Zoetrope's zesty wines and dinners
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When North Beach's Café Zoetrope offered an invitation to their Winemaker's Dinner, it was an offer we couldn't refuse. Godfather jokes aside, the stylish restaurant, owned by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and his related winery, has a special midweek dining option that'll fill your stomach while offering a bit of education about various wines. Most are also available for purchase by the bottle.
Set on the ground floor of the historic and beautiful Sentinel Building, the pivotal North Beach setting should please any visitors you have coming to town, or for locals who want to enjoy touristy areas with a local comfort. The triangular café's décor includes classic film posters and memorabilia, and a variety of wines for purchase.
Not being particularly learned about wines, I found that informational notes offered by Sandy Walheim of Virginia Dare Winery were fascinating. How will this year's rain effect future harvests? What's the difference between a Malbec and a Syrah? Walheim shared info on each of our glassfuls, paired with food.
Lydia, the chef at Café Zoetrope, prepared the appetizers (socca with roasted beets, and seared ahi tuna) and entrees, which were delicious. The duck leg confit brought savory seasonings with lentils and sweet potatoes. But the braised pork shank with pomegranate glaze and a creamy polenta hidden under the big bone left us astounded. With those dishes, we enjoyed two wines from the Francis Coppola Reserve group, and two wines from the Director's Cut group.
As Walheim told us, Francis Coppola Reserve wines are a group of six wines with very limited production. They are from individual vineyards and represent an upper tier of quality from a very distinctive place, including Chardonnay, Pinot noir, Viognier, Syrah, Petite sirah and Cabernet. We tasted the Chardonnay (2016 vintage, Russian River, Dutton Ranch) with the first course, and Vioginer (2017 vintage, Russian River, Catie's Corner) with the dessert course.
One thing I do know from my years as a waiter; the best wines almost slip past your lips with their subtlety, and these wines brought a variety of flavors.
The other two wines in the dinner were part of the winery's Director's Cut group, brought from Sonoma County. We tasted the 2017 Pinot noir and the 2016 Cabernet. As Walheim put it, Director's Cut is styled to be fruit-forward in expression, backed up by complimentary oak.
For dessert, we shared servings of pistachio cake and lemon pie between sips of Reserve Viognier. Altogether, the meal and wine pairings are a mere $65 per person.
For reservations for 5:30 and 7:30pm seatings, or other dates: (415) 291-1700. www.cafezoetrope.com
Also visit www.francisfordcoppolawinery.com