SMALL-BATCH MAGIC: The family winery is one of those businesses that will forever have a dash of fiction to it. It's been portrayed on film and television -- remember "Encore, Encore" with Nathan Lane? -- and it is often the setting for romance-type stories. (A warm-eyed hero inherits the family land but only the attractive botanist from the local university can help him get it going again.) Perhaps that is because we tend to dream of living on a winery at some point, with loved ones, conveniently forgetting that it is, like most everything in life, less about walking dreamily around with a glass of merlot in hand than work work work work. And more work. But that's part of what makes the wines that come out of our state's smaller, family-owned vineyards so tasty; a finite group of people, some related, are all putting a lot of love and tradition into each bottle. And while you can usually hit a few family wineries while out tasting in Temecula or Santa Ynez or Paso Robles or NorCal, having the bulk of them gather in one spot over two days is rather a feat. But the Family Wineries of California pulls this off, year in and year out, at Del Mar Fairgrounds. And the organization will again, on Saturday, March 9.
RAISE A GLASS: The tasting is actually happening over two days -- March 9 and 10 -- but the bulk of that time will be devoted to trade. The public, however, is invited to purchase tickets for the afternoon of March 9. And early bird ticket is $50 but the price'll rise as the date draws near. Whatever point you buy it at, consider it a rare opportunity to get acquainted with several Golden State labels in one fell swoop. Make those family-owned labels. Nope, a warm-eyed hero is probably not waiting on you to help him run his gorgeous winery, but there are several warm-hearted people who turn out some great wine around California through loads of hard work and familial support.