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A 'Solution' to California's Cabernet 'Problem'

Ryme Cellars' Ribolla Gialla and Aglianico

Ryme Cellars' Ribolla Gialla and Aglianico. Photo courtesy of Ryme Cellars. 

If you drink exclusively from the trendiest wine lists in town, you might be shocked to discover that nearly one-half of all the vineyards in California are planted to Cabernet Sauvignon. In spite of there being no law whatsoever about what varieties one can grow in California, 93 percent of vineyard plantings are dominated by eight varieties (Cab is followed by Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, and so on). We hate to shock you, but all that Arneis, Alvarelhão and Albarino your hipster sommelier has been recommending is coming from a tiny fraction of vineyard plantings in the Golden State. Seven percent, give or take.

Consigned to “other whites” and “other reds” categories on the annual agricultural report, these grapes are finding their way into the hands of winemakers looking to stand out in a sea of Cabernet and Chardonnay (and yes, some of these winemakers have tattoos). Obviously, they are not making a lot of wine, but fortunately for us, much of it lands in the City by the Bay.

After a ridiculoulsy successful tasting at the Bergamont Alley wine bar in Healdsburg this spring, the Seven Percent Solution, as this small but mighty band is calling themselves, is bringing their wines and ideology to San Francisco as part of the SF Chefs event taking place the first weekend of August.

The tasting and discussion will be led by Chronicle editor Jon Bonné and will include some of the better-known of the lesser-known wineries like Matthiasson and Arnot-Roberts, who both make Ribolla Gialla (Matthiasson is harvesting another Friulian grape, Schioppettino, for the first time in 2013), as well as new comers to the scene Idlewild, who are digging deep into the “other” category with the likes of Cortese and Grenache Blanc. 

Tickets are $35, available here