Its like a farmer’s market, but for wine! Can it get any better than that?
Twice a year, winemakers from all over Northern California converge on the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion in San Francisco. A sprawling warehouse space, the Festival Pavilion is part of the Fort Mason National Historic Landmark District, located right on the bay. One a clear day, like this past Sunday, the views are absolutely stunning! But inside the Pavilion is where the action is!
The SF Vintner’s Market started in 2010 to provide a venue for independent winemakers to sell directly to wine lovers, and get some market exposure to trade reps. With up to 200 wineries in attendance, this is a wine lover’s dream. Some are well-known brands, but many are small, family owned producers, making some very limited quantity cult wines. This is a great opportunity for someone (like me) who has a smallish wine budget, to try wines that are otherwise out of range for purchase.
There are three levels of admission: General, Reserve Room, and Cult Lounge. By some amazing good fortune, my friend and winemaker, Bridget Raymond, was in attendance with her wines, and offered me complimentary entrance at the Cult Lounge level. Bridget makes an amazing Merlot wine, Intertwine, for NakedWines.com. (I’ve reviewed a couple of vintages of Intertwine on my blog.) In addition, Bridget has two personal projects under her Courtesan label. Her Brigitte line includes a Bordeaux-style red blend, and a Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé. The current release of the signature Courtesan wine is a Cabernet Franc-based blend. You can find her wines at Courtesanwines.com.
I started the day in grand fashion, driving the two hours from my home to San Francisco, where I met my son and a friend for brunch. They live in The City, so they know all the best brunch spots! After our visit, I was off to the event. In my efforts to
get hammered taste wine in safe and responsible manner, I left my car at my son’s, and took Lyft to Fort Mason. I also managed to leave my notebook and phone charger in my car. As a result, I was only able to take so many pictures, and my tasting notes are all from memory. Accordingly, they are mostly from the earlier wines I tasted. Surely you understand.
It was a beautiful pre-Spring day in The City, with temperatures unseasonably warm in the low 70’s. Upon entering, I headed straight to Bridget’s table to check in and say hi. Situated upstairs in the far corner, the view of the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge was simply spectacular! An amazing venue for enjoying some amazing wines! Naturally, I tasted the Brigitte and Courtesan wines first.
Brigitte Oakville Red Wine 2014
Fabulous Bordeaux style blend. Blackberry, cherry, blueberry, and oak. Soft tannins and rich mouthfeel. Definitely ageworthy, but enjoyable now.
Courtesan Napa Valley Proprietors Red Reserve 2012
A Cab Franc based blend, this is a spectacular wine now, and will continue to improve for several years. Classic Cali Cab Franc, deep purple color with blackberry, black cherry, and green bell pepper notes. Soft, smooth tannins and perfectly balanced acidity. Long, satisfying finish of dark berry.
Moving on, I enjoyed a number of superb, hand-crafted wines; mostly Napa Cabernet. Along the way, I came across a sensational Syrah Rosé by Scalon Cellars. After so many big, hefty red wines, a light and lively Rosé was just the ticket!
Scalon Cellars Syrah Rosé 2015
Delicious! Bone dry, crisp and refreshing. Strawberry and raspberry with lively acidity. #roseallday!
Like I said, this was a great chance to try some wines that are way outside my price range. One such wine was the HL Vineyards Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013. It was toward the end of my tour, so…um…palate fatigue, yeah, that’s it, palate fatigue was setting in, so I can’t provide detailed tasting notes. However, I can tell you it was spectacular! At $375 retail, I think this was the priciest wine I sampled that day.
In addition to all the wine; way too much to taste or photograph; there were food vendors in the house. I only sampled a couple of bites, but everything looked and smelled amazing! Alas, the battery on my phone was fading, so I couldn’t take any foodie pics. Trust me, it was all delightful!
The organizers of the SF Vintner’s Market really know how to throw a party. I definitely plan to attend again, even if I have to pay my own way in! (Thanks again for the ticket, Bridget!) If you’d like to go, visit the website for details. The next Vintner’s Market will be coming up on November 4 & 5, 2017. Mark your calendars, and I hope to see you there!