What’s Your Wine Sign?

With 2019 coming to a close and a new decade right around the corner, you may be wondering what the new year has in store for you. Well, there’s one thing I know for sure… Whatever it may be, you’d best have a glass of good wine to pair with your journey into the future! Here’s a little advice from Wine Folly to help match your horoscope to your Wine Zodiac!


What’s Your Sign?
Matching Wine To Your Zodiac

by Phil Keeling

Looking for a wine that matches your more spiritual side? This list of wine zodiac signs offers a new way to pair wines to complement the stars.

We’ve all been there: so many wines from which to choose, with no idea what to drink next. And with the chance to pair wines with food, weather, and even a holiday, why not try your horoscope?

Obviously, this started as a fun experiment rather than an actual spiritual journey. Still, we can’t believe how well these wines fit each sign! Plus, a wine zodiac pairing urges you to try something new that oh-so perfectly suits your personality!

Earth Signs

Try: Assyrtiko, Chenin Blanc, Gamay, Grenache, Monastrell, Montepulciano, Pinot Noir, and Zinfandel

More than anything else, Earth signs are known for being… well… down to earth. They tend to be reliable, hard-working, and obsessed with quality. Remember how your dad made you mow the lawn for no money because it would “build character?” Yeah, it’s sort of like that.

Based on that, your wine zodiac is looking at wines that are expressive of the land from which they come. Plus, they ought to be something pleasant to enjoy after a hard day’s work.

You are strong, ambitious, and a lover of creature comforts. Try a lush GSM blend from the Rhone, or a decadent Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

You are loving and gentle, yet practical. Your personality pairs well with the delicate flavors of a Beaujolais or Pinot Noir, which fully reflect the truth of where they grow.

You are pragmatic, ambitious, and serious. You are a perfect fit for the rich but straightforward flavors of a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, or the bold, elevated alcohol content of a Primitivo.

Fire Signs

Try: Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Grüner Veltliner, Nero d’Avola, Sangiovese, Syrah, and Valpolicella

Warm, emotional, and highly independent, Fire signs cannot be stopped when they put their minds to the task. They’re the life of the party who loves to make sure that everyone around them is having just as Much fun as they are. They are kind of like Mr. Rogers with a lampshade on his head.

So not only are the perfect wines for a Fire signs inviting and comfortable, they’ll display spicier notes and higher acidity that put them smack into center stage.

You are confident, competitive, and direct. Try a bold, mouth-zapping Grüner Veltliner, or the straightforward popularity of Barbera.

You are optimistic, flamboyant, and larger than life. The robust spotlight-hog that is New World Shiraz sounds perfect for you. That, or the immense, unforgettable flavor of Amarone della Valpolicella.

You are flexible, intellectual, and given to wanderlust. You are easily a match for the complex notes of Cabernet Franc, or the incredibly adaptable Sangiovese.

Water Signs

Try: Bordeaux Blend, Cabernet Sauvignon, Falanghina, Malbec, Merlot, Nebbiolo, and Tempranillo, and Viognier

Of all the signs, those born under a Water sign tend to be the most soothing and intuitive. Thoughtful and caring, Water signs are the most capable of offering quiet insight and guidance to those around them. They’re basically that best friend that you call every time you lose a job, a boyfriend, or a teeny-tiny bit of your mind.

So it’s no wonder that the wines that fit this zodiac sign best fall into those smooth and complex wines that the better part of the world couldn’t do without.

You are paternal, enigmatic, and charming. Try the subtle grace of a Merlot, or attempt to unravel the historical complexities of a Bordeaux blend.

You are intense, persistent, yet guarded. This sign pairs very well with the vivid boldness of a Barolo, or the smoky intensity of a Spanish Tempranillo.

You are compassionate, romantic, and quirky. Your personality is well suited for the rich, full flavors of an Argentinian Malbec, or the jammy, dynamic aromas of a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon.

Air Signs

Try: Champagne, Chardonnay, Mencía, Petit Verdot, Riesling, and Sauvignon Blanc, and Zweigelt

Air signs are the most adaptable and malleable of the signs. They’re known for their charm, their social grace, and their ability to change as the situation sees fit. Anyone who’s ever dated a theater major knows exactly what kind of person I’m talking about here.

Put all of that together, and your best bet for this wine zodiac is something light, expressive, and crisp that goes well with lots of situations: from the serious tasting rooms to the blow out parties!

You are lively, versatile, and expressive. Try an aromatic New World Sauvignon Blanc or pop the cork off some Champagne.

You are fair, suave, and indulgent. Perhaps a well-balanced Riesling or decadent bottle of Sherry is in order.

You are logical, eccentric, and witty. Sounds like the traditional but surprising flavors you get in Petit Verdot or Chablis are your best fit.

What’s with the wine zodiac?

Maybe checking the stars is a daily activity, or maybe it’s silly. Still, any chance you get to try a new wine or appreciate an old favorite with a fresh pair of eyes and new mindset is a chance you ought to take! At least, that’s what my horoscope said this week.

You won’t believe what they found on this shipwreck!

Glasses raised! Divers rescue 900 bottles
of old French liquor bound for Russian Tsar Nicholas II

from RT.com


The bottles appear almost intact
©Courtesy: Ocean X Team

Intended for the last Russian Tsar, the precious cargo was scuttled by a German U-boat at the height of World War I, having spent over 100 years under water until a team of divers extracted it from the Baltic Sea floor.

The intriguing story began in May 1917 when a Swedish steamer S/S Kyros set sail for Petrograd – now St. Petersburg – having 50 cases of French cognac and 15 cases of liqueur on board. The recipient of the shipment was Emperor Nicolas II, who dramatically abdicated from the throne just two months prior.

Russia was still formally at war with the German Empire, so the cargo was sent from France on a ship belonging to neutral Sweden. But the Kyros never reached her destination; as the steamer sailed past the Aland Island in the Baltic waters, she was intercepted by a German submarine UC-58.

Under the laws of war in those days, the Germans accused the crew of smuggling illegal products, allowed the sailors scuttle the Kyros and embark another ship. The whooping 900 bottles – containing the best of the French winemaking prowess – were buried under the sea.

S/S Kyros
©Courtesy: Ocean X Team

Back in 1999, the wreck was discovered, but it was too dangerous at the time to extract it. Twenty years later, a team of Swedish and Icelandic salvage hunters finally decided to get on it.

Following years of preparation, they set off for the hunt aboard the international vessel Deepsea Worker. Using her robots, they finally managed to salvage around 600 bottles of De Haartman & Co cognac and 300 bottles of Benedictine liqueur.

©Courtesy: Ocean X Team

The bottles they put on display appear to be intact. Some of them even bear original wax seals and markings.

©Courtesy: Ocean X Team

“The importance of this event cannot be overemphasized – it’s not only a find of rare cognac and liqueur but also a part of history of the former imperial Russia,” Ocean Explorer, the Swedish team, wrote on their website.

The prize is special given that Benedictine cognac is no longer in production and its maker, which traces its roots to French monks, has been taken over by Bacardi.

“[We] are excited to hear about the find and are eager to learn if the product has been preserved for the duration of the stay under water,” said Bacardi’s marketing manager Petra Caspolin.Indeed, the company has fair chances to put the retro liquor under microscope… unless the hunters go for a good sip of it.

Master Sommelier: An Elite Designation

Inside The Court of the Master Sommelier Credential

by Marisa D’Vari

Most people enjoying wine and cuisine in fine dining restaurants do not think too much about the sommelier. Some dismiss the sommelier as simply the restaurant employee who pours the wine.

Yet in the best restaurants, the role of the sommelier is quite complex. In some restaurants, the sommelier may be the wine director. This means that he or she creates the wine program and buys the wine as part of their job.

The wine director can sometimes also be seen “walking the floor” during lunch and dinner service, helping customers select the best wine for their meal. And in the very best scenarios, sommeliers can help educate guests about wine regions and styles.

Master Sommelier: An Elite Designation

The term “Master Sommelier” refers to a wine credential that is among the most difficult to achieve in the wine world.

This Master Sommelier, or “MS” credential, is at the pinnacle of the four designations possible in the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) program.

This program was created in 1977 in the United Kingdom. The objective was to improve standards of beverage knowledge and service in hotels and restaurants.
CMS: The Four Levels of Educational Training

There are four levels of the CMS program. With each level, students must master increasingly more difficult exam questions with regard to service, wine knowledge, and correct identification of wines tasted blind.

It is common for students at almost every level of this program to line the walls of their apartments with wine region maps.
At the very basic introductory level, students must take a two day course and then pass an intensive exam that demonstrates their knowledge of wine regions and wines of the world.
The Certified Sommelier Designation

The second level of the CMS program is the “Certified Sommelier” designation. You might have read about this in the bestselling book Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker.  

At this level, on the exam candidates must demonstrate knowledge of virtually every wine region in the world.

There is also an interactive part of the exam, involving Master Sommeliers (MS). In this part of the exam, the MS sits at a table in the restaurant where the exam is being held, and pretends to be a guest.

Next to the table are bottles of wine to be decanted or Champagne to be opened. The Master Sommelier will ask the student to open or decant wine, as well as asking pairing suggestions for the meal they intend to order. The Master Sommelier will score the student on their performance.
During this interactive part of the exam, CMS candidates must answer all questions about wine, food pairing, and even cocktail suggestions while also gracefully decanting or opening the wine, as proper service technique (yes, with that white ironed napkin over the right arm) is what is being graded.

In her book, Bianca Bosker, author of Cork Dork, admitted to failing this exam the first time she elected to undertake it.  And understandably so.

Bosker was a technical reporter when she decided to write a book on the inner workings of the wine world. She had never served wine in a restaurant, and as she admits, was a bit clumsy with service and in answering questions about wine production methods at the same time.

It was her research for the book that led her to enroll in the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS) program, and she did pass the Certified Sommelier exam on her second try.

Preparing For the CMS Tasting Component: Fun or Hard Work?

You might have seen one of the many films about groups of people studying to be sommeliers, like the popular documentary Somm.

In a typical scene, you will see a group of sommelier students sniffing, snorting, and swirling small portions of wine in enormous glasses, before spitting it out into a giant bucket.
While group tasting activities can seem fun and social, they can be stressful as well – especially as the date of the exam looms closer.

Time is short, the wines are very expensive, and it’s crucial to deduce the wine’s variety and origin correctly and as quickly as possible. This even extends to vintage when it comes to the classic wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux.

That’s right. Just one sniff and a scant mouthful and you need to be able to say something like, “It’s a Pinot Noir from Pommard, from a good producer, 1st Cru, and approximately 3 – 5 years of age.”

Can Having a Credentialed Sommelier Benefit You, the Guest?

While restaurants are not required to employ a sommelier with credentials, the better restaurants understand the value of doing so.

Sommeliers from the CMS (and comparable programs) share a common knowledge of wine, wine regions, and wine pairing. In addition to pouring wine with very professional etiquette, most sommeliers love sharing “insider” wine knowledge with guests.
This includes up and coming regions, like Bierzo in Spain, and new producers.

Many sommeliers with advanced credentials are also extroverts, and interacting with them heightens your enjoyment of your restaurant experience.

While few people intentionally visit a restaurant simply for sommelier service, it’s nice to know the training that goes on behind the CMS designation.

Don’t forget the Holiday Bubbles for your end-of-the-year Parties!

Don’t procrastinate to get your Holiday Bubbly ordered up today!

The holidays are (almost)here and what better to celebrate than with
some great bubblies that will not break the bank!

Click on the links below for tasting notes & pricing



And, as always, feel free to give us a call at 415-337-4083
for personalized assistance and suggestions!

A $100 Napa CAB at ½ the price!

The “Tether” wine is a Anna Monticelli & Kimberly Jones project.   This is real Napa Valley value in a bottle.  When I tasted the wine I figured, another $100, but I was wrong , it was ½ that price!  That said, the production is very limited, so you’ll have to act quick!

Tether 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
GGWC 56.99

FREE SHIPPING on six or more

Use code SHIPFREE6 during checkout

The 2015 Tether Cabernet Sauvignon explodes from the glass with abundant aromas of crème de cassis, huckleberry compote and blackberries. The intense dark fruits are followed up by layers of scorched earth, chocolate, spice box, crushed rock and toasty oak. The wine coats the palate with fantastic opulence and silkiness. This wine is full-bodied and dense with great richness and length on the finish.  The wine is a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon 7% Cabernet Franc 5% Petit Verdot 2% Merlot 1% Malbec.

Click here or on the links above, -OR- call 415-337-4083 to order!

The History of Sparkling Wine

The History of Sparkling Wine Includes Accidental Science and Exceptional Champagne
Wine Enthusiast

As you raise a glass of bubbly to toast the new year (or an average Tuesday), take a moment to drink in the centuries of culture and innovation in your glass.

In the Beginning

Blanquette de Limoux, from Languedoc, shows up in writings from as early as 1531 by the monks of St-Hilaire

“Mauzac is the main grape of Blanquette de Limoux,” says Jason Wilson, a drinks writer and historian whose books include Godforsaken Grapes. “[It] has these really unique apple-peel aromas and flavors.”

Blanquette de Limoux was first made using the ancestral method, or méthode ancestrale, where fermentation is stopped early, and wine undergoes a secondary fermentation in bottle. The technique might have been a happy accident, with winter weather halting fermentation, and then yeast waking up as temperatures climbed. (Now, Blanquette de Limoux is made using the traditional method for sparkling wine production, and Blanquette de Limoux Méthode Ancestrale is a separate designation.)

Champagne Rising

Wine production started here in the 17th century, when a monk named Dom Pierre Pérignon planted vines. He’s also credited with having observed the sparkling wines of Limoux and bringing the style to Champagne, but he died in 1715, before any commercial production began. Ruinart, the oldest established Champagne house, was founded in 1729, and documents show it began shipping bubbly in 1764.

The style gained in popularity among French and English nobility. In 1745, Moët & Chandon became the first purveyor to a European royal court, at the court of King Louis XV.

Veuve Clicquot was then founded in 1772. Among other things, Madame Clicquot invented the riddling process to remove yeast after secondary fermentation, creating the traditional method or méthode Champenoise.

Meanwhile in Italy

Prosecco’s history is almost as long as Champagne’s, with the first written record dating back to 1754. Vinified in the col fondo, or “with sediment,” style, same as the ancestral method, this wine from the Veneto was made from the native Glera grape.

“For years, Prosecco was understood as the name of the grape,” Wilson says. “But as the demand for Prosecco exploded worldwide in the 2000s, the Prosecco producers in northern Italy wanted to protect their wine… So they found a village in Friuli called Prosecco, and redrew the DOC [to include it].”

The invention of the Charmat method in 1895 made Prosecco much more affordable to produce. This technique dictates wines undergo secondary fermentation in a pressurized tank, and then get filtered and bottled under pressure.

In Franciacorta, meanwhile, producers began making traditional-method sparkling wines modeled after Champagne, picking up on the premium end.  
Spain Gets in on the Action

In 1872, a winemaker named Josep Raventós Fatjó decided to try his hand at traditional-method bubbles. He used Macabeu, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes native to Penedès, in Catalonia, where his family had been making wine under the Codorníu label since 1497. Legend has it that he was so pleased with the results, he immediately called for a cave (cava) to be dug, so he could produce more, and Cava became the name of the regional designation.

Cava has always been made using the traditional method, but higher quantity production and a shorter required time for secondary fermentation led to much lower prices than Champagne.

The California Exception

Sparkling wines have been produced in the Golden State since the 1860s, with the exception of the Prohibition era. Use of the name “Champagne,” on the labels of bottlings produced here has been the topic of many international trade agreements, and was finally banned for good in 2005. A handful of historic winemakers, however, had been grandfathered in and are allowed to continue making California Champagne.

The Modern Era

Sparkling wine continues to grow and evolve. In France, the crémant designation came into effect in 1975, so producers from some other regions could denote their traditional-method sparklers.

Italy also saw increased production in the 1970s, when the Ferrari family started making top-quality, traditional-method sparkling wine in the Alpine region of Trento, which has unified to form Trentodoc.

South Africa has a rich history of producing traditional-method sparkling wines. French Huguenots introduced the technique, and the designation Méthode Cap Classique, or MCC, was adopted in 1992.

More recently, English fizz and German sekt have made inroads in international markets, and American pét-nats are bubbling over. With almost 500 years of history behind it in total, the style’s future is nothing less than sparkling.


Blind Tasting is the Only Way to Rate Wine Fairly

Blind Tasting is the Only Way to Rate Wine Fairly

in WineMag.com

Blind tasting is at the heart of our ratings and reviews here. But what does that mean exactly? Don’t worry. We aren’t putting blindfolds on ourselves and fumbling around for the wine glass. Though that would be fun to watch.

Blind tasting means bottles are stripped of capsules, placed into paper bags and arranged in peer-group flights of the same or similar styles, varietal compositions, vintages and/or appellations, of about five wines. They are then tasted and scores are recorded, after which the bag is pulled off and the wine revealed.

Why is this method important? Simply put, it removes many opportunities for bias and levels the playing field for all wines to receive the same analysis without any preexisting expectations. That is to say, it removes all preconceived notions, good, bad or in between.

Blind tasting removes many opportunities for bias and levels the playing field for all wines to receive the same analysis without any preexisting expectations.

What types of biases exist? Let’s say I know a wine comes from a highly regarded producer. I might be inclined to look at it more favorably. The opposite certainly holds true, too. Perhaps I have never had a high-quality bottle from a certain producer, appellation or vintage. Do those wines really stand a fair chance if I am not tasting blind?

