Tasting Tips and Techniques

Of course we all taste and learn differently, but I've listed 6 tips that have majorly helped me out over the years. 

  1. You have completely different life experiences than the person next to you. So, stop trying to get what you’re supposed to get in particular wines and focus on what YOU get. The best way of doing this is to keep a “wine journal” and write down everything you taste and smell. Instead of trying to taste Canary Island Malvasia, start with the basic 6 whites and 6 reds from regions of where these grapes are known. For example, Napa Cabernet. Ask your wine shop to sell you only textbook examples of wine when you come in, because you’re trying to grasp these classic styles first.
  2. When blind tasting for an exam or just personal development, don’t assume that you know what the wine is, immediately. Step back, asses the alcohol, acidity, tannin, and flavor components, you may be surprised. On first sniff, you might go “ Oh, that’s Riesling,” but after tasting it a few times, the alcohol or acidity might not be in line with a classic Riesling at all. So, remember to take your time and think of all the possibilities.
  3. Take my “Champagne Challenge.” Identifying Champagne vs. any non-Champagne Sparkling Wine can be very difficult for beginners and even intermeeds. I suggest buying 3 different bottles of Prosecco and tasting them over 3 days. Then, buy 3 different Champagnes and do the same (I never said this was going to be cheap). Finally, go back to the same Proseccos for the last 3 days. Make sure to only purchase classic styles of each and journal all tasting notes. Hint: baked bread on your Champagne notes? That’s the yeast talking.
  4. GO SHOPPING! Go to the flower market, I doubt you know what every flower in the current season smells like. You might just pick up a daffodil and think,"this smells just like Viognier!" Grab a basket and collect a few for a wine tasting "show and tell" to see if anyone can identify similarities There are dozens of floral aromas in every common and/or testable wine, so the comparisons will surely shock you. 
  5. Do the same at the Farmer's Market! Gather several different fruits that are clearly under-ripe. Tasting them at this stage will undoubtedly remind you of either a young wine, a cool (perhaps Old World) region. Compare them with a few over-ripe, stewed or cooked fruits. For example: make cranberry sauce. Your wine brain will likely take you to a warm or hot (probably New World) region, or possibly a wine that's spent some extra time on the vine.
  6. Partner up! Group tastings are a great way to make you feel like crap -just kidding.. However, if you are studying for an exam and you have a friend who has already taken it, they can give you some insight into what you should know, how close you are to the answer, etc..   
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What's the D with Bio-D?

After reading a few Steiner books, interviewing Biodynamic winemakers, and even getting lost in couple hate threads that claim the practice is all a big hoax, this is my personal opinion on BioD winemaking.

First of all, what is Biodynamic wine?
Essentially, Biodynamic winemaking incorporates astrology and utilizes the lunar cycle as a guide to planting and tending to grapevines. In addition to this holistic style of agriculture, it is crucial that a winery act in an organic fashion, without the addition of man-made substances.The ideals of organic winemaking stem from the notion that everything in nature survives without chemicals, therefore wine should be no different. Biodynamics, however, takes it a step further and views a vineyard as an entire ecosystem, allowing plants and animals to take the place of chemical additions.

Is Biodynamic wine weird?
Sure, Biodynamics is often described as weird or bizarre and can come with some incredibly dubious techniques. For example, fertilization involves burying a cow horn filled with the manure of a lactating cow, unearthing it in the spring, adding water, and then spraying it around your vineyard. While this hasn’t been proven effective, it hasn’t been proven ineffective either.

