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2010 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 22, San Francisco

FWM2010tasting_logo_color_whitebg.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. This year is the 20th anniversary of the tasting.

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 August 23rd, buy a ticket, and enjoy some of the best that California has to offer.

Family Winemakers Public Tasting
Sunday August 22nd, 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM
Festival Pavilion
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA 94123-1382

Tickets are available for $55 in advance online. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door on the day of the event for $65. But for the next nine hours, you can get tickets for $45. So if you read Vinography on a Sunday, you might be in luck.

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 can be quite difficult.

Finally, do yourself a favor and observe my tips for large public tastings: wear dark clothes; leave the perfume or cologne at home; 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)

doug wilder wrote:
08.04.10 at 6:57 PM


I agree with all of your suggestions. I did notice that the date is confusing. It should read Sunday, August 22nd for the public between 3 and 6. Monday, the 23rd, is for trade only. I just got my trade tickets (for Sunday) today and had to make sure I read the date right.

Mart S. wrote:
08.06.10 at 7:53 AM

I wish I could attend. sigh.

Rick D wrote:
08.11.10 at 11:25 AM

Can't wait. Last year was my first and I was blown away.

I went in a with a plan but got swept up in the madness and left having missed some targets (though the Pride, O'Shaughnessy, and Skipstone cabs were happy hits.)

This year I'll be more disciplined in my 'attack'. Two goals: compare some cab francs and try some red varietals that I don't often get to taste. Should be manageable ... and may even leave some time to sneak in a few other known favorites at the end.

Rick D wrote:
08.22.10 at 10:45 AM

Ouch, Family Winemakers' website down on 1st day of event. Man, I knew I should have printed some of those winery/varietal lists yesterday. Was hoping to get my plan of attack together on the ride down there today. Oh well, will have to do some quick figuring when we get there.

Rick D wrote:
08.23.10 at 9:52 AM

Madhouse in there. Made it through about 4 hours and accomplished part of what I set out to do ... tasting some "other" red varietals that I don't get to often.

Just a brief look at them since there weren't many versions of each to choose from in most cases, but it was a learning experience. Frick Carignane and August Ridge Nebbiolo were what I enjoyed most of that bunch.

The rest of the day was spent bumping into familiar faces and tasting more cabs and pinots and a couple of zins - not really as organized as I had hoped to be.

Had Respite's cab for the first time and was impressed. Usual suspects Pride, Cain, Larkmead were very nice cabs too. Also liked Trione's Bordeaux blend.

Fogcrest's Estate Pinot, Dutton-Goldfield's Freestone Pinot, Valdez' Quinn Zin, Dashe's Florence zin were all enjoyable.

Overall, it was crazier than I remember last year - but that was probably just faulty memory on my part. Tasted 50+ wines - a new record for me and realized that my note-taking needs some serious work if I am going to do that again.

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