Asheville School of Wine teaches classes for seniors!

Asheville School of Wine teaches classes for seniors!

It's almost time for the second run of our wildly successful wine class for seniors, taught through UNC Asheville's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. This 6 class series will start with the basics of wine and run up through some advanced wine knowledge. You will learn the basics of food and wine pairing, grape varietal characteristics, tips to help you get the most out of your wine, basic geography of wine regions, and even some secrets from wine industry insiders! All while tasting a flight of different wines with each class!

Sign up today at Space is very limited and we expect to sell out quickly! Dates of the class are June 15, 22, 29, July 6, 13, 20, 2015, from 2:00pm-4:00pm. The cost for the course is $72.

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Blind Tasting at the Asheville Wine & Food Festival

Blind Tasting at the Asheville Wine & Food Festival

By popular demand, we are coming back to the Asheville Wine & Food Festival to bring some blind tasting fun! We will teach you the secrets of the Sommeliers, and show how to detect the grape varietal, country of origin and even the alcohol percentage of several different wines. Blind tasting is a Sommelier art where you learn to deduce where the wine is from and what grapes it is made out of, all by taste and smell alone. This is a serious part of the exam to become a Sommelier, but we teach the secrets in a fun, stress free atmosphere. In my opinion this is the best way to improve your senses and brush up on your wine tasting desriptors, so you can learn to talk like a pro while you dissect the wines! If you've seen the documentary "Somm", you have an idea of how challenging blind tasting can be. Now try the real thing for yourself!

For a video of last year's tasting, check out

Buy tickets to the festival here


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Should your Sommelier also be your Journalist (or Airline)?

Should your Sommelier also be your Journalist (or Airline)?

In the latest issue of Capital at Play Magazine, the School's own John Kerr takes on wine case clubs! Read it here!

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A Taste of Charleston Wine Dinner

A Taste of Charleston Wine Dinner

Come out to Ruth's Chris Steakhouse this Saturday night, March the 7th at 6:00 for "A Taste of Charleston". Taste some Lowcountry favorites like She Crab Bisque and Fried Green Tomatoes, paired with wines by Sommelier Dan Collier of Ruth's Chris and Andy Hale of the Asheville School of Wine. Look at the menu here Taste-of-Charleston-Flyer.pdf.

The cost is $70. Call Ruth's Chris Steakhouse for reservations at (828) 398-6200.

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Mike Merriman Interview for "Unfiltered"

Mike Merriman Interview for "Unfiltered"

Interview with Mike Merriman, owner of Merriman Wines. He joined us here @MetroWines in Asheville, North Carolina, for a tasting of Merriman Chenin Blanc, Cummins Road Pinot Noir 2012 and Merriman Estate Pinot Noir 2012. His beard was gone and he had new glasses. Here’s the rest of the story:

Thank you for pouring at MetroWines in Asheville, North Carolina. We are a neighborhood wine shop but also the home of The Asheville School of Wine and The Blind Tasting League.  

Do you blind taste?

Mike: I love to blind taste.

What’s in this bottle?

Mike: Could be Eucalyptus but I’m going to say Frankincense.

Unbelievable. You must be one amazing blind taster!

Mike: Not really. Blind tasting is tough. A group of Oregon Winemakers get together periodically in Portland, sit around a table, and blind taste each other’s wines. Not one of us can self identify. One night, one of the winemakers described a wine as the most amateurish swill he had ever tasted. It was his wine.

Let’s talk about how a highly regarded winemaker like you got started. Did you go to U.C. Davis?

Mike: SMU in Dallas.

No way! Me too. I have a degree in Communications. What does a wine guy study at SMU? Botany? Punnett Squares? The Medici?

Mike: Economics.

I see. But then you went to U.C. Davis?

Mike: No. Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.

Wow. Is that what you would be doing if you were not making wine? Some kind of music?

Mike: Definitely. I am a composer. I would probably be a music theory teacher.

Without getting too technical, music theory, as I understand it, is the study of the elements of a composition all the way through to what constitutes music.

Mike: Pretty much.

