Impressive White at an even more IMPRESSIVE Value

Colombard is a variety originally from the South-West of France where it has been grown for hundreds of years. Yannick made his first Colombard in 1996 in the heart of Gascony. It was once the most widely planted white grape in California. Yannick makes this Colombard using the French traditional winemaking techniques he learned in France.

FYI: Colombard is one of the blending grapes used to make Cognac

Y. Rousseau 2018 Old Vine Colombard, Green Valley
GGWC 24.99
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The Rousseau Colombard is a complex, aromatic, scintillating white wine. Offering up a bright nose with pure and bright aromas of lemongrass, white stone fruits, citrus notes, ripe Anjou pear, and wet pebbles. On the palate, this youngster displays layers of citrus, green apple, grapefruit, and jasmine.  A medium body, this showing an excellent texture, minerality and long finish. The wine is lush and mouth-watering.

Food pairing: Oysters, seafood, sushi, and grilled white fish. If you feel a little adventurous, try this Colombard with Asian food.

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Celia Welch can easily be voted as one of the best winemakers in the world. That said, give this lady some of the best fruit and you have some of the best wine in the world.

The 2018 Rewa Sauvignon Blanc (Second release) is flat out stunning!  Remarkable, a MUST HAVE! Very limited production wine. Only 168 cases were produced

Rewa 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Estate Coombsville Napa Valley
GGWC 64.99
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On the nose bright floral aromatics meld seamlessly into a core of generous orchard fruit as this ample, richly-textured white that shows off its considerable personality.  It is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and the wine has a spectacular bouquet of caramelized citrus, honeysuckle, orange blossom and brioche. It is amazingly rich and dense, with the bold, yet very elegant texture.  If you wouldn’t know you are drinking a Napa white, you might believe it to be  o a great Grand Cru White Burgundy!

Celia Welch Notes: “The lively and complex aromas of the 2018 vintage of Rewa Sauvignon Blanc include citrus, wild gooseberry, guava, green apple peel, kiwi and white flowers. On the palate, the wine is bright and lifted by notes of fresh pineapple and lemon curd combined with a stony minerality. This wine was crafted from Sauvignon Blanc clone 1 from Rewa Vineyard fermented, and then aged in neutral oak and stainless barrels.”

Make sure to check out the stunning Rewa 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate” Coombsville, Napa Valley

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An under $60 Napa Cabernet Blend that will rock your world!

Hourglass was created by Ned Smith in 1976, who loved making Zinfandel from this property.  In 1992 his son Jeff Smith took over the land and business and enlisted Robert Foley as his winemaker.  They started Hourglass 2.0. by making Cabernet, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc from this amazing property.  Jeff purchased what is now the Blueline Vineyard as well.  As of a couple of years, Tony Biagi (formerly with Spottswoode) has taken over the winemaking reins at the winery.

Hourglass HG III 2017 Estate Napa Valley
GGWC 54.99
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The Hourglass HG III is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petite Sirah. It offers up a deep purple-black color that opens with notions of warm black plums, mulberries and Black Forest cake with touches of fallen leaves, baking spices and hoisin plus a waft of wild sage. The wine is full-bodied with loads of spiced plums flavors on offer in the mouth, it has a plush texture and long, spicy finish

Jeb Dunnuck 93 Points: “Moving to the barrel samples, the 2017 HG3 is a fruity, forward, total charmer that gives up medium to full-bodied notes of blue and black fruits and leafy herbs. It’s well-made and already hard to resist, yet I suspect it will keep for more than a decade.”

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Want Your Wine To Taste Better? Add Salt, Pepper and Fat!

Want Your Wine To Taste Better? Add Salt, Pepper and Fat

By John Mariani

It was an epiphany, though not the first of its kind, when I happened to taste a grain or two of coarse salt on some softshell crabs before I had a sip of Vermentino, which, tasted on its own, would have been a pleasant example of its kind. But those two grains of coarse salt  sparked my palate and increased the flow of juices so that when the wine washed in over my tongue, it seemed to burst with flavor, definitely enhancing the wine and, of course, the meaty softshell crabs.

There’s an old saying that salt makes its presence felt only in its absence, which is not to say, the more salt the better. Of recent discovery is how a pinch of salt in caramel or chocolate boosts flavor immensely, so that it’s almost become ubiquitous in such confections.

The same thing happened years ago when I served my younger son a thick ribeye that I’d seasoned with coarse salt then charred on a charcoal grill to a beautiful crust while retaining its medium-rare redness within. He took a sip of a big California Cabernet, put down his fork and exclaimed, “Dad, this steak is fantastic! What did you do to it?” It was a very good piece of beef, to be sure, but the addition of that coarse salt before cooking and a dash afterwards had a vivid effect on its bloody minerality and sweet fat that really was worthy of my son’s exclamation.

Black pepper, though a more pungent palate piercer, has much the same effect, though more so with red wines, which is why the French classic steak au poivre, with a lot of coarsely ground pepper in a cream sauce, is such a powerful carrier of flavor with a sturdy red wine like Cahors. The same goes for the Roman pasta dish cacio e pepe, in which the pasta is coated (not really sauced) with coarsely ground pecorino cheese and black pepper, which gives a tremendous boost to both a modest red Italian wine like Valpolicella or Bardolino, as well as enriching the complexity of a Southern Italian red like Taurasi or Nero d’Avola. The salt and fat of the cheese and the punch of the black pepper marry in an elemental way.

Which brings me to the subject of fat and wine drinking. Some years ago I was giving a tasting of expensive Tuscan red wines like Ornellaia and Sassicaia, at a wine exposition in Florida to be held at one o’clock. I had driven three hours from another city, without benefit of breakfast, and was ravenous when I got to my hotel, just minutes from the expo. I immediately ordered a rare hamburger and French fries, and when they arrived, I wolfed them down and dashed to the tent where I was leading the tasting.

The flavors of my quick lunch were still on my palate, not least the fat of the beef and the oil of the fries, in addition to the salt and pepper I added. And when I began tasting those wines, all of which I knew well from drinking them over many years, the flavors exploded in my mouth—a reaction I told my audience about. It was as if I’d never really tasted these wines before! The simple gustatory fact is, fat carries flavors, especially those of wine grapes.

As everyone knows, the sense of smell is the one that allows one to appreciate myriad sweet, salty, sour and bitter flavors, and fat and pepper have their own olfactory stimulants. So the combinations build upon one another.

And what about red peppers in various forms, whole, dried or powdered? I certainly consume them all the time with all sorts of cuisines—Mexican and Asian, certainly—but I always prefer beer. Reams have been written about pairing wines with Indian vindaloo or Sichuan beef or Yucatan chile, but the very characteristic that makes such pepper condiments so attractive—their heat—in such dishes, along with distinct added spices and seasonings as varied as cumin, coriander, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce and hoisin are too strong to marry well with any white wine, however refreshing, while most red wines’ flavors are blasted into the background under the assault of a habanero pepper. Tabasco is not kind to wine. (Incidentally, I swabbed a little very hot harissa condiment on those softshells, which not only ruined the wine but detracted from any delicacy the crustaceans had.)

The reason I wish to emphasize these elements of mutual enhancement is because far too many wine tastings take place in offices, winery labs or homes without any accompanying food besides a cracker. (If you’re going to serve a cracker make it a Saltine.)

Such exercises insist on tasting the wines purely on their own to detect their virtues and defects, which is fair enough. But without fat, salt and pepper, they are nothing more than exercises, like testing out a new car by running it in a garage rather than out on the road, where one can appreciate its ability to give pleasure and manifest where there might be problems.

Were I to hold a wine tasting, at the very least there would be some mild cheeses on the table, along with salt and pepper grinders of small, individual dishes containing coarse salt and ground pepper that my guests can put their fingers in, then on their tongues. It makes a world of difference, not least because drinking wine without food is like learning the tango and never going out to dance with someone.

Why not join us at our next tasting? Let’s talk wine and taste some of Napa’s best! Most Saturdays from 1-5 pm in our tasting room at 2337 Ocean Avenue in San Francisco. See the full tasting schedule at


I just tasted the latest Bevan wines last week, and was speechless how good they were, this young!  The wines were opened (and decanted) at 11 AM, and I tasted them at 1 PM. One after another they were a WAW (What A Wine)!  Unfortunately production levels are as always small, so not a large amount was allocated to me, but I am very excited to share that the following highly rated wines from Bevan Cellars arrived in my warehouse.

Bevan 2017 Ontogeny  Proprietary Red, Napa Valley – 99 Points
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Mix & match with other BEVAN wines OK

Jeb Dunnuck 99 Points: “While the 2017 Ontogeny Red Wine is the least expensive wine in the lineup, it comes from all the single vineyards and in 2017, it doesn’t give an inch with regard to quality. In fact, it might be my favorite in the lineup. Awesome notes of blueberries, cranberries, blood orange, white flowers, and liquid violets all flow to a full-bodied 2017 that has purity, richness, balance, and length in spades. It’s another sexy, straight-up heavenly wine from Russell Bevans that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face.”

Winemaker Notes: “Ontogeny is pure bloody hell, showcasing the best each of the vineyards has to offer. A fruit profile that everyone can appreciate, with massive density and supple tannins. It is a blend from my big boy vineyards.  The wine is absolutely dynamic, with linear intensity, great balance and good acidity making it very food-friendly offering great power and concentration – a classic Ontogeny.

Bevan 2017 Tench EE Red (Cabernet Blend) – 99 Points
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Mix & match with other BEVAN wines OK

Jeb Dunnuck 99 Points: “The 2017 Tench Vineyard EE Red Wine one of the few wines that has the potential to match what was achieved in 2016. A total thriller, it has awesome notes of plums, blueberries, earth, chocolate, and espresso, with even a hint of truffle developing with time in the glass. Deep, dense, shockingly powerful and layered, yet still light and balanced on the palate, with sweet tannins, it should drink nicely right out of the gate yet age well.”

Winemaker Notes: “The Tench Vineyard, EE, Red Wine is 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Cabernet Franc and 5% Petit Verdot, and the blend gives us another layer of complexity and sophistication. This wine is suave and dapper… think Mr. Darcy in a bottle.

Bevan 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard Oakville, Napa Valley 97 Points
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Mix & match with other BEVAN wines OK

Jeb Dunnuck 97 Points: “The 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard, which was tasted as a barrel sample, is a lifted, sexy wine that has exotic notes of blueberries, spring flowers, peach pit, and liquid violets. With a touch of chocolaty oak, full-body, terrific tannin quality, and a great finish, it’s going to match 2016,  it’s a thrilling 2017 barrel sample that’s loaded with charm.”

Winemaker Notes: “The Tench Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon is the most massive of our Tench wines. It is truly a beast! Massive but seductive, this wine is perfect for a day when you need to treat yourself to something with hips and curves.”

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Screaming Eagle Winemaker’s Stunning White!

Winery Notes: “The Arietta White Wine “On the White Keys” is a blend of hillside Sauvignon Blanc and old vine Semillon. We ferment and age the White Keys for nine months in a combination of new and second-use oak and stainless steel barrels. The label incorporates the manuscript of the Arietta movement from Beethoven’s last piano sonata, Opus 111. The key to the name “On the White Keys” is the melody of the Arietta theme, which is played in its entirety on the white keys of the piano.

Arietta 2017 “On the White Keys” Proprietary White Blend
GGWC 69.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more!
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Tasting Notes by winemaker Andy Erickson:On the White Keys is crafted in tribute to our favorite white wines from Graves and Entre-Deux-Mers, the goal to produce a wine with great structure, depth, and ageability. The 2017 vintage is no exception. A blend of 64% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Sauvignon Musque, and 11% Semillon, the wine presents a vivid spectrum of aromas and flavors, delivered in high definition. Candied citrus peel, flint, lemon grass and Thai basil are only a few of the descriptors that come to mind as the wine opens in the glass. This aromatic intensity is matched by the wine’s brilliant gold color. On the palate, the wine is nothing if not incredibly generous, fresh and energetic, having a near-electric quality. Flavors of bergamot, lemon curd, and vanilla bean are held together by an impressive lattice of phenolic strength and complex oak tannin and toast.”

Vinous 95 Points:Arietta’s 2017 On the White Keys is ample and creamy in the glass, yet also has quite a bit of supporting structure and overall freshness as well. Lemon confit, white flowers, apricot and chamomile add nuance to a host of Sauvignon Blanc-driven varietal flavors. The interplay of richness and vibrancy is simply compelling. In 2017, the blend is 89% Sauvignon Blanc and 11% Semillon from Farina, Sonoma Mountain and Hyde, all done in a mix of stainless steel and neutral oak.

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Grand-Cru from one of California’s Best Single Vineyard Sites!

“Site” is a new venture from  Jeremy Weintraub (longtime Seavey winemaker).  He sources from the best “Sites” in California.  This latest Grenache is just a good example.  The 2015 Site is sourced from the Larner Vineyard.  The Larner Vineyard would be considered a “Grand Cru” if it was located in France.

Accolades: “Top Grand Cru Vineyards in California by Wine Spectator ~ Top Five California Vineyards by Wall Street Journal ~ Top 25 Vineyards in the World by Wine & Spirits ~ California’s Best Single Vineyards by Wine Enthusiast ~ Top 5 Vineyards You Can Trust by Pinot Report ~ Ten Best Vineyards by Food & Wine, etc.”

Site 2015 “Larner Vineyard” Grenache, Santa Barbara
GGWC 54.99
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Brilliant ruby. Ripe red berries, candied flowers and Asian spices on the highly fragrant nose. Juicy and expansive on the palate, offering alluringly sweet raspberry, cherry and boysenberry flavors that show a refreshingly spicy edge on the back half. Rich yet energetic in style, featuring seamless texture and very good focus. Closes on an emphatic red fruit note, delivering soft, rounded tannins and outstanding persistence.

Jeb Dunnuck 94 Points: “I always love the Grenache from this team and the 2015 Grenache Larner Vineyard is no exception. Youthful, backward and concentrated, it’s going to require patience, but has tons of potential in its darker fruits, black raspberry, spice and licorice. Medium to full-bodied, concentrated and structured, forget bottles for 3-4 years and enjoy over the following decade. This cuvée is 100% Grenache that saw 15% whole clusters and 18 months in 500-Liter neutral puncheons.”

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In 1972 Jack and Mary Novak purchased the orginal “Spottswoode” property  In 1977, when Mary Weber Novak’s husband passed away unexpectedly, leaving her with five young children and a newly replanted vineyard, she became one of the first women to run a major Napa Valley winegrowing estate. In the years since, through her hard work, insight and perseverance, she has established Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery as one of the valley’s great family-owned wineries and first growth-caliber properties.  The first commercial wine was produced in 1982 by Tony Soter (Etude & Soter wines).  Many other great winemakers have passed the review, all making highly rated wines from this great estate. Today the winery is run by the daughters Beth & Lindy.

The 2016 Vintage is the 35th release from this venerable winery

Spottswoode 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Napa Valley
GGWC 239.99
FREE SHIPPING on 4 or more
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Robert Parker 100 Points: “Deep garnet-purple in color, the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is still very tight and youthful, slowly unfurling to reveal a multifaceted wine with tons of black, blue and red fruit sparks—plums, cherries, black currants and red currants—with dark chocolate, cedar chest, black tea and red roses in the background plus wafts of pencil lead and prosciutto. Medium-bodied and firmly textured by superbly ripe, grainy tannins, it has a fantastic core of intense, complex layers, finishing on an edifying mineral note. Wow!”

Jeb Dunnuck 100 Points: “A perfect wine is the 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, composed of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 6% Petit Verdot, which is a classic blend from this incredible estate. Sporting a deep purple color as well as an extraordinary bouquet of ultra-pure creme de cassis, blueberries, camphor, scorched earth, and licorice, with subtle background oak, it hits the palate with a full-bodied, deep, powerful texture that carries sweet tannins and blockbuster length. With a stacked mid-palate, straight-up awesome purity of fruit, and a huge finish, it’s as classic and brilliant as it gets. Reminding me of the 2013 with its pure yet backward style, give bottles 4-5 years of bottle age and it will keep for 3-4 decades. Hats off to the team at Spottswoode for this legend in the making!”

Winemaker Notes: “Raw, dynamic, and so expressive! This wine is glowing with personality, vivacity, and youthful exuberance. The palate has a rustic charm and sense of umami carefully balanced with notes of blueberry, blackberry, and resinous pine forest. Beautifully expressive now, the 2016 Estate Cabernet is a wine that will only improve with time in the cellar to integrate and mature into its full epic potential.”

Also check out:

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The best ways of choosing and serving rosé wine

The best ways of choosing and serving rosé wine

By Anne Krebiehl MW
from The Buyer

It is the right time of year to re-think your rosé strategy

They shimmer at al fresco tables across the country: shades of rosé from the palest tinge to lurid pink and every nuance in between. Rosés are an opportunity: for refreshment, for food-pairing and for revenue. So why is rosé the most frequent victim of wine list tokenism?

Rosé has undoubted visual appeal but that does not mean it should be taken less seriously or chosen less carefully than any other wine. People want to drink pink – the better your rosé fits your purposes, the more successful it will be. Make sure you choose well – here’s how:

Know your business and your product:

You need to know the answers to all of these questions to home into the best rosé/rosés for you: Know your or your client’s outlet: is it casual but eclectic, upmarket but traditional, ethnic but affordable, trendy but rural, classic but neighbourhood, etc.? Is there someone to explain the wine or does it have to sell itself from a list?

If you know the answers to the questions above you know who your clients are, what their spend is, how adventurous or safe your choices can be, whether price is everything or whether you can get clients to trade up: remember that giving value is the most important thing at any price point.

Once you know your business make sure you know the product, too: many – even in the trade– still say their eyes glaze over the moment anyone mentions winegrowing or –making – but this is your product and you need to understand it, just as you need to understand your business. Being in possession of the relevant facts enables you to understand in which situation the wine will work – and no, this does not include geeky stuff about rootstock, geology or pruning. For pink you need to know that:
There are two kinds of rosé:

  • Directly pressed wines
  • Macerated wines

Rosé gets its colour from the grape skins, just like red wine. It is the time of contact with the skins that determines how deep the colour is. How long that takes depends on the grape variety. However, it is not only colour that comes from the grape skins, but also some tannins and more importantly, flavour precursors. For directly pressed wines the only skin contact is the time they have in the short hours it takes to complete a press cycle in a pneumatic press.

Macerated wines have more time: depending on grape variety and quality, they have a few hours or overnight. Both methods can make great wines – the difference is one of style not quality.

The paler the better?

The logical conclusion would be to assume that the palest wines have the shortest maceration – however, many rather pale wines have been macerated to ensure there is enough flavour and some tannic structure and fined later to get rid of excess colour so that the rosé is elegantly pale, has the right kind of Provençal look but enough fruit flavour not to be boring. Not easy but something that can be done successfully.

Unsurprisingly, AOC Provence allows both direct pressing and maceration. Directly pressed wine will almost work like a slightly more full-bodied white: if you do a roaring trade in sashimi or seafood platters, this might well be the choice for you. It also works well as a wine just to be sipped without food.

Direct pressing also is a good idea for wineries with red grapes that are barely ripe. Here, direct pressing avoids any green flavours from unripe skins. Another reason for direct pressing might be red grapes from young vines that do not yet have enough concentration to make serious reds. This is often the case with Pinot Noir and can result in very fruity, fresh, fun wines at great value.

There also are different kinds of macerated wines: some are made from grapes that are purposely grown for rosé, macerated to extract colour, flavour and some tannin, pressed and fermented. Some appellations, like DO Navarra, known for its lusciously fruity rosados, prescribe this. If left unfined, they come in beautiful, beguiling shades of pink.

Other macerated rosés are the drawn-off juice from red-wine ferments, known as ‘saignée’ they are bled off to concentrate the resulting red wine. But don’t frown on them: if this is a rosé drawn from an exquisite red ferment, of fully ripe, low-yielding but flavoursome grapes, you are in for a treat. Its antithesis would be a bled-off wine from a hot ferment of over-cropped, overripe red grapes.

An awful lot of such contingency product rosé sloshes about – so choose carefully. In any case, macerated wines tend to be the ones with more flavour and body, they cover the entire spectrum from slender to full and can be chosen with different foods in mind: they work in place of fuller whites and lighter reds.

How to choose:

The most important bit: now you know what you need, choose with care. Here are some useful markers that should be a given at ANY price point:

Colour: While the intensity of the colour is no clue to quality, the hue of pink gives you clues about age and freshness. Whether pale or lurid, the colour should still be in the purple not orange spectrum of pink.
Aroma: You are looking for appetising aroma: the wine should smell and taste fresh even at room temperature – this is a great stress test for both whites and rosés.

Balance: The palate should have crisp acidity and the slightest hint of tannin. There should at least be some length. As long as the wine has sufficient acidity a smidgeon of residual sugar, as little as 3-4g/l, can act as an enhancer of fruit flavours. Even slightly sweeter rosés work well; sufficient acidity is the deciding factor here.

Age: Unless you are dealing with really top-notch rosé that can take a bit of age you should stick to the most recent vintage and avoid any special cut-price deals when someone’s trying to dump last year’s overstock. Stick to these rules and you’ll be able to sniff out great pink wines from across the globe.
One or more?

Offer choice: it  allows people to trade up – but  you have to give them a good reason to.

By the glass: Of course! That’s a no-brainer!

What else to consider?

Grape variety: Grenache with its full-fruited berry and cherry notes and its thin skins is the most popular staple for rosé wines: it shines with fruit and easy flavour and gets, depending on country, more backbone and spice from Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvèdre or Tempranillo.

Sometimes white grapes are added to the press for extra freshness and acidity: Vermentino, also known as Rolle, often comes into its own here. These wines are fruity, easy to like and lovely to look at – they need little hand-selling. If you have a Carmenère rosé you might get the tell-tale leafiness of this variety, if you get Cabernet Sauvignon rosé, you might get some more backbone…

Appellations: There is Chinon Rosé or Sancerre Rosé so if there is someone to hand-sell, this can be a useful hook: it has the comfort of a familiar name: same but different.

Popularity: There is Pinot Grigio rosé – make use of its popularity and familiarity. Some of it is Pinot Grigio that has been macerated on its pink skins for hours to have a lovely coppery colour, Italians refer to this as Pinot Grigio ramato, even though ambitious winemakers can do this across the world. Other PG rosés have some red grapes in the blend (European rules state that a varietally labelled wine can have up to 15% of other grapes– but note that the mixing of red and white wine to make a rose is only permitted in Champagne and totally verboten for any other European wine.)

Theme: You don’t have to have a Provençal rosé if you predominantly serve non-French food: think Chiaretto – Italy’s pink answer from the Veneto, think Navarra for tapas, think Malbec rosé for prawn starters in an Argentine steak house. Think Istrian rosé for curious hipsters. Think barely off-dry Pinot Noir for Asian spice. Consider recognisability if you cater to well-heeled label hunters: like distinctly shaped Domaines Ott or fancy Château d’Esclans. Keep within your theme, whatever it is. Both classic and unusual choices abound.

Last but not least: communicate this in simple, convincing terms. Even the most casual, temporary staff should be armed with two or three snappy, appetizing attributes for every wine on the list and have tasted it.

1. ARNOT ROBERTS 2018 ROSE (TOURIGA NACIONAL) (One of the most unique Rose in CA)
2. LORENZA 2018 ROSE (RHONE BLEND) (Mother & Daughter Winemaking Team0
3. LUCIA 2018 “LUCY” ROSE ($1.00 of each bottle is donated to breast cancer research)

A Beginner’s Guide to Champagne

A Beginner’s Guide to Champagne

in Wine Enthusiast

If the distinction between Champagne, Prosecco and any other sparkling wine of the world seems a bit murky, consider this primer a jumping-off point. Champagne can feel confusing at times, and for good reason. It involves a complicated winemaking process and a dictionary of French terminology. So, let’s break Champagne down into its component parts.

What Is Champagne?

To be called “Champagne,” a wine must come from the Champagne appellation, a region of France slightly east of Paris. In France, such a region is referred to as an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, or AOC.

Within Champagne, there are several major growing areas, all known for particular grapes. The major areas from north to south are Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte des Blancs and Côte de Sézanne and Aube. For sparkling wine to be classified Champagne, the grapes must be grown in the region, and the wine must be produced in a specific way. The process, known as the méthode Champenoise, is also referred to as the traditional method.

The Grapes of Champagne

The main three grapes used in Champagne production are red-wine grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay, a white-wine grape. The mountainous Montagne de Reims region is known for its Pinot Noir, as is Aube, the most southern growing area. The Vallée de la Marne, which occupies a valley floor and has a warm microclimate, is known for Pinot Meunier. The eastern-facing Côte de Blancs is planted almost entirely to Chardonnay, as is the Côte de Sézanne. The predominant soil in Champagne is made of chalk, limestone and fossilized seashells, a highly regarded mix known as Kimmeridgian soil.

What Does Brut Mean?

You’ve probably seen this mysterious word on a bottle of bubbly. Brut is just one of many labels that indicate how much sugar is in a finished bottle of Champagne. The most dry wines, which contain no sugar, are called brut nature, followed by extra brut, brut, extra-dry/extra-sec, dry/sec, demi-sec and doux, which is the sweetest. A brut Champagne has a nearly imperceptible amount of sugar, which must fall with a specified percentage range. Because of the wine’s bubbles, this sugar is not perceived on the palate, but if you taste a glass of Champagne that’s become flat, you’ll likely be surprised about the sugar content.

A Brief History

Champagne as we know it was the product of both chance and circumstance. Early wine from the region was pale pink and still. The region’s cold winter temperatures often halted the fermentation of still wines housed in the cellars. The dormant yeast cells remained in limbo until warmer weather provoked an awakening. In spring, these yeast cells sparked a second fermentation in the wines, where the remaining sugar was converted to alcohol. The byproduct of that fermentation, carbon dioxide, remained trapped in the bottles and would force out corks or cause bottles to explode.

In the mid-1600s, a Benedictine monk named Dom Pérignon, frustrated with the waste brought forth by such instability, took efforts to stop this fermentation. Perignon’s first contribution was to introduce a blending technique where grape varieties from different vineyards were used to create a single wine. He also developed a way for winemakers to produce white wine from red grapes. That method, like his blending technique, remains integral in Champagne production centuries later.

Around the same time, English physicist Christopher Merret discovered that the introduction of sugar could intentionally spur a second fermentation. It gave winemakers control of this unpredictable, and seemingly random, scientific occurrence. This immeasurable contribution meant that winemakers could create sparkling wine on purpose.

In 1805, Madame Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, a 27-year-old French widow, assumed control of her late husband’s Champagne house. During that time, Madame Clicquot, also known as the veuve, French for “widow,” developed a process known as riddling, or remuage. In this process, wines are moved to bring the dead yeast cells from the second fermentation into the bottle’s neck, where they can be extracted. Prior to this, sparkling wines were cloudy with large bubbles. The technique yielded wines with small, fresh bubbles, known as a mousse, and no sediment.

Check out some great bubbly offerings we currently have in stock: