Archived entries for Oregon Wines

Wine Blogger Conference 2014: Let the Countdown Begin

Bloggers Gone Wild at #wbc12

Many of you have asked me about what a Wine Bloggers Conference experience is really like.  With about two weeks left leading up to Wine Bloggers Conference 14 #wbc14 in Santa Barbara, I thought I’d go “old school” and recap advice that I gave after attending my first conference several years ago. 

Here’s the link and below is the updated recap.  As my blog has grown in readership, my invitations to private events have increased exponentially.  In essence, remember that if you are with a group of 300 citizen bloggers, everything you can say and do may show up online (exhibit A is below).  Someone posted this week that what happens in Santa Barbara stays in Santa Barbara … said no blogger ever.  So true!

1. You may have the opportunity to let another blogger who cannot attend live the experience through your eyes. Otherwise known as the what you say can and will be used against you adage Vintage Texas.

2. Under any circumstances possible, schedule your birthday to coincide with #wbc11. Trust me on this. My birthday falls a few weeks prior to the event, but Thea and I make it a habit to celebrate in style.

3. Get to know your local distributors, wine representatives and others in the industry.  

4. Share a room. Having been married for over 20 years, I was planning to have my own room until a mutual friend asked if I’d mind sharing with another female blogger who needed accommodations. I ended up with the most fun roommate in Liza and she became my running buddy at all events and has continued to be a fabulous roomie over the years.

5. Attend the unconference events. In the midst of one of our sessions, a note was sent out on Twitter that an unofficial wine tasting was in process on the back patio. As I slipped out in between the sessions, I found the bottle of Turley that I brought from home paled in comparison with the vintage Bordeaux wines, high end champagne and other cellar selections from other bloggers. 

6. Bring your list of Twitter handles included in the #wbc handbook. It was so much fun to put faces and names with personalities that I’ve come to know and love over the past year and a half.

7. Spit. Thankfully this is a lesson that I didn’t need to learn. If you were to ingest all the wine that is offered to you, especially during speed tasting, you would end up curled up in a ball in a corner somewhere. You already need a bionic liver to hold your own here anyway.

8. Open your mind and try to put aside preconceived notions. Over the years I went from being not a big rose fan to learning to appreciate it….

9. Partner with the local experts.  There are a ton of events that never make the formal agenda – after parties, educational events, tastings, etc.  Do keep in mind though that these invitations take time.

10. Exercise daily. Just trust me on this. It clears your head, jump starts your metabolism (you desperately need this based on the 6,000 calories that you consume daily with food and wine) and there is not a better way to see your surroundings.  The reactions of your fellow bloggers as they pass you in the exercise room on the way to the conference are priceless.

11. My bonus tip is to buy flair. The ribbons are sassy, fun and help define your personality. Know that your money will go to the scholarship fund to send a deserving blogger to the next blogger’s conference.

In terms of what the actual conference is like, it is like speed dating a wine region with the red carpet rolled out.  Imagine wine bottles everywhere, after parties beginning at 10pm and going until the wee hours, swag bags, wine makers, workshops, food trucks, bus tours and conferences that begin at noon.  Sessions where 10 winemakers have five minutes to pour the wine, tell you his or her story, and answer your questions for a total of 50 minutes. And wine – lots of wine.  For this year’s pre-conference excursion, we actually stay one night at the Day’s Inn where Miles stayed in the movie Sideways.  Apparently it hasn’t changed a bit.  And the after parties are just over the top – Jordan and Rodney Strong always do great events.  This year, I’m excited to be a part of the committee that chose the great scholarship recipients.  I can’t wait to meet them.

And tune on Twitter and on Facebook to follow along with the adventures from July 8 to 13.  I’ll be posting on the blog after the event and hope you’ll follow my journey.


An Unexpected Conversation with David Adelsheim

Sometimes the stars align … last week appeared to be the perfect storm of a very tough and demanding work week.  We had a series of key all-day meetings for most of the week, which was grueling.  At the end of the week I found myself at the Fairmont Hotel with my executive team where we were having a very well deserved drink.

I ordered an Adelsheim Pinot Gris, usually one of my favorite “go to” whites on the Fairmont’s by the glass list. Our waitress stopped and said, you know that David Adelsheim, the founder, is sitting right over there doing a private tasting.  Of course I immediately crashed the tasting with Dallas Wine Chick card in hand.  Luckily, Hunter Hammett, one of the top somms in Dallas who leads the Fairmont’s impressive wine program and who is a friend, asked me to join while my executive team, at the paying gig, watched incredulously.

I had to get back to the meetings, so it was much faster than I would have liked.  David talked about the introduction of two chardonnays from Adelsheim and the concerted effort that has been going on back in the Willamette Valley to bring this grape to the public.  He’s been part of the effort of folks that have been working on making a good chardonnay since the late 1990s – to truly understand when to pick them, how to make them and how to make it the best grape it can be.  When I was at the wine bloggers conference (#wbc10) in Oregon, I was struck by the collaboration that occurred with the wine making community.  We tried the 2013 Willamette Valley Chardonnay and the 2012 Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay – the later of which was newly released.  Both chardonnays were great good, the Adelsheim Caitlin’s Reserve Chardonnay 2012 was stunning.  Pick it up while you can at Pogo’s – it’s lovely and only 350 cases were made.

We also tried the Adelsheim Rose 2013, a dry rose made from Pinot Noir grapes.  This had lots of fruit, but a minerality that made it a “Melanie” rose.  Those of you who know me understand that I don’t normally like in a rose.  This was a very nice rose.

We also tried two Pinot Noirs – the 2011 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and the 2011 Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir, both newly released.  These were great representations of Oregon style Pinot’s, but I never would have picked these out of a blind tasting as Oregon Pinots.  2011 was a very cool vintage and was the latest harvest on record.  I asked David what he thought would happen with the evolution of these wines – he laughed, shook his head and said he had absolutely no idea.  The Willamette Valley Pinot Noir was full of black cherry, spice and was lovely.  Elizabeth’s Reserve was a bigger wine with lots of forest floor, berry, cherry, spice and cherry. 

I asked David if he was trying to replicate the style of the 2011 and he said his goal was not to make another replicated vintage but just to make lovely wines.  Based on my experience with Adelsheim, this is a strategy that has worked well for him since 1971.

 


Summer Wine Round-up: Feeling Thirsty?

If you’ve been following Dallas Wine Chick since I started my job as the head of marketing for an energy software company, you know that I work with a great group of people who are more than willing to step in and “assist” in the tasting of wines.  We started #thirstythursdays which evolved into #winewednesdays and then occasionally turned into #tipsytuesdays.  My travel has been challenging lately, so when we were able to gather, I would open a large number of wines that I needed to review.

The latest tasting included 25 wines from Spain, France, California, Argentina, Italy and even two ciders – the first time that I have ever been given cider samples.  These were the 14 that made the favorite list:

Sparkling/Rose

California

2013 Isabel Mondavi Deep Rose Cabernet Sauvignon – very crisp with raspberry, strawberry and apple. I’ve come over the years to enjoy rose much more than I used to and wines like this have caused that evolution.

Spain

NV Anna de Codorniu Cava – a very nice drinking cava with notes of apple, lots of minerality and freshly baked bread.

Whites:

France

2011 Chateau Lamothe de Haux Blanc – this was a delightful white wine with crispness, character and balance at $13.  Refreshing and with a great minerality.

Spain

2012 Martin Codax Albarino – I am a huge fan of this wine and Albarino wines in general.  This one had great minerality, pear, white peach and notes of citrus.

2012 Laxas Albarino — lovely and also well regarded.  I tasted pineapple, orange, apple and apricot.  It was also a great expression of this grape.

2013 Cune Monopole Rioja – tropical fruit, jasmine and other floral notes make this a perfect wine for a hot Texas Summer. 

