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My second night in California my friends suggested taking a tour into San Francisco. Take some time to do some minor touring and hitting some culinary and wine hot spots they had stumbled across. Of course this sounded like a fantastic idea to me and I jumped all over it! On the CalTrain (train system that travels around the Bay of San Fran connecting the outer cities and regions of the Bay) and Bart (subway system injecting the neighbourhoods of San Fran) we went to get from San Carlos to Powell station in San Francisco.

imageOnce here we met up with another friend of theirs staying in the area for the weekend. The spot to hit first Mikkeller Bar. This is a pub that specializes in poring craft beer and also produces a number of beers as well. Lucky for me there was this fantastic gluten free beer from Belgium available (Green’s Tripel Blonde Ale). Something that offered notes of candied apple and apricot and peach. It was hoppy but very approachable and smooth, one of the best gluten free beers I have tried! This was paired perfectly with the pub fair offered in house, of which I ordered the “Texas Ranger Sausage” which comes with onions, jalapeños and green peppers and a chipotle ranch sauce – delish!

Those with me had a variety of the craft beers offered. The one most raved about was the “Monk’s Elixir” a darker ale that had the nose of slight chocolate and coffee. I was told it was very smooth and easy drinking.image

One we had our fill of beer and food at Mikkeller we left and hopped back on the Bart to the Mission district of San Francisco. Here we were headed towards the wine bar Etcetera. It was at this wine bar my friends had had this fantastic pinotage they were raving about. We walked there and got seated at this cute little table just inside the door. A wine list was already on the table. Now, this was no ordinary wine list, it was a binder full of pages outlining some history and background on wine and divided all wines being offered in terms of country. Each country had a tab in the binder and was introduced with some information and maps of the wine regions, then the wine offerings from this country were outlined.

We spent some time going through this binder of wines and discussing what we were looking for (especially since the pinotage being sought had been sold out). It was then determined that we were looking for something approachable, hint of pepper, and smooth and refined like a Pinot noir. So, imagenaturally we chose to split some differences and start with a Classic Greek wine Xinomavro from the Naoussa region followed by a Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier blend from South Africa. Both wines offered an experience we were looking for as a group.

The Xinomavro was light and fruity, refreshing on the palate. It offered notes of raspberry, strawberry and, cherry licorice. It offered imagevery fine and supportive tannins that washed through the mouth. A medium finish and light to medium body and overall mouth feel. A very approachable, light and easy drinking red. It was the perfect start to help cleanse our palate and prepare us for the heavier and more tannic Syrah blend. It was after having the first couple sips of the Syrah with flavours of red and black peppercorn, garlic sausage, cedar and blackberry we decided to order a little snack before the kitchen closed. Two tapas dishes were ordered to pair with our current wine – Spanish tortilla and jamon iberico. The saltines from each dish complimented the sweet pepper notes of the SMV blend.

Once the wine was finished and the bar about to shut down we headed back to the Bart station and home for our day of tours and adventures into Napa.