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10.30.2014

16th Annual Pinot Fest: November 22, 2014

One of the longest running wine tasting events in San Francisco is also one of its best. While the city often plays host to really huge public tastings like ZAP, Family Winemakers, and PinotDays, some of the better tastings are more intimate and focused. Both words appropriately describe PinotFest, a low-key event held every year at Farallon Restaurant. Despite practically non-existent marketing or announcement, PinotFest quietly pulls together 60 or so top producers of West Coast Pinot Noir every year for a dedicated crowd of Pinot lovers in San Francisco. This year will be the event's 16th anniversary. Attendees get... continue reading

10.16.2014

Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014

Healdsburg is one of my favorite little wine country towns. Located at what I like to think of as the intersection of the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and Alexander Valley wine growing regions, it's a great little retreat for anyone looking to dive into a quiet wine country weekend. The town is home to a bunch of fabulous restaurants, as well as one of the coolest community gathering places I've ever seen. It's called SHED, and it's part cafe, part market, part meeting hall, and 100% fabulous. An old school grange meets modern gourmet design and social... continue reading

10.06.2014

2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 21, San Francisco

There are wine tastings, and then there are wine tastings. The annual Wine & Spirits Magazine Top 100 Tasting is quite possibly my favorite big public wine tasting each year in San Francisco. Why? Because the quality of wines poured at this event is always second to none. Some of them are wines that many of us rarely get the chance to taste, because they are either too expensive or too difficult to find. Many others are simply just great examples of their particular region or grape variety. Paired with freshly shucked oysters and tasty bites from what the... continue reading

10.04.2014

Cool Beauty: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast

I'll admit it. I'm an acid freak. More than anything else in a wine, I'm looking for the juiciness that I get from well-balanced wines that lean towards the lower side of pH. There's nothing quite like that zip and crackle of a wine that gets your tastebuds tingling and your mouth watering. With care, mouthwatering wines can be made just about anywhere. Farming well and then paying close attention to the harvest in order to ensure the grapes retain enough acidity to balance their sugars remains the best way to make excellent wine in my opinion. But that... continue reading

10.01.2014

2014 Pinot on the River Tasting: October 26, Healdsburg

Now is a wonderful, if slightly manic time to be wandering around wine country. Harvest is, for many, complete, and wines are bubbling and burbling their way through fermentations. It's the time of year that wine country really becomes wine country. As the afternoon sun angles low, life gets pretty idyllic around Sonoma, and the timing is good to relax with friends and a nice glass of wine. Which is why, I suppose, around this time of year we are treated to the opportunity to attend The Pinot on The River Festival . Now in its tenth year of... continue reading

08.19.2014

2014 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: August 29-31, Healdsburg, CA

Most people, when they come visit me in San Francisco and ask to be taken to wine country, assume that they're going to Napa. But at least half the time, that's definitely not where we end up. My well meaning friends aren't the only ones who seem to forget that Northern California has many different "wine countries." Napa casts a long shadow, as it were. I've got a bit of love for every piece of wine country we've got here in California, but there's a special place in my heart for Sonoma County, both because it is the place of... continue reading

08.13.2014

72 Pinot Noirs on a Sunny Afternoon: Tasting at IPNC 2014

I go to a lot of wine tastings, and have come to really appreciate those that are produced well. It may not be immediately apparent how easily a large public tasting can be screwed up, but it doesn't take much to turn such an event from a pleasure to a chore. Quite consistently some of my favorite wine tasting experiences have been at the International Pinot Noir Celebration, in McMinnville, Oregon, in the heart of the Willamette Valley. Both afternoons during this event, the "Al Fresco" tasting takes place, in which half of the attending wineries pour a wine... continue reading

08.06.2014

2014 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 29, San Francisco

Champagne will begin harvesting their grapes on Monday, September 8th this year, having recently received the official go-ahead from their appellation. And what better time to begin thinking about one of the best wine tasting events each year in San Francisco. The Champagne tasting put on by the Institute for the Masters of Wine. Very few opportunities exist to taste a lot of Champagnes side-by-side, even if you are a member of the trade. As a consumer, such opportunities are incredibly rare, especially compared to the relative frequency of opportunities to taste, say, as many Zinfandels as you want,... continue reading

07.23.2014

2014 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 17, San Mateo

Size isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting has as one of its many claims to fame that it is the single largest tasting of California wines in the world. That alone would not be reason for excitement, were it not for the generally very high quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year. Regular readers know that this tasting, now in its 24th year, is one of my favorites. While the definition of a "family-run" winery is stretched a bit to include behemoths like Jackson Family Estates and Gallo,... continue reading

07.15.2014

Annual Napa Wine Library Tasting: August 10, Napa

Dedicated wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California. It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and the saturation of wine in the Bay Area, for consumers to get the opportunity to get an in-depth or comprehensive look at the wines of Napa Valley. Perhaps it's just because Napa wines don't need much marketing help, or perhaps... continue reading

07.09.2014

2014 West Sonoma Coast Wine Festival: August 2-3, Sebastopol, CA

Cool climate has become a popular catchphrase in the world of wine, thanks, in part, to global warming trends that threaten some popular wine regions' abilities to produce their traditional wines in the same styles to which they are accustomed. But serious wine lovers have also long known that great wine can often come from the very fringes of possibility -- places or situations where grapes struggle to survive, let alone bear ripe fruit. As winemaking traditions migrated from the old world, where grapes are planted "where they have always been planted," to the new world, where intrepid winemakers sought... continue reading

06.10.2014

2014 Pinot Days Tasting: June 21, San Francisco

It's June, and that means one thing when it comes to wine in San Francisco: Pinot Noir. For the past 10 years, June has played host to PinotDays, a celebration of the grape that brings wineries and wine lovers together for a couple of days of tasting and education. There was a time when San Francisco had no large-scale tasting of Pinot Noir, but those days seem a distant memory, now in a post-Sideways world. Every year members of the wine-drinking public can spend an afternoon wandering in a sea of Pinot Noir, as 80 different producers (primarily California, but... continue reading

05.21.2014

La Nuit en Rosé Tasting: June 13-14, New York City

I consider it a fact, and a welcome one, that we have reached a point in American wine culture where pink wines, and the people that willingly drink them are no longer stigmatized. No longer do most men find their masculinity threatened by a nice glass of rosé, nor do most people assume that if you're drinking something pink, it must be white Zinfandel. Quite the opposite, in fact. Rosé consumption in this country has been skyrocketing, with sales growing in the double digits every year for the past five or six years. Ironically, while much of the acceptance for... continue reading

04.30.2014

Drink Greek with Vinography on 5/7

We should all be drinking more Greek wine. Why? Because the best Greek wines offer incredibly unique flavors, often at fantastic prices, thanks to being fairly unknown even to more serious wine lovers. I've been a huge fan of Greek wines since my trip to the country a three years ago, and I've been itching to drink some more great bottles, so why not throw a dinner party? Next Wednesday, May 7th, I've managed to commandeer a large communal table for 12 people at Souvla, one of San Francisco's newest restaurants, opened by Charles Bililies, who spent time in... continue reading

04.27.2014

2014 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival: May 16-18, Philo, CA

California Pinot Noir lovers take note. Wine lovers with a free weekend, listen up. It's Spring, and the wine events are coming fast and furious. It seems like every week there's a new wine tasting to go to. But some are more worth paying attention to than others. Anderson Valley is known for two things in California, and not coincidentally, it has more or less two major wine tasting events per year. The first, the International Alsace Varietals festival took place a few months ago. The second is the annual Pinot Noir Festival. If you're a fan of Pinot Noir... continue reading

04.13.2014

Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 8, San Francisco

There comes a point in every intrepid wine lover's life when the well-traveled road must be left behind. One can only drink so much Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. But finding one's way out of the multitudes of these bottles to something more exotic and interesting takes some effort. Which is where the folks behind the Seven Percent Solution come in. These wine producers have organized themselves behind the fact that 93% of Northern California's vineyard acreage is planted to eight major grape varieties, leaving a mere seven percent for all the others. Of course, since we're... continue reading

04.02.2014

2014 TAPAS Iberian Varieties Tasting: April 27, San Francisco

Given the similarities between the climates in Northern California and some parts of Spain and Portugal, one has to wonder why there aren't more Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties planted in California. The same might be said about Italian grape varieties, but they dwarf the plantings of Spanish grapes in California. There are almost three times as many acres of Sangiovese planted in California than there are Tempranillo. And let's not even talk about Pinot Grigio, shall we? Instead I'd rather talk about Touriga Nacional or Mencia or Graciano or Verdelho. Despite minuscule plantings throughout the state, these grape varieties... continue reading

03.29.2014

Taste Washington Day One in Brief

I'm up here in (yes, rainy) Seattle for Taste Washington, the annual festival and celebration of Washington State wine. It's been five years since I attended this event, and that's about four years too long. I came up here to lead a seminar for the event, which we carried off without a hitch this morning to a packed room of enthusiastic tasters. The seminar carried the title, The Allure of the Exotic, and featured off-the-beaten-path grape varieties from a selection of vintners from the tiny White Heron Cellars to the well known likes of Woodward Canyon and Leonetti. I... continue reading

03.15.2014

Does Vine Age Matter?

Vielles Vignes. Alte Reben. Viñas Viejas. Vinhas Velhas. These terms appear, if not frequently, then with some regularity on wine labels throughout the world. Here in California we're treated to "old vines," "ancient vines," and sometimes even "century vines," thanks to some particularly well-preserved specimens throughout the state. Winegrowers sometimes make a big deal out of old vines, particularly when they are in possession of them. But do they really matter? And if so, how? These were two of many questions that I set out to answer with a panel of winemakers and their wines last week at the In... continue reading

03.12.2014

2014 Rhone Rangers Tasting: April 6, Richmond, CA

Spring is in the air here in San Francisco. The plum and some cherry blossoms have already burst forth, those with allergies are suffering a bit, and we've got sunshine into the dinner hour thanks to the magic of daylight savings time. Spring means a lot of different things to different people, but for any wine lover in San Francisco, it certainly means wine tasting season. This is the time of year that winemakers get a little break -- malolactic fermentation is well underway if not finished -- so there's time to pack the suitcase and go show off some... continue reading

03.01.2014

In Pursuit of Balance Tasting: March 10, San Francisco

There are public wine tasting events, and then there are public wine tasting events. Many consist of massive mob scenes where hundreds of wines get poured by hundreds of winemakers to thousands of attendees. There's nothing wrong with such events. Indeed, I regularly encourage my readers to attend these massive tastings for the singular reason that they represent an incredible opportunity to educate one's palate and discover new favorite wines. But on the other hand, there exists another kind of wine tasting event. One that offers, shall we say, a more curated view of the wine world, with higher quality... continue reading

02.23.2014

12th Annual Pinot Noir Summit: March 9, San Francisco

Every January, unbeknownst to most wine consumers, a group of wine writers, sommeliers, and other wine industry professionals spend many the entire month doing nothing but tasting Pinot Noir. Over many successive days, through rigorous double-blind tastings, these judges whittle down hundreds of Pinot Noirs from all over the world (though mostly California and Oregon) to a select final few. This process is called the Pinot Noir Shootout, and it is put on every year by an organization called Affairs of The Vine. I have participated as a judge for this event in the past and lived to tell the... continue reading

02.13.2014

La Paulee de San Francisco: March 12-15, San Francisco

Every budding wine lover faces what can often seem like a daunting mountain to climb. There are so many wines in the world to learn about and experience, it's not hard to feel overwhelmed. It's also quite common to feel a certain sense of frustration, the kind characterized by an ambition that far outstrips our own means to fulfill it. Many of the wines that passionate wine lovers wish they could taste are simply out of reach -- too rare, too popular, and too expensive. When I was first starting out in my journey down the roads of wine,... continue reading

01.24.2014

2014 World of Pinot Noir Tasting: Feb 28-Mar 1, Santa Barbara, CA

Everyone's definition of idyllic varies, but for many people it doesn't get much better than standing on the cliffs above the Pacific ocean on a warm evening, watching the sun go down with a glass of Pinot Noir in hand. If that sort of thing gives you the warm fuzzies inside, then you're a shoe-in for attending an event called the World of Pinot Noir, held every March in the little seaside town of Shell Beach. Over two days, Pinot Noir producers from all over the world, along with the people who like to drink what they make, descend on... continue reading

01.18.2014

Rhone Rangers of Paso Tasting: February 16, Paso Robles

Many wine lovers have lamented the shuttering of the beloved Hospice du Rhone event held for many years in Paso Robles. Attracting vintners and wine lovers from all over the world, the multi-day get together was one of the best wine events on the West Coast. Both growers and lovers of Rhone-style wines are not the type to go gently into that good night however. And the organization known as Rhone Rangers has been happy to step up and offer more opportunities for wine lovers to get their Rhone on. To wit, the Rhone Rangers of Paso Robles are... continue reading

01.11.2014

Slow Wine Tasting: January 27, San Francisco

Many people, especially anyone who considers themselves a foodie, have heard of Slow Food, the Italian organization dedicated to preserving and celebrating artisan food and food culture. But fewer have heard of Slow Wine, that same organization's push in recent years to celebrate wine. Just as for food, Slow Wine produces a guide to Italian wine that highlights producers who not only make excellent wine, but those who go further in adopting and promoting ecological approaches in their vineyards and cellars. What criteria the guide uses, I'm not sure. Nor do I know exactly which wines are recommended. But there's... continue reading

12.13.2013

2014 ZAP Zinfandel Festival: January 23-25, San Francisco

I'm not exactly sure how long a particular event has to have been going on for it to be credibly labeled an institution, but whatever that length of time, the ZAP Zinfandel Festival in San Francisco would certainly qualify. For nearly 25 years lovers of Zinfandel have been descending upon San Francisco in late January to celebrate their favorite grape. While there are now many Pinot Noir festivals, several Cabernet happenings, and more than one event focused on Rhone grape varieties, there has only ever been one ZAP. And while Zinfandel might be poured at other regional tastings, no... continue reading

11.27.2013

Pinot Days Southern California 2013: December 7, Los Angeles

Wine festivals in Southern California, and especially in Los Angeles, aren't particularly plentiful, for reasons I don't entirely understand. There are plenty of wine lovers in LA, but the large public wine events that make such frequent appearances in San Francisco, and increasingly in New York, just don't seem to make it down the West Coast. Four years ago, the Pinot Days Festival came to Los Angeles, and now every year SoCal Pinot lovers have a reason to celebrate. This year's Grand Tasting will offer the opportunity to taste more than 300 Pinot Noirs from about 100 different producers over... continue reading

10.24.2013

15th Annual Pinot Fest: November 23, San Francisco

One of the longest running wine tasting events in San Francisco is also one of its best. While the city often plays host to really huge public tastings like ZAP, Family Winemakers, and PinotDays, some of the better tastings are more intimate and focused. Both words appropriately describe PinotFest, a low-key event held every year at Farallon Restaurant. Despite practically non-existent marketing or announcement, PinotFest quietly pulls together 60 or so top producers of West Coast Pinot Noir every year for a dedicated crowd of Pinot lovers in San Francisco. This year will be the event's 15th anniversary. Attendees get... continue reading

10.07.2013

Pinot on the River 2013: October 27, Healdsburg, CA

Now is a wonderful, if slightly manic time to be wandering around wine country. Harvest is, for many, complete, and wines are bubbling and burbling their way through fermentations. It's the time of year that wine country really becomes wine country. As the afternoon sun angles low, life gets pretty idyllic around Sonoma, and the timing is good to relax with friends and a nice glass of wine. Which is why, I suppose, around this time of year we are treated to the opportunity to attend The Pinot on The River Festival . Now in its tenth year of providing... continue reading

09.28.2013

Flavor! Napa Valley Food & Wine Experience: November 20-24, Napa

Do you dream of rubbing shoulders with celebrity chefs while eating phenomenal food and drinking unattainable wines? Then Napa is just the place for you. Certainly the motivated wine lover could accomplish this trifecta of gourmet aspirations any day of the year in Napa, but coming up at the end of November anyone with a ticket to Flavor! Napa Valley will simply wallow in such pleasures for four days. Flavor! Napa Valley was conceived of as a world-class food and wine experience that would both showcase the phenomenal talents in the Napa Valley, while giving back to one of the... continue reading

09.11.2013

2013 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 30, San Francisco

I never liked Champagne until I had the really good stuff. When I was early in my wine explorations, I went to weddings and New Year's Eve bashes and dutifully tried all the bubbly, but didn't see what the fuss was about. My lack of experience with quality Champagne was understandable, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on it. It's a sad reality of the wine world that by and large most quality Champagne starts at about $35 to $40 a bottle, and the really good stuff starts in the $60... continue reading

08.20.2013

California Wine Month Tasting: September 21, San Francisco

If it has been decreed by governmental proclamation, it must be true, right? September is California Wine Month, didn't you know? Most things, like pirates, popcorn, or left-handed people just get a single day to call their own. But wine has become so vital to California, that it deserves a whole month. At least according to our Governor. So why is California Wine Month more than just another couple of words on some official calendar and the minutes of a legislative session? Because stuff actually happens during this month that is worth paying attention to. Chief among these are opportunities... continue reading

07.27.2013

Wine Library Annual Tasting: August 11, Napa

Dedicated wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California. It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and the saturation of wine in the Bay Area, for consumers to get the opportunity to get an in-depth or comprehensive look at the wines of Napa Valley. Perhaps it's just because Napa wines don't need much marketing help, or perhaps... continue reading

07.22.2013

The New Masters of CA Pinot Noir: A Wine Dinner

Great wine is meant to be shared. There's nothing like sitting down to a fabulous meal accompanied by excellent wines and good company. That's why I've decided to invite you over for dinner. It's not a big thing, just an intimate dinner for 18 folks with yours truly as the sommelier and host at a cute little restaurant in my neighborhood here in San Francisco. I'll be pouring wines from four of my favorite Pinot Noir producers in California, who represent where I believe California Pinot Noir is headed. Along with these four pinots, you get a five course... continue reading

07.16.2013

2013 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 17, San Francisco

Size isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco has as one of its many claims to fame that it is the single largest tasting of California wines in the world. That alone would not be reason for excitement, were it not for the generally very high quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year. Regular readers know that this tasting, now in its 23rd year, is one of my favorites. While the definition of a "family-run" winery is stretched a bit to include behemoths like Jackson Family... continue reading

06.24.2013

2013 West of West - The Sonoma Coast Wine Festival: August 2-4, Sebastopol, CA

Cool climate has become a popular catchphrase in the world of wine, thanks, in part, to global warming trends that threaten some popular wine regions' abilities to produce their traditional wines in the same styles to which they are accustomed. But serious wine lovers have also long known that great wine can often come from the very fringes of possibility -- places or situations where grapes struggle to survive, let alone bear ripe fruit. As winemaking traditions migrated from the old world, where grapes are planted "where they have always been planted," to the new world, where intrepid winemakers sought... continue reading

06.11.2013

2013 Pinot Days Tasting: June 30, San Francisco

It's June, and that means one thing when it comes to wine in San Francisco: Pinot Noir. For the past nine years, June has played host to PinotDays, a celebration of the grape that brings wineries and wine lovers together for a couple of days of tasting and education. There was a time when San Francisco had no large-scale tasting of Pinot Noir, but those days seem a distant memory, now in a post-Sideways world. Every year members of the wine-drinking public can spend an afternoon wandering in a sea of Pinot Noir, as 140 different producers (primarily California, but... continue reading

06.05.2013

2013 Tempranillo Advocates Tasting: June 23, San Francisco

Given the similarities between the climates in Northern California and some parts of Spain and Portugal, one has to wonder why there aren't more Spanish and Portuguese grape varieties planted in California. The same might be said about Italian grape varieties, but they dwarf the plantings of Spanish grapes in California. There are almost three times as many acres of Sangiovese planted in California than there are Tempranillo. And let's not even talk about Pinot Grigio, shall we? Instead I'd rather talk about Touriga Nacional or Mencia or Graciano or Verdelho. Despite minuscule plantings throughout the state, these grape varieties... continue reading

04.27.2013

The Seven Percent Solution Tasting: May 11, Healdsburg, CA

There comes a point in every intrepid wine lover's life when the well-traveled road must be left behind. One can only drink so much Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Sauvignon Blanc. But finding one's way out of the multitudes of these bottles to something more exotic and interesting takes some effort. Which is where the folks behind the Seven Percent Solution come in. These wine producers have organized themselves behind a claim that 93% of California's vineyard acreage is planted to eight major grape varieties, leaving seven percent for all the others. While my calculations differ (according to the... continue reading

04.20.2013

2013 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival: May 17-19, Philo, CA

California Pinot Noir lovers take note. Wine lovers with a free weekend, listen up. It's Spring, and the wine events are coming fast and furious. It seems like every week there's a new wine tasting to go to. But some are more worth paying attention to than others. Anderson Valley is known for two things in California, and not coincidentally, it has more or less two major wine tasting events per year. The first, the International Alsace Varietals festival took place a few months ago. The second is the annual Pinot Noir Festival. If you're a fan of Pinot Noir... continue reading

03.26.2013

2013 Mount Veeder Wineries Tasting: April 10, San Francisco

For all the traffic up and down Highway 29 in Napa all summer (California's second biggest draw aside from Disneyland) there are a few bits of Napa that not many visitors or even dedicated wine lovers ever see. This is because they often lie up carsick-inducing roads that require some dedication and time to drive before they pay off with a series of (or singular) welcoming winery driveway. The Mount Veeder AVA in southwest Napa is one such region. It hosts only few of Napa's hundreds of wineries, but some, such as the Hess Collection and Mayacamas are among Napa's... continue reading

03.14.2013

2013 Rhone Rangers Tasting: March 23, San Francisco

An occasional cloudy day like today aside, it certainly feels like Spring is in the air. The plum and some cherry blossoms have already burst forth, those with allergies are suffering a bit, and we've got sunshine into the dinner hour thanks to the magic of daylight savings time. Spring means a lot of different things to different people, but for any wine lover in San Francisco, it certainly means wine tasting season. This is the time of year that winemakers get a little break -- malolactic fermentation is well underway if not finished and it's not quite time to... continue reading

02.22.2013

11th Annual Pinot Noir Summit: March 16th, San Francisco

Every January, unbeknownst to most wine consumers, a group of wine writers, sommeliers, and other wine industry professionals spend many the entire month doing nothing but tasting Pinot Noir. Over many successive days, through rigorous double-blind tastings, these judges whittle down hundreds of Pinot Noirs from all over the world (though mostly California and Oregon) to a select final few. This process is called the Pinot Noir Shootout, and it is put on every year by an organization called Affairs of The Vine. I have participated as a judge for this event in the past and lived to tell the... continue reading

02.14.2013

2013 New York Wine Expo: March 1-2, New York City

OK New Yorkers, listen up. Most of the time, America looks your way with envy. You've got the best restaurants, the best films, the best theater, the best art scene, it goes on and on. But one thing you ain't got so much of is good public wine tasting events. Which is why there's always a bit of jealousy in the voices of my friends in New York when we talk about the wine events that happen every month or so here in San Francisco. So here's your chance to fix that in a big way: The New York Wine... continue reading

02.07.2013

2013 VinOlivo Celebration: February 15-16, Sonoma

Most people, when they come visit me in San Francisco and ask to be taken to wine country, assume that they're going to Napa. But at least half the time, that's definitely not where we end up. My well-meaning friends aren't the only ones who seem to forget that Northern California has many different "wine countries." Napa casts a long shadow, as it were. I've got a bit of love for every piece of wine country we've got here in California, but there's a special place in my heart for Sonoma County, both because it is the place of my... continue reading

01.23.2013

2013 Anderson Valley Alsace Festival: February 9-10, Boonville

With all the fanfare surrounding Cabernet and Pinot Noir coupled with the obsession this country seems to have with Chardonnay, it's sometimes hard for people to remember that California produces a lot of other different kinds of wine. It's even harder, it seems, to get people to drink some of it. Enter what may be the most unique wine festival in California. Some of the most under-appreciated and least consumed wines in the state are those made from grapes like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. There aren't a lot of places in California where these grapes thrive, but... continue reading

01.17.2013

Pinot Days 2013: January 26, New York

Hey New York! What you really need to keep warm in this frigid winter is a little Pinot Noir in your blood. Large public wine tastings are much less common in Manhattan than out here in California, where it seems nearly every couple of weeks there's some opportunity to wander around and taste 500 wines in one shot. So New Yorkers gotta get while the getting is good. For only the second time, the event known as Pinot Days is coming to the Big Apple. While this touring version may be a bit smaller (35 producers) than the massive Pinot... continue reading

01.03.2013

2013 ZAP Zinfandel Festival, January 31 - February 2, San Francisco

It's that time of year again. I know of no other event that seems to bring out the inner wine lover in so many San Franciscans more than the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival. It never ceases to amaze me how many people turn out with such enthusiasm for this single varietal festival. Don't get me wrong. I love Zinfandel -- unabashedly so. But I tend to forget how many other people do too. Especially those that live in San Francisco. Of course it's not just San Franciscans that turn out for this one-of-a-kind weekend. People come from... continue reading

11.05.2012

Highlights from the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Event

I attend a lot of public tasting events for the same reason I tell my readers to attend them. They are simply the best way to educate the palate, and often the only way to get a chance to taste certain wines that you might not otherwise have a chance to afford. Such tastings can be quite exhausting and by the end of the event, I'm usually ready to take a nap. At the end of the annual Wine & Spirits Top 100 tasting every year, however, I find myself wishing I had another couple of hours to wander around... continue reading

10.15.2012

Garagiste Winemakers Tasting: November 10, Paso Robles

One of my favorite pastimes involves tasting wines made by small winemakers who either are just beginning their journeys to becoming more established, or those who are deliberately small and will always remain that way. And by deliberately small, I mean they make a couple of hundred cases of wine, have no tasting room and no vineyards to their name. California is full of these sorts of wineries, and while not all of them are great, these small estate-less wine brands can make some truly excellent wines. Every region of the state plays host to some of these wine labels,... continue reading

10.09.2012

2012 Pinot on the River Festival: Oct 21, Healdsburg, CA

Now is a wonderful, if slightly manic time to be wandering around wine country. Harvest is, for some, complete, and wines are bubbling and burbling their way through fermentations. For others, harvest will be a languorous process this year, thanks to nearly perfect weather. Either way, it's the time of year that wine country really becomes wine country. As the afternoon sun angles low, life gets pretty idyllic around Sonoma, and the timing is good to relax with friends and a nice glass of wine. Which is why, I suppose, around this time of year we are treated to the... continue reading

10.02.2012

2012 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 17, San Francisco

I beat the drum a lot about public wine tastings. They are the best way for wine lovers to educate their palates. Period. There's just no substitute for tasting a lot of wines in a single "sitting" to learn what the differences are, and more importantly, what you like. One of the other nice things about public tastings, put on as they are by big organizations, or in this case, publications, is that they often allow you to taste wines that you might not get a chance to taste otherwise for some reason -- whether that is because of their... continue reading

09.24.2012

The Next Generation in (Napa) Wine Tasting: October 7, Oakville, CA

Time marches on, and history unrolls like the rails of a train behind us. Napa has a wonderful history of family-run wineries some of which even stretch back before Prohibition. But for all intents and purposes the modern history of Napa began after Prohibition, with the pioneers of the Forties and Fifties, of which there were few. Into the Sixties and Seventies, however, Napa was still a place where a family could afford to buy a piece of land, settle down, and decide to give grape growing a try. Many of those families now make up what we think of... continue reading

09.22.2012

Wine Bloggers on the Bosphorus

Nine years ago, if you had told me that there would one day be conferences for wine bloggers, I would have laughed in your face. But, of course, nine years is an eternity on the Internet, and a lot has changed. Now not only do hundreds of bloggers descend on such a conference each year in a different North American city, a European conference has also sprung up, and is now in its fifth year. This year's conference, which has actually lost the word "blogger" from its official title, is being held in Izmir, Turkey, and I'm headed there to... continue reading

09.17.2012

2012 Sake Day Celebration and Tasting: October 6, San Francisco

Japan has given many things to the world that I cherish, but few of them have an unofficial holiday that gives me the excuse to celebrate them. Every October first, along with sake lovers all over Japan and around the world, I get to observe Nihonshu no Hi, also known as Sake Day. Like wine, no one knows exactly when sake first made an appearance. In a similar fashion to grape wine, the knowledge that fermented rice eventually yields an alcoholic beverage was probably discovered in accidental and then later deliberate stages, as innovative and curious folks explored ways of... continue reading

09.10.2012

2012 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: October 1, San Francisco

I never liked Champagne until I had the really good stuff. For years I went to weddings and New Year's Eve bashes and dutifully tried all the bubbly, but didn't see what the fuss was about. My lack of experience with quality Champagne was understandable, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on it. It's a sad reality of the wine world that by and large most quality Champagne starts at about $35 to $40 a bottle, and the really good stuff starts in the $60 to $80 price range. Once I... continue reading

08.26.2012

California Wine Month "Road Trip" Tastings: Sept 6 & 22, Los Angeles / San Francisco

If it has been decreed by governmental proclamation, it must be true, right? September is California Wine Month, didn't you know? Most things, like pirates, popcorn, or left-handed people just get a single day to call their own. But wine has become so vital to California, that it deserves a whole month. So says the Governor of our great state. So why is California Wine Month more than just another couple of words on some official calendar and the minutes of a legislative session? Because stuff actually happens during this month that is worth paying attention to. For starters, apparently... continue reading

08.25.2012

Tasting Notes from the 2012 International Pinot Noir Celebration

The International Pinot Noir Celebration is perhaps my favorite tasting event that I attend each year here in the U.S. Held on the bucolic grounds of a small college in a little town in Oregon's Willamette Valley, the event always manages to get just about everything right. It offers great food, fantastic wines, and interesting lectures all wrapped up in a very casual, relaxed atmosphere that simply makes it a joy to attend. I've already posted some of my coverage of the 2012 event (here and here) but now it's time to get down to the wines on offer.... continue reading

08.08.2012

2012 Family Winemakers Tasting: September 9, San Francisco

Size isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco has as one of its many claims to fame that it is the single largest tasting of California wines in the world. That alone would not be reason for excitement, were it not for the generally very high quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year. Regular readers know that this tasting, now in its 22nd year, is one of my favorites. While the definition of a "family-run" winery is stretched a bit to include behemoths like Jackson Family... continue reading

07.23.2012

2012 Monterey Winemakers Celebration: August 11, Monterey, CA

There is a reason that I post announcements of large public wine tastings here on Vinography. They can be a lot of fun, of course, but more importantly, they are the single best opportunity that any wine lover has to educate his or her palate. There are simply no other occasions where so many high quality wines are available for the tasting in a way that allows someone to compare wines of similar grape variety, origin, and vintage. And these comparisons are invaluable to building an understanding of these key variables in wine -- what does a certain grape tend... continue reading

07.06.2012

50th Annual Napa Wine Library Tasting: August 19, Napa

Dedicated wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California. It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and the saturation of wine in the Bay Area, for consumers to get the opportunity to get an in-depth or comprehensive look at the wines of Napa Valley. Perhaps it's just because Napa wines don't need much marketing help, or perhaps... continue reading

07.02.2012

West of West Wine Festival: August 3-5, Occidental, CA

Cool climate has become a popular catchphrase in the world of wine, thanks, in part, to global warming trends that threaten some popular wine regions' abilities to produce their traditional wines in the same styles to which they are accustomed. But serious wine lovers have also long known that great wine can often come from the very fringes of possibility -- places or situations where grapes struggle to survive, let alone bear ripe fruit. As winemaking traditions migrated from the old world, where grapes are planted "where they have always been planted," to the new world, where intrepid winemakers sought... continue reading

06.14.2012

Winners of Pinot Days Ticket Contest

Last week, I wrote about the upcoming Pinot Days tasting in San Francisco, and offered to give away four pairs of tickets to the brave souls that were willing to write poems to the "heartbreak grape." Well, I'm now happy to announce the winners, and to showcase their efforts. Thanks for the fun. By the time you read this I will have reached out to you with information about tickets, so shoot me a note if you haven't heard from me. Thanks for playing! And for the rest of you, enjoy some Pinot Poetry. WINNER #1 - AUTUMN CRONIN H... continue reading

06.05.2012

Italy's Best Wines?: Highlights from the 2012 Tre Bicchieri Tasting

One of the pitfalls involved in blogging-as-therapy, as opposed to blogging-as-profession manifests as the paradox of too much content. If I made my living at wine blogging I'd need to post several times per day, and I'm sure I'd be looking for good content in between my sofa cushions. But since I blog, at best, once a day, and not even seven days a week anymore, I have way more to write about than I have time to write it. Too many wines I've drunk, too many places I've been, and too many events attended. All of which is a... continue reading

06.04.2012

Scenes from Auction Napa Valley 2012

I spent the weekend reveling -- both in Summer and in wine -- thanks to the annual fete known as Auction Napa Valley. Put on each year by the Napa Valley Vintners Association, this weekend-long party serves to both celebrate Napa, it's wines, and the lifestyle they represent, as well as do a whole hell of a lot of good for the local community. The centerpieces to the weekend are the barrel auction, where entire barrels of wine are available for sale, and the live auction, where packages of wine, travel, and other experiences are offered to the highest bidder.... continue reading

06.03.2012

2012 Pinot Days Tasting: June 14-16, San Francisco

There once was a time when the Pinot Days tasting was the new kid on the block in San Francisco. Now in it's eightth year, Pinot Days has firmly established itself as one of the largest and most exciting Pinot Noir events in America. If you enjoy Pinot Noir, or you are still trying to figure out if you do, this is an event that should not be missed. Pinot Days offers a number of events to existing and prospective lovers of the grape. This year's format is a whole week of events, with restaurant-based events throughout the week leading... continue reading

05.21.2012

2012 TAPAS Spanish and Portuguese Varieties Tasting: June 9, San Francisco

Sometimes I feel like California vintners don't experiment enough. While they may be trying a wide range of rootstocks, clonal material, yeast strains, trellising methods, barrel regimes, and the various other minor, yet important variables that can make for higher quality wine, far too few wineries are trying to grow different grape varieties from around the world. That's a generalization, of course, and there are plenty of exceptions, but by and large most California winemakers stick to the tried and true: white and red Bordeaux varieties, Syrah, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, with occasional branching out into Grenache, Viognier, or... continue reading

05.09.2012

2012 Paso Robles Wine Festival: May 18-20, Paso Robles

Anyone who hasn't yet discovered Paso Robles wines is missing some of California's most robust and dynamic red wines. Whether you count yourself among that group looking to learn more, or you consider yourself a die hard fan, you'll not want to miss the 30th annual Paso Robles Wine Festival. Once a sleepy undiscovered little wine town, Paso Robles has become the epicenter of a wine explosion in the last decade with wineries popping up like Spring crocuses every year. The limestone terroir of western Paso Robles in particular is producing some absolutely stunning Rhone-syle wines that every wine lover... continue reading

05.02.2012

15th Annual Anderson Valley Pinot Festival: May 18-20, Philo, CA

California Pinot Noir lovers take note. Wine lovers with a free weekend, listen up. It's Spring, and the wine events are coming fast and furious. It seems like every week there's a new wine tasting to go to. But some are more worth paying attention to than others. Anderson Valley is known for two things in California, and not coincidentally, it has more or less two major wine tasting events per year. The first, the International Alsace Varietals festival took place a few months ago. The second is the annual Pinot Noir Festival. If you're a fan of Pinot Noir... continue reading

04.21.2012

Mountain Wines of Italy: Tasting Notes from Alto Adige

From the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites and the Alps, water trickles off glaciers down into steep-walled fertile alpine valleys where small villages and their vineyards beg to be photographed against the stunning backdrop of one of the world's most impressive mountain ranges. Snug between Austria and Switzerland, the northernmost part of Italy hosts some of the most stunning vineyard landscapes in the world. With an official name of Trentino-Alto Adige/Sudtirol, but usually shortened to Alto Adige (also the name of its best known DOC wine region), this region of both German and Italian speaking residents is primarily known for... continue reading

04.18.2012

2012 Rosé Advocates and Producers Tasting: May 8, San Francisco

Thankfully, the broader community of American wine lovers seems to have gotten over its phobia of pink wines. We can now write about rosé without irony or cliché, and don't have to couch our advocacy of these food friendly wines with caveats about how trendy they are, etc. Rosé sales in America have been climbing like, well, the deficit, and thankfully in this case there's no end in sight. If there's one organization that might actually be able to take partial credit for this, it would be the masked crusaders at RAP: Rosé Avengers and Producers. This motley crew of... continue reading

04.10.2012

San Francisco Vintner's Market: April 14-15, San Francisco

Sometimes you hear an idea and wonder to yourself, exactly why it's taken someone so long to come up with it. And the really good ones make you think, "now why didn't I come up with that?" That's exactly what I thought to myself when I found out about the upcoming San Francisco Vintners Market. It's a farmer's market, but for wine. Simple as that. Walk around, taste a bunch of wines, and buy the ones that you like. So incredibly straightforward it took years for someone to come up with the idea. But now all you gotta do is... continue reading

04.05.2012

Inaugural Austin Food and Wine Festival: April 27-29, Austin, TX

The quantity and quality of food and wine events in this country continues to improve with leaps and bounds. Once upon a time there were only one or two major (as in the kind of events that involve A-list celebrity chefs) food and wine festivals in the country. Now there seems to be a great event in most of the country's culinary capitals. This year we get to add Austin, Texas to that list, as Austin hosts its first annual Food and Wine Festival. In typical texas fashion, it's not only big, but better. Because what could make your usual... continue reading

03.28.2012

Tasting the World at ProWein

Imagine my surprise when I arrived at ProWein, Germany's largest wine exhibition, to find that German wines were in the minority. What I expected to be one large (but doubtlessly well organized) German wine love-fest, was in fact a stupendously large, and (supremely well organized) international wine fair of gigantic proportions, with wine regions from all over the world very well represented. It's not the largest wine exhibition in the world, but the way it continues to grow, it's only a matter of time before it can easily make that claim. In the mean-time, it will simply be one of... continue reading

03.20.2012

In Pursuit of California Balance

Clumsy. Overripe. High alcohol. Over oaked. Fruit driven. Massive. Sweet. Made for Mr Parker's Palate. The historical stereotype of California wine, like all stereotypes, has a basis in truth. Especially for many Europeans, whose exposure to these wines consist of a lot of industry commentary flavoured by a precious few bottles that make it across the Atlantic and don't go far towards dispelling the reputation. Even most Americans in the wine business with more than an ounce of perspective will readily admit that American tastes in wine lean towards the bigger, riper, and sweeter end of the spectrum. Both national... continue reading

03.19.2012

And the Winners of Rhone Rangers Tasting Tickets Are...

Thanks to all who entered the Limerick Raffle. We had some choice submissions (see below). The two names I picked from a hat from those who entered were: David Voong Jamie Hwang Congratulations. You're on your way to the Rhone Rangers tasting. I sent you each an e-mail about how to claim your ticket. Thanks to the rest of you for composing limericks. For your reading pleasure, here are all the submissions. Not all exactly in true limerick form, but we're not going to be sticklers here. There was a Vielles Vignes red wine Syrah who said bollocks all to... continue reading

03.14.2012

The 2012 International Pinot Noir Celebration: July 27-29, McMinnville, Oregon

There are wine tastings, and then there are wine tastings. And then, there are experiences that completely transcend a bunch of tables with vintners standing behind them pouring their wines. I've been to a few "destination" wine experiences, some of which have been great, but none of which have been better than the International Pinot Noir Celebration that takes place every year in McMinnville, Oregon. Scheduled over a long July weekend every year, IPNC is one of the most relaxed and intimate wine tasting experiences I've had the pleasure of attending, not to mention the fact that it also involves... continue reading

03.11.2012

Write a Limerick by March 17th, Win Tickets to Rhone Rangers

Annual Rhone Rangers Tasting in San Francisco is certainly one of Just a reminder, folks. You have until March 14th at Midnight to write a limerick about Rhone wines, which is your entry ticket to a raffle of tickets to the Rhone Rangers tasting that's coming up here in San Francisco on March 25th. Come up with a limerick, and you'll get a chance to win a free ticket to the grand tasting. I'll pick two names out of a hat from those who enter. Here's a refresher on the rhyme form: There once was a wine from the Rhone... continue reading

02.29.2012

2012 Rhone Rangers Tasting: March 25, San Francisco

We've been having an odd winter here in San Francisco. Up until a few days ago it seemed like we had completely skipped winter and moved straight into Spring. All of the plants around here are confused. They had begun to bud and grow, and now they're getting buffeted by rain and cold winds. Go figure. Regardless of whether we're actually going to get one, we're barreling towards Spring, and with spring in San Francisco comes lots of wine tasting events, and a few really good ones. The Annual Rhone Rangers Tasting in San Francisco is certainly one of the... continue reading

02.24.2012

2012 New York Wine Expo: March 2-4, New York City

OK New Yorkers, listen up. Most of the time, America looks your way with envy. You've got the best restaurants, the best films, the best theater, the best art scene, it goes on and on. But one thing you ain't got so much of is good public wine tasting events. Which is why there's always a bit of jealousy in the voices of my friends in New York when we talk about the wine events that happen every month or so here in San Francisco. So here's your chance to fix that in a big way: The New York Wine... continue reading

02.18.2012

2012 World of Pinot Noir Tasting: March 2-3, Shell Beach, CA

Everyone's definition of idyllic varies, but for many people it doesn't get much better than standing on the cliffs above the Pacific ocean on a warm evening, watching the sun go down with a glass of Pinot Noir in hand. If that sort of thing gives you the warm fuzzies inside, then you're a shoe-in for attending an event called the World of Pinot Noir, held every March in the little seaside town of Shell Beach. Over two days, Pinot Noir producers from all over the world, along with the people who like to drink what they make, descend on... continue reading

02.13.2012

2012 Pinot Noir Summit: February 25, San Francisco

Every January, unbeknownst to most wine consumers, a group of wine writers, sommeliers, and other wine industry professionals spend the entire month doing nothing but tasting Pinot Noir. Over many successive days, through rigorous double-blind tastings, these judges whittle down hundreds of Pinot Noirs from all over the world (though mostly California and Oregon) to a select final few. This process is called the Pinot Noir Shootout, and it is put on every year by an organization called Affairs of The Vine. I have participated as a judge for this event in the past and lived to tell the tale.... continue reading

02.10.2012

2012 Anderson Valley Alsace Varietals Festival: February 18, Boonville, CA

Based on what you read about in the paper, magazines, etc, you'd think that pretty much the only wines that California produces are Cabernet, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc. Oh yeah, there's Syrah, but who buys that anymore? California actually produces many fantastic wines that aren't made from these dominant grape varieties, but most people don't drink them. At least not often. And some people haven't even heard of them. Enter what may be the most unique wine festival in California and perhaps the country. Some of the most under-appreciated and least consumed wines in the state are... continue reading

02.06.2012

La Paulee 2012 Burgundy Tasting: February 22-25, San Francisco

Every budding wine lover faces what can often seem like a daunting mountain to climb. There are so many wines in the world to learn about and experience, it's not hard to feel overwhelmed. It's also quite common to feel a certain sense of frustration, the kind characterized by an ambition that far outstrips our own means to fulfill it. Many of the wines that passionate wine lovers wish they could taste are simply out of reach -- too rare, too popular, and too expensive. When I was first starting out in my journey down the roads of wine, the... continue reading

02.04.2012

The Best Zinfandels of California: Tasting at ZAP 2012

You can always count on the ZAP Zinfandel festival in San Francisco to draw a crowd, no matter what the economy is doing. The fact that things are picking up, both for business, and specifically in the wine world, meant for a very lively event last week. The big news was a new venue for this traditionally mobbed tasting, that most attendees seemed to love, myself included. While the arrangement of vintners left something to be desired (tables were supposed to be alphabetical, but it was more like alphabet soup than a line from A to Z), everything else about... continue reading

02.01.2012

2012 Dark & Delicious Petite Sirah Tasting: February 17, Alameda

I've referred to it in the past as "the beast." Possessing tannins that need to be tamed through intelligent winemaking, Petite Sirah can truly be a monster of a wine. One of the least-well-known red grape varieties that are commonly grown in California, it does not command legions of rabid followers like those who attended last week's ZAP Zinfandel festival, or the loyal drinkers of Cabernet, or even those who swear by Syrah, from which it takes its misleading name. In the right hands, however, Petite Sirah can be a stunning wine -- deep, resonant, and rich. Petite Sirah has... continue reading

01.28.2012

2012 SF Chronicle Wine Competition Public Tasting: February 18, San Francisco

If there is one public wine tasting event that rivals San Francisco's yearly ZAP Zinfandel tasting for sheer size and chaos, it could only be the annual SF Chronicle Wine Competition Tasting. Every year this competition is judged by more than 60 wine professionals, in which they award medals to their top choices from among over 5,000 wines from all across America. This competition has grown over the last ten years to be the largest competitive tasting of American wines in the world. The judges hand out hundreds of medals and awards. Those awards are released to the public, and... continue reading

01.10.2012

2012 Pinot Days Southern California Tasting: January 26-28, Los Angeles

Wine festivals in Southern California, and especially in Los Angeles, aren't particularly plentiful, for reasons I don't entirely understand. There are plenty of wine lovers in LA, but the large public wine events that make such frequent appearances in San Francisco, and increasingly in New York, just don't seem to make it down the West Coast. Three years ago, the Pinot Days Festival came to Los Angeles, and now every year SoCal Pinot lovers have a reason to celebrate. This year's Grand Tasting will offer the opportunity to taste more than 300 Pinot Noirs from about 100 different producers over... continue reading

01.02.2012

You Won Tickets to the ZAP Zinfandel Festival!

Thanks to everyone who submitted Zinfandel themed haiku poems as entries for a chance to win tickets to the ZAP Zinfandel tasting taking place on January 26-28, 2012 here in San Francisco. After assigning everyone a number and then using a true random number generator, I have picked the following six names "out of a hat" as winners. Each of the people below will receive two tickets to the grand tasting, courtesy of Vinography. I will send you each an e-mail, but you can pick up your tickets the day of the event at will call under the name you... continue reading

12.19.2011

2012 ZAP Zinfandel Festival: January 26-28, 2012

Dark fruit in short days berries bitter sweet and young pass your smiling lips. It's that time of year again. I know of no other event that seems to bring out the inner wine lover in so many San Franciscans more than the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival. It never ceases to amaze me how many people turn out with such enthusiasm for this single varietal festival. Don't get me wrong. I love Zinfandel -- unabashedly so. But I tend to forget how many other people do too. Especially those that live in San Francisco. Of course it's... continue reading

11.01.2011

2011 San Diego Wine and Food Festival: November 16-20, San Diego

I'm pretty sure at one point I've joked with someone that "San Diego is a pretty nice town, it's just a little too far from wine country." It's hard not to love San Diego's climate and atmosphere, but historically, it hasn't exactly been high on any epicure's list of destinations. Apparently that is changing pretty rapidly, though, as America's obsession with food continues to spiral to new heights, and the dining scene continues to evolve. There has never been a shortage of wine and food lovers in the town, however, which explains why, for the past seven years, the folks... continue reading

10.26.2011

PinotFest 2011 Tasting: November 19, San Francisco

One of the longest running wine tasting events in San Francisco is also one of its best. While the city often plays host to really huge public tastings like ZAP, Family Winemakers, and PinotDays, some of the better tastings are more intimate and focused. Both words appropriately describe PinotFest, a low key event held every year at Farallon Restaurant. Despite practically non-existent marketing or announcement, PinotFest quietly pulls together 60 or so top producers of West Coast Pinot Noir every year for a dedicated crowd of Pinot lovers in San Francisco. This year will be the event's twelfth. Attendees get... continue reading

10.20.2011

2011 Pinot Days Tasting: November 12, Chicago

While those of us on the West Coast are still lingering in the illusion of Autumn, the chill has descended upon the shores of Lake Michigan, and Chicagoans must be sure they're drinking red wine, both to warm themselves, and to steel themselves psychologically for the punishment of Winter. In November, however, there's one particular red wine that most folks in the Windy City should be drinking: Pinot Noir. Once upon a time there were only a few big-time, high-quality wine events around the country, and they tended to cluster heavily on the two coasts. These days, however, we are... continue reading

10.06.2011

2011 Pinot on the River Tasting: October 23, Healdsburg, CA

Now is a wonderful, if slightly manic time to be wandering around wine country. Harvest is, for some, complete, and wines are bubbling and burbling their way through fermentations. For others, any day now they will be making mad dashes into the vineyards to get the fruit in just as soon as things dry out from this major dump we just had. Either way, it's the time of year that wine country really becomes wine country. As the afternoon sun angles low, life gets pretty idyllic around Sonoma, and the timing is good to relax with friends and a nice... continue reading

09.27.2011

2011 LA Food and Wine Festival: October 13-16, Los Angeles

Food and Wine Magazine knows when it's onto a good thing. Building on the success of the long running and incredibly popular Aspen Food and Wine Classic, the magazine (actually it's publisher, American Express) has branched out to bring a similar, if somewhat abbreviated version to South Beach in Florida, and has become a major sponsor of the Pebble Beach Food and Wine event in Carmel, California. Last year, American Express Publishing dipped its toe into the waters of Los Angeles, with the four-day extravaganza called Beverly Hills, which was apparently quite the scene. But if that was a toe... continue reading

09.21.2011

2011 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 12, San Francisco

I beat the drum a lot about public wine tastings. They are the best way for wine lovers to educate their palates. Period. There's just no substitute for tasting a lot of wines in a single "sitting" to learn what the differences are, and more importantly, what you like. One of the other nice things about public tastings, put on as they are by big organizations, or in this case, publications, is that they often allow you to taste wines that you might not get a chance to taste otherwise for some reason -- whether that is because of their... continue reading

09.17.2011

Savor the Central Coast Tasting: October 1-2, Santa Margarita, CA

It's often said (by me and others) that there's never been a better time to be a wine lover. This is true for any number of different reasons, but one that I very much appreciate centers on the initiative that different wine regions around the world are taking to educate and expose their wines to consumers. For someone looking to either learn a lot about a wine region, or merely discover great new wines from a region they already know, the explosion of regional wine tasting events has been an incredible boon. I sound a bit like a broken record... continue reading

09.09.2011

California Wine Rush Tasting: September 17, San Francisco

What does California taste like? A great many things glorious and delicious. And now you have a chance to taste many of them, if you want. It happens to be California Wine Month, thanks to a declaration from Governor Jerry Brown. I've never paid much attention to these kinds of proclamations, whose main purpose seems to be just trying to raise awareness of a product in the minds of consumers, but without much substance to the campaign. But in the case of California Wine Month, they're not just doing stump speeches and press releases, the California Wine Institute has actually... continue reading

09.06.2011

Sake Day Benefit Tasting: October 1, San Francisco

Japan has given many things to the world that I cherish, but few of them have an unofficial holiday that gives me the excuse to celebrate them. Every October first, along with sake lovers all over Japan and around the world, I get to observe Nihonshu no Hi, also known as Sake Day. This October first is perhaps a more solemn occasion than previous celebrations, as it comes on the heels of the horrible tsunami and nuclear disaster that did incalculable damage to Japan's infrastructure, including several sake breweries. Like wine, no one knows exactly when sake first made an... continue reading

09.01.2011

Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 26, San Francisco

I never liked Champagne until I had the really good stuff. For years I went to weddings and New Year's Eve bashes and dutifully tried all the bubbly, but didn't see what the fuss was about. My lack of experience with quality Champagne was understandable, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on bubbly. It's a sad reality of the wine world that by and large most quality Champagne starts at about $35 to $40 a bottle, and the really good stuff starts in the $60 to $80 price range. Once I... continue reading

08.27.2011

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: September 2-4, 2011

Most people, when they come visit me in San Francisco and ask to be taken to wine country, assume that they're going to Napa. But at least half the time, that's definitely not where we end up. My well meaning friends aren't the only ones who seem to forget that Northern California has many different "wine countries." Napa casts a long shadow, as it were. I've got a bit of love for every piece of wine country we've got here in California, but there's a special place in my heart for Sonoma County, both because it is the place of... continue reading

08.11.2011

Napa Wine Library Tasting: August 14th, Napa

This event announcement is a little late, but if you don't have plans this coming Sunday, you should give serious consideration to what follows. Dedicated wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California and events like the upcoming Family Winemakers are an opportunity to taste wines from smaller producers. It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and... continue reading

08.09.2011

Secrets of the Sommeliers: The Panel Version at IPNC

At the International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon's Willamette Valley, the wine tasting and eating is occasionally punctuated by pursuits of a more intellectual nature. One such diversion this year was a panel of some of the top sommeliers in this hemisphere, loosely organized around the theme of a book called Secrets of the Sommeliers, co-written by the panel's moderator Jordan Mackay and one of the panelists, sommelier Rajat Parr. I've done my usual attempt to capture the discussion here. I didn't get everything but hopefully you'll get a sense of the conversation. Jordan was introduced by Joshua Wesson, who... continue reading

08.06.2011

The Funniest Wine Speech Ever?: Joshua Wesson Addresses the 2011 Graduating Class at IPNC

The International Pinot Noir Celebration in Oregon's Willamette Valley that I attended last weekend was, true to form, delightful. This wonderfully casual event usually takes place under brilliant cloudless skies, on the lush green grounds of Linfield College, a small liberal arts school in the little down of McMinnville, Oregon. Three days of wine tastings, seminars, and remarkable meals are traditionally kicked off on Friday morning with a "keynote" speech from an invited guest, often a member of the wine media. This year's guest was Joshua Wesson, the sommelier and founder of Best Cellars, a wine retailing concept that he... continue reading

08.04.2011

2011 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 21, San Francisco

Size isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco has as one of its many claims to fame that it is the single largest tasting of California wines in the world. That alone would not be reason for excitement, were it not for the generally very high quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year. Regular readers know that this tasting, now in its 21st year, is one of my favorites. While the definition of a "family-run" winery is stretched a bit to include behemoths like Jackson Family... continue reading

08.03.2011

25 Years of Collaboration: A Panel Discussion at IPNC 2011

The IPNC event that I attended last weekend was celebrating more than just good Pinot Noir. It was also celebrating its 25th year of existence as a nexus for good Pinot Noir and the people who make it and drink it. While IPNC has always been a place for people to enjoy themselves, the event, and the people who brought it into being, both have a remarkable history that links together France and Burgundy in surprising and moving ways. The event always features a single main seminar, and this year's event brought together a panel of winemakers to tell their... continue reading

07.30.2011

The Joy of Pink Pinot: Tasting at the 2011 IPNC

Regular readers will know that I'm a fan of everything pink when it comes to wine. Rosé is one of the most underrated and least appreciated wines by "serious" wine lovers. Food friendly, refreshing, and complex, the best rosés are among the wine world's most versatile and exciting wines. Thankfully, they are not only becoming more accepted, but increasingly popular, especially as the stigma of sickly-sweet White Zinfandel fades from the collective consciousness. One of my favorite features of the IPNC event that I am attending this week in Oregon's Willamette Valley has always been their afternoon rosé of Pinot... continue reading

07.19.2011

2011 Sonoma Coast Wine Festival: August 5-7, Occidental, CA

Regular readers know that I'm a fan of large public wine tastings, and that I recommend them highly to all wine lovers, beginners and experienced drinkers alike. They're simply the best way to educate yourself and your palate about wine, because they afford an opportunity to taste a lot of wines from a specific category at the same time, and to learn something from the comparison. These types of tastings tend to be split amongst those focused on a single grape or grapes (Rhone Rangers, ZAP - Zinfandel Advocates and Producers, Pinot Days, etc.) and those focused on a specific... continue reading

06.01.2011

2011 Pinot Days Tasting: June 13-18, San Francisco

There once was a time when the Pinot Days tasting was the new kid on the block in San Francisco. Now in it's seventh year, Pinot Days has firmly established itself as one of the largest and most exciting Pinot Noir events in America. If you enjoy Pinot Noir, or you are still trying to figure out if you do, this is an event that should not be missed. Pinot Days offers a number of events to lovers of "the heartbreak grape", from winemaker dinners to seminars that focus on specific regions or specific producers. This year's seminars are looking... continue reading

05.21.2011

TAPAS Spanish Varietals Tasting 2011: June 5, San Francisco

Sometimes I feel like California vintners don't experiment enough. While they may be trying a wide range of rootstocks, clonal material, yeast strains, trellising methods, barrel regimes, and the various other minor, yet important variables that can make for higher quality wine, far too few wineries are trying to grow different grape varieties from around the world. That's a generalization, of course, and there are plenty of exceptions, but by and large most California winemakers stick to the tried and true: white and red Bordeaux varieties, Syrah, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, with occasional branching out into Grenache, Viognier, or... continue reading

05.07.2011

2011 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival: May 20-22, Philo, CA

California Pinot Noir lovers take note. Wine lovers with a free weekend, listen up. It's Spring, and the wine events are coming fast and furious. It seems like every week there's a new wine tasting to go to. But some are more worth paying attention to than others. Anderson Valley is known for two things in California, and not coincidentally, it has more or less two major wine tasting events per year. The first, the International Alsace Varietals festival took place a few months ago, which I reported on here at Vinography. The second is the annual Pinot Noir Festival.... continue reading

05.05.2011

2011 RAP Pink Out Rosé Tasting: May 10, San Francisco

It's almost impossible to write about pink wines these days without invoking some sort of cliche. Even the (true) claim that rosé wines are no longer out of fashion has been recycled so many times that I'm cringing just typing it. The fact of the matter is that after years of being vino-non-grata, pink wines are finally back in the awareness of American wine drinkers. After the success of Sutter Home White Zinfandel sent wine lovers running for the hills every time someone offered them a glass of rosé, discerning palates are returning to pink wines in huge numbers. How... continue reading

04.12.2011

Hospice du Rhone 2011 Tasting: April 28-30, Paso Robles

Most wine tasting events focused on a specific style or type of wine that take place in California suffer from a single, but important deficit: they feature almost exclusively California wines. Go to a Pinot Noir event, and you get 95% California Pinots, etc. There are a few notable exceptions to this, however, and one of my favorites is the annual fete for Rhone style wines called Hospice du Rhone. For those who have not had the pleasure of attending Hospice du Rhone, it is a unique treat for anyone who enjoys this kind of wine. Attendees spend a laid-back... continue reading

03.30.2011

Spring SF Vintners Market: April 9-10, San Francisco

Sometimes you hear an idea and wonder to yourself, exactly why it's taken someone so long to come up with it. And the really good ones make you think, "now why didn't I come up with that?" That's exactly what I thought to myself when I first heard of the San Francisco Vintners Market. It's a farmer's market, but for wine. Simple as that. Walk around, taste a bunch of wines, and buy the ones that you like. So incredibly straightforward it took years for someone to come up with the idea. But now it's happened three or four times... continue reading

03.17.2011

Drink Sake to Help Japan

We're all watching with deep sadness and empathy the unfolding of the post-earthquake and tsunami tragedy in Japan. For those of us who have a personal connection to Japan (I lived there for almost two years) the events of the past week have been heart-breaking. Much like the tsunami in Indonesia, we are still not fully understanding the full extent of the tragedy. It is much worse than is currently being reported, mostly because the damage and the true death toll has not yet been fully surveyed. I'm in contact with a number of friends, most of whom live in... continue reading

03.15.2011

Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Paradise Festival: March 26-27, Campbell, CA

The Santa Cruz Mountains American Viticultural Area, or AVA, is perhaps one of the least appreciated wine growing regions in California. This despite being home to some truly fantastic wines, including some of the state's most iconic wines from producer Ridge Vineyards. But while many people may have heard of Ridge, it is far from the only reason that wine lovers ought to be paying attention to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Home to lots of little producers, the region is a treasure trove of well-priced wines of distinctive character. Pinot Noir has a long history in the Santa Cruz mountains,... continue reading

03.07.2011

Rhone Rangers Tasting 2011: March 26-27, San Francisco

I love watching the green buds burst forth on the trees this time of year, hard on the heels of the cherry blossoms. Yes, it's California, so the barest hint of any season gets me excited, but especially Spring. And with Spring in San Francisco comes lots of wine tasting events, and a few really good ones. The Annual Rhone Rangers Tasting in San Francisco is certainly one of the Spring highlights for wine lovers in the Bay Area. Held at Fort Mason, like all the other big tastings, Rhone Rangers offers the change for wine lovers to taste through... continue reading

02.26.2011

The Best Cabernet in Napa: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley 2011

One of my favorite events each year involves the opportunity to sample some of the best wines that Napa produces in a given vintage. At Premiere Napa Valley, an auction that serves as the world's most expensive "bake sale" to support the efforts of the non-profit Napa Valley Vintners Association, journalists like me get a chance to sneak a taste of hundreds of unique wines that are purchased by the nation's top wine retailers at staggeringly high prices. This year, as every year, 200 member wineries each crafted a unique auction lot of wine that in most cases represents the... continue reading

02.21.2011

The Wines of Alsace in Anderson Valley: Tasting Notes

My first memories of Alsace? A confusing little strip of land that the Germans and the French kept fighting over. Somehow the grade-school history lesson never quite resolved itself, as I had lingering uncertainty for many years about which country this beautiful little wine region had ended up in. But many years later, I got my first taste of the wines of Alsace and I started to pay a lot more attention to this unique wine region in northeast France. Subsequently, I have fallen in love with the region through its wines, and I harbor deep seated fantasies of a... continue reading

02.19.2011

California's Best Zinfandel: Notes from the ZAP 2011 Tasting

Ah, Zinfandel. The all-American grape that fuels much passion in the Bay Area. The annual ZAP Zinfandel festival draws crowds bigger than most other wine events, even in the midst of a tough economy. Truth be told, this year continued the slightly mellower note of last year's tasting, with fewer producers and fewer attendees, though no shortage of great juice was to be had. One of the reasons, it seems to me, that the public gets so excited about Zinfandel is that the wine refuses to be taken too seriously. While there are certainly a few cult Zinfandels that are... continue reading

02.16.2011

Thoughts on the Wines of Alsace and Their Cousins

Last weekend I decamped with the family to the brightly greening hills of the Anderson Valley. Every time I go to Anderson Valley, I realize I have forgotten how beautiful it is, especially in the throes of approaching Spring. The vines are still bare, as are the oaks, but the newborn lambs and their new grasses both frolic when the sun is out. I was in the valley for the International Alsace Varietals Festival -- a celebration of the wines made in (and in the style of) France's Alsace region. That means wines made of Riesling, Pinot Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot... continue reading

02.09.2011

2011 Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah Tasting: February 18, Alameda, CA

I've referred to it in the past as "the beast." Possessing tannins that need to be tamed through intelligent winemaking, Petite Sirah can truly be a monster of a wine. One of the least-well-known red grape varieties that are commonly grown in California, it does not command legions of rabid followers like those who attended last week's ZAP Zinfandel festival, or the loyal drinkers of Cabernet, or even those who swear by Syrah, from which it takes its misleading name. In the right hands, however, Petite Sirah can be a stunning wine -- deep, resonant, and rich. Petite Sirah has... continue reading

02.06.2011

9th Annual Pinot Noir Summit: February 26, San Francisco

Every January, unbeknownst to most wine consumers, a group of wine writers, sommeliers, and other wine industry professionals spend many the entire month doing nothing but tasting Pinot Noir. Over many successive days, through rigorous double-blind tastings, these judges whittle down hundreds of Pinot Noirs from all over the world (though mostly California and Oregon) to a select final few. This process is called the Pinot Noir Shootout, and it is put on every year by an organization called Affairs of The Vine. I have participated as a judge for this event in the past and lived to tell the... continue reading

02.04.2011

New York Wine Expo 2011: February 25-26, New York City

OK New Yorkers, listen up. Most of the time, America looks your way with envy. You've got the best restaurants, the best films, the best theater, the best art scene, it goes on and on. But one thing you ain't got so much of is good public wine tasting events. Which is why there's always a bit of jealousy in the voices of my friends in New York when we talk about the wine events that happen every month or so here in San Francisco. So here's your chance to fix that in a big way: The New York Wine... continue reading

01.30.2011

2011 SF Chronicle Wine Competition Tasting: February 19, San Francisco

If there is one public wine tasting event that rivals San Francisco's yearly ZAP Zinfandel tasting for sheer size and chaos, it could only be the annual SF Chronicle Wine Competition Tasting. Every year the San Francisco Chronicle (with a lot of help) holds a wine competition, judged by more than 60 wine professionals, in which they award medals to their top choices from among over 4,700 wines from all across America. This competition has grown over the last nine years to be the largest competitive tasting of American wines in the world. The judges hand out hundreds of medals... continue reading

