Size isn't everything, they say, but sometimes it's mighty impressive. The yearly Family Winemakers tasting 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 24th 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.
This year's tasting features a seminar by Master Sommelier Evan Goldstein that has been given the most ungainly name in history: "Not the Usual Suspects: Unexpected Wines from Expected Places/Producers and Expected Wines from Unexpected Places/Producers." Despite this awkward moniker, the session will likely be great, as Evan is a good presenter, and the wines promise to be very interesting.
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.
After 23 years of being held in San Francisco, this year's tasting will now be held in San Mateo, a move that will be watched carefully by many to see if moving 20 minutes south results in a dramatically reduced attendance from the San Francisco wine scene (or a boost of folks from the Peninsula and South Bay).
Even if this tasting were held an hour away, it is worth attending.
2014 Family Winemakers Public Tasting
Sunday August 17th, 3:00 PM until 6:00 PM
San Mateo Event Center
1346 Saratoga Dr.
San Mateo, CA 94403
Tickets cost $60 in advance online. Any remaining tickets will be sold at the door on the day of the event for $70. If you want to taste expensive wine, $8 gets you into the iSip lounge for reserve wines. Finally if 2.5 hours is not enough time for you to taste everything you desire, you can buy an all-access pass for $100 that lets you get in when all the trade and media do, giving you a full five hours of California wine.
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.
A wine book like no other. Photographs, essays, and wine recommendations. Learn more.
Warm Up: The North Fork of Long Island I'll Drink to That: Kareem Massoud of Paumanok Vineyards 2015 Family Winemakers Tasting: August 16, San Francisco I'll Drink to That: Ryan Looper of T. Edward Wines Lost Treasures in the Sierra Foothills: The Wines of Renaissance Vineyards Warm Up: The Wachau I'll Drink to That: Leo Alzinger of Weingut Alzinger Petaluma Gap Wine Tasting: August 8th, Petaluma, CA I'll Drink to That: Monica Samuels of Vine Connections Vinography Images: Cool Climate Chardonnay
Wine Will Never Smell the Same Again: Luca Turin and the Science of Scent Forlorn Hope: The Remarkable Wines of Matthew Rorick Debating Robert Parker At His Invitation Passopisciaro Winery, Etna, Sicily: Current Releases Should We Care What Winemakers Say? The Sweet Taste of Freedom: Austria's Ruster Ausbruch Wines 2009 Burgundy Vintage According to Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Charles Banks: The New Man Behind Mayacamas Wine from the Caldera: The Incredible Viticulture of Santorini Why Community Tasting Notes Sites Will Fail Chateau Rayas and the 2012 Vintage of Chateauneuf-du-Pape A Life Indomitable: The Wines of Casal Santa Maria, Portugal Bay Area Bordeaux: Tasting Santa Cruz Mountain Cabernets Forgotten Jewels: Reviving Chile's Old Vine Carignane The First-Timer's Guide to Les Trois Glorieuses of Hospices de Beaune