Pre-Califermentation Pop-Up: Monday, Oct 17th @ 7PM

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Join Tala of Winelandia and Pamela Busch of The Vinguard this Monday, October 17th @ 7pm for a Pre-Califermentation Pop-Up at Ruby Wine in San Francisco. They’ll be pouring wines from a few featured producers, including AmByth Estate, Scholium Project, Petard Cellars, Sonoma Mountain Winery, and others.

Wines will be poured in a tasting flight or by the glass for $10-$15. Come hang out and get to know the organizers of Califermentation. Tala and Pamela be available to chat with you about the landscape of natural wine in California while you sip on some awesome local juice.

Monday, October 17th at 7PM
Ruby Wine
1419 18th Street
San Francisco

Peace!

Day Trip: The Sonoma Coast

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery year around the beginning of September, it gets really warm here in the Bay Area and in some of the foggy, freezing, coastal towns nearby. Some call it the Indian Summer. I just call it Summer, as it’s all I’ve ever known. What we experience from June through the end of August is NOT summer, just ask any local. Anyhow, our summer finally came around, luring the fog back over the ocean, finally exposing our coastline to the late summer sun. Colleen and I took the opportunity to drive north and visit the extreme Sonoma Coast.

The California coast in the summer is a sight to behold. Highway 1 runs from North to South, offering expansive views of oceanside cliffs, sandy beaches, waterfalls, sycamore trees, pastures, azure waters, and blue skies for miles and miles. When I see the coast, it warms my heart and reminds me of why I pay a zillion dollars a month for rent to live in the Bay Area. I can drive an hour north or south and visit it anytime I want. I was practically raised on the beaches of Bodega Bay, my mom hauling us kids around with her as she explored the places that I still find myself drawn to today. These memories were the preface to our adventure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first stop on our route was Bodega Bay, a small coastal town that sits right on top of the San Andreas fault. This adorable little village offers many amenities to people passing through, including a market, taffy shop, several restaurants, an ice cream parlor and an adorable little wine shop called Gourmet au Bay. All we had to see was the Wine Tasting sign and we pulled right into their parking lot. Colleen and I weren’t sure what to expect, but we were gleefully optimistic about the prospect of wine tasting on this beautiful, sunny day.

Upon entering, we noticed rows of wines for sale, with a wine bar selling wines by the glass in the back. We took a closer look at the wines offered for retail sale and noticed some of our favorites. The selection here is mostly local wines, or at least wines from vineyards that are on the Sonoma Coast. The prices were reasonable, and if we were from out of town and looking for a special bottle to take home, this would be a good place to buy one.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter inspecting the retail offerings, we made our way to the back and spied the wines by the glass. We settled on splitting a glass of Vermentino, and it wasn’t until then that we realized Gourmet Au Bay had a patio on the water. We deployed our huge sunglasses and took our tasty wine outside to enjoy with a spectacular view of the namesake Bodega Bay.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGourmet au Bay is located at 913 Hwy 1 in Bodega Bay, CA 94923.

After taking in the view and slowly sipping on our glass of Vermentino, we packed up and journeyed north to check out some of the beautiful beaches Bodega Bay has to offer. When I was little, my mom took us to a tiny beach called Shell Beach for family adventures. I remember scrambling over the huge rocks, poking sea creatures in tidal pools with my finger (don’t try this at home), making sand-angels, and eating peanut butter sandwiches while watching the waves crash on the inhospitable shore (this is not a place you go swimming!). I thought it would be neat to show Colleen this beach and tell her stories about my family’s visits.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can find Shell Beach by driving north of Bodega Bay for several miles, until you see the sign for Shell Beach. It’s farther north than most of the other beaches in the area, so keep driving even if you think you’ve passed it. This is a wonderful spot to stop at and enjoy your peanut butter sandwich, or just to take in the views. If you are lucky enough to be there during low tide, you can walk pretty far down the beach and see some of the less-traveled areas. I recommend always bringing layers, as even on this hot day the fog line was just over the highway, and the beach was pretty foggy and cold.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter spending a few minutes torturing Colleen with boring family stories about the beach, we got back into the car and continued north. Our mission was to find a cow suitable for photography for the blog, from here on out known as the Picture Cow (not to be confused with a Gift Horse). If you’ve ever driven around here, then you are familiar with the miles and miles of green pastures inhabited by happy California dairy cows. If there’s any one scene that embodies the Sonoma Coast perfectly, it’s a serene cow munching on grass, mooing gently into the breeze. Eventually, we found the Picture Cow near Fort Ross.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPleased with our Picture Cow findings, we continued north until we reached our only planned destination, the Fort Ross Vineyard. Having been pleased with their wines at the Family Winemakers tasting a few weeks ago, we thought we would visit their winery and taste through their offerings without the madness of the event. It’s one of the only winery tasting rooms open to the public on the Sonoma Coast, and they don’t require an appointment to enjoy a tasting. To find it, continue north past the town of Jenner (right past the mouth of the Russian River) and hang a right on Meyers Grade Road. Go up the hill, following the Winery signs, and you will see it on your right. Be sure to take in the views as you drive, as the highlight of this trip is not the destination, but the sights along the way.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe enjoyed our flights of wine on the lovely patio of the tasting room. This place is very fancy, not your typical rustic Sonoma tasting room. The wines are remarkably California in style, with their Chardonnay being rich, bold and buttery. We quite enjoyed all of the wines, but the 2010 Symposium Pinot Noir was our favorite. We picked up a bottle and will be posting a review here soon, so stay tuned for that.

After saying our goodbyes to the friendly folks at Fort Ross Vineyards, we turned south to meander back home, with at least one more destination in mind. If Colleen and I have any one thing in common, it’s our lust for oysters. Delicious, briny, fresh, succulent oysters, gently plucked from the beautiful Tomales bay. Little did Colleen know, I had a special bottle of wine in the cooler, waiting for this occasion. We made a bee-line back down to Hog Island Oyster Co. in Marshall, CA. To get there from Fort Ross, just drive south on Highway 1 until you reach it. You have to do a little jig to stay on the highway once you pass Bodega Bay and it makes a left turn for Petaluma, just keep an eye out for the signs to stay on Highway 1. Once you turn right to stay on the Highway and head towards Marshall, just continue south until you see the farm on the right.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn a normal day, you might not get as lucky as we did at the farm. The most cost-effective way to enjoy oysters here is at the Shuck-yer-Own picnic tables, which generally require a reservation made months in advance. Lucky for us, it was late in the day, and there was a vacant picnic table for us to shuck our own oysters at. You can also buy pre-shucked or BBQ oysters from the stand in the back, but you will pay a lot more that way. We decided on 3 dozen oysters total; 1 dozen Kumamoto (our fave), 1 dozen X-Small Sweetwaters, and 1 dozen Atlantic. If there is any duo on earth that can put away 3 dozen oysters, it’s the Ladies of Winelandia. We grabbed our oyster knives and got right to business.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShucking an oyster is a learned skill. It’s not as easy as those guys at the oyster bar make it look. I’ve shucked hundreds (if not thousands) of oysters, and I still struggle with it. My only advice is to never give up, and keep on shuckin’ until you become a master. I haven’t gotten there yet, but I will die trying. I love oysters so much, it won’t be a problem.

Wine and oysters are a match made in heaven, and there aren’t many white wines I wouldn’t pair with them. The only white wine I would avoid is anything with oak, as the woody or buttery flavor can clash with the fresh, briny oysters. I stashed a bottle of Robert Sinskey’s 2012 Pinot Gris in the cooler before we left, which on this hot day was closer to cellar temperature when we opened it. I wanted it to be ice cold, desperately, so we devised a technique we dubbed Ice Mountain to keep our wine cold. Worked like a charm. I encourage you to use our patented technology should you find yourself in a similar predicament.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Robert Sinskey 2012 Pinot Gris was perfect with these oysters. It’s rich, full-bodied, bright, pure, fruity, and refreshing. If Robert Sinskey does anything right, it’s white wine. They are some of my favorite from California, and they are one of the few producers to make a 100% dry Muscat, which is absolutely insane. If we are lucky, we might offer some Sinskey white wines on Winelandia.com once we start our retail operation.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was getting late in the day, and we needed to start heading back home. We decided to take the scenic route, meandering through Nicasio Valley and stopping at the reservoir to enjoy the last bit of sunshine before landing back in reality. The sun was getting low and casting a lovely golden hue on everything surrounding us. It’s days like this that remind me of why I started Winelandia. I want to share these experiences with people who weren’t lucky enough to be immersed in it their whole life, showing them the hidden gems along the way, and how to find ways to make the experience even richer. The landscape of California and the fruits of the vineyards, farmland and pastures have inspired me for decades. I am grateful to share these experiences with our readers.

If you want to replicate our adventure, feel free to reach out to me directly (tala@winelandia.com) and I will send you a map with all of the side-missions and destinations. I certainly hope you enjoy it as much as we did.

Wine Bar Review: Terroir Natural Wine Merchant

Tucked away in the hustle and bustle of Folsom street in SOMA lies Terroir, an unassuming wine bar with very little signage out front. You would probably walk right past it if you were looking for it specifically, and you might not know about it at all if you weren’t some sort of wine geek or fell upon it accidentally. Needless to say, it’s worth stepping into if you find yourself on the block with some time on your hands.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first thing you’ll notice walking into this place is the downright hip ambiance. Everything is so unintentionally stylish, with a distinct, playful Soma-in-Paris feel to it. It’s a mix of old-timey and modern with it’s steel stools, loft seating, dark grey bar, wooden accents and record player. I love to come here with a friend and chill out upstairs on a comfortable chair with a carafe of wine and a cheese plate. There’s something about the atmosphere here that begs you to slow down and stay a while.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe wines served and sold here have a similar old-yet-new feel to them. One of the things I’ve heard repeated here time and time again is, “This is a real wine.” Terroir is very true to it’s name, serving only wines of terroir. Nothing added, nothing taken away. All of the wines here are either organic, biodynamic or just plain vin naturel. Chances are, you will not recognize a single wine on the menu. On a good day, I might be familiar with two. Don’t let the list intimidate you. Instead, tell the bartender what sort of wine you enjoy and they will help you find one to your liking.

Terroir seems to specialize in white wines with acid, texture and mineral as well as red wines that are taught, lean, juicy and rustic. This is the sort of place you can find Jura by the glass or perhaps a Cheverney rouge. Not only do they have an impressive by-the-glass selection, but they also have tons of wines for retail sale by the bottle. No, there isn’t a list, although if you see a wine out on the wall, they may have it for sale. Yes, they do sell high end Burgundies. Just tell the bartender what you are looking for.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a great place for all sorts of people, from major wine geeks looking for the next mind-blowing $25 bottle to wine newbies looking for a romantic spot to go on a first, second, or third date. They open pretty early for a wine bar (2PM most days) which makes it a superb spot for people like myself with nowhere to be in the middle of the day. In the evening, it’s a very vibrant place with lots of locals of all ages stopping in for a glass or bottle. Whatever your persuasion may be, this is definitely a place to go out of your way to check out. You might even see me there, sitting at the bar, alone, enjoying a half-glass of Jura, and harassing the staff.

Ruby Wine in SF has Everything You Need

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Fairly recently, it came to my attention that there was a great little wine shop perched atop Potrero Hill that I had never been to. I knew of its existence through social media, but hadn’t made time to visit. I knew that they had a great wine selection from word-of-mouth and that there were often winemaker-hosted tastings featuring wines that I really loved. I finally got off my butt to pay Ruby Wine a visit, and I am so glad I did.

Let’s get one thing straight: This is no K&L. This great shop is nothing if not small. Don’t let the size of it fool you, though. The owner, Aran Healy, is the curator of all of the wines in this shop and he has impeccable taste. Lots of the wines are organic, biodynamic or ‘natural’. He carries wines from all corners of the earth so you will definitely find something you love. The best part is that most of the wines here are in the $15-$30 range, which means you can easily find a bottle to take home and enjoy on a Tuesday night. He also carries a great selection of high-end wines and grower Champagne (his personal favorite).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn addition to the staggering selection of natural wines, Ruby Wine also does tastings and wines by the glass every single day. You will never see the same wine being poured from one day to the next because Aran takes it upon himself or leaves it up to the staff to decide what they want to pour for the day. Usually there are four wines open and all of them are available to be enjoyed by the glass in the intimate little shop, which has plenty of seating. The prices are very fair and you can expect to pay much less for a glass of wine here than you would at a restaurant or downtown wine bar.

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In addition to the lovely European wines being sold here, there is a very good selection of domestically made natural wines to choose from. Right now these wines are all the rage and you can find selections from many of your favorite small, local-ish producers such as Dirty & Rowdy, Jolie-Laide, Matthiasson, Forlorn Hope, La Clarine Farm, Arnot-Roberts, Porter Creek & Dashe Cellars. It’s not often you see so many of my favorite wine producers in one spot. I can only think of one other wine shop that can even get close.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you find yourself to be so dazzled by the selection that you simply can’t decide what to buy, you can join their wine club which includes 2-4 wines every month. You can opt in for two reds, two whites, one red & one white, or two reds & two whites. This is a great way to expose yourself to new wines that you wouldn’t normally try, and rest assured that you will love them. Aran has a gift for picking great wines for wine novices and geeks alike.

Ruby Wine is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 1PM-9PM, on Sundays from 12PM-8PM, and is closed on Mondays. The shop is located right next door to Chez Maman on 18th Street. Do as the locals do and stop in for a glass of wine while you wait for your table at the restaurant next door. This lively neighborhood spot is busy every night of the week and you certainly won’t leave disappointed.

Ruby Wine
1419 18th Street
San Francisco, CA 94107
(415) 401-7708

New Wine Bar hits SF’s Union Square

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEvery now and then, I do a Yelp search for new wine bars in our beautiful San Francisco. I am always on the lookout for a new place that is the right mixture of casual and elegant with a great wine selection. At the end of the day, I expect a wine bar to be about the wine. If there was ever a city where the restaurants and bars get popular based on the quality of the food/drinks and service they provide, NOT gimmicks or trendiness, it’s San Francisco.

The last search I made yielded a new wine bar in San Francisco’s Union Square called Eno. I have to admit that my expectations were low at first – Union Square is a tourist trap, after all, and I could only assume this new wine bar was going to cater to a tourist’s palate. Regardless of location, I decided to pay it a visit and catch up with some of my lovely lady-friends in the process.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I first arrived, my friend had already gotten there and she was on her laptop catching up on some work. A wine bar with Wi-Fi? HAVE I DIED AND GONE TO HEAVEN? Yes, it was true – Eno has free Wi-Fi for their customers to use. Not only is it free, but it’s decently fast. I could easily see this becoming a frequent spot for me to come to and catch up on my Winelandia correspondence while waiting for my husband to get off work, who works just 2 blocks away.

The big surprise was next. I opened the wine list and was very impressed. Pinot Gris from a volcano in Hungary, a slightly oxidative Chenin Blanc petillant-naturel from Montlouis-sur-Loire, a red wine made in our neighboring Berkeley by Broc Cellars, Chardonnay from Green Valley. Not only did they have an impressive bottle list, but they served a ton of wines by the glass and even have a tongue-in-cheek list of reasonably priced flights to choose from. You can get your bubble fix with the “Sekts, Bubbs & Rock ‘n Roll” (3 wines for $17), take a tour of Italy with “This Boot was Made for Drinking” (3 wines, also $17), or an impressive selection of mineral wines called “Kick Ash Whites” (3 wines, also $17). Great wines? Check. Lack of pretense and a sense of humor? Double-check.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn to the food! What good is wine without some delicious snacks to nom upon while you are drinking your selection of 3 different wines, using their free Wi-Fi to get some work done and also chatting with your hilarious lady-friends? The first thing I noticed upon walking in to Eno was their huge case containing whole wheels of cheese (another indication I might be in heaven?). Next to the cheese locker was a case of fancy-looking chocolates of all shapes and colors. They also had an inventive and interesting menu featuring seasonal foods at reasonable price points. I had the Grilled Peach & Buratta Salad with Black Pepper Vinaigrette for $11. It was lovely and inspired me to make one at home with some fresh nectarines from the farmer’s market. They also have a nice selection of cheese & charcuterie plates, sandwiches and bruschetta. You can view the full menu here.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhat more could you ask for if the place has great wines at a reasonable price-point, attentive service, delicious and creative food, free Wi-Fi and a very easy-to-get-to location? Well, the next thing on the list is ambiance and Eno has plenty of that. The decor is modern yet casual and slightly masculine while still being cozy. There were wood-paneled walls, cute bistro tables, and comfy chairs in the back next to a fireplace. Yes, you heard me. Eno also has a fireplace and right in front of it are two comfy seats. This is not only an excellent Get Work Done and Drink Wine spot, but also a superb Date Spot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI highly recommend you check out this great little wine bar before it gets popular and you can still catch that fireplace seat during our fair city’s most popular hour, Happy Hour. While this may be the best seat in the house, there is also an ample amount of window seating where you can watch tourists, business-folk and transients alike try to make their way down Geary Street. Eno may be my new favorite spot, I’ve already been there three times in less than a month. Maybe you’ll see me at a window seat, quietly banging away on my laptop while enjoying a flight of delicious and obscure wines that are hard to pronounce. Just make sure you say Hi!