In reading the materials for the Wine Bloggers Conference, one theme remained the same. Figure out your blogging strategy. Clearly, I failed miserably in heeding this advice. Part of it was that I was fully engaged on Twitter during the conference. Part of it was the pre-trip to Oregon and the post-trip to Washington State with a fellow friend, blogger and co-worker. And, finally, it was the massive workload explosion that I walked back into that consumed me.
So why don’t I start at the beginning? I was lucky enough to be invited to an unofficial pre-conference trip that originated in Portland going to the Willamette Valley. Since I was arriving later than the rest of the bloggers I fully expected to fund my own cab for the hour plus trip that began at Solena Grand Cru Estates. But no, this is Oregon wine country so I found myself in a car with Amy, a delightful tour guide and person who welcomed me with the biggest chocolate, peanut butter and Rice Krispies covered donut that I’ve ever seen. After ripping it in half and handing half to Amy, I joyfully took a bite of my first donut in probably five years.
As we reached the gates of Solena, our bloggers chariot awaited — a candy apple red double decker bus.
The day only got better from there. We toured the winery and got to experience “do it yourself blending. If you didn’t like the blend, you could only blame yourself, but it is hard not to succeed with so many good wines at Solena.
We were then seated for a four course lunch prepared by chef Matthew Howard matched with Solena Estate’s wines. The first course, early summer corn soup with fingerling potatoes, prosciutto and basil oil with 08 Solena ElvenGlade Vineyard Chardonnay. The second course, Plank-roasted wild sockeye salmon with fava bean puree, shaved fennel salad, rhubard and nectarine compote with 07 Solena Domaine Danielle Laurent Pinot Noir. The third course, grilled cascade natural flat iron steak with yukon gold potato and leek hashbrown with heirloom cherry tomato relish with an 08 Solena Hyland Pinot Noir. Our dessert course matched a rosemary and fleur de sel shortbread, oregon strawberries, Bellweather Farms carmody cheese with an 08 Solena Late Harvest Riesling.
Our next stop was Soter Vineyards where we were greeted with a glass of sparkling rose. Even though it had rained for six weeks straight in Portland, we had an absolutely gorgeous day. My favorite was the 2007 Mineral Springs Ranch Pinot Noir with big notes of plum, earth and cherry.
We wrapped our winery tour with Anne Amie, which is well known for its Pinots, but offers a wide array of affordably priced red and white wines. I was familiar with the Pinot Noir because I discovered it at Veritas Wine Bar in Dallas and it sold out quickly. We were surprised to learn that the winemaker Thomas Houseman first had a career as a modern dancer. This was something interesting to try to reconcile after several glasses of wine.
We were feeling lucky, so our bus stopped off the beaten path so we could buy Powerball tickets and beer. I can’t imagine what the gas station attendants were thinking when our fire engine red bus stopped and Liza ran in with a fist full of money. Alas, we were too late. Powerball had closed. We decided to donate our money to next year’s Wine Blogger Scholarship Fund instead. So I thought… but I recently learned that a different scenario actually took place.
Our hospitality continued with a BBQ at Mary and Sean Cressler’s house, who live in the city in a fabulous home in a charming historic neighborhood. Their backyard was made for entertaining. Sean had spent the day smoking a pork butt for us. The wines flowed freely, the weather on their back patio was spectacular, the conversation was hilarious and the food, oh the food. Because I have pork allergies, I tried everything else from the tofu that they grilled for me (which was surprisingly tasty), the smoked salmon dip, the veggies, freshly baked bread and anything else that I could cram in my mouth. Everyone else raved about the pork actually before, during and after the conference. This was the day the diet died…
It was close to midnight so I was dropped off at my hotel – or so I thought. The Marriott Courtyard had bumped me to another hotel. When I got there, I was given the only room left – the one with the handicapped bathroom. I was tired and in hindsight, trying to navigate the shower was pretty humorous the next day after an hour run throughout the city.
We were then off on our next adventure – the caravan to Walla Walla. Mary had set up a private tour with Bob Morus of Phelps Creek Vineyards where we spent a great deal of time learning about the intricacies of the winery and harvest. Since I geek out during conversations like this with the winemaker, I was in heaven and thought it was fascinating that they have two wine makers — one American and one French that make two entirely different styles of Pinot. I personally loved the 08 Cuvee Alexandrine, a big Burgundian style Pinot.
My husband can attest that I am not usually a road trip person and I was a little hesitant to spend hours with folks that I’d met only on Twitter. However, this was not your usual road trip. From blasting tunes that I enjoyed from elementary school with Jason (Duran Duran and Missing Persons if you must know) to having a conversation imposed “time out” to force Doug to work on his client deadline while I became even more addicted to the Zombies and Plants game on my iPad, it was an experience that I’ll never forget and definitely hope to have again.
A special shout out to Lynette (and Amy) for their unmatched hospitality. You truly gave as an experience that will be hard to replicate.