diamond in the rough of a Chardonnay dominated white wine community! Sémillon is the blending partner to Sauvignon Blanc, both possess the fame of original Bordeaux roots. The match is one made in Heaven to be sure, as they share the crisp flavors of citrus, green apple and pear. But what Sémillon offers to the blend is a fuller mouthfeel; a softer, waxy sensation. It truly rounds out the racy herbaceousness that is Sauvignon Blanc. The goods: Sémillon Don’t be dismayed that this understated wine has a lower average ABV (alcohol by volume). There’s nothing wrong with having a ridiculously easy drinking white on hand for those sunny afternoons that you’d actually like to remember enjoying. However, Sémillon changes a bit depending on the climate it’s planted in. You can expect a touch higher ABV from warmer climates such as South Australia and California like Cuda Ridge Wines’ 2015 Semillon from the Central Coast. If you're curious for seeing what Oz has to offer, try this delectable drop from Hunter Valley Australia. Tyrrell’s Old Winery 2012 expression of the grape is one that will keep you going back for more and, at around 12 bucks a bottle, I suppose you could afford to do just that. Cuda Ridge Barrels So next time friends, let’s remember the little people that helped the big bad varietals of our day get to their place of stardom. After all, it’s clear that everyone deserves a shot at the big screen. Happy drinking! Sam Stowell Samantha Stowell began her adventure with wine 4 years ago after quitting her corporate life as an interior designer. After completing the Advanced Level 3 WSET course, she traveled to McLaren Vale, Australia to work for Mollydooker wines. Since returning, she has been the sommelier of a wine bar in Downtown Santa Ana, CA, helping to develop their wine program and is currently the resident sommelier at Yves’ Restaurant & Wine Bar in Anaheim Hills, CA.
Wine Mom & the Critic - Playful Weekly Wine "Review" Show
We're super excited to announce the launch of Wine Mom & the Critic, a playful wine review show that features Eva - a young mom who loves wine, and Paul - a 20+ year wine journalist and critic. They taste and ‘review’ wine in their own unique way. The purpose of the show is to visually showcase the juxtaposition between Paul, who represents the way wine is 'traditionally' talked about against Eva, who represents the more relatable way wine is talked about. In each episode Eva and Paul taste and discuss a wine, while describing them through their own lens. We end up learning a good bit from each episode including regions, wineries, varietals and, of course, a 'word of the day' (a fan favorite has been "quaffable"!). Wine Mom & the Critic is available on our YouTube channel and the plan is to release a new episode each week. It's a labor of love so we may not make every week, but we'll give it our best! We'd love to get your feedback on what appeals to you, what you didn't care for, the overall production, and suggestions you may have to make each episode better. Feel free to email us: cheers@ilikethisgrape.com, hit us up on Twitter or Facebook, or leave a comment below each episode! If you're with a winery and would like to have your wine "reviewed" on Wine Mom & the Critic by Eva and Paul, then please email us! Thank you for the continued support and we look forward to hearing from you! BTS Photos! (Find more on our Instagram!)
