Wineries are taking it on the road again

Call it a sign of the times or more wineries than ever taking to the road to show and offer their wines, but the invitations are pouring in to attend well-orchestrated events spotlighting wine countries in California and elsewhere.
A few favorites came to Southern California in the last couple of weeks: Family Winemakers of California and the Napa Valley Vintners showcased in San Diego, and the Howell Mountain Wine Tasting in Los Angeles.
Family Winemakers represents hundreds of small production wineries in California who pride themselves in seeking the highest quality out of their grapes. The association, led by Veronica Barclay, leads the group in keeping a level playing field for its members. “We recently were able to help defeat the proposed per-drink taxation that no doubt would have meant a price increase for most California wines,” she said. 
Some wines that I favored included Riboli Family 2007 Petite Sirah, ZD and its 2007 Pinot Noir Carneros, O’Shaughnessy Estate’s 2006 Cabernet Blend, Tercero’s 2007 Granache and Tablas Creek with its 2007 Granache Paso Robles.
The day after Family Winemakers, we joined the Howell Mountain Wine Tasting at the largest car museum in the world, the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. This appellation is at the northern heights of Napa Valley. All wineries are at 1,400 feet or higher. Cooler spring temperatures and hotter summers produce fruit that has a greater balance between sugar and acidity, achieving complex flavors. Some names to know include Outpost with its 2007 Howell Mountain Zinfandel, Cakebread Cellars 2006 Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet and Highlands 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet.
Just a few days ago, the Napa Valley Vintners came in to San Diego with more than 125 wineries. The young and legendary were side by side declaring themselves still the champs with their world-beating Cabernets and other quality contenders. Standouts included Tamber Bey and its 2007 Yountville Cabernet, Whitehall Lane had a beautiful 2006 Merlot in a stylish new glass top, Darioush also had a 2006 Merlot that stood out (could it be that Merlot is getting back its mojo?) and Staglin with its 2006 Rutherford Cabernet was drawing a big crowd. Certainly I rank the Napa Valley and its 400 or so wineries, producing 4 percent of the wines in California but 34 percent of sales, still the most renowned in the golden state.
Wine Bytes
— San Diego State has a Dynamic Wine and Food pairing class from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. April 10 at the Wine and Culinary Center on Harbor Drive, San Diego. It’s part of their certification program. For up-to-date information, call (619) 594-6924.
— Belle Marie Winery in Escondido is hosting a Healthy Wine and Food seminar from 2 to 4 p.m. April 10. It includes wines samples and recipes to take home. Cost is $25. For details or to RSVP, call (760) 796-7557.
— Café Merlot at the Bernardo Winery in Rancho Bernardo is celebrating a Grand Re-Opening from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. April 13. Free tastes of the current menu plus new samples with free champagne and other beverages. Prizes, giveaways and raffles for free classes and wine dinners top the day. RSVP at (858) 592-7785. 
Holiday Wine Cellar in Escondido has an Ecluse Wine Tasting from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 15. It’s from the west side of Paso Robles featuring Rhone varietals. The cost is $10 in advance, $15 at the door. RSVP at (760) 745-1200.
— Rhythm and Vine, San Diego’s music, wine and food festival to benefit Boys & Girls Clubs is set for 6 p.m. April 17 at Escondido’s Westfield North County Fair mall. The cost is $75 in advance, $100 at the door. Special VIP pricing available. For more information, visit www.rhythmandvine.org.
Meet the Chefs of Del Mar is from 1 to 4 p.m. April 18 at the Hilton Del Mar.  Fifteen different restaurants and their celebrity chefs participate to benefit Casa de Amparo. Fine wines and champagne included in the $125 ticket. VIP treatment for $185. Call (760) 754-5500 or visit www.casadeamparo.org for more information.

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