Test Your Tasting Tactics

One of the benefits — and potential drawbacks — of being so close to wine country is the sheer volume of different winetasting opportunities to choose from. So much wine… so little time!

Here are my top picks for the next few weeks:

Family Style

The Family Winemakers of California tasting  scheduled Aug. 23-24 at Fort Mason in San Francisco offers a broad glimpse at the diversity of  wines produced by smaller labels from around the state. More than 400 wineries will pour dozens of different red and white varietals at this sometimes overwhelming but always fascinating event. Tickets are $50 in advance and $60 at the door.

This event is nearly 10 times bigger than the initial FWC tasting in 1991 that featured 46 wineries.  I recommend a game plan, choosing either to taste one or two different types of wine from different wineires or taste wines from specific wineries that look interesting. Take a look at the full lineup of participating wineries and what they’ll be pouring.

There are plenty of  choices, alphabetically, starting with the A’s — Ackerman Family Vineyards of Napa — and ending with the Z’s –  Zenaida Cellars from Paso Robles. Ackerman is a cabernet specialist while Zenaida focuses mainly on syrah, zinfandel and cabernet.

Havest Stomp in Yountville

Harvest time is nearly upon us, so naturally there are celebrations bound to happen. A good one to check out is the Harvest Stomp on Aug. 29 sponsored by the Napa Valley Grapegrowers.napagrowersstomp

The group, which has about 500 members, is aimed at preserving and promoting regional wines. They will be pouring samples from 45 wineries alongside a feast that includes fare from Hog Island Oyster Farm, an Aregentinian barbecue plus rotisserie chicken and authentic paella.

There’ll also be music by Belle Monroe and her Brewglass Boys and Red Meat. A live auction and raffle will send home lots of great wine and wine-related prizes to the winners, including a “Harvest Immersion” experience with award-winning winemaker Andy Hoxsey, the NVG’s Grower of the Year for 2009 whose Napa Wine Company oversees the largest organice grape-growing operation in the country. Tickets ($100) are limited and available only from the NVG.

Some of the better known wines on the menu include Cakebread, Corison and Duckhorn (here’s a link to our Duckhorn video). You’ll also get a chance to sample wines from smaller producers like Peacock Family Winery, Jericho Canyon Vineyards and Cloud View Vineyards, among many others.

Sonoma: Labor Day Getaway

If your plans for the long Labor Day weekend are still up in the air, a good place to land if you like fantastic food and great wine is the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend extravaganza. More than 200 wineries are participating in three days of wine-splashed events.

MacMurray Ranch

MacMurray Ranch

The two cornerstone happenings are the big Taste of Sonoma tasting on Saturday (Sept. 5) at the MacMurray Ranch in the Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Valley Harvest Wine Auction on Sunday (Sept. 6) at Cline Cellars in Carneros (click  to see our Cline Cellars video).

For more intimate experiences, there are winemaker dinners and lunches sponsored by participating Sonoma wineries throughout the weekend. There’s also an online auction, if you prefer to get a head start on the action.

Tickets run upwards of $100 per event. Click here to enter a drawing for free tickets.

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