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:
- 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.
- Argiolas S’elagas Nuragus di Cagliari 2010 – apple, floral, nutty, floral with stone fruit. This Sardinian wine kept me guessing.
- Cousino- Macul Sauvignon Gris 2011 – Maipo Valley in Chile. Almost candy-like with starfruit, smoky notes with a crisp acidity. A very interesting wine.
- 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.
- Weingu Heinrich Zweigelt 2008 – Austria. Strawberry, all spice, red fruit and an earthiness that was unique.
- Bodegas Nieto Senetiner Reserva Bonardoa 2010 – aka known as Charbono, but only in Argentina. Plums, raspberries, spice and oak with lots of tannins.
- 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.