San Francisco Vintners Market 5 Comes Alive! (Big Discount!)

I attend a large number wine events.  That might even be an understatement, to which my fine readers can attest!  Thus, I feel that it’s saying something to describe an upcoming wine event as one of my favorite series of wine events, ever.  The San Francisco Vintners Market (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) wine tastings are those exact events: totally fun, onsite wine purchasing available, and of course, fantastic wines to taste in unlimited amounts.  And lucky readers, for round 5 (DING) of the #SFVM, I now have a fat discount so you cats can partake!

One reason, besides the many that I just poured out above, that I love these events so much is the number of new wineries that I discover each time we attend.  We always get the VIP tickets in order to get access to the Reserve Room, where we taste bottles of wine that most normal humans can never afford (without the event discounts to buy onsite, of course 😉 ). One great discovery that we’ve made has been the small family winery Sciandri Family Vineyards (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog), they of the newly formed Coombsville AVA in southern Napa Valley.  Big, but balanced Cabs come out of this producer, as does some big and warm, family hospitality.

All of this doesn’t even include the awesome gourmet bites and sponsors that you can also check out, while swirling some good stuff around in your keepsake logo glass.  Lastly, get your learn on and chat with some of the many winemakers that are actually in attendance and pouring their work, a rarity for events of this size.  So join us next month, at the next SF Vintners.  Enter the code “VINOPANION” for a nifty 50% off of your tickets, or just follow the links below.  Cheers!

What: San Francisco Vintners Market – Spring Time In The City
When: April 14th & 15th
Where: Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion, San Francisco, CA
General Admission: $80.00 (Includes all wines except Reserve Room)
Reserve Admission: $100 (Includes Reserve Room access to wines priced at $50 per bottle or higher)

Times: Trade tasting 12pm – 1pm Saturday & Sunday (RETAIL WINE BUYERS AND MEDIA ONLY)
General Admission: 1pm – 4pm Saturday & Sunday
Reserve Room Access: 12pm – 4pm Saturday & Sunday


Click below for tickets at a 50% discount:



Wines tasted at SF Vintners Market (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) events:

[winelist query=”SFVintners” num=”100″]

Slingin' the Pinot [for] Days

7th Annual Pinot Days 2011I don’t know if my life has turned the speed of time to 11 or what this year, but it’s already time again for one of the best SF wine events of the year: 7th Annual Pinot Days 2011 (Twitter)Last year’s event was a must attend and this year Lisa and Steve Rigisich et al, have added a slew of additional events for the entire week of festivities and have expanded many wine regions to make this one even mo’ betta.  How can such a fine vino event get any better, you ask?  Try upping the number of producers over the 200 mark (over 400 Pinot Noir), organizing “the largest presence of Oregon producers ever gathered outside of Oregon” [I’m excited about this one], a fantastic online charity auction and a new Burgundy Corner to showcase the birthplace of this finicky but fine grape variety.

The Pinot Days San Francisco Online Auction is being hosted over at as I write this and attendance at the Festival is not needed in order to bid.  This year’s Charity Beneficiary is the OCMC Water Well Dig Project for the Turkana people of Loupwala in East Africa.  There are a ton of diverse lots available, including 2009 Kosta Browne Winery Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – Magnum Etched & Signed in Wooden Box, Socolo Chocolatier Artisan Chocolate Truffles and the awesome 2008 Benziger Pinot Noir (3 Tiers) – 1 Case and Gift Certificate for a Benziger Biodynamic Tram Tour lot!

The full deets for the entire week of Pinot fun are below and my posse and myself are going to be at the Grand Festival in full, spitting force (minus one glorious Lady, unfortunately), so we look forward to seeing all of you there as well!

7th Annual Pinot Days Grand Festival

Saturday, June 18, 2011 1:00pm-5:00pm

Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center

Cost: $50


Kia Ora está en La Mar

Nobilo - Marlborough SoundsOK, so they don’t speak Spanish in New Zealand…they speak Kiwi English.  I know this, but based on my love of Spanish food and my experiences along the coasts of both Spain and Portugal (diff language, I know!) last Summer, they might as well speak that Romantic language, what with the bright, quality wine that they put out with each vintage.   Seafood is the phenom pairing for the vast majority of these wines and I’m happy to throw them together on the regular.

Now clearly, I’ve always been a fan of NZ wines, so let’s just get that experiential bias right out in the open.  So when I heard that would soon be a winemaker dinner that not only paired some classic NZ winemakers alongside some fervent wine bloggers, but also some extremely tasty Peruvian seafood with said winemakers’ wines…I said [frak] yeah, I’ll come!

I attended this tasty dinner courtesy of Benson Marketing Group.  They teamed up with Constellation New Zealand to put together this US road show and I was happy to be a part.  The setting was La Mar Cebicheria, at Pier 1 1/2 in the San Francisco Embarcadero.  The food at this place is just nuts.  I’d been there a couple times before for both wine work and work work: it features a freshly prepared menu of seafood that I haven’t yet found an equal.  Damn good food, so I was pumped when I arrived.  I met two of the most friendly bear-men you’ll meet when I arrived, winemakers Dave Edmonds and Darryl Wooley of Nobilo Wines (as you can see in the video above, courtesy of Nobilo).  The third winemaker, Anthony Walkenhorst from Kim Crawford, was also extremely nice, but seemed more likely to kindly offer up a run through the forest than wrap you in an strong embrace (also a good thing).

[winebadge id=”58868″]

As we tasted through the wines, alongside some slammin’ cebiche chifa, we had a nice walking tour through the various sub-regions, climates and soils of the Marlborough appellation.  The well-known Marlborough appellation has a variety of sub-regions that are just now getting their own names out across the US.  From the warmer, drier and more alluvial soiled Wahopai, Wairau, and Rapura that help to contribute a more tropical fruit flavor to their wines, to the cooler Awatere Valley, where the wines can pick up those more herbal and citrus characteristics that have made NZ wines a star across much of the wine world these past two decades.  It was a fascinating lesson in climate and geology and one that I sorely needed, with my limited understanding of these sub-regions.

The patience of Dave and Darryl (and most likely Anthony if I was able to hear that end of the table) to answer my questions was exceedingly high and rivals only that of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Rogers.  This was made even more evident when Dave leaked the fact that he was desperately trying to find a ride to the North Bay (after the last ferry) in order to meet up with with a very old friend that he hadn’t seen in many years, the last time he was stateside.  And all of this was going on after I had already been told that these this kind troupe of winegrowers had gleaned only about 10 hours sleep in the last week, during their zip across the states for this vino trip.  For this patience, their wines, the education and the delicious food; I thank them!

You can find all of the wines that we tried that night to list in your own WineLog by searching the tag “KiaOra2010.”  What are your own experiences with Kiwi wine?  Cheers!

Drylands Wines (WineLog):

QPRWK - WKBadgesNewWorldWK - WKBadges Drylands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Delving into golden tones, with clear edges

Nose: Slight savory herbs at first, then tropical fruits and some nice clean slate minerality.

Palate: Softer pink grapefruit in the fore, then that kicks into a zesty, almost spicy fruit composition out to the finish.  All of this is complemented by some tropical fruit lurking underneath.  Good: NewWorldWK, QPRWK.

Kim Crawford Wines (Twitter, WineLog):

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Kim Crawford Marlborough Spitfire Small Parcel Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009

Monkey Bay Wines: (WineLog):

Monkey Bay Wines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Nobilo Wines (WineLog):

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Medium canary core, clear edges

Nose: Clean, some minerality with medium tropical fruits and good grapefruit.

Palate: Salty, juicy grapefruit and bright zesty tropical fruit, with a long juicy finish featuring crisp acidity: NewWorldWK.

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Icon Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Medium canary clear edges

Nose: Distinct tomato vine here, Great juicy grapefruit as well and clean minerality.

Palate: More complex structure here, with a fuller mouthfeel and better balance with the crisp and clean citrus and that tomato vine finish.  Very good: NewWorldWK.

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Icon Pinot Noir 2009

Color: Lighter ruby

Nose: Good savory nose with toast, darker red fruit of rhubarb and then anise in this barrel sample.

Palate: Silky and medium full body, with good acidity showing bright cherry and cranberry fruit alongside that rhubarb and subtle anise.  The toast underlays all of this along with some white pepper towards the finish. Good: NewWorldWK.

The Renaissance of Huge Bear & Knights Bridge

Huge Bear WinesDespite the 460+ years that separate modern times from what many scholars consider the end of the Italian Renaissance, we still hear the term “Renaissance Man/Woman” tossed around with great regularity.  Heck, running around learning stuff, spouting verse with a paintbrush in my hand sounds great.  Luck in love aside, I had a chance to share some food and wine with a fascinating man for these modern times and one whom is a true Ren-man: Timothy F. Carl, Ph.D, Co-Founder of both Huge Bear Wines (WineLog, Twitter) and Knights Bridge Winery (WineLog).

Knights Bridge WineryI met up with Tim Carl and Sean Carroll (whom provided for my appearance that night) at the very nice Bin 38 wine bar in San Francisco’s Marina District.  Tim and Sean were already settling in when I arrived and I was immediately drawn to the restrained energy of Tim and his intriguing silver fox appearance.  I’d already gotten the run down from Sean about Tim’s very impressive résumé, where just a brief summary gets one’s cultural radar pinging: part of a now 6th generation California wine growing family, a military man from the Navy, a former chef alongside such luminaries as Gary Danko and Masa Kobayashi, a businessman with McKinsey & Company and a former geneticist with a Ph.D. from the University of Colorado. It’s an almost dizzying array of accomplishments for a man that looks to be only barely pushing 50, not to mention helping raise his family that he often warmly references.  It was with complete shock however, when I found out that Tim was behind the functional discovery of one of the proteins that I work with at my day job, the SNAIL related protein, Slug. It’s not every day that I find such tight coincidences between my own numerous interests!

Huge Bear Wines Winemaker Meredith Cahill-MarslandPerhaps not too surprisingly, coming from a co-founder with such diverse interests, Huge Bear Wines and Knights Bridge Winery are two very different visions of a boutique winery. While both are small production, with estate or extended lease fruit sources, each has their own winemaker and two rather different styles of premium wines. 

Meredith Cahill-Marsland crafts her Huge Bear wines towards a cleaner style of whites, with little to no oak and very bright fruit.  Her 2007 Sonoma County Cabernet, while powerful and filled with depths of fruit, is still balanced and retains an OldWorldWK restraint.  The savory portabello mushrooms and scorched earth that are found in both the nose and palate round out the complexity in these wines.

Jeff Ames - Knights Bridge WineryMeanwhile over at Knights Bridge, winemaker Jeff Ames crafts wines that are more of a hybrid between the Old and New Worlds of wine.  His 2008 Knights Valley West Block Estate Chardonnay displays more baked citrus, light vanilla and toast to round out the white pitted fruits.  His 2007 Knights Valley Estate Cabernet has many of the OldWorldWK elements found in the Huge Bear Cab, yet it also has a richer and plusher black fruited palate, filled with fresh anise and wild blackberry.  I’ve since had the chance to try even more of Ames’ Cabs at the super awesome SF Vintners Market wine tasting events in SF and the quality is expansive across all of his wines.

Despite their separate styles, winemakers and even facilities, you can still find an important similarity between these two wineries: a very passionate focus on handmade, small lot, earth-driven wines.  Tim Carl has found success in yet another part of his varied life…and all of our glasses get to share in the pleasure of it all.

You can find all of the wines listed below that we tasted through that night with Tim, while at Bin 38.  You can find all of these wines to list in your own WineLog, tagged with “HugeBear2010“.  Cheers!

Huge Bear Wines (WineLog, Twitter):

Huge Bear Sonoma County Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Huge Bear Sonoma County Chardonnay 2008

OldWorldWK - WKBadges Huge Bear Wines Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Color: Dark garnet core with ruby/garnet edges

Nose: Very savory nose here, with meaty portobello mushrooms, scorched earth, blackest of fruit of mainly cassis and then anise kicks in with fresh tobacco

Palate: Quite good, with a fullness, medium fine tannins, great acidity and all of that black fruit from the nose. The savoriness is here as well, with more juicy meat-like flavors along with the portobellos and juicy black olives. Finishes with a juicy, dark black cherry and that spicy tobacco.

Knights Bridge Winery (WineLog):

Knights Bridge Knights Valley West Block Estate Chardonnay 2008

OldWorldWK - WKBadges Knights Bridge Knights Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Color: Dark garnet with violet lowlights, garnet edges

Nose: Very dusty black fruit here, with anise, spice, light vanilla and an elegant pencil lead and slate minerality

Palate: Medium to full, with great acidity again and a beautiful balance between the medium to coating fine tannins, that acidity and the dusty, anise covered cassis and wilder blackberry fruit. Black cherry and toast poke through a little in the graphite and slate finish. Quite good: OldWorldWK

In Pursuit of Balance: Pinot in the Spotlight

Pinot Noir grapes at Chehalem Ridgecrest Vineyard, Newberg, OregonFollowing on the heels of my panel workshop at the very successful 9th Pinot Noir Summit this past month, I’m involved in another new, rather exciting Pinot adventure this month.  California Pinot Noir: In Pursuit of Balance (Twitter) is a revolutionary new partnership intending generate dialog about balance in Cali Pinot.  The partnership was founded by Jasmine Hirsch (Twitter) of Hirsch Vineyards and Winery (Twitter) and Rajat Par, longtime wine director for the Michael Mina family of restaurants including his own Rn74 (Twitter).  As a well-respected family winegrower and an international restaurant wine director respectively, they are knee deep in the world of Pinot each and everyday. It is through this dedication to a single varietal that they realized a conundrum: is California Pinot becoming too big and unwieldy?

Hirsch Vineyards and WineryThis conversation is very timely, as the topic of balance vs. power, elegant vs. burly in Pinot has truly reached fisticuffs a peak.  I was excited to be approached to work on this event because balanced, medium-bodied and earthy, cool climate Pinot really fits my palate.  Thomas L. Powers (Twitter) of the web-based HD food and wine series Gastrotommy, will be doing a live broadcast of the trade seminar and filming for a future Gastrotommy episode.  Rn74 - Michael MinaI will be the online moderator for the broadcast alongside panel the on-site moderator Ray Isle (Twitter), Wine Editor of Food & Wine Magazine (Twitter).  In addition, John Trinidad (Twitter) has written an awesome primer for IPOB, over at his SF Wine Blog.

The event drops 03/28/11 at high noon at the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco (Twitter) and Rn74, so come check it out online we’ll chat about @BalancedPinot!  Catch the full deets for the seminar and trade and consumer events are below and follow on Twitter with the hashtag #IPOB.  Cheers!


On March 28 twenty-one wineries will gather in San Francisco to share their pinot noirs. These wineries and their wines have been selected by Rajat Parr to promote the theme of balance and hopefully inspire passion and dialogue around this topic. Please click here for the list of participating wineries.


Seminar: In Pursuit of Balance

* Open to members of the press and trade by invitation only. Please RSVP to in order to reserve your seat. Closed to the public.
Moderator: Ray Isle, Food & Wine Magazine
Panelists: Wells Guthrie, Copain; Vanessa Wong, Peay Vineyards; Geoff Kruth, MS, Director of Operations – Guild of Sommeliers and Wine Director – Farmhouse Inn
Location: Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 222 Sansome St. (between Pine and California
Time: noon – 1 pm

Trade Tasting

* Open to members of the press and trade by invitation. RSVP kindly requested to Closed to the public.
Location: RN74, 301 Mission St. (between Beale and Fremont)
Time: 2 – 4 pm

Public Tasting

* Advance ticket reservation required. Please click here to reserve your tickets.
Location: RN74, 301 Mission St. (between Beale and Fremont)
Time: 5 – 8 pm

Finished wines confirmed for the seminar (IPOB2011March):

[winelist query=”IPOB2011March” num=”100″]

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