The Beverly Hills Wine Club welcomes collaboration with the wine and food trade in providing exclusive, educational and engaging services and products to our membership. We communicate with a growing audience of 500+ wine lovers in the Greater Beverly Hills California community who desire to elevate their wine experience.
Join Wine & Spirits Magazine at Union Station in Los Angeles on Wednesday, June 14 for WSLA Drink + Eat 2023, a one-of-a-kind tasting event featuring the magazine’s favorite wines from some of LA’s top restaurants.
Taste dozen of wines chosen as favorites on the lists of top restaurants around the country and also scored highly by Wine & Spirits editors. Pair them with featured dishes from some of LA’s most acclaimed chefs, such as Ardor, Etta, Grà, Bar Moruno, Kippered LA, and Intercrew, to name just a few.
WSLA sets itself apart from other tasting events by focusing on the pairing of delicious food and wine. The event will benefit Los Angeles Waterkeeper, whose mission is to fight for the health of the region’s waterways, and for sustainable, equitable, and climate-friendly water supplies.
Wine & Spirits has offered our subscribers, fans, and club members a 20% discount on VIP and General Admission tickets to the event using the special discount code below: BEVERLYHILLS
To purchase your discounted ticket, simply go to the WSLA Eventbrite page here, select the type and quantity of tickets you would like, click on “Enter promo code,” and enter the code above for 20% off. We hope to see you on June 14 in LA!
The Brentwood location is the first tasting room in Los Angeles run by a winery that has earned 100 points and multiple spots on WineSpectator’s Top
Tensley Wines announces the opening of its first ever Tensley Tasting Room in Los Angeles. Owned by renowned winemaker, Joey Tensley, the Santa Barbara County based wine label knowns for its award-winning Syrah, brings Santa Barbara’s wine country to Brentwood and offers Angelenos a taste of Tensley Wines which include Tensley Wines, Fundamental Wines, and P2KV Wines. Established in 1998, Tensley Wines belongs to a small group of winemakers who have received critics’ top marks with scores ranging from 90 to a perfect 100 points for many of their Syrah wines.
“Tensley Wines is all about letting the vineyard speak for itself and we are excited to bring something new to the wine scene in Los Angeles with the first ever formal wine tasting room in the city,” says owner and winemaker, Joey Tensley, “Our goal is to share what makes Santa Barbara wine so special and unique with the Los Angeles community and solidify the natural connection and relationship between Santa Barbara wine country and Los Angeles.”
Located in the heart of Brentwood on the first floor of the popular Brentwood Gardens, the tasting rooms offers guests a wine tasting experience for $25 in addition to wines by the glass as well as bottles of select varietals to enjoy, complemented by a limited array of packaged gourmet snacks. The wine tasting welcomes walk-ins as well as reservations for larger groups and can seat up to 34 at a time. The tasting room features art by American painter and independent curator, Lawrence Gipe, who practices postmodern landscape and the visual rhetoric of progress within his works. Artist C.B. Hewes, a second-generation bartender who works within the Los Angeles and Santa Barbara areas, is also featured with his abstract art adorning the walls of the tasting room.
Tensley Tasting Room’s current Los Angeles tasting menu includes:
2022 Clairette Blanche (Price: $34.00)
Tensley Wines first experience with Clairette Blanc, this wine comes from two vineyards on Alisos Canyon Road – 80% Nolan Ranch and 20% Martian Vineyard. The Clairette Blanche is fermented 100% in neutral barrels to add a little weight to the middle palate but bottled early with only 30% ML completed to maintain its lively freshness. With tropical aromatics that explode from the glass, this wine is perfect for summer with fresh light foods but also take a look at it with more serious complex foods like seafood or creamy pasta.
2022 Rosé of Grenache (Price: $28.00)
This wine is composed of 85% Grenache and 15% Clairette Blanche and is all about freshness and texture. The nose is explosive with aromas of tangerine, peach, and strawberry. It will pair beautifully with cheese, seafood, or any spicy dish, but also stands great on its own.
