SF Wine Blog

Exploring wine in and around San Francisco.

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Wine Events: Week of June 10

Some food for thought on one of the themes I’ve touched on in recent blog posts:  wine descriptors.  Yesterday, I stumbled upon this piece by New York Times writer Eric Asimov talking about Lebanon’s Chateau Musar.

[W]ine is more than a collection of aromas and flavors. …[W]hat’s in a glass is more than the methodology of the winemaker and the equipment used.


Great wine is emotional, not merely rational, and romance — taking risks — is an essential feature.

Amen, Mr. Asimov.  This is probably the most concise way of summarizing why I generally shy away from doing formal wine reviews on this site.

And on that note, let’s get to this week’s SF wine events.


Thurs., June 14:  The NPA / Salinia Tasting @ Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $20

I’ve always enjoyed wines from Kevin Kelley’s Salinia and NPA labels (as well as the  wine he made while at Lioco).  Try a flight of his wines delivered milkman style in Klean Kanteens, some library Salinia wines, as well as some new single barrel wines.  Here’s the full line-up:

2011 Petillant ‘Taken Rustic’ Sonoma County
2009 Sauvignon Blanc ‘Robina’ Russian River Valley
2010 White Blend ‘Saffron Haze’ Russian River Valley
2009 Pinot Gris ‘Chalk Hill’ Russian River Valley
2009 Chardonnay ‘In The Box’ Sonoma Coast
2006 Chardonnay ‘Heintz Ranch’ Sonoma Coast
2006 Pinot Noir ‘W.E. Bottoms’ Sonoma Coast
2010 Red Blend ‘Sunhawk Farms’ Mendocino County
2007 Syrah ‘Heintz’ Russian River Valley


Sat., June 16:  Burgundy Tasting at Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

2:00pm – 5:00pm – $25

Arlequin has declared that Summer Saturdays will be drenched in Burgundy.  Last week was Puzelat and Piuze.  This week, it’s Roumier and Niellon.


Sat., June 16:  Pinot Days (Fort Mason)

2:00pm – 5:00pm – $50 (tickets here)

Fort Mason will be home to a ton of pinot producers at the annual Pinot Days tasting.  For a discount, please go to the Vinography Pinot Days article.  


 Tues., June 19: Loire Valley Tasting @ SF Wine Center (SoMa) 

SF Wine Center
757 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA

6:30pm – 8:00pm – $60 (reserve ahead of time)

Christie Duffault leads this week’s class at SF Wine Center, featuring wines from one of my favorite regions — the Loire.  I was reminded how much I love these wines when I read this great article on a recent tasting.  Reminded me how much of a sense of community and creativity I was able to absorb in my short time there last September.


Tues., June 19:  Sommelier Challenge: David Lynch vs. Shelley Lindgren (SoMa) 

301 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA

7:30 pm – $155 for four courses, six wines, the Antinori reception, and a free SJ subscription.

Antinori has been hosting a series called Sommelier CHallenge, pitting somm against each other in a steel cage match that combines the best of muay thai, sumo wrestling, and cornhole.  Oh, wait.  Sorry, I was mistaken.  You’ll have to settle for watching St. Vincent’s David Lynch and A16/SPQR’s Shelley Lindgren pair wines with a four-course meal at RN74 (six wines total).  Plus, there’s a pre-dinner reception featuring Antinori wines.  Email jpark@minagroup.net for reservations.


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Wine Events: Week of Jan. 16

My apologies.  Am a little dinged up from a night out at RN74.  I will have a much more entertaining intro to next week’s wine events post.

 Now for some more coffee.


Tues., Jan. 17: Italian Wine Tasting @ Biondivino (Russian Hill)

1415 Green Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00 pm – 8:00 pm – $10

I can’t wait till Biondivino’s Ceri Smith opens up her new enoteca.  Until then, I am more than happy to settle for her always entertaining wine tastings.  Tonight, 4 wineries, 3 regions, 3 winemakers from the North Berkeley Wine Import portfolio.  Here’s the skinny:

Ca Vittoria (Winemaker;  Cristina Bruniera) – Prosecco, Veneto
NV Ca Vittoria Brut Rose   –  $19.
NV Ca Vittoria Prosecco Brut – Conegliano Valdobbiadene $19.

Alberice – Friuli Venezia Giulia
2010 Alberice Malvasia Friuli  –  $18.
2010 Alberice Friulano Friuli – $18.
2008 Alberice Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Friuli $18.

Fattoria Nicodemi (Winemaker: Elena Nicodemi) – Abruzzo
2010 Nicodemi Terrana Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – $14.
2009 Nicodemi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – $17.
2008 Nicodemi Notari Rosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo – $28.
2006 Nicodemi Neromoro Riserva – $49.

Dama del Rovere (Massimo Pra) – Soave, Veneto
2009 Dama del Rovere Spinaje Bianco Veneto IGT  –  $27.
2010 Dama del Rovere Brenton Lessini Durello Brut   –  $19.
2010 Dama del Rovere Tremenalto Soave Classico – $15.

ALSO – Ceri could use some additional support for her new establishment prior to her February 2 SF Planning Commission hearing.  Please consider sending an email to Kevin.Guy@SFGOV.org and include the following information in the subject line:  Re 2255 Polk Street – Case No: 2011.1233C.  


Tues., Jan. 17: French Wine Producer Dinner @ RN74 (SoMa)

301 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA

7:00 pm – Three Courses w/ Wine for $195 (not incl. tax & service)

North Berkeley Wine is bringing three producers from wineries intheir portfolio, Frederic Magnien (Burguny), Bruno Gaspard of Le Clos du Caillou (Chateauneuf du Pape) an Pierre Gaillard (No. Rhone). Nine wines, three courses.

RSVP to jpark@minagroup.net


Thurs., Jan. 19:  Terry Theise Tasting @ Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $20

One of the wine industry’s most engaging personalities and most spirited writers, Terry Theis, will be pouring German and Austrian wine.  As you may know, Theise is one of the major proponents of grower champagnes, and he’ll be pouring some bubbly wine, too.  I’ll update this post with a list of wines being poured when that information becomes available.  UPDATE: Ze list of wines being poured:

NV Jean Milan ‘Special’ Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne
NV Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Champagne
NV Rene Geoffroy Brut Rose Champagne
2010 Donhoff ‘Estate’ Riesling QbA
2010 Donhoff Oberhauser Leistenberg Riesling Kabinett
2009 Hirsch ‘Zobing’ Riesling
2010 Leitz ‘Dragonstone’ Riesling
2009 Weingut Brundlmayer ‘Alte Reben’ Gruner Veltliner
2006 Nigl Privat Gruner Veltliner (from magnum)
2010 Weingut Brundlmayer Rose Zweigelt

For an entertaining and informative read, download a copy of Terry’s catalogs.


Sat., Jan. 21:  Burgundy Tasting at SF Wine Trading Co. (Bernal)

San Francisco Wine Trading Co.
250 Taraval
San Francisco, CA

2:00pm – 5:30pm – $10

There’s a good number of Burgundy tastings and events coming up over the next few weeks, all leading up to the big Burg-hound gathering of the year, La Paulée de San Francisco.  (More on that in an upcoming post).  On Saturday, SF Wine Trading Company will be opening bottles from wine-critic endorsed 2009 vintage (note: there’s a bit of a debate whether or not these wines are worth all the hype.  If you stop by the tasting, let me know what you think — too ripe, or just right?).



Sat., Feb. 4:  Wine and Wishes @ CityView Metreon (SoMa)

CityView Metreon
101 4th Street
San Francisco, CA

5:00pm – 7:30pm – Gourmet Tasting – $150
7:30pm – 11:00pm –  Winemaker Dinner – $350

Tickets available here.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation of San Francisco’s annual fundraiser brings together some of California’s most noted wineries and Bay Area Restaurants for a fun-filled evening.  You’ll recognize many of the names who will be serving at the Grand Tasting:  Merry Edwards Winery, Williams Selyem, Barbacco, Epic Roasthouse, and The Slanted Door, to name a few.  Full list here.  I was lucky enough to attend the tasting last year and had a lot of fun.  And if you stick around for dinner, there are plenty of top notch somms who will be pouring, including Paul Einbund of Frances, Shelley Lindgren of A16, and Christie Dufault of RN74.

NOTE – Tablehopper has a 10% discount code for tickets to the Gourmet Tasting.


In Pursuit of Balance: A Primer

The hot topic in the Pinot-loving wine world right now centers on one word:  balance.  Indeed, a debate has erupted over the definition of  “balanced Pinot,” as illustrated in this NY Times wine column by Eric Asimov and the subsequent Twitter-fueled fallout.

One of the most eagerly anticipated tasting events, In Pursuit of Balance (“IPOB”), has helped spur the discussion.  And  it seems there is strong demand for this type of dialogue (at least among the Bay Area wine drinking community):  tickets to the public tasting sold out in a few work days.

I’m not going to weigh in on the “balance” debate at this point, but will do a post-IPOB wrap-up next week.  For now, I just thought I’d provide some resources for those of you interested in learning more about the “balance” issue.

IPOB Panel Discussion Webcast

Prior to the IPOB public tasting, there will be a distinguished group of panelists discussing (you guessed it) balance and Pinot Noir.  You can watch the live webcast through GastroTommy – http://www.gastrotommy.com/webcast – from Noon – 1pm PDT on Monday, March 28.  You can even submit questions for the panel by logging on to Twitter and using the #IPOB hashtag.

Vanessa Wong (Winemaker/Owner, Peay Vineyards)
Wells Guthrie (Winemaker/Owner, Copain)
Jeffrey Patterson (Winemaker/Owner, Mount Eden Vineyards)
Sashi Moorman(Winemaker, Evening Land Vineyards)
Geoff Kruth, MS (Director of Operations – Guild of Sommeliers and Wine Director – Farmhouse Inn).

On Site Moderator: Ray Isle (Wine Editor, Food & Wine Magazine)
Web Moderator:  Ward Kadel (Wine Ambassador for WineLog.net and EnjoyBordeaux.com)

Background Reading

Below are a few articles, mainly from the point of view of those promoting lower alcohol Pinot Noir.

  • March 2009 NY Times article by Eric Asimov regarding California Pinot producers going championing a more restrained style.  Props given to many of the IPOB participants including Au Bon Climat, Calera, Copain, Littorai, and Peay.  See also Asimov’s related blog post on the same subject, and providing more details regarding his preferred Pinot producers.
    • Key quote:  “In the current issue of Wine Spectator, the highest-scoring pinot noir from California is described as ‘superrich, bordering on syrupy.’  Those are apparently compliments.  Now, I haven’t tried that wine, but I can’t say those qualities are what I desire in a pinot noir.  I prefer words like elegant and energetic….”
  • March 5, 2011 Vinography summary of “Alcohol Levels and Balance in Pinot Noir” panel during World of Pinot Noir Conference.  The panel was moderated by Eric Asimov, and included Jim Clendenen (Au Bon Climat), Adam Tolmach (Ojai Vineyards), Josh Jensen (Calera Wine Company), Rajat Parr (RN74 Restaurant), Adam Lee (Siduri Wines), and Michael Browne (Kosta Browne).  Make sure to read the comments section, too, especially Adam’s explanation of the events that transpired.
    • Key quote:  “I personally don’t like higher alcohols . The sign of great wine is complexity, not horsepower.” – Josh Jensen, Calera Wine Co.
  • March 13, 2011 SF Chronicle article by Jon Bonné regarding same, and mentioning upcoming In Pursuit of Balance event.
    • Key quote:  “What’s quietly losing favor, then, are those inky, oak-loaded Pinots made for flash and impact, for success with a handful of critics who are slowly fading into the background. These wines have contributed to the de-Pinoting of Pinot as much as the bottom-shelf stuff.”

List of Participating Wineries

For your continued reading pleasure, here are links to the different wineries that will be participating in the IPOB tasting.  I’ve included the names of the current winemakers and the source of at least some of the Pinots produced by these wineries.

Alta Maria Vineyards (Central Coast)
James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins

Ambullneo Vineyards (Central Coast)
Gregg Linn

Au Bon Climat (Central Coast)
Jim Clendenen

Calera Wine Company (Central Coast)
Josh Jensen

Ceritas Wine (Sonoma Coast)
John Raytek

Chanin Wine Company (Central Coast)
Gavin Chanin

Cobb Wines (Sonoma Coast)
Ross Cobb

Copain Wines (Anderson Valley)
Wells Guthrie
[NOTE – Wells will be at Arlequin Wine Merchants in Hayes Valley for a tasting this Thursday.  See our weekly events post for more information].

Evening Land Vineyards (various sites, including Sonoma Coast and Oregon)
Sashi Moorman

Flowers Vineyard & Winery (Sonoma Coast)
Darrin Low

Freestone Vineyards (Sonoma Coast)
Theresa Heredia

Hirsch Vineyards (Sonoma Coast)
Ross Cobb

Kutch Wines (Sonoma Coast / Anderson Valley / Russian River Valley)
Jamie Kutch

LIOCO (Sonoma Coast / Anderson Valley / Monterey / Russian River Valley)
Kevin Kelley

Littorai (Sonoma Coast / Anderson Valley / Russian River Valley)
Ted Lemon

Miura Vineyards (Monterey / Santa Lucia Highlands) [no website]
Emmanual Kemiji
NOTE: Miura is doing a winemaker’s dinner at 1300 Fillmore on April 13.

Mount Eden Vineyards (Santa Cruz)
Jeffrey Patterson

Native9 (Central Coast)
James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins

Peay Vineyards (Sonoma Coast)
Vanessa Wong

Sandhi Wines (Central Coast)
Sashi Moorman

Soliste Wine (Sonoma Coast / Russian River Valley)
Claude Koeberle & Donald Plumley

Tyler Winery (Central Coast)
Justin Willett

Wind Gap Wines (Sonoma Coast)
Pax Mahle


Tickets on Sale to “In Pursuit of Balance”

Monday, March 28 2010 5pm-8pm
In Pursuit of Balance:  Pinot Noir Public Tasting
301 Mission St. (between Beale and Fremont)
San Francisco CA

Tickets – $45 (only 150 tix – get yours here)


While I normally would wait until the weekly update to list a new event, I want to make sure you don’t miss out on this top-notch pinot tasting.  Raj Parr of RN74 and Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards have pulled together an all-star cast of winemakers to pour their wines on March 28, 2011.  These wineries were hand selected because of their focus on balanced, elegant, and terroir-driven pinots. Full list of wineries below.  If you can’t tell, I am extremely excited about this event — it is a ridiculously talent-laden evening.

Tickets are only $45 (a steal given the quality of wines) and are on sale now.  You can get yours here.

I recommend buying your tickets now — they’ve been on sale for just under 24 hours and are already 25% sold out.

Alta Maria・Ambullneo・Au Bon Climat・Calera

Ceritas・Chanin・Cobb・Copain・Evening Land・Flowers

Freestone・Hirsch・Kutch・LIOCO・Littorai・Miura・Mount Eden

Native9・Peay・Sandhi・Soliste・Tyler・Wind Gap