Are Modern Sommeliers Educators? Absolutely.

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 01-20-2015

taste vinAs regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. These columns are hosted by Grape Collective.

If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at –

In my latest column, I praise the educational approach favored by today’s top sommeliers.  

Are Modern Sommeliers Educators? Absolutely.

I was out past midnight one recent Wednesday, despite a meeting early the next morning. When I headed home, my route took me through Washington, D.C.’s popular 14th Streetcorridor, where a few bars and restaurants were still open.

As I passed Doi Moi, a trendy Southeast Asian restaurant, I noticed that virtually every table in the front half of the restaurant was full. Odd for so late on a weeknight, I thought. I then realized that the tables were packed with staffers. The team had assembled, with notebooks and glasses in hand, to learn from wine director Max Kuller. He holds seminars twice each month to teach his team about wine.

Kuller represents a new generation of sommeliers, one that has rejected the exclusivity and stuffiness of yesteryear in favor of an approach that values inclusivity and education. Kuller is more comfortable in jeans and a T-shirt than a three-piece suit. And while his list includes a handful of expensive trophies, it mostly offers offbeat, wallet-friendly wines that work well with Doi Moi’s cuisine. Thanks to regular gatherings, Kuller’s team is familiar with Doi Moi’s full list. And Kuller works hard to make sure his colleagues take the interaction of wine with food seriously.

Spotting the late-night wine seminar was refreshing. Earlier that evening, I dined at La Chaumiere, a French bistro in Georgetown that opened its doors in 1976 and has hardly changed since. 

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Three Wine Trends to Watch for in 2015

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 01-06-2015

One hallway (of many) in the cellar at Krug.

A hallway at Krug.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. These columns are hosted by Grape Collective.

If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at –

In my latest column, I make three predictions about the year ahead.

Three Wine Trends to Watch for in 2015

2014 will likely go down as the year that powerful wine critics lost their grip on the marketplace.

Last year, many retailers stopped using points to sell wines. Instead of “shelf talkers” advertising reviews from publications like Wine Spectator, shops offered handwritten notes praising certain wines. Many restaurants, too, removed points from their menus in 2014. Instead, they decided to educate their servers about wine — and hire fun sommeliers to chat with guests. Thanks to popular mobile apps like Delectable, wine consumers moved away from critics like Robert Parker and toward fellow enthusiasts with similar palates.

This year, look out for three big trends.

Champagne will find a spot at the dinner table. Oenophiles have always talked about top Champagne with the same reverence they reserve for the finest wines of Bordeaux and Burgundy. But for most of the past 50 years, everyday Americans poo-pooed Champagne. The good stuff was too expensive and rarely seemed worth it. And the imitations served at weddings — think Cook’s and cheap Prosecco — was, well, gross.

Today, however, consumers are falling in love with Champagne. Shipments to the United States have been climbing steadily since 2009.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Daily Wine News: Serge Hochar

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 01-02-2015

Serge Hochar (Wikipedia).

Serge Hochar (Wikipedia).

While on vacation in Mexico, Serge Hochar of Chateau Musar suffered a fatal accident. He was 74. Jancis Robinson pays tribute.

When it comes to the northern Rhone, Eric Asimov thinks “the best combination of value and distinctiveness is currently found in St.-Joseph.” That’s why it’s the focus of his latest wine school.

“These so-not-snobby sommeliers are just as smart about wine as their suited-up forebears—and won’t make you feel clueless for not knowing a Verdicchio from a Vermentino.” In Bon Appetit, Belle Cushing profiles “6 sommeliers to watch in 2015.”

“We’ve even got single diners at the bar with bottles of Champagne. That’s pretty badass, right?” In Food & Wine, Ray Isle chats with Corkbuzz’s Laura Maniec, who “offers every excuse you need to drink more Champagne.”

In GQ, Jamie Chung raises a glass to “Champagne That Doesn’t Suck.” Chung praises the wines of Cedric Bouchard, Christophe Mignon, and Jacquesson.

In Fast Company, Elizabeth Segran offers “At Chandon’s Strategy For Conquering The Millennial Bubbles Market.”

Alder Yarrow visits Weingut Nikolaihof, which represents “one of the pinnacles of Austrian winemaking.”

Murmur chats with Alder Yarrow about San Francisco.

Wink Lorch details “The Three Wine Events That Won’t Occur in 2015.”

Tom Wark makes “5 Predictions for Wine in 2015.”

In Grape Collective, Rachel Doob profiles Tim Hanni, MW.

Daily Wine News: French Theft

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-31-2014


The French Laundry (Wikimedia).

On Christmas Day, someone broke into the French Laundry’s wine cellar, stealing $300,000 worth of wine. Most of the bottles were Screaming Eagle and DRC.

“I am beginning to appreciate the wisdom of serving sparkling wine in a regular white-wine stem. Is it festive enough? Well, I’m not going to complain if someone hands me a flute filled with Bollinger R.D. But I would be even happier with the same wine in a glass I already have, and that displays more of the greatness.” Harvey Steiman weighs in on the flute vs. glass debate.

Sparkling wine imports are way up this year.

Ray Isle names his “7 Top Sparkling Wines of 2014.”

Mike Veseth, the wine economist, looks back on 2014 and ahead to the New Year.

In Forbes, Adam Morganstern details “The 9 Best Wines and Spirits to Start Drinking in 2015.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Jen Murphy spends some time with chef, restaurateur, and winery owner Michael Chiarello.

In Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray looks back at 2014′s biggest news stories on the West Coast.

Daily Wine News: Resolutions

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-30-2014

blind champagne“I’ll just resolve to drink more Champagne on weekdays.” In Punch, Whitney Adams asks a number of drinks professionals to look back at 2014 and detail their resolutions for the New Year.

Jameson Fink stands up for the Champagne flute.

In Grape Collective, Dorothy Gaiter toasts the New Year.

Alice Feiring lists the stories she left behind in 2014.

“And vino of that era came laced with additives like tree resins, peppers and capers, says McGovern, who is known as the ‘Indiana Jones’ of ancient fermented beverages for his scholarship on the topic.” On NPR, Lynnsay Maynard asks, “What Would Jesus Drink?

“Napa. Sonoma. Yakima. Cape May?” Seth Augenstein reports on Cape May’s efforts to receive AVA status.

“No wine is unique, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. No matter what, they all have numbers, somewhere between 80 and 100.” The HoseMaster of Wine turns his blog over to the world’s most famous wine critic, R.I.P.

In Wine-Searcher, “10 Things Every Wine Lover Should Know About Château Rieussec.”

In Massachusetts, wine enthusiasts are gearing up to (finally) order wine from out-of-state producers.

Daily Wine News: $6 Plonk

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-29-2014

champagnetoast“As someone who writes about wine and spirits, I’ve always been baffled that our government allows companies to slap the word “Champagne” on a $6 bottle of plonk. Americans are comfortable enough with geographic designations on other agricultural or food products” In the Washington Post, Jason Wilson writes a wonderful piece on the Champagne Bureau’s efforts to secure truth in labeling.

“Burgundy’s interest in Jura has continued with the Boisset Group taking over Jura’s Henri Maire brand.” Wink Lorch has the details.

In Wine Enthusiast, Virginie Boone chats with Paul Skinner, “one of the leading climate and dirt dudes on the plane.”

“I appreciated the clear information on the back label of the younger wine. It made the wine more accessible by offering a glimpse of how it was crafted.” Dave McIntyre pushes for disgorgement dates on nonvintage Champagne.

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Jon Bonné visits Pabu.

“So the next time you’ve got the opportunity, pick up a glass of Maria Gomes and imagine her, whoever she was, amongst her vines, caring for flavors that centuries later we are still lucky enough to savor.” Alder Yarrow ruminates on the names of Portugal’s wine grapes.

In Grape Collective, Rachael Doob profiles Tyler Colman, aka Dr. Vino.

In Wine-Searcher, Erica Landin chats with Francesco Ricasoli of Castello di Brolio.

In Decanter, Andrew Jefford details the bottles he has learned from this year.

Merry Christmas! (And a Hiatus.)

Posted by | Posted in Terroirist | Posted on 12-24-2014

Santa typically unwinds with chicken wings & Jack.

Santa typically unwinds with chicken wings & Jack.

Merry Christmas!

To me, Christmas has always been less confusing than other holidays for the at-home sommelier. Unlike Thanksgiving, where you sit down to ten courses and 10,000 calories, it’s a great day to spread the drinking around — Champagne with brunch, maybe a nice white wine or light red in the afternoon, and then a couple of big reds with dinner. Just be sure to drink well.

Regular blogging will resume on Monday, December 29.

War, Wine, and Giving Thanks at Christmas

Posted by | Posted in White's Wines | Posted on 12-23-2014

From Wikimedia.

