By Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host Published May 16, 2016 at 11:01 AM

Stuck in a wine rut? Or just looking for something more interesting to pair with your next meal? We’ve got your number. For this series, we’ll be talking to some of the best and most qualified wine experts in Milwaukee and getting recommendations for wines that you should be drinking right now.

This week, we spoke with Jason Kerstein of Black Shoe Hospitality – the restaurant group behind Maxie’s, Blue’s Egg and Story Hill BKC.

Kerstein is the general manager of Story Hill BKC and Blue’s Egg, as well as the beverage director for Black Shoe Hospitality overall. He is also a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) through the Society of Wine Educators and is currently studying for his Certified Specialist of Spirits Diploma.

Kerstein says that his first serious experience with wine was at Eddie Martini’s, where he worked as a server, eventually graduating to wine captain. In the process of assisting the restaurant in building their Wine Spectator Award of Excellence list, he says he fell in love with wine service and how it dovetails with the dining experience.

Kerstein moved on to open Sticks & Stones in Brookfield and then to work in sales and marketing for Stone’s Throw Winery of Door County and Pinnacle distributors, before taking his position with Black Shoe Hospitality (then just Blue’s Egg and Maxie’s) in 2013. Kerstein has since been responsible for curating the Wine Spectator awarded wine selections at Story Hill BKC and the attached wine and spirits shop, where they offer over 400 selections of wine, including more than 25 by the glass.

"In all reality," Kerstein says, "I am just a guy who really enjoys working with, learning about, teaching and drinking wine."

Tangent Albarino
Edna Valley, Calif.

Albarino is a prominent wine from Spain and has just recently taken a foothold in the U.S. This wine is from Tangent, a pioneer producer from Edna Valley, located in the middle-southern part of California, north of Santa Barbara. It’s very aromatic with hints of tangerine and citrus. Vibrant on the palate with bright acidity and flavors of peach and apricot.

Try this if you love: "Racy Sauvignon Blanc."

Pairings: "Great with seafood, oysters, lighter fare or on your patio. This screams summer."

Retail price: $16 (at Story Hill BKC wine shop).

MAN Chenin Blanc
Coastal, South Africa

Chenin Blanc is a grape that can be transformed into many styles. From sweet to bone dry and from sparking to still to dessert wines, Chenin Blanc finds many forms. This is a medium-bodied wine with aromas of tropical fruit. On the palate, flavors of apples and fresh stone fruit, backed by balanced acidity and minerality.

Try this if you love: Pinot Grigio or off dry Riesling.

Pairings: Great with chicken, seafood and veggie dishes. A patio pounder, as well, and at a great price.

Retail price: $10 (at Story Hill BKC wine shop).

Chalk Hill Sauvignon Blanc
Estate, Chalk Hill, Sonoma

A white that is an expression of its soil and climate. Aromas of lime zest and pineapple. Flavors of tropical fruit, herbs and minerality. Very balanced with a rich mouthfeel. This wine is also barrel aged for nine months in French oak for added complexity and roundness.

Try if you love: Un-oaked Chardonnay or fuller whites.

Pairings: "Great with anything from salads to fish to pasta."

Retail price: $24 (at Story Hill BKC wine shop).

Pablo Claro, Cabernet Sauvignon/Graciano
Castilla, Spain

This Spanish blend is a hidden gem. Graciano is a Spanish varietal, best know as a blending varietal and it works great with Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s deep and dark with aromas of spice and vanilla. On the palate, dark fruits of blackberry and black plum with a nice long finish.

Try this if you love: Straight Cabernet Sauvignon or Spanish Rioja.

Pairings: This is great with roast beef, grilled meats and chocolate dessert.

Retail price: $17 (at Story Hill BKC wine shop).

Klinker Brink Old Ghost Zinfandel
Old Vine, Lodi, Calif.

This IS what Zinfandel is supposed to be like! Grapes from a 90-year-old vineyard provides this wine that is full of spice and dark, rich fruit. Aged for 18 months in barrel to provide great balance. Red Raspberry and blackberry fruit with hints of plum intermixed with vanilla.

Try this: "... if you think all Zinfandel is jammy and fruity. This is the real old vine stuff."

Pairings: "This is great with grilled meats, barbecue, lamb and game."

Retail price: $38 (at Story Hill BKC wine shop).

Voliero, Rosso di Montalcino
Tuscany, Italy

From the Uccelliera Family, comes this great expression of old world rosso. Originating from Montalcino in Tuscany, this "baby" Brunello is full of flavor. Made from 100 percent Sangiovese, this medium bodied wine has flavors of dried cherries and cranberries with earthiness and dustiness. Great acidity to pair well with food.

Try this if you love: Chianti or other Italian reds.

Pairings: This is great with Italian red sauce pasta, steak, hearty pork dishes.

Retail price: $24 (at Story Hill BKC wine shop).

Lori Fredrich Senior Food Writer, Dining Editor, Podcast Host

Lori is an avid cook whose accrual of condiments and spices is rivaled only by her cookbook collection. Her passion for the culinary industry was birthed while balancing A&W root beer mugs as a teenage carhop, fed by insatiable curiosity and fueled by the people whose stories entwine with each and every dish. She’s had the privilege of chronicling these tales via numerous media, including OnMilwaukee and in her book “Milwaukee Food.” Her work has garnered journalism awards from entities including the Milwaukee Press Club. 

When she’s not eating, photographing food, writing or recording the FoodCrush podcast, you’ll find Lori seeking out adventures with her husband Paul, traveling, cooking, reading, learning, snuggling with her cats and looking for ways to make a difference.