Sam Bogue of San Francisco’s Flour + Water on Under-Appreciated Rosé and High Altitude Wines - Wine & Spirits Magazine

Sam Bogue of San Francisco’s Flour + Water
on Under-Appreciated Rosé
and High Altitude Wines

Sam Bogue started his hospitality career bussing tables in Boulder, Colorado before moving to Frasca Hospitality as a glass polisher and graduating to server. It was there that he began diving into the world of Italian wine under the mentorship of Manager Chris Donato, Founder Bobby Stuckey and sommelier Matt Mather. In 2012, Bogue moved to San Francisco and began working at Flour + Water, an Italian food and wine focused restaurant, where he eventually took over the wine program. Today, he is an Advanced Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and the Beverage Director of Flour + Water Hospitality group, which also includes Penny Roma and Flour + Water Pizzeria. —Alissa Bica

Sam Bogue

What categories of wine interest you most right now?

I lean into rosé. I think it’s an incredibly under-appreciated category of wine, that has seen a very large drop in general sales. I think it’s a real shame—rosé doesn’t have to mean fruity and semi-sweet; it can mean a lot of different things. Particularly, Italian rosé is a complex, mash up of different styles. I lean into more serious styles of rosé, like Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo, wines that see a little bit more maceration, tannic structure and overall herbaceous and savory tones that bring unique notes and balance. In many ways, they almost drink like a lighter, fresher style of red.

We’re putting extra focus on the Valle d’Aosta region that, for me, has always been a huge inspiration for some of my favorite wines. It’s this incredibly high alpine growing region perched in the northwest of Italy. You really get to feel that influence from France and Switzerland. There’s a certain polish to the wines—that through line of acidity that we crave, especially for our cuisine, which is admittedly pretty butter heavy. The wines are hard to come by—it’s very hard to find wines that have a level of affordability to them, which is always something that we’re seeking out. But it does make it seem more special, when you find that one that hits those metrics of price to quality and comes from that very unique region.

There’s also always something incredibly special that’s happening here in California, particularly with what I would refer to as micro labels. There are so many unique projects that have spurred up in the last five or so—incredibly small-scale wines from ambitious, young, talented folks who are experimenting with some fun things. We lean into the organically farmed, minimal intervention side of California winemaking here. I think it’s astounding to see how far California has come—there’s always something new popping up. It’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole trying to taste all these fun wines.

There’s a small winery based in Richmond, California called Subject to Change that we collaborate with on a house wine project. We also carry some of their non-private label wines, like the Unsung Hero, a delicious wine that comes predominantly from fruit out of Mendocino. It’s an eclectic white blend of picpoul, viognier, roussanne and vermentino, that sees a generous amount of skin contact and is this perfumed, dynamic orange wine with notes of apricot, tangerine and turmeric. It has a lot of fresh acidity to pair with pastas with white sauce or cacio e pepe. That is something that in the mission in San Francisco, at least, is still a really important trend with our younger consumers who are seeking out something to enjoy throughout the course of a meal. Our second or third highest selling by-the-glass at the restaurants is our orange wine category.

Do you have favorites from these categories on your list?

I carry the 2021 Lamoresca Frappato Rosé at both Flour + Water and Penny Roma. It’s often a little disjointed when it first lands so, it’s a ‘21 rosé, and that’s by intention—we usually cellar this wine from anywhere between six to eight months because it has a lot of reduction upon its release. It’s from the middle of nowhere Sicily, a husband-and-wife duo make these organically farmed wines that highlight the native grape varieties. in this area of Sicily, you’re working with two staple red grapes— frappato, with that aromatic raspberry ting, and nero d’avola that’s a much deeper, darker fruited syrah-esque grape—and a tiny bit of a floral white grape called zibibbo gets mixed in. It sees more maceration, has a deeper, darker hue to it, and teeters into something like chillable light red wine. It’s herbaceous, floral, spiced and has a fantastic texture and acidity to it. If you want one great bottle of wine to carry you from your crudo into your antipasti, into certain pasta dishes and maybe even into a lighter style of protein, this is the one for you.

For Valle d’Aosta, the Ermes Pavese Prie Blanc. This is coming out of an area called Morgex et de la Salle, which is arguably one of the highest elevation winemaking regions anywhere in the world, but certainly in Europe. It’s up at the peak of Mont Blanc, and you’ll find just a handful of producers making wine here at around 1300 meters of elevation growing a grape called Prie Blanc. You’re not gonna find it anywhere else, except maybe over the border in Switzerland. It is a very neutral, mineral, white grape variety that often has these vibrant levels of acidity and a little bit of waxiness. How we refer to it in the restaurants is like you’re drinking mountain spring water; it’s low alcohol, high acid, refreshing with subtle herbaceous tones. It’s definitely a hand sell at times, but guests seem to be thrilled with it once they get the back story.

This is sadly becoming a more rare and slightly more expensive wine, even though it is quite esoteric, because of what’s happening with weather patterns and global warming; the springs are getting quite warm, the vines are budding and then they’re having frost. And so, in a few consecutive years, Ermes Pavese’s entire production has been wiped out. It is one of these regions that, when you talk about the effects of climate change, is probably at the forefront of a wine that maybe we won’t have in another five or ten years.

What are guests ordering most?

The average consumer is still really looking for more of these brand name regions. Anytime that we are putting on wines from Barolo, Barbaresco, Tuscany—Montalcino or Chianti—you see folks veering towards them. We have two different wines that are running on our list from a producer called Bolsignano, one of the smaller producers based out of Montalcino. It’s a dual effect, a grape variety that the average consumer is very familiar with, sangiovese, and a prestige region like Montalcino. Anytime we have one like that on the list, it’s usually going to be our best-selling wine. At this moment the Bolsignano Rosso di Montalcino we’re pouring at  Penny Roma and the Bolsignano Brunello di Montalcino at Flour + Water are easily two of the highest selling wines in our programs.

Is there a region you wish you could sell more of?

I think it’s a bit of a shame, but it’s Valtellina. It’s one of the most delicious places to reach for a bottle of nebbiolo in Italy. This is a high elevation neighbor to Piedmont, based in Lombardy up in the Alps. It’s a style of nebbiolo that’s more ethereal due to the high elevation vineyard sites; oftentimes, the wines have a darker tone to them from slightly longer hang time. It’s a beautiful representation of the grape. But when you look at the comparative sales of something like nebbiolo from a producer called Pizzo Coca from Lombardy, it just pales in comparison to more expensive Barolo and Barbaresco. I wish people were drinking these more because they really overachieve for the price point.

Was there a particular bottle that gave you the most satisfaction to sell last year?

It’s a bit of hand sell and it’s steeper in price point, but that would be a white wine from a producer called Valentini. They’re based out of Abruzzo in the far north and farming is pinnacle to what they do. In fact, they sell the majority of their fruit and only bottle two to five percent under their own label. Their trebbiano is kind of legendary. It’s an exceptionally mineral wine that’s filled with yellow fruit notes and citrus oils. It’s got plenty of reduction that would be reminiscent of something like Chablis, and always has a hint of age to it. But that’s on our Flour + Water list at 382 dollars. We’ve seen a steady trickle of that wine out of our program in 2023 and that’s always one that, when it goes out to a table, you just get a little grin on your face.

Based in Los Angeles, California, Alissa Bica is the Associate Editor and Spirits Critic at Wine & Spirits. She is also a sommelier at 71 Above and co-runs the home wine tasting company, Côte Brune and Blonde. In any rare moments of free time, she writes about obscure grape varieties in the blog Off the Beaten Wine Path.

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