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NorCal Wine Blog

Highlights from the Family Winemakers Tasting, San Francisco 2010

The Family Winemakers of California held their annual San Francisco tasting this past weekend (August 22-23, 2010) at Fort Mason. I attended both days and spent almost ten hours tasting new releases and talking with winemakers and proprietors. There were literally thousands of wines available to try. My focus was on trying things from wineries I wasn't very familiar with and completely new offerings from some of my favorite producers.

I tasted a ridiculous amount of wines, well over 170, but still only a small portion of what was available. Don't assume the worst for wines I don't mention. Also be aware that the tasting conditions at these mass tastings aren't scientific, so your experience with the wines I recommend may differ from mine. Over time, I will try to bring many of the better ones in for blind tasting in a controlled environment.

C.G. Di Arie was a new “discovery” for me, though they are likely well-known to those of you who spend time at wineries in the Sierra Foothills. They are based near the town of Mt. Aukum in the Shenandoah Valley, about 90 minutes east of Sacramento. The proprietors, Chaim and Elisheva Gur-Arieh have a 209 acre estate there, 47 of which are under vine. They’ve got at least 11 varieties planted and produce up to 15,000 cases per year.

As do many wineries with a wine club focus, C. G. Di Arie produces a lot of different wines (thirty-one in this case). Often that can lead to mediocrity. It’s really hard to produce many different wines and keep quality high. However, I tasted eight of the C. G. Di Arie wines on Sunday and can give seven of them solid recommendations. (The lone outlier was good, but not exceptional.) That’s an impressive showing. I was also pleased by the overall winemaking style: elegant, varietally correct and very moderate in alcohol and application of oak. I’m looking forward to visiting their winery, which includes two art galleries and a great view from their 1,700 foot elevation, soon so I can try more of the wines. Here are the ones I recommend for now:
2009 C. G. Di Arie Rosé Di Arie, Sierra Foothills - $18

2009 C. G. Di Arie Sauvignon Blanc, Shenandoah Valley - $18 (intentionally and successfully modeled after the New Zealand style, fresh and clean)
2007 C. G. Di Arie Barbera, Sierra Foothills - $24 (more restrained than most California Barberas)
2008 C. G. Di Arie Primitivo Block #4, Shenandoah Valley - $25
2006 C. G. Di Arie Zinfandel Southern Exposure - $35 (fruit sourced from Terry Harvey’s vineyard which is the old Zinfandel Vineyard in North America)
2007 C. G. Di Arie Petite Sirah, Estate Grown - $30 (would have been among the top 10 had it been poured at the P.S. I Love You event)
2006 C. G. Di Arie Syrah, Amador County - $20 (fruit-centric, but gently so)

There were a number of other wineries whose wines I don't recall having tasted previously but am now happy to recommend:
2006 Bella Luna Winery Estate Riserva Bellicaia, Paso Robles (70% Cabernet, 30% Sangiovese) - $45, Recommended
2007 Bixler Vineyards Red Blend (Syrah, Merlot and Petite Sirah from the California delta) - $12, Recommended
2006 Branham Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - $40. Recommended
2009 Clouds Rest Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - Recommended

2008 Clouds Rest Vineyards Chardonnay Mendocino - Recommended

2008 Clouds Rest Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - Highly Recommended

2005 Clouds Rest Vineyards Pinot Noir - Very Highly Recommended

2008 Field Recordings Wines Petite Sirah Red Cedar Vineyard, Paso Robles - $30, Recommended
2008 Field Recordings Wines Chardonnay Sarmento Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands - $18, Recommended
2008 Field Recordings Wines “Fiction” (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Tannat) - $17, Highly Recommended

2008 Field Recordings Wines “Chorus Effect” Koligian Vineyard, Paso Robles (red Bordeaux varietals plus Tannat) - $27, Recommended

2005 Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon - $40, Highly Recommended

2006 Korbin Kameron Merlot Sonoma Mountain - $NA, Recommended

2006 Korbin Kameron Kristin Cuvee - $55, Recommended

2006 Olin Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County - $20, Recommended
2006 Owl Ridge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Sonoma County - $24, Recommended

2005 Owl Ridge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Select - $24, Highly Recommended

2005 Owl Ridge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Passalacqua Vineyard Dry Creek Valley - $48, Highly Recommended

2008 PB Hein Chardonnay Napa Valley (Carneros) - $NA, Highly Recommended

2005 PB Hein Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley - $40, Recommended

2007 PB Hein "Trailblazer" Red Blend (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel) - $NA, Highly Recommended

2006 PB Hein Syrah Suisun Vineyard - $17, Recommended
2008 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir Russian River Valley - $32, Recommended

2008 Peter Paul Wines Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River - $38, Highly Recommended

2008 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir Mill Station Rd. Russian River Valley - $42, Highly Recommended
2007 Pierce Ranch Vineyards Petite Sirah - $NA, Recommended

2006 Portfolio Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon - $125, Highly Recommended
2007 Respite Wines Cabernet Sauvignon - $48, Highly Recommended2007 Sequum Zinfandel - $30, Highly Recommended

2006 Sequum Cabernet Sauvignon Kidd Ranch Napa Valley - $60, Highly Recommended
2007 Sequum Cabernet Sauvignon - $40, Recommended
2007 Sequum Zinfandel - $TBD, Highly Recommended
2007 TR Elliott Pinot Noir "Questa" Russian River Valley- $40, Highly Recommended

2006 TR Elliott Pinot Noir "Burgonet" Russian River Valley - $38, Recommended

2006 Violet-Green Winery Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino - $NA, Highly Recommended

2006 Violet-Green Winery Cabernet Franc Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino - $29, Recommended 

2007 Violet-Green Winery Cabernet Franc Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino - $29, Highly Recommended

2008 Voss Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - $20, Recommended

2006 Wallis Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - $85, Highly Recommended
2007 Wallis Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - $85, Highly Recommended

Two of the best wines at the tasting were not new releases. In fact, one of them isn’t even from this decade. Calera was pouring two wines from their library along with recent releases. Calera’s Pinot Noir is widely considered to be among the most age-worthy in California. The 1997 and 2000 vintages of Calera Mills Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot Noir strongly supported that view — both were excellent. Fortunately for you, these library wines weren’t just being poured for as references for aging potential. The winery has released a number of bottles from their library for sale now and the 2000 appears to be available. [Great palates think alike. You can also read about the 1997 Calera Mills Vineyard Mt. Harlan Pinot at Vinography.]

Don’t overlook the new wines from Calera though. The eight I tasted were all very good:
2009 Calera Viognier, Central Coast - $16, Recommended

2009 Calera Viognier, Mt. Harlan - $30, Highly Recommended
2009 Calera Chardonnay Central Coast - $16, Recommended
2009 Calera Chardonnay Mt. Harlan - $28, Highly Recommended
2008 Calera Pinot Noir Central Coast - $24, Highly Recommended

2007 Calera Pinot Noir de Villiers Vineyard Mt Harlan - $35, Highly Recommended
2007 Calera Pinot Noir Ryan Vineyard Mt Harlan - $40, Highly Recommended
2007 Calera Pinot Noir Mills Vineyard Mt Harlan - $45, Highly Recommended

Without respect to vintage or winery history, here are the best of the wines, by varietal, that I tried at the 2010 Family Winemakers Tasting:
White Wines

Chardonnay
2008 Clouds Rest Vineyards Chardonnay Mendocino - $NA, Recommended

2008 Dunstan Chardonnay - $40, Highly Recommended

2008 Field Recordings Wines Chardonnay Sarmento Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands - $18, Recommended

2009 Grey Stack Chardonnay - $NA, Highly Recommended

2008 PB Hein Chardonnay Napa Valley (Carneros) - $NA, Highly Recommended
2008 Peter Paul Wines Chardonnay Bacigalupi Vineyard Russian River - $38, Highly Recommended

Sauvignon Blanc
2009 Grey Stack Sauvignon Blanc - $NA, Highly Recommended

2009 Orin Swift Cellars Sauvignon Blanc - $25, Highly Recommended
2008 Petroni Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - $22, Highly Recommended

Red Wines
Cabernet Sauvignon/Bordeaux Blends

2007 Carter Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Coliseum Block - $75, Very Highly Recommended
2006 Cavus Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - $NA, Highly Recommended

2005 Korbin Kameron Cabernet Sauvignon - $40, Highly Recommended
2007 Mauritson “Bordeaux Blend” Buck Pasture - $50, Highly Recommended

2007 Orin Swift Cellars Papillon - $55, Very Highly Recommended
2005 Owl Ridge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Vineyard Select - $24, Highly Recommended

2005 Owl Ridge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon Passalacqua Vineyard Dry Creek Valley - $48, Highly Recommended
2006 Pahlmeyer Cabernet Sauvignon - $105, Highly Recommended

2006 Petroni Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon - $70, Highly Recommended
2006 Portfolio Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon - $125, Highly Recommended
2007 Respite Wines Cabernet Sauvignon - $48, Highly Recommended

2006 Sequum Cabernet Sauvignon Kidd Ranch Napa Valley - $60, Highly Recommended
2007 Vellum Cabernet Sauvignon - $56, Highly Recommended

2007 Violet-Green Winery Cabernet Franc Alder Springs Vineyard Mendocino - $29, Highly Recommended

2006 Wallis Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - $85, Highly Recommended
2007 Wallis Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon - $85, Highly Recommended

Grenache
2007 Grey Stack Grenache - $35, Highly Recommended

Merlot
2008 Bevan Cellars Merlot - ~$70, Highly Recommended

2005 Carrefour Vineyards Merlot - $28, Highly Recommended

Petite Sirah
2007 C. G. Di Arie Petite Sirah, Estate Grown - $30, Recommended
2008 Field Recordings Wines Petite Sirah Red Cedar Vineyard, Paso Robles - $30, Recommended

Pinot Noir
2007 Black Kite Cellars Pinot Noir Stony Terrace, Anderson Valley - ~$70, Very Highly Recommended
2009 Black Kite Cellars Pinot Noir Stony Terrace, Anderson Valley (just bottled on August 6) - $TBD, Highly Recommended
2006 Carrefour Vineyards Pinot Noir (Truchard Vineyard, Carneros) - $33, Highly Recommended
2008 Clouds Rest Vineyards Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - Highly Recommended

2005 Clouds Rest Vineyards Pinot Noir - Very Highly Recommended
2007 Sand Hill at Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir - $50, Very Highly Recommended
2008 Dunstan Pinot Noir - $50, Highly Recommended

2009 Grey Stack Pinot Noir Bennett Valley - $28, Highly Recommended

2007 Hanzell Vineyards Pinot Noir Estate - $95, Highly Recommended
2006 Pahlmyer Jayson Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast - $45, Highly Recommended

2008 Peter Paul Wines Pinot Noir Mill Station Rd. Russian River Valley - $42, Highly Recommended
2007 TR Elliott Pinot Noir Questa - $40, Highly Recommended

Syrah
2007 Canihan Family Cellars Syrah Exuberance Reserved - $49, Highly Recommended
2007 Grey Stack Syrah - Highly Recommended
2008 Grey Stack Syrah - Highly Recommended
2007 Grey Stack Syrah “The Narcissist” - Very Highly Recommended
2007 PB Hein "Trailblazer" Red Blend (Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel) - $NA, Highly Recommended
2007 Red Car Trolley Syrah "Tomorrowland" - $NA, Highly Recommended
2006 Violet-Green Winery Syrah Alder Springs Vineyard - $NA, Highly Recommended
2007 Westerhold Family Vineyards Syrah - $42, Very Highly Recommended

2008 Westerhold Family Vineyards Syrah (barrel sample) - $TBD, Highly Recommended

Zinfandel
2008 Field Recordings Wines “Fiction” (Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Tannat) - $17, Highly Recommended
2007 Sequum Zinfandel - $TBD, Highly Recommended

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This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2010 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Comments   

 
Craig
#1 Craig 2010-08-31 15:43
Did you get a chance to try the Ispiri wines?
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Craig
#2 Craig 2010-08-31 15:44
P.S. Hi Fred! ;-)
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Fred Swan
#3 Fred Swan 2010-08-31 17:47
Hi Craig, I missed Ispiri. I'll look forward to trying them though!
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#4 phornlyla 2011-08-07 05:16
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