Show 412, February 13, 2021: Mezcal & Agave Spirits Sommelier Noah Arenstein, Las Vegas

Noah Arenstein

Mezcal has come a long way since the days of the harsh spirit with the worm in the bottle and can be savored (and truly appreciated) as it’s cousin, a fine premium tequila, can be enjoyed. It’s a clear liquor and originally came from Oaxaca. Mezcal can be produced from several species of the agave plant. It’s also referenced at the “Mother of Tequila.”

Mezcaliera and Mezcal Sommelier Noah Arenstein is our guide. Noah relocated to Las Vegas from Brooklyn last year to be part of the opening team of Chef Enrique Olvera’s (Pujol in Mexico City) highly anticipated Elio at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas. Noah hand-picked limited flights of premium Mezcals for his guests along with providing commentary. Unfortunately Elio’s only had a short run before being permanently closed as a result of the pandemic. Currently Noah is an agave spirits consultant who also conducts VIP private tastings. A new restaurant post for Noah in Las Vegas is in the works.

Noah explains that Del Maguey Single Village Mezcal pioneered the premium Mezcal market in the United States. It was founded in 1995 by entrepreneur Ron Cooper. Look for the familiar green bottle.


Show 404, December 19, 2020: Jessica Dupuy, Certified Sommelier & Kent Callaghan, Founder and Proprietor of Callaghan Vineyards in Arizona

Sommelier Jessica DupuyThe wines of Arizona and Arizona Wine Country are worth exploring. There are 3 primary growing areas in the state with diverse characteristics.

Our able guide is Jessica Dupuy, Writer, Certified Sommelier and Specialist of Wine & Spirits. Her latest book, The Wines of Southwest USA, is part of the Classic Wine Library. It covers the emerging wine regions in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado. Joining her is Arizona winemaking pioneer, Kent Callaghan, Founder & Proprietor of Callaghan Vineyards.

“Based in Austin, Texas, Jessica Dupuy is a wine, spirits, food, and travel writer, as well as a speaker and consultant. She is also a regular contributor for Texas Monthly magazine and She’s a Certified Sommelier, a Certified Specialist of Wine and Spirits, and a Level 4 Diploma candidate for the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust.”

Kent Callaghan of Callaghan Vineyards“Founder and Owner Kent Callaghan (Callaghan Vineyards) and his parents (Harold and Karen) planted their Buena Suerte Vineyard in May/June of 1990. Their planting happened to coincide with a vicious heat wave, one consequence of which was that Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix was shut down for a few days. Nobody had tested passenger jets at temperatures over 120F. But it was only 105F in Elgin…Needless to say; they lost a few (thousand) vines. This experience set the stage for what would become the Callaghan M.O. – replanting – always with an eye toward grape varieties and rootstocks better suited to their arid, windy, sun-bleached region.”

“Over many years, they have tossed out their original Bordeaux mindset and moved to one rooted in the Mediterranean. Spanish varieties, in particular, seem best suited to their site – Graciano, Mourvèdre, Grenache. They have found that one Bordeaux variety, Petit Verdot, provides a distinctive spicy/peppery/meaty blending component. As for white wine, they have only one estate at the moment – Lisa’s – a blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Malvasia Bianca, Clairette and Petit Manseng. The object is to produce an uncommonly nuanced white wine with great freshness and flavor “chew”. With all of their wines, the primary concerns are depth of flavor and complexity. Textural considerations are secondary and best addressed by appropriate cellaring and/or food pairing. Most of their time is spent working in the vineyard.”

Kent discusses the 2017 Callaghan Vineyard’s Claire’s which was sampled by the “SoCal Restaurant Show” in a recent virtual wine tasting, “Arizona Wines: From Novice to Knowledgeable in Under an Hour.” Five distinctive Arizona wines were tasted with four Arizona winemakers providing commentary including Kent Callaghan. Claire’s is 65 per cent Mourvedre estate, 25 per cent Graciano and 10 per cent Petit Verdot.


Show 397, October 31, 2020: Carole Lawson – Founder & CEO of the Craft Wine Association

Carole Lawson of the Craft Wine Association“Established in 2016, is a membership organization that helps the owners, vintners, and winemakers of small production wineries to increase the market for Craft Wine. The association certifies Craft Wineries and sponsors an online marketplace called NxtCrush that directly supports wineries who can sell their certified and distinctly American wine directly to consumers.” is on a mission to make craft wine as available in the marketplace as craft beer and spirits. Carole Lawson is the Founder and CEO of

“After leaving behind her work in the emerging technology sector, working with the likes of Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter on behalf of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and a second successful career as the Chief Information Officer for high-profile organizations across multiple states, Carole founded the Craft Wine Association. Using her background in emerging markets, she is working to make Craft Wine, distinctly American wine, as available in the marketplace as craft beer and spirits. Carole is also a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers.”

