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.


Say the word “Bandol,” and visions of blue-green waters, framed by white rock and graceful Mediterranean pines, immediately come to mind. However, there is more to this zone of Provence than just the Cote d’Azur’s outrageously beautiful coastline. Here, limestone soils, the sun’s generous warmth, and a refreshing coastal climate create an ideal environment for cultivating the late-ripening mourvèdre, Bandol’s flagship grape.

Wine map of Provence showcasing Bandol

Aside from mourvèdre, lighter varieties such as grenache and cinsault–both traditionally associated with Provençal rosés–are also permitted. However, the heavier-hitting mourvèdre grape must still make up at least 50 percent of rouges or rosés (although many producers choose to use more). While Bandol reds can be extremely tannic and take years to open up fully, the same cannot be said of the region’s rosés. Bright, full-flavored, and red-fruited, they deliver an almost decadent seaside pleasure–or simply an evocative sip on a sunny day.

Chateau Val d’Arenc

If you are feeling like you’d like a bit of Bandol rosé in your life, Chateau Val d’Arenc is a good ambassador. Using 80 percent mourvèdre in his blends, winemaker Gérald Damidot practices sustainable viticulture, keeps his yields low, and hand-selects the grapes that make it into the cuvee. With aromas of wild strawberries, watermelon, musk, and a little bit of tannin, this wine would fare well with a fatty fish such as salmon, or an herbed pork or chicken dish.

Domaine du Terrebrune

However, if you prefer something more delicate, grab the Bandol rosé by Domaine du Terrebrune, a favorite at Paul Marcus Wines. This one is lighter in both color and body, with a nose more floral than the d’Arenc version, and a palate that shows more genteel melon flavors.

La Bastide Blanche

Finally, you can reach for a Bandol rosé that is right down the middle, La Bastide Blanche. Neither too heavy nor exceedingly light, this “Goldilocks” wine serves as a great introduction to the rosés of Bandol. La Bastide Blanche also keeps yields low, and its cellar practices are meticulous. The grapes in this cuvee are from a limestone-rich area called Sainte-Anne du Castellet, imparting mineral flavors and bright acidity. With its aromatics of flint and strawberries, and its lingering watermelon flavor, it’s an exemplary expression of the Bandol terroir.

You can find all three of these at Paul Marcus Wines, or just let your mood decide!

THE FRIULIANS ARE HERE! – VILLA JOB AT PAUL MARCUS WINES

One of the great perks to selling wine is the opportunity to discover, learn about, and taste new wines from across the world. Case in point, last month the PMW team had the opportunity to meet with Alessandro and Lavinia Job and taste the wines from Villa Job, their family winery located in Friuli Venezia Giulia.
This 6.5-hectare domaine is located on the Friuli Pozzuolo plateau, at an altitude of 90 meters above sea level. The organically farmed vineyards are surrounded by dense woods and the Cormor River. The influence of this body of water contributes to the soils of the area, which are largely composed of sand, silt, clay and marl.
The vineyards at the domaine are planted to ribolla gialla, friulano, sauvignon, pinot grigio, refosco and schioppettino. All the farming at Villa Job is done via organic practices. In the cellar, Alessandro and Lavinia seek to produce wines with minimal intervention. Fermentation takes place via native yeasts, and no new oak is used. The wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, and with minimal amounts of SO2.

Family owned for generations, Alessandro remembers playing in the estate vineyards as a child on vacation and growing up amongst the vines. Fast forward to adulthood, when he and Lavinia met in Milan. At the time, Alessandro was working in business management engineering, and Lavinia in marketing. When Alessandro officially inherited the domaine, he and Lavinia made the life changing decision to exchange their city jobs for the life of a farmer and winemaker.
Their devotion and passion are paying off, as exemplified by a select range of wines that showcase their commitment to understanding the complexities of the land and vineyards, while producing wines that proudly represent the region of Friuli.
The following four wines from Villa Job have recently arrived at PMW and are ready to go!

2017 Villa Job “Sudigiri” Venezia Giulia Sauvignon Blanc

Sudigiri, which translates loosely to “elated” comes from 15-year-old sauvignon blanc vines planted on a combination of marl, clay and silt. The grapes undergo two days of skin contact before fermentation begins via native yeast in open top barrels. The wine then ages in concrete tank for six months, followed by an additional three months in old mulberry barrels. It is bottled unfiltered, and then spends 2 additional months aging before release. Sudigiri is not your typical sauvignon blanc, as it displays hints of celery, lemon oil, ginger and light clove on the palate.

2017 Villa Job “Untitled” Venezia Giulia Friulano

Untitled comes from 15-year-old friulano (tocai) vines planted on a combination of marl, clay and silt soils. Considered the most classic variety and vinous expression from the region, the grapes undergo two days of skin contact before fermentation begins via native yeast in open top barrels. The wine then ages in concrete tank for nine months, followed by an additional three months in old mulberry barrels. It is bottled unfiltered, and then spends 2 additional months aging before release.

2017 Villa Job “Piantagrane” Friuli Grave Pinot Grigio

Piantagrane is Villa Job’s pinot grigio cuvee, with vines from different parcels and soil types found on the domaine. The average vine age here is 15 years, and planted on a combination of marl, clay and silt soils. The grapes undergo two days of skin contact before fermentation begins via native yeast in concrete vats. The wine then ages in concrete vat and old barriques before being bottled unfiltered. This unique Friulian white displays notes of wet stone, mineral, yellow peaches, and a slightly salty finish.

2017 Villa Job “Serious” Venezia Giulia Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso

Villa Job’s “Serious” is a not so serious but seriously delightful take on this native variety. The average vine age here is 15 years, and planted on a combination of marl, clay and silt soils. Fermentation takes place in open tonneau vats via native yeast. The wine then ages in concrete vat and old barriques for approximately 12 months before being bottled unfined and unfiltered. Subtle notes of strawberries, raspberry, peppercorn and light spice make for an intriguing rendition of refosco.

We’ll see you at the shop!

As many of our loyal customers already know, 2019 marks the 32nd year of Paul Marcus Wines setting up shop at Market Hall. To recognize this milestone, PMW published our first ever Wine Zine earlier this spring. In it, we highlighted several new wineries that we are excited about, as well as recipes, and a fun chronicle of the early years at the shop. For this month’s newsletter, we decided to reprint Part 1 of the history of PMW – from 1987 up through the late 1990s. We hope that you enjoy this wine trip down PMW memory lane!

Yes, it’s true, Paul Marcus Wines recently celebrated our 32nd anniversary! It has been a remarkable journey, filled with wonderful customers, and of course, thousands of bottles of wine. As most folks who frequent the shop know, Paul Marcus Wines champions the notion that “wine is food”.  But how did our guiding principle come to pass?

Let’s rewind to 1974, when Paul embarked on a four-month trip through France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. The voyage was both a blast and life-changing.  His experiences with the people, cuisine and

European landscape crystalized the notion that food and wine go hand in hand, and that at their best, are connected to a sense of place. For years, Paul remembered each wine he tasted on this trip, and returned stateside with a deep curiosity to learn more.

Over the next decade, and while working at Leopold Records as the main buyer, Paul immersed himself in wines from the Rhone Valley, Italy and Burgundy. At the request of his friends, he began to select wines from these regions to enjoy with their meals. Unbeknownst to Paul at the time, opening a wine shop to share his passion for wine and food was in his future.

Fast forward to Saturday March 14th, 1987, when Paul Marcus Wines opened its doors in Market Hall, the European styled marketplace in the heart of Rockridge. The shop featured several hundred wines from Europe and California, and Paul and his two employees were thrilled share their journey of food and wine with their neighbors. At the time, Rockridge was a sleepy little neighborhood, and not considered part of the East Bay food and wine scene. However, things began to change.

Throughout the 1990s, Market Hall and PMW became fixtures of the Rockridge community.  Folks from the area and beyond were thirsty for food friendly wines to pair with the remarkable products available at Market Hall. Of course, PMW was thrilled to help slake their thirst. Paul’s wine team grew to four employees in order to assist customers at the busy Oakland wine shop.  “Wine is food” continued to inform all activities at Paul Marcus Wines, and continues to this day.  Please Stay tuned for Part II coming soon!

Over the past several weeks and on your way into the shop, you might have already noticed a new addition right outside our doors. Meant in part to peak curiosity and put a little spring in your step, we’ve come up with a fun PMW chalkboard to do just that!

Whom, might you ask is responsible for this breath of fresh vinous air and inspiration? We are very fortunate to have the very talented Heather Mills creating this beautiful signage and artwork for PMW! Many of our customers know Heather, having enjoyed her wine pairing recommendations and expertise here at the shop over the years. She is an integral part of the PMW wine team, and might we say, our current “artist in residence”. Thank you, Heather!

Thus far, the feedback has been  wonderful, which makes us very happy! We’ll be updating the artwork, inspirational messages and wines regularly, so please be sure to swing by and take a look.

High summer is upon us! Both school and the sun are out, which translates to fireworks, festivities and fun. And let’s not forget, great food and of course, wine! With two special dates to observe, our very own Independence Day on July 4th and Bastille Day on July 14th, Market Hall and PMW have exactly what you need to enjoy these summer holidays.

Keeping with tradition and to celebrate the foods and wines of France, Market Hall is hosting a 4th Annual Bastille Day Event! Saturday afternoon July 13th from 1-3pm. Rest assured that there will be a bounty of great products and possible menu items to put together for the big day!

Here at Paul Marcus Wines we’ll be doing our part by showcasing and presenting a range of fabulous rose wines from across France. Dry, crisp, mineral, juicy, we’ve got the perfect pink wine for anyone who is ready to celebrate la Fête nationale.

Please be sure to visit us, and we’ll take you on a rose tour de France. See you at the shop!

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 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, then served as an accompaniment to 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 a spread with grilled chicken, then pre dinner outside on the patio with a selection of crudités (as seen above). With all of 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 this 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 for you. 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 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 familiarize oneself with 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 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.