The Tasting Panel magazine

March 2014

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 24 of 128

24 / the tasting panel / march 2014 SAN FRAN INSIDER Renewed Urban Traditions Inner-city winemaker Ed Kurtzman makes three labels: Sandler, August West and Roar at his Minnesota Street winery. A lmost in spite of their urban origins, many wines produced within San Francisco's city limits defy the image of an everyman's pour. They are listed at the city's Michelin-starred restaurants and sold at retail alongside cult favorites in Napa Valley, while older vintages can be found offered online by e-tailers like Vinfolio. While the culture surrounding wineries springing up in San Francisco's SOMA and Dogpatch districts is unabashedly down to earth, the most sought after wines are being widely distributed and sold direct on alloca- tion. Whether born from necessity, sheer practicality or, in the case of wine- maker Ed Kurtzman, from decades of expertise, interest in urban wineries— a once-vital part of San Francisco's historic landscape that succumbed first to the fires of the '06 quake and then to throes of Prohibition—seems to have come full circle. The unmistakable scent of freshly-popped corn and the sound of a nearby auto shop sets the stage outside Ed Kurtzman's August West Winery in Potrero Hill. With a winemaking career that includes Bernardus in Carmel Valley, Chalone and Testarossa in Los Gatos, Kurtzman brings his best game to this industrial stretch on Minnesota Street, where he produces about 2,000 cases under three labels : Roar and August West with partners Gary Franscioni and Howard Graham, and his own label—Sandler. "What differentiates these brands are the sites," said Kurtzman whose long-standing friendships with growers and intimate knowledge of their vineyards is apparent in every wine he makes. In 2002, Kurtzman released his first August West Rosella's Vineyard Pinot Noir while he was still making wine at Testarossa (some of his earliest vintages can be found through Vinfolio) and a release for Sandler followed shortly thereafter in 2003. But he didn't actually live in San Francisco until 2007, when he took over the Roar winery, then located in the Bayshore district. With the move to Minnesota Street in 2012, Kurtzman has consolidated production of the three brands under one roof. When asked what connects the wines, Kurtzman pointed to light-handed winemaking; no lees-stirring for the whites, gentle treatment with some whole-cluster fermentation for the reds and judicious use of oak that results in an aromatic, precise and balanced style. Floral and focused define the soon-to-be-released August West whites, including a 2013 Rosella's Vineyard Chardonnay and both a Marsanne and Roussanne from Saralee's Vineyard in Sonoma. Sandler reds include a garrigue-laden 2011 Grenache ($25) and a whole-cluster 2012 Pinot Noir ($36) from the Boer Vineyard in the heart of the Chalone AVA and a Keefer Ranch 2012 Pinot Noir ($40) with intensity from the Mariafeld clone and 30% new oak. Kurtzman looks to the deep, sandy clay soils of Rosella's Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands for the August West 2012 Pinot Noir ($32) with softly textured, expressive red fruit and a 2011 Syrah ($36) showing blue flowers, patchouli spice and dusty cedar, made in what he describes as "a perfect year for Syrah." Kurtzman wrapped up the tasting with a Sandler library wine, a 2007 Syrah from the Connell Vineyards in Bennett Valley that was precise and lean with sassafras, vanilla and cedar-spiced red plum. CITY WINEMAKER ED KURTZMAN HELPS REVIVE SAN FRANCISCO'S VINOUS PAST by Deborah Parker Wong RENEE ALLEN PHOTOGRAPHY PHOTOS: DEBORAH PARKER WONG

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of The Tasting Panel magazine - March 2014