From grapevines to fall lines, vintners love attending the Mammoth Festival. Pictured is Trefethen Family Vineyard in Napa, Calif. (Photo courtesy Trefethen)
Like fine wine the Mammoth Festival, now in its fourth year, continues to get better with age. This year’s celebration of wine and music features more than 40 vintners, plus headliner, Train, and several other bands.
If you were ever unsure just how well wine and music go together, sit back and recall all of the popular songs over the years that have the word wine in their title: “A Little More Wine” by Savory Brown, “Elderberry Wine” by Elton John, “Red, Red Wine” by UB40, the list goes on and on, which is why Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has no problem getting vintners to return to the festival year after year.
Two such wineries are Alexander Valley Vineyards and Trefethen Family Vineyards. John Wetzel, of Alexander Valley Vineyards (AVV), has only missed the festival once in the year his father passed away, and looks forward to returning to pour again this year.
It was John’s parents who purchased AVV, and began right away to pride themselves on producing hand crafted, varietal specific, elegant and age-worthy wines. The land that the vineyard sits on runs from the Russian River to the Alexander Valley and was once Cyrus Alexander’s homestead. The valley is named after Alexander who was a pioneer in the area in 1840.
John grew up learning to ski in the Mammoth area and today handles all of the California sales for AVV. He loves the Mammoth Festival because of the outdoor venue and the music.
“As long as the weather behaves it is great to be outdoors drinking wine,” he said. “The Mammoth Festival is the only tasting I’ve been to that has a music event at the end of the day.”
John also adds that the connection to the Southern California market that Mammoth has is huge for the marketing of his business. Tasting events such as the Mammoth Festival are important in general because they help the consumer associate some of AVV’s labels with the vineyard.
“Some of our labels like the Sin Zin and Cyrus don’t look like they are associated with Alexander Valley,” John explained. So it’s an opportunity to put a face, err, a label with a name.
Kazia Schulhof, Southwest Regional Manager for Trefethen Family Vineyards, which boasts high quality wines that use “Napa fruit with an old-world hand,” agrees with Wetzel, and added that it’s also a great way for consumers to try before they buy. In other words, have a sip at the Mammoth Festival before you buy the whole bottle at the grocery store or a local restaurant. AVV wines are available through Side Door Café, and Trefethen is poured at restaurants throughout Mammoth such as Petra’s, Nevado’s, Whiskey Creek and White Bark, according to Wetzel and Schulhof.
So how can Mammoth Festival attendees avoid what Schulhof calls “palette burnout” when drinking wine for four hours?
“Make sure to eat beforehand, take advantage of the food court that is going to be at the festival,” she said. “Drink water along the way and take small sips [of the wine]; pace yourself. Also, a lot of people like to start with white and then move to the reds.” White wines are said to be easier on the palette.
Schulhof added that sometimes, if you do begin to feel that you have ceased to taste the wine you’re sampling, it is good to cleanse your palette with something bubbly and crisp like champagne or a Riesling.
Both Schulhof and Wetzel encourage festival-goers to use the spittoons as well.
“Don’t be shy, the pourers don’t take offense,” Wetzel said. “We know you have a lot of wine to get through.”
AVV will pour its 2008 Sin Zin, 2007 Estate Syrah, 2007 Estate Merlot, and 2008 Estate Cabernet at Saturday’s event. Trefethen will pour its Double T Chardonnay, Double T Red, and a crisp, refreshing, dry Riesling.
The Mammoth Festival takes place Aug. 20-22. Due to the amazing lineup of great vino and great entertainment, tickets are selling out fast. Tickets are only available for Saturday’s event, and prices go up Aug. 16 so visit www.mammothmountain.com to purchase today.