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Clos Saron
Cloud View
Del Bondio
Diamond Terrace

Domaine Alfred
Frank Family
Frias Family
Jocelyn & Lonen
Kosta Browne
Lagier Meredith

Marilyn Remark
Shannon Ridge
Vina Robles

Report on the 5th annual trade tasting presented by the Family Winemakers of California, Tuesday, June 15, 2004. This annual event focuses on wines grown and/or produced by FWC members from current releases or soon-to-be-released vintages.

The FWC was founded in 1991 to represent the small, family-owned winery before the California Legislature and state regulatory agencies. Annual tastings are presented twice each year, once in Northern California and once in Southern California. The attendance at this year's event was large - about 185 labels were present, pouring nearly 600 wines. Thankfully, the event was four hours in length, and I managed to get to 38 of the wineries represented, tasting about 99 wines.

The tasting notes below give a brief description of the wine's attributes and/or qualities. These wines are generally the current releases for each winery, although some wineries may substitute samples from yet-to-be-released vintages if current supplies are sold out or otherwise unavailable.

Some Favorites

2001 Barlow "Barrouge"
2001 Bourassa "Harmony 3"
2001 Chappellet Cabernet
2000 Frank Family Cabernet
2001 Lonen Cabernet
2002 Neal Cabernet - Napa

2002 DuNah - Sangiacomo
2003 DuNah - Estate
2002 Kosta Browne - Cohn
2001 Pisoni - Estate
2002 Tandem - Keefer

2002 Brassfield Syrah
2002 Lagier Meredith Syrah
2001 Marilyn Remark Syrah

2001 Fiddlehead "Honeysuckle"
2002 Marilyn Remark Marsanne

Overall impressions: in the four years FWC has held a Southern California tasting, the rotating venues have included the L.A. Hilton (hot), the Skirball Center (hot, spread out), the Santa Monica Air Museum (imagine jet fuel vapors filling the air), and the Pasadena Convention Center. These were diverse venues, to say the least. But finally, it looks as though the FWC has settled on a single setting for its Southern California event, the Pasadena Convention Center. Unlike the pedestrian munchies from last year, there was a much better better selection of cheese, crackers and breads this time out.

Okay, on to the wines. I tried to use this tasting to cover a lot of newer wineries, or at least wineries that often aren't reviewed. Probably the biggest eye-opener were the wines from Marilyn Remark. A Marsanne, Grenache and Syrah from Monterey County were all excellent. Also, the Cabs from Chappellet, Frank Family, Lonen and Neal were all stellar. Several Pinots - notably from DuNah, Kosta Brown and Tandem were some of the best I've tasted.

On the Rhone front, the aforementioned Marilyn Remark wines are excellent. The '02 Lagier Meredith was fabulous, and a real surprise was the Brassfield Syrah from Lake County.

Disappointments? Only that I couldn't get to all of the wineries.

Selected Tasting Notes
BALDACCI - Napa Valley

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon . Dry, slightly dusty slightly sweet-sour nose of cassis and toast. A bit tart in mouthfeel, good balance, long finish. Was looking for a bit more elegance in the Cab from this SLD producer.

BARLOW - Napa Valley

2001 "Barrouge". An 80/20 blend of Cab and Merlot. Loaded with nicely scented cassis in the nose. Full and chewy mouthfeel, creamy texture, excellent balance and long finish.

2002 Zinfandel. Lots of dusty boysenberry fruit, light oak, and wonderfully balanced mouthfeel. Very nice.

BLAIR - Napa Valley

2001 Napa Valley Red. Lots of cassis fruit in the nose. Slightly sweet, with very nice flavors- though a bit oak-driven, very good balance, nice finish.

BORRA - Lodi

2002 Barbera. Smoky cherry and a bit stinky in the nose. Fruity, yet also somewhat hot and bitter in mouthfeel, with good balance and long finish.

2002 Zinfandel. Nice boysenberry nose, quite ripe, with good mouthfeel and long finish.

2002 "Fusion". Jam-packed with ripe plummy fruit, nice balance, picks up a bit of heat on long finish.

