I started drinking California wine in earnest when I was 21. It was 1993, and I’d moved across the country and landed a stocking job in the wine room at Chez Panisse. I can still picture the colorful capsules in the numbered slots lining the walls. There, among the requisite French and Italian classics, I first saw the labels I now consider the ‘old guard’ of California. There was Chalone, Green & Red, Neyers, Au Bon Climat, Edmunds St. John, Ridge, Bonny Doon, Alban, Navarro and Sean Thackrey, along with the prodigal darlings: Stag’s Leap and Chateau Montelena; and I learned to give them a place at the table alongside their European forbearers.
Back in New York, in the early 2000’s, I relied on trusted and savvy distributors to turn me on to new wave of California producers, and though these wines were not inexpensive on the east coast, they were singular and dazzling. Over the past decade at Smith & Vine, we proudly introduced countless Brooklynites to the wines of Arnot-Roberts, Wind Gap, Matthiasson, Dirty & Rowdy, La Clarine Farm, Unti, and Donkey & Goat, among others.
Happily, I am again in California, much deeper in the game, and my patchwork pantheon of California producers has grown into a jolly mob, not coming in waves, so much as a constant wash of new and exciting wines, often grown in unfamiliar territory - Placerville, San Benito, or Lassen – with labels bearing different names, like Inconnu, Trail Marker, Thee and Thou, and Cote West. Their winemakers are our rising stars, and also our friends and neighbors, and we are delighted to connect them with the wine lovers of Oakland.
This Saturday, please join us in welcoming talented, young, local winemaker Bret Hogan, while he pours his Cote West Sauvignon Blanc and Rose from 3 to 6pm at OAKLAND YARD. After UC Davis, Hogan spent time at Stag’s Leap, and the revered Domaine des Comtes Lafon, and his wines are as precise and polished as they are satisfyingly delicious. Come taste the magic with the magician himself.
See you all soon,