Wines of the Week: 4 Wine Myths DEBUNKED!

Hello, Wine Lovers! My Facebook LIVE “Wines of the Week” series continues with today’s show on Debunking Wine Myths. But these aren’t just any wine myths. These are especially persistent ones that, despite the plethora of wine information out there, continue to circulate. In fact, I’ve heard ALL of today’s featured myths in just the past few months. So I’m very happy to put them to bed once and for all BUT I really need YOUR help to do this.

One of my goals with this show as well as my blog, wine tasting events, podcast and upcoming wine course (more on that later) is to help you empower your palate and become a more confident wine lover. This includes helping to debunk vinous falsehoods by simply sharing what you know in a non-wine snobbish way. So for that reason, I hope you enjoy today’s show and feel empowered to help defeat these myths once and for all next time you hear them.



1.) Bera Brachetto Piemonte, Piedmont, Italy ($16)  OR Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto, Piedmont, Italy ($19)

2.) Sartori di Verona Ferdi Bianco, Veneto, Italy ($18)

3.) Domaine Barons de Rothschild Legende Bordeaux, Bordeaux, France ($18)

4.) L’Ecole 41 Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington ($24)


Wines of the Week: Wine Collecting 101

– Episodes that mention delicious Dessert Wines: Valentine’s Day Aphrodisiac Wines, Valentine’s Day Wine + Chocolate Pairings, + Wine Collecting 101.

– Recommended Glassware (1) Riedel Wine Glasses, (2) The One Wine Glasses by Master Sommelier Andrea Immer Robinson, & (3) Zalto Denk’Art Wine Glasses

I hope you enjoyed today’s episode of Wines of the Week featuring the systematic debunking of some Common Wine Myths! If there’s any wine myths YOU would like to see debunked please feel free to share them in the comments section below and to view previous episodes of Wines of the Week, please click here.


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Wines of the Week: 4 All-American Thanksgiving Wines

If you’ve ever stood with clammy hands looking up at the 10-foot tall “Wall of Wine” in the grocery store wondering how the heck you’re going to pick wines to pair with all the crazy flavors of the Thanksgiving meal, not to mention satisfy your crazy family members, this episode of “Wines of the Week” is for you! In it, I recommend wines that will alleviate your Wine Pairing Paralysis and pair beautifully with EVERYTHING and EVERYONE at your holiday table.

This week’s episode features 4 All-American Thanksgiving Wines from some of my favorite producers to pair with this most All-American holiday. These wines are all relatively easy to find, but if you can’t locate them, simply ask your local wine retailer to recommend a similar wine.


These wines are also crafted from grape varieties which are legendary for “playing nicely” with a wide variety of flavors. You definitely want to avoid wines with lots of oak or harsh, aggressive tannins that’ll clash with many of the flavors commonly found in a Thanksgiving meal.

4 Fabulous All-American Thanksgiving Wines
(Please watch full episode below for detailed tasting notes & MORE helpful advice):

1.) Domaine Carneros Brut Rosé Cuvée de la Pompadour, Carneros, California, NV ($42)
*SHOW NOTE: To read more about sparkling wine & Champagne production, please read my “Champagne 101” post by clicking here.

2.) King Estate Backbone Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2015 ($28)
*SHOW NOTE: This wine was aged “sur lie” a French term that means “on the lees” and to find out what the heck that means, simply click here.

3.) Résonance Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, 2015 ($45)

4.) Duckhorn Merlot, Napa Valley, California, 2014 ($50)

For ALL the details on this week’s All-American Thanksgiving Wines please watch the Facebook LIVE video above. To view previous episodes of “Wines of the Week” on Facebook LIVE, please click here. And if YOU have any favorite wines you’re looking forward to enjoying next week, I’d LOVE to hear about them! Please let me know in the Comments section below.

Wishing you a Happy & Delicious Thanksgiving,

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Celebrating Merlot Month on WPTV Channel 5

October is officially Merlot Month (aka #MerlotMe on Twitter) which celebrates the long awaited comeback of this most maligned grape variety. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to talk about this happy occasion recently with John Favole and the team at WPTV Channel 5.

