As the world of wine evolves, consumers are being given more choices and more voices than ever. One such voice, Certified Sommelier Casleah Herwaldt, is pushing the limit on some old world constraints to bring joy and knowledge to new world wine consumers.
“I’ve always said, drink what you like,” Casleah told Monarch in a video interview. “If you like ice cubes in your red wine, that’s fine! That’s what wine is for; it’s for you to enjoy it.”
As someone who certainly does enjoy a chilled red, this was music to my ears coming from a certified somm. But, as Casleah says, not all traditions need to be rethought, especially when it comes to pairings.
“There are some pairing that are just perfect, like bleu cheese and Sauturnes,” she said. “It’s unexplainable, when you put the two together it creates this even more harmonious, beautiful experience.”
Cabernet and oysters, however, will still taste disgusting together. Trust us on that one.
One of the biggest mistakes people make is with dessert pairings, she said, especially when it comes to wedding planning. I’m getting married next year, and certainly can use all the help I can get.
“If you’re going to have sweet food, you want to have sweet wine,” she said.
“You don’t want to have a Brut champagne with cake, you want to have a sec or a sparkling sweet, instead.”
Sitting in various states of quarantine these past few months has left many wine enthusiasts without traditional means of branching out when it comes to experiencing new varieties.
We asked Casleah, whose blog, bythestem.co, provides virtual tastings for people eager to learn tasting techniques and interact with new wines, what tips she had for the masked public who may be tiring of their old favorites.
“Shop small,” she said.
“Don’t go to your regular grocery store and look at all those options by yourself. Go to your wine shops, go to the places where a person who is passionate about it started that store and don’t be afraid to ask those people.”
Casleah walked the walk, too. She got her start in the industry in a small shop in Kansas City, making herself known to the business owners first as an avid and curious consumer before they offered her a position.
“I absolutely loved making recommendations,” she said. “I loved taking the opportunity to teach people about wine.
“Go to a place where people know what they’re talking about and don’t be afraid to ask!”
A couple of sure-fire starters: tell them what you like, what your price point is and that you want something new to try. It certainly beats staring at miles and miles of labels at a big box store, and keep going back so you can share your experiences as you continue to refine your palate.
Turn and face the strange, as David Bowie (RIP) would say. The wine industry has cultivated a reputation of intimidating exclusivity that’s kept some people in and many people out.
But those high walls are starting to come down as people are being awakened to the lack of diversity, in all different forms, within the wine industry.
Casleah has seen a lot of change in the industry just over the past five years, not just with the way people are consuming wine now but also in representation.
“I think women empowerment has been a huge thing,” she said. “People are really celebrating female winemakers and female brand owners.”
More women are breaking into the higher ranks of the industry, as well, which is a welcome shift since female tastes make up a large part of the wine market.
“There’s a big gap between people who study wine and people who are consumers of wine,” she said.
“I’m excited for the future and (the industry) getting more diverse, because, the more people who get to play into it, the cooler it’s going to be.”
Cheers to that, Casleah!
A former newspaper reporter gone corporate, Evan's passion for premium content and wine found a perfect home with Monarch. He leads the content team and is always looking for great stories to showcase. Making his home in Denver, Colorado, Evan spends his time outside of work camping, hiking and skiing, pairing these outdoor adventures with fine wines from all over the world.