It was great to be in attendance at the trade tasting portion of the San Diego/Del Mar edition of the 2010 Family Winemakers of California tasting after a hiatus of a few years. The event, which is always packed, showcased a number of wineries from far and near. For me, it was a chance to connect with friends in the industry I have known for years, and now that I'm back writing about wine and seriously tasting again, a chance to gain upfront insight. Running into Rick Alles of Wine Warehouse fame moments after entering the event was kismit. Alles was the GM of Pirets-Encinitas when I first moved to San Diego back in the fall of 1991 and it was Rick who welcomed my then 2000 bottle collection (that has now swelled to almost 12,000) in as a member of the family. I also ran into former Arterra GM Nick Burns who is over at Fairbanks Ranch Country Club as Director of Food and Beverage. No event in San Diego would be complete without my long time wine buddy Bill Gillespie of Torrey Wines. Bill and I became fast friends when I was penning the weekly wine column for the Del Mar Times. His go-go, gotta go style breaks more new wines for upcoming winemakers. I also ran into Eli from the now departed Barons. Eli will be opening a location in Murrietta (lucky for them). Then there was David Corey of Core Wines. I first met David at the Hopsice du Rhone some years back, and he's growing his wine business, complete with a new Tasting Room run by his wife Becky. Favorite wine from David was Cuvee Nolan, named after their second son. The Bordeaux Blend was full of violets, black raspberry and hints of wild cherries.
So what did I like? Well the new Black Rock 2007 Zinfandel, made from 10 year old vines from Lake County, made by Nils Venge was one of my favorites. While many winemakers choose to produce Rhone clones or Bordeaux blends, I have always felt that California Zinfandel was something special. Give this wine five or six years and you'll be very happy. Then there were the wines of Michael Keenan. All four reds of the current release line up, Merlot, Cabernet, Reserver Cabernet, Mernet continue to show why these are some of Napa Valley's best wines, without the soaking high price tags. Over at Beckman the wines were better than ever. The new 2008's are going to be some of their best ever.
A new producer I enjoyed, a lot, was Yates Family Vineyards from Napa Valley. There was something about the wines that made me stop and say,,those are very, very, very good.
Always a good event, the one thing I'm realizing is that the wines in California are way too high in price point vs. their Spanish, French and Italian counterparts. While the wines are world class, the same quality of wine can be had for much less, even imported here to the USA. Caused by the price of land and labor, if anything is hurting the California family winemaker its simply going to be economics.