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April 2016

A quick and easy way to find a few gems at your local grocery store.

Super_Market_Blog_Let’s face it, the amount of choices at the grocery store can be overwhelming.  Most of them aren’t ideal and are one-dimensional fruit bombs with little to no personality.  

So what do you do when you’re headed to a potluck and you’re pressed for time?  Before you pick the one with the prettiest label, I’ve got a few tips to make your choice quick, easy, inexpensive, and delicious.

Argentinian Malbec from Mendoza is usually near the top of my list for quality and value.  The ripe flavors of plum and black cherry tend to please a lot of palates, while the dusty tannins on the finish balance it all out.  I’d go “unoaked” if at all possible.  They tend to be the most food-friendly with brighter acidity and more earthy complexity.  Fermentation in steel keeps the costs low and the fruit and acid vibrant.  Fans of robust Cabernet and Merlot will love Malbec too.  If you know there’s gonna be red meat or charcuterie at the potluck, this is your wine.  

Grenache might be my favorite red varietal on the planet.  There are so many different expressions of it, and Spanish Garnacha may have the widest appeal.  A lot of them are made in an international style – meaning the fruit is a little riper than your typical Old World red.  Garnacha tends to be inexpensive to produce, again using only steel to ferment with no oak aging.  Be aware of the alcohol on some of these, though.  Stay away from the Garnachas that are over 15% alcohol.  The higher alcohol means more ripeness and a lot less sophistication.  To go with food, you want the acid bright, alcohol in check, and the fruit to be in balance with the tannins and earthy flavors.  When made right Garnacha tastes somewhere between Pinot Noir and Zinfandel with the softness of blueberry-like fruit and Pinot Noir-like acidity.

Domestic Wines

Roederer Estate makes the best value sparkling wine in the country.  From the famous Louis Roederer family in Champagne, Roederer Estate has been making great sparkling wines in Anderson Valley, Mendocino for 25 years.  Their NV Brut has the sophistication of Champagne with half of the price tag. The notes of toast, brioche, and crisp pear fruit will make you wonder where the rest of the bottle went.  If you’re having cheese or want to spruce up the party, this sparkling beauty is for you.  

Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc / Viognier, California is consistently a wine that you can depend on year in and year out for value and deliciousness.  It began as an experiment for Pine Ridge back in the early 90’s and has become their most popular wine – all for $13.99 retail.  Its citrus and honeysuckle notes, combined with silky fruit and food-friendly acidity make this a perfect pairing with salads, antipasti, Thai curry, sushi or pan seared fish.

CMS by Hedges in Columbia Valley is one of the best values on the West Coast.  It is Washington’s original Meritage (rhymes with Heritage!) blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.  It tastes as if you’re somehow getting away with a steal at $10.99 retail.  The blend of jammy blackberry, cherry, and plum fruit mixed with vanilla and cocoa powder might make your friends want to smell the wine more than talk to you!  The palate is not just all fruit, as it’s balanced out by a relatively low 13.5% alcohol, toasted oak, licorice, and pronounced tannins.  Pick this one if you’re having red meat.  

Your Grocery Store Cheat Sheet

  • Alamos “Selección” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina – $18.99
  • Las Rocas Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain – $10.99
  • Roederer Estate NV Brut, Anderson Valley, Mendo – $20.99
  • Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc / Viognier, California – $13.99
  • CMS Cab Sauv / Merlot / Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington – $10.99


This short list of wines will save you time, money, and worry. You can rest assured that despite the varied array of cheeses, fruit salads, and barbecue, you can count these selections to work every time.

Be sure to let me know if you try one of my suggestions.  Let me know what it paired best with.  Are there any other gems you’ve found at the grocery store that we all should know about?

It’s impossible to know everything about wine.  Let’s keep learning.




Sipping Provencal-Inspired Rosé is a Springlike Potion of Sensuality and Laissez-Faire

Picnic with charcuterie board_smallerSpringtime has arrived which means rosé is in season. I love rosé for its simplicity, freshness, acidity, and subtlety.  Sipping this springlike potion brings up a sense of nostalgia, as it reminds me of picnics in the grass, glorious spreads of charcuterie, and laissez-faire of the past.

Provence, France is the ideal place for making rosé. It is on the Mediterranean, which tempers the hot days with cooler nights. The temperate climate is what rosé varietals such as Cinsault, Carignane, Syrah and Grenache need for a perfect balance of fruit and acidity.  The region is blessed with limestone soils, which adds a noticeable minerality to the wine. Garrigue (wild herbs that grow in the south France countryside) somehow impart earthy notes into the wine by their mere presence.  Along with a 2600 year history of making wine, it is this combination of balanced fruit, minerality, and lavender-like herbs that has made Provence the benchmark region for rosé.  Try the 2015 Chateau La Gordonne rosé or the 2015 Domaine de Terrebrune rosé from the famous sub-appellation called Bandol.

Recently there has been an influx of producers all over the world that are making fantastic rosés, influenced by Provence while having their own unique terroir.  Here on the West Coast winemakers have taken the baton and run with it.  We’ve come a long way from the sweet, syrupy “Sutter Home” rosés of the past as our only model.  This new trend is producing seriously delicious, dry, sophisticated, food-friendly, and inexpensive beauties.  Don’t be fooled though. There are still millions of cases being made of sugary White Zinfandels.  You have to know where to look to find the great ones.   

California, Oregon, and Washington have several small producers that make great rosés.  We’re also seeing a lot more experimentation with varietals like Pinot Noir, Gamay, and Nebbiolo to name a few. Check out the 2015 Division-Villages Gamay rosé, “l’Avoiron” from Columbia Valley in Washington; the 2015 Ser rosé of Nebbiolo from a single vineyard in Lake County, California; and the 2015 Adelsheim rosé of Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley, Oregon.

It’s really exciting for me to see the market expand to include more dry rosés these days. They almost always fit into my mantra, “Wine for the People” – wines that the common person can afford and that deliver serious bang for the buck.  

Dry rosé can be sophisticated, pair well with food, and truly be delicious without breaking the bank.  Try them with herbed goat cheese, or an antipasti plate with prosciutto and olives, a butter lettuce salad with French feta and roasted almonds, or oven baked garlic shrimp.

What food do you love to pair with rosé?  Do you have a particular region of the world you buy rosé from?  Your feedback is important to me.  Be sure to leave and comment and tell me what’s on your mind.

It’s impossible to know everything about wine.  Let’s keep learning.



Every now and again there’s a wine that comes along that doesn’t fit into a box and helps redefine the definition of a really great wine.

Preston Vineyards 2

I love my job, because I love to learn and get surprised. Discovering new treasures never gets old. I find that staying curious, open, and available to experience the unknown always works in my favor. Last Thursday I was lucky enough to have one of those magical moments.

I attended a wine pairing event at Millenium in Oakland. The featured winemaker was Chris Condos (Vinum cellars, Kathryn Kennedy ) from Horse & Plow. The surprise gem of the evening was an unsulfured and organically farmed 2013 Sauvignon blanc from the Preston Vineyard in Dry Creek. WOW! The texture and complexity was absolutely sensational.  It reminded me of 1er Cru Chablis from Bourgogne because of its viscosity and weight while having well balanced acid, lovely minerality, and delicious fruit.

The most intriguing and paradoxical aspect of it was that it was completely different than any other Sauvignon blanc I’ve had before.  Unlike the usual suspects of Sauvignon blanc – being predictably clean and crisp, it was complex yet accessible.  It also had beautiful fruit mixed with earth, minerals and nutty undertones.

Most winemakers never go the route of making unsulfured wines because it’s too risky. Sulfur helps stabilize the wine and prevents oxidation.  If you don’t have the perfect acidity — your wine turns to vinegar.  It takes a master of alchemy to pull this off.  And in my opinion, Chris hit it out of the park.  One of the things I admire most about him is that he doesn’t shy away from the challenge of producing natural wines.  His philosophy is to use sustainable practices to craft wines with greater complexity and sense of place, while caring for worker health and the environment.

Despite some of the stressors that can come with growing organically Chris stood firm in his beliefs.  He chose to experiment with the Preston vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley as his #1 choice of fruit because of its pristine quality and high acidity.  He didn’t add any sulfur, left it in neutral barrels for 4-5 months on the lees (dead yeast from fermentation that give a wine texture and a subtly nutty taste), and sweated it out.

With tremendous faith he had to give the wine enough space to go through a series of phases, including a “dumb phase”, where the wine’s earthy and tannic qualities dominate the fruity qualities.  The result is the fruit caught up with the earthy minerality, and tannins and became a real symphony of a wine;  silky texture, delicious fruit, rocky minerality, and great structure.  All of these qualities reminded me of Bourgogne which uses a different varietal but has a similar flavor profile.    

Chris is a maverick.  His patience, courage, and keen sense of knowing how to put the right variables together created a delicious product with just enough experimentation and originality.

I recommend the 2013 Horse & Plow Preston Vineyard Sauvignon blanc with herbed goat cheese, Petrale sole with butter and parsley, grilled pork chops with sauteed mushrooms, seared scallops, or trout salad with toasted hazelnuts.  

You’ll want to grab your bottle HERE.  There are only few more bottles left so jump on it and don’t miss out.

Be sure to also leave a comment below.  What have been your favorite wines that have made you think outside of the box?  What did you think of this Sauvignon blanc with the suggested pairings?   Your feedback is very important to me.

Again…you can never know too much about wine.  Let’s keep learning.