Whether I’m at Bar Tartine for Eastern European fare, eating Asian-inspired cuisine at Wo Hing General Store, or enjoying Italian food at Cotogna, I know there will be plenty of good wines to choose from and helpful service to guide me through the selection. That’s why I was happy to see the SF Chronicle’s Jon Bonné give a shout-out to sommeliers who are putting together “innovative and creative” wine lists to pair with the diverse range of food found in the city’s restaurants.
Recently, another wine writer criticized some of the sommeliers featured in the Chronicle piece for leaving Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Sauvignon off their list in favor of lesser-known varietals. ”Any wine list built only in obscurity is an insult to the general public of food-conscious diners who like wine but are not geeks and want qualtiy [sic] choices that they recognize.”
One of the things I find troubling about this criticism is the false divide being drawn between “wine geeks” and champions of “legacy varieties” such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Most of the people I know who may fall in the “geek” camp are also huge fans of the traditional varieties. At Arnot-Roberts this past year, there was a fermenter filled with Trousseau with a picture of the Jura’s Jacques Puffeney taped to it standing right next to a tank of Chardonnay with a picture of Chablis’ François Raveneau.
I’ve tried to think how consumers can avoid this “geek versus traditionalist” factionalization, and appreciate wine regardless of its popularity. Here are a few guidelines:
(1) Don’t dismiss a wine just because you don’t recognize it.
(2) Don’t confuse a wine that is “interesting” for one that you actually think is “good” (i.e., one that you want to drink more of, and do so happily time and again).
(3) Be open to guidance from sommeliers and retail store buyers. Let them know what wines you’ve recently enjoyed, and they’ll (more often than not) point you in the right direction.
OK. Stepping down off of my soap box. Here’s where to wet your whistle this week.
Wed. Apr. 4: Sandhi Wine Tasting at FPWM (Embarcadero)
Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants
San Francisco, CA
4:30pm – 7:30pm – $28 flight of 5 wines
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Rajat Parr. He has always been a gracious host at RN74 and I’m impressed that he’s continued the tradition of mentorship in the sommelier community by working with a very talented and personable staff. And I was impressed with his Sandhi Wines that I tasted at this year’s In Pursuit of Balance tasting, which Wine Spectator’s James Laube called, “impressive, [and] made in a very deliberate style.”
You can meet Rajat and taste through the following wines on Wednesday.
2010 Sandhi Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County
2010 Sandhi Chardonnay, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
2010 Sandhi Chardonnay, Rita’s Crown Vineyard, Sta Rita Hills
2010 Sandhi Pinot Noir, Sta Rita Hills
2010 Sandhi Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley
ALSO – take a look at these videos that Sandhi is producing re balance in wine, featuring some legendary California winemakers, including Ted Lemon (Littorai) and Burt Williams (Williams Seylem).
Sat., Apr. 7: German Wine Tasting @ K&L Wines (SoMa)
K&L Wine Merchants
638 4th Street
San Francisco, CA
noon – 3:00pm – $15
K&L’s Eric Story has selected some wines from the K&L shelves from the 2010 German vintage — an intriguing one (here’s Jon Bonné’s take on the 2010 German Rieslings).
SF Wine Center
757 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA
6:30pm – 8:00pm – $75 (reserve ahead of time)
SF Wine Center is one of my favorite venues for learning about wine. I’ve attended two different classes, and both have not only been educational and informative, but offered an outstanding lineup of wines to taste. Next Tuesday, Jordan Mackay (co-author of Secrets of the Sommeliers) will walk you through the ins-and-outs of Burgundy’s classification system and terroir.
Speaking of Burgundy….