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3 years, 10 pounds and about 400 bottles of wine later…

7 Jun

Set the countdown clock, chicos y chicas – Señorita Vino is nine weeks away from getting her MBA. You heard right – nine short weeks.

This historic milestone did not come without a steep price, most notably, 10 extra pounds (hey, there’s more of me to love!), countless nights of insomnia, new student loans to pay off, and neck and shoulder muscles so tense that my time in physical therapy may just result in my physical therapist finally getting that exotic sports car he’s dreamed about (you’re welcome, Dr. G.).

If any of you out there are crazy–uh, I mean, ambitious–enough to think about going to grad school while juggling work, spouse, kids, pets, friends and life in general, here are my top 5 tips for surviving graduate school (or any school, for that matter):

Rule number 1: Don’t quit your wine club membership. Wine got me through the darkest days and nights of my MBA program. I’ve been so maniacally busy over the past three years that I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone to a store to shop for wine. But those wine club shipments found their way to my doorstep without fail, and I’d get all warm and fuzzy knowing that my fridge and wine closet were well-stocked should things go south in school and life in general.

Rule number 2: When possible, choose wine as a research topic. I’m not joking. In the three years I’ve been in grad school, wine has been the topic of two statistics projects and one year-long global management research project. If you have to write a research paper, heck, why not write about something you love? Last summer, I traveled to Europe for an MBA class to study sustainability in the U.S. wine industry as compared to sustainable practices in the Austrian, Greek, Italian and Spanish wine industries.

Rule number 3: You’re going to piss off some of your friends (and your spouse or partner) because you’re always doing homework or in class or in the library working on a group project. And all of this while holding down a full-time job and dealing with all the other mierda life throws your way. Remember that the people who truly matter will still love you when you finally come up for air. ‘Nuff said.

Rule number 4: If you think you know exactly what you’re going to do once you get that MBA, be prepared to be wrong. So I had this plan to go work for some Big Huge Global Wine Company in communications and marketing once I graduated. Well, my career took a bit of a detour, in a wonderful way. Last month I was offered a position at…wait for it…A Big Huge Global Entertainment Company.  Yep, a funny thing happened on the way to working in the wine industry. The skills and concepts I learned in my MBA classes gave me insight on the strategy and vision of one of the companies for which I’ve been consulting. And I liked what I saw. And they liked what I brought to the table. So they offered me a chance to embark upon the career of a lifetime. And I said yes.

Rule number 5: Wine knowledge is a great ice-breaker in academic and business settings, so don’t be ashamed to express your appreciation for the fruit of the vine (just don’t get tanked). My love for wine inspired one of my professors to invite me to give a “Wine 101” presentation to my fellow MBA students before we all traveled to Europe last summer. And just last night, I had the chance to sit next to my soon-to-be-boss’s boss’s boss at a team dinner. Turns out he loves wine. So he asked me to choose a bottle for our end of the table (uh, no pressure at all).  I chose a lovely French Viognier, and over the course of the dinner, we all shared stories about how we came to love wine. The boss’s boss’s boss loved the Viognier so much, he snapped a picture of the label and stored it on a wine app. In that moment, all the stress, those three years of writing papers into the wee hours, the weekends I literally cried over regression analysis problems, moved into the realm of distant memories. I savored my last sip of peach-blossomy Viognier and bid them a fond farewell.

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Alximia Winery of Baja California #HispanicHeritageMonth

8 Oct

If you grew up in Southern California, chances are you spent at least one spring break weekend terrorizing the Baja California town of Ensenada with your frat brothers (or sorority sisters). What you may not have realized then is that Ensenada is an intellectual center and home to the Autonomous University of Baja California, Mexico, where winemaker Alvaro Alvarez studied physics.

Alvarez went on to pursue a master’s in math at UC Santa Cruz. As if studying permutations and number theory weren’t enough, he decided to do a little microbrewing on the side. Fast-forward to today, and Alvarez and his astronomer father are at the helm of Alximia (pronounced al-SHEE-mee-uh) Vino Elemental in Baja California’s Guadalupe Valley.

‘Alximia’ is inspired by the Spanish word for alchemy, and if you visit Alximia, you’ll swear some otherworldly force transported the spaceship-like winery from a galaxy far away and planted it among the vineyards.

Image courtesy of AlXimia Vino Elemental

Image courtesy of AlXimia Vino Elemental

As if by magic, Alximia came to my neck of the woods in the form of Manuel Alvarez, Alvaro’s younger brother and the man who does the marketing for the family winery here in the U.S. Manuel was kind enough to arrange a private tasting of five of Alximia’s wines.

Manuel Alvarez and his family's wines.

Manuel Alvarez and his family’s wines.

We got all Salma Hayak and chose Lebanese food to pair with Mexican wines. As evidenced by Salma, the Mexican-Lebanese combo works. All of the wines I tasted were made with red varietals, which pair beautifully with traditional Lebanese dishes including lamb kabobs, eggplant and tomato spreads, and yes, hummus.

And because the wines are literally the product of a rocket scientist, it only makes sense that each is named after an element. By design, the food pairings for each wine relate to their respective element:

Alximia wines

Aura (now Aqua): Made from a blend of Petit Verdot, Zinfandel and Grenache, this wine is aged 12 months in French oak. And because the element is water, Manuel suggests pairing it with seafood.

Libis: The element is air. A blend of Petit Verdot, Zinfandel and Syrah, this wine pairs well with airborne comestibles such as chicken and duck.

Gaia: Named for the Earth goddess, this special edition wine is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah. I loved the violet aromas. This earthy wine pairs well with beef, pork and lamb.

Pira: Pira represents fire, and it’s 100 percent Barbera. Manuel recommends pairing it with meat that has been barbecued over an open flame.

Magma: You science geeks will know that magma is the blend of molten rocks and solids beneath the Earth’s surface. The wine is a less searing blend of Carignan and Grenache. With jammy plum aromas and a hint of chocolate, you can enjoy it with gamier meat such as venison and goat.

Alximia-Pouring

Stateside, you can find Alximia Vino Elemental at Whole Foods Market. If you’d rather have the full experience, visit the winery as part of a Guadalupe Valley wine road trip. Pocket protectors optional.

Mucho Gusto! Get to know #SauvBlanc on #SauvignonBlancDay

24 Apr

You know the vino gods are smiling upon you when you get not one, but TWO vino holidays in the two weeks before a statistics final!  Today is Sauvignon Blanc Day, and I’m re-blogging this post from my ¡Mucho Gusto! series in honor of the occasion, and as an auspicious sign that I’ll ace the stat exam. Let’s do this!!

For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, mucho gusto is what you say when you first meet someone. It’s like “nice to meet you,” but it would translate more directly as “with great pleasure.”

Gusto has many meanings, including “taste” and “flavor,” so consider ¡Mucho Gusto! a delectable play on words and a way to familiarize yourself with wine. Without further ado, it is my great pleasure to introduce you to Sauvignon Blanc.

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HOLA, ME LLAMO: Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine.

MY ROOTS: Sauvignon Blanc was born in France’s Bordeaux region. A bit of trivia – the grape variety hooked up with Cabernet Franc sometime in the 1700s and the result was Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Sauvignon Blanc continues to thrive in Bordeaux. Because French wines are geographically labeled and not named for the actual grape, “Sancerre” and “Pouilly-Fumé” are 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wines. Sauvignon Blanc was planted in other countries including New Zealand, the U.S. (California), Chile, Australia and Italy. Robert Mondavi coined the name Fumé Blanc, so if you see this on the grocery store shelf, it’s Sauvignon Blanc.

ALL ABOUT ME: Sauvignon Blanc is a dry wine made from an aromatic grape, hence its distinctive aroma. You may get nectarines, white peach, grapefruit, grass and herbs, gooseberries, and believe it or not, kitty pee. French Sauvignon Blanc may also display a flinty, gravelly minerality. Most Sauvignon Blanc is stainless-steel fermented, so you won’t get the woodsy, oaky notes you’d find in Chardonnay. It’s also known for its refreshing, crisp acidity.

FOODS I LOVE: You can’t go wrong with Sauvignon Blanc and seafood. The wine’s crispness complements the buttery texture of white fish and scallops. I’ve had it with oysters and it’s to-die-for amazing. Sauvignon Blanc is the ideal wine for vegetarian dishes. This is a great wine for salads, since the herb notes of the wine will match the crisp greens in the salad and the acidity matches vinaigrette dressing. For some Latin flair, pair Sauvingon Blanc with guacamole (the acidity of the wine “cuts” the creaminess of the guac) and spicy dishes like enchiladas and chile relleno. I love Sauvignon Blanc with Peruvian arroz con pollo (chicken in a cilantro sauce).

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: The beauty of Sauvignon Blanc is that you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy it. You can get a good bottle for $10 – $20. Of course, you can pay upwards of $150 for a classified Bordeaux blend. Some well-regarded labels include: Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford and Matua Valley from New Zealand; Laville Haut-Brion, Alphonse Mellot and Pascal Jolivet from France; St. Supéry, Kunde and Matanzas Creek from California; Montes, Concha y Toro and Viña Leyda from Chile.

So here’s wishing you ¡Mucho Gusto! as you get to know Sauvignon Blanc. Until next time…

¡Salud!

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #Malbec on #MalbecWorldDay

17 Apr

Darlings, I miss you!

Señorita Vino has been hitting the books, burning the midnight oil, and every other academic cliche you can think of to make it through her MBA program. But even as I drown in a sea of standard deviations, you, my lovely readers, are never far from my heart. Final exams are on the horizon, but I had to take some time to wish you all a happy #MalbecWorldDay. Here’s a re-blog of a “Mucho Gusto” featuring…you guessed it–Malbec. 

There’s nothing Señorita Vino loves more than a fiesta, and today happens to be a big fiesta in the Wonderful World of Wine. Happy Malbec World Day, chicos y chicas! It’s possible that Malbec is the first Latin American wine you tasted, or at least the one that’s easiest to find this side of the Rio Grande.

In honor of this auspicious day, here’s the scoop on Argentina’s most popular wine.

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HOLA, ME LLAMO: Malbec is a red wine that has become Argentina’s signature vino.

MY ROOTS: Depending on which wine reference book you’re reading, Malbec is believed to have originated in France’s Bordeaux region or in Auxerrois in northern Burgundy. It’s known as Cot in most of France and today makes up at least 70 percent of the blend in the Cahors AC. Malbec was first brought to Argentina in the early 1850s from Chile.

ALL ABOUT ME: A dry red wine with bold, fruity aromas, Malbec has gorgeous purple hues and lush, velvety tannins. Besides ripe black fruit, Argentinean Malbecs may give you a whiff of violets and sweet spice. You may even get hints of coffee. A Malbec from Cahors will present more raisiny flavors, as well as tobacco and coffee notes. Malbec from high-altitude vineyards in Mendoza’s Luján de Cuyo province displays a crisp acidity. At such a high altitude, the grapes ripen more slowly and can stay on the vine longer, which means you’ll get more concentrated, balanced flavors.

FOODS I LOVE: There’s no better wine for grilled meat and barbecue than Malbec, which is only fitting given Argentina’s reputation for quality beef and (vegetarians, cover your eyes) rockin’ parrilladas. If you’re not a meat-eater, you can still enjoy Malbec with tagliatelle in a mushroom ragout sauce, or with a veggie empanada.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: You can get a decent Malbec for $14-$20. Higher-end labels will cost a bit more. If you’re going all out with a fine cut of meat, it may be worth the splurge. Wines with “Salta” or “Luján de Cuyo” on the label come from vineyards at the highest altitudes. Recommended labels include Norton, Bodegas Poesía “Clos des Andes,” Catena, Luigi Bosca and Crios de Susana Balbo.

So round up your besties, grab some steak and your favorite bottle of Malbec and celebrate Malbec World Day con pasión, che! Tango music optional. ¡Salud!

#Wine Resolutions for 2015. Oh, and I’m baaaaack!

8 Jan

2014 was a pretty good year: I passed the WSET Level III Advanced exam, I got to be a guest judge at this year’s Los Angeles International Wine Competition, and my blog was a finalist in the 2014 Wine Blog Awards. Then the last quarter hit, and Everything Happened. Here’s a quick recap to set the stage for this week’s post:

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October: Started a new work contract and lost my mom–on the same day. All of this during midterm exams at grad school. November: Balanced the very demanding second half of the semester and the new work contract and managed not to have a nervous breakdown. Drank lots of wine. I think it helped. December: Took two final exams, wrote a term paper, and met a dozen client deadlines. Got an A for the first semester of my MBA program. Treated myself with a bottle of 2011 Ornellaia (not the whole thing–I shared it with Señor Jim, my dad and brother on my birthday).

Ornellaia

Which brings us to the present moment. A year older, maybe a little wiser, and determined to focus on the good things each day brings. Because if I learned anything last year, it’s that bad stuff happens because it’s life, but if you dwell too long on the negatives, you’re going to miss the positives. So in the spirit of kicking off an optimistic 2015, here are my Wine New Year’s Resolutions. Feel free to adopt any that strike a chord:

1. Use the good glasses. Life’s too short to drink wine from crappy stemware. If you have high-end wine glasses, use ’em! If you don’t, treat yourself to just one (it’ll cost you about $25 -$30) and make it a luxuriously rewarding ritual to sip wine from your fine wineglass at the end of a busy workday.

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2. Buy at least one high-end bottle of wine. You don’t have to break the bank, but from personal experience I can tell you that buying at least one wildly amazing bottle of wine a year will result in a delicious endorphin rush. For the first time in my life, I bought myself a $180 bottle of wine in December. It was the aforementioned Ornellaia, and I can tell you it was worth every penny. I can hear you saying, “But that’s a lot of money!” When you look at the big picture, it really isn’t.

Here’s what you do: Grab a piggy bank, mason jar, empty cigar box, or whatever will remind you that you deserve to drink a world-class wine. Then sacrifice one latte a week and put the money you’d spend on the java into your “vino bank.” Not a coffee person? Then just put $3 in your vino bank each week. By the end of the year, you’ll have around $150 to spend on your vino. Why? Because you’re worth it.

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3. Share the fancy wine with the people I love most. Let’s face it–it’s no fun drinking a bottle of vino by yourself. Sure, you can stretch it out over a few days if you properly protect it from oxygen before re-corking it, but why not share the love? Someday when you’re old and grey, I can guarantee that you won’t look back on life and wish you had enjoyed all of your good wine alone.

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So Feliz Año Nuevo and Happy New Year, chicos y chicas. May 2015 bring you much joy, amor and good fortune. And remember–the wineglass is always half-full. ¡Salud!

Happy National Repeal Day! #drinkvino

5 Dec

Darlings, if you need a reason to raise a glass tonight, December 5 is National Repeal Day. On this day in 1933, the ban on alcohol in the United States, known as Prohibition, was lifted, or repealed. Yay!

Prohib_Newspaper

If you missed historian Ken Burns’s successful documentary series on Prohibition a couple of years ago, here’s a little bit of background. Back in the early 1900s, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union decided that alcohol was the source of all evils in the U.S. The well-intentioned ladies rallied, and the U.S. government passed the 18th Amendment in 1919, making it illegal to drink–and produce–alcohol. Boo!

Prohibition lasted 13 years, and–shocker!–it didn’t work (see “moonshine” and “Al Capone”).  So you can imagine how deliriously happy folks were on 12/5/33 when the 21st Amendment was passed, making it legal to not only drink alcohol, but make it.

Prohib_Crowd

For my newer readers, I want to be clear that I am not in any way advocating alcohol abuse. Prohibition and Repeal Day were significant moments in U.S. history and for the alcoholic beverage industry. On a personal level, I consider winemaking an art, and I also believe that drinking wine responsibly enhances a meal and life in general.

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Having said that, I think Repeal Day is an important reminder that government intervention doesn’t always work, especially when it imposes on our freedom to enjoy a glass of wine responsibly. We are all fortunate, however, to live in a nation that can not only acknowledge misguided legislation but actually do something about it. Yeah, I know, it doesn’t happen as often as we’d like, but there’s hope.

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So tonight, gather your friends, pour the vino, and count your many blessings as you raise a toast to National Repeal Day.

¡Salud!

Señorita Vino is interviewed by the San Jose Mercury News #wine

10 Oct

Darlings, I was tossing and turning last night, trying to figure out how I would crank out a blog post this week and still meet my work deadlines AND study for my economics midterm next Wednesday.

Turns out good things come to those who can’t sleep: I woke up to find the online version of a story that will appear in this Sunday’s San Jose Mercury News as an “Eat, Drink, Play” feature. Problem solved! You can read the article here.

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I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again: MUCHAS GRACIAS for following Señorita Vino. I sincerely appreciate your comments, “Likes,” and support–your enthusiasm inspires me to keep on keepin’ on, as they say. So this weekend during breaks from analyzing marginal cost curves, I will raise a glass to YOU for being the super-fabulosa/fabuloso vino lover that you are. ¡Salud! 

P.S. If anyone lives in the San Jose, Calif. area and can score a copy of the paper, can you let me know? Or if you live in the L.A. area and know of a newsstand that sells the  Merc, give me a shout via comments or email (my email address is on the CONTACT page of this blog). ¡Gracias!

P.P.S. Wish me luck on the econ midterm!

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