On an industrial side street in SoMa, the first juice from five tons of Sauvignon Blanc begins to drip from the press at Bluxome Street Winery, a full 60 miles from the grapes’ Russian River Valley origin. If it sounds odd, consider this: In the early 20th century, more than 100 wineries operated within San Francisco city limits before earthquakes, pests, and prohibition brought down California’s wine industry. These days, you can catch the aroma of fermenting grapes mingling with asphalt as a handful of entrepreneurs bring back urban winemaking.
I have a little something I like to call the Sauvignon Blanc test. It's fairly simple, really. The test involves drinking an entire bottle, late at night or early in the afternoon, with whatever you have small amounts of in the refrigerator: a bit of hard cheese, a few cornichons, last night's peas with pasta, a cold kale and ricotta pizza, perhaps.
When you're looking for a well-made wine on a budget second labels, or "second selections" as they are sometimes called, can offer an amazing value. In the case of Spell Estate's Nichole's Blend, a Pinot Noir from Sonoma Coast, there is really nothing second about it, except for the price.
It doesn't happen often enough, but every once in a while a wine speaks to you. In a lineup of a dozen or more wines, at a dinner party so crowded with and food and conversation that there is no room for reflection, the wine in your glass suddenly says: Hey, pay attention. I have something to say.
"I'm a fiend for Chardonnay," says Justin Harmon. And indeed, there is something mischevious about the way he says it. We are tasting his 2011 Origami Chardonnay made from what he claims is the coldest vineyard in California.
When Kathleen Inman decided to turn her hobby of growing things into a job and moved from her farm in northern England to the Russian River Valley, the Napa Valley native knew she wanted to grow something white to compliment her 10 acres of Pinot Noir. The obvious choice would have been Chardonnay, but Kathleen had a secret.
One thing that was important to Jon Bonné, the long-time wine editor for The San Francisco Chronicle, in writing his recently released book The New California Wine (Ten Speed Press) was that it not necessarily be “new.”
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