SHOP HOURS SATURDAY, JUNE 8
SICILIAN WINE & SATURDAY “SAUCE”
THIS SAT: Taste through a diverse — and extremely well-priced — selection of Sicilian wines from Un Po’ Pazzo Selections, along with a special “Saturday Sauce” Southern Italian menu from Chef Bill Niles!
TASTE ALL 6 WINES FOR $20
SICILIAN-INSPIRED LUNCH SERVED
Our friend John Lewis and his wife, Tiziana Costamagna, continue to scour their beloved Italy for first-rate cheeses, condiments, and other foodstuffs, and have amassed quite an impressive portfolio of Italian wines as well. This week, we’ll taste through an array of wines from Sicily – whites, reds, fortifieds and sweets – from a handful of cantine located in and around the historic port of Marsala.
So, Marsala: a striking, whitewashed, Moroccan-feeling town on the west Sicilian coast, once known for producing fortified wines to rival the Sherries of Jérez, Spain — but more recently snubbed as a mass producer of cooking wine and nothing more. Although there’s still plenty of very good fortified Marsala being made in the area, most Marsala wineries have spent the last several decades re-inventing themselves, fashioning dry whites and reds out of traditional varieties such as Grillo, Zibibbo, and Nero d’Avola. Yes, there’s also been a lengthy dalliance with Chardonnay, Viognier and other “international” varieties (which, in the hot, dry western Sicilian climate, often balloon into fruit bombs), but there’s something about the native grapes that speaks more clearly of the place: good Grillo can have some of the weight and herbaceousness as a Rolle (Vermentino) from Provence, while high-acid grapes such as Zibibbo and Grecanico provide a freshness for perhaps the most exciting and diverse seafood culture in Italy.
Cantine Fina Sicilia Grillo “Kebrilla” 2011, $14
Partial aging in barrel lends texture to this floral, citrusy white. There’s some weight here for richer seafood preparations, but a lightweight price.
Cantine Fina Sicilia Zibibbo “Taif” 2011, $18
Zibibbo is best known for its use in passito (dried-grape) wines from exotic locales such as Pantelleria. It was also one of the traditional blending varieties in fortified Marsala – here it’s re-fashioned as a bone-dry, steely, delicately perfumed dry white.
Cantine Intorcia Marsala DOC “Semi-Dry” and “Sweet”, $23/750ml
Two shippable Marsalas you won’t want to cook with – pair with desserts, or maybe pour atop a dessert, but for God’s sake don’t use it for chicken!
Alcesti Sicilia Nero d’Avola 2010, $14
Supple, darkly fruited red with just a hint of oak.
…and a few surprise wines TBD
Taste them all for $20
Saturday, June 8, 12pm-3pm
ST. VINCENT RETAIL SHOP HOURS
SATURDAY JUNE 1: SUMMER WINES
Lightweight, versatile, interesting wines at easy summer prices.
This week at Shop Hours we’ve got a mixed bag of delicious, well-priced wines across a wide range of styles and terroirs. All would make great picnic wines, all (reds included) can take a good chill, and all are supremely versatile with food. Come down on Saturday from 12-3 for a taste of the whole lineup for just $20. As always, Chef Bill will be on hand with some tasty lunch items.
Avinyo Cava Brut Nature NV, $23
“Brut Nature” means no sugar-adjusting dosage was added to this wine, giving it a gripping, refreshing impression on the palate. Mineral, serious, Champagne-method sparkling wine at a party-friendly price.
Adrien Berlioz Chignin “Cellier des Cray” 2011, $21
At just 11.5% a.b.v., this piercingly acidic, lemony mountain white from France’s Savoie is ideal picnic wine. Delicious, bright, and light enough that you can share a bottle and still show off your hackeysack moves with no skill slippage.
Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Rosado “Rubentis” 2012, $21
Now in screw cap! This Basque rose has been a staple of the SV list (and a staff/customer favorite) since we opened. You don’t even have to go to the beach if you have this wine, because it tastes like the beach. Repeat: It tastes like the beach!
Podere il Saliceto Lambrusco di Modena “L’Albone,” $20
Plunge a six-pack of this plummy dry Lambrusco in ice alongside some beers. It’s got enough acid and grip to stand up to burgers and beautiful, floral aromatics.
Terra Laura Cheverny Rouge 2010, $19
Like a Beaujolais with a twist – this Loire Valley lightweight combines Gamay (60%) with Pinot Noir and a touch of Malbec (a.k.a. Cot in the Loire). Tangy and spicy, and begging for a chill.
Bibbiano Chianti Classico “Montornello” 2009, $24
Single-vineyard Sangiovese from an impeccable Tuscan house, once a consultee of the late. Great Sangiovese maestro Giulio Gambelli. A new wine to this market and a superb example of silky, smoky, unadorned Sangiovese.
TASTE ALL 6 for $20
Saturday Shop Hours May 25:
St. Vincent goes Bavarian with Mark Gerlach of Uplifters Spirits and in-house Cicerone Sayre Piotrkowski
(sorry, NO SHOP HOURS on Saturday, May 18)
On Saturday, May 25, St. Vincent will celebrate Bavarian Brew with house-made Pretzels, Sausages, Kraut and of-course some extraordinary beers. Our guest will be Mark Gerlach of Uplifters Spirits. Mark maintains a small portfolio comprised of just three independent, family-owned, traditional Bavarian breweries.
We will be offering 9 different traditional Bavarian brews, presented in three different, brewery specific flights. Each flight will $10 by itself, however you will be able to taste all nine beers for $25. As always all of the beers will be available for retail purchase as well.
Beers to be Featured:
Private Landbrauerei Schönram was founded in 1780 and is now in its ninth generation of family ownership. The brewery is located in Schonram, a tiny town near the Bavarian mountains. Today the brewmaster is Eric Toft, an American. The three brews we will be featuring in our Schonramer flight on Saturday are:
- Schonramer Gold A year-round brewery flagship brewed to the contemporary Oktoberfest/Marzen style at 5.7% ABV and paler in color than the “Festbier” below. Gold medal winner at the 2010 World Beer Cup.
- Schonramer Festbier This is a classic Marzen style lager with a reddish hue and a complex malt flavor. Brewed to 6.2% ABV “to help make the long, cold Bavarian winters more pleasant and enjoyable.” This beer has limited seasonal availabitly and is rarely seen here in the Bay Area.
- Schonramer Saphir Bock This strong, 8.0% ABV Maibock style lager is the most sought-after product that Schonram releases each year. Brewed for spring, the beer uses only Saphir hops cultivated the previous fall. It is as hoppy and as strong as any brew we will taste.
Weissbrauerei Hopf has been family owned and operated since 1910 in Miesbach, GER. Miesbach is a small 12,000 person town nestled in the foothills of the Alps. The brewery produces only weizen (wheat) beer, claiming the distinction of “producing the world’s most awarded wheat beer.”
- Spezial Weisse At 6.0% ABV the “Spezial” Weisse bares much the same relationship to a standard Hefeweizen as a “Oktoberfest” does to a traditional “Helles” lager. This beer is a stronger, amber hued take on the Hefeweizen style brewed for the fall festival season in Bavaria.
- Dunkel Weisse Dunkel means dark, accordingly this is the brewery’s dark-colored Hefeweizen beer. Brewed to basically the same strength 5.3% ABV as the brewery’s flaghship “Helle Weisse,” the “Dunkel” offers additional flavors of cocoa and baking spice, consistent with its color.
- HopfWeisser Bock This strong Weizenbock style beer is brewed only in the winter. Aromas of banana, bubble gum, and clove as well as a satisfyingly robust lush mouthfeel makes this brew about as broad a crowd-pleaser as a 7% ABV wheat beer could ever be.
Klosterbrauerei Reutberg Is housed at a Monastery/Convent where beer has been produced for literally centuries. The town Sachsenkam where the convent lies boasts a tiny population of just over 1,200 people, some of whom grow malt and hops for the brewery.
- Export Helle The recipe for this modest 5.1% ABV Helles lager dates back to the 1400s and calls for a lengthy 8 week lagering period. The subtle balance exhibited by the finished product is a perfect illustration of what we may be losing as American craft beer becomes evermore showy and intense.
- Heller Bock Brewed to the same Maibock style as Schonram’s “Saphir” the Reuterberger “Heller Bock” is a mellower more malt-driven take on the style. Basically a beefed-up version of the brewery’s classic “Helle.”
- St. Josefi Bock Composed of both pale and dark malts, and relying on as many as 5 months of lagering to settle into itself, might well be the best traditional bock style beer we have ever tasted. It is rich and robust, amber in color and offers a depth of malt complexity seldom achieved by any other beer. St. Josefi Bock’s early spring arrival is celebrated by a festival attended by roughly 1,000 locals. It’s subsequent April/May arrival in the US is celebrated by any and all who come across it.
SATURDAY SHOP HOURS, MAY 11
SANTA BARBARA STYLISTS
$30 Tasting Flight – Meet the Makers!
Boutique producers from down south bring some genuine finesse to the table, not just with Chardonnay and Pinot but Chenin, Riesling, and Cab Franc, too!
Join us this Saturday for a diverse tasting of small-production wines from Santa Barbara: Bright, acid-driven Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from Justin Willet’s Tyler Winery; Loire-inspired Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc from sommelier-turned-vintner Eric Railsback’s Lieu-Dit; bone-dry Riesling and Grüner Veltliner from Austria-ophile Graham Tatomer; and even a well-balanced, well-priced Cabernet Sauvignon from Grassini Family Vineyards. We’ll have representatives from the wineries here to chat with you about these terrific bottlings, and of course lunch from Chef Bill Niles. 12-3 pm, $30 for a tasting of all the wines. Stop by and see us this Saturday!
2012 Tatomer “Meeresboden” Gruner Veltliner, Santa Barbara County $25
2010 Tatomer “Kick-on Ranch” Riesling, Santa Barbara County $30
2012 Lieu Dit Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley $30
2012 Lieu Dit Cabernet Franc, Santa Ynez Valley $36
2011 Tyler Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County $36
2011 Tyler PInot Noir, Santa Barbara County $40
2010 Grassini Family Vineyards “Articondo” Happy Canyon $38
2009 Grassini Family “Estate” Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon $65
RETAIL SHOP HOURS:
SATURDAY, MAY 4
SPICY, FUNKY REDS FROM THE SOUTH TYROL, AUSTRIA & BEYOND
Taste All Seven for $30; Lunch Served
Austria, Germany, the Alto Adige…all places where you think cool, you think steep, and you think white wine, first and foremost. Riesling, of course. Grüner Veltliner. And the raft of aromatic varieties grown in the Alto Adige (a.k.a. Südtirol), once a part of Austria until it was ceded (grudgingly) to Italy after WW1.
But you already know those. Perhaps less familiar are the pleasures of Zweigelt, or Lagrein, or the marvelously multi-syllabic Blaufränkisch (a.k.a. Lemberger) – the odd and delicious reds that grow in these German-speaking regions. All of these grapes share a certain earthy savor – a tarry minerality that recalls the char on a grilled steak – mixed with a buoyant fruitiness, and all are well-proportioned (and priced) for summer drinking. Plus they’re fun to say in an overblown German accent…come join us this Saturday and sample these unique and great-value reds (and one plump and yummy rosé).
Erste & Neue Südtirol Lagrein Rosato 2011, $15
Lagrein (lah-GRINE) is known for its pitch-black hue as a red wine, and for its deep, dusty rose-pink as a rosé. Erste & Neue (“first and new”) is one of the Alto Adige’s many outstanding cooperative wineries, based in the village of Caldaro. This is a bold, deeply flavorful rosé, leaning towards “light red” in style, with lots of mineral savor. Chill up a few for drinking with sausages off the grill.
Georg Mumelter Südtirol St. Magdalener Classico 2011, $18
The thing with the Alto Adige (Südtirol) is that everything is in two languages – German (the original) and Italian (that which was foisted upon them). St. Magdalener (Santa Maddalena in Italian) is the name of a village south of Bolzano that is essentially a “subzone” of the Alto Adige/Südtirol DOCG. It is set on a beautiful amphitheater surrounding a glacial lake and generally looks like Julie Andrews could come swirling across the expanse at any moment. The wine of St. Magdalener is a great example of a “light” red wine that delivers plenty of character: Made from about 80% Vernatsch (Schiava in Italian), this is soft, fragrant, spicy stuff that is just a few clicks north of rosé in body and color. Delicious picnic wine that can handle a chill.
Weingut Schlossmühlenhof Rheinhessen St. Laurent Trocken 2010, $17
Thought to be related to Pinot Noir, St-Laurent grows in both Germany and Austria, producing softly contoured, deeply colored reds with perfumy aromatics and soft tannins.
Umathum Burgenland Zweigelt 2011, $24
Austria’s Burgenland is one of the main growing areas for the above-mentioned St-Laurent, which was crossed with Blaufränkisch to create Zweigelt (so named for the scientist who created the cross). Neither as plump as the Blaufränkisch nor as light and perfumed as the St-Laurent, it is – you guessed it – styled right down the middle: a violet-scented red with good concentration and a mineral/acid lift.
Strehn Burgenland Zweigelt “Classic” 2011, $15
A small producer specializing in reds. This is a tangy, rustic take on the grape, aged only in steel and large wood. Low alcohol but big flavor. Enough muscle for steak but priced for burgers.
Moric Burgenland Blaufränkisch 2011, $28
Plump, dark, smoky…and yet not in any way oaky, aggressively tannic, or overly alcoholic. Such is the magic of some of these Germanic varieties, particularly Blaufrankish and the below-mentioned Lagrein: they give you some of the deep, dark, “big wine” sensations without the punishing side-effects.
CP Bolzano-Santa Maddalena Südtirol Lagrein “Perl” 2010, $20
This is another Alto Adige (Südtirol) cooperative, named for the two villages of its member-growers: Bolzano and Santa Maddalena. More than 200 farmers grow grapes for this co-op, and the Lagrein for “Perl” comes from 50-year-old vines in the subzone of Gries – a gravelly basin around Bolzano that is considered to be the ultimate terroir for Lagrein. Meaty and delicious!!
CAN’T MAKE IT SATURDAY? GIVE US A CALL AT 415-285-1200 TO RESERVE YOUR WINES
St. Vincent Saturday Shop Hours
A lot of people say that we’re rather Euro-centric here at SV. This is probably true, but not this weekend: This Saturday’s “Shop Hours” is all about America. Come taste 6 small-production California wines from some of the best of a new generation of local vintners – people who would seem to share our Euro leanings, if their wine stylings are any indication. These producers are dialing down the oak, alcohol and heavy extract in favor of finesse, low alcohol, earthiness and bright acidity. They’ve got us feeling all patriotic, and no doubt you will too after tasting through this lineup. $30 for a tasting of all 6! Saturday, 12 pm-3pm.
Ryme Cellars “Hers” Vermentino, Las Brisas Vineyard, Carneros 2012, $24
“Ryme” is a mashup of the names Ryan and Megan Glaab, a husband-and-wife team who’ve attracted a lot of wine-geek attention lately. Their Italianate bent initially caught my eye – they make a delicious red from Aglianico, among other wines – and it was only natural that their Vermentino would find its way to SV. In this case the “Hers” part of the label is significant: Unlike her husband, who is an orange wine freak and bottles a skin/barrel-fermented Vermentino called “His,” Megan prefers the leaner, stainless-steel-fermented style of Vermentino found in places like the Ligurian Coast. This is a tangy, low-alcohol white with hints of mint and sage – in other words, a classic, unadorned Vermentino. A very “Mediterranean” summer white.
Cep Vineyards Russian River Valley Rose of Pinot Noir 2012, $25
“Cep” is the second label of brothers Andy & Nick Peay, ably assisted in their endeavors by winemaker Vanessa Wong. Their Peay label (see below) is firmly rooted in the extreme Sonoma Coast, but with Cep they source fruit from further afield – in this case, it’s the Hopkins Ranch in the Russian River Valley. As for the style of the wine, it’s hard to beat this entertaining description from proprietor Andy Peay:
We love “true” Rosé. And I do not mean that dark colored, low acid, high alcohol dreck that is ubiquitous these days. That style of Rosé is a by-product of bleeding off juice (a process called saigneé) to concentrate Grenache, Syrah, Pinot noir, or another red wine that remains in the tank. This lifeless by-product naturally has alcohol in the 13 to 14% range with moderate to low acid and is dark colored. It is the malt liquor of the wine world; an attempt to make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Am I too harsh? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
In any event, that style of Rosé is not what we find interesting. We want refreshing, crisp, bright Rosé that has verve, pairs well with spring and summer cuisine, and you can enjoy without having to pick yourself up off the lawn. It is rare to find true Rosé made from Pinot noir as it is a very expensive grape and you cannot charge much for Rosé (with a few notable exceptions). We pick it early, press it off to tank, and bottle it in January.
Peay Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir 2011, $42
Low-alcohol, cool-climate Pinot sourced from Peay’s estate vineyard in the Northwestern-most corner of Sonoma County, on a fog-shrouded hilltop about 4 miles from the Pacific. Serious stuff. ‘Nuff said.
La Clarine Farm “Sumu Kaw Vineyard” Sierra Foothills Syrah 2011, $24
One of the darlings of the “natural wine” set, La Clarine Farm is a certified-biodynamic vineyard/polyculture perched high in the Sierra Foothills. “Sumu Kaw” is one of their prized vineyard sources, producing aromatic Syrah that is foot-trod and inoculated only with ambient yeasts. This is the ultimate in “minimal intervention” winemaking and is sulfured only a little at bottling. Meaty, smoky, funky…this is a rustic and (see a theme here?) low-alcohol take on the grape that tastes like a baby Cote-Rotie. Cool wine – in fact, serve it nice and cool, and decant it about a half-hour before drinking.
Unti Dry Creek Valley Grenache 2010, $26
Unti wines really capture the spirit of the Mediterranean in California – in fact, the Grenache for this wine (buttressed by a small percentage of backbone-strengthening Syrah) comes from cuttings from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Aged for 13 months in large, southern Rhône-style foudres, this wine – particularly in this vintage – is quite a bit more elegant than your typical, bruising Châteauneuf. Great aromatics, modest (if imperceptible) oak influence, and soft, velvety fruit; this has been a staple on the SV by-the-glass list since we opened.
