World's Top Wine Writer Gives SF a High Grade on Her West Coast Swing


Two weeks ago, I ran into British wine writer Jancis Robinson on consecutive nights here in San Francisco, first at Spruce and the next night at RN74. I've never been introduced to her, so, yes, I was a little thrilled to see her. (Still never been introduced to her--I left her alone.) If you don't know who she is, she's one of the most important living wine writers. Among other significant projects, she edited the Oxford Companion to Wine and wrote (with Hugh Johnson) the World Atlas of Wine--the two most useful wine books in the world. (I'd say they'd be my desert island wine books, but can't imagine the torture  it would be to read about the world of wine while stranded on a beach.) Her weekly wine column in the Financial Times is one of the best reads in the business. She's a wine celebrity--if we indeed have such people--and her opinions (always fair, always balanced) matter. Knowing that, it was great to read her website post today, giving high marks to the West Coast food and wine scene, and San Francisco in particular.

Here are her choice snippets, followed by a little comment from me.

  • "Not for the first time I was struck by the standard of wine service in the US in general, and in northern California in particular. Although Britain is slowly catching up, it is still SO much easier to get good wine by the glass in restaurants in the US than in the UK." -– We find things to complain about in our restaurants all the time, but it's good to be reminded how good we have it . . .
  • "On our second night in San Francisco we had dinner . . . at Rajat Parr’s new restaurant RN74.  Parr has managed to attract Christie Dufault  . . .  the talented sommelier whom we had met a year before when dining at Quince. Three different California Pinots among the many wines offered by the glass tempted me and I ordered a glass of each for the table. She immediately offered to give us each a flight consisting of a third of a pour of all three wines and delivered them with aplomb and, a rarer virtue among American serving staff, discretion. She didn’t interrupt us or bombard us with information but, gently prodded, she reminded us of the evening at Quince and told us exactly which wines we had ordered there. Impressive indeed." -- Gotta hand it to local somms like Raj Parr and Christie Dufault, for keeping wine service at as high a standard as wine quality. (Okay, full disclosure: I'm married to Christie.)
  • And as for the general standard of  food in that Pacific-cooled part of the world we have just visited, both in restaurants and with regard to the produce available, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is light years from the stereotype of over-industrialised, mass-produced fast food that is popularly associated with American culture – and betrays a fascinating array of different influences and cuisines. We enjoyed three superb and often extremely varied meals each day -- Take that, Michael Pollan!


By the way, Robinson's husband, Nick Lander, is the restaurant critic for the FT. After their swing out here last year, he wrote a review of the French Laundry, Cyrus and Quince. It's a good read. I'll be curious to see if in coming weeks he writes up Spruce, RN74 and wherever else they ate.


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