Archived entries for Riesling

Frank Morgan: “Get in the Car” and Other Going Rogue Experiences at the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference

Frank Morgan sporting the saying that started it all…

It all started with a phone call from Steve Havill, Wine Club Manager for Bella Grace Vineyards.  Steve saw a few posts I had done after other conferences and wanted to make sure that the Amador County pre-conference tour was going to be an amazing experience for the wine bloggers.  I immediately went out to my network of #goingrogue bloggers to get their opinions.  I have to say what we proposed was a success as the tour was sold out before any of us could register.

But Steve was bound and determined that he was going to do something special for the group.  So the day the conference ended, we boarded a bus and began our journey to discover what makes Bella Grace special.  The answer?  The family… the wines … the hospitality … the experience … and my very own Frank Morgan “Get in the Car” customized shirt…

Charlie and Steve Havill

But first about Amador County.  The region is self-billed as “The Heart of the Mother Lode” and became the destination for those looking to strike gold.  The region fell upon hard times after the California Gold Rush became saturated and Prohibition hurt the wineries established during that time.  Today this area is thriving and there are over 50 different wineries with very different microclimates. Steve told us that surprisingly, 60 percent of the grapes leave Amador Country.  It is known for Zinfandel, but also a number of other varieties due to the number of Italians who brought vines from Italy during that time.

Bella Grace, which was named for two great grandmothers, was founded in 2006 by Charlie and Michael Havill who followed their dream of owning a vineyard.  The winery and vineyards are located in the Sierra Foothills, which is known for a variety of grapes from Zinfandel to Primitivo to Rhone varietals.  The focus has always been on quality and sustainability.  Steve told us that the goal was “to continue the experience of being at our home to every guest in our winery.”  Bella Grace makes 8,000 cases annually as well as organic olive oils, imported balsamic and fruit flavored vinegars.

 

 

 

 

We met most of the family that day and their very talented son, Chef Robert, who recently moved back from Colorado after cooking at Taste.  He provided a gourmet dinner that paired beautifully with the wines.  In fact, this is part of the hospitality – as they do more than 250 dinners a year at no cost to their wine club members.  I loved every wine that I tried.

You can’t do one of these #goingrogue experiences without the side stories.  From Jeff Kralik’s ongoing quest to saber sparkling (with varying levels of success) to the surprise Frank Morgan “Get in the Car” T-shirts to Michelle Williams and I rapping The Beastie Boys’ Paul Revere on the bus ride back, it was absolutely a great end to a very fun trip.

This year it seems that #goingrogue was the overall trend, as the conference was so spread out from the host hotels.  Walking was not an option for most of us.  I felt like I didn’t get to spend the usual quality time with so many of the people I wanted to see, but there were some constants.

 

The Unconference hosted by Craig Camp, now with Troon Winery continued.  This has become one of my favorite events every year because it brings an intimate group together to laugh, eat, talk and in my case, try Troon Wines for the first time.  Color me impressed, Craig.  I’m excited for your new venture and I know you will do a great job putting them on the map.

Gary Krimont

Thea Dwelle scheduled a pre-trip this year that allowed me to discover Anderson Valley wines.  I discovered Foursight Wines, a winery with five generations of family involved that just celebrated its tenth vintage.  I enjoyed being part of the “pinot people” and loved the diversity of these wines.  We also experienced the hospitality of Phillips Hill and Gary Krimont at Yorkville Cellars who poured great wine and kept us in stitches.  I loved discovering the history and great boutique wines of this region.

 


Five Texas Writers, Three Days of Paso Robles … The Adventure Starts Here

 Texas Media In Action

It felt a little like a Real World episode from the late 80’s.  Five writers, all from Texas, most who didn’t know the others, were brought together on a media trip.  At first glance, we were a diverse group – different ages, different religions and different ethnicities.  We ranged from career journalists to social media mavens to luxury publications to an occasional blogger like me.  And our interests were different – food, lifestyle and wine, but we shared a love for storytelling.

The View From My Room

Christopher Taranto, Communications Director, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance

The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance brought us all together to experience the Paso Robles region.  The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance is the collective voice of what makes Paso special.  The organization focuses on both growers and vintners and has approximately 500 members.  As we sat in the majestic lobby of the Allegretto Vineyard Resort, we knew we were in for some life moments ahead.

First, a little about Paso Robles, ‘The Pass of the Oaks,’ is located in San Luis Obispo County on the Salinas River.  It is known for its wineries, olive oil and almonds as well as its mineral hot springs.

Paso Robles has a storied history in wine.  Grapes were introduced in 1797 by the Spanish conquistadors and Franciscan missionaries.  Spanish explorer Francisco Cortez had the vision this would be a great wine region and encouraged those in Mexico and California to come to the region.  In 1882, Andrew York, who came from Indiana, established a winery that still stands today under a different name as Epoch Winery.  Fast forward after Prohibition and growth continued.  Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA) was established in 1983 with 17 wineries and 5,000 vineyard acres with Zinfandel as the heritage grape.  The real expansion occurred in 1990 when the winery count was 20 and today totals more than 200 wineries.

According to a study commissioned by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, the Paso Robles AVA accounts for 87% of San Luis Obispo County wine industry output and economic impact with 40,000 vineyard acres and more than 200 wineries, 95% of which are small production, family owned businesses.

In 2009, the Paso Robles AVA was split into 11 smaller viticultural areas and at this time the winemakers began to expand into a wider variety of grapes include Bordeaux and Rhone varieties.  According to the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, it is the largest and most diverse wine region in California – 30 distinct soil series, many microclimates and varying topography within 612,000 total acres.

 

We started our trip with dinner at Cello Ristorante and Bar, a Mediterranean-inspired restaurant with a focus on the gardens, farms and vineyards of the region.  A group of legendary winemakers joined us and shared what makes Paso Robles special.  Don Brady, Winemaker of Robert Hall, talked about the dramatic growth of the region and how he decided to make his career there.  He was a splendid dinner companion and I had a blast talking about every subject under the sun.

Doug Beckett, Peachy Canyon Winemaker

Doug Beckett, Founder of Peachy Canyon Winery, kept us rolling with laughter and shared an inspiring story about his evolution from a home winemaker in San Diego, to one of the industry’s gurus.

Ben Mayo, the newly-named Winemaker for San Antonio Winery, which is known as the oldest winery in California, talked about his journey to taking his new position.

Steve Peck, the Winemaker for J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, talked about coming to the region because “it was the place where everything was happening and it represented the opportunity to realize the American dream.”

I found that like many regions, I could instantly decipher the Paso personality.  It’s a serious place for winemaking but with a collegial, family and a place willing to take a chance on grapes, varietals and the process of making wine.


Savour South Australia Wines: Old Vines, Classic Wines, Family Lines

Terry, Michelle and Ryan Representing the Texas Wineauxs

Savour South Australia Wines came to Cafe Momentum in Dallas recently and it reiterated for me how much wine is a journey and how much I still have to learn.  When I thought about Australia, Shiraz was the grape that naturally came to mind.  But there is so, so much more.

Adelaide is the wine capital of Australia and South Australia has 18 unique wine regions including Barossa, Clare Valley, Coonawarra and McLaren Vale.  The State of South Australia consists of six regions and two territories with 1.3 million residents.  What I also didn’t know is that Australia is home to some of the oldest living vines in the world.  Even more surprising because Phylloxera has never hit the Barossa and McLaren Vale Regions, the vineyards have been producing fruit for hundreds of years.

Jennifer Lynch, the General Manager of the McLaren Vale Grape Wine and Tourism Association, kicked off the session with an overview on the geology of the region and a discussion on the changing weather patterns and soils.  The first Colony in Australia was founded in 1836 and McLaren Vale was founded by John McLaren in 1938. The first wineries were in operation by 1850.  Today there are more than 100 wineries and 250 grape growers in Australia.  It is one of the most diverse geologies in the world with diverse temperatures, different topographies and unique soils.

The McLaren Vale has four traditional seasons and is well known for reds like Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre, but also grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  Whites include Chardonnay, Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling (and that is good Riesling!)

Then we moved to Barossa.  The first settlers came to Barossa in 1842 from England, Germany and Scotland.  They brought an attitude of preserving the land and a love for farming and agriculture.  Barossa is one of the custodians of the oldest continuous producers.

James March, CEO, of the Barossa Wine and Grape Association, called it “tasting history in a glass.”  He talked about growing up on a vineyard and how the topography of the Barossa Valley and Eden Valley are completely different, likening Barossa to Napa Valley and Eden Valley to Sonoma.  From warmer and drier in Barossa to wetter and cooler in the Eden Valley.  From the deep and rich soil of Barossa to the rockier soil of the Eden Valley.  The different climates make very different wines.  You can find whites like Riesling, Semillon, Chardonnay as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Reds include Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz (Syrah), and Mourvedre.

Chuck Hayward, an Australian Wine Educator, led us in a tasting of 12 unique wines from the regions.  Many were typical for what I thought of the Australian wines that I had prior.  However, there were a few surprises – especially the 2012 Torbreck Woodcutters Semillion (Barossa) that had lots of lime, acidity, green melon and a nutty texture.  It was my first tasting of Australian Semillion and it was a great, refreshing wine.

 

I also really enjoyed the Shiraz’s – the 2013 Langmeil Freedom 1843 Shiraz, 2012 Kaesler Old Bastard and the 2012 Torbreck Run Rig – all from Barossa.   Lots of black fruit, plum, raspberry, herbs and other different styles and expressions of the shiraz grape.  Another shining star with the 2010 Angove the Medhyk Shiraz (McLaren Vale) with lots of red fruit, flowers and mocha as well as getting to try older wine in the 2006 Elderton Ode de Lorraine (Barossa).  The Elderton had notes of juicy fruit, dark berry and was a great expression of the oldest soils on the planet.

Who knew that Australia had sparkling wines?  I tried the 2012 Singleback Black Bubbles (McLaren Vale) made from sparkling shiraz using the champagne region “Methode Traditionelle.”  They told us it is often served during Christmas morning and it was a fun, unexpected twist.

It was a great seminar that really showed the families, the heritage, the history, the region and the unique wines of South Australia.

 


Checkered Past Winery: A Dallas Wine Bar Where Someone Always Knows Your Name

If you are looking for a wine bar that takes itself incredibly seriously and is full of folks discussing the esoteric qualities of wines, Checkered Past Winery is not for you.  If you are looking for your next neighborhood “Cheers experience,” but with a mix of Texas and international wines (and beer too), belly on up to the bar and let Sandro DiSanto , co-founder, owner and winemaker and Carolynne Chancellor, manager and vineyard owner, change your mind about wine snobbery and Texas wines.

So I’ve told you what Checkered Past Winery isn’t.  So what is it?  It’s an urban wine pub in the South Side neighborhood which features quality Texas wines, locally brewed beer, and great wines from around the world with really great folks running the show.  Checkered Past actually has its own wines made in Texas.  We tried several of the wines – the albarino, the viognier and the syrah.  I liked them all, but really enjoyed the two whites.

The winery, which opened in early December of last year on Prohibition Day, is themed around Mods and Rockers, two different British youth subcultures of the early to mid 60’s and 70’s.  The rocker subculture was based upon motorcycles, leather jackets and 50’s rock and roll.  The mod subculture was based around fashion (think Mad Men), music and many rode scooters.

There are a lot of things that make Checkered Past Winery unique including the fact that Sandro is a winemaker making his owned branded wines that you can try at the winery.  His philosophy is to make “balanced wines without faults and pair well with food and friends.”  Carolynne is also growing grapes that will eventually be used in the branded wines.  There is a list of fellow Texas winemakers (higher end) that are considered “friends” as well as seven tap wines as well as local beers and ciders in addition to the international wine list.

Sandro wanted to build an urban winery after commuting more than 80 miles each way to work and wanted to change the traditional model of having to travel to a winery.  The Cedars neighborhood was chosen because it was creative and artistic.  Walking into the building, you see that influence.  The staff at Checkered Past Winery designed the entire space themselves except for the paint you see on the walls.  You see old metal, scooter and motorcycle parts that showcase the theme.  The music also is a mix of reggae, ska, jazz and punk – depending on the night and live bands are prevalent.

Wines are available by the glass, bottle and through the wine club.  It’s free to join and you are only committed to one month for two bottles – usually around $40.  You won’t find wines on the center shelf of the grocery store – it’s a cool and eclectic selection.

And, the food.  A picture says one thousand words and I’m positing all the delicious things that we ate.  This is a wine bar that is meant to be a place to demystify wine and become your next neighborhood destination.


Omni Barton Creek Resort: Calling All Food and Wine Lovers

We’d talked about it for years.  Bringing the women blogger gang together for a weekend trip outside of the madness associated with the annual Wine Bloggers Conference.  January is usually a tough time of the year for me.  Traditionally it is a time of Sales Kickoffs, annual marketing planning and budgets as well as kick-starting the marketing lead generation efforts that will lead to future software sales.  This year was different.  I had just left my paying gig and I actually had the ability to exhale.

When the Omni Barton Creek Resort (which is known for great wine and food) invited us to stay at a great discount, the deal was sealed.  Liza Swift, Thea Dwelle and Amy Corron Power caravanned from Oakland, San Francisco and Houston to make the trip.  We checked in to a welcome note from the Omni marketing team and the most amazing welcome drink.  The glass contained brandy infused local apples, crack habit inducing honey and tea accented with local herbs.  There was also a bottle of Topo Sabores apple soda and a cute bottle of crown royal to make a delicious pre-dinner drink.

Alissa Leenher and her husband Derek generously agreed to host us for the first night.  It was a night of amazing wines, incredible food and great company.  Ryan Snedegar brought the supersize Cards Against Humanity and a plate of ribs.  Matt McGinnis came bearing Texas wine and spirits.  I think I had more beef that night than I had in the last six months.  It was a belly laughing, wine drinking kind of night.

Chef Andre Natera

The next day we were hosted by 8212 Wine Bar & Grill which featured creative dishes from the very talented Chef Andre Natera.  You may remember Natera from his awesome rebuild of the Pyramid Restaurant and Bar and then at Village Kitchen.  Let’s just say that Dallas has suffered a great loss with this talented man moving to Austin.  He’s now responsible for all seven restaurants at this Omni location.  He talked to us about his whimsical but clean approach to food and wow it was delicious!   We were joined by Tim Holloway from DE Fine Wine Group who encouraged us to taste the wines blind.

Here was our line up:

Clam chowder with chive potato puree and smoked bacon paired with the 2014 Zocker Gruner Veltliner.  This Napa Gruner contrasted nicely with its citrus, floral notes and mineralogy with the creamy soup.

Seared branzino, artichoke barigoule and preserved lemon vinaigrette with the 2014 Lemelson Dry Riesling.  This also worked incredibly well.

Mushroom tortellini, chives and butter paired with the 2013 Li Veli Susumaniello.  This was earthy, delicious and absolutely a perfect pairing.  It was also the one that stumped all of us.

Dry aged ribeye, pommes puree, cippolini and a thyme truffle sauce with the 2011 Perrin Vinsobres Les Cornuds. Yin and yang.

Chocolate tart with a caramel creameux with NV Verve Clicquot Yellow Label.  It took every ounce of willpower to cut the small corner and not inhale the entire dessert.

We were the first audience to try the new wine and food culinary series that the Omni is debuting in January.  #obcwine #wineanddine.  The Omni is still building out the list of events, but right now the line-up appears to be something like this (the dates after February may move a date or two):

January 26 – Niman Ranch Dinner.

February 29 – A celebration from Chef Alice – touching every creation of food along with Texas wines

March (tentatively 21st)— Celebrating the Wines of Germany – Riesling and Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Blanc – German themed food

April (tentatively 25)– Sparkling wines – Cava, Prosecco, Asti, Champagne and  Espumante – French, Spanish and Portuguese food theme

May (tentatively 23) – Italian Regions and the difference between the North, the Center, the South and the Islands paired with regional food.

June (tentatively 27) – Grill and Smoke with pinots and rosé

July (tentatively 25) — Tomatoes from Salsas to Sauces with Sauvignon Blanc and Sangiovese

August (tentatively 22) — Peaches and Nectarines with Moscato and Pinot Gris

September (tentatively 26)  — Celebrating the Wines of Napa Valley and Harvest Theme

October (tentatively 25) — Day of the Dead with South American Wines

November (tentatively 17) Vintage wines with Charcuteries

These events are reasonably priced at a $85-95 range for the food courses (averaging 5-6 course) with the wine pairings being another $35-45 and will be scheduled monthly.  The first event benefits a charity so the kick off is officially in February.

The hospitality of the Omni, the quality of the food, the fantastic wine pairings and the gorgeous rooms and views at this location, makes it the perfect getaway, staycation or a local’s food/wine experience.


I’m on a Boat: My Post Conference Trip to the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail

Just like that the conference was over and we were on our final post trip journey for #wbc15.  This excursion took us to the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, an area that claims to not only be the oldest in the region, but the oldest in the entire U.S.  The wine trail consists of 16 wineries, a cidery, a meadery and four distilleries. 

Our journey from the Radisson took about an hour and a half by bus.  The conference organizers had enough foresight to arrange for Aaron Roisen of Hosmer Winery and Jeff Houck of Lucas Vineyards to talk to us about the region during the ride. 

The group of around 50 folks was split in two with one group tasting first at Thirsty Owl Wine Company and the second group beginning at Goose Watch Winery, which is where I began.  While at Goose Watch, we tasted wines from Treleaven by King Ferry Winery, Long Point Winery, Montezuma Winery & Hidden Marsh Distillery, Swedish Hill Vineyard, Knapp Winery, Buttonwood Grove Winery and Varick Winery & Vineyards. We had some nice wines, but my favorites were the Rieslings and sparkling from Knapp Vineyards as well as the tasting experience provided by Varick Winery with some off the beaten path foods.

After traveling to the dock and then by boat to Thirsty Owl, we tried wines from Toro Run Winery, Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery, Hosmer Winery, Lucas Vineyards, Bellwether Hard Cider and Wine Vineyards, Americana Vineyards and Six Mile Creek Vineyard.  About five years ago, Lucas Vineyards was my first experience with Finger Lakes Riesling and I was excited to see that I enjoyed rediscovering it just as much as I did the first time I tried it.  The Bellwether Cherry Street Cider, which was bursting with cherries, also impressed.  Cider is not usually my drink of choice but give this to me any hot Texas day and I’d be happy.

