Friday, April 1, 2011

Top Sommelier and Master of Wine Blogs

The following was written by the team at Culinary Arts College and contains great links for those looking for additional wine related resources.  Click here for the original post

Everyone loves a good glass of wine, but it is sometimes hard to figure out when you are drinking quality wine. In order to ensure that fine wine is being served, many restaurants across the world put faith in their chosen sommelier for the wine selection process.  These top 50 Sommelier and Master of Wine Blogs and Posts stand out amongst the rest, and provide an abundance of information on how to choose a great wine.

Teams: The Team category is comprised of various bloggers contributing to a site or organization devoted to wine. These respected wine writers and sommeliers collaborate with their peers and fellow wine lovers to learn and teach simultaneously.
1. Secret Sommelier – Secret Sommelier is an interactive community for wine lovers around the world. Written by an entire team, this blog has anything and everything about the best wines. Introducing wines both old and new, these seasoned sommeliers do an excellent job of pairing wine with the appropriate delicacies.
2. Decanter – is a wine-lover’s site with an excellent blog written by a team of editors. While the site offers anything from courses to event planning, the blog features specific wines that should be tasted ASAP!
3. Savvy Company – The Savvy Company is a team of sommeliers who are also creative marketers. The Savvy Team will help you from anything to picking wines for a party to the best wine vineyards to tour.
4. Wine Couch – Full Circle Wine Solutions is a wine and spirits educational firm based in San Francisco. Each client’s tastes and needs are put into consideration when their program is customized. Each program is lead by sommeliers, and all programs are directed by Master Sommelier, Evan Goldstein.
5. The Blend Blog – The Blend is written by a team of writers, one being a Master Sommelier from Texas. This blog emphasizes the love of wine with some southern charm. Getting many opinions from all of the different writers, this blog is always up to date with the latest trends in wine.

Restaurants: The Restaurant sommelier category is made up of restaurant sommeliers and wine masters who contribute to their restaurant’s blog. These experts know their wine lists front and back.
1. The Cliff House – The Cliff House’s blog, Wine Flights of Fancy, is written by the restaurant’s sommelier and gives superb recommendations for wine pairings. Focused on restaurant wines, the sommelier teaches readers how to order wine at restaurants.
2. The Blue Collar Sommelier - The Blue Collar Sommelier is a blog written by a self-taught sommelier (technically not certified, but definitely knows his stuff) who focuses on the “noteworthy and usually under-valued” details of wines.
3. Jonathan Charnay – Jonathan Charnay is a Chilean-born New York City resident who now directs three NYC restaurant wine-programs. This year he has begun his Master of wine program, in order to become s Master Sommelier!
4. Wine Cheap – Wine Chap: Restaurant Wine Lists Unraveled is a media-based blog that explains wine lists in further detail. While many people see daunting wine lists and choose a wine at random, this blog shows the average person to go about ordering wine at a restaurant.
5. Eatocracy – Eatocracy, of CNN, features anything food/drink related, but has a special post on sommelier, Paul Grieco. Grieco runs a restaurant (Hearth) and 2 wine bars (Terroir and Tribeca) in New York City, and has a knack for picking out great wines from the lesser-known parts of the world.

Female: The Female sommelier category consists of a small group of women who have ventured into a previously male dominated industry.
1. Sharron Peterson - Sharron Peterson is both a sommelier and a future graduate of the UC Davis Winemaking/Enology program. Her ultimate goal is to educate wine lovers in a “snob-free zone” throughout the country,” emphasizing fun and positivity to those willing to learn.
2. Wine By Alia - Alia Personal Sommelier is a blog written by Alia, who fell in love with wine in Paris while on sabbatical. As she has now dedicated her life to wine, she has a “services” section where she will organize tastings, food pairings, and consultations for interested customers.
3. The Savvy Sommelier - A self-proclaimed “Wine appreciation teacher,” Jennifer Ayre is a certified sommelier in Mountain View, CA. She is the owner of Savvy Cellar Wines, and Savvy Cellar Bar and Wine Shop.
4. Red Carnations - Being both a French and a female sommelier, Lia Povedo has found her job to be challenging, yet exciting. In an industry dominated by men, Lia blogs about her career at the Red Incarnation Hotel, from the female sommelier’s point of view.
5. Sarita the Wine Gal – Sarita Moreno, author of The Wine Gal, is a certified sommelier here to teach wine lovers at all levels. “What’s in my glass?” is a section dedicated to the rankings of various wines where she provides the “smooth rank,” personal rating, and ultimately, the price of each bottle she tries.
6. Business Week – This Business Week article shares the story of an unlikely girl turned Wine Master. As Korean woman, she shares her uphill battle of overcoming stereotypes in order to become a top masters.

