November 16, 2015 Wines of Uncertainty Recap

Wine SIG: Wines of Uncertainty
November 16, 2015 at the home of Rene Matthew
Coordinated by Victoria Green
Review by Sean Timberlake

We all have that stray bottle, hanging around. Perhaps bought impulsively while traveling years ago, or a gift, or perhaps aged too long. The contents of every bottle are somewhat unknown, but these are downright uncertain.

So nine Food Society members gathered to dispel any lingering mysteries over their respective bottle. Prices were researched and revealed after the tasting.

Il Mimo 2014 Italian Rose. Gift
> Dry, acidic
> Strawberry-cherry nose
> 12% alcohol
> Good with grilled foods, summer sipping
> $ 10.99

VINTJS 2013 Mendocino Gewurtztraminer. Purchase, Trader Joe’s
> Light straw color
> Rosy, honey-jasmine nose
> Dry on palate, little finish
> Drinkable enough
> $5.99

Benchmark 1998 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Purchase @ winery 2000
> Inky, garnet color
> Leather, spice nose
> Rich, silky on palate
> Tannins flat from age
> Still drinkable
> $21.99 original price

Subterranean Cellars Satin Doll 2012 Carneros Pinot Noir. Purchase @ Berkeley home winery
> Bright, ruby color
> Cherry, barnyard-funk nose
> Soft, balanced dark fruit on palate
> Well constructed, thoughtful
> $8.00 plus bottling labor

Candor Merlot, Central Coast, Lot 5, blend 2011/2012. Gift
> Plummy, dark color
> Rich dark fruit, luxurious on palate
> Velvety finish
> “Contemplative wine” though would it age well
> $38 price felt a fair value

South African Cape Classics Braai 2014, blend 70% Shiraz, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Grenache. Purchase
> Deep red color
> Smokey nose
> Juicy palate, long, spicy finish
> Complements summer grill, meats
> Needs time to breathe or on the rack
> $20

William Fevre Maipo Valley Carmenere, Chile, 2011. Plonk Wine Club selection
> Deep color
> Notes of petrol, green pepper on the nose
> Tannins rose and fell on the palate, fruit ripened on the finish
> Enjoy with steak, meats
> “Good value”
> $19

Benovia Winery, Russian River, Zinfandel, 2011. Purchase @ winery
> Deep red color, good clarity
> Classically fruity nose
> Light body, high acidity on the palate
> “More like a pinot noir than a zin” with 15.8% ABV
> Sausage, duck or something a fatty for the acidity to cut through
> Price not remembered

Covenant Wines, Red C Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006. Purchase @ winery
> Deep red color
> Peppery, well structured on the palate
> A kosher wine that “is a good wine that happens to be kosher”
> Price not remembered

The winning wines:

1st Candor Merlot
2nd Sub Cellars Satin Doll
3rd Covenant Cabernet

The group felt this was a great way to sample unknown wines in a receptive environment and would certainly do it again.

The tasting was followed by a sumptuous potluck.

See you again in February!







Evoking Emotion in Food Photography


A little glimpse of the brunch the SFPFS-Photography SIG enjoyed after the tour and talk “Evoking Emotion in Food Photography” with Tom Seawell of Seawell Productions on Oct. 24th. Terrific behind the scenes discussion on the evolution of a great shot. Photos courtesy of Robin E. H. Ove.

Piccolo: burrata, early girl tomato, eggplant, agresto, breadcrumbs, cilantro | Sitting outside in Dogpatch SF after a studio tour and fabulous session with Tom Seawell of SeaWell Productions (tomseawell.com). Food as plated and served at the lovely Piccino Cafewww.piccino.com with Alison Negrin, Tom Seawell, and Shveta Berry.

Piccolo: burrata, early girl tomato, eggplant, agresto, breadcrumbs, cilantro | Sitting outside in Dogpatch SF after a studio tour and fabulous session with Tom Seawell of SeaWell Productions (tomseawell.com). Food as plated and served at the lovely Piccino Cafewww.piccino.com with Alison Negrin, Tom Seawell, and Shveta Berry.

Delicious Pizze: funghi: roasted mushroom, crescenza, shaved garlic. Sitting outside in Dogpatch SF after a studio tour and fabulous session with Tom Seawell of SeaWell Productions. Food as plated and served at the lovely Piccino Cafe www.piccino.com with Alison Negrin, Tom Seawell, and Shveta Berry.