And word is that you make your own music. They say that you play a mean piano. Besides your own compositions, whose work makes you turn up the volume?

Mike: John Adams. I like post minimalist work. More developed than minimalist pieces by composers like Philip Glass. Don’t get me wrong, I like Philip Glass. I just like Adams better.

But did you know that you can get a Philip Glass ringtone?

Mike: No. Adams wrote three operas. You have probably heard of “Nixon in China” about Nixon’s 1972 groundbreaking trip to the country or “Death of Klinghoffer,” the opera based on the hi-jacking of the passenger liner Achille Lauro.

Me? I’m struggling to tell the difference in Mozart and Beethoven. But I trust you. Back to wine. So then you went to U.C. Davis?

Mike: No. I did income tax.

So, your economics degree came in handy after all.

Mike: Came in handy a couple of times. I had joined the “Beer Revolution” in Texas and began brewing. This took me to a Fermentation Science course at the University of Oregon in 1997. But, along about this time, beer industry revenues were trending down. I got lucky. On a class field trip, I met David Reilly there who owns Owen Roe. He took me to a harvest. I loved it. The rest is history.

Are you the winemaker?

Mike: One of two. I work with Eric Brasher, a trained oenologist and viticulturalist, who was the head winemaker at Owen Roe.

What do you want consumers to know about your wine?

Mike: The way the wines are made. The grapes are hand picked and hand sorted and the wine is made in small quantities. Even the wax on the bottle is hand dipped. We use only sustainable viticultural practices. And we are certified Salmon Safe which means our farming practices help to protect streams and rivers and control soil erosion.

Speaking of soil, some say your soil is what gives your Pinot Noir its distinct taste.

Mike: We have willakenzie soil which is sandy and rocky. You could say that the marine influences in willakenzie certainly contribute to deeper blue fruit but there are many factors in addition to soil that account for aromas and flavors.

Now that you are solidly a part of the wine making business, if you could, what would you like to change about the industry? For more information, check our website!

Mike: The three tiered system. I would like to sell directly. Give consumers more options.

Who would you like to know drinks Merriman Wines?

Mike: Sponge Bob. I like him.

Do you ever think about brewing again?

Mike: No, but I still love a good saison.

A good saison goes with what movie?

Mike: “Godfather Part One,” “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure” or “Tommy Boy” with Chris Farley.

Your first wine received 90 points from Wine Spectator and the ratings and reviews have just gone up since then. Congratulations. Anything else we should know?

Mike: I never went to U.C. Davis.

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Taste and learn about Oregon Wine!

Taste and learn about Oregon Wine!

Today we have Mike Merrimon, owner and winemaker of Merriman Wines coming by the School to answer questions about winemaking in Oregon, and yes, he will be pouring his wines as well. He is actually a former beer guy, who started growing wine in 1999. Since then he has had some pretty big winemakers buying his grapes, highly rated wine juggernaut Owen Roe produces a Merriman Vineyard Pinot Noir, but he keeps his best grapes for himself! This is a great opportunity to taste some tiny production cult wines from the North-West, that really don't make it to the South-East very often.

For more info on Mike and his wines, check out his website at

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50 Shades of Gra-pe: Show some Skin

50 Shades of Gra-pe: Show some Skin

With the "50 Shades of Grey" movie being released today, I figured that this would be a good time to talk about skin. Grape skins specifically. These are what contribute most of the color to the red wines that you enjoy, they are the main source of Resveratrol which is great for fighting heart disease, and they also act as a natural preservative and allow your wines to age without turning into vinegar.

Let's talk about Maceration. Now things are getting kinky! No, maceration is the process where the freshly pressed grape juice soaks with the grape skins and picks up color. If you have ever squeezed a red grape, you have seen that most grape juice is clear. The red pigment in the skin stains the juice. So, the longer the maceration, the more color the juice picks up. This is also where the wine gets its Tannin, that compound that dries your mouth out like you just chewed on a piece of leather or drank some over-brewed black Tea. Tannins are a crucial part of red wine, although they can make it taste a little bitter if the wine is too tannic. These are the wines that you want to age for a while in your cellar. Tannins are also natural palette cleansers, so they go very well with fatty, rich foods!

So what happens if you take red grapes, mash them and then opt for a very short maceration? You end up with rosé wine! The juice only has time to pick up a little color from the grape skins and so the color of the wine can vary from a pale Salmon to a rich pink depending on how long you let the skins soak. You can also make rosé by blending a little bit of red wine in with white wine, but most rosé's are made from a very short soak on the grape skins. Although I'm pretty sure White Zinfandel is made by pouring grenadine into white wine.

You may also have heard of a new type of wine being produced called "Orange Wine" which is very trendy right now in larger cities. This is not made from oranges, but is in fact made from white wine grapes that age on their skins like a red wine. This is almost never done with white wines. The result is a white wine that has a little bit of Tannin, and it takes on a distinctive orange color. It also has a very unique flavor! I enjoy an orange wine, but they are definitely not for everyone! They can be almost aggressively earthy and can take on a vegetal flavor that some find objectionable. They are also very hard to find and can be quite pricy! But if you find yourself in a wine bar and are offered a glass, try it out and see what you think! It will certainly not be boring, which for me is worse than drinking bad wine!

So the next time you are enjoying a sexy red wine, remember that showing skin in the wine industry is just as important as it is in the movies! 

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Behind the Scenes at Pentimento: Making the Magnums.

Behind the Scenes at Pentimento: Making the Magnums.

Awesome American-born winemaker Michele D'Aprix has sent us a few more snapshots of wine production at her winery in St. Emilion, Bordeaux. This time it's labeling the magnums (1.5 Liter bottles) and applying the wax seal. Just a little glimpse into what goes into making the wine that we love. For more photos from Michele, check out our earlier entries here: and videos of the 2014 harvest here:, and by all means, if you haven't tasted Pentimento yet, definitely check it out!


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Finding Wine for Love

Finding Wine for Love

In case you missed it in Capital at Play magazine, here is the School's own John Kerr with some Valentine's Day wine recommendations!

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Romantic Wines to Spice up your Valentine's Day

Romantic Wines to Spice up your Valentine's Day

I'm on wine probabtion. A few months ago I went on a reckless wine-buying spree that left our checking account looking a little hollow, and my wife placed me on wine-probabtion. Because of that, I normally buy wines for everyday consumption that are in the $15 and under category, and usually much under! Valentine's Day will give me a brief reprieve, however, and I'll be able to get a much better bottle than I normally would without getting into trouble. I've already been thinking about what to get!

Setting the mood: Pink Bubbles

I think Valentine's Day is the perfect time to break open that bottle of Sparkling Rose, and before you say I don't drink Rose, they are all too sweet, keep in mind that most Rose's are very dry! The French drink more Rose wine than white wine after all! The sight of the wine in the glass is appealing and the flavor is perfect, just slightly fruity, but with excellent balance. It's light enough to enjoy on it's own, but crisp enough to accompany a meal or light hors d'oeuvre.

My current favorite comes from Willamette Valley, Oregon, the Argyle Brut Rose. It is comprised mostly of Pinot Noir, which Oregon is so famous for, and Pinot Meunier which is a close cousin. Both are traditionally used in Champagne production. I was lucky enough to be able to taste this wine with the winemaker, Rollin Soles, who is as cool as his name sounds. He reminded me of Sam Elliott, and if you are picturing him in your head right now, you really aren't that far off. Big handlebar mustache, folksy western mannerisms, the whole thing. The 2010 vintage is a bit older than you would normally age your summer-drinking,poolside-sitting Southern-French Rose, and it shows on the nose. Slightly dusty, with raspberry and crisp minerality when you taste. Incredibly complex and utterly enjoyable to drink.

The Main Course: Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Far to the south of the Rhone Valley in France, in a place so beautiful that a French Pope decided to live there rather than move to the Vatican, lies a small commune that is known for producing incredibly complex and smooth wines out of Grenache and up to 22 additional blending grapes. It is also one of my favorite places in the world for good wine. The wines are soft and comforting. Not too brash and tannic, or overly fruity. They are a good blend of flavors, red cherry and spice, potpourrie, slightly gamey and with just a kiss of acidity. It is a wine that you can sip by itself with your love or enjoy it with a romantic meal.

