Niesa Granger, Driver's Market wine department

The wine merchant: Niesa Granger

Producing great wine, Niesa Granger says, is a lot like producing great art. “It’s about both knowing how the science works and knowing how the art works.” Niesa, who heads our wine department, studied art at the University of Washington, and then began learning more about wine’s similarities while working as a sommelier in New Orleans.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated the city (and many of its best restaurant wine cellars, Niesa notes) she moved to California. She went to work in industry relations at Quintessa, a St. Helena estate that converted to entirely biodynamic techniques in 2004. There she began to see first hand the benefits of thoughtful attention to cultivation and production processes.

Biodynamic techniques, she says, are better for people, better for the planet – and better for wine, as evidenced by sampling what she places on our racks. “Everything we sell is from sustainably-raised fruit,” she says. “When I visit the winery, I want to see children and dogs running in the vineyards. I want to be sure the people who work in them can go home at night and hug their children.”

From Burgundy to Bolinas

Wachter Wiesler Blaufrankisch wine - Driver's MarketNiesa makes sure we stock a variety of styles and prices. About 50% of what we offer is sourced in the U.S, and another 25% comes from France, with the balance provided by interesting producers around the world including a good number in Italy. Nisei tries to make room for new things while keeping on hand a roster of reliable crowd-pleasers. At Driver’s Market you’ll always find a classic Champagne or two on the rack, as well as exemplary, well-priced representatives from the Rhone or Burgundy – or of course Bolinas, where Bay Area legend Sean Thackrey makes his famous Pleiades blend.

Niesa delights in challenging food pairings. For vegetarian main courses – which may be overwhelmed by stronger reds – she often steers customers to an Austrian wine made from Blaufränkisch grapes by Wachter Weisler.

What’s on your menu? For anyone buying a case or more – and taking advantage of our 10% discounts for buying more than six bottles – she’ll happily make an appointment to give a personal tour of our department and help you select the perfect pairings for a special menu or event. Just call the store or drop by and ask any of us to set up a private session with Niesa. You’ll be toasting your guests at your next event with imaginative, delicious – and sustainable – choices.