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Bubbles from our Backyard

Simon here. 5 weeks of therapy done and one week to go. I'm looking forward to being back in the swing of things and hopefully sharing a glass with you all at a Wine Friends tasting soon.

I'm excited to tell the story of this week's bubbles. It is one that caught us off-guard because it's not something that comes across our samples table often. In fact, knowing me and my loyalty to old-world wines a little too well, Dylan covered the label when he poured it into our glasses. It was a lovely, minerally blanc de blanc with elegant fruit overtones that made us all smile. "What's this?" I asked. That's when he handed me the bottle. Behold, it was made from grapes grown just up the road! Devil's Gulch Ranch in Nicasio is where the legendary local winemaker Sean Thackrey sourced many of his grapes. It also happens that I've gotten to know the ranch personally in recent years, having walked the vineyards with my daughters when they were living there with their mum. Named for the mountain lions that prowl the area, it's a beautiful, hidden gem of 70 acres with vineyards, pastures, barns and rolling oak-covers hills. You may have seen their stand at the Civic Center Farmer's Market selling some of the fantastic meats they raise. While Evie and Bea were there, they hand raised their own baby goats, Clover and Ginger, who would bounce along behind them everywhere they went like Labrador puppies. They are now working as clearance goats at a vineyard in Sebastapol!

Ginger (and Clover in the background) grazing on the beautiful green grass at Devil's Gulch Ranch.

I'll let Dylan tell you more about this week's wines. They are all splendid indeed...


The first-ever Californian wine featured on Wine Friends comes from our own back yard! It's a great little blend of Chardonnay and a tiny proportion of Pinot Blanc grown on the low-yielding, windy vineyards of Devil’s Gulch Ranch in Marin County. The vineyards here are low yielding, and it shows in the wine. When vines are stressed and have to compete for resources, the grapes tend to be more concentrated with flavor. Furthermore, the fog that rolls in causes cool nights, ensuring great acidity is retained. These bubbles have delicate notes of strawberries and yellow currant, combined with toasty brioche and a great minerality coming from the metamorphic soils, which are laden with the California state stone, serpentine. This is a bright sparkling wine made in an old-world style that reminds us of the immense potential of the land that surrounds us here in Marin. We'd suggest enjoying this bottle on a picnic surrounded by the natural beauty from where it came.


Our red this week is an impressive Pinot Noir from Baden in southwest Germany, right near the Swiss border. Noticeably similar to the terroir of Burgundy, this region was actually planted with Pinot Noir by Cistercian monks around the same time as France. Just like Devil's Gulch, this is from a small family estate, with vineyards mixed in amongst orchards and pasture land. Claus Schneider and his sons Johannes and Christophe run things together using biodynamic farming methods, and hand harvesting the grapes. Everything here is done on a small scale, with only 1,000 cases of this wine produced each year. This Pinot is named for the Kalkstein, or limestone, that runs through the vineyard, creating great structural elegance. Notes of ripe wild strawberries and red cherries unfold gracefully in the glass, while hints of saline and black pepper wake up your palate on the finish. Drink on its own or pair with veal, or pork schnitzel lathered in a mushroom cream sauce. Throw on your Lederhosen, as Simon so enthusiastically does from time to time, and have yourselves a party.


The latest vintage of the "house white" from one of our favorite winemakers, Roland Velich of Moric, who is crafting stunningly complex wines in the heart of Austria that are just so drinkable. This fresh blend of mainly Grüner Veltliner and some Chardonnay is characterized by its crisp notes of lemon, fennel, and zingy cherries. It reminds us of a great Chablis, and yet is so unique.

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