Thursday, June 30, 2016

Make a Wine Entrance

How can you make an entrance when arriving at a party? A stunning new outfit? Arriving late enough so that everyone swings around to see who just walked in? Waltzing in with your ex on your arm? Those are a few options. But this wouldn’t be a wine blog if I was suggesting one of those things!

I’d like to suggest that arriving with a stellar bottle of wine is the surest way to make an entrance at a party. I’m not talking about an entrance that will get people talking or an entrance that will feed your ego. I am talking about an entrance that will show thoughtfulness towards the host. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to nail it when you bring a bottle of wine to a friends house.

1.  Think about the host. At the end of the day you should bring something your host likes. If you know that the host hates white wine, for god’s sake, don’t bring a bottle of white wine. Maybe you just have a general idea of what they like (i.e. they love red, and hate white). Maybe you know a bit more (i.e. they are big fans of pinot noir or they frequently visit Sonoma wine country). Use whatever information you have about that person to help guide your choice.

2.  Steer away from “vanity labels”. I must admit that this is a bit controversial to suggest. Vanity labels are what I call wines that impress people when they see them (i.e. a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne with the indistinguishable orange/yellow label in Pantone 137C or a fancy schmancy bottle of Napa Cab that costs you an arm and a leg). Why, you say, wouldn’t you want to bring a bottle of impressive wine? Answer: because anyone can do that. Not a lot of thought goes into grabbing that expensive bottle of Champagne in which most of the cost of the bottle goes to paying for the marketing budget of the brand. Not a lot of thought needs to go into buying that Wine Spectator 99-Point rated bottle that sits on the end-cap at BevMo.

3.  Patronize your local wine shop. Employees at wine shops are gold mines. Give them a budget and an idea of what you’re looking for, and they’re sure to have some good suggestions.

4.  Be sure that white, rose, or sparkling wines are chilled! There is nothing worse than presenting the host with a lovely bottle of wine that is not ready to be served. Throw that bottle in the fridge or freezer while you are getting ready! There are some great (and inexpensive) products to keep you bottles cold in transit.  You can try a corksicle, an ice bag, or a wrap around cooler.

5.  Greet the host warmly, thank them for the invitation into their home, and be sure to tell them why you selected this bottle of wine (i.e. I know you LOVE pinot OR I know you and your hubby honeymooned in Tuscany so here’s a lovely Tuscan red OR your family is from Greece, so I found an assyrtiko at my favorite wine shop).

I hope this post will help you make a wine entrance at your next dinner party! These are easy and subtle suggestions, but they go a long way. It is my hope that you enjoy this blog and crack open a bottle of wine with friends and family…..and frequently. The meaning of life is to live it. And how better to live it than by drinking good wine with the people you love. Until next time!

Thursday, June 23, 2016


It has been an interesting and full couple of weeks. For one, I took my WSET Fortified Wine exam on Tuesday June 14th. It was a doozy (aren’t they all?). And yet again we wait 8 weeks for these results.

The day I was to attend the BubblyFest LA PopUp was Sunday June 12. I awoke at 7am as I got to bed quite early the night before. When I woke up, I had multiple alerts on my phone from news outlets reporting that 20 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando. To say this was shocking to read as soon as I opened my eyes is an understatement. It almost felt like a dream, or more accurately, a nightmare. Did that really happen? Were people butchered while out drinking and dancing? As many people thought “that could have been me”, within an hour or so, more alerts started coming and the headline was revised to state that 50 people were dead at the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando. I felt disbelief upon reading this. I work in the LGBT community (as the Events & Tours Manager for the Gay Men’s Chorus of Los Angeles) and LGBT people make up an important and integral fabric of the people in my life. This didn’t feel like something that happened to “them”, this felt like something that happened to “us”. How could somebody do this? How could SO many innocent lives be lost. The numbers were staggering as my head and heart had trouble processing it all that day. My heart ached for the people who lost their lives. People who were fully self-expressed, dancing, and spending an evening out with friends. It was (and still is) just too much to absorb. I am still processing through my emotions about the tragic incident in Orlando. May we all appreciate each day a bit more and learn to live our lives without those 49 lives who were taken too soon.

The afternoon of the 12th I was honored to attend the BubblyFest LA PopUp at LA Mother with a press pass. I almost did not go. I “needed” to study for my exam, but mostly I needed to mourn. I spent most of that day crying, repeatedly watching the news, reading articles, emailing with friends, etc. I felt a bit lost that day, but I knew I owed it to myself to carry on. Carry on with life and with my passions. I studied as best as I could, and I chose to attend the BubblyFest LA PopUp event. And I am glad I did. It was nice to connect with people, albeit strangers. I felt myself look people in the eye a bit stronger, smile a bit longer, and to ultimately be present. Present to life, to each other, and even to wine. Wine is something that I love. It is a living breathing thing that Mother Earth so generously gives to us. For one hour on that Sunday I let go and enjoyed wine. Really simple. I went from table to table and sipped and enjoyed wines. Some of my highlights were from: Palmina Winery, J Vineyards & Winery, Hagafen Cellars, and Gruet Winery.

Tasting from Mia Rosa upon arrival 

I am happy to report that I have also been granted a press pass for the main event, BubblyFest by the Sea in Avila Beach, CA in October. BubblyFest is the only festival dedicated to Sparkling Wine in the United States. It is sure to be a tremendous event and I am honored to report on it. Stay tuned for posts leading up to the main event.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

WSET Diploma Update

Believe it or not, I am almost halfway done with my WEST studies.  I started in July of 2015 and really had no idea what I was getting into and what to expect.  Fast forward and I have taken 4 exams and completed a research paper.  Only 2 exams remain before I finish my WSET studies!

Here is a breakdown of where I stand:

Unit 1: The Business of Wine and Spirits
     Case Study PASSED
     Research Paper AWAITING RESULTS

Unit 2: Viticulture & Vinification PASSED

Unit 3: Still Wines of the World SESSIONS BEGIN IN OCTOBER; EXAM JUNE 2017

Unit 4: Spirits PASSED

Unit 5: Sparkling Wines PASSED

Unit 6: Fortified Wines EXAM JUNE 14TH

I am happy to report that I have passed all of the Diploma exams that I have taken this far.  Considering that I do not work in the wine biz and do not have access to wine on a daily basis, I am extremely proud!  When I walked into class last July and we all shared a little about ourselves, most of my 18 cohorts shared that they work in the business.  I felt like an underdog and was a bit intimidated.  I was pretty sure I'd have to study a lot more and spend more time on things than my classmates.  Whether I am doing that or not, something is working!

My time now is spent preparing for the Fortified Wines exam on June 14th.  With fortified wines we study Sherry (from Spain), Port (from Portugal), Madeira (from the island of the same name), and a few other fortifieds including: vin doux naturel from a few regions in France and Australia's Rutherglen Muscat.

I will report back once I sit my fortified exam on Tuesday June 14th.  Until then.......