Get to Know Jonathan Lynn, Our New Wine Director!

October 4, 2022

You can count on several things at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café; delicious, fresh, and creative cuisine, an incredible selection of wine, and approachable and knowledgeable staff.

We feel lucky and proud to introduce Jonathan Lynn as our new wine director! With a passion for wine and pairing a bottle with a favorite dish, we are excited about what he will bring to the restaurant as director of the wine and beer program.

Who is Jonathan Lynn?

Once landing a job at Bouchon in Las Vegas, he knew it was just a stepping stone to what he was meant to do. Jonathan watched the sommeliers  with admiration and intrigue and decided that he would one day be “that guy:” dressed to impress, suave, smooth, and incredibly knowledgeable about all things wine. He turned those feelings into motivation and followed the road to his true calling – and we couldn’t be happier that he did. He is now a Certified Sommelier, CMS and the proud new Wine Director at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café.

Jonathan is passionate about removing the fear often associated with wine from the process, he’s aware that it can mistakenly come off as snooty and intimidating. He believes that “wine should be fun—It’s not something you have to know a lot about to understand. You should only have to know what you like.”

In addition to managing the sales team and sharing his expertise with the staff, he will be helping guests try new wines they may have never heard of, especially those from the local small producers in the region.

“I look forward to bringing some fun and delicious wines to the menu that guests might not have heard of! I love seeing someone when their mind has been changed about what they thought they loved in a wine!”

If you aren’t a wine club member, you’re missing out, not only do you get discounts every time you dine with us but you’ll also get to experience the careful selection Jon intends to put together each quarter (join here)! In addition to selecting wines based on the seasons, he also wants to ensure that guests are trying something new and expanding their horizons.

Jonathan says he is proud to work at the Los Olivos Wine Merchant & Café for many reasons, one of which is the cuisine he gets to work with. “It is a relief to have a menu that I’m proud to recommend. Seeing the fresh vegetables that come in from our farm is incredible!” If you need a pairing suggestion, don’t hesitate to ask him! As a foodie, he knows the importance of choosing a wine based on the dish (or vice versa!).

Let’s Talk Style

When Jonathan was applying for the position, owners Sam and Shawnda Marmorstein thought he stood out, not just because of his friendly, approachable personality and solid knowledge of wine, but because of his tie. Not his actual tie, the way he ties it.  Rather than using the same tying method as everyone else, he uses the Eldredge Knot. It is an eye-catching tie with four diagonal bands and one small horizontal band. Want to see what it looks like? You can Google it or just head to the wine merchant and meet Jonathan! If he can master the precision it takes to  tie the Eldredge Knot, Sam and Shawnda figured Jon is likely to have the meticulous eye needed to maintain the inventory of 1000’s of bottles.

Becoming a Sommelier

Growing up, Jonathan watched his parents develop their careers in the restaurant industry and was inspired to follow in their footsteps. His roots brought him into the restaurant industry, but it was his love of wine and beer that inspired him to the life of a sommelier.

Jonathan describes his “Aha” moment of wanting to dive deeper into the world of wine as he was enjoying a jalapeño popper pizza and a 2002 Weingut Knoll Riesling Kabinett from Austria. “The sweetness of the wine paired with the spice from the jalapeño and the savory from the bacon blew my mind! I had no idea what a glass of wine could do to a dish and vice versa.”

Jonathan also has had experience in the production side of wine and beer. He previously helped make wine at Foxen Winery and says he doesn’t think he would be where he is today if it hadn’t been for that harvest. During the process, he learned to “appreciate everything that goes into making wine.” He brings that experience into his current role as wine director to ensure the best selection to enhance our cuisine.

With his experience in the realm of beer, he will also add some new and exciting options to the menu for those who are looking for something other than wine.

What is a wine director?

As a wine director, Jonathan is in charge of managing and directing our wine program. His duties include but can go beyond, selecting the wine for the cafe and store, placing orders for wine when the inventory requires it, and leading the team.

As a certified sommelier, Jonathan is also highly qualified to help diners choose a wine for their meal or describe the intricacies of a particular bottle to shoppers. “Sommelier” means “butter” in French and has been used since the 19th century to describe a “wine steward” or “wine waiter.” Jonathan’s responsibility as wine director is to create and maintain our wine list and help ensure visitors select an appropriate bottle or glass for their palate and occasion. 

Wine Director Jon Lynn Holding a glass of red wine in front of wine wall

What Fills His Glass

On his own time, Jonathan will often reach for a wine from the Loire Valley in France, such as a Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, or Cabernet Franc, or will try something new.

He is versatile in what he drinks, just as long as it pairs well with his favorite foods. Rather than pairing with the type of meal, however, he will often pair a wine with the sauce in the dish. His favorite pairing is Chenin Blanc with Oysters.

Welcome to the Team, Jonathan!

Please join us in welcoming Jonathan to the team, and don’t forget to say “Hi” to him when you see him around. He’ll likely be carefully selecting the wine and beer list for the store or providing knowledgeable insight to the wine sales team. Regardless of what he is doing, though, you can be sure that he will be showcasing his specialty tie.

Don’t Judge a Wine By Its Seal: The Legendary Cork vs. Screw Cap Debate

September 6, 2022

Can a bottle of wine be judged by its closure? In many cases (no pun intended), you can tell a lot about the nature or purpose of the wine by whether it is sealed with a cork or a screw cap. That is because many winemakers often carefully select the sealing method for each type of wine they produce, and the cost isn’t the only consideration.

Is wine better with a cap or screw top?

There is so much versatility in wine, and these nuances can impact the experience found inside each bottle. Wine novice or aficionado, you likely gravitate to certain characteristics over others; such as white vs. red or sweet vs. dry. How it is bottled is another important attribute and is often factored into the selection process.

You may also think it is a trivial matter, but there are distinct benefits and downsides to both methods. Understanding the differences between corks and screw caps can make you the hero of your next dinner party or help you craft the perfect response when your in-laws question why you brought a bottle of wine without a traditional cork.

Screw caps are notorious for cheap wine bottles, but this is a misnomer. You shouldn’t be surprised if you find an expensive bottle of wine with a screw cap, especially one from Australia or New Zealand. So set aside your assumptions (like screw tops are only used on “cheap” wine), and let’s dive into the facts.

Production of the Materials

How the materials are produced and their impact on the environment are important considerations for many wine lovers.

How Corking Got Started

Corks have been the primary method of bottling since the 1400s because of their excellent properties for sealing and aging the wine. Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak (Quercus suber) found in Spain and Portugal. It was discovered that the cork allows for minimal leakage but sustained aeration; excellent for the gradual aging of wine.

Bernat wine bottle being corked during processing

This method is not only environmentally friendly but is also sustainable for the climate. The process does not harm the tree since the bark is carefully cut away. The cork is harvested when the tree turns 25-30 years old, and then every 9 years after that, but the tree is kept alive. In addition, the manufacturing of cork stoppers creates minimal carbon pollution.

The Evolution to Screw Caps

Screw cap seals have been the preferred method of wine bottling throughout Australia and New Zealand since the 1950s. These countries have since paved the way for the acceptance of screw caps by wine aficionados and wine makers throughout America. Many Old World wine countries, such as Italy, Spain, and France, have not as tenderly adopted this new method, however. Screw caps are a more affordable option for bottling and they can be recycled; not bad for an alternative to cork!

Screw caps are becoming the go-to among many winemakers. Larry Schaffer, owner and winemaker of Tercero Wines in Santa Barbara County says that he is not anti-cork but has “been using screw caps for all of my wines since 2006. I am happy with the results, as are my customers.”

It’s a Tale as Old as Wine

Lovers of cork favor this method because of the tradition and romanticism involved. Our very own wine director, Jonathan, transports us to the vineyard-laden hills of the Central Coast when he says, “I love the romanticism of the cork, the cutting of the foil, the twisting of the wine key, the pulling of the cork.” There is nothing like the popping sound of the cork when it ejects from the bottle to lift the spirits of a gathering.

A downside to using screw caps is that they are not as pretty to open and you lose a bit of the romantic nature of the wine experience without the traditional cork removal process. For the less traditional, this might just be a perk though. Jonathan plays the devil’s advocate to his original statement by saying,

“I love the ease of the screw top and the fact that it makes wine a little less snobby.”

Proper Aeration & Aging of Wine

There are practical reasons why wine makers choose corks as well. The material is pliable, which means it can effectively hold wine inside the bottle with minimal leakage. It is an excellent sealing method for long-term aging, making it a suitable choice for wines that are best consumed once matured. The right amount of aeration is beneficial for wine to develop the complexities you would want in age-worthy wines. The ideal cork would permit around one milligram of oxygen to enter the bottle in a span of a year to naturally remove the sulfites added during bottling.

In some cases, a cork can allow for too much aeration. If a bottle of wine is exposed to too much air, the wine can develop a nutty and old taste. Eventually, it can even start to taste vinegary.

Optimum aeration depends on the type of wine as well as the preference of the wine drinker. For instance, if you are swinging by the Los Olivos Wine Merchant Cafė on your way home from work to grab a crisp white or rosė intended to be drunk as young as possible, you might opt for a screw top. Wines with screw tops are generally made to be drunk relatively soon since they are not intended to age. If you want a complex red for your already impressive wine cellar collection, go for a bottle with a traditional cork.

TCA and “Corked” Wine

Screw caps were designed to resolve many of the deficiencies of the cork. The primary issue they aim to address is the “corking” or tainting of the wine. This is caused by microorganisms in the cork reacting to other substances, such as chlorine, and creating a chemical called Trichloroanisole (TCA). When wine comes into contact with too much TCA, it becomes “corked”.

Screw caps are composed of a metal casing with a plastic insert. With the reduced capacity for aeration, the wine won’t age as quickly nor take on qualities of the cork; helping it avoid harmful oxidation. This also makes the wine very consistent between batches so that each bottle tastes virtually identical, a definite perk for many winemakers.

Does screw top wine last longer after opening?

In general, screw top wine will last longer after being opened than corked wine. The length of time that your open bottle of wine will last depends on a number of factors, however. How the wine is stored will impact how long the contents of the bottle stays fresh more than whether it is closed with a screw top or cork. Opened bottles should be stored in a cool and dark area away from direct sunlight and heat. To keep the wine a bit longer, it can be stored in the refrigerator.

Just Put a Cork in It! (or Don’t)

Before browsing the wine shelves, you should consider the characteristics of the wine desired, when it is expected to be consumed, and the expectations of the consumers. Whether you choose a bottle with a cork or a screw cap, we hope you lift your glass in the air and cheers to the wonderful complexities and variations of wine. If you are looking for your next bottle, we welcome you to visit our wine store. We have something for everyone and plenty of opportunities to try something new or just outside of your comfort zone.