Archived entries for Chile Wines

Fine Wine On Tap Changes Dallas Wine By the Glass Landscape at Savor (and Beyond)

As I am in technology marketing for my paying gig, I am all about watching innovation and disruption change industries and I love watching transformations.  Google.  Apple.  Twitter. Uber.  All companies that pushed the envelope and changed the way we search, compute, live and ride. 

But let’s face it.  The wine industry has not been known for innovation and there has been a “what’s old is right mentality.” So anytime that I’m pitched a chance to talk to someone in the wine industry that is doing something different beyond a new app, you can sign me up almost immediately.

John Coleman and Dan Donahoe

I had the chance to sit down with Savor’s Executive Chef John Coleman and Free Flow Wines Co-Founder and Chairman Dan Donahoe to talk about their partnership in bringing the first premium wines on tap to Dallas.  It all started with a phone call.  John self-described himself as someone who finds it a challenge to find people who may or may not want to be found.  And, he wanted to bring innovation and “out of the box thinking” to Dallas in the form of premium wine on tap to his restaurant. A long-term friendship and business partnership was formed.

These guys are passionate about their business. And, the business benefits are impressive.  Savor is now the number one stand-alone top volume restaurant for wines on tap in the country.  Yes, Dallas – home of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay playdates and big steakhouse upcharged “premiere brands” – wins in wine innovation. 

Let’s talk about the benefits.  The keg packaging removes hundreds of tons of packaging waste from the environment.  I was there when Republic showed up to deliver the barrels.  At 58 pounds apiece, they seemed as easy as bringing in a few cases of wine.  If you’ve been to Savor, you know they don’t have a lot of space.  What they do with some many diners in such a small kitchen is pretty amazing.  And, the consistency is the real kicker.  Every glass of wine is guaranteed fresh – every single time.  I just had a great glass of one of my French favorites during a business trip to Houston.  It had turned and I sent it back.  That gets expensive for restaurants. 

I had the chance to tap my personal glass of wine.  It was lightning fast and the J Vineyards Pinot Gris tasted exactly like it did when I hung out with Winemaker Melissa Stackhouse from J Vineyards.

Now the brands.  There are some big boys embracing this technology – Arietta, Frog’s Leap, J Vineyards, MINER, Paul Dolan Vineyards, Robert Craig, Trefethen Family Vineyards – even Va Piano, one of my great winery finds in Walla Walla. Right now, 140 wine brands are shipping their juice to Free Flow Wines where they ship to 43 states.  It is pumped into ten staging tanks in a 22,000 square foot facility based in Napa and put into over 7,000 kegs where it is shipped across country.  It gives restaurants and consumers the opportunity to feature more “off the beaten path” wines at little risk.  And, wine geeks like me respond with open arms.

Savor offers eight whites by the glass, half carafe and carafe ranging from $9 for the glass to $44 for the carafe.  The whites include Simi Sauvignon Blanc, Trefethen Dry Riesling, Franciscan Chardonnay and Duchman Vermentino.  There are eight reds including Saintsbury Pinot Noir, Qupe Syrah and Paul Dolan Cabernet offered in the same format from $9 for a glass to $50 for a carafe.  They also feature a list of wines by the bottle. 

This barrel to bar approach is incredibly innovative.  The great thing is that chef and sommelier driven restaurants like Savor are embracing and encouraging this innovation.  Dan talked about several hotel and restaurant chains that are embracing the technology. If you’ve followed my “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain” postings, you know I’m truly happy to see this as I’d rather not have to go taste chain food to make my point.

The only downside that was proactively brought up by Dan is that this technology is not for aging wine.  So, the tradition of an aged bottle and the ceremony around that will continue at Savor as well, but 80 percent of the wines today are sold by tap. 

Being guaranteed a fresh glass of wine with no cork taint (John has never had a corked wine since opening), giving restaurants the opportunity to expand their selections without the risk.  Having the ability to buy a good glass of wine at a fair price and the environmental benefits make this an innovation that is worthy of note.  The future quality, selection and value of the wines you drink by the glass depend on it. 


Can You Get a Decent Glass of Wine at a Chain: Not at Outback Steakhouse

It was my dad’s birthday this last Saturday and it’s a tradition in my family that the birthday person gets to pick the restaurant for their birthday dinner.  That has translated over the years to me dragging my sushi hating parents to sushi; my brothers dragging me to a pizza place while I was on a Weight Watchers diet and other family members sucking it up because the birthday boy or girl should always go where they want.

Let’s just say that I love to eat.  I love finding the new hot restaurant or hole-in-the-wall before any of my friends have tried them.  My husband loves to cook and we both love food/wine. 

So on to his selection.  My dad, who is on a gluten free diet after going to the Jerusalem over the holidays on a dream trip with my mom, choose Outback Steakhouse.  Outback has one of the largest gluten free menus that would give him a wider net of choices for his dinner.

I choose to use this as an opportunity.  It has been a while since I did my column on “can you get a decent glass of wine at a chain.”  My stipulation is that it has to be a wine by the glass that is interesting and unique.  Overall I’ve been pleasantly surprised.  On Saturday it was Outback’s turn.  I went to the website and found lots of information about the “Bloomin’ Onion” and the “Bloomin’ Sirloin,” but it took me three trips back to Google to find a drink list.  And what I found was clearly a list purchased from a distributor full of uninspired, middle shelf grocery selection grog – with no vintages.  That trend continued when I picked up the restaurant wine list.

If you HAD to choose a wine because you found yourself in the restaurant, I found two that were acceptable – Alamos Malbec or Clos du Bois Sauvignon Blanc.  I actually ordered a cocktail.  There is no reason with the buying power of Outback that they wouldn’t put something off the beaten path on the list.  Olive Garden does.  It prides itself on its wide selection of by the glass wines to give consumers a choice.

After looking down at the menu, I chuckled a bit to myself.  The Outback company tagline, “No Rules.  Just Right.”  Except for the chain’s approach to wine selection. 

 


Holiday Wine Round Up

It’s a new year and time for a new wine round up of those sampled over the holidays.  This time I tried 18 wines in the $10 to $125 range from California, Chile, Italy and Spain.  Half of them made my list, which excluded some high priced samples:

Whites:

Italy

NV Mionetto Brut Prosecco – the quintessential, easy to drink brunch wine.  Priced at $14, this sparkling wine had notes of green apple, pear, citrus and peach. 

2012 Rocca Sveva Soave Classico ($17) – I liked this wine, but I think it needs to be paired with Italian food.  I got lots of tropical fruit, melon, apple and floral notes. 

Spain

2012 Franco Espanolas Royal White Rioja ($10) – lots of lemon curd, citrus and green apple.  This was a nice aperitif wine that begged for shellfish.

Reds:

California

2011 90+ Cellars Pinot Noir ($16) – a very drinkable wine with black cherry, strawberry, vanilla and earth.   This is a wine club that sources wines from around the world delivered at an “everyday wine” price point.

2010 Wolfgang Puck Red Wine Blend ($14.99) – when a master chef puts his name on a bottle of wine, you know it will be very food friendly.  You taste the berry in the Merlot, followed by the black fruit in the Cabernet, and then finish with the spice of the Zinfandel.  I’d pair this with beef tenderloin.

Chile

2009 Viña Concha y Toro Don Melchor ($125) – this lived up to its billing as Chile’s first ultra-premium wine.  Cassis, berry, tobacco and chocolate notes are showcased in this very well balanced special occasion wine.

Spain:

2009 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($13) – a great value wine with notes of cherry, herb, wood, spice and chocolate. 

2007 Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordon Crianza ($15) – notes of cherry, rosemary, basil, and tomato plant – this made me crave a margarita pizza.

I’m also going to give a special shout out to one wine that blew me away from the Guarachi Family.  Guarachi, which was previously unknown to me, sources small parcel lots from top vineyards in Napa and Sonoma and makes Cabernet and Pinot Noir.  The winery was launched by Alex Guarachi, a native of Chile and importer of South American wines.  The winery just purchased Sun Chase Vineyard in Sonoma and if this wine is any indication of what is to come, I’m beyond excited.

2011 Guarachi Family Wines Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast ($65) – this was full of red berries, cherry, floral, earth and cherry cola.  I loved this wine.


Another Wine Round Up: Great Entertaining Wines

It’s time for another round of wines from around the world and this week focuses on Chile, Spain, Portugal and Italy.  Most of these wines are under $25 and the majority under $15.  A good showcase of values and “off the beaten path” wines make these regions ones to try.

Chilean

  • 2012 William Cole Albamar Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit, citrus, flowers and orange blossom.  This was the favorite white of the tasting.
  • 2012 Como Sur Sauvignon Blanc – herbaceous with lots of grapefruit and green apple.
  • 2012 William Cole Columbine Special Reserve – citrus, floral, grassy and a nice balance of minerality
  • 2012 Garcia and Schwaderer Sauvignon Blanc — grapefruit and notes of honey.

Spain

  • Campo Viejo Garnacha – very drinkable with notes of cherry, flowers, spice, vanilla and oak.  A great easy drinking Tuesday night pizza wine.

French

  • Joseph Drouhin 2011 Bourgogne Pinot Noir – red cherry, black cherry, earthiness, red raspberry, balanced fruit.  A very nice pinot noir for a value price.
  • Joseph Drouhin 2012 Bourgogne Chardonnay – a nice Old world style with notes of lemon, vanilla, honey with a nice balance and in the style that I prefer in a chardonnay.  I really enjoyed this wine.

Portugal

  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho White – tropical, vanilla, peach and lemon peel.  Had some depth and layers to the wine.
  •  Herdade Do Esporao 2012 Monte Velho Red – bramble, berry, bramble and cedar.  Very drinkable but would benefit with food.

Italy

  •  2012 San Pietro Lagrein – plum, cherries, spice, floral and oak
  • 2011 Elena Walch Lagrein – blackberry, cherry, chocolate, floral with a nice balance.  This was one of my favorite reds with that tasted much more expensive than $20.  This was the crowd pleasing red for our group.

 


A Round Up of Recommended Wines Under $15

It’s time for another wine round up and this time the focus was on Italy, Slovenia and California.  Overall this was a group of well-priced (all under $15), well rounded and very drinkable wines.  In fact, of the nine wines that I tried, I’m reviewing seven.

California

  • 2011 Backhouse Pinot Grigio — notes of apple, nectarine, lime and apple.
  • 2012 Pepi Pinot Grigio – Nice acidity, tropical fruits with guava and pineapple, notes of pear.  I’m not usually a fan of non-Italian pinot grigios, but I really enjoyed this wine.
  • 2012 Pepi Sauvignon Blanc – notes of grapefruit, lemon grass and citrus.  Very quaffable and a great summer wine.

Chile

  • Con Carne NV Sauvignon Blanc – grapefruit and green pepper with notes of citrus.

Italy

  •  2011 Banfi San Angelo Pinot Grigio – lots of minerality with notes of pear, banana and honey.
  • 2011 La Quercia Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, part of the Small Vineyards portfolio, was one of the favorites of the tasting.  Black cherries, plum, mocha and herbs.  Perfect for your Tuesday pizza line-up.

Slovenia

  •  2011 Giocato Pinot Grigio Goriška Brda – lots of apples, lemon, almonds and notes of floral with a nice balance of minerality.  This wine surprised me and I’m looking forward to trying more from the region.

I think you’d be satisfied for any of these wines by the pool or for Tuesday pizza wines.  Give them a try and let me know what you think.

 


A Conversation with Rodrigo Soto

It seems like the Wine of Chile people have been everywhere lately.  Since I’ve been writing Dallas Wine Chick, I’ve received invitations to a number of events including live Twitter tastings and wine makers coming through Texas who make the time to tell me their stories and let me taste their wines.

Last month, I participated in a live Twitter tasting of three pinot noirs from the Casablanca region of Chile.  Casablanca, which is located northwest of Santiago, was the first vineyard planted in the mid-1980s, and has 10,000 acres of vines in the region.  It is known for its cool climate coastal location and started the wine movement in Chile.  The wines tasted were as follows:

-          2010 Montes Alpha Pinot Noir – which was the first premium wine in Chile.  It was full of mushroom, cherry and had a meaty taste.  It would benefit for some more time in the bottle.  Ironically, I found a few bottles in my cellar of a different vintage that I will keep aging.

-          2009 Nimbus Pinot Noir – full of fruit, pepper, spice, mint and earth.  It is hard harvested and was the most elegant of the wines.

-          2011 Ritual Casablanca Pinot Noir – this wine had a cherry cola taste, wood and spice.  It was drinkable right out of the bottle, but lacked some of the complexity of the other two wines.

Ironically, Rodrigo Soto, the winemaker for the South American brands for Huneeus Vitners, which includes Veramonte, Preimus, Neyen and Ritual wines, sat down with me a few weeks later.   Agustin Huneeus, founder of Huneeus’ family portfolio of wines, focuses on wines in North and South America.  He founded Quintessa, Faust, Veramonte, Neyen and Illumination. He has partnerships with Flowers Vineyards & Winery and agreements to help market some iconic California wine brands.

Soto talked to me about his vision for his wines.  He has experience working at various wine regions around the globe including Chile, New Zealand as well as Napa/Sonoma where he served as head winemaker for Benzinger Winery.  Soto believes that while Chilean wines have evolved a great deal, there is so much room to grow.  His focus has turned to the more specialized portfolio of wines where he wants to make Chilean wines truly world-class.

There are a few factors that he still needs to overcome.   For example, wineries pay growers by the acre and he needed to find ways to find the clones and refine his grower portfolio to get the best grapes possible.  Primus wines are a great example of that – it took ten years to find the clones.

He believes the transformation of Chilean wine will come, but people need to embrace the differentiation of the wines.  Part of that is distribution, part of that is marketing and part of that is better wine making.

We tried the Ritual Pinot Noir and he talked about how he is going to overhaul the style beginning in 2012 to reflect his “thumbprint”.  You can tell his passion for wines with a sense of time and place.  He is a believer that wines should be a “map of the region” and he is dedicated to sustainable, organic, biodynamic wines that are authentic.

Our next wine was the 2010 Primus blend and he talked about how David Ramey, who consulted for Benzinger, taught him to pick grapes “when they taste delicious.”  It was lush with black pepper and berries.  This was a great wine.

The final wine was the 2008 Neyen “The Spirit of Apalta,” which is an estate concept with older vines.  This is an old vineyard that is deploying many of newer scientific wine techniques like drip irrigation.  It was a blend of carmenere and cabernet sauvignon with big notes of berry, flowers and vanilla.

His passion for wines with a sense of place and the continuing evolution of Chile’s place in winemaking is evident.  He said the key is changing the farming.  “It’s like choosing vegetables from the market. When you grow them, you have total control so you can ensure longevity and quality.”


Wine Review Round-up: French, Spanish, Italian and California

With the new gig, a little behind on wine reviews… 

It’s been a while since I’ve done a wine round up and lately I’ve been fortunate enough to try some really great wines at all price points.  Since I started my new job in Dallas, I have been instituted “Thirsty Thursday’s,” where I gather my co-workers and we have team building with wine involved.

I’ve listed my favorites in several different categories based on trying more than 40 wines.  These were often tried by region, varietal or price point.

Value Wines ($15 and Under)

2011 Domaine Maby La Forcadière – a dry rose with a nice minerality and notes of raspberry and flowers.  I really enjoyed this rose and I don’t give compliments on roses lightly.

2011 Bolla Soave Classico – a well-priced summer wine with citrus, apricot, peach and a nice crispness.

2012 Bodegas Ostatu Rioja Blanco – tropical notes, crisp and refreshing.  Another great summer refresher.

2012 Vina Ventisquero Sauvignon Blanc – citrus, tropical fruit, minerality with a nice balance of herbs and a creamy texture.

2012 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Sauvignon Blanc – apple, grapefruit and pear.

2011 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserva Carmenere – a nice expression of Carmenere with blackberry, forest floor, mocha and spiciness.

2010 Matchbox Dunnigan Hills Syrah – at $10, this wine with notes of raspberry, currant, black fruit, cocoa, spice and jam, was the best red wine that I’ve tried at this price point.  It had depth and complexity that I have never found in a $10 bottle.

2009 Ruiz de Viñaspre – I tasted lots of red fruit and floral notes in this 100 percent tempranillo.  It was a well-balanced wine and very drinkable with or without food.

2010 Vina Zaco Rioja Tempranillo – lots of vanilla and spice with blackberry and mocha.

2009 Bodegas Bilbainas Vina Pomal Crianza – blackberry, licorice, cedar, mocha and spice make this a well-balanced wine.

$15 to $40

2001 Ramirez de La Piscina Gran Reserva – all spice, flowers, cherries, currant and lots of depth.  This is an elegant wine that is drinking very well today.

2005 Finca Allende Rioja Allende – notes of blackberry, cherry, earthiness with layers of depth.

2005 Deobriga Rioja – smokiness combined with lots of red fruit, flowers, vanilla, spice and tobacco.

2006 Grupo Olarra Bodegas Ondarre Reserva – a very smooth wine with lots of rich red fruit, dates and spice.

2009 Domaine Bressy-Masson Cotes du Rhone-Villages Rasteau Cuvee Paul Emile – this was a rich and smooth wine with notes of blackberry, fig, tobacco, black tea, spice and chocolate.

2009 Domaine du Pesquier Gigondas – this was a big wine with lots of terrior, berry, black cherry and herbs.  This was a very well balanced wine.

2010 De Martino Legado Reserva Carmenere – another good expression of Carmenere with notes of tobacco, flowers, vanilla and cassis.

Over $40

2007 Finca Monteviejo – a powerful wine with blackberry, plum, mushroom, currant, dried fruits, spice and earth.  Exactly what a great Rioja should taste like.


Wine Club Reunited: Spanish Heavy Hitters, White Flights, Napa Finds and Cajun Cuisine

Picture a group of very driven, professional folks that have a passion for wine, like to have fun, enjoy off the beaten path wines and make sure to not take ourselves too seriously.  The last part a total 180 from what you would expect a somewhat serious wine club to look like especially from a group representing a snapshot of corporate America.

We tried taking ourselves too seriously in the beginning where we voted members in, selected favorite wines and then tried to store them for the right period of time before opening and officially voting on our favorites. That all changed one fateful night of tasting Turley Zinfandels where we threw all decorum out the window and had an amazing time.  There may or may not be a YouTube video that you will never find capturing our version of MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”  Throughout the years, we changed the goal of the club to enjoying wines we haven’t had before while putting the emphasis on fun.  And, you know, I ended up learning and retaining a lot more knowledge.

As most groups go, life got in the way for awhile and we had not met in a few months.  When Peter and Jen revived the group, I was excited. I walked in with my Spiegelau glasses and no idea of what surprises were in store.

It turns out we were having a Mardi Gras theme with homemade Cajun food.  Our hosts wanted to do a Spanish red theme, but knew that it wouldn’t match the food, so another theme was added to go with the dinner.  We started with wines that would go well with spicy food.  Our first line-up included the following:

 

  • Chateau Bonnet Entre-Deux-Mers Blanc 2011 – a blend of sauvignon blanc, semillon and muscadelle with grapefruit, minerality and a little hint of sweetness.  Great wine under $10.
  • Chateau Guibon  2011 – lots of pear and melon with a nice balance from the blend of Semillon, sauvignon blanc and muscadelle.  This wine is led by the Semillon and is more muted than the first.  Another nice white under $10.
  • Leyda Sauvignon Blanc 09 – lots of citrus with lime, grapefruit and green apple.  Great minerality and nice finish. Also in the $10 range and a great bargain.
  • Villa Maria Reserve Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 09 – lots of grapefruit, exotic fruit and grassy notes. 
  • Merry Edwards Sauvignon Blanc 07 – I am a big fan of Merry Edwards wines – especially the Sauvignon Blancs and Pinots – this had the same minerality and citrus notes, but unfortunately had lost some its essence with time.

 

Then it was truly showtime – a line-up of highly rated Spanish reds, all from the highly-rated 2004, of which I have not had the opportunity to try.  Our line-up was:

  • Bodegas y Vinedos Alion Ribera del Duero 04 – inky black with blackberry, chocolate, spice and some floral notes.  Incredibly rich and yummy.
  • Baron de Magana 04 – priced under $20, this wine had notes of oak, blackberry, current and graphite. Very earthy.
  • Bodegas El Nido Jumilla Clio 04 – it took some time in the glass for me to appreciate this big wine.  I tasted mocha, cardamom, cinnamon and something that was almost port-like.
  • Vall Llach Priorat 04 – lots of blackberry, herbal notes, chocolate, coffee, peanut brittle, vanilla, minerality and spice.  I really liked this wine and it changed in the glass through the course of the evening.
  • Numanthia ‘Termanthia’, Toro, Spain 04 – this was an incredible wine by one of the best Spanish wine makers out there.  It was complex with black and red fruits, eucalyptus and as smooth as silk.  My absolute favorite of the evening.
  • Dominio Pingus Ribera del Duero Flor de Pingus 04 – definitely needed more decanting time, but had notes of cherry, chocolate, oak, smoke, sage, licorice and coffee. 

 

And if we hadn’t tasted enough great wines, one of our participants had just returned from a trip to Napa, so out came the Guilliams Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 07 and Seavey Cabernet 09.  And that was a fabulous end to our evening and a foggy start to a Sunday morning.


Wines of Chile: A Terroir Master Class

I recently participated in the eighth Wines of Chile Blogger Tasting:  A Chilean Terroir Master Class.  The tasting was led by Fred Dexheimer, Master Sommelier, who participated from Santiago joined by 12 Chilean winemakers including a representation of women winemakers.  The focus was the breadth of the region’s terroir.  The Wines of Chile’s PR folks always do things first class, so I was excited when a well branded case of several varietals including sauvignon blanc, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon and carmenere arrived at my door prior to the tasting.

Chile actually has several hundred years of wine heritage –in parallel with the arrival of the first Spanish conquerors. By mid-19th century, Chilean businessmen started looking at France as a model for winemaking and they brought back rootstocks to Chile.  In the 80s, Miguel Torres, a well-known Spanish winemaker, started making wines in the Curicó Region and began state-of-the-art winemaking and the expansion of other regions.

We tasted 12 wines from several different regions and I was surprised by the diversity of the wines:

Sauvignon Blanc

  • Vina Casablanca Nimbus Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Casablanca Valley ($12.99) – minerality, apple, citrus and herb; very refreshing and not too fruity.  My favorite white that I tried
  • San Pedro 1865 Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Leyda Valley ($19) – unfortunately this bottle had turned, but it received lots of positive reviews from the other bloggers
  • Casa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Colchagua Valley ($25) – pineapple, lemongrass, floral and great acidity

Pinot Noir

  • Emiliana Novas Pinot Noir 2010, Casablanca Valley ($19) – funk on nose, tobacco, raspberries, cocoa, smoke and lavender
  • Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2009, Casablanca Valley ($32) – very fruity with red stone fruit, cherries and leather.  This was my favorite Pinot
  • Morande Gran Reserva Pinot Noir 2009, Casablanca Valley ($17.99) – cinnamon, floral and spice

Carmenere

  • Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2010, Cachapoal Valley, ($22) – I tasted chocolate, wood and berry.  I really wanted more from this wine, but never got the payoff
  • Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere 2010, Colchagua Valley, ($14.99) – blackberries, spice and smoke.  A very interesting wine
  • Koyle Royal Carmenere 2009, Colchagua Valley, ($25.99) – very meaty, green pepper, herbal, lush and silky.  This was my favorite Carmenere

Cabernet Sauvignon

  • Ventisquero Grey Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Malpo Valley, ($29) – this tasted of cherries, cola, herbs and black pepper with floral notes
  • Maquis Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Colchagua Valley, ($19) – smoke, leather and violet
  • Los Vascos Le Dix Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Colchagua Valley, ($64.99) – this wine was made in commemoration of Barons de Rothschild (Lafite’s) 10 years of work in Chile.  It’s a limited quantity wine and had lots of vanilla, cedar, eucalyptus, cherry and chocolate.  This was my favorite wine, but had the steepest price tag

This is my second time to participate in a #winesofchile tasting and the evolution and diversity of these wines continues to impress.


Day Two, Wine Bloggers Conference 2012: 42 Hours of Wine, Key Learnings and Post Parties

Bless me father, for I have sinned.  I went to bed at 2 a.m. and needed to exercise, so I did.  And based upon what is waiting around every corner of the Wine Bloggers Conference, you’ll understand why.  Here is my roomie, Liza’s, morning breakfast of a lovely French wine and Voodoo Donuts.

While I missed the first session, I started my day with a session entitled “the winery view of wine bloggers” with Sasha Kady of Kings Estate, Christopher Watkins of Ridge Vineyards and Ed Thralis of Wine Tonight.  Sasha, Christopher and Ed are well known, well respected and well integrated wine people in the world of social media and what they had to say was a validation that my many unpaid hours spent on a passion made a difference.  The conversation was two-way; because that’s what these guys know how to do well, and why they are at the top of wineries that bloggers want to engage with in a meaningful way.

We had a very quick lunch at a food truck lot in Portland, where I had a fabulous Korean taco with extra, extra, extra spicy sauce.  As someone who usually is written off on spicy, this stand complied and I was very excited – especially for $5.50.

I attended “The Art of Oregon Pinot – A Clonal Tasting, which was a total wine geek tasting that I so enjoyed.  So basically, clones are separate organisms that are genetically identical to their predecessor, which is paramount to creating wines that reflect the qualities of different clones in Oregon Pinot Noirs.  Erath hosted our clonal tasting where we discussed the different terriors in Oregon and why the clones where so different.  We tried Pinot clones from Wädenswil and Pinot Noir Pommard as well as new Pinot Noir clones developed in France and at UC Davis to address disease problems and later to isolate vineyard characteristics such as early ripening, open clusters, and small berries including “115,” which had lots of red raspberry, red fruits and tasted of black pepper; “777,” with black fruits and vegetal notes, which was described as “slutty”; the Pommard UCD 4 clone, my favorite, which stood alone as a traditional Oregon pinot; and the blend, which incorporated  spice, but was rough at a young age. 

We moved on to the “Off the Beaten Path” seminar presented by Winebow with Sheri Sauter Morano, MW, and the most humbling session of the conference.  We had a blind tasting of seven wines, which I began with confidence, but ended with the realization that I have so much to learn.  In order, we tried the following wines:

  1.  Itasad Mendi, Hondarribi Zuri 2011 – Bizkaiko Txakolina is a small denomination that covers wines in the province of Vizcaya in Spain.  The wine is full of citrus, tropical and zesty minerality that left me guessing on a new wine, grape and region.
  2. Argiolas S’elagas Nuragus di Cagliari 2010 – apple, floral, nutty, floral with stone fruit.  This Sardinian wine kept me guessing.
  3. Cousino- Macul Sauvignon Gris 2011 – Maipo Valley in Chile.  Almost candy-like with starfruit, smoky notes with a crisp acidity.  A very interesting wine.
  4. Librandi Duca San Felice Ciro Rosso Riserva 2009 – Calabria in Italy.  Earthy, mocha, red cherry, kirsch, tobacco and a bit of meat.  Lots of structure.
  5. Weingu Heinrich Zweigelt 2008 – Austria.  Strawberry, all spice, red fruit and an earthiness that was unique.
  6. Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Reserva Bonardoa 2010 – aka known as Charbono, but only in Argentina.  Plums, raspberries, spice and oak with lots of tannins. 
  7. Anima Negra An 2008 – Mallorca in Spain.  Meat, cedar, earth and leather. 

Key learning here – no matter what you think you know about wine, there is a blind tasting out there to make you realize you know nothing.  And with the exception of the last wine listed, this is a fun exercise with the most expensive bottle listed at $25, but many at least $10 below that price.

After that, Rex Pickett, author of Sideways, took the stage.  Here is my picture.  I’m sure someone else will dedicate ink to his discussion.  I will not.

I wish I had more time to join the reception for the Wines of Greece, but everything was running behind and I only had about ten minutes to spend to find out I need to know more about the wines of Santorini. 

There were a few folks who bagged on the wine dinner hosted by King Estate.  Shame, shame, shame.  This was a wine dinner that brought together the best of wine, food and social media and was seamlessly organic.   We started with a salad of fennel with heirloom tomato, grilled corn and duck breast prosciutto with the 2011 NxNW Horse Heaven Hills Riesling. 

Our next course was the confit of spot prawns with a cucumber, roasted peach and opal basil with the 2011 King Estate Signature Pinot Gris, a delightful and refreshing wine that paired perfectly with the course. 

We then went to a wild Chinook salmon with garlic sausage (except for me – thank you for asking), potato gnocchi, buttered leeks and aged balsamic with 2010 King Estate Signature Pinot Noir.  Another divine match.

The next course was a roasted top loin of beef with wild mushroom, Yukon potato and shallot marmalade with the 2009 NxNW Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 

The dessert course was a lemon panna cotta with summer berries and lavender syrup with a 2010 King Estate Riesling Vin Glace.  It was a brilliant display of social media, showcasing local farmers and sources and highlighting all that Oregon has to offer.

We quickly ducked into the International Wine Night, which unfortunately probably got shorted due to the dinner running over by about 90 minutes.  Then it was time for the after-parties, which I had opt out on some as they were too numerous to attend all of them.

  • We went to the Holy Grail of Alsace Riesling party, which featured vintages from 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2001 including Trimbach’s Close Ste Hune, a great single vintage Riesling.  I was lucky enough to try everything but the 2000, and it was a nice reminder of how great Alsace Grand Cru Rieslings stand the test of time.  They aren’t called “somm candy” without reason.

  • There was a vertical tasting of Oregon magnums with some that weren’t represented at the conference, so it was fun to try some new vintages.
  •  #Get Vertical by Palm Bay Wines – this was a fun opportunity to taste verticals of international wines including Bertani (Bertani Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 1980, 1993 and 2004); Col D’Orcia (Col d’Orcia Brunello di Montalcino DOG, 1980, 1997 and 2007);  Faustino (Faustino Gran Reserva Rioja DOC, 1964, 1982 and 1999); Jean-Luc Colombo (Jean-Luc Colombo “Les Ruchets” Cornas AOC, 2001, 2005, 2007 and 2009); and Trimbach (Timbach Riesling “Cuvee Frederic Emile” Alsace AOC, 2000 and 2001).  I really wish that this wasn’t my second to the last stop as there were some great wines that I would have liked to savor more, but thank you Palm Bay Wines for the experience.

  • Jordan – this event has brought many bloggers to their knees on Sunday morning and is always the party never to miss.  Lisa brought a wide array of Jordan’s best vintages, right off of their 40th anniversary.  These were wines to remember (or perhaps some attending did not).

I’ll end this post with a full disclosure and an introduction to “Crazy Chicken.”  I travel the world for my day job and so my seven-year-old daughter asked me to bring a toy and take pictures so she can experience my journey.  The chicken has traveled with me from London to Stockholm to Singapore and finally to Portland, where he has adventures – clearly tonight he spent too much time at the after-parties (and no, those photos aren’t shared with her).  Look for him in the return to Carlton winery post-trip.




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