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Wine Club Newsletter - February 2016

The Wines Of Northern France

By Gary Parker

If you were to make a horizontal dividing line through the center of France, you would come up with two interesting styles of wine. Generally speaking, the Northern section of France excels in the production of white wines, while the Southern portion of the country makes world-class red wines.

Let’s turn our attention to the Northern portion of France’s winemaking country. There are four distinctly different and famous regions: Champagne, Loire Valley, Burgundy and Alsace.

The Champagne region is France’s northern most wine producing area. Grapes here have difficult time ripening, as the weather is generally cooler, and the growing season is shorter. In;fact, growers and producers in Champagne have an average of three out of every ten years where they can claim it a vintage year.

That means the other seven years of grape growing will result in wines (Champagne) that are blended with previous non-vintage years to make our less expensive bottles, approximately ¼ the cost of their declared Vintage siblings.

To make our most prized sparkling wine on the planet, the growers favor Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are red wine varietals, but often add little or no color to the final product.

If the Pinot juice is left to macerate with the harvest by design, then you will see Rose’ Champagne, which is typical blend would be a majority of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Perhaps you have read my stories in the past about how great Champagne can age gracefully for a decade of two. Also, do not drink it too cold, let it breathe, and use a wine glass versus a flute to get the most of its flavors and bouquet.

Another wine growing region that specializes in growing Chardonnay and Pinot Noir is Burgundy. In fact, some the greatest and most expensive of these varietals are grown here on&n specific plots of vineyard property. Somewhat akin to our domestic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, some can be cellared for enjoying increased complexities of aging the wine, others not.

For your white wines, look to names like Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet, Chevaliers-Montrachet, and the pinnacle Chardonnay in the world, Le Montachet.

For your red wines, look for names such as Pommard, Volnay, Nuits-St.George, Vosne-Romanee, Chambolle-Musigny, Gevrey-Chambertin, and Echezeaux. Some of these wines will age for tens of years, and are the most sublime when mature.

Also in the Burgundy region is Chablis, which makes stunning, mineral-driven wines made from& ;Chardonnay grapes that typically do not see any oak use during fermentation. The wines are lean, complex, and are superior with food. Some of these wines will age three decades or more, and it’s a mesmerizing experience to have one.

Loire Valley
The main grape varietals grown in the coast-hugging region are mostly whites. From the Sauvignon Blanc grapes, we get Sancerre, Pouilly Fume’, Menatou-Salon, Quincy and Reuilly. These are also fabulous with food, and designed to be consumed in their youth.

From the Chenin Blanc grape, we get Vouvray and Savennieres, wines known for the high acidity when young, as well as their ability to age well. Also, Muscadet grapes produce excellent wines that are rounded and firm.

Red wines are made from Cabernet Franc, Gamay, some Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon also. Most are light in color and body, and are meant to be consumed within a few years of the vintage.

90% of the wine production in Alsace is made from white wine grapes. These wines are distinctive, with impressive aromatics, balance, acidity, and go extremely well with all kinds of foods. Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Gris, and Gewurztraminer head the list of varietals.

There is also lovely sparkling wine production here, called Cremant d’Alsace. You can get these beautiful sparkling wines for $20-$30, a knockout value.

The Wines of Northern France Walk-Around Tasting:
Saturday, February 27th
3:30-5:30 pm

$22 per person
(17 per WineSellar Club Member)

Plus, The Brasserie will open early for dinner (5:00) on this day.
Reservations: (858) 450-9557

2012 The Offering, Sans Liege

Growing Region: Santa Barbara County, California
Varietal Composition: 48% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 7% Mourvedre, 1% Viognier
Fermentation: 22 Months, New & Used French Oak
Alcohol Content: 15.4%
Suggested Retail: $29.00
WineSellar Club Price: $24.29

Broad Strokes:
We’ve been selling the Sans Liege labels in The WineSellar & Brasserie for many years now. We find the blending of ‘Old World’ and ‘New World’ styles of wine varietals specific to the Rhone Valley of France are a popular hit to out customers. Winemaker Curt Schalchlin leans towards the bold and muscular styles, and ‘The Offering’ pulls no punches.

I love, love, love the label image of a person deep entrenched, in black and white, digging their nose into a colorful bunch of ripe red grapes, with what I might call ‘scent rays’ giving the illusion of the enticing, hypnotic aromas coming from them. I also like that the label allows our winemaker to go verbose, as he thoughtfully explains his product. The wine is dark at the center, with a glowing magenta hue on the rim.

Deep, very dark fruits with plenty of honey, caramel and cola to savor. Chocolate, roasted nuts, roast beef, charcuterie, molasses, Bourbon, malty, blackberry stand out, with many other fragrant surprises that just keep coming.

What do you think? Monster Jam! But it’s not weird or out of line. The high alcohol doesn’t seem like it plays a big role in the overall texture. So, I like the big feel this wine delivers.

For those who have been in the WineSellar Club for a few years, you know every once in awhile I will describe a wine as an ‘Adult Chocolate Sundae’. This means it has dark berries, chocolate, vanilla, roasted nuts, caramel and dairy/cream. Here we are! Add in some Rhone Valley traits, pepper, roast beef, earth and some strapped leather. YOWZA!

Serving Suggestions:
Drink it today and enjoy it! Put some in the cellar for ten years. For now, big style dishes involving grilled meats, perhaps with a green peppercorn sauce (June 2015) or some such assertive cover.

2014 Giacoto Sauvignon Blanc, Alex Simcic

Growing Region:  Primorska, Slovenia
Varietal:  100% Sauvignon Blanc
Fermentation: Stainless Steel Tanks
Alcohol Content: 12.5%
Suggested Retail:  $15.00
WineSellar Club Price: $12.59

Broad Strokes:
I was so excited to see this wine, to taste it, and now present it to you as part of our February WineSellar Club selections. As you may know, I was in Slovenia last year, and I was really impressed with many of the wines, especially the white wines. They seem to uniformly have a nice streak of mineral in them, said to be a product of water runoff from the rock shelf soils leeching characters into the terraced soil.

The playful rendering of the cat and the few words on the label make the brand distinctive. Good little bits of information on the back label, including a photo of the winemaker is really cool. The wine has a pale, wax like coloring, yet it is bright and clear, and holds on the bowl very impressively.

It has a lovely, perfumed nose, which, while delicate, is quite tantalizing. Notes of pear, tree fruit, apricot, ginger flower, strawberries and Lychee nut are playful, but it still has some seriousness to it. Note some mineral and melon on the nose as well.

Medium to medium light in body, it is smooth and fresh, and has lively acidity. The finish is lasting, and the acid and mineral cut through foods really well.

Lots of fresh fruits are found in the flavor components; Mandarin orange, ripe pear, definitely tropical fruits, such as papaya, Lychee nut, strawberry, apricot, white peach, lime, and also, roasted macadamia nuts.

Serving Suggestions:
This is a fabulous wine to have around the house for any and all occasions. After opening the bottle to do my tasting notes, I finished it off three days later after leaving it in the refrigerator with no wine preservation assistance. It was better then after all that time, a good sign to the integrity of the wine. It’s very versatile in its uses, drink by itself, or as mentioned earlier, the acid and mineral notes can hold well to many foods. Enjoy!

2009 Chateau Meyney, St. Estephe

Growing Region:  St. Estephe, Bordeaux
Varietal:  55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot
Fermentation:  30% New Oak 16-18 Months
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $50.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $42.29

Broad Strokes:                  
It’s not often I will send out two bottles of the same wine, but I wanted to insure you get some of this in your cellar. Chateau Meyney is one of the oldest estates in the Medoc region, dating back to 1662. The estate is right next door to one of the more famous Bordeaux estates, Chateau Montrose. Your 2009 Chateau Meyney got a 93-point rating from James Suckling. 13,000 cases made for the planet.

I loved seeing this label in our store, as it brings back decades of memories drinking wine from this chateau. The wine is very dark, opaque at the center, giving way to a purple plum skin hue.

The aromatics are very reserved at first, but quickly become quite intense with the classic cedar and sweet Bordeaux trademark nose. You’ll most likely detect earthen, dark/wet soil, compost, cassis, dark berry, graphite, and ripe plum.

It has a rich, dense, chunky feel in the mouth. Extremely well balanced, firm, solid structure, sensuous, very smooth, long and thoughtful. There is a hint of youthful acid, not just the tannic acids, but acids akin to strawberry, kiwi and a touch of lime.

Good dark berry and plum fruit is enveloped with roasted nuts, vanilla oak, underbrush, blue clay, and soil. Forest floor, and Baker’s chocolate also thrilled me. The richness and length of the wine is staggering, as the complexities make your senses dance.

Serving Suggestions:
The Chateau suggests this wine will hit its very prime in the years 2025 to 2030. I plan on being around then, so 6-12 bottles are going into my cellar. We are serving the 1990 Meyney in The Brasserie right now, and it is a knockout! Lots of sediment in 2009, so decant or be very careful when serving it.

2013 SR/246 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills

Growing Region:  Santa Rita Hills, California
Varietal:  100% Pinot Noir
Fermentation:  Barrel Aging
Alcohol Content:  13.5%
Suggested Retail:  $30.00
WineSellar Club Price:  $25.19

Broad Strokes:                  
SR/246 stands for State Route 246, which travels from Santa Ynez through the Lompoc region of California. There are many wonderful vineyards along the route, and the Zotovich Winery , producer of this wonderful Pinot Noir, have holdings there. We really enjoyed all the Zotovich wines we have recently tried, and are contemplating a wine dinner with them in March. Stay tuned.

It’s not often you see a wine label with such a font driven center. Especially one immediately unidentifiable as to varietal or whatever may be inside the bottle. Further, the vintage is not on the label, but is definitively 2013, we checked. Medium light strawberry and black tea hue, which befalls to nearly clear at the rim.

The fragrance on the wine is kind of exotic, yet mild and slightly wild. Mild in it’s force, but it keeps opening with 20, 30, 40 minutes of air. Wild in that it has aromatics that are sort of meaty, with sausage and smoked roast beef. Then you get notes of soy sauce, cherry, raspberry and pomegranate. Yes, wild!

Medium-light in body, with a silky smooth, delicate, even wispy mouth-feel. Good balance, easy drinking, with some interesting extraction for a lighter feeling wine. And a surprising long finish is rewarding, with a touch of creaminess and firm backbone.

As with the texture, there is a long finish with the flavor components. Bright cherry fruit, wood / oak, touch of vanilla, anise, Moroccan spices, some fresh herb nuances, and roasted Macadamia nuts.

Serving Suggestions:
What an interesting wine! It seems so light, yet carries a lot of presence in the nose, its texture, and flavors. While I wouldn’t drop this in the cellar, I would certainly have it with cheese, appetizers, sausages, cold cuts, and light pasta dishes.

Fruit Salad with Yogurt

Serves Four

Next week the weather here in San Diego is expected to be higher than 80 degrees. Today, we can get all kinds of fresh fruits at our gourmet stores. So after reading my notes on the 2014 Giacoto Sauvignon Blanc from Slovenia, I decided a good, healthy fruit salad would be a perfect match up to this wine.  You can change the fruits at your pleasure, the main point is to get the yogurt dressed up properly. While the preparation method is short on tasks, it is still labor intensive to prepare the fruits.

For fun, I put all the fruit components I got from the wine into the salad.


  • 4 cups Greek Yogurt
  • juice of 1 lime
  • one pinch of ginger
  • juice of one Mandarin orange
  • 2 Mandarin orange, peeled and sectioned
  • 1 papaya, cubed
  • 1 small pear, skinned and cubed
  • 2 apricots, quartered and skinned
  • 4 Lychee nuts, peeled and pitted (fresh preferred over canned, if possible)
  • 8 strawberries, quartered
  • ½ cup roughly chopped and toasted Macadamia nuts


  1. Mix the yogurt, lime juice, Mandarin orange juice, and ginger in a bowl.
  2. Distribute the yogurt mix to four serving bowls.
  3. Artistically arrange the fruit on top of the yogurt mix.
  4. Place bowls in refrigerator and chill until ready to serve.
  5. Just before serving, add top each dish with freshly toasted Macadamia nuts


You can consider adding one or more of the following to the yogurt mix: vanilla, honey, Lychee nut juice

Gary Parker
February 2016


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