01.24.2011

2011 Anderson Valley Alsace Festival: February 12-13, Boonville

With all the fanfare surrounding Cabernet and Pinot Noir coupled with the obsession this country seems to have with Chardonnay, it's sometimes hard for people to remember that California produces a lot of other different kinds of wine. It's even harder, it seems, to get people to drink some of it. Enter what may be the most unique wine festival in California and perhaps the country. Some of the most under-appreciated and least consumed wines in the state are those made from grapes like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. There aren't a lot of places in California where... continue reading

01.13.2011

Boston Wine Expo 2011: January 22-23, Boston

Wine lovers in Beantown, listen up. Right about now you may be wondering just what you're doing freezing your keisters off in the depths of yet another winter. But January provides at least one good reason: the Boston Wine Expo. There are very few reasons that I'd venture out to Boston in the middle of winter, but let me tell you, the Boston Wine Expo is almost enough of a reason for me to jet on out there from San Francisco. Almost, but not quite. However, if I lived anywhere within 100 miles of the Boston, I would be at... continue reading

01.08.2011

20th Annual ZAP Zinfandel Tasting: January 27-29, San Francisco

It's that time of year again. I know of no other event that seems to bring out the inner wine lover in so many San Franciscans more than the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival. It never ceases to amaze me how many people turn out with such enthusiasm for this single varietal festival. Don't get me wrong. I love Zinfandel -- unabashedly so. But I tend to forget how many other people do too. Especially those that live in San Francisco. Of course it's not just San Franciscans that turn out for this one-of-a-kind weekend. People come from... continue reading

01.05.2011

Pinot Days Southern California Tasting: January 15, Los Angeles

Wine festivals in Southern California, and especially in Los Angeles, aren't particularly plentiful, for reasons I don't entirely understand. There are plenty of wine lovers in LA, but the large public wine events that make such frequent appearances in San Francisco, and increasingly in New York, just don't seem to make it down the West Coast. Two years ago, the Pinot Days Festival came to Los Angeles, and has started what appears to be a dedicated annual event, giving SoCal Pinot lovers a reason to celebrate. This year's Grand Tasting will offer the opportunity to taste more than 400 Pinot... continue reading

12.05.2010

The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune

As some of you know, I spent the week before last tramping around Burgundy and then spent the weekend at the 150th annual Hospices de Beaune wine auction, which in many ways was the fulfillment of a fantasy I've had ever since I learned about the auction several years ago. Just why attending this event has been a fantasy of mine has to do with a number of factors, not the least of which is the fact that it takes place in the heart of a picturesque city in one of the world's greatest wine regions. Most importantly, though, this... continue reading

11.07.2010

PinotFest 2010 Tasting: November 20, San Francisco

One of the longest running wine tasting events in San Francisco is also one of its best. While the city often plays host to really huge public tastings like ZAP, Family Winemakers, and PinotDays, some of the better tastings are more intimate and focused. Both words appropriately describe PinotFest, a low key event held every year at Farallon Restaurant. Despite practically non-existent marketing or announcement, PinotFest quietly pulls together 60 or so top producers of West Coast Pinot Noir every year for a dedicated crowd of Pinot lovers in San Francisco. This year will be the event's twelfth. Attendees get... continue reading

10.31.2010

Pinot Days Tasting 2010: November 11-13, Chicago

While those of us on the West Coast are still lingering in the illusion of Autumn, the chill has descended upon the shores of Lake Michigan, and Chicagoans must be sure they're drinking red wine, both to warm themselves, and to steel themselves psychologically for the punishment of Winter. In November, however, there's one particular red wine that most folks in the Windy City should be drinking: Pinot Noir. Once upon a time there were only a few big-time, high-quality wine events around the country, and they tended to cluster heavily on the two coasts. These days, however, we are... continue reading

10.28.2010

San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival: November 17-21, San Diego

I'm pretty sure at one point I've joked with someone that "San Diego is a pretty nice town, it's just a little too far from wine country." It's hard not to love San Diego's climate and atmosphere, but historically, it hasn't exactly been high on any epicure's list of destinations. Apparently that is changing pretty rapidly, though, as America's obsession with food continues to spiral to new heights, and the dining scene continues to evolve. There has never been a shortage of wine and food lovers in the town, however, which explains why, for the past six years, the folks... continue reading

10.25.2010

The Best Wines of the Year?: Taste Testing the Wine & Spirits Top 100

The difference between a good public wine tasting and a bad one can be quite dramatic. The bad ones are in crappy locations, are poorly organized, offer no food, and only mediocre wines. The good ones are, well, just the opposite -- nicely organized, well catered, and offer great wines. And the best ones? Well, they throw in a jazz quartet, and all you can eat oyster bar, a dessert bar, and wines that sometimes retail for hundreds of dollars, if you can find them, at all. And that's just what you get at the annual Wine and Spirits Top... continue reading

10.16.2010

San Francisco Fall Vintners Market: November 20-21, San Francisco

Sometimes you hear an idea and wonder to yourself, exactly why it's taken someone so long to come up with it. And the really good ones make you think, "now why didn't I come up with that?" That's exactly what I thought to myself when I first heard about the San Francisco Vintners Market last year. It's a farmer's market, but for wine. Simple as that. Walk around, taste a bunch of wines, and buy the ones that you like. So incredibly straightforward it took years for someone to come up with the idea. The first version was held in... continue reading

10.07.2010

Pinot on the River Tasting 2010: October 23-24, Healdsburg

Now is a wonderful, if slightly manic time to be wandering around wine country. Harvest is, for some, complete, and wines are bubbling and burbling their way through fermentations. For others, any day now they will be making mad dashes into the vineyards to get the fruit in before the first major rains. Either way, it's the time of year that wine country really becomes wine country. As the afternoon sun angles low, life gets pretty idyllic around Sonoma, and the timing is good to relax with friends and a nice glass of wine. Which is why, I suppose, around... continue reading

10.02.2010

Wines of Argentina Tasting: October 19, 21, Los Angeles and New York

One of the most important and valuable trends for the wine consumer, apart from the fantastic deals to be had on very nice wine these days, continues to be the proliferation of public wine tasting events put on by specific countries or regions of the world. The marketing associations for these regions, which tend to be government run or at least government funded in some respect, have finally realized that one of the best things they can do is get a whole lot of consumers together to taste a whole lot of their wines. Such tastings, as I tend to... continue reading

09.27.2010

Wine and Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 13, San Francisco

I beat the drum a lot about public wine tastings. They are the best way for wine lovers to educate their palates. Period. There's just no substitute for tasting a lot of wines in a single "sitting" to learn what the differences are, and more importantly, what you like. One of the other nice things about public tastings, put on as they are by big organizations, or in this case, publications, is that they often allow you to taste wines that you might not get a chance to taste otherwise for some reason -- whether that is because of their... continue reading

09.19.2010

Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting 2010: September 27, San Francisco

I never liked Champagne until I had the really good stuff. For years I went to weddings and New Year's Eve bashes and dutifully tried all the bubbly, but didn't see what the fuss was about. My lack of experience with quality Champagne was understandable, given how much money I, and the people I hung out with, were typically spending on bubbly. It's a sad reality of the wine world that by and large most quality Champagne starts at about $35 to $40 a bottle, and the really good stuff starts in the $60 to $80 price range. Once I... continue reading

09.15.2010

2010 FallFest Wine and Food Tasting: October 9, San Francisco

Once upon a time in this country, back when we didn't buy our food and instead we grew it, Autumn was a time for celebration. If we were lucky, or good at farming, we'd be able to celebrate a bountiful harvest of food that might sustain us through the winter. Other than our Thanksgiving holiday, which isn't so much a harvest celebration as much as it is a commemoration of not starving to death thanks to the charity of Native Americans, we don't have much of a national tradition in this country of celebrating the harvest. Elsewhere in the world... continue reading

09.11.2010

Lake County People's Choice Wine Awards Tasting: September 26, Lower Lake, CA

A few weeks ago I participated as a judge in a somewhat unusual wine tasting competition. My job, and the job of the rest of the judges present, was to taste most of the wines currently being made in Lake County, and select the top few examples of different kinds of wine so that these "finalists" could be presented to the public, who would eventually determine the "winners" of the competition. The People's Choice Awards of Lake County are somewhat unique in the world of wine competitions. Instead of critics bestowing their all important scores on wines, or state fairs... continue reading

08.24.2010

Joy of Sake Tasting 2010: San Francisco 9/9, and NYC 9/23

I absolutely love the fact that we've reached a point in this country where I don't need to explain why a sake tasting in San Francisco or New York might be an enjoyable way to spend an evening. In the six and a half years since I've been writing this blog, sake has gone from obscure to obvious, hardly known to hip. The availability and visibility of sake in the US has blossomed, driving by fine dining establishments and the increasing popularity of all things Japanese. Despite this, however, the average wine lovers' knowledge of sake is extremely limited, mostly... continue reading

08.21.2010

Taste of Beverly Hills: September 2-5, Beverly Hills, CA

Food and Wine Magazine knows when it's onto a good thing. Building on the success of the long running and incredibly popular Aspen Food and Wine Classic, the magazine (actually it's publisher, American Express) has branched out to bring a similar, if somewhat abbreviated version to South Beach in Florida, and has become a major sponsor of the Pebble Beach Food and Wine event in Carmel, California And now Food and Wine magazine has launched the Taste of Beverly Hills, a four-day extravaganza of food, wine, cocktails and music at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. Attendees to the event will have... continue reading

08.13.2010

2010 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, September 3-5, Healdsburg

Most people, when they come visit me in San Francisco and ask to be taken to wine country, assume that they're going to Napa. But at least half the time, that's definitely not where we end up. My well meaning friends aren't the only ones who seem to forget that Northern California has many different "wine countries." Napa casts a long shadow, as it were. I've got a bit of love for every piece of wine country we've got here in California, but there's a special place in my heart for Sonoma County, both because it is the place of... continue reading

08.01.2010

2010 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 22, San Francisco

Size isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco has as one of its many claims to fame that it is the single largest tasting of California wines in the world. That alone would not be reason for excitement, were it not for the generally exceptional quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year. This year is the 20th anniversary of the tasting. Regular readers know that this tasting is one of my favorites every year. It provides an opportunity to sample the wares of smaller, family-run wineries,... continue reading

07.25.2010

18th Annual Monterey Winery Association Tasting: August 7, Monterey, CA

One of my personal goals includes constantly educating my palate. I do this to both learn to be a better taster and to know more about wine, but also because, like every other wine lover, I'm out to find the next greatest wine to drink. I try to encourage my readers to do the same thing, and the main way I do that is to push them to go to large public tasting events, where they can try dozens and dozens of wines side by side. For me, there is a sharp dividing line in my past. The time before... continue reading

07.23.2010

Napa Wine Library Tasting: August 15, Napa

Serious wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival or the recent Pinot Days are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California and events like the upcoming Family Winemakers are an opportunity to taste wines from smaller producers. It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and the saturation of wine in the Bay Area, for consumers to get the opportunity to get an in-depth or... continue reading

07.07.2010

The World's Best Burgundy? Tasting La La Paulée de San Francisco 2010

I won't be winning any awards this year for "timely reporting." It's now been more than three months since the event called La Paulée de San Francisco came to town, but I'm finally getting my notes from the grand tasting posted here. For those who aren't familiar with La Paulée, it offers the opportunity to spit out thousands of dollars of wine in the space of a couple of hours. In other words, it's one of world's best Burgundy tastings, where attendees get the chance to sample some wines that are made in such small quantities, and at such high... continue reading

06.23.2010

South African Gems: My Aspen Food & Wine Classic Seminar

As some of you know, I spent last week at the Aspen Food & Wine Classic, where amongst a lot of drinking, socializing, and eating, I also gave two wine seminars. The first of those seminars was entitled South African Gems, and was an opportunity for me to showcase some of my very favorite South African wines for a crowd of about 160 people. Here's what it looked like, courtesy of my little Flip camera placed on the edge of one of the tables. The video offers the full seminar for those with the patience to watch. The wines I... continue reading

06.03.2010

Pinot Days 2010 Tasting: June 27, San Francisco

These days, it's hard to imagine that there was a time when San Francisco didn't play host to an event focused on Pinot Noir, but it wasn't until 2005 that the city got an event dedicated to "the heartbreak grape." Now in it's sixth year, Pinot Days has firmly established itself as one of the largest and most exciting Pinot Noir events in America. If you enjoy Pinot Noir or are still trying to figure that out, this is an event that should not be missed. Pinot Days offers a week of events, from winemaker dinners, to small tastings in... continue reading

05.26.2010

Golden Glass Wine Tasting: June 12, San Francisco

Once upon a time, the Golden Glass tasting was about as close as you could get to a secret "wine insiders" tasting. Historically under-promoted, and generally not well attended, this tasting began as a smaller Italian focused "slow wine" tasting put on by Slow Food USA. Now in its 7th year, The Golden Glass continues to be co-produced by Slow Food (who recently pulled out of their relationship with the Gambero Rosso tasting), and now focuses other regions in addition to Italy, with a decidedly sustainable, regional bent. Over 100 different wine producers are supposed to attend and pour their... continue reading

05.13.2010

Tempranillo Advocates and Producers Tasting: June 5, San Francisco

Sometimes I feel like California vintners don't experiment enough. While they may be trying a wide range of rootstocks, clonal material, yeast strains, trellising methods, barrel regimes, and the various other minor, yet important variables that can make for higher quality wine, far too few wineries are trying to grow different grape varieties from around the world. That's a generalization, of course, and there are plenty of exceptions, but by and large most California winemakers stick to the tried and true: white and red Bordeaux varieties, Syrah, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, with occasional branching out into Grenache, Viognier, or... continue reading

05.02.2010

2010 Anderson Valley Pinot Noir Festival: May 14-16, Philo, CA

California Pinot Noir lovers take note. Wine lovers with a free weekend, listen up. It's Spring, and the wine events are coming fast and furious. It seems like every week there's a new wine tasting to go to. But some are more worth paying attention to than others. Anderson Valley is known for two things in California, and not coincidentally, it has more or less two major wine tasting events per year. The first, the International Alsace Varietals festival took place a few months ago, and I was sadly prevented from attending. The second is the annual Pinot Noir Festival,... continue reading

04.27.2010

California Cabernet Society Tasting, May 3, San Francisco

They say "Cabernet is king" for a reason. Even with the surge in interest for Pinot Noir in this country, if I ever bring a bunch of wines to a party, the first wines emptied are almost always the Cabernet Sauvignons. People love them, and with good reason. When good the offer a wonderful combination of power, finesse and fruit. It also helps that they taste like cherries, a flavor which most Americans seem to love. Despite California being home to massive quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon, there aren't many opportunities for members of the public to taste a lot of... continue reading

04.21.2010

Celebrate South Africa Wine Tasting: May 3 & 6, Los Angeles and San Francisco

I went to South Africa about 2 years ago on a press junket and fell in love with the place. A stunning landscape, wonderful food, and amazing potential as a wine region left me with the desire to return. In particular, though, I was struck by the value for money that many of its wines offered, and the diversity of styles and grape varieties that seem to be grown successfully in its varied climates. If you're like me, traveling there without someone else footing the bill is prohibitively expensive, not to mention time consuming. But you needn't trek all the... continue reading

04.18.2010

Austria Uncorked Tasting 2010: May 3rd San Francisco, May 5th New York

Importers, distributors, country trade commissions, and individual wine regions have long put on tastings for the trade and media to showcase wines in the hopes of increased sales and better media coverage. One of the most encouraging trends I see in the wine world continues to be the proliferation of such tastings available for the general public. Let's face it, even someone who has a bottle of wine with every meal only gets a couple hundred tastes of different wines every year. And most people tend to stick with the wines or grape varieties that they know. No matter... continue reading

04.11.2010

Hospice du Rhone 2010 Tasting: April 29 to May 1, Paso Robles

Most wine tasting events focused on a specific style or type of wine that take place in California suffer from a single, but important deficit: they feature almost exclusively California wines. Go to a Pinot Noir event, and you get 95% California Pinots, etc. There are a few notable exceptions to this, however, and one of my favorites is the annual fete for Rhone style wines called Hospice du Rhone. For those who have not had the pleasure of attending Hospice du Rhone, it is a unique treat for anyone who enjoys this kind of wine. Attendees spend a laid-back... continue reading

03.31.2010

The Champagne and Sparkling Wine Conference: April 16-17, New Orleans

Chances are, you don't drink nearly enough Champagne. I don't either, and I try to make an effort. Chances are you don't know as much about Champagne and other sparkling wines as you do about red, white and rosé. Most people don't. And if you're like most people, you haven't been to New Orleans lately. There's a simple fix to all of the above, and it's called the Independent Champagne and Sparkling Wine Invitational. And just like it sounds, it's a conference (and more importantly, a tasting event) dedicated solely to bubbles. I don't know about you, but to me,... continue reading

03.27.2010

Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2010: April 8-11, Pebble Beach, CA

Once upon at time, there was but one major event for food and wine enthusiasts looking to experience some of the top chefs and wines of the United States. The Aspen Food and Wine Classic was the ultimate experience for epicures and wine lovers who could afford to attend the multi-day showcase of taste. Other events equally focused on bringing together fine food and wine and the people who love them have followed. Strangely, for many years none of these events took place in California. Eventually, though, some people realized the travesty represented by this fact, and started an event... continue reading

03.23.2010

Wines of Portugal Tasting: April 5th, San Francisco

I'm currently traipsing around Australia and was very interested to meet a winemaker who was excited about the new section of his vineyard that he had planted with grapes like Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, and others that he planned to use to make a dry red wine in the style of those made in Portugal. Such wines (when they are good) are currently some of the best value red wines on the market today, which is why if I weren't in Australia I would be attending the Wines of Portugal Tasting coming up on April 5th. Known primarily for producing... continue reading

03.18.2010

2010 Rhone Rangers Tasting: March 27-28, San Francisco

I love watching the green buds burst forth on the trees this time of year, hard on the heels of the cherry blossoms. Yes, it's California, so the barest hint of any season gets me excited, but especially Spring. And with Spring in San Francisco comes lots of wine tasting events, and a few really good ones. The Annual Rhone Rangers Tasting in San Francisco is certainly one of the Spring highlights for wine lovers in the Bay Area. Held at Fort Mason, like all the other big tastings, Rhone Rangers offers the change for wine lovers to taste through... continue reading

03.16.2010

San Francisco Vintner's Market: April 10-11, San Francisco

Sometimes you hear an idea and wonder to yourself, exactly why it's taken someone so long to come up with it. And the really good ones make you think, "now why didn't I come up with that?" That's exactly what I thought to myself when I found out about the upcoming San Francisco Vintners Market. It's a farmer's market, but for wine. Simple as that. Walk around, taste a bunch of wines, and buy the ones that you like. So incredibly straightforward it took years for someone to come up with the idea. But now all you gotta do is... continue reading

03.11.2010

El Dorado Winery Association Tasting: March 20, San Francisco

One of the trends in the wine industry I'm happiest about involves the increasing initiative that wine regions are taking in making themselves visible to the public. Such activities by individual AVAs, or American Viticultural Areas, produce two important results: increased awareness of the individual region, and increased awareness of the difference between regions for consumers. I'm in full support. Public tasting events are one of the chief ways such wine regions are producing this visibility. These events are not only a lot of fun to go to, they are a wonderful education. While visiting the region is the best... continue reading

02.23.2010

Napa's Best Cabernet: Tasting at Premiere Napa Valley 2010

One of my favorite events each year involves the opportunity to sample some of the best wines that Napa produces in a given vintage. At Premiere Napa Valley, an auction that serves as the world's most expensive "bake sale" to support the efforts of the non-profit Napa Valley Vintners Association, journalists like me get a chance to sneak a taste of hundreds of unique wines that are purchased by the nation's top wine retailers at staggeringly high prices. This year, as every year, 200 member wineries each crafted a unique auction lot of wine that in most cases represents the... continue reading

02.10.2010

2010 Anderson Valley Alsace Festival: February 20-21, Boonville, CA

With all the fanfare surrounding Cabernet and Pinot Noir coupled with the obsession this country seems to have with Chardonnay, it's sometimes hard for people to remember that California produces a lot of other different kinds of wine. It's even harder, it seems, to get people to drink some of it. Enter what may be the most unique wine festival in California and perhaps the country. Some of the most under-appreciated and least consumed wines in the state are those made from grapes like Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, and Riesling. There aren't a lot of places in California where... continue reading

01.30.2010

Dark and Delicious Petite Sirah Tasting: February 19, Alameda, CA

I've referred to it in the past as "the beast." Possessing tannins that need to be tamed through intelligent winemaking, Petite Sirah can truly be a monster of a wine. One of the least-well -known red grape varieties that are commonly grown in California, it does not command legions of rabid followers like those who attended today's ZAP Zinfandel festival, or the loyal drinkers of Cabernet, or even those who swear by Syrah, from which it takes its misleading name. In the right hands, however, Petite Sirah can be a stunning wine -- deep, resonant, and rich. Petite Sirah has... continue reading

01.18.2010

Winners of the Menu For Hope VI Charity Raffle

You folks are phenomenal. Thank you so much for your support. With your generous donations of both prizes and bids for them, we raised $70,900 for the UN World Food Programme. That's a truly remarkable amount of money, and a testament to the passion and generosity of you, my readers, and the blogging community as a whole. If your name appears in the list below as one of the winners, I will be contacting you over the weekend with instructions on how you can claim your prize (I will put you in touch with the folks that offered it, and... continue reading

01.14.2010

ZAP Zinfandel Festival 2010: January 28-30, San Francisco

It's that time of year again. I know of no other event that seems to bring out the inner wine lover in so many San Franciscans more than the annual ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) Festival. It never ceases to amaze me how many people turn out with such enthusiasm for this single varietal festival. Don't get me wrong. I love Zinfandel -- unabashedly so. But I tend to forget how many other people do too. Especially those that live in San Francisco. Of course it's not just San Franciscans that turn out for this one-of-a-kind weekend. People come from... continue reading

01.08.2010

Boston Wine Expo 2010: January 23-24, Boston

Wine lovers in Beantown, listen up. Right about now you may be wondering just what you're doing freezing your keisters off in the depths of yet another winter. But January provides at least one good reason: the Boston Wine Expo. There are very few reasons that I'd venture out to Boston in the middle of winter, but let me tell you, the Boston Wine Expo is almost enough of a reason for me to jet on out there from San Francisco. Almost, but not quite. However, if I lived anywhere within 100 miles of the Boston, I would be at... continue reading

01.07.2010

La Paulee 2010 Grand Burgundy Tasting: March 13, San Francisco

Every budding wine lover faces what can often seem like a daunting mountain to climb. There are so many wines in the world to learn about and experience, it's not hard to feel overwhelmed. It's also quite common to feel a certain sense of frustration, the kind characterized by an ambition that far outstrips our own means to fulfill it. Many of the wines that passionate wine lovers wish they could taste are simply out of reach -- too rare, too popular, and too expensive. When I was first starting out in my journey down the roads of wine, the... continue reading

01.03.2010

Menu For Hope Closed at $77,900!

You people are awesome. Thanks to your help as donors, bidders, and all around generous humanitarians, as of midnight on 12/31/09 when the Menu for Hope raffle closed, we raised $77,900 for the UN World Food Programme. Every single cent of that money is going to poor farmers in Africa, and you deserve a round of applause. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Now, the waiting begins. Check back here on Vinography or on Chez Pim on January 18th for the announcement of the winners! Hope your 2010 is off to a wonderful start. Thanks to you, mine most certainly... continue reading

12.30.2009

Menu For Hope Extended until 12/31!

There's still time to win some really fabulous prizes, as our annual Menu For Hope. charity raffle has been extended until the very last moment of 2009. For anyone that doesn't read Vinography regularly, and may have missed all the hoopla thus far, here's how it works. A $10 donation to the World Food Programme gets you a raffle ticket and a chance to win the item of your choice from one of hundreds of fantastic things around the world. I am the host of the wine related prizes, of course. Since I posted the original list, I've added several... continue reading

12.23.2009

Two More Days to Win Fabulous Wine Prizes

We're headed into the final stretches of the holiday craziness. If you're like me, you've already started to consume wine in rough proportion to the number of presents left to wrap, and you find yourself wishing that everyone else around you would start drinking, too. But even as the stress of the holidays mount to a fever pitch, we need to make sure that we keep it all in perspective. We're all incredibly lucky to be sitting under a roof somewhere with electricity and heat and clean water and food in the fridge. There are those whose survival, let alone... continue reading

12.22.2009

Pinot Days Southern California: January 17, Los Angeles

Given the dramatic increase in popularity of Pinot Noir in America in the past few years, it should come as no surprise that Pinot Days, a festival dedicated to the grape, would be so successful. It is surprising, however, that this festival has never been held in Los Angeles until now. For some reason I don't fully understand Southern California often gets short shrift when it comes to big wine festivals. But no longer. After successful runs in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York, Pinot Days is coming to LA. I know it's hard to think about what you're going... continue reading

12.13.2009

Menu For Hope VI: Win Some Wine (and Other Great Stuff)

How would you like to spend a week in Tuscany at a private villa, drinking aged Brunello di Montalcino, all the while knowing that you're enjoying the experience because you helped poor farmers in Africa? That, my friends, is the beauty of the charity event called A Menu For Hope. This is the sixth year of A Menu For Hope, the grassroots charity event for wine and food bloggers that started in response to the horrible Tsunamis of 2004. Last year's event raised more than $60,000 for the UN's World Food Programme, which set up a special arrangement so that... continue reading

11.24.2009

Menu For Hope is Coming. Will You Donate a Wine Prize and Become Famous?

Think of this as the early warning system. Our annual Menu For Hope campaign is right around the corner. In its sixth year, this charity event brings together bloggers from all over the world to raise money for the United Nations World Food Programme. It's an awesome event that raises tens of thousands of dollars each year for hungry children around the world. For those who are not familiar with this initiative, it is essentially a raffle, with prizes donated by bloggers (or other kind folks who want to participate but don't have blogs). Participants post a description of their... continue reading

11.08.2009

PinotFest 2009 Tasting: November 21, San Francisco

One of the longest running wine tasting events in San Francisco is also one of its best. While the city often plays host to really huge public tastings like ZAP, Family Winemakers, and PinotDays, some of the better tastings are more intimate and focused. Both words appropriately describe PinotFest, a low key event held every year at Farallon Restaurant. Despite practically non-existent marketing or announcement, PinotFest quietly pulls together 50 or so top producers of West Coast Pinot Noir every year for a dedicated crowd of Pinot lovers in San Francisco. Attendees get nibbles from Farallon's kitchen, and access for... continue reading

10.28.2009

San Diego Bay Wine & Food Fesival: November 18-22, San Diego

Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, we're spoiled by a proliferation of wine tasting events that afford the opportunity to taste a lot of different wines in one sitting. Elsewhere in the country, such events are more rare, and consequently, slightly bigger deals when they do happen. The San Diego Bay Wine and Food Festival describes itself as the largest such event in Southern California. I'm not sure whether that's by attendance or by the number of wineries pouring, but either way it's a big event. More than 170 wine and spirits producers, along with more than 60 restaurants... continue reading

10.27.2009

Tasting the Wines of Lodi

I suppose you might measure my enthusiasm (or insanity) for learning about wine by the glee with which I look forward to the opportunities to taste several hundred wines from a particular region, vintage, or variety. The public tastings that afford any wine lover the chance to taste in this fashion are the single most valuable way to educate the palate as well as to find out what's going on in a particular place or vintage. So when the chance came to hang out on Treasure Island for a few hours to taste the wines of Lodi a couple of... continue reading

10.25.2009

Pinot Days 2009 Tasting: November 13-14, Chicago

While those of us on the West Coast are still lingering in the illusion of Autumn, the chill has descended upon the shores of Lake Michigan, and Chicagoans must be sure they're drinking red wine, both to warm themselves, and to steel themselves psychologically for the punishment of Winter. In November, however, there's one particular red wine that most folks in the Windy City should be drinking: Pinot Noir. Once upon a time there were only a few big-time, high-quality wine events around the country, and they tended to cluster heavily on the two coasts. These days, however, we are... continue reading

10.17.2009

The Best Wines of the Year: Tasting the Wine & Spirits Top 100

The difference between a good public wine tasting and a bad one can be quite dramatic. The bad ones are in crappy locations, are poorly organized, offer no food, and only mediocre wines. The good ones are, well, just the opposite -- nicely organized, well catered, and offer great wines. And the best ones? Well, they throw in a jazz quartet, and all you can eat oyster bar, a dessert bar, and wines that sometimes retail for hundreds of dollars, if you can find them, at all. All of which nicely describe the annual Wine and Spirits Top 100... continue reading

10.11.2009

Pinot on the River Festival 2009: October 23-25, Healdsburg, CA

Now is a wonderful, if slightly manic time to be wandering around wine country. Harvest is, for some, complete, and wines are bubbling and burbling their way through fermentations. For others, any day now they will be making mad dashes into the vineyards to get the fruit in before the first major rains. Either way, it's the time of year that wine country really becomes wine country. As the afternoon sun angles low, life gets pretty idyllic around Sonoma, and the timing is good to relax with friends and a nice glass of wine. Which is why, I suppose, around... continue reading

09.30.2009

Lodi Wine Festival on Treasure Island: October 11, San Francisco

I have been quite happy to see an increase in the frequency and number of public wine tastings held by regional or appellation specific organizations over the past few years. It seems that many people have woken up and realized that if they are not Napa, they've got some work to do in educating and building relationships with consumers. As a result, opportunities continue to pop up for Bay Area wine lovers to learn a lot more about the wines of some lesser known California appellations, without hopping in the car for a drive. The latest of these such... continue reading

09.25.2009

Monterey Wine Festival 2009: October 1-2, Monterey, CA

Wine tastings come and go, and while most are a good opportunity to taste a wide range of wines of a given kind or from a specific place, but on occasion they have something more to recommend them than simply the chance to educate your palate. The Monterey Wine Festival is a great chance to taste a lot of interesting wines from a lesser know wine region, both from local producers, and many other wineries that make wine from grapes sourced in the region. But as far as I'm concerned, the real reason to attend the Monterey Wine Festival is... continue reading

09.21.2009

Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 28, San Francisco

I need to come clean about something. It wasn't too many years ago that I really didn't care for Champagne. After all the weddings and at least 15 New Years Eves and countless other occasions, I was pretty underwhelmed with the stuff. It was astringent, chalky and the pleasure of the bubbles didn't really make up for the flavor. But then one day someone handed me a glass (I don't remember exactly what it was) and I came to a horrible, immediate realization. Up until that point I had just never had any GOOD Champagne. My lack of experience with... continue reading

09.18.2009

Top Wines of Sonoma: Tasting Notes from Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

Two weeks ago, under idyllic clear skies, I joined about 700 other wine lovers to wander around a winery lawn in Sonoma County soaking up the bounty of Sonoma. Known as TASTE Sonoma Weekend, this event combines two previously separate annual events: The Sonoma County Showcase of Wine and Food and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction. The main attraction consists of hundreds of wineries and scores of restaurants plying their wares under beautiful white tents set up on the lawns of the Gallo-owned MacMurray Ranch winery. Perhaps one of the single best opportunities to taste through a large swath... continue reading

09.16.2009

Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting, 2009: October 14, San Francisco

I beat the drum a lot about public wine tastings. They are the best way for wine lovers to educate their palates. Period. There's just no substitute for tasting a lot of wines in a single "sitting" to learn what the differences are, and more importantly, what you like. One of the other nice things about public tastings, put on as they are by big organizations, or in this case, publications, is that they often allow you to taste wines that you might not get a chance to taste otherwise for some reason -- whether that is because of their... continue reading

09.06.2009

California's Best Boutique Wines: Tasting Family Winemakers 2009

For those unfamiliar, Family Winemakers is a marketing association that represents family owned wineries throughout California. By virtue of its focus, this means that the membership consists of many of California's boutique wine producers. The annual tasting put on by the association every year claims (with reasonable credibility) to be the single largest tasting of California wines in the world each year, and remains one of my favorite wine tasting events. This tasting has become a victim of its own success, however, and has grown to a simply unmanageable size. Unmanageable, that is, for anyone looking to thoroughly explore the... continue reading

09.02.2009

Joy of Sake Tasting 2009: September 10 - SFO, September 24 - NYC

I absolutely love the fact that we've reached a point in this country where I don't need to explain why a sake tasting in San Francisco or New York might be an enjoyable way to spend an evening. In the five years since I've been writing this blog, sake has gone from obscure to obvious, hardly known to hip. The availability and visibility of sake in the US has blossomed, driving by fine dining establishments and the increasing popularity of all things Japanese. Despite this, however, the average wine lovers' knowledge of sake is extremely limited, mostly by virtue of... continue reading

08.20.2009

Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: September 4-6, 2009

Most people, when they come visit me in San Francisco and ask to be taken to wine country, assume that they're going to Napa. But at least half the time, that's definitely not where we end up. My well meaning friends aren't the only ones who seem to forget that Northern California has many different "wine countries." Napa casts a long shadow, as it were. I've got a bit of love for every piece of wine country we've got here in California, but there's a special place in my heart for Sonoma County, both because it is the place of... continue reading

08.06.2009

Family Winemakers Tasting 2009: August 23, San Francisco

Size isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco has as one of its many claims to fame that it is the single largest tasting of California wines in the world. That alone would not be reason for excitement, were it not for the generally exceptional quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year. Regular readers know that this tasting is one of my favorites every year. It provides an opportunity to sample the wares of smaller, family-run wineries, many of whose wines are made in such small... continue reading

08.05.2009

The Last Drops: Miscellaneous Tasting Notes from IPNC 2009

I like to tell people that when it comes to reviewing wines, my tasting notes are the least important part of the wine review. As you know, I like to focus on story: the people, places, and history behind a wine. But sometimes, I get the opportunity to taste a lot of really damn good wine, and I can't simply do individual reviews of all the wines because I haven't got the time. So on rare occasions, I write a little report like this one. If you recall from last week and the prior weekend, I spent a couple of... continue reading

08.03.2009

Napa Wine Library Tasting: August 16, Napa

Serious wine lovers in the San Francisco Bay area get several opportunities each year to indulge their passions for wine. Large, themed tastings like the ZAP Zinfandel Festival or the recent Pinot Days are great opportunities to get a sense of a certain varietal and the quality of the recent vintage in California and events like the upcoming Family Winemakers are an opportunity to taste wines from smaller producers. It is quite rare, however, despite the nearness of the appellation and the saturation of wine in the Bay Area, for consumers to get the opportunity to get an in-depth or... continue reading

07.27.2009

Notes from the Al Fresco Tasting at IPNC 2009

I go to a lot of wine tastings, and have come to really appreciate those that are done right. It may not be immediately apparent how easily a large public tasting can be screwed up, but all it takes is one small thing to make it a really miserable experience. For instance, a lack of spit buckets has turned more than one big tasting event into a nightmare. The spacing of the tables, the labeling of the stations, the number of wines available, the availability of water, the offering of food, the temperature of the building -- these can all... continue reading

07.26.2009

Jancis Robinson Talks About Her Career in Wine at IPNC

As part of this weekend's International Pinot Noir Celebration, Jancis Robinson, Master of Ceremonies for the weekend, sat down in a (blessedly air conditioned) auditorium on the campus of Linfield College and spoke about her life and career in the world of wine to a group of interested (sweaty) attendees. Here's what she had to say, to the best of my transcription ability. "I'm so old and I have so much to say about my life in wine, there's a lot to talk about. I'll start with how I got into wine. I was raised in a village of 45... continue reading

07.24.2009

Oregon's International Pinot Noir Celebration: Day One

Under the towering trees and across the sprawling green lawns of Linfield College in the little town of McMinnville, Oregon, several hundred people are plowing through the International Pinot Noir Celebration at the kind of pace you would expect for 80 degree days filled with Pinot Noir and good company. My day began with breakfast on the lawn and a welcome by Master of Ceremonies Jancis Robinson. Jancis recounted her memories of past IPNC attendances, going back to the early years of the festival, which was pioneering in its singular focus on Pinot Noir. Perhaps the most interesting moment in... continue reading

07.20.2009

SF Chefs. Food. Wine. Weekend: August 6-9, San Francisco

For a town as food and wine rich as San Francisco is, the city has few large public celebrations of its qualities as a world-class culinary destination. Most food and wine events in San Francisco tend to be single-event, large public tastings, where attendees can wander around, sampling food or wine from an array of purveyors and producers. Such events are great, but they're not the best showcase for the breadth and depth of the talent and resources that San Francisco has in either the food or wine department. Enter the "SF Chefs. Food. Wine" event coming up in about... continue reading

06.29.2009

The Best Pinot Noir in California?: Tasting Pinot Days 2009

The Pinot Days grand tasting event, which took place yesterday at Fort Mason in San Francisco, brings together one of the largest collections of Pinot Noir producers in North America for the tasting pleasure of the public. I was interested to see whether attendance at this year's event would be noticeably lower, but if it was, I couldn't tell. The place seemed just as packed as ever, which is a good thing -- the California wine industry needs all the help it can get in this recession. So needless to say, I was in good company tasting yesterday with 3500... continue reading

06.25.2009

International Pinot Noir Conference: July 24-26, McMinnville, OR

There are wine tastings, and then there are wine tastings. And then, there are experiences that completely transcend a bunch of tables with vintners standing behind them pouring their wines. I've been to a few "destination" wine experiences, some of which have been great, but none of which have been better than the International Pinot Noir Conference that takes place every year in McMinnville, Oregon. Scheduled over a long July weekend every year, IPNC is one of the most relaxed and intimate wine tasting experiences I've had the pleasure of attending, not to mention the fact that it also involves... continue reading

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This page only has the last sixty entries in this category. If you're interested in digging farther into my archives, you'll want to use the complete list of archives to access my articles by month.

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Most Recent Entries

16th Annual Pinot Fest: November 22, 2014 Come Explore The Essence of Wine with Me in Healdsburg: October 30th, 2014 2014 Wine & Spirits Top 100 Tasting: October 21, San Francisco Cool Beauty: Tasting the Wines of the Western Sonoma Coast 2014 Pinot on the River Tasting: October 26, Healdsburg 2014 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend: August 29-31, Healdsburg, CA 72 Pinot Noirs on a Sunny Afternoon: Tasting at IPNC 2014 2014 Masters of Wine Champagne Tasting: September 29, San Francisco 2014 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 17, San Mateo Annual Napa Wine Library Tasting: August 10, Napa

Favorite Posts From the Archives

Masuizumi Junmai Daiginjo, Toyama Prefecture Wine.Com Gives Retailers (and Consumers) the Finger 1961 Hospices de Beaune Emile Chandesais, Burgundy Wine Over Time The Better Half of My Palate 1999 Királyudvar "Lapis" Tokaji Furmint, Hungary What's Allowed in Your Wine and Winemaking Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Appreciating Wine in Context The Soul vs. The Market 1989 Fiorano Botte 48 Semillion,Italy

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.