Monday, February 10, 2014

My Fickle Friend, the Somerston


Somerston Wine Company Wines I’m Using to Talk About Myself
Somerston 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley $120
Somerston 2010 Stornoway Napa Valley $90
Priest Ranch 2012 Grenache Blanc Somerston Estate Napa Valley $22
Priest Ranch 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Somerston Estate Napa Valley $26
Priest Ranch 2010 Petite Sirah Somerston Estate Napa Valley $40
Priest Ranch 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Somerston Estate Napa Valley $48

I live and work in Sonoma County, and living here you often hear visitors remark, “I like Sonoma so much better than Napa. It’s not as touristy. Napa’s like Disneyland.” The Napa/Disneyland comparison has become jejune. Yet the people who express it seem to think they were the first one to think of it. Like wine blogs that begin, “Please join me on my journey to discover wine.” Oh, bite me. And it’s odd that people use Disneyland, a place most people love, to refer to a place they find overcrowded and obnoxious. I always compared Disneyland to Viagra—a one-hour wait for a three-minute ride.

I happen to love Napa Valley. I remember driving home through Napa Valley after a trip two college friends and I took to several National Parks on the west coast. At the time, I was a junior at Occidental College, I had no interest in wine, and wasn’t old enough to drink anyway. I guess we thought of Napa Valley as some version of a National Park, and we wanted to see it. The three of us worked in the same restaurant in Pasadena, and every damn restaurant in Southern California in those days had Charles Krug Chenin Blanc on the wine list, and Inglenook Chablis as the house wine. Even then people talked dry and drank sweet. I can still remember entering Napa Valley via Calistoga and seeing Napa’s famous “And the wine is bottled poetry” sign. That hack Stevenson could have written for the Wine Advocate with that gift for bullshit.

It was 1973, the year of the Gas Crisis, and, if memory serves, there were only about six tasting rooms along Highway 29—Charles Krug, Christian Brothers, Beringer, Heitz (I think), B.V., Inglenook and Robert Mondavi. (I’m sure someone will correct me.) We didn’t stop to taste, although one of my friends was 21, but just leisurely drove down the valley making our way home. At 20 (I was a few months from 21), I had never had an alcoholic drink, save for a swallow of beer an older cousin had given me when I was about 14, which promptly found the closest exit out my nose. I had never been to such a beautiful agricultural area. Perhaps it was that side trip, after three weeks on the road, a trip we took at the very last minute to see Napa Valley out of simple curiosity, that planted a seed that one day bloomed into my long love affair with wine. More likely, I’m still searching for bottled poetry. It’s at your grocer’s, right next to the bottled orgasms. And, of course, Boner in a Can.

Many years later, when wine had become a full-blown passion, but before I was a sommelier, I won a bunch of money on a game show, and, to celebrate, took my girlfriend to Napa Valley. We had a great time. Sadly, one of the last great times she and I would share. She died very young, and tragically, and when I want to remember her at her happiest, I remember those days in Napa, when money was no object, and the wines were cheap, and she was radiantly beautiful. I do miss you, Josephine.

One last thing, I coined my HoseMaster moniker in Napa Valley, at the old Robert Pepi Winery, now Cardinale, along Highway 29. That was in 1987. I’m assuming there’s a plaque. Or a curse. So I have many fond memories attached to Napa Valley.

Napa Valley comes in for endless criticism, and yet there’s no denying its place in the pantheon of great winegrowing regions. I find far more to love in Napa Valley than despise. People who utter the name “Napa” almost in disgust (and use the “Auto Parts” joke—yet another measure of a human’s stupidity), are the same people who most likely would kill to own a winery there, or a cellarful of the wines. Napa Valley was trendy back in the 1970’s, like Sicily is today, or the Jura. Brands like Caymus, Cakebread, Clos du Val, and Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars were in their infancy. Chateau Montelena and Stag’s Leap won the Paris Tasting in 1976. Heitz “Martha’s Vineyard” was the cult wine. Everyone wanted the ’74 Martha’s, though the ’73 was better, and maybe the ’75, for its special label. Napa won’t ever be trendy again, but for a few acres of Ribolla, any more than Bordeaux will become trendy, or the Barossa will become trendy. But chase trendy in the wine business, friends, without first understanding the classics, and you’ll never really know much. You’re just the girl wearing the meat dress.