Who started it?
Biodynamics was founded by Austrian Philosopher, Rudolph Steiner in 1924. With a strong interest in all things agriculture, Mr. Steiner conducted extensive research and identified several commonalities among viticulturists who seemed quite connected to their environments. He took their practices and formulated them into a set of rules and even a calendar for Biodynamic vineyard management. Most of his findings have not been proven legitimate, in fact, several have been discovered as incorrect. What has been recognized effective, however, are his claims on naturally produced pesticides, as well as his instruction for picking grapes late at night. This is when temperatures are coolest, and grapes have the lowest chance of bursting before arriving to the winery intact. If you look into most Biodynamic preparations, they are basically homeopathic in nature and used to heal the earth.
Mr. Steiner had a unique mind, attributing intuition as the source behind several of his principles. Whether his findings are completely valid or merely the result his extensive acid trips, many of my favorite wineries are practicing Biodynamic viticulture today. In fact, thousands of winemakers are following his concepts, leading me to the conclusion that Biodynamics isn’t one big hoax. Regardless of the many eccentric practices, the intense attention it forces growers to pay in the vineyard can't be anything but beneficial to the final product.
Side note, and perhaps unrelated: Rudolph Steiner also founded the Waldorf Schools. After attending one for 8 years, I can tell you first-hand that, while art projects far surpassed math equations, the 9 other middle school grads in my class went on to be extremely successful in life. Food for thought.

Ok, so any favorites?
The list below contains a few of my favorite Biodynamic wines, available now from Convive Wine and Spirits (NYC and online): http://www.convivewines.com/
White Wines:
1.) Knauss 2016 Weiss Blend, Germany @ $17
2.) Pedralonga 2015 Albarino, Spain @ $29
3.) Domaine de la Taille aux Loups 2014 Vouvray. Loire, France @ $40

Red Wines:
1.) Montinore Estate 2015 Pinot Noir Willamette Valley, USA @ $19
2.) Dettori 2011 Cannonau Sardinia, Italy @ $30
3.) Bedrock 2014 Old Vines Zinfandel, California @ $24

Where can I taste one in NYC?
You’ll surely find more than a few Biodynamic wines at one of these NYC bars and restaurants.

1.) Ten Bells
2.) The Four Horsemen
3.) Anfora
4.) Racines
5.) Jadis

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Hudson Valley Vino

As a Hudson newbie, I've been quite curious about the wines produced between Long Island and the Finger Lakes.. Over the past year, I've tasted through about 20 different producers' wines, which was actually more than I assumed were even here. In a nutshell, while there are way too many sweet wines for my taste, (and blueberry wine, and apple wine -no, I'm not talking about cider), I have come across a few little gems. Two producers (both of whom I've visited) made an appearance at the Rip Van Winkle Wine, Brew and Beverage Festival last weekend and clearly stood out among the others. 

Hudson-Chatham Winery
Check out their Seyval Blanc, which is light and kind of like Muscadet to me, as well as their Baco Noir, which tastes something like a blend of Gamay and Grenache. These two grapes are planted and produced throughout the valley, and I do think (when made properly), they have a chance to really shine. The winemaker is extremely experimental, playing with blends and planting new varietals regularly. They even have an Orange Wine (pictured below), called "Heirloom White" which is a lightly skin-contacted blend of their heirloom grapes. The "Hudson Valley Red" (also pictured below) is a blend of local grapes DeChaunac, Leon Millot, Baco Noir, and Chambourcin. This one tastes a bit like a Beaujolais to me: fruit-forward and perfect for the summer with a slight chill. 

Tousey Winery
Unlike Hudson-Chatham, this winery is focusing on Frenchies like Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. The acidity on the whites is in line with an Alsacian Riesling or Burgundian Chardonnay, and the "Rebellion Rosé" (pictured below) has Provence written all over it. This easy drinking Rosé tastes like ripe strawberries, wild basil, with a touch of green apple. Their Cab Franc (also pictured), is not shy on the earthiness, with a round body and a hint of dried meat and bell pepper on the nose. Both are perfect BBQ pair-ers and I'm very excited to see where this winery goes. They're doing Pinot Noir for gosh sakes, not an easy task in general, much less Catskill, NY. 

Know another great wine up here? Comment below, I'm all ears and always on the hunt!

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Glorious Gloria Ferrer Pairings

“Sparkling wine goes with everything,” a phrase we commonly hear when pairing bubbly with food. Technically speaking though, I have to disagree. Some sparkling wines are so light, that they rarely pair well with some of my favorite seasonal dishes. I’m always on board with comfort foods in the winter, and made it my mission to pair these rich, substantial side dishes with a sparkling wine. Why? Because I love my bubbly, duh. Luckily, I found Gloria Ferrer as proof that bubbles can in fact stand up to my winter go-tos. Perhaps this is due to their warmer climate and Carneros situation, which gives their sparkling wines a little more umpf.

