It was an “up and down” kind of week-end: up and down Telegraph Hill on a walking tour, and then a descent into a wine lounge for a special wine tasting event.

Telegraph hill and the Coit tower

On Saturday I went on my third City Guides walk (free walking tour), this time to Telegraph Hill. This hill is a natural rise in the northeast corner of the city, wedged between the water and Little Italy (North Beach). It is capped by the well-known Coit Tower, one of San Francisco’s landmarks.

Coit Tower

Coit Tower

Our guide, Howard Miller, a born San Franciscan, took us up a path to the tower, while explaining the history of the hill. With stupendous views of the Bay, it is now home to multi-million dollar condos. But back in the day (mid 1850’s), this was a poor area of wood shacks housing the men who worked on the waterfront. The steep hill became even steeper when chunks of earth were removed to use as ballast on the boats.

Expensive condos on Telegraph Hill

Expensive condos on Telegraph Hill

We didn’t go up the tower itself, but admired the murals on the ground level. Painted in 1934, the year after the tower was built, they depict scenes of industry and agriculture in the so-called “social realist” style. As it turns out, some of the artists were communists, and if you look carefully, you’ll see the name “Karl Marx” on the binding of a book in one of the murals.

Mural in Coit Tower

Mural in Coit Tower

On the other side of the tower, the Filbert steps are steep wooden steps that descend through lush semi-tropical gardens and small cottages from the mid-19th century. This area is pedestrian-only and makes you feel like you’re in a different age, or perhaps a different city!

Filbert steps and old cottages

Filbert steps and old cottages

Telegraph Hill gardens

Telegraph Hill gardens

The views from up here are amazing. You can see the ferry building, the embarcadero with the piers and the cruise ships, the artificial island that hosted some of the structures during the World Fair in 1939-40 (where prototypes of the first television were unveiled). You can see the Bay Bridge and part of the financial district, including the Transamerica pyramid. With views like that, it’s not surprising that the condo apartments in this area go for a couple of million dollars!

View from Telegraph Hill

View from Telegraph Hill

On the way back I walked through Little Italy but all the good brunch places were closing down since it was already 3:00 PM.

Wine Tasting at the Press Club

Entrance to the Press Club

On Sunday afternoon I attended a wine tasting event at the Press Club in downtown San Francisco. I convinced Nicole, one of Kristen’s friends, to come along. Located on a small lane off Market Street, and down a flight of stairs, the Press Club is a wine bar and lounge, and is also often rented for special events.

Our event, celebrating the harvest season, featured 16 small Californian wineries. For $30, we could get as many samples as we wanted. Fortunately little hors-d’oeuvres were offered to sustain us, and there were plenty of couches in the modern and spacious lounge to take a break with a glass of water.

Tasting lounge at the Press Club

Tasting lounge at the Press Club

I had never heard of any of these wineries. They are small outfits from Napa, Sonoma and beyond. Some are a two-men affair without so much as a tasting room. Some sell only to restaurants or a few wine boutiques. Some wines came from a 40-barrel batch. Basically, they are wines you couldn’t find in just any liquor store.

Tasting Lacuna wines

Tasting Lacuna wines

We managed to hit nine of the wineries over a three-hour period, tasting several whites and reds, as well as a rosé and a bubbly. Many were well known varietals such as pinot gris, chardonnay, and carbernet sauvigon, but we also encountered unusual grapes like petit verdot, and carignane.

Skylark wines at the Press Club

Skylark wines at the Press Club

Later that evening, we met up with another friend of Kristen’s at a Mediterranean restaurant on Fillmore Street called La Mediterranée where we shared plates of mixed appetizers and main course samplers, as wells as some salmon kebabs. That was a lot of food and it was delicious!

Nicole and Jody at La Mediterranée

Nicole and Jody at La Mediterranée

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