This is a young sommelier's adventure through wine, liquor and the world. You will find no ratings here. You will find somethings that are sometimes geeky, sometimes irreverent, and always presented in my own unique (and dyslexic) way. Hopefully, the content inspires exploration, a sense of adventure, a good icebreaker for conversation, and even a good sense of humor about the magical juice we call wine, the insane elixirs of ting the world of liquor, and the culture surrounding all of it. .

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Sipping the Germs away

So, as the title of the post might suggest…I’m sick. No one likes being sick and as much fun as the Nyquil and EmergenC are, figuring out how to cure what ails you with more “homeopathic” methods can make being sick at least slightly more amusing.

I know saying that alcohol can assist in healing will upset some people. They will more than likely state that alcohol actually weakens the immune system and makes sickness last even longer. To that, I make two cases. My first is to point out that a lot of the modern medications out there actually include small amounts of alcohol. Secondly, I am speaking about this from two perspectives: the assumption of moderation and the historical use of alcohol for healing. So, with that little argument set aside, lets talk a little about the history of healing with alcohol.

Evidence of early liqueurs date as far back as the 10th century, where herb and fruit elixirs were used as medicines by ancient civilizations.  This tradition was carried through many centuries later into some of the most well known cocktail ingredients of today. Two such ingredients were Benedictine and Green Chartreuse. Both of these were made by monks and thought to have medicinal applications long before they became ingredients in modern cocktails. The next thing to examine is bitters. Most bitters are made from an alcohol base (Fee Brothers is the most well known non alcoholic bitter). For years, they were sold at pharmacies as cures for everything from stomach sickness to headaches. Bartenders to this day believe in the power of bitters for hangovers and stomach ailments. To put an even more modern perspective on the healing powers of alcohol, we examine the history of rum. Until 1970, the Royal Navy gave out high proof rum rations as a way to combat disease, though over the years the rations decreased because of the adverse effects of alcohol on the performance of the sailors. This just goes to show that the tradition of using alcohol for medicinal purposes has been a common one for centuries and I figured, why not try some things to help me kick my cold.
For this, I decided to make a few cocktails using some of these classic “healing agents” and show you a few that might help you feel a little better while all bundled up.
The Hot Toddy
This classic winter drink is great for keeping you warm. There are a few ways of making this drink. The instructions are below:
 1 ½ oz of Irish whiskey (Greenore is my favorite), Bourbon (like Makers 46 of Bookers) or Rum (Cruzan Black Strap is my favorite)
¼ lemon
¼ oz honey
1 tea bag or fresh baking spices like cinnamon, cloves, allspice
3 oz hot water

In a mug or Irish coffee mug, pour the honey, lemon juice, and liquor of choice in the bottom. In hot water, either steap the tea bag of the spices (or both for more intense flavor) for 3 minutes. When it is ready, pour of the mixture in the mug and stir. Garnish with a cinnamon stick and either a lemon wedge or twist. Sit back and sip.

The Cartesian Sure

Named for the monks who gave us Green Chartreuse, this cocktail is an instant feel better. This is one of those magical cocktails that I’m convinced would heal a broken leg if you poured it on it.

1 oz Irish Whiskey (again, for this I use Greenore)
1 oz sweet vermouth of choice
1 oz Green Chartreuse
2 dashes of Angostura bitters

Combine these ingredients in a small saucepan and heat on low heat, until steam starts to appear. You don’t want to heat too much or the alcohol will burn off. Once warm, pour into a glass that is safe for you to grip when warm.  Then sit back, relax, and let the healing powers take over.

Ginger Toddy

This combines the healing power of ginger and bourbon. Can’t really go wrong with this combination.

1 oz favorite bourbon (I used Bakers for this)
½ oz ginger beer
¼ oz honey
Squeeze of lemon
Hot water

Combine ingredients in mug Irish Coffee mug. The ginger beer measurements can be altered depending on how much of the ginger spice you want in your drink. The kind of ginger beer also matters to for the taste. Some are more sugar based and others carry more of the spicy nature of ginger. Garnish with candied ginger or orange twist.

