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McManis Family Vineyards: Good Wines, Good Values–Even Family Values

8 Feb

By Sharon Kapnick

I’m always pleased to come across a producer that makes good-value wines, so I was delighted to recently discover McManis Family Vineyards, which makes several of them. After I noticed that their $10 2009 Pinot Noir was chosen by the Wine Enthusiast as one of the Top 100 Best Buys of 2011, I wanted to learn more about them. After all, excellent $10 Pinots are about as easy to come by as flamingos in Central Park.

I found out that the McManis family had been growing grapes, almonds and peaches in the Northern Interior region of California since 1938. But Ron McManis fell in love with the grape side of the business, so in 1990, as soon as they could manage it financially, 4th generation farmer McManis and his wife, Jamie, purchased their first vineyard. Then, in 1994, they founded the McManis Family Vineyards, 80 miles east of San Francisco. With some vineyards in Lodi and some in Modesto, the McManises sold only bulk wine until 2001, when they bottled their first wines using the family label.

The wines can generally be found for an easy-on-the-pocketbook $8 to $9 a bottle in a wide range of varietals–Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel, Malbec and Barbera. Last year saw the addition of two even-more-inexpensive options: a red blend and a white blend in nonvintage box-wine formats.

The wines truly are a family effort. Fifth generation daughter Tanya and son Justin are involved, and the McManises look upon their workers as part of an extended family. No big corporations are involved in this business.

In a testament to their skill and hard work, production has gone from 4,000 cases to more than 300,000 cases in a decade. And while McManis started out selling grapes in bulk to other wineries, they now purchase about 25% of the grapes they use in their own wines.

Another reason to support them: the company is currently planning to reach green winery certification from the Lodi Rules for Sustainable Winegrowing program and it adheres to sustainable farming practices.

Their goal, Ron says, is to “constantly showcase the passion and commitment we have to make quality wines that overdeliver on value and are consistently good year after year.” They’re doing a pretty good job at it.

RECOMMENDED WINES

2010 Viognier (SRP* $12): aromas and flavors of pear, peach and apricot, a touch of honey, good acidity, good balance; recently won the “Best in Class” award for Viogniers up to $19.99 at the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

2010 Malbec (SRP $12): aromas and flavors of raspberry and blackberry, good acidity, medium body, delicious

2010 Merlot (SRP $11): aromas and flavors of black cherry, berries; juicy, soft; recently won the “Best in Class” award for Merlots $10 to $14.99 at the 2012 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

2010 Petite Sirah (SRP $12): aromas and flavors of blackberry, boysenberry and cassis, smooth, soft, flavorful

Jack Tone Vineyards Red Wine (SRP $22 per 3-L box, equivalent to four bottles): The blend, which may include Petite Sirah, Syrah, Zinfandel and Petit Verdot, will change from year to year. It currently features Syrah and Petite Sirah. Aromas and flavors of dark berries, especially blackberry. A great bargain

* suggested retail price

Full disclosure: I received samples of these wines.

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