Great wines from family wineries


Jana Harvey of Scott Harvey wines poured the 2010 Zinfandel from Ancient Vines  ·

The Family Winemakers of California annual tasting in San Francisco is a first-class tasting event, focusing on the many good wines that come from small- and medium-sized wineries. I tasted dozens of wines and recommend the following.

Diane Stading of Auriga Wine Cellars poured its 2010 Zinfandel among other wines. This wine, made from El Dorado County grapes grown on 35-year-old vines on the ridge of the Sumu Kaw Vineyard near Placerville, features an intense fruitiness. It is big and bold and juicy, well balanced with bright notes and good acidity. The flavor also had notes of Bing cherry, with deep grape flavors, nice spices and pepper tones, along with vanilla and oak on the finish. “This is one of my finest zinfandels,” said the winemaker. 15 percent alcohol. $24 by the bottle. Visit

Another nice Zinfandel made from El Dorado grapes, in this case the Gold Hill Vineyards, is the 2010 Zinfandel from Frog’s Tooth Vineyards of Murphys. 15 percent alcohol. $26 by the bottle. Visit

Marilee Shaffer of Urban Legend Winery poured a 2010 Dolcetto made with grapes from the LBS Ranch/Lava Cap vineyards near Placerville. Aroma of black cherry and plum, and cherry flavor dominates. There’s a bit of red raspberry flavor, too, and, on the finish, a tad of mocha and hint of almond. This 2010 Dolcetto, of which 125 cases were produced, sells at $25 a bottle. 14.6 percent alcohol. Visit

Suzy Gullett of Vino Noceto, Amador County, poured the 21st vintage of its Sangiovese, made in a Chianti style. Flavor is fruit forward cranberry and cherry character, and a hint of chocolate. Highly versatile with food, and lauded as the best Sangiovese in California. 14 percent alcohol. $18 by the bottle. Visit

C.G. Di Arie featured its new Summer Breeze, an El Dorado blend of Zinfandel, Primitivo and Barbera. This wine was served chilled “on the tap” via a bladder system within the barrel developed by Chaim Gur-Arieh, a well-known food scientist. A huge hit with consumers at the tasting, and although Summer Breeze is only available in the keg-with-tap system now, I suspect it will be in the regular wine offerings soon. Visit

Jana Harvey of Scott Harvey wines, Amador County and Napa, poured its 2010 Zinfandel from Ancient Vines, the “1869.” This Amador wine is a briary zin with flavor of deep blackberry, fig, pomegranate and violets. The hint of coffee and currant make it truly delicious. 14.5 percent alcohol. $45 by the bottle. Visit

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Barbara Keck
Barbara started writing for newspapers when she was 14 and continues to write, most recently the “Wineries of the Sierra Foothills” book published by Range of Light Media, parent company of The Tahoe Weekly. Barbara wrote the wine column for the Weekly for many years, and contributes occasional tidbits on tourism and entertainment topics. A long marketing consulting career that included extensive international travel led her to conclude that Lake Tahoe is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Almost 20 years of enjoying the seasons on the West Shore of Lake Tahoe has confirmed her belief.