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08.03.2008

Family Winemakers Tasting: August 24th, San Francisco

fwmtasting2008.jpgSize isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting in San Francisco has as one of its many claims to fame that it is the single largest tasting of California wines in the world. That alone would not be reason for excitement, were it not for the generally exceptional quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year.

Regular readers know that this tasting is one of my favorites every year. It provides an opportunity to sample the wares of smaller, family-run wineries, many of whose wines are made in such small quantities that they do not receive wide distribution. Because most of these wines are made in such small quantities, by folks who often take extra care in their creation, a trip around the tasting is a very clear window into the quality of recent vintages in California.

If you've never been to a large public tasting of wine, then this might very well be the best one to experience for the first time. Such tastings are a fantastic way to learn about wine in a way that you simply can't anywhere else -- by tasting many dozens of wines in comparison with one another.

So set aside a few hours on Sunday the 24th, buy a ticket, and enjoy some of the best that California has to offer.

Family Winemakers Public Tasting
Sunday August 24th, 2:00 PM until 6:00 PM
Herbst Pavilion
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA 94123-1382

Tickets are available for $45 in advance through the Fort Mason Ticket office. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door on the day of the event for $55.

Trust me when I say you want to buy a ticket in advance. Also trust me that you want to park far, far away from Fort Mason and then cab, walk, or take a bus to the event, as street parking, or even parking in Fort Mason's paid lot is nearly impossible.

Finally, do yourself a favor and observe my tips for large public tastings: wear dark clothes; come with your stomach full, drink lots of water, plan which wineries you want to visit using the list on the web site, and for Pete's sake, SPIT! You may think that you need to swallow to enjoy the experience, but you really don't. You'll be able to taste many more wines and will actually learn something, instead of ending up a stumbling drunken fool that the rest of us make fun of.

Comments (5)

Agent Red wrote:
08.04.08 at 10:23 AM

See you there on Trade Day, Alder.

Please give us your advice on how to avoid palate fatigue. Last year, the longer the day went, the worse the wines began to taste. I could not figure out what the problem was but then I thought that I would be scientific: I went back to what I thought was the BEST wine of the day and tasted that. It was TERRIBLE. That's when I learned what palate fatigue was.

Alder wrote:
08.04.08 at 10:46 AM

Palate fatigue happens. I deal with it by drinking a lot of water, and eating regularly throughout the tasting (and of course, not swallowing any wine). You's also be surprised how much of a difference 9 hours of sleep before one of these tastings makes.

The more of these large tastings you go to, the longer you can taste without such effects. When I first started 30 or 40 wines would completely do me in. Now, depending on the day, I can do several hundred before I feel like I can't make accurate judgements of quality.

Neil M wrote:
08.11.08 at 2:02 PM

There is also the aspect of non-taste sensory overload - the noise, crowding, and confusion that can occur in this setting. I can almost guarantee that if you have a headache and your feet hurt, the wines will not taste great. Take breaks outside to clear your head and relax.See everyone there!

Veronica wrote:
09.22.08 at 9:00 PM

How was Family Winemakers? (I am guessing you kept notes)... anything that excited you?

Alder wrote:
09.23.08 at 12:15 AM

Veronica,

Sadly, business travel kept me from attending this year. Serious bummer.

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