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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.

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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.

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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. 

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, Wine Blogger Quits, Krug No More?, and more…

December 5, 2012 4 comments

DSC_0786Meritage time!

In the last wine quiz #39 – Let’s decant some wines, you were supposed to identify an essential element of wine decanting, mostly used in the fine restaurants. I’m glad to say that we have a winner – Stefano was right on the mark with the detailed description of the decanting process. While wine cradle is important in some cases, candle is an essential element of decanting, adding a nice romantic touch, but most importantly, allowing to see when sediment is about to go into the decanter. thedrunkensyclist also suggested that any light source can be used, and not just the candle, so the prize (unlimited bragging rights) should be shared between both of them.

Let’s move on to the interesting stuff. I don’t know how that happen, but I just realized that most of the “finds” I want to share with you are rather sad – however, I think they are still interesting to read, so let’s proceed.

First, here is the post from Steve Heimoff talking about blogger who stopped blogging – Paul Gregutt, who was writing about wines of Northwest, announced that he will stop blogging, at least for a while. I know that some of you already read Steve’s post ( there was a comment from thedrunkencyclist there), but for those of you who didn’t read it yet, I think it is a worthwhile read. This is an interesting question which probably every blogger comes across every once in a while – as for the most of us, blogging is a labor of love, it takes not insignificant amount of effort, so I’m sure many of us have this question deep inside coming up from time to time – “so, may be hell with it”? Oh well…

Now, this one goes close to the heart. You know, you have a treasure, which you keep for yourself, and you know it is always there for you, and then one day you discover that whatever it was, it is all crumbled and fell apart, and you get very sad? This is the wine blog, right – so you don’t expect me to talk about some memorabilia which I was not taking the right care of? Yeah, we are talking about wine. My treasure – Krug Champagne. I really experienced it once (both Vintage and non-vintage), and it was enough to still roll my eyes every time I think or talk about it. According to the blog post from Alice Feiring, this is Krug no more – of course it is still produced, but looks like starting with 2003 vintage, it become complacent and indistinguishable, it lost all its royal traits which warranted almost religious following… If you have an opinion – please comment (I hope at least one person will).

Here is the post from Alfonso Cevola blog, talking about latest trends in the restaurants in US, which can’t be found in Italy – if anything, the pictures are cool, and his descriptions are fun to read.

Last but not least – a note of thanks. I was nominated for Very Inspiring Blogger Award by Stefano from Flora’s Table blog – I’m very grateful for the nomination and all the kind words. Stefano has a wealth of wine knowledge, I love the recipes in Flora’s Table blog, but the most amazing part for me are the pictures – some of the very best food pictures I saw anywhere on the net… If you are not following Flora’s Table yet – you should!

That’s all I have for today, folks – the glass is empty. Have a great #WineWednesday or #WhiskyWednesday – whatever your heart desires. Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, To Terroir or Not To Terroir, Halloween for Adults and more

October 24, 2012 5 comments

Meritage Time!

Let’s start from the answer for the Wine Quiz #33 – Right place, Wrong vineyard. In the quiz you had a list of 5 wineries from California, and you had to figure out why one of them shouldn’t be on the list. Two answers seemed to single out Pride Mountain as the winery which shouldn’t be on the list, as it is supposedly located in Sonoma and the rest are in Napa. However, this answer is incorrect. All the wineries on the list (or at least their vineyards) are so called “mountain wineries”, as they are all located in the mountains (Bryant, Colgin and Sloan are located on Howell Mountain, and Pride Mountain is on Diamond Mountain), except Araujo, which is so called “Valley floor” winery. So the right answer is Araujo – but it also means that nobody won this time (time to get upset about the huge prize you missed out on…).

