Family Winemakers of California – Recap of 2012 San Francisco Tasting

I attended the 22nd annual Family Winemakers of California event held September 9th and 10th.  The event was held at the Festival Pavilion at Fort Mason in San Francisco.  The Family Winemakers of California (“FWC”) is the trade advocate for California’s “small family” wineries, and a huge tasting like this brings in trade, media, and wine lovers from across the country.

It’s my favorite big event because it’s a chance to taste so many different types and styles of wines from throughout California, from so many producers, large and small, old and new!

Family Winemakers Tasting Festival Pavilion; Fort Mason, San Francisco

Family Winemakers Tasting Festival Pavilion; Fort Mason, San Francisco

How big is FWC?  There were 225+ wineries, pouring upward of 750 wines, representing at least 30 appellations!

I attended the Sunday tasting, which was held from 1:00-6:00p (trade/media from 1-3p, open to the public thereafter). It’s impossible for an individual to taste all the wines, I needed a plan to maximize my time there.  Since I’ve already done a few other big events this year featuring Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, and Rhone varietals, I decided to focus on “Meritage Red” wines.

According to the Meritage Alliance..”a red Meritage must be made from a blend of at least two or more of the following varieties: Cabernet SauvignonMerlotCabernet FrancMalbecPetit Verdot or Carmenère, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend.

When I queried the FWC website for “Meritage Red” wines, it yielded 40 wineries.   The challenge with a huge event like this, is that the information isn’t always up to date.  As a result, there were a couple of wineries on my hit list that weren’t pouring Red Meritage for one reason or another and/or were pouring wines that weren’t strictly “Meritage” as defined above. No worries, I don’t mind a splash of Syrah, with my Meritage!

Inside the Festival Pavilion before the "General Public" madness!

Inside the Festival Pavilion before the “General Public” madness!

My favorite Meritage Red wines (rated “Outstanding” – 90+ points), were:

Cain Vineyard & Winery; St. Helena, CA – Founded 1980. Produces 20,000 cs/yr. Price Range $34-$100

  • 2008 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Concept The Benchland - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Earthy, dark fruit, and tobacco aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied and balanced with cassis, cherry, and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. Cabernet Sauvignon 48% Merlot 25%
    Cabernet Franc 18% Petit Verdot 9% (90 pts.)
  • 2007 Cain Vineyard & Winery Cain Five - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Earthy, cassis, pomegranate, and hint of mineral aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied, and round with a plush mouthfeel accompanied by black cherry, cacoao, and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 68% Merlot 16% Malbec 6% Petit Verdot 5% Cabernet Franc 5% (91 pts.)

CORE Family Winery; Santa Maria, CA – Founded 2001. Produces 5,000 cs/yr. Price Range $18-$61

  • 2007 Kuyam Cuvée Nolan - USA, California, Central Coast, Santa Barbara County
    Fruity black cherry, blue berry boxwood bud aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied and nicely balanced with ripe, juicy black cherry, blueberry and vanilla flavors. Medium + finish.
    A blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petite Verdot and 4% Merlot (90 pts.)

Dogwood Cellars; St. Healdsburg, CA – Founded 2002. Produces 3,000 cs/yr. Price Range $25-$40

  • 2007 Dogwood Cellars Meritage - USA, California, North Coast, Mendocino County
    Aromatic black cherry, dark chocolate, vanilla and cedarwood aromas. On the palate it medium-full bodied and round with dusty tannins and black cherry and vanilla spice flavors. Medium+ finish. Blend of 50% Cab Sauvignon; 50% Merlot; Vineyards:Contento Vineyards, Brutocao Vineyards (91 pts.)

Estate 1856 Wines; Healdsburg, CA – Founded 2006. Produces 300 cs/yr. Price Range $30-$36

  • 2009 Estate 1856 - USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Aromatic cassis, black cherry, blueberry and earthy aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied and balanced with bright black cherry, vanilla and blueberry flavors. Medium-long finish. 78% Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet, Petit Verdot and Malbec. (90 pts.)

Field Recordings Wine; Paso Robles, CA – Founded 2005. Produces 3,000 cs/yr. Price Range $15-$30

JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery; Paso Robles, CA – Founded 1981. Produces 75,000 cs/yr. Price Range $15-$60

  • 2009 Justin Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Isosceles - USA, California, Central Coast, Paso Robles
    Spicy dark fruit and dark chocolate aromas. On the palate it’s medium-full bodied and smooth with black cherry, plum, dark chocolate and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. Blend of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Cabernet Franc, 3% Merlot (91 pts.)

Lagier Meredith Vineyard; Napa, CA – Founded 1998. Produces 900 cs/yr. Price Range $30-$50

  • 2010 Chester’s Anvil Hattori Hanzo - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Lifted bright dark fruit, mixed berry and chocolate aromas. On the palate it’s medium full-bodied with mixed berry, black cherry and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. (91 pts.)

Lateral; Napa, CA – Founded 1988. Produces 2,000 cs/yr. Price Range $40-$50. (Lateral is a separate label being spun off by Kathryn Kennedy)

  • 2009 Kathryn Kennedy Lateral - USA, California
    Plum, cedarwood, leather and a bit of tar aromas. On the palate it’s full-bodied with plum, black cherry flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of 45% Merlot, 14% Cab Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec, and 7% Petit Verdot (92 pts.)

Mauritson Family Winery; Healdsburg, CA – Founded 1998. Produces 9,000 cs/yr. Price Range $21-$50

  • 2009 Rockpile Winery (Mauritson) Buck Pasture - USA, California, Sonoma County, Rockpile
    Cassis, cherry, and a bit a leather aromas. On the palate it’s medium-bodied with cassis, cherry, and vanilla flavors. Medium-long finish (90 pts.)

Merryvale Vineyards; St. Helena, CA – Founded 1983. Produces 12,000 cs/yr. Price Range $35-$165

  • 2009 Merryvale Profile - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Aromatic black fruits, black currant, blackberry licorice, oak and clove aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied, complex with black currant, blackberry, and spice flavors. Long finish. Blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec, 2% Cabernet Franc (93 pts.)

Thomas Fogarty Winery; Woodside, CA – Founded 1981. Produces 15,000 cs/yr. Price Range $18-$55

  • 2006 Thomas Fogarty Lexington Meritage - USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Dark fruit, cassis and cedarwoood aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied, and smooth with black cherry, cassis and vanilla flavors. Ready to drink now. Medium+ finish. (90 pts.)

Rua; Windsor, CA – Founded 2009. Produces 400 cs/yr. Price Range $36-$36

  • 2009 Rua - USA, California, Napa Valley
    Black fruit, spicy oak and vanilla aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with bright blueberry, blackberry and spice flavors. Long finish. Blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc; co-fermented.(91 pts.)

Spring Mountain Vineyard; St. Helena, CA – Founded 1873. Produces 7,000 cs/yr. Price Range $40-$125

  • 2008 Spring Mountain Vineyard Elivette - USA, California, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District
    Dark fruit, chocolate, oak and a whiff of mint- floral aromas. On the palate, it’s full-bodied balanced and smooth with black cherry, chocolate flavors. Long finish Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Cabernet Franc 13%, Merlot 6%, Petit Verdot 5%, Malbec. (92 pts.)
After I finished hitting the 40 or so wineries tasting Red Meritage wines, it was time for “Taster’s Choice”, which is pretty much what it sounds like.  It’s a chance for me to taste other than Red Meritage wines from new (at least to me) producers, check in on favorites, and/or local wineries I’ve not had a chance to taste recently.  I should refer to it as the “speed round” since it’s always at the end of the day!
Wines I rated outstanding while T.B.W.A (Tasting by walking around) were:

Stage Left Cellars; Oakland, CA – Founded 2004. Produces 1,200 cs/yr. Price Range $24-$50

  • 2010 Stage Left Cellars The Go Getter - USA, California, Central Coast
    Aromatic honeysuckle, tropical, pineapple citrus aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied with a great mouthfeel and very good acidity accompanied by stone-fruit, honey, and citrus flavors. Medium-long finish. Blend of 57% Viognier, 29% Grenache Blanc, 15% Roussanne. (90 pts.)
The lineup of Ancien Wines!

The lineup of Ancien Wines!

Ancien Wines; Napa CA – Founded 1992. Produces 3,500 cs/yr. Price Range $36-$55

  • 2010 Ancien Pinot Noir Red Dog Vineyard - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Mountain
    Ruby color with aromatic cherry, baking spice, and a bit of tobacco aromas. On the palate it’s medium-full bodied, silky smooth and well-balanced with tart cherry, cranberry, and cinnamon clove flavors. Medium-long finish. 14.3 alcohol. (92 pts.)

Carica Wines; Alameda, CA – Founded 2005. Produces 975 cs/yr. Price Range $21-$36

  • 2010 Carica Grenache- USA, California, Central Valley, Clements Hills
    Cherry, and dried herb aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with juicy cherry, cranberry and spice flavors. Medium-long finish (90 pts.)
  • 2010 Carica The Siren Kick Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Dark fruit, Herbs de Provence and white pepper aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-bodied, and smooth with black cherry, chocolate, plum and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. Rhone Blend.(91 pts.)
  • 2009 Carica Petite Sirah Kick Ranch - USA, California, Sonoma County
    Mixed black fruit, berry aromas. On the palate it’s intense, medium-full bodied with dusty tannins, and ripe blackberry, plum and spicy vanilla flavors. Medium + finish. (91 pts.)

Canihan Family Winery; Sonoma, CA – Founded 2003. Produces 1,200 cs/yr. Price Range $35-$69

  • 2006 Canihan Family Cabernet Franc - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Dark fruits – black currant and black cherry, eucalyptus, and a bit of chocolate. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied, and smooth with well-integrated tannins, and black currant, cherry, and spice flavors. Medium-long finish. (92 pts.)
  • 2008 Canihan Family Syrah Exuberance Estate - USA, California, Sonoma County, Sonoma Valley
    Mixed berry, dried herbs, white pepper, and floral aromas. On the palate, it’s medium-full bodied with blackberry, raspberry, and spice flavors. Medium + finish (91 pts.)

Family Winemakers of California is a great event that’s circle in red, underlined and highlighted on my calendar of wine events! I just wish I could clone myself a couple of times so I could taste more wines.  I’m shooting for both days next year! ;-)

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