SF Wine Blog

Exploring wine in and around San Francisco.


Wine Events: Week of September 24

My most sincere apologies for getting this weekly update out a little later than usual, but I’ve been a bit distracted as of late.  First, as I’m sure y’all are aware, there’s a little thing called harvest gong on in California and Burgundy right now, and even though I’m not directly involved this year (sigh), I can’t seem to tear myself away from reading every single update and article I can find on the topic.  I tried to get my fix by sneaking up to Healdsburg a few weeks ago to help out with a little grape treading and to grill up some lunch for some hungry harvest workers.  But I still find myself jones-ing for more info and more involvement on the harvest front. Second, as a political junkie and former staffer on two presidential campaigns (both involving incumbents), I’m currently obsessed with the current horse race.  In short, two of my life’s passions have kicked into high gear at the same time, and as a result, I’m suffering from some serious ADD.

I’m hoping that attending some of these events will help calm my nerves.

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Wine Events: Week of April 23

Many, many thanks to those of you who stopped by Arlequin on Thursday night for the Arnot-Roberts tasting.  Although I hadn’t planned on being behind the bar, the tidal wave of AR fans that started showing up at 6:30 made for a lively and busy night of pouring.  So I ended up lending a hand, and I really enjoyed about these wines, reminiscing about my time working harvest, and having the chance to see and hear people’s reactions to the wine.  The 2009 Fellom Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2010 Clary Ranch Syrah in particular seemed to get a lot of praise that night.  The former was restrained and elegant, while the latter was olive tapenade and gamey, whole-cluster goodness.

There were multiple other wine highlights last week, including a Sunday visit to Ridge Vineyard’s Monte Bello estate in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and a remarkable dinner at Aziza in San Francisco.  You really need to go to this place.  Not only is the food incredible, and the wine list is spectacular:  lots of choice from all different price points, and plenty of things for both the novice and the wine enthusiast.  My dinner partner and I had a really tough time making up our minds.  We had to ponder the list individually, talk through the potential options together, and eventually called in the sommelier for some advice — a little like going to therapy.  (She gets credit for that line). Eventually we selected the 2001 Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Blanco and the 2007 Clos Rougeard Saumur Champigny.  I think we done good.

No rest for the weary.  More wine events to explore this week….


Wed., Apr. 25: The Natural Process AllianceDinner at Local Mission Eatery (Mission)

Local Mission Eatery
3111 24th Street
San Francisco, CA

We live in an area that embraces innovation.  And thankfully, that creative spirit is not limited to the tech sector.  Take Kevin Kelley of The Natural Process Alliance — a winemaker who every week delivers fresh, honest wines bottled in reusable Klean Kanteens.  It’s like the old school milk man, but boozier.  (Check out this great article for more info).  Kevin will be pouring his wines at Local Mission Eatery this Wednesday.  Call the restaurant at 415-655-3422 for reservations.


Thurs., Apr. 26:  Rioja Wine Tasting @ Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $20

As I mentioned in the intro, that  2001 Lopez de Heredia Vina Gravonia Blanco I had at Aziza was gorgeous.  Great acidity and that classic nutty touch of oxidation.  I haven’t had any Rioja wines other than LdH in quite some time, but I trust the folks at Arlequin to pour a good selection of wines to highlight what’s the haps down in the region.


Thurs., Apr. 26:  Bourdeaux Events Sponsored by K&L Wines (SoMa)

Weinstein Gallery
291 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA

5pm-7pm – $60 (tix here)

The Tour des Deux Rives touches down in San Francisco on Thursday, with a bunch of Bourdeaux peeps in tow, including: Christian Moueix (Hosanna and Certan de May); Veronique Sanders (Haut Bailly); Thomas Duroux (Palmer); Bruno-Eugène Borie (Ducru-Beaucaillou); Sylvie Cazes (Pichon Lalande); and Jean-Emmanuel Danjoy (Mouton Rothschild).  And here are the wines that will be poured: 2005 Château Mouton Rothschild 2004 Château Clerc Milon 2005 Réserve de la Comtesse 2006 Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande 2004 & 2007 Château Bernadotte 2005 Ducru-Beaucaillou 2005 Croix de Beaucaillou 2005 Château Lalande-Borie 2003 Château Haut-Bailly 2007 & 2008 La Parde de Haut-Bailly 1995 Château Palmer 2006 Alter Ego de Palmer 2007 & 2008 Château de Pez 2009 Château Haut-Beauséjour 2004 & 2007 Château Hosanna 2005 & 2008 Château Certan de May 2007 Château Lafleur-Gazin 2009 Château de Sales 2005 Château Magdelaine 2008 Château Puy-Blanquet 1996 & 2004 Château d’Armailhac.

Feeling a bit spendy? There’s a dinner later that night at La Folie for $625 per person.


Sat., Apr. 28:  CA vs. OR Pinot Tasting @ K&L Wines (SoMa)

K&L Wine Merchants
638 4th Street
San Francisco, CA

noon-3pm – $20

Oregon and California winemakers have a friendly rivalry, duking it out for the best domestic Pinot Noir.  Come taste what both states have to offer this Saturday at K&L.  Here’s the lineup:

2010 Trisaetum ” Coast Range Estate” Yamhill-Carlton Pinot Noir
2009 Hirsch Vineyards “San Andreas Fault” Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
2009 Calera “Mills Vineyard” Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir
2009 Patricia Green “Olenik Vineyard” Chehalem Mountain Pinot Noir
2010 Sonria Shea Vineyards Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
2010 Domaine Eden Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir
2009 Domaine Drouhin Willamette Valley Pinot Noir
2009 Paul Mathew Vineyards Russian River Pinot Noir
2010 Ken Wright “Nysa Vineyard” Dundee Hills Pinot Noir
2010 Siduri “Rosella’s Vineyard” Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir


Sat., Apr. 28:  Languedoc Tasting @ Cafe Des Amis (Cow Hollow)

Cafe des Amis
2000 Union Street
San Francisco, CA

2pm-4:30pm – $35

The foremost authority in Bay Area restaurants, Marcia Gagliardi (aka “Tablehopper” and the recently-named food editor of 7×7 Magazine), teams up with Michael Minna’s sommelier Josiah Baldavino for an afternoon tour of Languedoc wines. I’ve met Marcia and Josiah, and I can guarantee that this will be an informative, entertaining, and boozy afternoon.  Here are the featured wines:

  • Antech “Brut Nature” Blanquette de Limoux
  • 2010 Hugues Beaulieu Picpoul de Pinet
  • 2010 Château de la Negly “La Brise Marine” Coteaux du Languedoc Blanc
  • 2011 Château Viranel “Tradition” Saint Chinian Rosé
  • 2008 Domaine du Trillol Corbières
  • 2009 Château Rigaud Faugères
  • 2009 Domaine Grès St-Paul “Antonin” Coteaux du Languedoc
  • 2010 L’Olivier de la Rèze Minervois
  • Les Petits Grains Muscat de Saint Jean de Minervois

If you miss out on this event, there will be plenty of opportunities to taste Languedoc wines in May as part of L’Aventure Languedoc – a series of tastings and dinners sponsored by CIVL (Conseil Interprofessionnel des Vins du Languedoc).


Sun., Apr. 29:  Twitter Rioja Tasting @ the Internets (WWW)


Ever take part in a Twitter wine tasting?  Basically, you hop online with a bunch of peeps to drink a predetermined type of wine (either wines from the same region or same grape), and exchange notes.

A handful of producers from Spain are taking part in a twitter tasting this Sunday, and the theme is “NextGen Rioja” – a tasting sponsored by the Vibrant Rioja trade organization, to “showcas[e] younger generation winemakers and wineries either following the traditional/classic Rioja style or exploring a more modern approach of winemaking.”  Follow along on Sunday by using the #RiojaBuzz Twitter hashtag, and follow @RiojaWines.  I’ll be tasting the suggested wines and following along, too.

For more information on how to participate, and for a list of the suggested wines, click here.


Sun., Apr. 29:  Joli Vin Imports Tasting @ DigWineSF (Portrero Hill)

1005 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, CA

5:30pm – $40

What a great way to cap off the weekend:  spending time with Wayne of Dig Wine and Nadia of Joli Vin Imports.  Oh, and sipping on everything from grower champagne to Côte Roannaise.  I’ve been to an importer tasting at Dig before, and love the intimate setting (and the plates of food from Piccino to nosh on!).  Here’s what you can expect:

Domaine Marie Courtain Champagne, Résonance, Extra Brut 2008
Domaine de la Tournelle Fleur de Savagnin 2009
Domaine Vincent Gaudry Sancerre L’Espirit de Rudolf 2010
Domaine Robert Sérol Côte Roannaise, Les Vieilles Vignes 2011
Domaine Terres de Velle Auxey-Duresses 2009
Domaine Pas de L’Escalette Les Petits Pas 2010
Domaine Pierre Gonon Saint-Joesph 2010


Mon., Apr. 30:  Juris Winery Dinner @ Bar Tartine (Mission)

Bar Tartine
561 Valencia
San Francisco, CA

7:30pm – $39 per person.  Tickets here.

If you follow along on Twitter, you know that I’ve spent my fair share of time at Bar Tartine.  What’s not to love about well-executed dishes and great service? Shoot, even Michael Bauer is all up in Tartine’s bizness.  Here’s what he said in his recent review:  “Once in a while, a restaurant comes along that is so different and exciting that it becomes my personal benchmark.”

On Monday, Bar Tartine is teaming up with the folks at Blue Danube Wine to host a winemaker dinner with Austria’s Juris Winery.  Juris is found in the Burgenland (near the border with Hungary), and as the name suggests, it’s the home to a fair amount of Pinot Noir and St. Laurent (a variety considered to be in the same family as Pinot Noir).  Proprietors Axel and Herta Stieglmart will be on hand to walk you through the wines.


Note/Disclosure:  I’m excited that I was invited to attend a few of these events (including the Languedoc tasting and the Juris tasting) as a member of the media.  I had been planning on posting these events on the weekly update even before I received the invite.  

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Wine Events: Week of April 16

There’s an interesting trend going on in the local beer and wine scene, with a number of brewers and winemakers making special batches for individual restaurants.  Linden Street Brewery is making beer using Tartine bread yeasts. The NPA has made a special white blend for the new Namu Gaji.  And now Dan Petroski (Massican) has made a special Chardonnay for Acquarello.  I’m excited about this partnership between the beverage and restaurant world, and look forward to tasting the customized brews and juice.

Now — this week’s San Francisco wine events!


Wed., Apr. 18: SPQR hosts winemaker Paolo Vodopivec (Pac Heights)

1911 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA

“The lesson (again) for me is that so much exciting wine can be found outside the realm of the familiar.” – Eric Asimov re Vitovska

Vitovska might not be the best known grape variety, but it has certainly gained the attention of some influential wine writers.

Winemaker Paolo Vodopivec has dedicated himself to making Vitovska, and aging these wines in clay amphorae.   You can meet Paolo and sample his wines by the taste, glass, carafe, or bottle at SPQR on Wednesday.  For more on Vodopivec, please see this excellent write-up by Cory Cartwright.


Wed. Apr. 18:  Esoteric Wine Tasting at William Cross (Russian Hill)

William Cross Wine Merchants
2253 Polk Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 9:00pm – $15

William Cross is breaking out some odd-ball wines this week.  A good way to expand your palate.

2009 Ferrando La Torrazza Erbaluce di Caluso
2010 Domaine Edond Jacquin & Fils Marestel Roussette de Savoie
2010 Weingut Niklas Schiava Alto Adige
2008 Weingut Binz Dornfelder Nackenheimer
2010 Masseria Li Veli Susumaniello Salento
2007 Alois Trebulanum Campania


Thurs., Apr. 19:  Arnot-Roberts Tasting @ Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $20

Y’all know I have a soft spot for Arnot-Roberts.  But can you blame me?  Not only did Nate and Duncan give me the chance to work harvest with them this past year, but the wines are stunning.  Here are some notes re the wines being poured on Thursday night.

2011 Touriga National Rose – “One of the best rosés I’ve tried … perfectly balanced, fresh but complex, low sulfites but still perfectly clean.”

2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Fellom’ / 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ‘Bugay’ – “This is far and away the most exciting Cali Cab discovery for me in many years; the Cabs of Arnot-Roberts are delicate, fresh, nuanced, unique… interesting. After tasting at Arnot-Roberts, I left with the overwhelming impression that California Cabernet – one of the most famous categories of wine in the world – could still be sensually exciting, intellectually stimulating and TRUE to terroir, just like any great French Bordeaux.” (re 2008 Cabs)

2010 Syrah ‘Clary Ranch’ – “[T]he best American Syrah I’ve tasted. At 12.2% alcohol and perfectly ripe, this has all the savory flavors of the grape, with great acidity, precision, and clarity for California Syrah.”

2010 Syrah ‘Griffins Lair’“…exceptional energy and minerality… a stunning wine that captures the Arnot-Roberts style at its very best.”


Sun., Apr. 22:  French Wine Tasting @ K&L Wines (SoMa)

K&L Wine Merchants
638 4th Street
San Francisco, CA

2pm-5pm – $75 (tickets here)

No need to cross the Atlantic to enjoy the Tour de France.  K&L will guide you through Champagne, Bourdeaux, Burgundy and many other regions this Sunday.

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Wine Events: Week of April 2

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).

Trailer: Balancing Act with Rajat Parr from Sandhi Wines on Vimeo.


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).


Tues., Apr. 10:  Burgundy Wine Class @ SF Wine Center (SoMa)

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….