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 

Check out how to find Brian Newman here

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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! 

Check out Mirror Napa Valley Wines here

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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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Join me for a fun and entertaining way to up your wine and booze game!

Sign-Up of our free weekly newletter to receive tips, tricks, and the secrets to understanding wine and booze like a Master

This newsletter includes my top weekly wine recommendations, cocktail recipes, and interviews from top winemakers, chef’s, and celebrities!

Buying And Tasting the World’s Best Wines!

My weekly recommendations will help you navigate the choppy waters of wine buying along with tasting and pairing tips. 

Elevate your Home Cocktail Game!

Learn my secrets to making perfectly balanced seasonal cocktails by creating modern classics.

Cheers! 

Fred Dex, MS

Posted on Master and Shaker

The Top 15 Most Asked Wine Questions

When I host wine entertainment events, whether live and in-person before the pandemic, or now virtually on Zoom, I’m always asked the same wine questions regardless of location, age-range, and income level.

I’ve been helping wine lovers answer this list of questions for years and finally decided it was to memorialize them. Here is a list of fifteen most frequently asked questions I get from my clients, students and readers.

#1) Why does wine cost what it does?

The simple answer here is real estate! That’s right; the zip code of the vineyard has a significant effect on the price of a bottle of wine. The most expensive wines in the world tend to have the most costly land per acre. Places such as Napa Valley, Grand Cru Burgundy vineyards, and Classified Bordeaux estates tend to have some of the highest prices. These vineyards produce very high-quality fruit, often in tiny amounts. Think of a beachfront property vs. the house across the street. These grapes cost more money to farm and purchase.

In addition to the cost of vineyard real estate and grapes, other aspects that contribute to the cost of wine include winery equipment, most notably new French oak barrels, which can run upwards into a $1,000 + per barrel.

One of the highest hidden costs is once the wine leaves the winery. There are all sorts of markups that significantly compound from its original production costs. In the US, there is a three-tier system. The winery by law must sell their wine to a distributor, which in turn marks up the wine and sells it to a retail store or restaurant, which marks the wine up again before it reaches the consumer of the bottle. Often this markup can account for up to 50% of the cost of a bottle of wine.

The more expensive the wine from the start, the more significant the compounded markup becomes.

#2) Why do I get headaches when drinking wine? Is it the sulfites?

Sulfites are a naturally occurring substance found in many dried fruit, juices, and foods. With wine production, sulfites are added as a protective measure to ensure the grape juice does not encounter any spoilage or bacteriological issues. Sulfites cause very severe allergic reactions to those who are sensitive, there’s a warning on the bottle, but sulfites aren’t the culprit of a wine drinker’s headaches. Wine headaches are a particular issue, but the causes vary from person to person. Many people only get headaches from red wine (white wines tend to have more sulfites added). The reality is that it has to do with histamines and all sorts of other complex organisms that grapes carry on their skins.

In addition, more industrial wines use conventional farming methods that use chemicals in the grape growing process and then will make adjustments to the wines in the winery to achieve a certain style or flavor. I try looking for wines that are organic or biodynamic. But, there are plenty of small producers around the world farming without chemicals that use minimal intervention in the winery.

If you have serious issues, you might want to talk to your doctor. 

#3) How long can I keep a bottle of wine? 

It depends on the quality of the wine. Lesser expensive wines are made to be drunk right away, while more expensive wines that have a better pedigree with a higher sticker price can age for many years. In red wines, particular grapes, such as Nebbiolo and Cabernet Sauvignon, are generally suitable for more extended aging, due to their tannic structure. Not all wines are meant for aging, and in today’s world of immediate consumption, it’s safe to say the majority of wines that you will encounter are meant to be drunk relatively soon. Most people I talk to have some bottles that were gifts they’ve been saving. My answer is to drink it now!

#4) What temperature should I drink my wine at?

The answer is just how you like to! There are guidelines but, I don’t see people anytime soon walking around with thermometers checking their wines, except at tasting exams.

Below is the recommended temperature serving list. I will play with the temperature quite a bit. I like particular whites colder than others, same with reds. I don’t want to go below 40° and above 70° for any wine. You can always make a wine colder or warmer by putting or taking it in/out of the fridge. You could also have an ice bucket nearby to get the temp just right. For a red, you can take a cloth and set it on top of the ice and just place the bottle on top to stay cool, not freezing cold.

Ideal Temperatures:

  • Sparkling Wine 40 – 55°
  • White Wine 45 – 60°
  • Red Wine 50 – 64°

If you have a wine cooler or cellar the best temperature to keep these at is between 55 – 60°.

#5) How should I store my wine?

The best way to store wine especially if you starting to get a little serious is to get a wine fridge. There are plenty of options at many different price points. If not, find a cool, dark room (like a closet) and get a rack to lay your wines down until you are ready to make the investment.

The wine should be laid on the side and not disturbed until it’s ready to be drunk.

Storing wine

#6) Why should wine be stored on its side?

The bottle needs to be stored on its side so the cork can stay moist. A dried-out cork will allow oxygen into the bottle and dry out the wine. If you’re drinking the wine in a few days or weeks it’s ok to keep upright.

#7) Do winemakers add flavor to wine? 

Winemakers do add several additives to wine to help stabilize, preserve cleanliness or to aid the fermentation along. The flavors and aromas that make up wines as we know it occurs naturally due to the chemical compounds converted during fermentation. Some winemakers do add ingredients to increase specific characteristics, but in most countries, especially in Europe, adjusting wine is illegal.

#8) How do wines get their different aromas and flavors?

Chemical compounds and changes in the juice that occurs when grapes are fermented convert into some of the same compounds that occur in everyday foods we eat. So when you taste apple or lemon, chocolate, or cherry in the wine, it isn’t actually chocolate you taste, but the chemical compounds found within chocolate that are realized through the magic of fermentation. Each grape variety has a unique set of compounds that come to life through the fermentation process. Make sense?

Wine

#9) What are your favorite wines?

As someone who tastes 1000s of wines a year, that’s a tough question! Of course, I love all of the great wines in the world from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Napa Valley, Barolo etc… I have a pretty open door policy on drinking wine and accept all of the children of Vitis Vinifera, but my main considerations are the following:

  • Is it tasty?
  • Who’s the producer?
  • Does the wine have typicality to its region, grapes, and winemaking style?
  • Is the bottle a good value?
  • Would I buy another bottle?

That said, I drink a fair amount of the following wines at home and they are all under $25 a bottle. In addition, I always have some “off the beaten path” stuff hanging around from my winemaking and import friends.

Whites

Reds 

#10) How do you pick what to drink?

Here are some of my considerations when picking something to drink at home or in a restaurant:

  • What’s the weather out?
  • What I am eating, or if I am not eating, what environment I am drinking in – inside vs. outside?
  • Who I am drinking with – business vs. friends?
  • If I’m in a restaurant, I scope the “By the Glass” list to see if it offers any interesting wines that I like and have value. If I find something interesting I’ll try a glass and then move on to a bottle. If I don’t I can expect the wine list to follow suit, so I’ll typically ask the sommelier or wine manager what they are digging and go from there.
  • If I find something new, I’ll typically do a background check and see what my colleagues and other consumers have said about it.
  • At home, it depends on what I am having for dinner but I often have two or three wines going at once for different moods and foods. I recommend getting something like a Coravin or Repour so you can have a few things open at once for a week or two; compare and contrast and have some fun!

#11) Why are wine labels so confusing?

Wine labels are confusing for many reasons. First of all, every country and region in the world that produces wines has its own set of laws that determine what information should be on the label. Not to mention the myriad of different languages wine labels can possess. 

In Europe, which is referred to as the Old World wine labels are often labeled by the specific region which they are from. Many are named for a particular village or vineyard. Throughout history, specific areas were identified, and laws were drawn up to protect the integrity of the region. We call this regional wine labeling. Also, in the Old World, wine labeling laws tend to be much more strict.

In the New World (US, Australia, Argentina, Chile, etc.), wines are labeled by the grape variety. For the average wine drinker, it’s much easier to understand a label that reads Chardonnay than say Chassagne-Montrachet.

I wish it were more accessible. But to enjoy wine, there is a certain amount of research and knowledge acquired to navigate through its international waters.

#12) What are “The Legs”?

Have you ever had the phrase “That wine has great legs”? Legs, also known as tears, are simply a measure of the amount of alcohol a wine has. In wine speak, we call this “viscosity.” When you swirl your wine, take some time to investigate the viscosity. If the legs that run down the side of the glass are thin and move quickly, the wine has a lower alcohol content. If the legs are thicker and move slower, this indicates a higher alcohol percentage. In a blind tasting, this is used to sort out the possible climate and winemaking style of wine.

#13) What are tannins?

Tannins are the phenolic compounds in wine that make your mouth feel dry. Tannins come from skins, stems, and seeds in grapes, which is why red wines are generally more tannic than whites. Red wine grapes are crushed then kept in their skins for some time in what is called maceration, which brings out the phenolic and color compounds that make red wine what it is. Tannins can also come from wood, so wines aged in oak will possess some tannic presence. Wood tannins are typically less harsh than grape tannins.

#14) Why is wine buttery?

Buttery is an extremely polarizing word in the wine industry. Some love buttery wines and others, not so much. The buttery feeling you get in a glass of wine is most likely from two things.

The first is that the wine went through what is called malolactic fermentation, which converts sharp malic acid into the more creamy lactic acid, which produces the flavor of diacetyl (butter/cream). 

The second is from oak aging or from oak chips, which impart creamy sensations to a wines feel along with flavors of vanilla and baking spices.

#15) What’s with the slurping you wine pros do when tasting?

This is a funny one. Wine pros slurp the wine to introduce oxygen and aerate the wine further in their palates. Slurping, swishing and swirling the wine around the mouth opens up all the aromas and textural components of the wine. It takes a little bit of time to develop this skill, but once you do, it’s a lot of fun and makes tasting way more enjoyable!

I hope this helps you on your journey to understanding wine and having more confidence, and fun while doing so!

Please feel free to comment below or reach out for further info.

Cheers!

Posted on Master and Shaker

5 Essential Tactics Every Winery Needs to Consider

The Coronavirus has essentially thrown a wrench in the works of nearly every business in the world, especially in the landscape of restaurants, hotels, and for the whole of the wine industry. From retail to restaurants, hotels, and venues, most of the channels wineries use to sell their wines have been stifled. The pandemic has wiped out wineries’ ability to sell to restaurants and hotels and even in their own tasting rooms. If there is any hope of keeping wineries and their staffs afloat, every winery — and importers too — need to explore these five key tactics for getting wine directly to the customers’ lips in the near and long term.

Wine Tasting
  1. Virtual Wine Tastings
    Virtual Zoom Tastings with the winemaker are practically commonplace now, especially with corporations looking to keep their employees engaged from home. These “calls” usually last 45 minutes to an hour and include 1 or 2 wine selections, a guided tasting, and a Q&A afterward. I’ve spoken to many wineries that are hosting these tastings at least once a week. This is a great strategy for connecting with the consumer directly and making your wine relevant and accessible.
  2. Partnering Wine Companies
    Companies like Wine.com enable wineries to reach a broader audience by creating special packages and virtual tastings. They’ve reported huge increases in sales with these partnerships. Both the wineries I’ve spoken to that sell to companies like wine.com have reported up to a 300% increase in sales!
  3. Smaller Bottle Sizes
    I’ve spoken to some wineries who are breaking down the wines into 4 or 6-ounce sample size bottles and creating value packs of 4 to 6 wines so their customers can taste many different wines without having to open full bottles. They are starting to use neutral gas such as argon to protect the wines and are shipping them out faster so the wines are fresh.
  4. Expand on New Alcohol to Go Laws
    Curbside Pick-up is very popular amongst many restaurants, wine shops, and wineries where the customer emails or calls in their order and they can pick up the wines at a scheduled time. This is very helpful for local wine lovers that want to support their local shops and wineries. These curbside pickups are often tied to Zoom Virtual tasting as well.
  5. A New Way to Taste
    I’ve spoken to many wineries that plan to “soft” open in the next few weeks as the weather gets nicer, particularly those that have outdoor seating, a restaurant or food option, and Tasting Room Directors/Guides. We don’t know exactly what the next few months will bring, but I believe the Virtual Tasting and online wine buying is here to stay. Time to focus on the digital channel.

I wish all my winery, restaurant, hotel, and wine hospitality colleagues a swift and might recovery when this all ends! In if you find you need some help finding your way, Master & Shaker is here to help with everything you need.

Master & Shaker

Cheers, friends and colleagues!

I am stoked to announce that I have partnered up with a dream team of industry experts to form Master & Shaker, a Bespoke Beverage Marketing Collaboration.

Our team consists of business expert and former VP of FB for Omni Hotels and OTG Management David Morgan, master mixer Kim Haasarud of Liquid Architecture, and marketing wizard Amy Katzenberg.

We have assembled a DREAM TEAM of certified experts (a.k.a. Masters), and sales and marketing leaders (a.k.a. Shakers) that have a combined experience of 120 years and knowledge to provide the innovative, full-service support that adult beverage brands need to survive and thrive.

I’m looking forward to this journey with my new team to make an impact in this new world we are living in after COVID-19.

For more info and to chat about what we are up to check us out here –> www.masterandshaker.com

It’s not often that one can say they’ve truly lived a dream come true even if it’s in the most random of happenings. This happened to me last month when I signed on to be the Bar/Cocktail/Mixologist Consultant for the reboot of the Iconic Playboy Club in NYC. I was tasked to develop the bar and cocktail programs and train the bartenders and bunnies on the drinks. Was a bit of tough opening (aren’t they all) but in the end the cocktails have become triumphant sellers. Here’s a look at some menu and an article written about me in Playboy! Yes…just the articles! 

Cheers! 

SILHOUETTE

Empress Gin, Luxardo, Lemon, Champagne

Q

Belvedere Lake Bartezek Vodka, Dolin, Lillet, Sea Salt, Trio of Olives

CARELESS WHISPER

Grey Goose Vodka, Combier Pamplemousse, St. Germain, Cranberry

CALL ME

Ketel One Botanical Cucumber-Mint Vodka, Don Julio Blanco, Canton Ginger, Mint

A BUNNY THING 

Bacardi Cuatro Añejo Rum, Rockey’s, Green Chartreuse, Pineapple, Bitters

HONEY RYDER

Suntory “Toki” Whisky, Honey, Smashed Citrus, Mint, Soda 

EL HEFE

Ilegal Mezcal, Patron Sliver, Combier Fruits Rouge, Lime, Ginger Beer

DECADENCE

Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Punt e Mes, Averna, Bitters

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