San Francisco Vintners Reserve at the Metreon

vintners event in San FanciscoThe Metreon was a winning venue for the soldout gathering of Cult Wineries and Reserve Wineries, by SF Vintners Market, One Brick, and The Mercury News. The size of the hall is big enough to give you an adequate rush, but not so big that you can’t get a handle on it. San Francisco was glistening that night, and the view outside the fourth floor of the Metreon made it all the better.

I go to these events partly to meet the owners and winemakers and hear them talk about their wine, in addition to tasting it. A passion for wine and winemaking is behind all they do, but the dedication and stamina of these people inspire me. I met one winemaker that night who drove to SF from Sebastopol, only to discover that his wine hadn’t showed up as planned. He quickly got in his car and drove all the way back to Sebastopol to collect a few cases and then again to San Francisco—a total of six hours of driving. The follow-through of any passion takes perseverance, usually in ways a person never anticipates!

What follows here are a few tastes I want to remember and tell others about, along with a little praise for my favorite wine label designs of the night.

SF Vintners EventMy first taste was a Cabernet Sauvignon by S.R. Tonella. It was so perfect, I worried that the rest of the evening would be downhill. Then I remembered I was in the land of milk and honey, as far as wine is concerned, and went on to enjoy pourings by Oak Cliff Cellars, Spoto Family Wines, and Spring Mountain Vineyard. Ahhhh.

Then I tasted something really different from Spicy Vines. The composition of their ‘Original Blend’ is Zinfandel, Syrah, Grenache, and brandy, with natural infusions of fruit and spice. The aromas of spiced chai and orange were intense. A Gold Medal winner in the 2013 Pacific Rim Wine Competition, a lot can be mixed with this wine, but I think it’s fantastic on its own.

Later at the table of Smith Story, I found a beautiful Riesling from Rheingau, Germany. (While Smith Story’s Riesling is from Germany, their other wines are from Sonoma and Anderson Valley.) In the business of design and branding, “story” is a hot word, especially in the wine industry. Would you believe that “Story” is the last name of the founders? This couple has good fortune and a golden touch.

Then it was time for port, and I found a really dreamy one by Hawk and Horse Vineyards: their Gold Medal 2010 ‘Latigo’ Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s available for purchase on their online store and would make a lovely gift. Why not share the dream?

best wine label designAs a graphic designer, I’d like to say something about label design, which contributes immensely to the sales of any wine. What stood out to me at this showing was the understated, charming, sophisticated, and color-coordinated labels of Gregory James. The owner, Greg Adams, is the man on the tractor and he has the ‘story’ to back it up.

I’d also like to call out Innovatus Wine for the elegance, detail, shape, and texture of their labels. Innovatus is owned by Cecil Park who struck me as entirely competent and kind, not to mention that her Cuvée Red Blend is silky smooth.

label designLastly, Rubissow’s icon is lovely. You may not know the story behind it but you can feel it. Note the lines of the flowing vineyards in the icon. Also note that I don’t just brag about my own label designs, but give attention where attention is due :)

gail_johnston_sf_designer_vintners-wine-glassFinally, I stopped at the table of PeaceLand Vineyards. Someone I met at the other side of the hall pointed me to PeaceLand, so I was predisposed to liking their wine. Incidentally, this is a part of branding: putting a good feeling in people’s heads before they experience the product. PeaceLand did not disappoint, their Rosé of Syrah being especially memorable.

And I have a glass to help me remember it all. Until next time, thanks to everyone who shared the fruits of their labor at this great event!