Archive for November, 2015

Semillon Horizontals and Verticals

Saturday, November 14th, 2015

Recently SF Wine Center hosted a private Australian wine seminar focused on Semillon. This grape is traditionally found in Bordeaux, blended with the dominant Sauvignon Blanc, but Australia has established Semillon as an interesting varietal wine that is bright and ageable.


With producers like Tyrrell’s, Thomas Wines and Audrey Wilkinson, we sampled Semillon from 2015, 2009, 2005 and some older. The 2015’s, from the vintage down under earlier this year, were super fresh with a lot of lime, some tropical notes and ample acidity. The acidity was the most surprising element as I tasted through the older wines, permeating each wine and contributing to their freshness and longevity. The Audrey Wilkinson line-up was most impressive to me, with the freshness of the 2015 transitioning to the funky petrol and barnyard nose of the 2009 Reserve. I had forgotten that aged Semillon took on a petrol quality like Riesling; there was even some sherbet and talc on this one. The 2005 was toasty and complex, and the 2001 still had good acid and petrol, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as the 2005.


Most of these wines are not widely available in the U.S., but if I happen to see an older Semillon on a wine list or in a wine shop I will be sure to give it a try.


– Melanie Solomon

The Art of Food & Wine Pairing

Saturday, November 14th, 2015


Recently we held our first Wine & Food pairing class in a long time, led by Master Sommelier Gillian Ballance with food prepared by chef Alejandra Espinoza. Before diving into the pairings we learned some basic “rules,” the first being that food changes wine but not the other way around – wine will not make a food better or worse, but food can do one or the other for wine. The second was that like flavors play well together, like fruity with fruity, earthy with earthy, sweet with sweet, but not too sweet – the food should not be sweeter than the wine; this is why (dry) red wine and chocolate is often a failed pairing. Gillian shared some of her experience working at Windows on the World in the former World Trade Center, where she and her fellow employees would spend hours working on the perfect food and wine combinations. An art more than a science, trial and error is the best way to find the best matches. Students brought their thirst and appetite to this class, and the best pairing of the night was the Oregon Pinot and the mushroom flatbread – an example of earthy + earthy. This class also reinforced my opinion that Champagne and Riesling are the most food-friendly wines around; their acidity makes them pair well with both fresh and rich dishes.


The food:
1. Tuna Tataki, Ginger-lime Vinaigrette or Black Sesame Crusted Cayenne Aioli
2. Mini Quiche, Broccoli, Feta Cheese
3. Flatbread, Wild Mushrooms, Gruyere, Truffle oil
4. Angus Beef Burgers, Onion Compote, Black Pepper Sauce

The wine:
1. Larmandier-Bernier Lattitude Extra Brut Blanc de Blancs NV – Champagne, FR ($48)
2. Gritsch Mauritiushof Gruner Veltliner Loibenberg Smaragd Wachau 2011 – Austria ($40)
3. Domaines Leflaive Macon Verze 2013 – Burgundy, France ($42)
4. Willi Schaefer Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett 2011 – Mosel Valley, GER ($30)
5. JK Carriere Shea Vineyard Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2002 – Oregon ($65)
6. Giovanni Rosso Barbera d’Alba 2013 – Piedmont, Italy ($25)
7. Sierra Cantabria Finca El Bosque Rioja 2008 – Rioja, Spain ($170)
8. Rudd Estate Oakville Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 – Napa Valley, CA ($120)


-Melanie Solomon