When it comes to an ideal Thanksgiving wine list, most people turn to Burgundy or Beaujolais–and rightly so. Pinot noir and its distant cousin, gamay noir, produce lively, approachable, adaptable red wines with relatively supple tannins and brilliant acidity, making them supreme additions to the crowded holiday table.

And white Burgundy, made from chardonnay, presents a fine option, too. While New World chardonnay is often too plump and oaky to accompany a wide range of food, Burgundian versions (particularly Chablis) tend to be sleek, minerally, and graceful, but still boasting ample fruit and texture to find its place at the feast.

Yet, if you’d like to broaden your horizons and impress your holiday companions, the folks here at Paul Marcus Wines have got you covered. There are numerous other choices that would fit comfortably on a Thanksgiving table, and below are some of our staff’s most appealing picks.

Paradox in a Bottle

I immediately thought of the 2017 Colombera & Garella Coste della Sesia, a nebbiolo blend from the north of Italy. Every year, this wine surprises me with its ability to embody paradox; it achieves a seemingly impossible balance between rich fruit and taut acidity. Each sip reveals this happy duality, and the rippling acid makes you want another glass, or three.

Whether guests are vegetarian or carnivore, this medium-bodied red has the ability to provide a great drinking experience for everyone at the table–versatility is only one of its many virtues. There is enough fruit for the dark-meat lovers, but it also has the requisite vibrancy to please the pearl-onion lovers, and it will even make Uncle Bill–who always, and oddly, wears his yellow suit–smile.

A blend of 70 percent nebbiolo, 15 percent croatina, and 15 percent vespolina, it’s inexpensive at $24, so I’d get two, or seven, depending on how many (or who) you are serving. Happy holidays, y’all.
– Chad Arnold

That Pelaverga

A light, easy-drinking party wine that is by no means dilute, the 2018 Cascina Massara Burlotto Verduno Pelaverga tastes like strawberries and pepper, which would make it a good pairing with many Thanksgiving dishes. It’s also 14.5 percent ABV (for those of us who would like a little buzz during the holiday season).

And the locals of Piemonte say it’s an aphrodisiac.
– Layla Khabiri

Jurassic Spark

The 2017 Domaine des Marnes Blanches Savagnin En Quatre Vis, from the esteemed Jura region of eastern France, unravels some of my favorite aromas and textures embodied in a deep, golden hue. It offers lime blossom and a minty freshness buoyed by saline, nutty tones, and orchard fruit.
– Jason Seely

Domestic Dalliances

There are so many different flavors on the Thanksgiving table, from bitter cruciferous to sweet cranberry, that a mash-up of grapes from a master winemaker makes perfect sense. Sean Thackrey’s new La Pleïade II California White Blend hits a delicious balance between aromatic varietals like gewürztraminer and the more textural, such as grenache blanc. It has enough weight to hold its own against gravy, but not so much to provoke fatigue.

If you’re leaning toward red wine, it should be fresh–not weighted with oak aging–and deliver sweetness of fruit sufficient to announce itself, without being syrupy. The 2017 Vinca Minor Carignan, Jason Charles’ organically grown, old-vine carignan from Mendocino, is all that and even comes with hints of cranberry.
– David Gibson

Aromatic Transmission

Light, bright, and accessible, the 2016 Metrick Mourvèdre is a juicy complement to most any Thanksgiving dish. Notes of bright red cherries, a slight tartness, and amazing aromatics make this a perfect pairing for turkey, cranberry sauce, and stuffing.
– Hayden Dawkins

Corsican Charm

Made from 100 percent sciaccarellu, the 2017 Clos Fornelli La Robe d’Ange, a concrete-aged Corsican beauty, is nuanced and nimble, offering a bit of earth, a touch of spice, a thrust of red fruit, and just enough tannic clench to hold it all together. Thanks to warm days, cool nights, and mineral-rich soil, this indigenous grape offers elegance, focus, and, most important, flexibility. Pale in color and medium in body, it will sing with poultry; its wave of acidity will perk up any side dish you can think of.
– Marc Greilsamer

Song of Sicily

A bright, vibrant red with lovely fruit, spice, and floral notes, the 2018 Valle dell’Acate Frappato is an excellent alternative to deal with all of the various savory and sweet flavors at a Thanksgiving dinner. For something with a bit darker fruit and a smoother, richer feel, try their 2014 Cerasuolo di Vittoria, a blend of 40 percent frappato with 60 percent nero d’avola.
– Joel Mullennix

Finally, Why Not Brachetto?

Our friend, Barbaresco producer Andre Sottimano, makes an attractive dry brachetto, the 2018 Sottimano Maté. Grown primarily in Piemonte, the brachetto grape produces wines that are light in color, with flavors that lean toward spicy rose and strawberry. With its impressive lift, I think this wine will surprise you in how much fun it is to drink.
– Paul Marcus

Of course, if you’d rather stick to the classics, Paul Marcus Wines does offer a wide selection of Burgundy and Beaujolais. Look for wines from Burgundy bigwigs such as Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey, Marchand-Tawse, and Domaine de Montille, as well as Beaujolais stars like Alex Foillard and Yann Bertrand.

Happy holidays, and see you at the shop!

As the holidays approach, our thoughts often turn to bubbly, which makes Champagne appreciation a rather important topic this time of year. Last month, in Part I of our Champagne survey, we discussed how to recognize the three major categories of Champagne producers. In Part II, we will now consider the region’s distinct styles and flavor profiles.

Rosé Champagne

What would the world be like without rosé Champagne? In fact, pink champagne was produced in limited quantities until the late 1970s. However, since the 1980s, the demand for rosé Champagne has taken off, and thankfully, it appears there is no turning back. In addition to the gorgeous pink hue that such wines display, the inherently fruitier and more forward style combined with high acidity also make for very food-friendly offerings.

Although the practice of blending red and white wine to produce a “pink” wine is strictly prohibited under regulations elsewhere in France, in Champagne this method is not only allowed, it is the most commonly used method of rosé production. More specifically, winemakers will add somewhere in the range of 8 percent to 20 percent (usually around 15 percent) of a red still wine–often pinot noir from a well-reputed village such as Bouzy.

A second and less utilized method of production is known as saignée. In this case, a Champagne producer basically does what just about every other winemaker in the world does when making a rosé wine: leave the juice on the grape skins and macerate the fruit in order to extract color. After a period of skin contact and maceration, the wine is bled off (in French, the verb saigner means to bleed) and winemaking proceeds.

The resulting rosé wine often exhibits a darker hue, along with juicier, bolder flavors. Some argue that this style of rosé Champagne ages better than those made by adding red wine, because the flavor compounds are more effectively integrated.

Blanc de Blancs

The second style of champagne, referred to as Blanc de Blancs, is composed entirely of white-skinned grapes. In the case of Champagne, this is almost always chardonnay. And while chardonnay is grown throughout the region, some of the finest examples come from the Côte des Blancs.

The Côte des Blancs lies south of the Champagne capital of Épernay and stretches southward more than 20 kilometers. Here, chardonnay reigns supreme, where it is planted to predominantly east-facing vineyard sites. Over the centuries, each grand cru village in the Côte des Blancs has established a reputation or characteristic style: Cramant for its heightened aromatics and bouquet, Avize for its focus and delicacy, Oger for its fine bouquet and raciness, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger for its superior finesse and intensity, and Vertus for its inherent fruitiness and roundness.

In its youth, a Blanc de Blancs can sometimes seem a bit austere or one-dimensional. Fresh citrus, lemon curd, and biscuit are common descriptors. However, with several years of aging, wonderfully complex nuances can develop like toasted bread, grilled hazelnuts, dried flowers, and even salty-savory notes.

Blanc de Noirs

Blanc de Noirs is a (non-rosé) sparkling wine vinified using only red-skinned grapes, which, in the case of Champagne, means pinot meunier and pinot noir. Hardy pinot meunier buds later than chardonnay and pinot noir, and for this reason is most often planted in the more frost-prone areas of the Marne Valley. Meunier-based champagnes will often exhibit more earthy, nutty flavors, along with dried orchard fruits. They pair wonderfully with heartier fare like roasted meats, mushroom-based dishes, and pungent cow’s milk cheeses.

Pinot noir is the variety most often found in Blanc de Noirs. In Champagne, pinot noir generally ripens earlier than chardonnay and pinot meunier and is most often planted in the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Bar. Providing body, structure, and complexity, pinot noir-based Champagne reaches great heights in the grand cru villages of Bouzy, Ay, and Ambonnay.

A great example of a Blanc de Noirs from the villages of Bouzy and Ambonnay is André Clouet’s Brut Grande Réserve. Terrific shades of red fruits, roasted hazelnuts, and biscuits showcase the opulence and superb balance of this grand cru Champagne.

This delightful bottle (along with dozens of others, spanning every style) is available at Paul Marcus Wines. Come visit us at the shop to learn more about the wonders of Champagne.

Champagne, perhaps more than any other wine region in the world, is recognized for its high-profile luxury brands. Grande Marque (essentially “big brand”) houses like Veuve Clicquot, Moët & Chandon, and Louis Roederer are familiar to just about anyone who has ever celebrated with a bottle of bubbly. However, if one looks more closely, Champagne is comprised of an elaborate infrastructure of grape growers, family-owned wineries, and even cooperatives.

Yet, understanding who makes what, and how, is much easier than one might think. The first step is recognizing the three major categories of producers. All you need to do is look for the fine print on the label; a set of two-letter abbreviations will let you know in which category your Champagne belongs. The three most significant abbreviations are outlined below.

NM (négociant manipulant)

These producers buy fruit from independent growers to produce their wines, although many of them maintain their own vineyard holdings in addition. Most of the larger Champagne houses, including Les Grandes Marques, fall into this category. You can identify a producer as a négociant manipulant by the letters NM written in fine print.

Examples of NM producers in Champagne: Krug, Bollinger, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier-Jouet, Jacquesson, Fleury, Taittinger

An example is Taittinger shown below. Note the term NM in the bottom left-hand corner of the label.

RM (récoltant manipulant)

The wines in this category are commonly referred to as grower-producer Champagne. These producers may only use a maximum of 5 percent purchased grapes in the production of their wines; at least 95 percent must come from their proper vineyard holdings. These bottles will have the letters RM written in fine print.

Examples of RM producers in Champagne: Bruno Michel, Franck Pascal, Georges Laval, Pierre Moncuit, Marie-Courtin, Ulysse Collin

An example is Pierre Moncuit shown below. Note the term RM in the bottom right-hand corner of the label.

Here is another example of an RM producer, Marc Hebrart. Notice the RM designation listed in the middle of the label.

CM (coopérative de manipulation)

A Champagne with the CM abbreviation signifies that a cooperative cellar produced the wine with grapes sourced from its member growers. Perhaps the most famous CM brand is Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte, which sources its grapes from more than 4,500 growers and creates a wide array of blends with fruit from across the region. Note the term CM listed on the label of the brand’s memorable prestige cuvee, Palmes d’Or.

Please keep in mind that these classifications are not qualitative ones. There are great NMs, mediocre CMs, and lackluster RMs. There are also a few other designations to recognize, although they are not often found in the United States.

SR (société de récoltants): This abbreviation refers to an association of grape growers, often family members, who share a winemaking facility, but produce wine under their own labels and are not part of a cooperative.

RC (récoltant coopérateur): An RC producer is a cooperative member who sells a wine produced by the co-op, but under its own name and label.

MA (marque auxiliaire or marque d’acheteur): Essentially, MA signifies a “brand name,” one that is not owned by the grower or producer of the wine, but rather a supermarket, hotel, or restaurant chain. MA brands are commonly referred to as BOBs, or “buyer’s own brand,” as well as “private labels.”

ND (négociant distributeur): A wine merchant who markets Champagne under its own name gets the ND abbreviation.

Now that we’ve discussed the different producer categories, stay tuned for Part II of our Champagne survey, which will consider the distinct flavor profiles offered by wines of the region. In the meantime, visit us at Paul Marcus Wines, where we feature a wide variety of grower-producer Champagne from the likes of Georges Laval, Pierre Moncuit, and Ulysse Collin, as well as offerings from the esteemed NM producer Jacquesson among many others.

If you’re a Seinfeld enthusiast, you might very well remember Kramer’s passionate description of paella: “Oh, it’s an orgiastic feast for the senses … a festival of sights, sounds, and colors…” To be sure, this fragrant, flavorful rice-based mélange remains one of Spain’s most recognizable and revered culinary treasures.

Paella Cooking Over Wood Fire

Paella a la Marinera being prepared over an open wood fire

Pairing a wine with this savory delicacy can be a bit tricky: Choose a bottle too reserved, and it will get lost in the forest of flavors; choose something too robust, and you’ll drown out the dish’s complexity and nuance.

Of course, the key to determining the proper bottle for your “orgiastic feast” is distinguishing which variation of paella you’ll be enjoying. The term paella merely refers to the expansive, short-rimmed, gently rounded pan that is used to prepare the dish, customarily warmed over a wood fire. To make paella, you’re looking for the largest pan surface available, so that most of the rice makes contact with the heat. You’ll also need a variety of rice (such as bomba) that is particularly absorbent, one that gleefully soaks up the myriad flavors and aromas.

With that in mind, let’s talk about the various paella adaptations and their corresponding wine alternatives (all available at Paul Marcus Wines).

Paella Valenciana

This classic, saffron-infused version of paella is the most traditional variant, usually including some combination of chicken, rabbit, duck, beans, peppers, and garlic. Earthy and aromatic, with savory and spicy notes, mencía, a red grape most commonly from Galicia in northwest Spain, would be a wonderful partner with this full-flavored meal. (You’ll want to avoid anything overly tannic.)

For an introduction to this grape, try the Valdesil Valederroa, an appealingly simple yet engaging wine, aged in stainless steel and offering bright red fruit and supple tannins. For something with a bit more gravitas, the Lousas cuvée by Envínate, from the slate soils of Galicia’s Ribeira Sacra region, is a juicy and lifted mencía, yet also boasts considerable depth and minerality.

Another worthy choice is the Eidos Ermos from star producer Luis Anxo Rodriguez Vazquez. A vibrant field blend of indigenous red Ribeiro grapes, it’s lower in alcohol and tannins, yet, with its dark complexion and relatively lighter body, is full of energy and finesse. You can also go with a richer white wine as well–something like the Viña Gravonia or even the Viña Tondonia from esteemed Rioja producer Lopez de Heredia. Aged in barrel and fined with egg whites, these standout wines, based on the viura grape, are two of Spain’s most sought-after whites.

Paella Marinera

Also known as seafood paella, this rendition typically offers flavors that are a bit more restrained and usually includes some blend of clams, mussels, shrimp, and squid. Anytime you’re enjoying shellfish, the white godello grape leaps to mind–clean and refreshing, but with a bit of texture and intensity. Valdesil’s Pezas Da Portela godello is one of great vitality and vigor, having seen a bit of skin contact and six months of aging on the lees in barrel.


For something a little lighter and crisper, try an albariño from Granbazán or Do Ferreiro. Boasting albariño’s customary acidity and salinity, these wines are fleshed out by a bit of lees aging. You can also look to the Basque Country and go for a racy txakolina, blanco or rosado, from Ameztoi–wines that are slightly effervescent and supremely palate-cleansing.

Canary Island whites featuring the listan blanco grape would also work well here. At its best, this grape offers a blend of power and elegance normally associated with white Burgundy–both Suertes del Marqués and Envínate proffer top-notch examples of listan blanco’s capabilities.

