Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Day After Christmas at Wattle Creek Winery – Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco


While technically not an urban winery, since the actual winery is established in Sonoma, on the day after Christmas I decided to visit the Wattle Creek Winery tasting room in San Francisco located at the Fisherman's Wharf in the Ghiradeli Square.

Wattle Creek Winery, founded by Christopher and Kristine Williams, is a family owned winery producing small quantities of premium wine from their estate Alexander Valley and Yorkville Highlands vineyards. 

In 1994 Christopher and Kristine purchased the 51-acre Alexander Valley vineyard that they then replanted. Four years later they acquired another 600 acres in the Yorkville Highlands appellation in 1998. From these vineyards they produce an impressive portfolio of wines including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Muscat Canelli, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Petit Sirah, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Bordeaux and Rhone style blends.

The Wattle Creek tasting room is located in San Francisco’s historic Ghirardelli Square near Fisherman’s Wharf and it is open seven days a week. But, finding a parking space in the area can be a bit challenging - especially if it is the day after Christmas, the 3rd busiest shopping day of the year!

The tasting room has three flights; a White Wine flight ($10 for 5 wines), a Red Wine flight ($10 for 5 wines) and a Reserve Wine flight ($15 for 5 wines). While visiting I sampled (and spit into a cup) the following wines from all three flights:

My first wine was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc from Mendocino. Usually on a fairly cold winter day I wouldn’t find a wine such as this all that appealing, but this was wine had the balance of fruit, herbs and acidity that I look for in a Sauv Blanc and it is at a  price point that can’t be beat. On the nose I picked up peaches, nectarines, “7-Up” or “Sprite” soda with some tropical undertones followed by a hint of fresh cut grass and a lingering melon finish. It has a full mouth feel, is somewhat silky and yet it maintains its crispness all the way through. A really nice wine for only $15 a bottle. I would have bought one but I was more in the market for buying a unique red wine blend.

My second wine was the 2009 Viognier from the Alexander Valley. Think of this wine as being done in a California Chardonnay style. It is aged sur lies in 15% New French Oak and is very tropical and floral on the nose with mango, bananas, apricots and vanilla. On the palate it has a lot of weight for a white wine with a full-mouth creamy feel and a little hazelnut on the finish and return. A well crafted wine if you like this style. It sells for $24 a bottle.

My first red wine was the 2009 Pinot Noir from Yorkville Highlands. Aged in 35% New French Oak it undergoes a cold-soak maceration which extracts more fruit and color, making this wine a fruit forward, bold style wine yet it maintains the elegance and finesse and complexity that Pinot lovers look for from this varietal. On the nose this wine displays fresh strawberries, dried Cherries and potpourri aromas along with a hint of vanilla, caramel and spice. On the palate the profile of the aromas are repeated along with silky tannins and a full-mouth feel. At $30 a bottle, this wine could easily compete with others in the $40 - $45 price range

My second red wine was the 2007 Merlot from Yorkville Highlands. Aged in 35% new French oak and 15% American Oak this is a bigger Merlot, one that would be appreciated by Cabernet lovers, with a bit of grip in the tannins on the front end and yet supple on the mid palate. This Merlot displays inviting aromas of cherry pie filling, sweet plums and violets. On the palate it has layers of maraschino cherries, fresh baked pie crust and a hint of damp earth. A nice wine for $30 a bottle.

My third sample of red wines was the 2007 Malbec from the Alexander Valley, a blend of 84% Malbec and 16%Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine spent 14 months in the barrel, 100 French Oak of which 30% was new. This is a bigger and earthier style Malbec with a lot of dark fruit - black cherry, dark plums, dark chocolate and freshly poured concrete on the nose as well as some spice and toasted bread on the back end. A bit steep at $38 a bottle but if you’re a Malbec fiend you’ll want to check this one out.

The fourth red wine pour was the 2006 Triple Play from Yorkville Highlands. A Rhone style blend of 94% Syrah, 3% Petite Sirah and 3% Viognier. This wine underwent a cold maceration for 72 hours before undergoing fermentation which extracts great color and fruit concentration. The wine was then transferred directly to barrel for 18 months of maturation. This is a deep, dark and complex wine with layers of fruit, earth and spice that linger for days. On the nose I picked up blackberries, raspberries, molasses, anise, black pepper and mocha. On the palate the oak is noticeable but not overbearing as the fruit shines through and is followed by an earthy spice finish. The tannins are supple and the wine has a full-bodied mouth feel. A really nice wine for $25 and my favorite of the evening, so I brought one home.

My fifth red wine was the 2009 Petit Sirah from Yorkville Highlands. To say this wine is intense and concentrated would be an understatement. An inky wine, dark purple to purple to almost black in color. The nose seemed a bit closed (perhaps due to the cold temperature) but I was able to coax out of it wild blackberries, tar, anise, black pepper, sweet pipe tobacco with a touch of oak. The nose is confirmed on the palate along with tannins that made my teeth stick to the front of my mouth and I could feel them being stained purple. If this is what you’re looking for, this wine sells for $30 a bottle.

The sixth red wine was the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alexander Valley. A blend of 93% Cabernet sauvignon and 7% Malbec, this is not your humongous over the top Napa style wine. It displays a lot of finesse and elegance but is quite tame in comparison to the previously sampled Petit Sirah suggesting that perhaps this one ought to be served earlier in the line up. On the nose I picked up red currants, raspberry, cocoa, a hint of tobacco, cedar and a hint of mint and eucalyptus. On the palate this wine is extremely supple and silky with definite “ready to drink now” approachableness. A nice wine but a bit steep at $42 a bottle.

My final red wine pour was the bigger brother of the previous wine, the 2006 Vintage Select Cabernet Sauvignon also from the Alexander Valley. Whereas the previous wine was a blend, this one is 100% Cabernet. The nose on this wine is very distinct from the previous Cab, as it exudes a classic Cab profile of black currants, graphite and a shade of oak followed by cigar box and dark chocolate. This wine is also very supple with velvety tannins yet it also has just a slight grip on entry. A really fine wine but at $65 a bottle there is a lot of competition out there at that price range.

Overall, Wattle Creek Winery has a profile of wine to suit every palate - big California styled whites, voluptuous Bordeaux varietals as well as big, tight and aggressive Rhone varietals. If you are ever in the city, I highly recommend stopping in!

For more information or to visit:

Wattle Creek Winery (Ghirardelli Square)

900 North Point St,

San Francisco, CA 94109

Phone for San Francisco Tasting Room: 1-415-359-1206

Wattle Creek Winery (Sonoma)

25510 River Road

Cloverdale CA, 95425

Phone for winery tasting appointment: 1-707-894-5166

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