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Exploring wine in and around San Francisco.

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Wine Events: Week of May 21

Busy, busy, busy!  Another stellar week of events to get you primed for Memorial Day weekend.


Wed. May. 23:  Hirsch Vineyards Wine Tasting at FPWM (Embarcadero)

Ferry Plaza Wine Merchants
San Francisco, CA

4:30pm – 7:30pm – $32 flight of 5 wines

Hirsch Vineyards, located along the northern Sonoma Coast, is among the wineries that have tended towards a more restrained, food friendly style.  Jasmine Hirsch will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the wines.

2010 Hirsch Vineyards Estate Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast
2010 Hirsch Vineyards FPWM SF Food Bank Cuvee Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
2010 Hirsch Vineyards Bohan Dillon Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
2009 Hirsch Vineyards San Andreas Fault Estate Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast
2009 Hirsch Vineyards Reserve Estate Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast


Thurs., May 24:  Selection Massale Tasting @ The Punchdown (Oakland)

The Punchdown
2212 Broadway
Oakland, CA

5:30pm – 8:30pm – $15

Details still forthcoming, but Cory Cartwright of Selection Massale will be on han to pour 3 new wines from the import portfolio.


Fri., May 25:  La Clarine Farm Tasting @ Vintage Berkeley (East Bay) 

Vintage Berkeley-Elmwood
2949 College Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94705


Hank Beckmeyer is one of the winemakers that is helping make the Sierra Foothills an up-and-coming wine region.  He’s caught the attention of some well-known wine writers, including Alice Feiring who declared that Hank is among the “finest of the new generation of US winemakers who are forging forward with bravery,  talent and thoughtfulness.”  He’s also a darn nice guy.


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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

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Wine Events: Week of Feb. 13

SF Beer Week, Tre Bicchieri, and La Paulée are attracting a ton of industry pros to San Francisco. Last night’s 4-course, 8-beer pairing at Bar Tartine drew a packed house along with some celebrity sightings — Michael Pollan and Dave Chappelle, y’all! There are a slew of Italian wine producers in town for Wednesday’s Tre Bicchieri tasting, and I’m sure you can catch some of them at A16 and Biondivino afterwards.  And Burgundy producers will be trickling in over the next few days along with a bunch of sommeliers from NYC and elsewhere. Keep your eyes peeled – I’m guessing you can spot lots of these folks throwing down at RN74, Michael Mina, and Nopa.

Happy hunting!


ONGOING: FEB. 13-24 Burgundy Week

In preparation for La Paulée, an impressive group of restaurant will be having some special Burgundy selections on their menu.  Participating restaurants include:  A16, Absinthe, Acquarello, Baker & Banker, benu, Boulevard, Bourbon Steak, Cafe de la Presse, Epic Roasthouse, La Folie, Frances, Gary Danko, Jardiniere, Michael Mina, Piperade, Quince, RN74, Saison, The Slanted Door, Sons & Daughters, Redd, Zuni.


ONGOING:  SF Beer Week (Multiple Locations)

Because one can not live on wine alone, I invite you to check out the plethora of events that the organizers of SF Beer Week have pulled together. So much to choose from!


Wed., Feb. 15: Tre Bicchieri Tasting @ Fort Mason (Marina)

Fort Mason
San Francisco, CA

3:00pm – 6:00pm

The writers from Gambero Rosso, an Italian food and wine magazine, taste around 20,000 wines.  The top wines are awarded “tre Bicchieri” status, and the wineries that earn that gold ring are invited to join a tour to help spread the gospel of Italian wines.  The Tre Bicchieri tasting touches down in San Francisco on Wednesday.  Here’s a full list of Tre Bicchieri participating wineries.

NOTE – if you can’t make it to the tasting at Fort Mason, stop by A16, where many of the wines will be poured  on Wednesday night.


Arnot-Roberts 2011 Trousseau tank w/ J. Puffeney

Thurs., Feb. 16:  Jura Wine Tasting @ Arlequin (Hayes Valley)

Arlequin Wine Merchants
384 Hayes Street
San Francisco, CA

6:00pm – 8:00pm – $15

A few years ago, the “geeky but versatile wines” of the Jura — a small region about an hour east of Burgundy — started capturing more space on wine lists in New York and other major cities. Today, you can find a handful of winemakers in the U.S. who have been so taken by these wines that they have hunted down vineyards that grow typical Jura varieties. Come taste what all the fuss is about at Thursday’s tasting at Arlequin, which will include wines from Bornard, Puffeney, Gahier, and others.

UPDATE — Here’s what will be poured:

2008 Puffeney Chardonnay
2006 Gahier ‘Les Cretes’ Chardonnay
2007 Monnier ‘Dilemme’ Chardonnay/Savignin
2006 Bornard ‘Ouille’ Savignin
2008 Puffeney ‘M’ Poulsard
2008 Bornard ‘La Chamade’ Ploussard
2010 Domaine de Tournelle Ploussard
2010 Berthet-Bordet ‘Rubis’ Ploussard/Trousseau
2003 Domaine de Tournelle Vin Jaune


Mon., Feb. 20:  Finding Values in White Wine  @ 18 Reasons (Mission)

18 Reasons
3674 18th Street
San Francisco, CA

7-9pm — $60 per person

18 Reasons is hosting a series of classes aimed at providing attendees with “tips and tools to find and identify high quality, reasonably priced wines in wine shops and at restaurants.”  This class will focus on white wines.


Mon., Feb. 20: Wine Photography – Storytelling in a Bottle (Napa)

Quixote Winery
Napa, CA

$200 per person

As you have probably learned through reading this blog, I have a soft spot for wine (shocker!) and photography. Both have been hobbies of mine for a couple of years, and this seminar brings both of my interests together. Geared towards the PR professional and wine writers, this full-day seminar promises to teach participants “how to better photograph a wine ‘story’ for use in traditional print, web site and social media marketing channels.”

The seminar is led by David Duncan Livingston.

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Wine Events: Week of Feb. 6

The Celebrity Sommelier kick is in full gear.  While top somms have enjoyed notoriety amongst wine and restaurant professionals for many years, they now seem to be gaining more recognition from a wider audience.  That may explain all the recent buzz about the upcoming documentary Somm — a film about sommeliers training for the Master Sommelier Exam.

SOMM Documentary Trailer 1 from Forgotten Man Films on Vimeo.

[Side note:  While flattered by this mention in the SF Chronicle’s Inside Scoop, I’m pretty sure I’m not in the movie.]

If you’re interested in meeting some of the most noted sommeliers in the industry, you’re in luck.  A slew of them will be in town for La Paulée (February 22 – 25), and the Thursday Panel discussion includes Daniel Johnnes, RN74’s Rajat Parr, and Rajeev Vaidya from New York’s Restaurant Daniel. (seminar is wait list only at this point)

Then, on February 27, Forestville’s Farmhouse Inn will kick-off a dinner series called Clash of the Sommeliers.”  Each night, three sommeliers will compete by pairing wines with a four-course menu. Eric Railsback from RN74, A16’s Shelly Lindgren, and Ian Cauble from the Ritz-Half Moon Bay are among the competitors. Regardless of who wins, you’ll have a chance to taste a slew of great wines from some of the well-regarded palates in the industry. ($165 per ticket, or $600 for the full 4-dinner series).

Now, here’s some suggestions for where to drink this week.


Wed., Feb. 8:  Pinot Noir Class  @ SF Wine Center (SoMa)

SF Wine Center
757 Bryant Street
San Francisco, CA

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

Join Master of Wine Christy Canterbury as she explains and explores the difference in Pinot Noir grown in Burgundy, the U.S., and New Zealand.  A great way to explore the idea of terroir.


Thurs., Feb. 9:  Domaine de L’Horizon Winemaker Dinner @ Gitane (Financial District)

Gitane Restaurant
6 Claude Lane
San Francisco, CA

5:30pm – 11:00pm

I had dinner a few weeks ago at Gitane to check out the new wine list put together by Greg Borden.  I was happy to trust Greg with the night’s wine selection, and he proudly brought out a bottle of the Domaine de L’Horizon Le Patriot, a white wine blend (95% Muscat Petit Grain and 5% Macabeu) from the Roussillon that held up well with the restaurant’s Spanish-inspired cuisine.  I was happy to learn that the winemaker, Thomas Teibert, would be in town to pour his wines and talk to patrons.  Stop in for dinner, or grab a drink at the bar.  Thomas will be around popping corks for a good while Thursday night.  The wines include the Blanc (blend of 65% Macabeu, 30% Grenache Gris, 5% Grenache Blanc); the Rouge (Carignane/Grenache); and the Patriota.


Thurs., Feb. 9:  Selection Massale Tasting @ The Punchdown (East Bay)

The Punchdown
2212 Broadway
Oakland, CA

5:00pm – 8:30pm

Local importer Selection Massale has created a buzz by bringing in expressive terroir-driven wine from small producers in France. They’ve struck gold with the wines of Frantz Saumon and Jerome Lenoir, and are now adding a new Loire producer to their portfolio, Jeremy Questana.  I haven’t tried the wines, but am intrigued. Plus, it’s a bit of a going-away party for Selction Massale’s Guilhaum Gerard, who will be departing for NYC soon.  $15 gets you a flight of the following wines:

-2006 Domaine les Roches by Jerome Lenoir “Chinon Blanc” (Chenin Blanc), Loire Valley 

-2010 Jérémy Quastana “L’insurgé” (Gamay), Touraine, Loire Valley 

-2008 Domaine Dupasquier “Marestel” (Roussette), Savoie 

If you can’t make it on Thursday, the Selection Massale team will be pouring wines from the portfolio at Arlequin on Saturday from 2-5pm ($15).


Fri., Feb. 10:  Food From the Heart  (Ferry Building)

Ferry Building
The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA

5:30pm – 8:00pm

Every year, the Ferry Building puts together a tasty fundraiser for Slow Food SF, charging a small amount (usually $2-6) for food and $4 tastes of wine from members of the Napa Valley Vintners. This is a great opportunity to meet SF Chronicle’s Winemaker of the Year, Cathy Corison.


Starting Fri. Feb. 10:  SF Beer Week (Multiple Locations)

Because one can not live on wine alone, I invite you to check out the plethora of events that the organizers of SF Beer Week have pulled together.  I’m looking forward to the Gala Opening and the Dogfish Head event on the 15th.  So much to choose from!


Sat., Feb. 11:  Champagne Store Pop-Up @ Bubble Lounge (Financial District)

Bubble Lounge
714 Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA

2:00pm – 7:00pm – $10 (will be redeemed upon purchase)

Stop by a pop-up shop where you can taste a variety of wines, and pick up Champagne from the Terry Thiese portfolio, as well as wines imported by Return to Terroir.  Plus, there’s an educational component:  you can learn how to make chocolate truffles and how to saber a bottle of Champagne.