Carrie Smith of Biondivino, a sleek Russian Hill wine boutique that offers a mind boggling array of labels (yet provides enough comforting atmosphere and information to guide you through it all), has also noticed an upswing of interest in wines from Sicily, especially those from Etna. But another "strange surge" of interest, she says, is in the return to classics from the Tuscany and Umbria regions. A big winner among Biondivino winetasters this year has been the intensely fruity and now near impossible-to-find Valdicava Brunelo di Montalcino (brunello is closely related to sangiovese, another hot grape this year). Smith's favorite white at the moment is Piedmontese Timorasso — lush and rich, creamy without being oaky or buttery, with a golden acidity. "It's a good brain slap that makes you think, and want some more," she says. Her favorite red is Vigneti Massa, from a Croatian varietal. With the power of a brunelo and the structure and elegance of a borello, she says, this wine is dark and rich, with nice-ending tannins.
1450 Green, SF. (415) 673-2320, www.biondivino.com
SWIRL ON CASTRO
"Tiny production California wines as well as pinot noirs and Argentine Malbecs are going to be all the rage this fall," according to Jerry Cooper, one of the owners of this spiffy wine shop. According to him, the tiny productions most in demand are coming from Santa Barbara and Mendocino Counties. Increasingly popular are organic and biodynamic wines, whose producers employ a holistic, "metaphysics meets Farmer's Almanac" approach to growing and harvesting. The reason for this popularity? "The qualities of these wines are of an artisan nature, with more flavor. They taste more of the regions they hail from." Cooper also notes that while Bordeauxs have waned in popularity, Burgundies have maintained their place on the trend roster, especially in anticipation of the arrival of the 2005 vintage. Also hot: South African wines from the Cape. But mostly he sees wine becoming a more localized affair, including the way in which it's encountered and purchased. "The wine bar has become the new neighborhood institution," he says.
572 Castro, SF. (415) 864-2262, www.swirloncastro.com