All Stories

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. 
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).
Tales From Week One of Wine Harvest
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!
Meet Italy's Most Promising, Young Sommelier
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!
The Battle of Old World versus New World Wine
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.
From Sommelier to Winemaker Meet Nicholas Ducos
Nicholas Ducos has been providing joy to our readers with articles on variety of wine topics from his certified sommelier point of view - but over the last year Ducos has expanded his dominance in the game by becoming a winemaker for a William Heritage Winery in New Jersey (yes, Jersey!). He's doing  experimental winemaking as well as bringing back some traditional techniques. We caught up with our dude to reintroduce him to our audience. Enjoy!Take us back to your earliest experience with wine, where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? It’s embarrassing but here it goes. I went to The Culinary Institute of America for college. As you know, CIA is where some of the most iconic chefs learned how to cook and build the fundamentals to be really great in the Food and Booze industry. Icons like Anthony Bourdain, Charlie Palmer and just about every freaking Celebrity Chef on T.V. is an alumni. They required us to take a mandatory wine class with three weeks of tasting the finest wines from Burgundy, Germany, Napa Valley, and more. While I was busy throwing back Grand Cru Classe Bordeaux, poppin' bubbles like it’s my birthday and chasing tail across the room, wine quizzes were being thrown my way once a week and I thought I was nailing them. Actually I knew I was! Turns out… I wasn’t and failed my 1st college course. However, $4,000 later and a spit bucket by my side I passed with an A- and never looked back. This was the beginning of my journey in wine. There is so much to do in the wine industry, what do you do? I love this question. I am the Assistant Winemaker at William Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill, NJ. Now before you ask…yes we make wine in New Jersey and yes it is quite delicious. My day to day changes greatly. Some days I am running around the vineyards like a mad man collecting grapes to evaluate the Brix (sugar) and PH (Acidity). Other times I spend hours cleaning barrels, filtering wine and doing lab work.What gets your excited in the morning to go to work? I think the thing that really kicks me into high gear is my commute. I live in Philadelphia (The Most Underrated City in America) but I work on a farm so as I drive over the river and through the woods. You magically go from the hustle and bustle of city living into a very green lush farmland with cows, produce and, most importantly, vineyards. You would never expect it!Your top 3 favorite wine regionsEasy question…- Marlbrough, New Zealand. So much more than just Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of great Pinot Noir and Gewurtztraminer.- Long Island, New York. World class Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon being grown. Same latitude as Bordeaux but with nicer beaches!- Bouzeron, France. A little commune in Burgundy that produces minerality-driven wines from the grape Aligoté. The stuff is just sexy winemaking, man. And at a fraction of the cost of high-end burgundy.What do think about this canned wine movement? How can you hate it? It’s booze on the go. I love it so much that we decided to make it here in NJ. We’re the 1st winery in New Jersey to make a canned wine! Obviously... it was Rosé.What’s the most memorable meal you and your girlfriend had recently, and what wine did you pair with it?My girlfriend is Italian and there is this amazing old school tradition where every Sunday you invite all your friends and family over to eat tons of food and drink bottles and bottles of wine until you can’t tell the difference between your uncle Giuseppe's left leg and the dog. Ironically this event is called “Sunday Gravy”. That being said, we held this grand tradition at the house last week and it surely was a rager! Five courses of pasta, meatballs and cheese followed by some homemade wine I made in a garage with a few old school Italian guys in their 60’s. We only make magnums because no one ever drinks just one bottle of wine in this circle.Let’s play a quick game, we’ll give you 3 celebrities and you tell us a wine that matches their personalityBeyonce: Cava! She’s got that mystery to her that is very powerful yet under the radar. Kylie Jenner:  Is she even allowed to drink yet? She can be a bottle of Barefoot bubbly…..DO I NEED TO EXPLAIN? I hate Barefoot… President Trump: A warm can of PBR…Follow Nicholas on Instagram @somm_ist
First Time Drinking Wine - Wine Mom & the Critic Tell All
Everyone has their first time. For some it’s magical, but for many it’s something not to be repeated. A popular question from viewers of our Wine Mom & the Critic show is “When was the first time you drank wine, and what was the first wine you ever bought?” Wine Mom Eva Chavez and the Critic Paul Hodgins reveal their first times. Wine Mom’s First TimeSo don't judge me! I just turned 21 and knew nothing about wine. One random weeknight, this guy I was dating (he also knew nothing about wine, but wanted to act ‘sophisticated’) tells me "Come in my jacuzzi. Let's go have a great night. I got us some wine, I'm going to talk dirty…” blah blah blah. I go over and he does a big reveal of his bottle. It was smaller than regular wine bottles which I thought was strange. He then pours the wine into a Solo cup. A red Solo cup. I drink it and I think, "Wow, this is so sweet, it’s amazing." We’re in the jacuzzi, it’s getting hot, and the next thing I know I'm pounding the wine. You know what it was? Port.He gave me Port, for my first wine. As you know, Port is fortified with a spirit, is very sweet (a dessert wine), high in alcohol, and drunk in tiny cups, not 8oz Solo cups. So I'm in the jacuzzi drinking Port wine thinking I'm fancy as f*** and saying, "Oh, this is amazing. I love it, it's fruity, it's delicious, it's swe. .,” -  I threw up all over his jacuzzi mid-sentence. Needless to say we broke up. Tiny bottle dude had to go.The first wine I ever bought for myself was a magnum of Woodbridge Merlot. Ballin’ at $5.99. Drank it with my sister and a friend. The friend threw up. The Critics’s First TimeIt was the 70s, I was home from college. On a day I was alone, and had the munchies so I raided my uncle’s fridge. In it was a bottle of wine. The wine was in a basket. I thought, “I’m an older, smarter, and distinguished freshman, I should be drinking classy shit.” It was a bottle of Ruffino, a very popular wine in the 70’s. It was sort of an oblong oddly shaped wine that came in a little basket. People that drank Ruffino were the modern equivalent to cat-ladies. They drank it because afterwards the basket could be used as a candle holder you could put on the window to light the way for spirits or moths. So there I was. I, a ‘distinguished’ freshman chugging Ruffino at my uncle’s house. Alone. The only thing missing was a quart of ice cream and a Sandra Bullock rom-com. The first wine I bought for myself was something called Lonesome Charlie. Their slogan was "Lookin' for a friend?" It was pink, bubbly, and it came in a four pack. I thought it was terrible. My girlfriend loved it. I moved on - from her and Charlie in search of better friends.Follow Eva Chavez on Instagram Follow Paul's wine adventures 
Interview with Oscar Seaton Jr. of Seatpocket Wines
Wine mingles with musical talent. We've seen the likes of Slayer, Metallica, John Legend, The Rolling Stones, E40, Dave Mathews, etc. They've all succumbed to the powers that are wine. Now, here's a name we don't hear often: Oscar Seaton Jr. Who is he? Well, you've definitely heard his rhythm before. He's an amazing drummer with an exceptional lineup of artists and movies he's been involved with in his professional career.Now you're about to experience some of his influence in wine:Hello Oscar! We know very little about Seatpocket Wine. What can you tell us about its origins? Of course! It really is a simple story! It actually started as a conversation with my good friend, April Richmond, a few years ago when I asked if she thought having my own wine would be a good idea. After looking at the pro's and con's, I decided to go for it! Our initial focus, aside from costs and logistics, was the brand and how we could create a complete experience that intertwined music and wine. We settled on using my nickname as a drummer, "Seatpocket", and decided that each wine would have a music pairing and would be unique in style and varietal.Professionally, you’re now entering another playing field. Is there a significant move that brought you closer to the wine world that we should know more about?YES! I've always loved wine and knew I wanted to do something in that industry, but I had no idea what or how to start. April started a wine business several years ago. Watching her success and talking to her about the industry over the years led me to take the leap with her. I probably wouldn't be doing any of this if it weren't for her. She brings the experience, background and knowledge along with being our Sommelier and winemaker.Music and wine are something we talk a lot about and you’re truly bringing both universes into a bottle. We want to know what fuels your passion for music and wine.I think passion can come and go, I have more of a love for music and wine than a passion. Love is continuous. My love for both is what keeps me really excited about them everyday. They're both so similar in terms of the emotions they evoke and how we use both to celebrate, relax, get hyped up, etc.Where did the main sources of grapes come from?We sourced grapes from 3 different California regions. The Merlot grapes are from Santa Barbara county, the Chenin Blanc grapes are from Lodi, and the Rosé uses Grenache grapes from the Central Coast. What processes went into making Seatpocket Wine?  