Stay up to date with my wine sips, jaunts, offerings & events!

Bi-Weekly Newsletter: Subscribe Now
Photo of water fountain in front of Valle de Guadalupe

Brianne Cohen is a Los Angeles based certified sommelier, wine educator, and wine writer focusing on delivering fun and relatable wine education to her audiences.

Brianne offers both virtual wine tasting experiences and in-person wine tastings for corporate and social groups. A corporate virtual wine tasting is a good way for teams to strengthen culture and team build. A wine class in Los Angeles (or anywhere in southern California) is a sure-fire way to please a group of wine lovers and foster connection for your group.

Brianne regularly judges at international wine competitions and holds the WSET Diploma certificate, which is one of the most coveted and difficult wine certifications. She also holds a Master of Business Administration from Loyola Marymount University and writes for such outlets as Decanter, Monarch Wine, Edible, and SommTV.

“Valle de Guadalupe, Mexican wine country in Baja California is THE most exciting thing happening on the West Coast in wine. Where else can you go and enjoy the Mexican flavor and hospitality that we all love BUT with the added bonus of a wine country backdrop? I’ll give you a hint. NOWHERE!”

Read the full article at the link HERE

*This is a sponsored post.

Wine bottles stacked in a cellar

Wine has always been associated with sophistication and culture. It’s a perfect addition to any celebration, event or even enjoying a hot tub. However, there is a fair share of myths about how it’s stored and aged over time. It can be tough to distinguish the difference between fact and fiction when it comes to keeping the drink at its best. In this post, we’re going to bust the most common myths when it comes to aging and storing wine.

Myth #1: Expensive wines are always better than cheaper ones

Truth: While the price tag of a bottle correlates with quality, it’s not the ultimate determinant. Luxury brands can indeed cost a lot – for example, Masseto wine price in Cyprus ranges from a thousand to several thousand euros.

However, there are several approaches that go into determining the price, mainly the region, vintages, grape variety, and fermentation process. That’s why expensive wines might disappoint you if their attributes, such as aroma or body, don’t fit your individual preferences, whereas a cheaper brand might excite your taste buds.

Myth #2: Wine only gets better with age

Truth: While some wines age well, others don’t. The majority of wines available today at stores or online are meant to be consumed within a year. Aging changes the character of the drink, making it an entirely distinct drink compared to the original version. When saving wine, ensure you only store the ones that are expected to age nicely over time – this can be different types of red or white, rose or sparkling, and fortified wines.

Wine bottles collected on a table

Myth #3: Storing wine on its side guarantees the cork won’t dry out

Truth: Although storing wine on its side helps prevent the cork from drying out, this may not always be the case. Screw caps are becoming more popular, but even bottles with cork still require a humid environment for keeping the cork moist. Storing your bottles in a humid location, such as a wine cooler or cellar, will help to avoid cork damage and will prevent the wine from being oxidized.

Myth #4: Champagne should be stored in the refrigerator

Truth: Champagne is stored at cooler temperatures like white wine, but it shouldn’t be kept in the refrigerator for a long time. The absence of humidity will induce the cork to dry out at warm temperatures, and chilling it will keep the drink’s taste fresh.

However, storing your Champagne in a cool, moist setting is the ideal way to preserve the drink’s quality. A wine fridge or a cellar would be the perfect place to store your decent Champagne bottle.

Wine bottles stored on a shelf

Myth #5: Red wine should be served at room temperature

Truth: Most of us believe that red wine should be served at room temperature, which is erroneous. The actual temperature at which you should serve red wine is between 55 °F (ca. 13 °C) to 65 °F (ca. 18 °C), which is much lower than the traditional room temperature.

Hotter temperatures make wines less fruity and more acidic, while cooler temperatures dull the drink’s aroma and taste. Approach your red wine as an artwork that requires perfect conditions to meet its full potential.

Conclusion

Now that we’ve busted the most common myths related to aging and storing wine, you can confidently enjoy your favorite drink without a care in the world. Always remember to store the bottle carefully in a cool, dry place. Never store it on its side unless it has a cork, and ensure it’s not kept in the refrigerator for extended periods.

The most crucial factor for enjoying wine is individual preferences, and that will always be the key. So, don’t be afraid to try something new and keep exploring different types of wines. Cheers!

A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: March Edition. If you miss the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below. You can also re-watch it on Instagram.

In my line of work, I taste A LOT of wine. And I found that tons of wines slipped through the cracks. I couldn’t possibly cover every single wine in a blog post or on social media, so I came up with the idea to highlight the ten “Best Bottles” that I drink every month.  Without further ado, I bring to you my best bottles for the month of March!

Domaine la Grangette “Poule de Pic” 2021 $19 (Languedoc, France)

One thing I love is a good Sauvignon Blanc dupe. I don’t mean a wine that tastes exactly like Sauvy B. I’m talking about a wine that’ll satisfy my craving for something refreshing, high acid, clean, and crisp. Let me tell you Picpoul de Pinet does that! Some call Picpoul “the oyster wine” because it goes so well with said oysters. One of the major markers for Picpoul is its salinity or saltiness. #Seaspray Bottom line, I want this wine all day erreday. Picpoul is the new porch pounder. You heard it here first!

Two Wolves Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (Santa Barbara, CA)

A great wine made by a great person. Alecia Moore aka the music artist Pink. I have always been a fan of Pink and her music. She’s also got this kick ass, edgy, authentic, and gritty way about her that I just love. She’s a fierce supporter of human and LGBT rights, which aligns with who I am. When I heard back in 2019 thst she was starting a wine brand, I was super interested to see how this was going to play out. Unsurprisingly, Pink’s process has been pretty authentic, like herself. She took WSET classes to learn more about wine, she grows grapes, she makes wine, she rides a tractor….all the things. She’s not just slapping her name on a brand. So admittedly, while I did simply buy the first batch of wines just because of her name, I have now been supporting her brand since the beginning, because the wines are actually quite good. This is a super delicious Sauvignon Blanc that is elegant….not the first word you think of with this grape. Bottom line, there’s nothing I don’t love about her and her wines.

Domaine Bousquet Reserve Chardonnay 2021 $18 (Mendoza, Argentina)

Domaine Bousquet is a large family-owned estate in the Mendoza region of Argentina, my family’s motherland. All of the reserve wines for this brand are hand-picked and certified organic estate fruit. They are also certified regenerative organic. Regenerative agriculture is the rehabilitation of land through organic and biogenic farming techniques focusing on restoring soil health and increasing organic matter which enables carbon sequestration. That’s a mouthful, I know. Think of it as organic or biodynamics PLUS. Regenerative organic farming includes the tenets of eliminating herbicides, eliminating synthetic fungicides, composting, planting cover crops, incorporating animals into the ecosystem, social fairness standards, and biodynamic preparations, though those are not required. They are only the 4th winery in the world with this certification. The others are Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, Troon in southern Oregon, and Fetzer in California. Back to the wine! This wine does see some oak. Fermentation in Oak and the wine is aged for 6 months in oak, but that doesn’t translate a ton on the palate. A really pretty Chardonnay. I got a nice bit of white flower notes. The wine is fresh, vibrant, and balanced. BUY NOW

Quivira Vineyards Wine Creek Ranch Rosé 2021 (Dry Creek Valley, CA) $25

A premium estate-bottled, single-vineyard Provence style rosé anchored by Grenache plus a few other varietals to round it out. Your perfect “Spring sipper” with notes of stone fruit (peaches and apricots), plus watermelon and raspberries. Rooty tooty fresh and fruity. An easy drinking and versatile wine that would pair with most all lighter fare. BUY NOW

Sfera Vino Rosato 1L $23 (Abruzzo, Italy)

I’m actually enjoying this wine as I am writing this blog post. #Meta. There’s something so great about all-purpose utilitarian wines; specifically in Italy. Every region has a set of specific grape varietals that are grown there and each region has some great table wines that honestly are not to be missed. And this is one of them. We are in the Abruzzo region in central Italy with the humble Montepulciano grape. This wine is a dark berry color; none of that light pink Provence color. Remember that the color of a rosé is not an indicator of its sweetness. This wine does actually have a lot of savory notes, which I love. So in addition to the sort of expected berry and watermelon notes, we also have citrus (grapefruit) and some herbaceousness. A porch pounder of a 1L bottle for $23! BUY NOW

