Eccolà, Slow Food! Noi Californiani make SUSTAINABLE wines, too!!

Colleen was a girl of certain type—but she wasn’t. Well into her mid-twenties, she still looked like she retained her baby fat, giving her a soft, slightly roundish appeal. On the surface, she had a complete lack of pretense or guile, perhaps even an aura of naïveté. She wore her hair long, parted in the middle and without any concession to fashion or style; her attire, if memory serve correct, was generally a pair of denim overalls with a plain or calico shirt underneath. She was exactly the kind of girl you wanted to take on a picnic somewhere in a secreted mountain meadow, then make love on a blanket until the sun went down.

At the tender age of 17, Colleen firebombed a McDonald’s. In the stealth of the night, she tossed a Molotov cocktail into a new franchise under construction in Washington, DC and burned it to the ground. She was never caught and the McDonald’s never rebuilt. Leslie Bacon ought to have struck with such surgical precision.

 

Today, Colleen would find a kindred spirit, albeit less prone toward literal conflagration, in Carlo Petrini. Petrini, revered worldwide as the founder of the International Slow Food Movement, first came to prominence in the 1980s for taking part in a campaign against the fast food chain McDonald’s opening near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

Originally, Petrini started out contributing culinary articles(!) to Italy’s Communist daily newspapers Il Manifesto and l’Unità (anyone know who their sports columnist was?). He has edited multiple publications at publishing house Slow Food Editore and writes several weekly columns for La Stampa. In 2004, he founded the University of Gastronomic Sciences, a school bridging the gap between agriculture and gastronomy.

The Slow Food Movement has spread across the Atlantic to North America, where is has found a most zealous advocate in Berkeley’s Alice Waters. Last year, Waters was instrumental in bringing Slow Food Nation 2008 to San Francisco, a highly-

publicized gathering that drew 85,000 enthusiasts to venues in Fort Mason and at the Civic Center, where the plaza was turned into a working Victory Garden that produced over 1,000 lbs. of organic food during its 4-month tenure.

Since 2003, Slow Food San Francisco has sponsored the Golden Glass, a celebration of food and wine that adheres to the principles of the Slow Food Nation. The recent 6th Annual Festival in Fort Mason was its grandest yet. Given the roots of this movement, it should come as no surprise that the focus of the festival was predominantly Italian, with numerous local favorites, including A16, Perbacco, È Tutto Qua, Bacco, Pizzeria Delfina, Poggio, C’era Una Volta, Emporio Rulli, Acquerello, and Trattoria Corso purveying their fare. Local Italian food artisans included Caffè del Doge, Fra’ Mani Salumi, Fresca Italia, Massimo Gelato and Stella Cadente Olive Oil.
The Golden Glass, as the name suggests, also presented an opportunity to sample an enormous selection of wines, again focused on Italian vintages. And herein lies the rub. If Slow Food is dedicated to the preservation of sustainably-operated, local farming, why was this convergence so focused on imported wines (the dozen wineries that did participate represented the first time The Golden Glass has even included California)?
Not that Italian wines don’t have their well-deserved place. After all, I know of no one on the West Coast who grows Fumin or Negroamaro or Grecante, to name but a few varietals, or who even attempt to make a straw wine (passito) like Cornarea’s Tarasco 2005. It has been well-documented, in this blog and elsewhere, that local efforts to produce Italian varietals have had to retrench considerably and are justing to make a revival. But if the true focus of Slow Food Nation—and, by extension, The Golden Glass—is to promote local, sustainable agriculture, then the vast array of wineries in this area that implicitly adhere to their manifesto ought to be the backbone of this tasting (this is, after all, the foundation on which Sostevinobile is building our wine program).
Of the West Coast wineries that did participate, several did display their efforts with Italian varietals. Iberian varietal specialist Bodega del Sur brought their 2006 Sangiovese to contrast with their 2006 Tempranillo and 2008 Verdelho. Berkeley’s Broc Cellars showed their 2006 Luna Matta Sangiovese, along with a 2007 Cassia Grenache that stakes their claim to fame. Ever ubiquitous, Bonny Doon’s Randall Grahm surprised with his 2005 Ca’ del Solo Nebbiolo, a notably worthy expression of this varietal. On the other hand, it was no anomaly that Girasole Vineyards had a 2006 Sangiovese, and restaurateur Lorenzo Petroni premiered his eponymous label with his remarkable 2004 Brunello di Sonoma Poggio alla Pietra and a Super Tuscan style 2006 Rosso di Sonoma.
I had tasted the wines of Verge Wine Cellars but two nights earlier at A Community Affair, but was pleased to resample his 2007 Syrah Dry Creek Valley. Pey-Marin had poured their Pinot Noir the week before at the MALT tasting in Larkspur, but this time accompanied it with a refreshing 2008 The Shell Mound Riesling. Magnanimus Wines distributes organic and biodynamic wines from Mendocino County; I particularly liked Ukiah Cellars 2008 Chardonnay Mendocino and Mendocino Farms 2007 Grenache. From Hollister, Alicats brought a notable 2006 Syrah Gimelli Vineyard, while Sonoma’s Nalle Winery shone with their 2006 Pinot Noir Hopkins Ranch. Edmunds St. John, to whose philosophically-strewn newsletter I have long subscribed, showed the kind of consistency with their 2005 Syrah Wylie Fenaughty I have come to expect from their vintages, while Clos Saron from Oregon House displayed the versatility of the Sierra Nevada Foothills 2007 Pinot Noir Home Vineyard.
The Golden Glass has always been a marvelous event, and Your West Coast Oenophile looks forward to a long, enduring relationship between their parent Slow Food San Francisco and Sostevinobile. This year’s festival was a wonderful opportunity for me and the Ginkgo Girl to catch up with so many restaurants that have come to love us and to share in this most vital advocacy. We are looking forward to an even grander Golden Glass in 2010, with the anticipation of its increased outreach to the rich abundance sustainably -grown wines from California, Oregon and Washington.

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