Carole provided tantalizing snapshots of Terragena Vineyard & Winery in Humboldt County and Koi Zen Cellars in San Diego who are both Craft Wine Association members operating in the Golden State.


Show 385, August 8, 2020: Restaurant Manager Tracy Nelsen, Five Crowns and SideDoor, Corona del Mar

Tracy Nelsen of Five CrownsLate last month Corona del Mar’s historic Five Crowns and SideDoor (part of the Lawry’s family of fine-dining restaurants) reopened the spacious backyard for open-air dining in the charming setting reminiscent of an English country garden.

Set with thoughtfully spaced tables and accented by fire pits, the backyard of the beloved, dining establishment offers the same gracious hospitality for which the restaurants are known. Guests sip on specialty cocktails under the twinkling lights and experience signature dishes from both Five Crowns and SideDoor offered on a single menu available for backyard dining and to-go.

In addition to Five Crowns specialties including Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail and Skillet Jidori Chicken with pearl couscous, charred corn and salsa verde, four cuts of the classic Lawry’s Prime Ribs of Beef are available. SideDoor featured items available range from the always changing Artisanal Cheese Plate to Prime Rib Chili.

Tracy Nelsen Five Crowns’ and SideDoor’s Restaurant Manager certified Cheesemonger, Sommelier and Cicerone joins us with the specifics of what’s on the menu.


Show 370, April 25, 2020: Sommelier Ryan Bailey, Wine Director, NoMad Los Angeles on “Clink Different”

Ryan Bailey of the NoMad HotelBack in February, the Clink Different – Experience the Wines of Europe evening was hosted at The NoMad Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. It was a walk-around tasting for wine and lifestyle journalists with four flights of unusual wines Bordeaux and Wines of Germany followed by a multi-course wine paired dinner. The European wines were hand-selected by Ryan Bailey, the accomplished Wine Director for NoMad Los Angeles.

Ryan Bailey, a Sonoma County transplant, started his hospitality career while in high school at one of Sonoma’s best restaurants, The General’s Daughter. In 2013 Ryan joined the team at NoMad in New York City, and quickly advanced to the position of Head Sommelier. Ryan now leads the Los Angeles wine team as Wine Director and curates NoMad’s expansive wine and beer program.

Sommelier Ryan artfully pulls the cork on Clink Different for us.


Show 355, January 11, 2020: Alchemy Restaurant & Bar, Ashland, Oregon

Drew Gibbs of the Alchemy Restaurant and BarAlchemy Restaurant and Bar, located in an historic former residence in Ashland, Oregon, is as popular with the locals as well as visitors for a memorable dining experience with inventive cocktails and an artfully selected wine list. Proprietor Drew Gibbs is also a Certified Sommelier. It’s housed on the ground floor of The Winchester Inn.

“Alchemy Restaurant and Bar…Cuisine Transformed.” “Come explore the world of Alchemy…Tinctures, Elixirs and Transmutations. We focus on craft cocktails, boutique wines, and innovative cuisine to transform your experience into something truly memorable. Serving dinner, bistro fare and Sunday brunch in a setting that melds classic and contemporary in one breath.”

“The Winchester Inn is an award-winning hotel that has been a landmark in Ashland, Oregon for over 35 years. A family run establishment since it was founded in 1983, the inn and restaurant have provided luxury and comfort with a touch of familiarity and home to thousands of guests.”

“The 21-room inn offers guests supreme levels of quality, luxury and service: rooms, suites, cottages, tiered English gardens, award winning dining at Alchemy Restaurant and Bar, and convenient access to shopping, art galleries, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in downtown Ashland.”

“The inn has received numerous accolades, including Conde Nast “Best in the US”, placing it in the ‘Top 75’ list. The New York Times has described the Winchester Inn as “Ashland’s premier historic inn.””

Drew artfully pulls the cork on Alchemy Restaurant and Bar for us.


Show 318, April 6, 2019: Pechanga Sake and Beer Festival Preview with Pechanga’s Sommelier, Mark Amodeo

Mark AmodeoFor enthusiasts of Japanese beer, sake and sushi, a new festival comes to the calendar in April at Pechanga Resort Casino. The inaugural Pechanga Sake & Beer Festival takes over the Pechanga Summit Events Center on Saturday, April 20 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. with VIP entry at 12 p.m. Proceeds benefit Habitat for Humanity Inland Valley.

More than 40 premium sakes (daiginjo, ginjo, junmai and sparkling) including many award-winning brands and styles from all over Japan will be poured alongside Japanese beers. Brews include premium beers, reserve, super dry (European style) and black beers from the island nation. Guests can learn about sakes’ flavors and production styles from experts – the brewers themselves and those close to the brewing process. Pechanga chefs get rolled up in the festival as they prepare fresh sushi to pair with the sake and beer selections.

