Wine 2.0 Spring Fling @ Crushpad

Wine 2.0 at CrushpadI was first initiated into the innovative world of Wine 2.0 when I attended their NRO event at Varnish last November. What I found was an extremely thriving movement of loosely knit and mainly younger wine aficionados, producers and entrepreneurs that were expanding upon the path set down by the original Wine Brats…they also tend to throw a party with a little more enthusiasm than your average wine event!

With those thoughts in mind, I geared up for some serious wine-drinking, networking and, well, partying last Thursday night. I was keenly aware of how the night would unfold and so I decided to BART and cab it to the event, held at the 3rd street warehouse of Crushpad in San Francisco. Crushpad is a custom crush facility, meaning that they provide equipment, bonded space, reagents and even fruit for boutique wineries and amateur winemakers, alike. They are one of the most well-known companies where winemakers can go to make their own wines with as much or as little hands-on participation as they might choose. I’ve been hearing about them for years and have been rather intrigued by their facilities, so I was quite happy to check out the space when I first arrived, just before the event opened.

Roshambo Winery Mobile Tasting RoomAs I walked up, Cornelius of RadCru and Wine 2.0 had just descended from the Roshambus, the tour bus wine room of Naomi Brilliant and her cadre of hip wine malcontents from Roshambo Winery. After a brief hello, he directed me inside and I began the night.

Pug Wine Amber Ridge Pinot Noir 2006My first tastes were actually (dare I say it) due to the label. I was suckered in by the great labels of Pug Wine. I have a pug at home and he’s a bit dear to my heart, so I figured that I just had to stop by and try the wines. She’s sticking with single vineyard wines and I tasted both the Amber Ridge Pinot and Saralee’s Vineyard Rhone blend. I dug the Saralee’s quite a bit actually, and it’s not just because I have a fur baby at home!

After tasting some canine wine, I headed off to do a brief survey of the wines and faces that were going to be available that night. One face I missed, unfortunately, was Jessica Yadegaran of the great blog, Corkheads. I’ve been following her blog for quite awhile now, as well as her wine articles in the Contra Costa Times. Breezing through the warehouse, I did spy some wineries that I wanted to hit later. First up however, was the Bottlenotes table and a chat with founder Alyssa over some great Rioja Viura. As I turned around, I spied Jason from Modus Operandi, winemaker for new favorite winery on the cusp of cultdom. I started the night purely on the hunt for whites and dry rosés, and Jason now has a KILLER dry rosé going, the 2007 Vicarious Rosé. While disappointed (but not surprised) that he wasn’t pouring the Vicarious red blend that night, I vowed to return later to taste his 2004 Cab. As another nice touch, Jason was also pouring his 2007 Sauvignon Blanc that has yet to be bottled.

As I traveled through the tasting rooms and tables the rest of the night, some highlights stood out from the crowd. The young kids representing Hahn Estates, one of the best value wine producers out there (Cycles Gladiator), had some great news about some higher end labels that they would be debuting later in the year. Midsummer Cellars, headed by Rollie Heitz, was pouring a tremendous Napa Cab, their 2005 Cañon Creek, which was one of my favorite wines for the night. Two other wines that hit the spot for me were the two Syrah’s that were being poured by Lionheart’s Leon Glover. One was from Santa Barbara County appellation and the other from the cooler Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard in Mendocino. I actually preferred the SBC Syrah the best but I really enjoyed both, which I found interesting as I usually prefer cool-climate Syrah better. In the grand scheme of things however, both really come from cooler wine-growing regions.

As the night wore on, anyone who goes to these trade (and consumer) events will tell you, the more interesting conversations begin to take place. A couple interesting ones were with the engaging couple Marshall and Brittany, behind WineQ.com, the brilliant NetFlix of wine clubs. They actually found me, as they had noted my name on a few signup lists for wine information earlier in the night. I also was intrigued by another website, VinVillage, that founder Rob Barnett created, partly as an outlet for his radio show about wine, as I surreptitiously took two more free Bottlenotes gift cards for some friends back home.

The final part of the evening was not nearly as boring as I might of hoped. My travels back to the East Bay from the Dog Patch neighborhood where Crushpad is housed took a full 2 hours! As I walked away from the event I realized that I should have called a taxi…3rd and 23rd is not exactly a hotbed of SF activity. I finally found a town car that I could flag down and figured that I’d soon be at BART, 2 miles away. Well…I quickly found out that though the gentleman driving the car had lived in the City for over 16 years…he apparently must never actually drive there! I finally got him under control and headed in the right direction and arrived at 24th and Mission 30 minutes later. Whew. Let that be a lesson to you City-drinking wine lovers…always call a taxi in the City!

Please find reviews of all of the wines I tasted at WineTwo below. If you’d like to list all of these wines in your own WineLog, I’ve tagged them all with “WineTwo2008Spring“. Wines that I’ve tasted and reviewed from all of the Wine 2.0 events that I have attended are tagged with “Wine2.0“. Enjoy!

Mollydooker McLaren Vale Blue Eyed Boy Shiraz 2006

Modus Operandi Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Modus Operandi Napa Valley Rosé 2006

Modus Operandi Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Midsummer Cellars Napa Valley Cañon Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Pug Wine Russian River Valley Saralee’s Vineyard Pug Blanc 2006

Pug Wine Russian River Valley Amber Ridge Vineyard Pug Pinot 2005

Roshambo Sonoma County Imago Chardonnay 2005

Roshambo Winery Dry Creek Valley Frank Johnson Vineyard Syrah 2005

Lionheart Wines Santa Barbara County Syrah 2006

Lionheart Wines Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard Mendocino Syrah 2005

Twisted Oak Alta Mesa Silvaspoons Vineyard Verdelho 2006

Twisted Oak Sierra Foothills %@#$! 2006

Luis Alegre Rioja Viura 2006

Segue Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2006

Carmel Wine, Food & Lodging Recommendations

Sunset & Carmel BeachContinuing in the vein of my first regional wine and food review of the Napa Valley, I will now travel south down the Central Valley to another loved wine region, Carmel Valley [WL]. Carmel Valley sits due Southeast from the beautiful and famous hamlet, Carmel-by-the-Sea, and is overlapped by the Monterey County and Central Coast appellations.

Beth and I adore the little seaside town and its accompanying wine region and have made numerous trips over the years with our little Pug Sebastian, always finishing each day with applause at sunset on the its white sand beach. This whole region is well-known as one of the most dog-friendly vacation spots in the US, as well as for its incredible beauty, both natural and man-made.
My list of recommendations span both Carmel-by-the-Sea and the Carmel Valley. I have included links to each individual website, as well as the accompanying information we have on WineLog [WL]. Enjoy!

Places to sip some wine:
Carmel Valley [WL] is our favorite wine appellation. It is dominated by Bordeaux varietals such as Cabernet and Merlot and meritage blends. Most of the tasting rooms are within a half-block of each other in Carmel Valley Village. Excluding Parsonage, the actual wineries and vineyards are usually further South and higher up on the valley walls. Most of our favorites grow their fruit in the Cachagua Valley, which is included as part of the Carmel Valley appellation.

Georis WineryGeoris Winery [WL]
Our favorite winery, ever. All of their wines are outstanding, especially their Cab, Merlot and dry rosé. They were the first winery to convince me that Merlot and dry rosé are beautiful things in this life. They are a little pricey to taste, but that’s only because they do full flights not just little tastes. You are served in their garden that surrounds the historic adobe tasting room. The flights include cheese and crackers from the Corkscrew Cafe that they own on the same property. This is a very romantic spot and it is also great for dogs. Owner Walter Georis, the quintessential “Renaissance Man,” also owns the Carmel Valley Art Center across the street and Casanova, as well as a new cafe in Carmel called La Bicyclette. We’re longtime members here and make it out at least once a year for their fantastic member parties each September (latest writeup is here). Tell them Ward, Beth and the pug sent you!

Parsonage Village VineyardParsonage Village Vineyard [WL]
This is now our second favorite winery, ever, heh, and another one of which we are members. It’s a tiny, tiny producer of mainly very high end Syrah, but still at affordable prices. They also make some incredible Cab and Merlot, but we’re focused on their Syrah. They are the first producer that has ever made Beth and I lovers of Syrah. The wine-maker Frank Melicia is a fantastic guy too, and was the kind host to my first barrel and blend tasting (photos are here). Tell them Ward, Beth and the pug sent you, too!

Galante VineyardsGalante Vineyards [WL]
Very convenient compared to the others listed here, Galante has a tasting room in-town in Carmel. It’s tucked into the center of a few other stores and a small park on Dolores between Ocean and Seventh. We’re past members of it’s wine club and they have some tremendous Cabs. Total Western themed, their vineyards are right next to Georis’ in the Valley!

Heller EstateHeller Estate Vineyards [WL]
Similar lineup of wines as Georis and we used to be members. Not quite up to Georis’ quality, but still outstanding and all of the grapes are organic. They have a great sculpture garden on the property, as well.

Talbott Vineyards [WL]
Yup, owned by that guy with the ties. Amazing Pinots & Chards.

You can also try Bernardus a couple blocks up, too. They’re probably the most well-known of any winery that sources fruit from Carmel Valley and also have a very high-end spa resort.

Carmel-by-the-SeaPlaces to Stay:
(all are in the city limits and within walking distance to everything you want to do, except 17 Mile Drive, the Carmel Valley wineries or golf.)

Hofsas House
A little run-down but with some good Bavarian charm, we’ve stayed many times at this place. It’s great for dogs too, and on the less expensive side.

Wayside Inn
This place is nicer than the Hofsas and has done a lot of recent renovations, making some of the rooms into suites with their own huge jacuzzi bathtubs and private balconies or patios. We’ve spent a week in one of those suites and loved it. Unfortunately they no longer allow pets.

Horizon Inn & Ocean View Lodge

These two sister hotels are across the street from each other and a little further out from the main drag of Ocean Avenue than the rest of the properties. The Ocean View is made up of a few well-priced suites that are virtually cottages, complete with fireplaces and small kitchens that are set up the hill a bit to capture those Pacific views. The Horizon is newer and nicer, with private balconies that have great views of their own, private jacuzzi’s and spacious suites. The Ocean allows pets but the Horizon does not allow pets.

Pine Inn
This is the original Grand Dame of Carmel-by-theSea. Total turn of the century elegance, with the nicest Il Fornaio inside that we’ve ever seen. It is older (but perfectly kept up) so the rooms will all be a little smaller than you’d expect. The cafe that’s attached is also nice and check out the 2nd story patio in the sun with a great view of the ocean.

Historical CarmelOther places where we’ve never stayed at but want to very soon!
Cypress Inn
Famously owned by Doris Day, this is the premiere (and high-priced) hotel to stay with your pets in Carmel. We’ve heard mainly good things about it, but that it can be kind of loud sometimes. It does have a great indoor/outdoor bar/tea area for those lazy afternoons with the pooch, regardless!

Lamp Lighter Inn
Perfectly situated closest to the beach, this has a handful of unique suites that are pet-friendly.

La Playa Hotel
Completely renovated two years ago and probably the nicest and priciest out of anything on this list.

Carmel EatingPlaces to Eat:
No matter what, always make reservations the morning/noon of the day that you want to eat somewhere, at the latest, regardless of how busy Carmel seems.

Flaherty’s
Best seafood in Carmel, bar none.

Forge in the Forest
Awesome Hobbit-like steak house, tho the recent renovation has changed some of the famous outdoor eating exterior. Great for dogs, even has a menu just for them!

Casanova
Best restaurant in Carmel. Also the nicest and priciest, with a gigantic wine list and cellar. Absolutely romantic, has country French and Italian foods. Dress up! It is also co-owned by the same gent that owns our favorite winery, Georis Winery.

Carmel BeachLa Dolce Vita
Best Italian in Carmel…and there’s a lot of it! Good for dogs.

Em Le’s
The best breakfast and brunch spot, tied with…

Katy’s Place
The most famous breakfast spot in Carmel.

Hog’s Breath Inn
The say it’s Old West themed…we think it’s more like Hobbiton! It’s a pretty good steak house, but it shines for drinks by the fire when it’s drizzly at night. Sip some dark local reds or a little bourbon (with lots of great bar food). Great for dogs, too. Owned by Clint Eastwood, a lot of locals end up here, too.

Caffe Cardinale
Though it might seem that Starbucks has taken over Carmel, there’s still some great coffee shops that are home-grown. This one is the best and I love it! Free wi-fi and great for dogs.