Seafood, BBQ, Even Dessert: Chile’s Santa Ema Winery brings Flavor to your next meal

Chile’s Santa Ema Winery brings Premium Flavor to your next meal.

Chile’s Santa Ema Winery brings culture, family and premium wines to focus over their multi-generational history.  Have you tasted one of their bottles? It brings dimension to light dishes, like seafood, heavier like BBQ, even dessert.

Today I have the opportunity to speak with Santa Ema’s Jaime Merino about life, history, flavor pairings and what’s next for Santa Ema.

I don’t know if people truly understand how busy wine professionals are. Would you mind just giving us an idea of how much you’re traveling and how you spend your time?

Jaime Merino: Yeah, absolutely. You know that in the wine industry, it is extremely important to be in front of the distributors that are our commercial arm into the different states.

We need to have an importer because we are an imported brand. So our wine’s coming from Chile. In order to get into the U.S., we need to have an importer. So we spend a lot of time in front of the importer and virtually every week we’re in touch either via video calls or phone calls or face to face, taking the wines into each one of the states, we need a distributor in those states.


That is the representative of the wine. So we assigned the brand to a set distributor in New York, for instance, and then that distributor with their sales force is going to take the wines to the trade, to the street. So it’s going to take it to the wine stores, going to take it to the restaurants, going to take it to the clubs, depending on the legalities of each one of the states.

Therefore, we need to spend a lot of time with the distributors and the sales forces of those distributors to make sure that they have the information for each one of the wines that they’re gonna be pushing. And then not only with the Salesforce of the distributors, but also with the trade and their sales forces.

Because any one of us as a consumer walking into a wine store that has already made the decision that we want to buy a wine, we probably have a budget. And also we probably have an idea that we want either a white or a red, but then we need to start diving into the details. Do I want domestic? Do I want imported?

And then if it is imported, do I want old world, new world? Then you start narrowing to the point that you’re going to say, I want to buy a wine from Chile. 

Then that opens a new box of alternatives. So you can imagine the process of getting to one particular bottle of one particular supplier needs a lot of skimming into this very interesting and complex wine industry.


So let’s talk about the historic brand. Can you share a little bit about the history?


Jaime Merino: Yeah, absolutely. Santa Ema with one M, because we come from Chile.

But Santa Ema is a family owned company. It is owned by a family, last name Pavone, that their roots go back to Piedmont, Italy. So today, the company is run by members of the third and fourth generation of the family, and the founder of Santa Ema is the grandfather of the third generation, a gentleman named Pedro Pavone, that migrated from Italy, a little region in the Piedmont, Italy, called Rivalta.

And he migrated into South America, went across the Andes in a sidecar motorcycle and established himself in the heart of the Mao Valley, southwest of Santiago, the capital city in Chile. So he established himself in that area in 1917. And established his family, grew his family, and with his son, Felix Pavone, they bought some land and one of the properties that they bought in Isla del Maipo was actually devoted to agriculture, and that particular property, the name was Chakra Santa Ema, that is like an orchard Santa Ema or Farm Santa Ema. 

So that is the origin of the name / brand that we use. Because Santa Ema was a staple landmark in that particular region. 

They planted vineyards, they started producing wines that initially they were selling bulk.

But then in 1956, they founded Ema Winery, and they started producing their own wines to be bottled and started selling in the domestic market. Throughout the years and throughout the development of this company, pretty much done by Felix Pavone, we’re talking second generation.

The first exports of Santa Ema happened in 1986 into Brazil. When Brazil was just starting into becoming a wine consuming country. Today Brazil is one of the engines in South America in terms of top markets for wine consumption.

So ultimately it started as a father son business that grew and evolved into a multi generational still family business.


Yes.  And probably different to many families involved in the wine industry and in the wine business for the Pavone family, this is it. So this is what they do. This is their life. This is their reputation.

Basically, they are not in the wine business because it’s trendy, because it’s fashionable. No, this is a business for them with family members hands-on.  Today we have members of the third generation and fourth generation so we are undergoing a very interesting times to the winery because you can imagine that the members of the third generation are people mid 50s to early 60s and then the members of the fourth generation are their early tp mid 30s.  Professionals coming from college with sometimes different visions from traditionally what the family has done.

A second ago, you mentioned regions. Let’s talk about the vineyard and the regions and the soil types Santa Emma uses and works with.

Jaime Merino: The winery and most of our properties are established in the Maipo Valley in Chile. Maipo is probably one of the most traditional valleys and wine regions in the country. Chile, for those people that have a rough idea of what Chile is, first of all, we need to look at South America.

If you look at South America, and – I will challenge people reading this to grab a map and look at South America – you’re going to notice that South America is shaped as a cluster of grapes. Therefore, no secret why South America is a very good vineyard paradise, as it is referred to sometimes, and that’s why we have very strong countries in South America producing wines.

Of course, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil producing these days. Peru becoming a very interesting offering of wines. There is wine produced in Bolivia, Chile. We’re going to start seeing a lot of wines coming from South America. But then if we go back to Chile, Chile sits on the western side of South America.

It runs north to south, and it roughly expands for 4,000 miles, but with an average width that is no more than 180 to 200 miles. So the best way to picture Chile, as I normally explain to consumers and trade, take the northern tip. take the southern tip, flip it upside down, and bring it to the west coast in the U.S. 

So now, the northern part of Chile is going to be from Los Angeles all the way down to Baja California. 

Baja California, that is super dry and desert, that is going to be your Atacama Desert in Chile. The central part of the country, It’s going to run from San Diego all the way up to San Francisco, so it’s going to be pretty much the agriculture area of the country.

That’s why, when we move, into October, November, we start seeing a lot of peaches and plums and fruits coming from Chile because we are in the opposite season. Then if you go from San Francisco up to Seattle; and all the way up to Alaska, that is going to be the southern part of the country. So you’re going to go into the lake districts, ultimately you’re going to go into Antarctica.

So that is a good way to picture how Chile looks from north to south, that will be like moving from south to north on the western side of the U. S. 

Now, if you grab Chile and you put it across the U. S., it will span more or less from New York all the way up to Seattle. So that is going to be the length of the country if we put it across the U.S.

I love those comparisons.

Jaime Merino: Appreciate that. Yeah, just to give a sense of location and a sense of what people should find there because sometimes at least here in the U. S. Chile is known for some ideas of certain regions, like for instance, the northern part of the country because of the Atacama Desert and the geysers in the in the northern part of Chile, or if you go to the southern part of Chile and you go to Torres del Paine, that is a very touristic area. Or ultimately, if someone is a little bit more exploring with an exploring soul, they can jump into Easter Island, that is also Chilean territory, and that will be more of the Polynesian side of Chile.

In terms of the Maipo Valley, it sits pretty much in the central part of Chile in the belly bottom of the country, Santiago being the capital city, and Maipo surrounds the Santiago to the south and runs from the foothills of the Andes, starting at 1,000 to 3, 000 feet above sea level, all the way to the coast, so we’re moving east to west, bordering the Pacific Ocean.

