Sip Like a Savant with the Help of Master Sommelier Ian Cauble's New Website
If you’ve ever wished you possessed the erudition of the sommelier who so superbly guided pairings at your last dinner outing, a new online service offers the next best thing. Master Sommelier Ian Cauble and business partner Brandon Carneiro have launched SommSelect, a website for enthusiasts that provides access to their trove of knowledge and a carefully curated selection of wines. Based in Sonoma, the new venture highlights a daily wine pick, accompanied by an illuminating story on each bottle’s pedigree.
Cauble was showcased in the 2013 documentary hit Somm, which followed him, and three other candidates, as they prepared for the rigorous Master Sommelier qualifying exam. Cauble succeeded, becoming only the 197th MS worldwide. His personal preference leans toward natural, organic wines. “Typically the best wines in the world are farmed organically,” he says. “They are hand-harvested and grown in a sustainable way, while the cheapest wines are machine-harvested and sprayed with chemicals that destroy nature’s balance.”
SommSelect purchases are shipped directly to your door, and monthly memberships are available as well. Unlike competitors that focus on hot deals or closeouts, SommSelect’s emphasis is on under-the-radar discoveries (most priced between $20 and $60). The site also offers fun blind-tasting packages: six bottles delivered wrapped in sexy black tissue paper—educational kits designed to replicate the MS test experience, which requires candidates to identify, blind, three whites and three reds. And while developing your palate, consider a guiding principle from Cauble: “I like wines that have a sense of place,” he says, “earth-driven wines with refreshing characteristics. Wines should be without ‘make-up’—i.e. not covered up with lots of new oak—so their true personalities can emerge.”
Ian's Spring Wine Selections
Ehlers Estate, Sauvignon Blanc, Saint Helena 2013 ($28)
Made in the style of Sancerre from vineyards farmed organically and biodynamically, this wine exudes a racy freshness and bright citrus. Food pairing: roasted beet
and goat cheese salad.
Hirsch, Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast 2012 ($55)
A mineral-driven Chardonnay with notes of fresh yellow apple, pear and oyster shell, this wine is Burgundian, i.e. not overly buttery. The vineyard site is perched on the Sonoma Coast just a few miles off the foggy Pacific Ocean. Food pairing: roasted free-
Palmina, Malvasia Bianca, Santa Barbara 2013 ($26)
Winemaker/owner Steve Clifton has nurtured a long-time passion for Italian varietals. His Malvasia Bianca has exotic floral aromas and
layers of structure on the palate. Food pairing: burrata cheese with tomatoes and basil.
Littorai, Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast 2012 ($45)
With flavors of wild strawberries, cranberry, pomegranate with an earthiness and a hint of wet rock, this is a perfectly balanced Pinot Noir that drinks like great Burgundy.
Food pairing: wild salmon.
Wind Gap, Syrah, Sonoma Coast 2012 ($40)
With whole cluster fermentation, winemaker Pax Mahle makes this wine in the savory style of Northern Rhône, where Syrah achieves its most classical expression. Food pairing: grilled lamb.
White Rock Vineyards, Claret, Bordeaux-Style Red Blend Napa Valley, 2010 ($42)
From an organically farmed vineyard located in the hills just northeast of Yountville, this classic Bordeaux blend offers complex aromas of currants, leather, tobacco, tar and wet earth. Food pairing: filet mignon and roasted herbed potatoes.
A version of this article appeared in the April/May 2015 issue of San Francisco Cottages & Gardens with the headline: The Digital Wine Director.