Gloria Ferrer was founded and stilled owned by the Ferrer family of Spain. In fact, they were the first winery in the Carneros AVA over 30 years ago! Today, with 335 acres under vine, the vineyards produce some of the best Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, both of which are used for sparkling and still. Similar to the production in Spain, the family makes sparkling wine in the traditional method only. This isn't always the case for wineries in California. I can personally notice a heightened complexity and immensely longer-lasting bubbles, due to the secondary fermentation in the bottle. 

GLORIA FERRER SONOMA BRUT: (91% Pinot Noir, 9% Chardonnay)            

A delicate sparkling wine with a full-bodied palate. Hints of ripe raspberries and red roses complete the fruit-driven nose and toasted almonds on the palate. With effortless minerality, this sparkling wine can pair easily with slow-cooked seasonal vegetables, like my roasted carrots or charred Brussels sprouts.

GLORIA FERRER BLANC DE BLANC: (100% Chardonnay)

Brioche, orange blossoms and ripe pear graze the nose, while green apples and lemongrass complete the palate. Extremely well balanced, this highly textural sparkling wine can easily stand up to cream sauces, (even my rich risotto) as the acidity cuts right through the fat.

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Don't believe me? Try these three recipes with Gloria Ferrer’s Blanc de Blanc and Sonoma Brut.

1.)    Brussels sprouts with chorizo. Recipe by Saveur HERE or copy and paste: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Brussels-Sprouts-with-Chorizo

2.)    Sesame roasted carrots and parsnips. Recipe by Big Girl Small Kitchen HERE or copy and paste: http://www.biggirlssmallkitchen.com/2015/12/roasted-carrots-and-parsnips-with-sesame-sauce.html

3.)    Mushroom orzo risotto. Recipe by My Recipies HERE or copy and paste: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/mushroom-orzo-risotto

DID YOU KNOW… Gloria Ferrer wines have earned over 500 gold medals and 50 90+ scores in the last 5 years! Pick up yours and learn more here: http://clvr.li/1I2GxmY

 

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Seasonal Stunners!

'Tis the season to start creating your Thanksgiving menu and wine list. Here are three wines that I've been ridiculously into and can't wait to see what they do with the traditional fixin's. 

1.) 2015 Furst Elbling

Elbling is a ridiculously fun and interesting German grape, and this one hails from the steep slopes of the southern Mosel river valley. The soil type here is a shell-based limestone, which is shown off on the palate. Minerality is the motto here, with notes of river fish, brine-y oysters and sesame seeds. Complex, fresh as hell and completely dry, I'd pair with soft cheeses, arugula salads and squash. 

2.) 2015 Domaine de la Pinte Poulsard de l'Amis Karl

From the always interesting Arbois region (Jura, France), the Poulsard grape is one of the thinnest-skinned in the world. The marl soil and biodynamic practices both shine through upon tasting. I knew the tannins would be rather low, but the body surprised me. This is quite mouth-coating while tart cranberries and raspberries are balanced between lilicorice and spice.  It's basically cranberry sauce in a wine glass, and the powerful earthy tones make it perfect for light turkey and mushroom stuffing. 

3.) 2013 Georges Lignier et Fils Marsonnay

I'm always on the hunt for Marsonnay, as the region consistently produces great red and white Burgundy at a major value. In a traditional style, this Pinot Noir is quite inviting with just a touch of new oak. Ripe dark cherries, raisins and balsamic grace the nose, while the palate is a bit more complex and mineral. Notes of white mushroom and salami are released on the long finish. Ready to drink now, and easy to pair with slightly heavier sides, including casseroles and gravy-glazed potatoes.

All wines available at Kingston Wine Co. in Kingston, NY

Bordeaux Dinner (98 Cheval, 03 Cos, 05 Pavie)

Last night, I was fortunate enough to pour (and sit) at a private Bordeaux tasting. The host urged me to select non-first growth, as he knew them well - the ones that were drinking anyway. So, below are three of my choices, none of which I'd had prior, and my tasting notes. 

