#WomenMakingWine part 4 ft. Sam & Ella, Cof-founders of Faff Wine Co.

Welcome back to my third annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to winemakers, and even CEOs and Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews weekly on Instagram.

Our next women in wine feature is exciting to say the least! Faff Wine Co. was established in 2022 by two incredible, vivacious women. Faff really embodies all that this series is about – women made, women owned brands who are shaking things up in the wine industry. The two female founders are experts in their respective fields. Samantha is a certified sommelier and owner of the successful blog and wine tasting business Samantha Sommelier (she’s also my future podcast cohost #woo)! Ella is a talented winemaker who studied at UC Davis and built her winemaking experience in Oregon and California. Together, they launched Faff which is British dialectal for “to make a fuss over nothing” and I love this sentiment! Wine shouldn’t be over complicated. It shouldn’t be stuffy. It should be fun and enjoyable. Gone are the days when fine wine was reserved for the ol’ boys club. There’s a wine joke that goes “to make a million dollars in wine, you need to start with 2 million.” Sam and Ella are dismantling the idea that wine is out of reach and out of touch with younger generations of beverage enthusiasts. Faff Wine Co. is proof that passion + understanding the consumer is what it boils down to and there is no doubt they will continue to be wildly successful.

This wine brand is bringing sassy, fun, female energy into the world of wine. It’s proof that you can be a serious wine with a fun-loving side. That you can sip crushable bubbles for under $40 and feel sexy while doing it! It’s a wine for the people and it brings me so much joy to see these two talented women thriving throughout this endeavor. Their first release was a NV sparkling brut rosé – I’ve sipped this wine on several occasions and can truly vouch for the quality and approachability. If you love a sparkling rosé as much as I do, look no further. It’s bursting with flavors of bing cherry, strawberry, and red apple with citrus blossom and floral undertones. It’s balanced with acidity and serves up the finest of bubbles. She is easy on the eyes, too! I mean… just look at this label! I know we are not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but the appeal of the label matches what’s inside.

Without further ado… let’s hear more from the founding ladies of Faff Wine Co, starting with Sam.

What inspired you to Launch Faff Wine Co?

Ever since I started my business 6 years ago I was consistently told ” Sam you HAVE to have your own wine!” And I always would laugh and be like mmmm that’s expensive I can never do that. And then I grew up a bit more and realized with a will there’s a damn freaking way, and I made it happen without daddy warbucks lol. I wanted to create a wine that was like how I lead my tastings, fun, unique, and approachable! And with the help from Ella and with the help of a few people that deserve some love and recognition we made it happen. Honestly wouldn’t be here without my Sam Somm Community, clients, wine club, family, and of course my little team, Paige Cuff and Ella Beck.

Can you tell us more about the name?

YES! Love this question. Faff means “fuss” in British slang. Ella loved it from the British bake off, and I loved it from my love story in London. England meeting my husband Nick.

Sam, thanks for all you’re doing to make the wine a fun, approachable place. We adore you! Now let’s hear more from Ella on the winemaking side….

What did you want to be when you grew up?

An interior designer, then an engineer.

When did you decide that wine was “it” for you?

Many winemakers have a romantic story about a place, a wine, a vineyard, a moment in time. Not me. I got into UC Davis for engineering and showed up for orientation only to find that the program looked super boring (sorry, engineers), and that the degree would take 5 years. I only had a scholarship for 4 years and I couldn’t afford Davis without it. So in my orientation dorm room I googled “what majors is UC Davis really good at” and Google said “it’s the #1 winemaking school.” The degree program looked like a lot of science, which I loved and figured could transfer well to other career fields should wine not work out. 

I didn’t care for wine at the time but I figured if I drank enough of it, it would eventually grow on me, and here we are.

Where did your career in winemaking start?

My first harvest was at a small winery in central Oregon (I thought I signed up to work in the Willamette Valley, and boy was I surprised). 

However, I think I’d really say my career in winemaking started with my first job out of college. I worked two years at Black Stallion Estate Winery in Napa and that’s where I really found my stride. I ran the lab and was given amazing opportunities to taste regularly with the winemaking team despite being really low on the totem pole. I’m forever grateful for that experience. 

What’s your favorite grape to work with? 

I don’t think I really have one, they’re all little jerks in their own ways and every vintage presents new challenges. I will say though, the payoff of preserving all the aromas on an aromatic white wine is pretty fulfilling. 

What are some of the challenges you face in winemaking and how do you overcome them? 

I think the biggest challenge for me has been actually leaving full-time wine production. After doing full-time production for several years, I realized that the career growth is often slow and the pay makes it hard to sustain living in wine country. I made the decision to try other aspects of the wine industry as my full-time career and now make wine part time on the side for Faff.

But winemaking is an interesting industry. You’re supposed to have this love affair with wine and undying commitment to the craft, sticking it out through tough harvests, long hours, and low wages. All of which becomes eventual feathers in your cap once you “make it” to becoming a winemaker.

Don’t get me wrong I love winemaking, but I needed stability, career growth opportunities, and an income that could support me on my own. The hardest part has been fighting all those feelings of inadequacy in making the decision to pursue other options. 

What’s your favorite part of the process?

The smell of harvest in the cellar (if you know you know). Also, playing music in the cellar. There are certain songs that just sound epic, reverberating off of all that concrete and metal, and if you get it right it’s a whole ~vibe~. 

Fav Faff food pairing?


As a female in a male-dominated industry, what obstacles have you had to overcome?

In production I’ve found a huge problem to be the willingness to overlook sexual harassment. I know several women with the same or similar stories of working for or with people behaving extremely inappropriately without recourse. Many wineries are small and don’t have HR or other resources. Furthermore, many wineries are comprised mostly of men, and the locker room culture can really thrive.

Another interesting obstacle is that, in my career, the people who have held me back the most have been (older) women. The feeling is that because they had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps to overcome misogyny, the next generation should have to too. 

What advice would you give to other women who want to pursue a career in wine?

This is advice that I would give anyone but particularly women. Know when to move on from a job. 

The wine industry romanticizes an unhealthy work ethic. But always remember making wine is not saving lives. It’s not worth your mental health to be unhappy for 8+ hours a day. If you find yourself unhappy in a job, do everything you can to change it, and if it shows you it won’t change, move on and don’t feel bad about it. 

Thanks so much for sharing you insight and story with us! We are impatiently waiting for your next wine release to drop!

Thanks for sipping with us,

@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes LLC

#WomenMakingWine part 3 ft. Saile Ramirez, CEO of Hammeken Cellars

Welcome back to my third annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to winemakers, and even CEOs and Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Our next virtual interview is taking us all the way to Spain to meet with Saile Ramirez, CEO of Hammeken Cellars. This winery approaches traditional Spanish wines with a modern mindset. Hammeken was established in 1996 by Nicholas Hammeken who had the vision to use native Spanish grapes from the best sites throughout the country to deliver fresh, approachable wines while focusing on lesser known varietals and regions. The winemaking team is made up of 6 winemakers headed by Marcelo Morales, wine director with over 20 years of winemaking experience. The winemaking team partners and works closely with various Spanish growers to source fruit from over 20 regions after meticulously selecting quality fruit down to the row and block. This approach to producing wine means there’s a little something for every palate — from Cava to Rosado, Albarino to Tempranillo, Moscato to Verdejo and many more. Hammeken is truly a one stop shop for anyone who wants to dive into the world of Spanish wines. I’ve been preaching this for a while… Spain is at the top of my list of value regions to explore! This is your sign to jump on the Spanish wine trend here!

This modern approach to producing wine is really exciting and reinventing wine production and could not happen without the right leadership, which brings us back to Saile. Without further ado, here is an interview that my friends at Gregory + Vine PR were kind enough to share with us.

Q: What did you want to be when you grew up? What were your childhood aspirations?

Saile: I have always been attracted to numbers. I remember saying to my parents I wanted to
do something where I could use my calculator every day! Of course, when I was very little,
I had a crazy dreams (as I love music & dancing so much) I dreamt on being a professional
dance teacher!
When I entered mid-school I really found myself curious as to how a company/business
works. I suppose because my mom was always thinking about new business ideas – she
had an intense entrepreneurial spirit, but as she was kept very busy with three kids she
rarely had the time to work on making those ideas a reality. I was always ready to help
my dad to count money, to make the “family financial organization of the month” with
my mom, visit banks, etc..
I had a favorite uncle running a freight company so my holidays from school I just wanted
to visit him and be in his office to learn all I could. I was always trying to sell him the idea
that I was going to be his “person”; that I would take the lead of the company after I
graduated from University.

Q: How did you find your way to Hammeken Cellars? Would you share a bit about your
wine journey?
Saile: It’s been a journey full of hard work. After my MBA studies, I knew I needed to be part of
the strategic & financial part of a business, but how would I make it there? I was eager
to for an opportunity in Europe as it would be a chance to branch out and develop myself,
but only a few doors are open if you are unexperienced, a woman and an immigrant! So
I was lucky enough that an amazing Wine Producer – Hammeken Cellars – gave me my
Since I started with Hammeken, I have worked in all the departments across the company:
from logistics to customer service to marketing and PR to sales support. Finally I found
myself faced with an opportunity to work where I’ve always felt I belonged – figures &
management. I was blessed with the chance and I worked hard to always overdeliver. The
experience of having a mental map of how all the parts of the company work has been
invaluable in helping me to where I am now.
Wine has so much go into it – so much hard work and tons of people involved – from the
vineyards to the final product our consumers enjoy so much. Hard work and doing what
we love are the common thread for all of us at Hammeken.

Q: What has it been like for you as a woman to be in an elevated role in a male-dominated
Saile: Women in the wine industry are mostly in marketing, administrative, and tourism roles.
Seems like other divisions, such as boards, management, winemaking are statistically still
far from gender equality. I have had the pleasure of meeting amazing women in many
different roles and, to my perspective, it is not about the gender, but about being
outstanding and simply the best at what you do.
I reckon, it is always a harder path for women to prove we can have the same
commitments, knowledge and strength to participate in quality wine talks, like any other
male specialist. But lately the amount of women finding their space in the industry has
increased considerably. I must admit I have faced disappointment many times when I
show up for a meeting or important event instead of a male colleague and have to deal
with comments trying to diminish my role or power – you just learn to cope with it.
I have also seen many women be extremely strong, to protect themselves and try to prove
that they can be as strategic and tough as a man.
Luckily, I have been surrounded by many supporters that have never felt intimidated and
I haven’t let negative comments bring me down. Most importantly I try not to change who
I am – I speak loudly and keep my head up; if you know what you are doing, be sure of
yourself, they will listen!

Q: What makes Hammeken Cellars special or different than other Spanish wine
Saile: Definitely our philosophy. The founder, Nicholas Hammeken, set the bar very high when
he decided to make a disruptive interpretation of Traditional Spanish wines. Our team of
winemakers together with our Innovation team delivers a very unique collection of highquality wines that are easy to understand and approachable for the consumer.
We are a one stop solution. Wine industry professionals need a reliable, solid, quality
partner. We work with 18 appellations, seven winemakers traveling around Spain,
designers, logistics coordinators and all the back of house support we might need – that is
hard to beat!

Q: What are your goals as CEO for Hammeken as a brand?
Saile: I picture Hammeken Cellars, cementing the philosophy of the company, being disruptive
and being recognized as trend-setters in the Spanish wine industry. Innovation is the key
for this.

Q: What advice would you give your younger self?
Saile: I would say, enjoy a bit more of each stage of life, loosen up – it’s fine to allow yourself to
make mistakes once in a while.

Thanks so much to the Gregory + Vine team for connecting us with Saile and introducing us to the exceptional, wide portfolio of Spanish wines from Hammeken Cellars. I have to admit, this 100% boxed tempranillo was great! Checkout my post and wine review with notes here.

Thanks for sipping with us!

@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes LLC

#WomenMakingWine 2023 part 2 ft. Amanda Greenbaum, Winemaker and Certified Somm of AJA Vineyards

Welcome back to my third annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to winemakers, and even CEOs and Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

Many of you wine Instagrammers may know the winemaker for AJA Vineyards already! Her name is Amanda Greenbaum and she goes by @sommthing.rad on Instagram and posts about all things wine, beer, and spirits… but did you know Amanda is also making some stunning wines out of Malibu? AJA Vineyards is located in the Santa Monica Mountains within the  Malibu Coast AVA. The first plantings of Syrah and Cab Sauv vines went down in 2007 by Founders Todd & Heather (Amanda’s parents). This sparked the passion for Amanda when she was 14 and she has since dedicated her life’s work to making the best wines from this beautiful, coastal AVA. She currently runs all operations at the winery like a true baddie!

In addition to making wine, she’s an advocate for millennials in the wine & spirits industry. She’s done an incredible job of connecting younger wine consumers with terrific producers from all over the world. Amanda is also a certified somm, UCLA grad #gobruins, and published her own cocktail book. It’s safe to say she’s already making big waves and I love watching her brand grow! She is someone to watch out for and I truly believe her efforts and voice will have an important, positive impact on the wine industry as she continues building her resume. I’m very proud to call Amanda a friend and share her fresh POV on what it takes to be a pioneer in the wine community.

Without further ado, here’s our interview!

Me: What did you want to be when you grew up?

Amanda: I really wanted to be a pop star. I loved to sing, I loved performing and I just wanted to share that with the world. I actually took singing lessons from ages 10-16.

Me: When did you decide that wine was “it” for you?
Amanda: But I had a feeling that wine was it at the ripe age of 14. Yes, I know…way too young to be invested in such an ancient and mature topic. But when my parents bought our AJA property, I fell in love with it right away. The cold mornings waking up early to harvest with the team. The delicious grapes right off the vine. The giant de-stemmers, presses and tanks all were so interesting to me. And I realized that wine was a combination of science and art…something I was ready to get on board with. At 16, I started researching wine, shadowing our winemaker at the winery and asking my teachers if I could write papers on it…they all said yes…I’m still shocked but so grateful.

Me: Can you tell us about the name?
Amanda: AJA is an acronym that stands for “Alec, Jack & Amanda.” My parents named it after myself and my two younger brothers. It’s pronounced “Ah-shah.” We pronounced the J like the “s” in treasure because we’re my parents’ three greatest treasures.

Me: Out of all the delicious wines you make, is there a favorite release or a favorite food pairing you’d like to share with us?
Amanda: Can I share two? I absolutely LOVE our 2020 rosé with In N Out burgers, and I love our Happy Canyon Sauvignon Blanc with chicken or shrimp tacos. So delish!

Me: What are your hobbies outside of wine?
Amanda: Not so far away I stray…I love cocktails, mixology, and I’m a huge foodie. My fiance and I go out to eat at least once a week with a goal of trying a new place or new dish every time. And I’m always crafting new cocktails at home. I actually wrote a cocktail book during covid called Rad Cocktails! Those are some of my favorite things to do. I’m also an avid snowboarder and try to make it to the mountains a few times every season.

Me: What advice would you give to other women who want to pursue a career in wine?
Amanda: I adore this question. Truth is, women are making waves in this industry. There are more women entering this industry every day. There’s no question we’re a minority, and yes women currently in the industry, me included, have had to fight more ways than one to get the respect we deserve. But I’ve learned that if you speak with confidence and pretend like you know what you’re doing…most people will believe you do. So get out there and be strong, confident and willing to learn. Hop on in, the water is just fine!

Me: What’s your favorite thing about the wines you are crafting?
Amanda: I’m a big terroir gal. I think wine is a representation of the region it grows in, who nurtures it, the culture and appreciation around it and the community. Being born and raised in the Malibu Coast, it’s a privilege to be producing wines from this sought after region. It’s one of the most iconic areas in the world. Everyone knows Malibu; from China to Europe to South Africa. To create something so special and rare is a huge responsibility and an honor. To create that and get to share that with people is the best part.

Cheers to you, Amanda! Your energy is contagious and AJA wines are fabulous.

Thanks for sipping with us,

@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes LLC

#WomenMakingWine 2023 pt 1 ft. Aimee Keushguerian, Pioneering Armenian Wine Producer

Welcome back to my third annual series featuring women in wine who are at the top of their game. This year we have the privilege of hearing from women in various roles – from business operations to winemakers, and even CEOs and Presidents. The accomplishments of women in a male dominated industry is worth celebrating not only on International Women’s Day, but all month and all year for that matter. These amazing women are paving the way for future generations of female leaders and powerhouses in wine. I hope you enjoy learning about their journey and winemaking philosophy and feel as inspired as I do to go after your dreams. Check back here for updates as I continue to roll out these interviews daily on Instagram.

First up, let’s travel by glass to Armenia to meet Aimee Keushguerian, winemaker and founder of Zulal Wines. Aimee established Zulal in 2017 and has been capturing the spirit and terroir of Armenian wine ever since. Fun fact: Zulal means “pure” in Armenian and that’s the perfect descriptor for Aimee’s wines. She works with rare indigenous grapes like Koghbeni from Tavush, Nazeli, Movuz, Tozot, and Karmir Kot from Vayots Dzor and Sireni from Artsakh to name a few. I had the privilege of tasting Areni and Voskehat which are signature Armenian grapes. These are quality wines that are incredibly unique and worth seeking out. There’s an emphasis on sustainable winegrowing at high elevation and the combination of extreme climate and volcanic soil gives Zulal wines their distinct character. Throughout its history Armenia has grown over 400 different varieties, but today only about 30 are grown commercially for wine and brandy. Here’s a quick guide to understanding the key styles of Armenian wine which you can find under the Zulal wine label.

Areni is a thick-skinned grape that grows in tight bunches and produces a medium-bodied red wine with bright acidity. It delivers bright red fruits like bing cherry, plum, pomegranate, and strawberry with undertones of black peppercorn. It’s a perfect balance of fruity and savory. If you’re into Pinot or Gamay, give this one a try. Zulal Areni is grown in the Vayots Dzor region on volcanic and limestone soil. Vines here sit at around 1,750 meters or about 5-6k ft in elevation. This is such an exciting wine to sip and incredibly captivating for $22.

Voskehat is Armenia’s signature white wine grape. It’s dry and ranges between light to medium bodied with acidity that refreshes the palate after every sip. It’s giving delicious apricot and peach blossom flavors with herbs, florals, and citrus. Zulal Voskehat is sustainably grown in the Vayots Dzor region atop volcanic and limestone soil at around 1,400 meters or ~4500 ft in elevation. Aimee ages this wine in stainless steel to maintain fruit purity. I have to callout that this wine comes from vines that are own-rooted and between 50-100 years old! I cannot believe this one retails for $19.

A little bit about the historic Armenian wine region…

Let’s first acknowledge the fact that Armenia is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world! Armenian wine is made in the Republic of Artsakh which is in the region of South Caucasus – also known as “the cradle of wine.” Traces of ancient winemaking date back some 6,100 years! Some historians have shared that after Noah’s Ark landed on Mount Ararat, he planted Armenia’s first vineyard. How amazing is that? If you want to experience wine in spiritual way, this is a great place to start. To say that war has impacted the wine industry here would be an understatement. Armenian wine culture has faced many setbacks, but Aimee believes that Armenian wine is going through a renaissance…. And I trust her!

Without further ado, hear more from Aimee.

Me: What makes Armenian so special from your POV?

Aimee: “Armenia’s wine industry is currently going through a renaissance. In the last decade, we have seen century old vineyards being revitalized, new brands created, ancient varieties re-discovered, and an explosion of a modern wine culture. There aren’t many winegrowing regions that are having this big of an industry growth, so it’s a very exciting time to be here.”

Me: Out of all the delicious wines you make, is there a favorite release or a favorite food pairing you’d like to share with us?

Aimee: “Zulal was founded to experiment with rare and almost lost indigenous grape varieties. I recently released a limited edition wine crafted from the Armenian grape, Karmir Kot, which was the first single varietal, micro-vinification of this variety. Our genetic diversity of grape varieties is vast, but during the soviet times, due to the planned economic structure, our winemaking was essentially halted. Re-discovering old grape varieties is super exciting, and my main motivator to push the knowledge of our terroir foreword.”

Me: Can you share more about the terroir in which you are working with?

Aimee: “The Armenian terroir can be defined by four differentiating factors. Our ancient tradition of winemaking, indigenous grape varieties, volcanic soil, and high elevation vineyards. All these factors combined, create a terroir that is unlike any other in the world.”

Thank you so much, Aimee! Your story, perspective, and wines are truly worth celebrating. We look forward to supporting your brand and future releases.

If you are interested in tasting Zulal Wines here is the link.

Thanks for sipping with us!

@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes LLC

Feel Goode Wines by Murphy-Goode

With November coming to an end, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the wonderful memories, moments of gratitude, and share some wine highlights with you. We saw an increase in the amount of wine we consumed this month with the holidays in full swing. But hey, that’s what The Social Grapes is all about – sharing fantastic wines with close friends and family – even if that means popping a few extra corks. This sentiment aligns with that of Murphy-Goode Wines, which is why I’m beyond excited to dive into their wonderful lineup of wines and share more about their #GoodeFriendsgiving campaign. This acclaimed winery launched it’s first #GoodeFriendsgiving sweepstakes across the nation this month. Every week in November, the brand has encouraged fans to share their favorite memories using the hashtag for a chance to win a hosting kit that includes all the wine goodies one could need! Every week a new winner was announced on their social media page. This campaign was the perfect way to share their mantra with wine lovers from all over the country which is this: Murphy-Goode wines were made to be enjoyed alongside friends. If you’re reading this before the end of November, there’s still time to play and I highly recommend you do because the grand prize is rather… well… grand! One final (and very lucky) winner will get their next hometown Friendsgiving hosted by winemaker David Ready Jr. I always say the best way to learn about wine is to go to the source. If you can’t, tasting with the winemaker in your hometown is the next best thing! Click here to check out more information on how to win this exciting grand prize for you and five friends.

Let’s Discuss Goode Terroir

Murphy-Goode was founded on friendship in Sonoma County’s hottest AVA, Alexander Valley. Tim Murphy, Dale Goode, and Dave Ready pooled their talents and passion for wine together to establish their very own winery. Murphy-Goode is a serious, acclaimed winery in Sonoma with a fun-loving side. The trio have pioneered Sonoma winemaking and winegrowing in a few ways. Tim Murphy is often referred to as the Father of Sonoma Sauv Blanc. On the growing side, they brought wire-trellising to the AV area. Alexander Valley is truly something special and one of my favorite AVAs in Sonoma County. It’s located along the Russian River in the northeast corner of Sonoma County, north of Healdsburg and south of Mendocino. The proximity to the river creates cool pockets which gives the wine a nice cool climate style of wine. The climate coupled with alluvial soil atop gravel, which is comparable to what’s in Bordeaux, results in elegant Cabernet Sauvignon with soft tannins. While Cabernet makes up about 50% of the vineyard plantings, Alexander Valley has a little something for everyone. Merlot and Zin thrive here as well. For white wine drinkers, you can expect some refreshing and crisp Sauvignon Blanc or juicy Chardonnay. I had the privilege of tasting my way through four of Murphy-Goode’s wines and there was a consistent theme to each: approachability meets finesse. Let’s dive in!

Best Seller: Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
In my research I found that this wine comes from two prominent AV vineyard sites – Peline Ranch and Alden Ranch. I don’t often find great Cabs for under $20 but this one fits the bill, and I will recommend this for years to come. Another thing I love about cooler temps is that it can result in a lower abv, which is something that just sits really well with me. This one comes in at around 13.5% which is more in line with wines from Bordeaux. It’s giving flavors of black cherry, licorice, and baking spice. Oak is peaking through with notes of vanilla and coco on the finish. I can see this pairing really well with smores or bbq foods like grilled burgers or ribs.

Next up, California Pinot Noir

This beauty truly represents all that California has to offer throughout the coast. Fruit is sourced from coastal regions starting with Sonoma down to Santa Barbara. This captures the essence of cool climates and marine influence in that you get dense fruit but elevated acidity. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a Pinot in the sub $15 range – which is tough to come by! I can see this being a great companion to any Thanksgiving food!

Chardonnay Time

This one is easy on the palate and that’s exactly what I want from Chardonnay these days. It’s clean, refreshing, straight forward, and balanced. It’s aged in 67% oak, 33% stainless steel which adds just a touch of richness to balance out the wine. I can see this one being enjoyed on its own or with spicy pad Thai or coconut curry.

This Rosé is Bae

We love finding new Rosé wines for under $20 and this was a pleasant surprise. Rosé is one of those wines that often gets associated with summer, and for good reason. But, I have and always will advocate for Rosé to be consumed year round – this is a great example why! Rosé is more than just a pretty hued wine, it’s complex and robust. It can pair with a wide range of foods and hold up. This one was round and juicy, fruit-forward yet approachable. I think this is a great option for Turkey, veggies, and even cranberry sauce with its bright berry flavors and bright acidity.

There you have it – our take on Murphy-Goode. The verdict: we’re all about it and give this winery our social grapes stamp of approval!

Thanks for sipping with us,

@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes LLC

Explore Napa Valley with Rutherford Ranch Winery

The perfect gift for your Napa loving wine friends.

Napa Valley is home to some of the most prominent soil types, microclimates, winemakers, and producers in the United States. As a result, this 30 mile stretch has drawn our interest and captured our hearts year after year because it always has something exciting to offer. When we first visited Napa back in 2016, we wandered around not really knowing where to start or where we even were for that matter. It was serendipitous that the very first AVA (American Viticultural Area) we stumbled upon was Rutherford. All that to say, I have a soft spot for this particular area which is why I feel elated to be sharing this prominent winery with you today – Rutherford Ranch Winery. Rutherford Ranch is on the original site of Round Hill Winery that was established back in 1978. While the team has made great strides to modernize their facility since then, there’s still the same rustic charm from back in the day! Like a 100 year old olive grove to swoon over as you sip your way through show-stopping wines in a rustic and inviting atmosphere.

For those who are Napa novices, there are currently 16 sub-AVAs nested within the greater Napa Valley AVA, and centrally located in the heart of all 16 is where you will find Rutherford. Rutherford is located along the valley floor in the widest part of Napa which means it receives more sun than it’s valley floor neighbors. With gravelly soil, sunny and warm daytime temps, and cold nights the wines produced here are often characterized by soft yet grainy tannins and dense fruit flavors. This softer, aromatic wine style is highly regarded and associated with the term “Rutherford Dust.” If you want to experience this firsthand, Rutherford Ranch Winery is the perfect place to start as they offer several award-winning Cabernets. This winery has been family-owned and operated for three generations and the team is highly focused on sustainability throughout the winemaking process. They say it takes Rutherford Dust to make great Cab, so fostering the environment and crafting earth-friendly wines is what sets this one apart. The estate is certified sustainable through the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance which a true testament to generational farming.

