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2012 Family Winemakers Tasting: September 9, San Francisco

tasting_logo_color_whitebg2012.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 very high quality of the wines that are on offer, year after year.

Regular readers know that this tasting, now in its 22nd year, is one of my favorites. While the definition of a "family-run" winery is stretched a bit to include behemoths like Jackson Family Estates and Gallo, the organization consists mostly of smaller, family-run wineries, many of whose wines are made in such small quantities that they do not receive wide distribution. The chance to taste the wares of these wineries remains the single best reason to attend this tasting. Because of the scope of the tasting, a trip around the room also becomes a very good way to get a sense of recent vintages.

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 September 9, buy a ticket, and enjoy some of the best that California has to offer.

Or, you could get a pair of tickets for free by exercising your creative side.

I'm giving away four pairs of tickets to four creative readers. I'd like you to tell me a story about family and wine, whatever that means to you. Fact or fiction, prose or poetry, short or long, it doesn't matter. I'll choose my four favorites, and those readers will get a pair of tickets to the Sunday event.

DEADLINE FOR STORIES: Thursday August 16th, Midnight Pacific Time. I'll announce the winners by August 18th, so that any of you who don't win can still get early-bird pricing on your tickets if you decide to go anyway.

Have fun!

2012 Family Winemakers Public Tasting
Sunday September 9th, 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM
Festival Pavilion
Fort Mason Center
San Francisco, CA 94123-1382

Tickets are available until August 19th for $55, and then they will cost $65 in advance online. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door on the day of the event for $75. And if you really want to taste a lot of wine, 75 consumers can buy their way into the trade tasting for $85, first come, first served.

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.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson Wine Grapes The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson to cork or not to cork by George Taber reading between the vines by Terry Theise adventures on the wine route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud