Exploring Trepat – 2014 Succés “La Cuca De Llum” Conca De Barbera

Trepat is a grape that is probably unfamiliar to most people as it seems to just be finding its way into wine shops and onto wine lists across the US.  Trepat is native to the Catalonia region of Spain and was predominantly used as a blending grape in Cava until a few wineries began making 100% Trepat around a decade ago.  I recently had the chance to taste a few different Trepats and was very impressed with 2014 Succés “La Cuca De Llum” Conca De Barbera. The wine comes from 35 year old vines and is fermented with native yeasts in stainless steel.

Succes La Cuca De Llum Conca De Barbera
Succés “La Cuca De Llum” Conca De Barbera

Succés “La Cuca De Llum” delivers an incredible value for the price.  Tastes of slate, green olives, herbs, and white pepper are interwoven with bright red fruit.  Light-bodied with a Beaujolais-like character, this wine really won me over.  Grab a bottle, drink slightly chilled, and enjoy! ($17, 12.5% alcohol)

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MC4 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

I was incredibly excited about the opportunity to taste MC4 Cabernet Sauvignon for the first time.  This ultra-small production winery produces Napa Valley Cabernet from a one-acre vineyard located in St. Helena.  The vineyard is farmed organically and sits on a picturesque hillside on the west side of the valley.

Martin & Croshaw Vineyard in St. Helena (courtesy of MC4 Wine)
Martin & Croshaw Vineyard in St. Helena (courtesy of MC4 Wine)

MC4 adheres to a minimalist winemaking philosophy.  The wine is fermented with native yeasts and made without the use of new oak.  These philosophies and techniques are somewhat rare in Napa so the wine really shines among the over-manipulated Cabernets that seem to flood the marketplace.

MC4 Cabernet Sauvignon
MC4 Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2013 vintage of MC4 Cabernet is just a baby but already showing tons of potential.  After decanting, the wine offers beautiful aromatics of blackberry, red cassis, and black pepper.  The palate is smooth with lavish tastes of cherry, violets, plum, and black pepper along with nuances of oak.  This is a well-balanced Cabernet that truly highlights the beautiful fruit and terroir of the vineyard.  A Napa Cabernet worthy of a spot in your cellar!  ($68, 14.5% alcohol, 96 cases produced)

*Media Sample

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Pairing Wine and Pizza

I’m Italian so I was raised on pizza.  Not delivery pizza from national chains but handmade dough topped with love.  As an adult, Brandon and I often make our own pizza with toppings that include burrata, sund-dried tomatoes, and prosciutto.  When you have fantastic pizza, you have to pair it with delicious wine.  Here are a few great picks for your pizza pie!

A great pizza wine!
Negroamaro – A great pizza wine!

Pizza and Negroamaro

Negroamaro – never heard of it?  Neither had I until a few months ago.  It turns out that Negroamaro, a grape native to Southern Italy, is a great pairing with pizza.  Look for a bottle with balanced alcohol and enough acidity to cut through the fat in the cheese.  I like Natalino del Prete Negroamaro ‘Anne’.  Red cherries, earthy undertones, and bright acidity make it perfect with a mushroom topped pizza! ($16)

Pizza and Frappato

I really enjoy a good Frappato with pizza.  The wine is generally fruity and very food-friendly so it pairs well with a lot of toppings.  One relatively easy to find, well-made Frappato is Tami Frappato Sicilia Rosso.  There are lovely flavors of red fruit, spice, and earth with a lively finish.  A great find for under $20!  ($16)

Pizza and Sparkling Gragnano

I recently fell in love with pairing Gragnano and pizza.  The sparkling wine hails from the southwest region of Italy and is served chilled.  One bottle to keep an eye out for is Baccanti Gragnano della Penisola Sorrentina.  Funky, fresh, and perhaps created for the sole purpose of drinking with pizza :-). ($15)

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Pairing Wine With Salmon

Salmon is my favorite fish because it pairs deliciously with so many diverse wines.  Salmon is a great combination with acid-driven white wines as well as light-bodied red wines, thus proving the “rule” that you can’t pair fish with red wines is meant to be broken!  Here are a few of my favorite pairings with both white and red wines:

Grilled Salmon

Salmon Paired with Cool-Climate Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is my go-to salmon and wine pairing.  Cool-climate Pinot Noir tends to pair better than Pinot from warmer regions as there are more earthy notes and less fruity notes in the wine.  I generally look to wines from the Sonoma Coast, Mendocino County, or Oregon.  Red Car Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir is a great pick that is rather inexpensive ($45) and relatively easy to find.  Try Pinot Noir with grilled or pan-seared salmon but skip most marinades as they often are are too bold for the wine.

Salmon Paired with Dry Chenin Blanc

Chenin Blanc is not usually the first wine that crosses a person’s mind when salmon is being served, but I have found that a dry, acid-driven Chenin goes magnificently with salmon!  Look for a Chenin Blanc with balanced alcohol and bright acidity to cut through the fat in the salmon.  A couple of favorites of mine are Michel Autran “Les Enfers Tranquilles” Vouvray and Lo-Fi Chenin Blanc…and both are under $30!  Many Asian and Mediterranean marinades work well with this pairing.

Salmon Paired with Gamay 

I absolutely love salmon paired with Gamay.  This light-bodied, bright wine generally has tastes of red fruit and earth which makes it a great match with salmon.  I love Gamay from the Loire Valley and Thierry Puzelat “Le Telquel” is one of my favorites to pair with salmon for under $20.  I would also skip most marinades and stick to simply grilled, seared, or baked with this pairing.

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Christmas Gift Ideas for Wine Lovers!

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for the wine lover in your life?  Good news…we have done the hard work for you and put together a list of a few great gifts that will fit perfectly under the Christmas tree!

For the Perpetual Student

Oxford Wine Companion

After almost a decade, wine expert Jancis Robinson just released a fully revised edition of the Oxford Companion to Wine (4th Edition).  The latest edition features 300 brand new entries along with revised maps, new insights from regional experts, and current photos.  This is a must-have book for any wine lover and is a terrific Christmas gift!

For the Wine Snob Who Has Everything


If you are trying to impress a wine snob who has everything and you have a large budget, we suggest a Laguiole En Aubrac Waiters Corkscrew Wine Opener.  Yes, they are expensive (starting at around $160 at Williams-Sonoma), but they are hand-crafted in France and absolutely beautiful.   Sure to impress any wine snob!

For the Wine Geek

Kermit Lynch

Grabbing a bottle or two of wine a wine geek will truly appreciate can be intimidating.  One place you can go to grab unique wines that almost any wine enthusiast will dig is Kermit Lynch.  Kermit Lynch imports some of the most authentic and beautiful wines from France and Italy.  This month, he is even featuring holiday sampler packages where the wine has already been picked out for you (too easy, right?).  You can be sure the wine will be both distinct and delicious.

Merry Christmas!!!

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Champagne and Sparkling Wine for the Holiday Season

Delicious Champagne or sparkling wine is essential for every Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebration.  Whether you are sipping it as an aperitif, pairing it with shellfish, or serving it throughout the meal, sparkling wine will enhance any holiday party.  Here are three picks that are not only delicious, but also very affordable!

Cheers to the holiday season!
Cheers to the holiday season!

J. Lassalle “Cachet d’Or” Premier Cru Brut

J. Lassalle “Cachet d’Or” Premier Cru Brut is one of my favorite Champagnes for under $50.  The blend of equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier is aged for 36 months on the lees before disgorgement.  With its incredible texture and minerality, it is a fantastic wine with shellfish or on its own.  My personal pick to bring cheer to any holiday celebration! ($38)

Domaine Brazilier Méthode Trad Brut

NV Domaine Brazilier Méthode Trad Brut is a really fun choice for under $20.  This blend of 50% Chenin Blanc and 50% Pineau d’Aunis from the Loire draws you in with aromas of fresh-baked bread and baked apples.  The palate offers tastes of apples and nutmeg along with vibrant acidity.  A definite crowd pleaser! ($14)

Le Marchesine Franciacorta DOCG Brut

My last pick is a sparkling wine from a lesser know region in Italy called Franciacorta.  The region offers some nice wines that generally come in lower in price than Champagne.  Le Marchesine Franciacorta DOCG Brut is a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Bianco, and Pinot Nero fermented with native yeasts and aged in stainless steel.  The palate shows notes of golden delicious apples, almonds, anise, and brioche with fine bubbles and a salty finish.  A fantastic sparkling wine from a region most of your guests haven’t sipped from yet!  ($27)

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2012 Famille Hugel Pinot Gris

Even though I regularly drink wines from Alsace, I recently realized it has been way too long since I enjoyed an Alsatian Pinot Gris.  I decided to change that so I uncorked a bottle of 2012 Famille Hugel Pinot Gris.  Hugel was founded in 1639 and is run by the 12th consecutive generation of the family.  The Famille Hugel Pinot Gris is 100% hand-picked Pinot Gris fermented with native yeasts.  Hugel aimed to allow the purest expression of the grapes and I think they did a great job of letting the fruit shine through.

Famille Hugel Pinot Gris

Famille Hugel Pinot Gris opens with aromas of ripe pineapple, apricot, and hazelnut.  The full-bodied wine has a rich mouthfeel with tastes of ripe pear, tangerine, and lemon zest.  There is also healthy acidity that brings balance and brightness to the palate.  Intense yet fresh and pure.  This is a really nice Pinot Gris for a very reasonable price!  ($20, 14% alcohol)

*media sample

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Broadside Wines – Pure Wines from Paso Robles

I recently had the chance to join in on a live Brandlive tasting with Stephanie & Brian Terrizzi, founders of Paso Robles winery Broadside.  Broadside focuses on producing wines that offer true varietal expression, which means they make the wines naturally, use no new oak, and focus on sustainable farming techniques.  Stephanie is a leading bio-dynamic/organic viticulturist in Paso who oversees the vineyard operations at Broadside while Brian is the winemaker.

Broadside produced its first vintage in 2006 and has since grown to making 20,000 cases annually.  Our tasting lineup included 2014 Broadside ‘Wild Ferment’ Chardonnay, 2013 Broadside Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon, 2013 Broadside Margarita Vineyard Merlot, and 2013 Broadside Margarita Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.  The overwhelming consensus of the evening was that the wines are bright & balanced and the QPR is exceptional (all wines retail for $25 or less).  Here are my tasting notes from the event:

Our Broadside lineup!
Our Broadside lineup!

2014 Broadside ‘Wild Ferment’ Chardonnay (SRP $20)

Broadside’s “Wild Ferment” Chardonnay offers pure notes of pineapple, pear, and spice along with hints of minerality.  With excellent texture and mouthfeel, it was universally well-received by everyone joining in on the tasting. (13.5% alcohol)

2013 Broadside Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $18)

Tastes of plum and blackberry are coupled with hints of black pepper and tobacco.  Simple yet balanced and very enjoyable for under $20.  Definitely allow this wine a few hours to open up before sipping.  (13.9% alcohol)

2013 Broadside Margarita Vineyard Merlot (SRP $22)

Broadside’s Margarita Vineyard Merlot has lush tastes of dark chocolate, rich fruit, cedar, and minerals.  Definitely fruit forward yet with enough finesse to make it incredibly enjoyable.  This is undoubtedly the best Merlot I have had from Paso Robles! (14.2 % alcohol)

2013 Broadside Margarita Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (SRP $25)

Well-structured with notes of black cherry, ripe plum, black currant, and black pepper.  This wine is smooth, bright, and could easily stand up against many competitors at $50+ a bottle.  Give this bottle a couple of years in the cellar for an even more enjoyable experience! (14.4% alcohol)

*media samples

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Best Red Wines For Thanksgiving!