Hopefully these give you some ideas on how to feel a little better as the weather gets colder and the germs start to roll through the office. Stay healthy, drink smart, and happy sipping as always! Cheers. 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Openin’ it Old School!!

There are numerous stupid human tricks involving different ways to open a bottle of wine. I have seen people do it with a phone book, a high heel, hell, I even did it with a fork once (no at all advisable by the way!) On a recent trip to Napa and Sonoma, I decided to try my hand in opening a bottle the way it used to be done.

We have all see the pictures of the old school cork screws. I even have one as a tattoo. They all consist of the same thing; the screw and a handle at the top with which to pull. The one thing they lack that most modern cork screws have is a fulcrum, or point at which the person opening the bottle has leverage on the cork and can open it easily.

I got my hands on a fairly simple one from the late 1800’s and decided, since I collect them but had never used one, that it was time for me to experience this. Now, mind you, this is how sommeliers used to have to open bottles and there is no graceful way to do this. You have to put the bottle between your legs and pull hard enough to get the cork out, but not hard enough you pop it out and spray wine everywhere. Well I achieved the later, but broke the cork in the process and had to then be even gentler, which is not always my forte. As a matter of fact, I am not for my strength, not my finesse.

Enjoy the video and the laughs that may ensue. And stay turned for the next article and as always, drink up!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A little love from Burgundy complements of Albert Morot

I think that is it has been well established that I have an affinity for wines that are unique, interesting, fun to talk about, and are all around just kind of bad ass. Well, this wine certainly fit all of those characteristics and is also a really great introduction to Burgundy for those who are a little scared by it (and for those of you who are, fear not; you are not alone in that fear).

Before I get too much into the wine, how about we settle the fear slightly, or at least go over a little info so that the fear might subside. Consider this your nightlight. Let’s start with the basics. Burgundy is a region in France known mostly for their lush, delicate, and somewhat feminine pinot noirs and their many complicated styles of chardonnay (my favorite of which is Chablis, but that will be another article). Their wines are lauded as some of the best in the world, and most of the time that distinction can come with a hefty price tag. There are many different sub regions in Burgundy, but for today’s purposes we will be focusing on one: Savigny-le-Beaune.

I will now warn all that the following section is a WINE GEEK RED ALERT section. If you wish, skip to the next section and read about the wine itself (and don’t worry, I will not be offended in any way shape or form). Savigny-le-Beaune (mostly refered to  as Savigny, which I will do for the remainder of the article) is in the larger region of Cote du Beaune. It has 22 vineyard sites that grow grapes classified as premier cru and all of which are delicious. From here, if you are interested in knowing more about Burgundy, I encourage you to do a little research on your own. It is a great region and full of wine history, but is horribly complicated to get down and I feel like I am boring myself by getting into the details. If you have question, feel free to contact me and I will do everything I can to answer them. Now…to the good stuff.

Albert Morot is a bit of a nut job (and don’t we all love a crazy man making our wine?) His wines are super traditional in terms of growing style and wine making. However, that is where the tradition stops. His wines are bruisers and right out of the bottle are as tight as a kid’s grip on their blanket on the first day of school. Upon first opening the wine, the fruits are muted and overpowered by earth and Christmas spices. The fruits decide to show up fashionably late to the party, about an hour in.  When they do, they come in with a bang; bright, vibrant, and young, like the attractive person at a party that turns everyone’s head.

The cool thing about this wine is the fact that the next day, it was even better. I decided to leave it out on my dining room table with just the cork in it and see what happened, which is not an advised way to save wine. The next day, the fruits had darkened, the flowers had wilted and yet magic was still in the bottle. This is a wine that, while not a P Funk Allstar, is certainly one that will make your eyes widen a little further when you drink it. Luckily, the price tag won’t.

One bit of self promotion. If you are not already, follow me on twitter and facebook. The facebook page will have a lot more pictures, while on twitter you can get my up to the second where abouts, what I’m drinking, eating, or ranting about. The links for both of those are to your right, but I’ll leave them here for you as well. And tell your friends!!! Drink up!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Another wine geek video, and this one is amazingly cool

Ok, I know that the last few posts have been more on the wine geeky side of things, but you will have to bare with me a little bit; I will get back to the my Anti Fancy Pants ways soon.

