Archive

Posts Tagged ‘santa ynez valley’

Month in Wines – July 2014

August 4, 2014 2 comments

Uff, July was a busy wine month! Especially taking into account the Wine Bloggers Conference experiences, there were quite a few wines which were on the high mark. Anyway, below are the wine highlights of the month – the wines which were rated 8- out of 10 or higher. Here we go, without any particular order:

NV Ruffino Prosecco DOC – nice apple on the nose, good firm acidity with the touch of apple on the palate. An excellent sparkler. 8-

2013 La Garagista Coup de Foudre Pettilant Naturel, Vermont (11% ABV) – Minerality through the roof, round and delicious until the very last drop. 8

2012 Bellangelo Dry Riesling Finger Lakes (12.3% ABV) – Perfect Riesling nose, clean fruit, minerality and excellent acidity. 8

2013 Bellangelo Dry Riesling Finger Lakes Seneca Lake (11.3% ABV) – nose of white stone fruit, honeydew. Touch of green apple and expressive minerality on the palate. 8

2012 Bellangelo Semi-Dry Riesling Finger Lakes (11% ABV) – nice white fruit on the nose and palate, shouldn’t be consumed ice cold, as it removes form the wine. 8-

2013 Bellangelo Semi Dry Riesling Finger Lakes Seneca Lake (10.8% ABV) -apricot on white peaches on the nose. Very refreshing and a pleasure to drink. 8

2013 Château du Rouët Rosé Cuvée Réservée Tradition Côtes de Provence AOP  (12.5% ABV) – strawberries + perfect acidity = refreshing summer wine. 8-

2013 Charles Krug Sauvignon Blanc St. Helena – Napa  – outstanding. Grass, cat pee, lemon, refreshing and balanced – what else you can wish for? 8

2012 Donnachiara Fiano de Avelino DOCG Montefalcione (13% ABV) – sweet fruit on the nose, plump, open, touch of minerality and fresh cut grass, nice acidity. 8-

2013 Aridus Viognier Arizona – beautiful nose, classic floral Viognier , very elegant (despite a touch of heat), nice saltiness on the palate, great complexity. 8-

2012 Sevtap Istanbul Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley (12.4% ABV) – unusual nose, beautiful concentrated fruit, refreshing. 8-

2013 Imagine French Colombard California (13.6% ABV) – simple, refreshing, nice lemony notes and acidity. Perfect for the summer day. 8-

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

2007 Ar. Pe.Pe Rosso di Valtelina DOC (13% ABV) – Nebbiolo at its best. Not the powerful rendition covered in impenetrable oak armor, but naked, vulnerable grape, in its sweet plum and sapidity (thank you, Stefano!) elegance. Really a beautiful wine. 8

2011 Ravenswood Zinfandel Teldeschi Single Vineyard Dry Creek Valley, California – delicious, layer after layer. Restrained, with smokey raspberries and herbs, perfect fruit, silky tannins and savory notes. Did I say “delicious” already? 8+

2012 Field Recordings Petite Sirah Huerhuero Vineyard Paso Robles (15.1% ABV) – wow. Sweet fruit, blueberries, blackberries, over the top wine – but with an excellent balance. If you have the bottle, don’t open it now – it will evolve over the next 4-5 years. 8+

2011 BellinghamThe Bernard Series Small Barrel S.M.V. Coastal Region WO, South Africa (14% ABV, 75% Shiraz, 22% Mourvedre, 3% Viognier) – Very restrained, firmly structured, perfect acidity and with a good portion of the dark magic of Shiraz. 8-

2011 Casa Bianchi Premium Leo Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina (15% ABV) – nose of supple fruit, herbs and spices, touch of eucalyptus and dark chocolate.  Very dense, balanced and smooth on the palate. 8-

2010 Vineyard 511 Cabernet Sauvignon Diamond Mountain – sweet plums and cassis on the nose, touch of eucalyptus, great density, elegant and with the excellent aging potential. 9-

2011 Rodney Strong Vineyards Symmetry Meritage – open herbaceous nose, touch of red fruit, raspberries, cherries, firm structure, firm tannins. An excellent Bordeaux blend. 8

2006 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – beautiful nose, open fruit, touch of earthiness, cassis, the same on the palate. Perfect Cab! 8

2010 Jordan Winery Cabernet Sauvignon – wow, open, explicit nose, eucalyptus, soft fruit, wow again. young tannins. 8

2011 Taken Red Wine Napa Valley – blueberries and blackberries on the nose, nicely restrained, perfect acidity, firm tannins, good structure, excellent balance. 8

2012 Sevtap Zig-a-zig-ah Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Ynez Valley – eucalyptus, pure, beautiful, dark fruit, cherries, overall an excellent wine. 8-

2012 Sevtap Pillow Talk Petit Verdot Santa Ynez Valley (14.25% ABV) – concentrated, earthy, almost black color, notes of barnyard. Very balanced overall. 8-

2012 Sevtap Wish You Were Here Sangiovese Santa Ynez Valley (13% ABV) – Tobacco and earthiness on the nose, clean tobacco and coffee flavor profile on the palate, an excellent balance. 8-

2010 Lions Peak Vineyards Roaring Lion Cabernet Sauvignon  – classic Cab, cassis, green bell pepper, soft, round, supple, good open fruit. 8-

2010 Lucas & Lewellen Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 6 Santa Barbara County – classic cab, cassis, belle pepper, perfect structure. 8

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And we are done. What were your special wine experiences lately? Cheers!

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014: Mystery Bus Trip, or The Ode to Solvang

July 31, 2014 15 comments

Windmills of Solvang“I’m waiting for a call”, said one of the attendees at Wine Bloggers Conference, “or a text”.

“About what?”, I asked.

“About the right bus for the today’s winery excursion”.

One of the main staples of the Wine Bloggers Conference program is so-called Excursion. The agenda item, titled at WBC14 simply as “Excursions into Santa Barbara County Wine Country”, was an object of discussion, agitation, frustration, and many other “-tions”. The whisper in the air was insisting “you have to get on the right bus”, or else. Supposedly a few attendees, mostly veterans, such as 1WineDude, knew what bus was the right one. So the task was to follow the people who were “in the know”, and get on the right bus with them. And there was also fear. A fear to get on the wrong bus. Yes, you can laugh all you want, but you know how most of us are afraid to miss out on something special and be left (ahh, horrors!) out of the supposedly exceptional experience – in this case, we could get on the wrong bus and end up at the winery, which wouldn’t be “the right one”.

When I came out shortly before the excursion time at 5 o’clock, I only caught a glimpse of 1WineDude, disappearing in the “right bus”. I should’ve taken a picture of the crowd, waiting to get on the “right bus” – probably all of the 400+ conference attendees were standing outside, creating a large, impatient crowd. The next person who seemed to know what he is doing was TheDrunkenCyclist. As he was getting on the “right bus”, the only way for me to join him would be if I would have a practical experience of dealing with Japanese subway at the peak hour, which I don’t have. Thus the next “right bus” was missed again. At this point, my only desire was to get on any bus, but at least with someone, I knew (SAHMMelier). When we got on the bus as part of a group of 20 people, I was relieved – at least we are going somewhere.

As the bus started moving, two very excited ladies (our guides) told us the name of our destination – Solvang. Solvang? What the heck is Solvang? A winery? Ahh, it is the town related to the movies Sideways. As a matter of fact, it is the 10th anniversary of the “Sideways”. which came out in 2004, and Solvang was mentioned in that movie (nice, but I had no idea). We even were asked to answer 10 questions about the movie Sideways, and the person with the fastest and best response would get a special prize. I dribbled something just to be a team player, but my enthusiasm was not moving.

It turns out that Solvang is a small town in the Santa Barbara County which was established about 100 years ago by the group of Danish immigrants (“Solvang” in Danish means “sunny fields”). The town itself looks very different from the most of the typical American towns of the same size of population (about 5,245 people live there based on 2010 data) – it looks like someone simply transposed a tiny piece of Europe in a middle of the Santa Ynez Valley. Colorful roofs, windmill and overall setting more suitable for Medieval Times than for a small modern American town are all the part of Solvang downtown.

Going back to the bus ride, the statement from our very enthusiastic guides that we will be visiting tasting rooms was not registering with me. I’m not very familiar with the concept of the tasting rooms outside of wineries, so I’m not expecting anything mind blowing. The bus stops. We are split into two groups and off we go – visiting tasting rooms first, with the dinner following right after.

As we started walking, our first stop is the wine bar called Sevtap. We get around the bar counter, the first wine is poured, it is a very nice Sauvignon Blanc. And the gentleman who is pouring the wine is actually a … winemaker! He pours more of his wines, including some which are not even bottled yet, and all the wines are excellent. What I thought to be just a wine bar, in reality, was a winery – and so was the story at all other “bars” we stopped at. Solvang has 18 so-called tasting rooms – each one of them is the winery, with its own winemaker, its own history, and – its own wine. Considering what we had an opportunity to taste, a lot of those wines were outstanding – but, as you can imagine, mostly not available anywhere else outside of that tasting room/winery. Sigh.

Now I’m going to share some notes which I managed to scribble during our visits to the 5 different wineries/tasting rooms, plus more wines which were poured during dinner. Here we go.

Sevtap Winery. Art Sevtap, who came over from Turkey 22 years ago, changed a number of professions, fell in love with wine and now makes wines and entertains people at his Sevtap Winery tasting room. The tasting room itself is very unusually decorated, with the chalkboard-type walls, all covered in the notes and names of the guests (take a look at the pictures below). We tried a number of wines, including two wines which had not been even bottled yet, and all the wines were excellent. I also love the unique and different names of the wines as well as the unique label design. Here is what we tried:

2012 Sevtap Istanbul Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley (12.4% ABV) – unusual nose, beautiful concentrated fruit, refreshing. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Sevtap Zig-a-zig-ah Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Ynez Valley (tasted from the “barrel”) – notes of eucalyptus, pure, beautiful, dark fruit, cherries, overall an excellent wine. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Sevtap Pillow Talk Petit Verdot Santa Ynez Valley (14.25% ABV, again from the “barrel”) – concentrated, earthy, almost black color, notes of barnyard. Very balanced overall. Drinkability: 8-

2012 Sevtap Wish You Were Here Sangiovese Santa Ynez Valley (13% ABV) – Tobacco and earthiness on the nose, clean tobacco and coffee flavor profile on the palate, an excellent balance. Drinkability: 8-

A short walk along the streets of a beautiful replica of Europe, and we enter the Wandering Dog Wine Bar. We were greeted with the glass of 2011 Wandering Dog Bentley’s Bubbles Blanc de Blancs – perfectly classic, with a fine mousse, touch of toasted apples and minerality on the nose, perfectly balanced – an excellent Champagne-rivaling California sparkler (Drinkability: 8). We also had the Wandering Dog Petite Sirah which was simply spectacular – luscious, layered, perfectly balanced and just a joy in the glass – but I didn’t even have a chance to take a picture as we had to run to our next destination…

Lions Peak Vineyards. One of the oldest wineries on Central Coast, founded in 1992. Jennifer Arant, the winemaker, was born and raised in Texas, learned classical French ways of making the wine, traveled the world and now is crafting excellent wines under the Lions Peak label (the pictures below might not be great, but still should give you an idea of the artfully designed labels). I only wish I would be paying more attention tot he Jennifer’s story and take notes, but I didn’t 😦 Here is what we tasted:

2011 Lions Peak Vineyards Zinfandel Paso Robles – restrained smokey nose, dusty palate, dry, perfect balance. Drinkability: 7+