Let’s move on to the “interesting stuff” department. First, we are exactly one week away from the Halloween (I guess next Wednesday social media buffs will wish each other happy “Halloween Wine Wednesday”, or #HWW in the twitter terms). As you know, Halloween was invented by dentists and candy makers, and it is all about about sugar consumption by the kids. But – it doesn’t mean that us adults are left out in the cold. First, we can participate by converting plain sugar into a scary one. Need suggestions? Here is the blog post with some scarily wonderful ideas (brrr, careful, those fingers might give you shivers). Then, to celebrate in style, while little monsters are diligently working on future contribution to the college fund for your family dentist’s kids, you can also have a celebration with an arsenal of the spookingly crafted adult beverages. Here is an example – this is what my friend Zak has available at his Cost Less Wines store in Stamford:

Black Vodka, anyone?

Are you blood thirsty?

And here is some Vampire delight

To take it to the next level, here is a great post by Chris Kassel of Intoxicology Report, explaining why Ravenswood is a perfect Halloween wine. If you are not following Intoxicology Report – you should.

Okay, let’s move on. Here is an article by Steve Heimoff, talking about terroir, or may be an absence of it in California Cabernets and Pinots. I had to refrain from commenting in his blog, as I realize that my comment will probably be of a size of a good blog post – but in any case, it is interesting to read.

Next subject – Italian wines. Here is a blog I just discovered, called On the Wine Train in Italy by Alfonso Sevola – it is well written and will be well worth your attention. Then there is a blogging competition dedicated to the wines of Tuscany – sorry for bringing it to your attention so late (submission deadline is November 4th), but you still have a few days to submit your entry. I was thinking about the blog post for this competition for a while, but muse was not kind to me and didn’t visit, and I can’t produce anything worth sharing. But – the major prize is 6 bottles of a very good Chianti – you should definitely think about joining in.

And with this, we are done here – the glass is empty, folks. Happy Wine Wednesday! Cheers!

Wednesday’s Meritage – Wine Quiz Answer, WBC13, #CabernetDay, Blog Monetization and more

August 29, 2012 6 comments

Is it only me, or these weeks are flying by, literally faster and faster? It only was the beginning of summer, and kids just went to school…again?!

Okay, let’s get to our meritage business – starting with the answer for Wine Quiz #26 – Extreme Wines, Part 2. Actually I think the question was not difficult, which is also showing in having many people chose the right answer – Tavel. While Jerez, Marsala, Vin Jaune and Vin Santo are all aged in the open barrels, Tavel, while famous, is a regular Rose wine from Rhone. Just for the quick heads up, I think the next quiz will still be along the same line of “wines and factors”, and then we will probably play with “wines and places”.

Going into the news, let’s start with the important one – believe it or not, but it is harvest time already! Many vineyards in Texas already picked they grapes, and California wineries are well on the way. Dr. Vino just had a great quiz regarding the harvest – try it on for a size, you might find the answer quite surprising.

Wine Bloggers Conference 2012 just took place a week ago in Portland, Oregon – but the wine blogging doesn’t take any breaks, and Wine Bloggers Conference 2013 is already announced – it will take place in Penticton, British Columbia (yep, in Canada), on June 6-8. As I missed the one in Portland, I will have to really think about this one now …

Steve Heimoff wrote a very interesting blog post (love the language, very colorful) about monetization of the wine blogs, which was triggered by the discussions at WBC12. Whether you are thinking about monetizing your blog or not, this will be an interesting read – don’t miss it.

Interested in exploring 100 top restaurant in US? You are in luck! Forbes just published an article about those 100 best restaurants, circa 2012, just to make your job easier. And if you need more information, you can go directly to the source – the full list at Opinionated About Dining website (while I have no comments about the list, the overall design of that OAD website looks very unappealing to me – but hey, the information should be still good, right?).

This is the end of my wine news for today. Ohh, wait, no – whatever you do, don’t forget the #CabernetDay day tomorrow! And if anyone needs help to finish that bottle of Screaming Eagle, or Bryant, or Harlan, or (tired yet? I can continue) anyway, you got the point – I’m at your full disposal! Okay, fine, for real – what are you going to open?

Happy Wine Wednesday! Cheers!

 

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