Perlis Picks: Family Winemakers of California [Part 2 Favorite Wines]

Last week, I wrote about my own history with Family Winemakers of California. This week’s article is about my favorite wines at this year’s tasting. I did my best to visit some of my old favorites as well as try to find some new ones. With almost 100 wineries pouring hundreds of wines, I barely made a dent, but of what I tasted, here are the ones I liked the best:

20150315_110413Ancient Peaks – Mike Sinor is the winemaker for this Santa Margarita winery, just south of Paso Robles. My favorites were the Renegade Rhone blend and the Oyster Ridge blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Malbec. I think these are my two favorites from them every year.

BellaGrace Vineyards – A fairly new [2006] winery based in Plymouth. Barbera is one of the things Amador County does best, and there’s was no exception. Their Primitivo was tasty as well, but my favorite was their old vine Zinfandel – not surprising as Amador boasts some of the oldest Zinfandel vineyards in California.

C.G. Di Arie Vineyard & Winery – Another Sierra Foothills producer great Barbera, Primitivo and Zinfandel, along with a Cabernet Sauvignon that I really liked.

Ca’Momi Winery Napa Valley – very good Zinfandel from this Napa winery. My wife Karen enjoyed their Prosecco and their Rose.

Carlisle Winery – I can’t say enough good things about Carlisle. I’ve been a fan since they started in 1998, and Mike and Kendall Officer continue to support FWC and those retailers who supported them since they began, despite huge accolades and a waiting list to buy wine that is miles long. Loved their Gruner Veltliner [as did Karen], as well as the two single vineyard Zinfandels they were pouring [Montafi Ranch and Papera Ranch], and it was amazing to me how delicious their Sonoma County Syrah was – this wine is priced as an everyday wine but definitely does not have an everyday taste.

Cima Collina – tasty wines from Marina, California. Liked their Syrah and loved the Mourvedre.

Clavo Cellars – Neil Roberts continues to make outstanding wines out of Templeton. His whites are always great and the reds keep getting better and better. I especially liked the Zinfandel and Collusion red blend.

Inspiration Vineyards & Winery – very small winery based in Santa Rosa, owner/winemaker Jon Phillips is make some very nice wines. I found his red Rhone blend to be really tasty.

Mattina Fiore Wines – a new winery for me, and a pretty new one overall [2011], this wine was a great discovery for me. Based in San Luis Obispo, as I was tasting the wine the words that kept coming into my head were “These wines are very pretty.” The only Chardonnay I had that day, and it was outstanding. Their Grenache, Syrah and Red Rhone blend were great as well.

Nottingham Cellars – this was another big find for me. The winery is in Livermore, an area to which I have previously paid little to no attention. The Rhone blend was outstanding and the Petite Sirah was a dollop of deliciousness on my palate.

Rock Wall Wine Company – Sadly, winemaker Shauna Rosenblum did not make the trip down from Alameda this year, which is understandable since her baby is due any time now. Fortunately her wines did – I’m a big fan of her Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Tannat, as well as the Obsideana red blend.

Sobon Estate / Shenandoah Vineyards – another Amador County producer, so naturally I enjoyed their Barbera, Zinfandel and Primitivo.

Thirty-Seven Wines – based in Sonoma, I was really excited to try these wines, especially when I found out that Shane Finley is their winemaker. The Grenache and Syrah were amazing, as was the red blend. These wines really over-delivered – very reasonable price points and very high quality.

Tres Sabores – winemaker Julie Johnson is making nice wines at her winery in St. Helena. I enjoyed the Petite Sirah, Zinfandel and the red blend of Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot named Por Que No?

Vezer Family Vineyard – another winery that was new to me, this one is based in Fairfield. Enjoyed their Petite Sirah and Zinfandel, as well as their red blend. [Karen really liked their Verdelho.] And I liked their Cabernet Sauvignon as well.

You may have noticed a recurring theme here, but not unexpected to anyone who knows me or reads my articles on a regular basis. I gravitate toward Zinfandel and the Rhones, and with the breadth of selection here, it was easy to create a tasting game plan that would meet those desires. But there was also plenty of high-quality Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir being poured. This was truly a tasting for everyone and I am looking forward to what they do with it next year.

As Paul Kronenberg, President of Family Winemakers of California said to me: “There are an enormous amount of brands every year that consumers are exposed to and everyone’s palate is different. We strongly encourage them to explore all the varieties that California has to offer and to spread the word about what they discover.”

Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at or