In my quest to become a member of The Wine Century Club, I was just reminded of the importance of retailers.

They’re the link between the vineyards and the all important point-of-purchase. Retailers play one of the most important roles as wine purchasing influencers in our lives.

As Jose and I just looked at Traverso’s Burgundy offerings over the weekend, it was Jose who asked, “Bill, we’re wanting a Burgundy to have with dinner tonight. What would you recommend?” It wasn’t about any scores. It wasn’t about the price. It was about Bill’s opinion as a knowledgeable and trusted retailer.

He recommended the 2007 RB Gevrey Chambertin Regis Bouvier, and that became our choice… regardless of all else. It was luscious, plummy fruit, and exactly what we wanted to go with a chicken dish that Jose wanted to replicated from a recent meal that we had had in Oakland. I showed Jose how to cook the dish, based on my 45 years behind a stove. Together we created a rich tasting experience for our dinner and senses…

I’d tell you about the restaurant, but they charged us $20/bottle of wine opened. We were with a winemaker and we left all the bottles opened, plus an unopened bottle, for the staff to enjoy… Six bottles of wine cost us $120… Outrageous and we won’t return.

For me, a wine retailer is my best resource, when I don’t know what I’m doing. Many of them, like Bill Traverso, are wine judges in wine competitions, also. They’ve tasted thousands of wines. I’ve not tasted that many, and need to trust someone I can talk with on a regular basis. I’ve always enjoyed talking with Bill. His demeanor is that of your best friend, as most of your invested retailers are. I first met Bill when I was selling wine for Belvedere Winery, so we have a long standing, professional relationship.

How we found ourselves at Traverso’s in Santa Rosa is that Jose got an E-mail announcements from them. Each week, Bill (wine and spirits buyer) has an in-store tasting. Jose and I have attended his tastings in the past, but I’ve been so busy lately that we’ve not slowed down long enough to get ourselves into Santa Rosa on a Saturday.

I honestly love to write on Saturday’s, when the house and my home office are so quiet.

But… Jose’s latest Email from Bill made me not only do a double take, it also made me leave my desk to pursue wine instead of writing about it.

Why? Because Bill was offering varieties from the Liguria region (in green) that would put me even closer to my goal of tasting 100 different wine grapes; namely, six new varieties ~ Bosco, Vermentino, Albarola, Pigato, Ormeasco, and Corvino. It read:

Traverso’s “Wines of Liguria” tasting & specials this Saturday, May 1, in-store from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

[I purchased this photograph, because I’ve never been to Italy, and I wanted you to see the beauty as it was described to me.]

Prior to this tasting, I couldn’t have even told you where Liguria is. Thanks to Bill, I now know that it’s part of the Italian Riviera.

As I did this tasting with Bill, I was struck by what a wonderful educator he is. I noted this, because Jose and I were taking notes and our time. In that time frame, other people arrived and were told the exact same story we had been told, in the same patient and fascinating manner. It didn’t appear to be well rehearsed. It was personal, he stopped for questions, and yet he delivered the exact same important bullet points. Bill imparted great personal knowledge quite simply and interestingly. He’s an instructor at Santa Rosa Junior College, and he’s a local wine judge. Bill knows that to understand a wine, one must first understand the people, the region, its foods, and its culture; and so, I began to learn about Liguria.

According to Bill:

The Italian Provence of Liguria is widely known for it’s beautiful Mediterranean Sea coastline. Famous towns of Portofino and the villages of Cinque Terre draw visitors from all over the world. It’s also the historical ancestral home of my [Traverso] family. We know this region very well. Years of travel and visits with relatives throughout Liguria make this province a special place for us. For a long time we’ve enjoyed the wines from Liguria, but have never been able to obtain them in California. Through recent travels and demand we now have these wines in our store to share.

Bill talked about the herbs in this area. They’re rosemary, basil, sage, thyme, and some oregano. The flavors of these wines below will do extremely well with dishes that embrace these herbs. And… let’s not forget olive oils. Olive trees thrive in Mediterranean climates. These wines below and the foods that you’re preparing with olive oils and these herbs will take you to Liguria’ gastronomical pleasures of the region.


[I’m leaving Bill’s descriptions in tact, because I can’t possibly do this any better than what he’s taught me.]

2008 CINQUE TERRE VENDEMMIA DOC BIANCO (white wine) ~ $22.99

Produced from 60% Bosco, 20% Vermentino and 20% Albarola grapes. All varietals are typical of the Italian Riviera and grown in the five famous villages of “Cinque Terre” – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Straw color and greenish tint, the Cinque Terre wine has a fine bouquet and a pleasantly dry, fresh, soft taste, reminiscent of the sea that surrounds the hillside vineyards.


100% Pigato….Straw yellow with a green-light hue, with a delicate fresh aroma of sage, thyme and oregano, dry taste, big bodied and pleasurably crisp. Perfect with grilled orata, fish soup or vegetable minestrone and rabbit cooked with olives.


100% Pigato….Fruity, expressive aromas of white peaches and honey blend with wildflowers and a touch of herbs on the nose. The mouth is medium-bodied with great mineral expression, lots of white pepper and citrus zest. The wine’s persistence, in both perfume and flavor, is Pigato’s most striking characteristic—in addition to its bright yet slightly “amaro” finish of stone fruits and almonds. Originally from Greece, Pigato made its way to Liguria in the 1600s, and is believed to be a cousin of Vermentino. Today it is almost exclusively tied to the Ligurian Riviera, where vines curl and dig into amazingly steep, terraced hillsides. “Aromas of apple pie, pear and cream lead to a full body, with a lovely texture and subtle flavors of mineral, flint and mango. Long and flavorful. A lovely wine.” 90 Points – Wine Spectator

2008 DURIN PORNASSIO DOC ORMEASCO (rare red wine) ~$19.99

100% Ormeasco Grapes…The local name for Dolcetto, Ormeasco in and along the Ligurian Riviera delivers flavors that are richer and more structured than what one would finds further northeast in Dolcetto from Alba. Endlessly juicy, this wine blends aromas of blackberries, cherries and violets; on the palate it is fresh and fruity, with good grip and plenty of baking spices.


This little producer was introduced to us by our good friend Kermit Lynch. He said, “You must feature this wine in your shop.” He went on to note, “I couldn’t be more excited to introduce you to these wines, made in the tiny town of Varigotti, Italy.” Produced by the Ruffino family who is famous in their hometown but little known elsewhere, even in Italy. They’ve been making wine in Varigotti since 1500! The RARE red grape in this wine is 100 percent CORVINO. Ruby red in color, with light red fruit strawberry on the nose. Flavors of robust forest berry and spice in the mouth. Soft, clean and long finish.

Bill pulled out a sixth wine, not listed in his Email that was very special and very rare.

2006 Cinque Terre Sciacchetra (dessert wine) ~$75 for a 375ml bottle.

From my notes: This is from an obscure region of the Liguria. The color is a gorgeous amber, the flavors were of burnt orange, toasted almonds, and tangerine honey. The finish was clean and sweet as the nectar of the gods… Bacchus came alive… It was 14 percent alcohol and was from the PIGATO variety.

UPCOMING EVENTS & TASTINGS (this schedule subject to change)

  • Saturday, May 8 – Wines of Argentina Saturday
  • May 15 – New Italian Wines with Marcello

UPDATE: The store has closed.