Wind Gap Sonoma Coast Syrah 2010, $36
So many California producers talk the “cool climate” talk, then don’t walk the cool climate walk. Too many wines from ostensibly “cool” climates taste like they come from hot ones: super-ripe, hot, jacked up. This is a peppery, highly aromatic Cali Syrah from the Sonoma Coast, and another staple of the SV list. This wine toes a fine line that not many California wines can: it’s at once lithe and powerful, with enough muscle for a steak but not so much that it’ll knock you out.
ST VINCENT “SAISON SATURDAY”
SATURDAY, APRIL 20, $15 FLIGHT OF 4
Springtime has officially arrived in the city and we at St. Vincent are taking the opportunity to highlight one of the great warm weather beer styles, Saison. Join in-house Cicerone Sayre Piotrkowski this Saturday for a guided tasting of some dynamite examples.
Belgian Saison and its closely related French cousin “Biere De Garde” are historically tied to Wallonia, the predominantly French speaking half of Belgium. This area has long been a grain growing region and seasonal migrant farm workers were referred to assaisonnieres (Saison being the French word for “season”) drank these “provision” beers to sustain them through long hot shifts in the fields. These beers were brewed in the winter and bottle-conditioned prior to being consumed in the warmer months. They were typically pale in color, and utilized a variety of malted grains and spices.
Today Saison still defies strict categorization. A beer calling itself a Saison should always be dry with an intensely expressive fermentation-driven aromatics, but modern examples vary broadly in their grain bill, spicing, alcohol content, hop profiles and specific fermentation characters. Saturday we will explore Saison by tasting four beers which range from classic, Old World examples to ultra-contemporary American Craft-Brewed takes on the style:
“Saison Dupont,” Saison/Farmhouse Ale, Brasserie Dupont, Tourpes, BEL - “Vielle Provision” from Brasserie Dupont, more commonly known as “Saison Dupont,” has come to serve as the style-defining standard bearer for Saison styled brews today. Often Farmhouse Ales from all over the world are evaluated solely on how closely they resemble this one specific beer. This is somewhat ironic because Saison Dupont’s brilliant champagne-like clarity in the glass would have been very difficult to achieve in pre-industrial brewing. Also while, Dupont’s signature fermentation character provides the rusticity and subtle funk a traditional farmhouse ale would have likely exhibited, its pristine malt character and lack of any adjunct spicing actually make it the modern day standard for a category in which it would have once been uniquely clean and austere.
“L’Almalthee,” Blond Biere De Garde, Brasserie Lebbe, Villefranque, FR
Brewed by Pierre Lebbe, whose primary occupation is raising goats for cheese making, L’Almathee is a true Farmhouse Ale. The beer is certified organic and composed primarily of products Pierre grows himself on his property. We refer to this beer as “Blond Biere De Garde” for two reasons; 1) It is of French origin rather than Belgian, and 2) It does not resemble “Saison Dupont” at all. L’Almathee has an apparent full-bodied malt character which manifest in subtle a nutty richness on the pallet. There is a weight on the palate that today - in a post Dupont world - is no longer associated with the “Saison” style.
“Chez Panisse Farmhouse Ale,” Saison Style Ale with Spices, CaliCraft Brewing/Chez Panisse, San Jose, CA/Berkeley, CA - Unlike Mr. Lebbe, CaliCraft brewer Blaine Landberg does not have his own farm to source ingredients from. What Blaine does have is a partnership with the legendary Berkeley restaurant, Chez Panisse. This is the second collaborative brew between CaliCraft and Chez. This time around the Panisse crew gave Blaine access to their herb garden at Cannard Farm in Glen Ellen. After several trials and tasting (some of which I got to be a part of) Blaine settled on a blend of Anise Hyssop, Meyer Lemon Leaf and Lemon Verbena Blossoms to use as the spices in this “Saison-style ale.” True to Chez’s ethos, all of these spices are grown organically and sustainably, all of the malt used in the beer is CA grown.
“Saison Bernice,” Tart Saison Style Ale, Sante Adairius Rustic Ales, Capitola, CA - While the CaliCraft Saison chose to focus on the use of spices in historical Farmhouse brewing, there is a large contingent of contemporary American Craft brewers who choose to focus on the impact that farmhouse brewing conditions would have had upon a beer’s fermentation character. In pre-industrial/farmhouse style brewing it is likely that native yeast and bacteria, as well as oxidation, would have played a role in the fermentation and conditioning processes. To create “Saison Bernice,” Tim Clifford, the owner/brewer at Sante Adairius, unabashedly inoculates with a “wild” yeast called Brettanomyces and conditions the beer in oak. This imparts a remarkably distinct funky tart aroma to the beer. On the palate the acidity of wild fermentation is apparent.
