Monday, August 6, 2012

Wine Riot SF.

I was invited to attend the inaugural Wine Riot- San Francisco this past Friday at The Concourse Exhibition Center and was thrilled with the opportunity, thanks to the generosity of the good people at Creative Feed.  I was eager to check out this new, hip production brought to the bay by Second Glass because I truly believe that more people need to get out there and learn about the wines of the world, near and far.  I've said this before and I'll say it again- I'm no wine expert, but I respect, appreciate and enjoy the entire realm of the wine industry.  Here's how the folks at Second Glass see things...

"We want you to drink more wine. Sure, wine can seem complicated, but in the end it all comes down to whether you like it or not. It’s that simple. Our goal is to give you the tools to find cool wine tastings, talk to experts, explore wine regions and constantly discover new favorites. You don’t have to use dorky wine-speak or spend a lot of time learning about wine to have fun with it. And we’re here to help."

"Wine Riot is your all access pass to hundreds of new wines. With two parts education and one part revolution, Wine Riot has reinvented "wine tasting" for the thirsty and curious. Grab a glass and hit the floor -- it's you unleashed against 250 wines from across the globe. Travel the world of wine all under one roof and tackle things you've never tried before. We've rallied up a team of die-hard experts to bring you the brain juice: interactive booths and crash courses loaded with tips and tricks for conquering the wine world. Fueling your night of conquest is a tireless DJ, photo booth, temporary tattoos, and a few thousand of your closest friends. The best part is, we made an app that tracks your favorite wines and shows you where to buy them later, arming you with all the tools needed for total wine domination."

Sounds like fun, right?  Indeed.  The night was jam-packed with introductions, laughter, great wine and fun foodie treats.  I met so many wonderful people and learned so much about wine, wandering aimlessly through the sea of libations, bumping into industry friends left and right.  The only problem that I encountered?  Four hours to experience 123 wineries.  I couldn't keep up!  I wanted so much to hit as many winery and food booths as possible, but there were just too many with too little time.  That is my own fault though, admittedly.  I couldn't help but savor and sip slowly.  It was a blast- chatting with the wine vendors, sharing stories and connections.  At times, I felt overwhelmed by the good spirit of the event.  In the end, I managed to snag a few cards after conversations with these lovely Wine Riot favorites...

Honig Vineyard and Winery-  The fellas working this booth had me cracking up all night with their humorous, yet professional good nature. 

"In 1964, Louis Honig purchased a 68-acre ranch in the heart of the Napa Valley and planted it with Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. He sold the fruit to neighboring wineries with the dream of retiring one day from his San Francisco advertising business and making wine from his vineyard in Rutherford. Before he could realize his dream, Louis passed away, leaving the estate to his children and grandchildren. In 1981, as a tribute to his legacy, the family rallied together to produce several hundred cases of Louis Honig Sauvignon Blanc in the vineyard's old tractor barn. The wine won a Gold Medal at the Orange County Fair, and thus, the winery was born."

"In 1984, at the age of 22, Louis' grandson, Michael Honig, took over management of the vineyard and winery. With a lot of hard work and a beat up pickup truck, Honig managed to get their Sauvignon Blanc into most fine restaurants in California. In 1987, they began producing small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon. The family business grew with the addition of family members Regina Weinstein in 1997, Steven Honig in 2000, and Stephanie Honig in 2007. In 1998, winemaker Kristin Belair joined the family to produce award winning Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon that is now featured on the wine lists of hundreds of fine restaurants across the country."

"What began as a small garage winery has become a team of people who work collaboratively to run an inspiring and socially responsible business, donating wine to charity auctions all over the country, hosting political and community events at their vineyard, and leading the way in the sustainable farming movement."

I particularly enjoyed their 2011 Sauvignon Blanc.  "This juicy, refreshing, medium bodied wine abounds with aromas of honeysuckle, grapefruit, and lemongrass mingled with mango, kiwi, peach, and grapefruit rind. The finish is long, crisp and minerally."  In fact, they even hooked me up with a sweet embroidered polo shirt for describing it correctly.  Go me!

Hahn Family Wines-  Some of our favorite wines.  Both the Hubbs and I really enjoy Hahn Family Wines, from the awesome Cycles Gladiator brand to Smith&Hook, we drink them on a regular basis in our own house.  The beautiful Hahn Winery, located in Monterey County, is home to the Hubbs very own self-planted Pinot Noir vine, something he is very proud of.  His very own vine baby.   

"The Hahn Winery Story:  The spectacular beauty of California 's central coast is probably the best-known region in all of California for its unique lifestyle. Monterey County's dramatic ocean scenery, historic communities, artistic culture, verdant pine forests, and bountiful agriculture have beckoned adventure-seekers, seafarers, artists, writers and vacationers for over 100 years. And the 99 miles of breathtaking Pacific coastline is something no other California county can boast.

"With an inspiration to raise Monterey wines to the highest level, the wines of Hahn Winery are created with a philosophy that all great wines are special – akin to the region they were grown in. The Hahn wines celebrate everything that is Monterey – unique in thought, style and setting. Wines of Monterey Distinction."

"Hahn History:  The Smith Ranch had been a horse ranch, while the neighboring Hook Ranch had raised cattle for generations. With their prime location in the Santa Lucia Highlands overlooking the Salinas Valley, these ranches-turned-vineyards presented ideal growing conditions for growing premium varietal fruit. Smith & Hook Winery released its first vintage of Cabernet Sauvignon to high acclaim in 1980. In 1991, Nicky created the Hahn Winery brand to showcase supple, accessible, and attractively priced wines from the family's Monterey County vineyards."

"In German, “Hahn” means “Rooster” and for this reason a rooster embellishes the Hahn Winery label, honoring the Hahn family's European heritage. And while Smith & Hook remains the first wine produced by the Hahn family, Hahn Winery is the primary wine brand produced by the Hahns."

Huge Bear Wines-  These guys probably win the "Coolest Branding Award" in my book.  Not only are the wines amazing, the look and feel of their brand is quintessential old school California.  A great story and particularly great wines- small batch, but Huge.

"The Big Story Behind Huge Bear:  At Huge Bear, we’re passionate about making exceptional, hand-crafted wines. Each wine is made in small lots, and is meant be enjoyed with family and friends."

"Our wines are inspired by California's rich history and Sonoma County’s long-standing reputation of growing exceptional wine grapes that produce exciting wines. It’s this adventurous spirit of the west that is captured in each bottle of Huge Bear."

"What’s in a Name?:  The Huge Bear name comes from an article we discovered in the local historic archives from the mid 1800s. The story chronicles the adventures of a huge bear that would come down from the mountains in search of food, surprising the local Justice of the Peace whose home he routinely raided. That elusive bear was never trapped. During this time Thomas Knight (namesake of Knights Valley) was leading the charge to raise the Bear Flag and pronounce California as an independent state. We imagine that the Bear Flaggers were inspired by this local bear, and decided to celebrate the bear’s independent spirit on the California State Bear Flag."

"A Spirited Label:  The illustration used on our label is adapted from Lynd Ward's classic book The Biggest Bear, winner of the Caldecott Medal in 1953. Mr. Ward illustrated over 200 books and most are now considered American classics. His works include six woodcut graphic novels, of which four have recently been republished. He is also known for his art in watercolor, oil, brush and ink, lithography and mezzotint. You can read more about the amazing life of Lynd Ward on the many websites that are dedicated to his extraordinary life. We are grateful to the copyright owners of Mr. Ward's work, his daughters Robin Ward Savage and Nanda Ward, for their permission to use this amazing art."

Steele Wines-  The ladies working the Steele booth were particlarly friendly and warm.  They gave us plenty of chance to check out all of their wines, one in particular, the 2009 Writer's Block, piqued my palate and made me smile.

"At Steele Wines we have a minimalist winemaking style in that we use standard, non-GMO yeasts, natural fermentations, no extra additives or enzymes. We use a gentle pumpover during fermentations, inert gas to move the finished wines, and use gravity flow rather than pumping as much as possible. The use of gentle pumping and gravity flow decreases the chance of bruising the wine during cellar movement and is important to keeping fresh aromas and flavors in our wines. From hand picked grapes to gentle processing and our own bottling facility we know how our grapes are cared for from vineyard to bottle. We believe a lighter hand in the winemaking will highlight the aromas and the flavors of the quality fruit we source."

"We source fruit from as far away as Santa Barbara County to Washington State, to as close as next door, to give our customers a quality product they can enjoy everyday without paying ‘quality prices’. After the grapes are harvested they are kept in their individual vineyard lots until blending time, which is just before bottling so that integrity of each vineyard shows through in the wines. The fruit we source for the Steele label is the same as Shooting Star. The Shooting Star wines are more appellation blends and off- the - wall varietals that are fermented in stainless or aged in oak for a shorter period of time to ensure bright, fruit forward wines that are meant to be enjoyed while young. The Steele label wines are single vineyard designates or specific vineyard blends that age in oak for a longer period of time and are meant to drink soon or will hold up for 8-10 years of proper cellaring or longer."

A big shout out to the kids at the Bordeaux booth for being so darn hip, cool and informative.  Their little corner of the concourse was bumping all night long, teeming with wine junkies and aficionados alike.  They spent the evening promoting 5 styles of quality, affordable Bordeaux wines, all under $20 and available locally at K&L Wine Merchants.

As for food, I must say that the selection was quite sparse.  It seems as though there was a snafu in the food planning for the event, but I did find a few gems...

Taza Chocolate-  I took home a "Salted Almond Chocolate Mexicano" 40% dark disc.  The most delicious blend of savory and grainy sweet chocolate I've tasted.  Melts slowly in your mouth and it's also too much fun to snap off little triangles and share with friends. 

"To make Taza Salted Almond Chocolate Mexicano, we start with our single-origin, Hispaniola cacao and whole, raw almonds from Big Tree Organic Farms in California. We roast the almonds in our cocoa roaster just in time to make each batch, ensuring the freshest, most intense almond flavor possible. A touch of kosher salt added before tempering makes Salted Almond Chocolate Mexicano a compelling sweet-salty treat."

"Our Mission:  At Taza Chocolate, we craft every batch of chocolate with our mission in mind. This trio of guiding principles reflects our passion for exceptional chocolate, our dedication to forging an economically sustainable company, and our commitment to doing business in a socially responsible way."

"Our Product Mission:  To make minimally processed, full-flavored and textured stone ground chocolate, with sustainably farmed ingredients, that brings happiness into the lives of and inspires all of our key partners, employees, our customers, and our community."

"Our Economic Mission:  To maintain sustainable growth supported by long-term profitability in order to improve the lives of all our stakeholders, including our key partners, our employees, and our local and global community."

Good Eggs-  I love this idea of bringing local farmers and people together.  I support the idea of local sustainability big time and am excited to see this company taking off.  Yay, good for Good Eggs!

"Good Eggs is a hub to bring people and food closer together. It’s a local food marketplace, a guide to eating well, and a set of tools to help local farmers & foodmakers sell direct.  We’ve just launched the pilot of our marketplace in a few neighborhoods in the Bay Area. Later in 2012 we’ll have a full launch in the Bay Area, and then we’ll start bringing Good Eggs to other cities in the country and around the world."

"Local food excites us. It’s better for you. It’s kinder to the environment. It emphasizes relationships and sparks conversations, and in so doing, renews a sense of community. We also think it tastes a whole lot better. The first cherries of the season, the tomatoes you waited until summer for—those are exciting."

"We’re committed to our mission as the primary goal of our company. We believe that if we focus on our mission to change the world we’ll be able to build a successful business – as both a byproduct and an enabler of our work."

Overall, I'd say that Wine Riot was a success for San Francisco.  Being it's first year, I think they could've used a little more press and promotion throughout the bay area, but the event still did well.  Competing with the infamous SF Chefs event is no easy feat- Second Glass did a good job with the space they were given.  My only feedback?  More food please!  Noshes for everyone!  Loved the photo booth, it was great fun.  Hopefully the Riot will return bigger and better next year, I know I'm looking forward to it.

Be well,





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