Knock knock. I’m home.

Hello Wannabe Wino Readers-

 

Radio silence has reigned here at Wannabe Wino for the last 2 months. If you like to have spare time in your life to do things like taste wine and write a blog, I don’t recommend, in the course of 2 months, selling a house, moving twice, traveling to CA, CT, Portugal, Spain, and ME, speaking at 2 conferences, buying and closing on a new house, and moving into it. Not to mention, all my wine had to be put into wine storage while we were between houses!

We are moved into our new place, I have the wine back, and I’m kicking September off with a bang by hosting a wine dinner in less than 2 weeks to celebrate Rodney Strong’s 25th Anniversary! Here’s hoping I can pull off a 5 course dinner for 10! Watch here for stories on that, some tales from my trip to Spain and Portugal, and perhaps a very late recap of the 2014 Wine Blogger Conference. And your regular dose of wine reviews.

Thanks for hanging in there and I’ll have the blog back up and running now.

Cheers!

Sonadora

St. Helena Media Tasting

On my last day of vacation, I had the pleasure of attending the Appellation St. Helena Media Tasting.  The St. Helena folks kindly invited anyone who went to the blogger conference and happened to stay around in town for 3 extra days to come…well, I fit that description, so bright and early I made my way over to the Culinary Institute of America where I was the first non-winery person to arrive.  So I snapped some pictures instead, chatted with some of the winery folks, and generally made myself comfortable waiting for the tasting to start.

To kick off the tasting, one of the vintners did a “state of the appellation” presentation and talked to everyone about the history and micro-climates of St. Helena.  I must confess, I wasn’t terribly familiar with the appellation, so I enjoyed the quick history lesson.

The tasting was the most organized event I’ve attended.  We tasted the wine in 4 flights, with a new set of glasses for each flight.  Everyone associated with the wineries poured the wines and immediately left us in the room, in complete silence…frankly, I found the complete silence unnerving! The tasting classroom at the CIA is state of the art…each station is equipped with  a personal sink, underlit desk panel to look at the color and clarity of the wine, and places to put all your stuff.

Pre-flight 1:

2007 Salvestrin Crystal Springs Sauvignon Blanc: I think it was oaked. Lemon, cream, grapefruit, orange rind, more lemon, nice finish.

Flight 1: (All Cabernet Sauvignon)

2005 Anomaly: Dusty baker’s chocolate, mocha, berries, red berries, bitters, peppery, mostly all chocolate.

2005 Casa Nuestra Winery & Vineyard: Much more reserved than Cab 1, blackberry, earth, smells hot, pie, tinge of tart red fruit, mouth drying.

2005 Charnu: Flowery red nose, pepper, herbal, black plums, cherries, tart fruit, nice finish.  One of my favorites.

2005 Crocker & Starr Wines Stone Place: Raspberries, caramel, forresty, mushroom, blackberry, violets, blueberry, anise.

2005 Duckhorn Patzimaro Vineyard: Leather, earth, peppers, roses, bitter chocolate, vanilla cream, beautiful blackberries, very fruity, red currants smoothy. Very nice, like this one a lot.

2005 Ehlers Estate: Heady chocolate. Juicy blackberries, mint, love the color on this one, bramble fruit, lovely black fruit, smooth, delicious. A favorite.

2005 Flora Springs Rennie Reserve: Peppers, eucalyptus, saddle, leather, not giving up fruit on the nose, cigarette smoke, dark, leather, blackberries, black currants. Different, nice.

2005 Hall Bergfeld: Fruit forward, blackberries, black cherries, chocolate covered cherries, al fruit and chocolate, thinner than I expected.

2005 Jaffe Metamorphosis: Red, leather, meaty, blackberries, vanilla cream, herbs, black fruit.

2005 Parry Cellars: Pepper, strawberry, blackberry, lighter, short finish.

2005 Raymond Vineyard & Cellar: Spicy, herbs, mint, cherry, nice fruit, red, bright cranberry, spice, oak, tannins.

Flight 2: (All Cabernet Sauvignon)

2005 Rockledge The Rocks: Blackberries, anise, chocolate, spice, herbs, heat, tannins.

2005 Salvestrin Estate:Violets, roses, very floral, black fruit, blackberries, herbal, tannic, spice

2005 Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery:Toasted caramel, smoke, oak, deli meat, tannins, oak, really meaty

2005 Titus: Cracked pepper, smoke, spicy, earth, violets, vanilla, red berries, anise, black plums, tannins.

2005 Vineyard 29 Aida: Chocolate syrup, blackberries, sugar plums, toffee, tannins, very fruity. Like this one a lot.

2005 Whitehall Lane Winery St. Helena: Eucalyptus, pepper, mint, throat lozenges, spicy blackberries, cherries, oddly, a hint of banana.

2005 Whitehall Lane Winery Leonardini: Saddle leather, forest, earth, spicy black fruit, cracked pepper, black plums, blackberries, very smooth. Like this one a lot.

2005 Wolf Family Vineyards: Peppered strawberries, violets, dried rose petals, peppery, black plum, cherry, dark , tannic. Yum.

2004 Corison Kronos Vineyards: Smoky, vanilla cream, meaty, berries, cherry candy, blackberry, dark, tannic, herbal, wild.  Delish.

Flight 3: (All Zinfandels)

2006 Benessere Estate Black Glass: Smoky, black cherry, pepper, spice, raspberries, clean fruit.

2006 Chase Family Cellars Hayne Vineyard: Blackberry pie, currants, brown sugar, cherries.

2006 Robert Biale Old Crane Ranch: Perfumy, roses, boysenberry, pie, nice red fruit, smooth. Liked this one a lot.

2006 Robert Biale Old Kraft Vineyard: Blackberry compote, jam, pepper, cranberry, tart fruit.

2006 Titus: Meaty, brown sugar, bramble, red fruit in the mouth, black berry, tannic, nice fruit.

2006 Vineyard 29 Aida Estate: Vanilla cream pie, brown sugar, caramel, light blackberry, tart, cherries, anise, red fruit. Loved this one.

Flight 4 (Mixed Reds)

2004 Benessere Estate Phenomenon: Leather funk, black cherry, earthy, tart red raspberries, dark, tannic, caramel.

2006 Benessere Estate Sangiovese: Red, meat, red cherries, cedar, tannins, nice, tight fruit.

2005 Jaffe Transformation: Chocolate, licorice, berries, coconut cream pie, gorgeous nose, lush, great red berries, chocolate, very good acidity/structure. One of my favorites of the tasting.

2005 Ehlers Estate Cabernet Franc: Currants, strawberries, herbal, nice fruit, earth, tannic. Nicely done.

2005 David Fulton Petite Sirah: Total toast, herbs, smoke, licorice, oregano, blueberry. This wine is a baby! Lots of potential.

2005 Robert Biale Thomann Station Petite Sirah: Meat, blueberry compote, cedar, vanilla, smoke, dark, tannic, another baby with lots of potential.

2006 Stanton Vineyards Petite Sirah: Fresh blueberry, cranberry, vanilla cream, tannic, dark fruit.

Overall, this was a great experience.  I really enjoyed getting to taste all he wines from the same appellation side-by-side.  Tasting in the Rudd Center was truly a cool event, and I thought the whole tasting was just set up great.

What’s the value of ranking blogs?

And how does one accomplish this in any meaningful way that presents utility?  If such a list were to exist (and there are many, many such lists out there) what are the important factors and how do you determine them?  Is traffic paramount?  And how do you determine a blog’s traffic without the owner disclosing it?  Some folks use Alexa…I doubt the validity of Alexa. The thumbnail for my site there is still the “parked” site with ads on it.  I’ve been using WannabeWino.com for about 6 months…so that suggests to me it doesn’t update and isn’t accurate.  Not to mention it says I have virtually no traffic…which is not true!

How about Technorati authority?  Well, again, not terribly accurate, doesn’t update as often as you’d like, and doesn’t catch anywhere near the number of links that actually come into your site.  Again, I know this for a fact as I have lots of people linking to me that don’t show up on Technorati.

So then, what inspired this post, there’s what Pamela did about a month and a half ago over at Enobytes.  She Googled “wine blogs” and then weeded out the results that were commercial sites, relists of other blogs, or hadn’t updated in 3 months, etc., thereby devising “Google’s Top 100 Wine Blogs.”  My blog didn’t show up.  In fact, you could have scrolled through 60 pages of Google results and still not found me.  Yet my blog has been around for 2 years, has decent traffic, plenty of incoming links, etc.  What was I lacking?  As I pointed out in her post, the term “wine blog” was missing.  I decided then I wanted to do an experiment and see what would happen if I changed the title of my blog to include the words “wine blog.”  Well, it worked, I’m now on page 4 of the Google Results, which I think would put my blog at around #20 now.

What was the point of this?  Simply to point out that there is a flaw in creating a list of best blogs as there’s really not a great method to quantify it in any meaningful way.  It took less than a month (and probably less than that, I forgot to check until just about 4 weeks in), simply by adding the words “wine blog” to my site, to move my blog from non-existent in 60+ pages of results all the way up to page 4.

Ultimately, I don’t really see the utility of attempting to rank wine blogs.  So many different types exist, from review blogs, to winery blogs, to wine business blogs, they all cover different facets of wine life and focus on different audiences and purposes. The best way I’ve found to discover new wine blogs is through the blogrolls of blogs I like.  I figure if the author likes them enough to list them, I’ll check them out…and then find more from there!  That’s how I ended up finding wine blogs in the first place.  I read The Pour, and followed the blogroll from there, to others, to the point where I now have over 300 wine blogs in my Google Feed Reader.  My advice: find a wine blogger you like, and read his or her blogroll and move on from there!

Got An Itch?

*Disclaimer: I received this product as a sample from Cerebral Itch.

How about a Cerebral Itch? Paul, one of the owners of Cerebral Itch, contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I’d like to see a sample of their wine gift label product line.  A few days later these arrived in the mail:

Some funny, some a little rude, and definitely all irreverent, I think the labels are hilarious to spice up a bottle of wine you bring to a party.

This one was my favorite! While I’m not a Mom myself, I have plenty of Mom friends to whom this would be a perfect fit!

I don’t think I’m quite at the age yet where these jokes are appropriate, but I know my parents often receive this kind of card in the mail for their birthdays!

Of course, I had to try them out on a bottle to see how they looked:

Close up:

Now, I’m sure you’re wondering, doesn’t that ruin the actual label of the wine?  And the answer is no.  I did some test runs on the bottle above, as you can see.  First, I put the label on and took it right off.  No problem.  Bottle label remained in tact.  Next, I put it on, and left it on for a few hours.  Same result, the label peeled off with no residue left behind or damage to the wine bottle.  Finally, I left the label on for a few days, and the same result, no damage to anything!

From the first shot, you can see that there’s a “From” section on the back of the bottle.  Also a great for your giftee to remember who brought each bottle, though I’d suggest filling it out before you put the label on the bottle!

The everyday labels retail for $3.95 each, and the holiday line is currently on sale for $3 per label.

How I Taste and Rate Wine

My friend Cat from a•pair•i•tif recently asked me if I would be willing to contribute to a series she is doing on how wine bloggers taste and rate wines.  I’ll put the post up here and cross-post it at Cat’s wine blog, where you’ll be able to see some thoughts from other wine bloggers on the topic as well in the coming weeks.

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Let’s get rid of the easy one first: I don’t rate wines on my blog. The only place (I think, at this time) you’ll find “scores” from me is on WineQ where they ask you to to input a star rating from 1 to 5 stars. I honestly never found scores for wine particularly helpful. Theoretically, I understand the purpose in the marketplace and yada yada yada, but nonetheless, it truly does not help me in the least to see a giant “91″ plastered on a shelf-talker for a wine. Because I don’t necessarily know anything about the palate of the person who rated it, I have no idea if they have similar tastes to mine or not. I prefer to seek out people who seem to like the wines I do, and take their recommendations. For example, Dr. Debs over on Good Wine Under $20 and I seem to like a lot of the same wines. I trust her opinion and would easily buy a bottle (and I have bought bottles) that she’s written complimentary things about. I also like to find retailers whose tastes seem to run like mine and I will often take their suggestions for bottles I might like. I think I annoy Jill of Domaine547 because I tend to refuse to actually use her website and instead make her send me emails with recommendations.

Finding someone whose palate I jive with is more important to me than a score a wine received, and in writing my blog, I’m hoping people get from my descriptions and recommendations of various wines a sense of my palate and whether or not they like similar wines to the ones I do. I think that perhaps, over time, as consumers have wider access to the internet through various devices like iPhones and Blackberries, that maybe people will look for information on a wine they are considering as they are considering it, rather than relying entirely on a point system. Unless of course you like the wines your retailer recommends, then great, you’ve got an excellent way to find new wines to try that might be to your liking.

As far as tasting wine…well, I’d venture to guess that a good 75% or more of my tasting is done either at my kitchen table or on my couch. We have wine with dinner nearly every night, and my ritual is to pour the glasses, take the pictures, and take an initial sniff and sip before I have any food. I’ll taste a bit more as I eat, to see if I’ve made a good match with our dinner. My note taking occurs later, after I’ve finished dinner and moved over to my computer on my couch.

