I had the pleasure of being invited by Shannon Burke to attend one of 's last month. Shannon is a wine broker for the five wineries attending the event. They had large platters of various cheeses, breads, crackers, and fruits to pair with the fabulous wines. It was divine.
We tasted 20-plus wines from five up-and-coming boutique wineries along the Central Coast. 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...
All of the wines were poured by the winemakers who are also the owners. The winemakers were in there 30s, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Andrew Jones of Field Recordings and Fiction started making wine in 2006 with 2 barrels in his garage and now he has 200 barrels. Fiction wines are all blends under $20 and the rest of his wines are under $30 a bottle.
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 monthly or quarterly event. Sadly, it sounds like this is an annual event. If you are interested in spending an evening tasting wine and chatting with approachable winemakers, please let Mill Valley Market know by calling them at (415) 388-3222 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. A public outpouring should put more events on their calendar.
What theme, varietal, or region would you find the most interesting?
I would like one focusing on environmentally sustainable winemaking especially after watching Symphony of the Soil!
All of the wines described and many more from these winemakers are available at Mill Valley Market. For selected tasting notes please check out my blog.
Marin resident Brian Jones runs a wine blog at jonesingforwine.com.