INTERNATIONAL: These international sommeliers have a worldly background and have traveled far and wide to taste and critique the best wines.
1. Robert Giorgione – Robert Giogione is a Wine Consultant and Social Media Resource for any and all wine lovers. Based in London, he has worked for many high-profile restaurants, as well as served as an award-winning consultant with fine diners in other major.
2. Magan – Magan, from Just Magan, is a sommelier and blogger who blogs about many aspects wine, life and the universe. He is from India, and gives the perspective of a unique, Indian sommelier.
3. Dermot’s Wine Blog - Dermot Nolan’s Wine Blog is a simple and tasteful blog from one of Ireland’s most esteemed Wine Masters. Nolan has worked in wine retail and consultancy, but enjoys teaching, and hopes to encourage interested students to take a wine course!
4. Emmanuel Delmas - Emmanuel Delmas is a sommelier from Paris whose goal (and other blog’s title) is to “make wine accessible to all.” He is currently in the process of launching the first TV channel solely dedicated to wine, ENDONYS, set for 2011.
5. Pino Bruno – Pino Bruno is an Italian sommelier with a scientific background. He has studied everything about wine, from its tiniest components to its best food pairings.

EDUCATIONAL: The educational category is composed of blogs whose main purpose is to teach anyone, amateurs to professionals, to love and appreciate wine.
1. Andreas Larsson – Winner of many awards, including Best Sommelier of 2007, Andreas Larsson is worth a visit to get the expert’s opinion. Constantly traveling, touring, and speaking, Andreas Larsson is always contributing useful wino-information his blog.
2. Doug Frost – Doug Frost is one of three people in the world to hold the title of both Master Sommelier and Master of Wines. Frost is an esteemed writer and lecturer, who has won many prestigious awards, and is still on a quest to learn more.
3. Dr. Vino – Dr. Vino, Tyler Colman, has studied wines for most of his life, and now teaches classes at NYU and in Chicago. He has written many acclaimed books, and wrote his PhD’s dissertation on the political economy of wine in France and the United States. Well-read and well taught, he is certainly an expert.
4. Elevage Wine – Elevage, the French term for the process of nurturing and guiding wine from the vineyard to the bottle, is an educational site for all wine enthusiasts written by two sommeliers from Seattle. While they give professional advice to restaurants and businesses they also provide informative to civilians for choosing great wines to all patrons.
5. James the Wine Guy – James the Wine Guy, written by James Melendez is an avid poster, who also has blogs about food, spirits, restaurants, and travel (all titled James the _____ Guy). Informative and educational, James contributes many “Best-of” lists of wines that are not to be missed.
6. Fermentation - Fermentation The Daily Wine Blog is a blog written by Tom Wark that has a unique spin on wine and public relations. While his topics are all focused on wines, he is able to bring the media’s perspective to the blog, making this blog stand apart from the other wine-recommendation blogs.
7. Uncorked Love – Uncorked Love: a wino’s journey to sommelier is a blog written by a university graduate who has enrolled in a Sommelier Program. Michelle, the author, has chronicled her journey from start to finish, and has done a great job “uncorking” her love affair with wine.

Master of Wine: While different from the Sommeliers, the Masters of Wine are also experts when it comes to wine. This group of Master of Wine bloggers provides insightful and helpful advice for anyone looking to enhance their wine knowledge.
1. Debra Master of Wine – Debra Master of Wine is a blogger (and Wine Master, obviously) who left her wine-country home in Sonoma County to be a wine expert in Hong Kong. As a respected professor and master, she has earned her title by doing everything from the harvest, to writing a weekly column for the South China Morning Post.
2. Tim Atkin – Tim Atkin, Master of Wine, is an award winning wine writer who regularly gives a review of a particular wine each week. While he has a sophisticated palette and great recommendations, his outstanding writing skills make this blog shine.
3. Jancis Robinson - Jancis Robinson is a daily blogger (who also has a team of writers) that gives her up-to-date recommendations and tips for any curious wine lover. This interactive site has videos, articles, and a forum for anyone to inquire about Jancis’ daily posts.
4. Wine Styles – The Masters Wine Panel at WineStyles (a boutique wine retailer) provides excellent guidance by providing wines from boutique wineries around the globe. Their system of rating each wine in the store lets the customers know exactly what they are purchasing.

Sommelier Guest Posts: These guest posts specialized in sommelier-related issues and stood out within their own blogospheres.
1. SF Gate - Based out of the wino-central San Francisco, the Wine Blog of the San Francisco Chronicle has daily features of the West Coast’s and Napa’s greatest picks. With a multitude of wine bars to choose from, this blog’s recommendations are always a must for places to get wine.
2. Diner’s Journal – The NYT Food and Drink Blog researches the role of the sommelier at restaurants. Are they there to pressure you and take advantage of your amateur taste buds?
3. BBC Good Food – An interesting and thought-provoking blog post about talking wine with a sommelier. While the sommelier’s job is to remain wise on the topic, there is the suggested notion that they are also there to intimidate the customer.
4. Gender Across Borders – This gender feminist blog highlights the fact that most sommeliers are men, members of the “old boys club.” While it is becoming more frequent that women are joining the club, author Emily Heroy gives many historical examples of as to why this is the case.
5. Nudges – This interesting article on the iPad apps for wine suggests that the digital age’s recommendations may trump your local sommelier’s choices. Whether or not that is true, the article provides many apps for seasoned winos or for those interested in the topic.
6. Curious Wines – The Sommelier Wine Awards 2010 are not big deal for anyone who enjoys the occasional glass of wine. For those who know wine, study wine, and love wine, these are the biggest awards of the year. This article gives all the details of the wino’s Oscars.
7. Le Sommelier – Le Sommelier, Inc. is a Canadian wine agency dedicated to bringing the finest of wines to the Canadian market. While they suggest wines from all ranges, they have a nice section for superior wines from independent, boutique wineries.
8. Notable Wine – For those that are confused about the differences between the Master of Wines and Master Sommeliers, have no fear; this blogger goes into thorough detail. Whether you are a MW or a MS, you certainly know your wines!
9. Sommeliers International – A great site for all things sommelier-related, this article talks about the first component of wine, the vineyard. While most sommeliers are not actually growing grapes, this instructs any gardener on how to maintain a top-notch vineyard.
10. Chron – David Stout, Master Sommelier to the Texas winos, directs beverage education for the Dallas-based Glazer’s wholesale distributors. This particular article focuses on Stout’s ever-curious palette as he tries an array of restaurants ranging from a “hole-in the wall” to the city’s best.
11. SF GateOnce again the debate of Sommelier v. Master comes to the surface, and is hashed out by two long-time friends. The co-authors of “Secrets of the Sommeliers: How to Think and Drink Like the World’s Top Wine Professionals,” was published in October 2010, and takes a deeper look into the issue.
12. Tasting-Wine - This article carefully scrutinizes the difficulties in become a sommelier and/or master of wine. After understanding the tests, trials, and necessary experience involved in obtaining such titles, you will likely pay more attention next time you are ordering wine.

Sommelier Groups: These are groups of sommeliers who get together to discover the wonders of wines. Tune in!
1. Sommelier Society – The Sommelier Society of America is the nation’s oldest wine-teaching institution. While they offer higher-level courses, they hope to make the art of teaching and studying wine available and easy to anyone willing to learn.
2. US Sommelier - The United States Sommelier Association is a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching the wine culture to wine lovers and industry professionals. They also are trying to promote the art of drinking wines, to any and everyone.
3. Guild – The Guild of Sommeliers hopes to network wine connoisseurs all over the world. Their interactive, online community is a great place for members to get involved regardless of where they might live.
4. Food and Wine - This short article gives a nice description of the seven featured sommeliers from Food and Wine this year. From seven separate parts of the country, each sommelier did an outstanding job bringing a new, innovative, and profitable wine list to their respective restaurants.
5. Master of Wine - The Institute of Masters of Wine currently has 289 members, and ranges from anyone that is a winemaker to senior executives. While this is a prestigious and elite group, there is always room to join if you are qualified.
6. International Wine Guild – The International Wine Guild’s blog focuses on wine education, wine schools, and wine classes/tastings. While novices are encouraged to learn about wines, this blog is dedicated to those who want to pursue a wine-related career.

Some really good stuff to add to your wine resource collection!  There's so much information to be shared and I learn something new everyday.  Many thanks to the Culinary Arts College team and Cindy Cullen for including me.

Till next time,

Friday, December 31, 2010

Champagne on a budget

Greetings party people!

