THE MOST EXCLUSIVE COLLECTION OF WINES IN OC
It seems everyone in San Clemente should be familiar with Bob’s Fine Wines. In business for 47 years strong, the small, unassuming wine shop is a treasure trove of unique, hand-selected vintage wines. Son of the original owners and now owner of the shop, Robert Clanton has been caring for this San Clemente landmark since 1986. Through the years and through recessions along the way, when other wine shops have had to close, Bob’s Fine Wines has stood the test of time. Recently, even with outside pressure to vacate the premises during the remodel, the wine shop remains standing. What is it that sets Clanton’s business apart?
To start with, Clanton makes an effort to do business well. In dealing with fine wine, he is very particular about what he offers to his customers. He buys very little from large suppliers and instead purchases directly from winery owners or smaller brokers who pride themselves on finding the best wines for their money. Clanton also goes through each portfolio himself and tastes every single wine, and he only chooses those he thinks are best. He never purchases wine through auction or the internet. He says he pays top dollar directly to the source for his vintage wines, which are unadulterated and authentic, and that he can deliver those wines to his customers in mint condition. What’s more, for collectors, Clanton’s rare, vintage wines go back to 1959 on French Burgundy, 1961 on French Bordeaux and 1974 on California Cabernet Sauvignon.
Clanton also candles his wines. Before the bottle leaves the shop, he shines a Maglite through it to show the customer its quality. He shines the light through the side to check the color, and ullage of the wine, and he shines it through the bottom to check the sediment. By doing this, Clanton can assure the customer that the wine is, in fact, in mint condition. He also gives a 100% guarantee, even if the bottle has been corked – within 48 hours, and encourages his customers to take photographs of their wine and to return to the shop and tell him what they liked and didn’t like about it. But why should you trust Clanton’s taste for wine and his ability to offer you a good wine?
After graduating Servite High School, Clanton decided to take a year off before attending Claremont College where he triple-majored in economics, accounting and organizational studies. During the year in between, his father invited him to work at Bob’s Fine Wines, seven days a week. Clanton says his manager at the shop tasted everything himself and had a phenomenal palette. One day, when a broker was visiting the shop, the manager brought two wine glasses out for a tasting and insisted the broker pour two glasses. Thus began Clanton’s professional experience and passion for tasting wine. He says he tasted hundreds of wines in that following year alone, and has been tasting wines ever since. He says palette memory can’t be learned by reading a book, but rather through years of experience, and he has decades of wine tasting experience.
For example, Clanton says he can taste 12 different Cabernet Sauvignons of similar prices and say which ones will age two years, seven years or 20 years, and which ones will fall apart after three or more years. Though the wines taste similar, his years of tasting experience enable him to pick up on nuances and make judgments about wines that can’t be learned in a book. Because of his own advanced palette memory, he says he has a gift for figuring out where others are on the palette scale. The palette scale runs from driest to sweetest, and everyone falls somewhere along it. By the time Clanton is done asking you questions about your tastes, he’s confident he will be able to choose a good wine for you. He also has quite the vocabulary when describing different reds. Clanton calls Cabernets hard, tannic, structured, tight and powerful, while Merlots are beautiful, soft, fleshy, sexy and seamless on the palette. He also loves to make sure each customer gets the most enjoyment out of their wine as possible.
Clanton sends his customers off with recommendations on how to care for the wine before drinking. For reds, he tells his customer to let them breathe for at least an hour before drinking, meaning, after the cork has been popped, do not pour the wine for at least an hour. For whites, one should wait at least half an hour. He says reds need time for the tannins to drop to show the fruit, and whites need time for the acidities to drop to show the fruit.
“Wine is a living organism,” says Clanton. “I always tell my customers, popping the cork is like opening your eyes after eight hours of sleep. Wines need to wake up, open up and expand. The more aeration, the more expansive and expressive they become.”
For more tips on how to get the most enjoyment out of your wine, visit Bob’s Fine Wines and chat with Clanton in person. He also carries wines for the broadband market. Clanton says he puts just as much precision and thought into tasting and evaluating wines that cost $5 – $10 per bottle as he does wines that cost thousands of dollars per bottle. Because of this, he says you will get a better inexpensive wine at his shop than any other shop around. The wine shop also carries hand-crafted beers and other specialty items.
Currently, Clanton is excited to offer his holiday wine of choice: a 400-case production of 2009 Chercher Trower “Blackwood Vineyard” Cabernet Sauvignon. The red wine was a big hit at Casa Romantica’s “Toast to the Casa” in September. Clanton says people who know wine well will understand what a great value this wine is. Priced at $49.99 per bottle, it drinks like a $100 bottle. To get your holiday wine, and more, visit Bob’s Fine Wines at 470 Camino De Estrella, in the Estrella shopping center near Sprouts and TJ Maxx.