For many years, I bought Miner Family Wines from their National Sales guy Jack Edwards. Jack is a standup guy, the epitome of the guy who pounds the pavement, wears the soles of his shoes thin, but never complains, and never wears you out with a Woe Is Me story when sales might not be where they should be when it’s not your damn problem. After a long career at Miner, Jack recently went to work for Somerston Wine Company. Jack offered to send me samples of their wines, and knowing Jack wouldn’t work for fools making lousy wine, I accepted. Here’s the part of the Wine Essay where the winery being reviewed starts reading, and most of you stop. The part where I actually talk about the wines. Are these Wine Essays too long? Yeah, I know, if you have to ask…

The Somerston Estate, from the website, looks pretty spectacular. More than 200 acres of vines on 1628 acres. Funny, they’re specific about the acreage, vague on how many are planted. Why I’m more than 60 years old, having lived 22,308 days. The property is “sustainably farmed,” one of those phrases than can mean anything, like “New and Improved!” But their heart is in the right place. They even raise sheep.

Jack sent me six wines. The first wine I tasted was the Priest Ranch 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Napa Valley. Apparently, they also raise priests to keep the sheep company. No, actually, part of the property was known, historically, as the Priest Ranch, after some unfortunate guy who had Priest for a last name. They’re never going to let you teach gym class.

Does it seem like everyone loves Sauvignon Blanc these days? Thank God the days of calling it Fumé Blanc are over. Never trust a wine under an assumed name. If Sauvignon Blanc can be called “Fumé Blanc,” why can’t I call my cheap Pinot Noir “Burgundy?” Is Burgundy more important than Pouilly-Fumé? Is it OK to call my Chardonnay “Chassagnes” Chardonnay? Chassagnesonnay? I don’t know, it’s just stupid. Fumé Blanc should be illegal, like 5¢ Sales.

Oh, the wine. I found the Priest Ranch Sauvignon Blanc ponderous rather than refreshing. The aroma was of pineapple and some other tropical fruits (very vague, but that was sort of the problem), but more like canned fruit than fresh. Even over the course of a couple of hours, the wine just never came together. It clobbered my palate rather than caressed. I kept tasting heat on the finish, and the wine’s overall impression is one of great clumsiness, like the first time you try ice skating. The wine kept falling on its butt. This is not what I crave in Sauvignon Blanc. I love the beauty and power of a great Sancerre, the delicacy of their fragrance. And I also love a good white Bordeaux, so differently structured, more tightly wound and muscular, yet still screaming Sauvignon Blanc (and its ugly sibling Semillon). But the Priest Ranch 2012 Sauvignon Blanc seemed hopelessly lost. Well, one of us was.

Luckily, the Priest Ranch 2012 Grenache Blanc was a different story. Grenache Blanc seems to be one of the darling varieties these days, alongside Torrontes and Ebola Gialla. I’m not sure why, maybe just riding the coattails of its Noir brother? At the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition in early January, the panel I was on judged 11 Grenache Blanc. Only a few years ago, out of 5000 wines entered, there might have been one Grenache Blanc. Of the 11 entered this year, we gave one Gold Medal, though I found the wine flabby, even for Grenache Blanc. Most of the others were just lousy. Looking through my notes (blind tasted, of course), the word that appears most often is “boring.” Sounds like my dating profile. So I wonder at the current fixation on the grape.

I quite liked the Priest Ranch version. Fermented in stainless steel primarily, there’s nice stone fruit in the nose, a bit of fresh lime, and, overall, it had a liveliness to it that the Sauvignon Blanc didn’t. Wisely, I think, the wine didn’t undergo ML, and that keeps its acidity in the right place. It’s not at all boring. It has a nice presence, a nice mouthfeel, and even seems like Grenache Blanc, though I certainly can’t claim any expertise in Grenache Blanc. I will say that I liked it a lot more than my wife did. She found something quite unpleasant in the finish that I didn’t, a bitterness. Well, she’s married to me, she knows the taste of bitterness. I liked the wine, and at the price, which I’ve seen as low as $18, it’s worth a try. Unlike most Grenache Blanc from California out there.

I was anxious to try the Priest Ranch 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. It’s the first 2011 Cabernet I’ve tasted from Napa Valley. 2011 won’t go down as a classic vintage for Napa Cabernet, it was a miserably cool and wet vintage, but it’s always fascinating to see what ends up in the bottle. The 2011 Priest Ranch has a listed alcohol level of 14.6%, pretty low for most vintages of Napa Cabernet these days, and it seems relatively accurate. Alcohol levels on wine labels are usually about as accurate as a one-legged archer. I liked this wine quite a bit. The nose showed blackberry, a lot of spiciness, and some underlying tobacco notes that I like in Cabernet. Of course, those tobacco notes are indicative of the coolness of the vintage. It’s already drinking nicely, deeper than I expected, and very accessible. It gained some richness after a few hours, but it was very drinkable from the very first moment, and that’s clearly the winemaker’s intent. At the price, and considering its tony address, it’s a nice bottle of wine, about as easygoing as serious Napa Cabernet gets. (I’m sure you can find it under $40 if you try.) But I wouldn’t want to be the guy selling 2011 Cabernets, a vintage nestled between the elegant 2010’s and what will surely be the exuberant 2012’s. Go get ‘em, Jack.

A few nights later, we tackled the Priest Ranch 2010 Petite Sirah Napa Valley. I would assume that when you are a professional wine critic, it’s your obligation to try to appreciate every grape variety. For me, and luckily I’m not a professional, I have a hard time enjoying Petite Sirah. For the most part, I find them simply very big and one-dimensional, like the average NBA player. Petite Sirah’s only job in life is to be big, like a Kardashian butt. Well, the 2010 Priest Ranch is big. You know those women who can put their entire fist in their mouth? That’s how I feel about drinking Petite Sirah. Now, as an objective critic, this is definitely a powerhouse Petite Sirah. Huge doesn’t begin to describe it. Intensely blackberry, with the iconic dash of pepper, it also has fierce tannins. This is certainly a wine that will live another 25 or 30 years, but it’s kind of like those poor, dramatically obese people Dick Gregory used to rescue. It will live for 25 years, but it won’t be that much fun. If you are a fan of huge, dense, chewy, tannic, monolithic Petite Sirah, you cannot do better than this 2010 Priest Ranch. After four days, it wasn’t any tamer than the first. Wow. After a glass, I looked like I’d been chewing betel nuts in Papua New Guinea.

As good as the Priest Ranch wines were, and I liked them all but the Sauvignon Blanc very much, for different reasons, the two wines under the Somerston label were even better. In fact, both were superb. They represent what Napa Valley can do best, make amazing wines from the Bordeaux varieties.

The Somerston 2010 Stornoway Napa Valley is an estate blend that’s 89% Merlot and 11% Cabernet Franc. I loved this wine. I’m a sucker for a wine that’s gorgeous from the first taste but then just keeps getting better and better as the evening wears on. That sort of energy is thrilling. It’s like a first date with a beautiful woman who then turns out to be funny and interesting and brilliant as well. I married one of those. The Stornoway is powerful, but also shows the restraint that great wines exhibit. You feel when you taste it that there’s always something more to discover underneath. My tasting notes say blackberry, black cherry, violets, mint and plenty of new oak. But there’s plenty of stuffing to soak up all the new oak, new oak that graciously stays in the background. The finish is lovely and very long, holding a sweet note like Renee Fleming. What a beautiful wine, very expressive, full of tension and energy. Yeah, it’s $90, but it can play in that league easily. Wouldn’t surprise me to see it age gracefully for more than a decade.

Finally, there’s the Somerston 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley. Who doesn’t love great Napa Valley Cabernet? Here’s one. Everything about this Cabernet is right, sadly, even the price. Like the Stornoway, it is sensational from the very first sip, though I did immediately decant it upon opening because I felt like it. And several hours later it was still gathering steam. What a beautiful profile a wine like this has, maybe Lauren Bacall in partial shadow. The fruit has great depth and intensity, plenty of cassis and blackberry, as it opened I sensed a bit of green olive, and always mocha and cloves. The wine is seamless, beautifully rendered, completely thrilling. It shared restraint with the Stornoway, but has even more power. And the overall impression is one of great elegance, yet more Lauren Bacall, and classic Cabernet Sauvignon presence. If they can keep this up, Somerston will soar to the top ranks of Napa Valley Cabernet. I can’t afford to play in that sandbox, but if I could, I’d be putting half a dozen of these in my cellar.

SOMERSTON ESTATE WINES


33 comments:

Jack Edwards said...

Thanks for the kind words!

Drew M. said...

Couldn't agree more about Napa Valley, as I still look forward to every trip. The new finds are always a treat, so thank you for this one.

renzo said...

The vicarious value of your impressions of wines is proportionate to my respect for your humor and insight. Rated: High!
Ain't nothing like tasting the real thing baby... but words offer more than a hint of things to come... or avoid. Don't buckle under the pressure guru!

An equal pleasure is in the introductory notes to the tastings. Keep it up. (They have meds for that in case your interest wanes). Thanks.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Jack,
Thank you for the wines. The Somerston label reds were gorgeous. And the Priest Ranch wines were also pretty defrocking good.

Drew,
Thanks. The wines are really good in Napa. I haven't been to the Somerston estate, but give Jack a holler and I'm sure he can help set you up with a tour. The place looks pretty fabulous.

Renzo,
Thanks for the kind words. I knew someone liked my rambling intros. It's a format for me to talk about wine from my experiences in the wine biz, and that makes it fun for me. I think most come here hoping I'll insult bloggers, or Parker, or just make them laugh, and so these Wine Essays are a disppointment to them. I'm just doing what I like. I'm a blogger, contrary to what Tom Wark thinks, just an ordinary Poodle.

It's been fun seeing who offers me wines for these posts. My next set of wines is from North Carolina! So far, not bad. Stay tuned.

Quizicat said...

Not everyone loves Disneyland. And not everyone had the luck to see Napa when it wasn't Disneyland. I trust you have been through Coppolas place when a tour bus or 20 has arrived. Things like that tend to leave an impression. My first trip to Napa and Sonoma was in the late 80s. Plenty of tasting rooms and already plenty of snobby attitude to go around. I got the full monte from Heitz. Looking down their noses and telling me, little person, you can't afford our wines, nor do you deserve them.
Sonoma on the other hand was a place that didn't charge for a rushed tasting. In fact whoever was at the counter was more than willing to yap for as long as I was willing to hang out. Though I certainly had many good Napa experiences too, just not with the frequency found in Sonoma. I happened to walk into Montelena when Jim Barrett was passing through the tasting room. He stopped, chatted and poured for at least an hour. So the snobbery wasn't universal. And you can guess which Napa wines are more likely to have found their way home with me on that trip. Montelena 12 Heitz 0.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Quizicat,
Coincidentally, or maybe not, I had a similar really bad experience at Heitz in the '80's, that same trip I took with Josephine with my game show money. The woman in the tasting room poured us the Grignolino Rose, and then left the room, never to return. Joe Heitz would have been proud. I've never been back.

I think I was awkwardly trying to point out the tendency of folks, especially in Sonoma, to constantly badmouth Napa, to hold it up as the epitome of tastelessness and arrogance. This is self-defeating, and reminiscent of the way people in Northern California badmouth Los Angeles. It's silly, and, for the most part, completely unnecessary and, in the way of most generalizations, mostly untrue.

Not everyone loves Disneyland, to be certain. I'm just bored with people endlessly repeating the "Napa is Disneyland for adults" analogy. Even if it's true, it's as shopworn as "You should drink what you like."

David Fish said...

Ron, thanks for sharing these wines with us (I have ordered wines that you recommended twice, so far).
Sorry to hear of your great loss as well, I am glad that Napa stirs some fond memories of her...

btw: what was the game show?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

David,
Well, I hope the wines I recommended lived up to my pithy prose.

The game show was "Match Game/Hollywood Squares Hour" which NBC used back then as counterprogramming to the insanely popular "General Hospital" in the Luke and Laura era. I was champion for three days, lost on the fourth, but took home $34,000--a lot of dough in 198--whatever it was. I do have a videotape of my appearances, which is pretty hilarious now. I will say, unlike many game show hosts (I've been on four), Gene Rayburn was really cool.

Wines for the People said...

Living in Calistoga, I drive by one of the "Wine is bottled poetry" signs far too often. Having actually read Silverado Squatters I know that the quote refers not to California wines but to, e.g., Vougeot and Lafite. Stevenson says that California's equivalents have not yet been found. "The smack of California earth shall linger on the palate of your grandson."

That was 188_, and perhaps our sites have been found by now. But why should wine want to be poetry anyway? For the price of a halfway decent Napa Cabernet you could buy a library of poetry for yourself and another for a friend. Which is not a bad idea. Let's support our poets!

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Wine Peeps,
I've read "Silverado Squatters" too, and you're right, of course. Stevenson, though living up on Mt. Saint Helena, wasn't referring to the wines from the valley below.

From reading wine descriptions of James Molesworth and Schildknecht, it turns out wine is bottled lousy poetry.

However, I'm all for supporting poets--who can't support themselves, that's for sure.

gabriel jagle said...

An excellent read. Reminds me of my first trip to Napa when I was 25. My girlfriend didn't die, but we did pitch a tent at a state park and drink a bottle of St. Clemente. I digress. Thanks for sharing your stories, Ron.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Thanks, Gabe. I try to make these pieces interesting, but it's hard to tell what's interesting and entertaining, and what's just simple self-indulgence. Well, I'm a Poodle, we're just gonna lick our own balls once in a while, nothing to be done about it.

Glad you're girlfriend lived. I hope she is, too.

gabriel jagle said...

My wife turned out to be the better vintage. But that first trip to Napa is something I'll never forget. Probably an experience many of us share, and a great intro for these wines

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gabe,
So maybe the lesson is, don't take a woman you love to Napa Valley. "And the wine is bottled poison."

gabriel jagle said...

Lol. Is the "wine is bottled ego" joke also passe?

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Here's a comment from Sheldon Richards (Paloma Vineyards) that he sent me in an email. He had trouble posting it here because of Google issues:

I agree with your assessment of PS, but . . . We recently participate in a 12-year vertical of Switchback Ridge PS. PSs are too big, chewy, rustic for me. But to my surprise and to the amazement of the rest of the 20+ group (and most were pretty knowledgable wine people), the older PSs were amazing! Rich, deep, bright, soft, at least with the older ones. We started with a 1999 and it stunned me. Great and lots of life left—LOTS! the 2002, 2005 2007 were fantastic. But as we got to the younger ones, they started to taste like what I knew/thought and didn't like. So, as always with wine, I learned a lot! Age them, or at least with Switchback, and they become beautiful! They would stand up to some of the great Cabs and Merlots that I love.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Gabe,
"Wine is bottled ego" certainly fits a lot of wines. Who needs Robert Louis Stevenson when we've got Gabe Jagle?

Sheldon,
Switchback Ridge does make wonderful Petite Sirah. But, for my money, Petite Sirah is too risky a proposition for the cellar. And the payoff just isn't there very often. Show me a guy with a cellarful of Petite Sirah, and I'll show you a guy who doesn't get invited to wine tastings much.

Charlie Olken said...

Just had a bottle of 1971 Freemark Abbey Petite Sirah and it was one of the hits of the night--nuch to my surprise.

I started buying PS back in the days when CA discovered tannin and ageworthiness, and quickly gave up because it turned out that tannin is not especially drinkable.

But it also turns out that Petite Sirah ages very well. You just have to live long enough to outlast it. Thankfully, today's PS is typically less formidably astringent, and its followers are legendary for their loyalty to it.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Puff Daddy,
I'm not surprised a '71 Freemark Abbey was alive and worth drinking. If memory serves, that was a pretty "famous" Petite Sirah in its day.

Isn't some of the praise directed at PS simply about astonishment at how long it lives? "Look, it's 40 years old! And I can drink it." My question is usually, "I waited 40 years for this?"

PS admirers are legion, but so are Yanni fans. I don't understand either group.

Charlie Olken said...

Ron--

PS is a bit of an acquired taste, sort of like Gruner and muff. You either like it or you don't.

Even Gruner is better than Yanni.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Charlie,
There was a time, though it was quite a while ago, that I liked Petite Sirah. And then I got tired of it. I also used to play "Light My Fire" over and over again when I was a kid, and now I'm really tired of anything "The Doors."

I don't know that one can "acquire" a taste for Petite Sirah. It's not complicated or subtle, you don't need any special kind of wine knowledge to appreciate it. So I don't think people acquire a taste for it, I think most people just stubbornly cling to their taste for it, and defend it fiercely, even though, truthfully, it's a red wine one doesn't savor, it's a red wine one is forced to endurif.

Steve Pinzon said...

Loved your Disneyland analogy. Why pay $90 to stand in line all day? Not too different from trying to taste in Napa on a weekend.

I really enjoy your wine reviews. They are quite educational and typically about wineries I'm not familiar with. I hope you keep doing them, and hope more Oregon wineries send bottles your way.

Steve Pinzon

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Hi Steve,
Thank you for the kind words.

I never really intended to do wine reviews on HoseMaster--there are enough jackasses with shaky credentials writing wine reviews on blogs--but then I decided to write about specific wines in the context of my personal experience. I think it's the way people actually relate to wine. They start a conversation about it, not list a bunch of ingredients. I understand professional wine critics have far too many wines to review for that luxury, but I'm not a professional wine critic. I'm just a guy who knows a little about wine and can string a sentence or two together.

I don't solicit wines. And I don't have my address published anywhere on HoseMaster (which, when you write what I do, is common sense). Every now and then a winery contacts me and offers to send me wines. But I'm not really on the wine world radar for wine reviews. Marketing people want 1WineDoody, or NothingsBiggerThanMyHead, or, gack, Vornography to review their wines--that's where the wine dweebs hang out. I'm completely fine with that. Wineries that want my skewed perspective, they can find me. Believe me, it's only rarely they try.

But I appreciate how nice people have been about these Wine Essays. I'll keep doing them as long as there are wines I'm sent that move me.

Samantha Dugan said...

Fuck me, I thought this was where the wine dweebs hung out. Been in the wrong place all along. Not a total loss I guess, I do finds it sexy when you speak wine...and Puff Daddy said "Muff".
I love these pieces and all of yours too.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,
I think Charlie meant those things that keep your ears warm--thighs.

Depends on your definition of wine dweeb. I doubt I get nearly as many hits as the 1WineDoody, the STEVE! or the Alderpated--they enlighten, I just mock. Well, they don't enlighten me most of the time, but they speak to people to whom discussing the minutiae of wine is endlessly fascinating--wine dweebs. Around Hosemaster, we be simple common taters. Wanna be my fingerling?

I love you, too, Samantha

Charlie Olken said...

Ron, close.

Michael Daymond-King said...

What a beautiful profile a wine like this has, maybe Lauren Bacall in partial shadow.

Nice work HMW. I read for the blue(s) and for the red and white - so thank you for mixing them both in this time. Thank you again for opening the window too.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Michael,
That Bacall line is the kind of hyperbole I usually make fun of here. Except perhaps it's more creative than most, and, I hope, gives the reader some idea of how beautifully formed the wine is, how seductive. Seeing that quote isolated from the whole review makes me cringe, however.

Thanks for chiming in!

Samantha Dugan said...

Puff Daddy, he;s making me blush...if you can believe that!

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Ron,

Somerston is an exhibitor at the Sunday, March 9th Family Winemakers trade AND CONSUMER winetasting in Pasadena, California.

So your readers can sample their wines that day.

Since you disdain proffering links in comments, I encourage your readers to seek out the organization's website to submit ticketing requests.

Jack Edwards:

Will you be behind the table pouring and talking up the wines?

~~ Bob

Ron Washam, HMW said...

Bob,
Family Winemakers isn't the best way to taste fine wines, or judge them, but it will give anyone who attends a chance to get an idea of what the Somerston wines are about. I'd be curious to hear the thoughts of anyone who does taste them at Family Winemakers. But for the love of God, don't send me scores.

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Ron,

Agreed: not the best way to taste wines. But not dissimilar to visiting a Highway 29 tasting room packed with tourists.

But with 300 different "boutique" wineries in the room -- many being brands you've never heard of, with little or no retail distribution -- it becomes for many consumers the only way.

Attendees can access the Family Winemaker's website and peruse which wineries are exhibiting, and who is pouring what grape varieties.

As they say in baseball: "You can't tell the players without a scorecard."

Have a game plan for "working" the room and managing your time.

~~ Bob

Bob Henry (Los Angeles wine industry professional) said...

Here is a link to the Family Winemakers of California handout booklet (its a big file):

http://www.familywinemakers.org/UserFiles/TastingBookletLA14.pdf