Classic low $30s Value Petite Sirah!

 

Can anyone tell me why California Petite Sirah doesn’t get more love from the cognoscenti? It certainly has some of the elements they love: It’s relatively obscure; it’s confusing; it pairs well with some hard-to-pair-with dishes. Is it the word “petite” that scares away macho wine dudes? Or is it the weird, Americanized spelling of Sirah, without the “y”?

Certainly the classic taste of tooth-staining, tannic Petite Sirah isn’t for everyone, but fans like me appreciate the deep, rich flavors and aromas of blueberry, spice, chocolate and sometimes even cedar or eucalyptus, markedly different from American Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon. Mark Oldman, in his “Oldman’s Brave New World of Wine,” calls Petite Sirah “as dark and intense as a dominatrix’s boot.

What is Petite Sirah, anyway? Most of it is actually a grape called Durif, a cross between Syrah and Peloursin originating in late-19th-century France. Almost no Durif remains in France, but some it made its way to California, where it became a catch-all name for a number of grapes, some of which may have been Syrah. “They decided to give it a new name, including a French word for prestige, and something a bit easier to spell than Syrah,” wrote Roy Andries de Groot in his 1982 book “The Wines of California, The Pacific Northwest and New York.” These days, petite Syrah and Durif are synonymous, and California is its prime terroir.

Petite Sirah has always been used for blending. If a particular year’s zinfandel was a little flabby and in need of some tannic backbone or a darker purple hue, you can bet Petite Sirah was added.

I keep waiting for Petite Sirah to have its moment. In 2000, there were 60 producers of it. Today, there are more than 800. And more wineries are planting the grape: In 1992, 3,000 acres of Petite Sirah were grown in California; two decades later the total is nearly 8,500 acres. Many believe that the 2010, found on shelves now, might be the best petite vintage since it started being bottled as a single varietal in 1961. I figured it was a good time to do a tasting, so I gathered about 20 bottles, which wasn’t easy.

Here is an example of a fun, well-priced but sadly tiny production Petite Sirah – Trinafour

Trinafour is a very small producer specializing in Rhone Varietals. The latest Petite Sirah will knock your socks off!  Only 75 cases produced, so it will go fast! Sourced from the single vineyard “Niemi”

Trinafour 2018 Petite Sirah “Niemi”
GGWC 32.99
FREE SHIPPING on 12 or more
Use code TRINAFOUR during checkout

The wine offers up gorgeous aromas of ripe blackberry, violet and crushed rocks.  The mouthfeel is lush, with bright and bold purple hued fruit flavors dominating the spectrum.  The wine offers up amazing richness, yet well-balanced and smooth on the mid-palate, with a long-lasting silky grained finish.  Only 5 barrels produced!

This wine pairs exceptionally well with smoked barbeque, cassoulet, dry rubbed ribs, andouille, Vella Dry Jack

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com for ordering assistance or priority allocation!

Philippe Melka does not “skip” a beat!


 

Preface is a new Skipstone wine made by Philippe Melka. The grapes are sourced from their  hillside vineyards on the Mayacamas range, located in the southeast portion of the Alexander Valley. Farmed sustainably and certified organic, grapes were all handfarmed, hand-harvested at night to preserve freshness and integrity of the grapes.

Skipstone Preface 2018 Proprietary Red, Alexander Valley
GGWC 74.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code Preface during checkout

The 2018 Preface Proprietary Red blend offers up a gorgeous scents of preserves, blueberries with hints of cloves, star anise, and roses. The bright palate is lush and full-bodied, rich and captivating with an appealing structure of well balanced fruit culminating with silky grained tannins and pleasing flavors that finish very long and pleasantly. Preface is a Merlot-dominated Bordeaux Blend made by Philippe Melka, rounded with the addition of both Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon (10%)  for structure and aromatic expression.  Only 175 cases were produced.

Winemaker Notes: “This Cabernet Sauvignon dominant Bordeaux blend incorporates all four red varieties on our estate: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and Cabernet Franc. 2018 was a cooler vintage than average throughout the entire growing season, which allowed for long hangtimes – a combination that yielded wines of full flavor ripeness, moderate alcohols and mouthfeel, and beautifully vibrant aromatics. Bright red fruits interwoven with fresh violets and a hint of cedar interwoven pop from the glass. Red cherry and raspberry form the core of this wine’s bursting blend of flavors. A touch lighter than the rest of the Skipstone wines, Preface has a medium body, yet displays the classic Skipstone vineyard characteristics: purity of fruit, density, and freshness. “

Jeb Dunnuck: An outstanding wine based on two-thirds Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, and the rest Malbec and Cabernet Franc, the 2018 Preface Proprietary Red reveals a healthy purple hue as well as medium-bodied notes of darker berries, cedarwood, spice, and earth. The entry-level wine of the estate, it’s upfront and charming, has a solid sense of elegance, and should last well for at least 7-8 years or more.

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com for ordering assistance or priority allocation!

ZINFANDEL OF THE YEAR!

 

Carlisle has always been one of those coveted wineries, so I always get excited when Mike Officer (owner/winemaker) allocates me some of his much sought after wine!

Everyone is on the Cabernet, Syrah, Pinot, anti Merlot, etc trail so that we have forgotten how good Zinfandel can be. In a recent blind tasting (one of my first tastings with my group since Covid shut us down too). It was a funny sight — we were in my backyard with 11 people, we had 3 tables and we all kept plenty of distance so we could safely “taste & spit!”

After tasting through 10 Zinfandels (2018 vintage) the BIG WINNER (8 first place votes) was CARLISLE 2018 PAPERA RANCH.

Carlisle 2018 Zinfandel Papera Ranch
GGWC 52.99

Jeb Dunnuck 96 Points: ”A bigger, richer effort based on 96% Zinfandel and 4% Carignan from a site in the Russian River, the 2018 Zinfandel Papera Ranch offers a meaty, powerful bouquet of black cherries, red plums, Asian spices, and chocolate. This carries to a full-bodied, beautifully textured, opulent Zinfandel that has ripe tannins as well as the seamless, silky style of the vintage. It’s beautifully done.”


Vinous 95 Points: “The 2018 Zinfandel Papera Ranch captures all the exuberance of Russian River Valley. Succulent dark cherry, plum, spice, new leather and cedar build in a sumptuous, creamy Zinfandel that is showing so well today. Bright red toned fruit and sweet floral notes saturate the finish effortlessly. Best of all, the 2018 will drink well with minimal cellaring.”

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com for ordering assistance or priority allocation!

This Russell Bevan wine will Rock your World!

The Bevan 2019 Petaluma Gap is a rich, powerful Pinot that delivers exactly what you’d expect from Bevan, tons of fruit in a balanced, seamless package. Black cherries, blackcurrants, graphite, and roasted herb notes all emerge from this full-bodied, powerful effort that has good acidity and length.

Bevan 2019 Pinot Noir “Petaluma Gap” Sonoma Coast
GGWC 84.99 Net item
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code BEVAN during checkout

Russell Bevan’s Notes: “Over the past several months the team at Bevan Cellars has been tasting many of our Pinot Noirs from 2012 and 2013, and we are always caught off guard by how age-worthy they are. Just like its older siblings, our 2019 Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir is a wine that will live for years and years. As you might expect from a wine that is 50% from the Calera clone, this wine has a fabulous savory quality. The yin to the Calera (clone) yang is the Swan clone, which makes up the other half of this wine and provides a beautiful floral and cherry aromatic profile to complement the extreme focus of the Calera. It has amazing weight and a color that speaks to the vineyard’s rocky soils and high elevation. This wine will have an evolution that will be amazing to follow.”

Also check out these other  limited available Bevan Cabernets:
Bevan 2018 Ontogeny Proprietary Red, Napa Valley – 99 Points
Bevan 2018 Tench EE Red (Cabernet Blend) Napa Valley  – 100 Points
Bevan 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Tench Vineyard Oakville, Napa Valley –  98 Points
Bevan 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Sugarloaf Napa Valley –  98 Points
Bevan 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon Wildfoote Vixen Stag’s Leap, Napa Valley  97 Points

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com for ordering assistance or priority allocation!

10 RIDICULOUS WAYS TO OPEN A WINE BOTTLE WITHOUT A CORKSCREW!

10 RIDICULOUS WAYS TO OPEN A
WINE BOTTLE WITHOUT A CORKSCREW!

Contributed by Isabelle Gray
Here are 10 ways you can remove a cork from a wine bottle when you get caught short.

It’s Friday night and the bottle of wine you’ve been saving all week is calling your name. The glass is ready to go, but wait. Where on earth is the corkscrew? How does one possibly own such a nice wine but not a corkscrew that gives access to said delicious wine?

Whatever the reason you don’t have a corkscrew, don’t put the wine away just yet. We are here to help with a range of borderline absurd methods to get that wine open, no corkscrew required. Who doesn’t like a challenge anyway?

Before you get started, maybe just double-check that the wine bottle doesn’t have a screwcap and it’s not a simple twist job – this might save a lot of potential mess.

THE ONE WHERE YOU GET THE TOOLS OUT

 
Once you’ve rescued your hammer and screw out of the dusty tool box, you essentially want to stick the screw into the wine, and use the ‘claw’ of the hammer to fish it out. If you have one, a screwdriver is even better as it provides a firmer and more precise removal.

THE ONE WITH THE WOODEN SPOON

This method isn’t the most classy, but it definitely has results. Using the end of a wooden spoon you’ll want to slowly push the cork into the wine bottle. This can be a bit messy so make sure your worktop is clear and your favourite shirt is being protected. Once the cork is in, it stays. This is fine if it’s a plastic cork but if it is actual cork, it can sometimes ‘shed’ and you end up with bits of cork in the wine. If this happens, strain the wine with a sieve. Again, not the most ideal method but if it’s your only option and it’s been a long week, I’m not here to judge.

THE ONE WITH A BIT OF STRING

The screwdriver is making a second appearance with this one. Make a hole in the cork with the screwdriver, get a piece of string and tie a knot in it at its end, and push it down the hole. You can then yank it out using the string. The yank is not to be underestimated, it needs a mighty pull for it to work.

THE ONE WITH A WALL AND SOMEONE’S SHOE
 

 
 
This is always a showstopper at parties (remember those?). Find a shoe that’s fairly flat and firm, place your wine bottle in the shoe, base first. With the shoe in place, whack the base of the wine and shoe against a hard wall and the cork will slowly ease its way out. Keep an eye on that before you give yourself an accidental wine shower.

THE ONE WITH ONLY A SHOE

The wall is left out for this one, where you place the wine between your thighs and slap the base with a shoe, book, or whatever works. The cork again will slowly come out and you can do the rest with your hands.

THE ONE WITH A WHOLE LOT OF PRESSURE

Somehow, in this scenario you’re organised enough to have a bike pump but not a corkscrew. Anyway, wedge the pump into the cork and slowly start pumping. The air will enter the cork, and eventually enough pressure will build to bring the cork out.

THE ONE WITH THE CAR KEY

 
For this one, grab your car key and insert it into the cork, preferably at a 45 degree angle. Then twist the bottle, not the key, this isn’t your car believe it or not, to gradually pull the cork out.

THE ONE WITH A KNIFE

This method is NOT to be taken lightly and definitely not for someone who’s already had a drink. This is basically the same as the key method, but with the added thrill. Stab a serrated knife into the cork and then wiggle the knife out.

THE ONE WHERE YOU GO FISHING

For this method, grab a wire hanger and be ready to sacrifice it. Bend the tip of it and try to create a 30 degree angle so that it looks a bit like a fish hook.Then, alongside the cork, slide the wire down and rotate it so the hook sinks to the cork’s base, and then pull it up! Dinner is served!

THE ONE WITH THE SCISSORS 

Please be careful of this one, but if you’re feeling brave, spread the blades apart and stick one into the cork. Then, holding the scissors with the handle, twist and pull and eventually the cork will begin to be set free.

LAST CALL For this Complex under $75 mountain-grown Napa Cabernet

 

Paloma is known for its Merlot, so it is rare they offer their Cabernet for sale.  The Cabernet is grown to be blended with their Merlot, but in some years (higher yields) they do produce it as a single varietal.  So I am happy to share this bounty with you!  This wine is bold and complex with intense aromatics jumping out of the glass.  The wine is full in body, yet silky and well-polished, dense, yet supple and pleasing.

The palate is loaded with gorgeous black currant, chocolate and espresso notes that lead to a long and explosive, yet refined finish. A real gem!

Paloma 2016 Cabernet “Estate” Spring Mountain, Napa Valley
GGWC 74.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code PALOMA during checkout

Winery Notes: “The 2016 Paloma Cabernet Sauvignon displays a seductive nose of dark cherry, raspberries, anise and a touch of nutmeg.  In the mouth, the wine is silky smooth and very lush, soft on the entry and rewarding the taster with an impressively long finish.  Surprisingly approachable for a young Cabernet made from Spring Mountain fruit, the 2016 Paloma Cabernet will offer immediate gratification. Enjoy this beauty with a hearty meal of rich, creamy cheeses, wild game and a decadent chocolate dessert.”