2020 Santa Barbara County Syrah (Jeb Dunnuck 94 points) (Price: $35.00)
Every year the vineyard percentages change, yet the style remains the same. In 2020, Tensley Wines introduced Laird Vineyard to the blend and continues to work with sandy cool sites to add freshness and savory notes to the final blend. Complexity and power are added by way of Tensley’s use of all of the winery’s single vineyard Syrah sources within the final product. It beams with bright acidity and saline notes, rounding out with blue and black fruits to make it generous, juicy, and easy to drink. This Syrah will also age seven to ten years, but can be enjoyed fresh as well.
A staple of Tensley’s since the beginning, Thompson Vineyard Syrah is the lightest in color but has the most powerful aromatics of wildflowers and savory herbs. In the mouth it always has a real freshness and in 2021 that is very noticeable because of the unusually cool vintage. This wine can be enjoyed in its youth or well-aged for 20+ years.
Tensley Tasting Room is located in the Brentwood Garden Plaza at 11677 San Vicente Blvd Suite 116 Brentwood, Los Angeles, CA 90049. The tasting room is now open daily from 12 pm – 7 pm.
Winemaker Joey Tensley is one of the most well-respected and versatile winemakers in the United States. As owner of the highly rated Tensley Wines label, Joey has been featured in magazines throughout the world, including Saveur, Food & Wine, Forbes, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Vinous and more.
Established in 1998, the first release of Tensley totaled just 100 cases. In 2015, the production reached 5,000 cases and included five single-vineyard Syrahs, the most in Santa Barbara County. Though Tensley Wines has grown much in size, its philosophy has never changed – source the best fruit possible and let the vineyard speak for itself. Tensley Wines now includes Tensley Wines, Fundamental Wines, and P2KV Wines and recently received a perfect 100-point score from the world’s top critic for Rhône varietal wines, Jeb Dunnuck. The Santa Barbara County based wine label has had more wines listed in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 Wines of the Year than any other winemaker from California’s central coast and is currently ranked in the top five of “Best Value” California wines, according to Wine-Searcher.com.
In Italy, Brazil, and beyond, winemakers are leaving Charmat-method bubbly on the lees for longer periods of time in the effort to make more complex and robust wines…
When we talk about modern sparkling winemaking, it’s generally in reference to one of two methods: traditional or Charmat.
In many wine circles, the traditional method—also known in Champagne as the méthode Champenoise—is held to a higher regard. Regions in which the traditional method is mandated, such as Champagne, Cava, and Franciacorta, often point to it as an inherent marker of quality and ageability. Charmat-method bubbly, on the other hand, is generally associated with being light, fruity, and youthful—fresh and fun, but not necessarily serious.
However, a growing number of Charmat-method sparkling winemakers in Italy, Brazil, Argentina, and beyond are finding there’s a way to make sparklers that meet somewhere in the middle. By using what they refer to as the “Long Charmat” method, involving extended lees contact and a longer secondary fermentation but still taking place in tank, they’re hoping to attract more attention and renown for their sparkling wines.
The Difference Between Charmat and Long Charmat
The secondary fermentation vessel is often considered the most obvious distinction between the traditional and Charmat methods of sparkling winemaking—a bottle for traditional, a tank for Charmat. But the methods differ in terms of secondary fermentation and lees aging time as well—and this is where Long Charmat incorporates elements of traditional-method sparkling winemaking into Charmat-method sparkling winemaking.
Traditional-method sparkling wines generally spend at least nine months aging in bottle in contact with their lees, though some producers choose to age their wines on the lees for a decade or more. When aged on the lees, the wine benefits from the process of autolysis, during which the yeast releases different compounds that modify the taste, smell, and texture of the wine, enhancing a wine’s mouthfeel, body, and complexity. The longer it’s on the lees, the more time there is for carbon dioxide to escape, resulting in smaller, finer bubbles due to there being less dissolved carbon dioxide in the wine.
But part of the appeal of the Charmat method is its speed; extended lees aging is not classically part of the process. In Prosecco—the region that the Charmat method is most widely associated with—wines are only required to spend a minimum of 30 days in tank. While it may not be regulated elsewhere, a short time in tank has become standard practice for other regions who have followed suit in making Charmat-style bubbly. Because their second fermentation happens in a tank—and for such a short period of time—Charmat-style sparkling wines tend to be fruitier with larger bubbles, without the beloved bready and brioche notes expected from traditional-method sparklers.
A technique that has emerged over the past five to 10 years, Long Charmat combines the lees contact of the traditional method with the tank format of Charmat. In Prosecco, where this extended aging process originated, Long Charmat wines typically spend a minimum of six months in tank. How the process is interpreted in other regions varies. “It’s a way of getting an intermediate style between classic Charmat style and traditional method,” says Brazilian sommelier and wine educator Mauricio Roloff. “When you have that aging and contact with the lees, generally from three to 12 months, you get a different mouthful, a different palette of aromas, the mousse is way more complex. You get bolder sparkling wines.”
Expanding Consumer Tastes in Brazil
It’s those bolder, complex notes that have winemakers like Lucas Foppa of Brazil’s Tenuta Foppa & Ambrosi so excited about the Long Charmat method. “It’s very interesting because you can do a process very close to what you do with battonage. You can shake the lees, get the sparkling wine smoother … You can also extract a little bit of those toasty flavors that we love in traditional-method sparkling wine,” he says. And yet, with Long Charmat, you also “keep the freshness.”
Being able to experiment with time in the Charmat method has been key to the success of Tenuta Foppa & Ambrosi, launched in 2018 by two young winemakers. The brand isn’t yet big enough to justify the expenses of the labor-intensive process the traditional method of sparkling winemaking entails—nor do they want to make their wines in this way. “We specifically chose the long-term Charmat method because [it aligns with] the style of wine we want to produce,” says Foppa, who ages Tenuta Folla & Ambrosi’s Brut Bianco and Brut Rosé for six months on the lees.
In Brazil, where sparkling wine accounts for almost 70 percent of production, freshness is key. The country is home to a relatively young modern wine industry, which didn’t take off until the 1970s, when several international wine companies such as Moët & Chandon invested there. And because the country operated under a closed economy until the 1990s, Brazilians didn’t get much of a taste for international wines until fairly recently. Because of that, says Roloff, the Brazilian wine palate tends to crave fruity and refreshing wines—preferences that are reflected in the country’s sparklers.
“Most of our sparkling wines are lighter, very refreshing, fruity, like a happy hour sparkling wine, like a picnic sparkling wine—very easy to drink. That’s the kind of thing you get from the Charmat method, so it suits the Brazilian palate very well,” says Roloff. “But we do have more demanding consumers, who want something more complex and bold in the mouth. This Long Charmat method came to Brazil as a way to give more variety to wine drinkers. It hits the spot for us.”
A Way to Blend Tradition With Modernity in Prosecco
Back in Italy, where the Charmat method was first developed and patented in 1895, Prosecco producers are similarly experimenting with tank aging. DOC regulations require a Prosecco’s secondary fermentation to last a minimum of 30 days, and a minimum of 60 days for Prosecco Rosé.
The original Prosecco wines, however, didn’t resemble the fruity, bubbly ones we know today. Before large stainless steel tanks moved into the region’s wineries, Prosecco was bottle fermented. Called Col Fondo, this traditional sparkler doesn’t get disgorged, either. While there’s been a movement among younger producers to revive this style of wine in the region, others are nodding to the past in another way.
“We arrived at the Long Charmat method through inventing something new, but based on traditions from the past.” – Fabio Zardetto, Zardetto Prosecco
A growing number of producers in Prosecco are dabbling with the Long Charmat method, including Follador, Zucchetto, Le Vigne de Alice, and Zardetto Prosecco. For Zardetto owner Fabio Zardetto, extended tank aging has been a rewarding way to blend tradition with modernity. “Looking forward and remembering the past is very important. You need to have the knowledge of both to understand what we are to do,” he says. “We arrived at the Long Charmat method through inventing something new, but based on traditions from the past.”
Zardetto’s Prosecco Superiore Long Charmat Brut NV, launched in 2019, is kept on the lees in a tank for at least six months. The wine, which costs about $10 more at retail than the winery’s regular brut Prosecco, keeps the freshness and fruity character of the Glera grapes it’s made with, but also shows consumers that Prosecco can be more than just an aperitivo wine. “With high-quality grapes and good yeasts together for six months, we can really increase the quality of the Prosecco,” says Zardetto, “and remember what it really was in the past.”
Whether the concept and significance of Long Charmat is easily translatable and digestible for consumers is another story. Allen Springer, the owner of the Wine Connection retail shop in Del Mar, California, says he’s yet to see customers really question what “Long Charmat” on a label means. Rather, it’s something he tends to explain while presenting the wine, adding that compared to an entry-level Prosecco, “the payoff for the Long Charmat seems to be primarily a richer texture, a more satisfying sip.”
A relationship established several decades ago helps an iconic California Chardonnay wine producer finally make a stellar Pinot Noir that can live up to its white wine counterpart.
As the desire for premium wine started to seep into the American culture in the 1980s, two men, a former airline pilot and the only adopted child of older Southern Baptist Texans, would end up shaping the U.S. wine landscape in ways that brought inspiration and delight to many and irrational criticism from others. Both men followed their own path in the wine world yet their relationship, which blossomed early in their journeys, kept them deeply connected, helping one to continue a legacy even after the other’s death.
Koerner Rombauer and his wife grew up in a tiny agricultural town called Escondido, in the foothills of San Diego. During their childhoods, it had a population of around 4,500 people. Although an adventurous life of being an airline pilot relocated him and his family to Texas, eventually, his airline company would bring him back to California – flying in and out of San Francisco. Yet living in “The Golden City” had very little appeal to Koerner and his wife as they were still raising their children and they wanted to give them the same rural, small-town experiences that they had cherished, so in 1972, they moved their two kids, two horses and five dogs to Napa Valley; the idea that they loved food and wine made living in such a place an added benefit.
It never entered their minds to become a wine producer but the camaraderie that they constantly witnessed among the wine community in Napa made them want to take the leap, and so, in 1980, they established Rombauer Vineyards, releasing their first vintage of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon in 1984.
Pinot Noir Would Unknowingly Enter His Life
Since Koerner Rombauer had connections in Texas, as he was always a wine lover seeking out the best restaurants and retail stores for top-quality wines when he lived there, Texas became one of Rombauer’s first major markets. During that time, he built a relationship with Adam Lee, a wine buyer at Austin Wine & Spirits, where Adam eventually became president of the three-store chain.
In the early 1990s, Adam decided to come to California to live his wine dream. He initially stayed with the Rombauers and learned all he could from small family-owned wineries until he founded his own in Sonoma County, called Siduri Wines. Adam decided to focus on a fierce passion: cool-climate Pinot Noir from various top West Coast regions, making single vineyard wines as well as bottlings that blended a handful of vineyards to represent the region as a whole. He received instant success with highly-critical acclaim for his first release of a Pinot Noir that was barely over 100 cases in total.
And so, when Rombauer Vineyards announced that it would finally release a Pinot Noir after four decades, it made perfect sense that they partnered with Adam Lee to help them source the best vineyards for this project. Not because anyone knew the history of Adam and Koerner Rombauer but because few other people know the wide range of Pinot Noir vineyards across the West Coast as intimately as Adam.
A Blessing And A Curse
Rombauer certainly made a strong name with its Chardonnay which is really made in the vineyards of Carneros more than in the cellar, as Richie Allen, VP of viticulture & winemaking at Rombauer, explains. And it is the key to how they make their extremely popular Chardonnay consistent year in and year out. Richie is looking for vineyards with “really concentrated fruit flavors,” such as peach and tropical notes, to blend with other plots that bring bright “stone fruit and citrus” notes. The foundation of this legendary Chardonnay is rooted in blocks planted in the 1980s that are owned by the Sangiacomo family, who have been in Carneros for almost a century. Yet, Richie, who started with Rombauer in 2008, has had his eye on Sangiacomo’s heritage block planted in 1964 (some of the oldest Chardonnay in the U.S.) for many years. It has been on a long-term contract with another producer but Richie still asks about it every year and is simply told, “Ask next year.” For now, they are fortunate to have a lock on many of their other precious Chardonnay vines.
Managing the various vineyards they work with is the hardest part of making their Chardonnay but the winemaking is easy by comparison. “The simplest wine to make is the Chardonnay,” said Richie, as it is only a handful of steps that include going from press to tank, tank to barrel, back to tank, then finally tank to bottle. There are no fining agents since the wine gets the time to settle naturally in barrel and tank, and a low amount of sulfur is added; most importantly, there is “no secret sauce”.
