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Taste of Wine: Welcome to the Family Winemakers

My family started me on sips of red wine when I was a mere 4-year-old.

It was an Italian family in a neighborhood that raised me and most of my relatives, in Boston, Mass.

My mother came from a family of nine and my father a family of 11, so you can just imagine what it was like at a Saturday night get-together with baked beans and hot dogs or 10-gallons of Italian sauce and pasta pans.

In the cellar of this four-story residence, my grandfather made the red wine for these gatherings. I’m sure he had no idea what the varietal was.

Skip and Maureen Coomber of Coomber Family Wines in San Diego are a hit at the Family Winemakers Show in Del Mar with their Skater Girl value wines. Photo by Frank Mangio
Skip and Maureen Coomber of Coomber Family Wines in San Diego are a hit at the Family Winemakers Show in Del Mar with their Skater Girl value wines. Photo by Frank Mangio

Huge changes came from those “good old days,” to where now we have Family Winemakers linked in a large comprehensive California Association that produces massive road shows, like the one recently at the San Diego County Fairgrounds.

This organization began in 1997 with 71 members. They now number 400 members. They are all family-owned, protecting their rights to freely produce, market and sell their wines. Their biggest victory was helping insure the right to sell wine direct to the consumer in most states, guaranteed by a recent Supreme Court decision.

Most varietals of wine in the known world are represented. Aside from the biggest of names like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, I look for fascinating-story varietals like the French Rhone Valley Viognier from Cass and Falkner Winery, the Bordeaux Petit Verdot from Darms Lane and Howell Mt. Vneyards and Italy’s Sangiovese from Opolo and Vino Noceto wineries.

Two intriguing wineries that I re-visited at the show were Galante Vineyards in the Carmel Valley of Monterey County and Coomber Family Wines from here in San Diego County.

Jack Galante’s wine club is the “Galante Gang,” and he is the true embodiment of the cowboy philosophy of the west.

His advice: “Always drink upstream from the herd.”

Think about that!

His family has a long history in the Monterey area.  Galante’s great grandfather was the founder of the town of Carmel and he later built the Pines Inn and the Highlands Inn.

In Jack’s youth he worked on his father’s 700-acre cattle ranch in Carmel Valley, most of which was converted to wine grapes and then a winery founded by Jack in 1994. Cabernet Sauvignon is his specialty with a number of different styles.  Check out

Coomber Family Wines is really a progressive San Diego wine company founded in 2012 by Skip and Maureen Coomber.

I asked Skip how things were going for their many wine brands.

“Our brand with the English bulldog in the pink tutu on a skateboard, Skater Girl, is exploding,” he said. “We’ve got over 50 locations in the area. A number of restaurants sell the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Cabernet by the glass for around $9.”

I asked Coomber if he is rolling out Skater Girl nationally and the answer was a resounding “Yes.”

He said they have distribution in Oregon, Montana, Alaska, Kansas and Utah, and are close to a regional eastern rollout.

Waiting in the wings are new brands Lemon Cake, a Russian River Chardonnay and the Coomber Vintner’s Collection along with others. Coomber has an interest in the newly renovated Witchcreek urban winery in downtown Carlsbad, now drawing a lot of attention.

Learn more at


Wine Bytes

Parc Bistro & Brasserie in the Bankers Hill district of San Diego is planning a Sunday Brunch April 9 at 11:30 a.m., featuring Iron Horse wines. Cost is $47. On April 12 at 6:30 p.m., Pahlmeyer wines will be spotlighted in a five-course dinner with guest speaker Mindy Hewitson. Cost is $99 per person. Call (619) 795-1501 for an RSVP.

“Pairings for a Purpose” is the theme of a benefit at the Bobby Riggs Tennis Club & Museum in Encinitas, April 15, from noon to 4 p.m. Top chefs, breweries and wineries come together with special pairings and libations. Tickets start at $75. Benefits “Feeding San Diego.” For more call (858) 768-7453.

Sally’s Fish House and Bar in the Manchester Grand Hyatt, One Market Place in San Diego, brings Hall and Walt wines in from Napa Valley April 17 for a special four-course wine dinner at 7 p.m., with a complimentary bestselling book, “A Perfect Score,” by Craig and Kathryn Hall. Cost is  $89.  For details call (619) 358-6731.

A wine and food day trip to the Guadalupe Valley near Ensenada Mexico is in the works for April 22 from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m., brought to you by Golden Journeys Travel and Tamara Golden. Visit three different wineries, and enjoy a gourmet lunch and dinner.  Space is limited to 12 travelers. Cost is $155.  To RSVP, contact [email protected].


Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator.  He is one of the leading commentators on the web.  View his columns at, and reach him at [email protected].