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Trailblazing for Label Transparency in the Wine Industry
Organic, vegan, non-GMO, locally grown, Gluten-free, farm-to-tableI’m sure these phrases look familiar. They are, after all, just about everywhere you look in our current culture. There is so much varying exposure we’ve come to expect from our food industry and grocery stores and - even now - our restaurant. But what about wine?Has anyone noticed that the back of your wine bottle contains no helpful information regarding the ingredients and nutritional gain? Granted, I suppose we don’t expect to gain much nutrition from consuming a bottle of our favorite Cabernet, but as consumers that have come to anticipate so much, how is it we’re satisfied to receive so little info when it comes to what’s in the bottle? The CEO of a successful new wine brand that’s taking the UK by storm - Thomson & Scott’s Amanda Thomson - has certainly taken notice of this lack of straightforwardness. “When it comes to wine,” she says, “many of the bottles consumers are purchasing are full of chemicals and greatly lacking in story and context.” Thomson & Scott is one wine producer on the market that is making strides to change that.Amanda grew up near London with a very forward-thinking mother, one who implanted strong values of food health from an early age.  “It was normal to not have processed food while growing up. We were to have respect for sugar and have respect for food in general.”  And it was due to this mindset being instilled at a young age, that when Amanda began building a career in broadcasting with the BBC, she developed a palate for Champagne. However, after waking up time again feeling less than tip top after a night of sipping her beloved bubbles, she began to question the contents of her favorite beverages. This very conscious thought caused Amanda to dream that perhaps there was more to uncover in regards to the unknown ingredients of wine and, just maybe, she could create a brand that led the public to understand more as well through intentional transparency at the helm. Just like that, she was off and running; leaving her broadcasting career behind to move her family to Paris and begin her education in wine.  Shortly after getting her hands dirty in the wine world, she began meeting with and forging relationships with some of the brightest winemakers in Champagne, France and Prosecco, Italy.  It was these relationships with like-minded, quality-driven industry professionals that enabled the brand to develop their distinct product line of Sparkling wines that proudly possess little to no sugar, are certified Vegan & 100% organic.  Truly their wines being labelled as “Skinny” has much more of a well-rounded meaning that certainly falls in line with the needs and desires of society. Outside of their tight handle on quality control, Thomson & Scott hardly loses sight of what their audience desires, a product they can have fun with; after all, it is wine!  “We truly don’t compare to any other wine company in terms of marketing; we are a lifestyle brand.  We focus on being very clear with who we are--our wines are fun! But they had to be top quality as well. Amanda specified taking a lot of inspiration from American culture, specifying that “aiming for a top quality product, doesn’t mean you can’t have an attractive, relatable brand!”Thomson & Scott Prosecco is reasonably priced for the incredible flavor profile & mouthfeel. At just $25/bottle with 7 grams of sugar per liter, the wine is a home-run and quite simply, a no brainer!  Lots of bright fruit greet you on the nose as the consistent bubbles meet your palate and wake up your senses.As for their more prestigious sparkling--Champagne Extra Brut from the hands of winemaker Alexandre Penet--offers consumers a very well-balanced blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 30% Pinot Noir to blow their socks off.  Approachable and satisfying, no need to sacrifice health for desire with this drop as it’s certified Vegan and contains up to 6 grams of sugar per liter.Needless to say, Thomson & Scott is making waves in the industry by willing to curate a product of status, cleanliness & upfront honesty, without sacrificing a drop of fun, and we certainly have Amanda Thomson to thank for her boldness in making such headway and setting a new bar for wines worldwide. So let’s drink to health! Cheers, sparkling lovers! 
A Tribe Called Quest and a Village Called Gevrey-Chambertin: Meet Edwinn Ferrer
Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on?Didn’t even have a drink. It was the introductory lecture given in my first wine course. Our sommelier said, “you either get bitten by the wine bug or you don’t”. I really think I caught it when he went on to describe the various countries, techniques, and applications for wine. Considering all the places & cultures wine is found in, I honestly found the subject to have a powerful gravity about it – one that pulls in the soul (or the amygdala, to be less mystical). I still firmly love the subject of course but, looking back on it, I think you know you’re bitten when you continue to study it, being fully aware of how much information you actually have to learn.What drew you to working in the wine industry?After pursuing the field in subsequent classes & books, I came to see it (and alcohol in a broader sense) as a necessary lubricant to society. Wine lightens the mind and warms the soul. It elevates jokes, conversations, and intimacy.Since we escape the stresses of work at the dinner table, it only makes sense to have a potion that brightens the mood and makes your food taste better on hand. If we didn’t have pleasures like that to look forward to, freeway traffic (no matter how many podcasts & audiobooks you have) would be a lot more miserable.What do you see as the next trend in wine? Will it be overrated or underrated? A trend I think I see coming up is a rise in popularity for more obscure countries like Portugal, Austria, and South Africa. The current heavy hitters like major French, Spanish, and Italian regions will only continue to rise in price & popularity. I predict audiences will, over time, fatigue from the current choices that saturate the market, and diffuse into countries/regions that offer better value. However, the most immediate countries that I think will receive this effect are Argentina & Chile, as they are seeing plenty of foreign investment. Ratings from reviewers will be somewhat accurate, but how proportionate the market will react, I can’t say. All it takes is one overly exaggerated endorsement to set a craze in either direction.Favorite varietal that is uncommon to find?Although it's no secret to Somms, Austrian Gruner Veltliner is a fantastic find. I like to think of it like Sauvignon Blanc, but w/ a dash of spice and a fruit profile that isn’t as eccentric. Its mostly super easy to drink, and pairs w/ a broad range of seafoods, salads, and white meats. The serious examples deliver an amazing level of complexity and weight, and feature esoteric aromas/flavors of legume, watercress and white pepper.What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?When I had leftover orange chicken from Panda Express and Rias Baixas Albarino. Before then I’ve almost never experienced such a stark contrast from “ehh just ok” to amazing. For me it was the bit of tangible proof of how a much better drink & food can improve each other when they match just right.What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?Windows on the World by Kevin Zraly. The book introduced me to the wine world and not only gave me enough worldly depth, without becoming too dense, but also perfectly highlighted the aesthetic romance of wine that captured my imagination when I was just beginning. I consider it the perfect intro to wine book and its my first recommendation to newcomers.Perfect Pairings by Evan Goldstein. Wine is great. Food is great. Wine + food can be fantastic (or terrible) given the pairing. The foundational knowledge from this book has never left the corners of my mind, and I consider it a must, as the art & science of pairing yields the true potential of wine and food.The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson. My absolute go to for any wine question, no matter how obscure. The amount of information in it is dizzying and all-encompassing. Whenever I’ve needed to buckle down and study, this encyclopedia has never let me down.Pick a favorite bottle of Burgundian Pinot. What band or musician do you pair it with?Hmmm. Well, there’s a lot of choices when it comes down to Burgundian Pinots, but my top choice would have to be a bottle from the village of Gevrey-Chambertin (of course Premier or Grand Cru if given the opportunity, but can’t be too picky in this economy!). The Pinots there tend to be firmer, deeper in color, and age longer. Music pairing for sensuality & elegance contrasted w/ power & depth? Definitely A Tribe Called Quest. Their samples are always jazzy and silky smooth, while their lyricism is the right mix of romance and vivacity - classy and full if soul, w/ a balanced hand of playful aggression (just like how I imagine good Pinot). And speaking on long aging regimens, Tribe’s music has definitely stood the test of time as well. 
My Wine of the Month: Di Giovanna "Helios"
In October, after checking out more than 100 wines, my choice for November is a red Sicilian: "Helios" from Di Giovanna Di Giovanna - one of the oldest wine families in Sicily - is located in the province of Agrigento. If I have to describe the wine for what it is, I would say: “The quiet before the storm". This blend of Nero d’Avola and Syrah opens slowly and quietly. It then releases incredible sensations - like a storm! Helios takes its name from the father, Aurelio, and represents the best expression of the vineyards of the winery. It has a ruby red color with notes of berries and black cherry. The tannins are very soft with an incredibly long persistence.This wine also awarded by James Suckling with 91 points, deserves all the pride of the Sicilian lands!
Tapas & Tea - Meet Spanish Wine Expert Jaime Fernandez
Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? Most of my early wine experiences involve my grandad in Galicia. I would spend 6 weeks a year at my grandparents' house in a small village just outside of the Rias Baixas region called Pobra do Caraminal. We had a daily ritual there. My grandma would stay home to prepare lunch and I would walk to the town centre with my grandad and my twin brother for drinks and tapas. My grandad would always drink Albarino and sometimes let us have a sip. Even today, some 25-30 years later I will taste some Albarinos that immediately transport me back to those small wine bars with my grandad, watching him drink and argue with people about politics.Also, Christmas was always a great early wine memory for me. My parents would always buy bottles of Faustino I for our Christmas dinner. Back in those days it was quite expensive and people didn’t often spend lots of wine so it was always a massive treat. Even today when I smell a bottle of Faustino I it takes me back to some great Christmas memories.When and how did you realize Spanish wine is your thing? I’ve always had an affinity for anything and everything Spanish. I loved the food, the wine, the football, the history and the laid back lifestyle even from a fairly early age. I was fascinated with The Spanish Civil war and The Republicans.  My family in Galicia were deeply connected, particularly after the Civil War, so it was an area that intrigued me. As I grew older I became fascinated with Spanish food; paella, calamari, octopus, croquettes, etc.  My parents were a big part of that and we’d watch people like Keith Floyd and Rick Stein travel to Galicia and cook the local cuisine.  To this day I don’t think we will find a better ‘celebrity’ chef than Keith Floyd!  My nan in Spain and my mum were both amazing cooks so we regularly had home cooked Spanish meals with Spanish wine.I’d always enjoyed the wine but as it was always such a natural part of any of our meals I’d never thought too much about it. It wasn’t until I started my WSET studies a couple of years ago that the passion really took off. I’d grown up drinking Albarino during the year and Rioja at Christmas…that was essentially it! The WSET showed me how diverse and varied it was as a wine region and from then on I became obsessed with exploring as much as I could.What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  Discovery. I love discovering hidden gems and hearing winemakers’ stories. I rarely take much notice to critics’ scores when reading about wines. They’re great as a guideline but wine is such a personal and subjective experience I prefer to consider other factors when looking for a new wine. What resonates with me is learning about the winery, the vineyards, the winemaker, their story to becoming a winemaker, the local people that pick grapes at harvest time, the dog that lives on site!…essentially anything and everything that gives me an insight into who and what is involved during the winemaking process. All of these things are linked and have an impact into the final product.Most underrated grape in Spain?Godello. It is such a diverse grape and has the ability to produce wines with the structural finesse of a white Burgundy combined with the aromatic complexity of an Albarino.If you’re yet to try Godello you’re seriously missing out!What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?It’s a difficult one. The natural wine scene has exploded in recent years, not just in London, and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.I do think people will continue to explore unknown grapes and regions as well as ancient wine making methods and low-intervention wines. Words like "pet-nat", "qvevri", "amphora" and "wild-ferment" are now common knowledge to even the most casual wine enthusiasts – which is a good thing.I do also think that the more affordable iconic, traditional and old-school wineries will increase in popularity. Guys like Tondonia, Rinaldi, Chateau Musar, Emidio Pepe and some of the 2nd and 3rd wines from some of the top houses.Wine drinkers are looking for a combination of a wine ‘experience’ and the ability to ‘flex’ on Instagram without needing a second mortgage – these sorts of wines fit those criteria perfectly.In terms of regions, I think people should be looking out for still wines from England. There are some amazing producers around such as Ben Walgate from Tillingham, Jon Worontschak from Litmus and John Rowe at Westwell Wines. The weather has been kind in England in 2018 so fingers crossed it produces some amazing fruit.What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?I’m a sucker for a food and wine tasting experience…the more courses the better.I love the way that wine and food interacts, for me the simpler the combination the better. It’s also the perfect excuse to eat and drink your body weight!What are your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs?I’m currently reading “The Dirty Guide to Wine” from Alice Feiring which I’m really enjoying. It’s an area of wine that baffles me the most but she puts a great spin on it and I love the way she categorises the regions by soil type. It’s fascinating how wines from completely different regions in the world have similar soils and tasting characteristics despite being thousands of miles apart.I also love “The New Vignerons” from Luis Gutierrez. He focuses on 14 key wineries/winemakers from around Spain to discuss their history, landscape and traditions and also ties them in with the typical food of the regions. I’m not a huge podcast fan but I really enjoy the UK podcast “Interpreting Wine” from Lawrence Francis.  He’s had some great guests on there from all over the wine world and it’s always relaxed and interesting conversations.We’ll give you 3 Spanish actors/actresses. You tell us the wine they match with: Javier Bardem – Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5oBoth often play a supporting role but frequently win awards for that performance. Lots going on with plenty of complexity which somehow combines into something elegant and though-provoking.Penélope Cruz – Alavaro Palacios L’Ermita Both leaders in their fields with the ability to inspire others. Natural beauty and class…subtle but powerful.Antonio Banderas – Vina Tondonia ReservaBoth are dark, smouldering and traditional, but with the odd curve-ball thrown in. And ages really well!Take a peek at Jaime's blog and give him a follow in Instagram.
How to Taste Wine, as Explained by 90's Hit Songs
A step-by-step guide...1. AppearanceMC Hammer – U Can’t Touch This Checking out the appearance of wine is kind of like judging a book by its cover. Is it a shitty romance novel from the 80's that you probably don't want to read anymore or the latest Gillian Flynn novel? Look for things like brown color, haziness. If you see them, consider asking that cute bartender for a new glass (though this doesn't always mean they're bad–more on that later). Hint: lighter colors tend to indicate youth aka the opposite of how we feel when looking back at these old videos.2. NoseNirvana – Smells Like Teen SpiritStick your nose in there. Swirl your glass to let some oxygen get cozy with your wine to bring out its aromas. Do you smell the grungy basement featured in Nirvana’s video? Again, maybe want to ask for a new glass. Do you smell fruits, flowers, spices, veggies, oak, etc. etc.? Take ‘em all in and make sure it aligns with your expectations - does this smell like a Golden Corral buffet or a 5-star meal coming at you?BOTTOMS UP! Let’s start drinking already...3. PalateUsher – Nice & SlowHere’s the fun part. Start drinking! And in the words of our dear friend, Usher, you ain’t gotta rush. Take it nice & slow, baby. Use both your senses of taste and smell to break down what you’re savoring. The next five songs will take us through what to look for while we taste.4. SweetnessTyrese – Sweet Lady90% of the time, you’re not going to be finding your “sweet lady.” Even if you’re tasting flavors that generally remind you of sweet things, most wines are dry, aka not sweet, aka don’t have sugar. Just like that word you’re trying to find to describe what you’re tasting, sweetness is most easily identified on the tip of your tongue. 