On March 13th the Family Winemakers of California organization held their third annual San Diego tasting. This year there were around 200 wineries participating, a great showing at a cool venue. The Del Mar Fairgrounds have a lot of large, open buildings that work well when setting up loads of tables. The aisles were very wide and I didn't feel too crowded at any point. This year around 2000 people attended, including both the press and the general public. Because I am such an accomplished blogger and general all-around badass, I chose to attend the press tasting and ended up staying through the general public tasting. No seriously.
With so many wineries participating, tasting through everything is impossible. Granted, that didn't stop some people from trying, or so it seemed. Before going, I printed out the list of wineries and highlighted the ones I knew I wanted to check out. Unfortunately, once I arrived, it was just too cumbersome to keep pulling out the list so I had to rely on memory. Obviously this is not an optimal solution and made me want an iPad so that I could basically keep it out at all times and have the list right there ready to be read and checked off. That and I really want an iPad.
My San Diego Wine Mafia amigo Bill aka Cuvee_Corner and I drove out there, where we met our fellow mafioso BrainWines and WineHarlots. My friend Scott over at The Vino File was there and posted his highlights here, well worth the read. I also ran into some old friends from the wine business, from my days at San Diego Wine Company. That was a welcome treat and a great way to start off the tasting.
I tasted close to 50 wines and by the end of the day I even tweeted that I knew I was experiencing palate fatigue because everything was tasting like a Rhone blend. Below are some of my favorites of the tasting. I've tried to include as much information as possible so you can explore the wineries and producers if you're interested. As I've said before, it's vitally important that we support the smaller wineries in this state and this was a great opportunity to put faces next to wine glasses.
2005 Corison Kronos Cabernet Sauvignon - Oozing elegance and class, this is built for the long haul. I loved the cassis, plum and tobacco notes. Lots of structure that carries through to a nearly explosive finish of earth and plum. You get the sense that this is what Napa cabernet used to taste like, 25 years ago. A-/A $125 SRP.
2003 Corison Napa Cabernet Sauvignon - This wine wowed me for two reasons. First, it's gorgeous structure. Black fruits deftly balancing firm tannins and quintessential Napa dusty notes sing to your senses. The other reason was the aging potential I feel the 03 Corison has. I would love to taste this in 15 years and see how it's evolved, and I am not really one to want to wait that long for a wine! A- $N/A
2007 Zotovich Cellars Santa Rita Pinot Noir - Bacon wrapped sour cherries shod in Victoria's Secret silk underwear. Only 300 cases were made, and at $40 it drinks exactly like it should. I really got into the cloves and spices, they worked so well with the acidity to keep the pinot vibrant and popping. A- $40 srp
2008 Zotovich Cellars Estate Syrah - Quite possibly one of the best wines of the tasting for me. This is a big one, lots of blueberry jam, cedar, spices and that awesome grapey syrah flavor. Fine grained tannins lent structure and a superb vein of crushed white and black pepper tempered the explosive blueberry flavors. A $42 SRP
2007 Trione Chardonnay - One of the better California chardonnays I've had this year. Plenty of vanilla oak and buttered popcorn from the oak barrels nad 100% malolactic treatment. However, zesty lemon, fuji apple and passion fruit balance those out. Winemaker Scot Covington did a good job creating a chardonnay which balances a rich entry with a pleasing, food friendly finish. A- $30 SRP
2006 Trione Cabernet Sauvinon Single Block - After spending two years in oak, this cabernet hits you like a steel gauntlet in a velvet glove. Gorgeous notes of herb and baking chocolate, a core of black currant and cherry. Firm, strong tannins speak to the power of the wine and it's ability to age. A superb effort that will reward anyone with the patience to cellar it for 10 or more years. A $64 SRP
2009 Saxon Brown Etre Chardonnay - Words like smooth, lively, lush, crisp, and yummy might seem to be somewhat contradictory. Not so in this wine, one of the most balanced and most interesting chardonnays I tasted. Priced fairly at $30, I would gladly take this over more expensive chardonnays from all over this state. A- SRP
2007 Saxon Brown Parmelee Hill Owl Box Syrah - Talk about a mix of flavors rolled into a 750 ml wine bottle! It's like a plate of warm roasted nuts, dry bitter cheese and black cherry preserves staring you in the face. Great pepper and spice reminded me of a well stocked pantry while the tannins held it all together. I used the word harmony in my tasting notes, especially in reference to the finish. Goes on and on..and on..and on! A. $38 SRP and one of the best values at the tasting. Buy many bottles!
2008 Saxon Brown Durell Vineyard Pinot Noir - Imagine teriyaki beef jerky and ripe sour cherries dusted with spices from your grandmothers spice rack. The acidity here is terrific, allowing the flavors their due while also preserving a food friendly angle. Absolutley loved it! A- $48 SRP
2007 Mauritson Buck Pasture Rockpile Vineyard - A Bordeaux style blend from Mauritson, with 60% cabernet sauvignon, 20% petite verdor, 10%$ cabernet franc, 10% malbec. My tasting notes: "blended well, loads of dark chocolate and a mix of nice ripe berries that lurk in the background. Will get much better with time but is a great steak wine right now" B+ $50 SRP
2009 Marilyn Remark VMR - Viognier, marsanne and roussanne blended together like a white Cotes du Rhone. Kiwi fruit, fresh cut straw jumped out on the nose. Lemongrass lurks in the background, enhancing the fresh scent. Wonderfully complex with all three varietals making themselves known. I was also very impressed with the balance. A- $28 SRP
20008 Marilyn Remark Petite Sirah - Reminds me of blackberry liquer, it's so rich and sweet smelling. I tasted some great tannins that while strong, were well integrated and didn't distract from the ripe fruit and baking chocolate. There was a hint of something herbal I found, which added a great unexpected dimension to the wine. A- $28 SRP
2006 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon - I think this wine has plenty of accolades already, but it's just so good! I wish I'd tasted it with a medium rare New York strip because that's what it begs for. Juicy acidity and big bold tannins share the sandbox with cassis, blueberry, herbs and dry earth notes. Sublime and will only get better with age. A- $75 SRP
2005 Cru Vin Dogs "Best In Show" Cabernet Sauvignon - A series of wines I'd never heard of, but these wonderful people donate a minimum of 10% of all online sales to dog charities. That rocks and as a dog lover, I had to taste through their wines. This one stood out to me and I urge you to check out the story behind this particular wine, click here to go to their website. The wine was superb, with violets, earth and black fruit on the nose. Definitely a "big" cabernet too, lots of tannic structure and spices, even hints of dark chocolate and plums. Will be great in another five years or so, but it's damned good now. A- $75 SRP
If you've made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read through my recap. I wrote a bit more than usual because I tasted so many wonderful wines. Part of me regrets not being able to include all the wines I tasted through the day but these were truly exceptional wines that I felt you should hear about. Like I mentioned before, I'm all about supporting the small wineries and the San Diego Family Winemakers of California tasting allowed me to do just that. I had a wonderful time and am already looking forward to next year. If you have any questions about the wines I tried, please don't hesitate to send me an email.