There were so many things to enjoy at Wine Luxury Soiree: wine, food, art, fashion, dancing, culinary celebrities… It’d be difficult to know where to start. Let’s just say it was quite the evening and an impressive first event by the new wine lifestyle magazine.
While checking in I ran into Leslie Sbracco, one of my very favorite wine experts. Not only is Leslie amazingly savvy about wine, but she also has an infectious personality and laughs that charms everyone she encounters. If Leslie is sited at a wine event, you know it’s going to be a good one.
For those not local, she is the host of the James Beard award-winning Check Please! Bay Area. Three people review a favorite restaurant as well as that of the other guests on the hit PBS show – all while enjoying wine. I’d say the program is as much a success for the wit of the host as the unique restaurant commentary. If you’ve not seen it, you really must. Leslie also heads a fun girl’s group, Thirsty Girl, for women who share her passion for food, wine, and travel. As you might guess, I’m an enthusiastic member.
The caliber of wine is always of paramount importance for me at any tasting so I was pleased to see one of my favorite wineries pouring, Grgich Hills Estate. Their Cabernet was stellar as usual and set the bar high for the rest of the evening. They had set up an adorable display to honor their founder’s birthday as Mike Grgich is celebrating his 90th this year. I love how they included Mike’s signature beret! Meeting this giant of California wine-making and most charming man was the highlight of a wine country trip a couple of years ago.
Mike has won numerous awards over the years but is probably most celebrated for being Chateau Montelena’s winemaker when winning the 1976 Tasting of Paris, the blind tasting where California bested the finest French wines. It’s the event that firmly put California wine on the map and inspired significant investment in Napa both here and abroad.
Continuing on to sample, I encountered another star of the evening, Bernadus Winery’s fabulous Bordeaux blend Marinus 2009. Rich, full, and round it has an understated spiciness that is particularly appealing. Bernadus is my favorite Carmel Valley winery and no Carmel visit would be complete without tasting there.
An exciting new discovery was from Recuerdo, a very elegant Malbec from Medoza. 2011 has the Argentinian pedigree with all the ripe berries and spice you would expect but a velvet finish that would have made me guess California grown if tasted blind. Malbec usually isn’t the first varietal I reach for, but this one might change that.
Music was the next order of the evening, beginning with local favorite phantom Franc D’Ambrosio singing his signature aria, Phantom of the Opera. Next Jonathan Cain of Journey sang a medley of favorite Journey tunes – what an experience. Reveling at the moment, everyone was dancing and singing along. It was the most fun I’ve has in a while.
Turning my focus back to wine, I found some fab Iron Horse pinot noir in my glass – and happy I was. I’ve focused solely on their sparkling for too long. The 2011 Estate Pinot is one of the deeper, full-bodied types which easily followed all the Cabernet of the evening. There were lots of berries and hint of licorice, I was tempted to revisit but it was time for some food.
Noshes were plentiful and tasty, though my favorite by far was the Tsar Nicoulai Caviar in the VIP room. I’ve been a fan for some time and miss their location in the Ferry Building Marketplace. Their tasting bar was always such a great stop while strolling the market. I love that Tsar Nicoulai is not only delicious, but it’s also sustainably and locally farmed.
Fortified, I headed back down downstairs to check out some of the featured designers and passed the City Club’s famous Diego Rivera mural, Allegory of California. What a magnificent piece of art; every time I see it I’m mesmerized. It’s difficult not to be moved by the artistry, the location, and the scale of Rivera’s masterpiece. It covers the stairway wall and ceiling and celebrates California, represented by a goddess who holds the fruit of the land in her hand while images of agriculture and industry encircle her. It’s the first mural Rivera painted in San Francisco and remains one of my favorites. Whenever I visit The City Club I pay my respects, inevitably joining a similarly enchanted group.
Another form of art at Soiree was fashion. I was particularly taken by Lily Blue Designs imaginative creations. Romantic and edgy at the same time, I enjoyed her unexpected and unique point of view. Lily interned with Vivienne Westwood and I detect a similar unbridled genius.
I also enjoyed Monique Zhang’s delicate painted silk creations. They evoked a modern yet ethereal elegance, her models seemed to float by.
Enjoying the fashion but with an empty glass, I headed over to the Wine Foundry table. The wine was quite good and I was taken with the concept. It’s literally a wine foundry, a place where you can create your own wine. You have input on fermentation, bottling, barrel choice, blending, labels… If the concept sounds similar that’s because it is. Wine Foundry was created from the former Crush Pad. RIP Crush Pad, I have fond memories of my wine blending class there a few years ago.
As the event began to wind down, I scanned the room for one more taste. It would be my last before I headed out and I always like to end on a high note. I decided to try Trione. Although they were out of their reds, I decided to try their Savignon Blanc. It was a risk after all the red of the evening but one I’m glad I took. It was a wonderfully dry and crisp example of the varietal. Given my passion for Sancerre, it’s not surprising that I was smitten. Later I learned Wine Enthusiast called it “a brilliant Sauvignon Blanc like a great Sancerre” as well awarding it an editor’s choice and a score of 93. Ending on a high note indeed.
Turning to leave, I gave a parting nod to Allegory of California, silently communicating my thanks to the goddess for the treasures of the soil we’d enjoyed.