SF Wine Blog

Exploring wine in and around San Francisco.


A year ago this week….

I never met Joe Dressner, but I knew a lot of the wines that he imported into the U.S.  They were fresh, different, sometimes quirky, but always engaging.  These are wines that demand your attention.

A year ago this week, I was in the Loire Valley visiting producers as harvest was in full swing. On the morning of September 17, 2011, I was on my way to meet with one of Dressner’s producers, François Cazin in Cour-Cheverny, but decided to take a detour to stop by Jean-Marie and Thierry Puzelat’s Clos de Tue Boef (another member of the Dressner portfolio).  In front of the small, unadorned winery, there was an old 1950s/60s blue Ford Tractor with one of its headlights dangling from the socket.  I whipped out my camera to take a few pictures.  Out walked Jean-Marie Puzelat – a round, jolly man wearing overalls.  He was laughing, amused that I wanted to take pictures of his “crappy tractor” (cleanest translation I could muster for what he actually said).  We chatted, and he apologized for not being able to do a formal tasting, but asked if I wanted to taste through a few wines in tank.  I happily accepted the invitation.

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Wine Events: Week of May 14

Better late than never!  A slew of great events this week.

Also, get yourself over to St. Vincent (1270 Valencia (Valencia and 24th)).  This new space opened by sommelier David Lynch (Babbo, Quince, Cotogna (yeah, the dude knows what he’s doing)) is a very welcome addition to the San Francisco wine scene.  You can order anything on the list by the half bottle and the list is glorious.  We went from Chablis to Vouvray, did a detour through Cornas (a beautiful briny bottle of 2007 Guillaume Gilles) and then closed the night with a bottle of Champagne from Cedric Bouchard.  Service was outstanding and extremely knowledge.

ONE NOTE:  When you go, ask what they have open by the half bottle already.  And don’t shy away from a wine opened the day before.  A lot of the wines on the list are going to be better on day 2.  For a more in-depth review of the food and space, see this write-up from Tablehopper. 


Wed. May 16: Greater SF/Bay Area Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Fundraiser (Union Square)

E&O Trading Co.

314 Sutter Street

San Francisco, CA 94108

$35 pre-paid ($40 at the door) – per organizers, all proceeds go to charity

Register here

I’m always happy to give a shout out to fundraisers with a wine-related theme. So please keep May 16 in mind, when the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society host a charity wine tasting. If you can’t attend but still want to donate, go to: http://gsf.mwoy.llsevent.org/AlexM


Thurs., May 17: Wind Gap Wine Tasting @ Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $15

Winemaker Pax Mahle made a name for himself making critically acclaimed California Syrah, but along the way, started favoring cool climate vineyards.  He also expanded his portfolio to include oddball varieties such as Trousseau Gris and Blaufrankisch.  Meet Pax on Thursday night and taste the following wines:

2011 Trousseau Gris Fannuchi-Wood Vineyard
2009 Chardonnay Gap’s Crown Vineyard
2010 Pinot Gris Windsor Oaks Vineyard
2010 Pinot Noir Gap’s Crown Vineyard
2008 Syrah Sonoma Coast


Sat., May 19: Partners in Health Fundraiser @ Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

2:00pm – 5:00pm – $20

The Louis / Dressner portfolio played a formative role in my wine education.  By importing reasonably priced, sustainably farmed / minimal intervention French and Italian wines, the late Joe Dressner opened up a whole new world to me.  Joe passed away last year, and in a tribute to him, many wine bars and retail outlets in New York and SF have hosted events to raise money for one of Joe’s favorite charities, Partners in Health.

Saturday’s festivities will also be a going away party for Jules Measures, Joe’s son, who will be relocating to NYC to continue his work on behalf of Louis/Dressner.

Side note:  At some point that afternoon, a French film crew for a show called “On the Wine Road” will be stopping in to get a taste of the SF wine scene.


 Sat., May 19:  Oregon Pinot Tasting @ Solano Cellars (East Bay) 

Solano Cellars
1580 Solano Ave.
Albany, CA

5:30pm (call Solano Cellars for details on start times and prices, and to RSVP):  510.525.9463

Part of Solano Cellars’ ongoing “Monsters of Wine” summer tasting series.  This month’s focus:  Oregon Pinot.


Image from Cochon 555

Sun., May 20:  4th Annual Cochon 555 (Russian Hill) 

Fairmont Hotel
950 Mason Street
San Francisco, CA 94108

4pm (VIP tickets – $250) / 5pm (General Admission – $125)
Tickets here 

Pig.  Lots and lots of pig.  And great wine from Arnot-Roberts, Matthiasson, Scholium Project and many others.  Add bourbon and beer, and you’ve got a full-on Sunday Funday.


Thurs.-Sun. May 17-20: Bi-Rite Wine Blitz  (Mission)

Bi-Rite Market
3639 18th Street
San Francisco, CA

Bi-Rite’s Spring Wine Blitz (20% off a mixed case) is taking place this week. I’ve already picked out some of my wines, including:  Jean Foillard Cote du Py Morgon; Les Vins Contes R10; Berthet-Bondet Cotes du Jura; Dom. Duplessis Chablis; and the summertime favorite, Ameztoi Rubentis.

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Wine Events: Week of March 5

I got my mind on Pinot and Pinot on my mind.  A few days down in Shell Beach tasting wines at the annual World of Pinot Noir are clearly to blame.  There were some thought-provoking seminars on Terroir and Natural Winemaking, and an excellent Burgundy class led by Allen Meadows (who selected a great lineup of eight wines from Volnay, Pommard, Vosne-Romanee, and Gevrey-Chambertin).

But what has been on my mind is this description on the back of one of the wines served at WOPN.

“Our 2008 [wine]…calls out in big voluptuous tones of dark, black fruit with a rich and velvety texture that redefines Pinot Noir.”

Dark, black fruit with a rich, velvety texture? Doesn’t sound like Pinot.  In fact, I did a search for those terms on Google, and the top results included tasting notes for Napa Valley Cabernet.

Call me a traditionalist, but I don’t think anyone really needs to “redefine” Pinot.  I’m OK with the original definition.

OK, enough of my preaching.  Here’s how to quench your thirst this week.


Tues., Mar. 6:  Flour + Water Italian Wine Dinner (Mission)

Flour + Water
2401 Harrison
San Francisco, CA

Two seatings (5:45pm and 8:45pm) – $175 (inclusive of gratuity)

Farm Wine Imports’ Kevin Clancy will be guiding you through Italian Wine 101, covering history, classic varietals, food & wine pairings, and natural wine producers.   All this, and a 5-course tasting menu from the talented F+W kitchen.


Wed., Mar. 7:  David Hirsch Dinner  (Berkeley)

Meritage at Claremont
41 Tunnel Road
Berkeley, CA

6:30pm – $125 per person (tickets here)

Hirsch Vineyards Founder David Hirsch (a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist) planted Pinot and Chardonnay north of Jenner on the Sonoma Coast back in 1980, when few people thought this area was hospitable to vineyards.  He proved them wrong.  Join David for a dinner in Berkeley this week.  Here’s the full menu:

2009 Chardonnay

First Course
Wild Mushroom “Cigars”
Black Truffle Mousse
2010 Bohan Dillon Pinot Noir

Second Course
Sonoma Duckling Meatballs
Sweet Potato & Freeze Dried Berry Powder
2009 Bohan Dillon Pinot Noir

Third Course
Cedar Planked Eden Farms Pork
Red Wine Braised Cabbage, Herbed Spaetzle
Mustard “Foam”
2009 San Andreas Pinot Noir
2007 San Andreas Pinot Noir

Fourth Course
Tcho Chocolate Coke Farms Beet Cake
Candied Beets & Raspberries


Wed., Mar. 7:  Winemaker Dinner@ Delfina (Mission)

3621 18th Street
San Francisco, CA

Dinner hours – make a reservation here

Delfina: Wednesday March, 7th

Lorenza Sebasti Pallanti of Castello di Ama will be joining the Delfina team for a feast in the Mission.  Per the invite, “All of the estate’s wines will be available in various formats and Lorenza will be on hand to guide you through the vino and the food and to tell you about the magic that she and winemaker Marco Pallanti create. Menu items will include Papardelle in Pork Sugo, Bistecca Fiorentina (1 kilo porterhouse from the wood fired Webber), Ribollita and Rabbit – both ‘da Delfina’ – and many other favorites. Lorenza will also bring a precious bottle or two of their estate olive oil, which we will use to finish many of the night’s offerings.”


Wed., Mar. 7:  Dom. Catherine et Pierre Breton / Dom. de la Cadette Tasting @ 18 Reasons (Mission)

18 Reasons
3674 18th Street
San Francisco, CA

7-9pm — $15 non members / $10 members

When I started venturing into Loire wines, I stumbled upon a bottle of Bourgeuil from Domaine Catherine et Pierre Breton.  I fell in love immediately.  I tried my hardest to visit Dom. Breton during my time out there last September, but couldn’t quite squeeze it in.  Pierre Breton is touching down in SF this week, and I now have multiple opportunities to meet him in my hometown:  Wednesday at 18 Reasons, Thursday at Arlequin, and Friday at San Francisco Wine Trading Company.

And as an added bonus, Jean Montanet of Domaine de la Cadette will also be on hand.


Thurs., Mar. 8:  Breton / Domain de la Cadette @ Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $15

See above


Thurs., Mar. 8:  Selection Massale Savoie Wine Dinner @ Camino (East Bay)

3917 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA

6:30pm (reception) / 7:00pm (dinner) – $100 three-course dinner & wine pairing (extra $20 for vintage wine pairing)

I’ve sung the praises of the Selection Massale portfolio before, because I have a soft spot for wines with a lot of character.  Thursday, you get a chance to try wines from Selection Massale’s Savoie producer Domaine Dupasquier, and get to meet Cory & Guillaume.


Thurs., Mar. 8:  Clos Saron @ The Punchown (Oakland)

The Punchdown
2212 Broadway
Oakland, CA

5:30pm – 8:30pm – $15

Gideon Bienstock, winemaker at Clos Saron, will be in town to pour wines at Oakland’s natural wine bar of choice — The Punchdown. Clos Saron makes about 100 cases of biodynamic wines from the Sierra Foothills each year, and Gideon’s dedication to minimal intervention in the cellar make for some very unique wines.


Sun., Mar. 11:  Fundraiser for Partners in Health @ DigWineSF (Portrero Hill)

1005 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA

5:30pm – $50 (additional donations to Partners in Health are welcome)

DigWine is a dangerous place for me.  I walk in trying to buy one bottle, but invariably leave with multiple wines in tow.  There is just way too much temptation in this jewel box of a store.

Join DigWine and Farm Wine Imports for a fundraiser for Partners in Health, and a tribute to the late Joe Dressner.  Here are the wines being poured:

~ Casa Coste Piane Prosecco Valdobiaddene
~ Pépière 2010 Muscadet ‘Clos des Briords’
~ Clos Roche Blanche 2010 Touraine Sauvignon
~ Terre Dorées 2010 Beaujolais ‘L’Ancien’
~ Sanguineto 2009 Rosso di Montepulciano
~ Occhipinti 2008 Nero d’Avola ‘Siccagno’
~ Texier 2009 Chateauneuf du Pape rouge