Looking for a recipe? Try out Market Hall Foods’s own Paella à la Marinera recipe.

Paella Mixta

Containing both meat and seafood (and often including chorizo or a similar-type sausage), paella mixta partners well with a younger (crianza) Rioja red, such as Lopez de Heredia’s Viña Cubillo. A blend of roughly two-thirds tempranillo buttressed by garnacha, mazuelo, and graciano, this Rioja sees used American oak, but magically retains a freshness and energy that makes it sing with such a heady dish.


Canary Island reds from Suertes del Marqués and Envínate, based on the listan negro grape, might also fit the bill. These wines are dark-fruited and bursting with smoke and spice, thanks to their volcanic provenance. Even a Canary Island rosado, such as La Araucaria by Dolores Cabrera Fernández, would impress with paella mixta–tart, brambly, and exotic, this wine has enough going on to match the wild flavors of the dish.

Paella Negra


This “black rice” variation, which is bathed in squid or octopus ink, offers bold, brash, and concentrated flavors. While many of the above wines would succeed here, you can also try to balance the intensity of the dish with something refreshing and purifying. Say, the Avinyó Reserva Brut Nature Cava, a dry, focused, and snappy sparkling white made from xarel-lo and macabeu. A still xarelo-lo, like the Desig from Mas Candi, can deliver both the acidity and the weight necessary for such a rich creation.

Don’t Forget Sherry

Finally, adventurous paella lovers might turn to the fortified wines of the Jeréz triangle. Drier, lighter sherries biologically aged underneath a layer of yeast offer the perfect salty tang for seafood paella–try the Lustau Fino del Puerto Gonzales Obregon or La Cigarrera Manzanilla. For paella valenciana, the amber-hued Colosia Amontillado steadies its briny tinges with nutty overtones. For the heaviest versions of paella, you can reach for an oloroso sherry like El Maestro Sierra Oloroso, which ages oxidatively for 15 years in solera and, though still dry, offers richness and complexity.

For further suggestions about paella pairing, please visit us at Paul Marcus Wines. We’ll be happy to help! Or if you’d like to see further Prickly Pairings, head over to our “Pairings” page.

We get this question a lot at Paul Marcus Wines: What is the best method for preserving an open but unfinished bottle of wine? As we like to say, “Pour some more!” Of course, that is not always an option. When you need to save the remaining wine from an open bottle, there are various methods and products available to help, but which way is best?

The Reason Wine Spoils

Before we can discuss our options for wine preservation, we need to understand what makes wine spoil in the first place. There are two major components to wine spoilage.

First, there is acetic acid bacteria and vinegar. For the most part, when you open a bottle of wine, there will be trace amounts of acetic acid bacteria already present. Due to the low oxygen and stable environment, growth is inhibited. After a bottle of wine has been opened, however, oxygen will initiate chemical reactions among the acetic acid bacteria, ethanol, and sugar molecules available. This, in turn, produces vinegar. Vinegar is the product of alcoholic fermentation by yeast (ethanol) followed with acetous fermentation by acetic acid bacteria and any available sugar in the wine (glucose).

Second, there is oxygen and acetaldehyde. When wine comes into contact with oxygen, a chemical compound called acetaldehyde is produced. On the positive side, acetaldehyde leads to a concentration of color and helps bring out nuanced aromas and flavors–perhaps a hint of nuttiness, maybe notes of baked apples, sometimes a grassy factor. (This is why decanting helps accentuate a wine’s profile.) Too much oxygen, however, and the wine will no longer bear its fresh fruit or offer a strong nose; rather, it becomes flat-tasting, with little or no bouquet and a dull, copperish tone.

How Long Does It Take for Wine to Spoil?

The speed at which a wine spoils can vary tremendously, from a single day to more than a month. Depending on what type of wine you’re drinking and how it’s stored, there isn’t a single answer. Below we have listed the most typical ranges for wines using basic storage practices: cork in the bottle and bottle in the fridge.

Sparkling Wine – 1-3 Days

Sparkling wines can be expected to last the shortest period, simply because of the carbonation you need to retain to give them their sparkle. The longer sparkling wine is stored, the less brightness and effervescence will show on the next pour.

White Wine and Rose (Light) – 3-7 Days

Due to typically higher acidity and, often, employment of stabilizing chemicals, lighter whites can last a fair amount of time in a fridge. You can expect the wines to gain oxidized properties and lose their intensity over time.

White Wine (Full) – 3-5 Days

Now it may seem a little backward that a full-bodied white may not last as long as a lighter white, but this is because they will oxidize at a much quicker rate due to the nature in which they were produced.

Red Wine – 3-7 Days

Due to the phenols in red wine, you can expect a slightly longer storage time without degradation in quality. Red wines, over the course of a week, will begin to taste more like vinegar and lose their bright fruits. On the other hand, some wines require more time to breathe (more oxygen) in order to truly shine, often tasting better the next day. It’s certainly fine to store red wine in the refrigerator–just let it return to room temperature (if you want) before drinking.

Fortified Wine – 1-8 Weeks

Unlike other wines, fortified wines like port and sherry have a hefty amount of alcohol and are, for the most part, intensely oxidized, meaning they can be stored for a lot longer without noticeable loss in quality. Of course, this all depends on the type of fortified wine and your storage methods. A lighter, drier fino or manzanilla sherry, for example, will certainly lose some of its zip after a few days, while a richer oloroso sherry can survive for several weeks after opening.

