I certainly appreciate a good deal on wine, and try to expose as many bargains as I can. But as a wine lover, sometimes you just want the comfort of a treasured favorite, whether or not you have to shake every last dime out of your Levi's to afford it.
We're spoiled here in the Bay Area, with access to unarguably some of the world's great wines, many of them tiny productions with little to no distribution. Dropping $30 to $100 on a wine you're not familiar with can be intimidating, but there are absolute gems out there no wine lover should miss. One of these is my favorite "newcomer" of the last few years, Romililly Pinot Noir.
Romililly is a tiny winery in the rainy and foggy Russian River Valley that produces one of the best-kept secrets in California wine, the insanely delectable 2008 Pinot Noir.
It's produced by brothers Aaron and Jason Inman, who grew up around their uncle, August "Joe" Briggs, maker of the esteemed (and pricy) wines under the August Briggs label. As adults, the Inmans ventured off on their own. On their website, they call Romililly "the culmination of years of experience at our uncle's winery and many long nights of quiet contemplation (read: loud raucous parties and lots of wine tasting)." So much for pretension.
I called the winery recently to inquire about case production. A friendly-sounding Aaron Inman called me back 20 minutes later, clearly enthusiastic. He said the winery produced only 390 cases of the 2008 Romililly Pinot Noir, and doubts they'll ever increase the production. The Inmans make and sell the wine themselves, personally carting cases down to the city to deliver them to The California Wine Merchant on Chestnut Street, where it's gained a fervent following among the regulars who pack the place and raise a din nearly every night.
The 2008 Romililliy Pinot retails for $43 at the California Wine Merchant, the only place you can buy it retail in San Francisco. (Full disclosure: It's also the place I happen to work.) There are a couple of shops in Santa Rosa, Calistoga, Menlo Park, and Lafayette where you can find it, or you can order directly from the winery, though I doubt Aaron will bring it over to your house by hand ― though you could always try bribing him with pizza and beer.
A $43 retail wine should deliver brilliance, and the 2008 Romililly does. The wine is unfiltered, giving voice to its terroir. Beautifully hued, with garnet and bruise-colored shades usually associated with Burgundies, the wine exhibits stunning aromas of violets, forest floor, huckleberry, damp earth, and zingy acids. The palate is creamy and racy, with touches of vanilla, oak, and dried currants. It pairs wonderfully with richer, gamier foods, but also with pizza (the Inmans' personal favorite) and ― after spending over $40 on this wine ― maybe with Top Ramen. So if you're inclined to up the ante a bit and splurge on something special, whether for the date you want to impress or because you deserve it after being abused at work all week, this is a wine I can 100-percent endorse.