Midnight in Barcelona

When it's 6pm in Asheville, it's already "Midnight in Barcelona!" Join the Asheville School of Wine @MetroWines from 5:30 to 7pm for a New Year's Eve Happy Hour. 
Taste 4 different styles of CAVA, the sparkling wine of Spain, and learn about "what's in your glass" as we await the countdown to "Midnight in Barcelona!" 
$25 all in (includes tax) for the CAVA tasting, paired with empenadas from Cecilia's Kitchen on Merrimon (http://www.cecisculinarytour.com/), Barcelona on the big screen, and a chance to win two tickets to Asheville Symphony Orchestra. Parking is free, easy and close.
Any bottle of Marfil, CAVA from Barcelona, sends 10% of proceeds to Asheville Symphony Orchestra.
Contact: Gina Trippi or Anita Riley
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Low wages keep restaurant workers in cycle of poverty

Mackensy Lunsford's article in today's Asheville Citizen-Times (http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2014/11/22/low-wages-keep-restaurant-workers-cycle-poverty/19425759/) shows the kind of lifestyle that many of us in the restauraunt industry, and in other careers as well, face on a daily basis.

My first "real" job waiting tables, (my actual first was a 2 month stint in a Mexican Restaurant in Boone) was in a "fine dining" restaurant in Banner Elk, North Carolina. I was very fortunate to make good money during the summertime, but our clientele was very seasonal, and most of them went back home to Florida during the winter months. In the winter, there would usually be 2-3 servers on the floor and you would hope that you got the chance to wait on a table that night, so that you could at least go home with a little cash in your pocket. But you didn't every night. I remember surviving on an apple dipped in peanut butter most nights for dinner, and I would splurge once a week on a drive through cheeseburger in Boone. I lost weight, my family got upset, and I moved to Charleston in search of more steady cash. That, fortunately, was the end of my time in extreme poverty, but there are many who are still in the same position that I was.

While we can't do anything about raising the minimum wage or getting restaurant workers paid more, we do offer a class to help you make better tips. The Sales and Service Class that we teach for restaurant professionals is a distillation af everything that I have learned in my time as a sommelier and also as a server in a 5 star resort. While I can't teach personality, I can at least offer you the steps of service to set you or your staff apart in the Asheville restaurant scene. We teach this on the second tuesday of every month, at 12:00 noon and also at 6:00pm.

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Gan Shan Station at Metro Wines

Gan Shan Station at Metro Wines

We at the Asheville School of Wine were honored to be part of the Gan Shan Station preview dinner at Metro Wines on Friday night. It was a small sample of what Chef Patrick O'Cain plans for his new restaurant in the old gas station on Charlotte Street, which he plans to open by the end of the year. There was room for fifty people that night, and the reservations sold out within a week.

I was excitied to be able to pair wines the incredible food with the new front of the house manager, Certified Sommelier Joe Minnich. We tried to avoid the "obvious" pairings that typically go with asian cuisine, no off-dry Rieslings or Gewurtztraminers here!

As guests arrived, they were greeted with beef tartare on house made rice crisps, and rose sparkling sake! Just slightly off dry, with a nice, round mouthfeel to it.

The first plated course was a smoked trout salad. We selected a dry cab franc rose from the Loire Valley, crisp enough to cut through the intense flavors, with a steely, flinty flavor to match the smoke of the trout.

Next we enjoyed pork pate with house pickled vegetables. The flavors were exotic and intoxicating! We paired that with one of my favorite Gruner Veltliners from Weingut Muller-Thurgau; crisp, with incredibly high acid and a fresh, clean flavor. It worked perfectly if I say so myself!

Following that, a delicious charred octopus in a miso-turnip puree came out of the kitchen. We paired this with the only red of the night; the Valle Del'Acate Frappato, from Sicily. It was light and fruity, with a slight floral flavor. Think Pinot Noir covered in flowers!

The last course was my favorite, a black rice congee, topped with an egg and chile oil. Szechuan spices give this dish some kick, so we decided a big, rich white would pair perfectly. We selected the Truchard Roussane out of Carneros, California. The big weight of this wine provided a cushion to the spicy flavors in the congee. It ended up being one of the most popular pairings of the night.

As a final gift, patrick brought out asian ginger candies, which we paired with the Manuel Acha Vino Vermouth Blanco. We chilled it down and served it Port style in a short glass. This Vermouth is sweet, but it is aged on the peels of bitter orange, which gives it a slight fruity bitterness. It was the perfect end to the night.

For those of you who were unable to attend Friday's event, rumor has it that there may be a follow up dinner some time in November. Get your reservations now at www.metrowinesasheville.com or call 828 575-9525. Tickets will likely sell out fast.

Join us in November and see why there is so much hype about this incredible restaurant!

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French Classes: Week 2

Well, another week has come and gone and every one is parlez vous-ing a little bit more Francaise! The French classes, led by our resident Professor, Dr. Allison Weems, are continuing to take all of us on a virtual tour of France, region by region. As always, I have been along for the ride, and I brought a lot of wine with me!

This week we took you to Alsace, a wonderful wine region that frequently gets over looked when talking about famous French wine regions. Alsace is different from most French wine regions, because of its turbulent history and mixed cultural heritage. This region is located on the far eastern border of France next to Germany. As everyone knows, France and Germany have ALWAYS been best friends, and have NEVER gotten into any fights whatesoever! Not exactly. This border land has changed hands between Germany and France a dozen or so times over the centuries, leadin to a hybrid culture. Think French people wearing Lederhosen. Most people speak French, German, and a local dialect that is a combination of the two.

As their culture is mixed, their winemaking styles are too. Essentially, you get classic French and German grapes growing side by side. You see famous German grapes, like Gewurtstraminer, Sylvaner and Riesling, being made in more of a dry, French style. This is also the only place in France where you can legally grow these German grapes. No, you wont get arrested and have your Riesling confiscated if you try to grow it in Burgundy, but you definitely can't call it Burgundy wine!

This week we poured the Dopf & Irion "Crustaces", a blend of 90% Sylvaner and 10% Pinot Blanc, as well as the Pierre Sparr dry Riesling. Both pair perfectly with seafood and charcouterie, and both were sold out by the end of our class! That's right, I served two whites this week! The only red that is grown in Alsace is Pinot Noir, and to try that, you will have to wait for Burgundy...

Join us next week where we will take you to Bordeaux! The beginning class is October 12th at 4:00 and the advanced class is on Thursday the 16th.


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More pics from Bordeaux!

More pics from Bordeaux!

The day has finally come! Michele d'Aprix and her crew have been hard at work in the vineyard, and she has been sending us videos and pics all day! The following are shots from around her estate and a video of the "1901" merlot being loaded into tank #5. The "1901" refers to the date that the Merlot was planted. Yup, I guess that counts as "Old Vine", right?

Stop by tonight at 5:00 to Skype with Michele herself, live from her cellar! Ask her questions about winemaking, or just try her wine and tell her what you think of it.


The Chateau.


Baby Vines.


The soil in the vineyard. Limestone and clay.


Beautifully preserved ancient seawater fossils in the limestone!


The Barrel Room.


Wine in a vat.


The "1901" Merlot landing at the winery.

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Exclusive video footage of this year's harvest in Bordeaux!

Exclusive video footage of this year's harvest in Bordeaux!

Our good friend Michele d'Aprix, the only American Woman Winemaker in Bordeaux, will be Skyping with us tomorrow at 5:00 from her cellar in Bordeaux as she is making her famous "Pentimento" wine. It will be an incredibly rare opportunity to see exactly what goes into making world class wine, and I am seriously giddy in anticipation!

As the date has been approaching, Michele has been recording videos of the harvest and some of the winemaking steps that we won't be able to witness firsthand on Friday. She sent them to us to give us an idea of what is going on over in St. Emilion right now.





Yup, that was the harvest! I am seriously ready for a vacation to Bordeaux right now!

I always wondered how a destemmer actually works. I made some "wine" out of some Muscadines recently and had to pluck all of the stems off by hand, it took hours! I really need to invest in one of these!


Remontage is the French term for "Pumpover", which basically pushes the cap of grape skins, which float to the top, back into contact with the juice to allow more color and tannin to be extracted. I've read about this in my books, but I have never seen it first hand until now! Sorry, I told you I was giddy!

This has just been a sample of what we will see tomorrow, October 10th at 5:00pm, when we Skype with Michele and her crew. Come out and ask her about all of your wine making questions while you taste her incredible wines!

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Wine labeling and ...Animals?

Kind of a weird combination, huh? On Tuesday, October 14th, we will be hosting Julie Lewin, former lobbyist and president of the National Institute for Animal Advocacy, who will be discussing her book about how to get legislation passed for Animal rights. Her passion is working for animal rights, but her methods will work for any cause.
Before that, I will be discussing my own personal pet legislation issue; Wine ingredient labeling! Currently, wineries do not have to disclose their list of ingredients on the label. But Andy, it should just be grapes, and maybe yeast if we are being really picky, right? Oh I wish it was that simple! Many commercial wineries doctor their wines with a myriad of chemical ingredients that you would really not want to put in your body! There are over 100 different chemicals that are legal to add to your wines in the US, and I'm not talking about sulfites here! As the owner of an organic wine company once told me, "The fact that there is no list of ingredients on the label of the wine that you are drinking should terrify you." Scary stuff!

So come out on Tuesday and hear about the chemicals you are putting in your body with commercial wines, and stay to hear what you can do about it from Julie. Be it animal rights or wine honesty, she is a pro and knows how to get changes made in Washington.


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French Class Week One

Well folks, we have just finished up our first week of French Language Classes! The delightful Dr. Allison Weems got us started with our French Language skills and I poured a few of my favorite Loire Valley wines!
Sunday's introductory class was a huge success! The classroom was filled with eager Francophone hopefuls and the wine was flowing! We poured a great Cabernet Franc from Chinon and a lovely dry Chenin Blanc from Saumur, Asheville's very own sister city in France! We sipped wine, learned to speak like the locals, and learned about the terroir and grapes of the Loire Valley.
Thursday night's Advanced class was hopping as well! The entire room was abuzz with what I assume was sparkling conversation all in French. I only understood a bit but then I'm only getting started with French myself. Videos were shown, an assortment of cheese was eaten and wine was enjoyed. I am a firm believer that drinking French Wine helps one speak French more naturally. Well, it certainly doesn't hurt anyway! We substituted the slightly off-dry Vouvray for the Saumur this time, but the Chinon made and appearance again.
Join us next week for more French Language and more wine! Next week we head to Alsace: one of my favorite regions because of it's conflicted Germanic heritage. It's the only place in France where you can legally grow Riesling!
A bientôt!
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Catena Wines at Metro!

Yesterday we were honored to be able to meet with Jorge Liloy, sommelier and representative of Catena Winery in Mendoza Argentina. These wines were incredible! Not just good for Argentina, really world class wines. I was particularly impressed with the whites. I have never been a huge fan of Argentine Chardonnay, but their White Stones and White Bones Chardonnays were on par with some of the better Burgundies I have had the opportunity to try! They all get a bit spendy, but if you get the chance, definitely try these wines out! They really changed my opinion about what Argentina is capable of producing!
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Shiraz: All Iranian Grape?

On Tuesday night we had a short class to go along with a presentation on travel to Iran. Apparently that is a thing and it apparently won't end with your name on a watch list or anything! This lead to a discussion about the wines of Iran, is there such a thing?
Well, not too much right now, but they do have a long history of winemaking in Iran. Apparently, they used to make a white wine with skin contact, one of those so called "orange wines" that you may have heard of, or maybe had a trendy wine server push one on you on your last trip to New York or Portland, or wherever. It was called Shirazi, and it was all the rage in 9th century Shiraz, Iran, apparently being dubbed the best wine in the middle east! This of course lead the conversation to Shiraz, the city in Iran, and what in the world does it have to do with Syrah, the grape?
Glad you asked! It has long been speculated that Syrah, the famous French grape of the Rhone Valley, may have been a bastardization (Frenchification?) of the name Shiraz, and that maybe the grapes that won peoples palates over in 9th century Iran, might be the same grapes that we enjoy in our Cote Rotie today. This actually gained enough traction that several countries, such as Australia and South Africa, have dropped the name Syrah etirely in favor of calling the grape Shiraz! You also may have seen some California Shiraz out there, and maybe even a few from some other countries. Is there any evidence to back this theory up? Good question again!
There are basically two legends about how grape vines from Iran could have ended up in the Loire Valley. The first is basically that ancient people from Persia may have brought the grape with them when they settled near Marseilles around 600BC. Of course this theory means that all of the grapes in Marseille have to disappear spontaneously at some point and then teleport over to the Rhone Valley without leaving a trace for some reason.
Option B is that a knight named Gaspard de Stérimberg (the Hermit of Hermitage himself!) brought grape vines back with him from Persia when he was returning home from the Crusades. This is unlikely, however, because Persia would have been way farther than he needed to go to fight for the Holy Land. He was either very lost or after being wounded in the Crusades, instead of going home to recuperate, he decided to go the opposite way and take a vacation to Iran! Not entirely convincing.
These are fun legends, and a great topic for discussion, but advances in DNA testing have shed some light on this mystery. Much like Maury Povich does on his show, scientists using DNA testing have shown who the parents of Syrah/Shiraz truly are. And they are...Mondeuse Blanc and Dureza, two indigenous grapes from the Rhone Valley in France! Sorry Iran, you are not the father.
So the grape really is Syrah and Shiraz is just a city in Iran that has nothing to do with it, right? Well, you're partly right. I like to think that using the name Shiraz still has some meaning and purpose. I, personally, like to look at whether the winemaker chooses to call her wine Syrah or Shiraz has a lot to do with what style of wine you are going to find inside the bottle. If they call their wine Syrah, I usually expect it to be tannic, with pepper, bacon, red cherry and smoke, in other words; more French styled, and if they call it Shiraz, I expect big jammy black fruit, soft, sweet tannins and gobs of plum and black cherry, in other words; Aussie styled. This won't work for you every time, though. An Australian winemaker calling his wine Syrah would be excommunicated, and a French winemaker calling her wine Shiraz would be tarred, feathered and then burned at the stake! But it's usually a pretty good indicator of style in my opinion. So maybe this whole Syrah/Shiraz thing has a purpose after all.
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A virtual tour of the Loire Valley.

The Loire Valley is one of my favorite wine areas in France, particularly because of the flavors that the cool climate and the chalky, stony soil contribute. The best way to learn about it is to actually go there, although for those of you that, like myself, can't just hop over to Europe for a wine fueled, educational cruise down the river, the next best way is to come to our French Class this Sunday!

Our resident French Professor, Dr. Allison Weems, will take us on a virtual tour of France, region by region, starting with the Loire Valley. She will give us the basics of the French language, tailored specifically to travelers. Greetings, survival phrases, and basic wine phrases will all be covered.

While Dr. Weems is parlez-vous-ing français, I will go over some of the main wine areas and describe what you can expect to drink from town to town when you go over for real. I will talk about the unique terroir of the Valley and what that means for the wine in your glass. I'll cover the really famous towns that you really HAVE to visit on your Loire trip, and give you an idea of the flavor differences between them. What is the difference in style between Pouilly Fume and Sancerre anyway?

Email Dr. Weems to sign up at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., and be on the lookout for "Vin Francais", an overview of the wines of France, coming soon to the Asheville School of Wine!
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Check out this great article on blind tasting in the Wall Street Journal!

And when you are ready to try out your own blind tasting skills, come to the Blind Tasting League. More information at www.blindtastingleague.com.

From http://online.wsj.com/articles/how-to-blind-taste-wine-like-a-sommelier-1408118884

How to Blind Taste Wine Like a Sommelier

ONE OF THE MOST satisfying achievements of any oenophile is an ability to recognize a wine whose identity is concealed. Equal parts talent, training and luck, blind tasting is the elusive grail of the professional wine world. I've had some great blind-tasting successes—and many failures—but my favorite experience took place 15 years ago at the now-closed Montrachet, in New York.

The restaurant's then-wine director, Daniel Johnnes (now wine director of Dinex, the Daniel Boulud restaurant group) conducted a game called What's My Wine? The challenge was quite simple: Mr. Johnnes poured willing diners a glass and asked them to correctly identify the grape, appellation, region, vintage and producer. For each correct answer, Mr. Johnnes deducted 20% from the price of the bottle. Anyone who answered all five correctly got it free.
I answered four out of five questions correctly: Chenin Blanc, Savennières, the Loire Valley and 1995. I didn't name the producer, Nicolas Joly. I can't remember why. Perhaps it was too obvious. "Only about 2% of all the people who played the game got as far as you did," said Mr. Johnnes reassuringly when I recalled the competition during a recent phone call.

But when I recounted my almost-total triumph to a wine-savvy friend, he scoffed that people almost always guess wrong at blind tastings. "They only remember the one time they got it right," he said.

The practice purportedly evolved from a professional need to identify fraudulent wine (bottles didn't come with labels long ago). Today this type of tasting is considered the best way to assay the true quality of a wine. When a drink's identity is unknown, a taster can (theoretically) reach an objective conclusion as to its worth. Then there is the other type of blind tasting—practiced by professionals and amateurs alike—which is more of a parlor game meant to challenge and/or humiliate wine-drinking friends. Both kinds generally involve shrouding the bottles with brown papers bags, but anything all-concealing will do. I've even seen aluminum foil employed.

The reviewers at Wine Spectator certainly go through the exercise for the first reason, as executive editor Thomas Matthews noted in an email. It is important to avoid "the inevitable bias adduced by knowledge of price and producer," he said in an email. The magazine's critics review all new-release wines in independent blind tastings, he added.

Daniel Posner, owner of Grapes the Wine Company in White Plains, N.Y., blind tastes with his staff for fun. It can be "very humbling," he said. He also does so to assess the quality of wines wholesale sales reps present, as his shop is small and he must be selective about what ends up on the shelves.

These evaluations are generally "price blind." That is, Mr. Posner might know the wine's name but not the price. Mr. Posner offered an example of one such tasting. A salesman brought him an expensive ($50) Pinot Noir along with other, less-costly wines. The pricey Pinot was disappointing while the cheapest, the 2012 Ramsay Pinot Noir ($12), was a hit. If he hadn't blind-tasted the Ramsay Pinot, Mr. Posner said, he probably would not have stocked it.

“ One can follow specific steps to improve the odds of a correct guess. ”

Sommeliers must also be proficient in the skill. This is particularly true for those who aspire to be master somms. In fact, a variation on this theme is an important part of the exam conducted by the Court of Master Sommeliers, an accrediting professional organization. Candidates must correctly identify at least four of six grape varieties to pass the test—something fewer than 10% of the would-be masters manage on their first attempt, according to the court's Seattle-based examination director, Shayn Bjornholm.

Some sommeliers, such as Raj Vaidya, head sommelier at Daniel restaurant in New York, like to eliminate preconceived notions as a means of checking their palate. For example, he said, "You expect certain things in a wine like Chablis—minerality, high acidity." If it's oaky, you might incorrectly think it's flawed, he said, adding that without a label, he is responding only to "the wine in the glass."

Winemakers frequently taste blind as well—not just their own product but others' too. Aaron Pott, an acclaimed vintner and consultant in Napa (Blackbird Vineyards, Pott Wine) said he rarely tastes his own as it always stands out, but he employs the method elsewhere, in part to avoid "cellar palate," i.e., becoming overly fond of his own beverage.

Mr. Pott also uses the technique for fun. He doesn't take blind tasting—or himself—too seriously. He recounted an event attended by 100 or so wine professionals who were offered the opportunity to participate in a challenge. Mr. Pott was the only one who volunteered—and he got every bottle wrong. But a week later someone brought to his house two wines that he blind tasted, and he "nailed them," he said. They were a 2005 JJ Prüm Kabinett Riesling, from Germany, and a 2000 Troplong Mondot, from St.-Èmilion, Bordeaux. Luck does figure in success: Sometimes a taster is on, sometimes he's not.

Although sampling widely is one of the best ways to become a better blind taster, one can follow specific steps to improve the odds of a correct guess. The first step requires a visual examination (something casual drinkers often forget). Certain wines are much lighter than others. For example, a Pinot Noir will almost always be lighter than a Cabernet. Same with a Pinot Grigio versus a Chardonnay.

The second step requires tilting the glass to check the liquid's viscosity. A viscous wine will usually be higher in alcohol, and a higher-alcohol wine usually comes from a warm climate.

Smelling and tasting are the third and fourth, and most important, steps. The aromas will tell you almost everything you need to know, and the flavor should confirm it. Aromas of red cherries and spice? Pinot Noir. Earth and black pepper? Maybe Syrah. (Of course, you need to study and drink a great deal to have these reference points.)

How well does the average wine drinker perform in a blind tasting? I decided to conduct one of my own for three savvy friends. I chose single varietal wines (blends are too difficult) that are widely available and true to place and type. They were about the same price ($20), save for the California Cabernet, which was more than twice the average price. (It's hard to get a great California Cab for $20.)

The whites included the 2013 Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner, from Austria, the 2013 Domaine Pastou Sancerre, from the Loire Valley, and the 2013 Abbazia di Novacella Pinot Grigio, of Alto Adige. The reds included the 2012 Chateau Ste. Michelle Indian Hills Merlot, from Washington state, the 2010 Laurel Glen Cabernet, from Sonoma and the 2011 Yann Chave Le Rouvre Crozes-Hermitage, from the Rhône Valley.

The results were surprising—or not. The most knowledgeable oenophile took the longest to evaluate each sample and had the most articulate descriptions and rationale, but he also got every wine wrong. The least experienced correctly identified two (Grüner Veltliner and Sancerre), and it turned out that he drank those "all the time," while the third taster nailed every vintage—and nothing else. Sometimes the guesses were close (Cabernet Franc instead of Cabernet Sauvignon) and sometimes they were quite far (Pinot vs. Syrah).

What do blind tastings prove? The professional version can definitely deliver an unbiased opinion—and aid in the discovery of some very good deals (such as the inexpensive Pinot Noir that surprised Mr. Posner). And the parlor-game variety that I practiced on my friends?

They can help you remember and recognize wines in the future, potentially adding to your connoisseurship. But that doesn't guarantee you'll recognize those wines if they're served blind again. As my wine-savvy friend can attest, accurately identifying wines in a blind tasting isn't just about knowledge but a bit of luck too.

See wine videos and more from Off Duty at youtube.com/wsj.com.
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Food and Wine pairing: an opinionated guide.

"So I'm having a cedar plank grilled salmon for dinner with a dill-yogurt sauce, which wine should I drink with that?" I get questions like this almost every day, and honestly it's a question that I love! I relish the challenge of finding just the right wine that will not overpower the food, but has enough going on to stand up to it. To find the wine which will not only go along with the meal without a fuss, but the one that will genuinely enhance the entire dining experience. A good wine and food pairing is one that makes both the wine and the food taste better than either would have by themselves. But how worried should we be about finding exactly the right wine to go with our dinner? Should we suffer through a bottle of acidic Gruner Veltliner just because the sommelier says it is just the perfect wine for pork? Must you drink a white wine with your crabcakes even though you prefer red wines? What are the rules with pairing wine and food, and if so, who is making these rules anyway?

The classic rule was:
White wines with white fish and white meats.
Light red wines with red and white meats.
Off dry or sweet wines with spicy food.
Strongly flavored reds with strongly flavored meat dishes.
Sweet still and sparkling wines with sweet foods.

I think this is a good place to start, but do not get stuck here! There is not a stone tablet somewhere with the hallowed words "Though shalt drink Cabernet Sauvignon when thy eatest steak" etched onto it. Not to say that Cabernet is a bad thing to drink alongside a delicious New York Strip, but there are many, many more wines that pair equally well with your beef (For instance, try an obscure Italian wine called Aglianico!). Don't feel like you must drink reds with beef and whites with seafood either. I find that lighter and more acid driven reds, such as Gamay Noir, Frappato, Zweigelt and a lighter bodied Pinot Noir work quite well with seafood and even shellfish. I almost feel that Salmon pairs better with a light red than a heavy white, but that's just my two cents! And then there are the so called "orange" wines; white wines with extended skin contact that pair well with everything from chicken to pork and even some beef dishes, due to their tannic nature. Also, don't forget about your dry roses! In my opinion there is not a better pairing for barbequed chicken and pork than a nice, meaty and fruity rose. Ask your sommelier or your wine shop guy and we will gladly help to suggest some pairings that you might not have thought of.

Also, I object to the thought that there is only one "correct" pairing for a food. And while I do feel that some pairings are "righter" than others, I feel that there is a huge gray area of wine pairings that might not be as good as some but will work just fine. In my opinion, there are very few wine pairings that just don't work at all. I guess the point I am trying to make is that a good wine pairing can really liven up and improve an already good meal, but it isn't something that one should ever stress or worry about. Drink what you like with food that you like. Don't take someone else's opinion over your own, you are the one who has to drink it after all! If you like drinking red Zinfandel with your pork chops, I'm sure it won't ruin the meal. But you should try it with a good Gruner Veltliner one day!
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Come out to the Wine Essentials Class on July 22nd!

Have you ever felt intimidated while describing a wine? Would you like to know more about starting a wine cellar? Would you just like to learn a bit more about wine in general? This is the class for you! Wine Essentials teaches, just that, all of the things that you should know to get the most enjoyment out of your wine, without getting too technical. We will cover the major grape varietals, demystify wine terminology, learn when and how to decant a wine, the basics of food and wine pairing and tips for starting your own wine cellar. We will even debunk some very popular wine myths, things that you thought you knew about wine but are absolutely untrue! Did you know that 1 out of every 5 wines sold in France is a Rose wine? What is the best way to tell if your wine is "corked"? Learn more tomorrow night!
Come out tomorrow night at 6:00 for an entertaining tour through the very essentials of wine and learn more about the wines you love!
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At the Wine and Food Festival's Chef Challenge

Andy announcing the news that we will be bringing blind tasting to the Asheville Wine and Food Festival! Photo courtesy of Julie McMillan.

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The Asheville Wine and Food Festival Chefs Challenge.

I was recently asked by Bob Bowles, the organizer of the Asheville Wine and Food Festival, to help judge the first Chefs Challenge on Tuesday. As a lifelong foodie, and a veteran of quite a few high-end, gourmet restaurants, I was incredibly excited to attend and see what amazing creations the Chefs would present. I was certainly not disappointed!

In my line of work, I am constantly judging the quality of wine. I meet with wine reps on an almost daily basis, and taste through an absolute deluge of wine. Trying to judge the quality of these wines and then decide which of them to carry in our shop is truly the best and most challenging part of my job! But I had never judged food before.

Fortunately, I was seated with some real professionals; food writers for the Asheville Scene Mackenzy Lunsford and Jess McCuan, and the head dietician for Ingles, Leah McGrath. You have probably heard her voice coming from the speakers while you are shopping at Ingles! It was truly amazing listening to them as they picked apart the various courses, noting the positive qualities as well as the shortcomings. I can easily say that this was the most well spoken dinner conversation I have ever been a part of!

Both chefs Chris Brown of Mountain Magnolia Inn and Chef Mike Fisera of Lexington Avenue Brewery did an amazing job of incorporating the secret ingredient, corn, into their meals. The desserts were particularly impressive, taking the form of a chocolate coated corn fritter and a sweet corn semifredo. Both were sweet and savory! I left incredibly full and happy.

Bob acted as the MC at the event. Ever the showman, he kept the mood fun and light, and the sense of excitement about the next course and the impending tallying of the votes was palpable!

It was a great honor to be invited to the event and I highly recommend getting a ticket for yourselves to the next Chefs Challenge on Tuesday July the 8th!

Until next time, happy tasting!
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The Grape Vine: Beaujolais—A New Day

Don\'t stick up your nose at Beaujolais! Read this great article in the Laurel of Asheville Magazine about the \"other red Burgundy\" by our own Gina Trippi!
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How to order wine like a pro in a restaurant.

So I recently read a great article in Food and Wine magazine called \"20 tips for ordering wine\". Definitely check it out! But it got me thinking about my old restaurant days and the sorts of cues that used to let us know that the person on the other side of the wine list didn\'t have a clue what he was doing. Here are some tips on how to order wine in a restaurant that will help you (and your Sommelier) get the right sort of wine in your glass!

1. Learn your wine terminology. This is a big one! It\'s incredibly hard for your sommelier to recommend a wine you will like if you don\'t know how to describe what you are looking for. Learn how to describe the kind of wine you are looking for with terms like tannic, acidic, big, rich, fruity, earthy or light. To learn these terms and what they mean, check out my earlier blog entry called \"Learn your wine tasting terminology!\". One term to avoid in a restaurant, however, is \"dry\". Unless you are looking for a Riesling or another grape that is frequently made in a sweeter style, \"dry\" is really a useless descriptor, since most wines are dry.

2. Avoid sniffing the cork. It just smells like a cork. Whenever I see someone sniffing the cork before grinning and exclaiming \"Excellent!\", all I take away is, \"I\'m a little pretentious!\". Now I may get into trouble for this one, I have known some experts who claim that you can detect some faults by smelling the cork (I can\'t), but in my opinion, it is always better and easier to smell the wine itself. You\'re drinking the wine afterall, not the cork! To make sure the bottle of wine you ordered is satisfactory, smell your glass or take a sip. Look for traces of old, wet cardboard, wet dog, and all things dank. This could be TCA taint, also known as \"corked wine\", which occurs in around 7% of all wines with corks according to a 2005 study. If you have a bad wine, send it back with confidence! Although, don\'t be the guy that sends back bottle after bottle because he doesn\'t like the wine! Nobody likes that guy.

3. Be open to trying something new. A lot of the better bottles of wine that I have encountered in restaurants were not picked out by me. I love asking the sommelier for their recommendations, especially if you trust her palate. As long as you didn\'t have your heart set on a specific wine, ask your somm what they are excited about, what they recommend, or what they are drinking at home now. You might get some nerdy stuff, but they will definitely be interesting! There are too many amazing wines out there to just drink Chardonnays and Cabernets every night!

4. If getting a recommendation, let your sommelier know the price you are looking to spend that night. I always appreciated knowing my customers price range, it helps to narrow down the wine list, and I didn\'t have to worry about shocking someone by suggesting a $500 wine or insulting another by suggesting a $20 one. Don\'t let your somm bully you into spending more than you want either. I used to really enjoy the challenge of trying to find a good wine at a lower price that fit the flavor profile of what my guests were looking for!

5. Always tip 20% on your wine purchase, unless you are given bad service. I have read a number of articles concerning how much to tip on wine with some experts saying 10% and others 15%, but the fact is that odds are your server or sommelier is probably expecting 20%. I have actually received tips where the guest showed their math on the receipt, with 20% for the food and 10% for the wine. It just makes them look cheap. I\'ve also heard a lot of people asking about how much is appropriate to tip on an expensive bottle of wine. I still expect 20%. If you can afford to buy a $1000 bottle of wine, you can afford to tip on it. Keep in mind most servers tip out their support staff based on their sales, not their tips! If you tip low on a very expensive bottle, your server could potentially lose money!

Hopefully this gives you a little bit of an insider\'s view of wine service in restaurants. If you follow these steps, you will look like you know what you are doing, find a wine you will like better, maybe try something new, and everyone will be happy!

Until next time, happy drinking!
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The Mobile Unit made it to Weaverville!

Asheville School of Wine Mobile Unit held a class on Dry Riesling at a home in Weaverville this past weekend! We poured Strauss Riesling, Kung Fu Girl Riesling, and Weinbeit. All were favorites and it was a huge success! If you want the Mobile Unit to come to you to host a class, call us at 828-575-9525!
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Bring the Asheville School of Wine to your next event!

We are finally going mobile! Our team of highly trained wine consultants will come out to your next party or event and do a wine tasting, discussion, class, or even a blind tasting. We have already done a wine tasting of obscure Spanish wines at a home in Asheville, a blind tasting event at a Biltmore business, and assorted wine tastings for the board of directors of some local non-profit groups. Call or email us for ideas and pricing and set up your event today! Call us at (828) 575-9525 or email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
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