Our Friends In Sacramento (CA Pioneers - Part III)

If you live in Northern California and you're into local fooderies, then you've undoubtedly heard of the Corti Brothers; the Sacramento grocery outlet started by Frank and Gino Corti in 1947. Focusing on wine and other delicacies previously unavailable in the area, the two siblings set the bar for what a retailer of fine goods could bea purveyor of both quality and education for those interested in learning more about the things we consume. Frank's son Darrell would eventually take over the family business and today he's known in our industry as a man with impeccable taste. Even serious whisky geeks might recognize his single malt prowess from Serge's Whisky Fun blog, where a number of the Corti Brothers whiskies (bottled back in the 1980s) have been reviewed recently (to great acclaim). Darrell and our co-owner Clyde Beffa go back decades, and remain friends today; both having taken a stand for excellence in retailing long before such a thing was popular. There's no doubt a number of similarities between the infrastructure of both K&L and the Corti Brothers retail storestwo family run merchantiles that have long searched outside the box for the finer things in life; importing their own exclusive products from abroad, complete with a simple, plain white label (Kalinda would be the K&L wine version).

I bring the Corti Brothers up now because tomorrow we're getting the chance to finally do a little business together. Let me start by pasting in this text from the recent Fall 2014 Corti Brothers newsletter pertaining to an old California wine they're currently offering:

CHARLES MYERS began making MISSION DEL SOL wine at HARBOR WINERY in 1972. The last vintage he produced, the 1986, was bottled July, 2014. This 28 year old wine is the last vintage of this unique production. It is an exceptional bottling of an exceptional wine. It is also a relic of California wine, that when gone, will probably not be seen again.

Made from what is considered a worthless, yet historically famous grape variety, MISSION, it is the product of a fermentation technology, first described and written about by W.V. CRUESS, in 1916. This fermentation technology, syruped fermentation, for the production of high alcohol dessert wines, came about due to the lack of fortifying spirit in California in 1915. Professor Cruess writes about it in his book, The Principles and Practice of Winemaking [2nd edition, 1947.] Cruess’ book was the winemaking guide Charles Myers followed.

In 1972, it was difficult to make fortified wines, since to fortify necessitated the presence of the Federal officer responsible for alcohol. Charles thought this was onerous. In 1969, Stony Hill winery in St. Helena started to produce a sweet semillon wine for Corti Brothers called Semillon de Soleil. Charles thought he could produce a similar sweet wine with Mission grapes from Amador Co. As a home winemaker he had tried making such a wine in 1967. Thus, with a humble variety no one wanted, and old technology, which no one wanted either, nine vintages of Mission del Sol were produced. The grapes were always from Amador County vineyards and varied from Deaver to Eschen, to Story. This last vintage, the 1986, is from the century old vines at Story vineyard.

The production technology at Harbor winery has always been as “non interventionist” as possible. The wines didn’t make themselves, but were handled with as little manipulation as possible–what was just necessary. ANGELICA is probably the closest wine type that Mission del Sol corresponds to. It is different from classic Angelica in that not being fortified with spirit, it has a softer, less hard flavor, with great fruitiness that is not just simple.

The aged character of the 1986 comes through with a striking ruddy amber color, a marvelous “rancio” character and pungency, reminiscent of a fine Bual or Verdelho Madeira. A soft butterscotch flavor is due to the wine’s age. It is sweet, but with a dry end. With 22.7% alcohol and only 8 grams of sugar, it is not cloying or sticky. When fermentation finished and the first analysis of the wine made, it had 15.7% alcohol. In 2010, it had 19.5%. Its alcohol at bottling is simply concentration due to evaporation. Curiously, the sweetness is less than dry Sercial Madeira would have.

I got the chance to try one of these bottles a few weeks ago and it was quite an eye-opening experience. Not only is the Mission wine a relic of California's booze history (a subject I've been covering recently on the blog), but it got me immediately thinking: what would whisky taste like were it to be aged in a leftover Mission Del Sol barrel? The profile is very similar to a sweet sherry flavor and could probably do quite a number on the right spirit. Maybe that was something we could work on together.

But then, of course, that curiosity was soon satisfied. I got the answer I was looking for and it seemed that someone was far, far ahead of me in that line of thinking. Tomorrow, you'll see exactly what whiskey aged in Mission Del Sol looks like. It looks like Darrell Corti is back in the whiskey business. That's good news for all of us.

-David Driscoll


Wow Bob Wow

It is happening again. I about pissed my pants and started crying like a little baby the other day when I heard David Lynch was going to shoot a new season of Twin Peaks for Showtime next year. 



I have driven to North Bend, WA for the sole purpose of visiting the "Double R" Diner and the town that served as Agent Cooper's homebase for the Laura Palmer investigation. That was in 2009, when my wife and I went from Seattle to Idaho stopping for what was a magical moment for me personally.


How does Coop get out of the Black Lodge? What's been happening for the last twenty-five years? How much more cherry pie can one man eat? I guess I'll have to wait until 2016 when it actually airs.
If you didn't see the news a few weeks back, check out the link below and get your goosebumps going.



-David Driscoll

Original Content

I've been lazy this morning; sitting around in my pajamas, drinking coffee, and skimming through the five New Yorkers that have backed up on me in the previous weeks. There's an interesting one-pager about Netflix and its push towards more original programming in the issue I'm reading now. Apparently, they just signed Adam Sandler to make four movies exclusively for their subscription-based streaming service. The article focuses on how Netflix has been able to adapt from a pay-per-view service, to a DVD-rental service, to a streaming service, and now into a provider of original content (remember what Austan Goolsbee said about Silicon Valley businesses that can adapt?). 

So what changed?

"Netflix became a victim of its own success," the article states. "Once content providers saw how popular streaming was becoming, they jacked up the price of their content."

That sounds oddly familiar.

Jeffrey Ulin, the former head of distribution at Lucasfilm, is quoted in the article as saying: "The calculus here is simple. There's a lot more competition for viewers. That means it's harder to get content. And the content you do get costs more."

This premium price on content, my friends, is why Signatory bought Edradour distillery. It's why Ian McCleod bought Glengoyne and Tamdhu. It's why Willett finally got its operation up and running, and why Michter's and Angel's Envy are building their own distilleries. It's why Black Maple Hill doesn't sell Kentucky Bourbon anymore. You need original content; your own juice if you're going to survive in the new world of whiskey. Buying programming from other producers is getting to be too expensive.

"The carrot for any pay-TV service is really original content," Ulin goes on to say. "That's the one thing you can guarantee people won't find anywhere else. Of course, everyone is investing in original content, so Netflix just has to do what others are doing and hope that it can do it better."

Faultline, anyone?

-David Driscoll

UPDATE: I just realized that yesterday's blog post wiped out all our Palazzi rum. I've got plenty more coming tomorrow, so you can now order into the negative via the link in the previous post if you want to capitalize on the hot price.


Speaking of JCVD...

I can't think of Van Damme anymore without thinking of my friend Nicolas Palazzi, who also is good-looking, cut out of granite, and speaks with a sexy French accent (and who also geeks out for terrible action flicks with guys like Michael Dudikoff). This is the imposing Mr. Palazzi standing off to the side in Jalisco, where we both travelled earlier this year. It was like having the Terminator with you while drinking tequila. I bring him up now because his fantastic sherry-aged rum just won "Rum of the Year" from Wine & Spirits Magazine. This one:

Of course they list it as $180 in the article, which is indeed what it used to cost. In celebration of Nic's award and JCVD's birthday, we're going to offer a new deal:

Equipo Navazos-Nicolas Palazzi Oloroso-Aged Cask Strength Spanish Rum $99.99 - Spanish rum aged in the finest Oloroso casks in the world? Yes, please! From the San Francisco Chronicle: The product is a partnership between Equipo Navazos, which hunts and bottles rare individual casks of Sherry; and Nicolas Palazzi, who, under his PM Spirits label, does much the same with the hard stuff. The short story: Rum aged for five years in the Caribbean was bartered with a Sherry house, which then aged it another decade in a solera-style system of oloroso casks. The result is 1,500 bottles that combine the burnished depth of Sherry, the sweetness of bourbon cask and the funk of molasses. You won't encounter another rum like it.

-David Driscoll


Happy Birthday JCVD

Happy birthday to my all-time hero, Jean-Claude Van Damme! Today is a day for celebration! Which film to watch tonight? 

-David Driscoll