Stop by The Annex and stock up for the holidays!
Save the date for our bi-annual Grand Wine Tasting on May 19th from 2 pm to 5 pm!
All wines are produced without harsh chemicals or pesticides!
Tickets: $15 | Refunded if you purchase a case of wine (at 20% off) that day (Sunday, May 19) only!
Join us for our fourth annual champagne and sparkling wine tasting and sale!
HOLIDAY BUBBLE BASH
One Day Sale and Tasting!
Sunday, December 17
Tasting: 1-3 PM ($5 per person)
Sale: 10% off any bottle of bubbly
20% off mixed cases, one-day only!
I love entertaining at home. Compared to dining out, it’s more personal, relaxed, and affordable.
As a former restaurant manager and sommelier, I have a few tips to help you pull it off effortlessly at a moment’s notice.
I find it helpful to stock up (12 or so bottles) and have diverse inventory on hand. At Annex Wine & Beer, we offer a 10% discount if you buy a case or more. Couple that with some bargain items like our Closerie des Lys Blanc for $8.99, and you get great savings. That makes racing through bottles a little easier to swallow!
Wine Shopping list:
- Copious amounts of rosé! Most are delicious with or without food. That makes it a great “cocktail wine” for impromptu visits from friends.
- A yummy white to please your friend who just wants something cold and easy to drink. We have lots to choose from in the $10 price range.
- An affordable red for those who only go for the darker juice. Again, we have a ton in the $10 to $15 range. And remember, you get 10% off if you buy a case. Mixing and matching wine is just fine!
- Reds to complement grilled items. The caramelization that happens on steaks and veggies alike calls for Pinot Noir. Try the Domaine Girard Pinot Noir from France ($12.99), Klee from Oregon ($17.99) or The Gardener Pinot Noir from right here in Sonoma ($25).
- Sparkling wine (Prosecco, Crémant, Champagne) to have on hand for a celebratory start to the gathering or mimosas in the late morning.
Our wine specialists at the Annex can help you curate a terrific summer drinking list with both familiar favorites and new varietals!
Food Prep and Shopping Suggestions:
These finger friendly bread based snacks are great for noshing at formal and informal gatherings.
Step 1: Slice 1 to 2 loaves of French bread (try an Acme baguette) into 1/4-inch-thick rounds.
Step 2: Brush each slice with olive oil (Burroughs Family Farms Bulk Olive Oil is on sale right now. And it’s delicious!) or melted butter (I love how affordable and tasty the Cadia butter is)
Step 3: Place the rounds on baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees until crisp throughout and lightly golden around the edges, about 15 minutes.
1. Spread with Coeur Chevre organic fresh goat cheese, orange marmalade (try one from Frog Hollow or Full Belly Farms, both are located right across from the cheese section) and fresh mint.
2. Spread with fig jam (Inna just delivered their black mission fig jam!), top with blue cheese (Farmstead Original Blue) and prosciutto (try La Quercia) or ham (I love True Story).
3. Spread with fig jam, top with goat cheese and chopped walnuts (grab a bunch from our bulk bins).
4. Spread with butter, top with thinly sliced bread-and-butter pickles (Woodstock or Cadia are both great choices).
5. Spread with hummus (grab our Annex made pre-packed Hummus), top with olive tapenade (try the Divina Kalamata olive spread).
These toppings are all items that are fairly easy to either keep in stock or grab quickly from one of our stores.
Here’s to happy, memory-making gatherings!
Wine Is Food
By Jake Wright
Eric Asimov, for those of you who may not be familiar with his name, writes about wine for the New York Times. I really like his writing and his perspectives, so I was quite pleased to read his recent article “Want to Pick Better Bottles? Repeat After Me: Wine Is Food” (NYT, 3/6/2017). In his clear and compelling way, Asimov describes to a T what we are all about here in our Annex Wine department. It practically reads like an endorsement of our approach.
For us at the Natural Grocery Co., wine is food, it is an agricultural product. We pay close attention to how the grapes were grown, and how they were treated in the cellar. I choose wines that, besides being delicious, are produced at least sustainably and at best regeneratively. My favorite stories from winemakers include how they took an abused parcel of land and brought it back, literally, to life.
There are certainly many people for whom wine is just a drink, and there are a lot of options out there. But for those who want more than just a cup of liquid unwind, there’s more to the story.
With customers, I often use the analogy of bread. Imagine on one end of the spectrum the highly processed, industrial, chemical-laden, food-like artifice such as Wonder Bread. This clearly makes some people happy. On the other end would be a naturally leavened loaf, made with grain from a known source (or even a known field), freshly ground, kneaded by hand, unhurried, and that is a clear reflection of its maker. Bread full of life, and deeply delicious to boot.
It’s the same with wine. I absolutely agree with Asimov that “a simple way to understand wine, to elevate the quality of what you consume and the pleasure you take in it, is to treat wine as if it were another staple of the table, just as you would the produce, meat and bread that you shop for and eat.”
Now, it was true for me, and is true for many (and Asimov also makes this point), that wine is one of the last things we think about as we procure quality ingredients for the table. I know in my life it took me a while to learn to prefer food I could relate to, where I knew the farmer and knew the story of how and where that food was grown, and where and how that food was processed. I wasn’t born a foodie: I’ve earned that title.
So now, I expect that for a significant percentage of the food I eat, and wine I drink, I know its backstory. Like all food we eat, wine is a product of the earth and an expression of our relationship to it, for better or worse. I try to choose better, and ultimately, that adds to my pleasure at table and sense of connectedness to the community and land around me.
Pleasure, connectedness, delicious clean wine and food. Surely these are among the best things in life, and for that, I can be grateful every day.
Taste 30 small production wines at the ANNEX for just $10!
We are hosting our 5th bi-annual Grand Wine Tasting and Price Crush Wine Sale. On Sunday, October 9th from 2 to 5pm come to the Prepared Food Annex (10387 San Pablo Avenue) to taste 30 wines by artisan producers. The ticket price for the event is $10. This may be the most affordable wine tasting event in the Bay Area!
If you would like to read more about us and other natural wine shops in the East Bay, check out this article.
Yamakiri: Lisa Bauer Interview
By Jake Wright, Annex Wine & Beer Buyer/Manager`
Some of my favorite wines here at Annex Wine & Beer come from Lisa Bauer of Yamakiri Wines. A relative newcomer to the winemaking world, Lisa managed by pluck and luck to bring forth distinctive, unique wines that speak vividly of the places they come from and the hands by which they are made. Her wines have been a hit with our customers. At our recent spring wine tasting, they were clear standouts.
I am grateful Lisa chose our store to hawk her wines. That is how I met her, when she walked through the door with a business card, a firm handshake, and a great story. When I tasted her wines, it was clear I was experiencing something special. Some wines are distinctly a reflection of their maker, and Lisa’s are no exception: outspoken, gregarious, and willing to push the edge. Yet the wines (like Lisa) also have depth, a soulful dimension that invites reflection. Camaraderie and reverie in the same glass.
Lisa’s first career was in the world of recycling, first in San Francisco and finally at UC Berkeley. Her wine appreciation evolved over the years, but at the core of her experience is memories of her German father who imported wines from Germany. It was with her father in 1979 that she made her first trip to the Anderson Valley. One destination was Navarro Winery, because they had German varietals like Riesling and made wines like Edelzwicker. Thus Lisa began a love affair with the region where she now lives.
As her own wine palate matured, she found herself appreciating European wines more and more. She sought out smaller wines shops and learned from their proprietors. Then, following her close-to-the-land, DIY spirit, she started to make wine at home. Her first attempts were by the book, with lots of measuring and manipulation. By following the rules, her wines turned out good, if a bit jammy to her taste.
Around this time Lisa acquired some property near Yorkville, high above Highway 128 in southern Mendocino County. In 2009, an abundant year for grapes, a neighbor offered her some free Pinot Noir—second pick—she jumped on it and pulled in a quarter ton. This wine she started with native yeast and very little manipulation, and the results were stunning. She knew she was on to something.
At the bottom of her road, another neighbor had a field of derelict grapes. These grapes—Sauvignon Blanc—were feral, unkempt, and feeding the birds. Her winemaking friends, seeing the quality of the grapes (even in their neglected state), asked Lisa to ask the neighbor if they could pick them. The answer came back no; another ask, another no, and so on. After nearly giving up, Lisa finally asked if she could pick the grapes for herself, and the answer was “yes: but you have to take all of them.”
Now, 2½ acres of grapevines would yield a far larger amount of fruit than she had ever worked with before. A little spreadsheet analysis, a candid call to a custom crush facility, and some good advice from friends convinced her that she could do it. “But I didn’t think I was going to sell it. I thought I was just going to have a whole lot of white wine to give away as gifts.”
When Lisa first tasted the young wine, she thought “this is delicious!” A professional winemaker friend, Alex Crangle, replied “yes, these are really good grapes. And they were abandoned? Can you drink all this? You should sell it.”
“What?! I’ve got to get permits, I’ve got to get licenses, I’ve got to…” But the allure of having a saleable product proved too enticing to refuse. Jumping through the hoops, Lisa was in business.
At this point Alex Crangle became Lisa’s winemaking partner in the emerging adventure. It is a creative partnership, with each bringing balancing strengths and talents, but resting on a shared philosophical bedrock. It began with Lisa sharing what she wanted: a dry wine that tastes of terroir, with nothing added to it, save a small amount of SO2 [sulfur dioxide] at bottling. And she had an idea that she would find older, dry-farmed, ignored vineyards as sources. Then Alex handed her a copy of One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka. She had read it back in her co-op days, but this time she read it “with completely different eyes.”
Fukuoka is known for his natural, no-till, “do-nothing” organic farming techniques, and through this lens Lisa saw the potential in the abandoned, derelict, and marginal vineyards she was discovering. This of course dovetailed into her earlier work ethics: “That’s also my recycling background. That’s ‘waste not, want not.’ If I hear about something not getting used, it pains me.”
So with a nod to Fukuoka, and acknowledging her own land, her Yorkville property that often sits just above the fog line, Yamakiri—Japanese for “foggy mountain”—was born. Under the heading “Found Wine,” their website sums up their approach:
Our intent in making wine is simple: we tend older vineyards, pressing them into gentle use. We seek low-till and dry-farmed vineyards for their depth and low yield. We let native grasses grow because vitality and diversity in the vineyard translate to a distinct expression of terroir and produce wine with a light footprint. We work closely with the land and its stewards in an effort to craft exceptional and unique wines.
Speaking of “found” wine, Alex knew of a few barrels of Syrah that were rejected by one winemaker for being “too smoky.” But Alex and Lisa saw the potential. And, as Lisa observes: “Alex really, really gets how not to mess with wine. He’s patient, and he has a palate that allows him to taste forward and anticipate what it’s going to taste like.” This wine became the stunning “Papillon de Nuit.” Alas, it is truly a unique wine, since the vineyard that it came from has been torn out.* Then came a rosé, a blend of press rosé and red and white, and before Lisa knew it, she had a product line.
Still, it hasn’t all been roses. “A lot of the older vineyards I had my eyes on died last year. They didn’t make it; they couldn’t last through three years of drought.” And while Lisa loves the concentrated flavors older, dry-farmed grapes give, there is a lot more work involved. Nevertheless, she’s looking ahead to planting her own vines on her property, to be dry farmed biodynamically, but thinking forward to warmer and drier conditions that appear to be in store for California.
When I ask Lisa to describe her wines, she demurs. “I’m not good at characterizing in any one way. They’re like children. They all have their own character.”
But I press her, to speak generally if possible.
“They are just at the edge of what the varietal dictates. I like pushing that, expanding that. We pick at lower brix. I don’t like high alcohol, I don’t like anything heavy or jammy. I think it obfuscates the rest of the flavors that are there. Racy, edgy, the complexity of the grape, not anything else.”
I can certainly agree to that, and I think a lot of our customers find that to be true, as well. Finally, I ask her: how does it feel being a small fish in big pond?
Here is where Lisa lights up, the scrappy passion coming through: “It’s clear to me, that in the midst of all the hype and drivel and marketing bull**** driven by these massive companies, there’s still room for human interaction and small producers that have unique products and interesting stories. I think that’s pretty cool. And I never thought I would be on the receiving end of it… I was always one of those people looking for that product. And now I’m making it. How cool is that?”
Very cool. And the proof is in the glass, right under our noses.
Yamakiri “Papillon de Nuit” Syrah
Mendocino Ridge 2012
*As of this writing, we have seven bottles left to sell before it is gone forever.
Yamakiri “Filligreen Farm” Pinot Noir
Anderson Valley 2014
Anderson Valley 2014
Yamakiri Sauvignon Blanc
Yorkville Highlands 2014
For more information, visit: http://www.yamakiriwines.com/
Down Under Delight!
By Jake Wright
While all of our wines shine, every now and then we bring in a standout that we really want you to know about. Just in, the Pyramid Valley 2015 Marlborough Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc is a wine of such vibrancy and focus I just have to sing its praises. There is a lot going on in this complex beauty: intense aromatics that open with time, a lush nuanced palate, and a long, lingering, beguiling finish.
It was a standout even among other wines from Pyramid Valley, as I discovered recently when I tasted with winemaker Claudia Weersing here at Annex Wine & Beer. She and her husband Mike surely do make some of the world’s eminent natural wines, with deep devotion to biodynamic principles and the expression of their unique terroir.
This is a wine that takes you places.
Hutchison Family Vineyard, Marlborough
Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc 2015
Also available from Claudia and Mike:
Angel Flower Pinot Noir
Loving the Lighter Reds
By Jake Wright, Annex Wine & Beer Buyer/Manager
My love affair. It almost didn’t happen at all. It was a chance meeting, but it irrevocably, irreversibly turned my world upside down.
My wife made a simple seafood stew, with rockfish, shrimp, some clams and mussels – a working parent’s cioppino. Now, what wine to pair with this? I didn’t want a white, and pairing a red felt like a little too much. I was about to default to a rosé when I remembered I had already picked out a wine, by reputation only, for a meal just like this.
This wine was a Rossese di Dolceacqua, a light and savory red wine from the Lugurian region of Italy. Think Genoa, La Spezia, even Cinque Terre. This is a rugged land that lives in close relation to the sea, and like all Italian cuisine, the wines and foods of the regions evolved together in time-tested harmony. This is seafood country, with simple stews like my wife made as common fare.
The wine poured a tawny, almost brick-like red. It had intense fruit aroma, with herbal and woody undertones. It was very light bodied, and upon tasting, the savory, herbal notes were enticingly apparent. A bite of stew, then another sip of wine… and that’s when Cupid shot his little vinous arrow. What a heavenly match! It was one of those elusive, serendipitous moments when the whole far outweighed the sum of the parts. That Rosesse and that stew danced together in the most delightful, delectable, delicious way.
I read somewhere that if you find Rossese in the States, it’s because someone really loved this wine and felt it needed to be imported. This is not anyone’s definition of commercial success, but rather a soulful appreciation for obscure, underdog varietals rooted in local traditions and cuisine. In fact, Rossese is deeply rooted along that part of the Mediterranean coast, and thrives even west into Provence, where it is known as Tibouren (and largely made into rosés).
Luckily, I work with an importer who found a lovely Rossese made by a committed, salt-of-the-earth winemaker named Danila Pisano. If the best wines are a reflection of their maker, then Danila is surely humble, strong, earthy, and mischievous by turns (and by all accounts, she is). She and her longtime boyfriend Tino (whose family owned the vines) work the dizzyingly steep slopes and terraces to bring forth low yields of this thin-skinned, light red grape. It is a labor of love (emphasis on labor) that brings this delicious, relatively unknown wine to our shores.1
But for those who know, the grape and its wine is a delight. Even the iconoclastic Randall Graham of Bonny Doon calls Rossese “one of the coolest grapes on the planet.”2 I wholeheartedly agree, and I am grateful my fortuitous discovery happened to be with one of those meals that take both food and wine into the stratosphere. I had never experienced the pleasures of light, gamey, savory red wines before.
Did it really turn my world upside down? Well, it certainly opened the door to a whole world of heretofore unknown pleasures. You see, now I chase after all light and bright reds, from snappy Gamays to minerally Zwiegelts, fruity Grolleaus to funky Pipeños. Put a slight chill on any of these, and savor the warmth of summer and its lighter cuisine.
Danila Pisano Rossese di Dolceacqua 2014, $19.99
La Galoche Beaujolais 2014, $14.99
Familie Maier Zweigelt 2014, 1L, $14.99
Les Hautes Noëlles “HéHo” Gamay/Grolleau 2015, $14.99
Viña Maitia “Aupa” Pipeño (Pais) 2015, $10.99
Hot & Cold
By Jake Wright, Annex Wine & Beer Buyer/Manager
It’s almost June and we’ve only had a few hot days this spring. It’s true that in the East Bay, especially our area (situated as we are directly across from the Golden Gate), that we rarely get too hot. But it does happen, and hot days demand one thing: cold beer!
Earlier this year we (the Wine & Beer department) made a lot of people happy when we took over a cooler across the aisle to expand our 6-pack selection. We effectively tripled our offerings, as well as increasing our selection of ciders and gluten-reduced and gluten–free beverages. Here, we aim to have something for everyone!
There is a style of beer we are seeing more of these days that is a perfect summer refresher, and this is gose (goes-uh), a style that originated in northwestern Germany. Like a Berliner Weisse, gose has wheat in addition to barley, as well as a tart acidity from Lactobacillus; like a Witbier, it has coriander spice; but unlike either, it is brewed with a pinch of salt that delivers a lip-smacking freshness.
Now, I do call this a “buyer beware” beer. It’s not your typical, hoppy brew. It’s tart, so if Kombucha and other sour beverages are not your thing, probably gose won’t be, either. Personally, if I’m looking for that traditional beer flavor satisfaction, I’ll head to the hops. But if the party’s on and I’m sweating over a fiery grill, I’m gonna grab me a gose!
Sierra Nevada added Otra Vez Gose to their core line-up, knowing they had a hit on their hands. Otra Vez also has prickly pear fruit and grapefruit added as well. A bit of a bold move, since a traditional hoppy beer this is not. But it’s beer nonetheless, a revival of a traditional style and a great product of the brewing renaissance we are living in right now. Thank you, I’ll have another! $9.99/6-pack
Sudwerk in Davis, CA, has also jumped on the gose bandwagon, with a couple of twists. Long-known as one of the West Coast’s best lager breweries, Sudwerk made their gose with lager yeast and fresh navel oranges from nearby Winters. With an orange, citrusy profile, their Farmers’ Market Citrus Gose Lager goes down (gose down?) easily… perhaps too easily! $11.99/6-pack
I’m looking forward to a few hot days ahead! Cheers!