As it happens, some wines can last for months on end. This is where we welcome Madeira and Marsala. These two fortified wines are heavily oxidized during production, and the grape must has been cooked, resulting in wines with intense flavor profiles and aromas associated with oxidation. While there are other fortified wines that can last more than a few weeks, these two will generally last the longest.

Image from Vacuvin

How Do You Extend the Life of an Open Bottle?

To preserve wine you need to create a controlled, oxygen-free environment. Once a bottle of wine is open, there’s a smorgasbord of chemical reactions taking place ready to do damage, and there is no turning back. The only option is to slow these processes down. Below are a few tools and techniques for increasing the storage life of an open bottle.

Refrigerator

The easiest step to take is simply placing your wine in the refrigerator after opening. By lowering the temperature of the wine, you will slow down the chemical reactions taking place. This goes for white, red, and even fortified wine. Red wines should be taken out roughly an hour before their next serving if you’re trying to reach room temperature.

Vacuum Wine Stopper

While vacuum wine stoppers have become the new trend in preserving wines, we tend not to recommend them. While they supposedly remove oxygen from the bottle, this creates a double-edged sword. The vacuum will create a negative pressure, pulling diluted gases out of the wine as well as its container. Some people therefore believe the vacuum effect inside the bottle also reduces aromatics in the wine and thus might harm the wine more than protect it.

Private Preserve

This is a simple and mostly effective method in which you spray in a mixture of three atmospheric gases: carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and argon. By replacing the oxygen inside the bottle with these inert gases, which do not cause the same detrimental effects, you are creating a low-oxygen environment that will reduce bacterial growth and retard the fermentation process. This spray can also be used for preserving other perishables such as fruits and vegetables, so it’s useful to have on hand.

Half Bottle

The best method for preserving open wine, we believe, is using a smaller bottle to store it. If you can’t finish a bottle of wine, have a clean 375ml bottle on hand. You can pour the remaining contents into this bottle and place it into the fridge for extended storage times. While the wine has already come into contact with oxygen, the remaining headspace in the bottle is greatly reduced, slowing the negative processes and extending the life of your product.

Please visit us at Paul Marcus Wines if you have further questions. We’ll be glad to help!

Further Reading:

There’s a reason why nebbiolo remains one of the most prized grapes of the wine world. Few, if any, varietals can offer its combination of fruit, spice, earth, aromatics, acidity, and tannins–a blend of power and finesse that sends palates dancing.

Of course, the Piemontese DOCGs of Barolo and Barbaresco dominate the nebbiolo market, and why not? These regions produce some of the most enduring and memorable bottles you’re likely to find. However, if you head to the north of Piemonte, in the foothills of the Alps, you’ll discover the wines of Alto Piemonte, which provide more affordable and often more approachable alternatives to the bottlings of its Langhe rivals.

Image from Testimony of a wine junkie

There was a time, a couple or more centuries ago, when Alto Piemonte’s offerings commanded the respect and admiration that Barolo and Barbaresco do now. A one-two punch of phylloxera and fiscal downturn ended its reign as Northern Italy’s supreme red-wine region, but a renaissance that began in the late 1900s has only deepened in recent years, making Alto Piemonte a region worth investigating by nebbiolo lovers.

The typical expression of Alto Piemonte’s wines differs somewhat from that of its Langhe counterparts a couple of hours to the south; the wines of the north tend to be a bit more lithe, highly fragrant with softer (though still prominent) tannins and a well-defined minerality. There are a number of reasons for this distinction. First and foremost is the Alpine weather, which provides an abundance of afternoon sun but is tempered by colder nighttime air–helping to keep all of nebbiolo’s myriad elements in balance.

In addition, while the wines of Barolo and Barbaresco require cépage to be exclusively nebbiolo, the wines of Alto Piemonte allow for nebbiolo to be blended with other local grapes such as vespolina or croatina, which tend to accentuate the higher-toned flavors. There are also differences in soil composition: Alto Piemonte’s terroir is more volcanic in nature, instead of the limestone and clay that feature prominently in the wines of Langhe.

The Alto Piemonte is bifurcated by the Sesia River– Colline Novaresi to the east and Coste della Sesia to the west–and the better-known sub-regions lie directly on the river’s shores. Ghemme, on the right bank, and Gattinara, on the left, are the only two to have attained DOCG status.

Ghemme’s terrain includes more clay and sits at a lower elevation. Therefore its wines often have a fuller body and more pronounced tannins than that of its neighbors. With its volcanic assortment of granite, quartz, and iron, Gattinara produces wines known for their vibrancy and mineral-driven focus.

At Paul Marcus Wines, we are currently featuring the all-nebbiolo 2008 Ca` Nova Ghemme, a wine firmly in its sweet spot. Displaying savory notes of earth and spice at first, this wine is rounded out by fresh acidity and a gentle but noticeable tannic grip. The 2013 Antoniolo Gattinara, also available in the shop, is a lively, graceful rendering that spends 30 months in oak and boasts buoyant red fruits with just enough tannic support. Made with 100 percent nebbiolo, this bottle can easily lie down for another decade.