From Youngest to Oldest, the 2005 Chateau Pavie was immensely powerful, with surprisingly shocking texture with 11 years of age at this point. Notes included tobacco, blackberry jam, new oak, granular tannins, I'd give this 98/100 but not without food. 

The 2003 Cos d'Estournel was quite complex and included notes of lavender incense, raspberry cassis, and several exotic spices and herbs which were difficult for me to pinpoint. While it was wonderful now, the tannins drove slightly, and I'd be interested in opening this again in 2019/2020. 

Last, the 1998 Cheval Blanc. What can I say? This wine absolutely stood up to the hype and high scores. Leather, plums, raisins and menthol surround the nose and palate, and you're left with a clear balance of full body, polished tannin and ripely pure fruit. Entirely complex, I noticed smokey, campfire and milk chocolate throughout the hour I slowly enjoyed it. 

 

Hillersden Tasting Notes

If you haven't tasted the phenomenal whites of New Zealand based winery, Hillersden, allow me to expand on their Sauvignon Blanc, Sparkling Sauvginon Blanc, and Pinot Gris. To start, the estate was created around sustainable practices and environmentally sound standards, in an effort to produce the highest quality, single estate wines possible. Located in the Upper Wairu Valley of Marlborough, the wines are grown in the valley beneath the Richmond Ranges, at the base of the mountains.

2014 Sauvignon Blanc

The nose is comprised of limeade and under-ripe pineapples. The fruit does not overwhelm or shock, as some vegetal hints can shine through. Green bell peppers and jalapeño grace the palate, as well as zesty lime juice and granny smith apple skin. The light body is only noticeable due to the acidity and a very long finish. The structure is perfectly in line, making this a surefire crowd-pleaser for any Sauv Blanc fan. 

2015 Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc

Much like the 2014 still, this Sparklling Sauvignon Blanc leads with under-ripe and mild tropical fruits on the nose. The freshly cut grass, jalapeño and bell peppers match the fruit perfectly. This sparkling wine is effortlessly complex, while not completely dry, the high acidity is quite comfortable. There's a spicy kick to the finish, which makes me consider several pairing options, especially fried fish tacos. 

2014 Pinot Gris

Unlike the Sauvignon Blancs, the pinot gris has mild fruit on the nose and a full, round body. Melons, white flowers, grapefruit, sweet pine needles and jasmine grace the nose and each descriptor is confirmed on the rich palate. This is exactly how Pinot Gris should feel and taste. While easy to drink all day without food, the striking acidity makes it a pair with mussels in cream sauces, or aged cheese.

"Old World Favorites" Private Tasting

6 greats from the old world, a private tasting by Hillary Zio, enjoy!

Wine 1.) 2014 Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal

Gruner Veltliner is the signature grape of Austria, and lately you won’t find one of poor quality exported to America. Brundelmayer is located just west of Vienna, in the region of Kamptal. With stony soil, very high in elevation with cool terraces, this wine has bright and fresh acidity, with several unique floral notes, as well as grass, limeade and a hint of asparagus.

Wine 2.) 2014 Moreau-Nadet Chablis

Stephane Moreau was labeled the most exciting new producer of Chablis by Burghound in 2012 and his wines have only gotten better. Learning from Vincent Dauvissat, his wines are also deeply mineral, displaying the kimmeridgean soil seemingly effortlessly. He uses ancient barrels and just a touch, to express the racy terroir. Green apples, orange peel and a hint of clay from the soil are notes you can find across the palate. Biodynamic and only hand-harvests, these wines are under the radar – for now.

Wine 3.) 2014 Duroche Gevrey Chambertin “Champ”

Pierre Duroche is a 2nd generation winemaker and took over from his father in 2005. Their wines are all about elegance and finesse, not oak and power, which can be a bit rare to find in Gevrey Chambertin. They have 8 hectares of micro cuvees, encompassing 5 Grand Cru vineyards and 3 Premier Cru sites. This is the “champ” a lieu dit to the North of Gevrey Chambertin. The tannins are fine grained, and the nose is earth-driven and vegetal. Very well balanced with a long finish.

Wine 4.) 2010 CVNE Gran Reserva Rioja

One of the largest (500+ hectares) and oldest (est. 1878) producers in Rioja (Alta and Alavasea), offering a very traditional and consistent style year after year. CVNE’s Gran Reservas are aged 24 months in cask and 36 months in bottle, and these Tempranillo vines are at minimum, 20 years old. The family (5th Generation) and winemaking team are known for their low yields and American/French barrel combinations, both resulting in the classic style that sets them apart. Black cherries, fresh berries, toast, dill and balsamic come across on the nose and palate.

Wine 5.) 2010 Siro Pacente Brunello di Montalcino

Small and pristine, Giancarlo Pacenti is making beautiful wines in the heart of Montalcino. The Brunellos and Rossos have been highly rated and described as perfectly balanced and age-worthy. This has to do with the blend of 2 vineyards he owns to the North and South of Montalcino Hill. Pelagrilli is his vineyard to the north, offering elegance, fragrance, and a silky texture. The Southwest, warmer vineyard is located in Colle and known for full-bodied and dense tannins. By blending the two, he is able to create very unique wines with an abundance of power, fruit and finesse.

Wine 6.) 2008 Brane Cantenac

Located in Margaux, 2008 is considered one of the best vintages of Brane Cantenac EVER! This second growth Bordeaux is 75 hectares long, with history going back to 1833. Today, the estate is over 25% organically farmed, using sustainable techniques, this number goes up each year in an effort to preserve the region. The blend is 55% Cabernet, 40% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and .5% Carmenere. The wine is blended and then aged 60% new French oak. The palate is complete with notes of tobacco, cassis, mushroom, and truffles with a dark cherry and blackberry finish. Clean and elegant, it’s easy to see why this vintage has been so prevalent for the chateau. 

 

Tasting Notes: Don Tony Perez of Curico Valley, Chile

Don Tony Perez has only been in business a few years, producing both whites and reds within the Curico Valley. This is one of the largest and oldest wine regions in Chile, located in the center of the country. With so many micro-climates along the coast and even inland, several varietals can be made within the region. In preparation to represent this brand, I tasted six of them and was wildly impressed. Tasting notes below!

1.) 2013 White:

A very approachable and enjoyable white blend consisting of equal parts Viognier and Riesling. The nose demands your attention with a plethora of tropical fruits like mango and pineapple. There’s a hint of vanilla, indicating the soft usage of (partial) oak. The weight is delicate but the tropical fruits are confirmed on the palate, and even a bit more raisonated and candied on the finish. Several other fruits exist across the finish, including golden pears and passionfruit. Again, nothing overwhelming or out of place, this white blend is surely a crowd-pleaser.

2.) 2011 Red:

This red blend is charming and exceptionally well balanced. The aroma leads with fruit and includes notes of dried figs and blackberries. The palate consists of leather and spices, with a touch of coriander on the finish. While the tannins are quite intense, this is definitely a food-preferred wine. I’d recommend a ragu or meat stew to pair best with this blend.

3.) 2011 Syrah Gran Reserva:

This is a stunning expression of the Syrah grape and fully came to life after decanting. The nose consists of licorice and stewed fruits like blackberry jam, cranberry sauce and orange marmalade. Very complex, as the palate is quite different than the nose. Secondary flavors of red pepper flakes, pine needles, chocolate and candied currants exist across the palate and throughout the finish. While a very fully bodied wine, the tannins are smooth and do not overwhelm. Exceptional and multifaceted!

4.) 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon: 

First and foremost, this is an earth-driven, very mineral wine. Mushrooms and potting soil are quite apparent on the nose, but fade to the background across the palate. Leather, berries and cinnamon came to life once tasted, along with wet wood and dark chocolate (indicating mature barrels were used in production). Tremendously approachable for such a young Cabernet.

5.) 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva:

This wine is extremely fruit forward, conceivably due to the young age. The nose is bursting with boysenberries, blackberries and cherries. Some secondary aromas exist and include fresh ground pepper and red roses. This wine is very interesting and I'd like to see how it develops over the next few years. Still young and very powerful, I would pair with steak or grilled sausages.

6.) 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva:

This very concentrated wine has aged beautifully. All of the right Cabernet qualities are present on the nose and palate. Some tertiary aromas include granite, soil and smoked meat. The tannins are well integrated and the body is quite full. With such a long finish and several fascinating flavors, I can see this wine developing beautifully over the next five years.

Top 6 Somm-Tested Summer Recipes

I may know a thing or two about wine, but cooking isn't my strong suit. As far as recipes, I need 'em short, easy, and complete with pics, videos, puppet shows, you name it.

So, over the last few weeks, I tried DOZENS of summer recipes that I found on Google, Pinterest, and Instagram, claiming to be quick and easy. Today, find my Top 6 Sommelier-tested Summer Recipes. These Chefs know how to make delicious meals AND how to break it down for beginners. Simply click the recipes, or type in the below links and start cookin.' Comment for wine pairing advice!

1.) Chicken and Mushroom Lettuce Wraps: CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

 http://www.tablefortwoblog.com/from-the-archives-take-out-fake-out-chicken-lettuce-wraps/

2.) Zucchini and Sausage Penne: CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

 http://www.foodiecrush.com/zucchini-and-chicken-sausage-penne-pasta-recipe/

3.) Kale and Wild Rice Salad with Piquillo Peppers: CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

http://food52.com/recipes/4307-brown-wild-rice-salad-with-kale-piquillo-peppers

4.) Chipotle- Lime Fish Tacos: CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

http://www.closetcooking.com/2011/06/chipotle-lime-fish-tacos.html

5.) Grilled Shrimp Spring Rolls: CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

http://www.foodiecrush.com/grilled-shrimp-vietnamese-spring-rolls/

6.) Tex Mex Chopped Chicken Salad: CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE

http://everydaydishes.com/simple-food-recipes/tex-mex-chopped-chicken-salad/

IMPOSSIBLE PAIRINGS!!!

Like wine, some complex dishes just seem impossible to enjoy with anything but themselves. Loners perhaps, or just too stubborn to sign up for that dating app. ;) Today, I have 4 summer head-scratchers, and exactly how I match-made each one. These pairings are sure to result in a couple Whoahhhs at your next dinner party. In order of potential plate-drop:

-          Beet Salad and Aged Riesling: When funky meets aromatic. You’ll likely have a goat-cheese component here, so the acidity in a German Riesling will cut right through. Also, the beets (and maybe some arugula) will sing with the wine’s earthy elements after a few years in the bottle. If you have a golden beet love affair, remember that they are a bit more neutral, so stick with a Riesling with age that won’t overwhelm with shocking fruit and florality.

 

-          Tuna Tartare and New Zealand Sauv Blanc: I honestly thought this would be too much, but the tropical flavors brought out the sesame in the dressing. The pair also had a matching trace of jalapeño that heightened the spice. As one of many with “hot sauce in my bag swag,” this is an intense, but very much hell yes pairing.

 

-          Pulled Pork Tacos and Sangiovese: To be clear, I am NOT talking about Brunello, or even most Chianti. I’m talking about that Rosso that every blind taster at the study group calls a Pinot Noir. The oak is pretty much non-existent, but we’re still working with a medium body for that obvious Chipotle sauce and slow cookin’. Can I get some slaw though? Don’t get syrupy with me, we need to balance it out with a little lime sauce, cilantro and vinegar. THANKS!

 

-          Carrot Cake and Amontillado Sherry: Those little nuts on the frosting were not an accident, sweet and salty PLUS creamy and crunchy… It just doesn’t get any better, and I don’t even like sweets. Carrot cake cookers (bakers, whatever) please go easy on the sugar and let the nut do the crunch… OOoo salty, and that’s how it should be, so stick with dry sherry or dry-ish Madeira on this one. ;)

 

Chassagne Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet

Any passionate collector of white Burgundy undoubtedly turns to Chassagne Montrachet and Puligny Montrachet when looking to appreciate and expand their cellar. The infamous, aforementioned Premier Crus habitually provide a divine expression of the Chardonnay grape. Further, I have two favorites I'd like to share, within each sub region. 

