Crushing it in Dogpatch

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Oh no you say!  Not another “do it yourself” urban winery!  Ok, I’d have to agree – that was my first reaction when I got the press release about Dogpatch Wine Works.  Since Crushpad abandoned their urban winery projects and effectively dumped its consumer based wine program after its move to Napa (and subsequent move to Sonoma Valley), I’ve had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth for community crush projects. But, Dave Gifford’s email intrigued me.  A Crushpad alum, Dave knows first hand how to (and frankly, how NOT to) do an urban custom crush operation.  Moving in a scant block down from Crushpad’s former headquarters on 3rd Street in San Francisco, Dogpatch now operates a 15,000 square foot urban winery with a missing “to enable wine enthusiasts to realize their passion for all things wine”.  I’m hoping that this enthusiasm is somewhat more friendly than Crushpad’s seeming lackadaisical consumer program.  As a former Crushpad customer, I got to know them well as I wandered through three winemaking projects with a group of wineaux.  If you’re super nice I might let you come over for a tasting of the zin, cab blend, and freshly minted BeezleBubblez!  I got to know the team well, and in fact, and pleased to see former head winemaker Mike Zitzlaff joining the Dogpatch crew. While I fully understand the economics of operating a micro winery and custom crush, a good business plan requires you to commit and focus on your core audience.  A business bill yourself as a “community based winery”, then you need to be…well, community based. Crushpad’s failing was that they lost focus and weren’t interested in pursing the consumer base.  The primary goal was to be a custom crush and attract premier winery partners.  That’s fine, but please don’t tell me you care about me and send me an email halfway through the full winemaking cycle that says “oh hey yeah we moved to Napa”.   Please note these opinons are NOT AT ALL reflective of any experience with DPWW, simply my observatoins as a disgruntled Crushpad customer. Anyway…back to Dogpatch Wine Works.  Taking a note from Crushpad’s premium vineyard plans, DPWW allows you to choose from terrific grapes including – I’m very happy to report – Windsor Oaks Pinot Noir. Hey Julie, you ROCK!  As a big fan of Windsor Oaks fruit, this could yield some interesting stuff.  Add in the requisite equipment, a bonded winery, and expertise (yeah well ok so I didn’t go to Davis and chemistry isn’t my strong suit so Mike, i NEED you!), you hopefully have – a winery in a box, in a fun urban environment.  Some additional vineyard offerings are Sonoma Coast Pinot, Atlas Peak Cab, and Anderson Valley Pinot.  Ohh AV pinot?  Count me in! All of these seems familiar, and I get a buzz of excitement that the beast is alive.  The goal of community based wineries is to allow you, for a fee (well yeah they need to make money) to participate from head to toe in […]

I smell a Rat!

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A Cellar Rat!  When I first met Alan Baker, aka @thecellarrat, I was in my first year of making a mess wine at Crushpad.  What I didn’t know, or rather, the connection I failed to make, is that he was the same Alan Baker who was the voice behind this crazy podcast that I had become addicted to over at Cellarrat.org.  Mind you, this was before I was a wine blogger, before I was the “glue that holds the twitter wine universe together”, and before I was Wine Biz Radio’s #1 fan.  Ahhh the olden days. The months past, and I would see Alan every now and then around Crushpad, like a mad scientist on a mission to create the world’s best wine for himself, and other clients at the same time.  Enter Cellar Rat wines.  I first tasted the Cellar Rat syrah at one of Crushapd’s infamous tasting events parties, where Alan was pouring a touch of pinot and a smattering of syrah.  WOW!  I was blown away by this wine.  Both the pinot and the syrah were outstanding, and somehow, I was lucky enough to get a door prize (thanks Alan!) in a bottle of syrah that I took home and squirreled away for safekeeping and later drinking. Fast forward 3 years, and Alan is now working with Arista Winery where he can both hone his winemaking craft and work on his social media and broadcasting skills.  I somehow convinced, cajoled, and begged him to let us come up and taste his pinot noir in progress, and so a blogger’s binge was born. On a recent cool and foggy day, we met up at the picnic grounds of Arista, off of Westside Road in Healdsburg to talk wine, blogging, and fun.  Amongst the hoards were Patrick Llenra (@oenophilus), Marcy Gordon (@marcygordon), Hardy Wallace (@dirtysouthwine ), Ashley Routson (@thebeerwench), Shana Ray (@sharayray), Paige Granback (@thesnarkhunter), Danica Sattui (@danicasattui), and of course Alan & Serena.  Cool and foggy but happy, we set out to taste the latest and greatest. First, we started out with a barrel sample of the 2008 Two Pisces Vineyard.  This vineyard is located just west of Petaluma, and has a wide variety of soil types, giving it a lot of diversity.  With 5 clones planted, I tasted sour cherries in this rich and spicy pinot, with bright raspberry flavors and classic Russian River Valley character, with cranberries and cinnamon.  33% new French Oak gives the wine just enough structure and spicy without going overboard.  Though I rather enjoyed this wine, Alan says he’ll definitely add some bigger fruit pinot in to the final blend, since it already seems to be falling off a  bit.  Tasty tidbit about this vineyard:  This is where our Bus 4 Cellars 2009 Sparkling Wine is coming from!  I’m excited about hte potential in this pinot, and what it means for my fledgling bubble enterprise. The 2008 Split Rock (also known as Gap’s Crown, but they don’t like us to say that) […]