That is going to be pretty much what you’re going to see in Maipo. And that applies pretty much to most of the wine regions in Chile, running east to west. With very few exceptions, most of the valleys in Chile, Maipo for instance, they take the name out of the river that runs through the valley that waters the vineyards and all the agriculture activity that happens in the valley. 

So Maipo Valley is because there is a Maipo River that runs from east to west. And then, since you’re coming from the Andes, starting at 3,000 feet and then going through the central part of Maipo and into the ocean you have very different growing conditions in Maipo Valley.

So most of the time I tell consumers when you are exposed to a bottle of wine coming from Chile that on the front label reads Maipo Valley, try to ask where in Maipo, because the conditions are going to be totally different. 

Just to give you an example, here is a Sauvignon Blanc Select that reads Maipo Valley, but this is a central part of the valley that is only 25 miles inland from the ocean. So we have good, cool conditions to be able to produce a very expressive, fresh, crisp Sauvignon Blanc. 

But then, on the other side, I have a Cabernet Sauvignon, also from Maipo Valley, but here we have a combination of fruit coming from a vineyard that we have at 1, 000 feet above sea level, with fruit coming from a vineyard sitting roughly at 500 feet above sea level.

Okay, so it is extremely important to understand this. Probably people are wondering why the altitude is so important or how the altitude could impact in terms of the style of wine that we’re going to produce. In simple words, if any of you come to visit us in Maipo, say January, February, March, that is our summertime, the first thing that I’m going to do is to make sure that you’re wearing a hat, that you have enough water, and most importantly, that you have sunscreen on you. 

Okay, so let’s take this example now to the vines. Can we control the amount of water that the vines have? Yes, because our vineyards are planted with drip irrigation systems, so we can control the amount of water that each vine is getting.

Can we give hats to the vines? No, they need to find their own ways to protect themselves by growing extra leaves, trying to generate a very populated canopy of leaves to protect the clusters. What do the clusters do? Because we cannot put sunscreen on the clusters, so they need to naturally grow thicker skin to protect the fruit. 

And just because of that thicker skin, you’re gonna have more structure, more tannin, more varietal expression. So that’s why it makes a very important difference where you’re planting your fruit or your vines in order to determine the style of wine you’re gonna get. 

The higher you go, the more robust wines you’re going to be able to produce just because of this natural protection the vines develop.


We’re going to talk about your bottles.

Because we have a lot of foodies reading. What kind of foods would be great to pair with each one?

Jaime Merino: Before I go into the specifics of the wine, and particularly to all the foodies, I am one of those. Let me tell you that anytime that a winemaker that is going to be,”the winery chef”, is thinking on the wine that he’s going to be producing, he should be thinking immediately with what type of food he’s going to be pairing that wine.

That is probably one of the key aspects to understanding wines, and this is going to be at the same time an invitation to all our viewers, foodies or not foodies, to break taboos. 

And what I mean by this is that probably our grandparents and eventually our parents were of the idea that whites are for seafood and shellfish and reds are for meats and game and why?

Why? Break taboos, play with this. This is a life element that we need to challenge to see how it performs with different types of foods and different types of elements. Also one of the other big differences that I find in Chile, comparing the U. S., in Chile, wine is part of the diet.


So for us, any meal lunch or dinner could not exist without a glass of wine to go with whatever type of food we’re going to be having. That is also a huge difference being part of the diet and not just looking at wine and approaching wine as a special occasion product that we’re going to be consuming.

Having said that, I have in front of me three of the most popular wines in our portfolio:

Santa Ema Select Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon Blanc is our Santa Ema Select Terroir. So Chile, in terms of whites, produces Sauvignon different types of white varieties. Chenin Blanc, Pinot Grigio, that is extremely popular, but Sauvignon Blanc is the queen of the whites, and Chile has a very strong reputation for Sauvignon Blanc.

One of the things that you need to be aware of is that stylistically, what we try to accomplish here is not the super grassy, grapefruity, very exuberant nose that you will find in Sauvignon Blancs coming from New Zealand. Sometimes you’re going to find that in Chile.  But the style of wines in Chile in general is more geared towards France, the old world.

So this is going to be like a crossover between New Zealand and Sancerre. You’re going to have more minerality, you’re going to have a little bit more complexity, and not that you’re going to open this bottle and you’re going to have that very exuberant nose that is going to be extremely, Intriguing. No, it’s a little bit more tame.

It has a very nice refreshing acidity. It has a very crispy style with very interesting citrusy notes to it, making it a very good wine to enjoy at the end of the day, just because  you want to hit a glass of wine at the end of the day or to be paired with food. 

What type of food? 

In my world, I will do ceviche all day long.  If not, I will go with some oysters. Maybe with a delicate white fish – flounder or cod, for instance. Not too elaborate, not too much abusing on dairy products, cream or butter. The more simple, the better. 


Cabernet Sauvignon from Maipo Valley and I have Merlot from Maipo Valley. I’m going to leave Merlot to the end. Although in tasting order, most probably. We’re going to do first Merlot and then Cabernet Sauvignon, but I’m going to explain the reasons why I’m leaving this Merlot to be the last one.

Santa Ema Select Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley.  In terms of the fruit, a combination of fruit coming from the central part of the valley and fruit coming from our vineyards in the foothills of the Andes. Just to give a little bit of the extra kick, extra structure, a little bit more of a backbone.

A Cabernet Sauvignon by the book, meaning a very honest, true expression of the variety. We use a combination of French and American oak barrels. We want a little bit of the expression of both types of wood. American most of the time is going to be more chocolate, more vanilla, more of the “sweet tastes” that you will find in wine.

French is going to give you more of the leather, the tobacco, a little bit more of the complexity. And that is the reason why we use a combination of both types: American oak barrels and French oak barrels. But not to abuse the oak, so we keep a percentage of the wine in American, and percentage of the wine in French, normally six to eight months, sometimes up to 10 months.

Then we blend it all together and we put it back in the bottle just to keep a good expression of fruit. 

Red meats, strong cheeses, it works extremely well. So if you guys like grilling, barbecuing, big time, a perfect match to go with anything that you’re going to be grilling, barbecuing, but please leave the barbecue sauce in the pantry or the refrigerator because the sweetness of the barbecue sauce is going to kill most of the wines that are going to be pairing with it. 

If you want ribs with barbecue sauce, fantastic!  Drinking wines that are going to be suited for that is going to be challenging. I’m telling you try to keep your meats as clean as possible in terms of any super hot, spicy additions or the sweetness of barbecue sauce.

Santa Ema Reserve Merlot

Santa Ema has been working with Merlot for many years to the point that our reserve on Merlot is one of our flagships in the portfolio. Iit is a very particular wine because we use American oak barrels that are produced by a cooper in Missouri specifically for this wine with specs that are determined just for this wine.

What is the secret is that these barrels are toasted inside at a certain level of temperature that is going to allow a caramelization of the wood. That is going to be transferred ultimately into the wine via very distinctive notes of vanilla, roasted coconut, and sometimes nuances of chocolate, to the point that in certain markets, this wine is referred to as the cookies and cream wine or the chocolate kiss wine.

