The Family Winemakers of California tasting is a San Francisco tradition. Established 21 years ago as a means of exposing small, little-known wineries to wine distributors and retailers, it has since expanded to provide the public, in addition to the trade, exposure and access to these wines.
The huge event, which showcases more than 1,000 wines from about 350 small, family-owned wineries, is mercifully spread across two days, with the first two hours of each day reserved for trade and the next three open to the public. Thank goodness for two days, since it is impossible for even the most practiced of “tasters,” much less “drinkers” to explore and meaningfully critique even one of the most well-represented varietals, particularly the ubiquitous Cabernets.
Even the most casual of tasters, however, should come to the event with a full stomach, since the food at the packed Fort Masson Festival Pavilion is limited to bread, crackers and scattered platters of cheese. Luckily, however, people who began their tasting odyssey before 1:30 PM on Sunday also had access to a wide range of delicious, locally produced food. The reason—Fort Mason is the site of a weekly (every Sunday from 9:30-1:30) Farmers’ Market. (Although selections are certainly more limited than at the huge Ferry Building Farmers’ Market, prices are considerably lower.)
In addition to fresh produce, the market also has a number of prepared food stands. Wine tasters can prepare themselves for the marathon by sampling everything from ceviche and soups to tacos and giant bratwursts (with fried onions on fresh rolls, of course) to Roli Roti rotisserie. And, for those who prefer a sit-down meal—before or after the tasting, can instead visit Fort Mason’s Greens Restaurant, the creative, always delicious vegetarian restaurant that has been a San Francisco institution since 1979.
But wherever and whatever you decide to eat, be sure to save your taste buds for the incredible selection of some of the best wines produced in California.