Report from California Wine Festival

Great Tastes from Regions Near and Far

There couldn’t have been a more delightful day for this year’s California Wine Festival at West Beach: the sun unflaggingly shined over the dozens of white booths that offered confections from all over the state — mostly wine, but also ales and lagers, olive oils, culinary creations, art, housewares, and even some tequila.

Hailing from Lodi, LangeTwins poured a 2007 Sauvignon Blanc with bright fruit, suitable for such a sunny, upbeat day. Hybrid by Peltier Station’s sub-$10 wines, including it’s nicely-balanced, mellow 2010 chardonnay and a 2007 petite sirah loaded with dessert-pairing flavor, would be hard to refuse, considering the easy price. Klinker Brick’s 2008 syrah provided plenty of length and no lack of the intense, chocolaty, meaty characteristics that warm weather syrahs show well.

I had tasted Adalaida in Paso Robles almost two years ago, so I made a point to revisit their wines, which turned out to be as good as I remembered them. Their candied, warm weather 2008 HMR Vineyard Pinot Noir, and the 2008 California Cabernet Sauvignon from S. Viking Vineyard — with a great balance of fruitiness and tartness, hints of spiciness, and lots of length — certainly stood out. Likewise, their 2008 Estate Zinfandel will give fans of the ultra-fruity grape the “wow” factor it’s renowed for.

Also from Paso Robles, Opolo become one of my favorite booths to visit. Not only because I enjoyed the wines, but because pourer, Jeff Faber, added liveliness and character to the experience, prompting us to clink classes and yell out, “Opolo!” between each tasting. The 2008 Muscat Canelli started us on the right track, with crisp Asian pear and apple flavors, and a refreshing feel reminiscent of cucumber and celery. The 2008 Sangiovese provided a well-rounded, classic California Italian, and the 2008 Grenache showed tropical fruits and Tahitian vanilla.

A year ago, I fell for Tercero’s wines, and it was great to see winemaker Larry Schaffer still pouring his uber dark, if not downright inky (in a great way) confections. The only gewurztraminer I ran into of the day, his 2009 “The Outlier,” refreshed my palate under the sun with a perfectly balanced body. The 2006 Granche Blanc beamed with lemon and herbal notes, the 2006 Camp 4 Grenache had to be the darkest, most chocolaty grenache I’ve ever tried, the 2007 Petite Sirah stunned with even darker, dirtier flavors, and the rest of his wines showed exquisite balance and well-developed character.

Although I went for the wine, it would be wrong to not mention Firestone’s IPAs, as well as the beer we tried from Ventura’s Surf Brewery. Il Fustino got me hooked on their assortment of olive oils, especially their basil and jalapeno flavors.

What’s great about the California Wine Festival is that it provides attendees with the opportunity to compare so many lesser-known wine regions — both invaluably educational and boisterously fun. The grass lawns sprawled out before the Pacific Ocean became a playground of sorts for several hours, and I would be shocked if anyone on it didn’t leave the festival with a renewed fondness for the golden state.


To prepare for next year, see

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