News & Events
May 03, 2019
IT'S MINT! Cream Cocktail Club's Mint Julep
The Kentucky Derby is right around the corner - Saturday, May 4th! The Mint Julep is the official drink of the Kentucky Derby. The cocktail, made using bourbon, mint, and sugar, is tasty and refreshing—a perfect spring and summer sipper.
Varner Wine has been a fixture in the Central California wine game since the 1980s, producing some of the best handcrafted, cool-climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays this side of the Atlantic. The winery is owned by identical twins Bob and Jim, the former being the sole winemaker while overseeing farming, with the latter running sales and marketing. Having grown up in the Midwest, the brothers made their way west to attend UC Davis during the 70’s. After graduating with a degree in oenology, Bob wasted no time in his quest to make superb California wines on par with the minerally white and red Burgundys he had studied in school.
Working his way through Napa Valley, but with his sights still set on cool climate wines, Jim eventually made his way north to the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 1980, Bob left his Ph.D program in genetics to help his brother plant the vineyards, together focusing their energies on cultivating pristine fruit for local wineries, including the likes of Thomas Fogarty. Even in their initial years, the brothers were on the forefront of sustainable winemaking, with some of their earliest vineyards in Santa Cruz having been dry-farmed, organically farmed and manually harvested from the start.
In 2014, Jim and Bob made the bitter-sweet decision to leave the Santa Cruz Mountains and head south, to their new project in Santa Barbara. New soil, new vineyards, but with the same exceptional level of quality - the Varner’s experiment in Santa Barbara is another success.
Varner 2015 Chardonnay, El Camino Vineyard, Santa Barbara
The brother’s inaugural Santa Barbara Chardonnay was met with great praise, and their 2015 vintage is another winner. The fruit for this Chardonnay comes from the twins’ El Camino Vineyard, rooted in sandy loam 600 feet from sea level. On the nose, this one sings of honey comb, lemon confit and fresh apricot. On the palate, bright acidity and citrus, reminiscent of Varner’s Santa Cruz past, is balanced by notes of tropical fruit and peaches that are distinctly of a warmer terroir. To boot, New French oak has given this Chardonnay just enough subtle savory notes to balance out all the fruit. This is a delicious but serious Chardonnay, bright and clean, with enough weight and texture to hold its own to any audience (Chardonnay skeptics included).
Varner 2015 Pinot Noir, Los Alamos Vineyard, Santa Barbara
Los Alamos Vineyard, which provides the fruit for this 100% Pinot Noir, has long been a staple in Santa Barbara wine country. In recent years, Los Alamos has been farmed with progressive sustainable practices; the vineyard is dry farmed, cane-pruned and head-trained. Before seeing oak, Bob Varner lets his 100% destemmed Pinot Noir fruit spend time in tank, resulting in more expressive fruit with tension and energy.
Through careful site selection and non-interventionist practices in both the cellar and the field, the Varner brothers have created an excellent, terroir driven Pinot Noir in all its Santa Barbara AVA glory. In the glass, shades of ruby and dark magenta give a first look into the ripe red fruit and dark berry aromas to come. The palate is smooth and juicy, soft and bright in all the right places, with a splash of minerality to boot. Unreal finesse. If you were looking for a versatile, crowd pleasing Pinot Noirs for your summer dinner parties, you can stop right here.
April 23, 2019
Collestefano's 2018 Verdicchio Sings of Summer
On the northwest coast of the Adriatic Sea lies the mountainous region of the Central Marche—the land of the classic Italian grape Verdicchio (pronounced ver-dee-kee-oh).
The earliest plantings of Verdicchio can be traced back to the 14th century, when farmers escaped the Great Plague and headed south to the Marche. Meaning “little green one” in Italian, Verdicchio wines are known for their bright citrus fruit, minerality, and ability to age. Unlike their more Mediterranean neighbors, the inland area of Verdicchio di Matelica has a cool and dry microclimate, resulting in a more firm, aromatic and bright Verdicchio wine. It is here that one finds Fabio Marchionni of Collestefano, the man behind some of the finest Verdicchio wines of the region.
Electric freshness, bright citrus, and savory minerality, there is a lot packed into each bottle of Collestefano’s Verdicchio, not just in taste, but in history. The Marchionni family first arrived in Verdicchio di Matelica in 1960, working hard to purchase their own vineyard in 1978. Today, the winery is run by winemaker Fabio Marchionni, who returned home from his tenure of working German weingüter to take over the family estate in 1998. Fabio, who wrote his oenology thesis on the wine of Verdicchio di Matelica, has since quickly ascended the ranks as one of the essential producers of the region. Sustainably farmed and certified organic since 1995, all of Collestefano’s vines are manually harvested and propagated employing massal selection.
Fabio’s 2018 Verdicchio di Matelica has once again brought home all there is to love about the wine his side of the Central Marche.
In the glass, the wine is straw colored, with a welcoming nose of citrus and cardamom. From the start, notes of citrus fruit and white peach on the palate are carried through with bright acidity and crisp freshness. The midpalate sings of juicy tangerines, sweet almonds, and clean minerality.
Pair this wine with bruschetta, seafood starters, or fresh pasta with a classic Italian pesto sauce for your summer dinner parties.
April 08, 2019
FEATURED: Vom Boden Portfolio Tasting - with the Brothers Brand!
The importer Vom Boden, meaning “from the soil” in German, works with growers who are dedicated to showcasing and preserving the uniqueness of their vineyard sites. Every bottle in the Vom Boden portfolio is a testament to the individuality and authenticity to be found in the many overlooked, twisting curves of the Mosel and beyond.
Join Cream & Vom Boden at Funkenhausen for a portfolio tasting with some German food to match. Wines presented from very special guests, the Brand Brothers!
Tuesday, April 30th 11am - 2pm
Funkenhausen 1709 W Chicago Ave, Chicago, IL 60622
Please RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trade Only Please
Stephen Bitterolf founded Vom Boden after nearly a decade in the wine industry. He was the Wine Director at Crush Wine & Spirits in New York City where he helped build one of the nation’s largest fine wine programs with a special focus on Austria, Germany, Burgundy, Champagne, Piedmont and Northern Rhône. He is joined by National Sales Director, and Vom Boden’s first hire, John Ritchie.
Daniel & Jonas Brand / Brand Brothers
The brothers Brand, Daniel and Jonas, have quickly brought attention to the far northern Pfalz, this cool-climate, limestone-rich, yet otherwise overlooked region. The young brothers took over the family estate in 2011 and are part of a group in the Pfalz, Rheinhessen and Franken turning away from conventional farming and the sins of the 1960s and 70s. 2017 vintage is Brand’s first certified organic vintage, though they have been farming organically for years. The farming is also biodynamic, and everything is manually harvested.
March 15, 2019
Rombauer Vineyards: Deep Napa Valley Roots
Following a thirty year career as a military and commercial pilot, Koerner Rombauer and his wife Joan began their search down the California coast, looking for a small-town, agricultural environment to move their family. When they eventually found their way to the hillside community of St. Helena in 1972, they arrived to a Napa Valley that was on the cusp of a monumental transition in modern day winemaking; four years before the notorious Judgement of Paris, and two more behind the founding of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate.
Napa’s wine industry was already developing - not only in growing numbers, but in viticulture practices and cellar techniques, including the arrival of French oak and the first single vineyard designated wines. Local wineries were unknowingly gearing up for what would be a radical shift in the region’s international accolade, and the Rombauers arrived more than ready to try their luck.
After moving to Napa, Koerner and Joan quickly made friends with the local wine community. Looking to learn more about the business of growing grapes, the new Californian couple became partners with the Conn Creek Winery in 1976, soon applying this newfound knowledge to their own project in 1980. The grapes of Rombauer’s inaugural vintage were sourced from Stag’s Leap Wine cellars, where Joan would eventually become the National Sales Director, and made in both the cellars of Shafer Vineyards and Koerner’s own garage.
This collaborative story of Rombauer Vineyard’s first vintage remained an important principle within the winery’s future. As Koerner and Joan’s own brand grew during the 1980s, they did so alongside the greater Napa Valley winemaking community. When the Rombauer’s broke ground for their own winery in 1982, they built for a capacity of 50,000 cases, tenfold of their own production at the time. Over the following decades, their winery served as an incubator for local, up-and-coming Napa Valley winemakers including Duckhorn, Solitude, Etude and Opus.
Over the next few decades, Rombauer continued to grow, eventually becoming the pillar in Napa Valley luxury wine that we know the brand as today. During the 1990s, Rombauer made its way to the short lists of superior wines with their Chardonnay leading the way. Following the untimely death of Joan in 2002, and Koerner this past May (2018), Rombauer has remained a multi-generation, family owned winery.
In the past decade, Rombauer Vineyards has found themselves again at the forefront of the California wine industry, this time through their large investment in cutting edge sustainable practices. All cardboard, plastic and glass is recycled, and all green waste generated from the vineyards and winery is composted and used as a natural fertilizer, returning essential nutrients to the soils. 70% of the estate’s energy is provided by solar power, and water monitoring technology, including neutron probes and double dripper irrigation lines, have proven successful in decreasing water use and increasing efficiency.
When asked about his seemingly disparate careers in flying airplanes and growing grapes, Koerner articulated a metaphorical connection between the two, saying;
“Flying and winemaking are both mystical, magical things. The magic of flying is that it allows you to leave behind all that binds you to the earth. The magic of winemaking is that you create something with your own hands, from your own piece of earth, that lasts for years. If you turn out a wine that can score the highest points, or highest bid, it’s like breaking out at minimums, right over the runway numbers, knowing you’ve nailed the approach.”
More from Rombauer:
Rombauer Vineyards 2017 Chardonnay, Carneros (1.5 L, 375 ML available)
Rombauer Vineyards 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley
Rombauer Vineyards 2014 ‘Diamond Selection’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rombauer Vineyards 2015 ‘Diamond Selection’ Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rombauer Vineyards 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Rombauer Vineyards 2016 Merlot, Napa Valley
Rombauer Vineyards 2017 Zinfandel (375 ML available)
Brooks Wines in Amity, Oregon is the living legacy of Jimi Brooks - a Portland native who fell in love with winemaking while working a harvest in Beaujolais, eventually making his way back to the Pacific Northwest to start his own project. With a reverence for the land and vines, Jimi became a path-breaker in biodynamic and organic viticulture, showing the excellence of terroir in Oregon’s Pinot Noir and Riesling production. When Jimi suddenly passed away in 2004, he left behind Brooks to his young son Pascal, who is now the sole owner of the winery, and his sister Janie Brooks Heuck, who has since volunteered to manage Brooks Wines while Pascal finishes school.
Having graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in accounting, Janie had no intention of working in the wine industry. After receiving her degree, Janie spent the following decade building a career within the healthcare industry, a trajectory that was suddenly changed upon her brother’s death. Galvanized by keeping the spirit of his legacy alive, Janie quickly assumed responsibility for the business operations of Brooks. Over the following years, Janie involved herself within the greater Oregon vintner community, learning as much as she could about the business of making and selling wine.
Despite a lack of tenure in the field, as the General Manager, Janie has continued to successfully keep the spirit of Brooks in line with Jimi’s vision, while also meeting new market demands. Still sourcing some of their fruit from original vineyards, along with staying close with original winemaking styles, Brook’s Wines has expanded production from 2,500 cases in 2004 to more than 12,000 today. Janie and Pascal have also sought to maintain the winery’s emphasis on sustainable agriculture.
Brooks was awarded official Biodynamic certification from Demeter in 2008, and belongs to the Deep Roots Coalition in Oregon, which supports sourcing from only dry farmed vineyard sites. This past January, Brooks announced their partnership with 1% For The Planet, donating 1% of their gross profit to a qualifying not for profit.
Both Pascal and Janie remain steadily guided by the legacies that Jimi left: his strong commitment to organic and biodynamic farming in the vineyards, gentle approach to winemaking, excitement for future harvests and endlessly promoting how beautifully Pinot Noir and Riesling can be grown and produced in Oregon.
More from Brooks:
Brooks 2015 Sparkling Riesling
Brooks 2017 Pinot Blanc
Brooks 2017 Estate Pinot Gris
Brooks 2014 ‘Ara’ Riesling
Brooks 2016 Riesling
Brooks 2017 ‘Amycas’ White Blend
Brooks 2017 Pinot Noir Rose
Brooks 2015 ‘Janus’ Pinot Noir
Brooks 2015 ‘Rastaban’ Estate Pinot Noir
Brooks 2017 ‘Runaway Red’ Pinot Noir
Brooks 2017 Pinot Noir
Brooks 2016 ‘Sweet P’ Estate Riesling
Brooks (375ml) 2015 ‘Tethys’ Late Harvest Riesling
Smack dab in the middle of the male dominated tequila world is French-born Sophie Decobecq - the owner and master distiller of Calle 23.
Looking to study fermentation in Mexico while pursuing a dual PhD in biochemistry and engineering in her native France, Sophie contacted the President of the Polytechnics Institute of Mexico City - inadvertently creating what would later become an official international exchange program. During these first 7 months in Mexico City, Sophie visited distilleries in Guadalajara and Tequila throughout the Mexican countryside, developing a passion for the region, the people and the tequila spirit.
Sophie subsequently took her first job consulting for an agave distillery in South Africa, but made her return to Mexico in 2003, propagating a series her own propriety yeast strands from a local farm. In the following years, Sophie established the export company, IMEX International, and started her own project, Calle 23, in Guadalajara.
The excellence of Sophie’s tequilas are emblematic of her background in both biochemistry and fermentation - through using different yeast strains, the Calle 23 trilogy demonstrates the various expressions of agave that is unique in tequila production.
Sophie’s slogan is “Tequila makes us smarter. So, drink smart,” and we couldn’t choose anything more fit for the job than Calle 23.
March 11, 2019
Winemaker Dinner: Marisol x Martha Stoumen
Marisol x Martha Stoumen
Only 40 spots available for an intimate dinner with winemaker Martha Stoumen and chef Jason Hammel - Stoumen’s small Northern Californian label produces organic, minimal intervention wines.
Featuring limited new releases:
Post Flirtation White Blend ‘18
Out to the Meadow ‘18
Post Flirtation Red Blend ‘18
Nero d’Avola ‘17
Teal Drops Rosé ‘17
February 26, 2019
Invite artwork by our friend Catie Olson: http://www.catieolson.com/
February 20, 2019
FEATURED: People, Place and País: A New Era in Chilean Winemaking
Wine consumers tend to view New World wine regions like South America as newbies to the wine game. While these regions are certainly full of experiential, entrepreneurial winemakers, the history of winemaking in countries like Chile is anything but short. We are fortunate to partner with Brazos Wine Imports, who works with growers committed to artisan, small production, and sustainable winemaking.
The roots of Chilean viticulture can be traced back to 1550, when Jesuit Missionaries chose the Secano Interior to grow wheat and vines needed for the bread and wine of the Christian Eucharist. The Secano, which translates to “dry farming,” is an area of large dryland just east of the coastal mountains, reaching from Bío-Bío in the south to the Colchagua Valley in the north. It’s Mediterranean climate makes for excellent vine growing, with hot, dry summers and cooler, extremely wet winters.
The Jesuit’s succeeded in their spread of Christianity in Chile, and with it, wine. Viticulture in the country continued over the following centuries with the planting of primarily Criolla varieties - a term referring to Spanish grapes planted in the Americas during colonization, including red País and white Moscatel de Alejandría. The first French varieties arrived in Chile during the mid 19th century, but it was not until the earthquake of 1939 that European varieties began to make a more significant appearance. Following the earthquake, wine served as a crucial cash line in the Secano Interior, and growers moved to central Chile and replaced vines with international varieties, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and even Riesling, that could be sold more easily to large producers - a trend that resulted in the loss of small, artisan winemakers, and along with them, Chile’s old vine Criolla.
Despite the influence of the international market on Chilean viticulture, tradition in local winemaking in the Secano Interior lives on. País, low-maintenance in the field but difficult in the cellar, is the perfect grape for low-intervention practices like carbonic maceration. Take Pipeño - light, fresh, and fruit driven, shunned in the era of Bordeaux as the poor man’s wine, but now gaining traction in the global market as Chile’s Beaujolais Nouveau. At Vina Maitia in the Maule Valley, Old World trained Frenchman David Marcel put his Pipeño in beer bottles, emphasizing the wine’s easy drinking nature, with all the bright, fruity notes that the world loves in French glou glou.
Old World plantings may have put Chile on the map for mainstream wine sales, but it is the centuries-old, dry farmed, often ungrafted Criolla vines and granitic soils in the Secano Interior’s Bío-Bío and Itata that have inspired the next generation of winemakers (and cidermakers!). Galvanized by the rich culture and history of the region’s long neglected and rural farming community, winemakers Leonardo Erazo Lynch and Justin Decker chose vineyards in Nipas and Guarlilhue for their winery, Rogue Vine. The soil of this region - granite with a mix of clay and quartz, with vines ranging from 60-300 years old - has proven to be the perfect site for wineries like Rogue Vine’s low intervention, terroir driven winemmaking.
Wine producers around the world are facing the crises of climate change and its disruption in grape growing - the Secano Interior is no exception. In Chile, growers have been facing the immediate environmental repercussions of the country’s mass deforestation. While the timber industry had historically been dominated by northern countries like the United States and Canada, during the second half of the twentieth century, loggers set their sites on Chile’s forests of alerce, a species of large cypress trees. Along with clear cutting these forests came the pressure to plant pine and eucalyptus trees, ripping out old vines for the mass production of timber. Moreover, Chile has been afflicted by devastating wildfires - January of 2017 saw the worst fires in the nation’s history, with hundreds of thousands of acres completely destroyed.
At a ground zero of the climate crises, many Chilean winemakers are at the forefront of instituting progressive, climate-conscious practices. These wine producers, like Clous des Fous and Viña González Bastías, are committed to promoting Chile’s rich history of a long neglected and local farming community, along with investing in the country’s future, though practicing sustainable winemaking techniques.
It is a new era of winemaking in Chile, and we are excited to work with Brazos to showcase exemplary, sustainable wines coming from Chile and it’s Secano Interior.
Gonzales Bastias 2017 ‘Matorral’ Pais, Maule Valley - coming soon!
Vina Maitia 2016 ‘Itzal’ Pais, Maule Valley
Vina Maitia 2017 ‘Aupa’ Pipeno, Maule Valley
Clos des Fous 2015 ‘Cauquenina’ Red Blend, Cauquenes (Itata)
Clos des Fous 2017 ‘Pour Ma Gueule’ Assemblage Tinto, Itata Valley
Rafael Tirado 2017 ‘Vistalago’ Mezcla Blanca, Maule Valley
Clos des Fous 2017 ‘Pour Ma Gueule’ Riesling, Itata Valley
Rogue Vine ‘Grand Itata’ Blanco, Itata Valley - coming back in May!
Prisma 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley
Photos from Brazos Wine Import