Ever since starting this blog I had intended to visit Scardello Artisan Cheese Shop during one of their late nights that occur the first Friday of each month. I first dropped by the shop about two years ago, and was struck by their use of highball glasses for wines they served by the glass. It seemed to promote an image free of pretension, a place where anyone could feel relaxed. I could only recall stemware as the preferred medium since I began drinking wine regularly. Businesses such as Scardello that serve wine and charge money for it often invest an inordinate amount of time and capital for what they consider the ideal glassware. But in this small cheese shop, wine is a best friend that their cheese needs to keep around, even though it may have a life of its own outside of Scardello.
I finally had some spare time this past Friday evening, and I drove straight from work to the shop. I approached the live jazz trio, when Ali Morgan, a short brunette employee with a bright demeanor, approached me. “Hey Adam!” she said with gusto, hugging me. “How are you?”
“I’ve been doing well,” I remarked.
“It’s Rich’s birthday. Come sit with us.”
Rich Rogers had left a career in the film industry to open this unique and personal vision of a cheese shop years ago. It represents what he wants to share with the community, with a sense of enthusiasm that filters into the friendly smiles of his employees, some of whom were relaxing with him for their night off.
Rich poured me a glass of 2008 Teira Zinfandel from Sonoma, basic, big, and expansive, and a great partner for the piece of creamy Jersey Blue cheese he let me taste. Someone mentioned that the winemaker, Dan Donahoe, was a friend of Rich’s. “He’s a cool guy and he makes great wines,” Rich said.
I began fiddling with my new camera, snapping pictures in between sips of Corino Nebbiolo Rich let me taste. Having just arrived from work, a couple glasses of wine were causing my memory of the familiar jazz tunes to elude me of their exact titles, but they were nonetheless relaxing to my pleasant state of revelry.
I had invited an old friend’s current girlfriend, Gretchen, who had just moved to town. In spite of her lactose intolerance, the mention of half-price wines by the glass and live jazz convinced her to join us. I bought us each a glass of Malbec and told her about my week full of mishaps before Thanksgiving.
As the jazz trio packed up their instruments, Rich gave me and Gretchen a taste of the Iron Horse 2007 Wedding Cuvee Blanc de Noirs. He explained how they were among those who had petitioned for Green Valley’s American Viticultural Area status in Sonoma back in 1983. I inhaled the cherry blossom aroma percolating out of my highball, and sipped it as I browsed Rich’s small yet eclectic wall of wines. On the bottom shelf in the center, I noticed an Italian Carménère-based blend. The grape almost always originates from Chile, and this was the second time I had seen it from elsewhere, (the first time was from one of my favorite Walla Walla wineries, Morrison Lane,) so I was no doubt curious about the bottle in front of me by Inama. Surely it’s not approved for us to sell at Whole Foods, I thought.
I told my colleague about it at work the next day, and arrived yesterday to an open bottle to taste and a full case to stock our shelves. I love being wrong at moments like these, because I had the opportunity to taste something new. Soft, lush, relaxing, the wine was welcoming me into its home, a place with no frills where I could unwind amongst company. In that spirit, I made sure my coworkers tasted it, and told them how the grape was nearly lost to the industry and is mostly only available in Chile. Now we have something familiar that will allow me to introduce more people to Italian wine, and therein lies the most exciting part of what I do: the possibility of relishing my taste with others.