Visiting the source

It is often assumed that I get to travel all over the world or at least to California in order to pick the variety of wines served and sold here at Bitto and Orchard Wine Cellar. However this is only assumed by those who don’t own their own businesses! After 10 years in the business, I was finally able to take a trip out to California wine country for a few days and visit with some of the winemakers we support here at the restaurant and school. Despite the torrential (but welcome!) spring rains, my wife and I drove up from San Francisco through Berkeley, past Sonoma to the beautiful wine utopia that is Healdsburg.

However before leaving Berkeley, we stopped at the hip and urban Broc Cellars (www.broccellars.com) to visit with winemaker Chris Brockway. So often I see new products hitting the market that are “different” for the sake of being different, some attempt at differentiation based on shock value or trying to catch the “bleeding edge” of an upcoming trend. Hipster winemakers backed by some venture capital and a social media campaign with the actual wine being a second thought resulting in overpriced cult crap. And here in downtown Berkeley we find a winemaker vinifying Nero d’Avola, Counoise, Picpoul, Valdiguie, Carignan, Marsanne, Rousanne and a sparkling Chenin Blanc? If I didn't know better! It takes just a moment to realize Chris is much more a treasure hunter or mad scientist than hipster. Treasure hunter in that he has embarked on a quest to coax remarkable nuance and potential from varietals seldom showing their face in the marketplace. And not because they are “new” or “chic” but because the mad scientist passionately believes there is magic there desperately waiting to be discovered through care and craft. 

Chris stomping grapes in Berkely

My job means I have tasted hundred of varietals, many of which are locked into predetermined destinies. Counoise for instance, historically lives only for its pre-arranged, massively polygamous marriage with Grenache, Syrah and a dozen others in Chateauneuf de Pape. Only when too much has been made does it see itself alone in a bottle, downgraded to the lowly caste of a Vin du Pay. Nero d’Avola is grown in the heat Sicily and for centuries was only seen in the oxidized Marsalas. Over the past few years, it’s been bottled as a dry red and is known more for being affordable than for any sophistication. Broc Cellar's Counoise shows a remarkable bright raspberry and cranberry on the nose and vibrant acidity barely restrained by a little tannic grip. The Nero was the cleanest and most elegant I’ve ever had. The best Scilian Nero’s are still manly, unshaven creatures with a little manure on their boot bottoms. This is a fundamentally different, feminine “Nera” with a partial carbonic bringing crazy bright red fruit, dramatic acid and a whisp of sandy, earthy. 

Chris is committed to all organic or biodynamic with sparse SO2 made possible by utmost respect for the fruit. Seldom have I seen such dedication to purity of fruit from harvesting at night to natural yeasts to multiple fermentation techniques in concrete, oak, or beeswax lined terracotta. He has the courage of his own convictions that doesn’t seem fed by ego or accomplishment but instead by passion and curiosity of what treasures are awaiting discovery and creation in this year’s 130 year old Carignan or any of the other generally reclusive other varietals. Across his entire line up, the wines don’t come off as a “new take” on these varietals but more like a true appreciation and a long overdue realization of their potential. Well worth embarking on your own treasure hunt through the strip mined, Central Valley’s soul-less wasteland to discover. It’s California wine as it can be not as we’re told it should be. Enjoy!

Next stop Sonoma…. But I have to get back to work now!

Drink well, drink up!

Barney Treadway


Orchard Wine Cellar Movers and Shakers This Week

  • Sweet Sunset Chocolate Merlot

    #1 Sweet Sunset Chocolate Merlot

    First lets say that this is Not ChocoVine. This wine is actually made with eighty five percent Merlot and than has natural chocolate cream added to the mix. This is the wine for anyone looking for sweet red or the chocolate lover at home. Great gift for the holidays.
    (Holding the #1 spot)

  • Gran Passione

    #2 Gran Passione

    From the land of Amarone comes a delicious Merlot based blend. To perfectly ripe Merlot (60%) is added juice from dried Corvina grapes ala Amarone. Rich, deep and smooth, this is a remarkable Merlot that may just change your Merlot worldview! (behind by 2 bottles)

  • Tintero Moscato

    #3 Tintero Moscato

    Sori Gramella refers to the one of the only single vineyard Moscatos, and Marco is the only producer to bottle this striking limestone amphitheater commercially. Once the 30 year old vines give up their bounty, and the grapes are harvested and pressed, they are kept in stainless steel at a low temperature to prevent fermentation until an order is received in order to provide the freshest wine possible. (behind by 8 bottles)

  • Don Ramon

    #4 Don Ramon

    What can we say about this little $10 wine? It's easy drinking but with some fun Old World character. 6 months on oak lends a bit of structure but only enough to keep the bottle from being guzzled in one go. Nice dark cherry, a bit of warm earth, and priced to drink a couple times a day. (behind by 2 bottles)

Fun New Arrivals

  • Gewurz

    Gewurz

    A CA Gewurztraminer crafted in the style of those from the Alps. Great crisp minerality, rose petal and lychee notes, with bright acidity to hold it together. All organic from the rugged and cooler Potter Valley in Mendocino. Try with grilled chicken or pork chops to see what a great food wine this is!

  • Miquel Pons 77 Xarelho

    Miquel Pons 77 Xarelho

    Paying homage to Miquel Pons who has 77 harvests under his belt is this delicious Xarel·lo. Handpicked and aged in French barrels with generous lees treatment, this is Xarel-lo like none we ever had. Gorgeous earthy acidty wrapped in creamy texture and ample oak. If you are a Cali chard drinker, prepare to have your heart broken by this Spanish seductress!

  • A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon

    A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon

    This four grain whiskey uses a blend of rye, wheat and barley sourced from the Colorado Malting Company, and corn from Briess Malting in Wisconsin - encompassing the "mother grains" of bourbon. The whiskey ages about 3 years, all year round to capture the seasonal nuances from the ever-changing Colorado mountain air, in new, 53 gallon charred oak barrels source from Independent Stave Company.

  • Gotes del Priorat

    Gotes del Priorat

    A slightly different and wonderful lighter take on Priorat. The gorgeous blue slate show immediately on the nose, Carignan is there but with richness and elegance. Really pretty and an homage to the fruit. Gorgeous leather and blue black fruit flavors with spice and soft leather. Organic, hand picked and just 9 months in French, this really is a lovely wine!