November 30, 2023
Who Are They?
+Caleb Leisure Wines is a small, one-person, natural wine project in Sonoma County, CA. Caleb was raised in the East Bay, studied English at UC Berkeley and was working on his Masters of Fine Arts in fiction at NYU when he stumbled upon the natural wine scene in New York.
He soon moved back to California and landed an apprenticeship at Coturri Winery. After a trip to the country of Georgia in 2016 where he spent a life-changing few days tasting wine out of qvevri for the first time, his passion for wine really took off. That year, he was given space at Coturri to start his very own project. And before the 2017 vintage, Caleb imported and buried 10 Georgian qvevri in the earthen cellar at the winery.
+The remarkable range of available terroirs, grape varieties, and vineyards in California has him sometimes longing for the structure of an AOC to narrow the choices but he’s been able to find his own style here guided by ancient Georgian traditions.
+He farms much of the fruit that he uses himself while making sure all sources adhere to organic and biodynamic principles with no additions or subtractions in the winemaking process.
Why Do We Love Them?
+While there are other American producers working with modern Amphorae and concrete eggs, Caleb is the only California winemaker using authentic Georgian qvevri in their process and doesn’t own a single oak barrel. He’s embracing the most primitive ways of doing things, understanding that it’s worked for 8,000 years, taking chances at every turn.
+There aren’t any Georgian grapes planted in CA yet but Caleb hopes to change that and is now tending to his own small vineyard in Calaveras County. He’s currently working with classic CA grapes like Merlot, Syrah, and Pinot Noir in Sonoma, but these wines end up being edgy and raw and far from what you think of when you picture wines from this region. They’re resoundingly clean, natural wines, with crazy labels designed by his mom, Joy Broom, but they’re not overly funky or at all flawed, they’re just refreshingly different. Throw all of your preconceptions of Pinot Noir out the window for the one we just got in and the skin-contact Pinot Gris is fun and pretty with some grit. These will go fast!
November 24, 2023
If you’re looking for a little something something to bring your negroni from summer to winter — grab a bottle of the Leopold Brothers Aperitivo. While still giving you those hits of bitter citrus you’d expect from another red bitter, this aperitivo also carries a subtle bit of warming sarsaparilla and cinnamon spice. This is definitely a bitter that wants to be the star of the show, so pair with more straightforward companion ingredients (we love Occitan and Hayman’s London Dry for the gins, and Dolin Rouge for the vermouth with this one). But honestly? Its also delicious over ice with an orange twist.
November 20, 2023
When Benoit Lesuffleur told his parents he wanted to start using some of the family apple orchards to make cider they told him he was crazy. When he asked again, they just flat-out said no.
The Lesuffleurs have been growing apples in Normandy for generations but for the past fifty years they have been selling all of their fruit to large cider houses. Fun fact: the Lesuffleur family’s cider was drank by Queen Elizabeth II during a visit to Normandy!
Still, Benoit’s parents probably envisioned a more cosmopolitan life for him. They sent him off to university in Paris, where he still lives during the week and works as a Champagne broker. His experience with Champagne production sparked an idea: why not create a hard cider, using the same methodology and finesse as Champagne?
Benoit now has a couple vintages of experience and is slowly taking on some of the best apple orchards on his family’s property. He is using a wide range of heritage apples and creating vinous blends that balance sweet, bitter, and tannic varieties. (Not bad for a weekend warrior!)
You can find his 2017 vintage of his “La Folletiere” sparkling cider at the shop. If I may say so myself, it’s the perfect Thanksgiving aperitif.
November 10, 2023
Who are they/Where are they located?
Mayacamas, named after the mountain range it sits on that separates Napa and Sonoma, has changed hands a few times over the years. John Henry Fisher, a German immigrant and pickle merchant in San Francisco, first purchased the property in 1889, built the stone winery that still stands today and planted Zinfandel grapes. The great earthquake and fire of 1906 forced his businesses in SF into bankruptcy and the estate was sold at auction.
Jack Taylor, a chemist, and his wife, Mary purchased the land in 1941. The Taylor’s not only created the wine label that is still used today but the vineyards, cellar, and current winemaking techniques are largely due to their efforts. Throughout the 1950s, they added more modern fermentation and expanded their inventory of large oak casks. Jack planted the first Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon vines on the property.
In 1968, Bob and Eleanor Travers became the owners of Mayacamas. Bob was only 30 at the time but he possessed an unwavering commitment to traditional winemaking from his apprenticeship at Heitz Cellars. The quality of his wines were undeniable - so much so that his 1971 vintage was selected for the Judgment of Paris tasting, legitimizing the quality of California winemaking to the world. Bob’s legendary 45 vintages at Mayacamas set the standard for the winery’s future.
What are they making?
Because of the high elevation and cool mountain climate, they have the longest growing season and the lowest yields in Napa Valley. They’ve maintained the same approach to winemaking since the 40’s which is to pick early to preserve acidity, use open-top cement tank fermentation, extended aging in neutral oak barrels of various sizes, some of which are now nearly 100 years old and hold wines back for years in neutral oak and in bottle before their release.
Although many traditions have been kept alive, the 2017 wildfire destruction on the property forced an upgrade of infrastructure and equipment allowing for more precision, efficiency and quality control. The estate’s 52 acres of vineyards have since been replanted to pull any vines that were diseased, burned, or phylloxera-afflicted, allowing them to give the soils a chance to regenerate, transition into new varietals, institute organic viticulture, and continue dry-farming, reviving the estate’s yields for the next generation. They currently make Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
Why do we love them?
Since 2013, the newest owners, the Schottenstein family, and winemakers Andy Erickson and Braiden Albrecht have rigorously preserved the identity of Mayacamas. They continue to produce some of the finest wines in the history of California. These are stunning, pure expressions of the varietals and an absolute must-try next time you want to splurge a little.
November 02, 2023
For those of you who are mezcal-curious but not trying to drop $80 on a bottle you’re not even sure you’ll like — we now have all four expressions of the Legendario Domingo mezcals in hip-flask sized bottles.
Try the purple Cenizo if something deep, creamy, and smoky sounds good to you. If something more tropical strikes your fancy, check out the pink Michoacan. Or try my personal favorite, the green Papalote, which has a kind of cucumber-lime vegetality I can’t stop sipping.
And speaking of sipping — Legendary Domingo also makes matching handmade clay copitas for you to drink from. A bottle plus matching copitas? Basically begging to be a gift.