BOURASSA - Napa Valley

2001 "Harmony 3 Blend". Lots of cassis, and a nice herbal component in this blend of Cab, Cab Franc, and Merlot. Big and chewy mouthfeel, lots of dark cherry fruit, very nice balance and long finish. Inaugural release for this winery seems like a winner.

2002 Zinfandel. Nice boysenberry nose, with plenty of spicy berry flavors, and nice balance. Cliche as it is - very nice for a Zin!

BRASSFIELD - Lake County

2002 Syrah. Very roasted quality to the nose and mouth. Off-sweet flavors, very good balance and nice long tasty finish.

2001 Zinfandel. Lots of sweet fruit in the nose, with very good flavors and mouthfeel, and delicious tasty finish.

BROMAN - Napa Valley

1999 Merlot. Nose plummy nose, bit sharp and pungent. Lots of fruit in the mouth, good balance.

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon. Nose of cassis, light herbs and some raspberry. A bit acidic in mouthfeel, decent fruit and finish.

1998 Syrah . Nice spicy blackberry nose with just a hint of bacon. Fruity and balanced mouthfeel - maybe a bit to the acid side of things.

CHAPPELLET - Napa Valley

2001 Merlot. Plush and lush, in mouthfeel - sort of a less weightier version of Paloma.

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon "Signature". Nice cassis filled nose, good body and mouthfeel and long finish.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon "Signature". Lovely cassis and toast-scented nose. Rich and chewy mouthfeel, with excellent balance and long finish.

CLOS SARON - Sierra Foothills

2002 Pinot Noir - Home. Interesting nose - lots of cheddar cheesey aromas along with dark cherry and earthy scents. Nice sweet mouthfeel, good balance, and long finish.

2000 Pinot Noir - Black Pearl. Stinky dark cherry scent. Good fruit and balance, slight oak bent, with moderate grip to finish. There isn't too much Pinot up this way, so I'm not sure if this is typical or atypical for the geography.

NV "Cuvee Mystérieuse". Blend of Syrah and Merlot. Quite smoky in aroma, with dark berry and a bit of anise seed. Sweet mouthfeel, good balance and long gripping finish.

CLOUD VIEW - Napa Valley

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Lightly sweet cassis, with a touch of toast and licorice. Excellence balance and taste, very long finish.

CUVAISON - Napa Valley

2000 Pinot Noir - Carneros. Lots of strawberry and raspberry in nose and mouth. Very good balance and long tasty finish.

2000 Merlot - Carneros. Very dense nose of dark fruit. Full mouthfeel, lots of presence on the palate, well-balanced very long finish.

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon. Lots of licorice-infused cassis on the nose. Moderately full body, very well-balanced, long finish.

DEL BONDIO - Napa Valley

1998 Cabernet Sauvignon. Strange nose of muted cranberry and cherry. Tasty mouthfeel, lots of cassis and still a bit of toast, good balance.

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon. Much better nose than the '98 with lots of cassis, some light oak and touch of vanilla. Good mouthfeel, lots of fruit, and long finish.

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. Excellent nose of toasy cassis and vanilla. Slightly chewy on the palate, very good balance, and tasty long finish.

2001 Syrah. Very nice nose of smoky blackberry, tar and coffee. Full and rich on the palate, good balance nice tasty finish.


2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Nose of sweet applewood, cassis, and a touch of toast. Slightly sweet mouthfeel, very tasty fruit, very good balance, and long finish.


2001 Pinot Noir "Regular". Loads of dark cherry fruit, with just a touch of earth and toast. Excellent mouthfeel and balance, and long finish.

2002 Syrah. Lots of espresso in the blackberry nose. A bit tight on the palate, very nice structure and balance, and long finish.


