SUPERB UNDER $40 WHITE BLEND

Arbe Garbe (pron. Arbay Garbay), literally “bad weeds”, is what they call the cover crops on the Friulian Colli Orientali (“eastern hills”). It’s the mid-nineties, same scenery; two philosophy students are paying for tuition by picking grapes in the Jermann vineyards. Long hours of hard work and dream-sharing, they find one too many ideas in common. Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Kerouac, whispering incessantly in the back of their minds, they lift their deep roots and go. He picks up his guitar and she takes nothing but a flower in her hair and love in her eyes, and they come to California.

Those days are long gone, but they still have deep roots and their dreams. Never ceasing to work hard and with passion, they have eventually reconnected to their native culture through the winemaking tradition. All that they have seen and felt and envisioned they expressed in every step of the process that brings this wine to life. They’ve always been enamored with the big Friulian white blends (45% Viognier, 30% Malvasia Bianca, 15% Gewurztraminer and 10% Pinot Blanc) and wanted to pay homage to their heroes and their dreamy creations. With the same hedonistic approach, they have created an ever-changing blend that embraces the melting pot they’re in and love, California, and the one they’ve left behind.

Arbe Garbe 2015 Proprietary White Blend, Russian River Valley 
Retail 43.00 – GGWC $39.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12
Use shipping code ARBEGARBE during check out

Anthony Galloni 92 Points: “The 2015 White Wine (Sonoma County) is absolutely gorgeous. Sweet, floral aromatics lead to apricot, lemon confit, jasmine and mint. Beautifully perfumed throughout, the 2015 offers a compelling interplay of exotic fruit, lifted aromatics and pliant texture. Not surprisingly, it has much in common with the white blends of Friuli. The 2015 is all class.”

Click here or on the links above to order!

Ancient Brews: Rediscovered & Re-created

Have you ever wondered who it was that struck up on the idea of making alcohol from fruit or grains? Have you ever wondered what the first wines and beers might have tasted like? Here’s an interesting book that I stumbled across recently that addresses some of those very interesting questions. I thought you might want to hear about it too.

So pull up a cozy chair and a glass of wine


Ancient Brews: Rediscovered & Re-created

(W.W. Norton & Co. pubs)
by Patrick E. McGovern

AP News Book Review

It’s easy to find cold brews on summer days, but here’s a twist: a journey back to the alcoholic beverages that people drank thousands of years ago.

Patrick McGovern, a renowned scientist and passionate lover of fermented beverages, brings the history of ancient brewing alive with this fun, tempting and thought-provoking book. McGovern is director of the Biomolecular Archaeology Project at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. For more than three decades he’s been a pioneer in archaeological chemistry — a field that combines old-school fieldwork with cutting-edge technology such as mass spectrometry and DNA analysis.

The new lab tools are able to identify the chemical makeup of astonishingly small beverage traces that remain on ancient artifacts, such as the stains on beverage containers found in the Egyptian pyramids. McGovern and other researchers then match the chemical fingerprints to various grains, fruits and spices, and come up with a kind of reverse recipe, brought to life thousands of years after the original beverage was originally consumed.

“Ancient Brews” is a geeky and tasty way to learn about ancient history, and the science of booze. McGovern explains the chemistry of fermentation, the molecular components of alcohol (two carbon atoms, six hydrogen, one oxygen) and how our love of alcohol probably originated more than 100 million years ago in the Cretaceous Period, when flowering plants appeared and fruit flies developed specific genes to process alcohol. (Humans still have some of those same genes, by the way.)

But McGovern isn’t entrenched in the past. The book contains numerous recipes for home brewers, created in collaboration with Sam Calagione, founder of Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery. There are also food suggestions based on archaeological findings, such as a lamb and lentil stew that was consumed around 800 B.C. at what was probably King Midas’ funeral feast in what is now Turkey.

The recipe for the accompanying beverage (also available bottled through Dogfish Head as Midas Touch) has some familiar beer ingredients (malt extract, honey and hops) but also twists: saffron threads and grape juice. That’s a theme in the book: McGovern shows that people had exotic tastes thousands of years ago, all over the world. They weren’t just chugging alcohol for the buzz, though that was certainly appreciated, perhaps originally in religious ceremonies.

