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Review of the San Mateo Family Winemakers of California Tasting

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The Family Winemakers Tasting has been one of the largest wine tasting events for 24 years but on August 17 they held their first signature trade and consumer tasting event outside of San Francisco. This year they moved to the San Mateo Event Center as a reflection of members desire to reach out to the broad market of the Peninsula and Silicon Valley. Over 160 family wineries invited wine lovers to sample over 750 different wines and 35 different varietals, representing over 20 California appellations. Thirty two wineries were here for the first time.

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It was impossible to sample through all 750 wines so here is some highlights:

Corte Riva Vineyards

Nieves Cortez was there showing off the great selection of fine wines available from this Napa winery. While the history and story of Corte Riva is always inspiring, it is really the great quality of their wines that makes this winery so successful. I had a chance to taste their Merlot which a great representation of what Napa Valley Merlot can be. Great rich blackberry and black cherry aromas and flavors with a wonderful texture, body and tannins that continue on into the long finish.

Nottingham Cellars

Winemaker Collin Cranor was at the Family Winemakers Tasting for the first time. He was introducing not only the Nottingham Cellars selection of Bordeaux varietals but also the new Vasco Urbano label of Rhone style wines. This Livermore Valley winery was very popular at the event.

Swanson Vineyards

Founded in the mid 1980’s by the same Swanson Frozen Foods family, Swanson was an early leader in Napa Valley Merlot. They brought two of their Merlot wines. The 2011 Swanson Merlot is from their storied 100-acre Oakville Cross Road that has been producing their award-winning Merlot for 20 vintages. The 2011 Napa Valley Cygnet Merlot is a new style for Swanson designed from vineyard to bottle as a wine easily enjoyed both on its own and with food.

Martin Ranch Vineyards

Winemaker Therese Martin and Director of Sales Sarah Silverman were there with several wines from their Santa Cruz Mountains winery. In addition to their great collection of fine wines under the J.D. Hurley and Therese Vineyards label they were introducing a new Santa Cruz labeled red wine.

Ceja Vineyards

Amelia Moran Ceja and Pedro Ceja, President and Founder of Ceja Vineyards were busy greeting the many admirers of Ceja wines. Amelia is the first Mexican-American woman to be elected President of a winery and was recognized by the California State legislature as “Woman of the Year” in 2005. The 2011 Sonoma Coast Sauvignon Blanc was particularly a pleasure with aromas of lemon-lime and grapefruit with a nice minerality.

Family Winemakers of California is the political and policy voice for small family-owned wineries. We lobbied water issues, fees and taxes, warning labels, farmer’s market tastings and farming regulations this year at the State Capitol and regulatory agencies. Continuing Pierce’s Disease and Red Blotch research remain at the top of our advocacy list. Consumers enjoy greater choice in California wines across the U.S. because of their advocacy. Artistry and passion are the hallmark of Family Winemakers of California wineries at these tastings and you will taste it in the glass.

All Family Winemakers tasting events focus on wineries that are small (under 5000 cases), have limited marketing outreach, and will be represented by family members.

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