2002 Syrah - Estate. So, how's the '02, I ask Steve Lagier. Oh, it sucks, he says. He's hiding something, I say to myself. Big, effusive black fruit in the nose, with added notes of espresso, chocolate, and a light licorice background. Terrific mouthfeel, lots of chewy dark fruit, seamless flavors, excellent balance and long smooth finish. Best yet!

DUCKHORN - Napa Valley

2001 Pinot Noir "Goldeneye" - Anderson Valley". A bit rusty in clolor, with an earthy nose of red fruit. Slightly sweet and a bit soft on the palate, with a sweet long finish.

2001 Pinot Noir "Paradux". Blend of 70% Zin, and 30% Cab. Bit of orange blossom and floral quality to the nose. Mostly raspberry, with some black cherry flavor in the mouth, very good balance and long finish.

DUNAH - Russian River Valley

Greg LaFollette and Rick DuNah

2002 Pinot Noir - Keefer. Wow! Beautiful nose of spicy black cherry, with a bit of forest floor and toast. Excellent flavors and balance on the palate, very long finish.

2002 Pinot Noir - Sangiacomo. Fabulous nose of dark cherry, with a little strawberry. Medium-full mouthfeel, very tasty fruit, nice smooth and spicy finish.

2003 Pinot Noir - Estate. Whoa! The substantial dark fruit is cloaked with moderate espresso and floral aromas. Rich and chewy on the palate, a little primal right now, but quite a wine in there.

EHLERS - Napa Valley

2001 Merlot. Plummy nose, and plush on the palate - if a bit less extracted than some.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Nice cassis and light toast scent in the nose. Grippy on the palate, with nice sweet tannins.

FIDDLEHEAD - Santa Rita Hills

2001 Sauvignon Blanc "Happy Canyon". Tons of fruit come through in both nose and mouth. Flinty, and crisp, very well-balanced, nice long finish.

2001 Sauvignon Blanc "Gooseberry". Touches of melon and citrus add a nice edge to the fruit in this wine. Almost chewy in consistency, very well balanced, long finish.

2001 Sauvignon Blanc "Honeysuckle". Interestingly, this wine seemed to exhibit more "gooseberry" than the previous wine. Touch of sweet pea and light minerality throughout. Rich on the palate, excellent balance.

2001 Pinot Noir "Lollapalooza". Nose of spiced black cherry, touch of coffee and earth. Off-sweet, jammy mouthfeel, terrific balance and lightly gripping finish.

2000 Pinot Noir "Oldsville Reserve" - Willamette Valley. Lots of earth and forest scents in the nose, with light and dark cherry, and a hint of licorice. Smooth and silky on the palate, long finish.

FRANK FAMILY - Napa Valley

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. Seductive dark cherry nose, with light toast and vanilla. Sweet fruit on the palate, very good balance, and delicious finish.

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon "Rutherford Reserve". Lots of clove-scented fruit in the rich and lightly sweet nose. Somewhat more tart in mouthfeel, from mid-palate through long finish.


2002 Merlot. Slightly "bright" nose of red and black fruits, with a a Zin-like quality. Firm on the palate, very tasty long finish.

1999 Cabernet Sauvignon. Lovely spiced cassis nose. A bit more claret-like in mouthfeel, good balance and finish.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Nose lightly sweet dark cherry nose. Lightly jammy on the palate, very good balance and long finish.

GOOSECROSS - Napa Valley

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. A moderate amount of greenbean comes through in the nose of this wine - with less-so in the mouth. Well-balanced and tasty, but the herbal qualities seem to override any sweet fruit.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Lovely nose of black and bing cherry. Nice lightly sweet fruit, very good balance, and tasty long finish.

2001 Syrah - South Coast. The source of this fruit was a bit of a shocker (Temecula), but the finished wine shows well. Slightly burnished edge, with a bit of candied quality in the nose. Firm and well balanced, with a tasty finish.

HUBER - Santa Rita Hills

2001 Pinot Noir. Nose of strawberry, with light spices and bit of earthy scent. Moderate mouthfeel, good balance and finish.

2002 Pinot Noir. Lots of strawberry in nose and mouth. A little tight, but good coverage on the palate, nice balance and finish.

2002 Dornfelder. Interesting floral and apple-scented nose belie the dark density of this wine. Lots of stone and berry fruit on the palate, with very nice balance and very long finish.

JERIKO - Mendocino County

2002 Pinot Noir. Somewhat neutral in the nose, with background notes of light cherry. Good mouthfeel, nice cherry-like fruit and good balance.

2002 Syrah . Lots of floral qualities in the nose seem to mask the berry, making this seem atypical. Good flavors on the palate, with lots of blackberry and a touch of licorice. Tasty long finish.

JOCELYN & LONEN - Napa Valley

2001 Jocelyn Cabernet Sauvignon. Blend of fruit from Pritchard Hill and Mt. Veeder. Lots of spicy cassis and black cherry in nose and mouth. Very well balanced, restrained oak, and delicious finish.

2001 Lonen Cabernet Sauvignon - Krupp Vnyd. As good as the Jocelyn was - this was that much better. Slightly sweet black cherry and cassis, with touches of dried herbs, vanilla, and toast. Wonderful on the palate - succulent, and tastes ready to drink. Balanced and smooth, with a long delicious aftertaste.

KOSTA BROWNE - Sonoma Coast

2002 Pinot Noir - Russian River. Lots of strawberry in the nose, with just a touch of orange blossom. Very nice fruit, lovely balance, and very long finish.

2002 Pinot Noir - Cohn Vnyd, RRV. Nose of strawberry, cherry, and toast. Fabulous mouthfeel, lots of fruit, extremely well balanced, and smooth long finish.

2002 Pinot Noir - Sonoma Coast. Very nice nose of sweet red fruit. Lightly sweet mouthfeel, very good balance, slightly soft finish.

2002 Pinot Noir - Kanzler Vnyd, Sonoma Coast. Plenty of dark ruit, and a bit more herbal, earthy, and sweaty in the nose. Terrific on the palate, off-sweet flavors, very good balance, and long finish.

LARKMEAD - Napa Valley

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Lush and slightly sweet nose of dark cherry and vanilla. Smooth mouthfeel, very good balance, flavorful long finish.

MARILYN REMARK - Monterey County

Marilyn Remark and Joel Burnstein

2002 Marsanne. Loaded with white fruits and toasted grains - along with a fascinating coffee scent in the background. Rich and full mouthfeel, lots of chewy fruit, smooth and balanced, with a slightly crisp finish.

2001 Grenache. Lovely floral scent to the smoky raspberry and blueberry. Thick and fleshy mouthfeel, with a very tasty long finish.

2001 Syrah. Balance is the watchword here. Not at all overblown, but lots of meaty flavors and texture. Plenty of fruit, very smooth and well balanced, and long finish. Nice job here.

NEAL FAMILY - Napa Valley

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon - Howell Mtn. Lots of clove-scented cassis aromas, with a nice toasted grain quality. Full, rich and extremely well-balanced, with a smooth long finish.

2002 Zinfandel . Somewhat soft and plush on the palate, everything seems in harmony here. Smooth and delicious throughout.

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon - nine vnyd barrel sample. Sweet spicy cassis, with just a touch of anise. Exceptional mouthfeel, lots of fine-grained tannins, and very smooth finish.

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon - Howell Mtn barrel sample. Huge dense nose of cassis and toast. Spiced cassis and dark fruit on the palate - still quite primal.

2002 Cabernet Sauvignon - Rutherford barrel sample. Dusty cassis-scented nose. Lots of fine-grained tannins thoughout, with a nice smooth mouthfeel and very long finish.


2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Rich mocha quality to the cassis and dark cherry fruit. Smooth and plush on the palate, lightly toasty mouthfeel, very good balance, and smooth long finish.

PISONI - Santa Lucia Highlands

2002 Pinot Noir "Lucia". Sweet and rich in both nose and flavor. Arguably less complex than the Estate version, but certainly nearly as delicious and more accessible earlier.

2001 Pinot Noir - Estate. Somewhat narrower band of flavors right now - yet more complex as well. Aromas of earth and leaf accent the black cherry. Smooth and chewy mouthfeel, long finish.

ROCCA FAMILY - Napa Valley

2002 H. Gray Cabernet. A bit herbaceous in the nose; less so in the mouth. Moderate weight and structure, good balance and finish.

2002 H. Gray "Bad Boy Red". Smooth and easy, with more of a claret-style balance and mouthfeel.

ROCKLEDGE - Napa Valley

2001 Zinfandel. Lots of boysenberry in the nsoe, with a smooth and seductive mouthfeel and long finish.

2001 Primativo. Full and rich in nose and mouth, this is "two-hands" above the Zin, but sadly will be no more. On the good news side - they've planted more Cabernet.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. Beautiful cassis, mocha and toast in the nose. Full on the palate, excellent balance, with a nice bitter-chocolate finish.

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon "Barrel Select". Seductively sweet dark fruit in the nose. Lots of dark cherry and toast on the palate, with a gorgeous espresso-infused cassis finish.

SCHWEIGER - Spring Mtn

2000 Merlot. Quite Cab-like in nose and mouth, with lots of dense cassis and structure. Slightly acidic on the palate, with a long lightly gripping finish.

2000 Cabernet Sauvignon. Nose of cassis and toast, with moderately herbaceous aromas in th ebackground.


2002 Cabernet Sauvignon. Largely floral nose, with good flavors and tasty mouthfeel.

SKEWIS - Sonoma County

2001 Pinot Noir - Salzgeber Vnyd, RRV. Earthy strawberry nose. Sweet mouthfeel, with jammy fruit and balanced finish.

2001 Pinot Noir - Demuth Vnyd, Anderson Valley. Lighter in color and maybe a bit less plush in mouthfeel than the RRV versions, but well made, balanced, and tasty.

2000 Pinot Noir - Demuth Vnyd, Anderson Valley. Lots of strawberry, earth, and rhubarb in the nose. Moderate mouthfeel, good balance, long finish.

2001 Pinot Noir - Montgomery Vnyd, RRV. Lightly floral-scented strawberry nose. Very nice on the palate, with very good balance and structure.

2001 Pinot Noir - Bush Vnyd, RRV. Interesting mint quality to the strawberry fruit. A bit light on extraction, yet very tasty.

TANDEM - Sonoma Coast

2002 Chardonnay. Smoky espresso-scented melon and pear fruit. Crisp, yet rich mouthfeel, very nice balance and long smooth finish.

2002 Pinot Noir - Keefer. Lots of strawberry and cinnamon aromas in the nose. Gorgeous balance on the palate, very nice fruit, and long finish.

2001 Pinot Noir - Pisoni. Brawny and dark in the nose, yet amazingly balanced in mouthfeel. Loaded with fruit,and beautiful long finish.

2001 Sangiovese - Gabrielli. Fascinating smoky cherry nose. Very balanced and chewy mouthfeel. What a pleasant surprise!

2002 Peloton. A witches brew of Zin Chardonnay, Syrah, and Pinot - and yet, it works! Dark and slightly sweet mouthfeel, with a crispness from mid to latter palate.

2001 Council Tree Syrah. Made by Travis Proctor with San Luis Obispo fruit. Nose of blackberry and anise. Lots of concentrated flavors, good balance and finish.

VINA ROBLES - Paso Robles

2001 Cabernet Sauvignon. A touch of mint adds some interest to the dark cherry nose and mouth. Good structure and balance, and nice slightly gripping finish.

2001 Zinfandel . Interesting nose of boysenberry and herbs, with a touch of Parmesan cheese. Very nice flavors - avoids the raisiny aspects.

2000 Syrah. Nice coffee, floral and roasted wood scents to the dark fruit. Very good balance on the palate,and tasty finish.

2001 Petite Sirah. Intense nose and mouthfeel, yet very good balance and structure, and long finish.


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