We first would like to thank Jason at jasonswineblog.com for the free tickets to the Wines4JapanSF tasting event last Friday. The tasting was super close to our apartment with a collection of great wineries and wine stores with a cheese store promoting their cheddar as well. All proceeds went to Give2Asia for Japanese earthquake relief efforts. Our grand plan was to put the money we would have spent on tickets towards a silent auction prize, but we ended up getting distracted by the tasty fondue (Gruyere and black truffle…um more please. Thank you Cheese Plus) and some interesting Iberian reds from Luis at Vinos Unico.
The night started off with some Pinot and Syrah from Von Holt Wines. Von Holt is a relatively new winery and the second career for owner Chris. He spent 20 years in a former life serving in the Executive Branch of our government in the Secret Service. While sipping on their cool climate Pinot, I commented that he must have some good stories. Chris laughed and said that he does but his good stories don’t really revolve around saving a President’s life. Just the thing a guy with stories would say. I really enjoyed their Syrah, probably due to their wine-making style of aiming for cool climate grapes. It was well balanced and a great wine for having solo or maybe with some roasted meats sprinkled with herbs (I’m thinking chicken with rosemary right now).
Next was De Novo Wines. Like Von Holt, De Novo purchases grapes from other growers/farmers. As our first glasses were poured, they shared the background of their label which means beginning anew in Latin. De Novo believes in celebrating new beginnings, transitions, and continued growth in life. Their wines were definitely unique, especially their Cabernet Sauvignon. I really enjoyed it, but I think my reasoning was not something De Novo heard before.
SIDE STORY: I have a colleague who is an insatiable tequila addict. It’s his beverage of choice, but it’s definitely not mine. However, I can give him credit for introducing me to mezcal which I do really really enjoy. Unlike tequila which seems to make my face pucker with any sip or sniff, mezcal has a smokey quality that’s totally inviting. There is a little warm chest sensation when drinking it straight, but it definitely isn’t one of those fireballs that needs a chaser.
Back to De Novo…their Cabernet Sauvignon totally smelled like mezcal. It had this super smokey character that actually made me think it was mezcal. I tried to explain this to our pourer, but I think my ramblings made no sense. I got the polite, “oh, that’s interesting” from the pourer and a “let’s move on” from Linda, so I thanked our hostess again and made my exit.
Third up was our friends at Old World Winery. They hold true to the old style of making wine, using only native yeasts and even using their feet to press down the grapes during harvest. This should probably mean something to us, but it really doesn’t. It was just nice to hear how they were unique. We tasted their 3 reds, which I believe were a Pinot, Cab, and Zinfandel. We really only remember the Zinfandel since it was a “fruit bomb”. Seriously, we’re talking Fruit by the Yard (not the Foot). In fact, the assistant winemaker shared this analogy with us. When I recalled our Sicilian red fruit bomb Cerasuolo di Vittoria from last month’s tasting that used the grape Frappato, the assistant winemaker claimed that it was his favorite grape. Go figure.
Our last stop was the table of Vinos Unico. I have to admit that there was a little bit of buzz around the table. After making our way to the front, it became apparent why there was such an interest. Luis, the proprietor of Vinos Unico, was on fire. He was pouring some great wines, joking around with guests (in English and Spanish), and even started blending some of the wines on the spot (though I’m not sure they turned out too well). Nonetheless, he was the highlight of our evening. We made a promise to ourselves to check out his store in SF, especially after tasting a bottle of Granacha from Spain called Filon. It was $10, and I swear I could taste hints of bacon. I told Linda it should immediately become our house wine. I like to think she was sold on that.
As we closed out the night sipping on the last bits of bacon wine and Cava, I found myself talking to two friends of Jason while Linda talked to a wife of one of the friends. After a few minutes into our conversation, the husband turns and says that our ladies need to be rescued. Both of them were giving us the “get us out of here” look while a man in a beret was chatting up a storm. We debated giving them a little more time with the gentleman, but decided to use our brains and step in. As Linda and I walked away, she confesses that he guy walked up to them and literally asked them this…“Do you like Pirates?” Correct answers would have been “Aye matey” or “No, ninjas are clearly better”, but I think Linda and her friend were too busy stifling their laughter to respond. Either way, we learned our lesson to be careful of Wine Pirates.
We had a great night. Thanks to Jason (especially for the two table home bottles – so what if they were open?), all the wineries, and especially Luis. We’ll be seeing you again sooner or later.