is a Bay Area architect with a passion for wine. After taking
a few wine courses through UC Extension, he started becoming
more "serious" about wine in the early '90s. Ken
has been taking wine-tasting trips to the Central Coast since
early '92, and has come to love the area - not only for the
wines, which just get better year by year, but also for the
people. Ken's interest in wine is more than passive, and he's
been volunteering his help at several urban East Bay wineries
since 2001 - and in fact was recently named assistant winemaker
for both Eno Wines in Berkeley and Harrington Wine in San Francisco.
Family Winemakers of California -
August 25, 2008
Family Winemakers of California - 2008
18th Annual San Francisco Wine Tasting
Report on the 18th annual wine tasting presented by the Family Winemakers of California (FWC), on Sunday, August 24th and Monday, August 25th, 2008, at Fort Mason in San Francisco. The event focuses on current releases and soon-to-be-released wines from FWC members.
The two-day event included a brief trade/media tasting followed by a public tasting on Sunday afternoon, and a trade/media tasting on Monday afternoon.
The Family Winemakers of California organization is a statewide trade association that was founded in 1991. Their stated goal is "to advocate the rights and interests of its members to freely produce, market and sell their products, and…preserving the broad diversity of California wine." The organization works to influence public policy affecting small producers in the state – they have been particularly active in trying to reform direct shipping laws. There are currently over 700 FWC members, most of which are smaller, family-owned wineries. FWC hosts two annual wine-tasting events, one in San Francisco and one in the Los Angeles area.
The San Francisco FWC tasting is an enormous event – with over 400 wineries represented in 2008, this is probably the largest annual tasting of California wines anywhere. Over 70 of these wineries were pouring at this event for the first time. A few barrel sample and library wines were poured in addition to the current releases and previews of soon-to-be-released wines. The amazing breadth of producers participating here make this the best all-around wine event in the San Francisco Bay Area. Not only do consumers get a chance to taste wines from all over the state and from dozens of grape varieties as well as interesting blends, but a number of top-notch producers who routinely pour at the FWC tasting are rarely seen at other public events – Littorai, Pahlmeyer, and Paloma, just to name a few.
Arcadian 2005 Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay
Derbès 2004 Carneros Chardonnay
DuNah 2006 Gewürztraminer
Grey Stack 2007 Sauvignon Blanc
Ancien 2006 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Black Kite 2006 “Redwood’s Edge” Pinot Noir
Broc 2006 Ventana Vineyard Grenache
Corté Riva 2004 “Mabuhay” Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
Lagier Meredith 2006 Syrah
Littorai 2006 Roman Vineyard Pinot Noir
Londer 2006 "Paraboll" Pinot Noir
Orin Swift 2005 "Mercury Head" Cabernet Sauvignon
Paloma 2006 Merlot
Tantara 2005 Garys' Vineyard Syrah
Vie 2005 "L'Intruse"
Having only been able to attend the Monday trade/media tasting, the large pavilion at Fort Mason was not overly packed that day, with only a handful of tables generating big crowds. But with so many tables filling the space, I was thankful to have missed what was surely a much more crowded public tasting the day before. Food was a bit scarce at the event, with a few tables spread out through the hall offering only bread, crackers, and simple cubes of cheese. But overall this is a very well-run event and things seemed to run smoothly throughout.
I teamed up with Grape-Nutz veterans Al Osterheld and Eric Lundblad for the Monday tasting, while Al went it alone on Sunday. Al concentrated on whites and Rosés on Sunday, while we all tackled the reds (mainly Pinots) on Monday – with a few whites thrown in to refresh our palates from time to time. Even with five hours on Monday (and another 5½ for Al on Sunday), we weren't able to taste everything we would have liked to.
Overall, while there were many very good wines being poured, there were fewer than I’d expected that I felt were true standouts. Perhaps part of this was due to our focus on Pinot Noirs during the Monday session – most being poured were from 2006, which falls short of the impressive ’05 vintage (and what is expected to be an outstanding '07 vintage). Al’s notes below are designated by “AO” following the note, and by italics where both Al and I made notes on the same wine.
