We take the long way to get a “Taste of Mendocino,” through the Golden Gate Club at the Presidio near San Francisco
I’m sitting in the lounge of what was the Officer’s Club of the Presidio, a former U.S. Army post decommissioned in 1994 after having served three nations as a strategic military garrison protecting the entrance to San Francisco Bay, centuries before the first gigantic concrete caissons were poured for the Golden Gate Bridge. One wall has been cut away to expose the original adobe construction, later encased in brick and finally restored in 1934 as part of a New Deal public works project.
This is one of just two San Francisco structures surviving from the Spanish colonial period dating to 1776, and it was constructed with the help of Native Americans. I’m sitting in this truly historic space accidentally, having stumbled across it looking for a dry, warm spot to work until the “Taste of Mendocino” opens a few hours from now at 1 p.m. in the Golden Gate Club, the former enlisted man’s club of the Presidio.
This event is sponsored by the Mendocino Winegrape and Wine Commission, an organization representing the 84 wineries and nearly 350 vineyards of California’s far northern appellation. An old friend from my Chicago days, Dave Batt, is the new president of the organization, and I’m here to shoot some video that may end up on his website. Dave likes my “Vintage Highway” concept, so I’m putting together a piece on the tasting, which is limited to trade and media. If you aren’t a retail wine buyer or a wine writer, you won’t make it through the front door.
Chris Tandoc, webmaster for Carpe Vino—my wine shop, wine bar and restaurant in Old Town Auburn—drove up with me yesterday afternoon. We experimented shooting video in my truck in an attempt to perfect “Moosecam,” video footage that someday will be credited to my one-year-old Italian greyhound. I’ll be taking my pup along with me on future Vintage Highway forays into wine country, and he will have a non-speaking role as “camera jockey”.
We could have easily driven up this morning in plenty of time for the tasting, but I’m determined to stick with the Vintage Highway concept of pulling my Airstream to a venue and then staying overnight to really get a sense of the place. I’m done with hit-and-run visits; I’m willing to spend the extra time it takes to see and hear and taste.
And we did all of that last night. This is a confusing place to navigate, with a tangle of lanes that connect former military warehouses and administration buildings to rows of latter-day officers billets and enlisted barracks. We eventually located the Presidio Social Club, the lone fine dining spot on the post. . .and it was packed on a Monday might. I brought along a bottle of ’07 The Terraces Zinfandel which we consumed at the marble-surfaced bar, matching it with simple comfort food.
We passed the evening in a parking lot overlooking the Golden Gate Club, a very quiet hideaway principally because it is adjacent to the San Francisco National Cemetery, the final resting place for some 34,000 war casualties and veterans. We pulled up after dark, and when I stepped out of the truck, row after undulating row of white crosses covered a hillside.
It didn’t take long before we received our anticipated “official” welcome from the Presidio Police, an employee of the federal government since this tip of the peninsula is independent of the city and county of San Francisco. As soon as I turned on lights in the trailer, we attracted the patrol car we observed parked above us near the Presidio’s Main Post Chapel. I explained our mission and the officer cheerfully permitted us to stay. Though the propane furnace is the only non-functioning appliance on the trailer, my silver cocoon was quite warm and comfortable.
In just a couple of hours we’ll be tasting our way through some of Mendocino’s finest offerings from wineries such as Handley Cellars, Londer Vineyards, Goldeneye, McNab Ridge, Meyer Family Cellars and Roederer Estate. Mendo is a huge AVA, with wineries concentrated principally in the Andersen Valley along twisty Rte. 128 and all along Hwy. 101 through Hopland and Ukiah. Some 16,000 acres of vines are planted in 12 sub-appellations. You really do need a program to keep everything straight.
Check back on Wednesday for my post about the Mendo tasting. . .we’ll have our first video post up soon.
One Final Note:
I received the eamil below while sitting at the bar in the Presidio Social Club. . .nice:
Hello there! I love all things Airstream and saw you tonight on 101 driving into San Francisco. I took a picture of your Airstream and will send it to you if you would like it! (I had to prove to the boyfriend “I really saw an Airstream in SF!!) It was a beautiful sight and gave me a big smile during my commute home! All the best~ Barbara
PS: I will look forward to checking out your blog
One of the main reasons for launching Vintage Highway is to discover new wines to bring into Carpe Vino. In reality, much of the wine retail shops offer is introduced to their buyers through wholesalers: both giant distributors and smaller brokers. The potential for dealing winery direct is limited, though we are fortunate in California to be so close to the source of great juice.
The main drawback with this system is that wine reps are showing their customers the same stuff at the same time. And, in many instances, distributors saddle their staffs with quotas to sell specific wines, instantly creating markets for products they decide to push.
At Carpe Vino, we’ve always sought to differentiate our stock from others, especially the big box stores and huge wine retailers. . .and even the grocery stores which carry huge inventories that we just can’t match. Our strategy has always been to locate small production wines—hard to find, great wines at great prices—as a means of distinguishing our brand in the marketplace.
And to the extent we are able, we do seek to create relationships directly with producers, often resulting in access to “winery-only” vintages. That’s our sweet spot.
So, on my tour of Amador County, I had the specific objective of finding new wines to bring back for the racks at Carpe Vino. And, based on the region’s expertise in zinfandel, I imagined that is where my search would center.Read More Post a comment (1)