Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 (#WBC14), Day 1

View at Fess ParkerI’m attending the Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 in Santa Barbara, California, and what I will try to do is to give you a brief round up of my daily experiences. This is my only hope to have some level of concise picture of what was happening at the conference – there are way too many wines to taste and way too many experiences to have – unless I do this daily, it will all blur together next week.

In case you are not familiar with the event, Wine Bloggers Conference is exactly what the name says – an event where wine bloggers, wine writers and wine producers get together and discuss all the aspects of the “wine media”. Now in its 7th year, the Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC for short) is taking place in different locations, generally related to the wine production, and this year the location is Santa Barbara county. This is my first WBC event (had been contemplating for a while), so many things are new to me. That’s all I have for the intro, if you are interested in more details, please take a look at the WBC web site.

Here is what I managed to do on my first day. I started the trip early in the morning (at about 3:30 AM) to get from New York to Santa Barbara. The two hours delay, thanks to United (my beloved airline with love/hate relationship), didn’t help, but still didn’t derail may plans, only made me to move a bit faster. Arrived, got a car (with additional unexpected delay now courtesy of Hertz) and then started driving to the Zaca Mesa winery, my first destination. Took the wrong turn, ended up on the beautiful mountain-side drive, so things started to turn to the better.

I managed to visit three wineries which we were on my list for Santa Ynez Valley – Zaca Mesa, Fess Parker and Andrew Murray. I will not give you full details of the tastings now (will reserve for the separate post), but I can tell you that all three wineries had some absolutely outstanding wines (outstanding enough to force me to break my resolve not to buy any wines during this trip). Syrah was a star at Zaca Mesa, Pinot Noir was outstanding at Fess Parker, and I was blown away by the rendition of all the Rhone varietals (Cinsault, Mourvedre, Syrah and Viognier) at Andrew Murray Vineyards – here is one picture for you:

Andrew Murray Rhone Line-up

After the tour of the wineries, I arrived to the hotel, and later on went for the expo and reception, where we had an opportunity to taste wines (surprise) and look at some innovative products.

As with any conferences and expos, we were offered a number of giveaways. Here is the most thoughtful one – bottle of water with attached travel pack of advil, for the “morning after”:

Water and Advil, how thoughtful!

Water and Advil, how thoughtful!

Before I wil present the highlights of the tasting, let me tell you about couple of interesting product presentations. First, there was a Sonic Decanter – the device which subjects the bottle of wine to the sound energy for about 35 minutes, which completely changes the taste profile of wine. First I wanted to dismiss it as a simple gimmick, but after tasting the wine before and after, I found out that it actually works and changes the taste. If this is a good thing or a bad thing, I will let you decide after the separate post.

Sonic Decanter

NomacorkAnother interesting presentation was given by Nomacork, a producer of the engineered cork. This cork is made out of the real cork tree, but it is not just a piece of the bark, it is made out of the actual cork tree material, and it can be engineered to allow different levels of oxygen exposure to the wine. To show how it works, the folks at Nomacork had a tasting of the same wine, 2012 Viognier, bottled at the same exact time with two different corks, allowing different levels of the oxygen penetration. The wine which was allowed more oxygen was showing considerably better, so this definitely works. The advantage of Nomacork is consistency, as it eliminates bottle variation, ability to control oxygen intake and the fact that it is still made from the natural material (versus Stelvin screw top, for instance) – and it is the cork which you will have to pull out and not just screw off. The disadvantage to me – I like the natural cork, and I like bottle variation, that mystical element in wine. But – as anyone else, I don’t like tainted wine… So I really can’t make up my mind on this.

And now, few of the wine highlights. Here is what I liked during the tasting – I can only give you “best memory effort” notes, as there were no paper handouts of any sort, so I had to rely only on my camera and the memory. Still, these are the wines which stood out.

2012 Ken Brown Chardonnay Nielson Vineyard Santa Maria Valley – beautiful, classic Chardonnay, with all the flavors being present and in balance – vanilla, butter, toasted bread, perfect acidity.

2013 Tercero The Outlier Gewurztraminer Santa Barbara County – I was very impressed – Gewurztraminer is one of the most difficult grapes to achieve balance, and this wine had it – touch of spice, touch of floral notes, creamy and round – an excellent wine.

2011 Alta Maria Vineyards Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley – classic California Pinot Noir, good concentration, very well balanced.

2010 Baehner Fournier Vineyards Solus Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley – classic, concentrated, hint of green bell peppers, delicious overall.

2011 Santa Barbara Winery Primitivo Joughin Vineyard, Santa Ynez Valley – another surprise – excellent, balanced wine, muted raspberries and good concentration, good acidity. Very solid effort.

2010 Ken Brown Pinot Noir Rancho La Vina Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills – excellent California Pinot Noir – dark power and finesse.

2012 Alma Rosa Pinot Noir La Encantada Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills – another excellent California Pinot Noir – perfect fruit and perfect balance.

2011 Longoria Tempranillo Santa Ynez Valley – and yet another surprise. Excellent Tempranillo, more on the level of Toro than Rioja or Ribera del Duero – powerful, dense, but well balanced and not over the top. I’m happy do discover more of the old world grapes perfectly executed on the US soil.

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That concludes my report about the first day of the conference. Stay tuned, as we are only getting started : ). Cheers!

  1. Antisocial Patty
    July 11, 2014 at 10:42 am

    I’m surprised your resolve not to buy any wine lasted as long as it did. 🙂 Cheers!

    • talkavino
      July 11, 2014 at 10:46 am

      hmmm, it was gone after the first sip of Zaca Mesa Syrah, so yes, for about 10 minutes…

  2. July 11, 2014 at 10:52 am

    I think I need to hook up with this conference…that’s THREE of you now that have posted about this conference! Is it strictly an American thing? Just curious….sounds fun anyway! Cheers!

    • talkavino
      July 11, 2014 at 11:05 am

      🙂 The WBC is an American conference. And there is a separate one in Europe, used to be called a European Bloggers Conference, and now it is a Digital Wine Communication Conference, DWCC: http://2014.dwcc.co/

  3. July 11, 2014 at 11:05 am

    The Sonic Decanter was cool, but the guy was a little too overly enthusiastic for me.

    • talkavino
      July 11, 2014 at 11:07 am

      way too enthusiastic… I tasted 3 different wines and it was all over the place for me, so unless someone wants to experiment with their wines, I’m not sure it is a wise $200 investment…

  4. Theresa
    July 11, 2014 at 11:25 am

    I enjoyed the Ken Brown Pinot Noir as well. I think it was my favorite from the evening. As for that sonic decanter, the engineer in me is still a skeptic. Since it forces you to wait for the timer to tick off twenty minutes, perhaps it just forces a bit of patience in the decanting? I would rather put my $200 towards Riedel’s Eve decanter.

    • talkavino
      July 11, 2014 at 11:28 am

      We are in full agreement regarding Sonic Decanter – too much manipulation for me. And I would rather prefer Doctor Who Sonic screwdriver 🙂

      • Theresa
        July 11, 2014 at 11:38 am

        If you know how to get a real sonic screwdriver, do tell! That would be the piece de resistance!

  5. July 11, 2014 at 2:52 pm

    I’m glad you guys are having a good experience! The water with the Advil chaser is brilliant! Cheers!!

    • talkavino
      July 12, 2014 at 9:38 am

      We are definitely having fun! Yes, that combo might be useful for some people today… : )

  6. Bottle Talks
    July 11, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Enjoyed your post – especially the part about the Nomacork. Write on and enjoy the conference! : )

    • talkavino
      July 12, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Thank you! Will do!

  7. July 11, 2014 at 3:36 pm

    So much fun! I look forward to attending next year! Hope the water/Advil combo is a daily giveaway! Cheers!

    • talkavino
      July 12, 2014 at 9:37 am

      Yes, Michelle, definitely a fun and educational event! Hope you will join next year!

  8. July 12, 2014 at 7:45 am

    I couldn’t get past the fact that the conference was in Santa Barbara. That’s where I lived when I was in college. Such a lovely place. Glad you got lost and saw some scenery!

    • talkavino
      July 12, 2014 at 9:36 am

      Yes, this is a beautiful place!

  9. July 13, 2014 at 6:42 pm

    Looking forward to more, sounds great, the winery tour, the water and advil, the wine and more wine, Sounds like fun and I can’t wait to find out more about that sonic device I can’t wrap myself around how that works.

    • talkavino
      July 14, 2014 at 10:25 pm

      Thanks, Suzanne! More is coming… It is hard to wrap the head around it – too many impressions…

  1. July 26, 2014 at 6:20 am
  2. August 12, 2014 at 7:31 am

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