what the hell is a somm(elier)?

24 hours ago, I was holding a glass of champagne at a hotel in Kansas City that I could barely sip. Very unlike me! I was scrolling Instagram trying to distract myself as I waited for my Level One Sommelier test results to be posted. And by posted, I mean my name being read out loud in front of the 70 people who I had just taken this exam with–in alphabetical order! The news of the arrival of Amal Clooney’s twins momentarily distracted me, I even checked in for my flight back to LA, but my mind was still racing.  Bottom line, waiting to hear my name was one of the more nerve-wracking things I’ve gone through in recent memory.

Anyway, during the two day course, I befriended two ladies who were fortunate enough to have last names that fell earlier in the alphabet. After both their names were called (congrats again Tess and Casleah!) they looked back at me and were like:

what’s your last name?

Pelletier.

They were still in the H’s so I had a minute, but dammnnnn my ego almost didn’t want me to say my name out of fear. The P’s arrived and I kid you not it felt like there were 4 “Pa” names. They both turned looking concerned.

it’s Pe” I managed to get out while thinking “it’s ok, you got this, you better get this, f***, f*** F*–“

—“Natalie Pelletier” the Master Sommelier read (pronouncing it the French way I might add!)

Thank GOD! “WOOHOOOOOO” I internally screamed and definitely did a weird shimmy dance to get my certificate and pin. Weight was off my shoulders and you better believe I was able to finish that champ right quick. Level 1 Sommelier Exam passed!

Soooooooo you might be thinking:

Ok Nat, cool (long story) but what the hell is a somm??

Riiiiight. Back to that business.

What is a Sommelier?

A sommelier, if you do a quick Google search, will define it as “a wine steward”. Some of  you might have seen the documentary Somm and think it’s a group of pretentious douche-bags who sit in circles, drink and discuss wine; people who can throw out that “the wine smells like a freshly opened can of tennis balls, grandma’s blueberry cobbler or eucalyptus.” Or maybe you think it’s a person who can do a party-trick of tasting wine and can tell you down to the year and winemaker what they’re drinking. And while I stand by that wine can smell like pie or even weird elements, a sommelier is a person of service. A person to help a guest navigate the wine list, to –in everyday language– describe and bring the guest a bombass wine pairing or new bottle to enhance their dining experience.

Simply, a sommelier is a service based beverage specialist, a “Siri/Alexa/Ok Google” source to deliver the best sips to YOU.

tess, casleah et moi!

There are levels too!

In the Court of Master Sommeliers there are 4 levels:

  1. Intro Sommelier
  2. Certified Sommelier
  3. Advanced Sommelier
  4. Master Sommelier

The level I just passed, Intro, involved a 2 day course before the exam. To say my brain was fried after the exam is very accurate. I don’t think I’ve ever received so much information within a 48-hour period. I also tried 24 fantastic wines “blind**” (spit most of it to help with info retention) to get my palate trained to know the difference between say a standard NZ Sauv Blanc and Loire Valley Sauv B.

**when I say “blind” I mean that I didn’t see the wine poured from the bottle. I wasn’t blindfolded, as seeing the color of the wine is a key indicator to help deduce the varietal.

Going in I knew a good deal, but there was plenty of newness thrown my way. Yes, I had the course book available to me from the moment I signed up, but did I look through it that much beforehand? Notttt really. I had planned on doing that two weeks leading up, but I booked a feature film (yayyy, more on that later this week!) so I was working on my script and not wine.

Anywhooooo, I digress.

I also really wanted to take this couch back to LA

Why I took it.

You know these wine videos I’m making? Well I decided it was time to get legit! I want to be a better teacher, so gotta go through the motions. Wine is something I find fascinating and like learning about, a hobby if you will. So, my plan is to study more, and continue on to level two so I’m “officially certified”. Of course I’ll keep the videos coming (potentially turn it into a show…) who knows! Knowledge is Power!!

Are you going to quit acting?

NOOOOO. Not at all. I’ve always aimed to live a full life; to pursue interests in conjunction with work. So educating myself in the beverage world is only enhancing how I’ve chosen to live.

Why did you take it in Kansas City?

The Level One classes were all full in the Southern California area for the rest of the year, so I decided to head out to the Midwest and visit a place I called home for 3 years. Shout out to my childhood bestie/friend from camp/family friends for taking me in and being THE BEST hosts. Katie, I will be sore for days from your spin/barre classes, thank you! (KC peeps go take her classes at Mojo and Bar Method!)

If you’re still reading…

That’s about all I got folks. I am so thrilled that I passed, but now your girl’s got a lot more learning to do in between acting gigs.

As always, cheers! And if you can get your hands on a glass or bottle of Austrian Strohmeier Schilcher Pet Nat buy it! It’s a tart sparkling rosé that reminds me of the soda Squirt- you’ll get those good grapefruit notes, but also sour cherry. It’s dry as hell and super refreshing!! Like a tart version of a good Italian soda.

 

 

how rosé is made

Like I mentioned in the video, there are four ways to produce rosé wine.

At the end of the day, what gives wine its color is THE GRAPE SKINS. And that’s why each different grape varietal produces wines with a different hue. Next time you’re out, get one glass of Pinot Noir and let’s say one glass of Cabernet Sauvignon- you’ll be able to tell right away that Pinot Noir grapes produce a lighter colored vino. Different varietal leads to different hue.

The same holds true for rosé. Red grape varietals are used to make rosé only there are 4 methods to produce the pink drink.

how rose wine is made
image via

BLENDING

This method is typical for the production of sparkling rosé especially in the Champagne region of France. Elsewhere, it’s frowned upon to make rosé in this style. A lot of countries in Europe actually ban this process, but there are low quality still rosés that are made from blending red and white wine. So to recap: high quality sparkling rosé is made from adding a little red wine to bubbly AND $*!tty/cheap rosés are made from a mix of white and red wine.

DIRECT PRESS

Direct press typically leads to the lightest colored rosés in the game. The wine only sees skin contact for a short amount of time, just when the vintner is squeezing aka pressing the grapes to make the pre-alcoholic wine juice. It is verrryyy similar to the third method, limited skin maceration, however, this method doesn’t involve letting the grape skins sit with the wine.

LIMITED SKIN MACERATION aka LIMITED SKIN CONTACT

As you can see in the lovely graphic, the longer the red grape skins sit with the juice, the darker the pink becomes. Macerating the skins also imbues the wine with a bit more structure and aromatics. So pending the amount of time the skins sit, this method can create anything from light blush rosé to a deeper full bodied rosé.

SAIGNÉE

Which means in French “bleeding” actually creates a rosé and a red wine. I used Pinot Noir as my example in the video, so again a winemaker takes pinot noir juice and then portions off a certain amount from the first time pressing the grapes. That portioned off juice is the rosé! It is a pink color because the small selection that is run off only has a short amount of time with the grape skins. We can also call this kind of rosé a byproduct because at the end of the day, more red wine is created.

See you next week where I’ll take you through a recipe to make FROSÉ, just in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

CHEERS!

why rosé rocks

That’s right, I said it:

ROSÉ IS NOT SO BASIC

Yes, there are times when I just want a glass of rosé for the sake of having a glass of wine, but it’s really having a heyday because it is so versatile!

it pairs with:

  • grilled fish
  • make that grilled anything: lamb, chicken, artichokes (drooool)
  • oysters
  • beaches (like being on a beach, or looking at a beach-up to you)
  • family reunions
  • girl’s/boy’s night out
  • girl’s/boy’s night in
  • gooey triple cream cheese
  • a hard rich gouda
  • book clubs

bottom line is, whatever your mood, rosé will happily enhance the moment.

Also, I have to highlight this article from Life & Thyme called: A Down and Dirty Guide to Drinking Wine. I’ve been following Ashley Ragovin for a little now and and woman knows her shit. It’s a fabulous read, written with such ease;  a must read for anyone who enjoys wine.

rosé isn't so basic

SPOTLIGHT on TWO

Take the Underwood Canned Rosé in the video. Hello picnics, beach days, cracking one open at the end of the day I can’t get enough (pun intended). This is just what the doctor ordered. It’s juicy and flavorful minus the sweet. It’s laid back and not trying to hard. I also spotted it at Trader Joe’s which is a huge win too. Oh and it’s made with Pinot Noir grapes from Oregon!

Hellooo crowd pleaser, the J. Mourat Rosé hails from France, but the Loire Valley region as opposed to its popular cousin, Côtes de Provence. A beautiful pale pink, this is refreshing and crisp AND a bang for your buck, it’s only $15! Made from Cab Franc, Pinot Noir and Negrette grapes.