Also check out Paloma’s big bold 2016 Estate Merlot (assorts for free shipping)
 
Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com for availability and priority allocation

California Vineyard Series: Kamen Vineyard

 

California Vineyard Series: Kamen Vineyard

BY ANTONIO GALLONI

With its undulating hills and striking contours, Kamen is one of the most evocative estates in Sonoma. The vineyard is just a short drive from the town square, yet it feels very remote. Screenwriter Robert Mark Kamen bought his property in 1980, mostly for the views, as he tells it. “I had just sold the screenplay for The Karate Kid and I wanted to celebrate,” Kamen told me recently.

At the time there was no road, no electricity and no power. It is hard to imagine how anything at all was developed back then in such rugged terrain. Vineyard manager Phil Coturri planted the first vineyards in 1982, 34 acres of Cabernet and a bit of Sangiovese, on a large, expansive ranch that covered 300 acres. Coturri was an early advocate for organic and biodynamic farming at a time when sustainable approaches to viticulture were considered well outside the mainstream. Today, that expertise has made Coturri one of the most sought-after vineyard managers in the United States. Sadly, a large part of the property was destroyed in 1996 when a downed PG&E power line caused a large fire that devastated a number of estates on Moon Mountain. Kamen rebounded quickly. He replanted damaged blocks and then started his own label in 1999.


Kamen Vineyard in 3D and broken down by block.

“In 2001 a young winemaker from Napa came to see me,” Kamen told me recently. “He was convinced he could make wines on this side of the mountain that were just as great as those from the other side, in Napa Valley. That was Mark Herold. Mark blended the 2002 and made the 2003. He’s been our winemaker ever since.”

“At the time, Sonoma Valley always trailed Napa Valley,” Herold explained. “I looked at the Mayacamas Mountains and to me it was one mountain. I was curious to see what we could do on the Sonoma side. The first wines were made off of the core of the estate. We planted the Lava Blocks in 2009 and 2010,” he added.

Today, Kamen has 43 acres under vine, including 14 from the original 1982 planting, most of it Cabernet Sauvignon divided among seven clones, including the Kamen Heritage clone (believed to be Martini from Monte Rosso), See, 15 (also known as the Caldwell clone), 191and 169. Bits of Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Grenache, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier round out the holdings.

The terrain is composed of mostly rhyolitic, volcanic soils with diatomaceous earth in a few places. The most extreme, rocky soils are found in the Lava Blocks, which are at the southern end of the property. Elevation ranges from approximately 1,100 to 1,450 feet.

Check out these great Kamen wines:
Kamen 2019 Sauvignon Blanc “Estate”
Kamen 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon “Estate”
Kamen 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon “Lava Block” Estate
Kamen 2018 Syrah “Estate”

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com for availability and priority allocation

Rest in Peace Jim.

Au Bon Climat’s Jim Clendenen, Colorful Santa Barbara Pioneer, Dies at 68
From his Santa Maria Valley winery, Clendenen helped raise the quality of California Chardonnay and Pinot Noir
By Kim Marcus
from Wine Spectator
May 17, 2021

Jim Clendenen, who brought a love of Burgundy to his groundbreaking Santa Barbara winery Au Bon Climat and helped put the region on the world winemaking stage, died in his sleep the night of May 15 at his home in the Los Alamos district near the town of Buellton, Calif. He was 68.

Clendenen was a tireless proponent and guiding light for Santa Barbara wines from his base in the cool-climate Santa Maria Valley in the northern reaches of the county. His Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from a variety of vineyard sources helped set the quality bar high for the region’s wines. He was also a frequent traveler to restaurants and wineries throughout the world, spreading the gospel of Santa Barbara wines and Burgundian varietals in California.

In this guise, he was an iconoclast in his early career, and a force of nature in his joie de vivre. Clendenen was a legendary cook and often greeted visitors with large lunches and overflowing wine at his utilitarian winery on a corner of the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard, which he helped champion.

“There’s no way to overemphasize his importance to the Santa Barbara County wine industry. A pioneer in every possible definition of the word. He was fearless, flamboyant and a never-tiring voice for Santa Barbara wine and California wine in general,” said fellow Santa Barbara vintner Brian Loring of Loring Wine Company.

“He broke down barriers and shined a light around the world for Santa Barbara,” said Greg Brewer of Brewer-Clifton winery. “So many projects down here are variations of what he wanted to do. He transformed Santa Barbara from a source of anonymous fruit for others to a main player on the world stage. For the better part of four decades he was a champion in that regard and we’ve been riding in his wake.”

With a flowing mane of blond hair and a beard to match, as well as sartorial preferences for colorful T-shirts or short-sleeve prints, Clendenen cut a distinctive figure in the mostly buttoned-down world of Santa Barbara winemaking. A self-taught winemaker, he was resolute in applying what he considered the best European techniques to his wines and, while many were acclaimed, some were not, as he found his way through trial and error. His wines were more delicate in style than many of the standard-bearers of California wine, especially in the 1980s and 1990s. “I’m a liaison between the old style and the new,” Clendenen told Wine Spectator in 1997.

Born Jan. 11, 1953, and a native of Akron, Ohio, Clendenen was studying at U.C. Santa Barbara in 1974 when he took a trip to France and visited Bordeaux, where the wine bug first bit. After a second trip to France and a stay in Burgundy he soon decided against becoming a lawyer and instead to pursue a life in wine. In 1978, back in Santa Barbara, he was hired to be winemaker Ken Brown’s assistant at Zaca Mesa winery.

Clendenen left Zaca Mesa in 1980 and worked the 1981 harvest in Burgundy, taking time to visit dozens of cellars during a three-month stay. He was surprised to find many winemakers there worked with basic techniques and equipment. “Even an impoverished American could duplicate that,” he quipped.

Back in Santa Barbara in 1982, he founded Au Bon Climat on a shoestring budget with Adam Tolmach, who today owns Ojai Vineyard. “All we had at first was the ability to communicate,” Clendenen explained in 1997. “We bought used equipment. It was so pathetic; it would have embarrassed a home winemaker.”

Tolmach and Clendenen parted ways in 1991, with Clendenen buying out his partner. In 1989, the Miller family, who own Bien Nacido, built a no-frills structure for Au Bon Climat, as well as to house Qupé winery, then owned by Bob Lindquist, who continues to make wine at the site, now under the Lindquist Family Wines label.

Clendenen was Lindquist’s mentor at Zaca Mesa and they worked side by side at the Bien Nacido facility. “He was a total force of nature,” Lindquist said “He knew everybody and everybody knew him—in Burgundy and the Rhône and Italy, and everywhere in the wine world. An amazing guy who up until Friday was making lunch for everyone at the winery, opening up his wines and sharing them.”

Au Bon Climat makes an estimated 30,000-plus cases of wine per year and also includes wines bottled under the Clendenen Family Wines label. Clendenen is survived by his two children, Isabelle, 26, and Knox, 21, and former wife Morgan.

Put some Sparkle in your life, and some savings in your wallet

Laherte Frères was founded in 1889 by Jean-Baptiste Laherte, although the Laherte family sold grapes to the local cooperative for many years. Michel Laherte, the father of current proprietors Thierry and Christian Laherte, began to bottle champagne under his own label, and when brothers Thierry and Christian took over the estate, they appropriately changed the name back to Laherte Frères. Since 2002, they have been assisted by Thierry’s son Aurélien, who represents the seventh generation of his family to grow vines in this area.

The Lahertes own ten hectares of vines, spread over an astonishing 75 parcels in ten different villages. Needless to say, some of these parcels are quite small, and fortunately much of the estate’s holdings lie in areas not too far away, in communes such as Chavot, Courcourt, Moussy, Vaudancourt, Mancy and Epernay. Aurélien Laherte is particularly interested in natural viticulture, and since 2005, five hectares of the estate have been farmed biodynamically. The other five are essentially organic, worked without any chemical pesticides or herbicides, and while Laherte would like to expand his biodynamic treatments to include more parcels, the main difficulty right now is distance, as some plots, such as those in Vertus or Voipreux, for example, are simply too far away from Chavot to effectively manage the intense labor required for biodynamic viticulture.