Le Domaine Francois Carillon, of Puligny are known for their 15 generations of farming and extensive winemaking expertise. Recognized to produce wines of racy elegance, Carillon perfectly exemplifies the Puligny terroir.

Domaine Michel Niellon of Chassagne contains predominately old vines within their few plots. The estate relies on low yields, which gives the wines intensity, but results in a low supply. This, along with Niellon’s massive following, makes securing bottles very difficult, but rewards immensely. 

Top 5 Reds to Grill Over

It's almost nice enough to wonder if you're red wine collection feels a little too fire-side, catch my drift? As I've said, if Napa Cab and Aussie Shiraz are first to find their place in your beach bag, then by all means, drink what you like! ...However... for most of us, Spring and Summer calls for something lighter, with enough acidity to quench and fruit to refresh. For this reason, I've laid down my ALL-TIME seasonal favorite producers, styles and varietals for you to rely on. While made in small production, these also seem readily available to me (in NYC at least) and especially online. From light to full and paired best from app to entree, meet your summer red lineup. All under $25, might I add:

1.) 2015 Lapierre "raisins gaulois" (Beaujolais): The Gamay grape is known for it's approachable, light body, and tart fruit like cranberries and fresh apples. This pairs best with the beach, your porch, the backyard, a rooftop -you got it, no food necessary. Your beach bod will thank me ;) 

2.) 2014 Copain Pinot Noir: Always delightful, from the Sonoma Valley, this could easily pass for old world, with their fresh and earthy style. I heard someone describe it as tasting "like the mountain-top," which might be due to their high altitude vineyard locations.. who knows. Also, feel free to go back 3-4 vintages if you can find them, because this stuff ages beautifully!

3.) 2014 (or '13)  Tami Frappato: From Sicily, by the ever popular natural winemaker, Arianna Occhipinti (#girlboss), the 2014 vintage has been clearly perfected. The raspberries and strawberries on the nose are meant to offset the rocky minerality. Keep in mind, the touch of heat makes this one grill-ready. Try it with a burger or a bratwurst, you'll find it gracefully keeps up. 

4.) 2014 Via Arxentea Mencia: The Spanish wine to know this summer! From the region of Monterrei, everything about this well-balanced red screams BBQ. The bell-peppery charm is stylishly balanced with clove due to the portion of new oak used to age. You'll be reminded of smoked sausages and mustard, clear components to successful grilling. 

5.) 2014 Rosi Schuster Zweigelt. Welcome to one of my favorite, much lesser known varietals, Zweigelt. This particular Austrian producer really over delivers. With fine-grained tannins and a plethora of cooking spices and herbs, you would think I was talking about a wine worth hundreds more, and maybe it should be. Perfect pairing? Grilled eggplant or pork chops. 

Cheers, 

Hillary Zio

Popular Pinot!

While there are always trendy estates, the following 3 California Pinot producers have been increasingly asked for over the last year. First, Kistler, with their Burgundian styles and France-worth acidity levels. They have effectively put the Russian River Valley on the map. 

Then, the great wines of Peter Michael, and his 15, single-vineyard bottlings, in their most ideal (not to mention picturesque) western-facing situation. These terroir-driven wines have proven to stand the test of time. 

Finally, Rhys, while more of a new-comer in comparison, is clearly worthy of the recent praise from critics and wine experts throughout the world. Their mountainous terroir and rocky soils have differentiated them in Pinot Noir production with a very unique style. Feel free to reach out with questions regarding these fabulous estates, and remember, everything ships now! 

2011 Vintage in Brunello

Lately, we’ve been discussing the 2011 vintage for Brunello. 2010 was a very hard act to follow, but wineries are not disappointed after tasting their new releases. The 2011 vintage wasn’t uniform like 2010, and there were some extremes in the weather. To make the right choices in 2011, you needed to know your vines as well as you know yourself. I’m placing my bets on the seasoned winemakers with an advantage when it comes to location. Marroneto is just that, based on a traditional and minimalist philosophy since planting their vines in 1975. Secure yours at Vinfolio.com!