Wine Whips Art

I’d planned to write this week about the wine design exhibit at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, but a nice wine bar got in the way instead.

Took a quick look at the “How Wine Became More Modern” exhibit, which was cool, but after 15 minutes I was wanting some wine to drink, not just contemplate as art.

A quick peek inside the museum’s cafe convinced me I needed to look elsewhere for a special wine experience. I didn’t need to go far.

A quick dash across Third Street, then a two-minute stroll to the Press Club (20 Yerba Buena Lane), put me in prime wine-tasting territory.

Six wineries are featured in the Press Club’s underground tasting salon, which vibrates each evening with dj-provided tunes as customers move between couches and the tasting bars in the 9,000 square foot club. There are pouring stations for each individual winery, plus a common bar pouring everybody’s wines.

Plans are to begin rotating the wineries featured at Press Club in April, but no word yet on future lineups.

There are no actual wineries nearby — no vineyards to see, either — but the Contemporary Jewish Museum and the St. Regis Hotel are neighbors and the rest of San Francisco is at your fingertips.

Featured wineries include Chateau Montelena Winery, Fritz Winery, Hanna Winery & Vineyards, Miner Family VineyardsMount Eden Vineyards,  and Saintsbury.

“We consider ourselves an urban tasting room,” said Alphonso Cross, the Press Club Experience Manager “We bring Napa to an urban wine experience.”

Five-ounce pours range from $10-$33. Bottles go from $40 to $130. There’s a bar menu with cheese, breads and snacks plus a few heartier selections. I enjoyed the creamy Humboldt Fog and the more complex Beechers, Reserve Truckle (cheddar).

Reds dominate the wine list, so I skipped the whites and focused on a 2008 Mt. Eden pinot noir from Santa Cruz and the Hanna 2009 Two Ranch Red from Sonoma County.

Caroline Furrer pours at Press Club

The Mt. Eden “Saratoga Cuvee” is made from purchased grapes. I’d call it a mid-weight pinot with tart black cherry fruit and a hint of clove on the nose. It paired well with the Humboldt Fog.

The Hanna is a mongrel blend. At 47 percent, zinfandel is the biggest contributor and accounts for some of the prunish flavor profile.

I’d describe it as a middleweight contender whose moderate tannins made it fit in better with the cheddar. Other grapes in the mix include cabernet sauvignon (16.8%) and merlot (13.5%) plus lesser amounts of syrah, petite sirah, cabernet franc and pinot noir.

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