Selected Tasting Notes
A Donkey and Goat
- 2007 "Tamarindo" Roussanne, El Dorado. Sourced from Elen Ridge and Fenaughty vineyards, this wine is just 12.8% alcohol. Light color, citrus and wet stone aromas, with hints of flowers and stone fruits, rich mouthfeel with a crisp finish. Al noted citrus, honeysuckle, and pineapple with some nutty character, medium-bodied with nice acidity.
- 2006 "Vieilles Vignes" Syrah, Mendocino. Field blend that includes small percentages of Durif, Carignane, Pelourcin and Aubun, from 60+ year-old vines. Medium color, black cherry, plum, game, and spice mingle in the nose, with a lively sensation on the palate and medium tannins.
- 2006 Syrah, Fenaughty Vineyard, El Dorado. 3% co-fermented Viognier. Medium-dark color, black fruits with a touch of smoked meat and hints of flowers, good acidity along with a rich texture in the mouth, moderately tannic finish. Very nice.
Comments: I've tasted A Donkey and Goat's '06 "Three Thirteen" a few times in recent months, so in the interest of time I passed it by this time – but it's also a winner in this solid line-up.
Abundance Vineyards, Mencarini Family
- 2006 “Bountiful Blanc,” Mencarini Vineyard, Lodi. Blend of sauvignon blanc and symphony, very floral, apricot, muscat-y, fruity palate with some residual sugar. AO
- 2006 Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County. Ripe, sweetish tropical fruit. AO
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley. Gooseberry, melon, round. AO
Alfaro Family Vineyards & Martin Alfaro Wines
- 2006 Chardonnay, San Benito County. Fairly ripe and soft, lots of butter, oak on finish. AO
- 2006 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains. Less forward fruit, citrus with vanilla and butter, some lees notes. AO
- 2006 Chardonnay, Carneros Estate. Apple, citrus, butter, lush with some oak on the palate, nice minerality. AO
2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Medium color, big ripe cherry and cola aromas with overtones of spice and oak, very lush mouthfeel and long smooth finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Mink Vineyard, Napa Valley. Medium-light red-purple, higher-toned red fruits with some mineral notes, good acidity and structure, a bit tart on the finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Red Dog Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain. Medium purple color, intense plum/blueberry aromas, tightly-wound with some firm tannins on the finish.
- 2006 “Cameo,” Paso Robles. 50% Marsanne, 25% Roussanne, 25% Viognier, pear turning to melon on the finish, nice richness with acidity to keep it fresh. AO
- 2006 Viognier, Bien Nacido Vineyard. More floral, peach and citrus, medium bodied and fresh. AO
- 2006 Roussanne, Paso Robles. Mostly from Fralich Vineyard, with some Cass fruit, spicy nose with a whiff of smoke, peach, honey, rich without becoming cloying. AO
- 2005 Chardonnay, Sleepy Hollow Vineyard. Apple, butterscotch, rich palate with a long finish and nice balance – I’m a big fan of Arcadian Chardonnays from Sleepy Hollow. AO
Comments: We had done an in-depth tasting with Joe Davis of Arcadian at his winery near Lompoc just a few weeks before, and although we didn’t get a chance to taste their Pinots and Syrahs at the FWC tasting, we already knew they were excellent wines.
- 2007 Chenin Blanc Old Vines, Pocai Vineyard Apple skin, pear, citrus, delicate nose, crisp
- 2006 Verdelho, Lodi Floral, peach, good acidity
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. Sourced mostly from Peterson Vineyard, this was medium color, with a nose of fairly ripe red fruits, big rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Savoy Vineyard, Anderson Valley. Deeper fruit aromas with more spice and great texture and structure on the palate, and a bit more tannic finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Cohn Vineyard, Russian River Valley. Ripe, high-toned dark cherry and plum in the nose, spice and some oak, moderate tannins.
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Randle Hill Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands. Grapefruit, floral, nice minerality. AO
Black Kite Cellars
- 2006 "Kite's Rest" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. From 114, 115, and Pommard clones, medium-light color, ripe red fruits, with a touch of spice and lively acidity.
