Family Winemakers Tasting

Mary and I had a great time at the Family Winemakers Tasting in Pasadena yesterday. We took the train to Pasadena so we wouldn’t have to drive home and met some people on the train who were going there as well. It was our first industry event and we enjoyed it very much.

Mary and I prefer more fruit forward wines. We like complex wines but not ones with a lot of tannin and acid. So, as a general rule, we are more oriented to Burgundy’s and southern Rhones than Bordeaux’s. Because there were so many winemakers in attendance, we decided to focus on our current favorite varietals – Pinot Noirs and Grenaches (including Grenache based blends). It was a target rich environment.

Our Best of Show in the Pinot Noir category was the 2008 Fiddlehead Cellars Seven Twenty Eight Pinot Noir from their Fiddlestix vineyard in Santa Rita Hills. We’ve tasted a number of Pinots over the years sourced from the Fiddlestix vineyard so we know the quality of these grapes. This particular wine from the owners of the vineyard was exceptional. It had a caramel aroma and a clear thread of caramel flavor from the start to the finish. It had a lot of cherry in the middle and long smooth complex finish with very little acid. It is an outstanding wine and sells for $42 retail.

We tasted a number of other outstanding Pinot Noirs all of whom made our short list (listed here in the order we tasted them). Longoria, one of our favorite Santa Barbara county winemakers, had a 2008 Fe Ciega Pinot Noir that had a great aroma, a nice dark berry fruit middle, and a tart finish.

Tantara had two Pinot Noirs on the short list. The first was a 2009 Rio Vista Pinot Noir also from Santa Rita Hills that had a nice fruit middle and a long lingering finish. The other was a 2008 Bien Nacido Old Vine Pinot that was also very nice.

Rounding out the short list were two more Pinot Noirs from local wine makers. Ken Brown was pouring a 2009 Santa Maria Pinot Noir with a nice cherry middle that showed a bit of spice. The other was the Flying Goat 2008 Garey Ranch Pinot Noir that had a very nice aroma, a dark berry middle and a long lightly tannic finish.

Our Best of Show in the Grenache category was the Beckman 2009 Purisima Mountain Grenache. It is a very smooth wine with a lot of fruit (I couldn’t find a link to the wine on the Beckman web site but it was nice to see that Robert Parker gave the wine a 92.)

The other two Grenaches in our short list were both from our friends at Core. The 2008 Grenache Reserve had the nice middle fruit we love and long lightly tannic finish. Our favorite, though, was the 2006 Cuvee Fletcher Alta Mesa Vineyard blend carrying 10% Mourvedre. It had a strong fruit middle and a heavy spicy finish that would be great with food.

There were dozens of other wines that I wish I had the time to tell you about but these were our favorites. I hope you get a chance to try one or two of them sometime.