With all the wine tasting events held each year in California, Family Winemakers of California is always a favorite of mine. First of all, the event is all about exactly what the name implies. It truly celebrates family owned wineries, big and small. But mostly small. And every year there are so many new wineries to get to know, winemakers to meet and wonderful wines to try. What’s not to like?
With close to 200 wineries represented, some pre-event planning is definitely called for. This year I pulled the exhibitor list off the website with the site map and highlighted the tables I would give priority to. While there were so many old favorites I wanted to visit, I tried to choose those wineries I had heard about over the last year, but had yet to try.
Somewhere in the vortex of the internet I had heard about A Cellar Full of Noise, operated by two charming young men, James Judd and Eric Alvarez. Their reds, made from Paso Robles area fruit, were rich and full, the Cab and Malbec with their other label, James Judd & Son, being standouts.
Just prior to the event I had received an invitation to taste from BX of Napa Wines. Her label logo is BX, and since those initials are near and dear to my heart, I was intrigued. I also liked the fact that she was a one woman show producing only 100 cases of wine in her inaugural release. This release was comprised of 3 wines, a Syrah, a Chardonnay, and the only 100% Ruby Cabernet in America! I loved the Chardonnay and the Ruby Cab is a light, fruit forward red which would make an easy sipping wine with summer bbq’s. Owner/winemaker Bex Bishop is charming, knowledgeable and passionate and I really enjoyed meeting her.
I first tasted the Chardonnays and Pinots of Fog Crest Vineyard at last year’s event, so this year I was anxious to try their just about to be released 2010 Pinots and say hi to James Manoogian, owner and passionate force behind these fine wines. (Daniel Moore is their winemaker). The 2010 Estate Pinot Noir , Russian River Valley, (200 cases produced), is a beautifully balanced wine with long lingering fruit, and upon release I’m sure will be a hit with Pinot lovers.
I really enjoyed the wines from Harrington Wine, a new find for me this year. They are producers of an extensive line of Pinots, but they had brought with them this year their new releases which included a Grenache Blanc and their 2011 Fiano, a white varietal I hadn’t heard of before. Fiano was a popular grape in ancient Rome, now primarily grown around the town of Avellino in the southern Italian region of Campania. The wine was similar to a Pinot Grigio, crisp and clean, but with a lusher, fuller mouth feel. I’m generally not a fan of Pinot Grigio, so this Fiano would be a welcome summer white at my house.
Getting back to reds, I really enjoyed those of Muscardini Cellars. Their Zinfandel was big but not jammy, their Syrah, lush, and my favorite was the “Tesoro“, a Super Tuscan style blend of Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
Some old favs visited were Buttonwood Winery, Cass (never want to miss an opportunity to say hi to co-owner Ted Plemons), Les Deux Chats (love their Roussanne and Viognier), Eberle, and Tercero, where I found owner/winemaker Larry Schaffer almost unrecognizable with a new, way shorter haircut.
Hope your own tasting adventures have led you to some delicious new finds, and I totally recommend you seek out and try some, (or all), of the wineries I mentioned here. Support family owned business… of any kind – it’s a really good thing. Cheers!
I’LL DRINK TO THAT!