5. AcidityTLC – WaterfallsDoes your mouth start watering like your dog’s on a 90 degree day? Bam: that’s acidity! It’s what makes lemons sour and wine taste refreshing. Acidity helps cut through things like sweetness and fat.6. TanninsDarude – SandstormThis is a cheat guys ‘cause the song technically came out in 2000, but let’s be real, it’s 🔥. Do you drink black tea? You know that feeling your mouth gets from it? Like your mouth is literally filled with sand? That’s the tannins. They come from the skins of the grape, so you typically find ‘em in red and orange wines. They’re most easily sensed at the back of your mouth or on your gums and their strength depends on the amount of skin contact during grapemaking. ;) 7. BodySir Mix A Lot – Baby Got BackDoes this baby have back? The easiest comparison to help you guess the body (light, medium, full) is to compare to milk. Does it feel super light like skim milk or more like straight-up cream? A lot of factors contribute to a wine’s body, but alcohol is one of the bigger ones. Fun party trick to know how boozy your wine might be without checking the label.8. FlavorsSeal – Kiss from a RoseMariah Carey – HoneySpice Girls – Spice Up Your LifeWe’re going in on the song variety for this one because this is the part where you just attempt to rattle off whatever you’re tasting. Spices? Floral notes? Herbs? Honey, creaminess, dairy notes? Earth? Animals (yes, seriously)? Colors of the world? And most importantly, do you actually like these things you’re tasting?9. FinishThe Cranberries – LingerNotice if the flavors linger and hang around like your deadbeat ex boyfriend (but in a good way this time) or if they’re gone in a flash like a one night stand. Sometimes they can be like that one guy you dated who turned into a completely different person overnight.Now’s time to act like Simon Cowell and give this guy a brutally honest final verdict. 10. BalanceThe Verve – Bittersweet SymphonyIn really, really good wines, all of these things – flavor, acidity, finish, body, tannins – are going to come together in perfect harmony. Does one seem out of whack like Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions? Or do you feel like Reese Witherspoon driving down the highway in the convertible during the end credits when you drink this?11. LengthFoo Fighters – EverlongWe visited the finish above. The longer the finish, typically, the better quality the wine.12. IntensityBackstreet Boys – Larger than LifeHow intense are the aromas you smell and flavors you taste? If they’re larger than life, that often indicates good quality.13. ComplexitySarah McLachlan – Building a MysteryIs there so much going on with this wine in terms of flavors that it feels like you’re unraveling a mystery as you drink it? Complexity is a solid indication that this wine is like a boss. 14. Final ConclusionChristina Aguilera – What a Girl WantsN*Sync – Bye, Bye, ByeCongratulations, you’ve made it to the end of your glass and better news: there’s still a whole bottle to go. So tell us: Is it “what a girl wants” or is this “bye, bye, bye?”
Pinot & Peach: A Chat With Wine Expert Aleah James
We sat down with ILTG's newest contributor, Georgia's own Aleah James, to learn about the overlap of bourbon and wine, and why Portugal needs your attention ASAP. Take us back to your earliest experience with wine - where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? The earliest wine memory I can recall is when I was studying abroad in Spain junior year of college. I can remember sitting at an Italian restaurant, La Tagliatella, across from Santiago Bernabeu (the football stadium) with some of my classmates as we ordered a bottle of red wine to share...because why not? The restaurant was mostly empty at the time and we had a wonderful time just being together, in Spain!When did you realize you wanted to make a career in wine? This is a relatively new realization for me. I took some "Introduction to Wine" classes at the Atlanta Wine School two years ago, and enjoyed them so much that I picked up a side hustle selling and performing in-home tastings for ONEHOPE wine. I enjoyed that so much, I decided to pursue my WSET Level II certification. Once that was achieved, I started to consider where to go from there. My professional background is in corporate learning, and I love encouraging people to learn new things. A career in wine education seemed like the perfect blend of skill and passion!What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  There is something for everyone. I believe that 100%! And you don't need to "know" everything about wine to enjoy it - I'm constantly discovering new grapes, wineries, wine regions I knew nothing about. The wine world is vast and dynamic, growing and changing. Opportunities and new wines to try are endless!Most underrated wine region?Portugal in general has a lot to offer that I feel we rarely hear anything about, particularly in contrast to its neighbors Spain and France. Vinho Verdes are so refreshing and usually wildly affordable, it's a wonder more people aren't talking about them. What do you see as the next trend among wine drinkers?I'd personally love to see more cross collaboration with whiskey/bourbon distilleries to yield more whiskey/bourbon-barrel aged wines - bring the spirit drinkers into the wine space, and vice versa. I know a local brewery that is making a pinot noir barrel-aged belgian tripel, so cross collaborations with craft breweries seems quite likely too. That, and I want to see more sparkling red wine!! I've never tried it and I'm so intrigued. Who doesn't love a good bubble?What's your favorite type of wine experience? A certain kind of meal, visiting a winery, etc.?I love visiting wineries (the tastings! the learning! the views!), but truly any experience where a bottle is shared among friends and/or family is beautiful to me. Your top 3 wine related books and/or blogs and why?“What to Drink with What you Eat” - Andrew Dornenburg and Karen PageParticularly for those who are just learning to pair food with wine (or beer or spirits for that matter!), this is a great guide to have on-hand. There is a section organized by beverage, as well as a section organized by food, so no matter what you're building your meal around you have a guide to help you pair the perfect food or beverage with it. I love that it's helpful for wine-o's and foodies alike. “The World Atlas of Wine” - Hugh Johnson and Jancis RobinsonMy husband gave me the 7th edition of this incredible encyclopedia a few Christmases ago. For the true wine enthusiast, this atlas is a great way to familiarize yourself with the wine regions of the world including current maps, geographical information, native varietals, and more. Wine Spectator Magazine & Online I received this magazine subscription as a gift, and I follow WS on social media as well. My favorite aspect of what they offer (and they offer a LOT) is actually the bi-weekly "What Am I Tasting?" wine quiz on the Learn Wine section of their website. These quizzes are a fun way to test your knowledge to identify a wine's varietal, country of origin, age, and appellation solely based off of the tasting notes. Let’s play a quick game. We’ll give you 3 actors/actresses. You tell us the grape they match with: - Kristen Wiig - Chardonnay - The most versatile white wine for the lady that could play probably any character.- Tom Hardy - Syrah - Broody, tannic and formidable. A Cote Rotie Syrah could include flavors of smoked meat, tar, and leather...which basically describes Fury Road, so...- Jennifer Lawrence - Brut Rose - Bright and quirky with dry sass and sarcasm, but also may be elegant when the situation calls for it. 
Winter is coming, and so is Game of Thrones wine
Fall is here. Know how a wine writer can tell? The reds start arriving in the mail, awaiting my assessment. So do the pitches, both predictable and strange.Along with the usual stuff about Thanksgiving pairings and holiday must-haves, I get a fair share of off-the-wall craziness from the crowded and competitive world of vino. Case in point: Game of Thrones wine. That’s right -- I just received a bottle of Westeros’ best. (Actually, it’s been out since late June, but they’ve decided to hit me up now, at the beginning of the appropriate season – June is not the best month to roll out a red wine, guys.)BUY: Game of Thrones Collectible Wine Glass Set (House Stark & House Targaryen)Created by Vintage Wine Estates in collaboration with HBO Licensing and Retail, the GOT line was introduced in the spring of 2017 with a chardonnay, a cabernet sauvignon and a red blend (somehow, I missed that festive occasion). This year, they’re trotting out a pinot noir. Descriptors like “game-y,” “barnyard” and “forest floor,” commonly used for pinot, seem especially apropos here, given the general filthiness of the GOT world. (I shudder to think how they crush grapes in King’s Landing.) The justification for this silly piece of cross marketing is explained in the press release: “‘Game of Thrones’ features wine in many of its scenes from the Seven Kingdoms, and the initial launch of Game of Thrones wine gave fans of the Lannisters and Targaryens their own sigil-emblazoned bottlings.”I don’t know about you, but every time I see a wine-guzzling scene in “Game of Thrones” I think of some of the wilder frat parties I attended as an undergrad. And there are scenes where wine portends disaster. (Remember when Arya avenged the Red Wedding? Glad I missed that particular tasting. “Proper wine for proper heroes” indeed!)The only character with a discerning palate seems to be Tyrion, the tiniest but classiest Lannister, who often remarks about the quality of the wine he’s tasting and seems to have a knack for sniffing out the best. I have a feeling he’d be a pinot drinker. (His incestuous brother and sister, on the other hand, would drink only Sinister Hand if they lived in the real world. Or maybe 19 Crimes.)This newest GOT wine is made by winemaker Bob Cabral and it comes from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, an area that excels in Burgundian-style pinots with restraint and all the other requisite Old World qualities. “The new pinot noir is a worthy addition for the Game of Thrones line of wines, as it was inspired by the complexity and nuances of this riveting drama,” Cabral said. And also by visions of GOT fans lining up in the tasting room, crowds so vast only a fire-spouting dragon could scatter them. At around $20 retail, Game of Thrones pinot noir won’t break the bank, and it’s a welcome departure from the prevailing trend toward premium pricing in the American pinot world. I decided not to wait for Thanksgiving (or the beginning of “GOT’s” final season) to crack open the pinot. Inquisitive minds want to know how it tastes, right?Perhaps HBO will find a way to run me through like Robb Stark for saying this, but I hope this isn’t considered the best wine in the Seven Kingdoms. My assessment:Color: A pale violet, like a good Burgundian pinot should be. Think of Winterfell snow lightly dusted with blood.Nose: Bland and veiled, like Littlefinger’s outward appearance.On the palate: Tame at the start with hints of wildness coming up later – exactly like Sansa Stark.Finish: A full and noble flavor that cuts off unexpectedly, like Sansa’s father, Lord Eddard Stark.All in all, I can imagine Tyrion knocking back a flagon or two of this wine, but he wouldn’t be hoarding it for himself either. Would he trade it all for an ounce or two of wildfire? Definitely.BUY: Game of Thrones Collectible Wine Glass Set (House Stark & House Targaryen)
How Trefethen Stays Cool After 50 Years of Napa Winemaking
Trefethen Family Vineyards, one of Napa’s most venerable labels, is marking its 50th anniversary this year. To celebrate, they’ve been throwing some swanky parties, and I was lucky enough to be invited to one earlier this month at the Pelican Grill.The highlight of the four-course lunch was the wine, of course. Chardonnays and cabernet sauvignons, Trefethen’s flagship varieties, some of them ancient enough to be pulled from the winery’s library. How did they taste, you ask? More on that later.Trefethen is one of Napa’s modern-era pioneers. It began as a retirement project when Kaiser Industries executive Eugene Trefethen got his gold watch and moved to Napa Valley. In 1968 he purchased six small farms and a tumbledown 19th-century winery, Eshcol, creating a 600-acre wine estate. At the time, there were fewer than 20 wineries in Napa Valley.Eugene’s plan was to sell all his grapes to winemakers, but his son John had other ideas. While studying at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, John started experimenting in the basement of his parents’ Napa home.  After several failures as a winemaker, John improved, and he and his wife Janet produced Trefethen Vineyards’ first commercial wine in 1973. Only a few years later, Trefethen’s 1976 Chardonnay earned the Best Chardonnay in the World honor at the 1979 Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in Paris. After that, Trefethen was part of the wine world’s upper echelons.During the pre-meal mingle I chatted with John and his son Lorenzo, who has become an eloquent spokesman for Trefethen and did most of the public speaking that day. A graduate of Stanford University, Lorenzo joined the family business in 2007 and has spent several summers learning the trade, including a harvest at Bordeaux’s Chateau Petrus. Lorenzo works with the marketing and sales departments, focusing on direct and export sales.Here are some excerpts from Lorenzo’s talk:As an estate winery, how do you keep pace with consumers’ changing tastes?There has been an expansion in the interests of the consumer. Certainly with my generation there’s more experimentation in terms of what they’re trying: other countries, orange wine. While there are certain big trends, for example rosé at the moment, the wines that do really well over time are the ones that have that built-in street cred. So your plan is to stick to what you know and avoid reinventing yourself in a big way. That’s always been our approach. As an estate producer we can’t turn the vineyard over and chase any kind of trend. We’ve always made what was, by our judgment, the best wine of its kind in the area. Being an estate winery, for many years that may have hampered us. But it’s certainly one of our great traits right now. We sort of bridged the gap from upstart, when Napa was new, to established name. Now we’re a classic: a brand that is getting more recognition for how true we’ve been to the principles that we laid down at the very beginning, which are the principles of great winemaking.How do you communicate the wisdom of that logical if unsexy approach to today’s consumer? How do you explain, for example, the advantages of estate wine?That’s something that I’m thinking about right now. The word “estate” … consumers often have no idea what that means. It sounds a little pretentious. There’s also an inherent dignity in the term. We just need to be better at communicating. “Estate” is like a well-kept secret. Some consumers would love to know more about it. I think there’s a really strong story there that starts with, “Did you know most wineries buy fruit from other people?”What’s your stand on organic farming and biodynamic farming?We like the core tenets of both, which are really about creating a farm that sustains itself. And so we are, at our core, both organic and biodynamic; we like to actually say that we’re beyond organic and biodynamic. We’re a couple of months away from our organic certification, but we decided actually not to pursue it because we discovered some ironies in the system – we could do it greener if we worked outside the system. Organic farming has been around now for 50 years. We did things 50 years ago that are considered groundbreaking now, such as the installation of reservoirs and a wastewater treatment facility. How does the rest of the valley compare to Trefethen in that regard?Napa in general is getting greener and greener. The growers historically have been the biggest advocates for organic farming and environmental protection. The Napa Green program (a comprehensive environmental certification program for vineyards and wineries in the Napa Valley) is doing very well. Just over 90 percent of the county’s acreage is under some form of protection from development. What makes your winery unique?We are more sustainable than many of our neighbors because of who we are – a family-owned, multi-generational company. We’ve always worked to improve the land and pass something on to the next generation. That has evolved slowly over time – our understanding of what is sustainable. The thinking that we have now has been developing from good practices we started 50 years ago. The Trefethen wines we sampled:1988 Chardonnay: Sherry-like, raisin-y and deeply honeyed, but still has that characteristic Trefethen chardonnay fruit taste.1996 Chardonnay: Beautifully perfumed, balanced, light in viscosity. A wonderful, quite dry finish.2001 Chardonnay: Large in the nose. Slightly over-ripe. A bit sweeter than the 1996, with lots of fruit.2016 Chardonnay: Full-bodied, balanced, good acidity, not too much oak. Finish is quite long.1991 Cabernet Sauvignon (8 percent merlot): Notes of cocoa and chocolate. Dry, slightly bitter finish.1999 Cabernet Sauvignon (10 percent merlot): Lots of fruit promised in the nose. Smooth, balanced, with definite spice box notes.2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (8 percent merlot, 1 percent cabernet franc, 1 percent petit verdot): Violets and floral perfume in the nose. Big, full mouth feel. Lightly oaked, hint of black olive. Finish isn’t huge.2015 Cabernet Sauvignon (6 percent petit verdot, 5 percent merlot, 4 percent malbec): A bit closed and ascetic. Not ready yet.
Acting Chops & Grape Fluency: Meet Sommelier Sasha DeJaynes
Recently, Sasha DeJaynes lended rich insight on choosing Old World vs. New World vino. She's got a special penchant for helping amateurs and experts alike choose a grape flavor akin to their palate preference.So we wanted to get some more background on Sasha - including the kinds of questions she gets at LCA Wine, and the role Franzia plays in her appreciation for fine wine.I ain't lying about that last part. Check it out:Take us back to your earliest experience with wine, where were you, who did you drink it with, what was going on? I definitely come from a family that enjoys imbibing, so there has always been wine and beer in my world. Looking back now specifically with wine, the earliest memory I have from when I was 5 or 6 is of my parents' boxed Franzia in my Grandmother's fridge. We would always have BBQs and get togethers at their house, and there was always Franzia. My parents were never shy about letting us try stuff, and as a kid you usually hate the taste of alcohol anyway, but I remember not hating it because it was pretty sweet. Still didn't really like it though. Fortunately now both my and my parents' palates have matured to enjoy some more complex stuff, but seeing boxes of Franzia always makes me nostalgic.What were you doing professionally before you got into the wine world? I was an actor and performer in Chicago, doing mostly fantastic storefront theatre. I was also part of the burlesque revival and used to perform and compete all over the world. I loved every minute of it, but unfortunately none of it was particularly lucrative, so as many actors before me I also waited tables and bartended.  Through that I had exposure to some pretty spectacular wines and the art of craft cocktailing, which peaked my interest and made me want to learn more. Of course, when you scratch the surface of wine you uncover this huge and majestic universe of endless pursuit, and I fell in head first and happy about it.What about the wine world gets you excited in the morning?  The discovery of new flavors, places and people. There's always so much that you don't know, so the world of wine gives you endless opportunities to learn new things and have remarkable sensory experiences wherever you are.  We have tastings almost every day at the shop with distributors and producers, and every wine is a unique experience with a different story. I love the endless discovery.What are some questions you get at the wine shop over and over again? I get a lot of questions about structure, people trying to understand what tannins are, or what acid is, what minerality is, terms they hear thrown around a lot but are still confused about. Understanding those elements are key to picking out the wines that you like, so answering those questions is a win for everyone. We are also pretty geeky at the wine shop, so our regular customers enjoy asking us about more technical things like soils, climate, winemaking techniques, stuff like that.What do think about this canned wine movement? As someone who enjoys camping and hiking I am all for it, as long as the product within is quality. Packaging-wise it is convenient, easily transportable, secure and is great for storing wine in the short term. I would never age wine in a can, obviously, but for fresh, clean drink now wines I think it is great. It's also half a bottle of wine, which I think most people don't realize. The greatest hurdle is consumer perception; for most people canned wine = cheap wine, and they can balk at the price of higher quality wines packaged in aluminum. But I think the trend overall is bringing people around.The last 3 wines you drank (outside of work) and why, how were they?Domaine de la Taille aux Loups Vin de France "Clos de la Bretonniere" 2015: my selection for a sunset duffy cruise, absolutely delicious and one of my favorite wines to drink right now and ever. Technically dry Vouvray by Jacky Blot, but since his facility is on the other side of the river has to be bottled as Vin de France. Outstanding.Guado al Tasso by Marchesi Antinori, DOC 2016 Vermentino: best by the bottle option for an impromptu afternoon snack at an OK seafood joint. Delivered exactly as expected: fresh, clean and quaffable.De Toren Z 2012: surprise take home from work to have with dinner. Elegant and rich right bank style Bordeaux blend from Stellenbosch. Complex and nuanced with ripe tannins and smooth texture. Really lovely.Let’s play a quick game, we’ll give you 3 actors and you tell us a wine that pairs with their personality: Samuel L. Jackson: Triton Tinto de Toro 2016; rich, bold, dark and smooth with spicy bite.Lucille Ball: Sommariva Prosecco Superiore Brut; bubbly, light, fun & classic.  Great anytime.Margot Robbie: Pewsey Vale Eden Valley Riesling 2016; tart, sharp, striking and Australian. Love it or hate it (but probably love it).
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.Decoding Italian Wine: A Beginner's Guide to Enjoying the Grapes, Regions, Practices and Culture of the "Land of Wine"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!Decoding Italian Wine: A Beginner's Guide to Enjoying the Grapes, Regions, Practices and Culture of the "Land of Wine"
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.
Barolo: Northern Italy's Sexiest Wine?