This video is something you may never see again, unless you ever meet Fritz Hatton. For those who don't know who he is, and in some ways I really wouldn't be shocked if you didn't, Fritz Hatton, is owner of Arietta winery in Napa Valley. He is an avid wine expert himself and also a complete classical music buff, so much so that his wine, Arietta, is named after the Beethoven's 32nd sonata and it's "arietta" movement.

Now, I tell you that to tell you this: the video you are about to see is a video of Fritz himself playing the very piece of music for which is wine is named. It was certainly a special thing to be able to hear the very man responsible for the name of the wine play that piece. Enjoy and again, I promise that less geeky stuff is to come! (and by the way, I do need to apologize for the video quality...not the best I've taken yet)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Wine Geek Video

Ok, I will not say that this post will be the most interesting thing ever, but it is still kind of fun to see. For those people who have read the blog for a while, you have possibly seen a video of me opening a bottle of sparkling wine under water. The video of the Movia opening wasn't the easiest to see, so hopefully this one will be.

On a recent trip to Sonoma, I visited Donkey and Goat winery. The owners, Jared and Tracey were extremely welcoming and they had one of the coolest tasting rooms I've seen in some time, with graffiti art from a local artist adorning the wall above the bocce ball court. As we tasted through their wines, they mentioned a bottle that they made to be opened under water and I couldn't help but ask to do it. Below is the video of me doing it. Hope you enjoy and please visit their website that will be linked at the bottom of this page.

Once again, please visit the website for the winery and learn more about this husband and wife team: Donkey and Goat

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Keeping Wine Relevant: Part 4

The Solution

             I am not going to pretend that I have pointed out all of the issues that face the wine industry as younger generations of consumers get older. There are a lot of issues that might see the wine industry go through a very hard time ahead, including how wine is perceived, waning interest from younger drinkers, and even environmental problems that will effect the ability to grow good grapes. However, most of the issues come down to one thing; accessibility.
             With all of the issues outlined in previous articles, there is one main theme that flows through them all; wine has become something that is seen as largely inaccessible by a younger generation of drinkers. People are becoming more and more interested in cocktails and beer, finding them to be more fun to explore. So, with that said, it in time to think about how to make wine more fun for people to explore and understand.
            There is one thing that I must point out as a positive for the future of wine and it comes from Virginia wine country. More and more people are going to Virginia wineries for tastings, and a lot of those people are younger. They are driving out of DC and going on day trips or weekend getaways and stopping by winery tasting rooms to sample their products. This mere fact gives me some hope that wine can keep up, but it has to do so more globally than just the DC area. It also needs to bring that fun experience back to the consumer in restaurants and stores.  
            In the first article, I explained how the perception of a “wine expert” is that of an old school, unapproachable, stuffy older gentleman that would look down his nose at people who say they like malbec and pinot grigio. However, with a younger drinking crowd also comes younger wine professionals. That means that the responsibility of educating and exciting the masses now falls on their shoulders more that ever. It also means that selling wine for these professionals becomes a completely different game. Where as a lot of people used to buy wine based on name and stature, more people are paying attention to price than ever before. So it comes down to really listening to what the consumer is asking for. I am no saying this isn’t done by professionals, but I am saying that this is becoming more important. This conversation will help put customers at ease and allow them to really be excited about the exploration of wine.
            Another thing that really needs to evolve is how we both speak and write about wine. There are many times that I read some of the major wine publications and I lose interest. So, if someone who focuses on wine for a living isn’t interested by articles and editorials, then how can someone just getting into wine? This does not mean dumbing things down, because that would make wine seem even more arrogant than it can already. What it does mean is that focus needs to be on attention grabbing and quick education. There is so much information out there that is vying for our attention these days that it is hard to hold people’s attention. How that is done and quality is not sacrificed is the tricky part. As technology evolves, so should making wine interesting, fun, and interactive with that technology.
            I know that this article doesn’t outline the “exact” way to solve all of wine’s woes. However, there is a rather large message seen here: wine professionals are the key to making wine accessible and fun. The biggest key is encouraging the exploration and knowledge by presenting the information that we have in an interesting, interactive, and unobtrusive way. Encouraging the exploration of all of that the wine world has to offer is exceedingly important to gaining new wine lovers. How that is done is for each person to decide and I hope that my decision to write on this blog helps with that possibility of your exploration. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Keeping Wine Relevant: Part 3