Numerous archaeological sites now reveal that ancient people often combined what we call beer (fermented grains) with wine (fermented grapes), and also experimented by adding a vast range of local herbs and flavorings.

“Ancient Brews” includes history, science and recipes for several other drinks: Kvasir, inspired by evidence from a 3,500-year-old Danish tomb, uses meadowsweet (or mead wort), yarrow, birch bark and lingonberry.

Ta Henket, inspired by ancient African beverages, includes crushed wheat, flour, hops, dried dates, Irish moss, chamomile, Za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice) and a touch of salt.

Theobroma, suggested by Olmec sites in Honduras dating to 1200 B.C., is made with fermented corn, coffee malt, cocoa, dried ancho chile, annatto seeds and honey.

Chateau Jiahu goes farthest back in time, to 9,000 years ago in northern China, where people made a beverage that combined fermented rice, grape juice, honey, hawthorne and orange peel.

McGovern’s mix of gee-wiz science and thoughtful historical context makes “Ancient Brews” a refreshing read, for the summer or any other season.

Best White Wine of the Year!

Shared Notes is the winemaking joint-venture between wife and husband, Bibiana Gonzalez Rave (Cattleya & Pahlmeyer winemaker) and Jeff Pisoni (Pisoni, Lucia, Ft Ross winemaker)

Both had early desires of making wine, and spent most of their lives doing so. The year 2012, however, marked the first vintage that they produced together. Previously, during the grape harvest, Bibiana and Jeff were like the proverbial ships passing in the night. Early grape picks and late nights at the winery left them rarely crossing paths.

Now, Bibiana and Jeff do cross paths—to discuss ideas and taste samples. You can sometimes catch them in front of a grapevine, the press, a fermenting tank, or a barrel…most likely with a glass in hand.

Shared Notes 2015 Sauvignon Blanc “Les leçons des maîtres” Russian River Valley 
Retail 70.00 – GGWC 64.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code SHAREDNOTES during checkout

Winery Notes: Vibrant and lively, the 2015 “Les leçons des maîtres” has an effusive nose with notes of orange blossoms, lemon  zest, white peach and gooseberry. This wine is a blend of 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon aged in small oak barrels. The former gives the freshness of the aromatics and the later gives the structure and dense, limestone-like texture that fans out on the palate. A remarkable wine for drinking now or aging for many years.”

Jeb Dunnuck 96 Points: “While 2015 Les Pierres qui Décident(80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon) is brought up in new barrels, you’d never know it and it has classic Bordeaux Blanc notes of green citrus, crushed rock, mineral water and hints of lychee. Medium-bodied, beautifully pure, elegant and yet serious, structured and lengthy, it’s unquestionably the best Sauvignon and Semillon blend I’ve tasted from California.”

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

LAST CALL for Pinot Noir blind tasting winner!

In a recent blind tasting of 2014 Pinot Noirs, Alma Fria beat out some big boys (and girls).  Our tasting group consisted of 13 wine professionals, and we meticulously (blind) tasted all the wines twice.

The lineup included:

The winner – ALMA FRIA with 7 First, 2 Second and 2 Third place votes, ahead of Paul Lato with 4 First, 4 Second and 3 Third place votes and lastly Argot with 2 First, 3 Second and 5 Third place votes.

Alma Fria 2014 “Holtermann Ranch” Sonoma Coast 
Retail $70.00 ~ GGWC $64.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code ALMAFRIA during checkout

The highlight among the Pinots, the 2014 Alma Fria Pinot Noir Holtermann Vineyard is the most powerful and punchy of these wines. A rush of cherry, red stone fruit, dried flowers, tea leaves, mint and anise run through this bold, expressive Pinot. The tannins are a bit burly and need time to soften, but there is good potential here, not to mention tons of pure personality. I highly recommend to decant this youngster 30-45 minutes prior to serving to get full enjoyment of this baby.

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

BEAUX FRERES (winemaker’s hot new wine) AT ½ the PRICE

I just found this hot-new winery that will dazzle you both in taste as well as cost!  The “Hundred Suns” winery is still very much under the “horizon” but not for long. Grant Coulter, a Califonia native traveled the world after receiving his enology degree.  He worked harvest with the best of the best in California, France & Australia, eventually settling in Oregon.  After a few stints as Assistant winemaker in a few wineries, he landed at Beaux Freres, where he soon became the Head Winemaker.  Grant is responsible for the amazing 2013, 14 & 15 vintages at Beaux Freres (all high 90’s, Top 2 wine of the year, etc.).   With his wife he created his own label “Hundred Suns”, a tiny Pinot Noir and Syrah venture.

Hundred Suns 2015 Pinot Noir “Sequitur” 
Retail 47.00 – GGWC 44.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6
Use code SUNS during checkout

The ‘15 Sequitur Vineyard (Mike Etzel, Beaux Freres’ private vineyard) is a  50 case gem!   This single vineyard Sequitur bottling is a two barrels composite.  Half of the composition was Clone 943, 100% destemmed and fermented in a terracotta amphora. This produced a luscious wine with ripe blue fruit and sweet earthy tones mixed with just a hint of red terracotta texture.  This was blended with a  50% whole cluster fermented barrel.    The wine offers up a great nose of bright red fruit and berries – hints of cherry aromas are  supported by a hint of spice and a touch of sweet vanilla. Purity and finesse from start to finish.  This youngster is medium to medium full in body with silky grained sweet tannins.

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

It is FINALLY HERE, A “different” White Blend

This is only the second vintage of Annia, here Ribolla Gialla takes the lead in the blend. There is a story that George Vare liked to tell us about Ribolla, according to the late, great Stanko Radikon, Ribolla is the consummate supporting actor when blended into a wine under the 50% threshold. at that minority level, the grape will truly morph into the background, providing the floors, the walls and the ceiling for the other grapes to adorn. in the 2016 Annia, the 60% of Ribolla in the wine is flattering; stone fruit and baked apple with green almond on the palate that plays off the Tocai’s citrus blossom and pear skin. the 9% of Hyde Chardonnay in the blend tightens the wine a bit, but in reality it just steps aside and gives the two Friulian varieties a stage to play on; however, expect the Chardonnay to get involved as the wine ages.

Only 3 barrels produced!

Massican 2016 “Annia” Proprietary White Blend, Napa Valley 
GGWC 35.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12
Use code MASSICAN during checkout

This stunning blend of Tocai Friulano, Chardonnay and Ribolla Gialla, is lively, intense, and perfectly balanced. Medium to full in body with notes of nuttiness, Meyer lemon, a hint of spice on the nose.  On the elegant, lush palate you’ll encounter touches of honey, citrus and creaminess that synce together nicely in the glass. The flavors are well-balanced with nice richness but nothing overwhelming.  The wine was aged in mostly neutral barrel, some stainless and concrete egg.

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

Exploring Minerality – What does that really mean?

Exploring Minerality

By Elisabetta Tosi, Wine Science

Minerality = [SS + A + CC] – [E + T] – [O²]
(Those interested in figuring out what this odd formula means should keep on reading.)

Funny how things happen. Until the 1990s, the term minerality didn’t appear in the most acclaimed guides, not even the Oxford Companion to Wine. For wine lovers all over the world, flavors were basically fruity, floral, spicy, herbal…

Then, suddenly, this new word – minerality – emerged to become the trendiest descriptor in the wine lover’s lexicon. Googling it produces more than a million results. The term itself is relatively new: according to a study examining the word’s evolution in French literature, associations between minéralité (minerality) and vin (wine) have increased since 1985. Yet, despite this recent explosion of popularity, a unique definition has not been created.

“Think of the taste of the sea, like oysters,” was one writer’s description. “It’s like chalk, or flint,” suggested another. Or, the smell of the ground after a rain… No, wait a minute, that has already a name – petrichor – although almost nobody knows or uses it. For most people, minerality in a wine means aromatic characteristics such as wet stone, graphite, smoke, sometimes even hydrocarbon. Others associate the word with acidity or saltiness in wine. And there are still others who argue it relates to the soil where the grapes were grown.

“Soil contains minerals (potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, etc.), and some people think they could be transferred to wine during winemaking,” says Marco Li Calzi, enology professor at Ecole d’Ingenieurs de Purpan (France). “However, opinions differ about the ability of grapes to absorb these minerals from the soil and especially about the resulting sensory impact.”

“In a study conducted at UC Davis by the Hildegarde Heymann group,” Calzi continues, “various white wines were studied by two methods: Projective Mapping (PM), which used a panel of industry professionals (winemakers, sommeliers, wine professionals, etc.) and the Sensory Descriptive Analysis (DA), by means of a panel of trained judges. Eventually, in both experiments, they found that minerality is most highly correlated with acidity.”

For soil, minerality is often correlated with volcanic soils; in fact, many people believe that if a wine is perceived as mineral, it must come from volcanic soil. But what does such a soil add to grapes and, as a result, to the final wine? According to Maurizio Gily, agronomist and publisher of Millevigne, who is also a consultant to several wineries in Italy, “it’s hard to say precisely, because volcanic soils don’t have one unique identity, so we might say that the key to interpreting this kind of soil is heterogeneity.” As an example, Gily notes the detailed differences between a vineyard planted in the Campi Flegrei area (Campania) and another one cultivated in the Etna (Sicily), or Soave (Veneto). “Usually, the concept of minerality is easier to find in cold climates and is linked to low pH, so this would indicate that it is more related to the climate than to the soil,” he continues. “Anyway, if a relationship between soil minerals and organoleptic descriptors exists, it must be very complex, and has not really been investigated thus far.”

Acidity. Cold climate. Low pH. Altitude. And volcanic soils. It seems that maybe we are putting together some pieces of the puzzle.

To learn more about volcanic soils and the impact they have on minerality, I reached out to John Szabo MS, author of the notable book Volcanic Wines: Salt, Grit and Power. Our conversation follows:

Why did you decide to study volcanic wines? Are they more mineral than others?

“Volcanic wines, as a very general category, tend to fall more on the savory-salty-earthy side of the flavor spectrum (you could call them mineral), but not necessarily more mineral than wines grown on other geologies. I came to write a book on volcanic wines sort of by accident, at one point about seven years ago making the connection between a group of disparate wines that fascinated me – Santorini, Etna, Badacsony and others – wines that all happen to come from volcanic soils.”

And what if the secret of the current success of mineral wines around the world is just their innate appeal, in other words their “drinkability?” In this case, though, it might be just a matter of acidity-saltiness balance…what do you think?

“The answer depends on your definition of minerality. But for me, the wines I describe as mineral are invariably very “drinkable”, thirst-quenching, fresh and gently salty.”

Last question: what is the definition of minerality according to your research? Is it possible to find “mineral wines” in non-volcanic soils?

“I’m working on some research to come up with a more specific definition of minerality, based on measurable components in wine. One component could be geosmin (the main contributor to petrichor), though many consider that a fault. The more interesting avenue of research however is an investigation into the salt component of wine: sodium chloride in seaside vineyards, but also other mineral salts and acid salts that could derive/evolve from soil composition. These would be quantifiable and testable “minerals” in wine, and thus definable. More speculatively, I plan to look into the electrical conductivity of wine, and measure ions that could also originate in the soil and be present in wines, to a greater or lesser extent.”

Drawing my own conclusions, I’d say that the definition of minerality in wine still remains an open question, depending very much on the personal concept that each of us has about the word. However, in this article, we’ve found that in the characterization of “mineral wine” almost everybody agrees with the presence of certain elements such as acidity, cold climate and volcanic soil.

And here is the explanation of the initial formula at the top of this article. Conceived by prof. Marco Li Calzi, this summarizes our current knowledge:

Minerality = [SS + A+ CC] – [E+T] – [O²]

Where SS = Stony Soils, A= Acid, CC= Cold Climate, E+T = Esters (fruity aromas) + varietal Thiols (fruity aromas characteristic of some grapes, as sauvignon blanc) and O²= oxygen.

It’s just a playful equation, of course, but it gets the idea across, doesn’t it?

If you’d like to explore this yourself with a few wines that  nicely exhibit minerality, here are some suggestions:

MASSICAN 2016 “ANNIA” PROPRIETARY WHITE BLEND, NAPA VALLEY
SHARED NOTES 2015 “LES PIERRES QUI DÉCIDENT” SAUVIGNON BLANC, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
SHARED NOTES 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC “LES LEÇONS DES MAÎTRES” RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
SCARLETT 2015 SAUVIGNON BLANC, “ESTATE” RUTHERFORD, NAPA VALLEY
ARBE GARBE 2015 PROPRIETARY WHITE, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY
ZEITGEIST 2015 TROUSSEAU GRIS, RUSSIAN RIVER VALLEY

Click here or on any of the links above to order! And, as always, feel free to call me at 415-337-4083 for personalized assistance!

Must have 2 barrel stunner by 100 Point wine magician

Mike Smith, who we sometimes call “Mr. 100 Pointer” (Carter Cellars, Myriad, Scarlett, etc.), has taken the Beckstoffer Georges III vineyard’s stunning fruit and produced an equally stunning wine for 12C.Because of its prime location and high demand, this vineyard is known for its production of many great Cabernets exhibiting the FAMOUS “Rutherford Dust” mystique. The Beckstoffer Vineyard Georges III sits in the heart of the Rutherford AVA, which was originally planted by Georges DeLatour of Beaulieu in 1928.

The rows used are between the Silverado Trail and Conn Creek Road.  The Northern/Southern exposure provides for Sunny Days and allows the warm temperatures to heat the soil producing great concentrated flavors, while still maintaining a complex character. Magically, this offsets the cool breezes in the late afternoon, which enable the ripening process to be more controlled in order to sustain the flavors.

Incidentally, 12C get’s its name from Twelve degrees Centigrade or Fifty-five (55) degrees Fahrenheit, which is the optimum storage temperature for wine.

12C “G3″  2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley 
Retail 120.00 – GGWC 114.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4
Use code 12C during checkout


Winemaker Notes: “Twenty-fifteen gave us all the raw materials to produce what might be the best 12C G3 to date. Dark purple to the rim, captivating scents of dark cherry and cassis combine with dark chocolate notes and a potpourri of baking spices. A full-bodied explosion stretches across the mid palate seemingly flowing forever. Sweet and polished tannins, pure ripe Cabernet Sauvignon fruit and Rutherford soil accents shine brightly in this wine. The concentrated and pure finish is detailed perfectly by fresh natural acidity allowing this wine to stretch for miles. Cellars this big boy for 3-5 years and you will be rewarded with an even more polished and articulated beauty.

Robert Parker 95 Points (2014): “The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon G3 Reserve Beckstoffer George III ratchets up the level of concentration, has a more opaque bluish purple color and more blackberry and blueberry fruit with pen ink and graphite. There are even loamy soil undertones in this full-bodied, delicious wine meant for drinking over the next 10-15 years.”

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

Can’t dance the Foxtrot? Drink it instead!

The Foxtrot winery was created by Torsten and Kicki Allander who believe that the key to producing world class wine is total control over the grape growing and winemaking process from start to finish. To this day, both remain an integral part of the family business, with Kicki spending her days in the estate vineyard meticulously cultivating the vines, and Torsten overseeing quality control.

The Story behind the Label: Every year, just in time for harvest, Foxtrot has had a resident Black Bear around the vineyard. Sometimes he has been known to make an appearance at picking time and pickers would comment that it looked like he was dancing when standing up on his hind legs. At the winery they have come to affectionately call him Fred and he has graced the label ever since.

Foxtrot 2015 Chardonnay “Four Shadows” 
Retail 55.00 – GGWC 49.99
FREE SHIPPING ON 6 or more
Use code FOXTROT during checkout

Mix & match OK with Foxtrot Pinot Noir

The wine has a medium to light lemon color with stunning aromas of citrus, stone fruits, a whiff of melon and subtle spice. These flavors continue on the palate with a complex minerality framed by a rich mid palate with subtle spice, tropical and citrus fruits, and lengthy finish. The crisp acidity in this wine serves as a refreshing counterpoint to balance the richness and roundness of the wine. This wine can be consumed in the near term or aged for 5 to 8 years.

Foxtrot 2014 Pinot Noir “Foxtrot Vineyard” 
Retail 62.00 – GGWC 59.99
FREE SHIPPING ON 6 or more
Use code FOXTROT during checkout

Mix & match OK with Foxtrot Chardonnay

Sourced from the estate’ 20 year old self-rooted vines. The resulting wine is incredibly balanced with a stunning nose of bright red fruits, and a classic  oriental spice and slight earthy tones. The intensity of the fruit and earthiness continues on the palate and is wonderfully framed by the vibrant acidity and bold silky smooth tannins with a long lingering finish. The 2013 Foxtrot Vineyard Pinot Noir can easily be aged for up to 10+ years but can also be consumed in the near term with decanting.

Click here or on any of the links above to order!

Travel Notes ~ Monterey County

Monterey County ~ Travel Notes

By Matt Kettmann, Wine Enthusiast

Few places in California have welcomed visitors longer than Monterey County, home to one of the four presidios that Spanish colonists established on the West Coast in the late 1700s. Over the centuries, fishing, farming and tourism have thrived here. It’s also one of the best places on the planet to grow wine grapes.

The city of Monterey is ground zero for visitors. Thanks to author John Steinbeck, Cannery Row became the geographic heart of California’s literary landscape. Today, this waterfront strip is better known for the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a vanguard of modern marine science.

Just to the south, surrounding the golf haven of Pebble Beach and its craggy, cypress-lined coastline, the quaint communities of Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea offer art galleries, tasting rooms and bistros that clamor for the attention of passers-by. North of Monterey, the sprawling former Fort Ord Army Base has become home to California State University-Monterey Bay. The nearby town of Marina offers urban wineries and a cultural scene on the rise.

Escape the fog and head inland toward the famed racetrack of Laguna Seca or into the Carmel Valley, a long, dramatic canyon filled with equestrian estates and steep vineyards. All-inclusive resorts abound, as does a buzzing strip of eateries and side-by-side tasting rooms.

Most of region’s wine comes from the Salinas Valley. The chilly Monterey Bay tempers the heat of the Santa Lucia Highlands, Chalone and Arroyo Seco appellations, where Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and other varieties thrive.

Finally, there’s Big Sur, that wild, wonderful stretch of coastline where condors soar and redwood-studded mountains rise high above Highway 1. It merits an entire weekend itself, if not more.

The region’s top grape varietals include:
Chardonnay – Chardonnay flavors range from ripe and tropical in the Santa Lucia Highlands to bright and fresh from Arroyo Seco and elsewhere.
Pinot Noir  - Expect variety: Pinot Noir is lush and concentrated in the Santa Lucia Highlands, well structured from Chalone and racy and delicate in Arroyo Seco.
Syrah – Rustic, gamy and wild in Carmel Valley, Syrah conveys styles from savory to zesty in the Santa Lucia Highlands and Salinas Valley.

The best examples from this area are for sure: Pisoni, Lucia, Wrath, Camino, Capiaux, Roar, Cattleya, to name a few  - We have a limited amount of these wineries currently in stock.

CAMINO 2014 CHARDONNAY “SOBERANES” SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS93 POINTS!
CAPIAUX 2013 PINOT NOIR GARYS’ VINEYARD, SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS
CATTLEYA 2014 SYRAH “SOBERANES” SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS97 POINTS!
LUCIA 2014 SYRAH “SUSAN’S HILL” SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS
LUCIA 2014 SYRAH GARYS’ SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS - 93 POINTS!
LUCIA 2015 PINOT NOIR “SOBERANES” SANTA LUCIA HIGLANDS
LUCIA 2016 “LUCY” ROSE
PAUL LATO 2015 CHARDONNAY “EAST OF EDEN” PISONI VINEYARD
ROAR 2014 CHARDONNAY “ROSELLA” SANTA LUCIA HIGHLANDS

Click here or on any of the links above to order!