Support your local grape!

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As I was reading through my backlog of blogs, I came across my favorite Caveman, Mike Wangbickler, who reminded me that this week is the second annual Regional Wine Week. I’ve long been an advocate of shopping locally to somehow, in some tiny way, support my local merchants.  It can be challenging and expensive in some arenas, and just plain fun in others.  Living on the Left Coast, I am an hours drive from at least 5 world class wine regions, and this affords me a bit of luxury when drinking locally.  Yes, I know it will cost a bit more to support a small business, but isn’t it worth it? Regional Wine Week is the genius of  WineCurmudgeon.com‘s Jeff Siegel and and WineLine”s David McIntyre (also of the Washington Post) who gathered a few wine writers to talk about their respective regions’ wines at the same time.  With 40 participants talking about their local juice, it was a great success and spawned the DrinkLocalWine.com website. DrinkLocalWine gives readers a single source access point to read about different wine regions.  They are aggregating the psots during Regional Wine Week, and is really opening up doors for some lesser known areas producing areas in the US and worldwide. For me, it’s too easy to pick Sonoma or Napa.  I live in San Francisco, the hotbed of technology and wine, where there are at least 5 wineries in the city limits, and many more using coop facilities and there are at least 20 member producers of the SF Wine Association.  I’m going to drink local this week, starting off with Vie Winery, maybe a little Sol Rouge, and perhaps sipping a bit of Blue Cellars.  I don’t have any AP Vin sadly, so you’ll just have to write about that yourselves! I encourage you to go out and find somethign produced locally, and even better, owned locally.  If I could raid my friend Andy’s backyard for his Garagiste syrah I would, but sources tell me this might not be the best idea. I hope to read some entertaining posts! Google

Crush It!

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No doubt, you loyal readers have heard me spout the virtues of my local custom crush facility, Crushpad. Well, I’m excited to announce that June 20th is Crushpad’s Annual Open House! This event is ALWAYS a blast, and it’s our chance to celebrating the upcoming harvest and and the past year’s toils in winemaking at the winery in San Francisco. Join us from 2pm – 6pm, where you can meet the winemakers, and drink some of the fabulous stuff made at Crushpad!  This is going to be the BIGGEST Open House ever, so tell your friends and come on down to The Pad! Oh and PS!  The best part is it’s FREE!  And did I mention, the taco truck?  Seriously, this has got to be some of the best food I’ve had an an event.  Other than the woodfire oven pizza they had at the client mashup.  OHHHH Yeah baby! Crushpad really appreciates it’s customers and it’s community, and they go ALL out to show the love.  So click the RSVP link below and join the party!  I’ll be there tweeting with #crushpad hashtags, so keep an eye on the big screen for the Luscious Lushes blow by blow. Crushpad is located at 2573 3rd Street San Francisco, CA 94107 Plenty of parking around the back, but I heartily advise the T-Third Street or a cab! Google

A Grape Stomp!

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I first met Uzi Cohen, and his wife Kathryn, at at event at Crushpad about a year ago.  After spending some time talking about the wines we were drinking, I came to learn that he actually made wine himself.  Lo and behold after much planning and anticipation, I finally got to do some barrel tasting of his amazing pinot noirs! After meandering my way through Berkeley, I finally found their tasting room, or rather their beautifully furnished basement.  We were warmly welcomed by our hosts, and we proceeded to taste through some of the best Pinot Noir I’ve had.  Sadly, two of the tasty delights were Uzi & Kathryn’s personal homemade wine, so they are not for sale, but if these are any indication of their talents, I see a brilliant future in wine! The two commercially  produced wines under the Stomping Girl label are from two vastly different regions in California:  Santa Lucia Highlands, and Sonoma Coast.  This gives the taster an excellent opportunity to taste two different terroirs side by side.  Both of these pinots are single vineyard selections.  Both of these wines will be released early next year, so I have to be patient! The 2008 Lone Oak Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir comes from the Lone Oak Vineyard, which is in the northern part of the larger SLH appellation.   The location of the vineyard provides a great foundation for Pinot Noir, where the soil is rocky and the fog is cool.  The Lone Oak fruit was hand sorted, something I myself have done – and the source of great amusement to my friends – and then cold soaked and punched down several times a day.  It was aged in a mixture of new and used French oak, which gives it the depth of character of oak aging without overwhelming the delicate fruit.  This wine showed flavors of bright cherry cider, spices, juicy strawberries and raspberries with nice earthy undertones of mushrooms and bark. The 2008 Split Rock Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from the Gaps Crown vineyard, in the southern Sonoma Coast appelation. Again, this area has the cooling influences of ocean fog, but the Sonoma Coast appelation provides a different flavor structure.  The Split Rock section of the vineyard is planted between 300-800 feet, in rocky soils.  Another personal favorite from , and i plan on doing a side by side when the Stomping Girl gets released!  I found this pinot earthly, with tons of sour cherry and Dr. Pepper flavors.The 2008 Split Rock Vineyard, Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir comes from the Gaps Crown vineyard, in the southern Sonoma Coast appelation. Again, this area has the cooling influences of ocean fog, but the Sonoma Coast appelation provides a different flavor structure.  The Split Rock section of the vineyard is planted between 300-800 feet, in rocky soils.  Another personal favorite from Gaps Crown is the Humanitas Gaps’ Crown Pinot, and i plan on doing a side by side when the Stomping Girl gets released!  […]

I don’t taste and tell, except for you!

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As some of you might know, I am trying to be a winemaker.  No, I don’t have carboys set up in the garage, and no I’m not living in the lap of luxury in Sonoma.  I am lucky enough to live in a city that has it’s own community custom crush facility, Crushpad. I am part of a winemaking crew where I am making a Dry Creek zinfandel with a group of people, which is one of the great services Crushpad offers.  We were blending our finished zin with a variety of components, and we were able to decide how we wanted our finished product to come out.  Initially, we tried the control sample of our 2007 Grist Vineyard Zinfandel, which is a jammy, bright, and powerful zin.  Then, we tried a control sample of some petite sirah.  Once we tasted the components, we were able to think about what proportion of Petite Sirah we wanted to add to our zin, which we were hoping would add some depth of flavor, as well as a little backbone. First, we tried a 5% Petite Sirah and 95% Zinfandel blend.  We all agreed that this was too much, as the Petite overpowered the subtlety of the zinfandel and we lost it’s character.  Then, our consulting winemaker Kian Tavakol suggested we try a different Zinfandel.  This zin was from the Beatty Ranch on Howell Mountain in Napa.  This vineyard is at 1800 feet and offers a completely different experience from Dry Creek.  These wines have a deeper black fruit and chocolate overtone, which is absolutely amazing.  I had a sample side by side with the Grist, and while totally different, they were both amazing. Now that we had tried the control samples, a 5% blend, and a new zinfandel, we mixed it up by adding some of the Beatty Ranch zin to the mix.  Kian guided us to do a 2.5% Beatty Ranch Zin, 2.5% Petite Sirah, and 95% Grist Zin blend, which allowed us to keep our vineyard designate on the label.  We also tried another blend, which had a bit less Petite Sirah, but no Beatty zin.  The first test was not blind, and we were having a hard time deciding what we liked most.  Initially we were set on keeping the Beatty out of it, but then Kian played a trick on us.  He sent us out of the room, and presented the blends to us again, but this time blind. When we came back in the room and tasted the wines again, we still loved them.  However, being blind, we had no idea which wine was what.  Most of us were completely convinced that sample B was our Dry Creek zin with no Beatty.  We were fooled, but we knew that sample B was our favorite.  It turns out, this was the 2.5% PS / 2.5% Beatty / 95% Grist!  We were all very happy with our final blend, and left Crushpad feeling giddy with delight that our zin […]

G’day mate! Drink for a cause.

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Wow it’s been a wet weekend.  Fortunately we have been catching up on our drought ravaged region’s rain consumption, but Australia has not been as lucky.  If you haven’t heard, there are over 13 separate out of control wild fires (called bushfires in Oz) burning as we speak.  With Victoria being one of the most prolific wine producing regions in Australia, many well known names have been catastrophically affected. Some of the many fires have been intentionally set, and many lives have been lost.  To benefit the Australian Red Cross, which is assisting with those 7000 people left homeless and over 300 people that have been killed by these fires, The Jug Shop has partnered with Crushpad to host a benefit this Friday, Feb 20th, at Crushpad in San Francisco.  for those of you that remember our own wildfires here in California, please try to make this event where several of Victoria’s greatest wines will be poured for your $30 donation. Please RSVP HERE.  Advanced registration is essential.  No tickets will be sold at the door. http://www.advance.org/en/cev/reg/744/ The event takes place on Friday Feb 20th at Crushpad – 2573 – Third Street in San Francisco If you would like to donate additional funds or items to a fundraising auction, please email Dawn Lillington at ozchamber@aol.com   If you’d like more information regarding the fires and information on how to donate directly to the Australian Red Cross, please visit: http://www.advance.org/en/art/?3541 Google  

When the lights go down, in the City. And the sun shines on the bay!

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When the lights go down in the city And the sun shines on the bay I want to be there in my city Ooh, ooh It never fails to impress me how lucky I am living here in San Francisco. I am pretty much an hour from 4 world class wine producing areas: Sonoma Napa Santa Cruz Mountains Livermore Valley And I live in, what I think, is one of the smallest, friendlisest unique cities in the world. To prove this point, last night I attended the first event hosted by the San Francisco Wine Association.   This new association is a group of 16 high end urban micro wineries, who produce small lots of ultra premium wines at a shared facility in San Francisco.  Each winemaker has thier own trademark style, with the focus being on New World wines of distinction.  Many of the winemakers have had recognition in some of the traditional wine media publications. Because these are urban micro wineries, these brands do not have tasting rooms.  That is what makes an open house like this so special, because we get to taste small lot ultra premium wines side by side in a rare tasting event.  To have the ability to taste these wines in one place is truely special. I found some truly memorable examples of Pinot Noir and Syrah from all over California, in a relaxed setting at Crushpad, where the wines are made.  Crushpad Crushpad is the custom crush facility in The City’s Dogpatch district, where commercial wineries share the winemaking facilities.  Additionally, lay winemakers like you and me can also participate int he process by buying in to a non-commerical group.  I am currently making a zinfandel and a cabernet blend in my efforts to better understand the chemical magic that occurs in the barrel.  These custom crush facilities have long been a secret in the wine industry, since the capital outlay for the winemaking equipment can be daunting for a new brand.  In recent years however, Crushpad has been a leader in opening up this community to the public, giving us a glimpse in to the secrets of winemaking and exposing us to new and unique brands.  By pooling resources, micro wineries are able to concentrate on souring the best fruit, and making the wine, and not worry about buying the equipment. The San Francisco Wine Association members that I tasted and stood out for me, with the caveat that I was NOT taking notes due to my making very merry: Connor Brennan Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir Amber Ridge Vineyard 2006 Pinot Noir Bohemian Vineyard 2006 Syrah Stolpman Vineyard Damian Ray Winery 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Flying Wine Cellars 2006 Santa Barbara Syrah White Hawk Vineyard Guy Riedel Wines 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley Mark Moretti Winery 2005 Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Ricardus Corculum 2006 ClandestZin Zinfandel Russian River Valley Seawind Wines 2006 Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Townley Wines 2007 Haley Vineyard Pinot Noir Anderson Valley Because these brands do not […]

Bottle Shock REVIEW

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Last night I was lucky enough (OK, so I paid) to attend the San Francisco premier of Bottle Shock as well as a modern day interpretation of the Judgment of Paris. Prior to the screening, we convened at Crushpad to taste 5 chardonnays and 5 Cabernet blends, to see if the current results would match or best the original 1976 tasting. At the same time, i wanted to present myself with a personal challenge and see if I could (accurately) guess which wines being tasting were French, and which were from California. First, my tasting results, as compared to the crowd’s popular vote at our recreation, and the results in 1976. First, my results: Chardonnay My Place Wine # Popular Vote Origin? 1st Wine 2 2nd France 2nd Wine 5 CA 3rd Wine 4 1st CA 4th Wine 3 France 5th Wine 1 2nd tie CA Cabernet My Place Wine # Popular Vote Origin? 1st Wine 6 but it was a very close battle with my 2nd place winner 2nd CA 2nd Wine 10 1st CA 3rd Wine 7 France 4th Wine 9 CA 5th Wine 8 3rd France   Now that you’re wonder what the hell these wines were, here are the actual bottles we tasted (and if they were tasted in ’76, where they placed: Wine # Wine Crushpad Result 1976 Result Origin Wine 1 2005 Gustavo Thrace 2nd (tie) – CA Wine 2 2005 Girardin Meursault Charmes Du Dessus Premier Cru 2nd France Wine 3 2005 Puligny-Montrachet Clavillon Domaine Leflaive Premier Cru 8th France Wine 4 2006 Chateau Montelena 1st 1st CA Wine 5 2006 Freemark Abbey Winery 2nd 6th CA Cabernet Wine # Wine Crushpad Result 1976 Result Origin Wine 6 2004 Freemark Abbey Winery Bosche Vineyard 2nd 10th CA Wine 7 2004 Chateau Mouton Rothschild 2nd France Wine 8 2004 Chateau Montrose 6th France Wine 9 2004 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars SLV 3rd 3rd CA Wine 10 2004 Ridge Monte Bello 1st So now that I’ve completely confused you – a question: Are palates demographically and attuned? It it in our genes to like particular wines, or is it what wines we have been given as we are training our palates? Now! On to the movie! First, let me tell you how important it is to be able to bring wine in to the movies, particularly if the movie is, well, about wine. Fortunately, the Sundance Kabuki has a wine bar with balcony seating, that allows you to order wine and food for your enjoyment in the theater. You might think that this is sacrilege, but what better to go with a campy soap opera treatment of the wine wars than a nice glass of wine & a nibble? They have done a great job revamping this San Francisco institution, and include soft liek seating with cocktail tables every two seats int he balcony. For all this cozy atmosphere, you only pay $1.50 plus food, which brings the ticket price to $11.50. Doesn’t seem like […]

Bottle Shock UPDATE!

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As promised, here are the vital stats for the Bottle Shock! Premiere Party. The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 turned established perceptions of French and California wines on their heads. So what better place than Crushpad — known to challenge convention ourselves — to celebrate the release of Bottle Shock, the new feature film that dramatizes this famous tasting. Tickets are $75. Yes I know, it’s a lot. BUT think of what you get. You get Bo & Heidi Barrett and Gustavo Brambila, who won first place among white wines at the Paris Tasting with their Chateau Montelena Chardonnay. We’ll also be joined by folks from Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, whose Cabernet Sauvignon captured first place among red wines. Bottle Shock producers, Brenda & Marc Lhormer will even be on hand to give you a behind the scenes account of the filming. You’ll be part of the judging too, tasting four French wines and four American wines, then casting your vote for best red and best white. After the winning wines are selected, we’ll hop aboard chartered buses for a short trip to the theater to view a private screening of the movie. You’ll also get entry to the opening night screening of Bottle Shock with, more wine! Please buy your tickets early here: Bottle Shock Tickets

Bottle Shock!

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Bottle Shock is about to be released! Picture it. Paris. 1976. Scions of the wine industry gather in Paris for the annual Judgment of Paris wine competition. In a blind tasting, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon from France and California were pitted against each other, where, shockingly California won and changed the wine world forever. On August 6th, the film adapted from the book Judgement of Paris: California vs. France and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting That Revolutionized Wine by George Taber, opens to audiences here in the heart of California wine county. To help celebrate the 22nd anniversary of this epic victory for American wine, Crushpad is hosting a premier party to celebrate our victory over the French. Come celebrate with us by tasting a recreation of the Paris competition, and then join us at the Kabuki for a screening of the movie. Details to follow soon. You can watch the official trailer below for your entertainment!

Who is Gary V?

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Gary Vaynerchuck, VAY NER CHUK, is the rambunctious, loud, opinionated host of Wine Library TV, a video wine blog that tries to change the wine world by getting people to ignore those big critics and discover their own palate with some heavy encouragement. Take him for what you will, he is celebrating his 500th episode at our local custom crush facility Crushpad tomorrow, July 10. Come on down and celebrate! Google