It’s a very interesting bottle to explore and to renew your vows with Merlot. 

We have a very strong influence of Italian dishes here, so say a lasagna, chicken parmigiana will go extremely well with this,  a Mexican dish with mole sauce, not too spicy mole, not too much in the heat side of mole, but more in the profile taste of mole. And if you really want to throw a curveball to this Merlot, try to venture and pair it with tiramisu and see what happens.

Phenomenal ideas. 

Just to give you a little thing in relation to food and wine pairings. Many years ago, in a wine event here in Atlanta with Alton Brown, that is one of the Food Network celebrities, we put together a seminar “How to destroy a wine” and the whole concept of it was, me choosing wines, Alton Brown cooking and in the last minute doing something to what he was cooking for me to be able to say, ‘Alton, you destroyed my wine.’

So it was a very interesting experience and particularly for the consumers attending a very eye opening experience that very simple things like [preparing] a green salad that you drizzle some olive oil and you put a little bit of salt and pepper and in the last minute you say, ‘Okay, I’m going to pour this with the Sauvignon Blanc.’

Then Alton asking me, ‘Do you want me to squeeze some lemon on your salad?’ Sure, absolutely. But you destroy my wine.  The show [had ]little tips and things like that. 


Is there anything that we haven’t talked about that you really feel the audience wants to hear about or you want to share?


Jaime Merino: Today, one of the biggest challenges that we have as a country, Chile has a very good established reputation as a wine producing country, but most of the time perceived as a good value producing country, inexpensive wines coming from Chile. So you’re going to find brands out there, sometimes retailing for $5, 6, 7 a bottle.

And that’s fine. But that is one aspect of Chile. There’s another aspect of Chile of more premium, super premium, ultra premium wines. 

I feel very often that consumers are afraid to venture into those more expensive wines. And sometimes when I’m talking more expensive, normally they retail between $15 and $18 a bottle.

That is a new Chile that needs to be discovered because that is where most of the interesting revolution in terms of the wine industry is happening right now.

My invitation is to go to your preferred store, go to the South American section or Chilean section, if there is one, and see what they have from Chile. Okay. That really

Where can we find these wines? What’s the website? And how can we follow you on social media?

Jaime Merino: Okay if you want to know a little bit more, go to www.SantaEma.CL the CL is for Chile. 

If you want to follow us on social media, Instagram and Facebook

The easiest way to buy Santa Ema is go to wine.com and see what is available in your region, 




Masters of Taste 2024 on April 7 — Introduces Event Hosts Executive Chef Bret Thompson & Lucy Thompson-Ramirez from Pez Cantina

Masters of Taste 2024 Introduces Event Hosts Executive Chef Bret Thompson & Lucy Thompson-Ramirez from Pez Cantina

Come celebrate and be part of the seventh annual Masters of Taste, L.A.’s premier outdoor, luxury food and beverage festival returns and will be taking place on Sunday, April 7th, 2024, from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm on the field of the Iconic Pasadena Rose Bowl.

 Iconic Pasadena Rose Bowl for Masters of Taste 2024

 Iconic Pasadena Rose Bowl for Masters of Taste 2024 // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

100% of the proceeds will directly benefit Union Station Homeless Services, a non-profit organization providing over 50 years of homeless services and housing for thousands of neighbors.

Masters of Taste is introducing Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez as the Hosts of Masters of Taste 2024 which also marks the 7th Anniversary of this celebrated event.

Masters of Taste 2024 Culinary Master and Host Executive Chef Bret Thompson and Pez Boss Lady Lucy Thompson-Ramirez are a dynamic husband and wife team that have made a significant impact in the hospitality industry.

With their passion for culinary excellence and warm hospitality, they have created a signature name for themselves in the Los Angeles dining scene and beyond.

Executive Chef Bret Thompson

Executive Chef Bret Thompson // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Chef Bret Thompson’s culinary journey began at the renowned California Culinary Academy in San Francisco. He honed his skills at esteemed establishments such as Aqua in San Francisco, Roy’s in Hawaii, and Pinot Blanc in St. Helena, California.

Seeking international inspiration, Chef Bret traveled to Spain to study under Chef Martin Berasategui at Restaurante Martin Berasategui, a Michelin 2-star establishment in Lasarte, Spain.

He further expanded his culinary repertoire in Lebanon at Atlas Café, then studied under Chef Bernard Loiseau at La Cote d’Or his Michelin 3-star restaurant in Saulieu, France, and then L’Arpege, Chef Alain Passard’s Michelin 2-star restaurant in Paris.

Throughout his career, Bret also had an extensive tenure with The Patina Group, working at multiple restaurants, running catering operations and ultimately becoming the Corporate Executive Chef overseeing all restaurant operations for the entire group. While there Bret garnered accolades, including being named “Chef of the Year 2002” by the Orange County Business Journal during his time as Executive Chef at Catal Restaurant in Anaheim.

Eventually, Bret moved on and co-founded and became a partner at the iconic MILK Ice Cream Parlor & Bakeshop in Los Angeles and he also opened his own Market Restaurant and Catering, which he successfully sold in 2014.
In 2015, Chef Bret Thompson joined forces with his wife, Lucy Thompson-Ramirez, to embark on a new culinary adventure as the proud owners of Pez Cantina.

This seasonal, modern, coastal-inspired Mexican restaurant and bar, located in downtown Los Angeles, quickly became a beloved dining destination and in October 2021, they expanded with a new location LA Burrito in Montebello, California.

Pez Boss Lady Lucy Thompson-Ramirez

Pez Boss Lady Lucy Thompson-Ramirez // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Lucy Thompson-Ramirez brings her unique perspective and expertise to the front of the house at Pez Cantina. Born in Guanajuato, Mexico, Lucy migrated to the United States with her family at a young age. She pursued her education at the University of Santa Barbara, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Spanish.

Lucy’s first career path led her into the fashion industry, where she excelled in sales and later established her own showroom with her brother called Siblings Showroom. After a successful 18-year tenure in fashion, Lucy made a seamless transition into the hospitality industry alongside her husband.

Hitching Post  // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Hitching Post // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

At Pez Cantina, Lucy’s warm and welcoming demeanor shines as she personally greets regulars by name and fosters new connections. Her dedication to providing a home-like atmosphere has made Pez Cantina feel like an extension of their own family.

In recognition of her leadership and contribution to the industry, Lucy was appointed as President of the Latino Restaurant Association in 2023 and serves on the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.

Outside of their professional endeavors, Bret and Lucy are dedicated parents to their two boys and they prioritize family time, often found supporting their children’s activities or enjoying a cozy evening at home.

Incredible food on the field of Rose Bowl Stadium  // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Incredible food on the field of Rose Bowl Stadium // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

In February 2024, Executive Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez opened Pez Coastal Kitchen, their new upscale seafood focused eatery in Pasadena. Offering a diverse menu featuring sea-to-table and farm-to-table cuisine, while showcasing the best of seasonal California flavors, Pez Coastal Kitchen highlights expertise in curing, smoking and dry-aging meats and seafood, as well as their partnerships with local farmers and specialty producers.

Makers Mark at the Rose Bowl  // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Makers Mark at the Rose Bowl // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

With a focus on creating a modern coastal dining experience, Chef Bret Thompson and Lucy Thompson-Ramirez continue to innovate and reinvent themselves and they aim to contribute to Pasadena’s thriving culinary scene and bring a fresh and exciting new concept to Pasadena.

Sake High // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Sake High // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Pez Coastal Kitchen promises a unique blend of California coastal cuisine, thoughtfully crafted cocktails, specially curated wines, special selection of craft beer and Chef Bret and Lucy’s dedication to excellence ensures an unforgettable dining experience that celebrates vibrant flavors and genuine hospitality.

Knox Dobson  // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Knox Dobson // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Masters of Taste 2023 was a sold-out event that attracted over 3,000 guests and garnered media attention all throughout Southern California and beyond.

The seventh annual Masters of Taste 2024 is also expected to bring over 3,000 food and beverage enthusiasts together for one afternoon to celebrate this exhilarating festival, which will include the finest fare from over 100 Culinary Masters and restaurants, delectable sweets prepared by L.A.’s top Sweet Masters, top Beverage Masters who will be featuring signature handcrafted cocktail tastings from over 25 spirit brands and top cocktail bars, select wineries, local craft breweries, cold brew coffee, live entertainment and much, much more.

Kimlai Yingling // Courtesy of Masters of Taste

Kimlai Yingling // Courtesy of Masters of Taste


Some of this year’s Masters of Taste 2024 participating Culinary Masters and Restaurants include:

Pez Cantina Village and Pez Coastal Kitchen Seafood Village by Santa Monica Seafood 2024 Event Hosts Chef Bret Thompson & Lucy Thompson-Ramirez – Downtown Los Angeles, Pasadena

1212 Santa Monica Chef Oliver Malmsten – Santa Monica

Arth Bar + Kitchen Chef Mihir Lad – Culver City

Agnes Restaurant and Cheesery Chef Vanessa Tilaka Kalb & Chef Thomas Tilaka Kalb  – Pasadena

Alexander’s Steakhouse Chef Frederico Villanueva – Pasadena

Ayara Thai Chef Vanda Asapahu & Chef Cathy Asapahu – Westchester

BAAR BAAR Los Angeles Chef Sujan Sarkar – Downtown Los Angeles

Beachy’s Food Truck Chef Pablo Camacho – South Gate

BOX Chicken Chef Noah Clark – Los Angeles

Casa Cordoba Chef Eric Zada – Montrose

Celestino Ristorante Chef Calogero Drago – Pasadena

Cerda Vega Tacos Chef Daniel Vega – Santa Clarita

Champion’s CURRY Chef Yoya Takahashi – Downtown Los Angeles

Chaaste Family Market Chef Gabriel Esteban – Pasadena

City Club Los Angeles Chef Armando Quiroz – Downtown Los Angeles

Emporium Thai Chef John Sungkamee – Los Angeles

Fat Boys Chef Michael Gray – Pasadena, Los Angeles

Gabi James Sarah Gabriele & Adam Aro – Redondo Beach

Georgia’s Restaurant Nika Shoemaker-Machado – Anaheim, Long Beach

Granville Pasadena Chef Marc Dix – Pasadena

Gus’s World-Famous Fried Chicken Chef Mynor Espinoza – Burbank, Long Beach, Los Angeles

Harold & Belle’s Chef Ryan Legaux – Los Angeles

Italia Pasta e Pizza Chef Ivan Capasso – Covina

La Bohéme Chef David Gualberto – West Hollywood

LAVO Ristorante Chef Luca Maita – West Hollywood

Lunasia Chef Lee Han Fu – Pasadena, Alhambra, Cerritos

MAMA M SUSHI Chef Jack Supachai – Pasadena

Marina Chef Harout Borsikian – Pasadena

Mercado Chef Jose Acevedo – Hollywood, Los Angeles, Manhattan Beach, Pasadena, Santa Monica

Panda Inn Chef Yang – Pasadena

Poppy + Rose Chef Michael Reed – Downtown Los Angeles

Rice Balls of Fire Chef Jorman Herrera – Arieta

Room Service Neighborhood Chef Gloria Chicas – Los Angeles

Santa Monica Seafood Chef Sherrod Nichols – Santa Monica

Soulmate Chef David Joyce – West Hollywood

StopBye Café – Lynwood

Taishi Hainan Chicken Chef Theo Shio – Redondo Beach, Long Beach

The Peppered Goat Chef JohnPaul Arabome – Van Nuys, Las Vegas

UCHI West Hollywood Chef Joel Hammond – West Hollywood

YAKIYA Chef Ling – Pasadena

Yardbird Chef Alvaro Rayon de Jaime – Los Angeles

Yuca’s Restaurant Socorro “Mama Yuca’s” Herrera – Pasadena


Sweet Masters: A select group of Los Angeles Top Sweet Masters will showcase an assortment of delectable desserts such as Bachan’s Shave Ice, warm chocolate chip cookies from BAKE SOME NOISE, Beard Papa’s, Bertha Mae’s Brownies, By Faith Café, Gooey Center Bakery, Happy Ice LA, Läderach,deliciously scrumptious scratch baked custom cakes from Cakes By Chanté and cupcakes from Lark Cake Shop, Magpies Softserve, Marsatta Chocolate,Nothing Bundt Cakes, Pops Artisanal Creamery, Pazzo Gelato, Porto’s Bakery & Café, and more.

Some of this year’s participating Beverage Masters include:

Bars & Spirits: Some of L.A.’s top bartenders and cocktail bars will be creating first-rate craft cocktails and top brands showcasing their finest spirits at Masters of Taste will include Dead of Night Distillery, Dulce Vida Tequila, Empress 1908 Gin, Knox & Dobson, La Bay Gin, Laurel Canyon Spirits, Lunetta, Mario’s Hard Espresso, Mezcal 33, Neft VodkaNosotros Tequila & Mezcal, Old Hillside Bourbon Company, Smoke Lab Vodka, The Raymond 1886, Ventura Spirits and Angeleno Spritz, Vintage Distilling, and Xoloitzcuintle Tequila.

Brewmasters: Beverage Masters who specialize in barley and hops will be presenting top-notch ales, lagers, pilsners and more for guests to sample, sip and savor all throughout the event, including Southern California favorites L.A.’s All Season Brewing, Arrow Lodge Brewing, Arts District Brewing Company, Big Noise Beer, Boomtown Brewery, Pasadena’s Cerveceria Del Pueblo, Kanazawa Hyakumangoku Beer, Arcadia’s first Microbrewery Mt. Lowe Brewing Co., Nova Brewing Co., Over Town Brewing Co., San Fernando Brewing Co., and Tarantula Hill Brewing Co.

