Family Winemakers Recap


The day's specials at the Hendry table.

I know its been several days since the Family Winemaker’s public tasting event, so I apologize for not having my summary posted in a more timely manner.  Believe it or not, one can actually be pretty busy when you’re unemployed.

I tasted a lot of wines and had a lot fun chatting with proprietors, winemakers and sales managers alike.  The event was great and considering the size of the tasting, was very well organized.  The only negative aspect of the tasting was that I wasn’t able to taste everything there.  I know it was an impossibility, but I always go into these events with the hopes of covering everything.  My goal is to always try more new wineries than ones that I’m already familiar with, but its always tough when you walk by the familiar booths and feel the pull to revisit the wines you already know, so I definitely spent some time re-tasting some perennial favorites.

Yours truly doing his best to juggle the writing and tasting.

Yours truly doing his best to juggle the writing and tasting.

Here are most of the wineries whose wines I tasted and enjoyed.  I tried to keep good notes and keep everything in order, but its tough when you’re trying to juggle a clipboard, event guide, glass, pen and spit cup.  Somehow I managed, with the help of my lovely assistant of course.

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19th Annual Family Winemakers Tasting – Sunday, August 23, 2009

FamilyTasting_09In less than two weeks, the largest public wine tasting event in California, sponsored by the Family Winemakers of California, will be held at the Fort Mason Center on Sunday, August 23rd.  This is a treat and opportunity you don’t want to miss.

The Family Winemakers of California is a great organization.  Their mission is to be the the voice and advocate for small wine producers so they can be heard in public policy decisions.  As a past small business owner myself, I can’t tell you how important it is to have organizations like these advocating for you.

The event itself is an impressive display of the best that the California wine industry has to offer.  The wines from these producers are the products of artistry, creativity, blood, sweat, tears and all the things that make a small business what it is.  In addition to tasting the wines, you’ll get an opportunity to meet many of the winemakers and proprietors who are the faces of these wineries.

When we attended this event last year, it was our first ever public wine tasting event we attended in San Francisco, or in any city for that matter.  While there were several tasting events in Hawaii, there were no such events available to the public; only for trade members, which fortunately we were lucky to be a part of.  What a dream; we now have countless number of public wine tasting events at our disposal and we’ll be making sure to take advantage of our new found zip code.

Tickets are cheaper in advance, so hurry up and commit to the 23rd, so you can save yourself what is costs you to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge in one day.

19th Annual Family Winemakers Public Tasting 2009
Sunday, August 23
3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Fort Mason Center
Herbst Pavilion

$50 in advance, online
$60 at the door

Make sure your belly is full and you’re fully hydrated prior to the event.  In fact make sure to stay hydrated throughout the event.  If you’re not too self-conscious of yourself, spit, dribble, drool or do whatever you need to do in order to make sure you minimize your intake of wine throughout the day.  You’ll thank yourself after wards.

Pinot Days San Francisco Grand Tasting 2009

pinotdaysOne of the reasons that we’ve been excited about moving to San Francisco is the close proximity to the oodles of annual wine tasting events we’d have.  We’ve already been to a couple of them as out of town visitors, but this event was our first as residents of San Francisco, and we were chomping at the bit for this one

With over 130 producers present, small in comparison to the annual San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and Family Winemakers event, there was no shortage of pinot noir to go around.  I calculated that we’d be able to visit each booth in attendance in the time allotted if we spent 2 minutes at each table.  The calculations however did not take into account rest time between booths, bathroom breaks or winemaker chat time, so it was basically an impossibility.

Many of the booths we visited were familiar names to us from our time as wine shop owners or just brands we’ve purchased over the years, so unfortunately, my attempt to discover new producers I’ve never heard of or were vaguely familiar with failed.  As soon as we started to mill around, we knew it was going to be hard to resist revisiting the new releases of old standbys.  Oh well, here are some pictures from the event as well as a list at the end of producers whose wines we tasted and enjoyed.

A birdseye view of the well attended event.

A birds-eye view of the well attended event.

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Renowned Consultant Michel Rolland Visits Honolulu

This is the original, pre-edited version of the article I wrote for The Honolulu Advertiser on February 4th, 2009.  Who says I’m long-winded?


A giddy fan waits patiently as his Long Shadows Pedestal magnum is signed by Rolland. Yours Truly waiting in the wings for the interview to resume.

On Wednesday, January 28, 2008, Hawaii welcomed world-renown, consulting winemaker Michel Rolland.  Mr. Rolland’s first stop after arriving in the state was here on Oahu to promote his wines during a seminar held at The Honolulu Design Center and Stage Restaurant.

Immediately afterwards, he was to jet off to the Big Island, before heading off to South America and South Africa.  Mr. Rolland spends the majority of his time consulting with clients overseas, so we were indeed lucky for the opportunity to have him here for a formal, yet personal seminar.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from Mr. Rolland as far as his personality was concerned.  His accomplishments and influence in the wine world are so wide-reaching and impressive; it was hard for me not to be intimidated.  Continue reading

Tasting The Lion Nathan Portfolio: A Mini Tasting of Australia, New Zealand & Oregon

lion-nathan-logoThe Lion Nathan portfolio tasting was “cute,” stated a restaurant buyer I ran into; referring to the twenty or so wines that were available for sampling.  You never know how many wines will be poured at a lot of these trade industry tastings until you get there; which is always part of the excitement.


St. Hallett Winemaker Stuart Blackwell poses with his "two loves in life." Hope his wife or girlfriend isn't reading this. I'm sure he meant to say these are two of his three loves in life.

Being there elicited mixed emotions of nervousness, excitement and nostalgia.  I was nervous because this was the first industry tasting I’ve been to since we closed our shop and I didn’t know how to feel about walking into a a familiar, yet foreign environment.  I was also of course excited because who’s not, when you get to taste a host of wines on the distributors dime.  Of course nostalgia set in because I’ve had countless hours of purple-stained-teeth fun getting to taste and buy wines for the shop during our shop days.

Lion Nathan is an Australian premium alcoholic beverages company with operations in Australia and New Zealand and brands that extend worldwide.  With many of these big wine companies, you don’t know who they are until you find out what brands they own.  In Lion Nathan’s case, Steinlager beer was one of the big brands that rang with me.  Fortunately, it wasn’t one of the alcoholic beverages that was in the lineup that day.

As I mentioned there wasn’t a lot by way of overall selection, but as always at tasting events, I usually find some interesting things as I did here.  The following are my quick tasting notes for the wines, along with some very ballpark estimates of retail prices.  Prices of course will vary according to market, so check with your favorite local retailer or restaurant for availability. Continue reading