- 2006 "Redwood's Edge" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. From 114 and 115 clones, medium-light color, richer with bigger spice and oak components, and a more tannic finish.
- 2006 "Stony Terrace" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. 100% Pommard clone, medium-light color, more vanilla/oak apparent in the nose, black cherry and plum, bigger mouthfeel with nice acidity, more tannic.
- 2006 "River Turn" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. 100% Pommard clone, medium color, darker fruits with less spice than the previous two wines and a smoother finish.
Comments: From a 12-acre vineyard planted in 1999, all these wines were aged in about 50% new oak. The "Kite's Rest" is a blend of the three vineyard blocks that are also bottled separately. An impressive group of Anderson Valley Pinots.
Black Ridge Vineyards
- 2007 Viognier Estate, Santa Cruz Mountains. Floral, peach, good balance leaning towards heaviness on finish. AO
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Santa Cruz Mountains. Medium-light color, ripe black cherry fruit and spice aromas, rich mouthfeel with some vanilla/oak undertones, and noticeable tannins on the finish.
- 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Margarita Vineyard, Paso Robles. Cassis and green olive on the nose, a leaner style with leather, tobacco, and black pepper notes, firm tannins.
Comments: Made by Broc Cellars' Chris Brockway, the vineyard is located near the town of Santa Margarita in the far southern part of the Paso Robles AVA.
- 2006 Grenache, Ventana Vineyard, Monterey. 100% Grenache, medium-dark color, ripe strawberry/cherry and black pepper aromas, medium-bodied, very nice texture on the palate, moderate tannins, very distinctive and tasty.
- 2006 Grenache, Dry Stack Vineyard, Bennett Valley. 100% Grenache, medium-dark color, raspberry/black cherry with a touch of vanilla/oak, bigger mouthfeel than the Ventana, with firm tannins on the finish.
- 2006 Syrah, Dry Stack Vineyard, Bennett Valley. 877, Estrella, 174, and 470 clones, 40% whole cluster, very dark color, dense black fruits and herbs in the nose, mouth-coating richness with hints of black olive and pepper, youthful tannins.
Comments: You don't see too many 100% Grenache wines from California – most are blended, usually with Syrah. Both of the Broc Cellars Grenaches are very distinctive and tasty.
Buoncristiani Family Winery
- 2007 Rosato Rosé of Syrah, Napa Valley. Berry fruit, spicy, crisp, nice Rosé. AO
Buttonwood Farm Winery
- 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley. Citrus and melon with nice spice, refreshing. Blended with 10% Semillon. AO
2006 Marsanne, Santa Ynez Valley. Pear, light on its feet, crisp and refreshing. AO
- 2006 Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley. Apple, pear, some butter and oak. AO
- 2005 Chardonnay, Nielsen Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley. Apple, pear, some butter and oak, good intensity, spice with some lees notes. AO
Calera Wine Company
- 2006 Chardonnay, Mount Harlan. Apple, pineapple and citrus, nice length and minerality. AO
2006 Viognier, Mount Harlan. Lots of white peach with floral notes, intense, minerals, nice length. AO
- 2005 Pinot Noir, Ryan Vineyard, Mount Harlan. Stemmy cherry fruit and spice, very tight and structured, but the tannins are not astringent. Obviously in need of many years of bottle age.
- 2005 Pinot Noir, Mills Vineyard, Mount Harlan. Less overtly stemmy than the Ryan (maybe due to older vines?), spicy cherry, with some earth and oak notes, the tannins are smoother than the Ryan but a touch bitter right now.
- 2002 Pinot Noir, Mills Vineyard, Mount Harlan. A slight reddish tinge to this one, spice, black cherry, raspberry, and earth aromas with a touch of forest floor. This has the structure for plenty of further aging but it’s already noticeably smoother than the ‘05s.
