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Written by Nikitas Magel   

Spotlight on Foggy Bridge Winery

Foggy Bridge WineryOn any other Saturday afternoon, if the floor were moving underneath my feet, I would resign myself to setting down the wine glass and switching to something less intoxicating. But on this occasion, the swaying deck was to be expected as part of getting underway on Franklin D. Roosevelt's historic presidential yacht, the USS Potomac, in order to enjoy an interactive wine tasting and food pairing experience quite like no other.

Although it's been an ongoing weekend event for nearly a year, I'd only recently learned about Sips and Bites on the Bay. The tasting and pairing aspect is what first garnered my interest, but it was on learning that the entire experience takes place aboard a national historic landmark that my curiosity was piqued. And true to its promise, the event provides the opportunity for passengers of the yacht to enjoy the spectacular scenery and landmarks of San Francisco Bay, while enjoying "Sips" — wines representative of some of California's major winegrowing regions — that are matched with "Bites" prepared by Left Bank Brasserie. Reflecting both his fondness for the seafaring and his over twenty years of experience in the wine industry, Sips and Bites is the brainchild of winemaker Daryl Groom and his team. It's all part of an effort to creatively market his newly established Foggy Bridge winery, located at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge inside a 1920s aircraft hangar in San Francisco's Presidio.

It was while catching passing glimpses of the bridge's towering vermilion pillars that I spoke with marketing director Holly Myers, and learned that Foggy Bridge expects very soon to be releasing its first vintage of locally produced wines, which will then be poured during future epicurean excursions. In addition, the winery will feature multiple tasting rooms, educational classes, a café and a restaurant, all in a distinctly maritime yet urban setting — an aspect making it truly unique among Northern California wine producers. What's more, it all seems to be a part of an industry-wide practice that's slowing growing in popularity, and one that I feel smacks of savvy marketing: bringing wine country to the city, rather than depending entirely on urban patrons to make a trip up north to the vineyards.

Another smart PR approach is placing the wines in the context of food. I'm a big believer that the two should always go hand in hand. But that isn't an association readily assumed among the American wine-drinking public, understandably, since ours is not the most culinary culture. So, I'm always excited to partake in any opportunity that seeks to showcase the synergy between really good food and wine pairings. And the thrust of Sips and Bites on the Bay was exactly that: Chef Norman Nicolas had prepared a menu of small bites to go along with each of the wines presented. As servers attentively circulated platters of delectables around to passengers on both decks of the yacht, members of the Foggy Bridge staff replenished people's glasses and were often inclined to provide a bit of information on the wines and their pairings:

  • Deviled Egg Niçoise, coupled with Sparkling Wine
  • Seasonal Soup and Spring Pea Purée with Ricotta and Pistou in Phyllo, matched with Sauvignon Blanc
  • Prociutto-wrapped Melon and Bamboo-skewered Poached Prawns with Celery, paired Viognier
  • Tarte Flambé and Bacon, Onion, Crème Tart, matched with Merlot
  • Serrano Ham, Sundried Tomato, and Basil Crostini, coupled with Zinfandel [my personal favorite]
  • Point Reyes Blue Cheese wrapped in Roast Beef and Balsamic Syrup, paired with Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Selection of Macarons, Madeleines, and Palmiers, matched with a Late Harvest Viognier

Providing the context for all this decadence was the yacht itself. Engaging one of the docents aboard, I learned that the USS Potomac had been used by FDR as an occasional getaway from the White House as well as a platform on which he entertained various foreign dignitaries of the time. After his death, the ship entered a long decline and changed many hands. When it was finally rescued in the early '80s, it embarked on a huge restoration effort, both publicly and privately financed and carried out by thousands of devoted volunteers. The docent I spoke with herself was volunteering her time and engaged my partner and me in a story of the past president that was entertaining enough to steal our attention from the passing views. But not for long.

Stunning vistas all around us were, in part, what made the experience such a great one. I got a sense from other passengers that they enjoyed themselves, too, and especially liked that the event was fun in more ways than one: not only did they get to feel self-indulgent with the wide selection of food and drink, but got the rare treat of experiencing the sights and sounds of the San Francisco Bay… in style.

For more information, refer to the homepage for Sips and Bites on the Bay or contact Holly Myers directly. In preparation for its opening to the public, Foggy Bridge winery will be re-launching its website by mid summer.

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wine in the news

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