Dispatches from the road – San Francisco

oenoLogic is on the road, in San Francisco. And with proper respect to New York and a hopefully-reascendant New Orleans, this is the supreme foodie town in North America. For a gastronome, an oenophile, or even a complete novice with an open mind, this is Nirvana by the Bay. (And, thankfully, there are hills…to walk off all the excess calories!)

Full reports will follow, in time. For now, a few quick highlights of the first few days:

Edmunds St. John is a winery I love (and, it should be noted, Steve Edmunds is a friend of mine), so it was a lot of fun on Sunday to taste a selection of wines he’s trying to clear from his inventory. What was less fun: the $10/bottle price tag for everything. I mean, I’m happy to get such good wine so cheaply, but it always makes me sad to see these marvelous wines linger unsold when so much over-manipulated junk flies off the shelves. Steve’s wines are honest and speak of their grapes and their terroir in simple, clear voices. They deserve a bigger audience. One highlight from the tasting: the performance of the Edmunds St. John 1999 Sangiovese Matagrano, a wine I have tasted dozens of times and never much liked. On Sunday, it was singing with pure sangiovese character — not Tuscan, but interesting in its own right — and I was forced to wonder if I’d misjudged it all these years.

Another winery at the tasting, Harrington, is producing a lineup of site-specific pinots that are nicely drinkable; relatively unspoofulated, fruit-forward, and different from site to site. They’re a touch pricey, but then that’s the rule with pinot noir, and in any case I’d be happy to have a one specific bottling — the 2003 Birkmyer — on my table anytime.

The Clos Roche Blanche 2004 “Pif” is a step back to a different style of winemaking, something that’s increasingly hard to find in these slick, winemaking-by-committee days. A glass at The Slanted Door was fabulous, all untamed red and black fruit, zippy acidity, and sharp tannin waiting for a big plate of food to slice through like a finely-honed knife. Gorgeous stuff.

A16 has its detractors, but the restaurant was top-notch last night. The wine list must be a slog for those not willing to expand their horizons, because it’s almost relentless in its focus on Southern Italy’s more obscure wines (though a few domestic bones are thrown to the unadventurous), but we loved it. And the food is just marvelous. Reservations are tough, but definitely worth the effort.

Finally, I tasted something new — or at least new to me — yesterday at the always-fun Hog Island Oyster in the Ferry Plaza Marketplace: a domestic vermentino. Several glasses of an Uvaggio 2005 Vermentino from, of all places, Lodi (!) were crisp and green-fruited, showing fine potential for this unusual-to-these-parts grape. To tie this missive in a neat bow, Steve Edmunds has planted some vermentino, and I expect the results to be extraordinary in time. But while we wait, give this one a shot. It’s fun.

Hopefully, there’s more to come.

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