Liza Swift, Steve DiFrancesco (Glenora Winemaker) and me

We then journeyed to Knapp where Executive Chef John McNabb prepared dinner for us.  Knapp was founded in 1984 and was the first Finger Lakes winery to plant and vinify Cabernet Franc.  It was sold to its current owners, Gene Pierce and Scott Welliver, in 2000.  Knapp opened the Vineyard Restaurant in 1992, becoming the first winery restaurant on Cayuga Lake.  We sampled a ton of food and more wines from the region while walking the grounds of the vineyard.

The wineries went above and beyond to make us feel at home in discovering the food and the wine of the region.  Once we reached the lobby of the Radisson, we all stayed true to this week’s behavior – we grabbed left over wine, distilled spirits and cider, socializing in the lobby until the wee hours.


Another Wine Bloggers Conference … Another Compilation Article… My Time in the Finger Lakes at #wbc15

Liza Swift, My Trusted Roomie for Five Years Running

It’s been about three weeks since I got back from the Wine Blogger’s Conference (#wbc15) in the Finger Lakes and it’s always a struggle to encapsulate such an amazing exploration into the wine and the region along with the personal stories that make the conference.  Most of us take the easy way out and do a compilation article, well…including me.

So here it goes. 

#1 – Prepare to check what you think you know at the door.  I knew that I’d taste some great Rieslings and Cabernet Francs, but I didn’t expect the diversity that I discovered the conference.  I tasted roses, sparking wines, sauvignon blancs, chardonnays, albarinos, cabernet sauvignons and even merlots.  There are more than 100 wineries centered around the region’s four main lakes – Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka and Canandaigua – and more than 400 wineries overall with such diversity in the terroir.  These wineries yield 90 percent of the New York wine produced each year.  Then there is Long Island, which we didn’t explore, which has approximately 25 varietals planted across 2,500 acres.  New York’s biggest issue is actually getting the wines out of the New York wine buying community on to a national stage. 

 My Bus Ride with Karen

#2 – Meet amazing people.  I was more than excited when Karen MacNeil, author of the Wine Bible and accomplished wine expert and amazing writer, was named the keynote of the conference.  I admit I was a little in awe of her – moving to New York in her Volkswagen Bug with $6 in her pocket and taking on three jobs to make ends meet.  After 324 rejection slips, she received a $30 gig writing about butter in the Village Voice.  This launched her career.  Eventually, she was invited to attend tastings with a small group of men considered the who’s who in the New York wine community.  Karen told us “I didn’t talk for eight years – I just wanted access to the wines.” Clearly she found her own voice and worked for ten years on what became the first edition of the Wine Bible. 

Her advice – tell your story; find your style; hone your writing; know your subject well; and represent yourself well.  I loved her quote about never stripping wine of its culture. Karen said,” There is no way to understand Malbec without understanding the tango.” 

When she sat next to me on the bus to the wine excursion, I admit I was excited.  But we had such a fun conversation about wine, kids, work, the future and everything in between.  Everyone asked me what we talked about for almost two hours.  You know – it felt like an honest conversation with a new friend, so it won’t be part of my blog.  But, trust me, her next chapter will continue to change the wine world. 

Corron-Power, McNeal, Kim and Frank

The next day, my friend, Amy Powers Corron, moderated the Women in Wine panel of amazing women with Karen; Stevie Kim, founder of VinItaly; and Meaghan Frank, General Manager of Dr. Frank’s Winery in The Finger Lakes.  They talked about the generational differences that were apparent depending when they were moving up in the wine world.  Stevie’s presentation showed that the glass ceiling is still intact.  Women are lagging or almost non-existent in the top power positions. 

Rousseau and me

#3 – One person can make a difference (so can you – think about who you know).  I’m on the scholarship committee and I’ve been thinking about how we need more diversity in our blogging community.  My uncle happens to be the president of EthniFacts, a multicultural knowledge and insights consultancy.  We brainstormed how they might be a fit and they funded the “EthniFacts Diversity in Wine Writing Scholarship,” to encourage ethnic, gender and cultural diversity in the North American Wine Bloggers Conference attendees.  Then when my Facebook friend, Regine Rousseau of Shall We Wine! was named, the recipient, it became even more special.

Constance and her older Rieslings

Craig Camp’s Dinner

#4 – Color outside the lines. #goingrogue will continue.  There is a fine line between experiencing all the great things the conference has to offer and exploring the community and hanging out with friends.  This year, we stayed offsite at a really cool place just down the street from the Radisson.  It gave us the freedom to explore the restaurants – like Hand & Foot, which became the unofficial stopping point of the Wine Bloggers Conference crowd.  Going to Craig Camp’s Cornerstone offsite non-awards dinner was another classic moment of sitting down with my favorite people and drinking amazing wines.  Eating pizza with Robert Larsen from Rodney Strong Vineyards and Amy Gross of Wine4.Me along with Fox Run Vineyards and Anthony Road Wine Company.  From drinking vintage Riesling wines with Candace Chamberlain to hanging at the Jordan party to trying some amazing new release J McClelland Charbono with the gentlemen from Scotto Family Vineyards and swapping travel stories, was not something I would ever have wanted to have missed.

#5 – Just go where the tour takes you.  Every year people try to game the system and get on the “right bus tour.”  It took me five years to figure out that your chances of having an amazing time is pretty high.  Our tour, for example, took us to Glenora Wine Cellars.  Glenora Wine Cellars is the first winery to open on Seneca Lake in 1977. 

We had the chance to receive our “Master of Dosage.”  First, we chose our favorite method champenoise with either one percent residential sugar or 1.5 percent residual sugar.  Then we actually got to dose and bottle our own preference sparkling.  It was super cool and I was lucky enough to keep all my fingers intact thanks to the great training from Winemaker Steve DiFrancesco. 

We then moved into “A Finger Lakes Wine & Tapas Experience” featuring four wineries, four winemakers, four chefs and four farms. 

Our first course was the Lucky Dog Green Salad with Parmesan Potato Tuile and Ramp Vinaigrette by Chef Orlando Rodriguez of Genora Wien Cellars’ Veraisons Restaurant with the 06 Glenora Wine Cellars Brut.

We then moved to Duck Confit with Watermelon and Cucumber Relish with a Crispy Polenta from the Executive Chef at Zugibe Vineyards.  

We continued with a Cast Iron Seared American Kobe Steak with Blackberry Ketchup, Pommes Puree with First Light Feta and a Heavenly Cup Coffee Crouton from Sous Chef Sarah Hassler from Veraisons Restaurant at Glenora Wine Cellars.

Our final course was an Apricot Napoleon with a Salted Short Crust from Executive Chef John McNabb of Knapp Winery & Vineyard Restaurant with the 2014 Knapp Winery Riesling Ice Wine.

#6 – Attend the events beyond the conference.  Whether it’s the organized pre- and –post tours that really give you a glimpse into the region or another event that has been organized, like the Santa Barbara pre-conference seminar prior to last year’s Wine Bloggers Conference, these are the sessions that allow you to really dig into a region. 


The 2015 Wine Bloggers Pre-Conference Trip Continues: Day Two

After a night of exploring the city of Geneva and finding Microclimate, one of the coolest wine bars ever with awe-inspiring “off the beaten path selections” of wine owned by another woman powerhouse, we continued our bus journey to the Anthony Road Wine Company.  We were hosted by Ann and John Martini, who have been involved in grape growing and wine making since John quit his job in 1973 to pursue his dream.

Anthony Road Wine Company is located on the west side of Seneca Lake in the Finger Lakes.  Between two vineyards, the Martini Vineyards and the Young Vineyards, the winery produces pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay, riesling, vignoles, cabernet franc, lemberger, gewurztraminer and merlot. 

John Martini, Anthony Wine Company

John gave us an overview of the region and showed us his cutting-edge “teaching vineyard” that was experimenting with growing Gruner Veltliner, Chenin Blanc and a number of other varietals.  Peter Becraft, the winemaker, met us in the barrel room to give us a tour of the facility and let us sample wine.  

We then journeyed to Fox Run Vineyards, situated on an old dairy farm on Torrey Ridge, with breath-taking views.  We learned all about the region’s terroir and the influence of Lake Dana, which eventually became Seneca Lake 1,000 years later.  We toured the vineyard and learned that Seneca Lake, the deepest of the Finger Lakes, along with the different topography of the area, provides an ideal microclimate for grape growing.  In fact, this area is so deep that the US Navy has tested sonar equipment and submarines there. 

In 1866, the Seneca Lake Grape Wine Company opened a winery on the western shores.  Then in 1882, New York State opened an Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva for grape breeding and research programs.  But Prohibition in 1919 forced many of Seneca Lake’s vineyards to close or replant to focus on the juice or fruit market to survive.

In the early 1970s, the Europeans changed the face of the region.  Charles Fournier planted 20 acres of Vinifera on the east side of Seneca Lake and German native, Hermann Wiemer, bought and planted 140 acres of Vinifera on the west side of Seneca Lake. The success of these two vineyards and the re-launch of a wine research program at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station put Seneca Lake on the map as a grape growing and wine producing region.

In 1976, New York State passed the Farm Winery Act to encourage grape growers to expand into the wine production business.  One year later, Glenora Wine Cellars as founded.  This launch was shortly followed by Wagner Vineyards, Herman J. Wiemer Vineyards and Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards.

Scott Osborn, Fox Run Vineyards

Scott Osborn, the owner of Fox Run, has the philosophy that non-hybrid European vinifera grapes can make wines in the Finger Lakes that rival the world’s top producers.

We learned that Fox Run was the story that almost wasn’t.  While they were halfway done building the winery they learned from the building inspector that the location was in a dry county.  A lot of blood, sweat and tears ensued, but a special referendum was calling and they won by a single vote.

The first grapes were planted in 1984 and the dairy barn was converted to a modern wine-making facility in 1993.  In 1996, farther up the slope, a new facility was completed with state-of-the-art capabilities and view of Seneca Lake that is unrivaled.

Osborn, Winemaker Peter Bell and Vineyard Manager John Kaiser believe in minimal intervention winemaking.  Current releases include Riesling, Reserve Riesling, Chardonnay, Reserve Chardonnay, Lemberger, Meritage, Blanc de Blanc Sparkling and Port.

And here’s where a wine student got to get her “geek on.”  We had the opportunity to try the Fox Run Geology Series — an expression of place, method and time.  We tried four Rieslings; the 2012 Lot 11 Riesling from the Hanging Delta Vineyard and the 2012 Lot 11 Riesling from the Lake Dana Vineyard; and the 2012 Lot 12 Riesling from the Hanging Delta Vineyard and the 2012 Lot 12 Riesling from the Lake Dana Vineyard.  The only difference was the soil where the grapes were grown and whoa, did that make a difference.   You always hear the expression that “the clothes make the man.”  When it comes to terroir in the Finger Lakes, the terrior makes the grapes.


The Pre-Conference Journey to Fingers Lakes Begins: The 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference Pre-Trip, Day One

I met blogger extraordinaire Thea Dwelle at the Philadelphia International Airport and we geared up for a road trip.  The night prior to our journey to Corning, The Drunken Cyclist was nice enough to open up his home and invite us to his family birthday dinner.  The food was amazing.  The wines were ones that you only open for very good friends.  Jeff, I am honored you shared those last precious birthday moments, your family and those wines with us.

The next morning we began our journey of planes, buses and automobiles while traveling on badly marked and tollways that all seemed to be under construction.  For about five hours, it felt like we were on a journey to nowhere – the signage was cloaked, the exits were few, but the laughter was continual.

We arrived at the Radisson to begin our pre-trip tour and spent some time on the Seneca Lake Trail, which is home to 30 wineries, a distillery, cider producers and several breweries.  It is geographically located in the center of the Fingers Lakes.  Seneca Lake is the largest lake, covers 43,343 acres and spans 38 miles through the center of the Finger Lakes region.

The blogger bus took us to Villa Bellangelo.  The view was gorgeous and what a display of hospitality.   The winery was founded by Christopher Missick and his family, who left the corporate world in California, to focus on terroir and making cool climate wine.  Bellangelo is a boutique wine producer, crafting only 6,000 cases of wine each vintage.  We learned a lot about the soil – originally formed by “Ice Age” glaciers. 

We then had a chance to mingle and experience four tasting and education stages with several wineries – King’s Garden 20 Year Vertical Tasting of Finger Lakes Cabernet Sauvignon; the Bellangelo Riesling experience featuring a dozen different Rieslings; Side Acre Hills and Schtayburne cheese samplings, which produce local cow and goat cheeses; and “Others,” a portfolio of experimental and alternative wines made by Villa Bellangelo.

The theme of our evening venture, which was scheduled at Ventosa Vineyards, was all about Finger Lakes Women in Wine.  There was a bit of irony that the Wine Bloggers Conference (#wbc15) was hosted in Corning, NY, the home of the Corning Glass Museum, where one of the common themes became how women are breaking through the glass ceiling in the wine industry.

The stats are sobering – according to an article by Adrienne Vogt in the Daily Beast, half of the graduates at UC-Davis’ oenology program are female, but women lead only 10 percent of California’s wineries.  I couldn’t find any definitive research outside of California.

The discussions mirrored one that I had several years ago with Merry Edwards, the winemaker of Merry Edwards Vintners.  In 1984, she left Matanzas Creek to devote herself full time to consulting and her winery.  She told me over dinner about the difficulty in getting her first winemaker job and that she had to work harder.  I loved her ingenuity.  She would go to the Farmer’s Market weekly and gather the throwaway fruits and veggies to make wine.  Hint: rutabaga wine is not tasty.

Our panel of women winemakers, farmers, scientists and chefs were awe-inspiring.  They all shared the fact that they have made significant contributions to the sustainable food and farming movement across the Finger Lakes.  Marti Macinski, the Winemaker and Owner of Standing Stone Vineyards, candidly talked about the point when she and her husband decided she must transition from the “traditional hospitality role” to serving as the operator of the winery – without any training.  And while her first reaction was to put her head on the table and cry, it turns out she was damn good at it.  While she talked about her fear, it was clear that Marti is fearless.

Another amazing woman was Jenna LaVita, the winemaker of Ventosa Vineyards.  She was originally a law student who decided over a glass of Pinot that she wanted to be a winemaker.  She hit the road in her Saab and began her journey.  It took her from cleaning tanks to teaching over harvest break to even selling (unsuccessfully) bottle cap earrings in Etsy.  At 23, she was asked to become the full-time winemaker and inherited vineyard responsibility at age 25 when her vineyard manager was deported.  Jenna took us through the vineyard and we had an opportunity to pick grapes on different blocks in order to experience how a winemaker gauges ripeness.

And then we met our showstopper – Liz Leidenfrost, the winemaker, grape grower and activist of Leidenfrost Vineyards. What a cool and well-rounded women.  She talked about how she became interested in winemaking after she failed the image of being a classical musician.  With her tattoos, piercings and dyed hair, she thought she could make a difference in the family business and her father put her to the test.  She passed with flying colors and the fact that she’s also a burlesque dancer on the side makes her even cooler.

Kas Deys, a biochemist and grape geneticist from the Cornell Cooperative Extension, talked about the research that Cornell is doing on the grapes and the region.  She had an amazing background and clearly is making a big difference in her research in mining grape genes.

Our meal was prepared by Heather  Tompkins, the chef and owner of Opus Espresso and Wine Bar.  Here was our line-up:

Candy beet melon arugula salad with Red Jacket cheribundi-curry vinaigrette with Stony Brook pumpkin oil, First Light goat cheese and Stony Brook pumpkin seeds paired with 2014 Three Brothers Pinot Noir Rose and Leidenfrost Vineyards Blanc de Blancs.

Sweet corn muranda cheese, cheddar studded risotto cake, summer tomato-fennel coulis and jalapeno orange mascarpone with 2012 Ventosa Vineyards Pinot Noir and 2013 Standing Stone Vineyards Gewurztraminer.

Grilled Petit Finger Lakes Farms Filet Mignon and Scallop with wilted baby kale, Piggery Bacon vinaigrette with Cayuga Blue and pickled red onion with Three Brothers Wineries and Estates Degree of Riesling and 2011 Ventosa Vineyards Cabernet Franc.

Red Jacket peaches – ginger galette with Seneca salted caramel and shaved Seneca salt bark dark chocolate with Leidenfrost Vineyards Cabernet Port and 2014 Standing Stone Vineyards Gewurztraminer Ice.

On the menu was the wording – bold, fearless and original.  Absolutely a great descriptor of the women we met and the experience that we had.

 


Wine Bloggers Conference 2015: The Games Begin Tomorrow

It’s finally here!!!  Tomorrow I head to the Finger Lakes Region of New York for the eighth annual Wine Blogger’s Conference.  This is the conference that I can attribute truly started my love of blogging and where I’ve met some amazing friends along the way.  

This will be my fifth wine bloggers conference.  I’ve attended the conferences in Willamette Valley, Walla Walla, Santa Barbara and Charlottesville.  All have been different – I’ve had incredibly unique experiences along the way.

I’ll start the Pre-Conference with an excursion to the Northern half of Lake Seneca.  We’ll start at Villa Bellangelo and will be hosted by Winemaker Christopher Missick who will tell us all about the Seneca Lake Wine Trail.  Then we have four experiences – a ten year vertical of King’s Garden Cabernet Sauvignon; a Bellangelo Riesling Experience; a sampling of cheeses from Side-Hill Acres and Schtayburne and a sampling of “other” experimental wines from Bellangelo. 

In the evening, we move to Ventosa Vineyards for a subject close to my heart – the theme of Finger Lakes Women in Wine.  Women now run 14 percent of the nation’s farms.  It will feature scientists, farmers, entrepreneurs and wine makers who will let us sample their offerings.  We then have dinner prepared by Chef Heather Tompkins, also the owner of Opus Expresso and Wine Bar.

Our Thursday morning begins at the Anthony Road Wine Company, where we begin tasting wine at 10 a.m. with a presentation from Owners Ann and John Martini.  We’ll also taste with Winemaker Peter Becraft who will feature some of his small batch wines.  We then move to Fox Run Vineyards for an overview of terroir.  We’ll eat, drink, wine, laugh and learn.

After five years of this conference, I say a few things with certainty.  There will be late night Cards Against Humanity.  However, this year it won’t involve getting late night visits from security at the hotel.  We have a #goingrogue group staying at a local bed and breakfast.  There will be lots of wine drinking and late night parties.  And, this continues to be an event I don’t want to miss – for the wine, the knowledge and most importantly, my friends.




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