Chefs Kiyo Ikeda, head chef of Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar, Kok Che, executive sous chef of Pechanga’s Asian restaurants, and Duane Owen, Pechanga Executive Chef, will be on hand to meet with guests, present them fresh, made-on-site sushi, and allow visitors to find out their expert suggestions for matching sushi with sake.

Tickets are now on sale and available at Pechanga’s website, by calling (877) 711-2946 or at the Pechanga Box Office. General admission tickets are $75 and include a keepsake sake sampling cup. VIP tickets are $150 and include early entry at 12 p.m. and a wooden sake holder and cup. Tickets include unlimited samples of sake, beer and sushi. Guests must be 21 or older to attend.

The festival’s idea sprang from the popularity of beer and sake within Southern California, as well as the continued rise of sushi as a mainstay of sought-after fare in America. The 2nd place win for Pechanga’s Umi Sushi & Oyster Bar in USA Today’s Best Casino Restaurant readers’ poll also helped cement the festival’s possibility at the Temecula resort/casino.

Pechanga Resort Casino’s newly arrived Sommelier, Mark Amodeo, is our spirited guide.


Show 317, March 30, 2019: Sommelier Ian Blackburn – Chinese Food & Wine Challenge – Which Pairs Best?

Ian BlackburnIan Blackburn’s LearnAboutWine is doing it again. His first Chinese Food & Wine Challenge – Which Pairs Best? event sold out way ahead of the date so he’s encoring it on Sunday April 14th from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Arcadia’s Chengdu Impression. Capacity is limited to 24 inquisitive guests.

Wine and Chinese food pairing. A multi-course Chinese meal prepared by vetted Chinese experts in the San Gabriel Valley.

“Wine will be the focus. Which wines work best? The audience, the energy will be amazing. Come and fight for your favorite wines. This is a competitive flight tasting of approximately 20 different wines.” Everything from Chateau Miraval Cotes de Provence Rose, France 2017 to Bodega de Edgar Tempranillo, Paso Robles, USA 2014.

Chengdu Impression was established in September of 2004. The founder and chairman of the company, Mr. Bing Du, is the Vice President of Sichuan Gourmet Association and Deputy Director of China Zhigong Party Sichuan Overseas Communication Association. The company insists on following Chengdu’s deep-rooted gastronomic culture and the long-lasting culinary tradition to produce, provide and promote the tradition and high-quality Szechuan cuisine worldwide.

Curious about what wines pair best with inspired Indian fare? On May 25th, Ian is coordinating Riesling vs. Indian with the always entertaining father & sons proprietors of Badmaash.

Wine Professional and Sommelier Ian Blackburn pulls the cork for us. (What wine pairs with a fortune cookie, anyway?)


Show 311, February 16, 2019: Sommelier Matthew Kaner, Cavas Codorniu, “Creating Cava” Masterclass

Matthew KanerSommelier Matthew Kaner is a partner in some of the best wine bars (Good Measure) in Southern California. He also represents Codorniu-Raventos, the producer of some of Spain’s most respected sparkling wines including the Ars Collecta Cavas. Matthew recently conducted a masterclass on Cavas Codorniu for somms and wine retailers in West Hollywood.

Three of the Ars Collecta wines were among the first 12 single-estate Cavas designated by the Spanish Minister for Agriculture for the Cava de Paraje Calificado designation. The Cava de Paraje Calificado designation is, as of July 2017, a new distinction which sets requirements, characteristics and quality control standards that certify the excellence of Spain’s best premium Cavas.

The ambitious Ars Collecta project also created the 457 – the world’s most expensive Cava. 457, the masterpiece of the Ars Collecta collection is a cava that pays homage to the 457 harvests completed by the Codorníu Estate.

“The Codorníu Raventós Group is the oldest family business in Spain and one of the oldest of the world, in addition to being the business group which created cava. With vineyards in our property since 1551, we are proud to say that we have more than 450 years of experience in the manufacture of quality wines and cavas. We currently have ten wineries, eight of which are in Spain (Bilbaínas, Legaris, Scala Dei, Raimat, Bach, Nuviana, Abadía de Poblet, and Codorníu Wineries), one in Napa Valley in California (Artesa) and another in Mendoza, Argentina (Séptima).”

We’ll artfully pop the bubbly cork with him.


Show 304, December 29, 2018: Sommelier Jim Clarke, Marketing Manager, Wines of South Africa USA

Jim ClarkeFortunately the wines of South Africa have come a long way on the world stage since the demise of apartheid. They are now known for world-class Chenin Blanc and Pinotage but are also generating acclaim for their Bordeaux-style varieties.

Wines of South Africa is an industry owned, not-for-profit organization. Its mission is to contribute to the global success of the South African wine industry by building Brand South Africa.

Sommelier Jim Clarke, Marketing Manager for Wines of South Africa, uncorks the 411 on these wines for us.