Reds:

Argentina

2008 Susana Balbo Brioso Agrelo Malbec – this was one of my favorite reds of the tasting and personified what a Malbec should taste like. 

California

2011 Emblem Cabernet – a very nice cabernet with notes of blackberry, cassis, vanilla and tobacco.

2012 Olema Pinot Noir – black cherry, all spice, black pepper with some of the earthiness that comes from Sonoma Pinot Noirs.  It was a head turner.

NV Rare Red 4 Grape Blend – a blend of Zinfandel, Petite Verdot, Petite Sirah and Merlot from Lodi, Paso Robles and the Central Valley.  This is your perfect pizza wine at $10.

Chile

2012 Rios de Tinta – I thought this was a very affordably priced everyday Chilean table wine.  I got notes of blackberry, mocha and plum.

2011 Rios de Chile Reserva Carmenere – lots of tobacco, vanilla, clove, plum and blackberry in this wine. Well balanced and a great representation.

Oregon

2011 Elizabeth Chambers Winemaker’s Cuvee Pinot Noir – this was delicious and I tasted mushroom, plum, black cherry, truffle and violets.  I so enjoyed this and am very glad this Oregon-based winery has expanded nationally and to Texas.

Ciders:

I am new to craft ciders so it was fun for me to learn more about Michael & Paul Scotto’s approach to bringing wine making techniques to making hard apple cider.  They use a combination of five different apple varieties and the process of making wine and making cider have many similarities.  We tried two versions – the William Tell Hard Apple Cider and the William Tell Pinot Grigio Hard Apple Cider.  I liked them both, but the 15 percent of Pinot Grigio had a special something.  It was delicious, refreshing and tasted like a baked apple.


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.


Auburn Football, the BCS National Championship and Wine

I had the honor of attending the BCS National Championship Game last week.  I’m honest with you all — so I’ll admit it — the emotional hangover is still there.  For those of you who follow me strictly for wine – bear with me – I’ll get to that.  This game was about a “bucket list” experience that involved highs, lows, ups, downs, drama, fairy tales and passion.  It was about winning and losing.  It was about friendship – seeing very old friends and cementing relationships with new friends.  I couldn’t have better content for a blog that talks about experiences.

If you don’t follow college football, the BCS National Championship Game is the last game played to decide the top college team.  This year, Auburn and Florida State were the teams competing.  The atmosphere was electric and seeing Pasadena washed in a sea of orange and blue was an emotional experience.

So how did we get there?  I was asked several years ago to be part of an Auburn Athletics advisory committee and I’ve gotten to know the folks that make the athletics department tick.  Because of that relationship, we had an opportunity to buy tickets to the game at a decent cost vs. the four figure estimates featured on Craigslist.  Couple that with a dear friend who is a high ranking college conference official (who would never want to be identified) and we had our hotel hook up and friends to play with for the weekend.

We stayed at the Langham Hotel, which has been around since 1907 and has to have the most complete amenity kit ever.  The hotel also hosted many of the VIP college conference officials, ESPN’s commentators and other sports icons.  Walking through the lobby after going for a run and seeing ESPN’s Game Day’s, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit, as well as Johnny Manziel formerly from A&M, and other sports VIPs was intense.

We drank some great wines and because of the company we were with, I can claim that the Chairman of an unnamed Bowl purchased a bottle of 2009 Domaine Serene Pinot Noir for our table.  I also had my first BevMo experience where I tried out several of the wines recommended by Wine Bloggers Conference friend, Wilfred Wong.  Wish we had this store in Texas!

And because I am a dork, one definite highlight leading up to the game was the multiple motorcycle police escort we had going to the Rose Bowl.  And answering the question that many of you had, I was not in trouble.  This was pre-game and I did not go all Alabama mom (just Google it, I don’t want to give that crazy woman any encouragement) on someone.  But blowing through lights when you are not dead or involved in a funeral procession, is a pretty cool experience.

Auburn was up until the last 79 seconds.  It was one of those games where the lead changed 3 times in the final handful of minutes.  Florida State had the ball last and took home the crystal football.  As an Auburn fan, I maintain my emotional hangover.  As a fan of the overall experience, I had a “bucket list” moment.  War Eagle and wait until 2015!


Celebrity Wines: The Good, the Bad and the Funny

Christy Lemire at the Oscars

Check out my column today in Culture Map Dallas where I interviewed Associated Press Movie Critic Christy Lemire to find out what she thought the persona of the wines would be based on the celebrity.  Then Jasper Russo, who runs the fine wine program for Sigel’s, and I tried the wines.


George Vanderbilt’s Estate Wine to Italian to Oregon Pinot: A New Thanksgiving Tasting Tradition?

I was preparing to visit my husband’s family over the holidays in Huntsville, Alabama, and it has become part of a family tradition to do a wine tasting.  I packed up 18 bottles, mostly of review wines, and we set upon our journey.  Our wines were varied – everything from Italian wines to Pinot Noirs from Oregon to sparklings from George Vanderbilt’s estate.  We also got to taste first and second labels from one provider.

Here was our line-up:

Biltmore Estate

Biltmore Estate Christmas at Biltmore 2012 (California) – this was a semi-sweet white blend of Gewürztraminer, Muscat Canelli, Chenin Blanc, Muscat Orange and Riesling.  It was paired with a tataki tuna, which matched perfectly with any Asian or spicy dish.  I tasted spice, lime, citrus, honey, candied ginger and pear. 

Biltmore Estate Blanc de Blancs Methode Champenoise – Brut NV (Russian River) – Yeasty, nutty and green apple.  A nice sparkling that continues to impress.  Both of these wines are part of the Biltmore Estate’s sparkling collection and are served at the historic estate of George Vanderbilt.

Cornerstone/Stepping Stone

Cornerstone Pinot Noir 2010 (Oregon) – fruit forward and black cherry.  A very traditional Pinot Noir from Oregon that matched perfectly with our Thanksgiving dinner.

Cornerstone Chardonnay 2010 (xx) – almond, citrus and well balanced.  A chardonnay for people who do not like chardonnay.

Stepping Stone Pinot Noir 2010 (Oregon) – earthy, cherry cola and smooth.  Also another great match with Thanksgiving food.

Stepping Stone Cabernet 2010 (Napa) – currant, cassis, spice, cedar and licorice.  Delicious and another group favorite.

Amici

Amici Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (Napa) – A very crisp, fruity wine with notes of citrus.  This was a group favorite of the whites.

Amici Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (Napa) – Blackberry, coffee and cedar with balance.  A nice and well balanced wine.

Jenner

Jenner Chardonnay 2010 (confirm) – lemon curd, vanilla, almond and good balance.

Jenner Pinot Noir 2010 (Sonoma) – big fruit, big taste, cherry and cherry cola.  A good representation of a Sonoma Pinot.

Lange Twins

Lange Twins Caricature Red Blend 2010 (Lodi) – this was a very juicy wine with lots of red stone fruit and raspberries with spice.  It was a nice blend of cabernet and zinfandel.

Piccini

Piccini Chianti DOCG 2011 (Tuscany) – this was a juicy wine that was drinkable and very food friendly.

Piccini Chianti Classico DOCG 2009 (Tuscany) – notes of plum, flowers and berry.  It was velvety, smooth and had a great finish. 

Anna de Codorniu Brut NV – a nice little cava with notes of citrus, tropical and good balance.  

There were a few other wines that we did taste – one that had turned and one that wasn’t to my personal taste.  I have to point out the great wines of Cornerstone and Stepping Stone that continue to impress me with well done, small production wines.  

 

 


Post Conference Tour: #WBC12, Carlton Without Handcuffs

And then it was over.  Just like that.  But thankfully my post trip was about to begin.  The town of Carlton, where I had spent the #cuffedincarlton wine tour trip, was willing to have a group of us back for a two-day excursion with some of my most favorite wine bloggers.  We were picked up by the rocking party bus from the Doubletree with Motown music, couches and comfy seating where we were transported to Carlton’s “Walk in the Park” event featuring more than 30 Oregon wineries.  The event brought together some of Yamhill County’s best wineries and gave me the opportunity to spend some extra quality time with some of the people behind my favorite wines. 

 

A special shout out to Ken  Morrison from K&M, who was such an avid student on how to Tweet and was kind enough to continue the crazy chicken legacy.  BTW, he and his partner, Mauro Hernandez, make some pretty rocking Pinots that I can’t wait to receive once the weather breaks in Texas and my shipment arrives.

Lynn and Amy generously hosted us at Republic of Jam for cocktails and fabulous appetizers.  It was so fun to see the store that has become such a destination point and their vision brought to life.   I loved the craft cocktails made with so many of their products; they were just delicious. 

We had dinner at the Horse Radish, well those did that didn’t have a pork allergy (Carlton definitely loves its pork products), but they gave me a really nice salad and I was able to sneak across the street for a great turkey sandwich that I snuck into the hotel James Bond style.  I was able to share a bottle of Retour, one of my favorite Pinot Noirs who is owned by a dear friend of mine.

Marcy and I were assigned to the Casa della Valle B&B where we met Eve and Joe, the sweetest and kindest couple that treated us like dear friends.  Joe is an avid collector of some of the most classic toys and xxx has a huge collection of antiques.  Marcy and I had a blast getting to know them, learning about how they decided to start a B&B and finding more about their collections.  We were so excited to have been assigned to the B&B so we could get to know such an interesting couple (and the breakfast absolutely rocked).

The next morning, we had a private tour with Ken Wright, who in my mind is one of the “father’s” of Oregon Pinot.  Because there have been really great discussions on other blogs by attendees of WBC12 about Oregon terrior,  I have no need to recreate my version, so I’ll just talk more about Ken’s point of view from that day.  He talked about the wines doing so well because all of the conditions are right for Pinot Noir and the depth and how where the grapes are planted matter.  He called others to task who are growing Pinot grapes on the floor of the valley making poor wines and hurting the Oregon wine industry.  Ken has earned the right to have an opinion. 

He talked about how nutrition is key to making great wine and the plant is the ultimate report card.  Ken told a great story about seeking out a farmer in Washington State who was responsible for growing a specific apple for the Japanese market who had 15-acres dedicated to doing only that.  Ken and his team visited the farmer who at the beginning of their discussion peeled one of his apples and took them on a tour of the vineyard.  When they returned, the apple had not aged a bit and was “freaking unbelievable.”  This further solidified that each plant must be allowed to take its fruit to the ultimate stage.  Microbiology and protecting the fruit is so important – not only for wine, but for the fruits and vegetables that we eat daily.

We tried two of his wines – the Ken Wright Cellars Abbott Claim, Yamhill-Carlton AVA, which was lush with stone fruit, cassis and spice.  Our next wine was the Ken Wright Cellars Carter, Eola-Amity AVA, which was much more mellow in nature with blueberry, cherry and plum.  Totally different vineyard, totally different terrior and elevation.  Cool experiment!

Our next stop was Lemelson Vineyards, a 160 acre, carbon-neutral facility, focused on producing certified organic wines.  The winery owns seven estate vineyard sites located in Yamhill-Carlton, Dundee Hills and Chehalem Mountain.  We started with a glass of 2011 Dry Riesling, which was full of tropical notes and was very enjoyable.  We then toured “the Starship Enterprise,” the winery’s gravity flow facility designed by Steve Cornish, who also designed Palmaz Vineyards (link).  After we climbed up the ladder of this high tech wonder with our glass of 2010 Tikka’s Run Pinot Gris, I didn’t time my ladder climb with the person ascending before me and ended up covered with Pinot Gris and a broken glass.  Lesson learned – make sure you get your timing right if climbing a ladder with a glass of wine in hand. 

Anthony King, the wine maker and his wife Kara, talked about the collegial community of winemakers in the region.  We then tasted some of the same wines aged in different coopers – such a cool experience and it becomes easy to see why a winemaker pays $1,100 for a high-end barrel – aromas, flavors, smells are all different.  We adjourned to the porch and had the opportunity to taste several wines (most of which I ended up ordering – you will find that was a common theme of this day).

  • We tried the 2010 Thea’s Selection Pinot Noir (which of course I had to bring a bottle to @winebratsf , that was named after Dorothy (Eric’s mom), who wanted to be called Thea.  It was earthy, cherry and full of licorice.
  • Our next wine was the 2009 Mt. Richmond Vineyard Pinot Noir, which was very floral with bright fruit.
  • The 2009 Johnson Vineyard Pinot Noir was next, which needed some bottle time, but was full of rich notes and big fruit. 
  • We moved to the 2010 Jerome Reserve Pinot Noir, which is made of a different blend every year, and was my favorite Pinot.  Big depth, dark fruit and a fabulous wine. 
  • We ended with 2009 Oeneous Dessert Riesling with figs, which was a ridiculously fantastic match.

Our next stop was lunch at Cuvee, several tart flambées prepared by Chef Gilbert Henry, which happily did not contain all pork products.  The veggie and salmon ones made me very happy.  Belle Pente, Alexana and Carlo and Julia joined us for lunch and talked briefly about the wines that were paired with the lunch. 

I sat across from Felix Madrid, the owner and winemaker of Carlo and Julia, who talked about naming the winery after his twin sons (now 23!).  At five, his child smelled one of the wines and remarked, “dad, this smells like perfume.”  A child after my own heart and probably a pillar in the family business.

Then we did a speed dating of sorts with a number of wineries.  I don’t think that Carlton understood how much we liked their wines and we slowed down the schedule when we insisted on buying at every stop.  We visited Carlton Cellars, Valley Emporium, Noble Pig (loved the food/wine pairings), Terra Vina, Mouvance and Troon (super interesting and non-traditional wines like meritage, zinfandel and port).  I would have loved another hour at each place.

Thank you again to the City of Carlton, “the wine capital of Oregon” for rolling out the red carpet and making this group of bloggers feel special.  Your town has so much to offer and I can say with certainty that I will be returning as soon as possible.


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.


#WBC 12: Evening Festivities, Speed Tasting, Peruvian Food & Cuffed in Carlton

After the fun pre-trip to Salem, our bus pulled up for the long awaited start of the Wine Bloggers Conference, but not without a lung stopping beginning.  All the rooms at the Doubletree were deemed non-smoking except for the non-compliant guest that stayed our room prior to our arrival.  I went up to the room first and Liza, my roommate, generously offered to get the wine we had stored with the bellhop.  I walked into the room and the wall of smoke hit me.  I called down to the front desk, but when Liza walked in and saw me standing by the open window with the patio window open thought she had busted a closet smoker.  The Doubletree quickly moved us to another room and generously hauled our stash of wine to the next place.

We started our day prior to the conference with a long-awaited tasting of Two Shepherds Wine, which is owned by my friend, William Allen (a.k.a Wine MacGyver for his endless supply of wine glasses and accessories at previous conferences).  Many of us who write about wine dream, “If Iever make the jump into the wine making world, would I have what it takes?” – and knowing that William has a job as encompassing as mine as a software sales executive – I am incredibly impressed.  His premise is to make Rhone varieties that reflect their sense of place and shine when blended. 

We started with the Two Shepherds 11 Grenache Blanc, which tasted of melon, citrus and lemon with some minerality on the end.  Then we tasted the 11 Viognier with a floral nose, but with nice acidity.  Our next stop was the 11 Pastoral Blanc, which was a blend of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier and Grenache Blanc, with notes of citrus and pear.  This wine begged for some king crab.  We tasted the 10 Syrah/Mourvedre blend with lots of berry and pepper and then a barrel sample of the Grenache.  One word – wow.  Based on what I tasted, I can say with certainty that you will be reading about Two Shepherds very soon – get on the list now because this is truly a small production winery destined for very good things.

We stopped by the welcome session, which was hosted by the Oregon Wine Board, and were given a snapshot of what we had to look forward to during the week and served as a long-awaited reunion of bloggers. 

That night, we were invited to an intimate event to get a glimpse of Oregon’s wine history featuring 02-08 vintages from past years of the Portland Indie Wine Festival with some wines from some of Oregon’s top winemakers. The 5-year-old festival, which is on hold this year, but is sure to be back in 2013, is a project that brings together up and coming independent wine producers with music and food.  We were picked up by the good people of Watershed and brought to a “speakeasy” bar at Portland Wine Storage.  The vibe was cool, the wines were great, the change during the different harvests (lots of rain in 2004 for example vs. the coolest season on record in 2008) and it was fun to sit one-on-one and talk to winemakers from Harry Peterson-Nedry from Chehalem, Lynn Penner-Ash from Penner-Ash and Ben Thomas from Montinore.  And then it was 2 a.m. – welcome to the reality of the Wine Blogger’s Conference….

I’m not going to give a moment by moment recap about the event because there are some really good ones already out there such as Randall Grahm’s speech by Ben Simons or the great write-up of the “Ready, Fire, Aim” live wine blogging by Winemundo.  

But, I will mention the wheels off lunch that I had with David Honig and Liza at Andina, the best Peruvian restaurant that I have ever tried. 

In the afternoon, we were marched out to buses where we randomly selected our wine region tour for the duration of the evening.  We totally scored getting one of the best tours with a group of people whom I absolutely adore.  Zephyr won’t tell you where you are going until the bus is moving so we were very excited to hear that we were going to Carlton, “the wine Capital of Oregon.”  Thanks to Mary Cressler and Thea Dwelle’s invitation in 2010, I had the chance to get to know Amy Wilder and Lynette Shaw during my last trip to Oregon when Amy introduced me to Voodoo Donuts and Lynette introduced me to Willamette Valley.  A friendship was quickly born. 

About 40 minutes into our journey I spotted a police car on the side of the road with a male and female officer in the car.  I made a comment to my seatmate right as the lights were turned on in the police car.  An officer boarded the bus and told us we needed to disembark due to a “situation,” which turned out to be a brilliantly executed PR ploy. 

And, so we began our #cuffedincarlton journey.  What the officer, who turned out to be the chief of police, did not bank on, were the comments about his attractiveness.  Female bloggers, thinking that perhaps he might be an actor or had a side job in Magic Mike, had fun writing about him.  Sorry Chief Kevin.

We stopped at the lovely Carlo & Julian winery where we were served 09 Albarino that was flinty and perfect for the hot weather – especially with the tuna and three pepper sauce that was served with it.  We walked to the vineyards where we had a beautiful cheese and bread plate served with the 09 Tempranillo.  I was surprised to see these two wines in Oregon, but they were tasty and made Joe ponder.

 

We then met Ken Wright, one of the father’s of Oregon wine, who talked about the geography of Carlton and Yamhill.  I’ll talk a little more in detail in a later post, since we were lucky enough to spend the morning with Ken on a post conference visit. 

Our dinner stop was at Cielo Blu and once again we had no idea what was waiting for us.  Imagine a room packed with “evidence” against us with the top chefs in Carlton and the top wineries ready to match a nine course meal with 26 of the region’s best wines.  Mary Cressler and I decided that we had to try everything and gamely set out to keep our palates sharp and our sobriety up. 

Our first course “or Evidence No. 1” was Chinook salmon from Pacific City cooked on a traditional Salish bake, which was an alder wood frame over an open fire by Chef Jeff Lorton from Valley Emporium.  We got to sample the 2011 Youngberg Hill Aspen Pinot Gris, the 2009 Noble Pig Pinot Noir, the 2010 Omero Iliad Pinot Noir, the 2010 Alexana Revana Vineyard Pinot Noir and the 2010 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir Blanc.  It was hard to choose a favorite, but I really liked the 2011 Youngberg Hill Pinot Gris as the match.

Our second course “or Evidence No. 2” was a duck confit salad with apple, fennel, candied nuts and an orange balsamic dressing from Chef Chloe Couchee from the Horse Radish.  We tried the 2011 Omero Pinot Gris, the 2011 MonksGate Rose of Pinot Noir, the 2008 Mouvance Pinot Noir Julon Vineyard and the 2008 EIEIO Pinot Noir. 

I liked all of these wines, but have to give a shout out to MonksGate for making the first and only rose that I have ever, ever, ever liked.  For those of you who know me, this is an accomplishment equal to pigs flying.

I abstained from the third course “or Evidence No. 3,” which was a Carlton Farms pork loin stuffed with herbs, garlic and onions served with Northwest Succotash from Chef Gilbert Henri of Cuvee, because I am allergic.  I have to say the people in Carlton love their pork, but see more about that later.  Our wine choices were the 2011 Troon Vineyard Vermentino, the 07 MonksGate Pinot Noir, the 2010 Alexana Revana Vineyard Riesling and the 2008 Youngberg Hill Jordan Pinot Noir.  The favorite pairing was the 2010 Alexana Revana Riesling, which surprised me as I thought it was destined to be a Pinot Noir.

Our fourth course “or Evidence No. 4” was braised short ribs in a red wine, rosemary tomato sauce with creamy rosemary polenta from Chef Bonifacio Solorzano from Cielo Blu.  We tried the 2005 Spofford Station Estate Syrah, the 07 Cliff Creek Cellars Cabernet Franc, the 2009 WildAire Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir and the 2009 Terra Vina Bella Vista Red Vinters Blend.  My favorite with the course was the 2009 WildAire Cellars Reserve Pinot Noir.

Our fifth course “or Evidence No. 5” was a grilled flank steak with blue cheese butter and peppered D’affinois mashed potatoes from Chef Sean David from The Horse Radish.  This was served with the 2010 Seven of Hearts Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre Cuvee, the WildAire Cellars Tempranillo (no year given) and the 2009 K&M Alchemy Cuvee Pinot Noir.  My favorite was a tie between the 2010 Seven of Hearts and the 2008 K&M Alchemy.

As if we hadn’t had enough, it was time for a cheese plate served with the 2010 Mouvance Pinot Gris and dark chocolate currant-cabernet ganache made by Dana Dooley with Honest Chocolates served with the 2005 Spofford Station Estate Cabernet Sauvignon and 2009 Troon Vineyard Meritage.  Yum!

Then, the desserts from Chef Amy Wilder, Republic of Jam, a cardamom cake with port preserved plums and dulce de leche cream with the 2010 Seven of Hearts Pinot Noir Coupe’s Cuvee.  Andone of the best desserts that I have ever had, the chocolate blue cheese cheesecake with cherries preserved in balsamic syrup served the same wines matched with the chocolate.  After we experienced every single bit of hometown hospitality in Carlton, we rolled (pun intended) on home. 

Perhaps my plan of moderation didn’t work (ya think…?) My apologies for starting the return sing-a-long on the bus home, but at least I kept it to show tunes and bad songs from the 70’s and 80’s.  Most of the people on the bus still talk to me, so that’s a good thing.

The reality at this point is that you should be done, you should go home, you should get some rest.  But, the post parties were just beginning.  We had the night of Many Bottles, where bloggers brought some of their favorites to share and there were hopes of a dance party (my contribution: 2 drained, one corked); a special tasting of Randall Grahm wines; the bubble and champagne lounge by Pernod Ricard and a few other late night happenings in which bloggers shared some of their favorite wines with a smaller group of people.  After making the rounds, I showed some restraint about 1 a.m. and retired fat and happy knowing I’d be running in the morning, which was not a a fun reality, but necessary with the food/wine consumed.

 




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