In 2014 Cabernet and Chardonnay together comprised about one quarter of all wine grapes crushed in California, but today we’re exploring some of what grows on the other side. Acid-driven and original, these food wines are made for summer. If you haven’t read the New York Times article everyone has been talking about (“The Wrath of Grapes”), it’s a great overview of the new wave of California winemakers, many of whom we sell here at Bi-Rite Market.
Albariño and Chenin Blanc, though common in Spain and France, respectively, are rare here in California. Although many winemakers would prefer to experiment with varieties like Vermentino or Aglianico, one of the main obstacles is convincing growers to plant these exotic varieties. In the end, winegrowing is a business and if a farmer can be assured of a good return by planting Chardonnay then why would he or she take a risk with an unknown varietal? There are growers out there who are open, but the experimental winemaker must often work hard to convince growers to plant new and exciting things. In the case that a winemaker is lucky enough to find older vines to work with, as in the Broc Cellars Chenin Blanc, it can be a challenge to convince a grower not to graft over to something more profitable.
Which is why when you see a wine made from an “offbeat” variety from California, you almost always know that whoever made it is really going out on a limb to produce something authentic. You’ll never know until you try!
In this blog post I will attempt to convince you, reader, to stop whatever your current pre-dinner ritual and to instead take 15 minutes to relax and enjoy a light, slightly bitter, slightly sweet drink accompanied by salty snacks (like nuts or olives). The purpose? To whet your appetite and open your senses, preparing your palette to enjoy your meal. If you are totally against this proposition then this post isn’t for you. But if like me, you take pleasure in tasty, unique beverages and crunchy, salty little treats, and you think you might be open to this kind of suggestion, please read on.
You’re still reading, so you likely know that I’m talking about the aperitif. This word refers to both the act of enjoying a pre-meal drink and also to the beverages consumed therein. While it is more common in Europe to experience such a thing, here in the U.S. we too have a fine tradition of imbibing before we eat: think happy hours and cocktail parties. But there is something special about the way that the aperitif wine helps us prepare to eat that a pint of IPA cannot reproduce. It’s the combination of bitterness, acid, and sweetness that awakens the salivary glands and gets us ready for dinner without filling us up.
So, dear reader, next time you are hosting a dinner party, start your night right with a little apéro. You can serve any of these chilled over ice, with a spritz of soda water, or try our very own recipe for your “Aperitif Fix.” Serve them with a bowl of the aforementioned mixed nuts and you’ve got your night started. And we haven’t even mentioned the possibilities for mixing cocktails! Chin chin!
One of the original bitters in Italy, Campari was invented in 1860 by its eponymous founder, Gaspare Campari. It is also the essential ingredient in the classic Negroni cocktail, but if you’re an Italophile you just mix this with soda water and pretend you’re on the Almalfi Coast.
Lillet Blanc $19.99
Lillet is the original French Aperitif – it was initially used to cure malaria, but it tasted so good that it soon being used at the dinner table. It is made from Sémillon wine with quinine and citrus liqueurs added. Serve it chilled with orange peel or add some berries or peach slices for a quick and delicious Sangria.
Uncouth Vermouth Seasonal Hops $44.99
This wildly inventive vermouth is the brainchild of Bianca Miraglia. Using the seasons as her inspiration, Bianca sources different herbs, plants, and spices and infuses them with a complementary wine base. The Hops is made with 16 different plants plus a final addition of Cascade and Nugget hops. Craft beer lovers will totally dig this amazing vermouth.
Buil & Giné Vermut $27.99
A unique aperitif from the Priorat region in Spain, the Buil & Giné is a vermouth made from the Macabeo grape and infused with more than 110 different plants and herbs. It’s then aged for two years in oak barrels to get the desired color. It’s wonderfully bitter with a perfect balance of sour and sweetness. Serve this on the rocks or try it in a Manhattan.
Cocchi Vermouth di Torino $22.99
Vermouth di Torino is one of the only two protected geographical indication of origins for vermouth, the other being Chambéry in France. To celebrate their 120 year anniversary, the House of Cocchi recreated their original recipe for Vermouth Torino. With flavors of citrus, cocoa, and rhubarb, enjoy this neat with a citrus peel. It also makes a fabulous Manhanttan.
As the drought deepens guests have been asking us how we as retailers have been responding to the growing crisis. We work hard to curtail water use at the markets on a daily basis, and we go a step further to support producers who practice sustainable water usage. In the wine department, we talk a lot about dry-farmed vineyards, and will be showcasing four of our favorite dry-farmed wines this month that are perfect for pairing with summer barbecues.
The first vines planted in California were not irrigated; Spanish settlers and later Italian immigrants planted vines that were drought-resistant, like Zinfandel and the old Mission variety. Even some of the first Chardonnay vineyards like Stony Hill in Calistoga were dry-farmed. But for the variety to take hold in the way that it did after the Judgment of Paris tasting in 1976 irrigation had to become the norm (even though all of those wines came from dry-farmed vineyards!). Chardonnay is originally from Burgundy, a very wet place. Once it became widespread, we, the consumer, and the vines were addicted. You can’t just turn off the spigot on vines that have been continuously irrigated, the shock could kill them. Even dry-farmed vineyards need to be watered for the first couple of years in order for the vines to successfully take hold.
So here we are in quite a pickle: the market demands from California varieties that cannot be produced without irrigation. When a farmer decides to plant a vineyard he or she is going to think first about what sells, but the price of water is becoming an increasingly important consideration. Our job, then, is to promote producers who we feel are already doing it right. Alex Krause and John Locke from Birichino make delicious Grenache from extremely old vineyards just east of Santa Cruz. The site is called the Besson vineyard and it was planted in 1910 to Grenache. They look more like small trees than vines, and they produce a miniscule amount of concentrated fruit each year. What makes old, dry-farmed vines so special? Alex shared his perspective: “I think that vines are like people and that with the benefit of a century or more, they’ve figured out what to do with the available resources – whether we’re talking nutrients from the soil, available water and sunlight, or the crop levels they set. They find their own rhythm and balance.”
If vines are like people then there is some hope for us after all. While each of us figures out how to deal with this crisis, at least there are drought-friendly wines to drink. We all play our part!
Birichino Besson Vineyard Grenache ($19.99)
Birichino was founded by two friends (John Locke and Alex Krause) who both worked at Bonny Doon. This bottling is from 102 year-old dry-farmed, own-rooted Grenache fermented with native yeast, aged in neutral French barrels, bottled unfiltered. A rosehip-like aspect dominates the wild berry fruit. Modest and bright, with a bit more tannin than up-front fruit and a pleasant dried-herb aspect – perfect for a weeknight.
Bucklin “Bambino” Old Hill Ranch ($21.99)
Old Hill Ranch is an historic jewel. It was founded by William McPherson Hill in 1851. Will Bucklin’s mother and stepfather, Anne and Otto Teller, purchased the vineyard in 1981 and sold grapes to Joel Peterson at Ravenswood Winery for their top tier vineyard designate Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel. Bucklin and Ravenswood are the sole producers of wine from the vineyard. The “Bambino” comes from a 10-acre block that was planted on Old Hill in 1998. This young vine field-blend is patterned after the ancient vine field-blend for which Old Hill is known; it is a blend of several grape varieties, principally Zinfandel, but also Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet and Grenache to name a few.
Bucklin Rosé Old Hill Ranch Sonoma ($19.99)
Sourced from the Old Hill Ranch Vineyard, this Rosé is made from Grenache, Zinfandel, Mourvèdre, Syrah, and Carignane. Whole cluster pressed and finished dry. Beautiful floral aromas with a crisp finish.
Calder Wine Company Charbono ($24.99)
Calder Wine Company was founded by Rory Williams, who grew up in a wine family, with his dad, John Williams who started Frog’s Leap. Part of the Slow Food Ark of Taste, Charbono has a long and wending history in California. Only 70 acres remain here, and it is extinct in its native land of France’s Savoie. After arriving in the mid-1800s (imported, it is believed, by the same man who provided the famed botanist Luther Burbank with the source material for his gardens), it was alternately mistaken for Pinot Noir and Barbera until the mid-20th century, when Inglenook’s John Daniel began making it famous. Some of these mid-century examples still survive, and serve as inspiration for makers of Charbono today, to whom Charbono stands as a lasting connection to the heritage and history of winemaking in Napa Valley. This Charbono features vibrant aromas of cherry cola and ripe plums, backed by intense secondary flavors of forest floor, mustard flowers, dark chocolate, sour cherries and bee pollen. A soft, plummy texture blends with bright acidity and dusty tannins to provide a backbone to the intense aromatics.
The weather (and the grills!) are heating up, which means the 4th of July is nearly here! We’ve got everything you need to plan your epic independence feast, from meats and marinades to snacks and condiments – and don’t forget the BBQ friendly wines! Whether you’re celebrating at home, picnicking with fireworks, or road tripping with friends, we’ve got your 4th
festivities covered. Shop for everything you need in both Markets or order online for delivery from our special 4th of July Instacart.com!
Starting this Saturday, June 27th until Sunday, July 5th, get your Niman Ranch St. Louis Pork Ribs for only $4.99/lb. (normally $7.99/lb.) Whether you prefer to dunk your ribs in sauce or braise them on the grill, San Francisco’s “signature barbecue sauce,” SFQ BBQ Sauce ($7.99) – with its spicy, smoky tang – is the perfect pair for ribs, grilled peaches or tofu too! Try our all-weather St. Louis Ribs SF-Style recipe to get the party started:
Because no barbecue is complete without the full roster of condiments, snacks, and seasonings, we’ve got some of our local favorites that are sure to liven up any party. Spice things up with 4505 Chicharrones or go the classic route with Nopalito Tortilla Chips and three varieties of Papalote salsas – Roasted Tomato, Habanero or Serrano-Tomatillo.
For your burgers, brats and buns, we’ve got some great twists on the classics. Mix it up with sweet and spicy Sosu Srirachup and Mother In Law’s tangy umami-filled Garlic Chili Gochujang; or dress your burgers in the French tradition with KL Keller Dijon Mustard and Sir Kensington’s Mayonnaise. For seasoning your ribs, burgers, and corn look no further than Omnivore Salt. Top it all off with Cabot Vintage Cheddar and you’re sure to be the envy of every party!
Whether you like your pickles speared, sliced, or whole, on the bun or as a side, we’ve got what you need with our own Bi-Rite Market Public Label Dill Pickles, Boozely’s Pickles (spears), and Pacific Pickle Works’ Bread & Buddas.
Perfectly paired with barbecue fare, these wines are dry-farmed and drought friendly, showcasing some wonderful California vineyards who are doing their part to conserve water while making delicious wines.
Bucklin “Bambino” Old Hill Ranch $21.99
This young vine field-blend contains several grape varieties, principally Zinfandel, but also Petite Sirah, Alicante Bouchet and Grenache.
Bucklin Rosé of Old Hill Ranch $19.99
Whole-cluster pressed and finished dry, this wine has beautiful floral aromas with a crisp finish.
Calder Wine Co. Charbono $24.99
This wine has vibrant aromas of cherry cola and ripe plums, backed by intense secondary flavors of forest floor, mustard flowers, dark chocolate, sour cherries and bee pollen.
Birichino Besson Vineyard Grenache $19.99
Modest and bright, with a bit more tannin than up-front fruit and a pleasant dried-herb aspect – perfect for a weeknight.
Father’s Day is right around the corner and with the weather gods saying that sunshine is on the horizon it will be a great weekend to spark up the grill. Take advantage with our special pricing on New York Strip Steaks.
Starting this Friday, June 19, and running through Sunday, June 21st (Father’s Day!) both our 100% grass fed BN Ranch and our grain-finished Five Dot Ranch New York Strip Steaks will be on sale for $19.99, $5 off their regular price at both Markets and on Instacart.
I think of New Yorks as being the rib eye’s leaner, meaner little brother. Just as flavorful and tender, but with more balanced marbling than the rib eye, the New York has serious versatility. Serve it as a thick-cut steak for a big poppa Father’s Day dinner, slice it into thin strips for a pimped out stir fry or fajita meal, or order your steaks thin-cut to create the dopest sandwich known to man, a.k.a. “Chili’s New York Cheesesteak” (no disrespect to my people in Philly), with savory Omnivore Sauce, Mimi’s Confitures‘ smoky-sweet onion jam, and tangy Cabot Vintage Cheddar on Acme‘s herbaceous Herb Slab. Pair it with the peppery Green & Red “Chiles Canyon” Zinfandel ($22.99) and you’ve got the perfect gift for dad! Shop the full recipe at 18th Street and Divis, or online at Instacart.com.
Long live the king! Wild California King Salmon season is back, beginning in spring before the action really gets going during the summer months. King Salmon season has always been a special time for me – as summers meant no school and ample free time, my grandfather had the task of keeping my sister and me occupied. Luckily, he was never at a loss for things to do – some of my favorite memories were our adventures down the coast to find fishermen selling their salmon catch right off the boats.
During king salmon season, we work closely with our fishmongers (All Seas, TwoXSea and Monterey Fish Company) to secure incredible quality California King Salmon at a very competitive price. As we enter the height of salmon season in the summer, we usually see the price dropping several dollars. This year the season will run through September 31, with monitored quotas for California’s fishery to ensure sustainability.
The Smithsonian has called King Salmon the “soul food of the North Pacific,” and we’re thrilled to celebrate it in all its delicious forms. Kick off king salmon season for yourself with our Slow Baked, Herb-Crusted King Salmon with Full Belly Farm’s New Potatoes recipe. Baking the salmon slowly allows the butter, herbs and mustard to gently flavor the fish, while the breadcrumbs brown to give it a nice crunch. Pair it with Idlewild’s 2014 The Flower, Flora, & Fauna Rosé ($22.99), whose blend of Piedmontese varietals (Nebbiolo, Barbera, Dolcetto) are bursting with citrus and minerals, with aromas of pine needles and wildflowers – a perfect complement for your salmon dinner for two!
Bi-Rite’s Spring Wine Blitz is on at both Bi-Rite Market locations! From now through unday, May 3, save 20% when you purchase any 12 or more bottles of wine. Choose from our entire wine selection to mix and match your own cases. Plus, we’ll deliver your Wine Blitz wines to you for free in San Francisco! Stock up on your favorite weeknight wines, summer rosés, graduation celebration Champagnes, Mother’s Day gifts, and favorite top-shelf bottles.
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3639 18th St.
San Francisco, CA
550 Divisadero St.
San Francisco, CA 94117