The Economy

            Before I get into the bulk of this argument, I need to say one thing: I will not, and let me repeat, WILL NOT, make this section into anything political. While this portion of the series could easily go in that direction, I will not be letting it. So, if you expect something that favors left, right, center, or sideways, you will not get it.
            For several years now, we have been hearing about the recession. We hear about different companies going into bankruptcy or getting bailouts, people being out of work for long periods of time, and now, cities filing for bankruptcy. The world seems to be in a downward spiral with no definable end. People are counting their pennies more and more and not splurging on things as much as they were in the 90’s and earlier 2000’s. Young people are having a harder time getting jobs and saving money and debt is piling up. At this point, besides the possible feelings of doom and gloom that may be rushing through you, you may also be wondering what this has to do with wine staying relevant. Well, allow me to explain.
            With more people coming of drinking age due to the “baby boomlet”, the consumer base for alcohol is growing. With this economy, the average net worth of those new consumers has dropped. Currently, according to CNNmoney, the average net worth of someone 25-35 is a little over $8,000. Now, factor in rent, school loans, car payments, everyday expenses and we are not left with a whole lot of money to spend on those “extra” things. Those “extra things” include wine and spirits.
            Setting the money talk aside for a moment, let’s examine the consumption of these things. With all of the wine in the world, about 90% of it is made to be consumed within a year of it being bottled. Most younger consumers (being defined as the 25 to 35 year old age group in this case) won’t even wait that long, usually drinking the bottle that day or within a week of taking it home. If it is saved, many times it is not in ideal conditions and goes bad within a few years at best. Liquor, for the most part, has no expiration date, mainly because the higher alcohol levels allow for it to be opened and stay open without going bad. In fact, it is almost impossible to make certain liquors go bad at all. That higher alcohol content also means that a little will go much further than a glass of wine.
            All of that being said, we turn back to talking about all of this in terms of dollars and cents. According to Decanter, the average price of a bottle of wine has climbed to over $15 a bottle, up almost 80% since 2002. They also say that the average cost will continue to climb as much as 7.1% in the next 2 years. That is not an insignificant jump, especially when you consider that the average alcohol level per bottle is around 13%. Compare that to a bottle of booze; that same priced bottle of booze will carry an alcohol content in the 40% to 50% range, meaning that the likelihood of finishing a bottle in one sitting is slim to none. So, that bottle will last the consumer longer than the bottle of wine will, cutting their average spending on alcohol significantly. This also raises the question as to why people are consuming. Is it for enjoyment, understanding, to get drunk, or any number of other possibilities? This also helps dictate the amount of money that people are willing to spend on the product itself.
            So here is how I view this economy argument. For the average 25-35 year old, they are not thinking of wine as an investment, so the high end, collectable wines are out of the question. I won’t be cynical an say that all people in that age group are also drinking to get drunk, because I don’t think that this is the reason everyone drinks. However, I do believe that everyone, especially people in those age groups, are looking for value over anything. It is hard to argue that the value of a bottle of liquor or a six pack is less than the value of a similarly priced bottle of wine. Mathematically, it just isn’t. With all of this, how does one make the argument for someone buying wine over other alcohols of the same price?
            It is a hard argument to make, and often times one that does not make much head way. We are in a generation that flocks to places with great cocktails and beer lists rather than great wine lists. The thirst for more knowledge and understanding of these products seems to be far greater than that of wine. Some of this goes back to the first part of this series and the conversation of wine being approachable. Does price make it less approachable as well? I would tend to argue that is does and that, and until people have more liquid assent to spend on wine and exploring it, that the trend will stay that way. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Keeping Wine Relevant: Part 2


            One of the things that can either get someone excited about something or turn them off completely is how it is talked about. This goes beyond wine and cocktails. This thought goes throughout life. If you speak of things with enthusiasm and excitement, then others are more likely to listen. That being said, the words used are pretty important too.
            As I have said before, and will continue to say, the way wine professionals talk about wine needs to change. Wine needs to be shown as something that can be approachable, not unreachable. But, don’t take it from me; let’s examine some of the terms used to talk about cocktails and wine and how they might effect someone either just getting into or seeking to understand wine and cocktails more deeply.
            When talking about cocktails, many people use cool, even sometimes even crass terms and words to describe them. You are more likely to hear people refer to a cocktail as “bad ass”, “awesome”, “poundable” and other terms. This is not to say that you won’t also hear things like “balanced”, “complex”, or “interesting”. But, when is the last time you heard something like “this cocktail is great, but it needs to breath for about 20 minutes”? Never. People enjoy cocktails as they are presented. Sometimes, the bartender doesn’t quite get it right, or people will put ice into a glass of whiskey that makes the bartender shudder. However, those personal preferences can be influenced by cool, intelligent, and even witty conversation.  Talking about cocktails can often be, for lack of a better word, fun.
            Now, lets think about how people talk about wine. Words are often used that, sometimes, make absolutely no sense to some people. “Tannins”, “terrior”, “minerality” and “structure” are only some of the words that can be used to describe wine, not to mention all of the crazy flavor descriptors. I am not going to say that these words are bad or incorrect, as all of those things are part of what makes wine what it is. However, what do some of those words mean for the new or amateur wine drinker? What does “lemon pith” mean to someone who is more likely to eat fried foods than concentrate on what different parts of a lemon taste like? All of these things add up to one word: unapproachable.
            In the age of social media, it is almost impossible to get someone’s attention. How do you describe something so intricate as a well made cocktail, whose history is vast and influential, or a wine, whose sense of place and intricate techniques can change everything about the wine, in 150 words or less? How do you break down things that are so complex and make them simple? That is a struggle that we all go through as beverage professionals and one that will continue, but also one that needs to be examined if we hope to continue to develop educated and interested consumers, particularly in the case of wine.
            An approachable means of communication…maybe this is the answer? Or maybe, that’s too simple. Tune back in for part 3 for another idea that just might have the answer. Until then, keep exploring and, as always, enjoy drinking delicious things.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Keeping Wine Relevant: Part 1

As I pull up a lot of blogs, websites, magazines, and others forms of media, I see more and more stories and opinions about cocktails. It seems that people are becoming more and more infatuated with cocktails, who makes them, and the history behind them. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the fact that people are making an effort to become more educated drinkers, more curious about the history behind them and why we drink. However, with the pendulum swinging so far in the direction of cocktails (and sometimes beer…I can’t forget about you beer drinkers), it leaves those of us who have made wine a career to wonder if we are being left behind. It seems that people find wine uninteresting for any number of reasons. This series of entries will explore what some of those reasons may be. I don’t aim to present absolute answers for this feeling or question, but rather present the things that may be standing in the way of wine being seen with the same enthusiasm and interest that cocktails seem to be right now. 

