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My friend is a line cook at a casual restaurant and I’ve seen an actual sign in the kitchen that reads “Absolutely no Drake songs to be played.” I always found this strange. To me, Aubrey “Drake” Graham embodies the often overlooked intersection between hip-hop and the world of wine.
Drake has a vast catalogue but, from early on in his career, he has always shown an appreciation for some impressive wines. He effortlessly drops wine reference after wine reference in his songs.
Granted, anyone with money and determination can order the most expensive bottle on a wine list, read a little bit and claim they know about wine. While money helps an individual when they’re committed to becoming familiar with fine wine, it takes more than that.
There needs to be somewhat of a passion; whether that passion is to gain knowledge or just to impress your friends. You can ask your local somm about vintages and producers, but that doesn’t make you a connoisseur.
When most rappers say a line about wine, it often feels like a broad comment about Cristal or Ace of Spades – thanks to MTV Cribs and Jay-Z. Needless to say, up until that point I had never seen the very clear connection between wine and hip-hop. I then found myself at a friend’s party and a song came on Spotify. “You know, You know” by Drake.
Let me note: it felt as if it were a regular song for the most part, until I heard him rap the following couple of bars:
“Why has every woman never dined here before?/Am I the only 23 year old wine connoisseur?/The Rothschilds, the Crus, the Gajas and the Opuses/It’s always nice when you’re out with someone that notices.”
Everybody at the party was dancing and having a good time but I just had to play it back. I paused the music despite moans and groans from everyone while thinking, ”Did he really just say that?!”. I listened to it again. Damn right, Drake just quoted some of the most expensive bottles of wine on the open market. (Sidenote: I was really hoping he said “Krug’s” in regard to the champagne instead of “Cru’s”. However, after listening to the line 1,000 times, I’m almost positive he says “Cru’s”).
A little breakdown of the lyrics here:
There could be a number of different Rothschilds that come to someone’s mind when hearing this name. If you’re not a wine drinker, it’s not who you’re thinking. He’s talking about the family name behind two of the holy grails in the world of wine, none other than Bordeaux’s own Chateau Lafite-Rothschild and Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
The Rothschild name, and the legacy it continues to grow today, is comparable to the legacy Michael Jordan left in the NBA on and off the court. Everybody and their mother wants a new pair of Jordan’s. Me and my mama want an old vintage of Rothschild. Either one is fine. The fact that Drake can somehow incorporate this into a song is beyond me and the flow is so effortless.
When he says this, he could be referring to a few things regarding wine. He could be referring to Grand Cru Burgundy or maybe Cru properties in Barolo and Barbaresco or maybe even (to the joy of every somm out there, but highly doubtful) referring to Cru Beaujolais! A very broad term but it’s alright, I’ll give Aubrey the benefit of the doubt here and assume it’s Grand Cru Burgundy. These bottles range in price anywhere from $125-$25,000+ on the open market.
Angelo Gaja, following in the footsteps of family lineage behind a couple of Giovanni’s, is one of the pioneers of Barolo and, mainly, Barbaresco. Basically he, along with his family, changed the way people look at Northern Italy in regard to the way the wine is made – and especially how it is priced. Another super high-price tag wine that I’m sure Drake has no problem buying in a restaurant where prices are easily 4 digits and up.
Last but not least: Opus One. A collaboration of the heavy hitters, Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Two of the biggest names in wine at the time and still considered to this day. And the outcome was one of the greatest wines created on American soil. One of the first cult wines ever produced.
Now this doesn’t fetch the same price tag as a lot of the other cult wines out there today, but this changed the wine game forever. Remember when Kobe and Shaq joined forces and won 3 straight? Yeah, the big 2 before the big 3 was a thing. This wine epitomizes that, just like Drake epitomizes wine and hip-hop culture in one package.
After hearing that song, I listened carefully to every song he made. All I was looking for was wine references. Honestly, there’s no rapper I’ve heard that gets as in-depth about wine as much as Drake. And the difference between him and all the other rappers out there is that he actually drinks this stuff! And he appreciates it! And he knows what he’s talking about!
It’s safe to say that if I ever saw him at a restaurant, I wouldn’t ask him for a picture. I’d ask him what he’s drinking.
Peter Flanagan is a Certified Sommelier hailing from New York. In 2012, he discovered a tremendous passion for wine while working in a small wine shop. In the midst of all of this wine love, Peter also maintained a passion for both sports and music – blending these three passions together and creating new spaces to discuss wine.
As a Wine Consultant now based in San Diego, he works with individuals on a one-on-one basis and sources wine for each client around their specific palate. Be sure to follow his vino journey on Instagram.
Sure, the California Grape Crush Report is a nerd magnet for the wine industry. But you don’t have to be a grape-stained winemaker or back office number cruncher to appreciate some of the trends that pop out of this year’s Grape Crush Report.
A few of the most interesting points from 2017’s preliminary report:
Those Napa grapes tough…
Napa is still the place to beat. Grape prices in California’s priciest and most esteemed wine region were up 11.5 percent in 2017, reaching $5,205 per ton. That’s almost twice as much as neighboring Sonoma, which also did well. Its $2,803 per ton was an 8.2 percent increase over 2016.
Napa Cab is king, but Franc is finer. One of the most coveted Napa grapes, not surprisingly, remains Cabernet Sauvignon, which now sells for the stratospheric average of $7,421 per ton, 9 percent more than 2016. Even more expensive was Cabernet Franc.
(Editor’s note: for an authentic drop of Napa Cab Franc, give the 2014 Conn Creekvintage a go. You’ll get a chewy, berry sensation that radiates grape maturity. And at 38 bucks, this one is robbery.)
Those who doubt its growing cachet in California should consider this: Franc fetching more than Sauv now. Its 2017 cost was $7,969 per ton in Napa, a 10 percent year-over-year increase.
White wine has seen better days
Statewide, Chardonnay’s dominance is slipping. Chardonnay is still the most popular grape variety crushed in California, accounting for 14.5 percent of the total crush in 2017. (Hey, what’s a California wine bar without its cougar juice?) But Cabernet Sauvignon is closing in on Chardonnay’s dominance, and now they’re almost neck and neck. Cab represented 14.2 percent of last year’s total crush.
And overall, white wine is fading. In 2017 the average price for all varieties of wine grapes was about $775 per ton, up 1.5 percent from 2016. Red wine grape varieties rose 4.6 percent to $962 per ton. But white wine grapes fetched only $587 per ton, down 2 percent from 2016.
This decrease isn’t the result of a glut. Yields of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc were down significantly in several districts. Overall, the white grape harvest was off more than 3 percent throughout California in 2017 while reds jumped 5 percent.
Northern California grapes in general still fetch the best prices. Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino County and Lake County are the four price leaders.
Think Napa is the volume leader? Far from it. District 13, (Madera, Fresno, Alpine, Mono, Inyo Counties; and Kings and Tulare Counties) had the largest share of California’s 2017 crush, at 1,403,292 tons. But the average price per ton in District 13 was only $304, so Napa doesn’t have to worry about its quality being challenged anytime soon.
Who’s hot. Who’s not.
Guess what other grape is fading? A former pool party standby of the 1980’s and ’90s – Zinfandel – is getting less popular. The average price statewide for Zin grapes in 2017 was down 2.4 percent to $590 – hardly Bordeaux territory for California’s state grape.
And guess who is coming on strong? The Crush Report showed that Pinot Noir prices jumped sharply in all growing regions. Statewide, the price of Pinot is up more than 4 percent over 2016. The Pinot Stampede is growing. Deal with it.
(Editor’s note: aching for a delicious, yet affordable, squeeze of Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir? Check out Chalk Hill’s 2014 version. It’ll give you that classic California cherry cola, but supported by earthier undertones that give it a bit more maturity.)
2017: a year of terrible fires in California
The fires weren’t as big a deal as feared. While October wildfires in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties were reported worldwide and the visual evidence certainly looked devastating, the state’s vineyards and wineries were not significantly affected.
Overall harvest of about 4.233 million tons was in line with the previous harvest year and among the largest in the last decade. Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties account for only 12 percent of California’s harvest. And by the time the fires struck, 90 percent of the wine grapes in Napa and Sonoma and 85 percent in Mendocino were already picked and in production.
SOMMX returns wine to its rightful place: the center of the celebration
Presented by I Like This Grape, SOMMX is a special, limited-admission event celebrates wine as a primal partner in the pleasures of today’s multifaceted life.
Too often these days, wine can be unrelatable. It can seem like an elite pastime: a quasi-holy libation swirled and sipped by experts and deep-pocketed aficionados in reverent, church-like settings that admit only a privileged few. That’s about to change.
On April 12, 100 people will take a guided journey through wine, art, music and fine cuisine. In a seductive Laguna Beach setting that combines elements of an elegant restaurant, an art gallery and a suave European residential retreat, a five-course tasting menu will be paired with five Spanish wines curated by Amelia Singer, celebrity sommelier and host of The Wine Show on Britain’s ITV and streaming on Hulu.
Five of Kanye West’s songs will be interpreted in innovative ways by gifted local musicians, and five original paintings, created and themed exclusively for the occasion by visionary Laguna Beach artist Kathy Lajvardi, will be unveiled over the course of the evening. Singer – a lively, witty and knowledgeable bon vivant – narrates and hosts the event.
I Like This Grape is a new media entity devoted to the celebration of wine as part of the panoply of world culture, and by “culture” we mean Kanye as well as Kabalevsky, Tarantino as well as Tolstoy, the cave paintings of Lascaux as well as the provocative installations of Christo. As SOMMX amply demonstrates, ILTG exists to liberate wine from its high-toned prison and bring it back into the wider world where it belongs.
OK, here’s the deal: you have a group coming over for dinner and all they drink are California Cabs. You want to make them happy and serve good wine, but you really aren’t in the mood to drop coin on a $70 bottle.
The group isn’t into decanting and waiting. They pop and pour. Oh, and you have to contend with that token guy who thinks he has more knowledge than Robert Mondavi (R.I.P.) on Napa.
To add to the challenge, the preferences and palates in your party vary from “I love Menage a Trois!” to the mutha f***** who can talk all night about nuanced oak bark and toffee flavors.
Here’s a wine we think will actually work in this scenario: a Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2014. It’s wow straight out of the bottle with a velvety vanilla mouthfeel. Not cheap strip club vanilla (so I’ve been told), but Madagascar vanilla.
You get a lot of immediate fruit and complex flavors in this drop. As the wine breathes it only gets better, opening like a tax refund – exciting and unexpected.
Mount Veeder delivers major value for a wine from this part of Napa. The winery is high in the mountains on land that looks like a giant staircase. They’ve been making wine since 1973 and respect the land on which their grapes grow. These grapes thrive in rugged conditions, and wines from this region often cost many times more than what Mount Veeder is charging.
If I were to compare this wine to a movie it would be “Wedding Crashers.” It will make everyone in the room laugh, from your ethnic grandma to your too-smart-for-his-own-good-computer-science-major-ain’t-been-laid cousin.
It’s no secret that the largest specimens coming from the south of the globe are from the Malbec grape, but did you know they were actually created in France? More precisely in Cahors, a small area within the super-known land of Bordeaux a.k.a. place of origin for the best cuts or blends that exist in the world.
The famous Bordeaux wines have a small percentage of the Cot grape (which is French Malbec), but there it develops far differently than in Argentinian latitudes. Why? The dry climate with little rain and many hours of sun that characterizes Argentina.
Since Malbec’s arrival to this country, almost 150 years ago, it hasn’t stopped growing and is the flagship grape without a doubt. You can find Malbec of very different style. From fresh with lots of fruit, to intense with great contribution of wood, tannins and astringency (the ones that tend to abound the most).
Teresita Barrio and Cristian Moor
The important thing is its great versatility that allows for several pairings. Barbecued meat, homemade pasta with different sauces and even seafood are excellent choices. It is a variety chosen by many white wine lovers since it usually has a “sweet” entry and pleasantly invites you to continue drinking.
Thanks to Malbec, Argentina has managed to position itself as a notable wine country in the world. From different corners, people visit us year after year to get to know the depth of where those Malbec flavors come from around each continent.
Maybe that’s why I thought of a special musical pairing for #VINOMUSIC. In the same way that our wine presented itself to the world almost 30 years ago to show Argentina’s potential, a late 80’s band (in particular its singer) transformed Argentine and Latin American rock forever. That band is Soda Stéreo.
Soda Stéreo started with a style very different from the one they were imitating, but always represented a new wave of rock, generated from high expectations and a lot of fans. Their costumes and hairstyles continue to be emulated to this day. The songs, although the band separated at the end of the 90’s, play on the radio and in the hearts of the Argentines. They took South American music to a level never before achieved.
For the wine, I chose a “garage production” wine – a.k.a low yield and premium quality. This comes to us from a couple of winemakers who only produce this Malbec and a sparkling wine: Moor-Barrio Wines. For their Malbec, Initium, they use grapes from Uco Valley in Mendoza. Specifically, 50% new vines and 50% vines over 90 years old.
Hand-numbering Initium labels
They harvest these grapes by hand with the help of a handful of friends, and thresh the grapes before macerating them in cold tanks to ferment in oak barrels. They end with a malolactic fermentation in steel tanks and mature the grapes in oak for another year. The result gives just 1,000 bottles, signed and numbered one by one.
(Editor’s note: for another Uco Valley Malbec, sip the BenMarco Malbec 2014. A full-bodied, dark fruit drop with lush tannins, this is a terrific value for the wine you get.)
Finally, sit down to enjoy some wine that doesn’t stop giving us different sensations as it opens up. You’ll get lots of red fruit, with touches of caramel and chocolate from the oak. The finish is very round and silky thanks to its malolactic fermentation. Initium and Soda Stéreo are almost united in an eternal ending with the exceptional and unmistakable voice of Gustavo Cerati in the background.
Florencia Gonzalez Balverde
Florencia Gonzalez Balverde is an international sommelier, born and raised in Mendoza, Argentina. She lives for tasting and writing about amazing vino – especially when it comes to exposing the wine world to new people. Oh, and dogs! She loves dogs. Be sure to follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and roam around her website.
Bourbon – the sweet Kentucky nectar. It’s as American as apple pie and comes in all tastes and levels of quality.
You might have had the rare luxury of putting Pappy Van Winkle to your lips. Or you’ve savored the more accessible options like Basil Hayden’s and Four Roses. Hell, it’s likely you’ve tipped back Jim Beam shot specials on country music night at Dave & Buster’s. No judgement here, you wild barfly.
In any case, much like wine, the barrels that bourbon uses as an apartment to age in are incredibly influential in its taste. That extra-charred, new American oak is what gives bourbon its character. It softens the bite and lends flavors of sweet vanilla and caramel. It’s Scotch whisky for the sweet tooth, if you will.
Due to legal requirements however, these barrels can only be used once. Unlike wine barrels, those that house bourbon are a one-night stand and then told to hit the bricks. Well, it’s more like a 23-year stand if you’re drinking the good stuff. But that barrel will likely never see bourbon in it again once drained.
Fortunately, bourbon barrels themselves have been given new life. Experimental brewers have been tossing their stouts and strong ales into these barrels that add a complex richness to their beer.
Household names like Firestone Walker have been going at the “beerbon” game for a while. They even hold an annual competition among local winemakers in Paso Robles to create the year’s best style. In other words, a friendly contest for those that know flavor blending in barrels backwards and forwards. Oatmeal stouts oh my!
Speaking of winemakers messing around with beer, we’re starting to see more grapes get on the bourbon-licked train as well. Instead of French, American or Sherry barrels that have only tasted grape juice, some producers are trying their luck with oak soaked in bourbon. It’s a fairly new concept for wine yet one that hopes to transcend the novelty of it.
The result is exactly as you’d expect: a luxuriously soft, slightly sweetened expression of a given varietal. The super-toasted American oak gives the juice a predicted creamy, vanilla base – but with a bit more smoke. The bourbon distributes undertones of caramelized fruit and soothes the acidity.
The current go-to varietal for most producers using bourbon barrels is Zinfandel. Its naturally acidic, and often bold, flavor nicely cut the rich infusion of grain alcohol. And it packs a wallop at a typical 15% alcohol due to the extra sugar. So careful with this one as it can sneak up on ya…like Jim Beam at Dave & Buster’s.
Luckily, most versions are quite easy on the wallet. 1,000 Stories is a well-known style in this space and comes out to $17. You can also snag The Federalist for around $20. In contrast to Zinfandel, R Wines does a Syrah-style take called Southern Belle that’s definitely worth a sip (and awesome label artwork to go along with it).
So what’s the verdict? In my humble opinion, bourbon barrel aged wine is unique but not for everyone. I know that’s a ridiculously safe answer. It’s certainly made for the American palate with its sweeter, velvety experience.
But if you like spicy, herbaceous vino like I do, it might come across as flabby and sugary. Needless to say, the style is still in its infancy and has potential to improve. Stay tuned, bourbon & wine lovers. It only gets better from here.
Tuscany ain’t the only game in town when it comes to exceptional Italian wine, peeps. Sure, you have your treasured legacy of Chianti Classicos and Barberas, but the country has SO much to offer in the way of under-the-radar grapes that will knock your socks off.
So let’s talk about the excellent wines of Lazio, the region that hosts Rome a.k.a. the Eternal City. In order to get the best possible insight, we turned to Andrea Zigrossi. Andrea is a bonafide Roman and certified sommelier that suggests wine to guests at La Pergola – the city’s only 3-star Michelin restaurant. Who better than him to advise us on the beautiful wines of his city?
Here’s the scoop from Andrea:
Well first of all, when we talk about Lazio, we talk about two grapes: Bellone for white wine and Cesanese for red wine. These are the native grapes of the area. I suggest two good wines with each of these grapes, as well as another wine that absolutely deserves to be tasted:
This winery is located in Cori, an ancient town situaded 56 km south of Rome, about 400 meters above sea level on ancient territory. The grape of Capolemole is 100% Bellone and fermented in stainless steel. The color is light yellow, with floral and fruity scents. In addition to being an incredible value for the money, it is the simplicity of this wine that surprises me. You know from the first moment the great love and work that is behind this wine.
The Pileum family’s soil grows in the hills of Piglio, a territory of excellence within Cesanese. The vineyards are between 220 and 980 meters s.l.m. with a variable slope. Bolla di Urbano is the best wine in the region with this grape (100% Cesanese). Grape harvesting is manual and maceration is 20 days long. The fermentation is malolactic, refining 24 months in barrels and 6 months in bottle. With a ruby red color, the taste is rich and very concentrated with spicy and fruity notes, as well as soft and velvety tannins.
The composition of the soil of the vineyards at Tenuta di Fiorano is volcanic due to the nearby Latium Volcano. The winery’s Fiorano Rosso is made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot Grapes. It has a bright, intense ruby color with medium concentration. Particular notes of tar, with balsamic notes of blueberry create extraordinary elegance. Full-bodied wine with fine tannins. No doubt it is a very particular wine to taste.
You should follow Andrea on Instagram and be jealous of his life as a Roman wine expert. Also be sure to visit La Pergola the next time you’re in town.