Weekly Wine Wonder

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14
May
The New Battle of The Exes

“I can’t stand her. I’m taking the wine.”

“I can’t stand him. The wine is coming with me.”

 

Forget fine china or the beach house, when it comes to a break-up, winning custody of the wine is the biggest prize.

 

Everyone is busy living fast lives. Building their company, building their career, building their rating on Uber. Seems we’ve recovered from the Kentucky Derby earlier this month and now planning a trip to the World Cup in Brazil next month. Somewhere in the middle of it, there’s time for marriage and sometimes, divorce or a break-up. And when break-ups strike, forget the fine china. Custody of the coveted wine allocation is the new hot topic heating up divorce disputes and lining lawyers pockets thanks to extra battle time in court.

 

We met with some of California absolute best producers of Cabernet earlier this month and asked a simple question “What’s the biggest challenge for your winery?”

 

Expecting an answer about meeting high demand with small production we were shocked at the frequency with which we heard “managing our members going through divorce who want to claim ownership of their annual wine allocation.” Huh?!

 

Yes, it’s true. Couples are fighting (ferociously it seems) over who wins the place on these wait list only wineries. Most wineries are quite gracious and will offer to add both names where they can or split the allocation. But in the battle to ‘win’einrw ies are dealing with jaded exes who don’t just want to win the wine for themselves, they want to make sure their ex is black listed!

 

The look of surprise must have been apparent on our face as a woman nearby jumped into the conversation.

 

“Oh honey, yes that wine is crucial for us ladies to win. Afterall, these men take our best years, usually our twenties. Taking all the wine, the 2000 Cabs, the 2004 Pinots… well it’s just our way of taking all his best years.” She sweetly said, batting her eyelids and raising her glass of wine to toast us.

 

And so it is. The battle of the sexes just got a little more interesting and a lot more delicious.

By: Joshua
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29
Apr
Tour Napa without the tourists

 

It's wine tasting and winery touring time! Where to go can be daunting, but not for you. Here’s your cheat sheet to sound like an industry insider and plan the perfect 2-day or 2-week trip to California.
 
The Industry Insider Knows…
The best wineries do not have public tasting rooms (often they don't even list their address online – it’s usually a PO Box).
 
Hwy 29 is the main tourist lifeline that connects the outside world to the never-ending row of Napa's big brand wineries. Look beyond the immediate winery driveways connecting the highway to their amusement-park-like parking lots and you will be rewarded with wines far more incredible than those big-supermarket-brand-made-for-tasting-room-only Cabs and Chardonnays. 
 
Behind those tourist wineries in Napa lay the secret, cult, wineries opening bottles of wine in some of the most private and spectacular surroundings. Quiet, revered, an experience at one of these wineries will change you forever as you take in the magnificent surrounds, sip age-worthy wine, and really get to know your palate.
 
A few things to note about “Insider Wineries”?

  1. Visits are strictly by appointment only and often take a few weeks to book in advance.
  2. Tastings are for small groups of 2 – 6 people who are appreciative of exceptional wines (under no circumstances are buses allowed, ever).
  3. You will taste with the owner or winemaker, personally walking through the vineyards or even their private homes.
  4. Most people assume you must be a member to visit and that can often be the case, but many will open their doors to those who are non-members. There's an implied credibility that you must be an insider if you know about them to call in the first place. If you happen to know a member or tried their wine at a local michelin star restaurant, that helps too.

Here are our favorite insider wineries where the right phone call can get you in and have you tasting wine like a rock star:

  • Lamborn Family – 1984 Summit Lake Drive, Napa 925 254 0511 (ask for Brian)
  • Gargiulo Vineyards – 575 Oakville Cross Road, Napa, 707 944 2770 (ask for Justin)
  • Entre Nous Winery – 7688 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, 707 982 8000 (ask for Kristine)
  • 750 Wines – 1224 Adams St, St Helena, 707 963 0750 (ask for David or Monica)

 

Take the secret road to the secret map to find the secret tasting rooms of Pritchard Hill.

But wait, there's more. As you drive through the wine country here are some impressive insider points of interest you can casually share with enviable insider intelligence.
 
As you drive North along Hwy 29 and approach Robert Mondavi, look past the queue of cars to get in and point to the rising hill above. Three of Napa’s most delicious Cabernet Sauvignons, all reside next to each other and the tourists have no clue!

  • The Vineyard House – 1581 Oakville Grade Road, Oakville
  • Harlan – 1580 Oakville Grade Road, Oakville
  • Futo – 1575 Oakville Grade Road, Oakville

 
Now look to your right. There's Opus One. But that's not what you'll be pointing to, there in the hills above Opus One is Napa's greatest wine secret, Pritchard Hill. Never heard of Pritchard Hill? That’s OK, most haven’t. Steve Heimoff from Wine Enthusiast put it best when he said “The best grape-growing region in Napa Valley you’ve never heard of is Pritchard Hill.” 
 
This hill is no ordinary hill, rather a very special (and secretive place) in Napa Valley. Wines from Pritchard Hill fetch $4,000-$10,000 per six pack at recent Sotheby's auctions.  Despite the fact that Pritchard Hill is probably the best wine growing region in California, the 16 wineries on the hillside fiercely protect its pristine location. 'Pritchard Hill' is rarely seen, if ever on any wine label. Only a very limited number of bottles are made available for sale to the lucky members of each winery. The rest stay in the hands of the winemakers, owners and billionaire/celebrity investors. Oh and yes, we have some… but it goes fast!
 
We adore:

  • Gandona – 15535 Sage Canyon Road, St Helena
  • Ovid – 255 Long Ranch Road, St Helena
  • Colgin – 220 Long Ranch Road, St Helena
  • Montagna – 141 long Ranch Road, St Helena

As we continue to work with more great wineries of California, we’ll continue to share secrets and access to them all.
 
Happy wine country vacation!

Cheers,
Joshua & Michelle

 

 

By: Joshua
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06
Jan
Fire your shrink and hire the Sommelier

 

While you read the wine list, the Sommelier is reading you.

Joshua and I spend a lot of time in restaurants. Between the work we do for I Know The Chef and I Know The Winemaker we’ve a lot of friends who work, own, manage, cook, and eat in restaurants. And we have even more friends who drink in restaurants, our Sommelier friends. We love their stories (we don’t envy their work hours). But, it is thanks to our Sommelier friends that we get some pretty good insights about wines, the winemakers, and most interestingly, the customers who come into their restaurants to drink them.

We all know you can tell more about a person through their actions than their words, well, what about their table manners?

They guy who yells ‘water’ while moving his finger in a circular motion above the table versus the guy who lets his wife put her purse on his side of the table. Every small gesture is a clue into our psyche and the Sommelier sees it all. Unlike the chef, working behind closed doors in the kitchen, the Sommelier takes center stage in the dining room escorting every table through a social journey of food. All the while overhearing the scandals, secrets and news of everyone at the table.

To hear it from our friends, it’s a regular amusement to serve the guy who smells the cork while boasting to the table about his impressive knowledge of Barolo and “cellar of 2,836 wines at home.” Wow, 2,836 you say? How very cultured… err, pompous and ignorant! (Hint: Smelling the cork will give you away every time. Please don’t smell the cork. Ever. Nothing says rookie like a cork sniffer at the table. Corks are like the contents page of a book; look at it briefly, read it, put it down, move on.)

From the “Oh, I have no idea what’s good just get it for me” to the “ummm, hmmmm, mmmm” and “Bring me your best Bordeaux” such statements are really little windows into our souls as the Sommelier gets to know who is the alpha, beta and hipster at each table. And don’t get them started on what it means when someone butters the entire dinner roll at once versus the person who breaks off little pieces of bread buttering them one at a time. Eating your entire meal with nothing more than your fork not once using your knife? Well, well… they saw that too.

By the time the check arrives three hours later, the Sommelier has silently collected a series of clues about you and now knows more about you than the shrink you’ve been seeing for the past 3 months.

Of course, Sommeliers are among the most gracious of all beings in the restaurant world and just like your shrink, they’ll keep their reports on you completely confidential, divulging your secret affair / promotion / plastic surgery / start-up business to no one.

The best part? Unlike the wait staff, Sommeliers don’t have a limited number of tables to serve, instead they cater and socialize with all tables (especially the ones they like the most). They’re also not weighed down by time sensitive tasks like shuttling plates back and forth from the kitchen. Rather, the best Sommeliers stay in the dining room and get to know everyone in the restaurant making the journey of food and wine that much better for all (psst, we especially love the Somms at Nomad, Sons & Daughters, and Musket Room). So, maybe next time you’re single, the Sommelier at your favorite restaurant could be more helpful than your meddling-matchmaking mother/best friend and bring you a drink from that fancy fellow at table number 14.

Joshua & Michelle
I Know The Winemaker

 

By: Joshua

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unnamed The New Battle of The Exes
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unnamed Fire your shrink and hire the Sommelier