Taste of Wine: Wine guru discovered at Whole Foods

Taste of Wine: Wine guru discovered at Whole Foods
Michael Langdon is the wine buyer for Whole Foods Market in downtown Encinitas. Photo by Frank Mangio

Michael Langdon is a person who knows and loves wine.  For Whole Foods Market in downtown Encinitas, he’s the go-to guy for wine sales.  The aisles are as entertaining as I have ever seen, a crazy-quilt of signs, directions, buy-me statements on barrels, 24-hour specials, and even a story of the wine Langdon helped to make — the
Zinful Daze.”

A collaboration of Langdon and local San Diego vintner Tim Bacino of Gen 7 wines, this wine is only sold at Whole Foods Market. Zinful Daze is as Langdon puts it, a reminder of how wonderful it is to live in Southern California.

“I made a lively blend of Zinfandel (85 percent) and a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon (15 percent).  It’s exploding with plum flavors, black cherry and currents with a rich mouthfeel and a subtle hint of spice,” he said.

Langdon has been a wine buyer for Whole Foods in Encinitas since it opened some four years ago.

Since then, a steady stream of new customers has come walking through the doors, leaning on the sage advise of this wine guru for what’s new, and for special pricing that Langdon has been able to get to pass on to customers.

He constantly seeks local and regional wineries such as Temecula and San Diego County, something you just don’t see elsewhere.  Even a few brands from the Guadalupe Valley in Baja show up.

Customers can be slow to try these wines, but Langdon tells them they are amazingly good.  And he’s right!  Southern California has the same climate as Tuscany, Italy, Spain and other countries in the Mediterranean corridor.

“I see some real interest lately in the Italian and southern French styles like Sangiovese, Barbera, Primitivo and Viognier.  Of course we have lots of Cabs and Chardonnays.  They are still the most popular sellers.  It’s summer so Sauvignon Blanc is a wine in demand, especially California style. Oh, and don’t forget Sangria, both red and white.”

Langdon has over 700 wines on the shelves.  He believes in every one of them.  “I stock consumer friendly wines, what counts and what sells.  My customers will buy better wines.  The average bottle price is now $20 — the top rows in price and quality.” As for the Guru label, his customers gave him that name.  “It’s like a badge of honor,” he says.  And he wears it well.  The local Whole Foods number is (760) 274-1580.

Westerly wines has an enviable range of wines made by winemaker Adam Henkel. Photo courtesy Westerly.

Westerly wines has an enviable range of wines made by winemaker Adam Henkel. Photo courtesy Westerly.

The wines made from Santa Barbara to San Luis Obispo are catching my eye and my palate, and Westerly Wines are right up there with the best.  That coastal mountain range that runs North and South takes a fascinating turn in an area called Happy Canyon, in the Santa Ynez Valley North of Santa Barbara.  This funnels wind and fog resulting in a beneficial diurnal effect of heating and cooling that grapes love.

Westerly wines has an enviable range of wines made by winemaker Adam Henkel who came to Westerly from the famous Harlan Estate in Napa Valley, and is applying the relentless approach to quality that he participated in at Harlan.  The wines read like a who’s who of greatness:

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and an array of red and white blends.  One such white blend was my sentimental favorite, brimming with Rhone Valley flavors, the 2013 Westerly Fletcher’s White.  Deep gold in color, it has 37 percent Sauvignon Blanc, 24 percent Semillon, 22 percent Roussanne and 17 percent Viognier ($30). There is limited production in all varietals. See westerlywines.com.

Wine Bytes

The Wine Vault in San Diego will be presenting a Margerum five-course wine dinner Aug. 3 at 6:30 p.m.  Cost is $59.50. Owner Doug Margerum will be there.  Wine is from the Santa Barbara area.  RSVP at (619) 295-3939.

Capri Blu in Rancho Bernardo is hosting a wine dinner featuring our feature wine, Westerly from Santa Barbara, Aug. 5 at 6 p.m. with five delicious courses with five-great Westerly wines. Price is $55. Call for places at (858) 673-5100.

A Jazz and Wine Festival will be staged at Grand Tradition in Fallbrook Aug. 22 starting at 4 p.m.  It will headline David Benoit and Jane Monheit, with other bands, including food sampling, with beer and wine garden. Advance general admission is $35 and higher with VIP selections.  Bring blankets and low lawn chairs with General admission.  Look at grandtradition.com/jazz-wine-festival.

The Fairmont Grand Del Mar and its Clubhouse Grill is planning a Ballast Point Brewing Dinner Aug. 6 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.  Savour four-courses of delicious cuisine, paired with a unique craft brew.  $50. RSVP at (858) 314-2700.

Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one the leading wine commentators on the web.  View and link up with his columns at tasteofwinetv.com and reach him at mangiompc@aol.com.  Follow him on Facebook.

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