The coolest thing about Napa is the diversity of experiences you can have. There is no one way of enjoying wine, and there isn't one way to define what the 'perfect Napa day' is. During one day in Napa you can have a fabulous day tasting an assortment of wines while being blown away by the an incredible collection of contemporary art and art installations that would rival galleries from SF, LA, NYC. Hess Collection Winery has pieces that could easily be in the homes of anyone from DJ Khalid to Noah Horowitz. The art on property, that spans over 3 floors, is absolutely incredible. This is the private collection of winery owner Donald Hess, who began his collection out of a passion for art rather than trends, back in '66. A particularly powerful piece of a burning typewriter is by Leopoldo Maler, currently head of The Parsons School of Design Affiliation in the Dominican Republic. His works serve as symbols that spark what he calls the viewer’s “creative power of contemplation;” one is completely free to apply one’s own experience and understanding to his pieces. The burning typewriter, entitled Hommage, has a great deal of personal meaning for Maler himself. His uncle, a well-known Argentinean writer, was assassinated for the honesty of his political essays.The WinesSitting with head Winemaker, Dave Guffy, I had the opportunity to taste a panel of wines, but the two that stood out were their Malbec and a special reserve Cabernet project called The Lion. The Malbec grapes are grown right on property in a small block at the summit of Mount Veeder. If you wonder what it means to taste a California style of this famous Argentine grape - give this bold, big, ripe Malbec from Hess a shot. (They do have property in Argentina and sell a Malbec from their Argentine property, but go for the Mount Veeder.)Most know Hess from the supermarket aisle for around $15 and may not know their next level stuff. When sitting down to a tasting with Guffy, he brought out the special reserve project that he's been working on with superstar winemaker Cecelia Welch. The Lion - of which they only produce 500 cases with a price tag of $185 - puts it in an upper echelon of Napa wines. I had the 2014: voluptuous mouth feel, beautiful red fruit and power, but there is a finesse and softness that is satisfying. In other words it has great balance. The fruit is from their estate on Mount Veeder and that mountain juice is just flat out special. Smith MadroneThe beauty of Napa is that you can be walking through 3 floors of modern art in the morning at Hess, then shooting rattle snakes with the owner of Smith Madrone winery in the afternoon as he takes you through their hillside vineyard on a rugged ATV. Smith Madrone was founded in 1971 by Stuart Smith, Managing Partner and Enologist who then brought his brother, Charles F. Smith III, along for the ride as the head winemaker. These two veterans of the valley are flat out hilarious. Sitting over a picnic lunch the conversation can ping-pong from WWII watches to current issues within the walls of UC Berkeley. Ask anyone in Napa who makes the best Riesling in town and an overwhelming majority will point to Smith Madrone.The interesting wine they brought out over our 3 hour lunch was their reserve Cabernet called Cook's Flat. They only produced about 1,300 bottles of the 2012 vintage. Before jumping into doing a $200 a bottle reserve, the brothers wanted to find their unique point of view in flavor profiles. Thus, they embarked on research (aka drinking!) of all the top Cabernets from Napa and beyond - then took a hard look at a special parcel of land on their property called Cook's Flat. Cook's Flat Reserve is a proprietary name for a wine that is the culmination of 46 years of growing grapes and making wine in the mountains of the Spring Mountain District. The name refers to George Cook, the first owner of the property. 'Cook's Flat' was the local old-timers' name for the eight-acre plateau-like vineyard block which was replanted in 1972.The packaging of each bottle is as unique as the Cabernet inside of it. Each bottle is numbered and wrapped in tissue which has been printed with a copy of the U.S. Land Office Patent which granted ownership to George Cook and was signed by President Chester Arthur on December 5, 1885. The wine itself is outstanding, decadent, well structured, and delicious. The wines of Smith Madrone reflect the style of the Smith brothers who care about history, land, legacy, and enjoying what they do. So here's my point - there is no one day or specific set of adventures that makes a trip to Napa perfect. There are a wide variety of stories, adventures, and people that make Napa so special; just get out there!
Summer is almost upon us. It’s time to start stocking warm-weather wines for the patio, picnic and poolside.I’ve been diving into a flood of whites and rosés over the last few weeks, and I’ve selected from that gushing inventory 10 summer wines that are worth trying. Some are special-occasion beauties; others show well for the price and could easily be your seasonal backyard wine, since buying a case won’t break the bank. Prices are best available from the usual local sources such as Hi-Time, Costco and Total Wine & More.Amelia Brut Rosé Crémant de Bordeaux ($19): Made from hand-harvested red grapes grown in the acclaimed Bordeaux region, this blend of 90 percent Merlot and 10 percent Cabernet Franc is a summer charmer. Amelia ages en tirage (on the lees) for 18 months, double the nine months required by law, giving it aromatic and textural complexity. You’ll also notice nuanced fruit components with a touch of toasty brioche.Anaba 2015 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast ($36): This harvest’s low yield produced concentrated, bright fruit. You’ll get a bewitching duet of orange blossom and lemon custard on the nose. A strong acidic backbone combines with ripe fruit, lemon cream and sweet herb in a balanced finish. A great cool-climate California chardonnay from one of my favorite regions.Bodega de Edgar 2017 Albariño: ($24): This 100 percent Albariño from Paso Ono Vineyard, off Creston Road, in Paso Robles, is one of the area’s most coveted summer sippers. It’s fermented and aged in 100 percent stainless steel, and the result is a Spanish grape with a California accent: honey suckle, zesty lemon, honey and white floral notes. From one of Paso’s best smaller wineries, this beauty sells out quickly every year.The Calling Dutton Ranch 2016 Chardonnay Russian River Valley ($30): Intensely aromatic with notes of honeysuckle, sweet lemon and delicate rose. Crisp acidity is balanced with the vanilla signature of French oak on the palate. The lingering finish offers spicy toastiness that complements the fruit.Daou 2016 Chardonnay ($15): A riot of flavors includes pear, lemon, passion fruit pineapple and banana. Even the nose is aggressive: honeysuckle, nutmeg, almond. But Daou’s Chardonnay isn’t just a frat party in a glass. It has a sumptuously silky texture and welcome acidity on the finish, and leaves a full, plush impression. Quite a talker for the price (you can sometimes find it for $11 at Costco). A great introductory wine from Paso’s flamboyant Bordeaux kings, the Daou brothers.Fleur de Mer Provence Rosé Vintage 2017 ($18): This pale pink beauty balances ripe fruit, bracing acidity and dry mineral finish. Red cherry, raspberry, white peach, lavender, grapefruit and warm-weather herbs, with a touch of salinity. The very definition of an elegant Provencal rosé. Also available in magnum size for $40 – a showy way to kick off a summer party.Robert Mondavi 2016 Napa Valley Fume Blanc ($20): OK, so Robert Mondavi made up the name “Fume Blanc” to help goose the popularity of his dry-style Sauvignon Blanc. This wine is worthy of representing his legacy. Pithy, with grapefruit and lemon peel flavors, it’s deceptively crisp and light on the nose, offering a wealth of body and lushness on the palate, accented with nutmeg and peach. It includes 4 percent Sémillon, partly from the legendary To Kalon vineyard.Rodney Strong 2017 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley ($25): Normally I shy away from variations on rosé’s Provencal standards, but this rose of pinot noir pulled me in with its electrifying color. The enchantment continues with strawberry, white peach and jasmine on the nose and the palate. The finish is long and luxuriant. Sharply focused acidity but light of body, and it surprises you with a zesty lemon finish.Saint Clair Family Estate 2017 Origin Series Sauvignon Blanc ($28): This worthy New Zealand winery has produced a persuasive example of the sauvignon blanc style from the little land Down Under. Origin Series introduces itself with a mysteriously bready nose, then opens up to rich hits of pineapple and guava with a grassy undertone. There’s a hint of saltiness riding on the long, lively finish. And yes, there’s a bit of gooseberry, that distinctive New Zealand flavor.Smith Madrone 2015 Estate Grown Riesling ($30): An epic riesling from one of Napa’s best producers of this grape; Smith-Madrone has been growing riesling in the Spring Mountain District since 1971. Unlike the 2014 vintage, which was lush, deep and round, the 2015 is the very definition of racy. It is bright, clean and delicious with a solid core of minerality surrounded by grace notes of citrus fruit and honeysuckle.
WHO IS GARY VAYNERCHUCK?Successful entrepreneur, investor, social media influencer, speaker, motivator, content creation machine, digitally savvy hustler - but it all started with wine. Gary took his family wine-retail business in New Jersey, changed the name to Wine Library, started an eCommerce side of the business, and began filming bold wine reviews on a YouTube channel over a decade ago. From there he took a 3 million dollar wine business to a 60 million dollar wine business by using the power of eCommerce, video, and social. With early investments in Twitter and other household technology companies Gary has certainly done well for himself. Gary is a hustler who works extremely hard, can be in your face, but is a person that genuinely cares about people succeeding. I've not met Gary but I've seen and heard a lot of his podcasts, videos, and one-line quotes across the web. The man is everywhere!WHY DO I WANT TO DRINK WINE WITH GARY VAYNERCHUCK?I dig his pulse on culture, and appreciate his focus on today's consumer. The value any brand has is their consumer which I believe Gary would think is key to gaining leverage. It would be entertaining talking to him because he talks a lot, and the smallest prompt can send his mind in many directions. He's an instant dose of energy and inspiration. To vibe with his hustler-spirit combined with his business experience would be invigorating. Also, Gary Vee seems to dig hip hop and sees it as I do - a milieu that moves culture. Plug any brand or product in the hip hop machine and watch it grow exponentially.WHAT WINES I'D DRINK WITH HIMI'd have at least two wines with Gary, the first would have to be an in your face red wine from Washington that is not afraid to be what it is. Big mouthfeel, big fruit, big bite that comes out the gate swinging. For instance, Boom Boom Syrah by Charles Smith. This wine does not mask itself or parade around restraint. This bottle simply tells you as it is, I'm an explosion in your mouth. The second bottle of wine would be something a bit more finessed because it seems to me that as Gary's career advances he'd appreciate a wine that is a little more focused and subtle that you can enjoy just chilling with the homies talking Gen-X women blogs, hip-hop, future of media and whatever other thoughts pops into Gary's eclectic mind. For instance, a 2009 Vina Albina Grand Reserva.Cheers Gary Vee
Warmer weather is just about here. We all know what that means. Patio furniture gets hosed off, the white & floral print ensembles come out and wide, floppy hats have some faces to smack. It's brunch season. Wait, brunch happens all year. It doesn't matter - it's a beautiful day out and we're going to day drink over some eggs benny, Jenny. It's difficult to stray far from the bottomless champagne option. It's a classy, tasty beverage that pairs well with just about any brunch item and cleanses the palate in hot weather. Even if it's relatively shitty sparkling wine, you'll hardly notice after your 6th "top off". Despite its comfortable familiarity, sometimes an alternative to champagne is good for the soul. No, not mango juice or a strawberry to toss in it. I'm talking about a fizzy replacement that's just as versatile and twice as interesting.
Google Slideshow: SOMMX For the past few months we've been working on creating a live event that embodies who we are as a brand- the Voice of Modern Wine Culture. On April 12, 2018 we launched our event platform SOMMX. The theme for our first event was: Kanye West's Music Interpreted Through Spanish Wine. It was sold out with a long waiting list! What is SOMMXA series of themed wine experience events hosted and lead by unique sommeliers intended to evoke multiple senses and delight guests through food, wine, performances, art, special guests, and unique culturally relevant themes. The experimental event: 5 of Kanye’s songs were interpreted through 5 original oil paintings by local award-winning artist which were each paired with 5 courses of unique food which were each paired with 5 Spanish wines Oh, and there were ballet dancers and a spoken word artist. The event is narrated & hosted by celebrity sommelier Amelia Singer who explained each song, each painting, each course of food, and how it tied into a wine. The food was designed and cooked by Top Chef Alum Brian Huskey, and the original painting by visionary artist Kathy Lajvardi. Enjoy the photos and join the mailing list at SOMMX to be notified of our next event. Google Slideshow: SOMMX
Experience 5 of the top restaurants in Venice in 1 night. Introducing "5 Spot Friday" Venice, California. Despite massive rent hikes, and a $1,200 price per square foot residential home cost, the famed street Abbott Kinney in Venice, California has kept its 'weird' and charming vibe. Pot shops, art galleries, independent boutiques, yoga studios and pop-up shops from online stores like Warby Parker and Casper keep the funk alive. Venice has become home to fantastic dining spots in the burgeoning Los Angeles food scene with artisanal, in-season, farm to table being par for the course. For your upcoming night in Venice no need to fuss and fight over which top restaurants in Venice to dine at - just visit 5 in 1 evening for your own personal smorgasbord of yum. Ideally you'll end up making new friends at each spot and taking them with you to the next spot! Here's an agenda for this epic night: First Stop: Leona Vibe: mellow. You're a few blocks from the ocean, so come early to take in the sunset. The restaurant is small with high ceilings, a long leather banquette (i.e. big ass sofa) on one end, photographs of old Venice, with an airy living room feel. The patio outside is cozy with beautiful people parading about. They're beer and wine only, but with inventive wine 'cocktails'. Eat: The ridiculously well-prepared cured red snapper ceviche and slow cooked lamb belly wontons. The ceviche is oh so fresh and clean, chilled and awakening. The slow cooked lamb belly wontons come in a broth of savory satisfaction. The wontons are soft, fluffy ravioli-ish dough balls that encapsulate the softest lamb belly you've ever had. Drink: Start slow, remember you have 4 other spots to hit up! Open the night with glasses of champagne - order the Le Perle Blanc NV from Burgundy, France. A light bubbly citrus that's a perfect opener to your epic evening. Splurge on an Uber SUV and head over to Abbott Kinney street. The Uber SUV will make you feel like a balla' and will cost you about $12 to get to the next spot. Second Stop: The Brig Vibe: quintessential Venice. OK, at first blush this may seem like an odd second spot, but hang in there, we have a mission. Modern mid-century decor with pool tables and a bustling scene. It's a great spot to make new friends at the bar, explain to them your evening's journey, and bring them with you. The night is early so you won't seem like a creeper (this applies to men and women!), and given that you've only had 1 drink you'll be in top form with your pitch. Eat: Nothing. It's a bar. Drink: Break up the fatty lamb in your belly with a refreshing Tequila Mule. Made with ginger beer and lime, the ingredients are the same as a Moscow Mule. Don't expect a copper mug though, this ain't that kind of party. Third Spot: Salt Air Vibe: walk across the street to this bohemian bistro. Seasonal and refined food with a nudge towards seafood. The interior is comfortable with skylights and composed atmosphere that can cater to an intimate evening or a jubilant one. Eat: Their pea tartine. Perfectly crunchy bread with goat cheese spread pilled high with smashed peas with lemon. A little messy (in a good way) and fun food to eat with your hands. Next, go for their fried oysters to share with your new friends, and end it with their lobster tartine. Drink: Wine. No full bar here, but a great selection of wine by the glass with inventive wine cocktails. Try the Bobal Tempremento. It's a red wine from Valencia, Spain and the producer uses organic farming methods. Bobal is an obscure grape, but one with good acidity which makes it friendly towards all types of food. It's a funky, cool, and new experience wine that's not typical. Fourth Spot: Tasting Kitchen Vibe: walk across the street to Tasting Kitchen. Hip, upscale, trendy, and fun with an active bar scene. Hipster interior with organic woods and plants. It's just cool. Eat: Go carbs! Get the bread and butter (yes, they charge you for it), it's totally worth it. Big chunk of artisanal bread that's crunch, flaky on the outside and rustic plush on the inside. The butter tastes like it was just churned, and it's all topped with finishing salt. Next, order a classic, yet refined homemade pasta dish like Bucatini all’Amatriciana. Thick spaghetti like pasta with a hole in the middle that houses a classic Roman sauce made simply with cured pork cheeks, pecorino cheese, and tomato. Complement those carbs with their sizzling, simply rubbed ribeye steak. Incredible. Drink: Gotta go Italian, and when enjoying a meal of this proportion go for a bottle of Amarone. The wine is made in a traditional manner of drying grapes in the sun on straw mats and special drying chambers under controlled conditions. The process produces a rich wine that feels like a fluffy cloud in your mouth. Fifth Spot: Any Food Truck 1 Block Away After spending a long and fun dinner at Tasting Kitchen, and after your last drop of the heavenly Amarone wine, stroll over to any of the awesome food trucks near by. Usually they hang out in a parking lot adjacent to The Brig. Have your last delicious meal of the night by splitting it with someone special you sparked with during the night. Break apart a cheesy grilled cheese, or go for the unctuous flavors of the Kogi truck. Any way you go you've won - you've had an epic night in while dining at some of the top restaurants in Venice, all in 1 night. #FiveSpotFriday