Delicious Pizze: funghi: roasted mushroom, crescenza, shaved garlic. Sitting outside in Dogpatch SF after a studio tour and fabulous session with Tom Seawell of SeaWell Productions. Food as plated and served at the lovely Piccino Cafe www.piccino.com with Alison Negrin, Tom Seawell, and Shveta Berry.

And then there was ice cream at Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous just down the street. Dogpatch neighborhood is a great place for an afternoon! Good times with Alison Negrin and Shveta Berry.

And then there was ice cream at Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous just down the street. Dogpatch neighborhood is a great place for an afternoon! Good times with Alison Negrin and Shveta Berry.


Upcoming SIG Dates

Food Tasting SIG
Leaders: Sophia Markoulakis and Micki Weinberg
sophiamarkoulakis@comcast.com;  micki@guittard.com
November 3, 2015

Cooking SIG
Leader: Lili Rollins  lilisfpfs@pacbell.net
Next dates: October 8, 2015; December 10, 2015 (tentative)

Photography SIG
Leaders: Alison Negrin and Shveta Berry
chefalison@gmail.com;  shveta.berry@gmail.com
Next date: August 29, 2015

Wine Tasting SIG
Leaders: Victoria Green and Toby Baird
vickiverde@comcast.net;  tbaird@finemanpr.com
Next date: November 16, 2015

Book Group
Leaders: Pam Elder and Frankie Whitman
pamelaelder@comcast.net;  frankiewhitman@gmail.com
Next date: October 26, 2015

A Day in the Wine Country


Wine SIG – Pinot Noir Tasting at Etude 7.19.15

By: Mark Magers

The SFPFS Wine SIG met on a warm, sunny Sunday morning at Etude Winery, in the Carneros region of Napa Valley. Our goal – participate in the Study of Pinot Noir tasting that Etude offers, allowing side-by-side comparisons of 6 Pinot Noirs, all but two from the same year, made by the same winemaker, the primary variable being where the grapes were grown, and by inference, terroir. There was an added variable of clones, which for the most part we did not discuss. There were 2 from Carneros, and one each from Santa Rita Hills, Willamette Valley, Sonoma Coast, and New Zealand. Two were 2013, the rest were 2012 vintages, all 100% Pinot Noir. With the exception of the Estate Carneros, the wines are in the hundreds of cases production category.

Ably led by Susan Azevedo, we sat around 2 tables in the Angel’s Loft, perched above the winery floor. The building was originally a brandy distillery, owned by Remy Martin and purchased by Etude in 2002. Sidebar – that purchase included a quantity of brandy that was left behind when RMS moved out, and you can still buy the brandy, what is left of it. It is at least 28 years old and smells heavenly. They have a smell sampler in the tasting room, and I warn you, you may spring for the brandy after you smell it!

We started with the 2013 Carneros Estate Grown , which had cherry, strawberry, and a little mushroom (aka Pinot Funk) in the nose. It ended up tasting squarely like a “reference” Pinot. We moved on to a 2012 Heirloom clone, also Carneros – rich, fruit, long finish, almost velvety, elegant. The Heirloom clone is from France. This wine “won” the “pick the best” contest, and in fact we excluded it from voting since it was clearly the best one there.

Next was a 2012 Willamette Yamhill-Carlton from Oregon, sour cherry notes, then on to a 2012 Ellenbach from the Sonoma Coast with notes of spice, strawberry rhubarb pie, and a soft finish. The 2012 Fiddlestix Santa Rita Hills was fruit forward, made from the 777 clone (the Barbie clone, also a Boeing airplane) – short finish, lighter, drinking (fill my schooner, please!) wine. We finished with a 2013 Bannockburn (Otago, NZ) – bold fruit forward, full body, tannic even, not a typical Pinot, suitable for aging.

You can replicate this fine experience, since Etude offers the Study on weekends several times each day (reservations required).



Tasting SIG May 2015

By Sophia Markoulakis

Sometimes the most mundane topic spurs the most discussion, which is what happened at our recent tasting SIG. The topic—Vegetable Broth—has the means to solicit a collective yawn by many, but when discussing vegetarianism, substitutions for chicken broth, and the integrity of our most trusted brands, you have the makings for an interesting evening.

We went in to this knowing that the broth would have to be heated to accurately assess and compare, and member Nancy Kux not only procured our assortment, but also brought samples in unmarked Mason jars that were kept warm in a water bath.

The tasting was an eye opener for the seven of us that gathered, all confessing that we seldom used vegetable broth, either because of unfortunate past experiences or lack of brand awareness. We all acknowledged that we have our favorite shelf-stable chicken broth brand, and we were curious to see if those trusted brands delivered on a vegetarian option.

Most of us agreed that we opted for water in place of broth when cooking vegetarian, enhancing the flavors of a dish by using ingredients like tomato sauce, mushrooms, and other umami-like substitutions.

As we slurped our unidentifiable broths, it was clear which ones were flavored with certain vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, celery, herbs). It was also eye-opening to learn what went in to the brands we tasted (starch, yeast, sugar, chemical preservatives).

In all we tasted seven broths, which are ranked below, from the group’s number one favorite starting the list. All were purchased at Molly Stone’s; price and sodium amounts listed below.

1. Aneto, Spain, $8. 674 mg (Notes: rich, not too salty, herbal, well balanced)
2. Swanson, $3.49. 800 mg (Notes: sweet, carrot, tomato, salt)
3. Imagine, $3.99. 520 mg (Notes: chicken, fatty, pepper, bland)
4. O Organic, $2.49 570 mg (Notes: salty, tin-like, no fragrance, many ingredients)

The last three brands each received one vote.
5. Trader Joe’s, $2.39. 330 mg (Notes: watery, tart, flat, salt)
6. Emeril’s, $4.59. 570 mg (Notes: stuffing, cloudy, unappealing)
7. Pacific, $4.89. 540 mg (Notes: sour, salty, spoiled potatoes, citrus)

I’m not sure if it was the subconscious reference to vegetarianism that inspired everyone to bring a vegetarian dish for our Vegetable Broth tasting SIG, or just a sign of the times—either way feasted on Indian-themed food like Prawn Pulau (prawns don’t count as meat, do they?), Bhei Puri (a Mumbai street food) green bean curry with rice and a couple Mediterranean-inspired dishes like grilled asparagus, grilled artichokes, and feta and tomato toast.


Wine SIG May 18, 2015

Thieves, dirty and rowdy, a couple of banshees and cheap sex
By John Wiest

Monday May 18, 2015, the Wine SIG gathered at the lovely home of Spring Kraeger in Corte Madera. Our assignment was to taste two flights of wines from new, smaller and some might say eccentric winemakers. Sean Timberlake curated the assembled wines from his personal and professional connections and international travels. (Ask him about his upcoming guided exploration of culinary Emilia-Romagna this autumn.)

Per the protocols established by new wine SIG leaders, Victoria Green and Toby Baird, all wines were tasted one at a time with in-depth back story provided by Sean. Our tasting panel patiently sipped and salivated in anticipation of some extraordinary appetizers, salads, mains and sweets.

Little did we know what lie ahead. As my brother in the 49th State says, there’s a reason a person moves to Alaska – and there’s a reason why people start their own wineries: they want to be different and want other people live and sip differently. And so the politics began.



Sean took great pains to identify unique wineries and winemakers that are starting their own family stories. Unlike scions of historic wine families or those who had significant funds to start up, all of these winemakers are coming into the process from unique and personal origins, often starting in their basements, garages or even dorm rooms. All are bootstrapping their way to success by lending their distinctive voice and winemaking to the market. To learn more about their stories, please refer to the final table for the full names of wineries and wines.

Now, the tasting.
Chardonnay, bah you bellow, it’s been “done before”, but wait until you taste the freshness of a no malolactic Sonoma Coast chardonnay (Les Voleurs, ”the thieves”) or the grapes also from Sonoma Coast and famed Heitz Vineyard (Banshee) for refreshing fruit and little oak to get in the way. Two winners.

Then came the quirky and quince-y Roussanne from Justice Grace Wines of Berkeley. Each of this winery’s progeny features a political / social justice theme in its title and label art. So, this is Solidarity with a rather uncharacteristic taste with grapes from the Sierra Foothills and seemingly wild yeast with a consequent wandering flavor profile. Bit of a head scratcher for nearly all tasters. I guess we’re not political at these meetings.

Dirty and Rowdy, founded by two independent minded couples, started in San Luis Obispo and has found a new home in Napa. There, they’ve chosen alternative styles, which in this case, a 2014 Semillon, unadorned by artifice: more than 90% organic grapes, no new oak and surprisingly, 14 days on the skins. Take a look and you’ll see a slightly cloudy, of course, unfiltered, wine with a 180 turn from sweet semillon to a grapefruit forward palate. Our tasters puzzled.

Going back to Chardonnay, (yes, our tasters are very flexible, yogis of wine tasting), we discovered a SLO Down wine, “Broken Dreams”, blending grapes from Napa, Sonoma and Lodi. To understand and appreciate the winemakers’ irreverence, visit their website. The wine, with a “guidance counselor told you so” Monkey on the label, it doesn’t quite deliver on its swagger – but offers plenty of citrus. Not a typical California chardonnay with or without oak.

After a brief pause, the thieves, aka Les Voleurs, returned with a quite pleasant Pinot Noir, 82% from Sonoma Coast grapes. This wine had a very light nose, crisp berry fruit (cold-soaked grapes at harvest) with a pleasant but noticeable tannic kick.

Another Sonoma Coast Pinot, this from Banshee, had more straightforward strawberry overtones and a tinge of tannin for a well-balanced wine.

Ratcheting it up a notch in flavor, the Shoe Shine Petite Sirah from Justice Grace, named for its extremely dark inky color, delivered flavor aplenty – as it also promises to deliver hope to the working poor. To gain recognition, this wine is capped with a cloth wrapper, hand applied. Shoe Shine was a tasting favorite, for the flavor, presumably.


And while you might expect a Mourvedre to have a Rhone-like palate, the Dirty and Rowdy 2014 offering is 100% Mourvedre with a very tight nose. While finished in a 100% sugar cane “cork”, the flavor profile hints at pear or currant, but stops well short of its promise. Some tasters note that it has many voices, but they never sing together.

Finally, well almost finally, what you’ve been waiting for, the sex part. Even better is sex and chocolate, or Sexual Chocolate, a blend of zinfandel, syrah, petite sirah and petit verdot which present a lavish fruit forward finish. Sexual Chocolate, produced by SLO Down Wines was a standout, and at $40, while not cheap, is a quite reasonable liquid liaison.

So, which wines would our tasters buy? Our top three were in fact four, with two ties.

Tasting Results – May 2015 – Notable Very Independent Winemakers (To enlarge, click on table.)


A delicious repast followed. Regrettably only a few were captured visually.




April 27, 2015 Book SIG

Note: Book SIG Co-coordinators Mary Margaret Sinnema and Linda Carucci will be passing on the leadership torch to Pam Elder and Frankie Whitman, starting with the coordination of the next Book SIG meeting on Monday, July 20, locations TBA. If you would like to host a regional Book SIG meeting, please contact sinnema.mm@gmail.com or lindacarucci@gmail.com. The book selection for July will be announced soon on the SFPFS Facebook page.

On Monday evening, April 27, three groups of SFPFS members met concurrently in Oakland, Belmont, and San Francisco to discuss the vast writings of MFK Fisher. Each group was fortunate to welcome a special guest who had known Mary Frances, the prolific and prickly author who passed away at 83 at her home in Glen Ellen, CA in 1992.

Antonia Allegra was the guest presenter at Linda Carucci’s home in Oakland. Jeannette Ferrary, who wrote a book about her friendship with Mary Frances, opened her Belmont home to host the South Bay group. And retired editor of Sunset magazine Jerry DiVecchio discussed her longtime friendship with Mary Frances at the San Francisco gathering. With thanks to Dianne Jacob, Erica Peters, and Mary Margaret Sinnema, respectively, here are the reports of each gathering. For a poignant and insightful Youtube video of Mary Frances, click on the link in Erica’s report.

Toni Allegra

Toni Allegra

Jerry DiVecchio

Jerry DiVecchio

SFPFS Book SIG, East Bay
Report prepared by Dianne Jacob and Linda Carucci

Linda Carucci hosted the East Bay gathering of the Book SIG, featuring guest speaker Antonia (Toni) Allegra. Our members brought wine and dishes to share: Grilled sirloin steak with MFKF’s steak sauce (Pam Elder); Provencal chicken with farro pasta (Frankie Whitman, inspired by Fisher’s memoir about Provence); wine and chicharrones (Linda), the latter paying homage to a story by MFKF about the first cooked food consumed by humans in China. There was also chicken with rosemary and butter (Lili Rollins); two asparagus sides (Victoria Greene and Dianne Jacob); Potato Gratin Dauphinoise (Jolee Hoyt), fresh-picked salad with MFKF’s caper vinaigrette (Alison Negrin); strawberry-rhubarb tart (Suzy Farnworth); and almond shortbread (Jennie Schacht).

Antonia brought a bowl of clementines to pay tribute to the writing in Borderland from “Serve it Forth,” an evocative story that takes place in a Strasbourg hotel room during WWII, in which she describes her distinctive manner of savoring the glories of a simple tangerine. After painstakingly peeling the fruit, she’d place the segments on the radiator until their membranes dried out just so. And then, just before popping them into her—or her husband Al’s—mouth, she’d tuck them into a drift of snow outside the windowsill.

As we all feasted at a long dining room table, watching the sun go down and the fog roll in over San Francisco, we savored tangerines (sans radiator or snow) and had a lively discussion about MFKF’s books and rather prickly personality.

Toni said she met “Mary Frances” in the last five years of her life and often visited her in her home in Glen Ellen. Fisher died in 1992. Toni brought various books by the author, a sexy photograph of her by Man Ray (as well as a photo taken much later in her life), her walking stick, and a framed letter that Fisher had typed to her. Toni remembered Fisher as a strong personality and feminist, who wrote for a living and never thought of herself as a food writer. Fisher was born a good writer, Toni believes, and kept retelling her story in many memoirs. She was also capable of writing straight cookbooks, such as “The Cooking of France,” which she wrote for Time-Life Books. She decided to call herself by her initials instead of her first name because she wanted to be published in the New Yorker, and thought it would be easier if she was perceived to be a man. Her bookshelf contained many books by Elizabeth David, which may have accounted for her narrative recipe style. Several in our group felt rather uninspired after reading the simplistic recipes contained in the various Fisher works that we read.

Once installed in Glen Ellen, Fisher drank Glen Ellen White, the “local juice,” as she called it, often putting aside the fine wines brought by friends and guests who seemed to arrive frequently in a pilgrimage to her house. Among these were SIG participants Alison Negrin and Pam Elder. Fisher was very proud of her distinctive, art-filled bathroom, and sometimes took—or directed—her guests into it, where she enjoyed visiting with them. Both Toni and Pam noted that Fisher was remarkable for her ability to speak in fully formed paragraphs, in a matter-of-fact manner.

Toni read aloud the moving introduction in “Here Let us Feast: A Book of Banquets,” as well as passages from Borderland from “Serve it Forth.”

At the end of the discussion, participants suggested books to read for our next gathering which is scheduled to take place on Monday, July 20. Among the suggested books were:

Fried Green Tomatoes by Fanny Flagg
The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jabar
Best Food Writing of 2014
Orange Blossoms & Rosewater (a Lebanese cookbook/memoir) by Maureen Abood

There was some consensus that even though our Book SIG does not read cookbooks as a general rule, after having delved into the canon of work—and the life—of MFK Fisher, it would be a welcome shift for our summertime gathering to read the newly released Abood cookbook and have each participant prepare a recipe from the book for our potluck discussion. Keep your eye on the SFPFS Facebook page to find out which book we’ll read next.

SFPFS Book SIG, South Bay
Report prepared by Erica Peters

We had a great discussion at this SIG gathering, thanks to our generous host and friend of MFK Fisher, Jeannette Ferrary. Our group was split between people who knew a lot about MFK Fisher and enjoyed sharing their favorite aspects of her writing, and other people who hadn’t known much about her before, and felt that they learned to appreciate her writing.

Early on one person ventured that Fisher seemed a bit of a curmudgeon, and Jeannette cheerfully agreed that the author could be quite irascible, especially towards anyone who treated her as “just a food writer” rather than a “real writer.” People then shared from what they had read, from The Gastronomical Me, Consider the Oyster, Serve it Forth, An Alphabet for Gourmets, the collection, A Stew or a Story, and her annotation of Brillat-Savarin, as well as the authors Joan Reardon, Luke Barr, and our own Jeannette Ferrary, writing about Fisher.

