Recently I have been working on developing some new wine classes for the Sierra College Kaleidoscope spring semester. I am calling one of them a Mediterranean Cruise, focusing on the wines you might discover at various ports of call around the sea.
So far, and with some effort, I have been able to procure wines from 11 of the 18 or so countries that surround the Med. Spain, France, and Italy quickly come to mind. What about the other countries? What kind of wines do they produce and from what kind of grapes, and most importantly, are they worth exploring?
Vranac, Teran, Zlahtina, and Okuzgozu are all grapes most of us have never heard of, producing wines we’ve never tasted, from wine regions we couldn’t pinpoint, even if we knew what country they were from.
All of which brings me to one of my pet peeves about the current state of our wine industry.
In spite of the enormity of wine countries, wine regions, wineries, and different varietals produced around the world, far too little of it is readily available, especially in rural areas like Nevada County.
I know, when you walk down the wine aisle of a local grocery store the options can be quite intimidating with hundreds of wines from which to choose.
When you look a little more closely there are really only a handful of different varietals represented, almost all from California. The international varieties, as they are commonly referred to, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc are dominant, followed by Zinfandel, Syrah, Riesling, Gewurz, Chenin Blanc, and a smattering of others.
Still the effect can be overwhelming and rather than attempt something new, the tendency is to select something you are already familiar with, knowing that while you might not be excited, at least that you won’t be disappointed.
I think one of the indispensable people to have in your shopping entourage is a knowledgeable wine person, someone who understands your wine preferences and can guide you to new and exciting wine discoveries that while different, still retain a familiar edge.
That is the role Buzz Crouch, co-owner with Peter Selaya of The New Moon Restaurant in Nevada City, fulfills more than any other person in our area.
If you have not been to New Moon recently, or more importantly, not looked at their wine list, well, you really should. Without question, the restaurant is outstanding but it is the wine list that really has me excited.
Crouch has spent a lifetime perfecting his craft.
“I’ve been in the business since 1974, tasting wines and learning what wines from different regions are supposed to taste like,” Crouch explained.
He works very hard to present a comprehensive list, that he reprints every week, of both important and intriguing wine regions from around the world.
The current list contains almost 200 selections, which is impressive by itself. However, even more impressive is the breadth of the list, the total number of different types of wine he carries from different regions around the world.
Godello and Albarino from Spain, Gruner Velltliner from Austria, Falanghina, Aglianico, and Lagrein from Italy, Robola and Xinomavro
from Greece and Riesling from Germany, are just a few of the outside-the-box offerings on this most eclectic of wine lists.
Before you start worrying that you might be a stranger in a strange land, more than half the list is from California, including a variety of local selections as well as other premium California wine regions.
It’s not easy to maintain a wine list like New Moon’s. Crouch hunts and pecks his way through a maze of wineries and distributors to find exactly what he wants.
A recent count of contacts included 27 different distributors each representing between seven and three hundred wineries and another 20 wineries he deals with directly.
Crouch explained that the diversity of their wine list stems from the same philosophy that drives the restaurant.
“You can go any place and get a certain standard of foods and wines. At New Moon, we are striving for more than that. Our goal is to present a unique face of wine and food and diversity is key to that.”
Next time you go to New Moon, walk on the wild side. Take a few minutes to talk to Buzz. Tell him what you’re thinking of ordering and what kind of wine you generally prefer.
Then put yourself in his hands and let him select a wine for you. It’s the most perfectly enjoyable way to expand your wine horizons.
It’s not widely known, nor does Buzz push it, but he does sell wines retail out the door at prices reduced from the restaurant’s listed prices.
Want to give yourself a holiday gift this year that keeps on giving? Create your own wine of the month club.
Set your price parameters, style preferences and then let Buzz select a wine or two for you every month to enjoy at home.
Wine is a celebration, as much about what’s inside the bottle, and where it comes from, as well as who is around the table when you open and share it. Don’t get stuck in the same old wine rut. There are so many fabulous wines to explore.
Going to New Moon is a great place to start.
Rod Byers, CWE, is a Certified Wine Educator and wine writer as well as a California State Certified Wine Judge. You can find information about his upcoming series of Sierra College Kaleidoscope Wine Classes starting in February at www.pinehillwineworks.com and he can be reached at (530) 913-3703.
“...Our goal is to present a unique face of wine and food and diversity is key to that.”
— Buzz Crouch,