On April 11th and 12th, Fort Mason hosted the San Francisco Vintners Market, the “US first farmer’s market-style wine selling event”, founded by Cornelius Geary. The purpose of this event is to improve the experience of typical tasting events, where consumers enjoy great wines but they cannot purchase them directly at the event.
About 200 hundred wineries poured their wines, divided into three areas that visitors can access based on the ticket they purchased:
- CULT LOUNGE WINERIES with bottles over $100
- RESERVE ROOM WINERIES
- GENERAL ADMISSION WINERIES
We met some wineries in the General Admission and in the Reserve Room area.
Here is the gallery of the wines we tasted:
We visited the stands in the same order as the photos appear in the gallery.
We started in the Reserve Room with Andis Wines, a winery located in historic Amador County in the Sierra Foothills. Doug poured us his first release of Cuvee Blanc, a Rhone-style fresh blend of Roussanne and Viognier fermented in new French oak barrels. The winemaker suggests a recipe to pair with each wine: for the Cuvee Blanc the suggested recipe is a Loaded Lobster Roll (credits to Aaron McCargo Jr.), which is definitely worth a try! After that, we tasted the Chenin Blanc, not yet released but very enjoyable: good acidity makes it fresh and balanced for the coming warmer season.
We transitioned to red wines and we tasted a 2011 Barbera from Amador County and a 2011 Estate Zinfandel. The 2011 Barbera was a good interpretation of the Italian grape, blended with 20% Petite Sirah: definitely a good pairing for steaks and BBQs, it will be even better in a couple of years with more complexity. The Zinfandel is made in one of the oldest operating Zinfandel vines in the US and it’s reflected in the quality of the wine: the paired recipe is again delicious, Roast Leg of Lamb with Rosemary (credits to AllRecipes.com). Overall, the wines we tasted had a consistent quality and it’s not surprising that this winery is constantly awarded with high scores and medals from the critics.
The second winery we visited was August Ridge, a winery specialized in Italian wines and based in Paso Robles. From this winery we want to highlight the 2010 Jovial, a supertuscan wine, blend of Sangiovese (68%) with international varieties (12% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon in this case).
Our next stop in the Reserve Room was Cazadero Winery from the Sonoma County, where after the 2013 Chardonnay, we jumped into a vertical of 2011, 2010 and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon; all these cabs were awarded in the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. A big applause for this family-owned winery that manages everything in-house, from winemaking to distribution.
We then moved to the General Admission area and met The Wine Drinkers Club, a hand-selected wine club that started to ship wines in February this year. We tasted two wines, one from Napa, Elyse Zinfandel and one from Sonoma: Failla Pinot Noir. Both wines were great and I was impressed by the pinot noir (disclaimer: I’m a big fan of pinot noir…): indeed, I will try to taste the Chardonnay from this winery in the next weeks.
Once back in the Reserve Room we kept going with another winery from Sonoma County: we tasted the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon from Garavin. From an hillside vineyard in Knights Valley at 1200 feet, the grapes receive cooler mountain air that produces an intense Cabernet Sauvignon, rich in tannins but very balanced thanks to a good acidity. Good complexity and elegant, silky finish.
We moved forward to taste a freshly released 2013 Chardonnay, a 2012 Petite Sirah and a 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Hindsight Winery. Keith, one of the four owners, was very welcoming and introduced us to his wines. They are all made with Napa and Sonoma grapes and very respectful and representative of the terroir.
We later met Tammy at the Idella Wines table: a boutique winery in Napa Valley, acquired only in 2010 by her and her husband. We tasted in the following order: 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Pinot Noir and 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. Just to give an idea of how small the production of this winery is, they released 25, 40 and 30 cases of the wines we tasted and we wish there was more wine with such a great quality. It’s always fascinating to meet small wineries with passionate people: sometimes we forget the wine is not an industrial product and it takes a long time to see the final product and results, with so much uncertainty.
We also tasted wines at the Sterling Vineyards‘ table, a 2012 Chardonnay Reserve and a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Platinum from Calistoga. Both wines were remarkable and I was impressed by the Cab. It’s really powerful and complex, with great aging potential; the winemaker suggests to pair it with “Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Brandy Peppercorn Sauce“, which sounds very intriguing to me :).
We quickly tasted a Merlot from Pope Valley Winery, before moving back to the General Admission room and stopping by at Rosa d’Oro Vineyards to taste some wines made with Italian grapes and WTF, which has a happy and relaxed approach to wine, inviting us to “think outside the bottle”.
Finally, we left and enjoyed the view offered by this amazing location!