S A N   F R A N C I S C O   2 0 1 3

Home Up

We were invited to San Francisco by Cheryl & Kyle to coincide with the annual Zinfandel Advocates & Producers event.  Given that Zinfandel is our favorite wine, it was the perfect excuse to spend time with family and enjoy tasting some great vintages.

Tuesday, 29 January:  This was basically a travel day.  We flew from Albuquerque to Los Angeles and then had a brief layover before flying to San Francisco. Our flight to San Francisco arrived a bit late but we still were at The Holiday Inn Fisherman’s Wharf near 7:00PM.  We checked in with Cheryl & Kyle to let them know we arrived safely.  Kyle offered to meet us at The Buena Vista for one of their famous Irish coffees but we were pooped after travel so we enjoyed some wine at the hotel and called it an evening.

Wednesday, 30 January:  Today was absolutely picture-perfect with regard to weather.  We were up early and enjoyed a very nice cold buffet breakfast at the hotel.  Then, given its proximity to all the scenic sites in the area, we were out the door early to begin exploring.  As we wandered about, we realized that we hadn’t been in San Francisco for many, many years (except for Lindy going there on business and that didn’t involve any sightseeing).  It was exciting to re-explore this beautiful city. 

We began by walking up (literally) North Point to watch the Hyde Street cable cars go up and down to the waterfront.  Of course, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory is only a block further up the street so we made a visit to it too.  After getting some great shots at both locations – including shots of Alcatraz from high above the sea – we headed to the waterfront.  We walked out on the Municipal Pier for some great views of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

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One of the wonderful Hyde Street cable
cars with Alcatraz in the background
The front of the Ghirardelli
Chocolate Company (we said we
had to walk up a hill on North Point)
This parking sign definitely
makes lots of sense
As we left Ghirardelli walking toward the
the waterfront on Larkin Street
the steepness of the road was amazing
We've arrived at the waterfront &
The Golden Gate Bridge is in the
Alcatraz Prison or "The Rock"
sitting 1.5 miles offshore
Individuals in training to learn
how to physically turn around a
cable car for its return journey
up the hilly streets of San Francisco
This is a view from the Muni Pier
 to the Hyde Street Pier of the
ship "Balclutha" with Alacatraz
in the background
The center of this shot features the
"Eppleton Hall" steam tug boat as seen
from Muni Pier looking at Hyde Street Pier
A view from Muni Pier of Coit Tower
& The TransAmerica Building

We then made our way to the Hyde Street Pier.  It now is part of the San Francisco Maritime National Park.  Access onto the pier is free as is access to the National Park’s Headquarters.  We enjoyed walking and looking at the various boats and ships now moored at the Pier.  Some are actually used in the Bay during special boating events.  Afterwards we went to the Park’s Headquarters to read about the park and its various exhibits.

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San Francisco National
Maritime Park
The Park Entry on Hyde
Street Pier
This is the entry to access
the "Eureka" Ferry Boat
The "Hercules" Steam Tug
The bow of "Balclutha"
Across from Hyde Street Pier is
the National Parks Headquarters
in the old Argonaut Hotel
This display in the Park
Headquarters details the
history of Fisherman's Wharf
An iron prop and other
boating memorabilia
Old diving gear

 [ T O P ]

It was now late afternoon so we walked a bit further along the waterfront, especially to see the fresh Dungeness crabs being offered for sale, before working our way back to The Holiday Inn.  We relaxed and freshened up a bit before heading out to meet Cheryl, Kyle and Storey for dinner.

We were able to catch a bus near the hotel which took us to Chestnut Street where we all met at the A16 restaurant.  It was a wonderful reunion!  It was great to catch-up with Cheryl and Kyle.  Then, we hadn’t seen Storey since she was a small child and now she’s an amazing 3.5 year old going on 12.  That is, she is so cute, outgoing, personable and lots of fun!

We enjoyed a delicious dinner – beginning first with a nice Italian champagne – to “clink, clink” to a long-awaited reunion!  As we were finishing dinner, Sean, Cheryl’s brother, joined us as we then went to a gelato shop for dessert.  Afterwards, Kyle and Cheryl (and Storey) drove us back to our hotel.

Thursday, 31 January:  We enjoyed another buffet breakfast albeit a lighter one knowing that we would be having lunch and then would later attend our first wine tasting event.  Afterwards we walked to the waterfront and went to the famous Boudin Sourdough bakery and bread store.  There we found some adorable “turtle breads” (i.e., breads made to look like little turtles) which we decided to take to Storey.  The specialty bakers at Boudin are very creative and come up with beautiful shapes like turtles, giant alligators, crabs, lobsters and one was even doing footballs since the Super Bowl was only a few days away.

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Sarah, the baker, along with
a giant Boudin bread alligator
Creative Baking - check out
the mini-alligator and lobster
Sarah's current projects, footballs!
As you can see, Sarah wears a
microphone so we were able to
speak with her as she was
making these breads

Next we walked farther down to Pier 39.  There we saw the resident seals enjoying some swimming and sunning in their special part of the pier.  We then strolled through the shops and also took time to watch children enjoying the Merry-Go-Round.  Then, it was time to head to lunch.

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Welcome to Pier 39
These guys are enjoying
the sunny day
These two seals got
their own little corner
The beautiful Pier 39
Merry Go Round

The Holiday Inn sits at the corner of North Point and Columbus.  So, we made our way there (a quick comfort stop) and then began walking down Columbus into the Little Italy area.  En route to L’Osteria, the restaurant recommended to us by Cheryl and Kyle, we stopped at lovely St. Peter’s and St. Paul’s Cathedral (we couldn’t go inside due to a funeral being held).  Then we continued on to L’Osteria where we met a dear friend, Julie, who we originally knew through Baker & McKenzie.  After hugs and kisses, we enjoyed a long leisurely lunch and catch-up.  We were amazed when we figured out we had not seen one another in 12 years.  Wow, we vowed that wouldn’t happen again!  Anyway, it was a great, long overdue reunion!  After lunch we walked back to Washington Square (the location of the cathedral) and took a couple of quick photographs before Julie began her drive back to her home in Palo Alto.  We continued walking on Columbus until we returned to the Holiday Inn.

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St. Peter's and St. Paul's Church
on Washington Square
Jules & Lindy in Washington Square
Ed & Lindy in the same spot

We previously had agreed to meet Cheryl and Kyle at their home at 5:00PM so that we could all go together to The Concourse to enjoy The Epicura event sponsored by the Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP).  We left the hotel a little before 4:30PM but, thanks to Lindy heading out in the opposite direction we should have gone, we walked all the way to The Embarcadero at Pier 35.  Big Oops!  So, we had to walk all that way back to the hotel and then continue in the correct direction to reach their street.  As a result, we were about 30 minutes late.

Once at Cheryl and Kyle’s home, we gave Storey a giant, fluffy stuffed elephant toy which she quickly named “Lucy.”  Lindy carried it all the way from Albuquerque through the airports on onto our flights to San Francisco.  Storey also liked the turtle breads we brought over.  Cheryl and Kyle gave us a tour of their lovely home which is set in a terrific neighborhood.  Cheryl can even walk to work which is another great plus!  After taking time out for some photographs (Storey’s sitter, Kate, took a great shot of all of us), we were off to The Epicura event.  The Epicura was not open to the public; only the industry had invitations and Cheryl was able to get us invites too.  Thank you, Cheryl!  We enjoyed an excellent evening - eating some delicious foods prepared by local restaurants (including A16)  – while sampling some great Zinfandel wines.  The event was well thought-out in that the plate had a wine glass holder so you could wander from food vendors to wine vendors sampling their various wares.  It was great fun to share all of this while spending quality time with Cheryl and Kyle.

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Storey, a Boudin turtle and
her stuffed elephant, "Lucy"
A family photo before we're
off to the Epicura Event
We made it!
(Note the "ZAP" on the barrels)
Views of The Epicura lay-out
As the evening progresses,
the crowd grew as many
individuals came to enjoy
both the wines & food offerings

 [ T O P ]

Friday, 2 February:  We enjoyed a leisurely morning and breakfast following last night’s festivities.  Then, the weather continued to be very nice so we went out for more touring.  We walked to the waterfront and then caught the “F-Tram” to the refurbished Ferry Building.  Riding the Tram itself was great fun, especially since we were on a car which originally was used in Milan, Italy.  There were many different cars from many places - both in the US and overseas.  The "Milan" car still had all its signage in Italian.  One amazing thing is that we actually caught the same tram back to the waterfront when we were done in this area.

The Ferry Building had been abandoned.  Then, it underwent a renovation and it now is a hub of restaurants and shops.  We wandered throughout it and we also saw that many individuals from the nearby Embarcadero One and Two buildings (which Lindy used to visit for work) come to the Ferry Building for lunch or shopping.  It was neat to see how successful this project has become.

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Our F-Tram, "Milan"
which originally was
used in Milan, Italy
The interior of the tram
still has signage written
in Italian
The Ferry Building

We returned to the hotel mid-afternoon and relaxed until it was time to leave for The Fairmont Hotel to enjoy The Winemaker’s Dinner.  Cheryl had told us that the dinner would have a “Casa Blanca” theme so we brought along appropriate clothing to mimic the era. 

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We're ready to head to
The Fairmont
Lindy has turned around to
show-off her seamed stockings

The event began at 5:00PM and we arrived shortly at The Fairmont shortly thereafter.  After obtaining our name tags (which also included our dining table number), we walked to a table in the hallway and each picked up a glass pre-filled with a generous tasting of an excellent Zinfandel.

Upon entering the ballroom, there were vintners set up along each wall similar to the set-up used at The Epicura event but, of course, much smaller. Also, there were several walk-up tables as well as a scattering of small sit-down tables. Each of these was topped with two bowls – one with black olives and another with mixed nuts. In one corner of the room was a table hosted by a cheese company. They had various cheeses available for tasting as well as some sourdough bread to eat alone or enjoy with the cheeses and wines. Also, waiters served some upscale appetizers such as Peking Duck on a steamed rice bun, butternut squash puree on crackers, etc.

From 5:00PM until 7:00PM, guests mingled and went to the various vintners to taste the wines being offered.  During this time there also was a silent auction.  Interestingly, we were a bit concerned that we weren’t dressed enough in the “Casa Blanca” theme in that we didn’t rent vintage clothes but instead adapted some things we had. However, not too many individuals did any theme dressing at all and many of those that did were primarily associated with a vineyard. There was only one man in a white dinner jacket and another in a Moroccan gown but no one dressed as if he was in the Foreign Legion. A few ladies donned hats but that was about it.  Anyway, as a result of our attire, we got lots of requests for photographs – both from two professionals as well as some fellow attendees – so that added to the fun.

At 7:00PM, a live auction began and most individuals sat –either at the small tables or in rows of chairs set out behind them. A few of the small tables were reserved and we realized that these were set aside for some of the bidders. The auction went until 7:45PM and it was very interesting. There were some great values (and some great ones that were also very expensive) and the auctioneers kept it interesting and lively. Most involved tastings, dinners and/or overnight stays at various vineyards. Throughout this process, staff from the various vineyards would walk through looking for empty wine glasses and offer more tastings.

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Inside The Fairmont - the
hall being used for tastings &
the auctions
A view of the auction area
A shot of us taken by another
event attendee
The live auction in full swing

At 7:45PM there was a quick break and we were then ushered into the dining hall. We think there were 20 plus tables. We were seated at table #16, the Ravenswood table (pre-assigned via our name tag). Each guest at the table was given a bag with a variety of items – a Wine Spectator magazine, Wine Enthusiast magazine, a tin of ZAP dark chocolates, a box of Ravenswood note cards, a tiny flashlight, a bottle of Lucero Olive Oil (and an accompanying brochure) and then a Ravenswood polo shirt. Quite a nice and unexpected treat!

Our host, Joel Peterson, winemaker at Ravenswood, began by pouring the first of many wonderful Zinfandels from the 90’s to the early 2000’s. Dinner began with scallops and then we later enjoyed baby lamb chops. Different wines were served throughout the evening with Joel telling great stories about the beginnings of Ravenswood, the progression of the winery, his personal involvement, etc. He kept everyone entertained and he answered tons of questions from the eight guests seated at the table. We finished the evening with dessert (a triage of chocolates – a cake and two candies) accompanied by a tasting of a “Zin Sweet” – basically a port that can’t be called a port but went so well with the dessert. It was as delicious as all the other wines we tasted. The only sad thing is that so many bottles were opened and poured but very few were finished. There was just so much wine that you had to watch yourself or you would be over the top and not be able to enjoy the balance. The dinner officially ended at 11PM but by a little past 10PM many people began to leave. We stayed until 10:30PM. Again, it was an amazing and wonderful event!

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The Ravenswood Table
with Lindy sitting next
to Joel Peterson, Winemaker
at Ravenswood
Some of the many, many
bottles (& glasses) enjoyed
throughout the evening
A special treat....
A 2002 Ravenswood
Teldeschi Dry Creek
Valley Zin - Delicious!

[ T O P ]

Saturday, 2 February:  After breakfast we took a taxi over to Kyle and Cheryl’s house.  There we picked up Kyle and Sean and once again went to The Concourse to attend The Grand Tasting event.  (Cheryl didn’t accompany us on this one as she and Storey had a birthday party to attend.)  Once at The Concourse, we met friends of Kyle – Ben and his father, Terry – and began tasting the various vintages being offered. 

It was quite different in that at The Epicura event, upscale food was served.  Here, you grabbed a small loaf of hard bread to use to cleanse your pallet and enjoy with your wine.  Then, at The Epicura, only half of The Concourse had been in use.  Now, the entire building was being used.  So, there were more vineyards represented at this event and a challenge to decide which ones to taste.

We basically stayed together and tasted similar wines in the nearby area.  The event was closed to the public until 1:00PM so we took advantage of being able to enjoy the wines without massive crowds.  Either through luck or label recognition, we believe we enjoyed some of the finer wines being offered since we each tasted a variety of wines at the tables hosted by Ravenswood (we actually chatted with Joel Peterson and thanked him again); Ridge; Seghesio; and Turley.  Really outstanding!  We also tried some of the offbeat labels as well as the Bota Box (boxed wine) which actually stood up pretty well for a Zinfandel in its price class.  Also, near 12:00 some tables opened which served cheeses.  Again, another nice touch!

 At 1:00PM, we decided to leave and said goodbye to our tasting companions.  Of course, we had to thank Kyle for a wonderful weekend and great tips on the things he and Cheryl suggested we see and do. We then took a bus back to the Fisherman’s Wharf area.  There we picked up some Dungeness crabs (one each) to enjoy later that evening as dinner.  When it was time for dinner, we also enjoyed a delicious 90-point bottle of Mazzocco Zinfandel that Cheryl had given to us.  It was a wonderful way to bid farewell to San Francisco as we watched the lights along Fisherman’s Wharf and the view of Alcatraz beyond it.  We’ll definitely be looking forward to another visit!!

[ T O P ]