When Bergamot Alley closed in March, local oenophiles were crushed. In its 6.5-year-old existence, the Healdsburg wine bar had turned into an afterwork hangout for people in the industry as well as those seeking rare wines from Europe. The non-American wine list may have seemed a bold move in this particular part of the world but, while many of us love to drink local, we also like to taste new and interesting wines from around the globe—and there’s was not better place for that than Bergamot.
Some eight months after the brick-and-mortar bar shuttered, Bergamot Alley has now returned in the form of Bergamot Wine Company, an online wine club and shop curated by owners Sarah and Kevin Wardell.
As he did at the wine bar, Kevin Wardell uses his sommelier skills to create a handpicked selection of wines from small, family-owned producers in Europe, now available online. Let’s just say you won’t see these on the wine list at your favorite Italian restaurant in Sonoma County. (Bonus: the wines average between $22 and $30.)
The breakout star of the new Bergamot Wine Company is the Italian Wine Club. A passion project for the Wardells, club membership includes four wines focused on varietal and regional themes sent out monthly ($105 per month). A recent shipment featured wines from the “four corners” of Italy: a rosé from Sicily, a white Petite Arvine from Valle D’Aosta, a red Schioppettino (say that ten times fast) from Friuli, and a Negro Amaro from Puglia.
With over 300 distinct Italian grape varietals and over 20 regions to choose from, this is just the beginning of the journey, says Kevin Wardell: “When it comes to diversity and opportunity to expand your wine horizons and educate your palate, Italy is a treasure trove. There is no greater collection of flavors and textures in the world than that of Italian wine.”
Each shipment also includes an unpretentious guide to each wine created by Sarah Wardell, who serves as the company’s Creative Director. Stylized maps complement illustrations of each wine with details on the grape, winemaker/grower and the scent and tastes of each wine. However, our favorite fun fact comes on the bottle label descriptions—your team will win the trivia subject “Italian wines” when the time comes.
Aside from building appreciation for Italian wine, the Wardells hope that wine club members will become more knowledgeable, and thus more confident, when it comes to Italian wines. Their “Wine Smarts” series, which includes an online guide to Italian wine, informative and entertaining videos, aims to do just that. And for those who would really like to get a taste of la dolca vita, Bergamot Wine Company will also organize trips to Italy (3-4 times per year), during which participants will visit small wine producers and stay in local farmhouses, or “agriturismo” type lodging.
If you’d like to jump on board the Italian bandwagon, visit bergamotwine.com. Saluti!