Winter in Wine Country is a time for restaurants to revamp, remodel, change ownership and, this year at least, build from the ground up. From pizzerias to gastropubs, Napa in 2012 is shaping up to be considerably less buttoned-up.
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.
A margarita, a Manhattan. Most of you could go home right now and mix one of these classics. But the drinks at Maven—a new restaurant in the Lower Haight that ambitiously tackles food and cocktail pairings—are not of the make-at-home variety. Bartender Kate Bolton mixes, emulsifies, and reduces her libations with the care of a pastry chef and the showmanship of a magician.
What do a war veteran, a tax consultant and a Kiwi have in common? (No this isn’t a bad joke.) They are some of the best winemakers in California right now. Some of these folks were everywhere this year. And some we hope to see a lot more of in 2012. Without further ado, seven winemakers we think are cool, interesting and really good at what they do—in no particular order.
You’ve trimmed the tree, sharpened the cheese knife and queued Mariah Carey’s extra festive Merry Christmas album. Now all you need is a proper drink to welcome your guests. Something strong but light and please, can there be bubbles? For this reason, God created the Champagne cocktail.
What happens when the man who makes the wine drinks with the man who buys (and sells) the wine? Problems are solved. Pollution is reduced. The world becomes a better and a greener place. Okay, maybe not every time, but earlier this year, just such a thing occurred.
While you may still catch a whiff of fermentation in the California air thanks to an incredibly late harvest, the 2011 vintage from one magical part of the world has already been bottled, boxed, and is hitting ports in our city by the bay.
Yes, it’s that time of the year: between the harvest and the holidays. The time for Beaujolais Nouveau.
Dead leaves, electoral propaganda and so, so many kinds of squash: Yes, it’s fall. No, you are not frolicking across campus searching for a Homecoming date and throwing ping-pong balls into beer mugs. But that’s okay because school just got a lot more fun (in a grown-up kind of way). Whether you are curious about the difference between the Old World and the New; Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay; Grand Cru and just plain ol’ Village, there is a class for you, and, ding ding, it’s in session.
The 2011 growing season, which will forever be remembered as cool, damp and unpredictable for Northern California, is coming to a merciful close. But don’t feel bad if you didn’t make it up to Wine Country to experience the full thrill of harvest (trust us, the traffic was terrible anyway). This week, the grapes are coming to you.
The following urban wineries are still bringing in fruit and they wouldn’t mind one bit if you stopped by to lend a hand, taste some juice, and find out once and for all what the difference is between wild and cultured yeast.
Essential SF knowledge in your inbox
Sign up for our email newsletters to keep up on events, restaurants and SF haps.