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Whole Foods' One Wine Program in Southern California

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It seems that if Whole Foods comes a-calling you can't say no if you're a Central Coast winery. Make that even one in Temecula, as Fallbrook that far south has been part of the One Wine program. "We get to come in and cherry pick the barrels," Roger Fawcett, Whole Foods Market Southern Pacific region specialty associate coordinator, explains. "And then the wines we produce are exclusive not just to Whole Foods but to the region" -- you can't purchase these outside of southern California. Even better, the line is set up to keep wines moderately priced: no bottle breaks that $20 barrier that pinches the wallet a bit. And you're not going crazy if this sounds like a program Whole Foods did called "Collaboration" -- that was the just Santa Barbara-focused, and not quite as inexpensive precursor to One Wine.

Most of the wines in the current 2014 spring release are blends. (As a side note, one of the single varietals, a surprisingly light-on-its-feet 2012 Sextant Zinfandel from Paso Robles, manages some restraint, unlike many Paso zins, which are often delicious but decadent monsters of flavor and alcohol.) That blending process sounds pretty fascinating, as related by Doug Margerum of Margerum Wine Company. It seems a series of teams of Whole Foods wine buyers show up at the winery, and each makes a blend. Then the vote to pick the one they think is most successful.

The Margerum White Blend, then, ended up 50% sauvignon blanc, 25% chenin blanc, and 25% Riesling. "I said don't do that!" Margerum jokes, about the seemingly odd mix of white grapes, but then admits, "It's a nice, fruity, easy-to-drink food wine. I wouldn't make it under my own label, but I really like it." Of course, he's famous for his own 100% sauvignon blanc Sybarite that landed on the Wine Spectator's Top 100 wines of the year list a couple years ago, so he's earned a bit of attitude. But it also shows the level of winemakers and grapes the One Wine traffics in. These wines are still very much hand-crafted and in relatively small production, so if you find one you like, buy up.

For spring that means a lot of rosés, which is always a fine thing as the weather gets warmer (at least in theory). The styles diverge widely, so if you have a Whole Foods that offers tastings you might want to check them out to find the one that best suits your palate. Margerum makes one that's predominantly Grenache that is a bit more on the fruity side (lots of strawberry), while Ampelos Cellars - owners of the first vineyard in the U.S. to be certified all three organic, biodynamic, and sustainable - makes one mostly from syrah that's delicious and very dry. Meanwhile Hearst Ranch Winery makes its rosé from Malbec, ending up a bit in-between the other two, yet featuring that dusty rose you'd expect from Malbec.

"We are thrilled to partner with our neighboring vineyards in continuing to create regional, locally produced blends for our customers," Fawcett says. "Our One Wine label wines showcase the world-class winemaking taking place in the foothills and valleys that surround our community, and allow our shoppers the opportunity to uncork a range of Southern California's best wines."

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