BY NATHAN CRANFORD
The San Francisco Vintner’s Market is the city’s premier stop for wine lovers and connoisseurs to literally “try and buy” some of the greatest wines California has to offer. The wineries that attend this event come from many of the state’s most famous wine growing regions, such as Sonoma County, Paso Robles, the Russian River Valley and of course, Napa Valley. However, what you won’t find at this event are some of the bigger corporate wineries, as the Vintner’s Market prefers instead to showcase the wines produced by smaller, up-and-coming vineyards throughout the state.
A few weekends back, the SF Vintner’s Market held its annual “Spring Time in the City” event at Fort Mason, with over 200 California wineries showcasing their wares throughout the afternoon. The event was truly expansive, and while it wouldn’t have been physically possible for me to try all the wines on offer, I was able to select three wineries that I felt stood out from the rest.
The first winemaker I had the pleasure of visiting was Townley Wines, a boutique winery that produces various delectable wines from vineyards throughout Northern and Southern California. Founded by Randy Townley Bennet in 2007, Mr. Bennet has since put his heart and soul into the craft, which is reflected by the artistry of his wines.
The Townley Wines’ 2006 vintage Chardonnay comes from the Alder Springs Vineyard in Mendocino County and stands as one of the better wines of its kind that I’ve had in quite some time. I was immediately struck by how refreshing it was–the flavors were wonderfully balanced and one could tell that the grapes were grown in a cooler, perhaps more shaded climate than most others. The wine, of course, is best served chilled for crispness, and ideally outside on a warm Spring or Summer’s day.
The next winery I honed in on during my tour of the Market was Faustini Wines, a family-owned and operated winery based in the Napa Valley that takes a more creative approach to wine making.
Founded by husband and wife team, Anthony and Michelle Faustini, Faustini Wines has since grown to become one of the valley’s most promising up-and-coming wineries. Both Anthony and Michelle are ardent explorers, and they often personally visit the wineries to get a feel for the vineyards they end up utilizing. Also, each wine tends to come with a story surrounding its name, which often informs the wine’s genesis.
One of the wines showcased at the Faustini booth was an absolutely fabulous Cabernet Sauvignon blend labeled with the equally alluring moniker “Secret Veil.” As the Faustini representative explained, all of the Faustini wines are labeled with a key word or phrase that represents a special moment related to the wine’s conception. In this case, the delicious, silky smooth blend (15% Syrah, Merlot and Petit Verdot) was born on Napa’s Howell Mountain when Mr. Faustini found the perfect location for producing their next vintage. Later that year, he and Michelle found themselves at an art gallery, gazing at an art piece by Peter Lik titled the “Secret Veil”–it was then he decided to break the news to his wife about his visit to Howell Mountain and his acquisition of vineyard space there–the “veil” had been lifted, so to speak.
I find that these stories do more than merely act as a marketing device–they provide a living history behind the vintage that makes enjoying Faustini wines more of a complete experience.
The final booth I visited on that beautiful Saturday afternoon was G.Reedy Wines, a winery that was founded by business partners Greg Urmini and Ross Reedy (hence, G.Reedy) who had met in Florence, Italy whilst studying abroad. Despite the somewhat negative connotations the wine’s label has in this day and age, the name actually fits (but more in a positive, holistic way, and less in a “Gordon Gekko” sort of way). While the owners of G.Reedy Wines are far from “greedy” in the sense of striving after hoards and hoards of cash, I can personally vouch for the winemakers’ “greed” in ensuring that each wine exceeds its potential while remaining quite affordable for the average weekend wine drinker.
One of the wines I sampled–the winery’s 2010 vintage Sauvignon Blanc–was extremely impressive upon first taste. Everything about the wine seemed to match my expectations for this particular variety, but it all seemed more intense than your run-of-the-mill Sauvignon Blanc. The wine’s typically floral aroma was more enhanced and the flavor itself was quite an exciting mix of subtly sweet fruit–overall, it was quite refreshing. Moreover, this, like many of G.Reedy’s other selections, was priced just right at a mere $18 a bottle–hardly greedy if you ask me.
The wineries reviewed today comprise of only a small fraction of the total boutique wines on hand at Fort Mason that weekend. Far be it from me to judge these wine makers in relation to their many peers, but I will say that you can’t go wrong with the wines produced by these three wineries. Also, the SF Vintner’s Market truly remains one of the few events in the city of San Francisco where many of the smaller California wineries can showcase their wares to large groups of potential buyers. The event does a great service for the California oenological trade, and the opportunity to attend the Market as a taster, a trade associate, or even as a member of the media (such as yours truly) should definitely not be passed up.