#VINOMUSIC: Listen to The Black Angels and Drink a 2016 The Black Stump Durif Shiraz
Are you familiar with Californian Syrah? It's that inky, peppery grape flavored up on dark fruits and topped off with a generous heap of oak. How about Petite Sirah? Another opaque colored wine that blankets your tongue with vacuum-like tannins ("petite" is the irony of it all). Blend these two varietals together and you have some crazy good black magic - or as Karen McNeil, author of The Wine Bible, says about Syrah by itself, "Like wearing cowboy boots with a tuxedo. Rustic yet elegant". Petite Sirah adds the spurs and 10-gallon hat. Now, has Shiraz or Durif ever touched your lips? Well, you may or may not know these two grapes are actually the Australian (and South African) equivalent of Syrah and Petite Sirah. Same grapes, different location. Australia's sun-kissed terroir gives their version a little bit more fruit. In either case, both varietals thrive in dry, hot climates where wide-brimmed hats are fashionable AND functional. A wine that is spicy, bold and punchy like a Shiraz/Durif blend deserves an equally rugged soundtrack: The goods Let's crack open a bottle of 2016 The Black Stump Durif Shiraz, created by winemaker Alan Kennett. This beast's grapes are grown in South Eastern Australia, which is notorious for its distant vineyards and producing the country's best wines. In fact, "The Black Stump" often refers to the Australian Outback where going "beyond the black stump" means heading into a remote or uncivilized area. A pretty killer fit for the label, right? This wine will come at you with Durif leading the charge at 60% and Syrah's peppery fruit rounding it out at 40%. The result is a spiced jam hit that is brawny yet easy to drink - like a bodybuilder serving a savory but light breakfast. It'll finish dry but carrying a smooth chocolate undertone with it. In other words, a solid select for easing into the "grippy" world of earthier wines. For less than 14 bucks to get a bottle, this is a pretty easy call. Also feel free to rack it for a few years. The tunes Austin's The Black Angels are an excellent choice to complement the Durif/Shiraz. These Texans exude a psychedelic sound that is rugged while ethereal in its delivery - much like The Black Stump's peppery foundation that leaves your mouth with a souvenir of dark fruit and chocolate. Imagine kicking your feet up on the fire pit (not too close, dammit!) on a chilly night in Joshua Tree. You've got the sprawling, minimalist desert landscape ahead and nothing but time on your hands. The Black Stump will bring out the harsh terroir in front of you while The Black Angels' trippy vibe will do the same. You'll easily get lost in your own head. The combo translates well to a chill hangout just as much as it does a rowdy night dancing around said fire with friends. Joshua Tree The Black Angels have a new album this year, but I'd recommend going back to roots with their 2008 release Directions To See A Ghost. The psychedelic tone is thick on this cut and marries with the Australian Durif Shiraz incredibly well. Turn it up, pour it out, and enjoy!
A Toast to Black History in Wine
Black History Month! It's one of my favorite months of the year. We get to celebrate America's diversity and raise a glass to those who helped make this country great. Without diversity, America would be just as boring as Pinot Grigio. Lucky for us, we have options... and lots of them. With diversity, no one wine is the same as the next, nor do they all come from the same place. However, it does have one major similarity: wine brings people together. With that being said, here are a few very influential leaders in the wine industry doing just that…bringing people together. André Hueston Mack André Hueston Mack: Winemaker Ahh Corporate America. It’s not for everybody - especially this guy. Mack left his suit and tie back at Citicorp and headed to Texas to become a sommelier. Quickly earning the title “Best Young Sommelier in America”, Mack’s career rapidly shifted and opened an opportunity to work as the head sommelier for Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York City. From there he pursued a real interest of his: winemaking. Through building a brand Mouton Noir (aka Black Sheep), Mack’s creativity in design and marketing has risen him to be a trend setter in the wine industry. His playful wine labels and clothing brand helped take wine away from snobby to just outright hilarious, fun and witty. Watch Grammy award winner Bridget Kelley doing a blind tasting with one of Andre's wines! VIDEO Marbue Marke Marbue Marke: Winemaker at Caldwell Vineyards At the age of 15, Marbue was the first in his family to leave Africa. In doing so, he attended UC Davis for medicine and eventually decided, “Blood and selfishness weren’t going to work for me." So he switched his degree to Enology (winemaking) and went on to attain his MBA from Sonoma State. Working under some of the best names in the wine industry, Marbue began to define himself and craft his own wines under the “Caldwell” brand. Even though he is thought to be one of the most talented winemakers in the world, Marbue keeps a low profile. You can still find him in the cellars of Caldwell, hand-crafting small lots of fine wine every year. Iris Rideau Iris Rideau: Owner of Rideau Vineyards New Orleans native Iris Rideau happens to be one of the first African American female winery owners in the United States. Iris, who was born into poverty back in the 30’s, has built a well deserved name for herself. She produces award-winning wines and is recognized from her work as a local activist in Los Angeles back in the 60’s and 