San Francisco's Italian Wine Week

The San Francisco Bay area is at the center of the nation’s premier wine-growing regions and has far more than its share of tastings. Wine-centric Web sites typically list dozens of relatively small, focused tastings and wine pairing dinners weekly. The city is also home to more large-scale (often more than 100, and occasionally several hundred wine) tastings than any American city other possibly, than New York.

Most of these tastings center on American, and especially Californian wines. But the Bay Area is also one of the nation’s largest markets for all types of premium wines from around the world. This includes not just Californian wines, but also those from other premier domestic wine regions (especially Oregon and Washington) and from many other countries. As part of learning and writing on wine, we try to attend and post blogs on many of these tastings. Examples include those focusing on French, Italian, German, Australian, Latin America and New Zealand wines, as well as those from less well-known wine producing countries such as Croatia, Morocco and Georgia. And this does not include tastings dedicated to specific varietals (Cabernets, Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, Aromatic Whites and so forth) but also specific wine regions from individual regions ranging from Bordeaux and Burgundy to Rhone River Valley and Jura.

Although it is not unusual to have one or even two of these tastings in a week, the first full week of March was the jackpot, with three major tastings—each of which were dedicated to Italian Wines. One focused on smaller, artisanal, primarily organic producers. The other two on wines that won the highest ratings from noted wine critics. The three tastings were:

  • Slow Wine. The Slow Wine movement, a division of the same group that popularized the Slow Food movement, is dedicated to preserving and celebrating artisan wine culture. This annual tasting highlights premium producers who adopt and promote ecological approaches in their vineyards and cellars. Although this tasting does include some large producers, and a few from the United States, it consists primarily of smaller organic and bio-dynamic wine producers from dozens of wine regions from across Italy.
  • James B Suckling Great Wines of Italy Tasting. This annual tasting brings more than 125 of Italy’s most prestigious wineries to select U.S. cities to offer tastes of two of their top wines or new releases that Suckling has rated at 90 points and above. Although a wide range of wines and varietals are on offer, premium, age-able wines such as Brunellos, Barolos, Chianti Classicos and Super Tuscans were among the highlights.
  • Tre Bicchieri. Gambero Rosso blind tastes and rates more than 25,000 wines each year and awards 429 with its top distinction, Tre Bicchieri.  Its annual tour takes many of these wines on the road, including to a handful of large wine markets in the US.

We typically end posts on wine tastings by listing or discussing some of the wines that most impressed us. This time, we take the easy way out. Over the three days, we had so many extraordinary wines, ranging from whites to reds and that were produced from dozens of types of grapes (including many of which we had never even heard of) that we would barely now where to begin. But we do know two things: That we will return to these tastings next year (although we hope they are not all within a single week) and that we will not wait another year before we actually buy, drink and enjoy (rather than just sip and taste) a number of these wines. In fact, since we will be travelling to two of the represented Italian wine regions (Piedmont and Sicily) in the next couple months, we will soon be able to visit some of our newly-discovered favorite Italian wineries.

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