Catching Up with San Francisco Wine Tastings

Between catching up from our four month Asia trip, weeklong trips to LA and New York, finishing my book (which is scheduled for September publication) and the winding down of Joyce’s consulting career, we missed all too much of what was going on in our adopted home town of San Francisco: restaurant openings, museum and gallery exhibits, wine tastings, plays and much more.

This required a concerted effort to make up for lost time while simultaneously keeping up with the many new doings throughout the city.

This series of blog posts examines our experiences with four of our favorite city leisure pursuits: art museums and galleries, theater, wine tastings and last, but certainly not least, keeping up with all of the city’s new restaurants, while still having time to revisit many of our favorites. The particular highlights and lowlights of this process are split into four posts.

As for the wine tastings, a preface: We have been very, very disappointed by the dramatic downsizing, and in many cases, relocation (to suburban locations) of some of our most anticipated wine tastings. ZAP (Zinfandel) and Pinot Days, for example, have both been cut back to a single day. Meanwhile, the Rhone Rangers and Family Winery tastings have been moved to more distant (locations (Richmond and San Mateo, respectively). Since our January return, we have been to the one of these that has been held: Rhone Rangers, and a number of smaller one in the city.

Now that we have gotten that off our chests, favorite tastings were:

  • Rhone Rangers, which particularly highlights California wineries’ expressions of traditional Rhone grapes, was as large and interesting as ever. But, while Richmond’s Craneway Pavilion venue is certainly much larger and brighter than Fort Mason (and also provided an opportunity to finally visit the nearby Rosie the Riveter National Monument), we still prefer the old city location.
  • Mount Veeder Appellation Spring Tasting was a wonderful event that began with a very informative panel discussion that explained the appellation, and continued with a tasting of a range of varietals from more than 20 producers. Although we have certainly tasted wines from this appellation, many of the wineries are too small to enjoy wide distribution or to have tasting rooms to allow self-discovery of what to us, has been an underappreciated section of Napa.
  • Carinena Tapas Takeover was a tasting of wines from Carinena, a small Spanish appellation that produces many of the same grapes, but is much less well known than its neighbor, Rioja. The tasting began with a one hour presentation that discussed the appellation in the context of tasting of six reds (with a particularly strong representation of Garnachas and Tempranillos), followed by a walk-around tasting of reds and whites from about a dozen producers. A great introduction to an appellation that is not well known, and is unfortunately, not widely distributed in the U.S. And the sampling of tasty bits from Piperade made the tasting even more enjoyable.
  • New Zealand Wine Fair. A tasting of 2011 vintage Pinots, Sauvignon Blancs and more from a couple dozen of New Zealand’s premier wineries. A nice, albeit quite crowded opportunity to see what will be coming our way from down under.
  • Taste of Mendocino, a tasting of the Anderson Valley and Mendocino coast ??

Two big tastings, to which we always look forward, are still on our calendars: The June 21 Pinot Days tasting and associated, Friday June 20 AIWF Winemakers Library Dinner; and the August 24 Family Winemakers event.  But, between Pinot Days and Family Winemakers, we have big plans for our own series of tastings during a ten-day stay in Napa!

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