My current favorite has got to be Domaine de la Janasse. Although they have only been producing wine since 1967, they have been producing some tremendous wines in the past decades. It is also the favorite of the Wine Advocate's Robert Parker, who is known as an expert on the wines of the Rhone Valley. At $68, this wine isn't cheap, but still far less than paying for a even a mid-range Bordeaux or Burgundy!

If the idea of dropping $93 for a bottle of wine doesn't intimidate you, the single vineyard "Chaupin" from Janasse is also excellent. The grapes come from a cooler vineyard site to the north of Chateauneuf, and the wine is a little lighter, more elegant and a touch more crisp than the other.

Although, if you are like me in that bringing home even a $50 bottle of wine would have you sleeping on the couch instead of being romantic with your significant other, then I have a wine for you as well! Janasse owns a tract of land that technically extends past the boundaries of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and so it goes from having that prestigious (and unpronouncable) name to just "Cotes-du-Rhone", and it goes from costing $68 to just $19.49. The grapes are the same, the climate and terroir are the same, the winemakers are the same,it just doesn't have the name. It's a wine that makes me feel like I'm splurging without violating the terms of my probabtion! But which ever wine you decide to go with, have a happy Valentine's Day!

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The appeal of the small wine shop.

The appeal of the small wine shop.

Earlier this week, Lettie Teague, the wine critic of the Wall Street Journal, announced that she does not shop at grocery stores for her wine. The owner of a small, Asheville-based wine distribution company had this to say about it.

"I could not have expressed this anymore precisely than Lettie Teague and Metro Wines did. As a small importer/distributor (so small that when I show up, 100% of my company is present) I can assure you that the independent wine merchant is essential to my success. They are willing to support small producers even though they know that because of the winery’s small production levels there may be periods of time where the wine is not available. Off the beaten path appellations do not intimidate them. Adopting the same philosophy as I have, that if the wine is good, and has an appropriate relationship between quality and price, they can sell it. They are able to accomplish this because they are willing to invest the time to learn the story behind the appellation, the people and the process that goes into producing this labor of love. So whether you are looking for the unusual, unique experience in wine, or you don’t know what you are looking for, go to your local independent wine merchant. Go!"

Working at an independent wine shop means that we get to buy and sell the wines that we want to sell, not what is demanded by the corporate headquarters. We get to taste a lot of wine in search of the best wines that you might not have heard of, and really nothing makes me happier than being able to offer someone a small-production wine that tastes better and costs less than the big winery that churns out an ocean of wine each year! Of course, we still carry those wines as well. This is what we are passionate about and what we love to do. Stop by sometime and we'll chat about wine!

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Asheville School of Wine teaches OLLI!

Asheville School of Wine teaches OLLI!

We at the School are excited to be teaching a six part wine class for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Over the course of six weeks, we will teach all of the basics of wine, from how and when to decant a wine, to the basic regions of France, to tips to starting your own wine cellar. This semester is fully sold out but we will be teaching more in the summer. For more information, visit

But in the meanwhile, enjoy some photos from our first class!


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From Beaujolais to Bold Winter Wines!

In case you missed them in print, here are some articles from our own John Kerr that were featured in Capital at Play Magazine! The first is about versatile wines for the holidays, but they will work with just about any meal that you find yourself asking, "what in the world should I pair with that?", and the second is about bold wines for the cold winter months. Stay warm and stay informed!

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Forget the Flute: Getting the most out of your Champagne!

Forget the Flute: Getting the most out of your Champagne!

So tomorrow is the one night of the year that most of us drink sparkling wine (ok, also on your anniversary), so it's no surprise that most of us don't know much about how to enjoy a bottle of Bubbly, or even open one! Well fear not! I am here with some advice to de-mystify the suds and how to get the most enjoyment out of it as well!

Step 1: Open the bottle like a Pro!

Opening your sparkling wine isn't really that difficult once you get the hang of it. Just remember that this isn't a NASCAR event, and the goal isn't to see how far you can shoot the cork, or how much of the wine you can spray over your guests! The tip to professional Champagne service is twisting the cork out gently.

Start off by removing the foil from the cork and cage. Feel free to use the plastic tab to rip it off, or use the foil cutter on your wine tool. Either is fine.

Start by holding your thumb on top of the cork. Safety first people! Nothing will end your party quicker than blasting one of your guests in the eye with a cork, and sometimes it can go off unexpectedly. Especially if it has been jostled around prior to opening. Point the bottle away from anyone that you care about before opening.

With your thumb on the cork, twist the wire that secures the cage until it is free (it should probably take you 6 turns by hand).

You may remove the wire cage now, but I don't recommend it. You will have to take your thumb off of the cork to do that, and it might decide to blast off! Whenever I am opening a bottle of bubbly, I leave the cage on and just twist the whole cork, cage and all!

Top the cage and cork with a dishrag or towel and gently twist the cork to ease it out. Your thumb should still be on top of the cork now! Gently twist it until it pops free. This should produce a whisper of a sound, not bring in all of your guests from the other room thinking that they heard a gunshot!

That's all there is to it! Now find something to serve it in and have fun! Speaking of which...

Step 2: Don't serve your Champagne in a flute!

The flute came about in the 1500's to make it easier to avoid the yeasty sediment that wasin every bottle back then, but that isn't really a problem any more. Yes I know that it looks nice and it makes you feel like you are on Downton Abbey when you clink them together, but in terms of really enjoying the wine, it isn't really the ideal shape. It is too narrow to really allow for all of the complex flavors to emerge properly. The ideal glass would be wide at the base, but tapered at the top. Although if you don't have something like that, just serve it in a white wine glass. This will allow the aromas to better reach your nose and you will enjoy it a lot more!

Step 3: Don't over-chill your bubbly!

If you keep your sparkling wine in your fridge and then serve it ice cold, it won't taste like much of anything. Give it about 10-15 minutes on the counter or so that it can warm up a bit and I promise you will notice a difference in flavor! Unless, of course, you are serving a wine that tastes bad. Chill that bad boy down!

Step 4: Pay attention to the flavor.

Good Champagne is incredibly complex and beautiful, and many other sparkling wines are as well. Treat it like the amazing wine that it is and savor it! Swirl it in your glass for a bit and admire the many flavors that emanate. I feel like we get caught in a celebration mode with sparkling wine and almost forget to taste it. We just clink and then glug it down without paying attention to what we are drinking. Take a little moment to appreciate the amazing wine that is in your glass. Then celebrate away!

Step 5: Pair

Don't forget that Champagne is wine and wine goes with food. Don't be afraid to serve your favorite sparkler with a meal! In fact, it is quite versatile as a food pairing wine. It goes especially well with shellfish and salads, but also pairs well with poultry and pork, mushrooms and cream based sauces.

Follow these tips and have a great New Year's celebration! And remember, that sparkling wine isn't just for New Year's eve and your anniversary. Enjoy them all year!

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New Year's Bubbly: Not just Champagne any more.

New Year's Bubbly: Not just Champagne any more.

So you've survived the onsalught of family during your holiday celebration this week, and now it's already time to start thinking about picking the perfect bubbly for your New Years Eve party. With all of the Champagnes, Cavas and Proseccos vying for your attention, picking out the right sparkling wine can be a truly exhausting experience! So before we get into my picks for the best bubbly for your New Years celebration, let's start with a short explanation of some of the famous sparkling wines of the world.

Sparkling wine regions.

Champagne is basically a brand name for sparkling wines that are produced in the Champagne region of France.  It can't be called Champagne if it wasn't made within that area, which means that the bottle of "Champagne" from California in the grocery store is ignoring some international copyright laws! If a sparkling wine is made in France, but lies outside the boundary for Champagne, then you have to call it Crement instead. They can only be made from a blend of any or all of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Champagne is synonymous with high quality bubby and celebrating, and because of this, it tends to be very expensive. It is very cold in Champagne, and frequently the grapes don't even get fully ripe, leading to beautifully crisp and incredibly tart wine that truly is amazing to drink.

Prosecco is the most famous sparkling wine of Italy made from the Glera grape. It had a reputation for being very inexpensive and frequently a little sweet, but recently the Italian government added many new requirements for Prosecco production, which has resulted in only the better wines being called Prosecco and the lesser ones just being called Spumante. These can range in style from slightly sweet and fruity to dry and somewhat minerally, but I usually think of them as being a little fruitier than Champagnes, but not as earthy as Cavas.

Cava is the main sparkling wine of Spain. It has a reputation for being very affordable and relatively mild, with some yeasty, sometimes nutty flavors. These were traditionally made from Xarel-lo, Parellada and Macabeo (weren't these the names of Superman's parents on Krypton?), but recently they have been blending more popular French grapes in such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. They range from very affordable and mild styles to big, rich, robust and earthy styles. These will usually lack the acidity of Champagne but are usually very good values!

The bottom line.

So with all of these fantastic sparkling wines to choose from, which one is the best for my party this year? A very good question, and I have a few different answers, depending on the style of wine that you like as well as how much you like to spend on a bottle of wine. 

If you are the sort who likes to have the best of everything or have ever wanted to own something very rare, then we have the bubbly for you! We have the good fortune of having a bottle of Bollinger RD 2002 vintage Champagne. Only 6 came into North Carolina this year and I would imagine that this is the only one in Asheville! It starts off as a bottle of Bollinger Grande Annee, but instead of the usaual amount of aging, they allow it to mature for another 8 to 20 years before deciding that it's ready. The result is a wine that tastes like it sat in your cellar for a few decades, without the worry about whether or not it is still good. This wine is ready to be consumed now, but could also be aged for a few more years if you like. Complex flavors of mineral, citrus and quince, $374.

For those of us that don't want to spend that much on a single bottle of wine, I have some middle of the road suggestions. The Pol Roger Brut is a great way to feel like the royal family in England at only $48 a bottle. That's right, this was what was in the glasses as people toasted Prince William and Cate Middleton at the royal wedding recently, at least that's what I hear as I wasn't invited. It was also known to be the favorite Champagne of Winston Churchill, so it's a great choice if you happen to have any heads of state or foreign dignitaries coming to your party! Crisp and clean on the palatte, with a rich, yeasty, floral and citrusy flavor.

If that still sounds a bit pricey, try out the Jean-Luc Joillot crements from Burgundy! As you recall, crement is just French bubbly that wasn't made in Champagne. The Cuvee Agnes is a steal at $41, as it just came in fourth in a French blind tasting of the sparkling wines of France, beating out some very expensive and prestigious competition! At $29, the regular Jean-Luc joillot is also very impressive. More rich and creamy than most of the wines from Champagne and considerably less expensive. Both are sure to make a big impression on your guests, without putting a big dent in your checking account!

If fruit is more your style, try out the La Jara Prosecco. It is a Brut (which is the driest style), so it isn't sweet, but you will definitely experience more expressive fruit flavors than a Champagne, with just a touch of minerality to round it out. La Jara means "gravel" which refers to the type of soil it was grown in. This wine is also made organically as well as biodynamically, so it's a great choice if you enjoy wines that are environmentally responsible and made without pesticides. A great wine for $18.49! Expect tart apple and citrus, some floral notes with a hint of chalk on the finish.

If your wallet more closely resembles my own, and the thought of spending even $20 is really a splurge, but you still want to celebrate like a member of a royal family, I have the wine for you! We head from Champagne to Spain for this one. Juve Y Camps Cava is a Grand Reserva, which is the highest level of Spanish wine. In Spain, instead of just aging a wine for a few extra years, to be awarded a Grand Reserva designation, you have to be taste tested by the government. That's right, a representative of the government has to come out and drink your wine and decide if it is good enough to be a Grand Reserva! This wine was served at the new Spanish king's coronation this year, and is apparently tremendously expensive in Spain. I was really excited to have a 2010 vintage Cava that only costs $14.99. The age has really brought out some interesting flavors in this wine. Expect to experience some yeasty, nutty aromas, and a rich, spicy almond flavor on the palatte. This is not your classic, clean, crisp Champagne, but for me, it was a welcome change!

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From Fizz to Finish: Holiday Wine Picks!

From Fizz to Finish: Holiday Wine Picks!

Picking out the right wines for the holidays can be stressful. Your brother who vacations in Provence will be there and he really knows (or thinks he knows) his wine, you will be serving a half dozen different kinds of food and what in the world pairs with honey ham and devilled eggs anyway? Well, we get to taste a lot of wine here at the School and we have narrowed them all down to three good, affordable wines that will leave your family asking you how in the world you got to be so classy!

First Course: The Sparkling Wine

The holidays are a time of celebration, and nothing says celebration like some good Champage. But for those of us who don't want to dish out $75 for their cousins to slurp down in one gulp, only to reach their grubby mitts over to refill their glass while we stare on in horror, we have your bubbly!

About 400 miles south of Champagne we come to Burgundy, where they happen to make some pretty fantastic sparkling wine as well! Don't let the scary sounding "Cremant de Bourgogne" frighten you off, it just means "Sparkling wine from Burgundy". These are fantastic alternatives to the spendy wines of Champagne for the price-savvy consumer.

Domaine Jean-Luc Joillot is one sparkling wine producer in Burgundy who just made headlines at a major wine tasting in France. His wine, the "Cuvee Agnes" was voted the fourth best sparkling wine in France by a team of professional tasters who were tasting blind. "Agnes" beat out some of the biggest Champagne producers, including Veuve Cliquot's high end wine, the "Grand Dame" vintage 1998, which retails for around $130! This is like a minor league baseball team beating the Yankees!

"Agnes", which retails at $41, is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and is rich, creamy and sure to impress even your snobbiest family members! If $41 sounds a bit too rich, you can get Agnes' little sister, the Jean-Luc Joillot Crement, which retails at $29.

Second Course: The White

The holiday season is where I usually find myself dropping my favorite Gruner Veltliner in favor of something richer and fuller. Something that sticks to your ribs and makes you feel warm as you sit by the fire eating christmas cookies! While a Chardonnay certainly fits that bill, they have gotten a bit pricy as well. And also, can we all agree that we are a little bored by Chardonnay by now?

A great way to spice up your winter evenings is with the Truchard Roussanne! Roussanne is one of the major white grapes of the southern Rhone Valley in France, but this one is made in the style of a California Chardonnay. Instead of Chardonnay's apple and pear flavor topped with spice and cream, start off with more of a spicy apricot flavor, and then add on the California treatment. Rich and complex, with exotic spices and a heavier texture. At $24, this wine is a steal! I enjoyed it more than many Chardonnays in the $30-$40 range.

Third Course: The Red

For a great red that will pair well with a Christmas roast but isn't tannic enough to overpower a turkey or ham, try out the "Caliza" from Marques de Grignon. It is a blend of the French grapes, Syrah and Petite Verdot, grown in Spain.

Caliza means "Limestone", paying homage to the type of soil the grapes are grown on, very unique for Spain! The soil in this vineyard is so unique that the Spanish government awarded the Marques de Grignon winery its own DO, the same category as Rioja or Priorat or Ribero del Duero. That's kind of like, say, Cakebread cellars being granted an AVA in California, and then being listed along with Napa Valley, Sonoma, Paso Robles, and the other AVA's. That's a pretty big deal!

Caliza is big and rich, full of spice and dried figs, black cherry with a hint of coffee and enough acidity to keep things interesting, but not enough to make it too tart. At $20.75, Caliza is a real crowd pleaser and it won't hurt your wallet either! This wine makes me want to pour a big glass of it and then sit by a fireplace. I might even share some of it with my family!

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French Classes: Round 2!

Hey there Francophiles, the next round of French Language classes it set to begin in January 2015!

Learn about the language, culture and wines of France as you take a virtual tour led by our resident professor, Dr. Allison Weems. As always, I will be there with wine, so that you can taste and learn about the wines of France, region by region.

Register by 12/30/14 and save 20%!

For more info or to sign up, head over to


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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 (, 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 ( 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 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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