San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition at Fort Mason

Today I sipped wine on a dock of the Bay!  The San Francisco Chronicle sponsors the largest American Wine Competition in America, held on Feb. 6th with the VIP reception, which I attended, and public wine tasting that followed, on Feb. 18th in the Festival Pavilion of Fort Mason.  Hic!  While sampling the Best in Class and Gold Medal Winners in the VIP reception this afternoon, an attendee warned me, “You better go down to the tasting floor before the public arrives, as it will be 5000 strong”.  He wasn’t kidding.  So we did.  Sampling wines from multiple AVA’s, (American Viticulture Areas) from Lodi, Sonoma, Russian River, Napa, Glen Ellen, Santa Maria, Petaluma, Temecula, to name a few.

Each winery offering samples of  their medal winners from 2012 and years past along with info for ordering later as they do not “sell” at this event.

The judging and samples were for Sweepstakes Winners, Best in Class, Gold Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals in all types of wines, labels and differing price points.  The full list of participants and winners can be viewed at

Greeted at the door with a loaf of bread and an engraved wine glass that you hold close, you are able to sample as much as is your fill.  San Francisco turns out for this event.  The floor filled quickly with revelers, aficionados and newbie’s.  This was a chance to get up close and personal with the winery owners, representatives and wine makers.  It was a little slice of heaven, or should I say necessary bites of bread, after sampling dozens of  appellations.

The crowd, while raucous and appreciative were surprisingly well dressed.  At the end of each lengthy tasting roww were food samplings and sales of biscotti, pate, tomato sauce, balsamic infused olive oil, handcrafted chocolate and even butter cream frosting in a bag (danger!!!)  The Culinary Academy turned out to provide tempting hors d’oeuvres that they assembled at long tables outside overlooking the bay with a back drop views of Coit Tower, the marina and Alcatraz, as seagulls circled.  Even the sun turned out for the event.

Two notable highlights were Evolve winery, who’s’ wine maker is Ben Flajnik of “The Bachelor”,  also worked behind his veineyards tasting table in the V.I.P section with his 2 partners, one of whom wore a name tag of “Dance party”.  His Rose and Sauvignon Blanc were both deliciously surprising.

Stella Artois Brewery made a show at the far end of the pavilion sampling their Belgian Beer and giving away Stella steins and glasses and velvet bags.  Their line was long but worth the wait.  I was duly informed that Hoegarden is pronounced “Hoo Garden”.

Outside we met a couple who had been coming for 10 years and 3 guys hoping to meet some quality ladies!  This was my first, but not last wine festival attendance!  Mark your calendar for next year!  This is a great way to beat the winter blues and imbibe alongside those of us with a taste for vino!


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