What has Your West Coast Oenophile done for you lately?

I shouldn’t feel derelict. I have striven to record each event he has attended on behalf of Sostevinobile with utmost fidelity. But I have a backlog of thirteen different wine forays to record since my last entry here, not to mention my participation in orchestrating three significant wine tastings, a handful of sustainable workshops and forums, and the arduous grind of assembling the financial backing for this venture. With Rhône Rangers Grand Tasting rapidly approaching, I must reluctantly admit I cannot give all these past gathering the thorough review readers know I strive to record in each blog entry. Rest assured, however, that each of the more than 100 wineries I have visited with during this period will be faithfully entered into Sostevinobile’s ever-expanding database and accorded full consideration when we launch our wine program. So, for now, let me give you a succinct overview of what Your West Coast Oenophile has done for you lately:


Just before Valentine’s Day, the up & coming rockstars at Rock Wall in Alameda put on a decadent pairing of wine and confections aptly billed as Chocolate Kisses & Bubble Dreams. The first wine event to be held in their brand-new Bubble Dome, a airy, geodesic edifice adjacent to the winery’s converted airplane hangar at the decommissioned Naval Air Base, the afternoon gathering appropriately debuted Rock Wall’s two new sparkling wines, the 2009 Sparkling Grenache and the Grenache-blended 2009 Mixto. After the party, several of the wineries that contract Rock Wall’s facilities, including Carica, with its delectable 2006 Kick Ranch Syrah, and Ehrenberg Cellars, which featured its 2008 Petite Sirah alongside its just-release Zinfandel futures.

Valentine’s Day 2010 proved a decidedly muted affair, as I still grapple with the vacuity of home life post-Ginkgo Girl. As such, a trip to the wine country during the middle of the week proved a much-needed tonic. This sojourn included a visit to Silenus Vintners, a collective of Napa artisan winemakers not unlike Rock Wall that
includes B Cellars, Due Vigne di Famiglia, Gridley, IdeologyIlsley, Matthiasson, Poem Cellars, Ramian, and Venge. Tasting Room Manager Scott Turnnidge guided me through their rotating selection of wines from their nine producers, some familiar, others revelatory. Naturally, I couldn’t resist trying the 2006 Due Vigne Dolcetto after first sampling the 2008 Due Vigne Viognier, but found myself most allured by the 2006 Ramian Estate Debauchery.

From Napa, I head north and across Silverado Trail to Hall Wines’ Rutherford estate, one of the more picturesque hilltop wineries in the Valley. Again, ably guided by Laura Aguilar, the special Artisan Tour took our small group through the organic estate vineyards, the vast holdings and the custom-designed wine caves before treating us to a select tasting of Hall’s choicest crimson-labeled Cabernets, including the 2006 Exzellenz Sacrashe Vineyard and the eponymous 2006 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon. Next up, I scurried to Benessere for a belated sampling of their 2006 Sorridente, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Aglianico, and their 2006 Sangiovese (it would have been a violation, of course, to sample their Grappa of Trebbiano on site, so I took a bottle home for later evaluation).
Ostensibly, my trip this afternoon was for the invite to Orin Swift’s release party, somewhat ironic in that their recent sale of the Prisoner and Saldo to Huneeus meant the swan song for these labels. But the curious confines of St. Helena’s Odd Fellows Hall could not deter my fondness for David Phinney’s Burgundian Meritage, the 2006 Papillon or his phenomenal 2007 Mercury Head Cabernet Sauvignon.
Having recently left Benessere for his own ventures, winemaker Chris Dearden had invited me to meet him at Yountville’s V Marketplace 1870 but neglected to inform me that he was pouring his Cha
as part of First Taste Yountville. Arriving with barely 15 minutes left to the event, rather than simply enjoy a leisurely his 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2008 Chanticleer Sangiovese, I raced to acquaint myself with those participants still lingering as wineries like Casa Piena and Dominus folded their tables. I did manage to squeeze in some quick samples from Bell Wine Cellars, Corley Family, Gamble, Gemstone, Grgich Hills, Ghost Block, and Piña before we were shooed from the exhibit hall and wove my way back to downtown Napa for a final invite to BarBersQ’s showcasing of new wines from Mia Klein’s Serene and Elizabeth Spencer.
My own debut in organizing a formal wine tasting took place the following Saturday at the New Year’s Gala for the National Association of Asian American Professionals, San Francisco chapter (NAAAP-SF), a modest debut featuring wines from McNab Ridge and Wild Hog—a modest effort, to be sure, but certainly a cut (or six) above Crane Lake. The next day, Carica’s Dick Keenan kindly supplied me with passes to WORDUP, the benefit tasting featuring the Winemakers of the Outer Richmond, Upper Panhandle, and the Presidio.This eclectic assembly included three of Ed Sandler’s ventures: The Industrial, Sandler Wine, and, as always, August West; the dual personæ of Qupé (Rhône varietals) and Verdad (Spanish varietals) from Bob Lindquist; fellow wine bar entrepreneur Bryan Kane’s VIE and Sol RougeCADE and PlumpJack from Gavin Newsom’s hospitality empire; the rather peripatetic Foggy Bridge; local stalwart AP Vin; are chance to visit with Carica and sample their just-released GMS blend, the 2007 Temptation; Harrington, who had generously contributed a couple of cases of their Pinot Noir to my Play Café’s fundraiser four years ago; familiar winery veterans FreemanCalera and Pelligrini; quasi-familiar ventures Ici/La-Bas and Skylark; hitherto unfamiliar nomenclature Mojon’s Bench and Captûre; Italian varietal specialist Uvaggio, with its newly-truncated nomenclature; Syrah specialists Renard, with their superb Viognier farmed at Dick Keenan’s Kick Ranch vineyard; and lastly, the highly-prized handmade Brown Label Vermouth of the semi-cryptic Sutton Cellars.

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