Friday night is the 5th anniversary of a business I helped conceptualize and build, California Wine Merchants in New York City. The shop toughed it out through the financial crash of 2008 and that bitch of a hurricane named Sandy, all the while giving New Yorkers retail access to the small producers and visionaries that we are now coming to know as the new wave of California wine.
California wine has quietly gone through a transition in recent years. So quietly, in fact, that when the store opened 5 years ago, it was an arduous task to convince Eurocentric New Yorkers to so much as taste a California Chardonnay. The cool factor definitely was not there. To most of the trendy New York City restaurant world, California still meant big, fat, oaky, and entirely uncool.
But California has now arrived, as evidenced by stories in the press such as “California Wines Score Style Points” in the New York Times, “The Californians Who Are Shaking Up Wine's Mainstream” in the Huffington Post, “California Wine Legends in the Making” in Bon Appetit, and the newly released book by San Francisco Chronicle wine editor Jon Bonne, “The New California Wine”. Sommeliers and other trendsetters on the New York wine scene are buzzing about California too. There are even some New York restaurants, including Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn and Enduro in Manhattan, with impressive all domestic wine lists focusing largely on the new generation of winemakers inspiring change in California.
In addition to the anniversary of the store, this tasting event will be a celebration of California’s newfound cool factor. I’ll be pouring some amazing California wines from the portfolio I now work with, A.I. Selections. I came to know A.I. when I was doing the wine buying at the store. Although the portfolio currently includes less than 20 California producers, it represents some of the most interesting and exciting wines coming out of the golden state.
One label I’ll be featuring is Donkey & Goat, perhaps one of the first “new California” producers to get noticed on the New York City restaurant scene. I’ll also be pouring Banshee Wines, a great success story put in to action by three friends with a passion for wine and a knack for securing grapes from some of the finest vineyards in California. Last but not least I’ll be introducing Ultraviolet, a brand new Napa Cabernet project from Poe Wines’ founder Samantha Sheehan.
As if that’s not enough, there will also be live Jazz from the inimitable Andrew Gutauskas trio, a selection of Humboldt County wines from organically grown grapes, and a Champagne toast ala La Caravelle. Oh, and some eats. Don’t miss it. I hope to see you there!
Friday, November 22, 2013
15 Bridge Street (btwn Whitehall & Broad) in the Financial District