Fred Swan is a San Francisco-based wine writer, educator and authority on California wines and wineries. His writing appears in SOMM Journal, The Tasting Panel, the blog at JJBuckley.com, winereview.planetgrape.comthe San Francisco Wine School blog and his own site, among others. Freds certifications include WSET Diploma, Certified Sommelier, California Wine Appellation Specialist, Certified Specialist of Wine, French Wine Scholar, Italian Wine Professional, Sud de France Master, Napa Valley Wine Educator, WSET Level 3 Sake and Level 3 WSET Educator. In 2009, he was awarded a fellowship by the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. In that same year, he was inducted into the Eschansonnerie des Papes, the honorary society of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC.

Fred won first place at the 2015 Napa Valley Wine Writer Symposium for his fictional wine review of 2009 Chateau de Plonk. Read his winning piece here, learn about the event, and get pro wine-writing tips from industry greats!


What is your favorite wine region to visit?

Well, I’ve never been to a wine region I haven’t enjoyed. And I’m very fortunate to live just an hour or so from some of the best in the world. However, if I leave California out of the mix, I’d have to say my favorite wine regions to visit are in Australia. Both the Barossa/Adelaide Hills/McClaren Vale area and Margaret River. You have to love being able to taste great wines while watching kangaroos bouncing around.

What is your favorite class to teach?
I have a soft spot for the CWAS classes, all of them. There are so many great stories to tell.

What's your most memorable wine experience?
I’m fortunate to have had many great and memorable wine experiences. Among them were the epic dinners and vertical tastings of the Masters of Food & Wine which used to be held in Carmel. There were verticals of Penfolds Grange, Henschke Hill of Grace, Chateau Margaux, etc. If I had to choose just one though, it was probably the week I spent in Bordeaux on a small tour led by Ralph Sands of K&L. It was fascinating, delicious and perfect from start to finish.

What's your most memorable food and wine pairing?
Well, the pairing that I’ll never say “no” to and isn’t too fussy to reproduce consistently is succulent Peking duck with high-quality, slightly aged sparkling Shiraz. Scrumptious!

Name some recent wine discoveries that you find exciting.
I just tasted some remarkable Garnacha Blanc in Spain’s Terra Alta DO. Regrettably, few of them are available here yet, but the producers are working on that. Truly remarkable wines.

What do you think is the most unappreciated wine or region in the world?
There are so many good answers to this. A lot of people, especially somms, value German rieslings very highly, but somehow those wines remain very affordable. So, clearly, people aren’t drinking enough of it. My personal unicorn is top-quality, aged sparkling Shiraz. You can’t get it in the U.S. and people laugh at the thought. But, the wines can be very complex and sophisticated. Really! As for regions, Lodi has amazing potential that is just now starting to be tapped.


 

Fred Swan Interviews SF Chronicle Wine Editor Jon Bonné

On Tuesday, December 9, I conducted an hour-long interview of Jon Bonné in front of a live audience for the Commonwealth Club. Bonné is the Wine Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle, a two-time James Beard Award winner and the author of The New California Wine: A Guide to the Producers and Wines Behind a Revolution in Taste.

 

2014 Wine Law Updates in Review

2014 was a busy year for wine law changes. Here are just a few of them. 

 

Thinking Outside the Bottle


Thinking Outside the Bottle

For more than 200 years, wine bottles have enabled easy transport, long-term cellaring and convenient service. Consumer and on-premise needs have evolved though. New technologies such as keg-on-tap wine, which address these requirements, are rising in popularity.



11 New, Nested AVAs in Paso Robles Present Opportunities for Distinction

Paso Robles was long the largest undivided AVA in California. That changed on October 9, 2014 when the TTB approved a proposal to create 11 nested AVAs.

 

TTB Establishes Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA

On October 9, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Board [TTB] approved 12 new California AVAs. Today, our focus is the new Eagle Peak Mendocino County AVA. Next week, we’ll cover the other 11, all of which fall within the previously existing Paso Robles AVA.

 

A Surprisingly International White

Fasten your seat belt low and tight across your lap. Make sure your seat is in the upright position.


SF Wine School Gives Bloggers a Deep Dive Into Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara County is one of California’s best and most diverse wine-growing regions. Among its five AVAs are climates ranging from cool “Region I” to St. Helena-like “Region III,” soils from deep sand to chalk to alluvial loam.


A Look at the Newly Approved Ballard Canyon AVA, Santa Barbara County

The Ballard Canyon AVA was approved by the TTB on October 1, 2013. It is a small wine-growing region within Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley AVA. Though not yet a familiar name to most enthusiasts of California wine, it’s few vineyards are very high in quality. Some are strong brands on their own: Beckman Purisma Mountain, Stolpman, Larner and Jonata.


Which Wine is in Your NV Champagne Bottle?

Last year, I reported that wine critic Antonio Galloni would no longer be scoring non-vintage Champagne that didn’t list the disgorgement date on bottle. Consumers couldn’t be sure the wine they see in stores is the same as he wrote about. Similarly, shops, restaurants and collectors with multiple bottles have no way of telling bottles apart once they’re in the cellar.


Foss Valley: Napa’s Valley Above the Fog

The name Napa Valley AVA is somewhat misleading. Napa Valley is certainly dominant within the AVA but is far from the only valley. Some others are obvious by name or quick perusal of a map: Chiles Valley and Pope Valley for example.


Blanc du Bois, a Southern Belle?

Sitting in a winery tasting room outside Fort Worth, Texas I perused the wine list. “What’s this Blanc du Bois?,” I asked. The name reminded me of Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire. “It’s Blanc du Bois,” she said helpfully.


TTB Approves 4 More Chateauneuf-du-Pape Varieties in USA

Fourteen grape varieties may be used in Chateauneuf-du-Pape.1 Many of them are bit players, used to add traces of spice or color or acidity, etc. But they also make that region’s wines more diverse and allow winemakers to compensate for difficult vintages.


The Impact of Bottle Size on Wine Aging

Conventional wisdom says magnums of wine develop more slowly than 750ml bottles. The smaller the bottle, the more rapid aging is assumed to occur. We rarely test this theory in a completely objective manner though. Recently, I did.


The Cult Wine You Don’t Realize is from Oregon

In the mid-1960’s, Oregon’s wine industry pioneers began planting grapes in the northern Willamette Valley. They focused on Pinot Noir, but also planted Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling. Those varieties are still widely considered Oregon’s best, just as the Willamette Valley AVA remains the state’s best-known growing region.


Antonio Galloni Wine Advocate Taste-Maker?

At the recent Symposium for Professional Wine Writers, I had the opportunity to talk quite a bit with Antonio Galloni of The Wine Advocate. He also agreed to a lengthy interview. He said on numerous occasions and in different ways that it is not his goal to be a taste-maker nor an agent of change for wine styles.

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San Francisco Wine School strives to open up the world of wine to serious students and enthusiasts everywhere while helping people of all levels break into the wine industry, advance their career, or simply pursue their passions. Founded by Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator David Glancy, San Francisco Wine School is the largest wine school in the U.S., offering the most thoughtful approach to wine study. Their inspired educational programs and workshops are taught in their state of the art wine education & events center and their cutting edge virtual classroom by industry-leading instructors from all major educational disciplines. San Francisco Wine School’s curriculum features the best content in the business: expert course materials, carefully conceived wine flights, and in-depth blind tasting exercises designed to engage students, illuminate course content and enhance learning. Their brand new sunlight-filled wine education & events center is conveniently located just 5 minutes from San Francisco International Airport and boasts 16-ft high coved ceilings, eight 12-ft tall arched windows, and gorgeous 180 degree views of the San Bruno Mountains, South San Francisco City Hall and the San Francisco Bay, making it the perfect place to enjoy classes, industry seminars and tastings and host a wide variety of private events—from serious educational programs for wine/hospitality industry staff to team-building and other fun, social, private events for wine enthusiasts.

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