We didn't do anything outside of the normal wine making processes. We did use Eastern European oak for the Merlot which has helped maintain a full body that doesn't feel heavy on the palate. The Chenin Blanc has slightly riper grapes that gives it the beautiful aromatics we were specifically going for, without the heavy sweetness. Our Rosé is all old school Saignee method using Grenache grapes.What was the most important factor in making the Merlot? In other words, what did you have to taste in the Merlot to say, “YES. This is me.”I really wanted a Pinot Noir at first, but the Merlot won me over. I wanted something that was dry, dark, smooth, rich but still somewhat light and easy to drink. Not an easy order. Your #Rhythmandwine tag will be buzzing real soon, where do you expect to find your bottles traveling to?We'll be on the road with our Rhythm & Wine events throughout California this summer. We will also be pouring at a few other events across the country and we're working on distribution in Illinois and Georgia! Be sure to visit the Seatpocket Wines site where you can find their 2015 Chenin Blanc and 2014 Merlot!
Sommelier Alex Anderson Tells Us About Okanagan Valley Riesling
The Okanagan is an exciting up-and-coming region in the province of British Columbia in Canada. The terroir screams diversity and tension - which is understandable given the fact that it teeters right on the 50th parallel.One of the promising grapes of the region is Riesling. It shows best in the Northernmost sub regions of the Okanagan Valley and is often found basking in the sun on sloped sites overlooking Lake Okanagan. Riesling grapes thrive in the Okanagan because of the vast diurnal swings and cool moderating breezes that are created by the Lake; ensuring the grapes reach sugar ripeness while still attaining lively acidity. The Okanagan also boasts some of the longest sunshine hours during the growing season in the world due to its Northern latitude. Let's take a look at some of the best Riesling it has to offer:Tantalus’ Old Vines RieslingA winner for all Riesling lovers. The vines that grow this wine were planted in 1978 on a promising slope in Kelowna, British Columbia. The Tantalus Riesling guarantees a deep and concentrated experience — mouthwatering to say the least! Wet stone and slatey flavours balanced by floral tones, a limey spine and ripe apple flavours that are sure you want to pour more. One of my favourites in the whole province.Synchromesh Winery’s Bob Hancock RieslingSynchromesh winery maintains a well respected commitment to minimal intervention with their wines. All their wine growing and making practices are done with utmost integrity to the planet and to showcase the fruit in its truest (and inherently tasty) state. It’s easy to agree with winemaker Alan Dickinson’s philosophy when the resulting wines are this tasty! The grapes from the Bob Hancock vineyard are grown on the northern tip of of the Naramata Bench overlooking  breathtaking views of Lake Okanagan and the city of Penticton. This wine is bright with puckering lime, fresh apricot and a touch of RS that makes you crave another sip. Quail’s Gate BMV RieslingThis off-dry beauty is the perfect companion to South East Asian food that has a little kick of spice and deserves a wine that can kick it right back. The Bouchrie Mountain Vineyard (BMV) in Kelowna has grown this fruit to speak to the terroir of British Columbia and proves its ability to age. This is a wine that has the delicate floral tones and bright acidity we all crave in Riesling. A wine to enjoy now and stock up on for later!Alex Anderson is a Vancouverite with a passion for wine, communication and design. She is a Certified Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers, holds a WSET Advanced certificate with distinction, and was the runner up in the 2018 Aspiring Sommelier BC competition. You can connect and follow her vibrant and insightful wine endeavours on Instagram @wine.with.alexx 
A Perfect Day in Napa Doesn't Exist
The coolest thing about Napa is the diversity of experiences you can have. There is no one way of enjoying wine, and there isn't one way to define what the 'perfect Napa day' is. During one day in Napa you can have a fabulous day tasting an assortment of wines while being blown away by the an incredible collection of contemporary art and art installations that would rival galleries from SF, LA, NYC. Hess Collection Winery has pieces that could easily be in the homes of anyone from DJ Khalid to Noah Horowitz. The art on property, that spans over 3 floors, is absolutely incredible. This is the private collection of winery owner Donald Hess, who began his collection out of a passion for art rather than trends, back in '66. A particularly powerful piece of a burning typewriter is by Leopoldo Maler, currently head of The Parsons School of Design Affiliation in the Dominican Republic. His works serve as symbols that spark what he calls the viewer’s “creative power of contemplation;” one is completely free to apply one’s own experience and understanding to his pieces. The burning typewriter, entitled Hommage, has a great deal of personal meaning for Maler himself. His uncle, a well-known Argentinean writer, was assassinated for the honesty of his political essays.The WinesSitting with head Winemaker, Dave Guffy, I had the opportunity to taste a panel of wines, but the two that stood out were their Malbec and a special reserve Cabernet project called The Lion. The Malbec grapes are grown right on property in a small block at the summit of Mount Veeder. If you wonder what it means to taste a California style of this famous Argentine grape - give this bold, big, ripe Malbec from Hess a shot. (They do have property in Argentina and sell a Malbec from their Argentine property, but go for the Mount Veeder.)Most know Hess from the supermarket aisle for around $15 and may not know their next level stuff. When sitting down to a tasting with Guffy, he brought out the special reserve project that he's been working on with superstar winemaker Celia Welch. The Lion - of which they only produce 500 cases with a price tag of $185 - puts it in an upper echelon of Napa wines. I had the 2014: voluptuous mouth feel, beautiful red fruit and power, but there is a finesse and softness that is satisfying. In other words it has great balance. The fruit is from their estate on Mount Veeder and that mountain juice is just flat out special. Smith MadroneThe beauty of Napa is that you can be walking through 3 floors of modern art in the morning at Hess, then shooting rattle snakes with the owner of Smith Madrone winery in the afternoon as he takes you through their hillside vineyard on a rugged ATV.  Smith Madrone was founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith, Managing Partner and Enologist who then brought his brother, Charles F. Smith III, along for the ride as the head winemaker. These two veterans of the valley are flat out hilarious. Sitting over a picnic lunch the conversation can ping-pong from WWII watches to current issues within the walls of UC Berkeley. Ask anyone in Napa who makes the best Riesling in town and an overwhelming majority will point to Smith Madrone.The interesting wine they brought out over our 3 hour lunch was their reserve Cabernet called Cook's Flat. They only produced about 1,300 bottles of the 2012 vintage. Before jumping into doing a $200 a bottle reserve, the brothers wanted to find their unique point of view in flavor profiles. Thus, they embarked on research (aka drinking!) of all the top Cabernets from Napa and beyond - then took a hard look at a special parcel of land on their property called Cook's Flat. Cook's Flat Reserve is a proprietary name for a wine that is the culmination of 46 years of growing grapes and making wine in the mountains of the Spring Mountain District. The name refers to George Cook, the first owner of the property. 'Cook's Flat' was the local old-timers' name for the eight-acre plateau-like vineyard block which was replanted in 1972.The packaging of each bottle is as unique as the Cabernet inside of it. Each bottle is numbered and wrapped in tissue which has been printed with a copy of the U.S. Land Office Patent which granted ownership to George Cook and was signed by President Chester Arthur on December 5, 1885. The wine itself is outstanding, decadent, well structured, and delicious. The wines of Smith Madrone reflect the style of the Smith brothers who care about history, land, legacy, and enjoying what they do. So here's my point - there is no one day or specific set of adventures that makes a trip to Napa perfect. There are a wide variety of stories, adventures, and people that make Napa so special; just get out there! 
Top 10 Wine Bargains for Summer 2018
Summer is almost upon us. It’s time to start stocking warm-weather wines for the patio, picnic and poolside.I’ve been diving into a flood of whites and rosés over the last few weeks, and I’ve selected from that gushing inventory 10 summer wines that are worth trying. Some are special-occasion beauties; others show well for the price and could easily be your seasonal backyard wine, since buying a case won’t break the bank. Prices are best available from the usual local sources such as Hi-Time, Costco and Total Wine & More.Amelia Brut Rosé Crémant de Bordeaux  ($19): Made from hand-harvested red grapes grown in the acclaimed Bordeaux region, this blend of 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc is a summer charmer. Amelia ages en tirage (on the lees) for 18 months, double the nine months required by law, giving it aromatic and textural complexity. You’ll also notice nuanced fruit components with a touch of toasty brioche.Anaba 2015 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast ($36): This harvest’s low yield produced concentrated, bright fruit. You’ll get a bewitching duet of orange blossom and lemon custard on the nose. A strong acidic backbone combines with ripe fruit, lemon cream and sweet herb in a balanced finish. A great cool-climate California chardonnay from one of my favorite regions.Bodega de Edgar 2017 Albariño: ($24): This 100 percent Albariño from Paso Ono Vineyard, off Creston Road, in Paso Robles, is one of the area’s most coveted summer sippers. It’s fermented and aged in 100 percent stainless steel, and the result is a Spanish grape with a California accent: honey suckle, zesty lemon, honey and white floral notes. From one of Paso’s best smaller wineries, this beauty sells out quickly every year.Editor's Note: Try this gold medal-winning limited production Cava from Spain. Can't buy in stores, rare to find online. Limited production, limited edition Antoni Gaudi print. Recommended by Our Somms. We're working directly with the producer to offer this to you via our partner Argaux Wine Club from Laguna Beach. http://bit.ly/Cava4pk Perfect for summer BBQs or for taking to a friend's house. 4 bottles $65! The Calling Dutton Ranch 2016 Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($30): Intensely aromatic with notes of honeysuckle, sweet lemon and delicate rose. Crisp acidity is balanced with the vanilla signature of French oak on the palate. The lingering finish offers spicy toastiness that complements the fruit.Daou 2016 Chardonnay ($15): A riot of flavors includes pear, lemon, passion fruit pineapple and banana. Even the nose is aggressive: honeysuckle, nutmeg, almond. But Daou’s Chardonnay isn’t just a frat party in a glass. It has a sumptuously silky texture and welcome acidity on the finish, and leaves a full, plush impression. Quite a talker for the price (you can sometimes find it for $11 at Costco). A great introductory wine from Paso’s flamboyant Bordeaux kings, the Daou brothers.Fleur de Mer Provence Rosé Vintage 2017 ($18): This pale pink beauty balances ripe fruit, bracing acidity and dry mineral finish. Red cherry, raspberry, white peach, lavender, grapefruit and warm-weather herbs, with a touch of salinity. The very definition of an elegant Provencal rosé. Also available in magnum size for $40 – a showy way to kick off a summer party.Robert Mondavi 2016 Napa Valley Fume Blanc ($20): OK, so Robert Mondavi made up the name “Fume Blanc” to help goose the popularity of his dry-style Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is worthy of representing his legacy. Pithy, with grapefruit and lemon peel flavors, it’s deceptively crisp and light on the nose, offering a wealth of body and lushness on the palate, accented with nutmeg and peach. It includes 4 percent Sémillon, partly from the legendary To Kalon vineyard.Rodney Strong 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($25): Normally I shy away from variations on rosé’s Provencal standards, but this rose of pinot noir pulled me in with its electrifying color. The enchantment continues with strawberry, white peach and jasmine on the nose and the palate. The finish is long and luxuriant. Sharply focused acidity but light of body, and it surprises you with a zesty lemon finish.Saint Clair Family Estate 2017 Origin Series Sauvignon Blanc ($28): This worthy New Zealand winery has produced a persuasive example of the sauvignon blanc style from the little land Down Under. Origin Series introduces itself with a mysteriously bready nose, then opens up to rich hits of pineapple and guava with a grassy undertone. There’s a hint of saltiness riding on the long, lively finish.  And yes, there’s a bit of gooseberry, that distinctive New Zealand flavor.Smith Madrone 2015 Estate Grown Riesling ($30): An epic riesling from one of Napa’s best producers of this grape; Smith-Madrone has been growing riesling in the Spring Mountain District since 1971. Unlike the 2014 vintage, which was lush, deep and round, the 2015 is the very definition of racy. It is bright, clean and delicious with a solid core of minerality surrounded by grace notes of citrus fruit and honeysuckle.
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