Ferdinando Principano Dosset Vino Rosso 2021 $19 (Piemonte, Italy)

Another humble wine from Italy that majorly over delivers. Ferdinando Principano started with 7 hectares of vines in the 90s from his father and grandfather and he now owns and farms 21 hectares. He works the vineyard by hand, and encourages biodiversity. Ferdinando purchased an adjacent forest, created a pond near the vineyards, which has encouraged both migratory birds and frogs to stop by for a visit. All wines are low intervention in the winery. “Dosset” is the local Piemontese word for Dolcetto, the grape. This wine is on the spectrum of natural wines, but it’s on the lower end of the spectrum in the sense that it really does taste like wine, but with this itsy-bitsy teeny-weeny air of funk to it. This wine would be fantastic served slightly chilled, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it at room temperature. 11% and alcohol, which also makes me a happy camper. No oak. BUY NOW

Vina Aquitania Lazuli Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 $40 (Maipo Valley, Chile)

Cabernet Sauvignon tends to make big, bold, and structured wines, and this one is no exception. The wine is gusty and serving up notes of red + black fruits, smoke/toast, and fresh cracked black pepper. Well-made, high quality Cabernet Sauvignon tends to be $100+ per bottle. This wine is fermented in stainless steel tanks, then aged in 30% new oak and 70% used oak. And oak, can significantly increase the cost of a wine. This one is a steal at $40! BUY NOW

La Follette 2019 Heintz Vineyard Pinot Noir $65 (Russian River Valley, CA)

La Follette focuses on single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay from well-respected family-owned vineyards in Sonoma. This one from the Heintz Vineyard is no exception. The Heintz family (3rd generation now) has owned the land for over 100 years and meticulously cares for their Pinot Noir grapes. The wine is both delicate yet powerful; that perfect tension you want in a Pinot Noir. The Alicia Keys of red wine if you will. Perfumed notes on the nose abound with a welcome spiciness on the palate. BUY NOW

Maxime Magnon 2020 La Démarrante $34 (Languedoc, France)

We are in the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region in southern France, specifically in the Corbiéres sub-region. This is an area known for making wines from Carignan, Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. The wines from this region can have a marked herbaceous note, and this one is no exception. Maxime was actually born in Burgundy but he was not born with hereditary rights to a domaine so he came to Corbières, where he farms 11 hectares and manages it all on his own. The vines are certified organic but also incorporate biodynamic practices in the vineyard management. This one is a blend of Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah. It’s light bright and quaffable. BUY NOW

Vermut Flores Rosé Vermouth $16 (Uruguay)

I have to say that this was MY JAM the last month. I have gotten into vermouth and soda as a nice easy low alcohol aperitif. Yes, vermouth is generally a touch higher in alcohol than wine. In this case I think it is 16%. But you’re only using a couple of ounces in each drink versus a full glass of alcohol. I like two ounces of vermouth over ice, and topped off with bubbly water and garnished with a squeeze of some sort of citrus. It honestly doesn’t matter what citrus, FYI. It is refreshing, bright, and just the perfect amount of bitterness. I actually hate true bitter flavors in beverages. Things like quinine in ginger ale, digestif type beverages like Fernet, or aperitifs such as Camapri or Aperol. But vermouth, yum yum. BUY NOW

A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: October Edition. If you missed the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below. You can also re-watch it on Instagram.

In my line of work, I taste A LOT of wine. And I found that tons of wines slipped through the cracks. I couldn’t possibly cover every single wine in a blog post or on social media, so I came up with the idea to highlight the ten “Best Bottles” that I drink every month.  Without further ado, I bring to you my best bottles for the month of October!

Banshee Ten-of-Cups Brut NV $24.99 (California)

I don’t read tarot cards, but I’m told that the “Ten of Cups” card symbolizes harmony, joy, and abundance. This wine from Banshee is made in the traditional Champagne method with grapes sourced from all over California. Like its namesake tarot card, you’ll always be happy to see this bottle land on your table:) It is a blend of the traditional Champagne grapes of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier and is aged on the lees (or dead yeast) for a minimum of two years. BUY WINE

 

 

Planeta La Segreta Il Bianco 2020 $12 (Sicily, Italy)

Before I delve into this wine, I’ve got to share one thing. If I had one piece of advice for people looking to up their wine game, it would be to step away from grocery store wines that hover around that $8-$12 price point. Almost all of them are domestic (usually California) wines that are commercially and industrially made. The grapes used for these wines are generally low quality and from the Central Valley of California. Pretty much you’re starting out with subpar grapes and you need to do a lot of manipulation on the backend in the winery in order to make the wine taste palatable. So, if you step away from these crappy grocery store wines, what do you drink? And remember I’m not against all grocery store wines at all, I just know the difference between industrial glug and honest, regional wine. So my advice to you is to find those honest, regional wines like this one. And look at the price point here! You can’t beat it. This Planeta wine is a blend of a few different white grapes (the local Grecanico plus some international varieties) and delivers a really refreshing, lively, and easy to drink white, due to it being all stainless steel fermented. BUY WINE

 

 

Mondillo Riesling 2021 $41.99 (Central Otago, New Zealand)

When I think of Riesling I don’t think of New Zealand. But I think now I need to start! Central Otago in the South Island of New Zealand is known for high-quality Pinot Noir. This Mondillo Riesling is a stunner. Serving up all of the markers for quality Riesling: bracing high acidity, minerality, and a faint petrol note. There are also some beautiful floral notes here, classic to Riesling. And know that this wine is totally dry. I mean a bone dry. Another thing to take away from this chat is that not all Riesling is sweet. Many people believe that. And we have Château St. Michelle to thank for that. They make a sweet Riesling that became VERY popular here in the US (especially on Thanksgiving tables). But if you’re not into sweet, just know that you can easily find dry Rieslings. Look for the word “troken” on the label, which means “dry” in German. The server at the restaurant or the person selling the wine at a wine shop can help you navigate and figure out if a bottle of Riesling is dry, sweet, or somewhere in between. I still get confused sometimes, so don’t feel any kind of way in asking for help! BUY WINE

 

 

Qupé Y Block Chardonnay 2019 $22 (Santa Barbara, CA)

I’ve got a handful of Cali wine brands that I love to recommend because they consistently deliver quality wines at the $20-ish price point. I think that’s a nice sweet spot for a lot of people. There’s plenty of people that easily spend $10-$15 on a bottle of wine and what you sometimes don’t realize, is that especially some of those big brands that you can find at every retailer, they’re not producing really well-made wine. The wine looks less like a food/agricultural product, and becomes more of this manipulated industrial product. Qupé is not that. Qupé is one of those brands that constantly churns out wines at that price point that are quite amazing. I receive a sample of their Y-Block Chardonnay from Santa Barbara every single year, and every year I’m quite happy with it. Most of the grapes are sourced from the Bien Nacido Vineyard in the cool Santa Maria Valley of northern Santa Barbara County. This is literally one of the most high-quality and well-respected vineyards in the area. How Qupé makes a $20 wine from that I’ll have no idea, but I’ll take it! This wine is barrel fermented and aged in oak, so if you have a phobia of oak, find another wine. If you love your oak and you like that warm, comforting hug from an old friend that oak gives, come on down and try this wine! BUY WINE

 

 

Rose Gold Rosé 2021 $19.99 (Provence, France)

Because there can never be too much rosé from Provence as far as I’m concerned! Also, let’s stop spreading the misinformation that rosé is only for summertime. For the record, I live in Los Angeles and it’s summertime approximately nine months out of the year. You bet your bottom dollar I am drinking rosé year-round. This Rose Gold Rosé is classic Provence in style and made from both Cinsault and Grenache grapes. From the tect sheet: the grapes are grown about 50 miles north west of St. Tropez and fermented in Provence. If that doesn’t sound delicious, I don’t know what does! BUY WINE

 

 

Prats & Symington Prazo de Roriz 2018 $17 (Douro, Portugal)