Stressed out about which red wines to sip with your Thanksgiving feast?  Wondering what wines go best with turkey and stuffing?  Great news…you don’t have to worry because we did all of the hard work for you!  Here are some of our favorite red wine picks & pairings for your Thanksgiving meal!

Happy Thanksgiving!

California Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir is a classic Thanksgiving wine pairing and it is also one of my favorites.  There are plenty of great Burgundies around but lately I have been impressed with cool-climate Pinot Noir coming out of California.  A lot of the bottles would be nearly impossible to acquire in time for Thanksgiving (think mailing lists, limited allocations, etc.), but lucky for all of us, Small Vines 2013 Estate Cuvee Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is available for purchase on their website.  The wine is bright, well-structured, and perfect with turkey and all of the fixings.  A fantastic wine for your Thanksgiving table! ($55 including shipping)


Gamay is often overlooked for Thanksgiving but I love it paired with turkey and stuffing!  Since I am obsessed with Le Telquel Gamay, it is an obvious choice for the holiday.  Le Telquel is from the Loire Valley and has tastes of juicy red berries and spice entwined with racy acidity.  Pure, unadulterated, and best served slightly chilled.  This is my all-time favorite Gamay for under $20 and a great Thanksgiving wine! ($16)


A bottle of Carignan will undoubtably make it to my Thanksgiving table this year.  Lioco Indica Carignan from Mendocino County is a definite crowd-pleasing pick.  The wine has harmonious tastes of raspberry, cranberry, spice, and herbs with bright acidity.  A fantastic pairing with most traditional Thanksgiving fare, including turkey! ($22)

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White Wines For Thanksgiving!

It seems like so many people I know serve the same wines with Thanksgiving every year.  When I dine with friends or see pictures from Thanksgiving tables, Chardonnay seems to be the overwhelming white wine choice.  While I do enjoy a well-made Chardonnay, most people opt for a bottle that overwhelms the meal with oak, butter, and alcohol.  I recently tasted through almost a dozen white wines (tough job, I know) and came up with a few favorites for your Thanksgiving meal!

Narrowing down the choices…so many great white wines to choose from for Thanksgiving!


Riesling is one of the most food-friendly wines and is a great pairing with many Thanksgiving dishes.  I recently tasted 2013 Famille Hugel Riesling and discovered it’s not only delicious, but it’s also a killer value at $12.  This dry Riesling from the Alsace region of France is filled with tastes of lemon and orange blossom along with naturally bright acidity and hints of minerality.  Pair with everything from yams to mashed potatoes to turkey & stuffing! ($12)

Chenin Blanc

One tradition we keep at our Thanksgiving table is making sure there is a place for seafood.  Oysters and Dungeness Crab always seem to work their way into our meal.  Dry Chenin Blanc is one of my favorite pairings with shellfish.  Chenin Blanc is made in many styles so look for a bottle that has nice acid and texture.  One bottle that recently grabbed my attention is 2014 Lo-Fi Chenin Blanc from the Jurassic Park vineyard in Santa Barbara County.  With bright citrus, stone fruit, and a rich mouthfeel, this wine is a great match for shellfish! ($26)

White Rhone Blends

If you come to our house for Thanksgiving, you will always find a White Rhone Blend poured with your meal.  One of my favorite domestic bottles is 2013 Two Shepherds Pastoral Blanc, a blend of 50% Roussanne, 25% Marsanne, 13% Viognier, 6% Grenache Blanc, and 6% Grenache Gris from the Russian River Valley.  The wine is beautifully balanced and bright with incredible texture.  It will really brighten up heavy dishes and is a staple at our Thanksgiving table. ($30)

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