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‘Bucket list’ wines at SF event


Several weeks ago I was approached by a representative of the Wine Warehouse Distribution Group. He invited me to their annual tasting event at Fort Mason in San Francisco.

Here, they were to showcase all of the wine they offer in their book, which is quite a bit — more 250 wineries pouring.

I was very excited, to say the least. In a great development a week later, he informed me that I was welcome to join them at the premier pre-buy tasting with the winemakers and the big players, prior to the main event. For any part of me that was on the fence in taking the day off and driving to the city, I was now jumping off.

Walking into the building on the pier at Fort Mason, the very first table I approached was all vintage-grower Champagne — 1996 Bruno Paillard, 2006 Jacquardt and the Lanson Gold Label 2002. Conveniently, not 30 yards away was the Hog Island Oyster shucking table.

The best part was that it was hidden between all the nice wines that Dry Creek Vineyards was serving, and it was very clear that not everyone knew they were even shucking oysters. I had twelve with my wines!

My next stop was at the Flora Springs table to taste through some of their truly amazing cabernets. Greeted by the very pleasant Dan Lundin, I was poured their lovely Trilogy red blend. As I have always enjoyed this wine, it was my first introduction to their 2013 Rennie Cabernet, their other red, which truly blew my mind.

Gothic dark with incredible depth and hints of forest floor and ripe berry, it contained some earthy, even chalky notes that drove through the incredible silky and velvet concentrated fruit. This trophy wine paired nicely with the slider bar just across the row.

Like a kid lost in a Wonka Factory, my wine drinking buddy by my side, we wandered, eventually venturing into the land of Burgundy, where we had the distinct pleasure of running into Wine Warehouse’s Don Schliff, a Burgundy expert. He poured us the 2011 Chateau de la Tour Clos Vougeot pinot noir.

This is, by far, the best pinot noir I’ve tasted. I know, I know, what about the Petaluma GAP? How about all this great wine right here in Petaluma?

Yes, we have world-class wine, and definitely the Petaluma GAP produces some of the best wine in the world. However, it is years of history in growing, viticulture and winemaking that still renders Burgundy the finest pinot noir on the planet. To pair with this pinot, they served tray after tray of some of the most lovely and light seared ahi on a dark sesame cracker — a match made in heaven.

For the best wine I could find grown closest to our wonderful town, I managed to pull Gary Bulger from Saintsbury off to the side for a little interview. I tasted through several of their Russian River productions, which were quiet nice. But, it was their Sonoma Coast — 100 percent Sonoma Coast-grown just east of the Green Valley — that stood out above all the rest.

Juicy with foothill cherry and sultry cola notes with a measure of tea leaf provide for all that constitutes a wonderful wine experience.

Although many of these wines are out of touch as many of us simply can’t afford to drink them on a regular basis, the old adage, “life is short,” comes to mind — if you can afford to grab a bottle of this off the shelf, just once, then do it.

They are a different level, and if one is going out of their way to make you a fine dinner, step up and bring them something to pair that might even be better than the food. It makes for a happy table and a wonderful experience, even if you do it just once.

(Jason Jenkins is the owner of Vine and Barrel in Petaluma. Contact him at jason@vineandbarrel.com.)