By:   Karina Calayag


Even for a wine enthusiast, finding the best wines in the vast selection of wineries from the many wine regions that surround the San Francisco Bay Area could be a daunting task.  But thankfully there are ways that this is made viable, simple and efficient.  When it is comprehensively laid out clustered under one roof then it becomes as challenging as treasure hunting inside an ancient Egyptian king’s tomb; where wine gems are littered everywhere and it is even harder to find wine that is bad.

So you might miss out on the vineyard ambiance and driving around the breath-taking wine-countryside but that can very well be saved for another day. If your main mission is to discover great wine all in one fell swoop, saving gas and precious time, while still enjoying discovering wine in a more taste-centric way, then this one-stop-shop “Try-It, Buy-It” fest is the way to go.


SF Vintner's Market. Try It - Buy It.


At the annual SF Vintner’s Market at Fort Mason’s Fiesta Pavilion, it was wine tasting with iconic scenes of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz in the background.  Around 200 distinguished winemakers from world-renowned vineyards from Napa Valley, Sonoma County, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Russian River Valley and beyond poured their choice wines, from new releases, special collections and rare vintages.  Aside from the wine collective aspect of this event, you also get to meet the vintners themselves or, if not them, their very knowledgeable staff gladly imparting their mastery of their wines and what makes their wines so special and unique.  As a bonus, the wines are mostly sold at a special discount at the show for which reason they were flying off the pop up booths, at times in caseloads, including the pricier cult wines.

After a couple of hours of swirling, sipping, tasting and spitting out, we filtered this broad and potentially confusing array of wines down to a few outstanding ones. We had a couple of requirements in mind to guide us in our selection putting them distinctly above the rest. One, they needed to have been stunning and tantalizing that they were remarkably memorable and noteworthy. And, two, we need to have become truly obsessed by them so we may highly and confidently recommend them to you.




1.  2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Reserve, Dry Creek Valley, $42. Estate 1856

  • Tempting aromas of dark fruit merge with expressions of fine-grained oak. The velvety texture reveals rich layers of dark cherry, wild plum, blackberry, and mocha with a touch of spicy cedar and mineral essence. Elegant and stylish, with supple yet firm tannins and refined layers of oak notes, this Cabernet graces the palate with the finesse of a wine that deserves to be slowly sipped and savored as it lingers on the palate.*

2.  2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sugarloaf Mountain and Howell Mountain AVAs, Napa Valley, $100. Stormy Weather Wines

  • Powerful aromas of deep blackberry mix with hints of tobacco. Deep plum, mocha, pepper, just a touch of mineral and oak mingle seamlessly to create a solid structure. Serve this with flank steak minimally seasoned with sea salt.

3.  2009 Bucephalus Red Blend, Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley, $150. Black Stallion Estate Winery

  • The 2009 vintage of Bucephalus showcases aromas of blackberry, cassis, plum and spice. The components have integrated beautifully exhibiting a rich and full-bodied mouthfeel of intense, deep black fruit, vanilla and dark chocolate.*

4.  2009 Cabernet Franc, $65. Spirit Horse Vineyards

  • Aromas of red fruit, cracked pepper and baking spice with intense flavors of berries. It also has a particular earthiness with an interesting mingling of spice in a brighter hue of red due to the lighter color of the grapes.

5.  2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, $120. Linked Vineyards

  • In the glass, you are immediately struck by the depth of color. Winemaker Luc Morlet calls it violet foncé. The intensity of the color is a tantalizing promise of the aroma and flavors to come. The nose is filled with wild berries, Santa Rosa plums, cassis and allspice, with undertones of dried mushrooms and light floral notes. A sip reveals a complex symphony of boysenberries, blackberries and dark Bing cherries blended with layers of pepper, warm spices, graphite and mocha. Beautifully structured tannins and an easy minerality lead to an exceptionally long silken finish.*

6.  2010 Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon. $48. Silverado Vineyards

  • Plum, spice, earth, dried herb and sweet oak aromas. Medium body with well-integrated fruit, spice and oak flavors. Balanced acidity and tannin give a long finish with flavors that linger.* This wine will go perfectly with grilled rib eyes.

7.  2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Red Hills AVA Lake County, $65. Hawk and Horse Vineyards

  • Brilliant, deep garnet red in the glass, notes of wild blackberry, ripe roses and white pepper spice. Smooth silky mouth feel. Finishes long and sultry with pleasing notes of dry cocoa and black fruit. Balanced with integrated tannins.*

8.  2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga, $112, Napa Valley. TwentyFour Wines

  • Charles Woodson’s passion as a winemaker as he is a star NFL football player is clearly evident in all his wines. In particular, the 2009 Cabernet was a winner – with sultry notes of chocolate covered cherries, vanilla and sweet oak dance with cassis and hints of smoke as aromas fill the glass. Bold expressions of powerful fruit are balanced by layers of coffee, cocoa, and violet in this polished Cabernet. Round, refined tannins add weight and structure that is echoed in the plush, velvety finish.*

9.  2010 “Il Consigliere” Red Wine, OMERTA, Napa Valley. Wines by Bridget Raymond

  • What could be more alluring than delicious wine that is masked in mystery. OMERTA is that kind of a wine. It is complex and is layered with flavors. Bold and rich in the essence of berries and cocoa with a silky mouth-feel. Bridget Raymond wines are all made from a secret winery in Napa Valley.

10.  JCB No. 69 by Jean-Charles Boisset

  • Brut Rose Cremant De Bourgogne Sparkling Wine. It is flamboyant, vibrant, sensual. Each JCB wine is known by a number and each number has deep significance for Jean-Charles Boisset, the collection’s creator and namesake. Jean-Charles was born in 1969, the year that mankind went to the moon. As such, 69 represents unlimited expression, freedom, creativity, intellectual revolution, artistry, and refinement. Of course, 69 is also a rosé brut based exclusively on pinot noir; a rosé that entwines masculinity and feminity. This rosé is made in the saigneé method by carrying out a short maceration of Pinot Noir from Burgundy’s côtes. Vibrant aromas of raspberry and red currant evolve into aromatic jammy notes. This wine is tender in the mouth with crisp flavors.*


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* Winemaker’s Notes.



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