Notes from Family Winemakers 2009

Family Winemakers 2009

Cabot Vineyards
An absolute jewel in the rough. John and Kimberly Cabot have established this small vineyard in the far northern California reaches, about 20 miles inland from the Pacific, perched above the Klamath river at a latitude midway between Eureka and Crescent city. They grow several varieties, including Zin, and Cabernet, but Syrah is clearly the sweet spot. A nicer, more down to earth young couple you will not meet, and the wines they have produced are some of the best I tasted in the entire hall. I look forward to seeing what they’re able to accomplish as the vineyards gain more age, and they continue to fine tune things in both the vineyard and winemaking. These are truly cooler climate wines, made in a pure style that lets the terroir really come through, low percentages of new oak, moderate whole cluster fermentations, just terrific expressions of Syrah. A warning to lovers of ultra-ripe, manipulated wines like Sine Qua Non: you may find these too reserved and elegant.

2006 Syrah Kimberly’s - very nice medium fruit, some pepper, a nice lift from a bit of co-fermented viognier. 92
2006 Syrah Aria’s - 50% whole cluster, shows off a nose of smoked meat and white pepper, beautiful dark, reserved fruit, more on the red end of the spectrum than blue/black, plenty of spice and pepper, with excellent depth and structure. A fabulous wine. 93
2006 Syrah Humboldt County - priced as a lesser blend wine, it doesn’t drink that way, showing loads of deep, dark fruit, a bit more forward and lush than the Aria’s or Kimberly’s, very nice. 92
2006 Zinfandel Humboldt - medium body, nice, reserved fruit, fairly high acid, an unusual cool climate Zin, but quite nice! 88
2006 Zin Tributary - 80/20 zin/syrah, nice, smooth, lush, great balance, fun wine, great BBQ wine. 91

2007 Syrah Bennett Valley “Cardiac Hill” - deep, lush, shows some ripe character but has plenty of acidity and terrific complexities to carry it through, with a long finish. 92
2007 Zinfandel Papera - nose gives off a touch of ripe fruit, palate is just loaded with deep, lush, spicy, complex zin fruit, tremendous acidity, long finish. 93

Cavus Vineyards
2005 Cabernet - lush, sweet, bit short on the finish, lacks complexity and structure. Another poster child for the overripe, overpriced Napa Cab crowd. 86

Demetria Estate
2006 Cuvee Papou - Marsanne, viognier, grenache blanc, roussanne; an interesting white blend, showing on the ripe/lush side, but shored up by just enough minerality, would probably be great on a hot summer day. 88
2006 Pinot Cuvee Sandra - decent medium cherry, somewhat on the ripe side, medium body, good acidity. 88
2006 Syrah North Slope - medium body, bit ripe, not giving away much interest or complexity. 88

2006 “Facets” - nice fairly ripe fruit, good structure. 89
2006 Cabernet 10th Anniversary - dark, lush, moderate tannins, decent cali-style cab. 90

2006 Cabernet - good, medium depth fruit, lush, fairly tannic finish. 90

Grey Stack
2008 Sauvignon Blanc - those that have liked previous versions of this wine will love this, a huge nose of ripe gooseberry, tropical melon, ripe grapefruit, deep, lush, vibrant wine. For my tastes, this is just a bit too “much”, but there is no doubt this is an impressive, unique wine. 93
2007 Grenache - very expressive nose of crushed red fruit and perfume, nice raspberry and dark cherry fruit, showing some ripe character but with excellent structure. 91
2007 Syrah/Grenache “The Folly” - very nice bright boysenberry/cherry/raspberry fruit, great acidity, good overall structure. 92
2006 Syrah Marie’s - deep, lush, slightly riper style this vintage, good overall balance. 90

Lagier Meredith
2007 Zinfandel “Chester’s Anvil” - medium body, very nice rich, dark zinberry, long finish. 91
2007 Syrah - deep boysenberry fruit, great acidity, fabulous wine, reminds me of the 98 vintage, which is now drinking superbly. 93
2006 Syrah - deep, rich, more black fruited, lush, good balance, give it 6-10 years and watch out. 92
2005 Syrah - dark, more reserved than 06, showing some nice dried herbs. This wine has gone through a phase where it wasn’t showing much over the past year, but is now emerging again with some great complexities. 92

2007 Pinot Mays Canyon - beautiful medium bodied light cherry, good acidity. 91
2007 Pinot Savoy - light body, higher acidity, showing a lack of depth at the moment, hmm. 87

Mount Eden Vineyards
2006 Chardonnay Estate - nose shows off some oak, but doesn’t appear on the palate, bit ripe/lush, decent acid, seems fairly typical Cali-style Chard. 88
2006 Pinot Estate - lighter bodied, decent red fruit, good acidity, medium short finish. 88

O’Shaughnessy Estate
2006 Cabernet Howell Mountain - dark, lush, but showing some nice complexities, a bit of oak on the finish. 90
2006 Cabernet Mt. Veeder - nice dark fruit, good structure, with excellent structure and some nice complexities on the finish. 92

2007 Zinfandel - quite ripe on entry, zingy acidity for balance, touch of raisin, good balance. 91

2006 Merlot - beautiful medium body, lush, medium dark fruit, nice structure, good finish, not showing nearly as much chocolate oak as I’ve picked up in some earlier years. An excellent Paloma. 92

2007 Pinot Garys’ - nice mediuim fruit, bit on the riper side but good balance, showing a bit of the stem inclusion. 90
2007 Pinot Pisoni Estate - big, deep, dark wine, not overripe, nice tannic structure and some black tea on the finish, an excellent wine in the bigger Cali style. 91

Robert Biale
2007 Zinfandel Black Chicken - very nice dark fruit, not at all ripe or overly sweet, medium finish. 91
2007 Zinfandel Stagecoach - very nice medium dark zinberry fruit, slight sweetness, medium finish. 90
2007 Zinfandel Monte Rosso - quite dark, some sweetness but also more complexities to hold interest, excellent overall structure and a longer finish than the first two wines. 92

Storybook Mountain
2007 Zinfandel Mayacamas - nice deep fruit, medium body, slight sweetness, good balance. 88
2006 Zinfandel Estate “Eastern Exposure” - some viognier in the blend, very nice medium body, some nice crispness, quite a fresh and lively wine. 90

Tablas Creek
2007 Mourvedre - lush fruit, some good complexity and structure. 90
2007 Grenache - ripe strawberry/raspberry, finishes with some slightly raw tannins. 88
2005 Syrah - medium ripe, bit raisiny, almost a burnt note, tannic finish. 85
2006 Esprit de Beaucastel Rouge - deep, lush, nice complexities, balanced, bit ripe but nice. For the same price, I’d much rather drink the french Coudoulet. 90

2007 Zinfandel Howell Mountain - nice lush fruit, decent balance. 90

Thanks for posting your notes so quickly, Alan. Heard you were there yesterday, sorry I missed seeing you. Agree about the Cabot wines, especially those Syrahs - really exceptional! And the '07 Lagier Meredith Syrah is already showing beautifully. The Grey Stack Sauvignon Blanc may have been my favorite white wine of the tasting. I was planning to taste the Carlisle wines today but there was no one at the table - heard later that the wines Mike had left at the event for today’s tasting were stolen, what a bummer! It will be a little while before I get my notes together (tasted whites yesterday and reds today) but I will post them!

I agree with many of Alan’s observations for the wines I also tried.
The 2007 Lagier-Meredith Syrah is outstanding. The Carlisle 2007 Zinfandel was also quite nice.
THat I generally dislike sauvignon blanc but love Grey Stacks’ SB continues to be a source of surprise for me. It was excellent. Intense flavors but not over the top.
I didn’t get much on Mount Eden’s wines but I wondered if it’s because they’re built to age and need time to show their best.

We seem to have some disagreements on Tablas Creek. I loved the 2005 and 2006 Mourvedre, but the 2007 didn’t seem to match that level. On the other hand, I thought the grenache was rocking. Balanced and some complexity.
The two best wines at Tablas Creek were the 2007 Espirit de Beaucastel blanc and the 2006 Espirit de Beaucastel rouge. Drinking well now with a potential to age.
Other wines that stand out:
Varner’s 2005 Neely pinot was drinking excellently and the 2006 blend was nice. The 2007 Bee Block seemed a bit oaky, but they thought it was because it had been bottled within the last month. I believe them.
JK Wine Company is a new Paso Robles-based winery started by Justin Kahler, who makes wines for Michaud. I liked his vigonier, grenache blanc and syrah but the one that seemed new and different was the albarino. Nice, zippy acidity and good length.
Pierce Ranch had another good mix of Spanish/Portuguese varietals. The touriga nacional was particularly nice.
The Navaro Chardonnay and pinot, both 2006, I think, were nice.
The Handley 2007 Gewurztraminer and the 2007 Mendocino Pinot Noir were both excellent as well.
The 2007 CLos Pepe showed well.
I like the Frick carignane and cinsault. The cinsault in particular stands out. It’s not just a blending grape in this bottling.

Meant to get to the Frick table to taste their reds yesterday but didn’t make it. Glad to hear they were good.


Thanks for the notes. Great to hear about the Cabot wines - too bad John and Kimberley are such terrible folks neener

I’ve always enjoyed the Tablas stuff but it’s always been difficult to ‘compare/contrast’ these with other wines at tastings . . . for the simple reason that they tend to be more on the ‘elegant, restrained, balanced’ side and those types of wines do not usually stand out from the crowd in a mass tasting . . .

The Demetria wines are very interesting. Most of these come from their estate vyd, which is Andrew Murray’s old estate. If you ever have a chance to come down here, let me know and I’ll hook you up with them for a tour - awesome site!


Great seeing and tasting with everyone both days. Overall Sunday was a bust for most wineries I talked to. The trade portion was pretty weak and the overall consumer level was down.
Monday was a strong showing by the trade. You guys definitely brought your A game. It’s good to be winery direct again.
CORE wine company

Could not agree more on the Cabot Vineyard Syrahs. There were my favorite wines of the tasting, especially the special barrel wine. John and Kimberly were a pleasure to meet and are doing a great job with their wines. No question, not a SQN style Syrah, but more Rhone like, elegant, complex, and deep. Cannot beat the price for the quality on this one. Other wines I thought showed well were Pahlmeyer, Gemstone, Donum, Martinelli, Saddleback, Fisher (Wedding), and Spring Mountain in that order.

Overall, thought it was one of the worst showing of wines in the past six or so years attending this event. A lot of not so exciting wines of about 100 to 150 sampled.


The complaint I heard was too much of the same thing. Over oaked chardonnay, Cab and Pinot. Wineries need to bring their best wines and not the ones they’re having trouble selling. Trade needs to do a better job of researching the wineries before the event. The people who come prepared are usually rewarded at this event.


Dave, regarding ‘trade needs to do a better job of researching the wineries before the event’ - that seems ridiculous to me, honestly. The ‘trade’ that runs this operation is looking to fill as many tables as possible, and whomever shows up with a check is IN. That’s the status quo for conventions/events such as these…

The assumption is true, however, that this might negatively affect ‘Family Winemakers’ as an organization, as you can’t get repeat attendees by putting forth a bad show, and without attendees, you won’t get exhibitors, and then you don’t get the checks.

I think Dave meant trade to be restauranteurs / somms / retailers, etc. need to find which wineries have brought what and go to those immediately and directly (correct me if I’m wrong.)

I got a chance to hang out with them at last weekend’s Berserker’s Trip to Brazil. I just wish they would break out of their shells…[g]


You’re correct. I’m referring to retailers, restaurants, brokers and distributors. There is not another event in California where all of these wineries come together.

Pasadena in March… [tease.gif] Boo Ya!


Thanks for the notes, and thanks a lot for turning me onto the Cabot wines on Sunday. Great tip! I was impressed. And we’re quite close or the same on almost all the wines we both tasted. (I kept my Zin tasting to a minimum, as I have low tolerance for the varietal, especially the ripe and raisiny ones.)

It’s going to take me another couple days to finish my notes on about 250 wines tasted in the two days. Contrary to a comment above, I tasted a lot of very good wines at this event, but in all the years I’ve been going to FW, I was more targeted in what I tasted than ever before, relying on my own past history, research and recommendations, and avoiding producers I knew nothing about. If I’d just gone table by table, I’m sure I’d have had a similar experience to that comment above, as that’s sometimes been the case in the past.

Just to clarify, tend to target wines year after year, and do not just go from table to table randomly tasting wine. This was one of the worst Family Winemakers in the last six or so years in terms of quality. The wines overall were unimpressive, and not showing well IMO. Some exceptions noted above. If you found quality to your personal palate, more power to ya, and more wine for you to buy!!!


Actually, it’s a trade-off between going to wineries you know to check out the latest vintages and hitting some of the newer wineries (or ones you don’t know) looking for the good, new producers. I’ve been introduced to a number of good wineries over the years at tastings like FW.

BTW, the Cabot wines are super, but I was introduced to them in a certain someone’s hotel room on a drizzly night several months ago.


Just got home from our long trip.

Thanks to all of you who stopped by. It was great to meet so many berserkers. grouphug I just wished I could’ve gotten out more to taste other wines, but Kimberly did a pretty good job of grabbing samples and bringing them back to the table. I really hope we can make it for BFest2. Sounds like it will be an incredible party.

Great seeing you and Kimberly, John. Seems like you had a pretty busy road trip.


It was great to see John & Kimberly at the FWC tasting, and Dave Corey too (and welcome to the WB board, Dave!). A surprise was running into Jonathan Lachs & Susan Marks from Cedarville Vineyard. They weren’t pouring, just tasting, and I hadn’t expected to see them there. And there were lots of other people it was fun to see again, both behind the tables and out tasting wines.

Regarding Nick’s overall assessment of the wines at the event, I’d agree that there were a lot of wines that didn’t do much for me. Of course there were some standouts but I was expecting more of them…although I ran out of time and didn’t end up tasting at a number of tables I’d hoped to get to. Seems hard to believe that 10 hours of tasting wasn’t enough time, but it’s true!

Like wise, Al.
Yes, a wedding in So. Cal., a fun offline full of scantily clad, gyrating Brazilian women, a bunch of juice slinging in the wines shops of the south land, and two days at family winemakers. We’re pretty wiped out, but loved every minute of it.