#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

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

#WomenMakingWine part 8: Sarah Citron, Mother & Co-Founder of Bricoleur Vineyards

Welcome back to my second 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 vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/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.

We’re heading to one of my favorite Sonoma AVAs – Russian River Valley – to chat with Sarah Citron, Co-Founder of Bricoleur Vineyards

Russian River Valley, home to world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. I know we’re not supposed to have favorite children, but I mean… I love the wide range of wine styles coming out of this quaint AVA. From lush and rich to lean fruit-driven, you can find a wine for every palate here. Centered on the Russian River, RRV accounts for about one-sixth of the total planted vineyard acreage in Sonoma County. This is where you will find Bricoleur Vineyards, which has the most beautiful olive groves, rose gardens, and vineyard views. We visited back in 2019 and fell in love with the space, the land, and the wine. We were new parents at the time and felt a kinship to their “Flying By The Seat of Our Pants” label – as any new parent would! They have a really great portfolio that includes a refreshing unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, AV Zinfandel, Sauv Blanc, Cab Sauv, and 2 styles of rosé (Pinot and Grenache #myfavs) to name a few. Add to cart!

Sarah Citron is a Co-Founder and truly an inspiration for not only women in wine, but mothers in wine. This tribute to Isla Rose, her daughter, is really special. Isla Rose is going to be a force in the world of wine one day! This wine embodies the entrepreneurial spirit of strong female leadership and represents the countless empowered women in the wine industry. We need more of this type of encouragement for young women and it’s the purpose of this series. As a first time mom with one foot in the industry, I was incredibly nervous about trying to balance my passion for wine while being a mother. There are many who are quick to judge or offer unsolicited advice on the subject. When Amelia arrived I wasn’t ready to let go of the wine life I’ve worked so hard to build. It’s brought a ton of wonderful new people into my life and new role models, such as Sarah, who are finding ways to include family in their line of business.

Wine isn’t going anywhere. What was once an old boys club is evolving. It’s more inclusive, approachable, and down-to-earth than ever before. I love to see parents sharing their passion with their children. Our own LO enjoys the vineyards and learning about various types of soil, tasting grapes from the vine, and watching people work hard at what they love. Wine is about community and experience and Sarah values that for her guests. Her take on work/life balance hit really close to home and it’s a breath of fresh air! I strongly encourage you to add Bricoleur Vineyards to your list of wineries if you’re ever in Russian River Valley.

Without further ado, our virtual interview…

Ashley: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to future generations of women pursuing a successful wine career?

Sarah: I truly believe, in order to be successful in any industry/job it is important to always be flexible and eager to learn as much as possible even if it is not part of your job. The more skills you learn and know the more valuable you are in the long run.

Ashley: What are some of the challenges you’ve overcome in establishing a winery?

Sarah: Some of the challenges of establishing a winery is overcoming all the obstacles that come your way. Navigating the opening of a business at the heart of a pandemic was not what anyone expected but we learned to Flying by the Seat of Our Pants and pivot to make the most of every opportunity.

Ashley: What’s your favorite thing about Bricoleur?

Sarah: My favorite thing about Bricoleur is building this community of people that can gather and connect with amazing wine and food. I love getting to know every single club member and creating memories together. It has been so wonderful seeing my daughter grow up on the vineyard and our community being a part of all of her major life moments.

Ashley: Can you share how you balance a career in wine while being a mother?

Sarah: Balancing a career and being a mother is all about being flexible. Every day is different depending on work and the needs of your child and family. In being honest, I could not do what I do without the help of my amazing mom and nanny. Having a solid support system has allowed me to better balance my career and my time at home. But also, making the most of my time I do have with my family by being fully present is really important to me. Once I get home from work my sole focus is my daughter until she goes to sleep.

Ashley: What goals are you still working towards in your career and for the brand?

Sarah: Some goals I am always working toward is to become a thought leader at Bricoleur Vineyards by inspiring and offering guidance to our staff. I am always working towards coming up with innovative ways to break the mold of traditional wine tasting and create amazing experiences for our guests. I would love to grow Bricoleur Vineyards to become a lifestyle brand.

Sarah, thank you so much for sharing this wine with us and offering some much appreciated wisdom from one mom to another. We look forward to following Bricoleur’s journey and visiting the winery again in the future!

Thanks for sipping with us!

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape

#WomenMakingWine part 7: Vitalie Taittinger, President and Christelle Rinville, Vineyard Director of Taittinger Champagne

Welcome back to my second 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 vineyard management, cellar masters to winemakers, and even CEOs/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.

Lets travel by glass to Champagne, France to meet with Vitalie Taittinger, President of Taittinger Champagne

When it comes to wine, France is in a league of it’s own. It would take a lifetime to learn all there is to learn about French wine, and that’s not a bad journey to embark on. There is no other country as diverse in terms of quality or wine styles, which is why some of the world’s most coveted bottles are from France… particularly Champagne. Champagne was the first region in the world to make sparkling wine and it’s home to the traditional method – this is where the bar has been set for decades. Wines here are blended with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The most treasured wines age for a minimum of 3 years. If sparkling wine has a role model, it’s Champagne. This region is comprised of five wine-growing regions and three towns: Epernay, Ay, and Reims where Taittinger Champagne is located. This historic estate has deep roots that can be traced back to Champagne as early as 1734! Taittinger is one of only five Champagne houses to cellar wine in the famous Crayères of Reims which are chalk caves originally dug out by the Romans. Today, the Champagne House remains family owned and operated with Vitalie as President of the company. She’s done an exceptional job at honoring the family’s tradition and dedication to excellence in Champagne. She’s a breath of fresh air who believes in living life to the fullest each and every day.