Wineries and Sake: A specially curated collection of Wine and Sake Masters will be showcasing their finest varietals including premium boutique winery Ascension Cellars, Bodegas de Santo Tomas, BONDLE Wines, CRŪ Winery, Golden Star Vineyards, Hitching Post Wines, LMA Wines,Moraga Canyon Vineyards, Anderson Valley’s Navarro Vineyards, NON (Non-alcoholic Wine Alternatives), Sake Akagisan, Sake High!, San Simeon Wines, Stephen Hemmert Wines, Warson Wine Company, Wiens Cellars, and more.

Non-Alcoholic Beverages: A variety of premium non-alcoholic Beverage Masters will also be on hand for those who wish to hydrate, caffeinate or regenerate featuring 2024 premier water master Perfect Hydration Alkaline Water, Yerba Mate from Erva Brew Co., Koe Kombucha, boba milk tea from Sunright Tea Studio and Bearology, and Unincorporated Coffee Roasters.


Every dollar raised at the Masters of Taste 2024 will benefit the work of Union Station Homeless Services (Union Station), a local organization successfully fighting to end homelessness. Over the last six years, Masters of Taste has impressively raised close to $3 Million, helping countless families and individuals find a secure and welcoming place to call home. What is more impressive is that Union Station has seen a 97% Success Rate in permanently housing people since adopting the Housing First model. Their mission transcends just providing temporary shelters; they are committed to creating lasting solutions for homelessness through housing, supportive services, and connection to the community. Over the past 50 years, Union Station has grown to be one of the best homeless services agencies in Los Angeles and is the lead County agency for Service Planning Area 3 (SPA 3), coordinating homeless services in 38 communities spanning from Eagle Rock to Pomona.

Masters of Taste 2024 is a 100% outdoor event. Additionally, all guests will be receiving their very own utensils and hand sanitizer to use throughout the event.

Mark your calendars and save-the-date for the return of the seventh annual Masters of Taste 2024!


Ticket Information: Masters of Taste 2024 will take place on Sunday, April 7th, 2024, and this is a 21+ event. A VIP Power Hour will be held from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm and General Admission will be from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm. Tickets are on sale now. For more information on Masters of Taste 2024, please visit www.MastersofTasteLA.com.

Passover Wines for 2024! Taste these Beverly Hills Wine Suggestion from Kosher Expert

Wine Expert Jay Buchsbaum from Kosher.com Reveals Perfect Passover Wines Pairings for Passover 2024

Passover starts Monday April 22 at sundown and ends April 30th. But today’s conversation is about the flavors of Seder dinner.  

Jay Buchsbaum

Royal Wine and Kosher.com’s Jay Buchsbaum visits to talk about flavor, tradition, tastes for every family member and what’s exciting in the wine world for 2024.

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our FlavRReport YouTube channel.


Joe Winger: Jay, welcome back.  I appreciate that you’re returning.  Last time was great and we learned alot.

Jay Buchsbaum: Thank you for having me. Wow. This is great. So getting invited back for a second date, that’s really cool.

Joe Winger: Passover is just around the corner and we want to talk about different over wines to enjoy during the celebration and some great wine pairings.

I wanted to start off with what might be one of the popular new bottles – Carmel Black Cabernet Sauvignon.

Jay Buchsbaum:  It’s very hot and the reason it’s very hot is because people want something that’s rich and flavorful, especially the American palate, what we call the New World style.  

Opulence, fruit forward, but they don’t want to spend a fortune like you’d have to from some fancy vineyard in Napa or from Judean Hills. When it comes to Israel or the Golan Heights, and this is one of those wines where they’ve put together this at the beginning of opulence, lots of fruit forwardness, 14 months in oak and about $25.

So it’s really one of those really wonderful wines. What I noticed, and they say they forgot to do it, but I noticed that it does not have an appellation specific, except for Israel.  The reason I believe the winemaker did that –  I don’t know for sure – he talks about it on the back [of the bottle] that they brought the grapes from some of the finest vineyards.  He chose small amounts [of grapes] from the best vineyards from different places and put them all together, carefully crafting it so that it’s big and rich and flavorful and still under $30 bucks.

Joe Winger: That sounds amazing. What are some good food pairings that you’d recommend with it?

Jay Buchsbaum: A roast would be great. On the first and second night of Passover, we don’t officially roast anything because we don’t want people to think that it was a sacrificial lamb that was done in Egypt because we don’t have it today yet.

Until the reestablishment of the temple on the Temple Mount at some future time. 

So people cook a roast in the oven, it’s not barbecued. That’s what they’re talking about from a historical, spiritual sense –  but a delicious roast, maybe chicken marsala, where you have mushrooms and caramelized onions, you have a really rich flavor to go with that.

A lot of the Sephardic foods are like that too. We talked about traditional foods. Traditional foods from where? Sometimes it’s Eastern Europe, sometimes it’s Middle Eastern, and sometimes it’s Sephardic.

Lots of seders have a mix of all [cuisines] because you have melded families.


Joe Winger: Royal Wine currently has a wide roster of wine suggestions for Passover  Something for every adult at the table, from Grandpa to 25 year old Grand-daughter and her boyfriend.


Jay Buchsbaum: That’s a great point.  I’m going to give you the last one first only because I thought this was so much fun when I thought about it and I actually might do it. 

Let’s say the boyfriend is coming over. He wants to bring you something and he doesn’t know what to get you because, he’s not that observant..

So I thought, why don’t you end the meal with something Sparkling. The Momentous Rosé. That might be fun. You go out with a pop, so to speak. There’s Vera Wang’s  Prosecco Rose that’s also wonderful.   Both around $20.

But if you want to go really high end, why not go with the Rothschild Brut Rosé from Champagne, which is magnificent.  It’s 100% Pinot Noir, and about $100 a bottle.

So you have great diversity and  accessible and quite delicious sparkling wines.

Grandpa, or if you have a real fine wine guy. You have beautiful wines from the Rothschild vineyards, the Haute Medoc. which is in the upper $30s, and then you even have Grand Cru’s LesCombes, Grand Cru Margaux as an example, and some amazing wines from the Herzog Winery in California like the Alexander Valley Herzog Reserve, or the Napa Valley Herzog Reserve.  

We have a beautiful Lake County Reserve Cabernet from California. Big, opulent, delicious, mouth filling. 

I start my Seder usually with a rosé.  The reason for that is because you’re starting your Seder, having eaten nothing pretty much since the morning. So you’re on an empty stomach and the tradition is to finish at least the first glass. So I try to start with a rosé.  It’s a little lighter, a little lower in alcohol, a little lighter in texture and, and I like to start with an Israeli wine first.

Joe Winger: Iis there a hidden gem as far as just high quality with amazing value?

Jay Buchsbaum: There’s a really wonderful wine from New Zealand.

It’s a white wine, not a red wine. It’s made by the Rothschild family, but it’s made in New Zealand, called Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc. Less than $30 for sure.  Fresh, sweet lemons, but with enough acidity and structure, almost like a palette cleanser.

Joe Winger:  Anything that you’re looking forward to in the next few  months that wine lovers should be getting excited for?

Jay Buchsbaum: We were missing rosés from Israel for a whole year because of the sabbatical year. We skipped that vintage of roses, and so they’re back for the first time in 24 months for this Passover.

I love some of the new Italian wines. One of them to take a look at is Cantina Giuliano.  it’s a boutique winery. They make 3,000 – 4,000 cases maximum. It’s run by a young couple and I just had them over at my house for Sabbath Shabbat.  His wines blew people away.

I think the most exciting thing is our new winemaker and what our new winemakers is doing with our grapes. His selection and his final product over at the Herzog Wine Cellars. And that could be

Our new winemaker, his name is David Galzignato. He’s with us about three years and he has a background that is with some of the finest and smallest, medium sized boutiques. 

He was going to be moving to France, going to go for his MW [masters of wine] and they asked him if he’d come and consider working with us and he did. He has been making literally blow your brains out wonderful wines so our Napa Cabernet, our Alexander Valley Cabernet are just up and down the line, the wines, especially the reds are just rich and opulent.

He got Joseph Herzog to buy a visual sorter, they range in cost between a $100,000 – 1 million dollar machine.

What they do is when the grapes come in [during harvest] and there’s something called sorting tables.

Done by hand [vineyard workers literally sorting through the harvested grape bunches, looking for]  damaged or a little beat up or whatever, and they only allow the perfect grapes to go through. 

This visual sorter does this electronically by computer, so nothing is missed, zero. As a result, the grape quality is much higher

Famously said in The New Yorker Years ago, “There’s only three things that matter in good winemaking. Good grapes. Good grapes. Good grapes.”

So, the fruit that we get and the fruit that we end up making wine out of is literally the most important thing.

By using these kinds of methods, which are not inexpensive. But the quality is through the roof. We’re looking to make a 100 point wine one of these days and I think it might we might get close this year. 

LA Love Tequila! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

LA Love Tequila! Now Madre Mezcal offers a Gateway to a Better Taste

Today’s conversation is with Ryan Fleming from Madre Mezcal.  The LA nightlife veteran reveals his time working behind the bar in some of Southern California’s hottest spots, as well as the inspiration that got him to travel to Mexico, discovering Mezcal.  The aroma, flavors, science and food pairings for Mezcal.

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal's Ryan Fleming

Love Tequila?  Discover the Gateway to better taste with Madre Mezcal’s Ryan Fleming

This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.  For the full, unedited conversation, visit our YouTube Channel.


“…I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever sold it…”

Joe Winger:  Can you share the behind the scenes or how the brand itself was created? 

Ryan Fleming: I’ve been a big Mezcal lover before I ever even sold it or made a dollar doing that. So I got to actually meet Ron Cooper, who is the legend that started the Del Maguey label back in 2011.

I got to drink rabbit Pachuca with him and all these other amazing things. The reason I bring him up is he’s a kind of one of the people that we look up to, how to sustainably bring a brand and how to create culture that crosses boundaries in a sense. 

He has a beautiful book that I recommend anyone to read if you haven’t read Ron Cooper’s book.

But we share a similar story. One of our founding partners, Tony Farfalla and one of my good friends, Stefan Tony’s an artist and he was literally traveling through Oaxaca doing documentaries and embracing the art and culture. He happened to meet Jose Morales, which is the first family we ever worked with.

If you have original bottles of Madre [Mezcal] before the labels have changed, it used to say Jose’s name on the bottle. 

So Tony was bringing bottles back to Brooklyn in plastic water bottles and it snowballed. His friends in Brooklyn were like, this stuff’s great. Started out in plastic water bottles in 2014. I think it was 2016 when our first glass bottles actually came by and we became like of a more legit brand and company.  But it started with Tony and Stefan; and they brought on our CEO and COO, Chris and Davide.

Chris actually is one of the founding driving forces in the electronic scene in the 90s in Europe. Chris comes from a very artistic, music based background. Then he went on to work for some bigger alcohol brands in the vodka world. 

Davide, who is our COO, my direct boss, who I love, is Italian and his whole family built furniture and he got his big break by importing and bringing furniture over [to the United States]. He also works with a beautiful high end apparel line. 

“…everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label…”

So everyone has a very unique artistic background, which really reflects the brand and the label. Just not wanting to make a quick buck and actually make something we can stand behind and believe in.

As the families now blossom into four, we use three: the Vasquez family, the Blas family and the Morales family are our three main producers for our red and black label, which most people are familiar with. 

We just brought in Moises and he’s actually from Santa Catarina Minas.  That’s a little town where all they really make is their production. It’s a town known for nothing but clay pot distillation. So if you actually use a copper pot in, in Manera and Santa Caterina Minas, you’re looked at as what are you doing? That’s not what we do here. 

He’s our last and newest producer and he may be the most cowboy of them all, and he’s my favorite.

When you get to Tlaxcala, you have to walk over like a little rope bridge over like a river and stuff into the hills of Minas to see his production, and he’s got his grandfather’s old still, and he’s got his mom’s little kitchen that he wants to reopen, and it’s like a restaurant. But if you and I were to look at it, it just looks like a backyard set of tables and chairs with a cooking center.

No, this is a restaurant for the village. It’s really beautiful down in Minas. I recommend everyone, if you get a chance to go down there, it felt like the jungles in Costa Rica, cause it’s up near the hills and it’s just so green and lush up there.


“…I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years …”

Joe Winger:  What got you down there? Was it for a vacation or for Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

So I’ve been working in the alcohol industry for almost 15 years and I worked for the Houston Hospitality Group for over a decade, helping run programs and menus. I worked for a couple other restaurants, but I used to work for Stillhouse Whiskey, which many people remember the terrible flavored moonshine in a gas can.

Yeah I actually sold that. I did pretty well, there was always one flavor that someone loved. I had the mint chocolate chip and I would keep it in the freezer to take care of my sweet tooth when I didn’t have ice cream. So that’s how it started.

My buddy, Stefan, who’s one of the founding partners goes, “Hey, we got this Mezcal company.”  I was just basically consulting for free lunches. 

One day he goes, do you want to go to Oaxaca? And I went, absolutely. 

I familiar with going down to Mexico city, but I’d never been as far South as Oaxaca. So I jumped at the chance.

[Meanwhile] we all got an email from Stillhouse saying “Hey, I know things are being shaken up right now, but trust me, everything’s fine. Don’t worry about it.” 

That weekend, apparently the whole team got laid off, but I didn’t get the email untll I came home Monday. They’re saying, “Ryan, are you going to be okay? Do you need help finding work?”

So I went down to Oaxaca, met the families, broke bread with Jose Morales, got to meet his mother who blessed the roast and cooked us dinner.  They offered me a job.

That was started my journey about six years ago with Madre [Mezcal ]and I’ve been with him since.

Fleming motions to tattoos on his arms and hands.

Discovering Madre Mezcal

I have it tattooed on my hand right here. I have it tattooed on my palm right here. And I think I have another one on the inside of my leg too. We do tasting events and we’ll have pop up tattoo artists all the time.


Tequila vs Madre Mezcal

Joe Winger: 

You mentioned the tastings and the education.  Are there quick lessons that you teach the most often?

