Archived entries for WBC2013

Wente, Garnet and Renwood WTIS Virtual Tasting

Last week, I participated in a virtual tasting scheduled as the welcome reception for the Wine Technology Industry Symposium (WTIS) showcase.  WineTwits, who always does a wonderful job with these tastings, recruited Wente Vineyards, Garnet Vineyards and Renwood Winery to participate.  We had the chance to try one wine from each vineyard.

It was quite the reunion with some of my favorite wine bloggers in participation and quickly the conversation feed launched into some great memories of past Wine Blogger’s Conferences (#wbc) and other opportunities we’ve had to get together over the years.  But the tasting began and we had the chance to focus in on three value wines under $20.

  • 2012 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay (Livermore Valley – $13) – I tasted almond, pear, apple, lemon and toasted oak in this creamy goodness.  Half of the wine is barrel fermented in neutral American, French and Hungarian Oak with the other half fermented in stainless steel.  A very nice, well balanced wine for this price point.
  • 2011 Garnet Vineyards Pinot Noir (Monterey, $14.99) – Quite the steal for a Pinot Noir under $15.  This wine had a complexity not usually found at this price point with black cherry, black tea, plum, pine, cranberry and baking spice.  I asked Allison Crowe, the winemaker, and it is not yet available in Texas – I am sure hoping that will change.
  • 2010 Renwood Winery Premier Old Vine Zinfandel (Amador, $19.99) – had notes of molasses, fig, blueberry, pepper, herb and vanilla.  It was a little hot for me, but definitely got rave reviews from many of the bloggers.  This one begged for food that I didn’t have to match.

If you happen to see any of these in the Dallas area, definitely pick up a bottle and give them a shot.


Dallas Wine Chick Celebrates Three Year (Almost) Anniversary Featuring Richard Simmons

 

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

I was just gearing up to write the three year anniversary column for the launch of Dallas Wine Chick.  I was excited that this little blog had grown substantially over the past 1,000 plus days and was going to give a big shout out to you, my readers, for making this such a great community.

Then the Klout notice hit my inbox.  To be honest, I usually don’t pay much attention to Klout, especially since it goes to my personal Yahoo account, which I check about once a week.  Those who know me know that there are much faster ways to find me via email.  But, I clicked and saw that I had a pretty high score of 63.  I needed to investigate why.  When I clicked on my list of influential subjects, here were some of the highlights:

  • Shiraz (okay, that seems right)
  • Dining (well, maybe I do eat out more than I should)
  • Oregon (get that from the Wine Bloggers Conference – #wbc12)
  • Vancouver (that is where the next Wine Bloggers Conference is scheduled and I can’t go due to a pre-scheduled family vacation – #wbc13, so that’s on point)
  • Facebook (um… okay? Maybe from the Dallas Wine Chick Facebook page?)
  • Shoes (well, that’s probably true.  I have a Jimmy Choo problem)
  • Dallas (on target)
  • Training (workouts maybe?)
  • Riesling (on point)
  • Tequila (I think they got the wrong Ofenloch)
  • College (since I haven’t been there since 1992, I think this must be because of my love for Auburn)
  • Richard Simmons (come again?)

Richard Simmons?  After writing a column a week for three years almost exclusively about wine, I get Klout for Richard Simmons?  Now I’m not knocking Milton Teagle Simmons, a.k.a., Richard, and what he’s done to get lots of overweight people to exercise, but I can’t connect the dots of Sweatin’ to the Oldies to a chick in Dallas who really likes wine.  So, how did this happen?

I went to Dallas Wine Chick and searched for Richard Simmons.  Perhaps I had too much to drink one night and slipped something past my editor?  Nope.  I went to Twitter and searched for Richard’s name.  Nope.  Tried again on Facebook and I just couldn’t find it.  I guess I’ll never know what crazy algorithm brought Richard and me together.

So on behalf of the two of us as of February 1, here’s wishing the Dallas Wine Chick blog a very happy birthday.  And, most of all, thank you for your support, comments and helping make this a great little community.


#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.

 


Salem Pre-Trip Journey: Wine Bloggers Conference 2012

It’s always tough to distill all the information from the Wine Bloggers Conference.  The pre-trip, the conference and the post-trip all provide experiences that are so unique it is hard to bring them to life.  This being my third year of attending the Wine Bloggers Conference, with my first opportunity to serve as a judge of Best Wine Blog and Best New Wine Blog, I finally felt like I had the lay of the land.  Being a judge was a humbling experience, and I’m thrilled to see so many great wine blogs out there and hope you are expanding your horizons by reading some of the nominees.  They are well worth your while.

I started my journey on the Wine Bloggers Conference pre-tour, “Salem – Outside the Bottle”, where I was met by Irene Bernards, a woman who is the director of marketing for the region and loves her job.  I knew very little about Salem, Marion County and Polk County.  Salem is Oregon’s State Capital and is located in the Willamette Valley, which has more than 200 wineries.  Our first stop was the Evergreen Aviation Museum where we tried a few wines and saw some of the most iconic aviation and space museums including the Spruce Goose, which was the largest airplane ever constructed and flown only once by Howard Hughes.The plane was born of a need to move troops and materials across the Atlantic Ocean when German submarines were sinking Allied ships. 