…more bottles highlighted next week!

Enjoy your rosé today and all the days.

Cheers!

the history of rosé

Leave it to the Ancient Greeks settled in the Provence region of France to invent rosé. Back in 600 B.C. the aim wasn’t necessarily to create a pink hued drink, but since the skins from the grapes were only in contact with the juice for a short period of time, the wine wasn’t able to develop a rich red color. Instead it was pink! It was probably consumed to help invent the idea of democracy, cartography, modern philosophy and most importantly the Olympics. Just conjecture, but add rosé to the list of “Things Invented by the Greeks that we Still use Today“.

Not mentioned in my video (only so much you can say in 60 seconds…

When the power shifted in the South of France, new wine making techniques were introduced and rosé wine was no longer in vogue (gasp!). It wasn’t until the 1800’s when the English caught wind of pink hued wines from Bordeaux, aka “clairet”, that rosé was back in the game. The Brits soon blew this off, however, and the trend quickly shifted. Bordeaux began exporting its bold Merlot/Cab Sauv blends which are still popular today.

rosé and the history

Back to rosé…

Flash forward to the 1970’s when Bob Trinchero, of Sutter Home Wine in Napa, accidentally created an American rosé. This “blush wine” was a result of using Zinfandel grapes (red grapes) to make a “white wine”. Say whattt?? As I mentioned in the video, the 1970’s saw a demand for white wine that exceeded red, and winemakers didn’t have the white varietals to cover their asses. Sooooo, they tried to pull as fast one. A fast one that left us seeing pink again! Thanks Bob. Although, with the “blush wines” of the 1970’s and 80’s they weren’t dry. Once this fad was over, blush wine’s sweetness and deep pink color left American’s with a bad taste in their mouth (literally). Pink wine was again given the axe (weep).

HOWEVER…

Thanks to crafty and badass winemakers, rosé is here to stay (quote me!!). They’ve brought back techniques aimed to deliver a dry, refreshing and accessible wine fit for everyone-of legal drinking age– (aka saving my ass if I do in fact get quoted). So, I’m calling it: Rosé is here to STAY! Vive la ROSÉ! (but really I just won’t let rosé’s popularity die…me, just me!) Ok maybe with the help of my good friends and The Fat Jew we won’t let this beautiful beverage see a dip in popularity.

Until next week, sip some of the good stuff!

CHEERS!

wine wednesday: bordeaux, france

 

It’s finally fall in LA *knock on wood* and I am gripping on to sweater weather tighter than my steering wheel in rush hour traffic. Sliiiight overstatement, but loving the cloudy weather today. I know– my family and friends in Chicago are probably rolling their eyes at me saying this, but it’s true! Absence makes the heart grow fonder, no?

Speaking of fondness, I will always be a lover of Bordeaux blends- particularly those from the right bank. *Side* does matter!!

Let’s talk specifics

bordeaux-left-bank-right-bank-wine-vinepair
image c/o vinepair

In a nutshell (like all areas of France I’ve covered) location a.k.a. terroir makes all the difference. The Garonne river divides Bordeaux in half creating a left bank and a right bank.

bordeaux-wine-region-map
image c/o vinepair

LEFT BANK

Wines from this side are generally higher in tannins, acidity and alcohol. That’s because the Cabernet varietal composes more than half of the blend. This side made the region famous. Médoc and Margaux are noteable areas to look for on the label.

right bank

Wines from the right side are a bit more “feminine” meaning they are less tannic, acidic and lower in alcohol. They are generally ready to drink earlier too and tend to have a lower sticker price. St. Émilion is a notable area to look for on the label.

buying tips

bordeaux-wine-infographic-wine-folly
image c/o wine folly

Because of labeling laws, all Bordeaux wines will note the location. If you’re unsure of whether it’s a right or left bank feel free to ask the store owner if you’re in a wine shop. If not, just google the location et voilà! You’ll have your answer which will help you “guess” the notes of said bottle.

left bank picks

2011 Château Greysac Medoc notes of dark berries, hint of licorice and cedar. This is a well balanced elegant wine.

2012 Château Fage, Graves de Vayres notes of dark and red fruits with some cooking spice. Really great and a bang for your buck.

right bank pick

2010 Château Moulin, Canon Fronsac an organic wine that is incredibly smooth and the earthy notes balance the fruit.

Cheers!