Where has the year gone? It’s hard to believe that we are already coasting into the sunny and bright month of May! Summer is just around the corner. In the words of the gifted Lebanese poet-philosopher Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) “Be like the flower and turn your face to the sun.” If you have not made time already, be sure to get outside and soak up the good vibrations. We here at Paul Marcus are doing just that!And while we continue this month to enjoy the great outdoors and soak up Spring, we’ve made a note on our calendar to celebrate International Hummus Day on May 13th!

While 2019 marks the 7th anniversary of International Hummus Day, this historical dish has culinary roots dating back centuries and is mentioned in 13th century Arabic cookbooks. Not surprisingly, the Arabic word for chickpea is, you guessed it, hummus. Long considered a staple dish in countries like, Israel, Syria, Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey, hummus takes take on various renditions depending upon its origin. However, the principle elements include chickpeas, olive oil, tahini and garlic. The ingredients are ground to a paste, to be served as an accompaniment to with various fare.

And while hummus is certainly delicious, it is also good for you! Chick peas are nutrient dense members of the legume family, and are a great source of dietary fiber, vitamin B, and plant-based protein. A combination of complex carbohydrates and protein, eating chickpeas can aid in digestion, and help control blood sugar levels throughout the day. It is truly a super dip!

Need some inspiration on how best to celebrate International Hummus Day? For starters, how about whipping up your very own homemade version (so easy and fresh). Then enjoy for breakfast with eggs or toast, lunch as spread with grilled chicken, then pre dinner outside on the patio with a selection of crudités (as seen above). With all this hummus celebration, we would be remiss if we did not include an appropriate wine or two to pair with the festivities. A dry southern French rose is our top pick! Also, a sure bet to pair well with hummus, a crisp Spanish Verdejo or Corsican white. We’ve got these and many other vinous options available at Paul Marcus Wines.

How will you enjoy your hummus?

Hear ye, hear ye! Natural wines at Oakland’s most sophisticated wine shop – Paul Marcus Wines

What’s all the hullabaloo about natural wine? Here at Paul Marcus Wines we get questions – oh so many (wonderful) questions about wine from our customers. Many of these queries, and probably #1 in terms of frequency, involve food and wine. For example, what is the best wine to serve with grilled asparagus and roast chicken (we say Gruner Veltliner!). However, a close second most often involves which wines are produced from vineyards that are organically farmed, and even more specifically, bottles that are “natural wines”.

What is old is often new again, and such is the case with many principles and practices that encompass natural wine. You can learn more about the natural wine movement and its guiding principles in THE ANSWER: A Guide to Natural Wines.

Have we peaked your interest in natural wines? At the shop we’ve posted a natural wine legend (pictured above), to help you easily locate these vinous gems. Our natural wine guide accomplishes two things:

  1. Outlines our working definition and parameters for what constitutes a natural wine.
  2. Describes what each colored flower tag represents in terms of a specific style of wine. Namely, a red wine, white wine or orange wine (a white wine fermented on its skins, generally for a more extended length of time).

Note: these tags represent only a partial selection of natural wines available at PMW.

Of course, we are always here to answer questions regarding natural wines or provide a recommendation or two. However, we realize that sometimes folks just like to tour the shop, glean information on their own, then grab the perfect natural wine and go. If so, then our natural wine guide and nifty colored tags were made just for you.

We’ll see you at the shop!

What is Natural Wine?What is Natural Wine?

There is currently no official classification or official set of standards for the term “natural wine”. However, the wine profession today acknowledges that natural winemaking employs a low intervention and unmanipulated approach to producing wine, both in the vineyard and winery. Working with grapes that are, at the very least, organically farmed, natural winemakers produce wines that are minimally processed in order to showcase their unique and vibrant characteristics.

Are Natural Wines the same as organic wines?

Wines under the “Natural Wine” umbrella, so to speak, come from vineyards that are farmed naturally. These vineyards are farmed either organically or biodynamically. As such, no artificial fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides or pesticides are utilized. Some of the vineyards may carry an organic or biodynamic certification. Two examples include Ecocert and Demeter, respectively. However, these types of certification are not a requirement of natural wine.

While natural wines come from organically farmed vineyards, not all organically farmed wines are “natural wines”. An example: A wine might come from an organically farmed vineyard, but cultured yeast is used to start the primary fermentation. A second example: Organically farmed grape must (unfermented grape juice) might be doctored with the addition of tartaric acid before the primary fermentation in order to increase acidity and improve the balance of a wine.

What is permitted and restricted in natural winemaking?

Throughout the winemaking process, natural winemakers adhere to the guiding principle “nothing added, nothing taken away.” More specifically, primary fermentation takes place via native yeasts, and without the introduction of cultured yeast strains either during the primary or malolactic fermentation (if this occurs). Natural winemakers also eschew any and all additions or subtractions to wine during the winemaking process. This includes chaptalization, acidification, must concentration, or chemical additions to alter the texture, color or tannic structure of the wine. Natural wines are also bottled un-fined and unfiltered, as natural winemakers believe that doing so alters the inherent quality, and in some cases, the age worthiness of the wine. Natural wines are bottled either with no, or minimal amounts of SO2 or sulfur dioxide.

Do Natural Wines contain sulfites?

Natural wines are bottled either with no, or minimal amounts of SO2 or sulfur dioxide. The decision to add or refrain from using sulfur dioxide at bottling is open to debate within the natural wine world. Certain winemakers avoid any SO2 addition before bottling, as they believe that the chemical additive alters the inherent quality and vibrancy of the wine. However, other natural winemakers bottle their wines with modest additions of SO2, (to prevent premature oxidation or microbial growth) to ensure that the wines are stable enough to travel overseas and withstand possible changing environments. In these instances, the levels of SO2 utilized are well below industry standards, often not exceeding 40mg/L.

Note: all wines contain SO2 (collectively known as sulfites), as it is a by-product of fermentation. Even wines that are bottled without sulfur may concentrations of SO2 of up to 10 ml/L.

My glass of natural wine is hazy and has sediment, is this normal?

Natural wines are in most instances bottled un-fined and unfiltered, as natural winemakers believe that doing so compromises the inherent quality, wine experience, and in some cases, the age worthiness of the wine. This applies to all styles of wine including red, white, rose and sparkling. This being the case, it is not unusual, and completely acceptable, for white wines to exhibit a slightly hazing appearance, or for red wines to contain residual sediment at the bottom of the glass.

How can I identify Natural wines?

There is currently no official certification for natural wines. As such, a definitive list of natural wine producers is somewhat nebulous. However, a great place to start familiarize oneself with the natural winemakers and wineries, is to check out Raw Wine. Founded by Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron, Raw Wine is a website dedicated to promoting natural wines via education and their annual natural wine fair. Included on the site is a list of producers around the world who adhere to natural winemaking principles.

It is important to note that many wineries who do not actively identify with the natural wine movement have in fact been making wines in this manner for generations. The guidelines of natural winemaking are in many instances the same principles that winemakers employed more than a hundred years ago, and before the rise of agri-business in the second half of the 20th century. This being the case, it’s also a great idea to ask your favorite local wine merchant exactly which producers employ natural winemaking principles.

Artichokes - hard-to-pair spring vegetables

Sunny days, new blossoms, birdsong… And the arrival of an assortment of Spring-specific produce. It’s official, the season is here! Artichokes, asparagus, broad beans and green garlic.These delectable and hard-to-pair with veggies are everywhere, begging to be put into pasta, frittata, risotto and braises. And while we here at Paul Marcus agree that wine almost always enhances a meal, with these Spring arrivals, not just any wine will do! A red wine can clash with their strong earthy flavors, leaving you with a bitter taste in your mouth, while some whites can even become sweet and cloying when paired with them. Why does this happen, you might ask? Get ready for a little bit of science (but nothing too heavy, I promise!)

Artichokes - hard-to-pair spring vegetables

First of all, artichokes contain a chemical called cynarin which is unique to the plant. This cynarin binds to taste buds when you eat, temporarily inhibiting your ability to perceive sweetness. However, when you take a sip after your artichoke dip, that cynarin gets washed away, and voila! after its gone, suddenly everything tastes super sweet. Wow! In order to avoid this, it is best to select an herbaceous, high-acid white wine with no residual sugar. Although more than a few wines fit this bill- like Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio- sommeliers and chefs agree that the most classic pairing with artichokes is an Austrian grape called Gruner Veltliner (Say: “Grew-nuh-felt-lean-ah.”) Gruner Veltliner generally produces wines dominated by vegetal notes, but many are also underscored by citrus, pear, melon, and subtle white pepper flavors. Its best served ice cold (and also goes beautifully with Japanese food- another fave cuisine of Spring).

Asparagus - Hard-to-Pair Spring VegetablesNow, let’s move on to asparagus. Since it has such an abundance of umami flavor, this veggie can make your glass or red taste metallic and stunted. I know, if that is the case, then why does red wine taste so wonderful with steak or cheeses, both which contain that lovely “umami” flavor? The answer is that unlike these foods, asparagus (and artichokes, for that matter) don’t have enough fat and salt in them, and your red ends up tasting acerbic. So if you are featuring asparagus in one of your recipes, it’s definitely best to reach for a white wine. And Gruner is a perfect pairing with this veggie as well! It truly is the solution to Spring’s fresh and zesty dishes. Come in and try the value-driven Malat or Gyerhof Gruners, or ask for a Schloss Gobelsburg or Brundelmyer if you are looking for something more high-end. You can find them all in Austrian section at the back of the shop.

The glorious cabinet of artifacts pictured above is part of the collection at the Naturkunden Museum in Berlin. Curated in the early part of the 18th century, the cabinet showcases coral, sea sponges, and an assortment of shells – small wonders of the natural world. Curiosity, or curio cabinets have been around for hundreds of years. During the 16th and 17th centuries, curio cabinets often displayed ambitious collections of naturalia (natural artifacts), artefacta (ancient objects) and scientifica (instruments of science). These cabinets (and in some cases – entire rooms or Wunderkammer) often served as mementos of the owner-curator’s travels and life experiences. Further examination and reflection of each object assembled in a particular cabinet was meant to inspire wonder, enjoyment and further exploration.

In the spirit of wonder, enjoyment and exploration, Paul Marcus Wines is very proud to share with you our very own (cold) curio cabinet!

Ensconced on our back wall, between our Barbaresco and Germany/Austria sections, you’ll find an eclectic collection of white, sparkling and rose wines from across the globe. And, if you look closely, you’ll even spot an artisanal beer or cider! We constantly change up and add new selections, empowering you to take a new wine adventure each time you explore our cold cabinet.

And for those of you who prefer to revisit a wine several times before moving onto a new adventure, we’ve kept the bottom shelf of the cabinet stocked with a range of reliable, go-to wines. These customer favorites will be around for a spell – or at least until we run out.

We hope that our curio cold cabinet inspires you to further explore and enjoy the world of wine. And of course, we are always available to make a recommendation, or to answer any questions that you might have.

We’ll see you at the shop!

Here comes the Sun! I suspect that most of us are ready for spring! After a cool and very rainy winter, Mother Earth has rewarded us with a bounty of floral and vegetative riches. Southern California is currently experiencing several super blooms, and here in the SF Bay area you can’t walk a city block without being graced by a riotous plethora of our state flower – the California poppy. Flowers, flowers everywhere! (Incidentally, these three photos were taken just blocks from the shop.)

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As we enjoy the new spring season, and the renewal of nature, how appropriate it is that on April 22 we celebrate Earth Day. This international day of recognition and appreciation for our planet was first celebrated in 1970. Founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson, Earth Day activities promoted ecology and respect for all life on our planet. Fast forward almost fifty years, and Earth Day is celebrated in over 193 countries. What is the best way to celebrate and appreciate the planet earth on Earth Day? Go surfing, sailing, or swimming? Perhaps take in a nature walk in a city park or country trail. And along the way pick up some litter that happens to dot the landscape. The possibilities are endless.

In celebration of Earth Day, PMW wishes to acknowledge Horse & Plow, a human scale winery created by Suzanne Hagins & Chris Condos in 2008. This husband and wife team work with a small community of growers along California’s North Coast, Sonoma and Mendocino counties who employ only certified organic or biodynamic practices in their vineyards.

In the winery, Horse & Plow wines are made naturally, with no synthetic nutrients or additions, and or GMOs. All of the wines are vegan and contain low levels of sulfites. Horse & Plow is committed to making wines that are balanced, food-friendly, and that respect and care for the eco-systems from where they are produced. In short, they appreciate and honor our mother earth 365 days each year.

At PMW this month we’ve got two new arrivals from Horse & Plow:

The 2018 Horse & Plow Rose is composed of 100% Carignan, which comes from some of the oldest vines in the state! Vibrant and dry, with nuances of wild strawberry, beet and a super crisp finish!

The 2018 Horse & Plow Draft Horse White is an eclectic blend of white varieties (we think Riesling, Pinot Blanc predominantly, but this is as yet to be confirmed.) But seriously, no matter as the sum here is greater than its parts, and might we add, delicious! Crisp, and bright, with nuances of quince, pear and tangerine. Say hello to Spring!

With the arrival of spring, Paul Marcus Wines is ready to showcase our growing rosé selection!

What does a lighter pink wine signify? Will a darker hued rose taste sweet? Making a fruity but balanced pink wine is no small task. In fact, many winemakers confide that vinifying rosé wine can be more challenging than red or white wine production.

Why is this so? The answer: A rosé wine must walk a tightrope, balancing components of fruit, acid and alcohol with very little margin of error. Too much of any one component leaves what should otherwise be a fresh, crisp and vibrant pink, flat on its back, tasting ponderous and dull.  However, making the perfect pink wine is not just a matter of mixing red and white grape juice…

How is Rosé Wine Made?

High quality rosé wine is made utilizing the following 3 production methods:

Direct Press Method

After harvest, red grapes undergo skin contact for a short period of time before being pressed off. How much time exactly? Anywhere from almost immediately to 16 hours or so. During this period, a limited amount of color is extracted from the skins, often resulting in a lightly colored juice. A very pale and barely pink wine is sometimes referred to as a Vin Gris.  If the grapes are left on their skins a bit longer, a darker hue will result. A rosé produced via the direct press method is pictured above.

Saignée Method

The process saignée or bleeding off juice, was originally employed as a method of concentrating wine must before fermentation in order to produce a more robust red. Red grapes, either crushed or uncrushed but broken (preferable), are chilled down and macerate, generally between 1-4 days. The juice is then be drawn off or “bled” and without being pressed. This juice is then often fermented at cooler temperatures, in a similar manner to that of a white wine the finished rosé is generally a more robust and deeply colored wine. A rosé produced via the saignée method is pictured above.

Note: the finished color of a rose does not indicate a sweetness level. If all the sugar has been converted to alcohol during the fermentation process, the resulting wine will be a dry one, regardless of the color.

Blended Method

After fermentation is complete, white and red wines (usually around 5%) are blended together in order to achieve a desired level of pink or blush tint. The blending method is rarely employed in making still rosé wines and is illegal in the EU. However, the blended method is commonly used in the production of high-quality rosé Champagne as well as high quality sparkling wines around the world. The Champagne house Billecart-Salmon produces their iconic rosé Champagne in this manner.

With so many rosé wines, and so little time, it’s time to dive in and get started!

 

 

These 2018 rosé wines from our local winery friends are now available at Paul Marcus wines and ready for you to take home.

Expect to see a steady parade of pink over the next several months, from wine regions across the globe, and produced via the 3 methods of rose production described above. As you may know, we’re huge Rosé fanatics, and we can’t stop talking about Pink!

We’ll see you at the shop!

In our last newsletter we mentioned that a special project was in the works here at Paul Marcus Wines. News update: We are very pleased to announce that the PMW Wine League packs are now in the shop and ready to roll! Please note: Only a very limited number of these special bundles are available.

The Wine League

We currently have 2 different selections. The first tier includes a white and red from Terenzuola, a family owned winery located a stone’s throw from the Ligurian coast. Our second-tier highlights 2 Savoie selections from Uliz, and rising star winemaker Antoine Petitprez. The nifty little flyer above explains the details.

PMW Wine League Zine Issue #1

Wine League Zine

Also, included with your selection is our inaugural issue of the Paul Marcus Wine Zine!

Inside this issue, you’ll find additional information regarding the wineries featured with each pack. Also, recipe and cheese pairing suggestions for each wine. And in celebration of PMW’s 32 years as part of the Rockridge community, we’re revisiting the history of how Paul Marcus Wines came to be. The PMW wine journey has been a great trip thus far, and we look forward to many more adventures!

Time sure does fly when you’re having fun! It’s hard to believe that on March 14th, 1987 Paul Marcus Wines first opened its doors to a thirsty Rockridge neighborhood. At the time, our spirited leader, Paul Marcus opened this dynamic shop full of vinous goodies to share his enthusiasm for wine, and the European concept that wine is an integral part of a meal.

Paul Marcus & employee # 1 Joel Mullennix

Paul Marcus & employee # 1 Joel Mullennix

Fast forward to 2019, the “wine is food” motto rings true for us at Paul Marcus Wines more than ever.  So, whether you are looking for a new wine to enjoy with tonight’s take out, or an upcoming special event, we are here to help you!

And now for breaking news: In the spirit of turning 32 years young, we at Paul Marcus Wines are rolling out on a special and super fun project.

In the next couple of weeks, we will introduce two sets of exciting wines to share with you. The wines in each set of two bottles each will showcase a specific wine region, made by dedicated and talented vignerons.  Of course, it goes without saying that these wines pair beautifully with food!

Along with the selection of wines, you’ll find a nifty little zine, to peruse while you enjoy the accompanying selections. Inside we’ll include information regarding the featured wines, along with a bit of backstory as to why we find them so fantastic. We will also share a simple recipe that can be whipped up on the fly, as well as other fun, inspirational content.

In this first edition we’ll also revisit the history of Paul Marcus Wines, and learn more about Paul’s early days starting and running his bustling, pocket-sized wine shop.

These wine sets will be very limited, and available only at Paul Marcus Wines. We’ll be sure to let you know when they are good to go. Please stay tuned, and we’ll see you at the shop!

Sake does not fight with food!

As many of our customers already know, wines that pair with food are our specialty here at Paul Marcus Wines. However, our hearts and palates are not limited to wine. Enter, sake, the national beverage of Japan, and a very food friendly beverage to boot.

Due in part to its subtle flavors, lower acidity and near absence of tannin, sake does not run the risk of overpowering many dishes. In addition to traditional Japanese cuisine, the perfect sake can pair with a wide variety of fare, including grilled meats, fish, roasted vegetables, fried foods and many appetizers. There are even off dry – delicately sweet sake that pair well with spicy dishes.

Want to know more about the sake or need a pairing suggestion? Then please stop by Paul Marcus Wines and we’ll share with you our newly arrived selection from Japan Prestige Sake.

In the meantime, we’ve put together a short list, if you will, of commonly asked questions regarding this nuanced and versatile beverage. Please read on!

What is sake?

Simply stated, Sake is an alcoholic beverage produced from polished white rice grains. Along with this base material, water and a mold laden rice known as koji are combined in order to transform the rice kernels into a sugary liquid. The addition of yeast then converts this liquid via the process of fermentation into the alcoholic beverage known as Sake.

How is sake different from wine, distilled spirits and beer?

Sake is an alcoholic beverage made from rice. Wine is an alcoholic beverage made from fruit, and most often, grapes.

Sake (like wine) undergoes a fermentation via the introduction of yeast in order to transform sugars into an alcoholic beverage. Distilled spirits start with a fermented product containing alcohol, which is then most often heated in order to capture, cool and condense the vapors that are released during heating process. This process is known as distillation.

Sake, like beer, is made from starchy, solid grains, however the process by which this starch is converted to sugar such that fermentation can begin is very different. In beer production, unpolished grains germinate, which enable them to convert densely stored starches into fermentable sugars. This process is known as malting.

As sake rice kernels are polished beforehand, they do not contain the necessary components (the germ), to undergo the malting process. For this reason, a mold known as koji must be added to the steamed rice in order to convert the rice starch into fermentable sugars.

What is the alcohol level of sake?

Sake generally has an alcohol level of between 15-17%, which in most instances is higher than most wines ands beer.  However, sake is much lower in alcohol than distilled spirits like vodka, gin, tequila or whisky, which are generally bottled at or around 40% abv.

How do I know if a sake is sweet or dry?

The S.M.V. (Sake Meter Value) is the gauge for measuring the dryness or sweetness of the sake. The higher the S.M.V., the drier the sake.  The SMV range extends from -99 for very sweet sake to 10+ for some of the driest. The median value of S.M.V. is +3, which would for most drinkers register as a dry, but plush example of sake. However, like wine, there are a myriad of components (acidity, pH, mouthfeel) that determine if a sake tastes sweet or dry to a sake particular drinker. What one person might find very sweet and lush, another might quite dry.

What is the best way to serve and drink sake?

The best way to enjoy sake is in a neutral vessel, preferably made of glass or glazed ceramic. The traditional O-choko works very well. A Wine glass is also an excellent option, especially for sake that is served chilled or at room temperature. You’ll want to avoid any vessel that has a porous texture, like wood, that could impart additional flavors to the sake.

Once open, how long does a bottle of sake last?

An open bottle of sake can last anywhere from 1-2 weeks if refrigerated properly. However, during this period, the sake will begin to lose its subtle nuances and flavors. As such, the ideal consumption period for most open sake is over the course of one to several days.

Is a chilled sake always higher quality than a sake that is served warm?

Not necessarily. Sake that are more delicate and fruit driven are often served slightly chilled in order to enhance the melon, pear and fresh nuances of the beverage. On the other hand, full bodied sake that display more savory or earthy components often show best served at room temperature or even slightly warm.