Tasting Report: Family Winemakers of California 2016

Tasting Report: Family Winemakers of California 2016

It’s been a few years since I’ve attended Family Winemakers of California, and event that once billed itself as the largest wine event in America, with hundreds of wineries showing off their wares.

Things have settled down a bit in more recent years, but with 125 wineries showcasing some 500-plus wines, there’s still far more wine than you could possibly sample in a full day here.

I spent some time checking out both some old favorites while seeking out many that were new to me. The experience did not disappoint, with a high proportion of really exceptional wines standing out above the crowd.

Who’s got great juice right now? Take a spin through my limited ratings and tasting notes below.

Family Winemakers 2016 Full Tasting Report

2012 Angwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain The Kissing Trees / A- / classic, tart fruit, cherry and herbs
2012 Angwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Estate / B+ / more sweetness here, a bit jammy on the finish
2013 Arrowood Chardonnay Carneros / B- / quite woody, some vegetal notes
2013 Belden Barns Pinot Noir Estate Vineyard / A- / very fruit forward, lots of depth
2014 Belden Barns Pinot Noir Serendipity Block / A / more earthy, balanced by earth, licorice, and spice
2013 Belden Barns Syrah / A- / heavy blackberry
2015 Belden Barns Rose / B / very heavy strawberry
2015 Belden Barns Sauvignon Blanc / B+ / lychee, pineapple notes; NZ style
2014 Belden Barns Gruner Veltliner / A- / bright, with mineral notes and lots of acid
2013 Belden Barns Chardonnay / B+ / better balance of fruit and butter/oak notes than most
2013 De Novo Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve / B / very jammy, slight baking spice edge
2014 De Novo Wines Pinot Noir / B / interesting jam/spice combo
2011 De Novo Wines Merlot / B+ / pretty violet notes, long fruit finish
2014 De Novo Wines Cabernet Sauvignon / B+ / very fruit forward, some surprising strawberry notes
2009 Delectus Cabernet Franc / B / dark chocolate notes, lots of density, very tannic
2008 Delectus Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley / B+ / settling down a bit, tart fruit on the back end
2010 Delectus Cabernet Sauvignon Knights Valley / A / really supple, rounded and fruity; balanced
2011 Delectus Cuvee Julian / B+ / a blend of cab/petite sirah/cab franc; fruit is dialed back to let heavy earth notes show; needs time
2012 Frostwatch Merlot / A- / elegant; notes of pencil lead, florals, ample fruit, and chocolate
2013 Frostwatch Merlot / A- / more fruit here, violets on the finish
2013 Jon Nathaniel Windfall Merlot / B+ / heavy florals, very dense for merlot
2013 Jon Nathaniel Windfall Cabernet Sauvignon / A / licorice and tea notes; big but balanced
2013 Jon Nathaniel Bodacious / A- / heavy blackberry, nice balance on the whole
2013 Jon Nathaniel Fabulist / B+ / lots of fruit, a bit overblown
2012 Krutz Family Cellars Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir / A- / heavy fruit; bold and big; lots of baking spice
2014 Krutz Family Cellars Magnolia Pinot Noir / B+ / subtle and gentle, a fresh “everyday” wine
2014 Krutz Family Cellars Anderson Valley Pinot Noir / A- / meaty nose, some acidity, modest baking spice
2013 Laird Family Estate Pinot Noir / B / some barnyard, black fruit, dense tobacco
2012 Laird Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon / B+ / still developing, young and spicy
2013 Macauley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley / A- / bold, graphite notes and a big finish
2013 Macauley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve / B+ / overdone, lots of dusty earthiness
2013 Macauley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Vineyard / A / domaintes the palate in full; spice, licorice, and coffee; needs cellar time
2013 Martinelli Chardonnay Martinelli Road / A- / bold and buttery; notes of figs
2012 Oakville East Exposure Cabernet Sauvignon / B+ / fruity up front; segues into earth
2013 Oakville East Exposure Cabernet Sauvignon / A- / denser and younger, a touch bitter but a more subtle wine
2013 Pride Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon / A- / classic Napa, but dialed back to show restrained fruit
2012 Sullivan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon / B+ / slightly acidic, quite herbal
2012 Sullivan Vineyards Coeur de Vigne / B+ / intense tannin, dark and stony, coal dust
2012 The Crane Assembly Cabernet Sauvignon / A / intense and dense, fruit opens up to herbs and floral notes; $225 a bottle!
2014 The Crane Assembly Disciples / B / zinfandel; lush and chocolaty, with Port wine notes
2013 The Crane Assembly el Coco / B+ / a blend of zin/petite sirah/merlot/cab; more restrained than the Disciples; some bitterness
2013 The Withers Mr. Burgess / A- / GSM blend, heavy on the syrah; a stellar wine, dense chocolate, leather, great depth
2013 The Withers Bel Canto / B+ / GSM, heavy on the grenache; bitter notes that are balanced by spice
2013 The Withers Ruben / A- / GSM, heavy on the mourvedre; quite tart, but floral
2015 The Withers Rose / A / herbal, with fun gingerbread notes
2014 The Withers Pinot Noir Peters Vineyard / A / peppery, exotic, with dense fruit
2014 The Withers Pinot Noir English Hill / A / gentle and lighter in style; lovely
2013 The Withers Pinot Noir Charles Vineyard / A- / also quite light, but less fruit forward
2012 Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain / A / lush and gorgeous, slight florals with a cherry bent

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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