His Chardonnay is a point of pride as it is what many producers in the past saw as a benchmark when trying to make a rich barrel-fermented Chardonnay that was fresh and balanced. Yet, so many of those past producers trying to make a Rombauer-like Chardonnay have failed as they either didn’t have the resources and knowledge to find that balance or they employed “sloppy winemaking,” as Richie calls it. Unfortunately, all of those bad rich Chardonnay wines that have hit the market over several decades have damaged the category as a whole. And because Rombauer has one of the most successful premium barrel-fermented Chardonnay wines, they have been part of that backlash, with some falsely reporting that their Chardonnay is “one of the most manipulated wines,” as Richie notes with frustration. The complete opposite is true, as Richie states that one of their wineries is designed to ensure their Chardonnay moves efficiently, which means it barely moves, allowing them not to mess with the wine, keeping sulfur levels low and the fruit expression pure.
But Rombauer’s loyal customer base is grateful that they never got scared by the rich California Chardonnay backlash, avoiding the move to thin Chardonnay wines that can’t stand up to oak and today, they are one of the few producers left that offer such a stellar example that is under $100 and doesn’t require being on a waiting list.
It Was Time
One might wonder why it took Rombauer all this time to finally make a Pinot Noir; their customers have been asking for one for years. But Koerner Rombauer was never one to jump on a trend – he made the wines that he believed in, that were rooted in the vineyards of the community he loved. Also, Koerner was loyal to his customer base as they helped to make this small-town pilot’s dream come true and he didn’t want the only Pinot Noir they would have in their portfolio to be available to only a few. So it seemed impossible to make a significant amount of great Pinot Noir since all the best plots were already spoken for. Yet after Koerner, a great titan of the wine world, passed away in 2018, Adam Lee came to the Rombauer family and said, “It was time.” It was time for Rombauer Vineyards to make a Pinot Noir.
Adam sold Siduri Wines to Jackson Family Winery in 2015, staying on as a consultant, so he was ready for such a momentous challenge. Logically, Adam’s first thought was to go to Carneros for Rombauer’s Pinot Noir but it seemed impossible to guarantee the decent quantities needed since there were very few vineyards that weren’t already committed. And hence, the hunt kicked off, going all the way down to Santa Barbara and all the way up to Oregon, stopping at several well-known Pinot Noir places in between that Adam knew so well. He had Richie taste “hundreds and hundreds” of wines from a multitude of wine areas on the West Coast but nothing seemed to click, until a lineup of wines blew Richie away; they had power, structure, freshness, enticing aromatics, sense of place and plenty of fruit to tie up all those components into a delicious experience: they were Pinot Noirs from Santa Lucia Highlandslocated in Central Coast, California.
Adam was thrilled that Richie was so impressed with the Santa Lucia Highlands lineup as he thought it was the “finest wine region in California… that no one knows about.” After he sold Siduri, Adam started a new winery called Clarice Wine Company in Santa Lucia Highlands as he loved the great multi-generational family-run vineyards in the area, but it was not an iconic wine region, and hence, seemingly wouldn’t match with an iconic name such as Rombauer. But Richie was already taken by the fruit and he thought back to all those great single vineyard bottlings of Pinot Noir by Russian River Valley producers, vineyards such as Soberanes, Garys’, Sierra Mar or Rosella’s… those were all Santa Lucia Highland single vineyards being bottled by producers in one of the most famous Pinot Noir wine areas in the world. And since Adam had very strong relationships in the area, he could get some of those top vineyards and scale up to a decent quantity if there was demand from the loyal Rombauer base.
Santa Lucia Highlands is where many fine wine drinkers will know the vineyards but not so much the place as it is an area dominated by long-time vineyard owners who are farmers at heart, with very few marketing-savvy wine producers in the region. But, perhaps, Rombauer Vineyards could be a part of bringing the name Santa Lucia Highlands to a wider audience.
Sometimes a founder of an iconic winery needs at least two lifetimes to complete a dream, as it can take just one lifetime to truly understand that dream’s potential. If Koerner Rombauer had been given another lifetime, maybe, just maybe, he would have found a way to bring an iconic Pinot Noir to his beloved customers as he had with his Chardonnay. That wasn’t possible… but a relationship he made all those years ago with Adam, when each man was only at the beginning of his dream, has helped bring the potential of Rombauer to another level.
Because no one should ever feel that he ran out of time when there was still so much more to accomplish, so, even though Koerner has passed away, he is still far from gone. Everything this man inspired still thrives, such as the young wine buyer from all those years ago in Austin, Texas, who today is a Pinot Noir legend; and Adam knew “it was time” – it was finally time to make a companion that was an equal partner to the Rombauer Chardonnay.
2021 Rombauer Chardonnay, Carneros: 100% Chardonnay. Enchanting from the first sip with hints of hazelnuts and peach pie with refreshing mango sorbet and a touch of creaminess on the palate with flavors of zingy lemon curd and a long, lifted finish with spicy notes.
2021 Rombauer Pinot Noir, Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH): 100% Pinot Noir taken from some of the best vineyards in SLH; Garys’, Sierra Mar, Lemoravo, Rosella’s and Soberanes. A beautiful nose with hints of violets, cinnamon stick and cherry aromas that draws one in with richer boysenberry flavors and complex layers of smoky black tea and sweet tobacco that is laced with an intense minerality along with supple tannins. The finish is out of this world – juicy fruit and mouthwatering acidity that goes on and on. Really showcases the high pedigree of these stellar vineyards!
The new Apple TV+ show ‘Drops of God,’ loosely based on the hit manga series, provides another window into the world and vocabulary of wine.
The average TV viewer might not know much about the world of high-end wine, but the creators behind new series “Drops of God” hope to change that in only eight episodes.
Shot across Japan, France and Italy, the limited series now streaming on Apple TV+ is a trilingual drama cloaked in family intrigue, with wine-industry knowledge — how to sip, smell and begin to identify wine — divulged between scenes of love, trauma, mystery and tension. Its two protagonists must complete cryptic challenges for an inheritance that includes a wine collection worth nearly $150 million.
The show is loosely based on the bestselling manga series by siblings Yuko and Shin Kibayashi (published under the pen name Tadashi Agi), which provided readers across the globe with an extensive wine education via more than 40 volumes published over a decade. With far less time and a separate medium, the TV series’ team needed to condense that for viewers who have only one season with the characters — while still appealing to the millions of fans of the manga.
“There are three categories of people who are going to watch the show,” said series creator Quoc Dang Tran (“Call My Agent,” “Marianne,” “Parallel”). “The people who don’t know much about wine but are intrigued by it; the people who love the manga; and the connoisseurs, the oenophiles — and the two last categories are the guardians of the temple.”
Fans of the manga were ravenous not only for each installment but its wines; as volumes flew off the shelves — more than 3.5 million copies have been sold — so did bottles mentioned in the series, drastically altering availability and retail pricing for certain vintages. Its popularity can be partly credited to its approachability: “Drops of God” provided a new window into the world and vocabulary of wine. In his Apple TV+ series, Dang Tran hoped to replicate that accessibility — and further it with new character development.
Appellation, sulfites, bouquet, domaine, tannins, vintage, negociants, aeration — even the basic vocabulary of wine can be daunting to the casually curious. While the manga helped educate millions of readers and dispelled some preconceptions, Dang Tran realized that most viewers were more likely to be drawn to the plot and the contest at the outset. “An adaptation is walking in a landmine, that’s for sure,” he said. “I know that.”
In his series, the drama unfolds around the inheritance left by one of the world’s most prolific wine authorities. His estranged daughter, Camille Léger (Fleur Geffrier), must compete against the wine titan’s protege, Issei Tomine (Tomohisa Yamashita), for a home in Japan and one of the world’s most comprehensive wine collections. Camille Léger — in the show a French woman but in the manga a Japanese man — is a novice who must overcome her sometimes violent aversion to wine caused, in part, by intense childhood scent memory and training with her now-late father, Alexandre Léger, while Issei Tomine proves methodical, encyclopedic, shrewd and unflinching, with the clear advantage of years of study.
Camille’s talent, however, is innate, and as the series follows her immersion into wine and both protagonists sip, swirl and spit, viewers learn alongside them: how to taste wine, how it’s made, what’s at the heart of it. In Episode 2, possibly the most wine-technique-heavy as Camille begins her training as an adult, viewers learn to place a glass of wine over a white surface, like a napkin or tablecloth, to better study the color, which will help to determine a wine’s age or indicate how delicate or bold its flavor. As she learns to smell, let the wine breathe and then smell again to let new aromas surprise her, so do viewers. Through one of Léger’s challenges it’s revealed that with oxidation, new aromas such as truffle can appear.
Dang Tran began production with the benefit of a bit of wine knowledge simply by being French, he jokes, though he would need much more to bring the Kibayashis’ manga to life. “I thought, ‘OK, if I am Camille and she knows nothing about wine, where would I start?’” he said. “My journey is her journey, or her journey is my journey. It was very demanding, but that’s the beauty of this work.” He began reading tomes by American and French authors, including popular illustrated reference book “Le Vin C’est Pas Sorcier” by Ophélie Neiman and the comprehensive “Le Grand Larousse du Vin” by Isabelle Jeuge-Maynart. He knew he’d be appealing to a broad audience whose base knowledge could vary as much as a vintage from one year to the next.
To fit dozens of volumes of text into a miniseries, Dang Tran had to pare down the 12 wines that needed to be identified in the manga to only three. “If you’ve read only one volume of the manga, you still know how dense and how didactic it was — which are two great qualities for manga but not so much for a TV show,” he said.
Dang Tran designed the challenges, then found the wines that exemplified the characteristics — such as aromas or backstories — that fit. To find these wines for the script, oenophilic needles in a global haystack, he turned to the series’ consulting sommelier, Sébastien Pradal.
The sommelier with nearly 30 years in food and wine became not only a sounding board but a tasting coach for the actors and a production connection to real-life vintners. Beyond the show, he owns restaurant La Petite Régalade, as well as vineyards in the South of France where he partners with longtime winemaker Olivier Julien. It was at his restaurant in central Paris that he held trainings for both Geffrier and Yamashita, working primarily with the show’s Camille in France while Issei trained with another expert in Tokyo. Pradal focused on how to taste wine, how to smell wine, how to look like a professional when you do it and how to identify clues through the nose, then the mouth.
The training was a bit easier for Geffrier, who was raised with familiarity of the restaurant industry through her chef father. Her knowledge was a beginner’s but now, Pradal jokes, she’ll be better than him in a few years. He said the same can be said for Yamashita; when they first met, the sommelier was struck by how similar the actor appeared to his character in the show — direct, controlled, observant — but when they met again months later, his wine knowledge had evolved to the point Pradal said it felt as though he were sitting down with the character Issei Tomine in the flesh.
Pradal also helped develop a swirling style for both characters: Issei cold and methodical, like a robot, Camille rougher and full of energy, more novice-like and less controlled at the beginning, but their forms evolve as the characters do. Pradal didn’t want to read the manga first, lest it influence the wines he chose or the way it’s spoken about in the series. When it came to picking the wines, of course he sneaked in some of his favorites: In the series’ developing stages, as it became a more international show, Pradal began sourcing far beyond France, pulling from Tokyo, Australia, America and other countries. Some of the exact language he uses to describe aroma and taste wound up as dialogue for the characters.
While the verbiage, the comfort in gestures and establishing the inner workings of the wine industry were crucial to building a believable world, most important to Pradal was conveying the people behind the bottles: the vintners, the farmers, the families who care for the vines, sometimes for multiple generations.
“I wanted in fact to show the way the wine is made, the people who are making the wine — it’s agriculture,” he said. “It’s a real job, the real world.”
Episode 6 takes a few of its characters to Italy, hunting for clues seen in a painting during the second challenge; it’s here biodynamic wine is introduced to the plot in a father-and-daughter operation, an important note for both Dang Tran and Pradal to underscore the importance of smaller, family-run businesses and more old-world practices in the field.
As is oft repeated by both the show’s characters and its team, wine creates stories, heritage and memory — and a bottle that costs a month’s salary drunk alone is worth far less without the ties formed by sharing it.
“When you discover this world of wine, you understand how much it’s about tradition: It’s about good values, it’s about the sky, the earth and humans. It’s all about nature, really. So we can talk about $20,000 bottles of wine, but it’s not about that,” Dang Tran said. “ At the end of the day, it’s all about sharing conviviality. There’s no point in buying the most expensive bottle of wine in the world and drinking it by yourself in your living room.”
‘Drops of God ’
Where:Apple TV+ When: Anytime; new episodes on Fridays Rating: TV-MA (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 17)
Official website of the Beverly Hills Wine Club devoted to the exploration and appreciation of great wine. We celebrate and champion wine and Beverly Hills California with a focus on community, education, and exploration!