Ryan Fleming: 

Basic production, culture, financial, environmental and economic sustainability. 

I don’t think people understand that Oaxaca is the second poorest state in Mexico.  Everyone thinks the Mezcal boom must be bringing so many jobs, but it really only affects about 20 – 40,000 people that live in Oaxaca for the production, 

Mezcal is great because it does bring some financial sustainability to the families. Jose started off driving a taxi to pay his bills and now he’s making Mezcal in his family’s tradition.  His whole family, his cousin, his uncles, they all make Mezcal for a living now.

There’s so much culture behind it. Even the old argument of did the Spanish bring over copper stills and that started distillation or does it go back to the Aztecs and Mayans? Because they found distillate and pottery from 3000 years ago. It’s those little nuances.

People really like to talk about the environmental, but giving back to the people down there by not just buying product, but giving them some ownership, which Madre does do, so that everyone has a little bit of skin in the game.

So I think Sustainability, whether it’s environmental, economical, cultural, and production. Those are the things I really like to talk about.

Joe Winger:  What is the basic difference between mezcal and tequila? Or is it more complicated?

Ryan Fleming: 

You could say production techniques, additives, mass production are probably the three biggest differences. 

Tequila can only be made with one agave. It’s a blue weber.  Mezcal can be made with the other 47-ish varietals, and that number is always fluctuating, based on classification and family genius.

Production is the big one. Tequila is made in massive factories and made with either chemicals or steam for the most part. 

Whereas mezcal is actually made by hand, roasted in an earthen oven. The biggest thing that separates Tequila and Mezcal is the 1% additive rule.

Tequila can have up to 1% by volume additives, and they don’t have to tell you. That’s why certain large brands will say 100% Agave, but it’s full of additives, because it doesn’t take much  with modern chemistry. Just a couple drops of glycerin or vanilla extract to change the flavor and hide  all the nuances.

Mezcal can’t have any additives by law. 

Joe Winger: Can we walk through the roles and responsibilities between the families that produce Madre Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah, the four families. Let’s start with Jose Morales. Him and his brother both make mezcal. Now they produce for us in the US exclusively. We encourage all of our families to continue making mezcal to trade. They use it for a local economy.

Every time I go down there, [their operation is growing].  When they started, they had three stills. Now there’s 12 up and running and they have solar power.  It’s just so crazy to see how much the transformation has happened. 

The original recipe, the blend of cuishe and espadine at 90 proof, that’s his family’s recipe. So we expanded that and we brought on Carlos Blas and the Vasquez family. Unfortunately, Natalio the father passed away a couple of years ago.

His daughters are now producing in the family’s tradition and we take whatever we can from them. 

But what we do, that’s a little bit different is, we started out when it was just Jose, he was making the blend himself. Now we have them make the espadine and the cuishe separately.

All three families are part of the process. Sometimes we just get cuiche from Jose. Sometimes Carlos makes all the espadine, but Carlos is like a master blender. 

We blend a cold style like Scotch does. Even though it’s not the most traditional way, all the distillation and process is as true as it can be.

But by blending post distillation allows us to keep consistency, which was a huge problem because every batch with your wild fermentation, your wild yeast and all these beautiful nuances, it’ll be inconsistent as you grow as a brand.  It was hard for us to keep consistency.

But by blending multiple terroirs and three different families’ production, we can keep a consistent product that tastes the same as well as expanding and bringing on more families to help instead of just going to a large factory house and not making what I would call “traditional Mezcal.”

Joe Winger: So focusing on your background, you mentioned that you’ve been a bartender in the LA nightlife.  Any memorable adventures or lessons you can share?

Ryan Fleming:

There are some stories I could tell that I probably don’t want to share publicly. But there are some amazing stories I can tell.

One of the oddest experiences I’ve ever had, I worked at Good Times at Davey Wayne’s, which is one of the most famous bars in the Hollywood nightlife in the past decade. 

Paul McCartney showed up at our door. 

But because our staff is younger and our door guys are a little bit younger, they thought it was an old weird British man that just showed up and they turned Paul McCartney away from the door.

‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’?

He was like, do you know who I am? The guys [were like] ”We don’t care.” Like straight up, blowing Paul McCartney off. One of our managers came out and was like, ‘Holy crap, is that Paul McCartney’? And they’re like, wait, the guy from the Beatles?! 

My manager ran out, “Please come back,” and Paul had a great time at the bar. We got him a special little area to sit down. It was a packed Saturday.  It’s not a nightclub where we have gated off [areas]. Even if you reserve a table, people are inches away from you where you’re sitting at your table. 

Justin Bieber showed up one time and everyone went nuts.  He comes in, walks around, does a loop, comes out and goes, “I thought this was a hip hop club.” and just left.

It was a 1970s themed bar and we played nothing but 70s music. 

The dichotomy between the two different generations and to see them all melt into one location was one of the coolest things about working at that bar. 


Joe Winger:It’s so crowded because it’s so popular.  The Houston Brothers always do such a good job.

Ryan Fleming: 

Yeah.  The cocktails are still really good too. For as much volume as we used to do there, the biggest thing is how can I make a really beautiful cocktail that’s still cost effective and doesn’t take 12 steps. We got really good at batching stuff and figuring out how to infuse things.  Luckily our back of house was just the most amazing.  Mariano is the best barback I’ve ever had in my whole life. He’s still there. 

He is just a workhorse that got all the infusions. He would cook, he would infuse all of our products and he was just great. Even if we just did a jalapeno infusion on our tequila, if it got too spicy, he could break down the ratio and water it down with more products so that we could keep the spice level approachable.

Joe Winger:

What is the secret to high quantity yet high value cocktails? 

Ryan Fleming:

Batching is definitely the way to do it. Any of your alcohols that are shelf stable, you want to put all of those in the proper ratios in a bottle.

Instead of grabbing a modifier and your base spirit and another modifier, you’re grabbing one bottle with a special tape at the bottom, so you know which cocktail it goes to and then all your fresh stuff. 

You can’t batch the fresh stuff. It has to be separated because you put citrus in something and it goes bad in three days.  Now the whole batch is bad. So keeping your fresh stuff separated.

Joe Winger: Back to Madre Mezcal.  Obviously the bottles themselves are where all the power is.  So let’s talk about labels and taste profiles.

Ryan Fleming:

People love our labels. Our branding is top notch. It’s one of the first compliments we always get. “Oh my God, I love your branding.” 

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Madre Mezcal Artesanal

Looked at Oaxacan culture and some other like medieval culture and combined the art from the two.

As far as the red label it’s the woman on the bull. It’s a really beautiful message of Mother Earth coming down and starting to share humanity and move across the world to plants and spread love.  That’s why she’s on the bull.  It’s the combination of animal, Mother Earth, and humans. 

Madre Mezcal Espandin

Madre Mezcal Espandin

The black label is a beautiful logo of a woman on the ground.  She’s planting and spreading the seed of life that gives us agave and flowers and fruit and vegetables and everything else.

