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Register Recipe: Aziza’s Meyer Lemon Cocktail

farnoush portraitI feel lucky to live in the Outer Richmond. I know that with the constant fog and cool weather that may sound strange for some, but I love it here. I’m five minutes away from the beach, around the corner from a great Margarita at Tommy’s, nearby stinky tofu at Formosa café…but the best benefit has got to be living two blocks away from Aziza!

We all know about the wonderful Michelin-starred Moroccan food they offer, but what I love most is their wine and cocktail program headed by the talented Farnoush Deylamian. Farnoush’s cocktails revolve around seasonal muddled fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. Some ingredients may seem strange at first, like sugar snap pea or wild arugula, but they’re in balance and consistently delicious. I always start my evening there with her Meyer lemon cocktail, consisting of muddled Meyer lemon, brandy, and Cointreau, finished with Prosecco. It’s a great starter to a meal as an aperitif, or delicious with their couscous.  If you can’t make it over to 22nd and Geary to visit Aziza, here’s the recipe straight from Farnoush so you can replicate it at home!

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Hooray for the Hoopla!

The holidays always make me thirsty for festive cocktails. The sound of a cocktail shaker clanging signals the start of a great party and brings the guests together.

So in preparing for the holidays this year, we asked our friend Jonny Raglin, co-owner of Comstock Saloon in North Beach, to come up with an amazing cocktail made with our exclusive Charles Neal Domaine d’Ognoas Armagnac (we’re the only store Charles has sent this to, and we’re offering it for $39.99–a crazy deal on a vintage Armagnac!)

Jonny came up with a twist on an old classic from the Savoy cocktail book called the Hoopla, substituting Armagnac for Cognac. The Hoopla is very similar to a Sidecar but with an addition of Lillet Blanc, a fortified wine, which adds a subtle floral dryness that softens the strong flavors of the Armagnac and lemon juice and really lightens the drink.

Here’s the recipe if you want to make it at home!


My Italian Wine Adventure

I just returned from a ten day wine adventure Italy, traveling with the amazing team from Oliver McCrum, a local importer of Italian wines. With a focus on volcanic soil, we made our way through the vineyards of Sicily and Southern Italy; I was amazed how varied the soils were from Sicily to Campania! It was also fascinating to learn that all the vines grown in volcanic soils didn’t need to be grafted onto American rootstock, since phylloxera can’t thrive in volcanic ash. I want to share three wineries from my trip, along with some photos. More to come in a future posting!

2010 Villa Dora Vesuvio Bianco-$12.99; 6 or more –> $11.70
Of course Mt. Vesuvius is infamous for that day in 79 AD when it violently erupted, destroying (yet preserving) the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum. What it may be less known for is wine production! Villa Dora is literally located on the slopes of Mt. Vesuvius, inside what is now a state park. The soil here is of course volcanic, and the small black rocks resemble Grape-Nuts! This black volcanic soil gives Villa Dora’s reds a light smoky quality and their white an aroma of struck flint. This Bianco bottling is made from two indigenous varietals, Coda di Volpe and Falanghina which are fermented and aged in stainless steel. A light, smoky flint quality is followed by aromas of white peach and flavors of herbs, and preserved lemon.


Perfect Pairing: Fresh pasta with olive oil, lemon, and grilled squash


2010 Paolo Cali Mandragola Frappato-$18.99; 6 or more –> $17.09

Paolo Cali’s vineyards are extremely unique in that they’re located on very sandy soil in southeastern Sicily. Imagine vines growing on a sandy beach and that’s exactly what Paolo’s vineyards look like. Because sand tends to hold moisture poorly, he has to irrigate to keep his vines healthy. The fact that his vines have to struggle a little to survive and really have to dig deep to root themselves translates into elegant wine with a lighter, floral quality. Paolo’s Mandragola Frappato is from some of his younger Frappato vines and has light aromas of orange peel, rose, and fennel. It’s light in body and maintains great acidity with a soft finish.

Perfect Pairing: Seared scallops over greens and heirloom tomatoes


2009 Grifalco ‘Gricos’ Aglianico del Vulture-$15.99, 6 or more –> $14.39

The Aglianico grape is best known for deep, robust, and heavy reds like those from Taurasi and Monte Vulture. Grifalco is located in Basilicata (think of the arch of the boot) near the now extinct volcano Monte Vulture, with vineyards located in now dry riverbeds. The combination of volcanic soils and river rocks creates wines with incredible depth and minerality. The winery is named after the Grifalco bird, an ancient and rare falcon once used for hunting by royals in the area. Their ‘Gricos’ bottling is a lighter style of Aglianico more approachable at a younger age then most others from the region. Aglianico can have a tendency to be bitter, but this bottling has certainly tamed the bitterness and tannins usually associated with this grape. Aromas of dark plums, smoke, and rosemary lead to a mid-weight body with a long, flavorful finish. Perfect for grilled dishes!

Perfect Pairing: Grilled flatbread with eggplant and olives   


Josh Adler: Wine Importer

Josh in his Bi-Rite days

If you’ve received our wine newsletter for more than than 3 years, you most likely joined the list because of the work of Josh Adler, former Bi-Rite wine buyer and current wine director at Spring Restaurant and Boutique in Paris. Despite his current locale, Josh is still a part of the Bi-Rite family and we’re beaming with pride to present his latest venture, wine importing! If you’ve ever been lucky enough to visit Spring Boutique in Paris then you know about the incredible wine selection Josh has cultivated there, a virtual treasure trove of French wines including numerous producers currently unavailable in the US. Josh is trying to change that by taking matters into his own hands and importing a select few labels exclusively to Bi-Rite. His inaugural releases are a pair of wines from Clos Saint Fiacre in Orléans, a tiny appellation in the Loire Valley.

Clos Saint Fiacre is a small family domaine run by Bénédicte and Hubert Piel; Hubert is unusual among vignerons in that he is a self-confessed wine fanatic whose knowledge of wines outside of his own domaine is extensive. In fact, Hubert calls many of the top winemakers in France close friends. This connoisseurship is reflected in the impeccably made wines of Clos Saint Fiacre, easily the leading domaine in the Orléans AOC.

2011 Clos Saint Fiacre Orléans Chardonnay – $14.99  
Our love of un-oaked chardonnay is no secret, so when Josh tasted us on this crisp, clean white, it was a no-brainer. Filled with intense aromas of green mango, citrus, and chalk, this zesty chardonnay possesses flavors of tart tropical fruits, herbs, and minerals. If you’re a fan of old-school Chablis, you’ll love this refreshing chardonnay.
 Perfect Pairing:  Grilled sardines with lemon  

2010 Clos Saint Fiacre Orléans Pinot Meunier / Pinot Noir  –  $14.99 
Pinot Meunier is better known as the third grape of Champagne, often relegated to an afterthought next to the more celebrated Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. When vinified as a dry red wine, however, Pinot Meunier can be a fascinating experience for the adventurous wine drinker. A blend of 80% Pinot Meunier and 20% Pinot Noir, this light red has elegant aromas of red currants and herbs and flavors of spicy red fruits with soft tannins.
Perfect Pairing: Seared ahi tuna with ginger and scallions  

 


Announcing Sean Thackrey’s Cassiopeia Project Pre-Order

If you’ve ever delved a little bit deeper into the world of wine, you may have heard about various grape “clones” used in the winemaking process. Even for single varietal wines like Pinot Noir, viticulturalists choose from a dozen or more slightly different clones when planting a vineyard. The resulting wines are therefore blends of different clones which the winemaker assembles in various proportions depending on the characteristics sought in the final product.

Sean Thackrey, the winemaking maverick behind the popular Pleiades blend, wants to invite wine drinkers to explore this clonal selection process that was once privy only to winemakers or those lucky enough to attend a barrel tasting. His Cassiopeia Project is an ambitious 6-bottle set of Pinot Noirs showcasing individual clones from the River Block at Wentzel Vineyard, an organically farmed site in Anderson Valley. Included in the set are 4 bottles of different Pinot Noir clones and 2 bottles of the final Vineyard Blend. Though the Vineyard Blend will eventually be available individually, the only way to taste the clone bottlings is through this 6-pack. This is a fascinating and rare opportunity to explore the different clonal expressions of Pinot Noir and to get a peak into the inner workings of the winemaking process. Normally $50 per bottle, we’re offering this 6-pack for only $250. That’s getting one bottle for free! 

2010 Sean Thackrey “Cassiopeia” Pinot Noir 6 Pack  –  $250 + tax 

  • Clone 114
  • Clone 115
  • Clone 667
  • Clone 777
  • 2 bottles of the final Vineyard Blend

All four Dijon Clones were planted in the summer of 2001. Root stocks, trellising, soil composition, and cellar treatments were identical to maximize the individual expression of each clone. During our staff tasting, we were surprised by the differences apparent in each of the clonal bottlings. While each retained its identity as distinctly Pinot Noir, there were different levels of acidity, fruit presence, and other secondary nuances in all four clones. The tasting provoked a lively discussion among the wine team over our individual favorites in the lineup; we’d love to hear about your experiences once you’ve tasted through these amazing wines!

Cassiopeia 6-packs can be purchased any of the following ways:

1. Email me with your name, phone number, and number of 6-packs desired.

2. Call the store at 415.241.9760 and ask to speak with a member of the wine team.

3. Come visit us in person and order with a wine specialist.

All orders must be placed by Friday, July 20th and will be available for pick up after Wednesday, July 25th.  


Ryme Cellars – A Working Wine Marriage

Married life: all about compromise, right? Different sets of towels . . . putting up with the ugly picture hanging on the wall as long as you get to keep that mohair rug you loved in college . . . Italian tonight but only if you get Thai food tomorrow. Believe it or not, the need to compromise can extend beyond day-to-day life and into the vineyard – at least it does for husband and wife winemaking team Ryan and Megan Glaab of Ryme Cellars!

Ryan and Meghan first started making wine in 2007 with a single bottling of Anglianico.  They’ve since gradually expanded into producing a handful of other wines including the two we’re pleased to welcome to our shelves: their 2011 Vermentino and their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both Ryan and Meghan have extensive winemaking backgrounds having worked for such places as Pax Cellars, Peay Vinyards, Sine Qua Non, Marcassin, and Wind Gap Winery where Ryan is currently assistant winemaker.  They agree on the approach of respecting California’s wonderful and varied terroir, sourcing only organic and sustainably grown grapes, and intervening minimally in the winemaking process by using native yeasts and not fining or filtering.

2011 Ryme Cellars Vermentino  –  $24.99 

While Ryan and Megan tend to agree on most things about winemaking, there was a big disagreement on how to approach making their Vermentino.  Having sourced grapes from Las Brisas Vineyard the Carneros AVA, Ryan wanted to make a richly textured orange wine (white wine with extended skin contact) and Megan wanted to create a clean and aromatic wine reminiscent of Vermentino from Sardinia. The only solution to please them both was to compromise and split the harvest in half.  Ryan made his orange wine with his half of the grapes and Megan bottled her white version with her half.  The result: “His” and “Hers” wines! We are carrying the “Hers” version which is aromatic with notes of pineapple, pear, and guava. The texture is light, crisp, and dry with a bit of a sea salt minerality.  This is definitely a fun white to have on hand for your summer barbeques!

2009 Ryme Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon  –  $37.99

The Cabernet comes from a vineyard in the Chalk Hill AVA of the Russian River Valley in Sonoma.  The area is named for the white and chalky volcanic ash in the soil, which lend a bit of volcanic minerality to the grapes as well as help restrain fast and vigorous vine growth.  The wine was fermented with about 25% of the grapes remaining whole clusters.  Fermenting grapes with the stems on can add a little extra depth and spicy grip to red wines.  The wine was then aged in neutral barrels for 22 months before being bottled.  It’s fairly aromatic with notes of dark cherries, violets, and cinnamon.  The texture is dense but elegant with dark juicy fruit, savory spice flavors, and long full tannins.  This bottle is drinking great right now but is certainly ageable. Try pairing this with grilled steak, caramelized onions, and porcini mushrooms!


Pyramid Valley Vineyards: New Zealand Beyond Sauv Blanc

New Zealand: home to Hobbits, Kiwi birds, and acres of Sauvignon Blanc vines! But did you know that New Zealand grows more than just Sauvignon Blanc? We’re excited to have three new (non-Sauv Blanc) wines from Pyramid Valley Vineyards in Marlborough, New Zealand.

Although the Marlborough region is iconic for Sauvignon Blanc, Pyramid Valley produces some spectacular wines made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and Semillion.  The farming/winemaking team, Mike and Claudia Weersing, have a passion for terroir and natural winemaking.  Mike has studied and worked in Burgundy, Alsace, and Spain under well-known winemakers such as Hubert de Montille, Jean-Michel Diess, and Randall Grahm. Their approach is notable in that they farm entirely biodynamically, seek out vineyard sites with perfect soil conditions (mostly clay over limestone), use only native yeasts, do not fine or filter their wines, and use little to no added sulfur – natural winemaking at its best!

2007 Pyramid Valley Kerner Estate Vineyard Pinot Blanc  –  $24.99

Pyramid Valley’s Pinot Blanc vineyard is located in the cool climate of the Waihopai Valley in Marlborough.  This cooler region is perfect for growing Pinot Blanc, a grape native to the Alsace region of France.  The wine has stunning aromas of honey, caramelized apples, orange peel, and cinnamon.  The body is fairly lush with a mouth-coating quality and flavors of orange, custard, and honeyed apples that finishes with great acidity.  Since this wine is entirely unfined and unfiltered, don’t be put off by the light haze in its golden color.  Rather, think of it as a sign of quality, like the cream-top in Strauss non-homogenized milk. This wine is a perfect pairing for richer dishes such as apricot glazed pork tenderloins – a great alternative to Chardonnay!

2009 Pyramid Valley Cowley Family Vineyard Pinot Noir  –  $34.99 

Their Pinot Noir Vineyard is located in the hills above the Wairau Valley.  Again, a cool climate and perfect soil conditions lend themselves so well to growing Pinot Noir in this area.  The nose has aromas of wild spices, like fennel seed, cinammon, and star anise followed by scents of soft red fruits.  The body is mid-weight with similar dried herb flavors along with rhubarb and pomegranate fruit.  A beautiful and long texture makes this a more substantial Pinot Noir, and one that can certainly stand up to a range of dishes.  Try this paired with miso glazed salmon or a lightly spicy vegetable and ginger stir fry!

2009 Pyramid Valley Field of Fire Chardonnay  –  $49.99

This Chardonnay comes from a very small plot located on clay and limestone soils.  The clay and limestone are known to lend a great sense of minerality to Chardonnay, as is seen in the region of Chablis, France.  In fact this Chardonnay reminds us of really great Burgundy Chardonnay, like those from Chablis.  The nose smells of baked peaches, apples, and pastry dough.  The texture is lush but very focused, with flavors of peaches, almonds and lemon curd.  Great minerality and acidity make this a perfect pairing for some grilled fish, like halibut with peas and asparagus.


Grange Brew: Tapping into Beer’s Agricultural Roots

Our friend Brie Mazurek is the Online Education Manager at the Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, which operates the San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. She gave us the green light to repost this article she wrote about one of our favorite local brewers, Almanac Beer Co., in the CUESA newsletter. Cheers, Brie!

Wendell Berry has said that eating is an agricultural act, but what about drinking beer? A thirst for fermented beverages may have inspired the world’s first farmers to plant crops some 13,000 years ago, yet today beer is rarely part of the larger conversation about where our food comes from.

A handful of local craft brewers are starting to tap into that primitive connection. Taking up the motto “Beer is agriculture,” Almanac Beer Co. works directly with local farmers to source specialty ingredients for their seasonal brews. “For most people, beer is what shows up in the bottle or can,” says Almanac brewer Damian Fagan. “We’re trying to create a foundation that beer is rooted deeply in agriculture.”

Fagan founded Almanac with Beer & Nosh blogger Jesse Friedman last year, after they met in a home-brewing club, where they traded brewing experiments. (“I’d show up with a fig beer or a puréed turnip beer. Not always great ideas,” Fagan admits.) The two instantly bonded over their interest in San Francisco’s farm-to-table food culture. “We saw a real opening to think and talk about the brewing process using that same vocabulary and ideology,” says Friedman.

Jesse Friedman, Almanac Brewer. Photos courtesy of Almanac Beer Co.

No stranger to farmers markets, Friedman launched SodaCraft last summer, offering naturally carbonated sodas using fresh produce from his fellow vendors at the Ferry Plaza. He has since sold the business to turn his attention to Almanac, where his sourcing and brewing ethos remains the same. “Both businesses were born out of the idea that you can take farmers market produce and make something special out of it,” says Friedman.

From the Farm to the Barrel

While the term terroir is usually reserved for fine wines, Almanac has found creative ways to “infuse a sense of time and place in each brew,” as Friedman says, by integrating fresh produce into the mash.

Since last summer, Almanac has collaborated with Sebastopol Berry Farm, Twin Girls Farm, Hamada Farms, Marshall’s Farm Natural Honey, and most recently, Heirloom Organic Gardens. For each of their beers, made in small batches and released seasonally, Friedman and Fagan meet with the farmer, tour their farm, and feature it prominently on the bottle’s label and Almanac’s website.

Like the Farmers’ Almanac, each brew serves as a record of the season. The Autumn Farmhouse Pale Ale celebrated the last of Twin Girls Farm’s fall plums, while the Winter Wit preserved the end of December at Hamada Farms, with a mix of Cara Cara, navel, and new blood oranges. “If we’d brewed two weeks earlier or later, the mix of oranges would have been different,” Friedman notes.

Fennel at the ready for Biere de Mars. Photos courtesy of Almanac Beer Co.

Their most recent release, Bière de Mars (March beer), is a French-style farmhouse ale highlighting baby fennel from Heirloom Organic Gardens. While fennel might sound like an unexpected choice for beer, farmer Grant Brians thought it made a lot of sense when Almanac approached him. “The flavors in fennel are carried in an oil and slightly alkaline base,” he explains. “It’s perfect to mix into the brewing process.”

The goal with each brew is to provide a distinct but subtle accent that does not dominate the flavor profile, but adds depth and pairs well with seasonal dishes. “We want the ingredient to be an integrated part of the beer,” Friedman insists. “It should not be a fennel cocktail.”

How’s the finished result? “It’s good!” says Brians. “I’m generally a wine drinker, but I enjoy full-bodied and well-balanced flavors in beers. And it was nice to taste the end result of our collaboration.”

Bottlenecks for Local Brewers

While Almanac has sourced some local grains for their brews, including wheat from Massa Organics, brewing a truly Californian beer is fraught with challenges when it comes to hops and barley malt. “Unfortunately, the beer world is defined by the big American brewers,” says Friedman.

Photos courtesy of Almanac Beer Co.

California was once home to a thriving hops industry, but by the 1950s, the mechanization of hops harvesting, outbreaks of downy mildew, and changing beer tastes wiped hops growers out. Today, the majority of U.S. hops are grown in Washington and Oregon.

Sourcing specialty malt poses another obstacle, since there are no malt houses in California, and out-of-state industrial malting facilities prefer to work with large brewers. “You can grow high-quality barley here, but the issue is malting,” says Ron Silberstein of Thirsty Bear Brewing Company. “Part of the problem is that local growers are competing with commodity growers who can grow and malt their barley very inexpensively.” Organic malt from locally grown barley is even rarer.

San Francisco’s first and only brewery to carry the California Certified Organic Farmers seal, Thirsty Bear experimented with brewing a 100-percent local and organic beer in 2010, collaborating with Eatwell Farm in Dixon and Hop-Meister in Clearlake. Since there are no local malt houses, Eatwell had to ship its barley to Colorado Malt Company, which hand-malts in small batches.

In launching the Locavore Ale, Silberstein had hoped to enlist more local craft brewers to commit to purchasing organic malting barley from Eatwell Farm, but the buy-in wasn’t there, and Eatwell has since abandoned the project.

“You have to get enough brewers who want to tell a story, who want to have an heirloom varietal of the barley, and who are willing to pay a premium for that,” Silberstein says. He is hoping to build momentum to start a small artisan malting facility, which would make local, small-batch malting more feasible.

While the process of reconnecting local brewers and beer drinkers with local farms still has a long way to go, Silberstein and Friedman are optimistic that the farm-to-bottle movement is growing. “We need to build larger systems to support local brewing, and that’s a challenge we’re excited to tackle,” says Friedman. “In the meantime, we’ve contented ourselves with highlighting specialty ingredients from local farms.”

We currently carry Almanac’s Winter Wit and Bière de Mars, each $16.99 for a 750 mL bottle.


May Wine Blitz is ON!

Our annual May Wine Blitz kicks off today and runs through this Sunday. We’re so excited, it’s almost like Christmas in summer! We hope you’ve been making your blitz-list and checking it twice because 20% off 12 bottles or more is amazingly nice.  But just in case you need a little help figuring out which bottles to snag, here are a few of our favorites for the summer.

2010 Domaine Pellé Menetou-Salon Morogues Blanc  –  $19.99  –  Blitz Price: $15.99

The AOC of Menetou-Salon lies directly to the west of the famed AOCs of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. While Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé have become famous for their beautiful and mineral-driven Sauvignon Blancs, the region of Menetou-Salon has remained lesser-known despite housing some amazing producers. Domaine Pellé is a third-generation producer that has been making wines in the small village of Morogue since the early 20th century. Their organically farmed Sauvignon Blanc is everything you’d expect from a great Sancerre but without the price tag.  Clear aromas of citrus and white flowers lead to crisp melon and grapefruit flavors and a long mineral finish. This is a great pairing for all those summer grilled vegetables or some fresh goat cheese!

2011 Domaine Robert Sérol “Les Vieilles Vignes”  –  $15.99  –  Blitz Price: $12.79

Domaine Robert Sérol is located in the Loire Valley, in a newer appellation called Côte Roannaise.  One of France’s newest AOCs, this area is dedicated entirely to the Gamay grape.  The estate has been passed down through five generations and they first started bottling and selling their wines in the 1970s.  They are certified biodynamic producers and produce a wide range of gamay styles.  The “Les Vieilles Vignes” comes from 35+ year old vines.  Bright raspberry and pomegranate aromas lead to fresh red fruit flavors with a subtle spicy minerality.  Serve this lightly chilled for a perfect summer sipping red.

2007 Clos Marie “l’Olivette”  –  Was $22.99  –   Now $16.99  –  Blitz Price: $13.59

Clos Marie is considered one of the top producers in the Languedoc and the Domaine has been farmed using biodynamic principles since 2000.  Their 2007 “l’Olivette” is a blend of 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 20% Mourvèdre. We can’t believe how amazing this wine is for the price. The nose smells of juicy blackberries and dried herbs. The texture is lush and elegant with flavors of dark fruits, licorice, and spice.  Medium body, savory flavors, and great acidity make this the perfect wine to have on hand for all those impromptu summer barbecues!


Early Bird Gets the Bottle!

You’ve waited patiently for our first Wine Blitz of the year, and it’s almost here, kicking off Thursday, May 17th and running through Sunday, May 20th. Now let us help you shorten the wait!

Here’s what we can do: if you come in for your case early this time around–the three days before the Blitz–we’ll throw in a complimentary bottle of our 18th St. Syrah along with the Blitz standard 20% off your case purchase. Not to mention the real plus, beating the Blitz crowds to have your pick of our wine selection! Visit us Monday, May 14th through Wednesday, May 16th, mention the word “WELLS” to our wine team, and we’ll make your case a baker’s dozen.

If you haven’t tried our 18th St. Syrah recently, it’s tasting great right now! Crafted by renowned winemaker Wells Guthrie of Copain Cellars in Sonoma, the 18th St. Syrah shows wonderful notes of smoke, blackberry, and pepper spices. Try it with lamb, venison, or grilled veggies; it might become an everyday staple.

Looking for a wine that we don’t carry? Let us know! We’re happy to place special orders for the Wine Blitz – the sooner we hear from you, the easier it is to source that hard to find case of wine! Email me with any questions or special orders.