The 'Great Other' of white wines
Published 2:18 p.m., Friday, October 5, 2012
Because domestic wine remains dominated by a few Goliath varieties, we sometimes struggle with what you might call the more
esoteric roster of homegrown whites. But I'd argue that the Great White Other is more important - and impressive - than ever.
Could one of these grapes become a runaway hit? Long shot. But they are far more than just a counterpoint to the same old
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. And some, like Chenin Blanc, are having a welcome resurgence that's more than a blip. (Go to:
In an era when wine is more diverse than ever, these bottles provide a frontier - helping grape growers to rediscover the
unappreciated plantings of the past and to retrace the promising leads that yield-minded 20th century vineyard poobahs shrugged at.
In other words, they hold the possibility less for the next big thing than for the rise of diversity in the fields. They're a wonderful sign of
a maturing wine culture.
2011 Jolie Laide Fanucchi Vineyards Russian River Valley Trousseau Gris ($22, 13.5% alcohol): While Scott Schultz
recently returned to his day job at Wind Gap Wines, this latest from his own young label shows great depth. This barely qualifies as
white: Juice sat on the ruddy skins of this rare grape, creating a slight copper tint. Almost biting in its freshness, with wintergreen, tart
nectarine and quince flavors, plus unusual spiciness at the end. This is still young, so a bottle bought now will reward you even better
2011 Adelsheim Ribbon Springs Vineyard Ribbon Ridge Auxerrois ($22, 13%): One of Oregon's defining wineries has a place
in its heart for this grape, which has the same parentage (Pinot Noir and Gouais Blanc) as Chardonnay but little of the same respect or
love. David Adelsheim has produced a pedigreed effort, with an intensity of ripe fruit - pear and mandarin - hitched to mineral
freshness and a white-pepper bite.
2011 Birichino Monterey Malvasia Bianca ($17, 13%): Bonny Doon alumni Alex Krause and John Locke remain on a roll with
their Central Coast label. This gem is sourced from the massive 5,000-acre San Bernabe vineyard, another sign of how a grape long
planted in California can find a new, vibrant life. Lean and almost chewy, it's full of exuberant orange-blossom, apricot and clove.
2010 Clarksburg Wine Co. VS Clarksburg Chenin Blanc ($24, 11.5%): This area in the Sacramento delta remains a littleknown wine-growing treasure, and somehow the fates have kept undervalued Chenin Blanc in the Clarksburg ground. Usually its fruit
goes elsewhere, but this local facility brought in consultant Stacy Clark, who tapped the area for her popular Pine Ridge white. VS
stands for Vouvray style, though that could imply sweetness while this is dry, serious stuff. Wonderfully tangy, with corn silk, finger
lime, nectarine and a woodsy edge. An off-dry version ($16, 12.5%) is just as finessed.
2011 Roark Wine Co. Santa Ynez Valley Chenin Blanc ($15, 12.3%): Ryan Roark's 2010 bottling of this grape, using old vines
grown near the Curtis winery, made a strong impression earlier this year. His new release is equally good, with slightly softer edges -
blossom honey and ripe Bosc pear, and a wheatgrass twang. This bottle might have a bit of Vouvray on the brain, with a wonderful
density to the flavors.
2011 Zocker Paragon Vineyard Edna Valley Gruner Veltliner ($20, 13.5%): The mix of marine and volcanic influence in the
soils of the 872-acre Paragon site have quietly made proof positive of Gruner's abilities on these shores. This latest has that celery-like
astringency that makes the variety so versatile, with citrus aromas and perhaps a bit edgier flavors than the 2010.
2011 Kenneth Volk Silvaspoons Vineyard Alta Mesa Torrontes ($24, 13.1%): Wild Horse founder Volk seems to have been
hunting for new white wine sources, and his take might be the best yet for this small Lodi planting of Argentina's beloved grape. As
exuberantly floral as Torrontes can be, with a firmer structure to citrus and grape flavors. A classy rendition, with the same snap that's
present in great dry Muscat.
2011 Y. Rousseau Old Vines Russian River Valley Colombard ($18, 12.8%): Yannick Rousseau's effort to elevate a littleappreciated California workhorse is impressive in its new vintage. A fine mineral overtone to papaya skin, citrus zest and honeydew,
with a wonderfully full texture - thank seven hours of soaking on its skins - reminiscent of ripe apple. Better than 2010, and proving itspoint wonderfully.
2011 Harney Lane Lodi Albarino ($19, 13%): While the Mettler family has been farming in Lodi since 1907, their embrace of the
area's new focus on Spanish varieties has paid off. The peach and lime-rickey flavors are sweet and enduring, with a thyme accent and
freshness that could easily rival versions from the grape's native Rias Baixas.
Jon Bonné is The Chronicle's wine editor. Find more of his coverage at sfgate.com/wine. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter:
05oct- self-indulgent ramblings mostly about wine
i was thinking about vintage changes this morning.
the subject occurred to me since i had to switch deodorants because piggly wiggly doesn't carry my brand. as i got ready for work the familiar but different aura that followed me reminded me of the sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic differences in a wine from vintage to vintage. now, there's usually a core of the same in the wine, whether it be terroir, winemaker personality, or just distinctive varietal character but i'm always a little pleased when it's a little different. in these modern times i imagine it's not terrible difficult to recreate the same wine every year so when it's a little different i feel like winemaker is allowing something natural to be expressed. maybe. i hope.
i remember the first time i recognized a vintage change and had an opinion about it. i wasn't terribly far into my wine education and had been concentrating on bordeaux, in particular. we'd been drinking the '98 of an affordable little haut-medoc for a little while and on my next order the 2000 was delivered without our knowledge. we tasted without looking at it and scrunched our faces in confusion as it was distinctly different. it still had that core of what we knew but it was so different. i admit i felt silly articulating "i much prefer the '98' since i was still fairly new to wine at the time and it seemed like such an affectation.
but it really helped to illustrate what a little time in bottle can do or how much the climate can change a wine. maybe rain bloated grapes one year or drought raisinated them the next. maybe threat of bad weather made some vineyards pick early while others just up the road risked it and picked later.
and that's just the beginnings of the vagaries that can impact how you taste your wine. glass ware could let your wine's bouquet blossom or it could suppress it. what you're eating could pair beautifully with it or completely destroy its structure. the person next to you could be wearing a lot of fragrance which could distract and confuse your nose. starting a glass of wine indoors and then walking outside could give you subtly different aromatics. with whom you drink your wine. the time of day.maybe you're drinking wine next to a dishwasher that poofs out different smelling air as it changes from function to function. how happy or angry you are. maybe you're about to get sick and don't know it yet but the body is starting to respond and your palate is dulled. maybe the pressurization of an airplane cabin dulling your senses. not to mention the bank of descriptors you have could be entirely different from that of the person next to you
it's such a convoluted affair.
i don't really have much of a point, i suppose. these unpredictables apply to almost everything, really. food, beer, movies, clothes, locales. definitely people. music. how an instrument plays.
... words with friends.
i'll stop now.
i love that peculiarly colored lager. and those bitters are going to be fun. i've played around a little bit with the cherry bitters so far and have come up with an interesting way to approximate cherry coke but using booze.
There are great wines and there are horrid wines, but it is everything in between that is evil. To drink wines that are great is a duty, but the man who drinks crap at least knows it is crap. It is the man who drinks wines in between, he is the banal knave who ignores the truth, who pretends that there are no standards, no absolutes in wine, who believes that 89 Point wines have a right to exist, the uneducated Neanderthal, and it is he who destroys himself and the wine business. He is evil. I drink wine for myself, and I drink wine for you, but I would never ask that you drink wine for me. I live only for my own pleasure, and I have the batteries to prove it. And what is a man but a vessel for pleasure? A Love Boat cruising the wine-dark sea, a nightly party in his pants, his tiny Gopher in charge? There is only existence and non-existence, First Class and Coach, original and extra crispy, First Growth Bordeaux and Argentinean Malbec, which is for suckers, for the tasteless, for the Gaucho Marks. Go, drink the great wines, they were made for you! I liked the zesty acidity of this lovely white.
I felt meterological whispers in the air this morning. The tendrils of autumn that have been sneaking into the atmosphere triggered something in me that caught me off guard. Every year around this time, if the weather is right, I respond viscerally to the timing, I suppose. A personal calender or, perhaps, something genetic. Some different gear into which we shift when we are reminded that we should be hunting in order to have furs and smoked, dried meat for our bellies in the coming winter.
But my visceral response has been ‘caution’ for years. I always assumed it was school related when I was matriculating but in my adult years my wariness has survived. Maybe it isn’t the leeriness of a cold winter as much as it is the unpredictability of football season on the business and/or the social obligations that loom at the tail end of the calendar.
With this concern, as with many, I have found the pleasures of the palate to mitigate anxiety. Autumnal and winter eating is of comfort to me, with its richness and starchiness. Around this time we’ll occasionally be adding acorn squash to our mussaman curry, a bonus that I rather enjoy. More dark beers will reënter our vernacular as we bid sad farewell to the lighter styles. Some of my precious rosés will hibernate until next spring (though I’ll always have one by the glass and several lying about for those in the know) and we’ll begin exploring those bigger reds that our summer wine list has eschewed (to some backlash, might I add.)
I will still tend to avoid the red monsters. I do not care for these sasquatches that trod so insistently on the palate and our food but there is plenty of room for the elegant strongman. The brute that can wear a suit well. We’ve played a lot with Rhone blends for this purpose but this year we may broaden out of the French countryside and into some different places. Today I intend to re-interview a South African cape blend that has been well-received and that I found paired nicely with a lot of our cuisine. We may look at Hawkes Bay in New Zealand again for some Bordeaux varietals and maybe a brawny, funky carmenere from South America.
So while the weather might be fiddling with my anxieties I can at least look forward to the tasting and learning and sharing of a new batch of wines and beers.
26August- A haiku-form primer on some of our lesser-known by-the-glass wine selections
this has been going on the weekly list now for a little while but, for some reason, i haven't posted it here.
since we do like to play with obscure grapes and styles by-the-glass and sometimes the moment doesn't lend itself to asking for an explanation or description of them i started offering descriptions in haiku form on each of the beverage menus. i know what you're thinking : "why not the english sonnet, sam? you love the english sonnet" yes, i do love the english sonnet but i thought that a shorter format would be better.
maybe, in time, i'll change the format to the limerick.
A haiku-form primer on some of our
lesser-known wine selections
melon and grain
into a bright and
dry, crisp wine.
and orange rind finish dry
with some mild acid.
in this soft, bright wine
and a fresh, sweet entry.
Light acid; off-dry
24Aug- new wines and beers for this week
. in which i suddenly remember that we have a blogspot that needed updating. .
So it's still summer of riesling! whoohoo!! hoot! ...woo...hm...
yeah, so maybe the response to summer of riesling hasn't been as effusive as i'd hoped but we still have plenty of rieslings to try and new ones coming in every week.
And, as always, there are new roses.
I'm really enjoying this moulin-a-vent, which will replace the morgon we've had on the menu for a while now.
the hitachino white ale is back and is joined by another (distinctly different) white ale that's in a nice, big can.
and, because it's approaching the end of august and soon we'll be in autumn, we've got a pumpkin ale. pleasantly, sessionably pumpkiny.
and also, because this happened to be playing while i was writing this:
here's some of the new wine and beer business we're insisting on everyone. 3 new beers (i've been lazy on the beer front on account of getting all distracted by the Summer of Riesling that is still going on, by the way. plenty of new rieslings.) and, yes, that's the awesome and powerful dragon's milk at the end. once again i've arranged the bottles in tonal order.
for those, if any, of you who want to get a better look without the musical interlude:
look at the light coming through that gorgeous blue bottle from the nahe. and those cute little roses. lining up my pretties like this every week makes me happy, even knowing how sort of creepy it is calling wine bottles "my pretties."
13July - have i mentioned that it's the summer of riesling?
in the spirit of the continuing summer of riesling (and also in the spirit of trying to order enough to get what i actually needed delivered from several companies) we've got a bunch of new rieslings to try!
the german ones on the left are arranged in the order of their amtiche prufungsummer and the wines on the right are arranged in alphabetical order. according to the second letter of their name. not sure why i did it like that.
also, not tonight, but sometime next week we'll be revisiting this red snapper. we had it last night and it did quite well. why put the picture up now, teasingly, when it might be better served to put it up later on next week when it's actually available? good question. i'm inscrutable.
20June- technically the beginning of 'summer of riesling!
though the menu won't properly reflect the 3 by the glass rieslings until this friday.
but there are plenty of rieslings with which to play in the meantime which you can access by ordering our 'random riesling' menu option. plus i'm pleased with the level of detail of the wine map of spain that was given to me just today.
(plenty more to come so don't panic if your distributor isn't represented...)
plus what promises to be a pretty pinot rose from the loire.
and just as an aside:
with our menu (and plenty others) if there are multiples of one varietal it's often because they're pretty different from each other. so sometimes, if one isn't available, the wisest course may be to ask what's most like the one you want since the most similar in style/spirit may not be the next one on the list.
just a thought. not a steadfast rule out there in the world but certainly one here and especially when it comes to rieslings and pinot noirs and roses.
pronounced like the guy from jurassic park pronounced it...
anyway, here's some new stuff for the weeked, fully half of which i don't intend to share.
ahh, but which half?
and there's also a virginia porter that was delivered tardily and so wasn't able to join the line up. it is, however, one of the most textbook yet easy drinking porters i've ever had. yes, it's warm out but i could still knock back a couple of these guys.
and where the dinosaurs are concerned they're just part of our new bar theme: dinosaurs versus cowboys. bring in your own dinosaurs and/or cowboys to join into the fray!
04 May- non-alcoholic wine/beer training?
been thinking about this lately. we had some underage applicants is why it came to mind but then i started thinking about someday when i become an uncle. whenever that day comes that alex has threatened to leave me in charge of whatever child is produced i'd like to start them early on in their palate education. i'm sure alex will take care of honing the child's appreciation for food so it'll be my job to make sure the child grows up with an idea of what to expect in the beer and wine world and possessed of the necessary vocabulary to articulate themselves.
but i like the idea of a bare-bones foundation curriculum and it certainly wouldn't hurt to take myself and the servers through those basic components. you know, acid (lemon juice, maybe), tannin (oversteeped tea), fruit (various kinds of fruit juices). back in the marshall wine training days marshall and i went through several tests with juices in order to exaggerate -and therefore simplify- aromatic and flavor components in a wine. i remember we blended some cherry juice with some cranberry juice and some blackberry juice in varying amounts and came up with sort of a virgin pinot noir. interesting, educational exercises that ended up being more expensive than just buying wine, actually. man, some of those 100% juices are pricey.
trips to the grocery store, farmers market, or plant nursery can be good training if you have the time and energy. take big whiffs of fresh strawberries and tomatoes and tomato leaves. ripe melons and herbs. get a sense of that wonderful garrigue that southern french wines can offer by smelling a bunch of lavender, rosemary, and thyme separately and then together. and don't forget some of the artificial or processed things whose flavors and aromas often find themselves in wine. grab a box of graham crackers and smear them with some raspberry jam for a zinfandelly experience. jolly ranchers seem to have come up frequently in taste descriptors. i saw red twizzlers used to describe a red wine at husk down in that place.
walking through our jasmine-covered arbor might remind you of sarsaparilla, which might bring to mind that
pretty, high-toned sort of vanillin note that delicate oak treatment can offer.
yup. opportunities to learn all around us. and, sure, it may sound ridiculous when a wine review speaks of black cherry, blackberry, tar, and licorice in a wine but when you've got your nose deep in a glass of chianti classico and you're familiar enough with those descriptors it shouldn't come as a surprise to find little suggestions -or sometimes aggressive assertions- of any if not all and more of those descriptors.
27april- credit card machine woes.
so everyone knows, last night lightning struck a tree just behind the restaurant rendering several machines unusable. unfortunately, our credit card machine was one of those machines. so tonight, if you're planning on coming in, be prepared to pay either in cash or by using out iphone card swiper thing, which frustratingly only lets you tip in the amounts it suggests and not your own number. not a big deal but something to think about. on the plus side, we'll be getting a new machine tomorrow at which time everything will be sunshine and lollipops again. credit card machine-wise.
here are some of the new things for this week. i'm particularly glad to see that avril belgian farmhouse back. just a delightful, light, bready, and refreshing beer.
we're also going to run a new rueda by the glass that's got some nice tangerine/orange rind-y sort of notes to the nose, firm mouthfeel, with some nice acid and mineral on the finish. very spanish. very easy-going.
and, for fun, i've got a 2005 vin santo i'll probably want an excuse to open.
pricy little guy but it should be more than delicious.
i probably shouldn't even mention it but just in case anyone has a determined yen for a 7 year old italian dessert wine i happen to have one.
i love wine maps. i was so thrilled when ed got us the french map as, even though i have a passing familiarity with the region it's nice to see it represented in so easy to understand a fashion. so it was especially nice when he sent me the email saying that the same company had done a map for california, which is an up and coming wine region about which, geographically, i'm still trying to learn. i've already used it twice to clarify some labels while i was writing this week's menu.
and i'm so looking forward to that rose of touriga nacional. (look at the way the sun shines through it and gently illuminates the label of the chateau de caladroy from the cotes du rousillon. pretty. i feel like nice, dry roses do that for me: cast a pretty, pink, warm and comforting light on the day.)
i'm particularly excited about the 100% roussanne chave st joseph blanc and the arneis. but i'm also particularly excited about the inexpensive rose of syrah almost as much as i am about the sparkling pinot noir rose.
...and i'm especially excited that the new vintage of roses should be coming out soon...
once again there's too much for the single page so, for this next week, i'm going to try a possibly clutter-y addition to the menu just to cover more inventory ground.
in the meantime, here are some of the boozy things nestled safely in the fridges down here at the thai food store. they patiently await consumption, by either you or me. (one of those bottles is in dreadful risk of personal consumption sooner than later...)
that is the only day of the year that we do take reservations so if anybody is interested in that sort of thing give us a call. we'll need a credit card to hold a reservation and there's a $25 penalty for a no call/no show. just so you know.
it is my wish that everyone gets an opportunity to try these.
as that is impossible, barring some miracle of messianic proportions, i will reluctantly settle on trying them myself and sending tastes out to customers, when appropriate. when the situation is appropriate, that is, not necessarily the customers. scratch that. when both are appropriate.
i've gone red mad, for some reason, don't know why. despite the fact that the weather begs for rose and sparkling but, as you may know, i believe all weather begs for those things.
this is a broad line-up that ranges from a light, thirst-quenching mencia from ribeira sacra in spain to a rich, classically bordeaux st emilion grand cru ('00 vintage) and a crazy and spot-on santa maria valley nebbiolo from 2001, which is just now beginning to unfold into quite a nice tar, orange peely, dark cherry impression of piedmont. like watching travolta do clinton in 'primary colors': you know it's not him but, brother, it's believable.
plus a fun japanese amber ale as well as some some potassium and electrolyte-rich coconut water.
we just brought in the left hand brewers fade to black vol. 3 pepper porter last week and it's been doing really well. sara gould, one of the reps of the brewery, emailed me this video of an in-depth explanation of this beer.
there are two houses in oregon that warm my heart and in whose wines i would happily drown, regretting nothing. the first is eyrie and the second is brick house.
and i'm not even sure which pillar is more important to me here but it isn't only the quality and approach to the wines but also the personal experiences i've had in each of their vineyards. i feel lucky to have experienced the warmth and charm of walking among their vines and talking with the people who pour their souls into the grapes so that we may pour their wine into our glasses. and then into our waiting bellies, of course. those wonderful memories of eyrie's diana lett, our shadows slowly beginning to lengthen as the sun set, showing me the vines that she and david planted on their honeymoon and of petting that ancient irish setter on the gorgeous leather couch in doug tunnell's understated brick house tasting room in the barn that also serves as their winery.
and then, of course, the wines. both wines, to my palate, evidence of what amazing heights of which oregon is capable. grace, elegance, finesse, but also power and depth and ageability. beautiful and streamlined with an almost severe undercurrent of intelligence. like a young lauren bacall.
so, here's a bunch of stuff that i picked up. some of it's going on the by the glass list. some of it i've had and loved and wanted to see here again, incidentally making them available for customers purchase. and the spatburgunder weissherbst i've never tried before and i'm so eager to crack that Säugling open and see what's what.