While everyone likes to blame the 2004 movie Sideways for Merlot’s vinous demise, Miles’ rant was just the final nail in the grape’s coffin at the time. The truth is, its popularity had been declining for awhile. At the height of Merlot’s fame, demand was so great some growers were pulling up other, less-profitable vines in order to make room for more of it. This meant planting Merlot vines in less than optimal sites, resulting in the production of poor quality wine. Unfortunately, it became more about quantity than quality. Now, after almost a decade of vinous obscurity, it’s the quality vineyards tended by the true Merlot lovers that mostly remain.


But what’s so great about Merlot anyway and WHY are we celebrating it with Merlot Month? For those who are newbies or just need a reminder, on the likeability scale, Merlot rates pretty high! Known for its plush, lush notes of cherry, plum and chocolate and soft, supple tannins…frankly, what’s NOT to like? It’s inherent characteristics also make it approachable at a young age, unlike its vinous counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon, a grape known for aggressive tannins and bold flavors which often needs time in the bottle to soften. While both grapes make delicious varietal wines, the two also complement each other beautifully which is why they are often blended together.


While Merlot was officially “born” in France and is still the most widely planted grape in Bordeaux, wonderful examples of the wine can be found in many countries across the globe including Italy, Australia, Chile and the US. Each country imparts its own unique stamp on this grape which can be somewhat of a chameleon depending on where it’s grown. In cooler climates, Merlot is known for exhibiting notes of black and blue fruit, minerals, licorice and herbs. Warmer climates accentuate the grape’s fruitiness, highlighting cherry, candied berry, mocha, spice and soft, sweet tannins.


When it comes to food, due to its supple, fruity nature, Merlot pairs wonderfully with a variety of different dishes. Its hearty texture makes it perfect for serving with dishes such as hard cheeses, cheeseburgers, stews, roasted chicken and steak. Those with a sweet tooth also enjoy it with chocolate-based desserts which complement its lush, fruity tendencies.


I hope you enjoy Merlot Month and continue to enjoy this delicious grape all season long! Please check out our list below of our recommended wines at a variety of different price points. If you’d like to watch the entire WPTV segment, please scroll down to the video below or simply click here. Also, if there’s a particular brand of Merlot you enjoy I’d love to hear about it in the Comments section below. Be sure to share your vinous exploits on Twitter using the hashtag #MerlotMe and check out what other wine lovers are drinking as well.

1.) Falesco Merlot Tellus, Umbria, Italy, 2013 ($14)
2.) Mollydooker Merlot The Scooter, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2013 ($25)
3.) Peju Province Merlot, Napa Valley, CA, 2013 ($35)
4.) Duckhorn Merlot, Napa Valley, CA, 2013 ($50)
5.) Mt. Brave Merlot Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley, CA, 2013 ($75)
6.) La Jota Merlot Howell Mountain, Napa, CA, 2013 ($80)

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A Visit to Bordeaux’s Iconic Château Cheval Blanc

Fans of the movie Sideways, the wine-drenched 2004 film following the debaucherous adventures of friends, Jack and Miles, in California wine country, will probably recall Miles’ disdain for one grape in particular…Merlot. His obvious, ahem, revulsion at the mere mention of it is really quite hilarious – click here to view but be warned, there’s a smidge of profanity!

The irony in the film, however, is that Miles’ most treasured bottle in his wine collection is a 1961 Château Cheval Blanc, a highly coveted, collectible bottle made of mostly…wait for it…MERLOT! Perhaps the wine’s status as one of the most revered Bordeaux wines in existence made it possible for him to overcome his Merlot-phobia? It’s hard to say, but thoughts of the film had us smiling as we eased into the gravel drive of Château Cheval Blanc on a hauntingly beautiful, overcast September day.


Located in rural Saint-Émilion among the lush greenery of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, we were looking forward to visiting this revered estate whose terroir has been highly regarded since the 15th century. The estate currently produces two wines, the eponymous Château Cheval Blanc as well as a second wine, La Petit Cheval, which made its debut in the 1988 vintage. In addition to its wines, the Château had also recently completed a major renovation which we were also very eager to experience.


But first, a little vinous history. Since the Saint-Émilion classification system’s inception in 1954, Cheval Blanc has been categorized as a Premier Cru Classe A, the system’s highest level. The Chateau shares this distinction with only three other producers: Château Ausone, Château Pavie and Château Angélus. While Cheval Blanc and Ausone have been exclusive members of this prestigious classification since the beginning, the 2012 update added Chateaux Pavie and Angélus.


The property now known as Château Cheval Blanc, French for “white horse,” was once part of a larger, 200-hectare estate known as Château Figeac. While vines have been grown here for centuries, it wasn’t until a man by the name of Jean-Jacques Ducasse purchased a portion of the estate in 1832, that the core of what many would consider the finest Chateau in all of Bordeaux was formed. Over the next 20 years, the family continued to add land to estate until it reached 39 hectares which is where it still stands today.

When Jean-Jacques’ daughter Henriette married Jean Laussac-Fourcaud, a Libourne wine merchant, a new chapter in the evolution of Château Cheval Blanc began. In the 1860’s, Laussac-Fourcaud’s keen intuition led him to replant the vineyards to half Merlot and half Cabernet Franc, the two grapes which, to this day, thrive on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. He also realized the importance of water stress in order to produce the finest grapes possible. Formerly known as vin de Figeac, the wine was first sold under the Cheval Blanc name in 1852.

For thirty years, Jean Laussac-Fourcaud dedicated himself to one thing only, making the wines of Château Cheval Blanc the best in Saint-Émilion! His hard work paid off and his wines won many awards over the years and developed a reputation of excellence. In the 1880’s Cheval Blanc was even considered on par with the finest wines of the Médoc, garnering similar prices as wines from the famed Chateaux Margaux, Latour, Lafite and Haut-Brion. Once Jean Laussac-Fourcaud passed away, his son Albert inherited the Chateau and perpetuated the work of his father and made even more improvements in the vineyard. By the time Albert’s two sons, Jacques and Joseph, inherited the estate, they too followed in the footsteps of their father and grandfather before them.

Over the ensuing decades, acknowledgements of excellence continued to solidify the family’s legacy including the aforementioned appointment in the Saint-Emilion Classification system as Premier Grand Cru Classé “A.” This exalted rank was perpetuated in each following classification update and Cheval Blanc became a member of the exclusive “Club of 9” comprising the first growths of Bordeaux. Perhaps cellarmaster of Cheval Blanc for 44 years, Gaston Vaissière, summed it up best when he deemed the vineyards’ terroir “magical.”


Another important chapter of the Cheval Blanc story commenced in the Autumn of 1998 when Bernard Arnault and Baron Albert Frère, old friends and lovers of great wine, joined forces to purchase the fabled château. They brought on Pierre Lurton as Estate Manager and injected a dynamic new spirit into the Château while maintaining the utmost reverence and respect for its history. They also placed their complete trust in the winemaking team to continue their wonderful work. The priority today continues to be producing wines of the utmost quality, which calls for enormous attention to detail and winemaking precision.

With a vision towards the future, the duo embarked on the addition of a new, state-of-the-art cellar adjacent to the Château. The impressively modern structure was designed by Christian de Portzamparc, winner of the Pritzker Architecture Prize in 1994, and was completed in June 2011. Reflecting the taste of the Château owners, the addition is both futuristic and in keeping with the surrounding historic vineyard landscape which is listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The new Cheval Blanc cellar was extremely well-received and the first structure in its category to be certified for the High Quality Environmental (HQE) standard. With its uber-stringent criteria, this certification recognizes great care taken in choosing building materials, energy conservation, waste water management as well as acoustic comfort and employee well-being.


On our tour of the new facility, we felt like we were walking on truly hallowed ground. The new cellar’s intimate yet airy feel exuded elegance with its monochromatic colors and diffused natural light. One of the most striking interior vistas features six rows of curvilinear Italian concrete vats stoically flanking a walkway and stairwell down to the barrel room. The number of vats correlates exactly with the Chateau’s fifty two vineyard plots, allowing each one to be vinified separately, a very important component in the production of the Cheval Blanc wines. Each bespoke vat is individually tailored to the size of its assigned vineyard plot and labelled with its corresponding plot number, grape variety and the number of hectoliters the plot produces. The temperature of each vat is also individually controlled and monitored by a super sophisticated control panel. The integration of tech-savvy features and sophisticated aesthetics in this impressive structure was truly amazing!


One level below the tank room was the extensive underground barrel cellar where French barriques cradled the aging wine. The artfully displayed barrels were illuminated by the soft glow of stylish, low-hanging pendant lighting. The cellar’s beautiful Mashrabiya walls, inspired by traditional Arabic wooden screens, served the dual purpose of concealing machinery and equipment while facilitating ventilation. Standing amidst the barrels, the intimate, elegant space felt more like a chic hotel lobby than what you’d expect to find in a musty wine cellar.


After we toured the cellar’s interior we were led up to the rooftop which featured beautiful gardens and panoramic views of the bucolic splendor surrounding the estate. The view also included the vineyards of another world renowned estate, Chateau Pétrus, which is only a stone’s throw away in neighboring Pomerol. While the prestigious Chateaux and vast holdings of the Left Bank are certainly very impressive, we were truly smitten with the verdant lush greenery and relaxed charm of the Right Bank.


Finally, we toured the estate’s vineyards and were able to walk among its revered vines. As we meandered down the gravel paths we were able to pluck some of the Cabernet Franc grapes straight from the vine. Since it was September just before harvest, the grapes were juicy and perfectly ripe. After we had each sampled a few of the delightful jewels, we were ushered away from the vineyard in order to avoid cutting into their profits!


Understandably, the soil types the vines are grown in is particularly important for maintaining the character of the Cheval Blanc wines. While some estates in Saint-Emilion have excellent gravelly soil, and others have very good clay soils, Cheval Blanc is blessed with both types of soil in fairly equal proportions. Château Cheval Blanc is also one of the rare estates whose vineyard configuration has remained practically identical for nearly a century and a half, since 1871. This continuity can also to be found in the proportion of grape varieties. In 1911, the share of Cabernet Franc was also close to 50%.


The vineyards at Château Cheval Blanc are planted to three classic Bordeaux grape varieties: 49% Cabernet Franc, 47% Merlot and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon. The average age of the vines is 42 years, but the oldest plots go back to 1920. Replanting is done at a very slow rate – only one hectare every three years. This means that, year in and year out, the heart of Cheval Blanc’s vineyard remains intact.

Each vineyard plot has its own specific profile due to the age of the vines, surface area, kind of soil, type of rootstock and grape variety. As a result, the wine produced from each plot has its own unique profile. Those from clay soil are powerful with velvety tannin, while those from gravel soil are more aromatic and elegant. A blend of the two results in a wine that is both powerful and elegant with expressive aromatics as well as the complexity of Bordeaux’s greatest wines.


After our fabulous tour of Château Cheval Blanc we sampled the Chateau’s 2006 vintage, a blend of  54% Merlot, 45% Cabernet Franc and 1% Cabernet Sauvignon. 2006 was a year which highly favored Merlot, resulting in a wine with rich, ripe, expressive fruit which melded beautifully with the elegance of the Cabernet Franc. The full-bodied wine was rife with layered notes of violet, cassis, cocoa, leather and cigar box which continued to evolve and mesmerize in the glass. The wine’s opulence was balanced by its elegant frame and fine tannins, which demonstrated remarkable balance and poise. We took our glasses up to the rooftop garden to fully savor and indulge in the experience…right down to the very last drop.

Are you a Bordeaux fan? Why or why not and if you are, which bank do YOU prefer, Right or Left? Please let me know in the Comments section below!

Bon appétit,


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