On this rather dreary Friday we pass on a fresh pot of The Swill, wherein certified sommelier and Hip Tastes book and blog author, Courtney Cochran, brings you the latest gossip and findings from the wide world of wine.
[Photo: Eater SF Flickr Pool/Sonya Yu]
Surely when Madame Morisette wrote her “Isn't it ironic” lyric, she wasn’t thinking of wine in Mason jars. But that’s the line that keeps ringing in my head at the Mission’s Heart wine bar, epicenter of the beverage-in-Mason-jar trend. Owner Jeff Segal explains, “I want the focus here to be on the wine and not the pretense surrounding it, hence the jars.”
That's easy when his pour descriptors come off as compelling, less so when they fall a bit flat. Segal, a writer in a past (read: corporate) life, puts his scribe skills to work penning offbeat wine descriptions that mostly shine and occasionally stutter. In the sherry category, for example, his “Cate Blanchett elegance at a Jamie Lee Curtis price” descriptor for a Gutierrez Colosio Elcano Fino sent me into near peals of laughter, while describing a Christian Venier Gris Gourlaouen sparkling Rosé as “Jaw-droppingly recherché?But doesn’t shave its armpits” just seemed?odd.
It's also exactly the sort of confusing handle traditional wine culture: its impossibly long wine lists, arch product descriptors and snooty sommeliers, is maligned for. But in the case of Heart, I can't remember another time I've so enjoyed being confused. After all, the mostly small-production wines are excellent, the small bites by Kitchenette, starring Fatted Calf charcuterie and cheese plates are delicious (especially in the case of their raw scallop and Sake pairing) and the crowd is a delight for the senses. On a recent visit, the spot was teeming with easy-on-the-eyes hipster types. They gabbed nonchalantly at high tables against a wall lit by the projected image of a flickering fireplace. Hot-on-hot, indeed.
As for the Mason jars themselves, they don’t transmit the bouquet of a wine as well as traditional stems. How could they? The shape is all wrong and the glass at the lip is far too thick. But at Heart they make up for it with a mellowness that emphasizes the sexy surrounds over a brainy quaff. It's as if to say the wine should never overwhelm the moment. And right now, on Valencia Street, it's just right.
- Courtney Cochran
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