Champagne Alternatives: Virtual Wine Tasting Tonight

Champagne alternatives

As society claws back from the terrible pandemic, I predict a huge turn to Champagne and Champagne alternatives as a way to show relief, gratefulness, and joy. How can you prepare for this #BubbleTime2021?

Join me TONIGHT 7pm ET for a special free virtual tasting, “Bubbly Stunt Doubles,” hosted tonight by’s Gwendolyn Osborn and featuring me and three top producers of Champagne alternatives: Matteo Lunelli, Ferrari Brut (Italy); Hugh Davies, Schramsberg (California); and Jennifer Doyle, Jansz (Tasmania). 

Register here.

For more virtual wine tastings, visit here.

Champagne alternatives


Valentines Virtual Tasting: Wine & Food for Romance

valentines virtual tasting

A Valentine’s Virtual Tasting Like No Other

Love in the time of corona isn’t easy, but my virtual wine tasting on February 11th is sure to get you in the mood. 

If we are to believe the old French proverb that says “the torch of love is lit in the kitchen,” then I am going to have your torch burning bright when I reveal the most aphrodisiacal food and wine pairings in this special virtual wine tasting.

“Wine & Food Pairings for Romance” is one hour and offered at the affordable ‘pandemic price’ of $24 per household.

Bring your own bottle, OR taste along with the exact wines that Mark will be presenting (though this is not a prerequisite). The wines are available for purchase through the links at the official sign-up page:

The wines for this Valentines virtual tasting are:

1) Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Rose

2) Yalumba Y Series Viognier 2019

3) Goldeneye Anderson Valley Pinot Noir 2017 (375ML half-bottle)

4) El Maestro Sierra Pedro Ximenez Sherry (375ML half-bottle) or any other good Pedro Ximénez sherry at your local store.

Foods to source from your local market (if you desire; again, having them is not required):

  • oysters and/or caviar
  • figs
  • burrata cheese
  • honey
  • strawberries
  • chocolate or vanilla ice cream
  • fine chocolate such as Godiva or Li-Lac

Register here for this special Valentines virtual wine tasting.

To see Mark’s other virtual wine tastings, please visit this page.

valentines virtual tasting

The Secret Way to Win an Award

It’s a strange thing to travel all the way to Kentucky for an award you do not think you will win. This occurred to me on the empty Saturday night flight from New York to Louisville for the annual conference and awards ceremony of the IACP, the International Association of Culinary Professionals, whose imprimatur is among the most prestigious in all of food media.

In fact, when I was choosing the publishing house for my latest book, How to Drink Like a Billionaire: Mastering Wine with Joie de Vivre, Regan Arts’ swashbuckling publisher Judith Regan exulted in another of her books, Zachary Golper’s gorgeous paean to artisanal bread, Bien Cuit, garnering an IACP nomination. It did not win, but I was mighty impressed, though such recognition then seemed like some faraway peak that I would never scale.

Then in March, a forwarded tweet caught me off guard, informing me that How to Drink Like a Billionaire had been named a finalist for the 2017 IACP Cookbook Award in the wine, beer, & spirits category. This was the second stunner of the winter, as weeks before Billionaire had won the Gourmand World Book Award for best drinks education book in the U.S. and was then shortlisted in that category for “best in the world,” to be decided in China later this month.

I was infinitely grateful for these votes of confidence, but hesitant to travel all the way to Kentucky for an award I figured I was unlikely to win. In my warped view, the quickest way to guarantee a loss would be to make the public and strenuous effort of actually traversing the 750 miles to the ceremony. It somehow seemed a bit presumptuous and anti-karmic, like preordering Dom Pérignon or preparing a victory speech.

But then, I reasoned, I might never get to go to another ceremony at which I am actually nominated for something. And it was such an honor to be named an IACP finalist that traveling there was worth suffering the potential jinx. So I convinced myself to book a hotel room, hop a plane, and, the night before, take myself to the bar of a dark, clubby Louisville landmark called Jack Fry’s. There I distracted myself with sublime shrimp and grits, a juicy burger, local Willett Distillery bourbon whisky, and a fine view of the bar’s vintage photographs of native son Muhammad Ali.

The ceremony the next day was at the Louisville Palace, a resplendent old theater with Spanish Baroque architecture and lush colors that seemed lifted from an Eggleston Kodachrome. As the program progressed, co-host and The Chew personality Carla Hall summoned to stage a veritable conga line of food media luminaries, including the New York Times’ Sam Sifton, who happened to be seated across the aisle from me, Spanish super chef José Andrés, and Deep Run Roots’ Vivian Howard. At some point during this time, while sitting alone in the dark of the audience, I had kicked off my constricting wingtips, confident in the assumption that I would not be called to the stage.

And then, I was. When they called my name, I stomped into my still-tied shoes and shuffled on to the stage in these makeshift slippers. I had no acceptance speech prepared, of course, so my remarks were mercifully brief, but I did start by pulling out a piece of paper and pretending to read from a prepared speech.

IACP Cookbook Winner

“My thanks to the members of the IACP…the International Association of Police Chiefs,” I began. (A Google search the night before had revealed to me that this was the other famous IACP.) Knowing laughter ensued, and I soon exited stage right.

Looking back now, I think that having my shoes off must have clinched the victory. It neutralized the jinx.

The lesson is clear – the next time you are nominated for an Oscar or an Obie or a turn as PTA treasurer, if you are going to risk showing your face at the announcement, there is a way to spin the wheel of Fortuna in your favor: slip off your damn shoes.

Mother’s & Father’s Day, Graduation

Speaking of How to Drink Like a Billionaire, I might be biased, but I think it would be an ideal Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or graduation gift.  A full-color hardcover brimming with original illustrations and photographs, Billionaire contains 120 snackable chapters that empower readers to approach wine with a billionaire’s unapologetic confidence and discernment. Named a “book you should read now” (Julia Vitale, Vanity Fair), the “ultimate guide from the best in the business” (Dane Neal, WGN Radio), “one of the most approachable and essential wine books to date” (Lauren Glendenning, Aspen Times), it has been featured in Forbes, the New York Times, Maxim, and on Bloomberg TV.

So please consider the book for those in your life who are inclined to wine or those who should be. In fact, I’ll take off my shoes in hopes that you do.

Austin Down, Aspen Bound

Last weekend was another wonderful spin in that sizzling city of music and flavor, Austin, Texas, where I had two sold-out events and a book signing at the wonderful Austin Food & Wine Festival. Here is the wine line-up for both:

1) Piper Heidsieck “Rare” 2002
2) Pahlmeyer Chardonnay 2013
3) Belle Glos Pinot Noir Las Alturas 2015
4) Chateau Gruaud Larose 2012
5) Masi Amarone “Costasera” 2011
6) Chateau Rieussec Sauternes 2007


1) Schramsberg Brut Rosé California Mirabelle NV
2) Trefethen Riesling 2015
3) William Fevre Chablis Champs Royaux
4) Infinite Monkey Theorem Red NV (in cans)
5) Frog’s Leap Zinfandel 2014
6) Osbourne Pedro Ximénez Sherry NV

Catch me next month at the Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic, which is my 12th straight year appearing at this fantasyland of feasting. I am doing a book signing and a full five appearances, including three focusing on the best modestly-priced wine (“You Say $20, I Say $200”) and two exploring the most delicious special occasion bottles (“Wine for Zillionaires”).

Reefer madness, Summer wine picks, Parlotones, Jay-walking, Austin, Aspen

In this interview with Austinist, I reveal some of my latest wine
picks and how both wine and my previous business interests stem from my
penchant for providing cool cats like YOU with succinct, penetrating
information on difficult-to-master subjects.

Why I Do What I Do – Austinist interview


Key South African Exports


video: Wine and The Parlotones

Reefer Madness in Austin


Speaking of Austin, the first Austin Food & Wine Festival was hot, both
figuratively, the event offering a Roman candle of epicurean delight,
and literally, as temperatures elevated into the triple digits. It got
so hot that between my seminars the festival folks had to cool me down
like an overheated barn bull – in a so-called “reefer” (i.e.,
refrigerated) truck. In there it was dark and cool and filled with
crates of wine, the perfect place to do this impromptu
interview with Wes Marshall of the Austin Chronicle.

If you’ve been to my seminars before, you know that I carefully choose
the wines for maximum deliciousness, and Austin was no exception. Here
they are, for your summer drinking pleasure:

Pink Without Blushing (Rosé)
-Perrier-Jouet Brut Rosé Champagne Blason de France NV (France,
-Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc 2011 (California)
-Château d’Aquéria Tavel (France)
-Bonny Doon Vin Gris de Cigare Central Coast 2011 (California)
-Planeta Rosé of Syrah 2011 (Italy)
-Chateau D’Esclans Côtes de Provence Rosé Whispering Angel 2010

Sparkling Substitutes
-Mionetto Prosecco Il Brut NV (Italy)
-Schramsberg Brut Blanc de Blancs North Coast 2008 (California)
-Mont-Marcal Cava Brut Reserva 07 (Spain)
-Lucien Albrecht Cremant d’Alsace NV (France)
-J Brut Rosé Russian River Valley NV (California)
-Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz “The Red Brute” NV (Australia)

Finally, it can be told: I was indeed cited for jaywalking after I
crossed an empty side street in downtown Austin. It was a six-second,
straight-line, afternoon amble from a sandwich shop to my rental car.
The bicycle cops were reasonably friendly about it, informing me that
Austin has started cracking down on pedestrian perps, as
this article confirms.



A much less expensive way to Jay-walk, if you will, is to check out Jay
McInerney’s latest compilation of vinous essays, The Juice:
Vinous Veritas
. When he’s not penning best-selling novels, Mr.
McInerney writes about the grape with a poet’s eye and a hedonist’s

Joy(ful) Division: 8 Under $16


My summer picks for Jordan Blumberg at Daily Candy; get ’em while they’re cold.

Mountainous Excitement


If you know anyone involved with the Aspen FOOD & WINE Classic, you
know that we are positively brimming with excitement over this year’s
festival. Later this week will begin the 30th administration of this
Fantasy Island of Gastronomy, which was how I described it last
year. This year promises to be a classic among Classics, with a king’s
ransom of chef and wine talent and a special performance by Elvis
Costello. I’ll be appearing four times, so if you’re going to be on
the mountain, please join me for some of the bravest drinking west of
the Mississippi.

The Last Drop


(image from