I had the privilege of tasting through the Napa Explorer Package as market research for holiday gifting. The verdict: this is the best value for your money when it comes to gifting high quality Napa wines. This trio includes a Napa Valley Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. Each flavor profile perfectly aligns with the spirit of Christmas – let’s dive in!

2018 Napa Chardonnay

This is a nearly perfect vintage. Spring was unseasonably cool which resulted in a late budbreak followed by mild temps for the growing and ripening seasons. Wines of this vintage are elegant and balanced which is exactly how I will categorize this Chardonnay. It’s a perfect example of why serious wine enthusiasts love Napa Chardonnay – it’s lush, aromatic, and ripe. It’s giving notes of ripening stone fruit, dried apricot, golden apples, lemon meringue, and baking spice. The structure is what keeps me coming back for more: full bodied, racy acidity, and a creamy texture. This is a wine that can follow a heavy hitting Cabernet, which a sign of craft and quality in my opinion.

2018 Merlot

Next up we have an enticing Merlot which has all the holiday elements we’re loving this season. Picture bing cherry, anise, baking spice, brooding black fruit, and undertones of vanilla from oak aging. It’s round and complex, approachable and food-friendly.

2019 Cabernet Sauvignon

2019 received far more rainfall than the previous vintage and had a long and warm summer with few heatwaves. As a result, this is a classic example of Napa Cab. It’s precise, balanced, and well structured. I can’t rave enough about the Rutherford Dust in this one. With enticing aromas of boysenberry, cassis, toasted caramel, dark berries, earl grey tea, and minerality… this will put a smile on any recipients face!

One thing I value when featuring a wine is accessibility. I’m excited to share that you can now find Rutherford Ranch wines in stores in addition to online. When you see the white and red label on your shelf, be sure to grab a few! Truly this is a terrific value for classic but also nuanced wines from the historic Napa Valley wine growing region.

Bonus: use my code SMASHLEY to save 10% off any holiday gift pack online. Happy shopping, wine friends!

Thanks for sipping with us!

@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes LLC

Carpineto, Capturing the Spirit of Tuscany

Rolling hills. Olive oil. Chianti. Medieval castles. Pasta. Wine…. Need I say more? Nope, but I will!

It’s been a few years since we hopped on a plane and visited Italy for the first time. It was a romantic
weeklong pilgrimage to the land of pasta and wine… better known as Tuscany. Our daytrip to Greve in
Chianti is vividly etched in my memory for eternity. I can remember the incredibly quaint hilltop town
like it was yesterday. If you have yet to visit, let me persuade you by saying that Chianti is the most scenic
area we’ve ever driven through – that’s actually how we discovered Greve. We drove until we found
ourselves in this beautiful, medieval town with breathtaking views, plenty of shops, museums, churches,
and restaurants. I wish I had known then of the amazing terroir, but I do now! Guess you could say I’m
making up for lost wine. Had to squeeze in at least one wine pun.

Today we’re focusing on some very exciting wines from Carpineto located in Dudda, a small village in the
countryside of Greve in Chianti where scattered stone farmhouses and villas look out onto wooded
hillsides and vineyard patchwork. Dudda is located halfway between Florence and Siena along one of
Tuscany’s most incredible wine roads Via Chiantigiana. It’s definitely worth exploring if you travel to
Tuscany – if not, thank goodness we can travel there by glass! Carpineto was founded in 1967 with the
vision to craft Sangiovese that stemmed from a passion for nature and sustainability. This past year the
winery received its VIVA certification from the Ministry of Ecological Transition. We love supporting a
winery that’s committed to sustainable practices and being stewards of the land! I’m absolutely loving
their Dogaiolo Bianco and Dogajolo Rosso because it’s the perfect way to lighten things up for summer.
Before we dive in, let’s cover some basics to better appreciate the Dogajolo line.

Let’s Talk Chianti vs Super Tuscan

Chianti DOCG must contain a minimum of 70% Sangiovese grapes and the remaining blend often
contains indigenous Italian grapes permitted in the region such as Canaiolo or Colorino. Chianti smells
and tastes like Italy! Red fruit, herbs, sweet tobacco, and savory flavors mingle on the palate in the most
extraordinary way. While Chianti captures the spirit of Italy in a glass, Super Tuscan is Italy’s fresh new
vibe. What’s the difference between the two? Super Tuscan wines are red blends made with mostly
Sangiovese but also include non-indigenous grapes such as Merlot, Cab Sauv, and Syrah. This style of
winemaking became popular in the 70s when winemakers started to craft wines with grapes that were
not traditionally permitted under Italian regulations. As a result, in 1992 IGT was established. Let’s pause
here for a second to decode IGT because it’s an important part of Italian Wine Labeling. IGT stands for
Indicazione Geografica Tipica. Prior to the establishment of IGT in 1992 many wines failed to qualify for
DOC or DOCG status, but not because of poor quality… it was a result of the grapes being used. If the
blend didn’t meet the minimum percentage of sanctioned grapes in their blend, they could not receive
the classification. IGT allows producers to craft wine with a little more freedom – great quality meets
really exciting grapes from different pockets of the country.

Ok, now let’s shift back to Dogajolo Toscano Rosso IGT which is a young Super Tuscan. The cool thing
about this red wine is that the blend of grapes changes from vintage to vintage based on the growing
season and how the wines develop. This 2019 vintage is a blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet, and various
other varieties chosen to balance and compliment the aforementioned. The winemaking process is
intricate as each variety is vinified separately since each one ripens at different times. When
fermentation is almost complete, the wines are blended and aged in small oak barrels. The bottled
product is deep in color between ruby and garnet. It packs some enticing flavors such as tart red plum,
red cherry, anise, and delicate undertones of potting soil. It’s full-bodied while being soft and supple on the palate with refreshing acidity. This wine is a terrific match for early evening BBQs with friends! I suggest pairing alongside caprese orzo and grilled tri-tip… yum.

Next up we have Dogajolo Toscano Bianco IGT for the white wine lovers out there! I said it often and I’ll
say it again… I love a crisp Italian white wine! There is nothing more invigorating than sipping this on a
warm, relaxing summer day. Once again, a big shoutout to IGT for allowing creative winemakers to
compose some really interesting, exciting blends. Dogajolo Bianco is a blend of Chardonnay, Grechetto,
and Sauvignon Blanc. The grapes are destemmed and undergo cold fermentation to retain purity of
flavors. The juice remains in contact with the skins for a brief period which gives the final product a
vibrant yellow hue speckled with green highlights. We’re all familiar with Chardonnay and Sauvignon
Blanc, especially if you frequent my accounts because I’m a big fan. But, have you tried Grechetto? It’s
actually the primary grape in Italy’s Umbria and Lazio regions which makes this find exceptionally cool!
It’s a fuller bodied white wine that delivers flavors of white peach, honeydew, white florals with a touch
of minerality. It perfectly marries together the characteristics of juicy Chardonnay with that of a lean
Sauv Blanc to create a harmonious, one-of-a-kind white wine blend. For pairing tips, go with anything
Mediterranean or get a little crazy and enjoy alongside a mildly spicy dish of pad thai.

What I love about these wines is their approachability! They both drink incredibly well young but they
can also age for a bit. I would decant the red for about 20 minutes to really capture all those subtle
herbal nuances. And when you do open these bottles, don’t forget to sit back and imagine those rolling
hills, covered in vines and the occasional medieval castle – it’s easy if you try.

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

Wine365, a better way to shop for wine.

White wine for summer is not a groundbreaking concept. You know what is? Whites from around the world in one delicious shipment. Wine365 is a newly launched website that offers various types of wine bundles. The thing that sets Wine365 apart from the rest of the online wine shop world is this: engaging, educational content in every media form. That’s right! In addition to accessing over 80+ of the world’s best producers, you can learn from the industry’s top professionals through blog posts, videos, and podcasts. It’s one of the best resources around if you’re ready to take your passion for wine to new levels and turn it into an official hobby.

We recently enjoyed the “Crisp White” three pack and made some amazing appetizers at home to liven up our outdoor summer happy hour. Roasted grape and honey crostini as well as caprese orzo kept the vibe refreshing and we immediately felt transported to Italy and Argentina by glass. Recipes for both at the end of this blog! But first, let’s dive into each bottle starting with an incredibly refreshing Sauvignon Blanc from Mendoza, Argentina.

Bodega Norton Select Sauvignon Blanc harvested in 2021

Argentina is the fifth largest wine producing country and has so much to offer. If you think Mendoza is only for Malbec, think again. While 75% of vineyards are planted to Malbec, there are lots of wines to discover… about 1,300 so to speak. There are 104 official wine appellations in Argentina which are called Geographic Indications (GI for short). Most vineyards here are planted at about 4,500 ft above sea level. Higher elevation leads to more direct sunlight during the growing season and results in fantastic natural acidity, optimal ripeness, and structure. Located along the foothills of the Andes Mountains, Bodega Norton is one of the first wineries in this area and some of the vines on the estate have been around for 80 years! With that said, this estate gets really interesting soil types influencing the wines as well as that refreshing acidity from higher elevation. Bodega Norton is crafting a one-of-a-kind, crowd-pleasing Sauvignon Blanc with a Mendoza flare. Honestly, I love this wine for you… especially this time of year!

Villa Matilde “Rocca dei Leoni” Falanghina IGT

Next, we’re traveling by glass to my beloved Italia to learn more about the next bottle in this shipment: Villa Matilde “Rocca dei Leoni” Falanghina IGT. Located in Campania, Italy is Beneventano IGT which is a key appellation in Campania and often referred to as “the earthy” side of the region. Let’s pause here for a second to decode IGT because it’s an important part of Italian Wine Labeling. IGT stands for Indicazione Geografica Tipica and it was introduced in 1992. Prior to 1992 many wines failed to qualify for DOC or DOCG status, but not because of poor quality… it was a result of the grapes being used. If the blend didn’t mean the minimum of 85% sanctioned grapes in their blend, they could not receive the classification. IGT allows producers to craft wine with a little more freedom – great quality meets really cool and underrated grapes for any given region. Ok, shifting back to the wine now – Falanghina is the grape and Villa Matilda has made this single varietal. It’s the signature white of Campania and definitely worth getting to know. Falanghina is an ancient Italian grape with Greek origins, so it’s as Mediterranean as it gets and we love that! The vines thrive in the porous volcanic soils around Mount Vesuvius with the warm Mediterranean climate. When I think about crisp Italian white wines, this is it. It’s giving lovely flavors of lemon zest, citrus blossom, stone fruits, ashy minerality with a touch of honey and almond. It’s dry, medium-bodied, and balanced with elevated acidity. This wine is a conversation starter so be sure to share with friends!

The Seeker Pinot Grigio 2021

Let’s head to the northeast corner of Italy where Pinot Grigio rules the land in Veneto! Our final bottle in the shipment is The Seeker Pinot Grigio. Veneto is an anomaly to me because it’s smaller than Italy’s other popular regions such as Piedmont, Tuscany, Sicily, and Puglia but it’s producing more wine than any of them! I guess you could say it’s small but mighty. If you’re reading this and wondering if Pinot Gris and Pinot Grigio are the same, the answer is yes. Same grape from different countries and both share genetics with Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. Pinot Grigio from Veneto is benchmark for this variety. Veneto is cooler in climate due to alpine influence which leads to lean, crisp wines. I love Pinot Grigio for it’s spritzy essence, fresh citrus, and lean persona. The Seeker has done a terrific job in seeking out top-quality wines from the regions that grow them best and bringing them to market on a global scale. This wine is made with grapes planted atop hillside vineyards that sit 750 feet above sea level on well-drained, mineral-rich soil. The final result is fresh, vibrant, and crisp with flavors of white nectarine, green apple, Meyer lemon, and citrus zest. It’s an everyday kinda wine and one that should always be in stock in your wine fridge.

As for the pairings….

I love finding a couple easy recipes that pair with a few different wines in the lineup and this has got to be one of my best! As I mentioned earlier, we made caprese orzo and roasted red grape crostini with honey. These two small plates played incredibly well with all three whites. *chefs kiss*

The original recipes can be found on this blog as well as here. One thing to note, we doubled upped the herbs in the roasted grape recipe because well… we love herbs! We also used homemade lavender olive oil instead of regular olivo and holy smokes that made this a showstopper. Either way, these pairings and of course the wines are perfect for your summer soirees. You can save 10% with my code SMASHLEY and once again, here’s the link.

Thanks for sipping with us!

@smashleythegrape | The Social Grapes

Women Making Wine Ft. Sauv Blanc Day and The Queen of Sauvy B

Today is #SauvignonBlancDay and I had the pleasure of celebrating this fabulous grape variety with winemaker extraordinaire, Jules Taylor of Jules Taylor Wines all the way from Marlborough, New Zealand.

Sauvignon Blanc should be celebrated today and everyday! It dates back to 18th century France, specifically Loire Valley where it’s the top dog to this day. I love the meaning of Sauvignon Blanc — it’s derived from two French words: Sauvage which means wild and vigne which is vine. This grape tends to grow a little wild on the vine so it’s aptly named to say the least. Sauv Blanc is special in the sense that it grows well under a wide range of climates and soil types. It thrives in cool climates like Marlborough where it can give more citrus and tropical flavors while also showing off in warmer regions like Napa. It’s siblings include Grüner, Chenin, and Silvaner. The coolest fact about Sauv Blanc though is that it’s the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon. Yep! This lovely lady mingled with Cabernet Franc to create a fabulously bold child.

Marlborough is the Mecca for New Zealand Sauvy B. Sauv from this region is incredibly distinctive with intense notes of citrus, green bell pepper, fresh cut grass, and rich tropical flavors. Jules Taylor Sauv Blanc is benchmark to no surprise. She’s incredibly talented at what she does, connected to the land, and very down to earth. Her perspective on the wine industry is a breath of fresh air just like her style of wines. She has an extensive background in winemaking with tenures in some of the world’s most respected regions. Now she’s back to her roots in Marlborough and producing some of New Zealand’s finest selection of wines. Jules Taylor Wines started in 2001 with about 200 cases. Over the next five years, the label really came to fruition as she and her husband went all in! After speaking with her it is obvious that Jules is passionate about wine and growing her wine business has been a labor of love. She was awarded the Winemaker of the Year Award in 2021 by an Australian publication, making her the first from Marlborough to receive this merit. She’s literally crushing the wine scene (wine pun intended).

If you didn’t have a chance to catch our Instagram live, here’s a recap! Feel free to catch the interview here.

Ashley: Can you describe Jules Taylor Wines without describing the wine, specifically Sauv Blanc?

Jules: Relaxed, not too serious, authentic, and vivacious.

Ashley: Can you tell us about your early days working in wine?

Jules: Got a job and I worked the vintage in 1994 and got sucked in to this whole wine thing. It changes how you see things… It changes the way we see food. It’s just a cool product. Years later here I am in the industry and I love it. It’s hard. It’s hard because you’re working with Mother Nature. It’s interesting. It’s fun.

In the beginning there weren’t a lot of women in the wine industry. In my first job I was the only women in the cellar. They tried to talk me out of it and there were some things they wouldn’t let me do like operate a forklift. Growing up my parents always encouraged me to go for it.

I loved this POV on harvest: “it’s the one chance you get to capture a moment in time. Game time decision is paramount.”

Ashley: how was the wine industry changed in the last 10 years?

Jules: It’s a lot bigger. Bigger players have swallowed up some of the smaller guys. Not as many of us little guys but we need those big guys. I think it adds to the interesting industry we work in. We got to start somewhere.

This is just a taste of the great, inspiring perspective Jules offered about the industry in New Zealand and her experience as a winemaker. I hope you take a moment to watch the full interview and grab a bottle of her Sauv Blanc and Pinot too for that matter. You won’t regret it! Shop via this link.

Once again, big thank you to Jules for sipping with us!


The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape