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San Fran Gets Some Swank
filed under: Events

toast_dapperdude.jpgWhew! I spent a fantastic three hours knocking around the San Fran War Memorial Opera House last Thursday at the first ever SF-based Toast of the Town event. Put on by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, the splashy affair featured hundreds of wineries, lots of fantastic food purveyors, live jazz and a pretty good scene, if I do say so myself. Read on for a quick review and some snaps of the swank affair.

toast_inside2.jpgAt $185 a pop, a VIP ticket would've gotten you into the first part of the evening - the VIP tasting from 5 to 7 pm. It also would've gotten you a goodie bag on your way out, something I forgot to pick up myself. Word has it there was some pretty good stuff in there - some sort of wine hand held device, a glass, etc. Woops.

Clearly, I enjoyed myself at the event otherwise I would've surely remembered to score this booty on the way out the door. So what, exactly, was all the fuss about? toast_twodudes.jpg Well, let me start off by saying it wasn't about the wine: although there was definitely some good stuff there (you may recall I included a list of highlighted producers in my earlier entry on the event) I found the majority of it to be the mostly large-scale production stuff you can find on the shelves of your local grocer or wine warehouse store.

toast_eggs.jpgIs that harsh? It's not meant to be so - it's just a fact. Several other industry folks I saw there agreed - there wasn't much small-production or new stuff to be discovered. After all, it was a consumer event and - unlike the many trade tastings I attend - it wasn't necessarily geared towards introducing folks to new products. If you like Gallo, great. It was there. Not new, but then again the gussied up guests weren't really looking for wine epiphanies that night - they were there to get their eat and drink on, and boy let me tell you - they were in the right place for just that!

toast_tartine.jpgNot only was there plenty of booze (insane amounts, really - literally hundreds and hundreds of wines to taste) there was a fabulous array of food stuffs to sample, many of which I've captured in pics here in the blog. Among my favorites were the treats from Tartine Bakery (HelLO I can never get enough of those cocoa nibs!!!), fried quail eggs from award-winning eatery Pacific's Edge in Carmel, toast_rochers.jpga really pretty if not-quite-as-tasty-as-it-looks concoction from Kyo-Ya sushi in The Palace hotel (served up by a very dapper dude in the first pic of this entry) and some cute mini burgers from Cole's Chop House in Napa. And finally, the whole milk organic yogurt from Straus Family Creamery was TO DIE FOR.

toast_burger.jpgWhen it came to the wine, I managed to find a few favorites amidst all the big name hoopla. My absolute favorite new "find" of the evening was a Merlot-based red from Bordeaux's Right Bank. The 2003 Chateau Magdelaine from St-Emilion was plush, round, earthy and a total delight. The producer only makes about 2,500 cases of the stuff a year and it clocks in at about $75 a pop (I know, eek!). I wasn't surprised to see that the property's owned by venerable Right Bank proprietor Jean-Pierre Moueix - although I'm still flabbergasted at how someone could have so many vowels in a row in his last name.

toast_yogurt.jpgAmongst the whites I enjoyed old stand-by Marques de Riscal white from Rueda in Spain - at less than $10 a bottle and widely available it's great stuff - as well as a Sauvignon Blanc/Chenin Blanc blend from new French mega producer Chamarre. Although the deliberately New World-styled packaging was hardly appealing (with its token butterfly and generic font it struck me as a totally unveiled attempt at looking exactly like what's already lining the shelves of supermarkets stateside), I found the blend charmingly unique and - if uncomplicated - totally quaffable. Watch for these wines to hit the West Coast soon - pending Chamarre's nailing down a distributor. Carmel Valley producer Bernardus also had a great limited production Sauv Blanc (2005 Griva Vineyard) I really enjoyed.

toast_redfood.jpgWhat else? Not much. I ran into a bunch of people I know, including my friend Greg O'Flynn, proprietor of the California Wine Merchant in the Marina. I also saw gal about town Rebecca Weeks, the tall blonde pictured next to mini me, and some others. A few snaps of folks I found "hip" round out the shots, and I hope you enjoy!


Posted by Courtney at