As the clock ticks closer to midnight, the mad rush for bubbly is well under way.  With modified tasting notes, here are some great choices under $50:
  • Delamotte Brut NV ($45) - golden delicious and pears with a few nuts thrown in
  • GH Mumm Cordon Rouge NV ($37) - bright citrus, green apples and vanilla
  • Laurent Perrier Brut NV ($45) - candied green apple, citrus,
  • Nicolas Feuillatte "Blue Label" Brut NV ($35) - ripe red apples and easy drinking
  • Perrier Jouet Brut NV ($40) - citrus, grapefruit, peaches and toasted croissants - wonderful!
  • Pommery Brut Royal NV ($48) - lemon, pears, honey and toast; creamy texture
  • Pol Roger Brut NV ($49) - toasted brioche, floral; delicate, creamy texture - best in class
  • '06 Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs ($40) - red berries, baked apple, baking spices
  • '06 Schramsberg Blanc de Blanc ($30) - apple, pear, citrus, cinammon
  • Veuve Clicquot Brut NV ($49) - toast, vanilla, stone mineral, nuts
And if I wanted to splurge? A bottle of the '98 Krug Brut - oh yea!

What is NV anyway? NV stands for Non-Vintage which is a blend that's meant to have a consistent taste profile year over year and is typically much less expensive than the vintage counterpart.  Quality champagnes and sparkling wines have a fine mousse, a pale almost translucent color, and typically tastes of white fruit (apples & pears), toasted dough (croissants, brioche), and nuts.

Some critics judge salons by the quality of their NV champagnes, and reputations are staked on quality not quantity.  It's quite possible to buy an amazing champagne from a salon that produces a few hundred cases but that means we as consumers have a harder time finding it, and we most likely won't find it in our local market.  This is where your local wine retailer comes in.  Often times, they will have a wide selection of top end salons who produce fantastic NV champagnes similar to the average prices listed above.

Unless otherwise noted, most champagnes and sparkling wines are a blend of Blanc de Blanc (Chardonnay) and Blanc de Noirs (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).  The best ones are often 100% Chardonnay but personally, I like the elegant, floral qualities that surfaces when dark grapes are added in.

So happy shopping, enjoy your bubbly, and have a wonderful and safe New Year's Eve celebration!  All the best to you and yours for the upcoming year.

Till next time,

(as published on

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What did you do for summer vacation?

Traffic congestion is up, longer shopping lines, museums and parks are less crowded, and Indian Summer has crept in ... yep, it's back to school season and my thoughts turn fondly to lunch time conversations over PBJ ... "so, what did you do on your summer vacation?"

Besides the usual tales of camping, boating, dancing and general mischief-making, my palate traveled to exotic destinations and discovered some new found delights ...

A long time fan of the deep and sultry Zin, it was time to meet his parents, Plavac Mali from Croatia.  The grape is cultivated on the steep vineyards of Hvar, a beautiful Mediterranean island off the coast, and spends about two years in barrique.  The resemblance to my old friend Zin was evident in the bright ruby color and notes of cherries, plums, and dark berries, but the Croatian relative (proven as such through DNA testing no less!) definitely puts a stronger foot forward.  Bone dry, smoky, and slightly bitter, this wine is nicely balanced with a distinguished George Clooney-esque complexity.  A pity only 2000 cases of the Zlatan Plavac Barrique Hvar 2005 were produced so if you see this handsome gem on the menu of your favorite restaurant, place an order and enjoy the courtship with a new friend.

Thankfully production of the Aglianico grape is not as rare.  Moving southwest along the Adriatic sea, this juicy red is the wine of Southern Italy.  Like Sophia Loren, Aglianico can be a bit overwhelming all alone so bring on your pizzas, lasagnas, zitis, bolognese, and anything else with a tomato-based foundation for racy some food-vino amore.  One of the better producers is Mastroberardino and the Taurasi Riserva Radici 2004 is a harmonious herb garden with big tannins & strong alcohol, but oh the smooth finish.  It leaves me hungry for more ... sort of like going on a passeggiata with an Italian and being kissed before you have a chance to react ... hmmm, what was I saying?

And when it's just too damn hot for heavy dishes and grabby reds, I go further north in Campania for some un-oaked Falanghina.  The refreshing but savory mix of Granny Smith apples, spearmint and yellow roses went swimmingly with seafood, shellfish and roasted veggies.  Something a bit salty about this one that speaks of the sea, the beach, and summer romances.  Finally, an exotic I can find at my favorite wine shop that's reasonably priced and is my pick over Pinot Grigio any day of the week.  Which one to try?  The Cantina del Taburno Falanghina 2009 is a wonderful choice.