Without further ado, here is our virtual interview with Vitalie Taittinger…

Ashley: Can you describe Champagne Taittinger for us without describing the wine?

Vitalie: A family adventure for generations, focused on excellency of producing champagne.

Vitalie: What’s the most important piece of advice you’ve been given?

“Decide with your heart”. My grandfather told that to my father. When you are at the head of a company, you are always challenged on your brain ability… to be able to consider that heart is part of the decision is a unique way to stay human and humble. This is also very linked to reality : what makes your real place on Earth? Maybe we should consider that pleasure is a very good instrument of measure!

Ashley: How can women support other women in the wine industry?

Vitalie: Easily…being there when needed without being in competition, more in a kind of building spirit. This is great to be part of a business which totally includes the women talents and it would be a shame not to be able to be conscient of that. Since a few years now I am part of a woman’s association called la Transmission and this is probably the greatest adventure I could have experienced in Champagne. 9 Women decision-makers and owners, all having chosen to embody and reflect the Champagne diversity and ecosystem. Our Houses and Estates are established from North to South of the appellation, are of various sizes and structures. The unique way to defend a common vision of Champagne for tomorrow.

Ashley: As President, what do you see as the most important part of running your business?

Vitalie: I am probably the one who carries the challenge to reinforce and give a certain harmony to the human adventure of the company. Each one has to be at the right place, developing himself within the company. This is a real question of how to build the talent capital of our House in the happiest way! We are building on long-term perspective, and are even more engaged to make choices that are less financially driven and are coming from the heart. It also means restraining one’s ego in the interests of building something based on a set of values that can be transmitted to the next generation.

Ashley: What goals are you still working towards in your career and for the brand?

Vitalie: I am not considering my own career at all… I am following my way, my ideal and really would like our Team to take pleasure and develop itself working towards the ambition and vision of the company…the second thing is to inspire enough to the next generation,  to be able to transmit in complete harmony this piece of art that Champagne can be…

Vitalie, thank you so much for taking the time to share your passion and business expertise with us. We admire everything you are doing for the brand and respect the dedication to tradition while incorporating a sense of modernism into the brand.

This post is overflowing with great insight. Next up we had the pleasure of virtually interviewing Christelle Rinville, Vineyard Director of Taittinger Champagne

Christelle joined Taittinger in 2015 and brought with her about 10 years of consulting experience with various Champagne Houses in technical services. As Vineyard Director, she leverages technology for maximum output in producing the highest quality wine grapes. Technology isn’t scary to her and she’s passionate about people and agriculture. It’s inspiring to see you an experienced female in this position for such a prominent, well-established Champagne House. Without further ado, our virtual interview…

Ashley: How did you get started in wine?

Christelle: My father was a steelmaker. I did not come from a family of viticulturists but he pushed me to study, my sensibility brought me naturally to an ecologic subject. I wanted to do a job linked with environment . I had an opportunity at the Comité Champagne in Epernay and discovered the vineyards and the Champagne area, that’ s when I knew my career would be linked with the vines!

My first job consisted in managing all subjects in relation with vineyards (experimental phase, research, pest and disease management, soil and subsoil), in local and national communication, to create and implement a Magister network (close observation of vines and sustainable wine growing education).

I have learnt a lot about the spirit of growers. I have met different points of view, different technical levels and different ecologist’s sensitivity. I needed to be creative and innovative with dynamic and visionary leaders.

Ashley: What’s the most important piece of advice you’d give to a woman thinking of starting a career in vineyard operations?

Christelle: Be yourself, have a good sense of humane welfare is also a key because managing a vineyard means also being in touch with the workers who are in the vineyards (work organization, safety and hardship), having strong environmental convictions to answer societal challenges, knowing how to observe, listen.

But perhaps above all: have a lot of humility and strength to adapt because you work with nature and it is nature that is the strongest, nothing is ever acquired!

Ashley: What is one of the hardest things about producing a successful crop every year?

Christelle: Sustainable objectives are a combination of science, economic and human parameters. With global warming there are harder weather conditions since a few years like storms with hail, heavy rain and specially more spring frosts. It is threatened for our yield! Vines need to be well protected from diseases under our climate even if you would like to do without it. Downy mildew, powdery mildew, botrytis.

Ashley: What’s a day in the life of a Vineyard Director?

Christelle: There is not a single day that looks like the other: a lot of human and managing issues (technical and organizational policies, exchanges and support for managers, meetings with teams in the field, social dialogue, Management Committee), a large administrative component (budget monitoring, needs assessments and orders , environmental policy, traceability/certifications, regulations) and the priority of being close to the field through visits to the vineyards (observations, technical evaluation, monitoring of practices, evaluation of areas for improvement). Not to mention the involvement in professional and inter-professional bodies (Champagne Committee, Corporation of Champagne Winegrowers, Magister, etc.).

Christelle, thank you for walking us through the details and responsibility of your role! You are incredibly adaptable and doing an exceptional job. Truly an inspiration a great source of knowledge for women in wine.

Thanks for sipping with us,

The Social Grapes | @smashleythegrape