POSTED ON August 28, 2008 | IN Wine Information | BY Joe Becerra

There were 400 wineries represented at the Family Winemakers event held on August 23 and 24 at Fort Mason in San Francisco. On Sunday the media and trade were allowed into the pavilion from 12:30 to 2:00. It was nice and quiet during that time period and then at 2:00 pm came the masses. The public paid $45 to get into this event and they surely wanted to get their money’s worth.

Within 30 minutes the most well-known and “Wine Spectator”type wineries, like Nickel & Nickel, were lined up with tasters. It was difficult to make your way through the aisle. At that point, I left to return on Monday, which was set aside for the media and trade only.

The crowd at 3 pm on Sunday at the Family Winemakers Event

What exactly is a “Family Winery?”I always thought it was a single family running a winery that was on a small scale, say 10,000 cases or fewer per year. Not so, because some of Kendall Jackson’s many wineries were there and I saw a few wineries that are owned by more than one person. For example, Tandem Winery is owned by winemaker Greg La Follette, who has at least one partner is this venture.

We noticed a couple of new trends this year. First of all there seems to be a number of growers who, after years of selling grapes, now have become winemakers. They have decided not to sell some or all of their vineyards to their clients but to venture out on their own to try and make great wine with their grapes. Some examples are Small Vines Winery, John Tyler Wines, and Mounts Family Winery.

Paul Sloan – From Grower to Making Small Vines Pinot Noir

We also found another trend. Many new wineries are making a short list of wines at the high end of the spectrum, easily $40 and above for a bottle of wine. They call their wines “handcrafted”or “vineyard select”but whatever you call them the wines are “exquisitely”expensive. They’re good but not in the price range of average wine buyer.

I’m not going to list all the wines I really liked at the Family Winemakers, there were far too many. But these really popped out at me:

Dashe Cellars – 2007 McFadden Dry Riesling, Potter Valley
Ramazzotti Vineyards – 2006 Sangiovese, Dry Creek Valley
Sarcina – 2006 Sauvignon Blanc & Atrea Choir (Rousanne/Viognier), Mendocino
Frick Vineyard — 2005 Cinsaut, Dry Creek Valley
Barlow Vineyards — 2005 Zinfandel, Napa Valley
Small Vines — 2006 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir
Reynoso Vineyards — Alexander Valley 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Tandem Wines — 2005 Sangiacomo Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley
Joseph Family Vineyards — 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley