Family Winemakers of California
Thirteenth Annual Trade Tasting
Pasadena Convention Center
Tuesday, March 13th
If I had to go to only one wine tasting event per year, it would be the Family Winemakers of California tasting held annually in Pasadena. With typically about 200 wineries represented, many of which are not readily available, this event provides perhaps the broadest exposure of what California has to offer. And please be aware that, while this event is for members of the trade and media only, the Sunday prior to this event is reserved for the Family Winemakers tasting in San Diego, which is also open to the public and definitely worthy of a road trip.
The only problem is, with so many wineries present, it is virtually impossible to make much more than a dent in the lineup, but I was determined to do my best.
That being said, I spent time visiting with two of my old favorites…
Neil Roberts of Clavo Cellars in Templeton is quietly producing a lineup of excellent whites [Albarino, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Viognier] and delicious fruit-forward but not overpowering reds [Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, Malbec and a Red Blend].
And while nobody would confuse “mad scientist” Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines with the more mild-mannered Neil, Larry is doing a similarly great job with both whites and reds in Los Olivos.
But the clock was ticking and I needed to try some more wines. These were the other standouts for me…
I had not tasted the wines of Collier Falls (Healdsburg) in some time. I really enjoyed their Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel and Primitivo.
I poured next to Conway Family Wines (San Luis Obispo) last year when I helped Neil of Clavo Cellars out at a Rhone Rangers tasting, but didn’t remember much from that experience. This time, I got to appreciate their wines, especially their Syrah and Rhone Blend.
CORE Family Winery (Santa Maria) seemed to have their entire extensive lineup available to taste. I’m a fan of Dave Corey’s Mourvedre.
Demetria Estate (Los Olivos) is acquiring quite a following these days. I especially liked their Syrah and Rhone Blend.
Winemaker Jeff Cohn of JC Cellars (Oakland) has been making excellent wines since 1997. Really liked their Syrah and Zinfandel.
John Rorbert Eppler Wines (Alameda) impressed me with their Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.
I think Santa Clarita locals Patty and Chris Connolly had the smallest winery at the tasting: Les Deux Chats Cellars (Paso Robles) with production of only 460 cases. I was very impressed with their Roussanne and Viognier.
Unfortunately, Rick Longoria of Longoria Wines (Los Olivos) didn’t bring any “Blues Cuvee” with him that day, but the Tempranillo made a nice substitute.
Martian Ranch Vineyard and Winery (Los Alamos) – great name, nice people, and a really tasty Grenache.
Montage Vineyards (Oxnard) was pouring a diverse lineup – my favorites were the Grenache and Syrah.
The Zinfandels and Petite Sirah of Robert Biale Vineyards (Napa) were some of the best of the day.
After Kent Rosenblum sold Rosenblum Cellars, he founded Rock Wall Wine Company (Alameda), with his daughter Shauna as winemaker. Very impressed with the Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat.
Summers Estate Wines (Calistoga) continues to be one of the few producers of Charbono, and they do it very well.
Focused on food-friendly wines, Urban Legend Cellars (Oakland) got my attention, especially with their Barbera and Dolcetto.
Finally, Veedercrest Vineyard & Winery (Sonoma) was pouring their incredible Merlot and an excellent line-up of their Cabernet Sauvignons.
All in all, a good afternoon’s work, but I still only tasted at about 10% of the wineries’ tables.
Next year, gotta get that number up.
Michael Perlis provides outsourced controller services to businesses that do not need a full-time controller. He balances this with his interest in wine: reading and writing about it and, of course, drinking it. He is still trying to figure out how to combine these two pursuits. Feel free to contact him about either at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.