Prats & Symingnton is a partnership between the Prats family of Bordeaux and the Symington family, a traditional Port producer in Portugal. This dry red wine is a blend of traditional Portuguese grapes including Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Tinta Barroca. This wine is an example of a really light, easy Portuguese red blend. Personally, I can’t stand the whole “red blend” category that you find at places is like the grocery store and big box wine retailers. They’re usually way too ripe of fruit and way too high of alcohol. I also find that they lack structure and are a bit flabby (not enough acidity or tannin structure). Step out of the grocery store, step into a wine shop, and look for Portuguese red blends. You’ll thank me. BUY WINE

 

 

Prats & Symington Post Scriptum de Chryseia 2019 $27 (Douro, Portugal)

This wine is from the same producer, Prats & Symington, that I just mentioned, but this one has some oak aging. 15 months in new oak to be exact.  Some of the wine is also aged in used oak. The idea for this wine is that wood has a supporting role in the ensemble cast. In the words of Bruno Prats “The wood should be the frame, not the picture itself”. I love that quote, because sometimes oak is used to a gratuitous level that is just too much. Not everyone wants oaky oaky oaky ass wines. BUY WINE

 

 

Pippin Hill Vineyards Petit Verdot 2017 $60 (Monticello, Virginia)

They make wine in Virginia? Yup! Fun fact: wine is made in all 50 states. And let me tell you something: a lot of that wine is good. Virginia is an interesting place because one of their major pressures that they deal with is rain, there is a ton of rain (and also humidity) which can make it challenging to grow quality grapes. But I will say, the few Virginia wines I have tasted have been quite good. This was sent to me as part of the Maryland Governors Cup, as one of their top-rated wines. And I can see why! Petit Verdot, a grape very rarely bottled on its own, is one of the minor grapes in Bordeaux. So, if you like really dry, structured tannic reds, this Pippin Hill Petit Verdot is a good bet. Perhaps with a really nice grilled steak? BUY WINE

 

 

Tormaresca Bocca di Lupo 2016 $70 (Castel del Monte, Italy)

Aglianico is perhaps one of my most favorite semi-obscure grapes from Italy. If you know, you know. Taurasi is considered the “Barlo of the south” in Italy and is made from Aglianico. And if you are a fan of Antinori wines in Tuscany, know that Tormaresca is a brand from the same family. But with this wine, we are in Puglia in the south of Italy. The grapes for this wine are certified organic and if you’ve got a bottle of Aglianico in front of you, you’ve got a big boy wine. These wines are nothing to take lightly! Lots of deep, dark, brambly fruit plus beautiful balsamic notes. If you’ve ever been to Italy and toured a winery that has balsamic vinegar aging in barrels, you know exactly what I mean. It’s sort of this woody, earthy, yet sweet smell. Give me braised something with this wine! BUY WINE

 

 

Wente Vineyards Wetmore Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 $35 (Livermore, CA)

Wente is the classic legacy producer in the Livermore Valley of California. I know Napa and Sonoma get all of the play, but know that wine is pretty much made in every corner of California at this point. I will actually be visiting Livermore wine country early next year as I’ve never been and have never tasted the wines, aside from a few wines from Wente. I’m looking forward to that and will definitely share more! Wente is a very well-known name in the wine industry because they actually are responsible for bringing a specific clone of Chardonnay from Burgundy to California. This clone is now called the “Wente clone”. Most Chardonnay planted in the US is this clone. In terms of wine, what can you expect in Livermore? Single vineyard Cab for $35!?!? This wine is a beau and seriously overdelivers for the price point. Step out of Napa……find some deals like this! BUY WINE

 

 

Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Port $27 (Porto, Portugal)

I have been known to talk smack about Ruby Port. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and I find Ruby Port to be a bit simplistic and too cloyingly sweet for my taste. There’s nothing inherently wrong with Ruby Port, that’s just how I feel about it. OK? Reserve Port is very similar to Ruby Port except for one key factor. Ruby Port does not require any sort of aging, which is why we get those really simple red fruit notes (cherries and plums) and maybe some black fruits and sweet spices. With Reserve we are looking at up to five years barrel aging, which is going to give you a more complex wine with more intensity. This particular Graham’s Reserve Port was aged for two years in seasoned casks before bottling. I got a little bit of red fruit notes, plus lots of black fruit notes, cassis, and licorice. Fun fact, I just tried cassis for the first time a few weeks ago and I was like “yup, this is exactly what I thought it was”. This wine would be lovely with chocolate desserts. I love really leaning into richness, so like I’m thinking a rich chocolate mousse maybe with some raspberries on top or a flourless chocolate cake. If that’s a little too much for you and you prefer to contrast with a savory flavor, I would say a mature cheese could do the pairing trick. BUY WINE

 

A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: September Edition. If you miss the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below. You can re-watch it on Instagram.

In my line of work, I taste a lot of wine. And I found that a lot of wines slipped through the cracks. I couldn’t possibly cover every single wine in a blog post or on social media, so I came up with the idea to highlight the ten “Best Bottles” that I drink every month.  Without further ado, I bring to you my best bottles for the month of September!

No. 1 Family Estate Cuvée Méthode Traditionnelle NV $33 (New Zealand)

From No. 1 Family Estate in New Zealand, this Blanc de Blancs was made with 100 percent Chardonnay grapes. It was held on the lees for two years, meaning you’ll find those rich, Champagne-like characteristics. That time on the lees results in nutty, brioche-like flavors. It’s beautifully toasty with layers of stone fruit and citrus for balance. Gorgeous! BUY NOW

 

 

Scharffenberger Brut Excellence Rosé $29 (Mendocino, CA)

Scharffenberger has been making premium sparkling wine in Mendocino since 1981. This is a great area for sparkling wine because of the cool coastal influences of the Pacific Ocean. The cool temps help keep the grapes cool and help them retain acidity, which is key to making a premium sparkling wine. A really yummy “berry”ful sparkling rosé. Pretty much everything I would want in this style of wine at this price point. Grab it! BUY NOW (this is for the Brut, not the rosé)

 

 

Zenato Lugana DOC San Benedetto $19 (Lugana, Italy)

This is an exciting one to share, as I will be visiting this winery in Italy in the next couple of weeks! Zenato actually has two properties. One in Valpolicella and the other in Lugana. I’m lucky to say that I will be visiting both properties on my trip! The Zenato legacy of winemaking spans over 60 years starting with the family’s patriarch Sergio and continuing today with his wife Carla and their children Nadia and Alberto. Turbiana is the white grape used to make Lugana wine, a refreshing and dynamic white from a Lugana DOC near Lake Garda. When I tasted the wine, the first thing I wrote on the tech sheet was “jesus that’s good”. I get aromas and flavors of lemon and lime zest, peaches, and majorly high acid, almost mouth puckering. I had this with some homemade elote and it was incredible. BUY NOW

 

 

Domaine Anderson 2019 Estate Chardonnay $35.99 (Anderson Valley, CA)

This wine from Domaine Anderson is rich and full, yet bright and clean. How do they do that? I actually have no idea! But I do love that juxtaposition, and that tension in wines. There’s a beautiful salinity also that cuts right through the middle. Mouthwatering acidity. As the wine came up to temperature, I got a really nice tart apple note. BUY NOW

 

 

Cattleya Cuvée Number Five 2020 Chardonnay $55 (Sonoma Coast, CA)

A very special wine from Cattleya Wines. This wine is a singular clone of Chardonnay (clone 76) from one vineyard site on the Sonoma Coast. This is definitely a terroir driven wine, but with a lot of winemaking behind it. Technique: grapes were hand harvested and hand sorted before being gently pressed and transferred to tank for overnight cold settling. Juice was in racked into French oak barrels, 60% new. Indigenous yeast carried out a slow fermentation over a four-month period, preserving the purity of fruit. 17 months undisturbed aging. No fining, no filtration. An incredibly rich and opulent Chardonnay but with major sophistication. Like Shaggy says: smooth, just like a silk a… BUY NOW

 

 

Bouchaine 2021 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir $29 (Carneros, CA)

Fun fact: I actually have an article coming out next month all about Bouchaine Vineyards in the Carneros area of Napa Valley. Bouchaine has a cool story starting with the great niece of Composer Sergei Rachmaninoff and the fact that they have an all-female run enterprise. From the owner, the winemaker, the winery crew, and the vineyard crew. All women! Quite incredible! The difference between vin gris and rosé is slight. In both cases we’re talking about a pink colored wine made from red grapes. The only difference is that a vin gris is very very light in color. This is due to the fact that there is almost no contact between the grape juice and the skins, which is what gives a wine it’s color. A really pretty wine full of red fruit notes (strawberries and watermelon) plus white flower notes. BUY NOW

 

 

District Seven 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon $20 (Monterey, CA)

Let’s hear it for cheap and cheerful! And before we delve into what’s in the bottle, let me tell you a little bit about District 7 Wines. District 7 is under the Scheid Family Wines label, long time growers in Monterey County. Their vineyards are 100% certified sustainable and the winery is 100% powered by wind. How cool is that!? For the record, I thoroughly enjoyed this wine slightly chilled. BUY NOW

 

 

 

Oberon Wines 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon $25.99 (Napa County, CA)

Some say that making a value priced Cab Sauv in Napa is impossible. I’m here to disagree! You can find it, you just have to look hard. Luckily, I’m saving some time by giving it right to ya! This wine is easy-drinking and approachable upon release! Dark ripe fruit notes plus layers of tobacco and sweet spice permeate the palate. A touch of Petit Verdot and Zinfandel add richness and round it all out for this crowd pleaser of a red! BUY NOW (10-20% discount at the link, depending on how many bottles you buy)

 

 

Castello di Fonterutoli 2017 Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG $74 (Tuscany, Italy)

Castello di Fonterutoli is a historic property just south of Castellina in Chianti in the heart of Chianti Classico. The Mazzei family has been making wine on this property for 24 generations. This is their flag ship wine. Showing beautiful floral notes of violets and lavender, plus red fruits and black cherries. 100% Sangiovese. 100% perfection. BUY NOW

 

 

Ehlers Estate 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon $77 (Napa Valley, CA)

Ehlers is a beautiful estate up in Napa Valley that I visited years ago. They have a historical barn on site, which I believe is where the tasting room is located. Quite beautiful. This Napa Cab is their best-selling SKU across the nine wines they make. The nose is showing big juicy dark fruit. And on the palate I get dusty tannins, minerality, and stunning balance. BUY NOW (plus, it’s on sale!)

 

 

A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: August Edition. If you miss the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below. You can re-watch it on Instagram.

In my line of work, I taste a lot of wine. And I found that a lot of wines slipped through the cracks. I couldn’t possibly cover every single wine in a blog post or on social media, so I came up with the idea to highlight the ten “Best Bottles” that I drink every month.  Without further ado, I bring to you my best bottles for the month of August!

 

Bonterra Canned Wine $4.99/can (California)

Fetzer, the parent company of Bonterra just changed their name to “Bonterra Organic Estates”. Bonterra is the largest owner of land planted to organic grape vines in the country. As you may know, they’re one of my favorite easy to find, grocery store brands. And these cans are no exception. I tried the Brut Bubbles (Viognier and French Colombard) and Rosé Bubbles (Grenache, Mourvèdre and Malbec). Cheap, cheerful, and portable make for a perfect canned wine combination. Oh, and the cans are GORGeous! BUY HERE

Wine Tasting Education | Bonterra

 

 

Jordan Cuvée AR Lenoble NV Champagne $49 (Champagne, France)

Jordan Winery in the Anderson Valley is an interesting brand study. They make two wines. Literally two SKUs. But yet, they almost always land on the top of the Wine & Spirits Restaurant Top 50 list . How do you create such a dedicated, loyal following if you only make two wines? It’s the experience: the Jordan Experience. Stay tuned for more, as I will cover Jordan in an upcoming piece for Monarch Wine. A partnership with a Champagne house is the perfect example of the Jordan Experience. It’s exactly what the Jordan customer would want. And, for the record, this bottle of bubbly majorly overdelivers for its $49 price point. BUY HERE

 

Wine Tasting Los Angeles | Jordan Cuvee

 

Sosie Wines 2019 “A Moment of Weakness” Sparkling Red $40 (Sonoma County, CA)

If you ever find yourself in the Sonoma Square, seek out Sosie Wines for relaxing and comfortable wine tasting in a charming alley off the main drag. I have had many Sosie wines, but had never tried this one, and was so glad it was included in my flight. I’m a sucker for a dry dry, food friendly sparkling red. This checked all the boxes. My perfect pairing: a charcuterie plate with cured meats, salami, mustard, and cornichons. Chef’s <kiss> BUY HERE

 

Virtual Team Events | Sosie Wines

 

32 Winds 2019 Sauvignon Blanc $29 (Dry Creek Valley, CA)

32 Winds is a GEM just outside of the Healdsburg Square. A gorgeous tasting room set just on the banks of Dry Creek. On a recent visit to Sonoma, I enjoyed two nights in their vineyard cottage that is exclusively available to wine club members. If that’s not a motivation to join, I don’t know what is! A really nice Sauvignon Blanc serving a fuller mouthfeel and texture that separates it from run of the mill Sauvy B. BUY HERE

 

Virtual Wine Tasting Party | 32 Winds

 

Cantine Ermes Quattro Quarti 2019 Grillo $15 (Sicily, Italy)

Grillo, an indigenous Italian grape, is the most common white grape of Sicily. The younger generation of winemakers here are showcasing its modern potential, specifically in blends with Chardonnay and Cataratto. High acid and refreshing Grillo gives aromas of fresh cut grass and grapefruit. What food to enjoy Grillo with? Crudo or sashimi, poké, grilled fish or octopus. Lighter meals of summer, specifically ones served all fresco, call for Grillo. Bottom line, Grillo is your perfect Sicilian Summer Sipper, especially this one from Cantine Ermes

 

Wine Class Los Angeles | Cantine Ermes

 

Freeman Vineyard Ryo-fu 2019 Chardonnay $45 (West Sonoma, CA)

Freeman Vineyard & Winery (in Sebastopol) was founded by husband and wife team, Ken and Akiko Freeman in 2001. Their focus is on cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, so it’s no surprise that “ryo-fu” means “cool breeze” in Japanese. A full-bodied and mouth coating Chardonnay, but with a refreshing, clean finish. A gorgeous wine, and one of many in their lineup. BUY HERE

 

Wine Taster Sommelier | Freeman Vineyard

 

Littorai Charles Heintz Vineyard 2020 Chardonnay $95 (West Sonoma, CA)

Littorai is in the true “North Coast” of California with a focus on single vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They have farmed biodynamically since 2003 but hold no certifications. They are not dogmatic in their farming philosophies, and choose to just do what is best for the land and the wine. When you visit it sure does look like a true biodynamic property with forest, pasture, sheep, cows, ducks, a donkey, vegetable gardens, and fruit trees. This vineyard designate white sees a bit more new oak than their appellation series whites. Beautiful tropical notes, including bananas. BUY HERE

 

Virtual Wine Tasting | Littorai

 

J Vineyards Eastside Knoll Vineyard 2019 Pinot Noir (Russian River Valley, CA) $65

I recently visited J Vineyards in Sonoma. Let me first say that their Bubble Room is a place to visit! Ok, back to the wine. The Eastside Knoll Vineyard is an estate vineyard minutes away from the tasting room. It is planted solely to Pinot Noir and was the first estate vineyard to provide grapes for their sparkling wine, what they are known for. This wine serves up all the red fruit notes plus forest floor and a hint of toasty oak. I enjoyed this wine as I was overlooking the Eastside Knoll vineyard, and it doesn’t get any better than that: enjoying wine direct from the source.  BUY HERE

 

Virtual Wine Tasting Team Building | J Vineyards

 

Matthiasson 2019 Refosco $45 (Napa Valley, CA)

Steve and Jill Matthiason are the poster children for the “new California” when it comes to wine. Though that title is a bit outdated, as a lot has changed since the 80s and 90s. We’re speaking of those producers who rejected the “Parkerization” of wine. Their wines are lighter, fresher, and more vibrant.  While they do make international varieties such as Chardonnay and Cabernet, they also make Refosco and Ribolla Gialla, indigenous grapes to Italy. To say that Matthiason beats to their own drum is an understatement. To me, this wine represents the Matthiassons to a T. 

 

Virtual Wine Tasting | Matthiasson

 

Peay Vineyards Scallop Shelf Estate Pinot Noir 2017 $80 (West Sonoma, CA)

We’re in Annapolis in the new West Sonoma AVA, which is a nested AVA within the Sonoma Coast. Pronounced “pay”, Peay is an absolutely beautiful place to visit (Redwoods as far as the eye can see), but you have to really want to go here. It’s about an hour from anything. And I mean, anything. Plus, a 5 mile dirt road, once you arrive to the address. Serving the brightest, juiciest Pinot Noir aromas and flavors of raspberries and cranberries, this wine is a revelation. Eric Asimov from the NY Times agrees as well. BUY HERE

 

Wine Expert Sommelier | Peay

 

A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: July Edition. If you miss the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below or you can re-watch it on my Instagram feed.

Without further ado, I bring to you my best bottles for the month of July!

Acquiesce Winery Picpoul Blanc 2020 $30 (Lodi, CA)

Y’all know my love for Acquiesce Winery and Vineyards in Lodi, California. A female owned wine label that (defiantly) only produces white and rosé wines in red wine country. What is so fun about Sue Tipton‘s wines is that she focuses on Rhône varieties. And even the Rhône varieties that most of us have never heard of! Not only does she grow those grapes and make those wines, but she also bottles them varietally, which means she’s bottling them with those obscure grapes specifically on the label. This means that the majority of the grapes that are used to make the wine in the bottle are that grape. Versus white Rhône blends, which are very common. With her wines, you have an opportunity to try things that are very rare and very hard to come across. This Picpoul Blanc gives deep stone fruit notes really popping into the tropical fruit realm. Off the chart acid, and a slight oiliness which is a characteristic I regularly find in white Rhône wines. BUY HERE

virtual wine tasting

Chateau Canteloudette Entre-Deux-Mers 2020 $15 (Bordeaux, France)

We are in Bordeaux between two seas, or Entre-Deux-Mers, as you see on the label. Bordeaux is a region in France that is famous for its incredible red wines. Which means that a lot of times people sleep on their white wines. A white Bordeaux is really nothing to ignore! As a reminder when we are in the Old World, or in Europe, we can only grow certain grapes in certain regions. In Bordeaux the white grapes allowed are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. So, if you’re a Sauvy B drinker, and want to try something different, reach for a white Bordeaux. You really don’t need to know more than that. If you see a wine bottle that says Bordeaux on the front of the label and it’s white, it’s gonna be Sauvy B based. This Chateau Canteloudette wine is super easy to drink, a daily drinker, porch pounder if you will. We don’t need to go any deeper than that. This is your “I’m having a bunch of people over, throw a few bottles on ice type of wine” and everyone will be happy. BUY HERE

employee appreciation gifts

The Mill Keeper Chardonnay Multi-Vintage $28 (Napa Valley, CA)

Third generation farmer Tom Gamble is at the helm of The Mill Keeper, with the goal of delivering quality wine at competitive price points. Tom has farmed high-quality fruit in the Napa Valley for the last three decades and brings his skill set to The Mill Keeper. What is unique about this wine, and about the Cabernet Sauvignon I will speak about later, is that these are both “multi vintage” wines. Meaning that the grapes that were used to make the wine in this bottle came from more than one year or more than one harvest. To give you some context, I would say something like 95% of wines on the market come from a specific vintage. You will almost always see that vintage or year on the front of the label. Exceptions can be some really cheap sort of bulk wines or interestingly enough, Champagne. In Champagne, multi vintage blends are very common. You will see the letters NV on the front of the label of a non-vintage champagne. Needless to say, this is an interesting decision by Tom, and I wanted to know his why. And here are his words exactly: (With a multi-vintage wine) “We can make a wine that over-delivers on quality for a consumer-friendly price point. The idea for The Mill Keeper started with making wine from dropped fruit; we experimented with winemaking techniques for years until we got it right, and along the way, we found that blending vintages made for a pleasing more affordable wine overall. We’ve done surveys that show that Millennials that are new to wine find quality and price to be far more important than vintage. We currently have the happy challenge of trying to keep up with demand. I will keep making my high-end luxury wines under the Gamble Family Vineyards brand, but with The Mill Keeper I am having a blast introducing a new generation to wine at a price they can afford. Coexistence. It is possible.” And now let’s quickly move to the glass. I almost would not call this one a Chardonnay by the nose! It is definitely a lighter style Chardonnay that would be delightful served with a cream or butter-based pasta or fish to cut through the fat in the dish. BUY HERE

wine tasting southern california

Two Wolves Rosé 2021 (Santa Barbara County, CA)

Two Wolves is a vineyard and winery owned by Alecia Moore a.k.a. the artist Pink. She has gotten a lot of attention in the wine world because of her intentionality and commitment to learning the craft of growing grapes and making wine. If you follow her and the winery on social media, you will frequently see her studying for wine certifications, riding a tractor, showing the steps of the fermentation process, etc. Without knowing much more, it does feel like there is a hefty dose of authenticity in what she’s doing up in Santa Barbara wine country. I have been on her allocation list since the beginning and I’ve been hoarding her wines for the last three years. Recently I realized it was time for me to taste the rosés that I had in my cellar, as I had one from 2019, 2020, and 2021. Wanted to make sure none of them were past their prime. This current release rosé is made from Grenache grapes. And I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but this is one of the palest rosés I have ever seen. It would almost be mistaken for a white wine in the glass. Which means we have very little skin contact during fermentation, as the skin contact is what gives a rosé it’s color. Don’t be fooled into believing people who say that the darker the rosé, the sweeter the wine. Sweetness has absolutely nothing to do with the color. This wine was ethereal and on another level. It was just so vibrant and so mouthwateringly juicy and delicious and I cannot wait to try all of the other wines! BUY HERE

virtual team building events

Lucy Rosé of Pinot Noir 2021 $22 (Monterey, CA)

This Monterey rosé from the Pisoni family with Lucy is a winner on all fronts. A beautiful nose of wildflowers and sea spray give you a hint as to what’s to come on the palate. Speaking of the palate, high acid reigns, but there is more to this wine than just that. A lot of these sort of vapid rosés can lack depth. But there’s some gumption with this wine (there’s some booty!), there’s something behind it. I also get a beautiful blood orange note on the palate, and there is a nice crisp tartness to the fruit. Helloooooo coastal rosé. BUY HERE

wine tasting los angeles

Sosie Wines Rosé of Syrah 2021 $32 (Sonoma, CA)

Sosie Wines is a Sonoma based winery with a tasting room just off of the Sonoma Square. I hope to go visit during my trip up north in the next couple of weeks. I will report back! This is a really lovely rosé to highlight for people who want a bigger more structured rosé. A lot of rosés can be quite light, watered down, and vapid. This is not that! For one this is a rosé of Syrah. Syrah is a sort of bigger more buxom grape that delivers good structure and color and vibrancy and tannins. In the summertime we’re always talking about porch pounders, and I would not call this wine a porch pounder. It really is quite structured. And though this term is overused, it is a true “rosé for red wine drinkers”. I recently enjoyed it with some Brazilian barbecue takeout that included grilled shrimp, plantains, black beans, and yucca flour. And it was an absolutely perfect pairing. BUY HERE

wine tasting at home

El Coto Rioja Crianza 2019 $19 (Rioja, Spain)

Grab your passports, because we are in Rioja, Spain with this Tempranillo based red wine. Remember, back in the Old World, which is where we are here (in Europe) we have a lot of rules and regulations when it comes to growing grapes and making wine. The Rioja aging system is one of those highly regulated processes. With Rioja we first start with Crianza, then we move to Reserva and then we move to Gran Reserva. Each level up is going to require more cellar and or bottle aging. For a wine in Rioja to be labeled Crianza, it has to have spent at least one year aging in oak barrels. For the Reserva level we are talking about a minimum aging (between oak and bottle) of three years. At least one of those years has to be in barrel followed by a minimum of six months aging in bottle. For Gran Reserva we are talking about a total aging of at least five years with at least two years in oak barrels and two years in bottle. Note that this aging structure is solely for red wines. The Rioja white wines have different qualifications. OK, let’s get to the wine. I had a lot of thoughts about this wine when I first put my nose to it. This would be a wine that so many people wouldn’t give the time of day to unfortunately. Whether it’s people who like really high-end Napa Cab or people who drink that mass produced commercial grocery store glug that taste like a fruit bomb and a charred barrel had a baby. This El Coto Rioja wine is so bright, the fruit is so red, and beautiful violet notes dance out of the glass. The palate is juicy, fruity and just delightful. Especially as a red wine in the summertime. In fact, chill me up Scotty! I would put this bad boy on ice for about 20 or 30 minutes before enjoying it and it would be <chefs kiss> BUY HERE (2017 vintage)

los angeles wine tasting

Kukkula Pas de Deux 2018 $60 (Paso Robles, CA)