2010 Lions Peak Vineyards Lionesse Central Coast (40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc) – beautiful Bordeaux nose, the palate is slightly sharp, restrained, needs more fruit. Drinkability: 7

2010 Lions Peak Vineyards Roaring Lion Cabernet Sauvignon (100% Cabernet Sauvignon) – classic Cab, cassis, green bell pepper, soft, round, supple, good open fruit. Drinkability: 8-

Our next stop is Presidio Winery tasting room. Presidio Winery is Certified Biodynamic winery ( Demeter) since 1994. We had two wines at the Presidio Winery. 2011 Presidio Vineyard Syrah Rose Santa Barbara County (12% ABV) was nice, light, with some strawberry notes and good acidity. Drinkability: 7

2011 Presidio Vineyard Pinot Gris Estate Grown Santa Barbara County – earthy nose, apples, butter, popcorn. Butter on the palate, then just acidity. Drinkability: 7-

I also learned about the usage of Pinot Gris versus Pinot Grigio name. Grapes for Pinot Gris wines are usually picked up earlier, and then generally fermented and aged in the oak barrels (neutral oak). Grapes for the Pinot Grigio wines are picked up later and fermented and aged in the stainless steel.

Our last stop before dinner was Dascomb Cellars. Dascomb family had been growing grapes in Santa Ynez Valley since 1974, which makes it one of the oldest vineyards in the region. The wines had been commercially produced for the first time in 1999, and the Dascomb label was started in 2008. The tasting room at the Dascomb Cellars is decorated with the paintings by renown wine artist, Leanne Laine – the two well visible paintings are called “Rubylicious” and “The Wine Collector”. And now, here are some tasting notes:

2011 Dascomb Cellars Melange Central Coast Santa Barbara County (35% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 55% Mourvedre) – earthy nose, good balance, clean, spicy, peppery. Drinkability: 7+

2011 Dascomb Cellars White Hawk Vineyard Sangiovese Santa Barbara County – interesting nose, a bit too sweet on the palate but clean and balanced overall. Drinkability: 7+

2010 Dascomb Cellars Riserva Santa Barbara County (Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese blend) – open nose, some barnyard and fresh fruit. On the palate – tobacco, cassis, green bell pepper, perfectly elegant. Drinkability: 8

And … we are still not done here. After visiting all these tasting rooms, our last stop was the Cecco Ristorante for dinner – with more wines. At the restaurant, we had most of the winemakers we just met waiting for us with more wines to pour – we also met more winemakers with more wines. All the dishes, which were served buffet style, were outstanding. Sliders were just melting in your mouth; two different kinds of pizza were delicious; beets salad, always my favorite, had big chunks of delicious red and yellow beets with arugula and mozzarella.

Among the wines we tasted, I have to mention the wines from Lucas and Lewellen. Everything we tasted – the Rose, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon – were delicious. But – I hope you can forgive me, considering the late hour –  I got no detailed notes whatsoever on these wines.

And I can finally conclude this long post about our excursion to Solvang. I’m really glad I missed all the “special” buses and got an opportunity to discover Solvang. We had a great time, met great people and tasted wonderful wines. If your travel will take you anywhere near Solvang, I hope you understand that not visiting it would be the loss you can not afford. Proost!

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 (#WBC14), Day 2

July 22, 2014 28 comments

Yet another ambitious project hitting the dust. I was determined to write blog post updates in the morning of the very next day of the Wine Bloggers Conference – and as you can see, it didn’t happened – I’m back home in Connecticut (nope, not even that – I’ actually on vacation in Cape Cod, and Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 is fading in the metaphorical rear view mirror. Nevertheless, I will finish this the way I initially envisioned – as a series of the blog post about WBC14. Let’s get to it…

WBC14 sponsor logosFriday was the first full day of Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 (WBC). My impressions in a few words? Overwhelmed. Is there a word for “more than overwhelmed”? The pace of learning, connecting, tasting, analyzing, networking, mingling and tasting more, more and more was incredible. Here is what was happening throughout the day  – brunch (yep, a 10 AM brunch) with Portuguese wines and dishes from Brazil, India, Japan and Portugal – 11 wines and 12 different dishes. Then the opening of the conference and a keynote by Corbett Barr. A panel session with Santa Barbara County winemakers (rather founding fathers of the winemaking in Santa Barbara). Speed tasting of the 10 white wines in 50 minutes (very intense). A breakout session called “How The Pros Taste”, which included both the Pros and the wines. An excursion to the mystery destination (yes, with more wines). The Wine Tourism in North America Expo (yep, with more wines to taste), an unofficial before-party in one of the hotel suites before the actual official after-party, and then finally (oh yes, the  best for last!), an official after-party, hosted by Jordan and J Wineries. So, how is that for a day for you? Pretty full schedule, huh? I will leave speed tasting and our mystery excursion for the separate posts, but for the rest of the program, here are my quick impressions.

Brunch with Portuguese food and wine was the very first in our day’s program. As I wrote a few times about Portuguese food and wines before, I would definitely agree that both Portuguese wines and cuisine are well worth the attention. At the brunch, we had an opportunity to experience 11 different wines (both white and red), as well as 12 different dishes. If you take a historic perspective on Portugal, hundreds of years ago, Portuguese influence was spread all over the world. To show that world-wide influence, the dishes in the brunch we coming from the different regions which came into a close encounter with Portuguese culture – namely, the dishes from Brasil, India, Japan and Portugal itself (of course!) were part of our brunch. I will not inundate you with all the details of the dishes and wines (despite taking the detailed notes) – I just want to mention two of my favorite wines. For the whites, 2012 Julia Kemper Branco Dão DOP  was delicious, with touch of grass and flowers, very interesting nose, light and simple on the palate. As an added bonus, this wine also added one more rare grape to my collection, Encruzado. From the reds, 2010 Quinta do Romeu Colheita Douro Tinto was my favorite, with very nice dark fruit, medium body, open and round, and good balance. And for the rest of it – here are the pictures of the wines and dishes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Next up – the conference officially opened with the keynote from Corbett Barr. Listening to Corbett Barr, an entrepreneur whose business, Fizzle,  was built starting from the blog, was very relevant at the wine bloggers conference – if not as a role model, definitely as a success model his talk was reaching to the heart and soul of all the attendees (and if someone would tell me that it was not, I would question your premise of being at the bloggers conference). Corbett BarrAfter telling his personal story, Corbett offered a number of do’s and dont’s for building the successful blog and converting it to the business. In short, here are the main ideas:

  1. Character Trumps Credentials – your passion is more important than many technical accolades and certifications you can achieve. Yes, the certifications are important, but it is passion, will and tenacity which will be a foundation of your success.
  2. Be different. Stand out. Don’t blend in. Yes, you have to find your own way, don’t be “one of many”.
  3. Find what works. Don’t repeat exact same thing over and over again, expecting that magically what was not working 100 times, will work on 101st. If something doesn’t work, looks for what will – but keep going.
  4. Hope is not a marketing strategy. Find where your readers are and figure out how to get in front of them.
  5. Your blog is not your business. Understand what your business is. The blog is just a tool to help your business, but not the business by itself.
  6. Keep going, constantly evolving. If you will continue looking for what works and improve all the time, you will [almost magically] leapfrog at some point to your success.
  7. Mastermind 101 – “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – Jim Rohn. Talk to the people who “get it”. If you will talk to “achievers”, you will [at some point] becoe one yourself.

This is a very lose approximation of what Corbett Barr had to say, but I hope I was able to give you at least the basic idea. And for more information, head over to his web site and read, read, read.

Our day continued with the panel session of Santa Barbara winemakers. Session was moderated by Larry Shafer, the winemaker behind the Tercero label, and it brought together the people who were instrumental in starting and growing Santa Barbara wine industry – Richard Sanford, Ken Brown, Rick Longoria and Bob Lindquist. We learned about the Santa Barbara wine region which started in 1968 with the Santa Barbara Winery, and had grown into the prominent producer of Pinot Noir and Rhone-style wines. 40 different grape varieties are growing today in Santa Barbara area, and a lot of Santa Barbara grapes are shipped to Paso Robles and Napa and used in the coastal blends. Passion, friendship and love to the beautiful Santa Barbara wine region is something which was clearly showing through the words of all the winemakers.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our next session was the speed tasting of white wines and Rose, which I will be talking about separately – I can only tell you that it was a fun exercise.

You know what else is great about the wine bloggers conference? You get to taste the wines which are not necessarily are even yet available to the general public. Case in point – a unique Viognier, Marsanne, Roussane blend from … Argentina – 2012 Hand of God Fingerprint Series Sobremesa Vineyard VRM White Blend. The wine is in the process of being brought to the United States, and nevertheless we had an opportunity to taste this aromatic, big and well structured white wine, which was simply poured by the winemaker while we were walking from one session to another.

The last session of the day was a so called breakout session, where we had to chose between three different sessions running in parallel in the different rooms. I decided to go and learn “How the Pros Taste”. This session was a panel discussion led by Steve Heimoff, the wine writer who is now the Director of PR for Jackson Family wines, Joe Roberts, a.k.a. 1 Wine Dude, and Patrick Comiskey, senior editor for Wine & Spirits magazine. The idea of the panel was to discuss the ways of the professionals tasting tens of thousands of wines every year, and issues they are facing – and I think the panel did the fine job with issues and challenges. Talking about the “ways” was a bit less successful – I would expect the panelists to explain more of a “how to”, their methods for assessing the wines in the mass quantities – which didn’t take place. And then we tasted 4 wines, 3 of which we selected by the panelists, and one “double blind”, unknown even to the panelists. The selected wines were supposed to represent the unique view point of each panelist, the wines which are “best of the breed” and emotionally engaging. Considering that, I would highly question the rationale of including very obscure wines in this “representative” tasting, but this is mostly what happened. The 2012 Yves Leccia Patrimonio Blanc, a Vermentino wine from Corsica, had nothing but the acidity and didn’t speak to me at all. It didn’t create nor demonstrated any emotional connection. 2013 Poet’s Leap Riesling Washington, while might be typical for Washington, didn’t deliver much pleasure either, and it didn’t connect with the Washington Rieslings as I know them from the Chateau St. Michelle or Snoqualme. Again, I would highly question inclusion of such a wine as “exemplary”. The red wines fared a lot better. 2011 Cambria Clone 4 Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley was quintessentially Californian, with beautiful nose of smoked cherries, exemplary palate full of forest floor, gentle fruit and perfect balance. Our double-blind wine surprised everybody, including the esteemed panel – clean cherries and acidity were pointing in the direction of Montepulciano from Italy, and the wine happened to be an Yangarra Grenache McLaren Vale from Australia – but it was a very tasty wine. All in all, this was an interesting session, but I would like to see it done differently, more focused on classic methods and classic wines (definitely for the whites).

And then we had a mystery bus excursion. I will keep it a mystery until the next post (trust me, it was good enough for the separate post). When we came back in the evening, we still faced … yes, you guessed it – more wine! The Wine Tourism Throughout North America expo was focused mostly on California wines (or may be I was too tired to notice anything else). I tried a few wines, out of which 2010 Mad Hatter Napa Valley was clearly a stand out – dense and concentrated, with layered fruit, it had a lot of dark power (similar to its color), very drinkable now, but holding also a great promise to evolve. This wine was made by the famed Andy Ericsson (Screaming Eagle, Harlan, Favia and many others). Few other interesting wines were 2007 Terra Valentine Spring Mountain District Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley, very clean and classic. 2011 Steven Kent Vinery Cabernet Franc Livermore Valley was perfectly on the mark with beautiful cassis undertones, and 2012 Vasco Urbano “Norm” Grenache Livermore Valley was luscious and delicate, with nice fresh fruit on the nose and the palate.

The “before-Party” for after party was generously hosted by Banfi folks in one of the hotel suites, and the highlights were mostly Italian wines with the few of the wines from Washington state. The 2013 Pacific Rim Chenin Blanc Yakima Valley was perfectly balanced and had an excellent fresh white fruit, a bit of mineral notes and rounding acidity. The Sartori di Verona Ferdi Bianco Veronese IGT was very unique and unusual, an Amarone-style wine (100% Garganega grapes, dried for 40 days on straw mats), with big fruit notes, full body and somewhat sharp acidity. 

And last, but not least – an offical after-party, hosted by J Vineyards and Jordan! Both J and Jordan are some of my favorite wines in general, and what a treat it was! Probably unsurprisingly, I was a bit tired after such a day, so I didn’t take too many pictures. But the wines were outstanding. J were pouring both of their sparklers, the White and Rose, as well as the Pinot Noir. And Jordan… How about a full vertical of the Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley from 2002 until the 2008, including 2005 and 2006 in both 750 and magnum sizes! All the wines, including 2002, tasted fresh and delicious – again, no detailed notes (if you want to blame me for the luck of attention, be my guest). I was especially happy to see that 2002 showing absolutely no signs of age, and 2005 being delicious with still powerful tannins – I have a few bottles of 2005 in the fridge and it seems that I have no reason to touch the for a good while. Jordan Cabernet Sauvignon For what it worth, this was an attempt to give you an idea of the happenings in the first day of Wine Bloggers Conference (two more posts will be coming). Hope you are still reading this, and if you are, I want to thank you for your patience. Just one question, if I may – after reading this post, did it make you want to come to the #WBC15, or stay away from it as far as possible? Let me know! Cheers!

P.S. For some reason, this was one of the most difficult posts I ever wrote for this blog… But I’m glad I finished it. 

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014 (#WBC14), Day 1

July 11, 2014 21 comments

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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

Wine. That. Transforms.

April 23, 2013 9 comments

If you followed this blog for a while, you know that I have a tendency to get excited around wines. May be “overly excited” is even better way to put it. Especially when I come across the wines which wow. Like this time.

Field Recordings wines are no strangers in this blog (2010 Fiction by Field Recordings was my 2011 wine of the year). Produced by Andrew Jones, grape-grower-turned-wine-maker, these wines are his personal accounts of people and places – every label on his wines will tell you where exactly the grapes came from, and who grew them – you can see an example above. And his wines have tremendous personality associated with them. What these wines do the best – they don’t leave you indifferent. Like this 2010 Field Recordings Petite Sirah Crockett Hill Vineyard Santa Ynez Valley (15.9% ABV, $22).

The very first smell of this wine just takes you away. Away from the day that passed. Away from all the little things which (of course you knew it), in essence, are not important at all. It is clean. It is powerful, It is beautiful. You can imagine any happy picture you want – the smell will support and carry it. Yes, it is pure fruit forward California wine – but it presents itself in such a bright and uplifting fashion, that this might be the way to spell “happiness” with wine.

The wine appears almost black in the glass. It is dense, it is concentrated, it is powerful. Blueberries, blueberry jam and blueberry pie all together – but without sweetness, all in very balanced, round form. You can have food with this wine – but what you really want is just this wine by itself. From the smell, the happiness continues in the glass.

Then your glass becomes empty. But you sit there, still smiling. Still carried away. To the happy place.

Is this an overly emotional account? You bet. But I invite you to find this wine and experience happy journey in the glass. Of course your personal happy wine might be different. I hope you will discover it. And I will drink to that. Cheers!

%d bloggers like this: