Lorraine might be holding a beer in the photo above, but this was after many hours of evaluating wines and, let me tell you, this woman is all about WINE!
Our paths crossed for the second time this spring at the Women for WineSense Grand Event at Napa, where she was sure to shout out “Finger Lakes” whenever Riesling was mentioned in at least one of the seminars I attended. I was fortunate to spend more time with her just this week while in the Finger Lakes and I’m still smiling… and amazed at just how much she knows about wine and how approachable she makes it. Her students must feel the same way… go ahead, check the comments about her on Rate My Professor if you don’t believe me.
But first, here is a little more about her beginnings in wine and 5 wines she suggests you enjoy.
About Lorraine Hems
“When I first started in the wine and spirits industry, I didn’t drink! Beer and Champagne bubbles annoyed me (hiccups and burping in public is not good for a wine instructor’s reputation), cocktails were too strong and dry wine was brutal. Thank goodness for the popular German white wine of the day, Blue Nun! It was sweeter, easy to drink, provided pleasure and didn’t have a lot of undecipherable, foreign words on the label. I started tasting a lot of German Rieslings and have moved far away from my beginning beverages, but have also remained close at the same time.
I worked for years on the retail side, a few years in wholesale and am now a full-time Lecturer at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York. I knew I wanted to keep learning more, so I started working on industry certifications in 2005. Now I am a Certified Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers, a Certified Wine Educator and Certified Specialist of Spirits through the Society of Wine Educators, a Certified Wine Judge through the American Wine Society, and am finishing my Diploma through the Wine and Spirit Education Trust. I also teach WSET and industry training courses at the New York Wine & Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY as well as WSET instruction to Canandaigua Brands employees. I have been blessed to be able to travel to wine regions all over the world. I was shocked to be awarded Women for WineSense’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, but know it is just a beginning to continue learning more about this constantly changing industry.”
“I find it interesting that so many people tie quality with price in this business. After blind-tasting my relatives on Charles Shaw’s “Two Buck Chuck” Shiraz and more expensive bottles of Shiraz, the over-whelming favorite for drinking now was the Charles Shaw at $1.99. It is easy to spend a lot of money on wine, but tougher to find great, inexpensive wines. You can find value at all price levels.”
Lorraine’s Top 5 Wines to Enjoy
One white wine under $20 and widely available in the US:
- Remy Pannier’s Sancerre
I always have a sauvignon blanc in my refrigerator. You can find reliable versions from New Zealand, Chile, South Africa, Washington State, California and the Loire in France. Nothing screams spring and summer like Sancerre, a town along the Loire River. Their dry white wine is 100% sauvignon blanc. Remy Pannier’s Sancerre has all of the characteristic bright lemon, grapefruit, gooseberries (another tart fruit used as a classic descriptor for this grape) and grassy qualities that make this perfect with seafood, shellfish and green salads with goat cheese. It pushes right up to the $20 mark, but you might find a few less expensive bottles available.
One red wine under $20 and widely available in the US:
- Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel
Any time of the year, I enjoy the yummy, round, rich flavors of zinfandel. I was just out in Northern California recently and had a bottle of the dependable Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel using California’s Central Valley fruit. Using concentrated fruit from the older vines and having some petite sirah blended in, the color is deep and flavors are layered. Depending on what spicing you have on your grilled food, this dry red seems to change with each dish. I use it in my wine & food pairing classes because someone always finds a pairing with everything from barbeque to chips and salsa. It’s a great value for $15 and could keep for a couple of years if you can keep your hands off!
One splurge (whatever splurge might mean to you):
- Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs
How can a wine transport you to another time and place? The first time I visited Domaine Carneros in California, I was impressed with their enormous mansion. It’s reminiscent of Taittinger’s building in Champagne, their French parent. Time seemed to stop still on the patio set way back and above the busy highway. Your view is of looking north in Napa Valley. Sipping on fine, Champagne-style sparklers and still wines while nibbling and assortment of goodies is priceless. Hustle? Bustle? It is a vacation dream come true especially if you are tasting their Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs. “The dream” is the translation for this extraordinary bubbly which is 100% chardonnay. It sells for less than $100 a bottle and would go with crab, lobster, caviar and creamy cheeses. They do produce less expensive sparklers, but treat yourself!
Two others of her own choosing (these may be either easy or hard to find):
- Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling
Living in the gorgeous Finger Lakes region known internationally for their Rieslings, I am never too far from my training-wheel start in the wine business. Moving from dry to very sweet, Riesling can be such a versatile food wine. A drier style, like the award-winning Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling, can mimic a sauvignon blanc’s brightness and crispness. This has lemon, tangerine and floral notes throughout that I enjoy consuming on its own or pairs well with lighter foods like certain sashimi and sushi. You will know this white has a strong sense of regional minerality that sets it apart from all other grapes and Rieslings from outside the Finger Lakes. It costs about $15 and they ship to many states. Dr. Frank and others will often pick their grapes later for sweeter versions balanced with great acidity and can, in certain conditions, produce concentrated late harvest and a rarer Riesling ice wine.
- Borsao Garnacha Red
I am crazy for grenache or garnacha as it’s called in Spain. You can find many lighter-bodied versions like Borsao Garnacha red (and they have a great rosé which is perfect in the summer) that sells for around $6-8! This dry, unoaked red is smooth, full of red and black fruits, spices, incense and violets. At this price, I can have an extra bottle on hand if I want to make sangria. It is very drinkable on its own, with pizza, grilled pork and with fruit in it. More expensive garnacha is usually more intense and oaked and will stand up to richer meat dishes.