The Family Winemakers of California held their 25th annual tasting on Aug. 16 at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, the site of their first tasting back when Pete Wilson was governor and gas was $1.12 a gallon.
More than 100 wineries, boutique-sized for the most part and focused in the San Francisco Bay Area, offered various varieties and vintages for media, trade and consumers. The Family Winemakers of California is a political and policy voice for small, family-owned wineries. The group lobbied water issues, fees and taxes, warning labels, farmer’s market tastings and farming regulations this past year at the State Capitol and regulatory agencies.
Check out some of the especially good wines. Best chance to grab a bottle or case is through the winery’s website.
Carlisle 2012 “The Derivative” White Wine ($34)
This blend of Sonoma Valley Semillon from Monte Rosso Vineyard, Sonoma Valley Muscadelle from Pagani Ranch and Russian River Palomino from Saitone Ranch has richness up front that yields to its medium-high acidity for a refreshing finish. Information: CarlisleWinery.com.
Chateau Montelena 2014 Potter Valley Riesling ($25)
The winery made famous when its Chardonnay beat the competition at the 1976 Paris Tasting also makes a darn good Riesling with fruit from Potter Valley northeast of Ukiah. Its acidic pop turns into a light mouthful of spice, apricots and pineapple. Chateau Montelena can be found at fine wine stores. Information: Montelena.com.
Jones Family Vineyards 2012 “The Sisters” Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
Complex with layers and layers of aroma melting into a flavor profile of cloves, jasmine, leather and eucalyptus. Exceptional depth and sophistication. Real show-stopper from Calistoga. Information: JonesWine.com.
Wallis Family Estate 2012 “Little Sister” Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
Thomas Rivers Brown is quite the winemaker. He crafts Wallis’ exceptional lineup of Cabs and those of the aforementioned Jones Family Vineyards. “Little Sister” is a blend of 95 percent Cab, and 2.5 percent each Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc from Diamond Mountain Road. This is a balanced giant. Information: WallisEstate.com.
Silver Wines 2010 Pinot Noir Coteau Palmer ($45)
Owner and winemaker Benjamin Silver left Zaca Mesa in 2000 to start his own label in Santa Barbara. His Pinot has earthy aromas and red fruit flavors. He also makes interesting Chardonnay, Sangiovese and Syrah from noted sources in the Santa Barbara area. Information: SilverWines.com.
Laird Family Estate 2013 Cold Creek Ranch Chardonnay ($30)
The wine grape source for some of Napa’s biggest players, Laird holds onto a small percentage of its best fruit for its label. The Chardonnay is exceptional. Eleven months in French oak, with 50 percent MLF. Creamy, but not a butterball. There’s enough acid there to balance it out. Information: LairdFamilyEstate.
Most of these wines are not easy to find, but are worth the search.