There was not much overlap in what we had chosen to read, but we all got a sense of her distinctive approach and how she used a sensual, earthy style to explore the quirky side of life and love. At many stages we stopped to read each other our favorite snippets of her writing, and then while we ate dinner, we watched an excerpt from an entrancing documentary called “M.F.K. Fisher: Writer With a Bite” — it’s available on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2i2lGJsiow. Perhaps the highlight of our evening was when Jeannette quoted Fisher painting a vivid word-picture of an impossibly ghastly bouillabaisse tureen Fisher had somehow purchased in Provence one Christmas, and then we actually got to admire the tureen itself, a gift to Jeannette from Fisher’s family after the author’s death.

SFPFS Book SIG, San Francisco
Report prepared by Mary Margaret Sinnema

Gathered for the San Francisco location of the April Book Club SIG, were Jen Nurse, Chris Bonomo (host), Susan Patton-Fox, Lorraine Witte, Linda Anusasananan, Kathy Lassen-Hahne, Rene Matthew, Mary Margaret Sinnema and our esteemed guest Jerry Di Vecchio, friend of MFK Fisher’s.

In Chris’s beautiful home, we feasted and discussed the life of MFK Fisher and her writing. Much of our discussion was about her life and career – thanks to Jerry’s generosity of sharing several personal stories, which were so enlightening and encouraging to us all to read more of her work.

Some highlights of our discussion included the following:

• She was a writer of the senses, and included rich imagery which could put you right there in the moment.
• She was a complicated woman – competitive, flirtatious, acidic, quiet, intriguing, forthright and proper.
• She loved to misdirect in her writing.
• She was a beautiful woman.
• She was hard on herself as a writer, but was naturally gifted from the beginning.
• She had a difficult relationship with her mother and her daughter.
• She wrote to make a living, and if she were working today, would likely partake in blogging, because she was relevant and hard working.

We all enjoyed MFK Fisher’s humor and discussed her notions of a perfect dinner party, the ideal kitchen, and a good meal. We were impressed by the volume and breadth of her writing, and how today it sounds as contemporary as it did then. Interestingly, she was not an exceptional cook, but knew good food, and appreciated the simplicity of good food. A 1990 Bill Moyers interview with her was recommended, wherein “The celebrated essayist and memoirist speaks frankly about growing old, the aesthetics of eating, and living well.” (available on Amazon)

(photo of Jerry DiVecchio in 5/25 email from Mm re SF)
(photos from Linda of East Bay SIG, 5/26 email)

Wine SIG March 2015

By Penni Wisner

On a March evening at host Frankie Whitman’s house, the Wine SIG explored Pinot Noir wines from Sonoma, Mendocino, and the Willamette Valley of Oregon. It was our inaugural meeting under the new team of Victoria Green and Toby Baird.

Toby, our wine guide for the evening’s tasting, had prepared a comprehensive “white paper” on the varietal as well as detailed tasting sheets on each of the wines. Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned grape that typically yields light colored and highly perfumed wines. The Pinot Noir wines of Burgundy, especially those from the top vineyards of the Cote D’Or, are considered some of the very best in the world and also the most expensive. Thus the hunt—by vineyard owners, winemakers, and consumers alike—for sites in other parts of the world that might reliably produce delicious wines at a more reasonable cost. And still taste like Burgundy. A tall order and Toby described many of the characteristics of the grape that make it so challenging to grow and vinify.
Many years ago, a winemaker described Pinot Noir approximately thus: If Pinot Noir were a person, it would have a diagnosis of multiple personality disorder. Toby told us that more than 200 clones of Pinot Noir exist vs. about 12 for Cabernet Sauvignon. Pinot Noir grows best in cooler winegrowing regions such as Sonoma’s Russian River area, but it is also very frost sensitive. The vine produces tight clusters that, especially in Burgundy where it often rains and/or is humid during harvest, can rot. The grapes always need careful sorting at the winery.

Once safely in a fermenter, the problems only continue. Partly due to the 18 amino acids contained in Pinot Noir grapes, the wines can ferment too rapidly, “boiling” up and out of their fermenters. Since the skins are thin, color extraction can be difficult. If the fermentation gets out of control, the wine might have less color and less aroma, too. Another complex choice vintners must make is the type, amount, and length of oak aging. The group was interested to note that usually, for the wines tasted at least, the amount of new barrels was often limited to 30% or less.

Despite the riches of wine shop choices, Toby simplified his shopping and purchased all the wines—six Pinot Noirs, one Pinot Gris, and one Chardonnay—from Whole Foods. The two whites acted as aperitifs, sure, but also as introductions to the wine regions we would explore later. Both whites prefer cool climates and rose to prominence in Burgundy. Pinot Gris is now the principal white grape and wine of Oregon, home to the wine we tasted, the 2013Adelsheim from Willamette Valley ($19.99). It was a lovely wine, crisp and floral.
The L’Oliveto 2013 Barrel Fermented Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($19.99) surprised the group. For many of us, “barrel fermentation” in Chardonnay can connote overly rich, buttery wines. Yet the L’Oliveto showed itself as complex in flavor with fruit and flintiness with a long finish balanced with good acidity.

We managed to pull ourselves into order and away from the hors d’oeuvres and began on the “meat” of the evening: tasting the Pinot Noirs. The first, the 2013 Bench Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($21.99) Toby provided maps of the viticultural regions, one of which showed the Sonoma Coast AVA (American Viticultural Area), extending over 100 miles from the county border with Mendocino down to the edge of San Pablo Bay. The grapes for the Bench was sourced primarily from the southern most reaches of the region, near the bay. The wine displayed so many of the maddening and delightful complexities of the grape: it was very pale in color and yet intense, lovely fruit and floral aromas. In the mouth we found flavors of red summer fruits and perhaps a little cola balanced with fresh acidity. While it did not place in the group’s top three, it was a very close fourth with many of us agreeing that this would go wonderfully with many dishes because of that acidity.

The second wine tasted was the 2013 Hook & Ladder Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. The vineyard was originally planted in 1973 on the cool western Sonoma County plains where the fog and wind come over and through the Petaluma Gap to the west. In it we tasted some of the barnyard or “funk” we often associate with red Burgundy as well as juicy black cherry and spicy black pepper flavors. It had a rich, cherry red color and finished with oaky tannins. These, for the group, threw the wine out of balance and argued for more bottle age before drinking.

The 2012 WALT Blue Jay Anderson Valley Pinot Noir was the most expensive wine ($40) and our #2 wine of the evening. Anderson Valley, too, is a cool growing region (as well as picturesque) in southern Mendocino County that stretches from north of Navarro to south of Boonville. The information sheet on this wine, sourced from vineyards growing at both ends of the valley, told of a high-risk/high-reward style of winemaking: the use of native, wild yeasts (no commercial yeasts are added to cause fermentation) and the choice to leave the wine unfined and unfiltered. In the glass, the winemaker’s choices resulted in a wine with a rich ruby color and aromas and flavors of cherry jam, cinnamon, vanilla, and herbs with a good balance of acidity and tannins in the lingering flavors. We talked of it as a contemplative wine to drink and appreciate on its own. But not only that, we wanted to have it with cheese such as Epoisse (also a Burgundy native), or with white beans with greens, or roast duck, or cassoulet. Why not?!

The 2013 99 West Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (($18.99) was the most controversial of the wines we tasted. Its bright cherry color held all the way to the edge and the aroma was bright with Dr. Pepper notes for richness. The structure in the mouth was very tight with tannins hitting mid-palate and building through the finish where acidity also became apparent. This led to a question: Was it just too young and would settle down and show more of itself with bottle age? Or would the tannins always overpower the fruit?

The 2013 Ponzi Tavola Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley ($25.99) was our #1 wine and a surprise, in a very good way. Ponzi is one of the oldest wine names in Oregon. Having started small, the winery production is now large, with 12,000 cases alone of this one wine. The wine itself was quite pale in color but the perfumed aroma of soft, warm, red fruits, orange blossom, and herbs leaped out of the glass. In the mouth, the wine tasted fresh and vibrant with just the right amount of tannin and acidity extending the finish. We hankered after roast salmon to partner the wine.

The last wine of the tasting was also our third favorite, the 2013 Purple Hands Pinot Noir also from Willamette Valley and provided by member Jennie Schacht at the advantageous price of $25.99. The color was rich and in the mouth the flavors were of ripe black fruits plus tobacco and leather. Interestingly, this was the lowest alcohol of all the wines, 12.5%. It was fermented with native yeasts in open-top tanks and used just 10% new oak barrels and 90% older barrels for aging.

Finally! It was time for our potluck supper and more fun discussions. As often happens when the wine and food are good, the conversations rattled along well into the evening. Big, big thanks to Toby Baird, Frankie Whitman, and Victoria Green and to all who gathered around the table to create a memorable evening.

Food Photography SIG March 26, 2015

By Shveta Berry

Members of the Food Photography SIG gathered at the home of Jennie Schacht on the evening of March 26. The topic for the evening was drawing inspiration from beautiful food photography and how to re-create key visual elements. Members brought photo examples to emulate from cookbooks, blogs, and websites. Finer points of discussion included lighting–both natural and artificial, styling, and perspective.

The group discussed a few technical issues, including correcting color, both with the camera, and in post production using tools such as Lightroom and Aperture. (As some members of the group did not know how to do this, or even that it was possible to do in post production, this could be a good topic for a future meeting.) Rosemary Mark suggesting using an Eye-fi card to wirelessly transfer images to other devices.

Also discussed were online tools for learning more about photography, such as CreativeLive (https://creativelive.com). And Jeannette Ferrary shared this interesting article, which she brought to the meeting: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/magazine/object-lesson.html

The group enjoyed a potluck dinner that ended, quite deliciously, with Rene Mathew’s miniature crèmes brûlée. The mini custards were the favorite photographic subject for the evening, as evidenced on the SFPFS Facebook page.

Finally, an announcement: Our new SFPFS Food Photography SIG liaisons are Shveta Berry shveta.berry@gmail.com and Alison Negrin <chefalison@gmail.com. Thanks to Alison and Shveta for your leadership!

June Cooking SIG: “Smoke it, Grill it & BBQ it”

by Gayle Massey

The art of the grill at June 2014 Cooking SIG

The art of the grill at June 2014 Cooking SIG

I attended my first Cooking SIG on June 12th. I walked into Carl Drosky’s home to a lively and already buzzing group enjoying an array of delectable appetizers. My Cowboy Caviar paled next to the fabulous stuffed olives, Pimento dip and fresh guacamole. Note to self; raise the bar.

The theme of this particular meeting was “Smoke it, Grill it & BBQ it” and that is exactly what we experienced. Carl’s day had started well before we arrived. After hearing about what everyone prepared and some good socializing time, we headed out to the backyard where Carl had a large BBQ with a chicken beautifully roasting on a rotisserie, a smaller BBQ awaiting the veggies still to be cut and a large smoker that was holding a large rack of ribs. He shared how he had prepared the chicken and ribs that wil l have me heading out to purchase a rotisserie attachment to my own bbq and added a smoker to my wish list.

To add to the delicious roasted and smoked meat, we all headed back into the house to make three sauces: BBQ, Classic Chimichurri and a Soprano Sauce (with anchovies, capers, garlic and olive oil). With Carl doing the heavy lifting of preparing our main courses, we enjoyed a fun prep time and very interactive class.

To add to the delicious roasted and smoked meat, we all headed back into the house to make three sauces: BBQ, Classic Chimichurri and a Soprano Sauce (with anchovies, capers, garlic and olive oil). With Carl doing the heavy lifting of preparing our main courses, we enjoyed a fun prep time and very interactive class.

And then, the best part ~ feasting on the main courses of rotisserie chicken, smoked ribs, grilled veggies along with the trio of sauces. And to further compliment the meal, the most creative salads and side dishes; Potato Lemon Salad and Watermelon Salad and Sauerkraut to name a few. And the cornbread ~ fabulous!

My plate overflowed and most of us needed a second trip to taste everything. The extra special ingredient that made everything even better; catching up with a wonderful group of people.

We ended with dessert, a Raspberry and Almond Frangipane Tart enjoyed around Carl’s fire pit in the backyard; a wonderful way to end the perfect evening.

June 2014 Cooking SIG led by Carl Drosky