70’s, where she helped secure jobs for ethnic minority women. Her winery, Rideau Vineyards, in Santa Ynez, CA focuses on Rhone varietals and refuses to grow. With a production size of less than 8,000 cases, a bottle of her wine is rare to find. Iris is, truly, a great representation of the American dream. Dylnn Proctor Dylnn Proctor: Sommelier Most famous for his appearance in the documentary Somm: Into the Bottle,Proctor has become a recognized figure in the wine (and fashion) industry. His dapper suits and immense wine knowledge are just a few things that make him a stand out in the wine world. Proctor has not only proven that wine can be easily approachable, but shows the industry is becoming more diverse and a younger generation is slowly taking over.Proctor now represents the finest wine brand in Australia, Penfolds, and travels the world doing what he loves most: sippin wine and spittin knowledge. Red Carpet conversation with Dylnn at the Somm 2 premiere in Napa! VIDEO Your #SommNextDoor: Nicholas Ducos. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and a Certified Sommelier, Nicholas has worked in many prestigious restaurants in Miami, Florida. As a chef and as a sommelier, he is dedicated to creating a memorable dining experience and making wine relatable to others in a witty yet refined style. Nicholas is currently traveling the world learning the art of winemaking and plans to create his own label in the near future. Follow Nicholas's latest adventures through his website and Instagram.
#VINO4: Will Work For (Not Only) Malbec - Kaiken Travels From Chile to Argentina
When one thinks of Argentinian wine, Malbec is often what immediately comes to mind. And it should. The Mendoza province, a.k.a. the beating heart of Argentina's wine country, took this grape over from France in the late 18th century. Malbec's black fruit deliciousness has been perfected in world-class Mendoza ever since. There is more to Argentina than just one ass-kicking varietal, however. The Mendoza climate is ripe for a number of grape styles to flourish. One such winery that is proving this beyond doubt is Kaiken. Their Luján de Cuyo plot - which sits against a devastatingly gorgeous backdrop of the Andes mountains - is producing Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other wines that are far underrated in the Argentinian region. A respect for the earth & adventure We had a chat with Kaiken's 2nd-generation winemaker, Aurelio Montes Jr., to learn more about their alignment with nature and why their Chilean roots landed them in Argentina: Biodynamics play a major role in Kaiken wines. What elements of this are unique to Kaiken and how do they directly impact the wine we're drinking? We believe in the use of high-quality, environmentally-friendly vine growing methods and winemaking processes. This means going back to old family-farming practices for vines to express themselves, free from chemicals and showing their "personality". That is why, since 2011, our 15-hectare estate known as Finca de Vistalba (planted with Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay) is being managed according to biodynamic principles. We're in the process of bringing these completely biodynamic wines to market for others to experience. Kaiken Vineyards - Mendoza, Argentina You're originally from Chile. What was the inspiration behind establishing Kaiken across the Andes Mountains in Mendoza, Argentina? My father started traveling to Mendoza in 2000 and was inspired by the people, the culture, the terroir and the possibility to learn and share his experience with winemaking in Argentina. Here he saw a tremendous potential for premium wines as we were doing in Chile. I guess it’s in our family´s DNA to explore, take risks and innovate. Establishing in Argentina was a combination of all of this. The experience Kaiken is all about the feng shui and so are we. Describe the ideal experience when drinking a bottle of 2014 Kaiken Ultra Malbec. What should one be listening to, eating, or generally enjoying with this wine? I truly believe there is no one “ideal experience”. Wine is about experience in general. It's about personal moments and feelings. In my case, the ideal scenario with a glass of Ultra Malbec is being together with my wife, relaxing after a day outdoors. We'll have a nice combination of cheeses and listen to Michael Bublé . What inspires the Kaiken brand? Any particular music, art, landscape, etc.? Kaiken is the result of the passion, dedication and inspiration of a group of talented professionals from Argentina and Chile. There are no limits. For us, an attained goal is just the starting point of our next challenge as we continue to explore, discover, and grow. This is where new journeys and dreams open up with every step. No doubt that source of inspiration is the majesty of the Andes Mountains that is so close to our vineyards. Mendoza is typically known for Malbec. What other varietals from Argentina should wine drinkers be paying close attention to? I have as a mission, whenever I travel around the world promoting Kaiken wines, to show gatekeepers and consumers that Argentina and Kaiken are more than just Malbec. We have a line of wines called the Terroir Series where we explore Sauvignon Blanc, which is not a common variety in Argentina. One of our premium wines is called Obertura, a high-end Cabernet Franc. Our team is constantly working on new and “non-traditional” varieties, but I will leave them for a future discussion =) "Wine Mom & the Critic" took Kaiken's Ultra Malbec for a spin last week. Let's see how they liked it.  You can also learn more about Kaiken's history and wines on their website.
