I want to put New Zealand on the map as New World wines to watch. Previous to engaging with te Pa, I was sorely mistaken about the wines produced in this tiny country. Like many, I lumped NZ wines with neighboring Australian wines; like many, I assumed that overly fruit-forward white wines without body or texture were the norm; and like many, I came to these assumptions because of what the mass market puts in front of us on shelves and in restaurants. Let this not be the case and let te Pa make the case for New Zealand.
The story behind Cellars 33 is one that many will be able to relate to. John and Katie Fones, co-owners of Cellars 33, found wine through each other. As John remembers it, he had Katie over to dinner one night early in their relationship and wanted to impress her with pairing a bottle of wine with the meal. “It was a Blackstone Merlot, I think,” says John. An $8 bottle of a grocery store wine was enough for the young couple to start “collecting.” “We had a little wire wine rack we kept on the top of our fridge,” remembers John, admitting that it was probably the worst — and hottest — place they could have kept their small collection while living on the top story of their apartment complex in balmy Baltimore.
Nevertheless, their grocery store collecting quickly turned them into avid wine enthusiasts. The couple also loves to travel, making frequent trips to the West Coast. And, as John says, if you visit California enough times, you’re going to end up in wine country eventually. So it was that John and Katie discovered their love for California wines in particular. For John, it was more than just the wines he became interested in, it was the winemaking process as well. A former hobbyist beer-brewer, John recalls being much more fascinated with what was happening behind cellar doors than the inside the tasting room.
The Withers Winery: a story of passion, perseverance, and people
“I never wanted to own a winery,” says Andrew Tow, and yet he also claims The Withers Winery as a passion project 35 years in the making. It’s a process that, through a series of fortunate events, both chance and purposeful encounters, and good old-fashioned hard work, has evolved as organically as The Withers wines themselves.
This past weekend I attended the Rhone Ranger’s San Francisco event. Rhone Rangers is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote winemakers and wineries who focus on Rhône varietals and Rhône-style blends. Each year, the Rhone Rangers San Francisco Grand Tasting event gathers together a huge number of those wineries to help educate the public on these important grapes, winemaking methods, and of course the wines themselves. While not every year has a theme, it seemed that this year’s theme is the up-and-coming trend of “weird wine,” or “obscure” varietals.
As I’m sure many of you have noticed, I’ve been exploring a few of the lesser-known wine varietals lately (Tannat, Counoise, Cinsault…to name a few). And it’s not just because I have an insatiable, geeky interest in wine, it’s because more and more producers are bringing to light some of those varietals that have been hidden in the dark — as part of the lower percentages of classic and common blends.
It is with a heavy heart that I say farewell to Three Arches Winery — a boutique, mom & pop-style operation run by a group of retired friends here in the South Bay Area. I first met Steve and Rose during a local wine walk. My partner in wine crime and I fell in love so hard with their wines, we became club members on the spot. Through the years they’ve given us not just great wine, but a sense of family as well. So them closing shop is like bidding adieu to the awesome aunt and uncle I never had.
What this crew had was a true Silicon Valley start up. The crew started making wine in a three-car garage just a few years back as a kind of hobby. Through hard work, solid friendships, and a passion for wine, Three Arches was able to expand to warehouse winemaking — still rustic, still homey, still filled with love. A visit to a Three Arches open house and wine pickup always meant a bear-hug from Steve, a kiss from Rose, and a wine glass in hand to taste the latest releases or re-live some old ones. I always left an event feeling invigorated about my choice to follow a wine-based career path — just look how happy and social it makes us!
You would think that the land of startups would do its best to support small business, but living (somewhat begrudgingly) in the area, I’ve found that is not the case. And, unfortunately, the “need” for more townhouses seems to supersede the (actual) need for this winery to stay in business.
Now I will digress with my anger at the issue and get to my point. All wine must go! So, support small, support local, support my wine family. (Damn the man!) All Three Arches wine is 30% off.
Although there’s the rare Sonoma-sighting, most of Three Arches wines come from the Santa Cruz Mountains — so you’re in for a real punch of flavor even with the lighter varietals. They have a minimalistic winemaking approach that means each bottle celebrates the fruit. A few of my personal recommendations:
More Info: Like I said, they’re a small lot, so if you have any questions feel free to ask me. Of course, to purchase this amazing wine please visit the Three Arches website.
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