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

Madre Mezcal Ancestral

The ancestral is this beautiful clay bottle with old clay vessels from Greece that carried wine with the fluid coming out and it’s supposed to celebrate the ancestral way of making mezcal and clay pots and clay distillation.

I always love telling the story of people who say mezcal is not supposed to be aged, which is a true-ish statement in my opinion. But back in the day, everything got transferred in barrels. So Mezcal would accidentally get aged in barrels because it would travel from town to town on horseback after the product was made.

So the idea that Mezcal was never aged is it wasn’t aged on purpose. 

Mezcal was accidentally aged in wood. The traditional way that people would age Mezcal is in glass and they would hide it underground. 

I always tell people, if you have a beautiful bottle of Mezcal, you should open it and take it out and put a wine cork in it, or at least crack the bottle and get some air because it really lets alcohol open up and aerate.

Mezcal benefits from a resting period. Pouring it in a nice open glass, like a snifter or a wine glass, letting it sit for about 5-10 minutes will really open it up.

Madre Mezcal tasting notes 

Madre is designed to be less smoky. I really hate the term smoky. I like the word roasted because what you’re tasting is like barbeque.

You’re tasting the roasting of the agave and the charcoaling and the burning of the outside agave which will affect the sugars, the caramelization.

Madre really was designed to be a more approachable mezcal. We call ourselves ”The gateway to the category.” 

We want to bring people from tequila over to Mezcal so you can explore what agave spirits also have to offer. 

It’s bright, clean, and smooth. I always compare it to a really nice, made tequila.

Our Espadine is actually a close cousin of [tequila’s] Blue Weber. It tastes really bright, clean and smooth.  But you’re going to get some of that minerality and smoke in the end. 

Like easy drinking with some earthy aromas. 

Joe Winger:  That night when I met you, what you handed me was my first taste of the night. I love that it was so pure and smooth.  It didn’t clog up my mouth for the rest of the night.

Ryan Fleming: 

I’m like you. I want to have 2-3 cocktails a night. Not just one and my palette’s done. 

Our Espadine to me is a 2-3 second palette.  It clears up and you get like a breath and it’s fading.  Our Ensemble goes on for 10- 12 seconds.  From sweet vanilla to chocolate to mineral and then to smoke.  Then the smoke fades and you get just a really beautiful, crisp.  It’s viscous. You can feel the oil in your mouth when you swirl it around and it makes the best Negroni.

Joe Winger:  Let’s talk about food pairings.

Ryan Fleming: 

I want to know if this caught you off guard, but it’s Italian food.

Very rich foods. These beautiful Mezcals are light and almost floral and fragrant, It cuts through the richness and creaminess of food.

That’s why mezcal and chocolate are consistently paired together, but that was just way too easy. There’s always mezcal chocolate pairings, but like a really nice Italian dish, something creamy and rich, like an Alfredo or a really well done piece of pizza, like a margarita or a white sauce pizza.

“…I want to know if this caught you off guard, but…”

We are working on doing some [pizza] pairings with some places in LA.   Do a different slice of pizza with three different cocktails of Madre and then have a tasting at the end.

Chocolate has a big part of Oaxaca too. You can’t not have some chocolate and mezcal at the end of the night. 

Espresso martinis are so hot again right now. Try making one with mezcal instead of vodka and just [see] how coffee helps open up the agave and the notes, and you’re going to get so much more going on in your cocktail.

If you pair a nice espresso martini with  beautiful, dark chocolate from Oaxaca.  That is your final cocktail at the end of the night, it won’t let you down.

Joe Winger:  You mentioned replacing Mezcal with vodka in a martini, are there any traditional or more common cocktails we should also try replacing Mezcal in?

Ryan Fleming: 

When I tell you this, it may blow your mind. Most gin cocktails are a little bit better with Mezcal.

There are certain times you need botanicals, but a lot of really good classic gin cocktails, if you sub them for Mezcal, are absolutely fantastic. 

Joe Winger:  I’m shocked because most gins have such unique aromatics.

Ryan Fleming: 

Which Mezcal has so many of those same unique terpenes going on that it changes the cocktail, but it works.

So instead of having botanicals, you have all these beautiful vegetal and mineral notes that just come from agaves. 

Joe Winger:  What are the biggest misconceptions in the world of Mezcal?

Ryan Fleming: 

A lot of people have a misconception, especially on the trade side, that we have grown exponentially. It’s been a lot of hard work. People think we have this massive team behind us.  There’s less than 20 of us on the whole team. That includes our team down in Oaxaca, who  watches over manufacturing and production for us down there. 

We don’t have an office.  We have a little tiny apartment in Venice for meetings.

A lot of people don’t understand the hard work that goes into creating a small brand. It’s just a lot of people working hard to create beautiful Mezcal, especially the families. 

People [unfairly comparing it to] tequila.  What do you mean, we can’t get more? Why is it so expensive? We have people going out hand collecting wild agaves and harvesting espadine.  All of that is hand cut, hand chopped.   I’ve hand cut agaves with the families.

None of this is industrialized or mechanized like tequila. 

Appreciate every drop of mezcal you have, because someone put a lot of love and labor into it.

Joe Winger:  Ryan, as we wrap up, let’s talk about where can learn more about Madre Mezcal? 

Ryan Fleming: 

We have a beautiful Instagram.  Madremezcal.com is our website. 

We also have this Instagram called mezcal. Learning and it’s a little short videos and little blurbs to talk about production, families, history, and culture. It is focused on Madre, but it’s not just Madre, it’s Mezcal as a whole.

If you want to know more about our families who produce, where it’s made, you can find all that information on madremezgal. com. 

Our bottles are in most of your nicer bottle shops, liquor stores. In California, we’re lucky enough to be in Trader Joe’s for the Espadine and Whole Foods has our Ensemble.

If you can’t find it,  go to madremezcal.com and we ship bottles to almost every state in the U S.

We’re in nine countries, too. Australia. All over Europe, Costa Rica.  We’re working on Japan and South Korea as well. So I’m just excited to see the culture of mezcal just expand beyond just America and see how excited because I, when I talk to people that are in London or, people in Australia, and they’re so excited about the idea of being able to get mezcal.

Joe Winger: What is the future for Madre?

Ryan Fleming: I can’t tell you about the big one.

But, [exciting things for] our Ancestral, which is pretty new and every batch of that’s going to be hand numbered and labeled.

We’re going to start doing small batch productions that will be very limited. Then the desert waters, which we have ready for summer. 

To learn more about MadreMezcal, visit MadreMezcal.com. Find them on Instagram at MadreMezcal


About the Author
Joe Wehinger (nicknamed Joe Winger) has written for over 20 years about the business of lifestyle and entertainment. Joe is an entertainment producer, media entrepreneur, public speaker, and C-level consultant who owns businesses in entertainment, lifestyle, tourism and publishing. He is an award-winning filmmaker, published author, member of the Directors Guild of America, International Food Travel Wine Authors Association, WSET Level 2 Wine student, WSET Level 2 Cocktail student, member of the LA Wine Writers. Email to: Joe@FlavRReport.com

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