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.



Wine Events: Week of May 16

I’ve never made it to every event in a weekly blog post, but I came pretty darn close last week.  In addition to the Jura tasting at The Punchdown, I tasted through five different Kutch Wines Pinot Noirs, checked out the 18 Reasons / Bi-Rite event, and tore through a dozen different Beaujolais at SF Wine Trading Co.  And to top it all off, I drove up to Forestville on Saturday for the Wind Gap Wines Open House.

Pax and Pam Mahle know how to throw a party:  fresh shucked oysters, an assortment of sausages and cured meats (including a delicious “prized pig”), lamb chops…and–oh, yeah–there was some wine, too.  A Trousseau Gris (straight from the land of misfit toys grapes), two Chardonnays, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, the “Rana” Grenache / Syrah / Mourvedre Blend, Sonoma Coast Syrah (which got rave reviews in a recent WSJ article), the Armagh Vineyard Syrah, and a vertical of the Griffin’s Lair Syrah (2007 – 2010).  Despite a slightly overcast day, guests were having a blast, and many brought shiners to fill up from a barrel of Rosé.  Pax was also clearly enjoying himself, being a consummate host and greeting guests, sampling the fare, and geeking out over what he’s been tasting recently.  The space — which is shared with Arnot-Roberts — has a weathered barn / artists studio feel to it, which seemed to capture the creative spirit and agricultural roots of the wines being produced therein.  I’ve put up some photos of the event here.  You can buy Wind Gap wines locally at Arlequin Wine Merchants, Bi-Rite Market, and Cheese Plus.

Not sure I’m ready for more wine quite yet, but there are a ton of events again this week.  And don’t forget:  the Bi-Rite annual Spring Wine Blitz takes place May 19-22 (20% off any mix-and-match case, w/ free delivery to many parts of the city).  Great selection, including wines from some of my favorite producers including Catherine et Pierre Breton, Agienda Agricola COS, and Domaine Huet.


Tues., May 17:  A16 hosts Bruno DeConciliis (Marina)

2355 Chestnut Street
San Francisco, CA

For the past six years, Shelly Lindgren and the A16 team have hosted winemaker Bruno DeConciliis for an evening of wine and revelry.  Hailing from Campania, just south of the Amalfi coast, the DeConciliis wines are highly sought after, and have graced the wine lists at top restaurants in the U.S., including NYC’s Babbo.  The evening’s lineup includes 2004 Naima ‘Peter Wilburger’ from magnum, the ‘Donnaluna’ Fiano and Aglianico, and the “Zero ( a wine made from one hundred year old vine Aglianico).

NOTE:  Bruno will also be at Delfina on Wednesday May 18 for a winemaker dinner starting at 5:30pm.  Details available via the Delfina Facebook page.


Wed. – Fri., May 18-19:  Kabaj Winery Events (multiple locations) 

If you haven’t noticed, Central and Eastern European food and wine are all the rage here in SF, from the recent menu changes at Bar Bambino, to the recently reopened Bar Tartine.  The good folks over at Blue Danube Wine (a Bay Area-based importer) are primed to ride that wave, and have scheduled a trifecta of events to welcome winemaker Jean-Michael Morel from Slovenia’s Kabaj Winery.  Here’s a description of the Kabaj wines that really grabbed me:  “These are not ‘minimalist’ wines, which can sometimes seem dirty and experimental, but they do possess a quality that I loosely call funky. Funky is a very good thing—it means I can taste the land, the fermentation process, a bit of oxidation maybe. The wines taste earthy more than fruity, and they have integrity.”

After making stops at Terroir NY and multiple locations in LA, Jean-Michael touches down at three different locations in the Bay Area this week.

Wednesday Night:  Dinner at À Côté, 5478 College Avenue, Oakland.  6:00pm, five courses paired with five wines, $80.  Full menu here.

Thursday Night:  Dinner at Bar Bambino, 2931 16th Street, San Francisco (Mission).  7:00pm – 10:00pm, limited to 20 people, $85, four courses, 5 wines.  Full menu here.  Call 415-701-8466 for reservations.

Friday Night:  Tasting at Biondivino, 1415 Green Street, San Francisco (Nob Hill).  6:00pm – 8:00pm, $10.  (As always, you can count on Ceri to put together a great spread and atmosphere to accompany the wines).


Wed., May 18:  Calera Wine Co. at FPWM (Embarcadero)

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants
One Ferry Building
San Francisco, CA

4:30pm – 7:30pm – $28 for flight of 5 wines

FPWM is offering a flight of Central Coast Pinot Noir from iconic winemaker Josh Jensen this week.


Thurs., May 19:  18 Reasons Mendocino Wine Tasting (Mission)

18 Reasons
593 Guerrero
San Francisco, CA

7:00pm – 9:00pm – $10 for members / $15 non-members

18 Reasons and the BiRite wine team are bringing in Handley Cellars and Terra Savia for a tasting of Mendo wines.


Thurs., May 19:  Solano Cellars Oregon vs. Burgundy Tasting (East Bay)

1580 Solano Ave
Albany, CA

7:00pm – 9:00pm – $65 per person

Ever wonder who would win in a steel cage match between Oregon’s Ken Wright Cellars and Burgundy’s Patrice Rion?  Me neither.  But I do wonder what it would be like to taste these wines back-to-back.  Eight wines, four courses of apps from Kirstin Jackson.  Tix here.


Sat., May 21:  Banshee Wine Spring Fling (East Bay)

Black Point Battery
Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA

A group of young winos with fantastic vineyard connections decide to set up a négociant business, giving consumers access to wines sourced from great locations at reasonable prices.  And thus Banshee was born.  Check out their latest wines, and their first white wine offering at this release party.  Sign up on the Banshee Facebook page.


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.