There’s something intoxicating about a piece of music that baits you with one chord, and then leads you like an aroused schoolgirl into something completely unexpected. The likes of Coltrane & Zeppelin come to mind when thinking of music that keeps you on your toes, zig-zagging you around until you’re dizzy with melodious ecstasy. The most primal of pleasures lend to that kind of experience; music, sex, and the most hedonistic pleasure of them all, wine. While many have a hard time verbalizing that journey, a bottle of wine of that caliber is hard to forget.Barolo is a region in northeastern Italy synonymous with the grape Nebbiolo, as it is the only red grape the region grows & (like Burgundian Pinot Noir) is never blended. It is a wine that evokes a kind of existential ebb & flow. It reels you in with notes of rose petal, lilac & tar. 15 minutes later, it’s dried mulberries, fresh tobacco leaf & dusty leather boots. It is equal parts sensual & barbaric. Like a woman who knows how to direct her lover, Barolo evolves more every time you lift the glass. As if the bouquet wasn’t enough to entice, the sheer mindfuck of the palate redirects your senses.While Nebbiolo’s thin skin doesn’t cause it to act as controlling (read: unsexy) as your self-conscious fucktard ex, it does cause it to create a wine as pale in color as Pinot, yet packs the tannic punch of a Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Verdot. (Tannin creates the effect of dryness on the palate, sucking all the moisture from it like that sixth cup of black coffee you had this morning.) Most wines with high tannin come from thick-skinned grapes as that’s where tannin is primarily found. There is tannin present in seeds & stems, but high-quality wines are de-stemmed since their tannin is much harsher than grape skin tannin. Anthocyanins are the chemical component that dictates a wine’s color intensity, and thin-skinned grapes have low anthocyathnin’s, just like they (usually) have low tannin.When blind tasting, you first analyze a wine’s color & opacity before even smelling it. Seeing a pale colored wine sets your brain on a path. (Imagine hearing the Black Keys first couple, very blues driven albums...) You’re already racing towards Pinot Noir/Gamay/Cab Franc/Grenache, then you get hit hard with that mouth-draining tannin. (And then hearing the Brothers album & Dan Auerbach’s falsetto...) MINDFUCK. A young Nebbiolo reminds me of my brother's garage punk band when they started out; each instrument competing with the other, none able to stand on their own or come together in cohesion. An aged Nebbiolo, on the other hand, can be orchestral; every individual aspect of the wine coalescing together in unison like Amy Winehouse’s voice enveloping your ear canals. Pure fucking magic. And thus, the love affair with Barolo continues...
Drinking Wine with Gary Vaynerchuck #VINOWITH
WHO IS GARY VAYNERCHUCK?Successful entrepreneur, investor, social media influencer, speaker, motivator, content creation machine, digitally savvy hustler - but it all started with wine. Gary took his family wine-retail business in New Jersey, changed the name to Wine Library, started an eCommerce side of the business, and began filming bold wine reviews on a YouTube channel over a decade ago. From there he took a 3 million dollar wine business to a 60 million dollar wine business by using the power of eCommerce, video, and social. With early investments in Twitter and other household technology companies Gary has certainly done well for himself. Gary is a hustler who works extremely hard, can be in your face, but is a person that genuinely cares about people succeeding. I've not met Gary but I've seen and heard a lot of his podcasts, videos, and one-line quotes across the web. The man is everywhere!WHY DO I WANT TO DRINK WINE WITH GARY VAYNERCHUCK?I dig his pulse on culture, and appreciate his focus on today's consumer. The value any brand has is their consumer which I believe Gary would think is key to gaining leverage. It would be entertaining talking to him because he talks a lot, and the smallest prompt can send his mind in many directions. He's an instant dose of energy and inspiration. To vibe with his hustler-spirit combined with his business experience would be invigorating. Also, Gary Vee seems to dig hip hop and sees it as I do - a milieu that moves culture. Plug any brand or product in the hip hop machine and watch it grow exponentially.WHAT WINES I'D DRINK WITH HIMI'd have at least two wines with Gary, the first would have to be an in your face red wine from Washington that is not afraid to be what it is. Big mouthfeel, big fruit, big bite that comes out the gate swinging. For instance, Boom Boom Syrah by Charles Smith. This wine does not mask itself or parade around restraint. This bottle simply tells you as it is, I'm an explosion in your mouth. The second bottle of wine would be something a bit more finessed because it seems to me that as Gary's career advances he'd appreciate a wine that is a little more  focused and subtle that you can enjoy just chilling with the homies talking Gen-X women blogs, hip-hop, future of media and whatever other thoughts pops into Gary's eclectic mind. For instance, a 2009 Vina Albina Grand Reserva.Cheers Gary Vee
Your New Brunch Wine. In Like a Lyon. Out Like a Lambrusco.
Warmer weather is just about here. We all know what that means. Patio furniture gets hosed off, the white & floral print ensembles come out and wide, floppy hats have some faces to smack.  It's brunch season. Wait, brunch happens all year. It doesn't matter - it's a beautiful day out and we're going to day drink over some eggs benny, Jenny.  It's difficult to stray far from the bottomless champagne option. It's a classy, tasty beverage that pairs well with just about any brunch item and cleanses the palate in hot weather.  Even if it's relatively shitty sparkling wine, you'll hardly notice after your 6th "top off".  Despite its comfortable familiarity, sometimes an alternative to champagne is good for the soul. No, not mango juice or a strawberry to toss in it. I'm talking about a fizzy replacement that's just as versatile and twice as interesting.
Photos from SOMMX: Kanye West Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine
Google Slideshow: SOMMXFor 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 with5 courses of unique food which were each paired with5 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.