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John Herbstritt

California Classics & Fall Wine Blitz


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


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 | 
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


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!


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!

John Herbstritt

Where the Buffalo Roam

BiRite-HOLIDAY-2015-Grocery-051The Buffalo Trace Distillery is one of the biggest names in bourbon distilling. The distillery itself has had many names over the years, and records indicate that the site has been used for distilling since 1775, making it one of the oldest continuously operating distilleries in the United States.  Buffalo Trace was also awarded the most innovative American whiskey distillery in the world this year. Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? They won for their commitment to experimentation and for their fantastic special releases, which surprise and delight whiskey devotees year after year. The excellence doesn’t stop at the super premium brands. Another fun fact: they only use corn that is GMO-free and they are in the process of becoming completely free of GMOs. One of our favorite tipples is the eponymous entry level Buffalo Trace Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

Bourbon whiskey is a true American invention: the mash bill has to be at least 51% corn (Buffalo Trace uses only non-GMO) and the rest is usually a combination of rye, malted barley, or wheat. After distillation the whiskey is aged in new charred American oak barrels for a number of years. Although Buffalo Trace doesn’t carry an age statement, it is estimated that the average bottle age is at least eight years. Because the whiskeys are aged in barrels that are each slightly different and located in different parts of the rickhouse, they mature differently. In order to achieve the same flavor profile year after year the distillery blends barrels carefully from different parts of the rickhouse. Thus, each batch is a carefully composed constellation of flavor, aroma, and texture created by the blenders.

BiRite-HOLIDAY-2015-Grocery-053It is precisely this tradition of blending that makes the alternate practice of bottling single barrels so special. Distillers taste each barrel often to check in on its development, and when they find a barrel that seems to have a story to tell on its own it is set aside. After tasting through a couple of samples our buyer, Trac, chose two barrels to bottle as our Bi-Rite Single Barrel Buffalo Trace Whiskey ($29.99). Barrel number one is in the store now and barrel number two should hit the shelves in the fall. Make sure to try both to taste the subtle differences!

How do the single barrels differ from the regular bottling of Buffalo Trace? The normal bottling is rounder and softer, more fruit forward and vanilla, while our single barrels are more precise and flavorful. Clove, banana and grain-forward, it is perfect for a Manhattan, but also great as a sipper. Only Trac has tasted barrel number two yet – we’ll make sure to let you know when it hits the shelves so we can celebrate together.

Now, back to the subject of wine, the most exciting time of the year is coming up! That’s right, 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 areNovember 2-8 for the Fall Blitz and December 7-13 for the Winter Blitz. Start planning now! In this email we’ll be featuring some of our favorite Blitz wines and also telling you about the Blitz preview tastings at 18 Reasons, so be sure to stay tuned!



Enjoying the Peak of Tomato Season

IMG_5651One of the most exciting times of year in the Bay Area is when the local farms start harvesting tomatoes in early June. By the time September rolls around, the local tomato season has hit its peak. All the local farmers from the Pescadero Coast to the Sierra foothills have vine-ripened tomatoes that offer different flavors depending on the growing practices and climate. Throughout September in at both Bi-Rite Markets, we are celebrating the Tomato Triple Play, which highlights three different tomato crops— Heirloom, Cherry, and Dry-Farmed Early Girls. All of the tomatoes we sell during the season come straight off the field to our shelves, allowing our growers to let them stay on the plant a little longer and develop that perfect flavor before picking. Be sure to check out our recommended pairings to make the most of your tomatoes–just visit our store on Instacart.com for a shopping list, and  even order everything you need online for delivery in San Francisco in under an hour!

Heirloom Tomatoes are an open-pollinated variety that have been circulating among farmers and backyard gardeners for more than 50 years—and many of the varieties were introduced before 1940! Heirlooms are not only important because they offer us so many different shapes and sizes to cook with, but they allow us to maintain genetic diversity in the agricultural world. The Cherokee Purple Tomato is one of the most popular. With its thin skin and meaty texture, the juicy, acidic flesh offers a rich, old-fashioned sweet flavor. They take BLTs and Caprese salads to the next level of enjoyment.

Cherokee Purple Heirlooms

Cherokee Purple Heirlooms

We are currently getting Cherokee Purples from Bluehouse Farm in Pescadero and Mariquita Farm in Watsonville. Another popular heirloom is the Brandywine Tomato.  Farmers love them because they get huge on the plants and the meaty flesh doesn’t break down easily when ripe.  Don’t let the large size fool you! These are one of the sweetest tomatoes out there. The Green Zebra Tomato is a small variety that starts out green but turns yellow with green stripes when it’s ripe. The sweet/tart flavor works really well with salsas and salads.

Our guests really get excited about tomatoes when the Dry-farm Early Girls hit our shelves! About 10 years ago we started selling these tomatoes from Two Dog Farm in Davenport. They’re the first farm in Northern California to grow these Early Girls, and over the past 5 years more farms have made the effort. Dry-farming is a farming technique used in a lot of climates where there’s not much rain. The roots of the plants can tap into moisture in the soil and go through the entire growing season with no irrigation. Two Dog Farm grows on the coast, getting moisture from the fog and the high water table in the soil allowing them to never water. The resulting tomatoes are usually smaller and lower in yield, but they pack pleasantly intense flavor and a dense, firm texture. 


Dry-farm Early Girls

Unfortunately, Two Dog Farm lost a majority of its crop this season due to the heat wave that hit the Bay Area. Crops grown on the cool coast can’t handle the heat! But we’ll have plenty of the tasty Dry-farm Early Girls from Live Earth Farm, Bluehouse Farm, and Tomatero Farm for the rest of the season.

When Heirlooms and Dry-farm Tomatoes are in full swing the Cherry Tomato varieties just don’t get the same amount of love. Cherry Tomatoes might be one of the easiest plants to grow, but keeping up with the daily harvesting and their delicate nature can make them a challenging crop for farmers. Similar to Heirlooms, there are a ton of different varieties but only a handful of them make sense for the retail marketplace. The Sweet 100 Tomato is one of the most popular for farmers to grow because they are a classic red tomato, extra sweet, and keep producing large clusters of fruit for most of the season. The Sun Gold Cherry Tomato is the most popular non-red tomato out there, with their sweet-but-tart flavor that explodes in your mouth.

Mixed Cherry Tomatoes

Mixed Cherry Tomatoes

The Yellow Pear Cherry Tomato is a teardrop-shaped tomato with tangy flavor and low acidity. You can get them along with our Sweet 100 and Sun Golds combined in a mixed baskets. Cherry Tomatoes are not only a perfect snack for kids, but they can add a flare to pasta dishes and almost any salad. They’re especially wonderful in cucumber salads!

One of the best parts of having all these local tomatoes at the Bi-Rite is that we get use them throughout the Family of Businesses—from the world-famous Gazpacho in the Deli to the Mozzarella and Cherry Tomato Skewers on the Bi-Rite Catering Summer menu. We also have an endless number of grocery items that enhance the tomato experience like the Public Label Tuscan Style Olive oil, Pt. Reyes Mozzarella, and Josey Baker’s Breads.  Do you know which tomato variety is your favorite? If not, this is the perfect time to swing by one of the Markets and ask for some tomato samples so you’re better prepared for tomato season next year. Enjoy!

John Herbstritt

Gamay? It’s Gamayzing!

gamazing banner-03
Gamay has a special place on my table, not just because wines made from the grape tend to be food-friendly, refreshing, and juicy, but also because it was one of the first grapes I fell in love with at the beginning of my career in wine. As many wine professionals can attest, there is that one bottle (or in my case many bottles!) that seduces you inexorably into the industry. You pour a glass, almost inattentively. You’re probably talking to your roommate or coworker about something unrelated and boring. You raise the glass to your nose and immediately the world halts. Something is there that you have never smelled before. You raise the glass to your lips. “Wine can taste like this? What were we even talking about? I guess I know what I’m doing with my life now.” Mine was a 2008 Fleurie Gamay from Julien Sunier.


gamazing leaves 2-04For a long time (centuries) Gamay has been a stigmatized member of the vinifera family. In 1395 the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Bold, issued an edict ordering farmers to uproot all of the Gamay vines in the land. According to him this “evil and disloyal plant” was “injurious to the human creature” and needed to be “extirpated, destroyed and reduced to nothing.” Strong words for our hapless hero. Thanks to Philip, the red wines made in Burgundy today are almost exclusively from the Pinot Noir grape, but Gamay still thrives to the south in the hills north of Lyon. The Beaujolais region has since become the epicenter for Gamay in the world.

Fast-forward to the Beaujolais Nouveau pandemic. Although the celebration of the new wine each year in Beaujolais has been going on for a long time, it wasn’t until the 1970s and 80s that – through the efforts of négociant and Beaujolais booster Georges Duboeuf – it reached a worldwide audience. Wine fresh from the fermenter and overflowing with bright juicy fruit flavors can be pure pleasure to drink, but due to the sheer scale of what was going on, things were bound to get top heavy and fall over. Over-cropped vines produced thinner and meaner juice, while manufactured yeasts made wines that smelled of bananas and nothing else. When the public got tired of this plonk sales suffered, and many farmers who had expanded their productions endlessly to sate the Beaujolais Nouveau palate were left shirtless. In addition, the name “Beaujolais” which had previously been thought of as a perfectly acceptable simple but delicious table wine became a dirty word. The world had turned to the “International Style” which was all about deep dark cabs and lots of new oak.
gamazing leaves 1-03

But at the same time as the Beaujolais Nouveau phenomenon was taking hold, a group of tradition-minded and forward-thinking vignerons were in the process of saving their region. Led by visionary négociant Jules Chauvet, they eschewed “modern” viticulture (chemicals) in favor of organic and biodynamic techniques, and learned that they could make better wine by fermenting using natural yeasts. They also lowered or eliminated the use of sulfur in their wines, a practice that to many at the time was pure insanity. Their neighbors laughed at them on the street, but they persevered, and when the Beaujolais Nouveau market collapsed their wines were better than ever – they had unwittingly founded the modern “natural wine” movement in France. Yes, it all began in Beaujolais, the most unlikely of places.

So why is Gamay “Gamayzing”? It’s been through the ringer to be sure, but it’s trending right now and shows no sign of abating. You can even taste Gamay from California and Oregon these days (see below!) Whether it’s in a savory peppery style, soft juicy and fruit-forward, or even aged to perfection, it’s often some of the best food wine there is. Stop by and ask our wine staff about their favorite Gamayzing Gamay!

primary_311441fe-3f46-4e96-83f9-59a3f3ddd50bDomaine Chanrion Cote de Brouilly 2006 | $39.99
When Nicole Chanrion started her career in winemaking in the 1970s, women winemakers were very rare in the vinous world. Through her hard work and talent, Chanrion is now considered as “La Patronne de la Côte” or the Boss of La Côte. Needless to say, we’re so excited to get this older vintage of her wines. The ’06 shows wonderful texture and complexity, with notes of black fruits, tea, and earth.

Chanrion effervescence - CopyDomaine Chanrion Effervescence 2010
| $26.99
A rare blanc de noirs from Beaujolais, as most crémant from this region is made from Chardonnay. Made with Gamay, the sparkling is full in texture with notes of dried herbs and fruits (apricot and melon) with touches of black pepper and a dusty minerality. Although she uses a non-vintage label, all of the fruit for this wine is from the 2010 harvest. Try it for an aperitif with a plate of gougères!

bow and arrowBow & Arrow Gamay Noir 2014
| $22.99
Scott Frank is making some of our favorite wines in Oregon right now. He takes inspiration from the Loire Valley and this Gamay is spot on. It’s dark fruit forward with spicy and peppery notes and a soaring acidity. Perfect for your late Summer/Autumn feasts.

Robert SerolDomaine Robert Sérol Côtes Roannaise Vieilles Vignes 2014
| $19.99
In this oft-forgotten corner of the Loire Valley Gamay rules. This wine is made from a combination of parcels with vines that are an average of 40 years old. Their fruit is concentrated and dark with notes of dried flowers. Roasted herbed chicken with new potatoes?


…And now for Cheese Pairings with our Cheesemonger Rose!

Hello Wine Lovers,RosesCheeseCorner

This is Rose from the 18th Street Cheese Department, with a few tasty pairings to put your way that will onlymake your wine experience even more Gamayzing!

For the 2006 Chanrion, to complement its floral and fruity flavor, I’d highly recommend a cheese likeMothais -Sur-Feuille Dantan. This gorgeous goat cheese from the Poitou-Charentes region of France brings with it tangy, woodsy notes, while being thefluffiest creamy cloud you ever set upon your tastebuds. It will bring the verdant forest to the current and huckleberry within the Chanrion.

Earthy minerality with red fruit flavors are noted in the Bow & Arrow Gamayfrom Oregon, and so it’s only natural one would be drawn to the Pecorino Sardo, a new Sardinian Pecorino in our collection that has been flying into guests’ baskets since it first appeared here. Bright with citrus and salt, semi-firm and great for grating or snacking, this light Italian wedge will be a pleasing pal for your glass of Bow & Arrow.

Thanks for stopping by for Cheese Parings with Rose!


Paellapalooza at the Markets

As the summer grilling season starts to wind down, now is a great opportunity to revisit some of our forgotten seafood favorites.  Paella has always been one of my favorite dishes, as it can really highlight a diverse array of the ocean’s goodies.  I like to think of shrimp, mussels, clams and squid as my flight attendants on my culinary flight to Spain’s Mediterranean coast.Paella

The key to really tasty seafood paella is choosing the best quality seafood that you can find.  At Bi-Rite, not only are our offerings incredibly fresh, they are also impeccably sourced.  For ten years we have partnered with FishWise, a sustainable seafood consultancy that promotes the health and recovery of ocean ecosystems through environmentally responsible practices, which has led us to being much more informed about the sourcing of our offerings.  As much as we like to consider ourselves experts in all aspects of meat and seafood, we realize that we are constantly learning and developing a greater understanding of the ever-evolving world of responsible sourcing and sustainability. Over the last ten years FishWise, in addition to frequent communication with our seafood partners, has been an integral part in advancing our understanding of the seafood industry.  They have also helped us better develop ways to convey the challenges of thoughtfully purchasing seafood to our guests.

This week (September 13 through 20) also happens to be Sustainable Seafood Week- San Francisco, a national program that advances the sustainability conversation in American cities with a rich seafood history.  So visit us at the Markets (or shop our Paella recipe from our online store at Instacart.com) and celebrate some delicious seafood that you can feel good about.  Now is the perfect time for a Paellapalooza!

Paellapalooza recipe card SINGLE-FINAL

John Herbstritt

Staff Wine Picks!

This week for the wine blog I wanted to introduce some new members to our wine team from both stores, and have them share the wines on the shelf that they are excited about. I’ll hand over the keyboard now. Stay tuned next time for “Gamayzing!”


Karine Adolphe“I was born in Bordeaux, reared in Brooklyn, and fell in Love with San Fran 17 years ago. I attended fashion school and worked in that industry until I discovered my passion for wine. My goal is to become first black female Master Sommelier – not an easy task. I really enjoy talking to guests about wine while on the floor at Divis. When someone loves a wine I recommended, it tickles me pink.

I love watching documentaries with a glass of Austrian Riesling in my hand, but as of late I have been drinking more Old World reds. My new favorite wine on the shelf is the “Les Hauts de Valcombe” from Chateau de Valcombe. This is an exciting and enchanting wine from the Southern Rhone. Just east of the famed Châteauneuf du Pape, the Coteaux de Ventoux is a hidden gem. The cuvee is Syrah dominant (rare in the South), but comingles with the Grenache effortlessly. Timid upon opening, the elegant red fruit of Grenache shines through as this wine blossoms. The Syrah gives it a smoky depth and herbaceous structure. Every sip is a joy. This wine makes me go MMMMMMMM.”


Max Wine“I grew up in rural, sleepy western New York – not far from the colorful Walter Taylor’s historic Bully Hill winery – in an old farmhouse with pet goats and rabbits, and a big family vegetable garden. I’ve spent the last 25 years working in restaurants and wine shops in New York City and the Bay Area. I have also spent those years quietly reading, playing the cello, listening to Jazz and shooting pool, but I am happiest cooking, eating, and drinking with friends. For me, each bottle of wine is a fascinating reflection of a particular time and place, a seemingly magical confluence of sun, water, vine, and soil in a constant state of evolution, and the perfect complement for a tasty meal.

I am excited to be living at a time when so much wine is available to us all from all corners of the world, and I am particularly fond of French wines – especially whites and roses. Right now at 18th, I’m happy to be selling and drinking Marc Ollivier’s Domaine de la Pepiere ‘Clos des Briords’ Muscadet – a pure, elegant, and refreshing wine for any occasion. I also strongly recommend the honest and earthy Côtes Catalanes Rouge from Domaine de Majas, as well as the Athénaïs Bourgogne Épineuil ‘Valnoirs’ from Chateau de Béru, a tart, juicy Pinot Noir with a fine mineral finish.”


Tom Folsom“I first moved to San Francisco in December of ’07 for a six-month culinary internship at Farallon Restaurant.  When I returned to CIA I decided to extend my wine knowledge by enrolling in an advanced wines course. It was in this classroom setting that I first realized how much fun wine can be (aside from its intoxicating effects). Its vast range of aromatics, flavors, and textures opened a new world of experiences waiting to be explored. As a chef and food lover, I understood that food and wine become something more when experienced side by side. Since I moved back to San Francisco, I have only fallen deeper into the rabbit hole. To me there is nothing more fun than asking a question and getting to research and dig for an answer. The information found becomes a reward, something you’ve earned. Wine is a never ending quest of learning and the rewards are limitless.

The wine on the shelf I am most excited about right now at Divis is the La Marea Albariño. I love this grape and the wines made from it. For a long time I’ve been looking for a domestic Albariño that I’m happy with. To me, they either have the aromatics but the body and acid aren’t there, or they have no aromatics and the body and acidity are where they should be. I think the reason for this comes down to terroir. There are not a ton of places in the world like the Rias Baixas. But I think the chalky/clay hill above the Salinas River in Monterey County where this Albariño comes from is pretty damn close. It’s minerally and bright, like licking a rock, but in the best sense!”

John HerbstrittLots of new faces in the wine section. Say hi next time you’re in, Dear Reader, and be sure to ask for a recommendation.

Your friendly wine guy,

PS: my current favorite is the Exilé Pétillant Naturel from Lise and Bertrand Jousset. Sparkly, peppery and juicy Gamay from Montlouis. Yes please!