If you hang around the wine and spirits business for long, you get used to hyperbole. So of course I took the claims of the Family Winemakers of California event with a grain of salt, which swear that it’s “the largest tasting of California wines in the world.” That’s a bold statement for such a humble-sounded organization.
It also appears to be completely true.
I stepped into the enormous Fort Mason Festival Pavilion expecting a repeat of most of the other events I’ve attended there (it’s the usual spot where most large tastings in San Francisco are held). What I saw was downright insane. Instead of four rows of tables stretching from one end of the hall to the other (that alone is a daunting sight), I saw eight. What were once hugely spacious aisles you could wander down were now narrow and crammed full with people. With some 400 producers offering wines for tasting, there were probably 1,200 wines or more being poured in one room. That’s more different wines than most people drink in a lifetime.
I didn’t even approach the that mark. My tally, in the end, was 44 wines tasted and rated.
Now this event isn’t like most wine events, which are tied together by specific geography or a specific varietal, it’s just, as the name indicated, “family winemakers,” with most wines being poured at the event by someone whose name is on the label of the bottle.
Considering wines were from all over the state, all vintages, and all varietals, quality was all over the map. My clear favorite: Three Syrahs from the husband/wife team of Lagier-Meredith. Both have amazing experience in the wine industry, and all three of the bottlings (one each from 2004. ’05, and ’06) were silky, rich, and outstanding. I also greatly enjoyed the wines of Beau Vigne (also a husband/wife team; Beau is their oldest son), especially the easy-drinking Juliet, a mostly-Cabernet blend.
Both Merry Edwards and Helen Turley sent proxies with their wines, but a single vineyard Pinot from Edwards was a knockout, as was the raisiny-sweet, decanted Zinfandel being devoured at Turley’s booth. A final favorite, the legal-themed Quid Pro Quo from Ahnfeldt (a part-time winemaker, full-time asbestos lawyer): This 60% Merlot blend simply tastes like justice.
Full ratings follow. As usual, apologies for typos: A list of wines poured was not available (nor were prices), and writing notes in the minuscule spot given in the tasting book was nigh impossible, especially in the cramped quarters.
Family Winemakers 2008 Full Tasting Report
2005 Ahnfeldt Merlot / B+
2005 Ahnfeldt Quid Pro Quo / A
2004 Ahnfeldt Cabernet Sauvignon / A-
2007 Barnett Chardonnay / A-
2007 Barnett Pinot Noir / B-
2007 Barnett Cabernet Sauvignon / B-
2006 Beau Vigne Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve / A-
2006 Beau Vigne Juliet / A
2006 Soda Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon / A-
2005 Bravante TRIO / B+
2003 Bravante Simpatico / B
2004 Bravante Cabernet Sauvignon / A-
2005 Buoncristiani Syrah / B
2004 Buoncristiani O.P.C. / A-
2004 Lagier-Meredith Syrah / A
2005 Lagier-Meredith Syrah / A-
2006 Lagier-Meredith Syrah / A
2006 Mazzocco Sonoma Zinfandel Maple / A-
2006 Mazzocco Sonoma Zinfandel Pony / B
2004 Mi Sueño Syrah / A-
2005 Mi Sueño Cabernet Sauvignon / B+
2006 Merry Edwards Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir / B+
2006 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir / B+
2006 Merry Edwards Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Meredith Estate / A
2003 Pietra Santa Signature Cabernet Sauvignon / B+
2003 Pietra Santa Vache / A-
2007 Saxon Brown Semillon / B
2006 Saxon Brown Chardonnay / B+
2005 Saxon Brown Syrah Parmelee-Hill, Camp Block / A-
2005 Saxon Brown Syrah Flora Ranch / B+
2006 Saxon Brown Zinfandel / A-
2006 Siduri Pinot Noir Arbre Vert / B
2006 Siduri Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / C+
2006 Siduri Pinot Noir Ewald Vineyard Russian River Valley / A-
2006 Siduri Pinot Noir Santa Lucia Highlands / B
2006 Six Sigma Sauvignon Blanc / B
2006 Six Sigma Cuvee Pique-Nique / B
2005 Six Sigma Cabernet Sauvignon / B
2005 Six Sigma Tempranillo / B+
2006 Small Vines Pinot Noir Russian River Valley / A-
2006 Small Vines Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast / B
2004 Swanson Merlot / A-
2004 Swanson Alexis / B+
2006 Turley Zinfandel Paso Robles / A