Friday, May 11, 2012

Mill Valley Market's Meet the Winemakers

Photograph courtesy of Brett Gulash
Last week, I had the pleasure of being invited by Shannon Burke to attend one of Mill Valley Market's "Meet The Winemakers" events on the evening of May 3rd. Shannon is a wine broker for the five wineries attending the event. They had large platters of various cheeses (drunken goat and brie were our favorites), breads, crackers, and fruits to pair with the fabulous wines. There were about six people around each table and the winemakers stayed at each table for about 20 minutes.  We tasted 20+ wines from five up-and-coming boutique wineries along the Central Coast. It was divine.

In the $20 to $40 price range the Central Coast is king. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part the quality to price ratio (QPR) of the Central Coast far outweighs Napa and Sonoma. To be fair Napa and Sonoma have astronomical land prices to deal with and labor is more expensive as well. Of course for truly high-end wines Napa and Sonoma can't be beat, but how often are we drinking those? For me I'd have to say not often enough, but my budget says too often...

Photograph courtesy of Brett Gulash
All of the wines were poured by the winemakers who are also the owners. The winemakers were in there 30's which is quite young by industry standards. They were very approachable and warm, friendly people who were passionate about their wine, but not at all arrogant. They were elated to be doing what they love and to be interacting with people who enjoy their wine. You would think this would be the case everywhere, but alas it isn't. According to Google, these wineries have some great scores from Parker and other wine writers.

The winemakers were:

Brothers Andrew and Lino Bozzanno are the winemakers for Folkway. They make wonderful Bordeaux varietals around $30. I worked with Lino back in the fall of 2005 at Laetitia Vineyards where he was the vineyard manager and is now the VP of vineyard operations. My favorite of theirs was the 2008 Merlot from the highly acclaimed Bien Nacido Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley ($30). It had aromas of bitter-sweet chocolate and dark fruit which carried onto my palate and was joined by cherry notes. The wine was full bodied with wonderful structure, soft tannins, and a nice finish.

Russel From of Herman Story (named after Russel's grandfather) makes big and bold Rhone varietals. He uses a lot of new oak which helps justify being the most expensive bottles of the tasting at just under fifty bucks. If big, bold wines are your thing, then you really need to check out his 2010 On The Road Grenache from the Central Coast. It features scents of rose, plum, violet, and black pepper and tastes of red and black fruit (especially boysenberry) with black tea leaf nuances. This is a full bodied wine with round tannins.

Curt Schalchlin of Sans Liege and Groundwork makes Rhone varietals and Pinot Noir. His 2008 "The Offering" was ranked on Wine Spectator's Top 100 of 2011 at #34. The Groundwork label are everyday wines at under $20 a bottle while the Sans Liege are still a bargain below $40. My favorite of his whites is the 2010 Cotes du Coast from the Central Coast ($26) which is a blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Rousanne, and Grenache Blanc. It has scents of vanilla and orange blossom with hints of butter. On the palate, I noticed honeysuckle, lemon, butter and vanilla. This a medium bodied wine with a long finish. My favorite of his reds was the 2009 Pickpocket Grenache from Paso Robles ($40). The Pickpocket features a bouquet of various tobaccos and creme soda. It has flavors of vanilla, bright cherry, and cinnamon. It has a medium body with silky tannins and a good level of acidity.

Vailia Esh of Desparada and Demure was the only female winemaker of the event. She poured three wines: a Sauvignon Blanc, a Cab, and a Cab/Sangiovese blend and all were excellent values. The 2010 Solacer is 80% Cab and 20% Sangiovese and was my favorite of her wine. It had scents of cherry, blackberry, black pepper, and cloves. All these flavors carried through to the palate where they were joined by vanilla and red currant. The finish was long and the tannins were rounding off, but it could still use a couple years to age.

Andrew Jones of Field Recordings and Fiction started making wine in 2006 with 2 barrels in his garage and now he has 200 barrels. His Fiction label are all blends under $20 and the rest are under $30 a bottle. My favorite of his was the 2010 Cab Franc from Happy Canyon ($21). It was herbaceous and spicy with cherry, fresh herbs and savory notes. It had soft tannins and the flavors would pair nicely with roasted meats.

The event was originally 1 of 5 events for $110, but the other events were canceled because of a lack of interest. I think the flier was a little misleading with the large price tag and small print at the bottom saying the $110 covered all 5 events. I would love to see them expand this to a once per month or once a quarter event. Sadly, it sounds like this is a yearly event. If you are in Marin and you are interested in spending an evening tasting wine and chatting with approachable winemakers let Mill Valley Market know by calling them at (415) 388-3222 or emailing Hopefully a public outpouring will put more events on their calendar.

All of the wines described and many more from these winemakers are available at Mill Valley Market which has been a certified Bay Area Green Business since 2008.

No comments:

Post a Comment