We are a wine shop that explores the best of both worlds with retail shopping and a walk-in tasting room open Tuesday through Sunday. Our tasting room selections change monthly and always focus on a different "Old World" and "New World" region. The ever-changing menu allows our guests to constantly explore and discover something new. This month we are exploring Portugal and Sonoma County. Order a flight of all four wines or simply stop by, shop, and enjoy a glass. It's up to you!
Thought to be the last frontier of wine in Western Europe, covered in over 600,000 acres of vineyards, and smaller than the state of Kentucky; Portugal ranks 10th on the list of wine producing countries in the world. When you think of Portugal and wine, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the popular, sweet and fortified Port wines that are usually enjoyed after dinner or on a special occasion. With over 250 indigenous grapes, (many of which do not grow anywhere else in the world) it becomes clear that this Old World region has so much more to offer. However, because there are so many varietals, there is also a good chance that you will not recognize the name of the grape on your bottle. That's ok, and that's why we are here to assist. With an open mind, you will not only find something truly unique, but you will also find wines that consistently overdeliver for their price points. With so much to taste and explore, we are thrilled to bring Portugal to this month's flight program.
Portugal follows similar quality laws to France, Italy and Spain. There are three levels of quality: Vinho, Vinho Regional (IGP), and DOC (DOP) being the highest quality. Of the 14 wine regions in Portugal, this month's flight highlights four: Bairrada, Minho, Dão, and Douro.
The Bairrada region’s name comes from the Portuguese word, "barro", meaning clay, which is a large part of the soil make-up. Located in central Portugal, not far from the Atlantic Ocean, about 60% of Portugal’s sparkling wines are made here! The main red grapes of the region are Baga, Castelão and Rufete. The high-acid Bical and Arinto white varietals are prominent, and Fernao Pires, or Maria Gomes, is another white grape that produces a spicy, aromatic wine. The first flight pour showcases sparkling wine of Bairrada with the crisp Filipa Pato 3B Blanc de Blanc Brut Nature, a crowd pleasing blend of Bical, Maria Gomes (Fernao Pires) and Cercial.
Moving on to the Minho, in the northwest corner of Portugal, you will find one of the most agriculturally lush regions of the country. The region is known for light bodied white wines called Vinho Verde. Translating to “green wine”, Vinho Verde usually shows a light effervescence with fresh citrus fruit flavors and melon, making this wine a wonderful pairing for salads, vegetables, fresh fish and citrus driven dressings or sauces. The Verde or “green” in the name of the wine is not only a reference to the hue of the white wines, but also the youthfulness of all wines as they are typically consumed when they are young and fresh. Vinho Verde can be white, red or rosé as well as a blend or single varietal production of several grapes including but not limited to Arinto, Azal, Alvarinho (Albarino), Trajadura, Vinhão, and Loureiro. In the case of our second pour in this month's flight, the Casa do Valle Vinho Verde is actually a rosé made primarily from Vinhão.
Ironically one of the oldest regions in Portugal, the Dão has recently been gaining more international attention for quality wine and has also been identified by collectors as a region to watch. Sitting 30 miles south of the Douro River and surrounded on 3 sides by mountains, the Dão is protected from cool Atlantic winds and moisture providing a warmer Mediterranean climate. Grown on soils primarily composed of granite and schist, the finest reds are made from Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. Overall, there are about 50 grapes authorized for use in the region. Jaen (Mencia) and Alfrocheiro Preto are two other common red varietals. White wine is also produced in this region. Our third flight wine is the Textura Dão Pretexto Branco, a blend of Encruzado and Bical, grown in high altitude vineyards on granite soils, producing a standout wine.
Finally, the Douro River Valley, a UNESCO world heritage site on the northeastern side of Portugal, is most famously known for Port wines. It is also home to some of the most brutal environments where wine grapes are grown. Terraced vineyards were originally hand cut (later blasted with dynamite) into the steep hillsides of schist and granite, which range from 35-70 degrees of incline. Some of the terraces reach as high as 15 feet! The summers in Portugal also reach the hundred-teens in temperatures for long stretches and it is so intense that the vines will temporarily shut down until night to transport nutrients to the leaves and grapes. The soil here is incredibly important to the survival of the vines. Schist and granite are both both well-draining and vine roots will tunnel as deep as 65 feet for water. The deeper the roots, the more long term stability for the plant in these hot summers. While known for Port wines, the Douro has become increasingly popular for its dry red table wines. These wines contain many of the same grapes that are used in Port production. The vinification process is simply different. Grapes include the light and fragrant Touriga Franca, or the bolder Touriga Nacional as well as Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca, and Tinta Cao. Douro reds are typically full bodied, tannic, age-worthy and phenomenal values in any retail shop. Light bodied white wines, high in minerality, salinity and acid are also found in the region but are much harder to come by. Our final pour in the flight is the Muxagat Tinto, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, and Sousao.
As your wine tastes only continue to become more global, you will find there is much to discover in Portugese wine. This month's flight is just the tip of the iceberg, but is sure to awaken the explorative wine drinker in everyone.
Home to a diverse array of smaller AVAs with varied microclimates and soil types, Sonoma County has something for every wine lover. Physically twice as large as Napa, the region also showcases a wide range of varietals and winemaking. With its laid-back atmosphere and down-to-earth attitude, Sonoma has lived in the shadow of its flashier neighbor to the east for decades now. With 18 individual AVAs and 70,000 acres now under vine, the wines here absolutely deserve your attention.
An hour north of San Francisco, (lets be real, with Cali traffic we will say 1.5 hours) is the home of the sprawling area known as North Coast Wine Country. To get there, you will drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and take Highway 101 north towards Napa and Sonoma. Then the exit for highway 37 and you are staring at your crossroads. This could be the most difficult decision you will make that day and it's the same crossroads we confronted 21 years ago. Highway 37 to Napa or stay on the 101 up to Santa Rosa? While we eventually found our way to Napa, the infamous home of some of the most glorified and prized Cabernet Sauvignons in the world, we started our first California wine journey in Sonoma County up near the quiet town of Healdsburg. We started on the road less travelled, in this quiet, reserved, low-key wine region with its bright blue skies and rolling green vineyards that produce a smorgasbord of varietals with towering mountain ranges and beautiful landscapes in the background for any wanna be painters.
So why is Sonoma County such a good region for wine? Two prime reasons: climate and soil. The climate is ideal for wine grapes, with cool morning fog and long, dry summers. Temps are warm, but not overly hot, as days end with cool evenings, ocean breezes and fog that rolls in from the San Pablo Bay helping to create swings of 40 degrees or more between day time highs and night time lows. These unique conditions allow the fruit to achieve phenolic ripening slowly while maintaining good acidity. In terms of soil diversity, the Mayacamas Mountains, the rolling hills of Carneros, the Russian River Valley, coastal hills, and other geographical features give Sonoma County a vast diversity of soils ranging from rich and loamy to volcanic, rocky and well-draining. As you might expect, with an abundance of microclimates comes an abundance of AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), 18 to be exact, and more than 60 grape varietals are grown throughout Sonoma County.
Here are a few of the highlights when it comes to the AVAs. One of the warmer parts of Sonoma, the Alexander Valley is known for high quality Cabernet Sauvignon. The Bennett Valley southeast of Santa Rosa is one of the coolest AVA's and is known for complex Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. Perhaps a little more well known, Chalk Hill sits south of Healdsburg next to the Russian River Valley and is known for Bordeaux varietals as well as Chardonnay. The Russian River Valley itself sits in the heart of the region and is relatively large as it reaches from Healdsburg in the north all the way down to Santa Rosa in the south. Here you will find a wide variety of grapes, but Pinot Noir and Chardonnay tend to receive the most attention. Within the Russian River, the smaller Green Valley sub-AVA produces incredible, highly acclaimed Pinot Noir and Chardonnays, both still and sparkling. You can also find cool-climate Syrah and Zinfandel. The Dry Creek Valley is north of Russian River and produces Cabernet Sauvignon along with Rhone varietals. The Knights Valley AVA is known for Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Zinfandel. Los Carneros sits in the southeastern end of the region and is split between Sonoma and Napa and is yet another great spot for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Finally, the Sonoma Coast is a massive AVA stretching along the coast starting up near Annapolis in the north all the way down to Petaluma. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay do very well here, but you will find a plethora of others including Syrah, Pinot Gris and Zinfandel.
While we can only showcase four wines in the monthly flight, this month's selections will show you the range of diversity. So start your journey with our August monthly New World flight and who knows, Sonoma may be your new best wine friend!
Looking to Customize?
We now host curated tastings for groups of two to ten people. Our tastings are a great way to explore wines that are new to you or indulge in some of your favorite regions. Whether you are looking to learn or to simply relax, our team has you covered.