One of the first things that came to mind for this article is the idea that cocktails seem to be more creative than wine. Now, let me say this up front before I cause some uproar from this thought: cocktails ARE creative. I would never say that they are anything but, and that is one of the reasons that I myself have enjoyed being a beverage and cocktail director in restaurants.  So, yes, they are certainly creative. However, I think that the part of the allure of the creativity of cocktails is that, many times, it is immediate and tangible. 
Most places create cocktails at that moment, in front of the consumer. The performance is how they are prepared (shaken, stirred, with flair, lit on fire, and any number of other preparations that exist). The creativity is something that can be seen and experienced in other terms other than simply drinking the cocktail. There is a story behind the cocktail, but many times the story is part of the overall performance. The creation and preparation is part of the story that the drinker can then walk away with and tell to their friends. 
Compare that creativity with the creativity that is involved with wine. Most times, that creativity is done far away from the consumer, by scientist and wine makers who dissect every step of the wine making process. The creativity is done inside barrels and caves that many people will never see in person. Every step of the wine making process can dictate what the final product will be like. However, most of the time, none of that is ever seen until you pop the cork and pour it into the glass. Even then, unless it is tasted against other wines of similar variety, that creativity is never realized. It takes someone who knows the wine well to be able to communicate that creativity and history behind the finished product to the consumer. However, there involves the last point of this creativity argument: the people who bring the product to you. 
Through a quick and simple google search, I wanted to compare the images of those people who are responsible for explaining the story and history of the product they are serving. In fairness, I chose the most high brow titles for each that I could think of: mixologist and sommelier. Look below and compare the results…



These images are only an example of many of the photos available on google for those two words. However, they paint a very interesting picture. The mixologist seem younger, more hip, approachable, and active. The sommeliers are typically older, unapproachable, and rather pompous, not to mention, all men. Now, don’t get me wrong, I know some female sommeliers, but the majority are men. In fact, there are less than 30 female master sommeliers in the country out of the almost 200 that exist. That is a lowly 15%. That raises the question, are sommeliers unapproachable to most. And there is where the creativity argument gets interesting. Who is making the drinks and pouring the wine is almost as important as what is being made and poured itself. If it is done with pomp and circumstance, then why would people come back or want to learn more? Most people have a low tolerance for arrogance and it shows in what they drink and where they go.
So, creativity and presentation…could this be the answer to wines woes? Wait for part two and we will continue the conversation. Until then, enjoy drinking something delicious!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Le Brin de Chevre....the next to join the P Funk team

Not long ago, one of my sales reps brought me a line of wines to try. All were French, which for me was great having blown my palate out with Italian wines recently (don't get me wrong, I love them, but there is a whole world of wine to try). As we went through, we tasted a wine that they said was made of Menu Pineau. I thought I had not understood him correctly, as his French accent is insanely thick. So I enquired again, and sure enough, it was what he said and my ears perked up. The complete wine dork in me got excited with the chance to check off another wine from my century list.

Menu Pineau, also known as Arbois, is one of the most widely planted grapes in the Loire region on France. It is unknown where the grape may have come from, but continues to be one of the most used blending grapes in many of the wines we drink from Loire, especially those of the sparkling variety. However, you might come across some wine makers that are trying to bring back tradition and make a wine that is 100% Menu Pineau.

Now that I have bored you with the facts about this grape (you can tell I get excited when the wine geek in me really comes out), on to the nuts and bolts of this wine itself. The winery, Le Clos du Tue-Boeuf, is owed by two brothers, Thierry and Jean- Marie Puzelat. They got the winery from their father and began to focus on classic Loire wines. This wine is by far one of their coolest (and weirdest at the same time). The first thing I thought about when I tasted this wine was hard cider. It has a huge palate of golden delicious apple, making it taste like a bright hard cider. The bright acidic finish almost makes it dance on your tongue and have that effervescent effect on your tongue, making you think it could be carbonated. It really messes with you at first taste. Then, you realize that it has beautiful subtle white flowers, lily, slate, lemon zest, and so many other flavors that you go insane. This wine is truly a unique and really awesome wine that is one to try. Plus, you get to cross one more wine off your list of ones you have tried that isn't Pinot Noir or Chardonnay....make your friends jealous!!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Litte Beer....but its kinda like wine

Many times, people ask me "if I am to buy a sommelier a glass of wine, what should I get them?" I often reply with something like a beer or a nice sipping bourbon (obviously my tastes). I say this, because as a sommelier, it is had to turn off your brain and enjoy a glass of wine at times. This way, we are at least thinking about something that we con't think about all day. The flavors are different, the way you taste is slightly different, and you expand your palate with something new. This is not to say that sommeliers don't like wine, it is simply saying that, this way, you worry a little less about impressing them and about getting to know them. Thus was the case with the Sam Adams Infinium.

I had been eyeing this beer for some time for a few reasons. The brewery compares this beer to champagne a lot, and there is nothing better than a nice refreshing glass of bubbles. So, when I finally tried it, I was actually amazed at how right they were. Many of the flavors are very similar to a growers champagne; apple, bright lemon, yeast. However, with addition of hops, the beer becomes something completely different. It is a perfect summery beer to enjoy, not one for sitting on the back porch and knocking back like water (which is not the worst thing with the DC humidity). A slight bit of banana on the palate and smoke make this beer linger for a while and in continues to evolve on the palate.

I know I am not quite as elegant talking about beer as I am about wine, but I couldn't pass up the chance to talk a little about something that bridges the world as interestingly and closely as this beer does...

Sam Adams Infinium

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Looking Back in Order to Better Look Forward

I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks…And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.

- Virginia Madsen fromSideways”

Writing about “wines of my past,” is a somewhat challenging task. Legally, I have only been able to drink for five years, which isn’t that long. This then takes me to wines of my childhood, of which there were few. The wines I remember most were those at church—I grew up in an Episcopal Church where wine (red, and champagne on Easter) is offered, as a matter of course, to everyone, every Sunday, without fail.  At home, I remember my dad returning from his weekly business trips and raving about Paraduxx and other wines from Duckhorn. But in my family, wine was not a part of our nightly routine. Not that my family was opposed to it; instead, a glass of wine or bourbon (my mother is from central Kentucky, the area made famous by its bourbon) was simply more of an occasional or celebratory drink. Maybe that’s where the allure of wine began for me. 

One of my first jobs, not counting my after-school dog walking, was helping open Sonoma on Capitol Hill (for those of you who do not know me, I am proudly a DC native).  When I started with Sonoma, I knew three types of wine: red, white, and bubbly; I did not understand the big deal about having 48 different wines by the glass. But I had a manager who wanted to teach, so with him, I tasted and learned. Admittedly not much took hold at first, that is until I tasted the Argiolas Vermentino from Sardinia.

Now a brief note of context: Most wine lovers I know have that special wine that “did it” for them. This is the wine they will always remember and speak of fondly, almost like their first love. Mine is not a $5,000 bottle, not even a $100 bottle. The Argiolas might top out at $45 on a wine list (as a matter of fact, that is exactly what it is on mine), but it is a wine worth trying. When I tasted it, I had a Despicable Me moment of “Light Bulb!” I got the floral quality of the wine and then caught wind of a sea breeze finish, which left me completely confused and insanely curious. I knew at that moment that wines are indeed different and I wanted to learn more.

My junior year in college, I spent a semester in Italy where I had an internship making wine with the Frescobaldi family at their vineyard just outside Florence.  There I discovered the meaning of wine culture—that each wine has a story, person, and place behind it. Some of the wines are made by families who have lived in the same town for generations, some since the 1500s. The notion of capturing history and personality in a bottle of wine really caught my attention. But even more captivating was how wine was so much more than just a drink to the Florentines; you opened the bottle and what you got was WINE—a vehicle for expression; a libation that helped the conversation run more freely (and sometimes more loudly); and most appealingly (or alluringly, in my case) a tradition that brought people together across the table and the generations. Before you think I may have gotten completely carried away or besotted by the more romantic aspects of the wine culture, I have to say, in my own defense, that I spent my fair share of time in the fields, pruning vines and picking grapes (not easy work for those who have done it). Still, from a macro perspective, based on my time with Frescobaldi, I believe wine is a cultural experience, not simply a drink!

My mission is to do through life with a sense of discovery through food and thought.  As a sommelier, my tastes are continuing to evolve with every wine I try, so the discovery never really stops. This year alone, Italy defined 20 new wine regions and new wine makers are being discovered (by other means besides the newest Bachelor). Each bottle will contain its own personality and history for us to taste and discover, and in this process, I like to think that like Madsen’s wine, I am constantly evolving and gaining complexity. But this is the allure of wine. The sense of discovery never stops, so in that regard, we are all still in our childhood, open and ready to learning and growing with each sip.