Barbera, Who? Story of an Italian Grape Named Barbera
Did you know that every region in Italy produces predominant varietals of wine? Every. Single. Region. If you did happen to already know this tidbit of information, then hats off to you! Forgive my inapplicable intro. But for those of us who normally stick to France, Spain or the New World categories, let us look at why this fact is special.   In every other wine-producing country, there are areas of wine production: Bordeaux in France, Rioja in Spain, and even Walla Walla in Washington. But, in Italy, life and wine and go hand in hand. Sure, there are the more well-known areas that get attention from an International standpoint (ahem, Chianti, anyone?). Despite the major players, ANY Italian province you travel to has their own mark on the wine world. Perhaps this is why Italians never need a reason to pour a glass at any time of day. It goes with lunch or a business conversation. It even goes with tending to the garden at 11 am. You get the drift. Wine is life in Italy, just as it is interwoven into the very landscape this culture of people occupy. Wine of the people With that being said, let’s take a look today at one varietal in particular: Barbera. To do so, we’ll need to take a trip to Northern Italy, the towns of Alba and Asti specifically. There is no better Italian grape to speak of when discussing the importance that is wine to these people, for the name actually is known as “wine of the people”. How fitting, eh? When speaking in International terms, Barbera is often cast in a sort of shadow, considering its neighboring varietal, Nebbiolo, is globally famous for producing show-stopping wines from the town of Barolo. And if Nebbiolo is the prototype for a wine that is age-worthy, Barbera is certainly be the poster kid for a wine that is beautiful when consumed young. Great news for us impatient folk! Wine Mom & The Critic taste a 2014 Boeger "Barbeara" You’ll certainly find red fruits such as cherry, strawberry and underripe plum when engaging in a sip of Barbera. However, don’t expect a New World approach on fruit. These wines are equally, if not more, herbaceous than fruity! Violets, nutmeg and clove can be expected with touches of subtle vanilla from the neutral oak they traditionally see. The last piece of advice, friends, is to keep in mind that when it comes to labeling their bottles, Italy likes to put their varietals before the region they hail from.  So looking for Barbera d’Asti or Barbera d’Alba will keep you from standing in the aisle at the store for too long. We don’t want you looking dazed and confused, now do we? Alright champs, go get ‘em! And invite me along when you crack a bottle, would you?  Because I for one would like to embody the resolve of the Italians in never needing a reason to indulge in a glass of vino. Who’s with me?! Happy drinking! Sam Stowell Samantha Stowell began her adventure with wine 4 years ago after quitting her corporate life as an interior designer. After completing the Advanced Level 3 WSET course, she traveled to McLaren Vale, Australia to work for Mollydooker wines. Since returning, she has been the sommelier of a wine bar in Downtown Santa Ana, CA, helping to develop their wine program and is currently the resident sommelier at Yves’ Restaurant & Wine Bar in Anaheim Hills, CA.