And now, a word from our sponsor…

In this final entry for 2010, I’d like to step out of my guise as Your West Coast Oenophile and speak to the future of Sostevinobile. This past year presented considerable challenges, even for those of us who didn’t grow grapes; one of the consequences was that I became too immersed on a number of fronts to put out a newsletter. In lieu, I cobbled together a Christmas greeting for our many winery friends, business affiliates, and other acquaintances, with intimations of substantive progress for our venture looming just ahead in the New Year.

We’re still on track for January, and my optimism increases with every passing day. And it was certainly gratifying to receive numerous congratulations and encouraging responses to my mass e-mailing (once I figured out how to work around Earthlink’s bulk mail policies). Nonetheless, intimations in a few of these replies lead me to feel I should make clear what Sostevinobile’s wine acquisition procedures will be, once we become ready to start formal operations.

I began building our wine program just over two years ago and have now identified and addressed nearly 2,300 wineries and independent labels throughout California, Washington, and Oregon. This puts us somewhere between ¼ and ⅓ of our target of assembling the most comprehensive source of sustainably-grown wines from the West Coast. Obviously, there will be myriad implications to such an ambitious goal.

The long-term plan for Sostevinobile is to open and operate up to a dozen large-format wine bars with retail stores and e-commerce in strategically-select cities throughout these three states (any more than that and we will not be able to provide the consistent quality I demand). For now, however, everything is focused on launching our flagship wine bar in San Francisco. Here we will have a rotating program of 48 wines by the glass, with an ever-growing reserve bottle-only list and a much more comprehensive retail line.

Even
with swapping out one flight of red wine and one flight of white each week,
that leaves us with somewhere in the vicinity of 350-400 wines we can
offer onsite our first year. Regrettably, this will mean Sostevinobile cannot accommodate every wine I try—at least as a bar selection—and I have made a point of not making any commitments in this regard other than to be as equitable with everyone as I possibly can be.

My role in developing Sostevinobile has been to lay the groundwork for our wine programs and to build a database of wineries that meet with our criteria for inclusion. When Sostevinobile does reach the point where we are actively acquiring wine, selections will be determined by consensus of the in-house wine tasting panel I am cultivating. I do not pretend to have a universal palate that can speak to the widely disparate tastes of the clientele we are anticipating, nor do I believe any one single person should try to fulfill such a function.

Sostevinobile is determined to avail our wine bar and retail programs to every winery I have contacted and befriended over the past two years. Our tasting panel will give a fair and studied evaluation to each of the wines submitted to us and determine how best we might incorporate it into our wine lists and our retail sales. But the only immutable pledge I can make is to sustain the integrity of our program and provide the finest showcase available for the incredible wines of our region.

Certain factors will inescapably play into our decisions. Wines will have to fall into an affordable by-the-glass range. Wines readily available in supermarkets or wine superstores will likely face less of a chance for inclusion than those that can constitute discoveries for our clientele. Statistically, the four California bottlers of an underrepresented varietal like Grüner Veltliner will more likely to find their way onto one of our flights than will the 900 or so Chardonnay producers. And, of course, all the wine Sostevinobile selects must meet with a level of sustainability that I will outline in the near future (like the new California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance certification, our criteria are being designed to be supportive and embracing, not exclusionary).

On a personal note, I look forward to working in 2011 with the numerous wineries with whom Sostevinobile has already established a relationship and to enjoining those whom we have yet to meet. Like most other people, I am hoping that the economic turmoil of 2010 will soon be but a speck in the rearview mirror and the coming year will bring prosperity and success to us all.

2010 also saw the loss of a number of wine friends I have made, including Art Finkelstein, Marie Nichelini-Irwin, and Rachel Ann Seghesio, whom I had met merely two days before her unexpected passing. Perhaps most poignant, however, was the death of 104-year-old Marie Ringrose, the aunt of Sostevinobile’s putative seed investor and of numerous members of the Dolan (Mendocino Wine Company) and Rossi families (Italian Swiss Colony). Two Christmases ago, I delivered a fifth of her favorite daily tonic, Johnny Walker Red, to the San Francisco Towers, where she resided.
Sostevinobile hopes all our patrons can enjoy such dynamic longevity! Our goal is to furnish the proper elixir to ensure it!

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