Pas de Deux from Kukkula in Paso Robles is a Grenache dominant blend with Syrah. Pas de Deux means “a dance for two” or “a close relationship between two people or things” in French. With the idea being that Syrah and Grenache, both red Rhône varieties, dance beautifully together. Kukkula (kook-koo-luh) in Finnish means the hill or high place. Finnish Kevin Jussila and his wife Paula moved to Paso in 2004 to start the process of building their home, winery, vineyard, and olive orchard. Kevin had no formal winemaking training when he started making wine in 1992 in the basement of his Topanga, California home. Kukkula focuses on organic, dry farmed, low intervention wines from Rhône varieties in Paso Robles. Loved this wine. Definitely a dance between the lighter Grenache and the deeper, more soulful Syrah. BUY HERE

virtual wine tastings

Terra d’Oro Zinfandel 2018 $18 (Amador County, CA)

We are in Amador County near Sacramento with this 2018 Zinfandel from Terra d’Oro. Zinfandel is one of those grapes that a lot of people have opinions about. Whether they’re thinking about white Zinfandel or whether they’re thinking of overripe jammy cheapy grocery store Zinfandel, Zinfandel is actually quite a noble grape that can do great work in the bottle and in the glass. When handled correctly you end up with a robust and juicy wine that actually is quite light and not overwhelming. It sort of seems like a juxtaposition, and it kind of is. As long as you have some acidity and strong fruit intensity with a throughline of balance, you know you’ve got a good Zinfandel in the glass. This wine is showing beautiful red fruits and gives a really nice warming characteristic, which is usually because of a slightly higher alcohol that Zinfandel has, and this is no exception with 14.5% ABV. BUY HERE

virtual wine tasting party

The Mill Keeper Cabernet Sauvignon Multi-Vintage $35 (Napa Valley, CA)

And we are back with The Mill Keeper by Gamble Family Vineyards. This is their Multi-Vintage Cabernet Sauvignon. The same conversation and notes we discussed with the Chardonnay will apply here. This really is an easy drinking Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. And those words don’t usually flow together! Soft tannins and balanced fruit make for a really pleasant drink. Call this “the lighter side of Napa”. BUY HERE

virtual team events

One of the my most favorite comfort foods is an empanada. My father’s family hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and empanadas are a staple on the table. They’re regularly enjoyed on the go, and if you go to a friend’s house for an asado (our word for BBQ), empanadas are most certainly going to be the first course for everyone to enjoy while the meat cooks on the parrilla, or outdoor grill.

Empanadas are not unique to Argentina. Many Latin American countries (and other countries around the world) have their own version of a turnover made from pastry dough and stuffed with savory fillings. Empanadas are named from the Spanish verb “empanar” which means “to wrap or coat in bread or dough.” In Argentina, empanadas are a way of life. Depending on the region you are from, they can be either baked or fried. For the record, baked is the only way to go. Told you, they’re a way of life. Almost a religion with fierce loyalty to the style and the flavors you grew up with.

I have memories of making empanadas in the kitchen with my grandmother (Nana) and also my stepmom. Preparing the various filling in large mixing bowls and creating a sort of assembly line to put them all together and prepare them for baking. Nowadays, I don’t make empanadas from scratch very often. And like most ethnic foods you grow up on, finding options that remind you of home can be tough. I’ve tried a few empanadas locally here in LA and have always been sorely disappointed. But I recently tried empanadas from Catalina’s Market in Hollywood and was SO impressed. These are the closest empanadas I’ve tasted to what I grew up on and what I’ve had in Argentina. I highly recommend a visit. Catalina’s is a Latin American market with food and products from many Central and South American countries.

As you would expect, once I found these amazing empanadas, I had to pair some wines with them! Below are a few of my favorite pairings I pulled together for my empanada and wine night!

 

Empanada: Spinach (or pasqualina)

Wine Pairing: Mosmieri Kakhuri 2017 Premium Amber Dry (Georgia) $20

One of my most favorite empanadas. This is our version of a spinach and feta turnover. This empanada is obviously savory and has some bitter notes from the greens (spinach) and the tart cheese. A perfect companion here is an orange wine, which is similarly bitter. This is the “like with like” food and wine pairing principle to pair things together with similar characteristics. I received this wine a couple years back from a wine “secret Santa” group I belong to. This was the perfect opportunity to pull it out! And it’s a weird one! A wine from Georgia. The country, not the state. Georgia is considered the cradle of wine civilization. They have been making wine for thousands of years. Here we have an amber or orange wine from Mosmieri. To understand what an orange wine is, you first need to start with a white wine. White wine is made with little to no skin contact during fermentation. If the winemaker decides to keep the skins in contact during fermentation for an extended period of time, we end up with a wine that gives an amber/orange color. Warning! Some orange wines, especially orange wines from Georgia, can be really, really funky. I’m talking funktastic voyage. This one is actually quite quaffable and totally still taste like wine. I dig it. And it worked perfectly with the empanada de pasqualina. BUY HERE

wine tasting los angeles

Empanada: Corn (or humita)

Wine Pairing: Ruhlmann Pinot Gris 2020 (Alsace, France) $17

Another classic empanada filling is corn. This is a very simple and humble empanada with only the corn plus some simple seasonings and spices. The whisper of sweetness in this slightly off-dry Ruhlmann Pinot Gris really brought out the sweetness in the corn filling. There’s that “like with like” food and wine pairing principle again!

virtual wine tastings

Empanada: Chicken

Wine Pairing: Thacher Winery Own-Rooted Chenin Blanc 2020 (Paso Robles, CA) $36

Chicken empanadas include shredded chicken, onion, bell pepper, and various seasonings. I loved this empanada with the Thacher Chenin Blanc. Thacher is a low-intervention winery, meaning not much is done in terms of winemaking and grapes and terroir are to speak for themselves. They’re part of what I call “new school Paso” and focus on making wines that are lower in alcohol, have higher acidity, and use different grapes than the usual suspects. Chenin Blanc is a white grape from the Loire Valley in France that gives very different expressions depending on where it is grown. Here we get a really nice green fruit note, moving into tropical. This is the perfect summer porch pounder and paired famously with the chicken empanada. Unfortunately, this bottle appears to be sold out, but hopefully the next vintage arrives soon!

los angeles wine tasting

Empanada: Spicy Chicken

Wine Pairing: Vinos Lechuza Pluma 2020 (Valle de Guadalupe, Baja Mexico) $30

As it sounds, this is the same chicken empanada, but with quite a bit of heat to it. A tough thing to pair, for sure. I decided to go with a chillable red. I wanted to something that would stand up to the robust flavors, but would also cool your mouth down a bit from the spice. This wine hit it like a nail on the head! Vinos Lechuza’s claim to fame is that their wines are served at French Laundry in Napa Valley. Thomas Keller discovered the Vinos Lechuza wines while in Cabo San Lucas, and subsequently added them to his French Laundry wine list. This is a 100% unfiltered Nebbiolo meant to be served chilled. Trust me, it’s delicious. And before you try this wine, suspend all thoughts about Nebbiolo from Piemonte. This wine appears to be sold out, but hopefully the next vintage will arrive soon!

wine tasting at home

Empanada: Beef

Wine Pairing: Catena Zapata Malbec 2019 (Mendoza, Argentina) $20

Saved the best for last. The beef empanada is the most popular and the most prolific throughout Argentina. And every region has their own specific recipe with the most important distinction being: do you include raisins in the filling or not. This one did NOT have raisins in it, but I do love me a beef empanada with raisins in it, for the record! What else to pair with the most classic empanada than the most classic Argentinian wine: Malbec; especially thiss one from classic producer Catena Zapata. This wine serves up Plums, violets, chocolate. A notch up from the basic $10 grocery store Malbecs. BUY HERE

virtual wine tasting party

You’re in the center of London in the hustle and bustle, far away from wineries in England. You check out of your hotel, roll your suitcase to the tube station, brushing shoulders with countless people on the street before you head underground to catch your train. In a little over an hour, you emerge from the train station in a pastoral, rural setting with lambs and baby cows in every pasture! It is time to exhale and enjoy the calm, relaxed pace of English wine country.

The bulk of the wineries in England lie south of London in the Kent and Sussex areas, near Brighton. This area is known for the traditional method of sparkling wine, made in the same style as Champagne. In fact, 75% of all wine in this region is sparkling. If you find yourself scratching your head at the mention of English wine, you’re not alone. In decades prior, the quality of wine coming out of England was questionable. The region was too cold and wet to grow quality grapes for wine.

Climate change and increasing temperatures have, in fact, allowed for more quality grapes to be grown in English wine countries. Still, the region struggles with frost pressure with the weather being consistently inconsistent, as the locals say. If you need another reason to believe that wine quality here is increasing, know that Champagne houses Pommery and Tattinger have both planted in the area.

 

Wineries in England

In the Kent/Sussex areas, there are over 400 vineyards growing grapes for wine and 200 producers making wine. In short, there’s a lot of choices to make. I visited these wineries in England in April of this year, and I am going to share with you my tips to make it a hassle-free experience. 

First off, decide if you are going to come for a day trip or a weekend trip. If you opt for a day trip, a visit to Gusbourne, a very popular winery, works out nicely, as they have half day experiences including a tasting, tour, plus lots of food. A great “one stop shop”.  Secondly, make a decision between the areas of Kent or Sussex. Trying to do both in a day or in a weekend is like trying to combine Napa and Sonoma. It’s virtually impossible and just too spread out. 

 

Planning Your Trip to Wineries in England

When planning your trip to English wine country, just remember that things move slower in the countryside, and adjust your expectations accordingly. This is a younger wine region than most, with the hospitality details literally being figured out as we speak. During my visit, I heard multiple people say that they are looking to the US for examples of hospitality best practices. I would allow at least 2 weeks (before arriving to the UK) to plan your trip. 

You have a couple options on how to structure your visit. You can do an organized trip with a tour company who will handle transport while there, winery visit appointments, and meals. This is a nice all-inclusive solution for those wanting to skip the planning process and just show up. Might I recommend Sussex Wine Tours. They were the first place I reached out to, but I had a specific itinerary I needed to follow, so a group trip didn’t work out. They did go over and above to help me find a private driver to execute my itinerary. I have no doubt their attention to detail translates to their tours as well. 

The other option (as I did) is to plan your own trip. The pro is that you’ll get to visit the exact places you want. But the con is that it takes some effort to plan (see my “2 week” comment above). Lots of pieces to try and pull together, different people to contact, etc. 

 

Getting to Wineries in England

Let me be clear: no ground transport option is “cheap” at the moment. Whether you rent a car or hire a driver. Like many countries, they are dealing with staffing/labor shortages and high gas prices. So prepared to spend some serious $$ to get around. 

For one, you can opt to rent a car in London proper and drive yourself to wine country. It’s about an hour or an hour and a half drive. You just have to be comfortable driving on the “wrong” side of the road and possibly on some unpaved country roads. 

If the prospect of renting a car in the UK is stressful, the train is a GREAT option to get from London to the wineries in England. The problem (like most trains to wine country) is that once you get to wine country, you will need a car, as everything is so spread out. And I was told repeatedly that replying on Uber or any other ridesharing app is virtually impossible. 

PRO TIP: When you buy your train tickets, read the fine print carefully so you know all of the fare rules. I am told if you purchase the incorrect fare type or ticket, the fines are steep! Trainline.com is where I procured my tickets. 

 

Hiring a Driver to Wineries in England

As for hiring private drivers, I have the TOP resources for you, whether you’re tasting in Kent or Sussex. I used both of them, had stellar experience, and I am so happy to share them with you. I private driver is exactly as it sounds. A car and driver for you…..all day! I found it so nice and relaxing. Especially as I was getting off of the train with my suitcase and what not. Plus, it’s so lovely to talk to a local in a relaxed, and comfortable setting.  

 

Your Private Driver in Kent

Married couple Claire and Matt run Biddenden Cars Ltd throughout the Kent area. They were both so friendly and we had some delightful conversations during our short journeys. They were even so kind as to hold me suitcase for the day, so that I wouldn’t have to lug it around the wineries.

 

Your Private Driver in Sussex

Dean was a DOLL and I fully enjoyed my day with him as my driver. His company is Hughes Chauffeurs and they have a fleet of 40 cars. They can handle things like single trips (such as a visit to only one winery) or a private hire for the day.

 

Things to Do When Visiting Wineries in England 

I stayed at the Little Silver Country Hotel in Tenterden and loved it! A quaint little country hotel/B&B with some really nice touches including an outdoor garden and a super comfortable and modern bathroom with a killer bathtub that I took full advantage of. I am told there are also lots of AirBnBs and really small country inns that are just charming. 

I found it to be VERY quiet and chill in most parts and I don’t get the vibe that this is a culinary destination. Each town appears to have a local watering hole and a few casual eateries. I was only there one night, so I didn’t get to explore too much. 

Note that both Brighton (on the coast) and Ashford (the local college town) are more happening spots and quite close to wineries in England. Lots more to do. Depending on what type of trip you want, this may or may not appeal to you. I was into the quiet countryside bed and breakfast type place and didn’t need “things to do.”

 

Wineries in England to Visit

On my trip to English wine country, I visited three wineries. Unfortunately, my planning wasn’t great (which is why I decided to write this post) and they were very spread out. Because of that, I wouldn’t recommend my exact visits as an “itinerary”. You can read my reviews of Stopham Vineyard, Ridgeview Wine Estate, and Gusbourne at my article on WineTourism.com

Come with patience. Be ready to slow down. Leave your city vibes in the city. Relax and enjoy English wine country. 

A new month awaits, which means a new batch of wines for me to share with you for my Best Bottles: June Edition. If you miss the IG Live, don’t fret, all the wine details are below or you can re-watch it on my IGTV channel.

Without further ado, I bring to you my best bottles for the month of June!

 

Teneral Cellars 2019 Chardonnay (Monterey, CA) $28

Teneral Cellars supports a different charitable organization with every quarterly release and is committed to social justice issues, women’s health and empowerment, and combating climate change. Teneral Cellars is also a women owned winery. This wine is part of their Peace Love & Joy collection that came out over the holidays with $10 from every sale going to the World Central Kitchen. I found the Chardonnay to be refreshing and exactly what I want in a summertime Chardonnay. Not too oaky, not too buttery, but with plenty of taste to satisfy the Chardcore in you. BUY HERE.

 

Los Angeles wine tasting

 

Miguel Torres Pazo das Bruxas 2019 Albariño (Rías Baixas, Spain) $18.99

We are in the Rías Baixas region of Spain for this delicious Miguel Torres Albariño. This means we are on the west coast of Spain in an area known as “Green Spain”. All of the maritime influence from the Atlantic Ocean brings immense precipitation and rain causing there to be a lot of green landscape in the area. For those who don’t know, I always share Albariño as a great alternative to Sauvy B. If you are in a Sauvignon Blanc rut, definitely try an Albariño. You will almost never pay more than $20 a bottle and the wines are as close to “satisfaction guaranteed” as you can get! BUY HERE

 

wine expert sommelier

 

Thacher Winery Own-Rooted Chenin Blanc 2020 (Paso Robles, CA) $36

Paso Robles has a certain reputation when it comes to wine. Paso is hot hot hot, and the reputation is that the wines are BIG, high alcohol, and jammy. Yes, some are. This is not that. For one, Thacher is a low-intervention winery, meaning not much is done in terms of winemaking and grapes and terroir are to speak for themselves. They’re part of what I call “new school Paso” and focus on making wines that are lower in alcohol, have higher acidity, and use different grapes than the usual suspects. Own-rooted signifies that the grapevine is literally planted on its own roots. Versus being grafted, which is very common. Grafting is when the shoot system (the part of the vine that the grape bunches grow on) and root system come from two different places. This is generally done when heartier rootstocks are needed to resist pests, or to be a better match to the soil type and composition. Chenin Blanc is a white grape from the Loire Valley in France that gives very different expressions depending on where it is grown. Here we get a really nice green fruit note, moving into tropical. This is the perfect summer porch pounder. Unfortunately this bottle appears to be sold out, but hopefully the next vintage arrives soon!

 

virtual wine tasting

 

Mosmieri Kakhuri 2017 Premium Amber Dry (Georgia) $20

Here’s a weird one for you! A wine from Georgia. The country, not the state. Georgia is considered the cradle of wine civilization. They have been making wine for thousands of years. Here we have an amber or orange wine from Mosmieri. To understand what an orange wine is, you first need to start with a white wine. White wine is made with little to no skin contact during fermentation. If the winemaker decides to keep the skins in contact during fermentation for an extended period of time, we end up with a wine that gives an amber/orange color. Warning! Some orange wines, especially orange wines from Georgia, can be really, really funky. I’m talking funktastic voyage. This one is actually quite quaffable and totally still taste like wine. I dig it. BUY HERE

 

wine tasting Los Angeles

 

Imagery 2019 Pinot Noir (California) $20

Searching for a quality Pinot Noir under $20 is like searching for a meaning in a Pauly Shore movie. Get it? Get the reference? It’s Clueless for those who don’t know The key to this Imagery Pinot Noir is: balance. This is the thing that separates the men from the boys. The so so wine from the great wine. The fruit on this wine is a bit jammy and rich: things like strawberry, cherry, and boysenberry. But we also have some well-integrated oak influence, and a little bit of Petit Verdot blended and to add body and color. BUY HERE

 

Wine tasting education

 

Prats + Symington 2017 Prazo de Roriz (Douro, Portugal) $17

Prats + Symington is a well-known Port producer in the Douro Valley of northern Portugal. As per Port production rules, only a portion of the estate’s grapes can be used each year to make Port wines. This is the reason why many Port producers also make non-fortified, dry, red table wines. What else are they gonna do with the grapes? What I love about Portuguese dry red wines is that they are complex, yet approachable. And about as food friendly as you can get, and this wine is no exception. It was a hit at a recent dinner party I attended and paired beautifully with Argentinian empanadas. BUY HERE

 

Wine tasting at home

 

Salentein Numina Gran Corte 2016 (Mendoza, Argentina) $40.99

The Bodegas Salentein estate is situated against the backdrop formed by the Andes. Numina Gran Corte is a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. The traditional red Bordeaux grapes. These grapes from Argentina’s Uco Valley in Mendoza are from some of the highest elevation in vineyards on the planet. I generally find Malbec to be quite plummy and velvety, and overall, easy-drinking and smooth. The addition of the other Bordeaux varieties really kicks this wine up a notch to give it a deeper sort of more complex and luxurious vibe. BUY HERE

 

Virtual wine tastings

 

Vinos Lechuza Pluma 2020 (Valle de Guadalupe, Baja Mexico) $30

Vinos Lechuza’s claim to fame is that their wines are served at French Laundry in Napa Valley. Thomas Keller discovered the Vinos Lechuza wines while in Cabo San Lucas, and subsequently added them to his French Laundry wine list. It’s a small(ish) property with a simple tasting room and beautiful outdoor space. Be sure to do the tasting outside on their patio…it’s beautiful. This is a 100% unfiltered Nebbiolo meant to be served chilled. Trust me, it’s delicious. And before you try this wine, suspend all thoughts about Nebbiolo from Piemonte. This wine appears to be sold out, but hopefully the next vintage will arrive soon!

 

Wine class Los Angeles

 

Domaine Bousquet Le Petit Verre (Mendoza, Argentina)

These cans are full of certified organic wine from Argentina‘s Uco Valley. In French “Le Petit Verre” means “small glass”. Domaine Bousquet was started by a family originally from France, hence the nod. We have the Malbec and a Bubbly Rosé. These are 250 mL cans (1/3 of a bottle of wine) and both are totally dry and totally delicious. For reference, the bubbly rosé is a motley blend of Pinot Noir, Syrah, Pinot Gris, and Viognier. But I can attest that it comes together really nicely! Also, a great price at $13 for a 4 pack! These cans will be on the market very soon! 

 

Virtual wine tastings

One of the best parts about living in Los Angeles is the broad availability of food from just about every culture you can think of. Yes, there’s classed up fancy versions of these foods, but I’m talking about street food. Food quite literally served on the street or local family-owned joints serving food that includes someone’s grandma’s recipes. The street food and pop-up scene in LA is second to none. Add to that my love of wine, and you have a unique challenge: how to pair LA’s dynamic street food with tasty, crushable wine? I recently wrote about these Los Angeles wine tasting pairings with Leo’s, my favorite taco truck. Or how about that time I sampled a slew of Chinese buns and sparkling wines for another fun Los Angeles wine tasting?

 

Calabama: California Meets Alabama 

Cara Haltiwanger has been in the restaurant and bar business her entire life from growing up in Alabama to moving to Los Angeles 18 years ago.  My husband, born and raised in Los Angeles, has known her for many moons, and that is how we connected.  Cara has worked every job in a restaurant from front to back of house, including busser, waitress, bartender, line chef, and now chef. In 2008 one of her bartending gigs allowed her to start cooking on their patio once a week. She then started doing pop up restaurants and eventually created her baby, Calabama hot sauce. Cara’s goal has always been to create a positive southern vibe; a vibe that invites you in and reminds you of home. She’s constantly preaching community and the comfort that can be provided by a good meal and conversation. Come to one of her pop-ups, and you leave full and happy. The pandemic put a stop to her in-person pop ups, but she quickly found an alternative. 

 

The Birth of the Bucket Drop

On an unassuming cul de sac in East Hollywood, you feel like you’re in NYC. An old apartment building looms tall with a column of metal fire escapes. At your scheduled time, you arrive and look up. Cara waves from the highest fire escape and asks you if you’re ready. When you say yes, she launches a red bucket suspended with a rope down to the ground level where you are. Tucked into that bucket are your breakfast sandwiches and (if you ordered them ahead of time) bottles of her addictive Calabama hot sauce, that is the perfect mix of spicy, tangy, and sweet. I could bathe in the stuff. 

wine expert los angeles

This is not just any breakfast sandwich. Two slices of grilled white bread are packed with bacon, eggs, cheese, onions, avocado, and cooked on a cast-iron grill. And don’t forget a side of her hot sauce, which really is the main event. The idea is that you dip the sandwich in the sauce with every bite. There is a reason why she sells out in less than 24 hours. With the pandemic challenges, the bucket drop dates/times do vary. Be sure to follow the Calabama Instagram account to stay up to date on all the bucket drops and pop ups. And when you see a bucket drop announced and tickets go on sale, do not wait. They sell out every single time. 

wine tasting los angeles

Breakfast Wine

Acquiesce Winery is one of my favorite wineries in Lodi, California. In a region known for Old Vine Zinfandel, Sue Tipton and her husband, Rodney, went against the grain and started Acquiesce, which only makes Rhône inspired white and rosé wines. People said they were crazy, but alas, they’ve been wildly successful.  For your quintessential Los Angeles wine tasting experience, I’m pairing Cara’s breakfast sandwich with the perfect breakfast wine, the Acquiesce Grenache Rosé 2021.

los angeles wine tasting

It’s no secret that this sandwich is rich and decadent. Not to mention a bit spicy when dipped into the Calabama hot sauce. To counteract all of that, I have chosen this fresh, bright, and acid-driven rosé, to cut through the richness and spice. The perfect foil. So, grab a cooler and a couple wine tumblers, and drive over to East Hollywood for your Sunday morning bucket drop breakfast sandwich and Los Angeles wine tasting. 

Cara’s slogan is Keep Comin’ Home, and for her, that means, keep going back to the place that makes you the happiest. The kitchen with her family is that place for her, but it’s different for everyone. Find yours, and keep going there.  For now, I’m gonna keep comin’ home to the red bucket. 

certified sommelier

Stay up to date on my wine sips, jaunts, offerings & events

As a thank you, I'll share with you answers to my 5 Most Common Wine Questions!
Women’s Business Enterprise National Council
Site Credit: MADE BY WMN
Brianne Cohen Logo
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram