Opaque Malbec 2019

Paso Robles
$29 (Wine Club Reorder: $26)

The success of Opaque comes from the tenacity of The Riboli Family and their strong belief in crafting the finest artisan wines. The family’s beginnings date back to 1917 when they opened San Antonio Winery in Downtown Los Angeles. Since then, the family has been blessed with four generations contributing to their vision of excellence, expansion up the coastline, and prosperity across the Golden State.

The team at Riboli includes fourth-generation family winemaker Anthony Riboli, head winemaker Arnaud Debons, winemaker Ben Mayo, and vineyard manager Lee Alegre. All four have decades of experience in the industry and bring focus and professionalism to all aspects of the process from vineyard management to the winemaking itself.

“The word ‘opaque’ means “impenetrable to light” and refers to the dark, inky, impenetrable color of the family’s Malbec. Originally from Cahors Southwest of France, Malbec is now mainly planted in Argentina. We were so impressed by this wine from our estate vineyard in Paso Robles, that we bottled it without any blending.” – Opaque

The 2019 Opaque Malbec features flavors and aromas of Blackberry, Plum, and Black Cherry, as well as Oak, Vanilla, and perhaps Chocolate. You may also pick up some hints of spice and savory notes.

As a full-bodied wine, Malbec pairs well with full-flavored foods. However, unlike more tannic Cabernet Sauvignon, it pairs quite well with leaner meats. Try it with lamb, dark meat turkey or roasted pork. Malbec often pairs well with blue cheese, so I’d go with a burger topped with a sharp, creamy blue cheese.

Amy Ryan – January 2022

Grassi Family Estate Sangiovese 2018

Napa Valley
$32 (Wine Club Reorder: $28)

In 1999, Mark and Jami Grassi bought a 14-acre property in Napa, south of the acclaimed, fertile Stags Leap District. Mark had established a custom construction business, but the seed of another life kept beckoning. That seed had been planted decades before when Mark studied viticulture in college before pursuing a career in the construction industry.

In 2000, Mark dug the first test pits on the Grassi family’s Napa Valley land and set aside four acres for planting. Early on, key guidance and wisdom came from Mary Maher, vineyard manager for Harlan, and Franus Wines.

Within two years, planting was almost complete and the vineyard was taking root. Then, in 2008 they brought their first commercial release – the 2005 Grassi Cabernet Sauvignon. The Wine Spectator included Grassi among “hot new” Napa Valley Cabernet producers.

Now, Mark and Jami’s daughter, Cassandra Grassi, is carrying the family business into another generation. Cassandra grew up on the Napa Valley property and heard wine talk at the family dinner table. She earned her bachelor’s degree in business from the University of San Francisco. While in college, she worked at a wine bar and interned at the PlumpJack Group. After graduation, she was part of the hospitality team that opened CADE Estate Winery in Napa Valley.

The 2018 Estate Sangiovese is big, bold, dry, somewhat tannic, but with a smooth finish on the palate. Black fruit and earthy notes abound We think it will pair well with beef, veal, poultry or game dishes. You might even want to try it with a truffled pasta dish, which we’ve heard is an amazing pairing choice for this Cal-Ital style wine.

Amy Ryan – January 2022

Vinehouse Cabernet Sauvignon 2016

Howell Mountain, Napa Valley
$80 (Wine Club Reorder: $70)

Lesley Warner & Alan Peirson have been partners in business and life for over 36 years. Both native Californians, growing up in the Bay Area, they share interests in art, science, food, music, horticulture, design, and architecture. Their life together began in 1984, living and working in Knights Valley, designing, building, and managing for 20 years what is now Peter Michael Winery. They left Peter Michael in 2002 to start a winery of their own and spent the next 19 years as owners of Peirson Meyer / L’Angevin LLC, which they then left in June 2020 to focus on Vinehouse.

Hidden away on Howell Mountain, in 2012 Alan and Lesley discovered a gutted, abandoned mid-century bungalow resting on several acres. They spent two years bringing it back to life, expanding and restoring its rustic contemporary character. Before any work on the house began, the land was cleared of dead trees, with deep ripping and prepping of the Volcanic soils, once home to a large Walnut Orchard.

The vineyard, edging their home at about 1725 feet, was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon in 2013 then St Mccaire (a “lost” Bordeaux varietal) in 2014. Meticulously tended, Vinehouse fruit is sustainably farmed, then hand picked, produced and bottled on Howell Mountain, all overseen with great attention to timing and detail by Alan.

The Vinehouse 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 92% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% St. Macaire. The result of this historic marriage: a big luscious sexy wine with long legs of intensity on the palate, incredible depth of color, and crushed blackberries, blueberries, and black currants on the nose. Only 150 cases were produced.

Amy Ryan – December 2021

Cresta Veila Cabernet Sauvignon 2019

Mt. Veeder, Napa Valley
$110 (Wine Club Reorder: $95)

For winemaker John Giannini, delicious wine and good food are the essential components of a life well lived. Hailing from San Francisco, two things were pivotal for John growing up; coming from a large Italian family and having parents who liked to go out to dinner. John’s family was no different than other typical Italian families for whom good food was paramount, wine was always on the table, and one or more members of the family dabbled in winemaking (John’s Grandfather).

Like so many people who end up working in the wine industry, one can look back on a chance encounter or conversation that set the wheels of fate in motion. John met Thomas Rivers Brown through mutual friends while playing volleyball and it was Thomas who gave John his first job during harvest in the Napa Valley in 2003. He worked that harvest, and every harvest since 2005, making a promise to not miss another harvest again. And he hasn’t.

In 2006, John became the Cellar Master at Outpost Winery in Angwin, and in 2007 he took over as the Assistant Winemaker under Thomas. Since then, John has helped craft many of the 100 point wines that have come out of Outpost winemaking facility. And while he continues to be the Assistant Winemaker at Outpost, the next logical step was to become a winemaker in his own right; and so Cresta Velia was born.

Inky purple and highly aromatic with notes of fresh blueberries, black olives, baker’s chocolate, and spearmint running the length of the wine. The wine’s true beauty reveals itself hours after being open which gives us a glimpse of what this wine will become in the years ahead and might be the most exciting part of the process. The drinking part is still the most fun.

Amy Ryan – December 2021

Alfaro Gruner Veltliner 2020

Santa Cruz Mountains
$30 (Wine Club Reorder Price: $26)

Richard Alfaro and his wife Mary Kay enjoy the fruits of their labor. After a satisfying career as the founders of a restaurant and the wholesale baking company known under their own name, Alfaro’s Micro Bakery, the couple shifted gears in 1997, acquiring an aging 75 acre apple farm south of Santa Cruz in Corralitos, California, which they subsequently transformed into Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery. There are 56 acres currently under vine.

Grüner Veltliner is a dry white wine that grows almost only in Austria, with just a touch here in California. With flavors of green pepper and lime, Grüner Veltliner is an exotic alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. The name translates to “Green Wine of Veltlin.” Veltlin was an area in the lower Alps during the 1600s that is now part of Valtellina, Italy.

The primary fruit flavors in Grüner Veltliner are typically lime, lemon, and grapefruit. There is also a green and herbaceous flavor that is often described as white pepper. However, what makes Grüner Veltliner wine so unique is its signature vein of acidity that explodes in your mouth like pop rocks.

This wine comes from a single and organically farmed vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains aptly named La Playita Vineyard. The California expression of the Austrian grape shows familiar lemon zest and apricot pit with a slight floral note pairing with fresh white pepper. Savory herbs such as tarragon and marjoram sync perfectly with the salty acidity on the finish.

This dry, crisp and zesty white wine is made from the most widely planted grape in Austria. Medium-bodied and pale greenish/straw-colored, it boasts the citrusy flavors of lime and grapefruit, with savory notes of white pepper.

Aged 6 months in neutral oak, 250 cases produced.

Amy Ryan – December 2021