Cap Classique, “Brut Methode”, Graham Beck, NV, South Africa

Texture: Medium-plus body, creamy with lively effervescence.

It doesn’t matter what day of the week it is. Every day is a good day for sparkling wines. Graham Beck is the gold standard for South African sparkling wines, and this one drinks like champagne at half the price. This was the wine served at Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inauguration and Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential victory party. It’s tough to find a higher pedigree than that! Get fizzy with it!

What you’ll taste: Classic champagne flavors of baked apple, lemon curd, brioche with an energetic and persistent finish.

Food pairing: Popeye’s Fried Chicken

Price: $19.99

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Parvata (Red Blend), Force Majeure, 2017, Red Mountain, Washington

Texture: Rich, full-bodied decadent red wine with muscular tannin and a long finish.

This is a Rhône inspired red blend consisting of 43% Mourvèdre, 25% Grenache, 23% Syrah, 4% Cinsault, and 5% Counoise. Force Majeure is crafting incredible wines from top vineyards in Washington state being made by the former winemaker Todd Alexander of Bryant Family in Napa Valley.

There are only 450 cases of this collectible wine produced each year. Polished, dark, sophisticated, decadent, and bound to be a timeless classic – it’s the Metallica Black Album of red wines.

What youll taste: Silky, sexy, dense with flavors of spiced blackberry, blueberry, licorice, cocoa, and notes of exotic Asian spices.

Food Pairing: Go to your local butcher and picked the best-marbled cut of meat you can find. Pan sear it on cast iron with fresh herbs and don’t be afraid of the butter. 

Price: $70

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Rioja Reserva, Bodegas Muga, 2016, Spain

Texture: Medium-plus bodied wine with powerful, sexy tannins.

Rioja is Spain’s premier red wine-growing region, making wines from the Tempranillo grape variety and friends like Garnacha. This Reserva wine has been aged three years, which has given it amazing complexity. Bodegas Muga is one of the top wine estates globally, making wines at all price points. For a Reserva, it is a steal at this price. Comforting, smoky, classic—this is the official wine of playing pool in a lounge while listening to Night Moves by Bob Seger.

What youll taste: Rich and complex flavors of dark berries, dried cherries, tobacco, smoked meat, sweet leather, and a touch of dried herbs. 

Food Pairing: Perfect for a night of smoked brisket with all the fixings.

Price: $27.99

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Grüner Veltliner, “Langenlois”, Schloss Gobelsburg, 2018, Kamptal, Austria

Texture: Medium-to-full bodied white that’s lush, elegant, and balanced. 

Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s premier white grape variety. If you don’t know it, Gruner Veltliner comes through every time when you’re in need to pair a wine with certain vegetables. It’s the Marvel superhero of white wines that will always save the day.

What youll taste: Ripe peaches, exotic citrus, crisp sugar snap peas, and noticeable notes of white pepper.

Food pairing: Try a roasted pork loin with braised root vegetables and you can’t go wrong.

Price: $29.99

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Sparkling Wine, Jansz, “Premium Cuvèe”, Non-Vintage, Tasmania 

Texture: Medium body sparkly with a steely acidity and a bright finish. 

Tasmania is now making some of the world’s best sparkling wines. Jansz is arguably the valedictorian of Tasmanian sparkling wines class. This wine spent 18 months on its lees (gives a brioche flavor), which helps to give this wine its complexity. Break the glow sticks and spin your favorite EDM, the Jansz will make you dance.

What youll taste: Meyer lemon, baked apple, and a touch of honey-buttered toast

Food pairing: Join it together with beer-battered fish and chips, or some fried calamari.

Price: $29.99

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Tuscan Blend, “Zingari,” Petra, 2017, Italy

Texture: Medium-plus bodied juicy red wine with soft tannins.

This wine totally blew me away. I had it for the first time on a whim, and I was totally blown away by how rocking this wine was. In a super Tuscan style, this wine is a blend of Merlot, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, and Syrah. This Tuscan blend has a dark, brooding taste that will hit your palate like an Adele breakup song.

What youll taste: Concentrated with dark cherry, blackberry, Mediterranean herbs, and juicy tannins. 

Food pairing: Match it up with a pasta Bolognese. (Or spaghetti and meatballs. I won’t tell.)

Price: $17.99

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Sauvignon Blanc, Max”, Errazuriz, 2018, Aconcagua Valley, Chile  

Texture: Medium body with zesty energy.

If you know and love Sauvignon Blanc, chances are you are fans of wines from New Zealand, but did you know that Chile has been making Sauvignon Blanc from coastal vineyards for the past decade? The wines are a touch richer but have the same flavor fireworks as those New Zealand wines. Easy and breezy, pair this with your favorite Michael McDonald yacht rock,Sauvignon Blanc Errazuriz and you’ll feel the wind from the sea on your face.

What youll taste: Sweet lime, Granny Smith Apple, fresh herbs, and a touch of sea-salty air.

Food pairing: Perfect with your favorite sushi roll. Goes best with Hamachi Tuna Roll or Salmon.

Price: $15.99

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Brut Rosé, Gruet, Non-Vintage, New Mexico:  

Texture: Medium-bodied bubbly with loads of energy. 

Sparkling wine from New Mexico? No way! This is one of my go-to value sparkling wines that drink like champagne for half the price. A third-generation family makes this wine from Champagne, France, with all the wine know-how from that region. Energetic, full of pop, and slightly punk, this wine resembles Pink in more than just color. Raise Your Glass!

What youll taste: Fresh strawberries, wild raspberries, white peaches, and rose petals. 

Food pairing: Your favorite fried chickenGruet Brut Rosé

Price: $16.99

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IN THE DRINK with BRIAN NEWMAN – BANDLEADER – HIP CAT – LADY GAGA & TONY BENNETT 

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I recently interviewed my dear old friend rocking bandleader Brian Newman for Rock Your Wine World about his music journey and almost becoming a career Sommelier. I’m happy he stuck to his music! 

How did you get started in the music business?

I started playing trumpet when I was 10. When I was 12, I started improvising with the school band. They were reading music, and I was jamming. I didn’t even know what I was doing. After the band director scolded me many times, he was like, why don’t you try my jazz class? So I went to summer jazz camp and learned to play the 12-bar blues. Ever since then, I have wanted to be a New York City musician. I started playing gigs in coffee houses when I was 12, and I played Italian restaurants when I was 13. I had to try everything. I moved to New York in 2003. I literally walked the street in a suit and asked every restaurant. Are you hiring?

The stuff you are doing with Lady Gaga, it’s pretty complex.

Honestly, between Quincy Jones and Count Basie, that’s the kind of charts we’re writing for her. We’re not fooling around.   I arranged one of her songs, Paparazzi. We put a really heavy backbeat on a 30-piece orchestra with 12 strings, 15 horns, and my quintet from New York. It’s bombastic. It’s huge. There has been a show like that since Frank Sinatra and Quincy in Las Vegas.

You almost became a full-time sommelier!

I worked for six years without playing music full time. I worked at BLT and was a manager at BLT prime. I remember standing on the floor at BLT Prime. The chef Laurent Tourondel saw me in a suit, and he was like, I told you that you would be in the restaurant business and not a musician. But you gave me a shot, and he gave me a shot. I was in New York City, doing what I wanted to do. I got myself together, and I was the best I can be after that. You guys kept me alive in New York City.

How did the Lady Gaga thing happen?

Every Friday night, I was going to this bar, St. Jerome’s, on the Lower East Side after closing BLT Prime. There was a Friday night party there, and I would be the only guy in the Lower East Side in a suit. Gaga had a party called Lady Starlight/Lady Gaga. They were both DJs and go-go dancers. I was hanging out with them to see her shows at The Bitter End, carrying her disco ball to shows. She left and went to L.A. to make that first record, and we kind of lost touch. Then she started doing jazz stuff and asked me to do the Today show with her. That started our professional relationship to where we are today.

You’ve worked with Tony Bennett too.

I was doing a gig with Gaga for the Robin Hood gala. Tony Bennett was there; he came to the dressing room and said to Gaga, hey, we should do a record together! They did the single, and they did a whole record. They had the whole orchestra on the record, and she wanted to do something different. Half the record was that modern Lower East Side punk/jazz, and then the other half had the classics on it.

Tony Bennett and Brian Newman

What wine reflects you most: Burgundy or Bordeaux?

When I think of Burgundy, I think of Herbie Hancock’s Chameleon. There’s nothing like French wine. There’s such a complexity to it. It’s funky, like a Herb Alpert funk classy.

Bordeaux has the jamminess, but it also has the old-world dirt. That’s my favorite part. It’s earthy and funky. It reminds me of Edith Piaf at four in the morning, having dinner and drinking after the show. I think I’m more Bordeaux. It’s stronger. It stands up to anything. You can pair it with any strong tasting food, and it’s going to be good.

What’s next for you?

For the Preakness Cup, we’re going to be performing with no audience, just the orchestra. We’re getting back to some gigs in New York as well, once the restaurants start opening up. It’s not about the money; it’s about rebuilding this beautiful city we love. I love being with people. That’s the most important thing.

Thanks for the time, Brian! 

You rock, brother! 

Cheers, Fred Dex, MS 🤘🥂🍷

IN THE DRINK with RICK MIRER, Entrepreneur, NFL Quarterback, Leader, WINE LOVER, and Owner of MIRROR NAPA VALLEY!

I recently interviewed former NFL Quarterback and winery owner Rick Mirer on his journey from the gridiron to some of the greatest vineyards in Napa Valley! Here’s his take on the gameplan in Napa Valley with Mirror Napa Valley Wines! 

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When did you first start to become interested in wine?

My wife and I moved to Del Mar, CA in 1996 and started trying all different kinds of wines with friends who hosted great dinners. We took a liking to Napa Cabernet quickly, but also loved Pinot Noir, Italian wines and Rhône blends. I started doing research and studying regions one by one. As we traveled, we kept exploring deeper into French Burgundy and Bordeaux, Australian Shiraz, Oregon Pinot Noirs, Washington Cab/Merlot, Syrah. The appreciation for Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay came a little later when we decided to produce them.

How did that passion become Mirror Napa Valley?

I spent four consecutive seasons in the Bay Area late in my career. Two with the San Francisco 49ers and two with the Oakland Raiders (2000-2003 seasons). With Oakland, we had a training camp in Napa, and that was it. I had been to Napa prior, but waking up there weeks in a row felt right. I met several producers in my limited free time and have always felt a connection to the Napa Valley from those years. I didn’t expect to get into the business until I had retired and had more free time than I was comfortable with. We simply started with my personal contacts and have been meeting people and sharing our stories constantly ever since. 

Is there anything from your professional football career that has translated into becoming a winemaker?

A lot, but mostly both are very competitive, and I’m drawn to that. Shortcuts don’t work in either profession. Consistency matters and makes the difference between good and great.

What is your favorite part of being a winemaker?

I’m the proprietor, but have learned so much about winemaking along this journey. Kirk Venge is our winemaker, and the smartest thing for me to do is listen when it comes to the technical winemaking decisions. He’s a pros pro, and we have been able to consistently create some amazing wines. I’m really proud of what we have in the bottle. The production is very small, so Mirror is still new to many people, but we’d put our stuff up against anyone.

What new releases can we look forward to in the coming weeks?

We just released our 2017 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon and our 2017 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon is coming in late September. I think our current 2018 Petaluma Gap Chardonnay is outstanding as well.

Thanks for the time Rick! 

Cheers! 

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