What is a

Simply put, a Sommelier (or, Somm) is a student of wine, who has reached a specific level of mastery in the subject. Many are also trained in food pairings spirits, and fine-dining service. Often, you can find sommeliers in your favorite restaurants, curating wine lists and recommending bottles. There are many levels of somm training. Read on to meet a few of these professionals who love Sonoma County wines.

How to Read a Wine Label

Wine labels are more than just attractive packaging. Wine labels are carefully thought-out and give important information about the wine in the bottle. They can also be a little confusing. Here are the basics of what you will find on a wine label:

1. The Vintage

This is the year (vintage) the wine grapes were grown and harvested. Wine changes based on annual conditions such as weather, water, sunlight, heat and soil nutrients. To name a specific vintage, at least 95% of the grapes used for the wine must have been grown and harvested that year.

2. The Winery

Of course, you will always find the name of the winery on the label. Wineries work hard to build their reputations on wine style, quality and their unique story. If you like one wine from a specific winery, try another!

3. The Varietal

The wine varietal tells you what type of wine grape the wine was made from since different grapes have different flavor profiles. In order to list a wine varietal name, at least 75% of the wine in the bottle must be from that grape variety. Otherwise, it will likely be labeled as a “blend” or a “table wine.”

4. The Region

The region, or American Viticultural Area (AVA) tells you where the wine was grown. Different wine regions build a reputation for quality, specific grape varieties and growing practices. Sonoma County has 18 different AVA’s. On some wines, you may even find the specific vineyard or “vineyard designate” listed under the AVA.

5. The Sustainability Logo

Sustainability is a big deal in the world of agriculture. Sonoma County has proudly certified 99% of its vineyard acreage sustainable by a third-party auditor, so you can be pretty confident that a wine that says “Sonoma County” was grown responsibly. Just to be sure though, look for the sustainable winegrowing seal!

Guild of Sommeliers The Wines of Sonoma County

Back Roads and Back Stories Joy Sterling - Iron Horse Vineyards

Sonoma County Then. Now. Forever.

Somm Spotlight

Jon McDaniel

Jon McDaniel is the founder & CEO of Second City Soil, a Chicago-based wine consultancy with the mission of growing Chicago’s wine culture through winery and restaurant marketing and education partnerships. He is also the winner of Food & Wine Magazine’s Sommelier of the Year for 2018, and wrote 5 of the World of Fine Wine Magazine’s Top 100 Wine Lists in the World in 2016 and 2017.

Read more about Jon & his love for drinks that only an 85-year-old Italian nonno would appreciate!

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Somm Spotlight

Kat Hawkins

Kat Hawkins is the Assistant General Manager & Beverage Director for Shaw’s Crab House in Chicago, an institution credited with bringing the first Oyster Bar to Chicago. Kat selects wine for the restaurant’s extensive list, and chooses each bottle to complement the seafood that Shaw’s is famous for. In 2019, she was named one of America’s “Best New Sommeliers” by Wine & Spirits Magazine.”

Learn more about Kat and watch the video to learn about one of her favorite Sonoma County wines!

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Somm Spotlight

Rachel Dickinson

Rachel Dickinson is an experienced luxury travel, food, and wine writer that creates content about the best places to #EatPlayStay around the globe. She founded in 2010. Since then she has traveled the world visiting wineries, distilleries, and interviewing industry tastemakers.

Learn more about Rachel and her  collaborations on International Wine Brands, Spirits, and more!

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