Tag Archives: wine

Why a Somm? Three ways to leverage an expert

If you’re like me, you want your dollar to go as far as possible. From restaurants to travel and wine, it’s not necessarily the cheapest choice, but more so receiving the maximum benefit from your investment.  In the case of wine, this can be confusing. Pricing doesn’t correlate with quality, producers that spend more on marketing than the production of quality wines often inflate the cost. So how do you know you’re getting an excellent value wine? Through trusted resource – your Somm. These highly specialized experts are skilled in recognizing varietals, vintages, regions and can help you select the best value for your dollar.

Here are a few situations to leverage a Somm and the approach to take. In every case that you find a bottle of wine that you love (or hate for that matter, just create a system for recording that it wasn’t your favorite) take a photo of the wine so that you have it stored for next time!

1) Restaurant

If you’re in a group for a dinner or event, ordering wine by the bottle is the way to go. Do the math – if more than two people in your group drink red wine, you’re typically in a better position to go with a bottle rather than a glass of wine. Besides, restaurants often present a longer wine list when selecting by the bottle.  So the next time your server offers the wine list, take a look and ask for the Somm, you might be surprised that it’s not a scary as it looks.

2) Wine Shop

Time after time I hear people say that they shop for wine at a grocery store. In fact, in a survey I conducted, 66% say they buy wine at a grocery store and 60% at a wine shop (there was overlap). That little hand-written card speaks to people, even me, who are in a crunch to purchase a bottle of wine for a party, dinner or just a quiet evening at home. The benefit of buying wine at a wine shop is access to these specialized experts called Sommeliers.  If you don’t know what you want, start with a price point, a place you visited and loved the wine (I  loved the sweet wines, known as ice wine in Quebec), or the food that will be paired with the wine and leave it to them!

3) Wine Consultant

Ever heard of wine consultant? If you’re planning a large event, wedding or catered party, it’s a must. From curating a wine list to food pairings, and wine education, wine consultants offer a low-stress approach to making decisions on wine. These guys can even come in handy if you’re looking for the perfect bottle as a gift or for a perfect date night.  They are typically sommeliers with access to top wines across the world. They often have great negotiated rates and expertise to make your event a success. If you have the budget and want great wines at great prices, I would go the extra mile.

Where else have you consulted a Somm? We’d love to hear from you!

Clemens Busch Mosel Riesling: Red Grey and Blue Slate

On day 3 as I continued my journey through the Mosel region of Germany, I found myself in the beautiful town of Pünderich and greeted by Clemens Busch in his home on the Mosel river bank.

Clemens Busch (pictured above) knows Riesling. An organic wine producer and member of the VDP – his Grosse lage estate, essentially the Grand Gru classification of wine in Germany, can be found worldwide including my two favorite US cities, New York and San Francisco.

 In 1971, many small vineyard parcels were combined into larger ones, but Busch decided to retain the original parcel names contained within the greater “Marienburg”, which is designated on each label.


There are three distinct types of slate that contribute to the palate of the Pündericher Marienburg vineyards. Red Gray and Blue.

Rothenpfad: Red Slate
Falkenlay:Gray Slate
Fahrlay: Blue Slate

Each one influences the pointed nuances of the wine’s flavor profile. For instance, the red slate creates a certain spice in wines, blue slate wines have a distinct minerality and are extremely concentrated, and the gray slate wines present fruity tones, are creamy, rich, and have a mineral tone. I had the opportunity to try each of these wines at the estate after Clemens pointed out each of the parcels in the Marienburg site (pictured above). The cool river breeze and reflection of the sun, make this great climate for the steeply plotted vines that run up the hills of the river bank. You can even make out the variances in the colors. As marked best by Clemens “Each parcel has its own personality. It´s as if each wine has it own soul.”

I had the chance to ask Clemens about the Rieslings on Finger Lakes in New York state. To which he replied they aren’t Mosel riesling but appreciates them for what they are, and gave his nod of approval. The one thing that stands out between a German riesling is the striking balance of the sweetness and acidity which creates a robust flavor that is more approachable than the traditional sweet white wine.

These are top quality amazing wines at a great value. Period.

If you’re located in NYC – Appellation Wine & Spirits carries Clemens Busch. They will be tasting Rieslings and other world wines on November 6th.

Wine Tripping: My 10 Day Journey Through Germany

I am in crunch mode preparing for my trip to Germany. This second time around will be 10 days by convertible, through the northern wine regions of the Rheingau and Mosel, crossing over to the Netherlands before hopping back over Frankfurt to Berlin, so I’ve been carefully plotting the journey I will share through video journal with my readers. I will be joined by a clever kiwi with an accent to match and a hankering for sausage, who has agreed to film my escapades in exchange for random mid-air planking photos. Think traveling garden gnomes, or something.

Anyhow, let’s get to the good stuff; the wine. I will be visiting one of the most famous vineyards in the world, the prestigious Bernkasteler Doctor vineyard (picture below) whose vines climb the steep slopes leading up from the Mosel River. There, I will taste the sweet nectar of Weingut Lay and Sophia Thanisch VDP.


Then, I’m off to Clemens Busch winery, one of the top producers of organic wine in Germany. The estate is located in the village of Pünderich (near Bernkastel) in the Mosel wine-growing region.

I first discovered the wines of these three amazing producers of amazing Riesling through German wine importers Petra and Dade Thieriot of Dee Vine Wines, after having hosted my first German tasting three years ago out of a lean start-up office in San Francisco. I then had the opportunity to try a Doctor Riesling at Sofia Thanisch’s winemaker lunch last year, hosted by Dee Vine (label pictured below), and the rest is history.

2014-05-21-thanisch (1)

About a dozen tastings later and a deep knowledge of Riesling, which is humbly shallow compared to that of my mentors and idols in the industry, I will be taking my first trip to the Mosel Germany to share my experiences with you.

You won’t be able to find these gems just anywhere, however, Dee Vine imports Clemens Busch wines as well as wines from Sofia Thanisch exclusively for the state of California and sells them wholesale as well as to consumers.

While Mosel Riesling will be far more satisfying than an oenophile could ever hope, I do have quite an affinity for the Pinot Noir grape and must add Weingut Robert König to the list. His elegant Spätburgunder asked me to come try it. How can I refuse? So I sneak in a quick visit before the Mosel and I’m off to the Rheingau.

Fast forward to day 10 and we’ve covered two countries, 1,204 km and I’m sinking into my chair to enjoy a last supper with a dear friend, Katharina. I’ve blogged, video journaled and social media’d the crap out of you, all while relearning how to drive a manual, but hopefully you’ve learned a thing or two about wine.

Read more on my HuffPost blog!

April Wine Tasting | Bordeaux: Left v. Right Bank

In January we began our trip through France, starting in the South West and now working our way deeper into Bordeaux. This Thursday April 17th, we will continue our journey into Bordeaux, where we will explore the wines of the Left Bank, Right Bank and Entre-deux-mers.

Andrew Fidelman, formerly of Spruce, and myself, will guide you through this tasting at French inspired Aquitaine Wine Bistro located in San Francisco’s Financial District. What does that means for us? Luscious wine from the largest wine growing area in France.

There will be a surprise special Performance by lead singer Kyna Wise of funk band The Go Ahead. “The topping of this funk rock stew is a formidable force of female vocal fireworks equal parts Grace Slick, Mick Jagger and Gwen Stefani. When you mix all these elements it’s hard to imagine an ass they couldn’t get shaking.”- Ryan Brown, bay area comedian and musician.

Tickets available on Eventbrite for $40 and will not be available at the door.

January Wine Event | Wine Soirée 2014: Southwest France

Our next stop on the journey to wine enlightenment will take us to Southwest France. We will celebrate 2014 in style at Andrew Fidelman’s next endeavor – French inspired Aquitaine Wine Bistro, located in San Francisco’s Financial District. As you may know, Andrew opened and co-wrote the wine list at Spruce and has masterfully created the wine list at Blanc et Rouge, and now Aquitaine.

A quick fact you all might not know, Aquitaine is the home of Bordeaux. What does that means for us? Amazingly luscious, velvety wine. The evening will feature a selection of 4 representing the area of Southwest France.

Ticket includes full wine tasting and light hors d’oeuvres and will not be available for sale at the door. If you’ve joined us in the past, then you know this will be a ball.  Dress to impress.

Tickets are available through Eventbrite here.


Lot18 provides access to high-quality, hard-to-find wines at attractive prices. Essentially, the Gilt of wine.  Today’s featured wine, a 2006 Domaine du Pegau Cuvée Réservée Châteauneuf, is a blend from France’s Rhône valley. Châteauneuf-du-Pape became popularized by Robert Parker, the renowned critic and author, and has been the subject of tasters, critics, and wine drinkers all over the world.

K&L wine merchants carries this wine, and at $10 more than the advertised $59.99, you can purchase locally, the same bottle and vintage. However, is this really the bottle you want?

Let’s think abou Gilt for a second. The goods that are being promoted are easy to evaluate, as there is immediate esthetic value created by looking at a beautifully shot blouse, rug, or even packaged pâté. Through being able to visualize clothing and foods, you can make an informed decision on what you purchase. With wine, however, there is always the cognitive inclination to chose the bottle with the pretty labels, and as we all know so well, that mistake often leaves you in dissatisfying dismay.

So, how do you select a wine? It takes hours of research to make one selection. For instance – what is the terroir like where the grapes are grown, which can differ from where the winery is located. What vintage is the wine and how did the grapes fare that year in that particular region? The more you read, the more questions you uncover, making the experience challenging and exhausting for most.

In addition to patience, it takes a genuine passion for the art of winemaking, and the love of wine to get down to the most granular level of a wine. Even then, there’s still much left up to chance. And after all of that, there is a chance that the wine may just not be to your liking.

So, back to this wine. There are a few points that lead me to my decision on whether this is a good buy. After a bit of research, coupled with my experiences drinking Châteauneuf, I would purchase this bottle. The winery is distinguished and the reviews are quite good. While many think this can build complexity over the next several years, it is drinking quite well.