My Top Ten Highlights: Family Winemakers California Tasting 2011

I hope everyone had a great St. Patrick's day, I started my day off right with bowl of Lucky Charms and bottle of Jameson's Irish Whiskey. The 3rd annual San Diego Family Winemakers tasting has come and gone, but I wanted to let you know about some of the absolute gems that I found, winess [IMHO] not to be missed, wines that should a find a way into your cellar, pantry, decanter or an empty glass near you.

Because there was so many wineries and so little time my partners in crime and I known as the San Diego Wine Mafia focused in on just fifteen to twenty wineries to maximize the two hours we had before the general public descended upon us [oh that's all of you].

If you would like to know who my wine-mob buddies are please feel free to scroll to the bottom of article to find out. But now it's time to get on with the business of bringing to you a few reviews of what amounts to my personal high-light reel, so sit back, buckle-up and soak in all the grandeur of some winetastic juice that I've uncovered this year. It is my hope that you will give each and everyone of these wines a swirl, they are all flat-out great juice.

Mauritson Family Winery: I had a chance to visit their Dry Creek tasting room last year and the folks there are as approachable as the wines themselves. So this was my second opportunity to give their vino a swirl, but since I was running a bit short on time, I just dove into what I perceived as their big-guns, one word alone should catch your attention, Rockpile.

1. 2007 Buck Pasture Red Wine Buck Pasture [Rockpile Ridge] A wonderful blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Petit Verdot, 10% Malbec, 10% Cabernet Franc. This is a deeply complex, big brooding monster, the flavors of red/dark fruits are in a word plush. The acidity carries the abundant fruit, nice touch of  pepper and earth. Decant before enjoying, I scored this wine 92 points, SRP $50 and another keeper for long term cellaring.

2. 2008 Petite Sirah Rockpile: This wine came from their Madrone Spring Vineyard. A deep, dense opaque core, plush flavors of red/dark fruits, licorice best described as an inky gob of goodness. A great wine for the cellar, but it is drinking pretty fabulously right now. Folk these wines are selling quickly, their Rockpile wines have my run, don't walk buy recommendation. Score on this wine 93 points, SRP $37.

3. 2008 Rockpile Ridge Zinfandel: If love to zin as much as the next guy or gal, then this would be a Zin NOT to miss out on. This wine is monster of gooey blackberry and raspberry goodness. Thick, rich and welcoming and unfortunately sold out. Bummer I know, but folks you have to act quick, when I highlight some of these gems to your attention, there more than just a few other eye-balls reading along with you, get the drift. Time waits for no man and neither does a great bottle of vino. It did sell for a SRP of $35 and I gave it 91 points.

Marilyn Remark Winery: Another wonderful winery from Monterey County. You know how some folks say their in the zone, well these folks are in the Rhone-Zone. I was so glad I stopped at this table, I had know idea who they were or what they were about, except for the fact that some Rhone varietals were lined up on their table and that was enough for me.

4. Arroyo Loma 2008 Syrah: Another inky gob of goodness, interesting nose of camphor, tobacco, vanilla and hunk of earthiness. A rich sumptuous wines with gobs of rich [but not over-ripe] fruit, dark licorice, earth, floating on well integrated tannins and bursting with a gamy note on the plush finish. I gave it a score of 93 points, SRP $36.

5. Rose de Saignee 2009: This is how you do it, too bad this rosé didn't make the line-up of the Rosé-Rumble it would have been a contender for the top-spot. A blend of Grenace and Syrah, beautiful salmon color in the glass and a peachy/strawberry perfume on the nose. I would call this wine a real summer "thirst-slaker". A basket full of freshly picked strawberries and fresh-cut watermelon on the palate. Drink now and drink often, 92 points and a SRP of $22.

6. VMR - White Rhone Blend 2009: A wonderfully different blend, of Viognier, Marsanne and Rousanne. A unique blend, great for summer time fare and wonderfully thirst quenching. Very clean, light golden core and crisp, just a taste of Meade and honey suckle with a waft of smokiness on the finish. This finish is long and invites you back again and again. Selling for a SRP of $28, I gave it a score of 90 points.

Saxon Brown Wines: This table was being mobbed the whole time I was there and after tasting through his entire line-up that day, I knew exactly why. Their winemaker and owner was bringing it and all my wine-mafia buddies were just digging the vibe that these wines were laying down. His wine show-case was in my mind the star of the day. I put a big shiny star on his table and I didn't who seen it, I gave Jeff a well deserved "thumbs-up" well done.

With a mission statement like this; "Winemaking must consume you, or your wines may not be worth consuming. -Jeff Gaffner, Winemaker, what else did you expect. This guy is putting Sonoma on the map over and over again. By the way, it's not just me saying, he has plenty of wine press already echoing my sentiments above. By the way he had more wines that I really love as well, but that will have to wait for another day.

7. 2008 Semillon, Casa Santinamaria: A classic field-blend of Semillon, Muscadelle du Bordelaise and Sauvignon blanc. This wine screams, summer time out-loud in a crowded mall. A ball of white peach's, figs and orange blossoms explode in a burst of flavor and mouth watering acidity bringing it all together. It sells for $25 and I scored this beauty 92 points, another thirst-slaker fo-sure. Run, don't walk!

8. 2008 Chardonnay, Durell Vineyard: Hello beautiful balance and skillfully integrated use of oak. This folks is textbook how you balance over-oaked California style of Chardonnay. This wine tip-toes the line between abuse and non-use of oak barrels and the 100% Mal. Beautiful light golden core, the nose said Chablis all the way. A bouquet of floral notes and aromatic fruit. On the palate you will appreciate the down right creaminess and density, resting lightly over crisp acidity. A nice layer of toasted nut, citrus and honey, flowing effortlessly toward the long finish. This wine sells for a bit more than I hoped it would, with a SRP of $48, I still scored it a 93 points.

9. 2007 Syrah, Parmelee-Hill, Owl Block: It's funny, because I wrote down "owl-box" but it was owl-block. In the glass a deep, dark ruby core bordering on opaque. In the nose odious amounts of odd smokey candied aromas, very sultry and alluring. Huge blackberry and blueberry fruit shiny and well ripened. All wrapped up in some notes of bacon-fat, mocha and a small blast of black pepper. The finish is plush and long lasting, Willy Wonka has got nothing on this finish, seriously good juice. This wine sells for SRP of $35 to $40, I gave it a score of 91 points.

10. 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley: This wine is one big-bad bamma-jamma. It's epic in size and scope, it drinking like a freight train of flavor, with no engineer, skidding out of control on my palate. This wine said one thing to me "game-on" folks this is how you do it. The nose just reaches out, grabs you and eventually pulls you into smoky and spicy rich dark fruit flavors.

This wine has see plenty of barrel time, three years to be precise in French Burgundy barrels[unbelievable] and another two in the bottle before release. I couldn't believe he was pouring this monster of hedonistic proportions. On the palate just an explosion of dusty, dense dark fruits and bacon-fat, sprinkled black pepper and leather. Damn winetastic juice, giving this wine 95 points worth of "wow" factor. It sells for a SRP of $70. This wine is drinking pretty fab now, but will continue to improve over the next few years. I would recommend at least an hour or more of decanting to maximize your enjoyment of this wine.

I pretty sure I've spoken of my wine mob-buddies before and possibly you're curious about who's in our group, if so please read on. The youngest of the group, who has a real affinity for old-world wines and better known by his twitter handle @UCBeau, then there's the one and only @LaJollaMom and @BrainWines the owner and keeper of the "lair, the newest member and absolute best singer in the group @thewinorhino and @WineHarlots "the virtue of vice" and last but certainly not least @Europa_KK. That is our motley-crew, please check out their respective blogs to enjoy some different 'takes' and read some of different view-points on the world of vino.This was a great event and if you didn't go this year, I would highly recommend making plans to go next year. Until next time, sip long and prosper cheers.


BrainWines said…
Very nice recap! Was great sipping with you there. Cheers!
Dan G said…
Sounds like some tasty wines!

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