I almost skipped this year’s Family Winemakers uber-large tasting as it was being held in Pomona at the Fairplex, a two-hour round-trip drive. But then I noticed that the organizers had given the press a four hour window to taste (and recover) from about 100 wineries – each serving up two or more of their latest efforts. So…I made the trek. (If you would like to skip the coverage below you can see the story in photos here.)
Tasting Full Line Ups
Ancient Peaks – Served up some lovely wines, my favorite was the Renegade blend of Syrah, Malbec and Petit Verdot and the Oyster Ridge blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Sirah.
Carlisle Winery – Eve Wine 101 VP Michael Perlis is a fan so I have to try and get my hands on these wines whenever I can, usually over our staff lunches (thank you Michael). Today I was loving their Steiner Vineyard Gruner Veltliner, “the only Gruner made in Sonoma.” From there both the 2013 Russian River Valley Zinfandels wowed me: one from the Papera Ranch and the other from Montafi Ranch.
Carol Shelton Wines – From the 2011 Sonoma County Karma Zin, Cucamonga Valley (yes, as in Rancho Cucamonga) 2013 Monga Zin, 2013 Rockpile Sonoma County and through to the 2011 Late Harvest Sonoma County…I was in love with these Zins! They also had some fine wines from their secondary label, Wild Thing, and I especially appreciated the flavor of the Rendezvous Rose.
Clos Pepe Estate – I’m a member of the winery, but since my shipments are usually Pinot Noirs I wanted to try the latest Axis Mundi wines made from grapes outside of the estate; the Rose of Mourvedre and blend (Grenache and Syrah). Glad I didn’t miss either, and I will want them in my next shipment.
Dolin Estate – I had to turn down a wine pairing dinner with Elliott Dolin as it was in Westlake Village on a weeknight – a possible three-hour round-trip trek. I wanted to make it up by tasting them at Family Winemakers. Elliott was happy to take me through his line-up and I was especially smitten with the 2012 Malibu Estate Chardonnay and every Pinot Noir, especially the 2012 Rincon Vineyard out of the Arroyo Grande Valley.
Foxen Vineyard – Starting with lovely fruit from a 2013 Chenin Blanc from the Ernesto Wickenden Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley, I also enjoyed the 2013 Chardonnay, Block UU, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley; 2013 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley; 2013 Pinot Noir John Sebastiano Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills.
Frostwatch Vineyard and Winery – Poured and described by wine friend Michael Fraschilla I found myself totally digging every white I tried: the mostly Semillon 2013 Vice Versa, 2013 Chardonnay and their 2012 Ophira Reserve Chardonnay.
Guarachi Family Wines – I doubted that vintner Alex Guarachi would be at the table but I had to look…and was greeted instead by his latest, and very tasty, Pinot Noir: 2013 Sun Chase Vineyard from the Petaluma Gap, Sonoma Coast.
Miner Family Winery – A lovely 2013 Simpson Vineyard California Viognier tickled my fancy and 2010 The Oracle Napa Valley Bordeaux blend put me over the edge. Tasty stuff.
Pride Mountain Vineyards – A delicious 2013 Napa Valley Chardonnay was followed by a 2012 Merlot and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, both with grapes from Napa and Sonoma Counties.
Rocca Family – Yes! I was so happy to find a new favorite Napa winery that I visited last October and even happier to discover they had new releases for me to try today! There were two Cabernet Sauvignons that were delish, but a Merlot stole the show. For some reason it make me think that even a non-Merlot fan would like it; it was ready to drink now and had very nice fruit and spice. Best Merlot at the event, IMO.
Round Pond Estate – I had visited Round Pond’s Napa tasting room in April of 2012 and at the time I was fond of the whites, today I was into the Cabernet Sauvignons. The first was a Rutherford estate and the second, a Kith and Kin, which is made from Rutherford and “neighboring appellations.”
Swanson Vineyards – Though I was hoping winemaker Chris Phelps would be there as we dined together years ago, I was equally thrilled to say hello again to his director of national sales, Shelly Eichner. I love their wines, especially the latest Alexis Cabernet Sauvignon.
Tablas Creek Vineyard – Can you ever have too many Rhônes? Never! They wowed me with every white Rhône blend, red Rhône blends and single varietals. Their 2014 Vermentino and 2012 Mourvedre were stellar.
Family Winemakers of California is an “organization that reflects the small producer’s point of view.” With nearly 5,300 licensed wineries in California someone needs to consistently speak for small, family wineries in the fight for more access to markets, protecting individual freedom from government over-regulation, and fostering aspirations to make the best wine. Our beginnings are humble. Family Winemakers was founded in 1990 after the wine market order extension was voted down in a true grassroots campaign. Industry growth and public policy on a myriad of issues begged for input from small producers. One man, one vote is the bedrock principle behind Family Winemakers that guides our views on legislation, regulation, litigation and business practices. We’ve spent 24 years and counting working to loosen up the post-Prohibition restrictions in California law and broaden access to domestic markets.
A list of the Pomona Participating Wineries can be downloaded here.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com