The Family Winemakers Tasting has been one of the largest wine tasting events in the Bay Area and this year they celebrated their 25th Anniversary, returning to downtown San Francisco at the Palace Hotel. This is the primary event for smaller family run wineries to showcase their wines for media, trade and discerning consumers.
Over 125 California wineries, including several who have been participating all 25 years, were exhibiting hundreds of wines for visitors to enjoy. This event showcased the variety of wine varietals available in California from over 20 California appellations.
It was impossible to sample through all wines so here are some highlights:
J. Rickards Winery
This is a hands-on, family-run operation of both wine grape growing and wine production at the northern end of Alexander Valley in Sonoma County. Jim and Eliza Rickards personally care for 45 acres of vines on their 60-acre ranch and make a limited amount of wines under the J. Rickards label. Jim originally purchased the land to operate a cattle ranch which helps you understand the cattle brand label, The Rickards obviously have a passion for their land and their wines. Their 2012 Five Sisters Blend Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of the five sisters of Bordeaux with 85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9% Malbec, 2% Petit Verdot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot. It has a complex, yet balanced, aromas and flavors of dark fruit including black cherry, black raspberry, blackberry with an overlay of spice and a touch of chocolate.
The 2013 Muscat Blanc delivers aromas and flavors of white peach, lemon, pear and a great balance of acidity, fruit and minerality. Their booth was across the aisle from a cheese table and Jim suggested that I pair this Muscat Blanc with a blue cheese on the table and he was right, it was a great pairing bringing out some addition boost of fruit and minerality.
Line Shack Winery
Bob and Daphne Balentine, the owners and winemakers for Line Shack Winery in Monterey County shared a number of their fine wines with us. The name “Line Shack” comes from a term referring to a small cabin built in the open range where cowboys could take shelter from Mother Nature while working away from the home ranch. When the Balentine family purchased a small ranch in southern Monterey County they discovered one of these old Line Shacks on the property. The Line Shack Chardonnay from Santa Lucia Highlands has a nice crisp acidity and aromas and flavors of citrus, pear and tropical fruit leading to a balanced long finish. The Line Shack Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve is a rich elegant wine with dark fruit including black cherry, currant, cassis and plus and a touch of coffee and leather. For $26 you cannot beat the value for this fine Cab.
Heartfelt Wines is a boutique family-owned winery producing award winning premium wines on Treasure Island in the heart of San Francisco Bay. Owner/Winemaker Dan Morgan focusses on producing exemplary wines and his passion for winemaking shows in his wall full of awards including Best of Class and Double Gold awards from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, The 2011 Petite Sirah is a beautiful wine with a deep dark ruby color leading to aromas and flavors of dark plum, blackberry and black cherry balanced with nice spice and vanilla leading to a long finish with the tannins you expect from a Petite Sirah.
Mi Sueno Winery
Mi Sueno means “my dream” in Spanish and the story of Mi Sueno Winery is a dream come true. Owner/winemaker Rolando Herrera is living his dream, starting as a dishwasher in Auberge du Soleil to owner and winemaker for his own highly regarded boutique winery in Napa Valley. The 2011 Mi Sueno Pinot Noir is from Carneros with lively red fruit flavors including cherry and strawberry with a complex structure adding in spices such as clove and allspice and white pepper.
Family Winemakers of California is the political and policy voice for small family-owned wineries. We lobbied water issues, fees and taxes, warning labels, farmer’s market tastings and farming regulations this year at the State Capitol and regulatory agencies. Continuing Pierce’s Disease and Red Blotch research remain at the top of our advocacy list. Consumers enjoy greater choice in California wines across the U.S. because of their advocacy. Artistry and passion are the hallmark of Family Winemakers of California wineries at these tastings and you will taste it in the glass.
All Family Winemakers tasting events focus on wineries that are small (under 5000 cases), have limited marketing outreach, and will be represented by family members.
Check out the attached slideshow for more wineries present at the Family Winemakers of California Tasting.
To learn more about the wines and wineries of California, subscribe to the California Wine Examiner.
- For more information: www.familywinemakers.org