Laherte Frères NV Champagne Ultradition Brut, France
$49.99
FREE SHIPPING on 6 or more
Use code LAHERTE during checkout

90% organically grown grapes with a small portion coming from a non-certified but practicing organic grower. This bottling is a blend of 60% Pinot Meunier, 30% Chardonnay, 10% Pinot Noir grown around the estate in Chavot and from sourced vineyards in the Vallée de la Marne. Clay and chalky clay top soils over limestone chalk bedrock. This is a blend of 60% current vintage and 40% reserve wines from the two previous harvests. Hand harvested and pressed in a traditional vertical Champagne press. Alcoholic fermentation takes place in a combination of vats and burgundy barrels according to grape variety and vineyard provenance. Partial malolactic fermentation is the norm but varies with harvest. Aged 6 months prior to bottling and prise de mousse in the springtime following harvest. Dosage is 4.5g/L or Extra Brut.

Although a great value, this is serious wine with excellent mineral cut, showing a chalky texture coated with lovely citrus, apricot, floral and honeyed pear aromatics. Very persistent showing nice tension and breed.

Vinous 92 Points: “The NV Brut Ultradition is similar to the Extra Brut bottling, but with a bit more reserve wines and naturally higher dosage. Interestingly, that mix results in a wine with more tension and brightness than the Extra Brut version. White flowers, mint and orchard fruit are some of the notes that take shape in the glass. Finely sculpted and full of energy, the Ultradition Brut is flat-out delicious. The blend is 60% Meunier, 30% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Noir, 50% 2016 and 50% reserve wines from 2015 and 2014.”

Robert Parker 92 Points: “Based on the 2016 vintage—complemented by reserve wines from 2015 and 2014—and disgorged in April 2019 with five grams per liter dosage, the NV Brut Blanc de Blancs Ultradition unwinds in the glass with notes of warm bread, green apple, citrus oil and peach. Medium to full-bodied, bright and incisive, with a fleshy core of lively fruit, a pinpoint mousse and racy spine of acidity, it’s already drinking well.”

Click here or on the links above to order!
Call 415-337-4083 or email frank@goldengatewinecellars.com for availability and priority allocation

Playing the Hand They’re Dealt

Playing the Hand They’re Dealt

Independent Retailers In California’s Bay Area Prove That
Resilience Isn’t Optional

By Nell Jerome in Somm Journal
 
Golden Gate Wine Cellars,
SAN FRANCISCO, CA

Major cities were arguably hit hardest by the shutdowns due to their dense populations and the sheer number of businesses affected. Golden Gate Wine Cellars, which is in San Francisco’s Balboa Terrace neighborhood near San Francisco State University, felt the effects immediately and needed to react. “Between March and June, sales were way down as I was figuring out how to transform my business,” noted Frank Melis, who founded the shop in 2005.

“Foot traffic went to zero. My wine club sales dropped 60%—I experienced a similar drop during the 2008 recession. Most people that subscribe to my wine clubs don’t have extra disposable income and canceled their memberships.”

But Melis persevered and continued to create new ways to survive and to help his customers. “By midsummer, I did [manage] to restrategize operations— curbside pickups, local deliveries, virtual tastings, etcetera,” he explained. “I [also] created a ‘stash’ system for my clients. They might not want to order a full case at one time, so we keep the wine they purchase and ship it once they have a full case, offering free shipping.”

Meanwhile, Melis went above and beyond to help his employees too. “My hours changed dramatically; since we were not allowed to have foot traffic [or] conduct weekly wine tastings, we closed daily at 3 p.m. and closed completely on Saturdays,” he said. “I laid off some staff members but paid everyone out of my own pocket.”

Many expected things to improve before the all-important holiday season, but the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place mandate continued. “As corporate parties were canceled, so was gift giving,” Melis said. “I have clients that usually purchase 50 to 150 single bottles of wine as gifts, and they did not buy any.”

But Melis’ ability to adapt paid off, as did his loyalty to California wineries. “The holidays were very good, all things considered,” he said. “We did see a larger amount of gift cards that were ordered via our website. Since we only stock California wines, I did not want to panic and revise my inventory . . . [and] by staying the course, I saw and felt the support of my out-of-state and out-of-country clients. [I] saw a robust rebound in the third quarter and an even better fourth quarter, equaling total sales of 2019.”

As for 2021, said Melis, “My hope is that we get this virus under control and get everyone vaccinated so we can try to reach pre-COVID normalcy. I hope not too many businesses disappear, as they are the heart of the U.S. economy. It hurts me to see many boarded-up shops. I try to live ‘glass half full,’ but the 2020 fires will not help, as many wineries will have way less or no wine at all to offer, so I am [only] cautiously optimistic. [Still,] I am lucky to have made a living out of my hobby, and I hope to continue for many more years to come. I am
very humbled and appreciative of everyone’s kindness and support.”