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Have you heard of the latest trend of wine and popcorn pairings? Yes, it exists, and it’s the most delectable way to watch your favorite movies. It also turns out that this fabulous food pairing isn’t as new as you may have thought! In fact, it’s several centuries old already, and we can learn a lot from what came before…

The Aztec “popcorn dance” was supposedly taking place when Hernan Cortes arrived in Mexico in 1519, making it some of the oldest evidence of corn being popped. Cortes later ordered the large-scale planting of vineyards to replenish his depleted wine stocks from Europe, implying that popcorn and wine pairing have a long history dating back to the conquistadors!

It’s clear that wine and popcorn are a winning combination that’s stood the test of time. But if you’re going to stick with your favorite movie snack, you might as well do it right.

Choosing the right popcorn for your wine to ensure that your taste buds get the most action while you’re engrossed in a movie is a little bit of an art form, but it’s one that I can teach you quite easily. So, whether you buy your popcorn already flavored or make your own spice blend, here’s how to choose the best vino with your popcorn flavor of choice.

Sea Salt And Chocolate Popcorn and Merlot

Chocolate and red wine go together perfectly as they complement one another so well. You can drizzle chocolate over your popcorn, add chocolate buttons in to melt when you pop your kernels, or dip the popped corn in a tub of spreading chocolate.

Add a sprinkle of natural sea salt that brings out the rich flavors of the Merlot and you’ll enjoy a rich yet slightly savory taste sensation as you snack and sip.

Buttered Popcorn and Chardonnay

Buttered popcorn is like a warm embrace. It has a toasty, creamy flavor and a fluffy, yielding texture. If you’re going to eat buttered popcorn, you might as well pair it with a buttery Chardonnay for a match made in heaven.

The popcorn brings out the nutty flavors in the Chardonnay, while the wine’s buttery flavors complement the rich-buttered popcorn flavor. Choose a Chardonnay with oaky vanilla and nut notes, as well as the buttery richness produced by malolactic fermentation. A cool sip after a warm mouthful will put you on cloud nine.

Cinnamon Sugar Popcorn or Herb-rich Popcorn and Sparkling Wine

A little cinnamon sugar on your popcorn goes well with white sparkling wines like Asti Spumante or Prosecco.

If cinnamon isn’t your style, try this herb-infused popcorn pairing. To add a fresh flavor and coating effect, replace cinnamon with herb-infused olive oil. Sparkling wine pairs well with olive oils infused with dill, mint, and thyme. The bubbles lift the grassy notes, and the crisp acidity cuts through the balm of the olive oil. Sprinkle it with parmesan for a salty touch that brings out the wine’s minerality. Choose a low-dosage brut-style bubbly to avoid overpowering the delicate green notes.

Cilantro Lime Popcorn and Pinot Grigio

The cilantro’s freshness and the citrus’s refreshing flavor will pair perfectly with a crisp Pinot Grigio. Sip some Pinot with your cilantro-spiked popcorn and you’ll enjoy a fresh and zesty sensation with every bite.

Rosemary Popcorn and Zinfandel

Zinfandel has a lighter color than popular red wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and it boasts hints of black pepper, jam, and liquorice. The Zinfandel’s spiciness pairs well with a fragrant, woody herb like rosemary, so give your popcorn a sprinkle before you settle down in front of the TV.

Paprika Popcorn and Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet grapes are complex, imparting rich, bold, and earthy flavors of black cherry, oak, currant, and plum to the wine. They’re complemented by paprika which has a pungent and peppery flavor as it’s made from ground bonnet pepper. You can top your popcorn with sweet Hungarian paprika or smoked paprika, and pair it with a rich Cabernet.

Sharp Cheddar Popcorn and Cabernet Sauvignon

Another great pairing is a dry, full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon and extra sharp cheddar. The red wine brings out the saltiness and strong cheddar flavors and the crunch of the popcorn adds a great texture.

Truffle Popcorn and Pinot Noir

If you season your popcorn with truffle oil or truffle salt, an earthy Pinot Noir will complement the umami earthiness of the truffles. Dip your kernels in duck fat, season with salt, and top with porcini mushroom powder to be transported to a log-cabin adventure.

Meaty and smoky flavors complement earthy Pinot Noir. These wines have a truffle-like decadence, as well as wild herbal notes that bring out the gamey flavor of duck fat, while the high acidity cuts through all the richness for a perfect balance.

Cumin Popcorn and Red Bordeaux

Red Bordeaux wines are medium to full-bodied, with black currant and plum aromas. A red Bordeaux has an earthiness to it that pairs well with an earthy, nutty spice like cumin and the popcorn ties it all together.

Jalapeño Cheddar Popcorn and Zinfandel

A dry, red Zinfandel usually has dark jam and black pepper notes. The fruitiness and spiciness tend to complement the jalapeno and cheddar’s saltiness, turning your popcorn into a spicy treat.

Caramel-Coated Popcorn and Ice Wine

As a general rule, wine should be sweeter than food to avoid the perception of bitterness and overt acidity.

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, you can drizzle your popcorn with sugar melted in corn syrup and a pinch of salt. This warm caramel pairs well with ice wine, which is honeyed and toffee-rich and made from grapes frozen on the vine to extract maximum flavor. It’s the perfect complement to your chewy, sweet treat. The wine’s citrusy, zingy acidity also cleans the palate, tempting you to take another bite.

Chocolate Drizzled Popcorn and Rioja or Malbec.

A more sultry, chocolate-flavored popcorn will require a similarly smooth operator. I recommend a Rioja wine for its brambly forest fruits and silky vanilla flavors, or a Malbec wine for darker chocolate flavors to really enhance the taste.

Make Every Movie Night Pop

Whoever it was that invented the wine and popcorn craze, thank you for elevating the foods we eat when lost in cinematic genius!

These are just some of the most delicious popcorn and wine pairings, but the options really are unlimited. So, next time you plan a movie night, pick a few bottles of premium wine, grab your popcorn and spices, and give your taste buds a treat. Doing the popcorn dance is optional.

Wine Tasting Los Angeles

I feel that there is an absence of an effective, approachable, relatable voice in wine who speaks to and connects with consumers. I want to be that voice. Through my virtual wine tastings and Los Angeles wine tastings featuring Black-owned wineries, I aim to accomplish that. 

Whether you collect wine, belong to wine clubs, or you know nothing about wine except that you like to drink it, I am here to improve your wine drinking experience. My goal is to make wine approachable and conversational, to surprise and delight with unexpected, distinctive wine finds, and to give people knowledge (and confidence) about wine that can be used in their everyday lives, especially when it comes to wine tasting Los Angeles.

Who I Am

While I love being in a room of geeky wine nerds and talkin’ shop, my true love is talking to regular, good ‘ol fashioned wine drinkers about wine. Not wine educators, not wine writers, and not industry people. The wine industry is full of people that know A LOT about wine….almost too much. Keeping the wine conversation elevated and academic at all times is exhausting. Sometimes I just want to break bread and enjoy good juice in the glass. Don’t you?

When folks interact with me or my brand, I want them to walk away thinking to themselves, “That was so easy to understand. Why has no one else been able to share that with me in such an easy-to-understand way? If I keep doing this, I’m going to learn so much and have a good time doing it. Also, I’ll impress my friends when I drop some wine knowledge!”

Early on, I realized I had a knack for breaking down wine in a simple, easy-to-understand way. I found that few in my industry had both the knowledge AND the ability to do this. No wonder consumers think wine is so complicated. We’ve made it that way! This is not brain surgery. We should all be having fun, drinking unabashedly, and enjoying what’s in our glass.

Wine Tasting Los Angeles

We are living in an ever-changing world which means we have to be as fluid as the wine in our glass. Whether you’re organizing an event on behalf of a client, for your company, or to celebrate a special occasion, I can create an in-person wine experience to meet all your planning needs – and work with you to ensure your guest’s safety and comfort when it comes to wine tasting Los Angeles. 

In-person experiences can include:

Host a live-action station during a cocktail hour or open your event with an ‘icebreaker’ such Guess the $100 Wine, a Prosecco vs. Champagne Taste-Off, or a Cali Cab Throwdown. If you’re looking for something a bit more structured, consider a food and wine pairing or a sommelier-led wine tasting. And for those planning an offsite retreat or conference, you can work with me to host and organize a wine tasting excursion where you can experience wine tasting Los Angeles or anywhere else in the world.

Virtual Wine Tasting

Whether you’re hosting a private tasting for 10 of your closest friends or organizing a large corporate tasting for a fortune 500 company, a virtual wine tasting is a shared sensory experience – and a guaranteed good time for all. Wine tasting education is also prioritized in each virtually guided experience to develop your confidence and knowledge of all things wine.

The ability to taste multiple wines in a guided tasting experience mimics a visit to your favorite tasting room! Virtual wine experiences are good for:

Black-Owned Winery Near Me

We are all looking for ways in which we can speak and live our values in our everyday life. I am an advocate in doing my part to create space for diversity and inclusion in the wine industry, particularly for Black, BIPOC, and underrepresented communities. Bringing awareness to finding and supporting Black-owned wineries has been important to me since I first started offering wine education and tasting experiences, and I’m eager to see more people discover these amazing, diverse Black-owned wineries. My website features a database (sorted by country and region) of Black-Owned wineries near you.  

The issue: wine is not a space where people feel comfortable. The language and access around wine have been kept strictly with people in the wine world, people who grew up around wine, and people who had access to wine. I want to change that and welcome all who want to come to the table. EVERYONE’S voice and opinion are important. If you enjoy wine, you’re welcome at my table anytime!

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

 

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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)

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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

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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.

 

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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

 

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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!

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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

 

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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!

 

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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! 

 

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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. 

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