Exciting Winemaker Visits And A Parade Of California Favorites

Share

California winemaking today defies the generalizations of yesterday. Ripe, oaky monoliths have made room for a generation of wines that showcase unprecedented grace and structure within the broad, buoyant fruit that makes California wines unique. The pursuit of interesting and balanced wines from this region yields many surprises: Scholium Project's stern, crunchy Verdelho from the dried mud "anti-terroir" of the Lost Slough Vineyard in the Sacramento River Valley; Arnot-Roberts' rousing and supple Touriga Nacional rose from the Port-centric Luchsinger Vineyard in Lake County; a pair of Semillons, equally exciting yet entirely different; a Petite Sirah for now and one for much, much later...  To bounce between California's myriad grape varieties, elevations, and soils is to absorb its possibilities in pieces. The journey is complex and challenging, yet pales in comparison to the quests of the winemakers who have brought us this far.

Our March in-store tasting schedule features trailblazing winemakers Pax Mahle of Wind Gap (Monday, March 4th) and the team of Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Roberts from Arnot-Roberts (Wednesday, March 6th). These producers were among the first to earn the respect of wine lovers and professionals who seek wines with acid, agility, and that detente between lightness and intensity that makes our favorite bottles both quaffable and compelling. We are happy to say that many more winemakers are working hard to join their rank!

In the spirit of anticipation, we offer a parade of recent arrivals and staff favorites from California. (Some of these wines are quite limited; allocations are listed in item descriptions.) -AR

No Longer Available

Scholium Project 2010 California White Wine The Wisdom of Theuth

Abe Schoener has made a dizzying number of cuvees in the eight years since Scholium Project's first release, including a number of impressive Verdelho-based wines. Verdelho can be hard to finesse, with oily aromas and aggressive lime-aid flavors that announce themselves loudly and don't back down. Lost Slough Vineyard in the Sacramento River Valley is the surprising source of Schoener's most compelling Verdelhos: "The soil is terrible, essentially dried mud. You would never think that this vineyard would be capable of making such good wines... but every year, the proof is in the pudding." The Wisdom of Theuth is a  mineral-rich collision of clarity and undercover class: salty and stony with lime blossom, lime zest, key lime and the lavender seed of young Savennieres. Quiet but seething with the intensity of an introspective Gruner or Chablis. -AR

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $27.99

Dirty and Rowdy 2011 Napa Valley Sémillon Yountville

The concrete eggs have invaded California!  Well, at least the cellars at Dirty and Rowdy. Concrete eggs are the preferred method among the world's Avant Garde winemakers of achieving maximum lees contact to a fermenting wine resulting in richer mouthfeel and texture. If that wasn't enough reason to try this wine, the other portion of Semillon was fermented on its skins to achieve color, tanin, and interesting floral flavors. Be warned: the combination of these methods and lack  of filtration have resulted in a fairly opaque wine with some serious weight. We recommend decanting, serving slightly cool, and enjoying the unique herbal and citrus flavors with a roast chicken. -JR

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $29.99

Kalin Cellars 1999 Sonoma County Semillon Livermore Valley

Founded in 1977 by husband-and-wife microbiologists Terrence and Frances Leighton, Kalin Cellars is one of California's great treasures. Relatively unknown despite critical acclaim and a singular house style, Kalin's vast cellar and disciplined releases provide us with small doses of textured reds and glamorous, lees-y whites. On the nose, this Semillon is a comely collision of apricot, orange blossom, clarified butter, corn flakes in buttermilk, and a vintage Bollinger Bellini. Bamboo shoots, sweet corn, oats and and a bold mineral core of limey rocks sink into the palate with intense apricot flesh and rich, sappy orange blossom honey (the dry, vinous version). Ariana Rolich  

  • Out of Stock
  • white
  • 0 in stock
  • $34.99

Arnot-Roberts 2012 Touriga Nacional Rose

Napa natives Duncan Arnot Meyers and Nathan Roberts built Arnot-Roberts slowly and without the aid of investors, hunting down liminal vineyards of the sort that conventional California winemaking wisdom eschewed as too cool for grapes to achieve ripeness. This founding formula has resulted in Chardonnays, traditional white field blends, Pinot Noirs and Syrahs with aromatic subtlety and structural elan previously unrecognizable as Californian. The rose is 80% Touriga Nacional and 20% Tinta Cao from the same Lake County vineyard that provided the duo with the fruit for their now-famous Trousseau. Aromas of dusty strawberries and spicy lavender, with a mid-weight, slightly viscous palate of red currants, ripe peach, crunchy mangoes and watermelon Jolly Ranchers. A great alternative for lovers of Cinsault-based Provencal rose and fun match for shrimp cocktail or Manhattan clam chowder. Please join us on Wednesday, March 6th from 5-7pm for a tasting with the winemakers. (Our last case of Trousseau has been reserved for the occasion!) -AR

  • Out of Stock
  • rosé
  • 0 in stock
  • $24.99

Birichino 2012 Central Coast Pinot Noir "Saint Georges"

Birichino is a collaboration between Alex Krause and John Locke, two wine insiders who met working for Randall Graham at Bonny Doon Vineyards. Like Bonny Doon, Birichino is about making balanced Californian wines with vibrancy and sense of place. This Pinot Noir ferments naturally and is bottled unfiltered from neutral barrels for a fresh expression of the often over-fussed grape. The bunches in the Saint George vineyard form tiny berries with intense flavors of raspberry and spice. And if you buy this wine for no other reason, the label has a great illustration of a knight doing battle with a dragon! -JR

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $25.99

Birichino 2011 Central Coast Grenache

When winemakers Alex Krause and John Locke were given the chance to work with fruit from this hundred-year-old vineyard situated on the rocky slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, they knew they had a special opportunity. Here Grenache plants survive on their own rootstock without irrigation and make a miniscule amount of fresh, lively wine. The 2011 growing season was long and cool, and more whole clusters were included, but the added hang time and stems still produced a vibrant, elegant wine with only 13.5 degrees of alcohol. Think bright cherry fruit instead of the jammy or roasted quality that Grenache can sometimes show. Highly recommended as an example of some of California's most interesting and affordable wines. -JR

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $25.99

Los Pilares 2011 San Diego Grenache/Carignane

They make wine in San Diego, and it's pretty darn good. Los Pilares practices a minimalist approach to Grenache and Carignan that is very reminiscent of some of our favorite producers in the Roussillon. Ripe, but not overripe, fruit is allowed to become wine with very little interference from winemakers Chris and Alysha of Vesper Vineyards. For them this means whole berry fermentation, no added yeasts or yeast food, and no additives or preservatives including sulfur. The result is a lively wine with plenty of fresh carbonic berry fruit and a surprisingly fresh finish with a bit of spice. Serve cool, and prepare for a brave new world of California wine. One bottle per person please. -JR

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $25.99

Forlorn Hope 2011 Silvaspoons Vineyard Alta Mesa Alvarelhao

This gets our wackiest New World wine of the season award.  From the same vineyard that Arnot-Roberts sources their Trousseau comes this Alvarelhao, or Brancellao in Spain.  Fermented whole cluster in open-top puncheons with native yeasts and no sulfur added until bottling, this is beautifully strange with lifted aromas of stemmy red fruits, citrus, iron, and herbs.  The palate is medium bodied, focused, and spicy, with a bitter (in a good way) finish that reminds me of amaro.  Fairly priced, delicious, and intriguing.  What more could we want from a California wine?  Serve cool and enjoy with wide range of tapas. cb

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $19.99

Matthiasson 2005 Napa Valley Red Wine

Steve Matthiasson's wines are the natural consequence of his deep determination to farm. Working for many years as an organic viticulture consultant gave him access to the range and quality of grapes necessary to make precise and soulful blends like the 2005 Napa Red. A co-ferment of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon from cool, rocky vineyards along Dry Creek, this wine reveals its age with aromas of damp Autumn leaves and earth, crushed black peppercorns, Earl Grey tea, rose petals, and dried oregano. Orange zest mingles with sweet mulberries and ripe red plums that continue on to a palate of bing cherry, cloven plum compote and a streak of black raspberry grounded by soft, earthen depth and even tannic grain. Complex, gentle, and a shoe-in for roast beef and stews. 2 bottle per person please. -AR

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $79.99

Turley 2010 Napa Hayne Petite Syrah

Turley's resident winemaker, Tegan Passalacqua, is a champion of Petite Syrah and devoted to investigating methods that will draw out its potential for incomparable beauty over time. Impenetrably dense in its youth, Hayne Petite Syrah promises a labyrinth of aromatic and textural complexity to those who can wait for it to relax and mature. A revelatory bottle of Freemark Abbey 1969 Petite Sirah instilled enduring inspiration to cellar these wines, seek out more, and encourage our customers to do the same. 12 bottles arrived this week. Limit one per person. -AR

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $79.99

Wind Gap 2010 Sonoma Coast Syrah

Pax Mahle's skin-contacted and concrete egg wines get lots of buzz, but Wind Gap was founded on finding balanced and expressive Syrahs from the western rim of the Sonoma Coast. This 2010 is really hitting its stride right now! ! Sweet tobacco, thyme, tart cherry fruit and soft Syrah smoke dominate the nose; fresh acidity and sturdy tannins ground the fresh, supple palate of boysenberry, black raspberry, and blueberries with subtle black pepper, fresh-cut green herbs, and a bit of clove.  A vibrant young Syrah that deserves a spot at your next casual Northern Rhône night. -AR

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $41.99

Forlorn Hope 2007 Suisun Valley Tenbrink Petite Sirah

When Matthew Rorick left Elizabeth Spencer to start Forlorn Hope, a series of fascinating wines ensued: an age-worthy Semillon in the style of Kalin Cellars; a slightly bitter, citrus zest-laden rendition of the Portuguese grape Alvarelhao; and this, "Les Deux Mathieux" Petite Sirah. A recent "Aha!" moment with a bottle of 1969 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah threw me headlong into healthy infatuation with this grape. Rorick's version excites every sense, even in its youth: mouth-watering acidity punctures powerful perfumes of licorice, peonies, black currant skins and black berry seeds. Thick, dark earth and leather coat the palate, a veritable flood of blackberries, prunes, and a shake of soy sauce, with a cleansing acid tang on the finish. Hedonistic, brainy, and perfect for your next braise or venison leg. -AR

  • Out of Stock
  • red
  • 0 in stock
  • $35.99