- 1997 Pinot Noir, Reed Vineyard, Mount Harlan. More brickish color, herbs, leather, and spice complement the red fruits, while there remains a touch of stemmy character along with noticeable tannins – could easily stand up to more time in the cellar.
Comments: Josh Jensen of Calera produces some of the longest-lived Pinots in California, using 100% whole cluster fermentation and 30-50% new oak on his single-vineyard wines. Since whole-cluster wines can be tough to judge when young, it was a treat to taste a couple of older vintages along with current releases.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. 50% each from Sangiacomo and Halberg Vineyards, medium-light color, bright cherry/cranberry and earth, lively acidity and mild tannins.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley. From 115, 2A, Pommard, and Swan clones, ligher color, cherry and spice aromas with earth and forest floor undertones, smooth finish.
Comments: Rick Davis makes wine for a number of producers including Londer and Halleck –- Calstar is his own label.
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Kick Ranch, Sonoma County. Grapefruit, pineapple, forward, lush. AO
- 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, Cedar Lane Vineyard. Grapefruit, tropical fruit, rich mouthfeel with balancing acidity. AO
Cinnabar Vineyards & Winery
- 2006 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains. A richly styled Chardonnay with apples, cream, spice, and integrated oak. AO
Comments: We had tasted several of Cinnabar’s Pinot Noirs earlier in the year at a Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot tasting, and they were some of the better ones we tried there.
Clos LaChance Winery
- 2007 White-Tufted Sunbeam Sauvignon Blanc, Central Coast. Gooseberry and grapefruit with mild grassiness. AO
- 2005 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains. Ripe apples, butter, spice, some noticeable oak. AO
Coral Mustang Wines
- 2006 Tempranillo Rosé, Vista Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles. Medium pink color, mildly earthy strawberry/cranberry aromas, refreshing acidity.
- 2005 Tempranillo, Vista Creek Vineyard, Paso Robles. Medium color, black cherry and plum aromas along with earth, smoke, and leather, good mouthfeel with moderate tannins.
Comments: I had tasted Coral Mustang’s ’04 Tempranillo a few weeks earlier, and these two wines confirmed that this is one of the better California producers of Spanish-style wines.
Corté Riva Vineyards
- 2006 Cabernet Franc, Sonoma County & Napa County. 25% Merlot blended in, 65% Sonoma fruit, 35% Napa fruit. Medium color, intense cherry, tobacco, and herb aromas, some sweet oak, rich mouthfeel and medium tannins.
- 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County & Napa County. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, 71% Napa fruit, 29% Sonoma. Ripe blueberry and plum, herbs and spicy oak are wrapped up tightly right now, firm tannins on the finish.
- 2004 "Mabuhay" Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 5% Merlot, intense ripe blueberry fruit, lush creamy texture, moderate tannins and a long finish.
- 2005 Merlot, Napa Valley. 100% Merlot, cherry, plum, and smoky vanilla/oak in the nose, lively mouthfeel and medium tannins.
Comments: A very tasty line-up in the big, rich style of Pride Mountain Vineyards – no surprise since winemaker Romel Rivera is also the associate winemaker at Pride.
Costa de Oro Winery
- 2006 Estate Pinot Noir, Gold Coast Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley. Medium color, ripe black cherry and herb aromas, rich mouthfeel and long smooth finish.
- 2006 Estate Pinot Noir, "Reserva Oro Rojo," Gold Coast Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley. A barrel selection, this "red gold" reserve gets additional barrel aging, with more new oak. Similar aromas and flavors to the regular estate, but a bigger wine with a more lush texture on the palate and very long finish.
- 2007 Roussanne, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley. 22% Viognier, about 15% new oak, medium-light gold color, stone fruit and spice aromas, rich mouthfeel, long flavorful finish. Al noted stone fruit and honeysuckle, with nice richness.
- 2007 Rosé of Syrah, Casatierra Vineyard, Fiddletown. From 877 clone, fermented in neutral barrels, light pink/salmon color, strawberry and stone fruit in the nose, refreshing and lively finish.
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Fairview Road Ranch, Santa Lucia Highlands. From Pommard and 667 clones, about 50% new oak, medium color, ripe black cherry with touches of spice and vanilla/oak aromas, very smooth and seamless.
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Saralee's Vineyard, Russian River Valley. From 115 and 23 clones, about 54% new oak, medium-dark color, strawberry/raspberry fruit and spice, brighter acidity than the Fairview, tannins just sneak in on the finish.
Comments: Solid wines from this new producer specializing in Pinot and Rhône varieties.
- 2006 “Two Vineyards” Chardonnay, Monterey County. Apples and spice. AO
- 2006 Chardonnay, Redding Ranch, Monterey County. Pineapple and other tropical fruit, some oak. AO
- 2006 Chardonnay, Vigne Monte Nero, Santa Lucia Highlands. Apple fruit with some tropical, toasty oak. AO
Dancing Coyote Wines
- 2007 Chenin Blanc, Clarksburg Forward nose of apple and citrus, good acidity, off dry. AO
- 2007 Albariño, Clarksburg. Citrus, peaches, very noticeable floral notes (blended with Muscat and Gewurztraminer), acidity adds freshness. AO
- 2006 Verdelho, Clarksburg. Tropical, a bit fat with sweetish fruit. AO
- 2007 Dry Riesling, McFadden Farms, Potter Valley. Light straw color, apple and spice with mild floral notes, smooth and pleasant. Al noted floral, lime, flint, tasty with a hint of residual sugar.
- 2007 "L'Enfant Terrible" Zinfandel, McFadden Farms, Potter Valley. Light color, very bright cherry with a touch of funk in the aromas, good acidity and clean finish with mild tannins.
Comments: The "L'Enfant Terrible" Zin is made with native yeast and little new oak, and is just 13.8% alcohol.
De Tierra Vineyard
- 2006 Chardonnay, Coast View Vineyard, Monterey. Light gold color, tropical fruit aromas with fairly rich mouthfeel and smooth finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Monterey. From mostly Silacci Vineyard fruit, medium color, ripe black cherry fruit with floral and clove notes, bright acidity and slightly tart finish.
- 2005 Estate Pinot Noir, Silacci Vineyard, Monterey. Medium color, more intense and somewhat high-toned fruit, with more noticeable oak, richer mouthfeel, and more grippy tannins.
- 2004 Chardonnay, Carneros. 30% new oak, tropical fruit and spicy oak with a touch of citrus in the nose, bright acidity and crisp finish. Al noted apple with some tropical notes, some oak but nicely balanced.
- 2004 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley. Spicier and more plush mouthfeel than the Carneros Chard, with a touch of vanilla and butterscotch, still with a clean finish. Al noted more forward, tropical fruit and spice with some lees, nice acidity.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. Medium-light color, pretty floral and slightly tart strawberry and cranberry aromas, lively acidity and very mild tannins.
Dierberg Estate Vineyard
- 2005 Estate Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley. Citrus, peach, and apple, some oak, long finish, rich and round. AO
Comments: I’d hoped to taste the Dierberg Pinots at the Monday tasting but ran out of time.
DuNah Vineyard & Winery
- 2006 Estate Chardonnay, Russian River Valley. Pear aromas with mild vanilla/oak undertones, creamy texture but with nice acidity, long finish.
- 2006 Gewürztraminer, Blucher Hill, Russian River Valley. Citrus, lychee, and spices in the nose, bright acidity with crisp finish, a very tasty dry Gewürz.
- 2006 Estate Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. From Pommard, 115, and 667 clones, medium-light color, red fruits with floral and herbal notes, very pretty and light-bodied Pinot.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Medium color, riper and darker fruits and more noticeable oak, bigger mouthfeel with smooth finish.
- 2003 "Tre Cuvée," Mendocino. A blend of nearly 50% each Syrah and Sangiovese, a little Carignane, and a splash of Gewürztraminer. Medium color, smoky, herbal, ripe black cherry and plum, some tobacco notes, fairly big on the palate with moderate tannins.
Fort Ross Vineyard & Winery
- 2006 "Symposium" Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. 4% Pinotage, light color, ripe cherry, spice, and vanilla/oak, fairly light-bodied, smooth and straightforward.
- 2005 Pinot Noir, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Medium-light color, black cherry and earth, nice acidity and balance.
- 2005 Pinot Noir, Reserve, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. A barrel selection of their regular Sonoma Coast bottling, mostly Pommard clone with some 115 and Swan, deeper fruit with more spicy oak notes, with richer mouthfeel and more noticeable tannins.
- 2004 Pinotage, Fort Ross Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Medium-dark color, funky dark fruit aromas with some smoke and earth undertones, tight and structured with fairly big tannins.
Grey Stack (formerly Dry Stack) Cellars
- 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Marie’s Block, Dry Stack Vineyard, Bennett Valley. Gorgeous nose of grapefruit, pineapple, lush and juicy, nice acidity. AO
Comments: Legal issues are forcing Dry Stack to change its name to Grey Stack – what hasn’t changed is the fact that this is arguably the finest Sauvignon Blanc produced in California.
- 2007 Riesling, Napa Valley. Nice nose of pears, citrus, very crisp and quaffable, made from 40-year old vines, 10.5% alcohol. AO
- 2007 Riesling, Leelanau Peninsula, Michigan. Pear, spice, more lush and full bodied, 10.5% alcohol. AO
Comments: A second label from Scott Harvey, named after his wife Jana. And yes, fruit from Michigan for one of these Rieslings!
Lagier Meredith Vineyard
- 2006 Syrah, Mount Veeder. Dark color, with ripe blackberry, grilled meat, and spice aromas, dense texture on the palate with nice balancing acidity and surprisingly tame tannins on the very long finish.
Comments: Steve Lagier & Carole Meredith were pouring their '04 and '05 Syrahs as well as the '06, which will be released this fall, but I'd tasted the two earlier vintages before and loved them. Not unexpectedly, the new release is every bit as superb as its predecessors – I feel this winery produces the most consistently excellent Syrah in California.
- 2006 Chardonnay, Mays Canyon Vineyard, Russian River Valley. Pear and apple aromas combine with spice, vanilla, and a slightly nutty quality, medium-rich mouthfeel and long finish.
- 2006 Chardonnay, Charles Heintz Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Less upfront fruit than the Mays Canyon, more earthy and leesy notes, rich creamy texture and very smooth finish.
2006 Pinot Noir, Roman Vineyard, Anderson Valley. Medium-light color, bright aromas of black cherry with vanilla/oak overtones, lively acidity and tightly-wound structure.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, The Haven Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Medium color, ripe red and black fruits along with touches of earth, forest floor, and mineral, richer mouthfeel, and some vanilla/oak notes on the lingering finish.
Comments: Littorai's wines can tend to show a good deal of oak when young, but they seem to integrate the oak very well with a few years of bottle age.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Corby Vineyard, Anderson Valley. Medium-light reddish color, higher-toned red fruits, mouthwatering acidity with a slightly tart tannic finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. A blend from four vineyards, medium-light color, bright cherry, raspberry, and spice aromas, the acidity keeps it lively on the palate.
- 2006 Estate Pinot Noir, Londer Vineyard, Anderson Valley. Medium color, riper fruit and more prominent spice component, big structure with moderate tannins.
- 2006 "Paraboll" Pinot Noir, Anderson Valley. Medium-dark color, ripe strawberry and cherry fruit along with spice and earth notes, richer mouthfeel with some firm tannins on the finish.
Comments: Larry & Shirlee Londer were behind the table pouring this quartet of very fine Anderson Valley Pinots.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. A blend from eight vineyards, medium color, ripe cherry with herb and earth undertones, medium-rich mouthfeel.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Quail Hill Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. From 35+ year old Swan clone vines, earthier, darker ripe fruit character with distinct spice component, tightly-wound.
- 2005 Pinot Noir, "Five Sisters Reserve," Russian River Valley. Medium color, more restrained style, not as fruit-forward, some darker fruits and forest floor, more structured and tannic.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Quail Hill Vineyard, Bliss Block, Russian River Valley. Similar to the regular Quail Hill but with bigger fruit component, still earthy and spicy, richer and smoother mouthfeel.
- 2006 Syrah, Sonoma Coast. Medium-dark color, slightly gamey nose with black pepper notes, big and mouthfilling but with nice balancing acidity.
Orin Swift Cellars
- 2005 "Mercury Head" Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Morisoli Vineyard in Rutherford and Taplin/Lewelling Vineyard in St. Helena. Medium-dark color, ripe cassis and plum fruit with vanilla/oak overtones, rich mouthfeel, and moderate tannins on the finish.
- 2005 Proprietary Red, Napa Valley. 84% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Malbec, from four vineyards. Medium color, herbal/green olive and plum aromas, leaner style with very good structure and long finish.
- 2006 Merlot, Spring Mountain. Medium-dark purple color, nose of toasty oak, ripe black cherry and plum, with notes of vanilla and herbs, very deep and lush on the palate with mild tannins and long flavorful finish.
Comments: A blend of Estate Merlot with about 12-18% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon (the percentage varies by vintage) from a vineyard high above Napa Valley, this is one of California's most highly-acclaimed Merlots. Winery owners Jim & Barbara Richards were behind the table, and it was a treat to taste their wine.
- 2006 Viognier, Lodi. white peach and nectarine fruit, with some honeysuckle, fresh and medium-bodied, from Geneva clone. AO
Saxon Brown Wines
- 2007 Semillon, Cricket Creek Vineyard, Alexander Valley. Tropical fruit and figs, round and lush. AO
- 2007 Semillon, “Old Vine Field Blended,” Casa Santinamaria Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Citrus, floral, higher toned fruit (some Muscadelle du Bordelaise in blend). AO
Scott Harvey Wines
- 2007 Riesling, Mendocino County. Floral, oranges, pears, very tasty, 10.5% alcohol. AO
Comments: Scott Harvey is probably best known for his Amador Zinfandels, but it’s not as well-known that he studied winemaking in Germany and has a fine touch with Riesling, both from this label and from his Jana label as well.
Small Vines Wines
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley. From a vineyard that’s moving toward biodynamic farming, medium-light color, ripe black cherry and spice aromas, silky mouthfeel with lively acidity and smooth finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. From a vineyard on Harrison Grade, medium color, earthy cherry with bright acidity and clean finish.
Sol Rouge Vineyard
- 2007 "Gypsy Blanc," North Coast. 48% Marsanne from Saralee's Vineyard in Russian River Valley, 48% Roussanne from Round River Ranch in Lake County, 4% Viognier from Catie's Corner Vineyard in Russian River Valley. Fairly light color, ripe stone fruit and tropical fruit aromas, quite fruit-forward style but with good acidity.
- 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County. From vineyard sites up to 2,600 ft. elevation, medium color, slightly herbal plum and blackberry with a good helping of toasty oak in the nose, tightly-wound with a firm tannic structure.
Comments: Made by Bryan Kane of Vie Winery.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast. Medium-light color, high-toned cherry and spice with just a touch of vanilla/oak, lively texture on palate, smooth finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Medium color, darker and earthier fruit, nice spice component and a touch of sweet oak, richer mouthfeel with balancing acidity.
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Demuth Vineyard, Anderson Valley. Not yet released, from Pommard and 2A clones. Lighter color, bright cherry fruit with good acidity and structure.
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino. Not yet released. Medium color, bigger, riper fruit with medium tannins.
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Windsor Oaks Vineyard, Russian River Valley. Not yet released. Medium color, fairly ripe sweet red fruits with more prominent vanilla/oak element, bigger tannins on finish.
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Gap's Crown Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Not yet released, from 115 and 828 clones. Medium color, ripe and fruit-forward darker fruits with some spice notes, bigger with plush mouthfeel with smoother finish.
- 2007 Pinot Noir, Sangiacomo Vineyard, Sonoma Coast. Not yet released. Medium color, earthier character typical of this vineyard, ripe black cherry and plum and a touch of spice, rich texture on palate.
- 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Home Ranch Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Medium-dark color, leaner style with subdued dark cherry, herb, and tobacco notes, good structure and moderate tannins.
- 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley. Not yet released. Bigger and richer, with black cherry, blueberry and plum, not too tannic.
- 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mountain Terraces Vineyard, Sonoma Valley. Not yet released. Sweeter fruit and a bit high-toned, with a bigger oak presence and firmer tannins.
- 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Spring Mountain. Not yet released. Much more primary fruit, bright ripe blueberry with fairly big tannins.
- 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain. Not yet released. Very peppery with less upfront fruit than the Spring Mountain, great structure and long finish.
Comments: Winemakers Craig Haserot and Erich Bradley of Sojourn had lots of not-yet-released wines to taste, and the '07 Pinots in particular will be worth looking for when they come out.
Star Lane Vineyard
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley. Grapefruit, gooseberry and spice, nice length and refreshing. AO
- 2006 Viognier, Paradise Road Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley. Forward floral nose with sweet peach fruit. AO
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Bien Nacido Vineyard – Adobe, Santa Maria Valley. Medium-light color, slightly tart cherry and herbs with a hint of mushrooms, medium-bodied with a smooth finish.
- 2006 Pinot Noir, Pisoni Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. Medium color, ripe plum and blueberry aromas, rich mouthfeel with good structure.
- 2005 Syrah, Garys' Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands. Dark color, nose of blackberry and dried herbs with meaty, gamey overtones and a touch of black pepper, mouthfilling texture with moderate tannins.
Thomas Fogarty Winery
- 2006 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains. Citrus, minerality, some apple fruit. AO
Tin Barn Vineyards
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Bennett Valley. Grapefruit, round mouthfeel. AO
- 2007 Roussanne, Round River Ranch, Lake County. Light color, pear and stone fruit aromas, fairly rich mouthfeel with nice acidity and long finish. Al noted apricot, honey, round, very tasty.
- 2006 Syrah, Alder Springs Vineyard, Mendocino. Medium color, gamey, earthy, herbal blueberry aromas, rich mouthfeel with some noticeable oak on the finish.
- 2005 "L'Intruse," Santa Barbara County. 75% Mourvèdre, 18% Grenache, 7% Syrah, plum, earth, leather with some gamey notes, bright acidity and good structure, very nice and quite “Rhônish.”
- 2007 Rosato di Sangiovese, Shenandoah Valley. Light salmon/peach color, strawberry and stone fruit aromas, very clean and refreshing.
- 2006 "Noceto" Sangiovese, Shenandoah Valley. Medium-light color, bright cherry, cranberry, and a touch of earth in nose, lively acidity with moderate tannins.
- 2005 "Noceto" Sangiovese, Shenandoah Valley. Medium-light color, cherry/strawberry and herb, bigger on the palate than the ’06 and a bit less tannic.
- 2006 "Riserva" Sangiovese, Shenandoah Valley. Medium-light color, tart cherry with some vanilla/oak overtones, rich mouthfeel and smoother tannins on the finish than the “Noceto.”
- 2005 "OGP" Zinfandel, Original Grandpère Vineyard, Amador County. Medium color, fairly ripe and brambly dark berry fruit with touches of pepper and oak, nice acidity and mild tannins.
- 2005 Chardonnay, Russian River Valley. Blend from estate fruit and Chalk Hill area, intense nose of ripe apples, spice, and a fair bit of oak. AO
- 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, Randle Hill Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands. From 22 year-old organically farmed vineyard, citrus, with hint of gooseberry, nice length. AO
- 2006 Semillon, Randle Hill Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands. Citrus and melon, rounder in mouth than the Sauvignon Blanc but with good acidity. AO
- 2006 “Eleanor of Aquitaine,” Randle Hill Vineyard, Yorkville Highlands. Vineyard Blend of 56% Semillon and 44% Sauvignon Blanc, barrel fermented and barrel aged in neutral oak, Satsuma orange, citrus, crisp and lively with nice texture. AO