Our next stop was a short hike as it was 100 plus degrees, which appears to be the curse of the Wine Bloggers Conference, from Johan Vineyards to Left Coast Cellars. 

Johan Vineyards is a small family vineyard with 85 acres dedicated to estate vineyards adjacent to the Van Duzer corridor.  This family claimed heritage from the days the Vikings sailed to Iceland, Greenland and Newfoundland.  Dag Johan Sunby, a native Norwegian, came to North America in 2004, seeking a new life with a dedication to finding the ideal terrior similar to Burgundy and making great Pinot Noirs.  We had the opportunity to taste several bottles and barrels including a mini-vertical of 09-11 Pinot Gris wines that were so different and showed the power of the terrior combined with great winemaking skills.  I also enjoyed the 07 Pinot Noir.  Some hiked, some did not.

Those of us who did hike, had the chance to see the gorgeous vineyards and sample the Boedeker Pinot Athena 08 and the Et Fille 08 Pinots, made by a very talented husband and wife team with a different sense of style for each wine.  I personally enjoyed both of them. 

Then we had the chance to spend some time at Left Coast Cellars, one of our co-hosts for the event, with the lovely and fun Ivy Hover, marketing director, tech guru and hospitality expert extraordinaire. Left Coast Cellars is situated on the 45th parallel (important for the world of Pinot) and consists of 306 acres.   It’s somewhat of a nature preserve and I saw lots of evidence of wildlife including a spectacular heron.  I had the chance to try the estate-grown Pinot Noir, White Pinot Noir (yes, it’s fabulous), Pinot Gris and Syrah, which were all really great wines.  They also made us a great dinner to match their wine line-up including a white pinot noir, which was a fun and tasty discovery.

That night we were split into several hotels and I was lucky enough to stay at the Grand Hotel in Salem, which was a lovely place that I’d visit again when I have more time.  

We had a tour the next day at the Willamette Heritage Tour, where we were transported back to what was once a leading textile factory in Oregon.  We also got to preview the “History of Tap” exhibit where we learned about the free lunch, a marketing program encouraging workers to enjoy a free lunch with the purchase of a pail of beer.

We then reached Willamette Valley Vineyards, one of my favorite stops of the tour.  I had the opportunity to meet Don Crank randomly at the Whole Foods in Dallas and immediately picked up one of his elegant estate Pinot Noirs to take home.  Willamette Valley Vineyards was purchased in 1983 by founder, Jim Bernau, who planted Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris.  By 2011, the winery was named as one of the greatest Pinot Noir Producers by Wine Enthusiast Magazine.   The name of the game is to allow the terrior to express character and the wines are expressive of the varietal and place where they are grown.  Photo Credit: Travel Salem

We tried several 09 Pinot Noirs – the basic Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot (rated highly at 92 points in 08 by Wine & Spirits) as well as single vineyards from Tualatin Estate, Eola-Amity Hills and Bernau Block.  We also tried the 2011 out of the barrel from Tualatin Estate, which showed a ton of promise.  I also want to mention the 2010 Pinot Gris, which was full of pear, apple and lemongrass.  I also really enjoyed the 2011 Pinot Blanc Founder’s Reserve.  I left to buy wine, so I missed trying the sparkling muscat, but heard good feedback from the group. 

Photo Credit: Travel Salem

Big shout out to Eric Nelson, the chef for Willamette, for one of the best meals that I had while in Oregon.  Absolutely fabulous foods that couldn’t have matched better with the wines.  Note that gruner veltliner appears to be an experimental grape that I would absolutely support based on my tastings.

At this point, I’d really like to do a public service announcement of what is appropriate for wine country.  Yes, I have lovely designer heels that make my legs look longer and make me feel very tall.  However, I go to wine country for the experience of going to wine country.  It’s not a fashion show or about wearing designer for designer’s sake.  Dress appropriately, people.

Our next stop was Piluso Vineyard for a vineyard walk and tasting.  Sandee Piluso decided that when she was ten, she decided that she would make wine after sneaking out to a friend’s vineyard while spending the night.  However, she became convinced there was no future for women and winemaking.  Eight years later she decided  to go for it.  In 1999, she went through the new UC Davis program in Temecula and received her viniculture degree in 03 and enology degree in 04.   She was the first person   to graduate and hit the ground running with her husband.  I loved her trial vineyard program, which included 4 acres of Muller Thurgau, Viognier, Marechal Foch, Dolcetto, Gamay Noir, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir.   We tried a number of wines including her 2010 Pinot Noir, 2010 Blanc de Noir, 2010 Fiore Bianco, several Pinot Noirs, but her 2010 Estate Gruner Veltliner was the stand-out and a differentiation from what we had been drinking.

And, let’s talk about our final stop at E.Z. Orchards, a farmers market for about 10-15 growers featuring Oregon farm grown fruit, vegetables and nuts, where we had a tasting of their branded hard cidre made from 10 varieties of bittersweet French apples that was incredibly refreshing.  This was served with some of the best fruit shortcake (my choice was peaches, mixed berries and lowfat ice cream).  I cannot do any justice to this dessert and how this was so worth the trip and calories.

This was an amazing experience, but I have to say that it was just the beginning of a total love affair with the state of Oregon.




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