Archive for October, 2015

Taste Like a Pro with Mauro Cirilli – October 13

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015


Last week we introduced a new blind tasting class with Mauro Cirilli – Taste Like a Pro! With the wines in brown bags so we couldn’t see the grape, producer, origin or year, we forced ourselves to evaluate each wine’s color, smell, flavor, sugar, acidity, alcohol, tannin, body and finish in order to guess the specifics that were hidden behind the bag. As Mauro said, a long finish is a sign of a high quality wine that you should be happy with… who doesn’t love when the wine lingers on your tongue long after it’s gone? Color tells us about the wine’s age; for white wines, a green hue indicates youth, while it becomes more golden with age; reds start out more purple and turn to red and orange with age. And the legs… don’t tell us much, other than the fact that the wine has alcohol. The tasting included 6 different classic grape varieties from various regions all over the world including 1 sparkling, 2 whites, 2 reds and 1 sweet.

The sparkling wine had fine, smooth bubbles, a rich, nutty character and a long finish. Yes, this was most certainly Champagne! Champagne sets the standard for all sparkling wines with creamy bubbles and a rich, textured body.

The first white had a green hue; it was lean and zesty with good acid, briny with ocean air. It was a Loire Valley Muscadet from France – not an easy guess!

Next was a more typical white with a golden hue, aromas of limestone, nutmeg, stone fruit and vanilla. Creamy texture with lemon curd flavor. A white Burgundy? Actually it was a Russian River Chardonnay from here in California. Impressive!

The first red had ripe fruit and some earthiness. It was high in acid (for a red) and low in tannin with a persistent earthy, flowery quality. Not a Pinot… this was a Grand Cru Beaujolais, made from the Gamay grape in the area south of Burgundy, France.

The second red brought me right back to my honeymoon in Rioja, so I knew it was Tempranillo. Earthy, brambly fruit, vanilla and dill. This was Rioja Alta.

For the grand finale, a dessert wine with orange zest, tropical fruit, white flowers… it was an ice wine from Dr. Loosen in Germany.

A varied and educational tasting with wines representing San Francisco Wine Center and Mauro’s menu at Press Club.

Wine List:

1. Larmandier-Bernier Latitude Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs NV ($48)

2. Claude Branger Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Terroir Les Gras Moutons 2013, Loire Val, FR($13)

3. Suacci Carciere Heintz Vineyard Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2009, Sonoma, CA ($40)

4. Jean-Paul Brun Fleurie Terres Dorées 2013, Beaujolais, France ($22)

5. Vina Alberdi, Reserva, La Rioja Alta 2008, Rioja, Spain ($20)

6. Dr. Ernst Loosen Eiswein 2008, Mosel Valley, Germany ($45)



– Melanie Solomon

New World vs. Old World with Mary Burnham – September 29

Monday, October 5th, 2015


In our second intro class, New World versus Old World, we compare wines from Europe to those from “newer” wine making areas like South Africa, America, New Zealand, and Australia. The trick is to guess between two similar wines of mostly the same varietal and determine which is from the New World and which is from the Old World. Mary Burnham, wine writer, explained that, in general, New World wines tend to be more fruity and oaky with higher alcohol compared to Old World wines, which tend to be more earthy, savory, acidic and minerally. However, the line between Old and New has been blurring, with some NW producers going back to the old style and some OW taking a more modern approach. For this reason the Pinot Noir comparison totally stumped the group, since the Oregon version was quite savory and the Burgundy version was more of a NW style.  Two more interesting but difficult pairs to discern in this group were a Chenin Blanc duo from France and South Africa and a Tempranillo duo from Spain and Washington State. As slightly lesser known varietals, we really had to put our wine thinking caps on to try and determine what made these wines different and how those differences were attributable to their places of origin. The other challenge with these two pairs was that the wines really needed food to show at their best. Some cheese helped.

The only certainty tonight was that the majority of the class preferred the New World selections!

Wine List:

1. Wolf Blass Dry Riesling 2009 – South Australia ($12)

2. Metternich & Salomon Kremstal dae Reserve Pfaffenberg Riesling 2009 – Austria ($30)

3. Domaine Laffourcade Savennieres 2010 – Loire Valley FR ($25)

4. Mulderbosch Western Cape Chenin Blanc 2010 – South Africa ($14)

5. Amisfield Central Otago Pinot Noir 2005 – South Island of New Zealand ($32)

6. Vincent Girardin Vosne-Romanee Vieilles Vignes 2005 – Cote de Nuits, Burgundy, FR ($52)

7. Pesquera Ribera del Duero 2009 – Spain ($38)

8. Gramercy Cellars Tempranillo Inigo Montoya 2009 – Walla Walla, WA ($53)


– Melanie Solomon

Torbreck Tasting – September 22

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

The Torbreck tasting on September 22 was an outstanding celebration of Australian Rhone varieties from one of the classic producers of collectible wine in the Barossa Valley.  Torbreck Vice President – Americas Matt Lane opened the festivities with some classic down home Aussie humor and interesting factoids. We discussed the dynamic and complex history of wine in Australia, with a special focus on the ancient soils (oldest in the world) and ancient fruit, as well as the recent challenges the industry has faced in the world wine market. Matt by the way makes no apologies and well he shouldn’t as Torbreck showed us again how great these wines can be at their pinnacle. Winemaker Scott McDonald took us through a truly spectacular tasting of many of Torbreck’s red wines, including the much-acclaimed 2012 Pict Mataro and the 2012 Run Rug Shiraz.  The unique and evolving aromas and flavors of each wine kept our guests on their toes as the wines gained complexity and expanded across our palates with a wonderfully silky weight combined with undeniable balance.  To insure the tasting was truly unforgettable, Matt and Scott ended the night with two unexpected treats – magnums of the 2006 Les Amis Grenache and the 2006 Struie Shiraz.  Each of these wines exhibited a subtlety and depth of fruit that had everyone asking for more.  We are putting together our post class order as we speak so friends of SF Wine Center can purchase Torbreck’s wonderful wines by emailing  A complete list of the wines we tasted is below:

2013 Cuvee Juveniles
2011 The Steading Grenache Shiraz Mataro (Mourvedre)
2012 The Pict Mataro
2012 Descendant Shiraz Viognier
2012 The Factor Shiraz
2012 Run Rig Shiraz
2006 Les Amis Grenache (magnum)
2006 The Struie Shiraz (magnum)