Funny how non-US products always include a cross-over marketing strategy and vino is no exception.  Offer a tasty alternative to your die hard Chardonnay lovers, bombastic butter-oak monsters excluded, and head northwest to the bodegas of Valdeorras, Spain.  Sipping on a bright glass of Godella rewards me with lemon, toast, and a crisp minerality.  Perfect with fish, chicken, and shellfish paella.  A bit like John Travolta, this comeback grape is again enjoying an increase in popularity and I find the Avanthia Godello Valdeorras Galicia 2008 to be a total crowd pleaser.  So is it like Chardonnay or what?  For me it's not as rich and it's closer to AlbariƱo, found further west along the coast in the maritime influenced Rias Baixas.  Unlike some light whites, SBs come to mind, Godello can handle a little aging and doesn't have to be popped quite so young.

Dang, there goes the lunch bell!  It's back to class and back to work.  Time to get back on track - soccer practice, band practice, add a little finesse to the spitball throw; deliverables, budgets, power points, and conference calls, yep, time to get back at it.  Oh and of course, regular blog posts.  I tell ya, as much as I try to go for routine, regulated schedules, and order, the chaos of life, love, and laughter dictate otherwise ... and I wouldn't have it any other way.  

Until next time,

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kermit Lynch - Gary V's interview & the Spring Sampler

So I'm checking out my Facebook feed this morning and I was THRILLED to see that Gary V just posted his interview with Kermit Lynch (click here) - the man, the legend, the down to earth wine importer and Berkeley jewel.  It's a bit of a cliff-hanger so stay tuned for part deaux.

Now I know I'm biased with anything showcasing my favorite city, but Kermit Lynch Wine Merchant is truly a stop to make if you're in the Berkeley hood, particularly if you're into French wines.  They have an ahh-mazing selection and it's truly difficult not to salivate as you walk through the aisles -- Cote du Rhone, both halves of the Cote D'Or, Cru Beaujolais, Alsace, Languedoc-Roussillon, the Loire Valley, and a little bit of Bordeaux.  And, they have their own parking lot, which is truly a plus in Berkeley as you won't have the %!#~$! meter maids to contend with.

I recently bought their Spring Sampler - a case that was predominantly filled with French wines from a variety of regions for $157 - or roughly $13/bottle!  A great deal if you want to sample France in a safe way ... that is get some good to very good wines at a great price, even if you're not familiar with producers or regions.  This case includes a very tasty and hard to find wine from Corsica, the Patrimonio Blanc from Yves Leccia.  Of all the whites, this was a personal favorite & a crowd pleaser - a well balanced and lively wine with fragrant floral & yellow fruit aromas made from Vermentino, a grape varietal that I had not tried before.  The case also comes with suggested recipes from Mark Congero and his wife, both alumni of Chez Panisse, using all the wonderful fruits and vegetables currently in season.

I shared the case with some friends and am sad to see an empty box.  Good thing I also got a bottle of Chateau Aney & Chateaunuf du Pape - both have T-bone written all over it for the upcoming weekend.

Bon Appetit

P.S. I hear Kermit is making a trip to Sicily soon!  Can't wait to see what he brings back.

P.P.S  Click here for Part 2 and here for Part 3 of the interview

Monday, April 26, 2010

Saber champagne in style!

Master Sommelier, Catherine Fallis, demonstrates how to saber a bottle of champagne safely and with style.  Donning a pair of chic sunglasses for eye protection and a pair of long, python-patterned gloves to protect her hands, she drives home the point, safety first. 

If a bottle of champagne is not chilled to the core, any amount of time spent in warmer conditions, like going from a chiller to a warm, sunny patio, will increase the CO2 pressure from within and potentially shoot the cork out as soon as the cage is removed.  It’s best to keep the bottle chilled with minimal movement until you’re ready to drink.

With the flair of a seasoned professional, Catherine holds the bottle at a 45% degree angle and with her champagne saber, slices upward to not only pop the cork but to separate the lip from the neck.  y Voila! Thrill your audience as you pour a bit bubbly.

And exactly what kind of bubbly did she have for us?  A 2000 A.R. Lenoble Champagne Blanc de Noirs.  A white made from black grapes with, as Catherine puts it, "a bouquet so alluring, if it were a woman, you'd follow it!"

Until next time,