Another important bias is price. We are unaware of price points during our tastings, because otherwise, an expensive wine is more likely to be thought of favorably than an inexpensive wine.

If you don’t believe me, put a bottle of wine in a paper bag at a party. Tell half of your friends it costs $200. Tell the other half it costs $50. Ask how much they like it. I guarantee the differences in how those two groups perceive the wine will be profound.

Removing that variable as a consideration allows reviewers to focus on the juice in the glass and find unexpected high-¬quality, value-driven wines that perform just as well as, if not better than, those for two or three times the price

Biases can compound as well, such as an expensive wine coming from a top producer in a highly regarded vintage, or vice versa.
You might think blind tasting is the norm for wine reviews and reviewers, but it isn’t. Some evaluate wines while sitting with the winemaker or in large-scale, nonblind tastings or perhaps in nonblind, smaller tastings.

Personally, I still meet regularly with winemakers to talk about and taste their wines, as do all of Wine Enthusiast’s reviewers, for informational purposes. During these meetings, I usually write down notes and scores, but for my own personal reference—only scores from subsequent blind tastings are published—as the exercise provides an excellent opportunity to compare nonblind and blind scores, albeit with a different bottle on a different occasion.

What have I found? My scores tasting with winemakers are typically one to two points higher, sometimes more, than they are when tasted blind in a controlled setting and peer-group flight.

This shouldn’t be shocking. Winemakers are excited about their wines, and they are trying to get me excited about them too. Guess what? It works!

The effects of expectation can be profound. Blind tasting removes expectation and always yields surprises. As wine professionals, we like to think we are immune from biases. But we are not. We’re only human, after all.


96 Point Chardonnay Stunner!

I met Greg Brewer in the late 1990s when he was the assistant winemaker at Santa Barbara winery. He had just made his (own) first two barrels of wine and was very excited about it – I didn’t disagree!  He immediately received great accolades, and 20 years later he’s still at it.  His latest “3D” is yet another example of his great craft.

Brewer Clifton 2017 “3D” Chardonnay, Santa Rita Hills
Retail 70.00 – GGWC 64.99
Use code BC173D during checkout

Jeb Dunnuck 96 Points: “The 2017 Chardonnay 3D comes from a more easterly site that was planted in 2007. It’s a richer Chardonnay and offers an ethereal, gorgeously pure bouquet of caramelized citrus, white flowers, pineapple, honeysuckle, and toasted bread. Beautifully layered, seamless, and polished, with medium to full-bodied richness, it’s another rocking effort.”

Parker 96 Points: “The 2017 Chardonnay 3D has a wonderfully open nose of honey-drizzled hazelnut, sweet hay, warm peach and nectarine with white blossoms, a hint of chamomile, red apple skin and a strong line of crushed rock minerality. It’s medium to full-bodied and juicy with tons of ripe, honeyed fruits that segue back to lime skin and crushed stone on the very long, energetic finish.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Blind Tasting (Pinot Noir) winner!

Our last Pinot Noir Blind Tasting of year concluded with a surprise winner. We lined up the following great Pinots from California & Oregon:

  • Brickhouse “Les Dijonnais” (95 Points)
  • Morlet “Coteaux Nobles” (96 Points)
  • Brewer Clifton “Hapgood” (95 Points)
  • Rhys “Alpine” (95 Points)
  • Liquid Farm “Spear” (95 Points)
  • Kistler “Cuvee Natalie Silver Belt” (96 Points)
  • Dumol “Finn” (95+ Points)
  • Beaux Frères “The Upper Terrace” (96 Points)
  • Senses “MCM88” (95 Points)
  • Capiaux “Pisoni” (94 Points)

The WINNER was Capiaux “Pisoni” by a landslide!

Capiaux 2016 Pisoni Vineyard Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands
GGWC 59.99
Use code CAPIAUX during checkout

Pisoni Vineyard’s reputation precedes itself so what if left to say? The 2016 appears darker than usual leaning to the purple spectrum. Old World aromas of earth, carbon and restraint. As it broadens in the glass, black fruit, toasted nuts, currant and even rum raisin emergs. Bright acidity, fine tannins.

The 2016 Pinot Noir Pisoni Vineyard is sensual, racy and inviting. Silky tannins and a creamy palate feel yield a Pisoni of unusual finesse, which is quite remarkable for a site that in the past has tended to produce much darker and more potent wines than this. Hints of violet, lavender, spice and a dash of new oak add shades of nuance.

Click here or on the links above to order!

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