Featured User: Ellen Clifford

After several years of writing about food and wine for the likes of Hello Giggles, Blackboard Eats and her blog, Scrumptious Gruel, Ellen Clifford began to pursue a proper education in wine and now holds an advanced certification from the WSETs and introductory pin from the Court of Master Sommeliers. In order to connect her love of wine to her life as a comedic actress in Los Angeles, she now co-hosts The Whine Situation podcast which pairs entertainers’ whines with wines. Delectable: What sparked your passion for wine? Ellen: I was working in a restaurant while in college. We didn't have much fancy on the menu, but anytime we got new wine a rep would show up and walk us through it. I had never sat down and tasted wines side by side like that. Suddenly I had an opinion about Chardonnay! Which at the time was simply, "Toad's Hollow is my favorite wine on the menu," but all the same it was a start. I was so fascinated that wines made with the same grape could be so different. Then I got sidetracked by chocolate martinis for a while, as it happens when you are a sweet tooth in college. Thankfully that was a quick blip on my wine track record. I've been told that when I finally drink a Montrachet it will be expunged from the books. D: What wine region are you wild about right now? E: I never get tired of cru Beaujolais. But what with the fires in California, for the first time in my life I've been inspired to get to know my Napa Cabs better. Being a Francophile, I'd overlooked them for some time. D: What is the most unusual wine you’ve ever tried? E: A "wine" my friends brought me from Jamaica made from ackee, a type of fruit. That wine was ... not for me. But I'm glad I tried it. D: What are some tips for aspiring connoisseurs? E: Taste a lot and take a taxi! Don't be afraid to like what you like whether it is ten bucks or ten hundred. Keep an open mind about grape type, region, and label. Avoid blanket statements. Wine is such a changeable thing especially with global warming – you never know when a type of wine you thought wasn't for you will surprise you. Try blind tasting if nothing else for the purpose of not pre-judging a wine. D: What is your golden rule for wine? E: There is no perfect wine. Only the right wine for your mood and the occasion. D: If you were a wine, what wine would you be? E: A still white wine made from pinot noir! There's more than meets the eye. I had the Hexamer recently and it was an exquisite surprise to find out the white wine my friend was blinding me on was from a red grape.

Bevan Cellars

Ontogeny Napa Valley Red Bordeaux Blend 2014

I am sipping and digging and at the same time thinking oh heck give this two more years and WHOA but it is still 100 percent drinkable now. There is this marvelous orange peel and clove essence to the nose. The tongue is acidic as heck (someone else said it wasn't but seeing as I have like zero acid receptors and found the back of my mouth watering I say it is) and the tannins...they are stealth. They kick in mid to late palate. Otherwise it is blackberries both stewed and fresh galore. A tinge of purple plum (just checked and hey! There is some merlot so that accounts for that) and then there is the vanilla/tobacco essence of someone's lovingly used humidor. I mean I'm not in the presence of fine cigars on the regular yet a comedian like me dreams of nights puffing away or just drinking away the long-lived stash of wine and/or smokes that call up this depth of vanilla, tobacco, allspice AND flippin' grape goodness. Plus you taste another hint of orange peel. This is simpler than others I've tasted from Bevan (thank you @Paul T ) but it is wine I'd pair with nothing at all OR a dang steak. I think both pairings would hold water. This wine is adaptable and with age will be more so. Okay my tasting notes are more than most put on delectable so maybe i will save a few more thoughts for the dang blog... — a year ago

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Ellen Clifford

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@Paul T tried decanting for a bit today. It really is a great wine! There's pomegranate notes coming out that are really nice. Love the deep color on this wine too. I didn't take your food pairing tip though---being vegetarian---but am totally excited about this bottle. Quite an elegant but intense wine
Phil A

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@Ellen Clifford Ellen nice interview of you Cheers 🍷
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@Phil A thank you!! Cheers to you too!

Shafer

TD-9 Napa Valley Red Blend 2015

Got this wine decanted into my oh so fancy "decanter" and will check back with it in another hour but in the meantime thank you @Paul Treadway Huntington Beacher for helping me get cabby, cab it up and cab away. This is opening up by the minute. This blend is actually more Merlot (56%) than Cabernet Sauvignon (28%) and the rest is Malbec. I'm digging it. So far it is a feast of plums. Red plums, black plums...every plum but a dried plum. The oak is there in the background, charmingly so. The fruit is ripe, the acid, alcohol and tannins are rather elevated. I think it'll age well. Okay, will add details as it decants...okay update: the wine is getting a delicious cocoa to its finish. And there is a wee bit of a cooked blueberry thing hiding in the background. I think this will show well for a good long while. It's got good bones. — 7 months ago

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Ellen Clifford

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@Ron R i think it is a recent release?
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul Treadway Huntington Beacher the vitamix blender was in standby but the Pyrex measuring cup did a stand-up job! Someday I'll invest in something more attractive to use

Upper Eden Wines

Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir 2016

Trying to get to know some of the wines my friends recommended from Trader Joe’s. I liked a French Sauvignon Blanc they recommended but this wine, while solid just wasn’t my fave. It’s interesting and surprisingly complex for a Cali Pinot but I don’t love the—stemminess?—I’m getting. I used to call it that vine-y taste. If you like some green on your wine though it could be your bag. It’s affordable and interesting and may just be YOUR cat’s meow. Figuratively speaking. Don’t give your cat vino. — 5 months ago

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Bill Bender

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It’s THE @Ellen Clifford !!! ⭐️
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@Bill Bender hehe, that’s me!!

