by: Karina Calayag
Fire in the house! A new winefest, Winestock SF, has arrived San Francisco and the excitement that sent the mercury rising in the City seemed to have come from that old abandoned firehouse on Russian Hill (on Pacific between Van Ness and Polk), Firehouse 8.
Debuting on a perfect summer weekend of July 20-21, Winestock SF‘s ground zero was the refurbished shell of an old station which was transformed into a watering hole of the wine sort. The event that centered on wines is a production of Vino Ventures founded by Paulina Lopez. The firehouse-turned-event-venue walls were lined with wine, and pseudo-wines (in a good way), mostly from California, made complete with food, entertainment and seminars. I missed the classes instead choosing to spend my limited time on wine-tasting, nibbling on truffles and meeting the artisans that stand proudly behind them.
A nice change from the usual humongous convention center layout which sometimes could be an overwhelming experience, this inaugural of Winestock SF was held in an intimate space which I imagine once housed two firetrucks side-by-side (they were much smaller back then). The attendees enjoyed the “intimacy” that one gets at a gathering of friends.
There were familiar labels and familiar proprietors, but there were also fresh new labels and faces, which for me is always the draw in coming to these events. It’s a great way to know what’s out there in one place. One wine in particular, you can say is beautiful on the palate; as it says on its label “Mt. Beautiful,” – from Mt. Beautiful, New Zealand. Not hard to guess how I felt after a little swig of that.
Other wines worth mentioning at this first year of Winestock SF; Pat Paulsen‘s 2009 Merlot, Toby Lane‘s 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon and Hanna‘s 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. All memorable with pleasure. Happy to see and taste Tess Wines again and the classic Peju. Spicy Vines was there with their original product, an interesting blend of red wine, brandy, spices and fruit, like Nordic grogg or mulled wine as we know it (a pseudo-wine in a good way). They tipped me off with secret news of a white blend in the works in addition to their popular red blend. Can’t wait to hear more about that.
The sold out event easily packed the room, a reminder of the strong attraction San Franciscans have for wine. The decibel of the festivities within that intimate space from the live music, the on-going back-and-forth conversations of product introductions and inquisitions from the “party”-goers undeniably added volume to the party atmosphere and definitely made it livelier.
There was a bit of passed hors d’ouevres; not a lot – I saw one tray. There could’ve been more but the one bite served to me personally by Chef Kat (Bites That Delight) lingered and lasted, so for me it was enough. And there were those Andean popcorn appetizers by Poquito – a Latin American Tapas restaurant (with dishes from Spain to Ecuador) I am very curious to visit and try one of these days. The day was sweeter with sweets, chocolates and toffee, like spotted treasures that surprise you on a regular winefest stroll. Thankfully they were also just a handful. They were sinfully good. Mentionables: Truffle Gateau‘s pure Belgian chocolates that pair exquisitely with wine – so it is delicious as dessert or as an appetizer with wine and cheese. Toffee Talk‘s Dark chocolate with Nuts and Smitten Artisan Truffles‘ Kalamansi and Creme Honey. Look for them.