Taste one of Piedmont’s rarest Nebbioli TOMORROW:
Sat April 13, 12-3 pm
One of the most difficult things about moving from New York to California four years ago (other than learning to control my aggression), was figuring out “who sells what” out here. Sorting through the tangle of California wine distributors has been my main preoccupation these last few years, and finally, after a lengthy search, I finally found one of the rare gems of northern Piedmont: The Carema from the Cantina Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema.
Carema is one of Piedmont’s smallest appellations – about 40 acres of vines comprise its entirety – and the Cantina, as its name suggests, is a cooperative winery named for the village of Carema. Its 45 member-growers produce Nebbiolo (here called Picotendro) in a rock-strewn amphitheater on Piedmont’s border with Valle d’Aosta. The vineyards are terraced, the growers tiny, the work all manual and quite hard, and the fruit – well, this is the ultimate “Alpine” Nebbiolo, all stony and savory and lean, with a cranberry-ish acidic bite. The aromatics are leathery, floral, cedary, and the color is the classic Nebbiolo “brick.” Every time I drink a wine like this I think of vineyard workers burning their vine prunings on a cold winter’s day.
Seeing the boxes of this stuff walk into SV was a happy moment. Come taste some tomorrow and we can talk trash about how it blows away Burgundy at twice the price!!
(SEE THE FULL APRIL 13 TASTING LINEUP BELOW)
All Nebbiolo, All The Time:
Saturday April 13, 12pm-3pm
Taste all 6 for just $30
This week we shine a spotlight on Italy’s most noble red grape, Nebbiolo, in its myriad incarnations. The focus, in fact, will be on the leaner, spicier, more rustic “Alpine” Nebbioli of the Valle d’Aosta, Northern Piedmont, and Lombardia. With the exception of one terrific wine from the relatively southerly confines of Barolo, this tasting traverses the cool, sub-Alpine foothills along the Italy-Switzerland border, featuring wines with a notch less alcohol/oak and a few more sharp angles than most of their Langhe (Barolo/Barbaresco) counterparts.
Caves Cooperatives de Donnas 2007, $26
Back by popular demand, this fragrant little gem has made regular appearances on our by-the-glass list. It’s about 85% Nebbiolo softened and lightened with Freisa and Neyret. This is a cooperative winery named for the village of Donnas, essentially the first village you hit as you enter Valle d’Aosta from Piedmont. The vineyards stumble down steep, rocky slopes above the Dora Baltea River. This is Nebbiolo taken in a soft, Pinot-ish direction, but with a nice mineral backbone.
Produttori Nebbiolo di Carema DOCG Carema 2008, $28
Another cooperative, this one northeast of Torino in Piedmont near the border with Valle d’Aosta: It is comprised of about 45 growers who, like their neighbors up in Donnas, tend vines on steep, rocky slopes. Another lean, perfumed, cool-climate Nebbiolo (also known in these parts as Spanna, or Picotendro, among other names). 100% Nebbiolo, aged 3 years in large Slavonian oak barrels.
Renato Ratti Nebbiolo d’Alba “Ochetti” 2011, $20
“Baby Barolo” from one of the legendary producers in the Barolo DOCG. Ratti is based in La Morra, but this wine hails from the Ochetti vineyard in neighboring Roero. Aged one year in large oak. An amazing value.
Massimo Clerico Coste della Sesia Spanna 2010, $33
“Spanna” is one of the synonyms for Nebbiolo in Northern Piedmont, and the Sesia is the Alps-fed river bordered by alta Piemonte appellations such as Gattinara, Ghemme, and Lessona. Clerico produces Lessona, but this is a wine crafted from younger vines than those that go into the Lessona bottling, thus the “Coste della Sesia” (“banks of the Sesia”) appellation. This bottling undergoes a shorter skin maceration than the Lessona, producing a lighter-colored wine with more lilt. Aged in neutral wood for 3 years, this is truly TINY production wine – Clerico produces only 400 CASES TOTAL, so we’re happy to have a few to sell this weekend!
Fojanini Valtellina Superiore Sassella “La Castellina” 2007, $29
Oh, not enough Alpine Nebbiolo for you? How about some Chiavennasca (another synonym) from the Valtellina, the river valley that hugs Italy’s border with Switzerland. This smooth yet leathery take on Nebbiolo from the terraces of the Valtellina hails from the region’s most famous cru vineyard: Sassella, so named for its stony (boulder-strewn, really) soils. If this were a Burgundy wine it’d be labeled premier cru or grand cru and cost twice as much.
Monsecco Gattinara 2006, $45
Gattinara is the anchor of the alta Piemonte (upper Piedmont), where a smattering of small appellations (Gattinara being the biggest at a whopping 120 hectares or so) hug both banks of the Sesia River. Of all the Alpine nebbioli, Gattinara is probably the closest in structure and age-worthiness to Barolo, and in fact undergoes the same barrel/bottle aging regimen as Barolo before it is released. This is probably the burliest of the wines in the lineup, but it’s still got plenty of definition and grace. Earthy deliciousness.
ST VINCENT “SHOP HOURS”
SATURDAYS, 12-3 PM
SATURDAY, APRIL 6:
WHITE WINE (AND ONE PINK) EXTRAVAGANZA
The weather is getting warmer. The days longer. Time to stock up on some whites. This week we have a super-diverse, genuinely fun lineup of whites (along with a fresh-off-the-boat 2012 rosé). Taste all of them for $30. Have lunch! Hang out! Learn something!
This Saturday’s lineup:
Ameztoi Getariako Txakolina Blanco 2012, $21
The coastal landscape on the label of this Basque Country white says it all: This stuff tastes like the sea, plain and simple. Tooth-rattingly fresh, salty, and bottled with some trapped carbonation à la Muscadet, this is the stuff Spaniards guzzle from those weird-looking decanters known as porróns. Crafted from Hondarribbi Zurri grapes grown in coastal vineyards just a stone’s throw from San Sebastián.
Gut Hermannsberg Nahe Riesling Trocken, $18
From dizzyingly steep slopes in the upper Nahe River Valley (one of the tributaries of the Rhine), this bone-dry Riesling is as bracing and mineral as mountain runoff. Gut Hermannsberg specializes in dry styles, and this well-priced bottling has a citrusy intensity reminiscent of white grapefruit. Low alcohol, perfect for salads outside on a hot afternoon.
Domaine Bersan Saint Bris Sauvignon “Mont Embrase” 2010, $18
Saint Bris is an appellation just west of Chablis, and is the only appellation within the realm of Burgundy in which Sauvignon Blanc is the star variety. And this is Sauvignon Blanc at its most chalky and mineral – no question this wine comes from a “Chablisienne” terroir. A tightly wound white that’s magic with fresh chèvre or as a refreshing apéritif.
Firriato Etna Bianco 2010, $23
This is a larger Sicilian producer, with holdings in several parts of Sicily (and thus likely shunned by the cool kids), but there’s no denying the precision, minerality, and straight-up deliciousness of this flinty, fragrant white from Mount Etna. 60% Carricante, 40% Catarratto. No wood. Acidity for days. Clean, well-made, just fantastic.
Ronco Severo Colli Orientali del Friuli Sauvignon Blanc 2010, $30
I’ve taken a lot of grief from some of my sommelier buddies for being “anti” orange wine – which I am, when the orange wine is more brown than orange. Otherwise, I’m down, as in the case of this skin-fermented Sauvignon Blanc from Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Golden-hued and full of flavor, this is a quintessentially Friulian Sauvignon – not Loire, not New Zealand, this wine has own distinctive (and legitimate) identity. Powerful and unique.
Domaine Jamet Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2009, $38
Jamet is a legendary producer of Côte Rôtie (Syrah) reds, but is no slouch when it comes to whites: This blend of 55% Marsanne, 30% Viognier, 10% Roussanne and 5% Grenache Blanc is fermented part in steel and part in oak barriques, and in the ripe ’09 vintage is showing some serious viscosity and floral, almost tropical aromatics. A lush, luxurious white for richer foods, from an unimpeachable source.
Cibonne Côtes de Provence Rose “Tentations” 2012, $17
Pink wine accounts for a whopping 90% of all wine produced in the Côtes de Provence appellation; Clos Cibonne is an historic Provençal estate whose main focus is the obscure local grape Tibouren, fermented and aged in large oak foudres and allowed to develop the protective layer of yeast known as flor – creating a more substantial and unusual style of rosé that is released much later than most.
This wine is NOT that. This is a second-label product crafted from Cinsault, Grenache, and Tibouren in a more “classic” Provençal style: fresh, clean, tart. A great value in the often-pricey world of Provençal pink.
SV SATURDAY “SHOP HOURS”: MARCH 30, 2013
“BURGUNDY FOR THE REST OF US”
Do you think Burgundy is really expensive? Us too. Join us Saturday, March 30 for a tasting of delicious Burgundy wines that won’t break you. 12-3pm, $30 for a tasting flight of 6 wines.
As a by-product of my job (or consequence, depending on how you look at it), I “follow” a lot of my fellow sommeliers on Twitter. As might be expected, “wine porn” is a big part of the typical sommelier’s tweeting repertoire: The “Dude, look at this crazy sh*t we’re drinking right now!!” photo is, at this point, as mundane as just about everything else on Twitter.
Still, there are some guys who seem to be pouring, and drinking, at such a consistently high level that I can’t help but be amazed – a jealous. And more often than not, what they’re touting is Burgundy – red or white, it doesn’t matter, as it seems that every “serious” wine lover eventually winds his or her way into this the most parcellated, classified, endlessly aggrandized patch of wine ground on earth.
The price of entry into the Burgundy Club is infamously high – largely because production of the good stuff is infinitesimal in relation to demand/hype. And even once paid, that money, quite frankly, doesn’t always buy that much; what it often buys is prematurely oxidized whites and reds so tight and reticent you’re left to wonder what they could have been with a little more time in bottle.
We don’t have the time, or the money, at SV to get too deep into the trophy Burgundy game. Instead, we focus our energies on working the fringes of Burgundy to find stuff that over-delivers at a reasonable price. Burgundy is so codified, in fact, that price differences from one village to the next can vary dramatically. So, rather than comb through the expensive racks of Meursault or Gevrey-Chambertin, we scour the sale bins of St-Aubin, Pernand-Vergelesses, Marsannay…”outer-borough” villages where some vineyards are but a stone’s throw from the Grand Cru sites of their more famous neighbors.
Come drink some value-for-dollar Burgundies with us this Saturday, then brag to your friends later about how little you spent on them. In our world, these are the real trophies.
HERE’S THE FULL LINEUP FOR SATURDAY, MARCH 30:
Jean-Marc Boillot Montagny 1er Cru 2011, $27
(Bright, fragrant, leesy; a luxurious style from the Côte Chalonnaise)
André Bonhomme Viré-Clessé “Vielles Vignes” 2009, $25
(Earthy & substantial Mâcon chardonnay from a ripe vintage)
Domaine Coillot Marsannay “La Charme aux Prêtres” 2010, $33
(Nervous, gripping, assertively aromatic; cherry-red Pinot fruit)
Domaine Rollin Pernand-Vergelesses 2008, $33
(Earthy, stemmy, rustic; textbook old-school Burgundy)
Marc Colin Santenay “Les Champs Claude” 2008, $32
(Silky, sinewy, tangy…elegant and perfumed)
Domaine Brintet Mercurey “La Levrière” 2009, $36
(Plush and velvety; a more modern take on Burgundy Pinot)
Pickled Eggs: beet and horseradish OR curry 3 EACH
Hand Rolled Soft Pretzel, mustard & butter 5
Sirloin Steak Sandwich, walla walla onion, raclette, country bread 12
Chickpea and Chicories, shaved fennel, meyer lemon, ricotta salata 10
Cheese Plate, grilled bread, jam 15
Cheeses: Sandy Bottom (raw goat) *** Hudson Red (raw cow)*** Big Rock Blue (cow)
SATURDAY “SHOP HOURS” BEGIN MARCH 23
Another of tomorrow’s featured wines:
Duxoup Napa Valley “Frediani Vineyard” Charbono 2009, $20
To tackle this little number we turn to the venerable Oxford Companion to Wine, which indicates that Charbono is actually the name of “two distinct black grape varieties, one in California, one in Italy.” The California variety has been genetically linked to the “virtually extinct” Corbeau grape of France’s Savoie. Duxoup’s Deborah and Andrew Cutter have sourced the old-vine fruit for this wine from the Frediani Vineyard, outside Calistoga, since 1985 (the vineyard is said to have been planted to Charbono at the turn of the last century). The flavors are dark, somewhat spicy, but the palate impression is light and tangy; it’s like Dolcetto and Barbera had a baby. No perceptible oak, low alcohol…a great summer red for $20.
Join us from 12-3 every Saturday as we open our doors for “shop hours,” a series of tastings where wine will be available for retail sales. Many of our customers are unaware that we hold both a restaurant and retail license, and during “shop hours” we’ll open a slew of great wines for folks to taste, all of them available for retail sale. Chef Bill Niles will have some casual lunch items on hand to complement the day’s offerings, and SV staff will be on hand to answer questions about the wines (and beers!!) being sampled. Taste them all, have just a glass of one, have some lunch…then stock up your home cellar with selections ripped straight from our ever-changing wine list.
BRING ST. VINCENT HOME
BUY YOUR WINES HERE
In addition to being a restaurant, St. Vincent is licensed to sell wines at retail. Like something you had while you were here? Feel free to take some home at retail price. Need wines for an upcoming party at your home? David Lynch and St. Vincent’s team of sommeliers are happy to help you with your selections. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 415.285.1200 to inquire about our merchant services.
Visit us here for updates on upcoming tasting events, new wine offers and random musings on wine from the St. Vincent team.