Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Family Winemakers Tasting in SF

Wine tasting events at Fort Mason in San Francisco are always fun, crowded, and loud. And the 2012 Family Winemakers Tasting held this past Sunday, September 9th was no exception!

There was a terrific mix of large, established wineries and small, newer producers. I tasted some wines from wineries with which I was already familiar—including the exquisite 2008 vintage from Ladera, the new Grenache-based wine from Orin Swift, and Rhone blends from Tablas Creek—as well as a lot of unfamiliar stuff.

I reviewed the list of participating wineries before I arrived at the tasting, making note of a few wineries in particular that I wanted to get to. Main Street Wine Bar carries the 2011 Enkidu Tin Cross Vineyard Chardonnay ($30/bottle), so I was eager to try that wine. It was light and refreshing with crisp acidity and mild citrus notes.  Enkidu’s winemaker was pouring about 7 other wines, so I tried a few a more. I also really enjoyed the 2008 Humbaba [red] Rhone Blend ($28/bottle) and I was very impressed with the two Cabernet Sauvignons. The 2009 Napa “E” Cab was complex and fruit-forward with integrated tannins (and only $24/bottle!). The 2009 Sonoma Valley Cab was equally delicious ($45/bottle). Enkidu produces more than 10 different wines but no more than about 3500 cases total; their tasting room in Kenwood is open daily.

The best Pinot Noirs of the day were from a small, brand new producer called Ten Acre. The wines came highly recommended by a friend from Napa (otherwise I might have missed these cool-climate gems). The winemaker was pouring a selection of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I tasted four different vineyard-designate Pinots from the Russian River and Sonoma Coast ($35-$65/bottle). They were elegant, juicy, and focused. I don't know if these wines are in distribution yet, but you can taste them at the Bella Vineyards tasting room in Healdsburg (which I suggest you do!).

The Hook and Ladder wines were also quite tasty. They were being poured at a booth down at the far end of the pavilion and by the time I got there, the entire place was packed. (This is the unfortunate aspect of such large tastings—you don’t get much time to get acquainted with each wine and it’s so loud it makes conversation extremely difficult.) So, although I didn’t get to hear the story about Hook and Ladder Winery, I sampled a few of their wines. These wines are extremely well-made and a great value. The 2009 Tillerman Bordeaux-style blend was awesome! When I asked for the price, I heard $70—but it was actually only $17. I definitely look forward to tasting these wines again.

A few other wines of note were the 2007 Kelleher Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2009 Inspiration RRV Pinot Noir and the Gregory Graham wines from Lake County.

Thank you to the Family Winemakers of CaliforniaOrganization and the participating wineries for such a great event. I would definitely recommend this event—and I plan to go again next year (but I will go as early as possible to try to beat the crowds). Cheers!

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