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John Herbstritt

Pinot Noir & Fall Wine Blitz Next Week!

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It’s hard to believe, but once upon a time, many winemakers in California thought thatPinot Noir would never find a home here. They looked at the rainy, cold, limestone slopes of Burgundy and saw a climate so alien to anywhere they were familiar with that the thought of emulating those famous wines seemed futile. The (perhaps) apocryphal story there is that the Cistercian monks who were responsible for mapping out the differentclimats on the Côte d’Or would train their palates by tasting the soil from each parcel. The Burgundy that we know today is the culmination of centuries of accumulated ancestral knowledge.

It took time to realize that we didn’t need to emulate Burgundy – we needed to forge a style of California Pinot Noir that spoke with its own voice. The Hanzell Vineyardcompetes with the Van der Kamp vineyard for the title of oldest Pinot Noir vines in California, but back when these were planted there was no guarantee that they would ever yield wines with the grace, power, and longevity that they have become known for. For many, these wines were more gratifying than their Burgundian counterparts. In Burgundy only the best years yield wines with the level of fruit and body that we take for granted in California. In fact, many Pinot Noir (and Chardonnay) lovers today are callingfor more restraint in this category, inciting something of a divide among California wine lovers.

And then of course there is Oregon. In 1979 the ’75 Eyrie Vineyards South Block Pinot Noir placed in the Top Ten in the Gault-Millau Wine Olympiad, beating out some very prestigious red Burgundy. One of these wineries even decided to establish a vineyard in Oregon, and in the late 1980s, Domaine Drouhin was founded in the Dundee Hills. The cool climate of the Willamette Valley made Pinot Noir cultivation seem obvious, and a combination of cataclysmic geologic events (see Columbia River Basalt Flow and The Great Missoula Floods) make for some extremely varied terroir. The monks would have a heyday there today.

Among other things, these events demonstrate what a blip on the radar our notion of terroir really is. In Burgundy climate change equals hailstorms that destroyed the crop in some villages for three out of the past five vintages. Oregon just experienced two of the hottest vintages on record and, well, we know what is going on in our backyard. Let’s do as the monks would do and pray for rain…luckily for them, and for us, in between masses they also practiced what they preached and drank some good wine.BiRite-HOLIDAY-2015-hannakuh-235

Bi-Rite Market Public Label Poe Pinot Noir
Regular Price: $21.99 Blitz Price: $17.59
Our Bi-Rite exclusive wine was sourced from a one of the oldest Pinot Noir vineyards in Sonoma called Olcese. We collaborated with one California’s best winemakers,Samantha Sheehan of Poe, to make us this phenomenal bottle. Theresult is beautifully aromaticwith cherry and raspberry fruit notes.We love this with avariety of foods, from wild caught salmonto Heritage pork chops.

Bader-Mimeur Bourgogne Rouge
Regular Price: $22.99 Blitz Price: $18.39 
The Pinot Noir for this wine comes from white wine territory in Chassagne-Montrachet. It is spry, full of bright red fruit, and dexterous. Enjoy this with poultry dishes like roast chickens or duck breast. Who said Burgundy couldn’t be a bit of fun?Broadley Pinot Noir

Broadley Pinot Noir Jessica’s Vineyard
Regular Price: $29.99 Blitz Price: $23.99
Broadley Vineyards, established by Craig and Claudia Broadley, are now joined by their son Morgan and his wife Jessica. This wine is sourced from a single vineyard named after their daughter-in-law. It’s classic Willamette. Seared duck breast with cooked cranberries and friends around the table showcases the wine’s depth.

WineBlitzLogoThe Wine Blitz starts next week, Monday through Sunday, November 2-8! Once again we’ll be offering 20% off the purchase of 12 bottles or more mix and match throughout the selection. The dates are November 2-8 for the Fall Blitz and December 7-13 for the Winter Blitz. Come into your local Bi-Rite Market and place a pre-order to avoid the crowds!

Simon

Pomegranates + Persimmons = Flavors of NorCal Fall Fruit

IMG_6400Lately, autumn in the Bay Area means beautiful warm weather. In the Bi-Rite Market Produce Department it’s all about the transition from juicy and mouthwatering summer fruit to fall fruit that offers a much different eating experience. Local apples and pears are always an exciting crop in the fall, but there are a couple other crops that don’t get the recognition they deserve.  Persimmons and pomegranates not only represent the colors of autumn, they add unique flavors and texture to seasonal dishes.

Fuyu Persimmon

Fuyu Persimmon

Growing up on the East Coast, I had never even heard of a persimmon! In Northern California they are growing in back yards throughout the Bay. The squat-shaped Fuyu Persimmon is the most common variety— they are similar to an apple in the sense that you can eat it out of your hand when it’s firm in texture and ripe.  A Fuyu is ripe when the skin is bright orange, but depending on the exact variety or the growing region it can be pale in color.  Fuyus have a nice crunchy texture and the flavor that is mildly sweet with hints of cinnamon.  They are a great piece of fruit to chop up and add to savory salads and salsa since they add perfect texture and sweetness. Fuyus are very high in potassium and lycopene (a cancer-fighting antioxidant.)

Hachiya Persimmons

Hachiya Persimmons

The elongated, oval-shaped Hachiya Persimmon is a whole different ball game than the Fuyu. First off, a Hachiya can’t be eaten when it is firm like a Fuyu, due to its astringent qualities. The fruit needs to ripen up to a “pudding-like” texture, and the piece of fruit should feel like a balloon in your hand.  Once the Hachiya is ripe, the easiest way to eat it would be to peel of the top layer of skin and to spoon out the sweet, silky, and smooth pulp. The Produce Crew at Bi-Rite spends a lot of time ripening the Hachiya Persimmons, so that we have them ready to eat when we put them on the shelf. Many other retailers sell them in a rock-hard state and it may take 4-7 days to ripen on the kitchen counter before they are at their desired ripeness. Hachiyas are very versatile in the kitchen, from spreading the ripe pulp on toast like jam to making persimmon pudding and cakes.

For the past 10 years, from fall through the holidays, we’ve been lucky enough to have beautiful IMG_6391“Wonderful” Pomegranates straight from Balakian Family Farm in Reedley, California. Like most fruit, the longer the fruit gets to hang on the tree and ripen, the better the flavor will be. If a pomegranate is harvested too early the juice and arils (seeds) will be tart in flavor. The flavor of the Balakian Pomegranates is perfectly balanced between sweet/tart and the arils are plump and juicy. It can be challenging to pick out a ripe pomegranate, but we are fortunate enough to work with a farm that harvests them when they are truly ready, taking the hard work out of choosing the perfect fruit. Pomegranate arils are a great addition to chicory salad and also pair nicely with the flavor of persimmons.

Come in to either Bi-Rite Market today and have a taste of our incredible fall fruits!


John Herbstritt

California Classics & Fall Wine Blitz

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In a lot of ways California is a privileged place to make wine. European wine regions benefit from legal protection that help with promotion to consumers, but they also suffer from regulation which can stifle creativity. For instance, other than one notable exception (St. Bris in the North), you will never find Sauvignon Blanc planted in Burgundy. There are, of course, historical and cultural reasons why this is not done, but the question remains: what if? In California we can pretty much plant whatever we want, wherever we want. There is a lot of information available to planters about which kinds of grapes might work better in which places, but in the end it’s up to him or her to decide.

The early planters of wine grapes in California, many of whom were immigrants from wine regions in Europe, understood that in order to grow the grapes they knew from home they would need a similar climate. However, the California wine industry has also long been dominated by consumer taste and not necessarily by what actually grows best. As an example, Riesling in the 1960s was much more popular and ended up being planted in some unlikely spots. These can sometimes still make incredible wine. For a real time warp, get your hands on a bottle of Stony Hill White Riesling from Spring Mountain in Napa. Some of their vines date back from this era and the wine hasn’t changed in style since it was first made – delicious.

All of this is to say that since the “modern” winemaking era began in California – either in 1966 when Robert Mondavi founded the first new winery in California since prohibition, or in 1976 when California wines beat the best wines of France in a blind tasting – we have learned a lot about our own terroir; yet, we are still learning more every day. Robert Mondavi himself was the first to make Sauvignon Blanc famous in Napa (he called it
Fumé Blanc), and we have really only scratched the surface in terms of potential for Chardonnay in Santa Barbara County. Of course, we have long known that Zinfandel and California were made for each other, although we did forget for a while.

I always try to come to every glass with an open mind. Of course a label can tell us a lot, but it can’t compare to the sensation of your nose in the glass and the wine on your palate. Cheers!


Farella Sauvignon Blanc Coombsville Napa, CA 2014 Farella
Regular Price $16.99 Blitz price $13.59
The Farella Sauvignon Blanc strikes a great balance between crunchy green melon and ripe guava flavors. Medium-bodied, with good minerality, and a bright long finish. Try it with your favorite fresh cheese, especially an Andante goat’s milk disk!

Ojai Chardonnay “Puerta del Mar” Santa Rita Hills Santa Barbara, CA 2013
Regular $29.99 Blitz Price $23.99
Puerta del Mar is one of the coolest vineyard sites in California and produces a Chardonnay that really stuns. In the hands of California viticultural legend Adam Tolmach the site shines. Bright, clear, and crisp with just a kiss of oak, it turns the notion of “California Chardonnay” on its head.

Regular Price $21.99 Blitz Price $17.59
When Pam and Jay Heminway planted their vineyard in the remote Chiles Canyon to Zin in Napa, Zin was well-established, but on the verge of being overtaken in most other places by the victorious Cabernet Sauvignon. They could have ripped up their vines and replanted but instead stuck to their guns and still make some of the best Zin around. Fruit forward and jammy with tons of texture, but unmarred by the excesses of new oak. Your fall dinner’s best friend.

WineBlitzLogoReady to get Blitzed? Once again we’ll be offering 20% off the purchase of 12 bottles or more mix and match throughout the selection. The dates are November 2-8 for the Fall Blitz and December 7-13 for the Winter Blitz. We will also be hosting our famous Blitz Tasting next Wednesday 10/28 at 18 Reasons. The 7-8 PM tasting is already sold out, but there are still a few spots left for the 6-7 PM tasting!

Jon Fancey

Gruyere 1655 Makes Everything Better

Now through November, the Bi-Rite Market Cheese Department is celebrating one of our favorite European cheeses: IMG_6279Gruyere 1655. I spent a week in Switzerland last month and ate quite a bit of Gruyere. Originally, the cheese was made by two brothers in the town of Gruyere, Switzerland, and the cheese took on the city’s name after the year 1655, when a noble in the area had the cheese made for his family. There are so many reasons that you should come in to the Markets and grab your own piece of Gruyere 1655 to enjoy!

  • It’s the perfect everyday cheese–Breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, or dinner.
  • It’s delicious–A well-rounded flavor and an amazing texture make this one of the most memorable cheeses we sell.
  • It pairs well with all of this season’s flavors–Heirloom Apples from California, Seckel Pear and Vincent Family Dried Cranberries from Oregon, or the new Underground Meats Summer Sausage from Madison, Wisconsin are incredible when paired with Gruyere!
  • It melts like a dream—Perfect for grilled cheese, quiche, a gratin, or even macaroni & cheese. Be on the lookout for recipe cards in the Markets, like the one below.
  • It’s sturdy & satisfying–Perfect for a picnic in the park, a day hike, or a weekend camping trip.
  • It preserves traditional cheese-making–Wheels of Gruyere 1655 are handmade at Fromagerie La Cret and are lovingly aged by Fromage Gruyere SA. Both firms are committed to the heritage of Switzerland’s most important cheese.
  • It’s the best cheese for Fondue—Everyone loves a pot of melted cheese on a foggy San Francisco evening, especially when it’s Gruyere 1655 in the pot.

Please stop by either Market and ask for a taste of this great Alpine cheese!

Gruyere recipe card_GrilledCheese


John Herbstritt

Offbeat Italian Varietals

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It’s estimated that Italy has over 350 varieties of grapes in common usage. The grapes that we think of as “mainstream” are the ones that constitute wines from regions that have made it on the world stage. Sangiovese from Chianti, Nebbiolo from Barolo and Barbaresco, and Aglianico from Taurasi in the South come to mind. So when we talk about “offbeat” Italian grapes we are talking about regional wines that, for most of the country, are the daily tipple. Not so long ago (in the ’70s), Italian wine was not mainstream at all. Your smart American oenophile drank Bordeaux and sometimes Burgundy and in the Bay Area Kermit Lynch was turning people on to the Rhone Valley, but great Italian wine was not easy to find. So if today’s offbeat is tomorrow’s mainstream, then I’ll be happy to contribute. Cheers! To never drinking the same thing twice, unless it’s really good (my unofficial motto)!

Being the knowledgeable wine drinkers that you are, many of you will already be familiar with some or all of these grapes, but let’s dive right in. Verdicchio is a grape native to the Marche on the Adriatic coast and has two major producing regions. Castelli di Jesi often produces fuller, riper versions, while Matelica is all ocean breeze, lime leaf with a bright fresh finish. As an aside, our friends at Unti Vineyards just released the very first (documented) Verdicchio made in California. Next time you’re up in Healdsburg go visit – they are the friendliest people in wine country.

Monica is a grape planted in Sardinia and almost nowhere else in the world, although it apparently originated in Spain. It can produce wines that vary from medium-bodied and fruit-forward to powerful and spicy, and the best examples of the former style pair amazingly with hearty seafood stews…which makes me think of one of my favorite restaurants in SF, La Ciccia in Noe Valley. Fabulous Sardinian cuisine and a deep, focused wine list sourced almost exclusively from the island.

Finally, Valpolicella is not really a grape at all. It’s an appellation in the Veneto in Northeastern Italy and is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella and sometimes Molinara. It can vary greatly in style, but for us the best are fruit-forward, bright, and juicy with hints of licorice and brandied cherry. Now I’ve been transported to Pizzeria Delfina and I’m about to bite into a slice of their funghi pie…wow that was intense.

Offbeat grape varieties. When they come on a boat to us they seem exotic and when we share them with friends there is always a fun story to go along with the new flavors. It’s important to remember that wine is wine and it’s meant to be imbibed and shared with people you love; and when you get the chance, meet the people who made it.Monica

La Staffa Verdicchio di Castelli di Jesi Marche, Italy 2013 | $19.99

Not the usual Castelli di Jesi style Verdicchio, the La Staffa version is quite vibrant, direct, flavorful, complex, and delicious. At only 24 years of age, owner and enologist Ricardo Baldi is fast becoming one of the top producers of the region.

ValpolicellaPala Monica di Sardegna I Fiori DOC Sardinia, Italy 2012 | $17.99
Under the guidance of Mario Pala, this family run winery combines modern techniques with the eye on traditional expression. Very aromatic with violet notes and hints of licorice. Great as a starter wine, it’s delicdoius with white meats and goat cheeses.

Massimago Valpolicella DOC Veneto, Italy 2013 | $14.99
Started by young winemaker Camilla Rossi Chauvenent, Massimago Valpolicella is a classic example of this style. Aromas of ripe strawberries and cherries with hints of balsamic. We love this with salumi and cheeses.

WineBlitzLogoWith the Fall Wine Blitz fast approaching, from November 2-8, you can get these Italian wines plus ANY of the wines on the shelf at 20% off when you buy 12 bottles or more. Also, come taste these wines at our Blitz Preview tasting on Wednesday October 28th. You can get tickets at 18 Reasons. Hurry, the tickets are going fast!


John Herbstritt

White Burgundies

How many times a week do I hear the words “I don’t like Chardonnay”? Each time it cuts me to the quick, since this grape can make wines that are utterly sublime. But in a lot of ways, Chardonnayhas been the agent of her own undoing. She was admired and accepted worldwide because she is a chameleon. She thrives in so many different terroirs and is delicious in so many different styles that, “Anything But Chardonnay”-ers notwithstanding, there is a Chardonnay for every wine drinker on this planet. In order to understand her soul we have to go back to the beginning, to Burgundy.

primary_9ffa77ea-5083-483f-8c50-ee50c00fe691Burgundy is a region that extends from Chablis in the North to the Macon in the South, and encompasses some of the most hallowed white wine vineyards in the world. The Kimmeridgian limestone in Chablis gives their Chardonnays a rocky backbone, and the cooler climate lends an acidity that doesn’t stop. On the Cote de Beaune, a gentle Eastern facing slope provides for perfect ripeness and the wines are richer and more generous (this is where many California Chardonnay producers take inspiration). In the Macon we encounter producers reaching for a creamier, simpler style, although many claim that this region hasn’t yet reached its full potential.

These styles are so different that you would be hard pressed to name them as the same grape, but there you have it. I told you she was a chameleon; and yet (almost) always welcome. We love Chardonnay that pursues balance. Balance between acidity, texture, fruit and integrated oak. Most importantly, we love Chardonnay that pairs well at the table. If you haven’t dived deep into her golden-hued glass, friend, there is a treasure waiting for you.Bourgogne Blanc

Try these amazing Chardonnay now, and stock up during our Wine Blitz. Once again we’ll be offering 20% off the purchase of 12 bottles or more mix and match throughout the selection. The dates are November 2-8 for the Fall Blitz andDecember 7-13 for the Winter Blitz. Start planning now! In our next email we’ll be featuring some of our favorite Blitz wines and also telling you about the Blitz preview tastings at 18 Reasons. Stay tuned!

 
Herve Azo Chablis Burgundy, France 2013 | 
$24.99
In the late 1970’s, Hervé Azo, originally from Brittany, took some time off from his fast-paced white collar job in the Parisian advertising business to pick grapes in Chablis during the harvest.  He never returned to his job.  After falling in love with the region, he began to look for vineyards, which at the time had not reached the astronomical value they have today.  Now he has an estate of approximately 12 hectares (26.5 acres),9 hectares of which are located in the premier cru slopes around the village of Milly.  Azo’s Chablis is aged exclusively in stainless steel vats to retain the classic mineral quatlities that the Chardonnay attains in Chablis. Yeasty and minerally with bright citrus notes. This is fantastic with oysters or shellfish dishes.

Talk about fine terroir and prime real estate: this 100% Chardonnay hails from Uchizy
 (population 800!), one of only 26 villages with the right to append the village name on the label. This vineyard is nestled just west of the Saone River, a very short distance from Viré and Clessé, two other notable villages for venerable Chardonnay in the Maconnais. The soils on this east-facing, gentle slope are comprised of limestone and clay, with ample rock debris providing superior drainage. The organically-farmed vines, averaging 32 years age, are tended by Mathieu’s longtime friend Jean-Michel, and are severely pruned to limit yields, hand-picked, and reflect a completely natural terroir – no spraying or artificial anything. The fruit is bladder pressed into 100% steel to retain freshness and youth. The bouquet is open and generous, with quartz, minerals, baskets of Meyer lemons, and white flowers. The palate is fresh, alive and pure Chardonnay through-and-through.

Domaine Dussort is a small family domaine based in the Cote d’Or, in the village of Meursault.  Sylvain Dussort took over 20 years ago, and started farming the estate’s 30 acres with minimal intervention in order to let the vines express the true character of each vineyard site. This “Cuvee des Ormes” is sourced from 50-year-old vines right below Meursault from two vineyards, En l’Ormeau and Les Pellans. Extended lees contact imparts richness to the wine and along with the old vines, this wine could easily pass for a Meursault, at half the price.


John Herbstritt

Organic Pumpkin Beer Done Right

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Although in SF Summer is just beginning — or rather, continuing — in other parts of the country Instagram feeds are starting to fill up with crunchy leaves, football and new fall looks. For beer aficionados it is the dreaded season of the pumpkin beer. Often overly spiced, sweet and syrupy, we almost passed on the category altogether this year, until we tasted the pumpkin brews from Uinta Brewing Company out of Salt Lake City. Their Punk’n Ale six-pack in a can is a good beer first and a pumpkin beer second, with notes of vanilla, cinnamon, and clove in the background. It’s sessionable, which means you can drink a couple and not feel too crazy. The Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale is a bigger version that spends six months in oak barrels. The result is richly textured and voluptuous, but not overbearing. Not only are the beers delicious, but the company that makes them is pretty cool too.

Residents of Salt Lake City and its environs will be familiar with their name, especially if they are outdoorsy types. Named after a fabulously beautiful mountain range just to the east of the state capitol, Uinta Brewing Company was founded in 1996 and has been brewing craftily since then. They make many different kinds of beer and everything I have tasted I have loved. Their commitment to their pristine namesake is not merely nominal. In 2001 they became entirely wind-powered, the first company in Utah to achieve this. In 2011 they installed solar panels on their roof. They have a whole host of other practices which together make the brewery a leader in sustainable business practices in their home state.

Feeling like getting a little autumnal in the park? Try the Punk’n Ale. Making some Red Kuri Squash Risotto for dinner? The Oak Jacked might be your perfect pairing. Try ’em both and let us know what you think!

Pumpking-Beer-


Punk’n Pumpkin Ale 6-Pack
| $9.99
Brewed using organic pumpkin and organic spices! The malt and hops are accented by these flavors with hints of vanilla and honey. This delicious seasonal offering is light on the palate and pairs well with cheesecake, roasted turkey and fall vibes.

Oak Jacked Imperial Pumpkin Ale 750 mL | $14.99
A bigger, bolder, imperial version of the canned Punk’n Ale that’s been barrel-aged for 6 months in oak and clocks in at 10.31% ABV. It is rich and caramelly with more overt spicy flavors – an amazing food beer. All treats and no tricks here!

PS and for those of you watching at home, Wine Blitz is only FIVE WEEKS AWAY! Once again we’ll be offering 20% off the purchase of 12 bottles or more, mix and match throughout the selection. The dates are November 2-8 for the Fall Blitz and December 7-13 for the Winter Blitz. Start planning now!