Tuesday, September 22, 2009

San Francisco's best wine tasting event

The last time I attended the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries tasting, I thought it was the best wine-tasting event in San Francisco all year. I expect this year's event on Oct. 14 will be just as good.

The wine selection is fantastic. There are 100 wineries, not 100 wines, and most pour 2-3 of their best selections.

Hate domestic wines? There are plenty of imports. Love Cabernet or Chardonnay only? There's a roomful. If you can't find a dozen wines here you think are great, you don't love wine.

Then there's the food. Last year there were unlimited oysters along with superb little bites from some of our best local restaurants. Looking at the lineup of restaurants this year, there's no reason to expect that to be any different.

In fact, after telling you to buy tickets in advance so you don't miss out, I'm going to post an abbreviated version of what I wrote about it last year. Note the ending.

Ever wonder what these events are like? Here's what you got for $125 on Tuesday night in San Francisco:

You grab a Wine & Spirits logo glass and walk between various theme rooms. Each room has small tables holding two (or occasionally 3 or 4) wines from each winery listed in the top 100. Pours are more generous than in tasting rooms, and some people ask for seconds, although with all these wines to sample, it's easy to just keep moving.

Each room also had 2-4 items of food prepared by local restaurants. I wish I had taken better notes on these foods, because some were outstanding, like pancetta-wrapped chicken with sage skewers, tarako potato salad, and roast duck mini-sandwiches.

Bubbly and crisp whites are outside; that's where I started, sampling '03 Iron Horse and '97 Diebolt-Vallois just to warm up. The 1988 Veuve Clicquot Brut was one of the best things I had all night, rich and Sherry-like on the long finish.

Crisp wine highlight: 2007 Santorini Assyrtiko, an amazing Greek white with plenty of Meyer lemon and fresh herb character. One of the best Greek whites I've had.

In the "rich whites" room, I got into a depressing conversation with the importer of 2006 Tahblik Marsanne. Great wine, earthy and interesting, but he admitted that it keeps getting dropped by different distributors because few consumers risk $15 on Australian Marsanne.

The "floral whites" room allowed me to try the 2006 Fox Run Seneca Lake Reserve Riesling, which stands up to good German Rieslings in its price range. This is one grape New York does better than the West Coast.

I loved the 2005 Hartford Court Far Coast Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, a very pretty wine with nice cherry fruit. On the other end of the scale, the 2004 Lucien Le Moine Les Epenots Premier Cru Pommard was the most intensely aromatic wine I sniffed all night, with graphite and smoked pork jumping out of the glass along with black and red fruit.

In the Rhone Family room, the 2007 E. Guigal La Doriane Condrieu was a revelation: bright and beautiful, with plenty of apple and floral flavors and a rich, long finish.

I didn't spend much time in the Cabernet room, but who can pass up an opportunity to taste gems like the 2004 Diamond Creek Red Rock Terrace Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon? Great wine, quite complex and elegant.

I tasted maybe 80 wines until I found myself explaining how to find a good eyeglass shop to somebody who clearly didn't care. You know you're absorbing a little too much alcohol when you sound loud, even to yourself. So I bailed, having one last sip of '88 Veuve Clicquot for the road.

If you get a chance to attend this event next year, do it.


Jack Everitt said...

I, too, think this is San Francisco's best wine tasting. (Especially, if you attend the first two hours - the trade only part.)

Anonymous said...

Yeh I need to add this to next years to do list. This year is to busy to try and make it. Thanks for the link.