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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Wine Events: A look ahead to Jan. 2010

With everyone getting ready for the holidays, there’s a drop in the number of wine-related activities over the next couple of weeks.  But this will gives us all some time to rest up before January sweeps in with a slew of wine sippin’ events.  Here’s a look ahead to the new year.

Happy Holidays!


Sat.-Sun., Jan. 16-17: Russian River Valley’s Winter Wineland (Sonoma)
1pm – 5pm
Multiple Wineries

$40 for both days/ $30 Sun. only

I love the Russian River Valley – rolling hills, beautiful farm land, and–oh yeah–great wine. Lots of the areas pinot and zin producers (including some up in the Dry Creek Valley) are participating.   Many places will be pouring new releases and library wines.

Buy your tickets in advance (before Jan. 11) by going here.


K&L Wine Merchants

Sun., Jan. 17:  K&L’s Fete du Bourdeaux (FiDi, SF)
One Market Restaurant
San Francisco, CA


Tasting followed by dinner, and featuring some amazing producers.  This ain’t a cheap event, but its a really impressive line up, if you can swing it.  Special guests:  Anthony Barton of Langoa- and Léoville-Barton, Jean-Bernard Delmas and Nicolas Glumineau of Montrose, and Jean Charles Cazes of Lynch-Bages. THIS EVENT WILL SELL OUT.


Thurs.-Sat., Jan. 28-30:  ZAP 19th Annual Zinfandel Festival (Fort Mason, SF)
Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA

Multiple events; Saturday’s Zin tasting is $59 (in advance)

The premier event in the country for those who choose to live in Zin.  Multiple events each day, with the grand tasting (featuring over 250 wineries) being held on Saturday.  Hint:  buy your tickets early, and show up as soon as the gates open for the grand tasting.

A few producers I’m always happy to see:  Acorn, Orin Swift, Ridge, Turley


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Sojourn Wine Cellars (Sonoma)

Sojourn Cellars tasting roomJust off the main square in the City of Sonoma, I stumbled upon a little bungalow that houses the Sojourn Cellars tasting room.  Sojourn’s 2007 Sonoma Coast Gaps Crown Pinot Noir had received great ratings from Wine Spectator, and I had no idea they had a tasting room in Sonoma.

Although tastings are by appointment only, I walked in randomly, and it so happened that they had a spot available.  I’m really happy they could squeeze me in, as Sojourn has created a very comfortable and different tasting room experience.  First, they limit the number of people, meaning more time for questions.  Second, they sit you down at a long table, and pour out four of their pinots side-by-side, giving you a perfect chance to taste most f the wines in their  portfolio.  And they topped that off by pouring a few of their Cabs (which were tasty, but drank a bit more like a zin than a cab).  Finally, one of their assistant wine makers hosted the tasting, and deftly answered questions about the winery and the vineyards they source from.

Knowledgeable staff, laid back setting, and tasty 90+point wines — what’s there not to love about that combination?

Rating:  4/5

What I bought: