Wednesday, December 29, 2010

We Wish You A Bubbly New Year!!!

After the holidays, most of us turn our attention to our New Year's celebration. Perhaps you have a party to plan or perhaps you are consumed with finding that 'perfect' New Year's resolution. Here at Destination Cellars, given our general focus, we have been completely preoccupied with what we will be drinking as the ball drops. What dream-inspiring libation will wet our whistle and coax dulcet tones from our vocal chords as we sing our annual Auld Lang Syne? Our usual indulgence of choice for celebration is, of course, sparkling wine. Before bringing out that bottle of tried and true Moët et Chandon, consider the following ways to try something new.

Farmer Fizz
Champagne is the king of sparkling wines. The very name speaks of luxury and quality. A little known fact is that there is tremendous diversity within the category. Grower Champagnes have been readily available in most markets for years now and provide a fantastic alternative to the big names. These houses often have productions which max out at thousands of bottles per year. In contrast, Moët produces 26 million bottles per year, purchasing all of their fruit for a variety of vineyards throughout the Champagne region. This is not to say that Moët does not make quality Champagne. Their considerable resources allow them to make a product which is nearly identical each year. These wines are very reliable. A grower who produces their own label will often farm only one vineyard, using the fruit from that specific vineyard to make their entire line of Champagnes. These wines have tremendous personality and their hand-crafted nature makes them truly special. Often, the prices on these wines is at or below the price of the larger brands which makes experimentation with different growers relatively painless. You can always note a grower produced bottle of Champagne by looking at the label. On all Champagne labels you will see two letters followed by some numbers in the lower right-hand corner (see the label above). Companies which purchase their fruit from a variety of sources will be labeled "NM" or Negociant Manipulant, while the growers will be labeled "RM" or Recoltant Manipulant. This standard in labeling always makes it easy to know who the small artisan producers are. Some of our favorites? Try Jean Milan, Billiot, A. Margaine, Vilmart or Rene Geoffroy. If you would like more recommendations, shoot us a note.

Champagne Alternatives
France does not have a monopoly on sparkling wine production. To the contrary, nearly every wine producing country makes some sort of sparkling wine. Many of these are of extremely high quality for very reasonable prices. If you are doing your celebration on a budget this year or are entertaining 175 of your closest friends, you might consider the wines or Italy, Spain or the United States as an alternative.

Italy has a grand tradition of sparkling wines. Several appellations throughout the country make some sort of bubbly. The two best are Prosecco and Franciacorta. Since Franciacorta can often be within a few dollars of Champagne, lets focus on Prosecco. Unlike many offerings from Italy which carry the name of a village but do not list the grape on the label, Prosecco describes the wine, production method and grape. Until the 1970's, Prosecco was sweet, dull wine without any personality. Modern Prosecco, however, can be a lively, fruity yet dry affair. The light texture and vibrant fruit of Prosecco makes it a great fellow to almost anything you might have for canapes. Try Nino Franco, Bisol or Col Vetoraz.

Cava is Spain's great contribution to this fizzy fraternity. Traditionally made from local grapes like Macabeo, Parellada or Xarel-lo many producers are now experimenting with the traditional Champagne grapes of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Cava, unlike prosecco, is made in the Mèthode Champenoise which involves a second fermentation in bottle. Because of this technique, Cava wines are most like Champange on the palate. Many of them are extremely rich and elegant and, due to the Spanish proclivity for keeping things to age in the cellar, it is often easier to find wines with a little age on them which can be a rare treat. Try Juve y Camps, Kripta or Seguras Viudas.

Finally, the United States has a number of offerings. While most of the exceptional California offerings are within close proximity to Champagne prices they can also be equivalent in quality. To our palates, Schramsberg rules in this category. In the next tier down, Roederer Anderson Valley makes exceptional wines as well. Finally, for an exceptional value, try New Mexico's Gruët. I am particularly fond of the rosé.

Personally, I will be tipping back a glass of Vilmart and probably eating Pimento Cheese or Truffled Popcorn. How will you be celebrating?

For other recommendations or to inquire into the availability of the wines mentioned above, email us here or post a comment below.

Cheers, and have a fantastic New Year's celebration!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Happy New Year, this isn't your typical box wine....

Clients are always looking for us to help them create a "once in a lifetime experience" and we believe an experience is defined as "the people, the property and the wine".

Whether you're sitting in your cellar or on your back deck with your friends enjoying a great bottle of wine, it's "the people" that truly make the experience! You've probably received a ton holiday cards, maybe throw in a few fruit cakes but the feedback we've received when a "box of wine" shows up at their office or at their home has been incredible! This isn't your "typical box wine"!!

Start the New Year off right. Send a client or send a friend a bottle of wine or a case of wine designed with your company logo or simply a nice New Year's message. Our Estate Sommelier, Sean Meyer will work with you to design the best wine offerings that fit your budget but yet tantalize the palate of a savvy wine collector. We work with over 125+ of the top wineries in the world, I'm sure there's something we can find for you! We had incredible wine packages during the holidays that featured amazing recipes from Chef Sarah Heller, to the recently 95 point rated 2007 Clark Claudon Cabernet!

Happy New Year to you all and we hope you have a successful 2011....

You can contact our Estate Sommelier, Sean Meyer at

Monday, December 20, 2010

An Afternoon with Arista Winery

At Destination Cellars we rely on the unique abilities and phenomenal hospitality of our winery partners to deliver the experiences we promise. From time to time we get an opportunity to look in on what our friends are doing. Recently, I had the great pleasure of accompanying two of our clients to Arista Winery, a brand new partner for us, in the Russian River Valley.

The afternoon began as Mark McWilliams, a member of the family who owns the winery greeted us and took us on a walking tour of the grounds, including the extraordinary Japanese garden. We then were transported to the vineyards in a fantastic vehicle which looked like the strange marriage of a golf cart and a Hummer. Mark was the perfect host as we went from vineyard site to vineyard site, all the while learning what made each vineyard special. Mark carefully explained their philosophy in winemaking and viticulture, his obvious passion for the craft shining through.

As the tour wound down we were led to an idyllic knoll among the trees for lunch. Course after course came out paired perfectly with their beautiful Pinot Noirs. Each Arista wine is unique and a perfect representation of the vineyard from which it is sourced. It made for a very interesting comparison as we worked our way from wine to wine, each vineyard paired with a specific dish. It is truly amazing how different two wines can be from vineyards less than a mile apart. Our chef led us through each course explaining his choice of ingredients and the unique food and wine interactions along the way.

All in all, it was a perfect afternoon with food, wine and friends. My deepest thanks go out to Arista for making stunning wines of exceptional quality and to the family and their entire team for delivering an amazing experience. We are thrilled to have them as one of our newest partners. To inquire about visiting Arista or about acquiring these delicious wines please don't hesitate to contact us at

Monday, December 13, 2010

New Winery Partners Coming Aboard at Destination Cellars

What can we say, we love wine and when we meet great people that make incredible wine, we want them on our team. Destination Cellars is proud to announce some new winery partners that have joined our team and soon we will be making their wines available to our clients!

Our Estate Sommelier Sean Meyer has carefully selected these wines and we're very excited about making them available to you. You look at Moone Tsai made by winemaker Philippe Melka (another great friend of ours), there's only 181 cases of this magical wine made. We just hope we can get some!

The Mirror Wine Company from our good friend Rick Mirer. After spending time on the San Francisco 49'ers and the Oakland Raiders, Rick followed his next passion, wine! Rick is great friends with another wonderful winery partner of ours Jeff Smith at Hourglass. That's all
need to say. They're making some amazing wines!

We had the pleasure of spending some time with Justin Stephen's last year from D.R. Stephens Estate and we were blown away. Truly a family devoted to making quality wine. The 2007 Moose Valley Cabernet is 100% cabernet of which they only produce 750 cases. We just had it and we will definitely be placing our orders.

Then you have Vineyard 7&8, wow we were almost speechless. The chardonnay coming from this incredible Spring Mountain Estate is fantastic. 94 points by the Wine Spectator but there's only 210 cases to go around! Then you get to the 2007 Cabernet, another 93 points by the Wine Spectator.

If you're looking for some great wines, some great people and truly a magical experience, just let us know. We love our winery partners and we love their wines. We will share with you, we promise! Cheers and Happy Holidays to you all.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Holiday wine season has officially launched!

Thanks to all of our winery partners that have taken great care of our clients all over the world for the holidays! We have incredible wine packages going to Hong Kong, Singapore, Mexico, Paris and all over the US.

Also a special thanks to Chef Sarah Heller for putting some incredible recipes together for this special package of Clark Claudon featuring a three year vertical of 2005, 2006 & 2007 and to our Estate Sommelier Sean Meyer for coordinating all the tasting notes.
Happy Holidays everyone and let us know if you have any special request for travel, wine purchase and special events! Happy to help and we look forward to seeing you all in 2011!
Cheers from the team at Destination Cellars!