The Eyrie Vineyards

Pinot Meunier 2012

This wine is so cool! Took a break from my Cali Cab education tonight. For starters I didn't even know anyone was making Pinot Meunier outside of Champagne, much less as a single varietal. But then I found out it is technically a clone of Pinot Noir. It is somehow light and very ripe and full at the same time. The acidity is delightfully high, there is this backnote of cola that goes so beautifully with the cherry/red currant nature of this. Love it. @Paul Treadway Huntington Beacher I think you sent this my way. Thank you! — 7 months ago

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Paul Treadway Huntington Beacher Bum

Paul Treadway Huntington Beacher Bum

Oh yeah, I forgot about that one. I never tried it. Glad you liked it. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a 9.7 from you🤔, I’ll have to get some for myself now
Ellen Clifford

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@Paul Treadway Huntington Beacher Well, it could be mistaken for a Gamay which is my favorite. With cabs being your favorite I'm not sure how you'd feel but I'm very much digging this! I'll be curious to hear your thoughts! I wonder if the 2012 is still available...

Flavours of the Past

Sugar cane

Eeeek I mean when friends bring you Jamaican "wine" you say yes please. Fortunately all said friends said with me "uhhhh no except maybe in a mixed drink!" That being said I'd call it along the lines of a mixing rum: the molasses, the orange, the spice, yet all needing to be sipped by in a broader concoction than itself by itself — a year ago

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Ellen Clifford

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@Bill Bender @Ron R haha we'll always happy to spread the love
Ron R

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Now you're bragging my lawyer friend 🙂 You are certainly my brother from another mother!!!
Bill Bender

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Hahahaha @Ron R you already knew that sir! And thank you @Ellen Clifford can't have enough love!

Domaine de Terrebrune

Bandol White Wine Blend 2016

Ephemeral. It's as if someone took honeysuckle and snapdragon and turned them into air. And then put you in a room with that infused air and gave you a glass of sparkling sharp lemonade. Too esoteric a description? Ok wsets: color-light yellow quick fast tears. Nose: clean, medium intensity, lemon, white flower, wet stones. Tongue: dry, medium acid, medium alcohol (13%), medium minus body, medium flavor intensity, orange blossom, pale honeysuckle, lemons, limes and oh...fuckit yummy stones. That's a thing. Medium finish. The progression of this wine on your tongue is peaches, crushed stones, esoteric flowers and then it is just...I don't know...freshness. Big lots of citrus yet floral FRESHness. — 8 months ago

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Norman Gennaro

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I like the nouveau/esoteric WSET description better, especially "yummy stones" and freshy freshness. Adding those to my descriptor bank along with a white Bandol. Only had a rose.
Ellen Clifford

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@Joe Lucca my first Bandol Blanc too!
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@Norman Gennaro haha yeah, I suppose if I was being tested on this those terms may not fly but one could try:)

Ca' Rozzeria

Neive Langhe Nebbiolo 2015

The delightful thing about/problem with a good food/wine book is you get inspired to open all sorts of things but...I’m gonna say this wine was a good choice to go with A Really Big Lunch. Not a problem. This wine will keep growing in delight and holy heck I can’t wait to try Ca’ Rozzeria’s Barolo proper I bought but I will be waiting another few years on that if I can help myself. But for twelve bucks I couldn’t help but order a couple of the Langhe Nebbiolo offerings. And this is a 2015 so it’s super ripe.
Okay so the dried cherry just explodes from the glass with earth and minerally deliciousness and on the tongue the tannins assure you this is in fact Nebbiolo. There is a lot of orange rind going on too. The finish goes on with all sorts of dried flower and yet almost a salinity? Crazy. I’m in. But then I’m a nut for Nebbiolo. Okay one more chapter then I swear I will turn the light out. At least it’s not a school night.
— 5 months ago

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David T

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Ellen, congrats on your feature. Nice job!

Bear Flag Wine

Sonoma County Zinfandel 2015

I like this a bunch. Disclaimer it arrived at my doorstep uncalled for but so does a bunch of stuff and I don’t bother reviewing. But I love Zin. And even though of late I find myself in the mood for lighter things this full guy, which is pretty hearty, is up my alley. Maybe I should just go WSET/Court Masters (which almost became Court Manatees via autocorrect) to analyze so let us go: to my eye: clear, medium plus ruby with thick enthusiastic (I’d say) tears. Nose: clean, medium intensity aged plums, blueberries and blackberries and some yum yum raisins. Some vanilla. Developing. In my maw: dry, medium acid and medium tannins, alcohol is possibly more than medium plus (double checked it is 15.3 which is over medium plus technically but fuck the juiciness and acid make it mellow), body is medium plus—a bit plush in a bit totally balanced way for me..flavor intensity is medium plus. Actual flavors are all has so much JAMMY raisins, dried cherries, plums and blackberries, tobacco, vanilla, and a whiff of clove. Finish? Actually allllllmost like really full or maybe actually medium plus or... intense? But I’m not sure if that is just that alcohol level burning. Anyway this is a full slightly rough wine. It has lots of stuff I like but it is not quite balanced but I’d get it for a night of sipping for a good value! I wouldn’t review if I didn’t think it was at least gulpable but also appreciable. Get it for a full wine to fill you up. — 6 months ago

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David L

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I like it
Bill Bender

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Ellen is fun as F
Ellen Clifford

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@Bill Bender well I try but who knows I could be boring in person...but I try for the fun. Mostly I sip everything I can from burgundy glasses but...also I enjoy bottle chugging...