Great wines for spring


The summer season is just around the corner, which for me means shifting primary attention from the Bay Area wine scene and concentrating on the tasting and pairing excitement to be had in the Sierra Foothills and at the Lake.

But, before that happens, I’d like to do a shout out for the consistently good experience of tasting at the Wine Merchant in the Ferry Building in San Francisco. This excellent shop is a welcome part of the food excitement and farmers’ markets that center at the Ferry Plaza. Recently, my friend Johan and I sampled several wines, plus yummy cheeses and meats, which equaled a fine light meal for two. Total cost was $42.50.

The Wine Merchant offers a great selection of wines to taste in four sizes: 2 oz., 5 oz., 375 ml carafe and full 750 ml bottle. When you see the prices below, they are in that order.

I started with a white wine, the 2012 Hawley Viognier, Sonoma. I’ve visited this winery in person several times, and appreciate the dedication that the father and his sons have to the art of winemaking and grape growing. This vintage, bottled in March 2013, has flavors of tangerine and peach, and aroma of tropical fruit and orange blossom. It’s a light floral wine, a classic Viognier and Hawley ferments it in neutral French oak to add body and richness. 13.9 percent alcohol. Prices: $5, $10, $19, $33. It paired well with two cheeses from Oxbow Market: the Two Rock Valley, a raw goat milk hard cheese from Petaluma and the Boorenkaas, a type of farmhouse Gouda cheese from Holland.

The 2009 Viala Mattes Sabran Corbieres from Languedoc-Rousillon, France, is a somewhat dry red wine that also is juicy and smooth. The taste is of black fruits and the aroma has a hint of licorice and Asian spices. It is a nice blend of Syrah, Mouvedre and Grenache. 14 percent alcohol. Prices: $4, $7.25, $13.25, $22. To pair, I enjoyed a mild coppa from Molinari, and also Hobb’s wine-cured salami.

Finishing with a wine that supports a good cause, the 2010 Hirsch FPWM Cuvee is a Pinot Noir from Sonoma that carries the FPWM (Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant) designation. This special blend from Sonoma is quite good, with bright fruit, a nice acidity, and is both delicate and complex. A portion of each sale is contributed to the San Francisco Food Bank. 13.6 percent alcohol. Prices: $5.75, $12.25, $24.75, $38.

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Barbara Keck
Barbara started writing for newspapers when she was 14 and continues to write, most recently the “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills” book published by Range of Light Media, parent company of The Tahoe Weekly. Barbara wrote the wine column for the Weekly for many years, and contributes occasional tidbits on tourism and entertainment topics. A long marketing consulting career that included extensive international travel led her to conclude that Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Almost 20 years of enjoying the seasons on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe has confirmed her belief.