The Somm Set by Benchmark Wine Group

Jon McDaniel

Welcome to our newest series, The Somm Set. Each month we’ll be sitting down with a guest sommelier and uncovering their guilty pleasures, cellar staples, and everything in between! Follow as they hand-select their favorites from our warehouse, giving you the inside scoop on cellar must-haves!

This month on The Somm Set, we’re excited to feature Jon McDaniel, Master Sommelier. Join us as we explore everything from his passion for wine, favorite wine and food pairing, and his newest endeavors.

Jon's Favorite Varietal: Grenache
Read Our Interview With Jon McDaniel
The Somm Set Home

This week from Jon McDaniel:

From the daily drinker to stunning, collectible reds at every level of wine production, the Southern Hemisphere continues to be an incredible source for some of the best values in the wine world. I have been fortunate to live and work in South Africa, travel to Argentina, Australia, and Chile, all of which have been some of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had. I am excited to share some highlights from each of these countries that will not only wow you but also make you give these fantastic wines a new space in your own cellar!


With some of the highest-elevation vineyards on earth, Argentina, specifically the Andean region of Mendoza, has been the source for the Malbec revolution. I have always leaned on Malbec as a grape variety that out-punches its weight and transitioned Napa lovers to discover how powerful and age-worthy wines from Argentina can truly be.


In addition to my very exciting tasting of An Approach to Relaxation, the fantastic project in the Barossa Valley by Richard and Carla Rza Betts February 25th – Australia has always been a wine-producing country that brings a wide range of diversity and age-worthy reds that show how beautiful and rich Shiraz can be. Cabernet is also a star in several regions across Australia…and when you find those inky, juicy Cab/Shiraz blends that can cellar for years – pick them up! The continent of Australia is also home to some of my favorite winemaking personalities – Chester Osbourne (d’Arenberg), Ben Glaetzer, Chris Ringland, and Sparky Marquis (Mollydooker) are just a few of the rockstars that I love learning from, tasting with, and I always make sure to track down any project that they are involved in – check out some tasty Aussie’s here:


It may be only 61 miles wide at its widest point, but Chile has a wide variety of wines that are captivating and absolutely worthy of your cellar. It is no surprise that some of the world’s most respected wine minds – including Robert Mondavi (Seña), the Lapostolle family (Casa Lapostolle), and Baron Phillipe de Rothschild (Almaviva) invested in partnerships here – producing some incredible, collectible Cabernet blends. The value of Chilean wines also gives you an opportunity to access big, bold, and structured reds for a fraction of what their Napa and Bordeaux counterparts might be.

South Africa

There are lots of reasons why South African wines are so underappreciated here in the U.S. – it’s far so you won’t really get to visit, political unrest blocked the wines until the mid-90s, and the first wines to arrive were crappy Pinotage, and, as I found when I lived and visited this beautiful country – most of the great wines of South Africa…never see the export market. There are just a few wines that have set the potential for being talked about as some of the world’s greats – but those are some beautiful wines that mirror the possibilities and flavor profiles of Bordeaux meets Australia. Cabernet is king here, but some stunning dessert wines (Vin de Constance) have been produced for generations and are bucket list wines.

Check out all the wines mentioned below!

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