Family winemakers come together in San Diego

A showcase of California’s small, family-owned wineries will gather at the Del Mar Fairgrounds on March 15 in a five-hour major tasting to include some 240 participants. The turnout of wineries from up and down the state has been so overwhelming, the building housing the event has been upgraded to the 30,000-square-foot Wyland Center.
“The Del Mar tasting will offer a great opportunity for wine buyers and wine lovers to experience product from California’s small, family-owned wineries,” Veronica Barclay, chair of the Family Winemakers Tasting Committee, said. “It will make this the largest representation of California boutique wines showcased in San Diego.”
The lineup of lovely vineyards and wineries is a who’s who of longtime favorites and rising stars.
One that stood out and is fascinating in the sense that it really is two wineries is the Francis Ford Coppola Rubicon Estate in the Napa Valley, and his Rosso & Bianco Winery in Sonoma. It is rare that a show of this type would draw this Hollywood icon’s wines. Coppola’s “Godfather” films are legend and his goal now is “to create a happy Italian family feeling of winemaking” in his latest Sonoma project. All his memorabilia is shown at this winery.
This first-ever tasting also attracted Falkner winery form the nearby Temecula Wine Country, and a number of greats from Paso Robles, including Justin, Vina Robles and Tablas Creek. The great Grgich Hills winery in Napa Valley will be there, as well as ZD wines. A trade and media tasting will be from 1 to 3 p.m., then the public event will be from 3 to 6 p.m. The cost is $40 in advance and $50 at the door.
For more information on wineries and ticket sales, go to familywinemakers.org or call (415) 705-0646.
‘Vino’ choices with pasta
Up until a decade ago, Italian restaurants and homemade feasts of pasta, lasagna, ravioli, pizza and a host of other delicious dishes had one choice of “vino” and that was Chianti. Old grandfather types had their portraits on the jugs and the more authentic bottles were wound in straw.
My how times have changed! Italian Chianti is still available but now it’s Chianti Classico with the source grape clearly identified as Sangiovese, from Tuscany.
Up and down California, Sangiovese is grown and bottled with the grape name large and clear. It has become the wine of choice for the rich and tasty dishes of Italy.
This would be the end of the comment on wines with pasta a decade ago, but now with more than 8,000 vineyards producing more than 2 million acres of wine, Italian wines are a powerhouse of choices. The pairing of wines with pasta offer some lovely alternatives to the basic Chianti wines, and are found in Tuscany south to Sicily. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo is a fruity, light wine found east of Rome, usually an inexpensive, drink-now favorite. Sagratino di Montefalco is a heavier bodied wine full of minerality and found in the rising Umbria district, just east of Tuscany. Moving south where the pasta gets sweeter and heavier, you will want to try a Primitivo, which is the original Zinfandel, made famous in California. It’s grown primarily in the Puglia district and has dark, purple tones, and match the rich flavors of southern style Italian cooking. Aglianico is gaining in popularity and is from the Campania district and dates back to the 7th century BC. You’ll taste big, solid, tannic notes in this one.
There are more acres under vine in Sicily than anywhere else in Italy. Here the grape of choice is Nero d’Avola. I have reported many times on how this grape is exploding onto the world of wine as an inexpensive way to enjoy the Italian style of earthy red wine pleasure. The 2004 to 2007 vintages on all these wines have been superb, and are now stocked at your favorite wine shop.
Wine Bytes
— Carlsbad Wine Merchants has a wine tasting event to benefit the Encinitas YMCA, from 6 to 8 p.m. March 7. Wines from around the world will be poured with Italian style appetizers. Call (760) 804-9994 for details.
— Savory Casual Fare in Encinitas features a wine dinner with Paraiso, at 6:30 p.m. March 12. Paraiso, from the Central Coast, is one of the first to feature ”sustainable farming methods.” The cost is $65 per person. Call for an RSVP at (760) 634-5556.
— Paso Robles Wine Country is offering its 17th annual Zinfandel Festival, set for March 20 through March 22. The highlight is the prestigious Reserve event, an intimate gathering of the best of the best from 4 to 6 p.m. March 20, an auction March 21 and a Grand Tasting on March 22. You can purchase tickets for part or all of the events at pasowine.com.
— Thornton Winery in Temecula has a Spring Bounty event at 3 p.m. March 14. Join Executive Chef Steve Pickell who will teach take-home recipes for you to cook in your own kitchen. Food and wines are included in the $70 price. Reservations can be made at (951) 699-0099.
— Eli’s Food and Wine in the Del Mar Highlands Center has a great wine lineup for its Saturday afternoon tastings. On March 7, Loring Wines ’07 new releases; on March 14, new releases from Dunn of Napa Valley; and March 21, the wines of Biale including Black Chicken Zinfandel. Call (858) 481-2323 for details.

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