Me in my natural habitat.

Me in my natural habitat.

And yes, I mean my couch, we each have our own :) I sit with my glass that has now been open for a good hour and start taking notes on the nose. This can last for a good hour or more depending on how complex the nose is. That’s where my comments about Matt being through his 2nd glass before I’ve even touched my first come from! Next I taste the wine. I do that gross sounding slurping thing to aerate the wine even further in my mouth. But I also sip the wine and drink it like a normal person drinking a glass of wine. Not everyone aerates wine ;) , and I want to be sure it still tastes good, has a good mouthfeel, and finishes nicely if you are just sitting around sipping at the glass.

The rest of my tasting is done at wineries, restaurants, and organized tastings. The restaurant tastings tend to follow the method I use at home, usually minus the pictures and computer. At wineries, I have my trusty note pad, I ask lots of questions, and generally get annoyed when the staff tries to tell me what I should be tasting in the wine. Sorry folks, but really, that ticks me off. I spit everything in tasting rooms. Whoops, there’s another pet peeve…please keep spit buckets handy, I hate having to look around to find one, or worse yet, discovering there isn’t one at all and I have to ask for a 2nd wine glass to spit into! Gross! At large tastings, I become a juggler, with my notepad, tasting glass, water bottle, and spit cup. My trusty notebook suffers the most at these tastings as it becomes tie-dyed with various spills of wine. I taste quickly and move on to the next table. Generally, I only like to go to these during trade hours, otherwise they are far too crowded and people wear perfume. (Seriously, what is up with that?? How can you taste wine when you smell like a cheap….ok, we’ll censor that expression since this is a family friendly blog ;) )
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So there you have it. How I taste and rate (or rather don’t rate) wines! Thanks to Cat for posing the question to me! Seems especially relevant at this time as we seem to be embroiled in another dicussion in the wine blog world about the place and function of blogs, ethics, and many other navel-gazing topics.

Some Silence Today

That’s all.

Christopher Creek Winery


Sorry for the silence the last few days! My folks were up visiting from CT for the long weekend and we were busy busy busy renovating a bathroom and having BBQs with the neighbors. Back to your regularly scheduled programming now though. At least for a bit before work ships me off to Atlanta again next week!

Our very very last stop on our Sonoma trip (sob!) was at Christopher Creek Winery. I had read a bit about them before we left and thought we would attempt to visit if the stars aligned and what not. To my surprise, we managed to squeak it in right before the end of the third day, since Christopher Creek is actually quite close to Acorn Winery. Christopher Creek is relatively small, producing between 4500-5000 cases a year.

These vines line the driveway of the winery, however, they actually belong to the lady next door. I didn’t get any pictures of the tasting room for Christopher Creek though, so you’ll have to settle for this! The tasting room was tiny inside, with a very tall tasting bar. When we first arrived only one other person was there, but as we were two wines in a large group arrived and it was definitely very cozy.

2006 Russian River Valley Catie’s Corner Viognier: Stainless steel fermented, pear, apricot, honeysuckle, crisp, nice finish. We took home two bottles.

2006 Sapphire Hill Chardonnay: Apple, cream, not too much oak, lime/lemon.

2004 Dry Creek Zinfandel: strawberry, red berries, raspberries, pepper, fruity.

2004 Russian River Valley Zinfandel: Blackberry jam, pie, big berries, boysenberry, smooth, dark.

2005 Russian River Valley Syrah: Smokey, like a fire, plum, chocolate. I liked this one.

2005 Russian River Valley Reserve Syrah: Blackberry, smoke, leather, nice and fruity.

2004 Dry Creek Valley Finlay’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon: Chocolate, spice, berries, blue fruit, cloves.

2005 Russian River Valley Estate Bottled Reserve Petite Sirah: Smoky, earth, blueberry, pie, vanilla, dark, huge and tannic, great Sirah. We took home one.

Late Harvest Viognier: Apricot, tinned pear, orange blossoms.

And again, I wonder about the oddity of taking notes in tasting rooms. Even before I started the blog, I always took notes when visiting a tasting room. (So maybe a blog was a perfect thing for me to start….) I have no idea how you would keep track of what you liked where if you are visiting a string of tasting rooms, each of which, for example, offers a Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel. But two other guests in this tasting room specifically pointed out that I was taking notes and wanted to know why.

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