This afternoon we provide a key for unlocking the wine mysteries of Spain’s northwest. Mysterious, because I think you will agree after tasting the spectrum of flavors and textures that we’re offering today, it is a mystery as to why the wines are not more well-known and beloved on our shores. To be sure, there are plenty of generic, “useful” wines from the northwest of Spain: dull, technical, and inexpensive albariños, for example, upon which the only demand made is that they meet a certain price point—but that’s not the way we roll. Case in point: if you’ve only ever had supermarket albariño your response to such wines might be “albariñ-no!” and you will not be prepared for the brilliant Raúl Pérez’s “Muti,” some of which is from albariño vines that are over 100 years old and grown so near the Atlantic coast that the wine itself smells and tastes of the sea. The winegrowers of Galicia and surrounding territories such as Asturias have an embarrassment of riches—choice, if at times challenging terroir, and groovy, archaic grape varieties awaiting recovery and rediscovery. And while Spain’s northeast gets all the Robert Parker glory and has staked its international fame on producing bombastic, oaky, big wines from garnacha and tempranillo, the wines of the northwest have advanced upon us surreptitiously; subtle, sometimes not, earthy, and sometimes not, and ready to meet the Now Generation’s nearly unslakeable desire for lighter, fresher, gluggy wines. Case in point: The Monasterio de Corias tinto we’re pouring today, made from marginal grapes such as albarín tinto (no relationship to albariño) and carrasquín and grown on insanely marginal terroir that few are crazy enough to attempt farming upon today.
Ameztoi Txakolina Getariako 2015
Raúl Pérez “Muti” albariño Rías Baixas 2013}
Monasterio de Corias “Diez Meses” Tinto Asturias 2010
Algueira mencia Ribeira Sacra 2014
Serpentine soils, common in northern California (exciting fact: serpentinite is our state rock) and southern Oregon, are flecked with vividly colored mineral formations. The same minerals that make serpentine soils eye-catching are not so attractive to many plants, as they contain high concentrations of metals that reduce vigor in plants (or, more accurately, attenuate the soil bacteria upon which many plants are dependent). These mineral rich soils, an unsuitable medium for farming most anything, are a fantastic medium for growing quality wine grapes because unfertile, low-vigor soils convince the vines that the end is nigh, and the vines think, “hell, this is the end, may as well stop making so many leaves and put as much energy as we can into our fruit and maybe our offspring will find a better life after we’re gone.” You may have previously witnessed the dramatic effect of these low-vigor soils in Luneau-Papin’s serpentine-grown Muscadet (sadly, the current vintage of this wine has long sold out), and you can witness it again tonight with the wine we’re starting with tonight, John House and Ksenija Kostic’s alluvial-serpentine-grown “In the Dark” dry gewürztraminer. House and Kostic have a light and sensitive touch with aromatic grape varieties, and they produce any number of different and sometimes experimental wines from diverse Oregon soils. “In the Dark” is made from vines planted in the mid-70s. It’s wild yeast fermented in old barrels, picked a little early to retain acidity, and is a rare example of a domestic gewürztraminer fermented dry. The natural tendency of gewürztraminer, when picked late, is to become blousy, oily, and monolithic, and as a consequence I can’t say that wines made from this grape cause me clap my hands and squeal, but this restrained, delicately scented wine, grown on serpentine soils, is making me reconsider.
Ovum “In the Dark” old vines gewürztraminer Gerber Vineyard Oregon 2014
Two Shepherds “Saralee Vineyard” grenache Russian River 2013
Harrington “Siletto Vineyard” trousseau Cienega Valley 2014
j. brix counoise “Coucou” San Diego County 2015
Suelo Farmers “Deer Meadows” pinot noir Anderson Valley 2012
When a customer walks into the shop and asks for Prosecco my internal dialog goes something like this, “does this kind soul who has bothered to walk into my humble shop truly want Prosecco, or is asking for Prosecco merely a proxy for ‘gimme that cheap sparkly fun time thing’?” Truly, I think, brand Prosecco is brand Cheap Sparkly Fun Thing, and really there is nothing to throw stones at here, aesthetically or morally—Lord knows, I do not abide in a glass house, and I do drink and enjoy plenty of wine that falls into that category. That said, I drink and sell zero cheap ass industrial-strength Prosecco of the sort you find at Trader Joe’s or your neighborhood liquor store. Why? Because the rise of brand Prosecco was built upon the hegemony of drab as dishwater industrial wines that require a good dose of Adderall in order stay awake through even one glass. They’re first fermented in tank (this is called the Charmat method), and then tarted up through refermentation in tank with additional sugar and bottled under pressure like soda. Really, really cheap Prosecco starts as a still wine that’s then made bubbly with pressurized carbon dioxide, just like soda. The old school stuff is still around today in quite marginal quantities, and to me, this is the only stuff I want to offer my customers. Why? To paraphrase Warren Oates in “Give me the head of Alfredo Garcia,” because it tastes so good! These old school, rustic Prosecci are made the way Prosecco was before the rise of the industrial, deracinated stuff. Prosecco “colfóndo” (with the yeast) referments in bottle, and you’ll see the evidence of this as a bit of cloudy yeast sediment in these wines. The presence of yeast is key here, as it adds texture that you just don’t get with the soda pop stuff, as well as autolytic flavors that bring Prosecco colfóndo a little closer to Champagne. Yet, lest you think I am asking you to open your wallet wide and shake it at me, Prosecco colfóndo is still a bargain, rarely rising above $20 a bottle.
Bele Casel Prosecco Colfóndo NV you will never go back to the industrial crap
Menti “Roncaie sui Lieviti”rustic, dry, sparkling gargenega grown on volcanic soils; basically, col fondo made of the grape from which Soave is made
La Prevostura “Garsun” Coste del Sesia Rosso 2013 typical alto Piemontese blend of nebbiolo, vespolina, croatina
Salicutti Rosso di Montalcino 2010 beautifully crafted sangiovese aged in huge old barrels
Please join us this Sunday from 4 to 7 for a special tasting and book signing with Deirdre Heekin of La Garagista. Deirdre and her husband, Caleb Barber, restaurateurs, farmers, and winemakers, are going where no one has gone before, pulling a rabbit out of a hat and taking a gamble on grape varieties to which no one has previously given much credence. Heekin and Barber farm wine grapes in Vermont, which is uncommon enough, using the principles of biodynamics, making their project even more uncommon, but what truly sets their project apart is their dedication to and exploration of hybrid grape varieties. The hybrids employed by La Garagista are European wine grape varieties that horticulturalists have crossed with American native grapevines, with the goal of producing vines that are disease resistant, cold hardy, and suitable for short growing seasons. The grapes have poetic sounding names like la crescent, marquette, frontenac, and brianna and were developed to withstand the rigors of a Minnesota winter either by viticulturist Elmer Swenson or the University of Minnesota agricultural extension. The wines made from these hybrids are typically little more than regional curiosities, perhaps best enjoyed with a corndog in the confines of the Minnesota state fairground or at your uncle’s summer cabin up at the lake. At least that’s what we’ve believed, until now. The La Garagista wines are available in tiny quantities—total production is 3,000 bottles, for now—but the fresh, vibrant, terroir sensitive wines of La Garagista are already demonstrating what can be done with allegedly humble material when you farm beautifully, focus on quality rather than quantity, and vinify honestly without additives. Deirdre will be signing copies of her newly published book, “An Unlikely Vineyard: The Education of a Farmer and Her Quest for Terroir.”
“Ci Confonde” Pétillant Naturale ’14 brianna white bubbles
“CiConfonde” Pétillant Naturale ’14 fontenac gris rosé bubbles
“Vinu Jancu” 2014 la crescent white
“Loups-Garoux” 2014 frontenac noir red
Tonight, we’re tasting a range of Spanish natural wines. We’re starting with a dry, mineral, and organically farmed white wine from the northeast of Spain, aged in terracotta amphora. Next, another wine from Spain’s northwest, a light-bodied wine made from a grape ordinarily used to make sparkling rosé but here vinified as a light-bodied, earthy red. To finish, two reds, one a raunchy, organically farmed, minimal-intervention Rioja from old vines tempranillo, followed by an old vine Priorat made not from the more typical garnacha found in Priorat, but from old-vine cariñena.
Perés Baltà Xarel lo Amphora 2015 amphora-aged, organically grown xarel lo
Succés “La Cuca de Llum” Conca de Barbera 2014 dry, earthy, light-bodied trepat, a grape ordinarily used to make sparkling rosé, but here vinified as a fresh, low-tannin red
Compañon Arrieta Malaspiedras” Rioja 2014 organically farmed, minimal intervention Rioja from old vines
Bodega Trosset “Olim” Priorat 2013 mostly old-vine cariñena
This afternoon we’re offering three different tastings, your choice, $10 each. You can sample our fresh crop of 2015 dry rosés including the magnificent Rosé de Loire from genius Thibaud Boudiginon (note: we’re also stocking his amazing Savennières and Anjou blanc). Or, how about a flight of light-bodied reds, starting with a light-as-a-feather pineau d’aunis from the Loire (a shockingly low 9.5% ABV) and ending with another genius wine: Julien Sunier’s 2014 Fleurie (we will decant this wine). Or, for the jejune souls for whom all of the above is just too boring for words, how about discovering or rediscovering DRY Sherry with a flight of DRY, biologically aged finos? Not boring at all.
New rosé tasting $10
Wagner-Stempel Rosé trocken Rheinhessen 2015 50-50 st laurent & pinot
Berthier Coteaux du Giennois Rosé 2015 pinot noir
Thibaud Boudignon Rosé de Loire 2015 cab franc
Light-bodied red tasting $10
Gourdon Chenin Noir Vin de France 2013 pineau d’aunis, super crunchy
J Brix “Coucou” Counoise San Diego 2015 seldom seen varietal bottling of old Rhône variety
Julien Sunier Fleurie 2014 masterful cru Beaujolais
DRY Sherry tasting (fino and manzanilla) $10
Alexander Jules Fino bottled May 2013
Fernando de Castilla Fino en Rama bottled Feb 2014
Grant “La Garrocha” Fino bottled December 2014
Great stuff happening at the shop this week!
Tonight we’re hosting a rare tasting of all three Arnot-Roberts single vineyard syrahs. Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Lee Roberts produce some of the most compelling wines in the new California wine scene, and I’m hard-pressed to think of any other California winemakers who consistently produce a range of complex, cool-climate, and age-worthy syrahs as they do. All of Arnot-Roberts wines are ridiculously small-lot and the single vineyard syrahs are their smallest production of all, and so we feel honored to get the meager supply of them that we do. We try to keep our shelves stocked with their wine and it is a testimony to what they’re doing that that we have a hard time keeping any in stock at all. Winemaking is in their blood: Duncan and Nathan are childhood friends who were raised in Napa (where Nathan’s father is a barrel cooper—Nathan personally makes all of the barrels for Arnot-Roberts) and they have an encyclopedic knowledge of the vineyard sites of their backyard and beyond. They also have a deep and abiding love of northern Rhône syrah, as evident in the serious, age-worthy, structured, cool-climate vineyard syrahs we’ll taste tonight.
We also have a few seats left for our first ever sit-down pop-up supper at the shop this Sunday with Hank and Caro Beckmeyer of La Clarine Farm. Click here for more info and to buy tickets.
Arnot-Roberts “Clary Ranch” Syrah 2014
Cool winds wrought by the Petaluma Wind Gap keep this nervy and mineral. This hillside site tests the limits of where syrah can ripen in California.
Arnot-Roberts “Griffin’s Lair” Syrah 2014
Another windy Petaluma Wind Gap site, this one planted with diverse clones of syrah.
Arnot-Roberts Que Syrah Syrah 2014
The oldest plantation of syrah on the Sonoma coast (23 years old), a little to the north of Clary Ranch and Griffin’s Lair. If possible, even more mineral and nervy than the other two wines.
Please join us on Tuesday, May 10th from 6-8 PM for a special evening of Roman food and wine with Roman food scribe Katie Parla. Katie will be at the shop to sign her fantastic new book, “Tasting Rome.” Katie will be joined by pasta genius Leah Ferrazzani (Semolina Pasta), who will nourish us with a typical Roman pasta dish, and we’ll slake our thirsts with a tasting flight of the beautiful, organically farmed Roman wines of Marco Carpineti.
$20 no reservations required
A party wine is a wine that you drink when you party. You might, at certain types of parties, want to enjoy quite a lot of wine without ending up at the end of the night talking to Ralph on the big white phone. As a prophylaxis, I advocate lower-alcohol party wines, especially when they come packaged in liter-sized bottles. Today, we’re tasting four such party wines, all liters, all dry, all organically farmed.
Leiner trocken Riesling Pfalz 2013
bone dry riesling, Demeter certified bio-d
Familie Maier Zweigelt Landwein Kremstal
NV light-bodied, organically farmed, acacia wood aged Austrian red
Lestignac Tolrem Vin de France 2014
earthy, light-bodied merlot from Bergerac
Poderi Cellario “È!” rosso NV
gluggy barbera from Piemontese natural winegrower