Other Alto Piemonte appellations worth seeking out include the higher-altitude areas of Boca (east of the Sesia) and Bramaterra (west of the river), as well as low-lying Fara (southeast of Ghemme) and sandy-soiled Lessona, whose wines are among the most supple and polished of the region.

There are also wines that are simply labeled Colline Novaresi or Coste della Sesia, usually lighter, more ephemeral wines intended to be enjoyed young. For an example of this style, look toward the Colombera & Garella Coste della Sesia rosso, a lean, refreshingly limber blend of 70 percent nebbiolo, 15 percent vespolina, and 15 percent croatina. (Bear in mind that this producer keeps output low, so these bottles move quickly.)

Fans of rosé can get in on the Alto Piemonte action, too. You can pick up a bottle of the Antoniolo Bricco Lorella rosato–aromatic, herbaceous, and dry, but with a bit of weight–or maybe Al Posto Dei Fiori by Le Pianelle, which ranks as perhaps the shop’s most full-flavored, complex rosé.

Finally, mention must be made of the tiny Carema DOC. Bordering the Valle d’Aosta and a good 40-plus miles west of the river Sesia, Carema’s terraced, steeply situated vines produce streamlined, gloriously perfumed wines bursting with acidity and propped up by persistent, fine-grained tannins. The big fish in this little pond is Ferrando, whose expression of nebbiolo epitomizes the strength and beauty of Alto Piemonte and, in peak years, can age for 20 years or more. Paul Marcus Wines is fortunate to have the 2013 and 2014 vintages of Ferrando Carema. Get them while you can.

Carles Alonso is the kind of guy a lot of winemakers wish they were. Forgoing a career in finance and banking, he made a huge life change. Starting in 1979, Carles opted to pursue a more purist lifestyle; he built a stone house into the mountainside amid the tiny Catalunya hamlet of Els Vilars, in the shadow of the Pyrenees, not too far from the French border.

For his unique Carriel dels Vilars selections, Carles ferments in aerospace-grade, ceramic-tile-lined cement vats to give himself more peace of mind while working without SO2. He crafts wines of the utmost purity from 2.5 hectares, grown on slate, of a co-fermented field blend based on garnatxa and syrah, with a little cabernet sauvignon and carinyena to round it out.

Élevage happens in stainless steel, as Carles doesn’t believe his wine needs to touch wood at any point in its lifespan. This is also why he bottles in used Freixenet Cava bottles with crown caps; he doesn’t want anything to do with cork either. His wines are definitely fruit-forward–somewhat rich and high in alcohol–yet they offer a licorice-tinged, herbal complexity that draws you back for more. For me, this wine would shine on a stormy night, the colder the better, with a spicy lamb braise.

It wasn’t very long ago that Carles struggled to sell his product–nobody really knew anything about him or his wines. Now, he’s become “famous,” thanks to his nonconformist ways and high-quality results. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any back vintages to sell. This is not surprising, considering how little wine he makes each year from those low-lying, low-yielding old vines that are struggling to produce fruit from what little slate dust surrounds them.

Carles is the only year-round resident among the roughly 10 different domiciles within the town limits. He also didn’t have electricity to work with until 2012! Crazy, right? This is the kind of guy I would love to have dinner with. He seems likely to have a memorable story or two, and a few opinions to share as well. He is truly an iconoclast without pretension: forging his own path, making wines how he wants to, and living out his ideals in brazen fashion. That mustache has some clout, too!

These are the kinds of wines that get me excited about being in the wine business, even if they aren’t exactly the grapes I normally drink, or the style of wine that I usually gravitate toward. I can’t help but be stoked on people like Carles Alonso who are crafting natural products from the earth. It requires an enormous amount of passion, skill, and perseverance to succeed year in and year out. This renegade winemaker boasts all of these qualities. Visit us at Paul Marcus Wines, and discover him for yourself.


Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our regularly scheduled wine programming to bring you this special report: August is National Goat Cheese Month! Of course, here at Paul Marcus Wines, we always jump at the chance to promote the most famous of all culinary pairings: cheese and wine!

In order to do so, we enlisted the help and expertise of the good folks at Market Hall Foods. (A big thank you to Sara and the cheese specialists at Market Hall, who showcased a variety of goat cheeses from France, Italy, and Spain.) Although this selection focuses on European cheeses, rest assured that there are also many delicious and artisanal goat cheeses produced locally and throughout the U.S. So many goat cheeses from which to choose, with so little time!

To complement this lovely cheeseboard, we selected a wine for each offering. When choosing a wine to pair with any cheese, the most important factors are the primary ingredients (goat, cow, sheep) and style of preparation (fresh, blue, washed, aged, etc.). For stress-free pairings, be sure to ask your cheesemonger which style of goat cheese they recommend, as the selection will most likely vary from day to day. And without further ado, let’s dive in!

Goat Cheese: Cevrin with Herbs


Produced in the foothills of Piemonte, Italy, this fresh goat cheese is primarily a goat’s milk cheese, blended with smaller amounts of cow’s and sometimes sheep’s milk. Light and creamy, the inherent freshness and primary flavors of Cervin make it the perfect vehicle to pair with fresh herbs from the region.

Wine to pair: A vibrant, crisp, and tangy white wine is a great option to pair with fresh goat cheese. Our pick is the 2018 Cincinnato Castore bellone from Lazio. Crisp and bright, with no oak and a briny, refreshing finish, this Italian white will cut through the creaminess of the cheese and complement its fresh herb finish.

Goat Cheese: Fleur de Ré


This artisanal goat cheese comes to us from France’s Loire Valley. A tangy, creamy example of a bloomy-rind style of cheese, it’s coated in a very thin layer of ash before it undergoes aging, or affinage. It is accompanied by a very light sprinkle of fleur de sel from the Île de Ré, located off the west coast of France near La Rochelle. The use of both vegetable ash and fleur de sel enable this little puck of goodness to ripen more slowly and gracefully. A perfectly ripe Fleur de Ré will often exhibit complex notes of salt, earth, and fresh hay, with a noticeable creamy tang on the finish.

Wine to pair: A crisp, mineral-driven sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley is a great choice to pair with this bloomy-rind, ash-covered style of cheese. Our top pick is the 2018 Sylvain Bailly Beaucharme Quincy. The appellation of Quincy is located southwest of Sancerre, and although less well-known than its famous neighbor, the wines from this appellation display the drive and tension that make it a textbook Loire Valley sauvignon blanc.

Goat Cheese: Truf di Capra


If you like Brie, then you must try Truf di Capra, an indulgent bloomy-rind, extra creamy Italian cheese produced in the foothills of Piemonte, Italy. This special soft cheese includes morsels of black truffle throughout, adding richness and earthiness. The addition of cow’s milk cream also ups the creaminess factor substantially.

Wine to pair: Extra creamy and rich cheeses (like Brie, Camembert, and Truf di Capra) have a high fat content, which translates to a rich mouth-coating feel on the palate. A great wine to pair with our Italian Truf di Capra is the NV Crémant du Jura Brut from Xavier Reverchon. This high-quality Crémant is composed of chardonnay, pinot noir, and a touch of savagnin. Dry and bubbly, with just a hint of hazelnut and biscuit, this elegant and zippy Crémant offers the underlying acidity to cut through the richness of the cheese and complements the earthy and unctuous qualities of Truf di Capra.

Goat Cheese: Bleu de Chèvre


Bleu de Chèvre is unusual in that most blue-veined cheeses are produced from cow’s milk. Not to worry, as this example, produced by happy French goats, is delectable! In addition to the creamy texture and decisive nutty sweetness often found in blue cheeses, the use of goat’s milk imparts a bit of tang on the finish.

Wine to pair: Blue-veined cheeses often display bold and, to a varying degree, salty and pungent flavors. Both red and white wines will pair nicely with this style of cheese. However, in each case, you’ll want to select a sweet wine with bold flavors. If you opt for a white wine, a sweet late-harvest wine is a top pick. Think Sauternes, or a late-harvest example from Alsace or Germany. To switch things up a bit, we’ve selected the Cornet et Cie Banyuls Rimage from the south of France. This fortified sweet red wine (similar in style to ruby Port) is composed predominantly of grenache noir. It is sweet and fruit-driven, with intense berry flavors and just a whiff of damp earth and black tea.

Goat Cheese: Garrotxa


This semi-hard, aged goat cheese hails from the Garrotxa area in Catalonia, Spain. It is a region world-renowned for the high quality and unique flavor profile of its goat’s milk. The exterior is most often covered in a hard outer casing of gray mold. Stick to the interior portion of Garrotxa, and you’ll be rewarded with a creamy cheese reminiscent of damp earth, nuts, and dried herbs, with a slightly salty finish.

Wine to pair: A medium-bodied white wine, preferably of the Iberian variety, is our suggestion for Garrotxa. The 2017 Metrick albariño, from California’s Edna Valley, is a great choice, as it exhibits the classic characteristics of the variety and style of wine, namely a dry, unoaked wine with sublte hints of mineral and yellow stonefruit. Although not as high-toned and bracing as some Spanish or Portugese examples, its more generous structure makes it an ideal match for this hearty cheese.

Happy National Goat Cheese Month from Paul Marcus Wines! We’ll see you at the shop.

Even as Paul Marcus Wines embarks on its 33rd year serving the friendly folks of Rockridge and the greater Bay Area, Paul doesn’t spend a lot of time celebrating milestones. Instead, he is always focusing on the moment at hand, which means searching for and tasting another wine to thrill and delight his clientele.

With the shop’s prime location–inside the European-styled Market Hall and across from the BART station–Paul never doubted his business would be a success, thanks to what he affectionately refers to as its “captive audience.” If you put out high-quality wines, he knows, the customers will follow along. However, with that built-in opportunity comes great responsibility. It requires steering your clients in new directions while simultaneously listening to their feedback and keeping them satisfied. PMW has been building that trust for three decades, and it remains the shop’s most valuable asset.

Not surprisingly, PMW has always placed an emphasis on European wines, offering ideal counterparts to the meat, fish, produce, and specialty foods sold by its neighbors. In the beginning, when it was just Paul and Joel each working six days a week, the shop featured at least 60 percent imports, and that proportion has only increased since then.

Though Paul was initially attracted to the wines of Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley, he’s developed over time an enormous affection for the grapes of Burgundy, Piedmont, and Tuscany–namely, pinot noir, nebbiolo, and sangiovese. These are grapes that proudly display their terroir, that distinct sense of place; they boast balanced mouth feel and are structured yet elegant. As any PMW regular knows, these wines represent the backbone of the store.

Along with his selection of splendid bottles, Paul also takes enormous pride in the quality of his staff. From the beginning, he has tried to hire people with diverse interests and full lives outside of the shop: artists, musicians, actors, writers, professors, etc. If you allow your employees freedom to pursue outside interests, he believes, they’re better workers in return because they’re content.

It’s worth noting that Paul often enjoys hiring novices who are willing to learn and might bring a different perspective to the store, in addition to people with wine-industry experience. (He relishes shaping the palates of the newcomers.) Employees are encouraged and incentivized to take home wine; by experimenting with food pairings at home, they can better serve the customers and respond to their tastes and tendencies.

An owner who is guided by intuition as much as anything, Paul has always looked to hire self-motivated people with a strong curiosity and a desire to develop new ideas, concepts, and approaches. Already in 2019, PMW has launched the Wine League, improved and expanded its online presence, and installed a new state-of-the-art inventory system. Even after more than 32 years, the shop is moving boldly into the future while still retaining the homespun qualities that have helped make it a Rockridge stalwart.

To be sure, Rockridge has changed dramatically over the years. As the neighborhood has become a little denser, and its denizens perhaps a little younger, the average PMW customer has shown a bit more sophistication. Pleasing them all is a challenge that Paul and his staff embrace with gusto. Wine is food, after all, and few pleasures in life can match a perfect wine pairing, whether it is for a simple weeknight pizza, special occasion, gourmet feast, or anything in between.

Prepared Pesto with fresh Basil

Prepared Pesto with fresh BasilRich, lively, and pungent, a first-class pesto sauce is among the true delights of Italian cuisine. Yet, its bold, intense flavors– salty, floral, bitter, and slightly creamy–can make wine pairing a challenge. To make matters more difficult, pesto sauce is prepared raw, which means that there is no use of heat to help mellow the flavors. With all of that going on, the last thing you need is an oaky or overly fruity wine to spoil the fun.

 

Pesto Mortar and PestleThe most traditional style, pesto alla Genovese, comes from the Ligurian coast and dates back at least 150 years. This classic recipe always includes the exact same seven ingredients: fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, Pecorino cheese, Parmigiano cheese, and sea salt. Of course, there are numerous variations (any of which might be considered a capital offense in Genoa), but this simple combination (customarily crushed with mortar and pestle) is perhaps the most time-honored. (There is one particular variant, sometimes referred to as pesto alla Portofino, that adds crushed or pureed tomatoes to the mix and is certainly worth investigating.)

Pairings for Pesto alla Genovese

For pesto alla Genovese, one of the first varietals that leaps to mind is vermentino. Usually quite dry and boasting a vibrant saline quality, vermentino doesn’t get in the way. It’s crisp, refreshing, and often boasts a delicate citrus note, helping to cleanse the palate.

In keeping with the dish’s Ligurian roots, look for vermentino (and the closely related pigato) from coastal Ligurian appellations like Riviera Ligure di Ponente and Colli di Luni (which overlaps into Tuscany). Another neighboring contender is the sleek, bright, subtly fruited Gavi, which is made from the cortese grape and originates in Piemonte, just north of the Ligurian border. At Paul Marcus Wines, you can find the bracingly fresh vermentino Colli di Luni from Giacomelli, along with the ripe but balanced Gavi Masera by Stefano Massone.

 

 

Our next stop is in the Veneto region of northeast Italy, specifically the Soave DOC outside of Verona. The whites of this area feature the garganega grape; though still dry and zesty, Soave wines offer an oily texture, undertones of wildflowers, and a suggestion of almonds that complement the flavors of pesto rather well. We’re proud to include a selection from Pieropan at Paul Marcus Wines, which is one of the area’s most renowned producers, as well as offerings from Suavia and Ca’ Rugate.

 

 

If you’re looking for a pesto partner that will stand toe to toe with your fragrant and verdant sauce, go for Fiano di Avellino from the southern region of Campania. Occasionally referred to as “pesto in a bottle,” fiano’s wild intensity will only enhance the flavor explosion that pesto sauce provides. Robust, nutty, aromatic, and herbaceous, fiano realizes its finest expression when grown on Campania’s volcanic terrain, giving it a flinty edge. Top it off with a zippy acidity, and you have a grape that’s ready to tangle with a top-notch pesto. For a lighter, fresher expression, grab a bottle of Pietramara, made by I Favati, at Paul Marcus Wines, or go to the age-worthy version produced by Ciro Picariello, which is a bit richer and rounder.

 

Unfortunately for red-wine drinkers, tannins and pesto are generally not friends; prominent tannins will only serve to accentuate the bitterness of the dish and obscure its fresh, herbal magic. However, if you must turn to a red wine, piedirosso (also from Campania’s volcanic soils) delivers smoky, savory notes along with decidedly mild tannins and a medium body. Try La Sibilla’s piedirosso, from Campi Flegrei, available at Paul Marcus Wines.

For more about these suggestions, please visit us at the shop. If you have any pairing questions you’d like to discuss, email us at info@paulmarcuswines.com.