The San Francisco Vintners Market

Lots of happy wine drinkers at the San Francisco Vintners Market

Lots of happy wine drinkers at the San Francisco Vintners Market

A few weeks ago I sprinted up the coast for the San Francisco Vintners Market upon the request of a super-duper awesome friend. We SF-newbies found our way to the Fort Mason Center early enough to enjoy the event before it filled up with a really huge number of people (think of an airplane hanger filled with tables and tables and tables of wine and wine reps and maybe 100 tasters). It was a fun event where I ran into some friends (who were working) and made some new ones (who were also working).

Cameron Hughes pouring Lea Ann's wine

Cameron Hughes pouring Lea Ann's wine

I really only had one objective for the day… meet Cameron Hughes of the eponymous wine label, Cameron Hughes. And meet him we did. The emptiness of the hangaresque space made it easy to chat with him and his team for a bit, and he personally poured our tasting which was a great deal of fun. Now, Cameron Hughes wines aren't exactly the stuff the snootier publications typically go ga-ga over, but I'm a BIG fan for a few reasons:

The wines in the Lot Series are consistently excellent. Not every one of them pleases my palate, but they are all high quality wines produced from fruit grown by top-notch vineyards or juice from top-notch winemakers.

This great quality of wine is available easily (Costco, Sam's Club, grocery stores, and MANY wine stores) and at affordable prices (rarely over $20, usually from $9-13).

I admire the innovation of the business model.

My newest reason: Cameron is a friendly, down-to-earth guy who loves wine and sharing wine with as many people as possible

The rest of the event was a hit, too. Rather than spread ourselves too thin, we tried the full line-up at a few different wineries. We of course visited friends at Ziata Wines (conveniently right next to Cameron Hughes) and Oakville Ranch in the Reserve Area.

Ken Suacci

John Suacci

We checked out Suacci-Carciere because their name has been popping up on tasting room lists and had piqued my curiosity. I took one whiff of the Chardonnay, turned to my friend and said, “Now THAT is why the Russian River Valley is my second favorite AVA!” The first wine I ever drank was a Russian River Valley Chardonnay (1994 Jordan) and I've been hooked ever since. The quality coming out of that area is always superb, but the terroir there just does something to those grapes that makes my palette enter a trance-like state of bliss. Suacci-Carciere is no exception. They mostly make Pinot Noirs, also of sublime palate-pleasing quality and for these wines I broke my “only break this rule if you really mean it” rule of not buying wines over $30. I bought TWO! A $36 Chardonnay and a $48 Pinot Noir to be enjoyed at a later date worthy of such divine wine.

The Suacci-Carciere Line-up

The Suacci-Carciere Line-up

We also looked at Heidi Barrett's own label, La Sirena, and some other winery in the Reserve room which I can't even recall the name of… that's how memorable the wines were. I wish we could say either of us was impressed with the La Sirena wines. I was far more impressed with the cute little pirate finger-puppets they were giving out and the bottle design which looked like a bottle of pirate's rum. Other than that I found the wines overly alcoholic and not super interesting. Too bad as I had high hopes for this one.

Aaarrrrgh! Thar be Pirates in heeeeerre!

Aaarrrrgh! Thar be Pirates in heeeeerre!

Surprise of the day: Vina Robles. Their giant sprawling winery & tasting room is located just south of the 46 in Paso Robles. I'd seen it before since we drive past it pretty regularly as we scoot up and back between Los Angeles and the SF Bay Area. It keeps geographic company with Robert Hall, Eberle, EOS, and Rio Seco vineyards&emdash;so naturally I had my suspicions of its potential quality—big showy tasting rooms usually equal a fun time, but not necessarily great wines down here in southern Cali. Standing in front of a table full of their wines with no extra effort involved in getting to the tasting sounded like a great way for us dive in with little risk… so we did! I was so impressed with the 2008 Vina Robles Sauvignon Blanc – Jardine and the 2008 Vina Robles Chardonnay – Monterey, that I made arrangements for a tasting at their “hospitality center” on the way back to Los Angeles. There's an upcoming post where I'll review the Vina Robles wines and the tasting room experience, so stay tuned!

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Jess' Wine Tasting Notes

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