The Family Winemakers of California were gathered in Fort Mason Park this Sunday and Monday for their 21st annual San Francisco tasting. Highlighting more than 300 wineries from around the state, the event allowed local restauranteurs and connoisseurs alike to mingle with some of the best small-production vintners in the world.
The whole point of Family Winemakers is to support smaller wine-producers. Formed more than two decades ago, this large association now includes 614 members, many of whom produce no more than 10,000 cases annually. By comparison, a bigger vineyard from Napa will usually crank out around 120,000 cases per year. So, many of the handcrafted cabernets and chardonnays featured in Fort Mason this weekend are hard–if not impossible–to find at your local liquor store. And in addition to their respective rarity, much of what’s poured here is delightfully desirable.
I particularly enjoyed Kit’s Killer Cab. A Cabernet Sauvignon produced by the same Bay Area family that created the Clif Bar. One of their more popular brands is called The Climber, a Zinfandel-dominant blend that is punctuated by the spicy, sweet tones of Syrah. Check out their tasting room up north in St. Helena and–if you so dare–take part in their regular wine and cycling event.
If 10,000 cases a year is just way too much output for you, there were also even smaller wineries in attendance like Cartograph, with a staff of 2 and scant production of only 600 cases a year, this wine is clearly a product of passion created specifically for those that are passionate about wine. Based out of Healdsburg, Cartograph makes a mean Pinot with a distinct cherry nose and lingering tartness of tannin. They also were pouring a surprisingly dry Gewurtztraminer with a pleasantly light body.
Bigger, more familiar names were on-hand as well, like Castello di Amorosa. Producing close to 20,000 cases a year, Amorosa is known locally for having an exquisitely picturesque, medieval castle up in Napa. More than just a beautiful postcard, they also make an excellent Merlot with the spicy bouquet of black licorice.
There were even some award-winning organic wines on pour. Notably, Sonoma’s own Canihan Family Vineyards was showing off their robust, full-bodied Syrrah and a livelier Pinot–emboldened with earthy notes of vanilla from 20 months of aging in French Oak. As with many of the 300+ booths setup in this large convention hall, the vintner was the one pouring, happy to share the personalized details of his own viticultural adventure. Bill Canihan spoke of how his journey began: making wine years ago out of his one-car garage. Nowadays, his widely-sought organic libations are served in hip, Bay Area restaurants such as A16 and Delfina. Thankfully there’s a resource like the Family Winemakers to help small companies get their product out to eager masses. To learn more about this influential organization, check out their website.