Drink to This
Ceri Smith at her San Francisco wine boutique, Biondivino, which now has a location at Town & Country Village in Palo Alto.
If you’re partial to chardonnay, Ceri Smith wants to acquaint you with timorasso. If you favor pinot grigio, she wants you to give nosiola a try. And if you are a cabernet sauvignon fan all the way, she wants to turn you on to aglianico. That’s her mission at her new wine shop, Biondivino in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village, which specializes in Italian wines that are organic, biodynamic, nonmanipulated and that utilize native yeast. The more obscure, the better too. “I didn’t want to stock the same brands as everyone else,” she explains. “I am more interested in opening someone’s eyes to something new and different. It’s like exploring Italy through a bottle.”
The Palo Alto store is the sister location to her highly regarded shop in San Francisco, which opened 10 years ago. She decided to open here because so many of her customers were driving to her San Francisco shop from the Peninsula. Like its predecessor, the Palo Alto locale sports a dramatic look with two walls of floor-to-ceiling wine bottles stacked on their sides, with the top ones reachable by a rolling library ladder. It boasts about 1,600 bottles on the walls, running the gamut of more than 400 producers. The majority of bottles are priced under $25. Because the Palo Alto space is twice as large—totaling nearly 700 square feet—it also features more selections of sparkling wines and Champagnes, thanks to a walk-in cooler that allows Smith to store and deliver chilled wines at the proper temperature. Like the San Francisco outpost, the one in Palo Alto will also host tastings with visiting winemakers.
The business is named for Smith’s Italian great-grandfather, Settimio Biondi, who arrived in San Francisco the day after the 1906 earthquake. It’s an apt moniker for a store intent on shaking things up in the wine world by offering only little known Italian varietals. Smith, who oversees the wine list at Tosca Cafe in San Francisco and worked for years as an Italian wine importer, thought it was risky to open such a shop a decade ago. But she knew it had struck a chord when “people would call me up after their dinner to tell me how much they liked the wine I suggested and how well it went with the dish they cooked,” Smith says. “Who would ever think to do that? It was a great feeling.” Town & Country Village, 855 El Camino Real, Palo Alto, 650.800.7293
Originally published in the January issue of Silicon Valley