SF Wine Blog

Exploring wine in and around San Francisco.

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Wine Events: Week of May 23

I’ve been dying to tell you about a mind-blowing food and wine pairing from the Kabaj wine dinner at Oakland’s À Côté restaurant. Imagine a huge cut of porchetta with plenty of flavor (i.e., fat) and a layer of perfectly cooked, crispy skin. (Drooling yet?). Most of you are probably thinking, “Oh, I bet he needed a big red wine to wash down that bad boy.” But you’d be wrong. Jeff Berlin, the restaurant’s wine director, paired this with the 2008 Kabaj Rebula, a white wine from Slovenia that has developed some serious body and tannins from extended skin contact. A stroke of genius — the wine really livened up the dish, made my head spin, and helped fuel a lively night out in the East Bay.

After my À Côté experience, I was so excited by the Kabaj wines that I dragged a friend of mine out on Friday to another Kabaj tasting at Biondivino. And man, the wines were singing even without a big serving of pork!  [BTW – I’ll be saying more about Biondivino in a future write up on my favorite wine shops in SF, but I really encourage you to check this place out.  What a gem of a store — beautifully appointed, great service, and –oh yeah– killer wine selection].

Tomo (L) and Jean-Michel (R) - Kabaj Winery

I also had a chance to catch up with Kabaj’s winemaker Jean-Michel Morel, who had spent the day in Sonoma visiting Wind Gap and The NPA. Jean-Michel had effusive praise for the wines, in particular the Pinot Gris being made by both these wineries, and the Ribolla Gialla from Ryme Cellars (which Jean-Michel “re-branded” as Rebula). In addition, Jean-Michel was struck by the creative spirit and sense of community he felt during his short time in Sonoma. Kudos to Blue Danube for putting together this tour, and to Pax Mahle, Kevin Kelley, and their respective teams at Wind Gap and The NPA for being such great hosts. Y’all done California proud!

Now on to this week’s events.

[Photo credit – the pictures above were taken by Eric Danch of Blue Danube Wines and are used here with his permission.  Also in the interest of disclosure, I was invited to the dinner by Blue Danube Wines.]


Mon., May 23: SPQR hosts Fulvio Bressan (Pacific Heights)

1911 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA

I never turn down an opportunity to attend a winemaker tasting pulled together by Shelly Lindgren, wine director at SPQR and A16. This week, SPQR is hosting Fulvio Bressan of Friuli’s Azienda Agricola Bressan. Four wines being offered by the taste, glass, or carafe – 2006 Verduzzo, 2004 Schioppettino, 1999 Pignolo, and 2003 Pinot Noir. Time to explore some new varietals!


Mon., May 23: Wine & Oyster Pairing w/ Randall Grahm (SoMa)

The Secret Wine Shop
1097 Howard Street, #209
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $40 (tix here)

The always insightful and entertaining Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard will be at The Secret Wine Shop in SoMa for an oyster and wine pairing event, featuring 6 different types of oysters and 6 different wines (including thee from Bonny Doon: 2008 Le Cigare Blanc, 2010, Vin Gris de Cigare, and the 2009 Ca’ del Solo Estate Albariño). Bonus: all wines will be for sale at the event, along with signed copies of Randall’s book, Been Doon So Long. There are only 35 tickets for this event, so don’t dawdle.


Wed. – Thurs., May 25-26: Batič Winery Tasting Events (multiple locations)

Talk about old school: Slovenia’s Batič winery was founded in 1592. Winemaker Miha Batič is not quite that old, so he decided to fly in for a couple of tastings at Terroir and The Punchdown.

Wednesday, 6:00pm – 9:00pm: The Punchdown, 2212 Broadway, Oakland. $30.

Thursday, 4:00pm – 7:00pm: Terroir, 1116 Folsom Street, San Francisco. $25. And it looks like Terroir will be pouring the Batič all night.


Wed., May 25: Broc Cellars Dinner at Local Mission Eatery (Mission)

Local Mission Eatery
3111 24th Street
San Francisco, CA

$48 – three course dinner and wine pairing.

There are a number of young, talented winemakers in California, and at least one — Chris Brocway — resides in the Tenderloin. Enjoy three wines from Chris’s Broc Cellars (including his new 2009 skin contact Roussanne) along with a three-course dinner at Local Mission Eatery this Wednesday. Full menu here.


Thurs., May 26: Selection Massale Tasting at Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $15

Cory Cartwright and Guilhaume Gerard, the mad geniuses behind import company Selection Massale, have built up an enticing portfolio of small production wines and are taking the SF wine market by storm. I’ve turned multiple friends into serious acid junkies by introducing them to a couple different Selection Massale wines: the appropriately named “Mineral +” and the Vouvray from Frantz Saumon (one was consumed at Heart Wine Bar, the other at Terroir). On Thursday, you can taste through Cory & Guilhaume’s wines and meet these young importers.

[BTW – here’s a little more about Selection Massale from the company’s website: “Selection Massale sells wines we truly believe in. We do not sell wines based on points, scores, blog hype or anything else besides what Guilhaume and Cory like. We sell wines that we drink from producers we stand behind and nothing else. These are wines made from smaller independent winemakers, many of whom haven’t been represented in the states before. These are wines that go with food, lighter wines made for drinking, not showing off. We will work to sell you these wines at the best possible price we can. These are things we can promise you.” Well said.]

UPDATE – Here’s the line up.  If you like your Chinon dirty (oh, and I do!) then’ you’ll dig the Lenoir Les Roches!

NV Un Saumon dans la Loire ‘La Petite Gaule du Matin’ Vouvray
2009 Un Saumon dans la Loire Menu Pineau
Un Saumon dans la Loire ‘Mineral +’ Montlouis-sur-Loire
2009 Un Saumon dans la Loire
 Gamay Moelleux
2001 Alain et Jerome Lenoir ‘Les Roches’ Chinon
2002 Alain et Jerome Lenoir ‘Les Roches’ Chinon (from magnum) 

Oh, and block out next Thursday from 6-8pm. Arlequin will be hosting an Arnot Roberts tasting.



Planning a post-Memorial Day Weekend Wine Country visit?  Then consider setting aside June 4 for an event up in Healdsburg.

Saturday, June 4:  Russian River Valley Single Vineyard Night (Healdsburg)

Thomas George Estates
Healdsburg, CA

6:30pm – 10:00pm – $45 in advance, $80 at the door

There’s something special about single vineyard wines.  Something kind of romantic about the idea of a wine coming from one small parcel of land, and that speaks to the character of that unique piece of earth.  On June 4th, 30 different winemakers and grower partners (including Williams Selyem, Merry Edwards, and Siduri) will be presenting their single vineyard wine.  Plenty to nosh on too.


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Friday Foto: Anderson Valley


Goldeneye Winery – Anderson Valley

The drive along 128 will lead you to the coast and the village of Mendocino, but along the way, you’ll find some great vineyards and wineries.  This picture was taken over Memorial Day weekend, during a visit to Goldeneye Winery.


Winery Profile: Drew Family Wines

Drew Family Wines

Drew Wines Tasting Room
9000 Highway 128
Philo, California

Hours:  Thursday – Monday, 11am – 5pm

Back in December, the SF Chronicle’s Jon Bonné wrote a glowing story of a small Anderson Valley winery,  Drew Family Wines, making well-structured, cool climate pinot noirs and syrahs.  I’ve had a print out of that article on my coffee table ever since, hoping to find an opportunity to try these wines.  Luckily, that day came over Memorial Day weekend, and the wines did more than just live up to the hype — they were the highlight of a day of tasting in Anderson Valley.

Drew Family Wines is run by Jason Drew and his wife Molly, natives of Los Altos, California. Having worked in Napa and Anderson Valley wineries, Jason left for Australia to continue studying winemaking.   After returning to the U.S., Jason began working for Babcock Winery & Vineyards in the Santa Rita Hills as their associate winemaker.  In 2000, he started producing wines under his own label, too, sourcing mainly from the surrounding areas.

But Jason and Molly wanted to go in another direction, and they started exploring sites in Northern California for a winery and a vineyard.  Jason had previously worked with Navarro Vineyards in the Anderson Valley, so the Mendocino area became part of that search.  In 2004, the Drews found their ideal location:  they purchased an old apple orchard in Elk, just south of Mendocino Village, and close to the coast.  This rugged terrain became their new home, and they’ve planted some pinot which will someday become part of an estate-bottled wine.  You can sense the excitement from Jason as he talks about this venture, and I’m sure that first vintage will be very special for both Jason and Molly.

The move north has resulted in many accolades for Drew Family Wines and their Mendocino / Anderson Valley sourced pinot noirs and syrahs.  In 2009, Drew was named a “winery of the year” by Wine and Spirits Magazine.  And as I mentioned earlier, that same year the San Francisco Chronicle identified Jason as a “winemaker to watch” and PinotFile called him “A star in the making.”

Drew Tasting Room

Now, consumers can taste these wines on their way through Anderson Valley.  In mid-May 2010, Drew opened a small tasting room space just past Goldeneye Winery.  They’ve decorated the space with great pictures of their wine adventures, including a priceless shot of their son taking a “swim” in a fermenting bin.  This is not an elaborate tasting room, and the soft pink, mission-style building seems a bit disconnected from the character of the wines.  These earthy pinot noirs and syrahs would probably be more at home in a weathered, dark-wood barn looking out over rolling hills.  [Yes, I know it may be an odd to think about the type of “house” a wine would buy if it were in need of a residence, but these wines have serious character.]  But putting architectural aesthetics aside — the quality of wines makes this tasting room a required stop during any trip to Anderson Valley.  And given the small production, a visit to Drew is your best bet for finding (and securing) a few bottles of these exceptional wines.

I’m a big fan of what Jason and Molly are doing.  They’ve got a clear vision of the types of wines they want to make, have taken some risks along the way, and are executing their plan flawlessly.  Please do stop by their tasting room when you’re up in the Anderson Valley — you won’t be disappointed.

WHAT I BOUGHT: Always a tough decision on how much wines to bring back, but I demonstrated tremendous restraint and limited myself to four bottles.  I have a return trip to the area in July, and am likely to pick up a few extra bottles during that excursion.

  1. 2008 Drew Valenti Vineyards Pinot Noir (Mendocino Ridge) – $36 (362 Cases):  A really fresh and tasty pinot noir, but a lot more restrained than the ripe pinots from the Russian River Valley.  This wine has great style, with enough tannins to make it a food-friendly wine, but not so much as to keep you from enjoying the balanced cherry-and-earth flavors (though note that the winery recommends cellaring or decanting).
  2. 2007 Drew Valenti Vineyards Syrah (Anderson Valley) – $30 (100 Cases):  Ridiculously small production from a difficult vineyard site, but wow was it worth it.  This is a mouth-wateringly good syrah that sent me into wine-tasting nirvana.  One sip of this wild, lively, structured wine conjured up images of a hearty lamb shank dinner.  I couldn’t believe the price point, and took home two bottles.  The other folks in the tasting room also picked up a bottle of this wine after tasting it, with no hard sell by either me or Jason — this wine just sells itself.
  3. 2006 Drew Broken Leg Vineyards Syrah (Anderson Valley) – $35 (115 cases) :  I tried the Drew 2007 Broken Leg Syrah, which was delicious, but needed some time to settle down.  Having had great experience with this vineyard before (A Donkey and Goat Winery also makes a fantastic syrah from this vineyard), I took Jason’s recommendation, and brought  home a bottle of the ’06 vintage.  I’m looking forward to opening this up at a later date, and will update this post when I do.  For now, here’s what the winery say about this bottle:

“The nose is generous with aromas of violets, white chocolate and blueberries. The flavors have seductive and wild fruits with the aromas with black cherries and raspberries. The structure is aligned and very cellar worthy.”
[please excuse me as I wipe the drool off my chin].

WHERE TO FIND IN SF: Drew seems to have limited distribution in SF retail stores, but much wider restaurant distribution.  Here are some place to try these wines in the city (and the quality of the restaurants below should probably tip you off that this is some seriously good juice):

  • Bacar
  • Epic Roasthouse
  • Foreign Cinema
  • Gary Danko (!!!)
  • Range