It was big and exciting news when the Whole Foods grocery store came to the Sacramento area several years ago. But for me and many Sacramentans, that event is eclipsed by the recent news that the humble, local family owned Corti Brothers grocery store has not renewed its lease on Folsom Blvd., where it has served the community for over 38 years. Now the fate of the store hangs in the balance, as Mr. Corti searches diligently for an affordable and appealing site to relocate, and soon.
Darrell Corti is a local legend, certainly for the superior quality of his specialty store featuring a top notch meat department, gourmet foods, imported items and an Italian deli. However Mr. Corti is also renowned for the outstanding selection of wines on offer, and a knowledgeable staff to guide the consumer. His unswerving good taste and outspoken personality have made him a legend far beyond the local region as well, and he has been inducted in the Vintner's Hall of Fame in 2008.
Darrell Corti is not one to run after fads in the world of wine production and marketing. He was one of the few voices to utter sharp critique of the current trend toward increasing the alcohol content in table wines, making it more difficult to find a subtle and refined wine to pair with certain foods. He went so far as to refuse to carry such wines in his store-- arguably a controversial step. Of course one could still find a port or other fortified wine where the higher alcohol content made sense, but a line of taste and judgment had been drawn, and I as a consumer find that reassuring and impressive. Such wine merchants are worth our patronage.
I am incredibly lucky; I live within a mile or two of a large Whole Foods store, (featuring a huge organic product line), several other specialty stores, and a thriving farmer's market every Saturday morning. This is all besides the fact that our weather supports fantastic backyard gardens for those of us who like to raise our own food. So I will admit that although I was disappointed when the first of two nearby Corti Brothers stores closed its doors some years ago, I was concerned, but not too devastated-- after all, they still had the Folsom Blvd. store. I reasoned I could go there any time I wanted. After all, my friend Anita buys her Thanksgiving turkeys and shops there regularly. When I heard that the second store might also be forced to close, I was dismayed. Corti Brothers close? No! It can't be!
Feeling ashamed that I had taken Corti Brothers for granted for so long, a week or so ago I made the trip a few miles out of my way to see for myself what was going on. I pumped the long-suffering and friendly staff for information, and was so relieved to hear that the store's closure is not a foregone conclusion, and that although it is not easy to find a suitable new location in only a couple of months, that is The Goal. So I am praying that the Grocery Gods will smile on Mr. Corti and find him a new storefront that is (admittedly, a selfish concern--) not too far from where I live.
The soon-to-be closed storefront on Folsom Blvd. does look tired, with its anachronistic mid-century style signs out front. One can almost imagine donning a gingham, June Cleaver inspired apron to wear while pushing the cart down the wide aisles. Almost, I said.
But one step inside the doors and it is the intoxicating aroma of Italian deli meats and cheeses that welcome you. That, and the amazing array of wine bottles to explore. I eventually made my way to the meat counter and purchased a steak for dinner. An imported special Italian bread, (similar to Pannetone), wrapped in pretty yellow paper and a bow, was on sale. Back in the wine department, I was guided to purchase a Castle Rock 2006 Pinot Noir ($12.99) to drink with the steak. It was a delicious combination. While in the check out line, I heard another customer and the young man checking groceries enthusing over a white wine. It was a 2007 Vermentino by Uvaggio of Lodi. I went ahead and grabbed a bottle ($10.99). On another night, paired with a wild caught Coho Salmon, it did not disappoint: It was fresh, light and juicy. Good advice can be had at Corti Brothers indeed.
The moral here is, Support your local quality grocery store, especially if you are lucky enough to have one! If the Fates smile on us, I can hardly wait to see where the new Corti Brothers store will land. I'll let you know as soon as I find out.