Monday, February 6, 2017

Corti Brothers: The Wonders of Sacramento's Most Famous Food and Wine Emporium

Looking for back issues of the World of Fine Wine magazine? Non-hipster books on Georgian wine? Rare Armenian wine from the cave nearest the place where the earliest evidence of ancient winemaking has been found? Corti Brothers, founded in 1947, has you covered.

There may be other wine stores in Sacramento - BevMo, Total Wine, and more - but none can match the personality and passion of Corti Brothers, a grocery with one of the most idiosyncratic and original wine departments in the country. If you're a wine lover, this is definitely a place to geek out.


I first met Darrell Corti, a sort of eminence gris among California's wine cognoscenti, last year at the incredible Ancient Wine Symposium held near San Francisco. There the attendees tasted a variety of wines from the Middle East, Armenia, Turkey, Georgia and other countries with an ancient wine tradition. There were three producers at the event who had set up shop near Areni, the cave where archaeologists, to date, have found the oldest remains of wine production, launching commercial operations to honor the site's historical roots.


One of the lovely wines we tasted that day was Trinity Canyon Vineyards' 6100, named 6100 because the winemaking remains found by archaeologists excavating Areni Cave date back 6,100 years.

It's imported into the U.S. by Robert Michero, an Armenian descendant from LA. The grapes it's made from are Areni Noir, and according to the producer, no pesticides are used in growing the grapes. You might say this area is, like much of Georgia, "pre-certification" organic, meaning that organic certification is not a norm because many of the producers have never adopted the use of pesticides (although some in the area have now started to).

When I saw Corti at the event, he was in conversation with Michero, the importer, about carrying the wine in his Sacramento store. It was this that ultimately made me find a time, after attending Unified Wine and Grape Symposium (held in Sacramento), to seek out his shop.

And what an antidote to the giant trade show it was! There the giant vintners who fill supermarket shelves dominated, sharing tips and knowledge and marketing strategies.


In contrast, Corti Brother embodied the old world of wine, where items were handpicked and lovingly curated. There was duck confit from France,  locally made Basque almond cake, and beer grown from local hops. This store is a dream from the distant past, where the shopkeepers' hand in selection was apparent.

And that was before I hit the wine section.

But first I had to peruse the books and magazines, where I found a bonanza for anyone who wanted to buy back issues of The World of Fine Wine, a periodical that caters strictly to the true fans of wine (it sells for $45 an issue here and everywhere else). It is one of the most beautiful wine publications in the world.

And of course, there was an excellent selection of the usual wine mags - Wine Spectator, Wine & Spirits and Decanter.



The book selection was most impressive. Here on the shelf was the classic The Wine Press and the Cellar, by Emmet Rexford, which was first published in 1883. A manual on traditional winemaking techniques, it later became Paul Draper's (of Ridge Vineyards) trusted bible. Today you can order reproduction copies on Amazon.com, but not this beautiful vintage edition in green (show below)..


The book rack had not one, but two books on Georgian wine, from Georgia. On a more local note, Corti Brothers carries a hard-to-find book I'd never seen before on the history of wine in El Dorado County - Gold and Wine (with a foreword by Darrel Corti).


WINE DEPARTMENT

And now on to the main event - the wine department, a treasure chest of known as well as unknown unique wines, filled with liqueurs I've never heard of, beautifully labeled bottles of Tokay, and treasures from far afield.



For those who like to shop organic and support organic vine wine producers, there was plenty to choose from - and an attentive wine clerk to help you find whatever you're looking for.

There was a rare Nebbiolo from Bonny Doon from 2007, in the early days of the winery's commitment to Biodynamic farming and varietal experimentation. I haven't seen this on any shelves elsewhere.


From Napa, there was Sinskey's orange wine, Orgia, and many wines from Frog's Leap (Merlot, Zin, Cab and more).


From Sonoma, there was Marimar Estate's Pinot Noir and Barbara, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel from Preston Winery.

From Paso, there were Tablas Creek Rhone wines, and from Lodi, selections from Bokisch Winery. Lavender Ridge, from up in Calaveras County, was also represented.


From Oregon there was King Estate Pinot Gris and Montinore Estate's Muller Thurgau.

But best of all, there was the sought after 6100 ($16), sitting, in an endcap position, with no particular fanfare. Lucky the buyers who snatch this up.

Most of them probably don't even know the whole story.


For those who want to know more about the 6100 wine story, Corti Brothers's YouTube channel has the video for you:

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