From Wikimedia.

As regular readers know, I write a free, twice monthly wine column that’s distributed to newspapers across the country. These columns are hosted by Grape Collective.

If you don’t see my column in your local newspaper, please send an email to your paper’s editor and CC me (David – at –

In my latest column, I look at the history of wine and war at Christmastime — and offer an important holiday message.

WarWine, and Giving Thanks at Christmas

One hundred years ago this week, France launched its first major offensive against Germany in WorldWar I. The fight took place in the winegrowing region of Champagne, which the German army had invaded just weeks after hostilities broke out. Nearly 200,000 lives were lost in the three-month battle.

Champagne witnessed some of the war‘s heaviest fighting. The region’s two largest cities — Reims and Epernay — were bombarded for three years. Locals took shelter in the caves under houses like Veuve Clicquot, Krug, and Taittinger. The vineyards became battlefields.

Yet production continued. Where bombs could be avoided, women and children harvested grapes. Famously, Jeanne Krug sought winemaking advice via post from her husband, Joseph II, who was a prisoner of war. Praising Krug as a “brave lady,” the British sales representative for the Champagne house would later remember selling “the entire cuvee of 1915 in record time.”

A full century has passed since the Battle of Champagne. But wine remains inextricably tied to conflict. And the bottles that survive continue to offer a window to other times and places.

Check out the rest of the piece on Grape Collective!

Daily Wine News: Life Extension

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-23-2014

Flickr, John-Morgan.

Flickr, John-Morgan.

“Ignore the hype surrounding resveratrol and eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Spend all the money you were going to waste on supplements and wrinkle creams on a nice bottle of wine instead. Share that bottle over a nice dinner with people you love, and move on with your life. Savor each drop.” Jonathan Lipsmeyer offers “a plan to extend your life.”

In Wine Spectator, Robert Camuto explains “how the son of a Piedmontese winemaker launched Italy’s craft beer scene.”

In the Napa Valley Register, Barry Eberling reports on Napa’s efforts to fight the glassy-winged sharpshooter, “public enemy number one on the grape growers’ list of vine-devastating insects.”

In Grape Collective, Jameson Fink chats with Lilly Ferro Fazio about her family’s Sicilian wine heritage.

W. Blake Gray believes that “great wine can be made with alcohol reduction.”

In Wine-Searcher, Claire Adamson offers an “Unfussy Fizz Guide.”

Elsewhere in Wine-Searcher, W. Blake Gray chats with Roberto Stucchi Prinetti of Badia a Coltibuono.

Andy Perdue reports that “Washington’s most celebrated grape grower, Paul Champoux” has retired.

Wine Folly lists “15 Funny Wine Glasses For Oddball Drinkers.”

In Business Insider, Hayley Peterson details “The Real Reasons Trader Joe’s Wine Is So Cheap.”

Daily Wine News: Contraband

Posted by | Posted in Wine News | Posted on 12-22-2014

PA_LCE“The police, who had made undercover buys at the home before, easily found what they were looking for. And they found lots of it. In a raid that lasted twenty hours, police seized thousands of ounces of alleged contraband from the couple’s home.” In Reason, Baylen Linnekin takes a close look at Pennsylvania’s decision to destroy a couple’s $160,000 wine collection.

“I find that my growing passion for wine has helped me expand my experiences and outlook almost as much as college has. It has certainly made me a better leader for EquityZen.” In Inc., Atish Davda explains how drinking wine made him a better entrepreneur.

In the Daily Beast, Kayleigh Kulp offers an important Champagne primer that’s worth tacking on the fridge over the holidays.

Jon Bonné offers “a user’s guide to Champagnes that… mirror your own particular tastes.”

“In this world, winemakers are known on a first-name basis. And the academic 101 boilerplate that comes with every mass-market media wine roundup is gone.” In Punch, Jennifer Fielder explains how Delectable is “eliminating wine’s third wall.”

James Molesworth tastes through a 20-vintage vertical Château Pavie Macquin.

During the holidays, according to Lettie Teague, gift givers should look to “wines that fill your heart and glass with gladness… and [not] the wine equivalents of presents purchased at CVS.”

Dave McIntyre finds out if Maryland wines can stand the test of time.

“As we gather in the next few days with our friends and families and we eat and drink special things, take a moment to remember how it was we got here and how infinitesimally fortunate we are to have the time and the freedom to enjoy wine and food and presents with our loved ones.” Alfonso Cevola offers a wonderful and important reminder.