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You Can Only Fool the Experts for So Long

I admit it, I beat a joke to death. Like Letterman. I repeat the line until it's no longer funny, just annoying – until, eventually, it actually becomes funny again. Right now, I'm in the annoying phase – over and over again I'm finding ways to get a glass of Tyler Florence Cabernet Sauvignon in front of Janine Lettieri, one of our wine specialists, without her realizing what she's drinking.

Part of the reason the joke isn't working right now is that the Tyler Florence Cab is seriously good juice. It's no joke whatsoever. And if you've ever found yourself wondering why all great Napa Cabs cost $150 and up, I'm dead serious: Try the Tyler Florence, which goes for about $50 on Lot18.com and elsewhere, when it's available. You'll be very, very happy.

The joke goes back to the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival in 2012, when Janine had a couple cocktails at the grand tasting, got aggressive, gripped my wrist, and twisted the wineglass out of my hand. OK, she actually asked politely what I was drinking, and instead of just telling her, I gave her a taste from my glass – and she was pleasantly surprised. Then she was outright stunned when I told her that it was 2008 Tyler Florence Napa Cab.

There's a reason this wine tastes great: It's made by Michael Mondavi, of that Mondavi family. So who cares if it's Tyler Florence's name on the label? Or Paula Deen's? Well, OK, the latter might bother some people. How about Genghis Kahn? Whatever the name on the label, the juice tastes incredibly good because of the talent of the winemaker behind it – and Florence's willingness to work closely with said winemaker and, more importantly, trust his experience. How many other celebrity chefs have slipped where Florence was smart enough to understand the boundaries? Alton Brown and Welch's grape juice anyone? Fabio Viviani and Domino's? The aforementioned Deen and Victoza?

Anyway, about three or four times since the spring of 2012, I've tried to blind-taste Janine on Tyler Florence Cab. Each time, she's  enjoyed the wine. But now we're at the point where, every glass of red wine I ask her to taste, she immediately raises an eyebrow and responds, "Is this Tyler Florence again?!"

Why yes, yes it is. Annoying?

Perhaps. But we all should be so lucky to have this sort of wine thrust in front of us every so often. Here's hoping she and I don't work at a company someday where we have to blind-taste Tyler Florence baby food.