The invite read:

Available for sample will be 53 premium wines from 17 boutique San Francisco wineries. With expert winemakers at the helm, these small-production wineries are achieving outstanding scores, winning medals, and gaining the attention worthy of their wines. We hope you will consider them for your business.

[Have I told you that the word “boutique” reminds me of poodle skirts? I’m aging myself, as – yes – I got to wear one when it was chic to wear! In my lingo, I like to step away from that felt thing I wore out, and think of anything now referred to as “boutique” as pure “artisan.” It’s just semantics, I know, but just better describes how artsy anything “boutique” now is, in my own mind.]

So, off Jose and I went to San Francisco to taste artisan wines at Crushpad. Crushpad, in case you’re not familiar with this company, is an urban, co-op winery warehouse, where burgeoning wineries take advantage of getting their start without having to make all the capital investments associated with being the proprietor of one’s own winery.

In town traffic was fierce, but get there we must… Who wants to miss tight quartered, can’t avoid “bootie bumping,” and those reminiscent aromas from poodle skirt days gone by? (One person was wearing her grandmother’s powder, I swear. I had to yank myself back to reality as we crossed paths, but I was happy that something truly boutique was there… although equally happy to get away from the sweet, sickening aroma that had just assaulted my palate) Onward and upward…

Jose and I truly tried to make it around the room, and I think we would have, had we not found a few very interesting vintners. My faves in the order that I found them, and the only wines mentioned on this blog posting, are the following:

The reason for only focusing on these particular brands is because not only were the wines engaging, but the characters and their stories behind their brands also totally intrigued me. I’m a sucker for a great story; while being in the wine business speaks for itself… Great wines.

All of the wines below, for which I’m recording, are Highly Recommended.

Aver Family Vineyards

Yes, they’re producing a Petite Sirah, so they’ve got my immediate attention; although, I didn’t mention anything about my intense affiliation with Petite Sirah (as the founder and director of PS I Love You, with my pals at Foppiano Vineyards being the other founding factor). It was Jose who outed me. I was okay with it, even though I actually was totally enjoying being anonymous. I know it’s sick, but I wanted John Aver to just spill his guts.  He did, both before and after knowing, so I figured out that it really doesn’t matter.

John’s using Clone 3 Petite Sirah, the only registered clone of Petite Sirah. There are five clones of PS, three of which are real Petite. The other two? See for yourself:

• PS Clone 1 is Petite Sirah | Durif, not registered.

• PS Clone 2 is actually Pinot Noir.

• PS Clone 3 is Petite Sirah | Durif, registered.

• PS Clone 4 is actually Peloursin.

• PS Clone 5 is Petite Sirah | Durif, not registered.

The Aver PS was farmed organically, the vines are less than 10 years old, and their 2006 Blessings (Petite Sirah) flavors – undeniably PS – were big and bold, tight and young, but filled with promise, juicy flavors, and a delightful find. .  $55

Canine Wines

Okay, anyone who’s had her life and limbs saved by a canine (long story) is already a fan.

Kelly Naughtlin, Co-founder and  CEO, donates $5 a bottle to animal shelters. Aw….. [From their Website: “We are parents to rescued pets that have brought so much joy and love to our lives, our hope is that everyone could experience the same. To help good animals find their forever home, we give $5 of every bottle we sell to our animal rescue partners.”]

Donations to Date: $24,540… Double Aw…

Now the wines, and not a dog in the bunch (sorry!)…

  1. Jose and I tasted their 2007 Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay (25 cases, which means one barrel), which had great acidity in balance with the wine’s pH… Really complex flavors and yet a bright citrus and cream finish.  $35
  2. 2006 Dry Creek Zinfandel: Spicy and jammy from Dry Creek Valley. The expected pepper spice and black fruit. Anyone who loves Zin would be very happy with this one. $40
  3. 2006 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: 85% CS, 8% ME, 5% CF, 2% PV (Bordeaux driven with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cab Franc, and Petite Verdot, this Cab was just beautiful in every way… It had great flavors with lots of blackberry and black currant and a slight saddle leather/tobacco that spoke ripe Napa fruit. $65

Jazz Cellars

Okay what’s not to love here. While Jose and I were in Rock n’Roll before moving to California, the only part of the record collection that made it over the Rocky Mountains with us was the jazz and classical music. The Rock n’Roll was donated to Jose’s alma mater, Bowdoin College’s radio station, where he got his first radio exposure… Ah, jazz… and on a label.

Why did proprietors  Joe Lazzara and Bob Smith call it Jazz? They’re neighbors and good friends who discovered that they had similar passions for both fine wine and great music. During their annual trip to NOLA’S Jazz Fest, it finally hit them … it was time to move from talk to action and create a winery that would embody the spirit and improvisational nature of jazz in the production of fine wines. Voila!

And, wouldn’t you know, they’re producing a Petite Sirah. We tasted their 2006 Petite Sirah Eaglepoint Ranch Vineyard: Mendocino fruit I find to be a bit more reserved in how it delivers that black cherry fruit, but is great for a big tannic structure. Given that this was a 2006, it’s still got lots of time that it will enjoy in the bottle, but I’m pretty used to how Petites taste today, and where they’ll go. This one would be great now with a piece of beef that’s got lots of marbled fat in it (Prime rib) to balance the tannins and deliver the fruit’s future today without waiting.  [The wine has a lot of promise, as well as being very enjoyable now as a young Petite.] $45

Tomorrow, I’ll be focusing on the other three wineries.