Back in my grad school day, Your West Coast Oenophile used to fake academic citations when giving oral presentations. Partly out of lassitude, partly for the amusement of my then-girlfriend, but mostly because I could.
My Italian surname often strikes people as complicated, if not imposing, yet it easily translates into the six languages I nominally speak—Белая Голова in Russian— and others I have yet to learn. Like Weisskopf (German) and Shiroi Atama (Japanese, transliterated).
I dipped into this well once again when I decided to set up my own advertising practice after my first career in wine. Wanting to sound more substantial, I bifurcated myself, then bifurcated each of these personæ to create Capobianco, Karaleukon, Têteblanche & Whitehead (The ONE Name in Creative Services). Infrequently, a prospective client gets the joke right off the bat; just as often, I’m asked “will all of you be working on the account?”
What I would give at this moment to give substance to my own fiction! I could easily use four of me to cover everything on my plate for Sostevinobile this month—two of them alone would be needed to handle the backlog this blog is facing!! Even more pressing is that each weekend has two major tastings at the same time, and far too many miles apart for me even to contemplate squeezing in both. And so, without divulging where I’ll actually be, here’s the lineup so far for June:
Saturday, June 9–The Barbera Festival. Just as Paso Robles has become California’s epicenter for Rhône varietals, Italian varietals are experiencing their own risorgimento in the Sierra Foothills. Befitting this evolution, organizer Brian Mueller and Deirdre Miller are hosting their second annual gathering at Cooper Ranch in Plymouth focusing solely on Barbera, the varietal best known in Italy for Barbera d’Alba and Barbera d’Asti, as well as a blending component with Nebbiolo in Barolo and Barberesco. Here, 86 producers will be showcasing their interpretation of the grape, with a wide range of food vendors offering well-paired selections. The event is,unfortunately, sold out already, but interested œnophiles can find out more information or register for next year’s gathering at Barbera Festival.
Saturday, June 9–T.A.P.A.S. Returning to the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason for their Fifth Grand Tasting, the Tempranillo Advocates, Producers & Amigos Society offer Spanish and Portuguese varietals from 47 wineries in California, Oregon, Arizona, and—egad!—Texas.
would be a monumental event even without the lure of the 54″ paella
platter that packs a line ⅓ the span of the warehouse throughout the afternoon. As with the AOC in France and DOCG in Italy, wines here may adhere to the conventions of the DOCa (Spain) and DOC (Portugal) or maybe blended to express the terroir of their local AVA. Single varietal bottlings here, however, are more frequent than in Europe, offering tantalizing glimpses into the character of the individual grapes—be sure to seek out the various Torrontés, Albariño, Graciano, and Souzão on hand.
Of course, many of the wineries will be pouring their own interpretations of Port-style wines, both conventional and modern adaptations, a true high point of the afternoon. Tickets for T.A.P.A.S.’ public tasting, from 2-5 pm are available online or at the door.
Saturday, June 16–Pinot Days. This week, the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason features the year’s largest congregation of Pinot Noir aficionados. Enjoy
more than 400 Pinot Noirs from 200+ California & Oregon producers
ranging from the Sonoma Coast, Willamette Valley, Anderson Valley, Santa
Rita Hills, Santa Cruz Mountains and the Russian River Valley.
Saturday, June 16–Taste of Howell Mountain. I like to think of this Annual Wine Tasting and Auction as the official start of summer. Sample wines from 34 of Napa’s most distinguished wineries and bid on wine lots and other packages to benefit the Howell Mountain Elementary School. This is an AVA where both Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel reign supreme, and the generosity of the vintners here is matched by the overabundance of incredible entrées paired perfectly with each pouring station.
The lawn in front of the restored 1881 Carriage House at Charles Krug provides a spectacular stage for this event, which runs from noon-5pm. Ticket are still available.
Saturday, June 23–Marin County Wine Celebration. Every year, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust showcases wines grown in what was historically an agricultural community on the north end of the Golden Gate. Along with a wide array of Pinot Noirs that extend the Sonoma Coast AVA and a number of cool climate white varietals, West Marin is home to renowned cattle ranches and dairies, with prominent artisanal cheeses and the famous Bolinas Antenna Farm.
This annual event takes place at the Historic Escalle Winery in Larkspur from 3-7 pm. Along with the wines and cheeses, grilled venison and rabbit sausage (Bambi & Thumper?) provide wild game food pairing. Tickets for the benefit are available online.
Saturday, June 23–Donkey & Goat Summer Solstice Fête. I cannot fathom why any place would relinquish alphabetical primacy, but the former A Donkey & Goat now lists under “D,” which makes them a bit more difficult to track down at large wine expositions. No problem locating them at their semi-annual Open House in their new Berkeley facility, however, where they will be pouring their new wine releases from 1-4 pm this afternoon, alongside wood-fired pizzas and local live music.
Jared and Tracey Brandt have evolved into ardent Natural Winemaking proponents; this methodology inarguably introduces a wild card to the process of vinification. The best way to gauge the result, of course, is to sample the 2011 Improbable Chardonnay, 2011 Grenache Blanc and 2011 Grenache Noir and judge for yourself. The Summer Solstice Fête is free, but RSVPs are requested.
Saturday, June 23–Hirsch Vineyards Open House. If invariable results are more to your taste, Hirsch Vineyard opens their doors in Cazadero for a rare onsite tasting of their esteemed Chardonnay and Pinots. Barbecue, wines, and music are all on tap, with vineyard tours with patriarch David Hirsch, as well. A rare opportunity indeed, with “a panoply of wines from our cellar” promised. RSVP required.
Now if only I could find a way to clone myself and attend every one of these tastings…