The Proof

The Proof

From mixing to sipping, tasting to pouring, welcome to The Proof! Whether you’re an aficionado or just love beer, wine and spirits, The Proof is your one stop for all the latest industry news directly from our experts. It’s like having a friend who’s in the know – who can help you find the perfect pairing.

Plus, you’ll be the first to find out about our exclusive in-store and Schnucks-sponsored events! We invite you to stick around, learn something new and enjoy what we have to share with The Proof.

Meet Our Experts

You’ll find our wine and beer experts at many of our grocery stores and right here at The Proof! We’re proud of the fact that we have we have more Certified Specialists of Wine (CSW) than any local grocer. To prove their expertise and be certified, they have to pass a rigorous exam. They’ll be happy to help you find some wonderful new wines in-store and online. You can also count on our Certified Beer Servers, who have gone through their own certification process, for the latest news and ideas to help you find new craft or specialty beers.

This Month's Featured Expert

Stephen Gitto, Schnucks CSW
Meet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Stephen Gitto

1. Tell us about yourself!

I’m the Liquor Manager at Schnucks Lindbergh. I passed the CSW exam in 2006 and the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) exam in 2009. I am also an Advanced Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers. I am the only Advanced Sommelier working for Schnucks and also one of 5 in St. Louis.

2. What advice would you like to share with customers?

It is not a big deal if cold beer warms up before being chilled again, as long as it isn’t too hot, of course. So, don’t feel prohibited from buying out of the cooler.

3. September is National Bourbon Heritage Month! To celebrate, what are a few recommendations?

I’m a fan of Basil Hayden, Russell’s Reserve 10 year and Michter’s.

4. Anything else?

I’m always excited when a new customer shops at my store and are amazed by what we have. The Liquor Department at Schnucks Lindbergh has the greatest and most diverse selection of wine in St. Louis. As far as retail in general, it is also one of the best selections in the United States. Not just for grocery stores.

The Proof CSW Gary Paplanus
Meet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Gary Paplanus

1. Tell us about yourself!

I am the Liquor Manager at Schnucks Woods Mill. I am a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and a Level One Cicerone. I have been at Schnucks for 33 years. Once I became a Liquor Manager, I used my passion for food and food preparation to begin pairing wine and beer with different meal selections.

2. What is a common question you get from customers?

I am frequently asked, “What wines or beers pair with different foods?” My simplest answer would be to pair a Cabernet Sauvignon with steak, Fume Blanc with grilled chicken, Riesling with bleu cheese or Pinot Noir with a traditional Thanksgiving meal.

3. What is your favorite wine or beer and why?

If people ask me what my favorite wine is, I usually say a Red blend. I like Red blends because they can vary in style from a Bordeaux to a non-traditional blend. For example, a blend that uses Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petite Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec would be considered a Bordeaux blend.

4. Any predictions or new things happening that you’re excited about in regards to wine/beer/spirits?

The continuous growth of rosés is something new and exciting that is occurring this year. It’s fun to see the consumers expanding their palettes.

I have also seen interest in the sampler 12 packages of beer increase. The sampler gives the customer a great chance to try new seasonal items along with their favorites all in one package. Urban Chestnut has a good sampler that includes their go-to’s plus a seasonal IPA that is easy drinking and refreshing. Leinenkrugel has a nice sampler for the summer, which includes 4 different Shandy’s from their summer to watermelon. It’s a very easy drinking beer for people looking for something light and refreshing.


Meet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Barb Hunt

1. Tell us about yourself!

I’m the Liquor Manager at Schnucks Cottleville, I have been a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) for 5 years. I had been warned by another CSW that it was a difficult process. I was not convinced until I started taking the class. I studied every day for 9 months to pass the test!

2. What is a common question you get from customers?

I get asked “What’s new?”, especially when talking about beer. We have some excellent local selections. Logboat and Burr Oak out of Columbia and Mother’s from Springfield are all great choices.

3. What is your favorite wine or beer and why?

I am currently into Pinot Noir, because I appreciate its ability to pair well with many different foods.

4. Any predictions or new things happening that you’re excited about in regards to wine/beer/spirits?

I think we will be seeing more interest in local offerings. I am hearing more from customers about local distilleries. There is a lot of interest in bourbons and whiskeys. Wood Hat Spirits and Pinckney Bend Distillery are located in Missouri. 4 Hands Brewing just came out with a gin. And, breweries that offer a more experiential approach, like Logboat Brewing in Columbia, Missouri, are trending. People like to hang out, listen to music and play games while enjoying great local beer.

CSW Matt Wider
Meet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Matt Wider

1. Tell us about yourself!

I’ve worked at Schnucks for 43 years. Currently, I am the Beverage Alcohol Field Merchandiser and Special Events Coordinator. I have been a CSW since November 2008. I am also a Certified Specialist of Spirits (CSS), Certified Beer Server (CBS), Certified Sommelier (CS), Wine & Spirits Educational Trust 2 (WSET II) Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) for wine.

2. What is a common question you get from customers?

What is the difference between bourbon and whiskey? The answer is one-in-the-same. Bourbon is whiskey. I believe the confusion starts because we hear about Scotch, Canadian, Japanese, Irish whiskeys. These whiskeys only come from those countries etc. but are all whiskeys. The name protects by international law those whiskeys. So the question is how did bourbon get its name? There is a long story going back to the Revolutionary days of our country. One story credits Elijah Craig, a Baptist Minister, who lived next to Bourbon County, Kentucky. The story goes that Elijah Craig burnt barrels to kill the smell before shipping his whiskey to New Orleans. By the time the whiskey got to New Orleans, it turned brown and everybody loved it. The burnt barrels gave the whiskey caramel and vanilla notes which made it sweeter. This, in turn, took away any harshness from the distillation process at the time. It was not until May 4, 1964, that Congress recognized bourbon whiskey as a “distinctive product of the United States”. This “Bourbon” name was for protection to keep any whiskey made outside of the U.S. from entering and calling it bourbon. Bourbon whiskey is classified as the original American spirit and can be made anywhere in the U.S.

3. What is your favorite wine or beer and why?

This is a hard question to answer because it changes all the time. I love all wines from cabs to pinot noirs and chardonnay to rieslings. (I love dry rieslings the most!) guess that I would say that I am “stuck” on petite sirah now. The grape produces a big, assertive red wine with powerful tannins and dark, almost black color. The flavors of pepper and nutmeg dominate the fruit flavors of berry and boysenberry jam.

4. Any predictions or new things happening that you’re excited about in regards to wine/beer/spirits?

The whiskey craze is not slowing down. I do see tequila on the rise. When you start to explore in tequila, please keep in mind you only want to try 100% pure de agave spirits. There are many out there and will give you clean crisp taste from the Blanco to the barrel aged Anejo. I did pick out my own single barrel of Anejo from Tres Agaves. It is at the Des Peres store. Whatever your favorite – wine, spirits or beer – please enjoy with friends, food and lively conversation. Salud, Matt.

Tom End headshot
Meet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Tom End
Each month, we will introduce you to one of our Certified Specialists of Wine (CSW). This month, we talked to Tom End from Schnucks Kirkwood.

1. Tell us about yourself!

I’m currently the Liquor Manager CSW, CBS at Schnucks Kirkwood. I started working for Schnucks in 1986 in the Produce Department when I was in college. In 1999, I went on a family vacation to Austria, Switzerland and Germany. It was that trip that sparked my interest in wine. In 2000, I became the liquor manager and earned my CSW in 2008.

2. What is a common question you get from customers?

I get asked quite often, “What is a good dry white wine for cooking?” I like to use a Sauvignon Blanc because most are aged in stainless steel tanks and give the dish a clean fresh taste.

3. What is your favorite wine or beer and why?

My go-to wine is a full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. Nothing complements a juicy rib eye steak better than a Cabernet Sauvignon! And although I appreciate many styles of beer, my favorite is still a lager style. I like to stick to the local brews like Urban Chestnut Zwickel and a traditional Budweiser.

4. Any predictions or new things happening that you’re excited about in regards to wine/beer/spirits?

The next new trend is craft tequila. It’s trending on the coast right now. Craft tequila can be described as small batch tequila with specialty flavors. One of the new craft tequilas that I carry at Kirkwood is Condigo 1530. The store has three types: Blanco, Rosa and Reposado.

The Blanco is unrested (not aged in a barrel) with tasting notes of mineral character and citrus.

The Rosa is rested one month in uncharred Napa Cabernet french white oak barrels with tasting notes of bright agave character and floral notes of Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Reposado is aged 6 months in charred Napa Cabernet french white oak barrels. The charred barrels lead to a tequila with notes of vanilla, toasted caramel and cocoa powder.

Mary Jo Gilsinn sitting at a tabletop with a glass of wine.
Meet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Mary Jo Gilsinn
Each month, we will introduce you to one of our several Certified Specialists of Wine (CSW). This month, we talked to Mary Jo Gilsinn from Schnucks Eureka.

1. Tell us about yourself!

Currently, I am the Beverage/Liquor Manager at Schnucks Eureka. I have been working for Schnucks since 1987. My passion for wine began when I was given my first Liquor Department to manage over 15 years ago. I was given the opportunity to study and become a Certified Specialist of Wine. After that, I became a Certified Beer Server.  It has been a learning experience for me every day since!

2. What is a common question you get from customers?

I am asked most often “What’s the difference between cooking wines in the Grocery Department and wine off the shelves in our Liquor Department?” First, I explain that cooking wines are made primarily to be undrinkable because of added salt and other ingredients. Secondly, they are not shelf stable once opened for use.  If refrigerated after use, red wines last only one day and white wines only three days. These items are definitely lower-quality wines.

My rule of thumb is to always use a quality wine when cooking and recommend that you should never purchase a wine that you wouldn’t drink!

Based on recipes given to me by my customers, these are my suggestions for wines to use when cooking:

Chicken, Fish or Turkey – I suggest a dry white such as Savignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or Unoaked Chardonnay. If those items are going to be cooked with butter, I would then suggest an Oaked Chardonnay because the richness can handle a full-bodied white. A spicy or bold recipe would do best with a fruity Riesling to counteract the spices.

Beef, Lamb or Pork – I suggest a dry red. In recipes that are hearty, I would recommend a Zinfandel or Petite Sirah. If these same meats are simmered, I would suggest a Pinot Noir or Chianti (Sangiovese). When asked about fortified wines, which have more intense flavors because of increased alcohol levels, I would offer these suggestions. Port has a very rich sweetness that goes well with meat-based dishes.  Sherry has a nutty roasted flavor that can enhance any soup, stew or sautéed dish. Madiera is rich with toffee caramel tones and is often used for sautéed mushrooms. Marsala has a caramel-like fruitiness that goes great with Mediteranean dishes.

3. What is your favorite wine and why?

My favorite wines are Cabernet from Napa and Alexander Valley. I especially enjoy well-rounded wines with mild tannins and fruit-forward tones of jam.

4. Any predictions or new things happening that you’re excited about in regards to wine/beer/spirits in 2018?

New Barrel-Aged Bourbons are entering the market at a rapid pace. I think this category will become even more specialized throughout the year. The variety and availability is astounding.  No need for customers to shop anywhere else. Schnucks will have it!

CSW Stacey Seipp sitting with wine glass.
Meet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Stacey Seipp

Each month, we will introduce you to one of our several Certified Specialists of Wine (CSW). This month, we are featuring Stacey Seipp from Schnucks Ballwin.

1. Tell us about yourself!

I’m the Liquor Department Manager at Schnucks Ballwin. I am a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW), Certified Beer Server (CBS) and Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 2 (WSET II ). I just had my 30 year anniversary in October 2017. In 2010, I became Liquor Department Manager. It was intimidating at first, but I was ready for a new challenge in my career at Schnucks.

2. What is a common question you get from customers?

I get asked what is the best wine for a dinner party/hostess gift. If they know the menu, I match the wine with the food. A simple answer is white wines for lighter dishes and reds for heavier dishes. But if they aren’t sure what’s for dinner, I suggest a sparkling wine because it pairs well with a variety of foods and is always a great gift.

3. What is your favorite wine and why?

My favorite wines right now are red blends. They are available in many flavor profiles from light to dark.

4. Any predictions or new things happening that you’re excited about in regards to wine/beer/spirits in 2018?

In 2017, I talked to a lot of customers in the 30 plus age range who are really into sparkling wines, and I see that continuing in 2018 especially with Proseccos, Italian sparkling wines. They are so versatile and can be served before or after dinner. Plus, the bonus of a sparkling wine is you can mix it other spirits, juices or rosé wine and make it something totally different. Have you heard of Rosé-ecco? If you haven’t, just add your favorite rosé to an Italian Prosecco. Trust me – it is delicious!

Wes PowersMeet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Wes Powers
Each month, we will introduce you to one of our several Certified Specialists of Wine (CSW). This month, we are featuring Wes Powers from Schnucks in Ladue.

1. Tell us about yourself! How long have you been a CSW and can you describe the process of becoming a CSW?

I have worked for Schnucks since 2011. I’m currently the Liquor Manager at Schnucks Ladue Crossing. I’ve been a Certified Specialist of Wine for just over three years. The CSW certification is a comprehensive wine program designed to give basic knowledge on all aspects of the wine – the science, history, geography and laws as they relate to wine.

2. What is a common question you get from customers?

I am often times asked, “What is the difference between pinot grigio and pinot gris?” My answer is usually one of two: Short answer, they are the same grape, a mutation of the pinot noir grape. Longer answer, they are the same grape, but often stylistically different. Pinot gris is the name used in France, and stylistically shows more roundness, even sometimes barrel aging. Pinot grigio, the name for the grape in Italy, is usually lighter, more vibrant and exhibits the citrus side of the grape. Winemakers in other parts of the world use either term, often choosing based on which style they want – Pinot Gris for the Alsatian French style, Pinot Grigio for the northeastern Italian style.

3. What is your favorite wine and why?

Currently my favorite wine is pinot noir (my favorite does change!). I love the versatility of pinot noir in pairing with foods. I also enjoy the wide range of differences in pinot noir based not only on terroir, but also through the winemaking process.

4. Any predictions or new things happening that you’re excited about in regards to wine/beer/spirits in 2018?

The last two years have been a renaissance for rosé wines, and I feel that trend will continue to grow as consumers better understand it. It is a dry, year round, food-friendly wine. I think the variety and quality we see will continue to increase this year.

Janet Nicoletti Meet this month’s featured Certified Specialist of Wine: Janet Nicoletti Each month, we will introduce you to one of our several Certified Specialists of Wine (CSW). This month, we traveled to the Schnucks in Richmond Center to talk to Janet Nicoletti.

1. Tell us about yourself! How long have you been a CSW and can you describe the process of becoming a CSW?

I’m the Liquor Department Manager at Richmond Center as well as Certified Specialist of Wine, Certified Beer Server (CBS) and Wine & Spirit Education Trust Level 2 (WSET II). I was CSW certified in 2008. The certification process is a year long commitment to study and taste wines including knowing all regions, varietals, appellations, law, fermentation, viniculture and much more.

2. How long have you worked at Schnucks?

I’ve worked at Schnucks since 1977 and in the wine department since 1985.

3. What is a common question you get from customers?

Which wines have no sulfites? All wines have natural occurring sulfites from the fermentation process. Some winemakers will add additional sulfites. A few wineries claim no added sulfites.

4. What is your favorite wine and why?

My favorite is Oregon pinot noir. It’s 100% pinot/earthy/cherry/growing on the same latitude as burgundy France.

5. Any predictions or new things happening that you’re excited about in regards to wine/beer/spirits in 2018?

Bourbon continues in popularity as well as bourbon barrel aged beer and bourbon barrel aged wines. AND more local made craft beer and craft spirits arriving.

At the Richmond Center store, we have in-store tastings of wine and craft beer every Friday and Saturday 4 – 6 p.m. as well as 4 large store events, one each season. Stay tuned to The Proof for event updates!

The Faces Behind The Proof

Chris WongWhen did you start having an interest in wine/beer/spirits?
I’ve long been a fan of beer and spirits, but until the mid 1990’s I really only dabbled in wine. California wine vintages from ’94 through ’97 really opened my eyes to the wide variance in wine quality. Now, I am drinking alcohol that is produced and bottled in all corners of the globe. I love all styles of beer yet favor beers with a malty profile rather than hoppy. I’m excited about the growing cocktail culture and a return to the classics like Bourbon and Gin.

Why the interest?
Simple, the influence people and mother nature have over the resulting products. All categories of alcohol take on characteristics from where the liquid is sourced. It’s fascinating to me how beer, wine and spirits are all impacted by local water sources, temperature variations, aging/barrel influences and the artistic women and men who create such tasty beverages.

How long have you been the Director of Wine, Spirits and Beer at Schnucks?
I’ve led the Beverage Alcohol Department for about 11 years.

Can you describe the road you took to get to this position?
I started as a Courtesy Clerk with Schnucks over 30 years ago. Many of our stores have a customer base with an enthusiasm and passion for learning about and trying new things. It was this experience in a few stores which led to my pursuit of knowledge in order to keep up with many of our discerning and educated customers. Eventually, I moved to the Store Support Center as an analyst for beverages, and I held a couple other management roles before leading the Beverage Alcohol Department.

How can we learn more?
Stay in touch. Follow me on Twitter @spiritssipssuds.

Chris Kline sitting at a bar.When did you start having an interest in wine/beer/spirits?
I have always been partial to beer since I began drinking in college more than 20 years ago. Around 2011, I began to take a greater interest in the subject and started my journey of studying and training to become a beer expert. In October 2012, I was officially awarded the title of Certified Cicerone. Since then, I have expanded my horizons as a drinker and now enjoy whiskeys of all sorts as well. I also enjoy wine and cocktails, but more experientially than academically.

Why did you go on the journey to become a Certified Cicerone and what does it take to earn the title?
At Schnucks, every teammate is challenged to become a “food expert”. This is a very broad expectation and teammates pursue anything from being a specialty cheesemonger to a meat cutter. In 2011, Schnucks had a large number of Certified Specialists of Wine already, and I thought to myself “if only they had such a thing for beer.” Chris Wong, Director of Wine, Spirits and Beer at Schnucks, told me about the Cicerone program which was still a fairly new thing in the industry. I investigated the program and found out just how rigorous it would be to earn the title of Certified Cicerone. I would have to pass a lengthy multiple choice and fill in the blank written test, write three essays, pass a blind tasting test and demonstrate the assembly and identification of parts of a beer faucet. Wow, what a challenge! Not to mention I had to first become a Certified Beer Server by passing a multiple choice exam. I spent almost two years of self-study and exploration of beer. Hundreds of styles, history, brewing techniques, ingredients, off-flavors, food pairings, etc. There was so much to learn. But, I really dedicated myself to learning it all. And let’s face it, trying hundreds of beers to learn flavor profiles isn’t the worst homework assignment. After countless hours and beers, I sat for the exam and earned a 92% overall.

How can we learn more?
My Twitter handle, @schnucksbeerguy, is a great place to find interesting beer news and other information. I will tweet info about special releases and events in our stores. I like to communicate with my almost 3,000 followers, and I will usually be able to answer questions. If not, I direct customers to the appropriate resource.

Upcoming Events

Winesday Sampling Event

  • Schnucks Webster Groves
  • Wed., Sept. 26 | 5 – 7 p.m.
  • Celebrate and sample a variety of wine for all of your fall entertaining! Since it’s Winesday, you’ll save 15% Off wine when you buy any 6 or more 750 ml bottles. Must be 21 to sample wine.

Fall Fest

  • Schnucks Swansea
  • Sat., Sept. 29 | 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Join us and sample a variety of fall favorites. You’ll find special deals on them, too! Plus, we’ll have Family Events & Games, Boar’s Head Hot Dog Cart and Wine & Beer Sampling. Must be 21 to sample wine and beer.

The Fresh Pour, locally sourced by Schnucks

Winesday