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A-Rhone at the Top

March 15 and 16 marks the return of the Rhone Rangers Grand Tasting, to be held at the Log Cabin in the Presidio. If you like inky Syrahs, bright Grenaches, juicy rosés, lush Marsannes, vibrant Roussanes or anything remotely related to Rhone varieties grown in the United States, this is the tasting for you. You can meet winemakers, taste new and old vintages and generally get your Rhone on. Pretty much everyone who's anyone in the world of Rhone varieties, including my favorites like Peay, Qupe, Tablas Creek and McCrea, will be there. Don't miss it.

Good drinking at the new Yoshi's

Had a chance to visit the new Yoshi's on Fillmore with our food editor, Sara Deseran, the other night. The array of interesting dishes presented to us kept us busy, but not as busy as all the delicious things to drink. We were helped along the way by the impressively knowledgeable and enthusiastic saké expert Ben Baker. He kept our glasses full of everything from a flowery, nuanced daiginjo to a solid, fruity gingo to an earthy shochu. Baker taught us the progression of these that a Japanese person would follow at a similar meal, which, contrary to the order we drink wine in the West, flows from the most fine and flavorful to the most solid and plain.

A Little Sunday Rosé

It's a good thing to have a little Champagne every weekend. Keeps the joints loose and the mind balanced. It's also a very good thing to have very good Champagne, which I was fortunate enough to do this past weekend.

Now, I love a good rosé Champagne--who doesn't?--but I can't say that I will immediately roll over at the sight of one. Too many are sweet or excessively fruity, emphasizing "pinkness" in all its connotations, while deemphasizing the finesse, crispness and clarity that make great Champagne great.


Last Call: La Paulée de San Francisco

On March 1, there is an event in San Francisco that every true lover of wine needs to attend. Specifically, it's a Burgundy event, but you can't really call yourself a true lover of wine if you don't love Burgundy, because Burgundy is, quite simply, the best.

A Once-in-a-Lifetime Wine



Okay, don't hate me. As a member of the wine press, I have to do a lot of odious things: taste vile boxed wines, write tasting notes about wines I don't like, cut my fingers while removing the foil of Champagne bottles and search endlessly for shops that sell the wines I really want to write about. [Ed.: Life’s tough, Mackay.] So it's only fair that once in a while I get to do something fun.

Tuna and Beans

My good friend—Sandro Rossi (former Oakland cafe owner, food and wine savant) from our porcini mushroom adventure—was kind enough to drop off a bag of caponi beans and some bottles of Da Capo wines from Italy. (Seriously, life is good.)


Sparkling Wine Snuff Film

It felt kind of creepy to watch this, so passing it along to you makes me feel, well, sleazy. I know, it’s scary what can happen to you in Europe, as depicted in movies like Hostel, Hostel: Part 2, Midnight Express or the YouTube video of the giant robotic arm of Belgian customs snapping the necks of 3,200 bottles of innocent, whimpering California wine. Like lambs to the slaughter, lambs to the slaughter . .

Parr Selections

I've been to many tastings where winemakers put their wines up against the top wines of France—Cabernet versus first growth Bordeaux, sparkling wine versus tête de cuvée Champagne and Pinot Noir versus Grand Cru Burgundy. It's always a good exercise, and as predicted, the California versions usually fare pretty well against the greats of Europe. There's always an element of hubris in the act, though, as implicit in the exercise is the assertion that "my wines that I've been making for 20 years are as good as this French property that's been making wines for 200."


How Romantic



Wine that Loves, a new wine brand that doesn’t seem to tell where the wine is from, of what grapes it’s made or the vintage. It just makes things easy for you by declaring on the label that it’s the Wine that Loves Pizza. Or the Wine that Loves Pasta with Tomato Sauce.

I’m not joking—that’s what it says on the label. It’s really brilliant as there’s an endless number of possible versions: Wine that Loves Tiki Masala, Wine that Loves Stale Bagel Chips…. Then they could move on to other areas:

Mazel Tov



Good news for the wine industry of Israel. While I have my own opinions about the merit of critic’s points, there’s no question as to the value and importance in the marketplace of high scores from Robert Parker. These scores give the industry the legitimacy that I, among others, have been lobbying for over the last several years. Maybe now I won’t have to trot out that old, “You don’t have to drink Israeli wines just because they’re kosher” column at Passover anymore.
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