I Don’t Do Nature

Pretty much anyone who has known me for any amount of time knows this. I don’t like bugs, I don’t sleep outside, and I refuse to be too far away from a place with a shower and facilities.  Perhaps it was Girl Scouts that did me in…I was always afraid of spiders, but one year my good friend MC spotted a gigantic wolf spider on the ceiling of our platform tent….she tried to kill it and instead knocked it down into the middle of a pile of screaming 12 year old girls.  I didn’t camp again or really do much in terms of outdoorsy things until I went to college…where orientation was more disorientation and they tossed you into the woods with 12 of your classmates, a sleeping bag, and no showers for 3 days.

Now, I still am wary of the whole camping things, but in the last year, my attitude towards hiking, packing food into the woods, and generally enjoying a good trail has done a 180.  I’ll give that credit to my good friend Russ.  I’ve had the fortune to make multiple trips to Northern California and everytime, Russ, the Winehiker, has been there to urge me out onto the trail with him.  So much so that Matt and I independently took a vacation to go hiking, tubing, and communing with nature in the Smoky Mountains! I give Russ full credit–he’s been a fantastic trail guide and I’ve enjoyed every minute of hiking around Northern CA with him!

This time, he kindly picked me up at SFO yet again, and whisked me off to do a few moderate hikes up into Mt. Tam.  While we didn’t see any Banana Slugs (it’s too hot and dry), I did manage to snap a few lizard shots.  I’ll leave you with the rest of my pictures and highly recommend hiking with Russ on your next adventure out West.

I’ve Got Attitude, How ‘Bout You?

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Bin Ends Wine in order to participate in the Twitter Taste Live.

And really, it’s all about the Attitude, right? 😉 Here we go again with another start to a great Twitter Taste Live.  This time, we tasted through 6 bottles of wine from importer F. Wildman and Sons. They have an interesting mix of wines which are all detailed in the droolworthy catalog that came along with the wines. I believe everything we tasted came from France which made me happy….it’s not often I drink lots of French wines! The theme for the evening centered on easy drinking summer wines.  First up?  The 2008 Jolivet Attitude Sauvignon Blanc. It clocked in at 12% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and retails for $18.  Of the wines, I’d rank this as my favorite of the evening. We finished it up that night, while the rest served us for the rest of the week!

On the nose I found grass, pink grapefruit, gooseberries, citrus, spice, flowers, and apple.  In the mouth I got flavors of gooseberry, lemon, tons of citrus, and grass.  Overall, I’d tag this wine as tart, spicy, and tangy with racy acidity.  At SRP of $17.99 it’s a bit more than I tend to pay for Sauvignon Blanc, but it seemed to offer something different and a bit more complex than the $10 Sauvignon Blancs I usually pick up.  I also bet you might be able to find it on sale, making it well worth the price.

In the Fishbowl

Visiting the Twisted Oak.

Visiting the Twisted Oak.

We’ll be back to our regularly scheduled programming tomorrow, so if you’re here for your daily wine review/vineyard review, it’ll be back to fairly normal tomorrow. For now, I want to offer just a few thoughts on my last 5 days in California.  As you may know, I headed out last Wednesday to attend the second annual Wine Blogger Conference (WBC) in Santa Rosa.  I also attended last year, so in my mind, a compare and contrast of the two years seems appropriate.

Have you ever felt like a goldfish? It’s quite interesting really. I think the focus of the conference this years seemed to skew more towards wineries, PR folks, and other industry types.  And I felt like people were there to figure out what wine bloggers are, what their motivations might be, and how best to market (I think that’s what I want to call it…) to them.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I understand the need and the desire, seeing as how I fully believe that blogs represent a bigger force than many give them credit for.

Old friend Shana and new friend Rob at Conn Creek.

Old friend Shana and new friend Rob at Conn Creek.

However, having attended both years, it really stuck out to me that the wind had changed.  Last year, the breakdown of industry and “citizen” blogger types seemed skewed a bit more to the blogger side.  The PR, winery, and industry people that attended last year seemed to be many of those already heavily involved in social media.  This year, a ton were just sticking toes into the water, learning about twitter, figuring out what to do with their Facebook fan pages, and seeing how the bloggers worked.

What I missed from last year: the larger gatherings. Don’t get me wrong, I had a fabulous day visiting the wineries in Napa, and the dinner at Conn Creek rocked, but I felt disconnected from the vast majority of participants since we pretty much just saw the 25 people on our bus for the whole day.  I liked that last year we spent more time together as a whole. Many folks that attended last year, who I really enjoyed talking to, and were there again this year, simply seemed like ships passing in the night to me.

Grapes at C. Donatiello!

Grapes at C. Donatiello!

I really look like my picture. Hilarious. I would say no less than 100 folks came up to me this weekend and said some variation of the phrase “You look just like your picture!” Which I guess worked out well since everyone seemed to know me and when I poured at the speed tasting, I got to meet a little over half the people.  Fun times.  I’m sorry if I didn’t recognize you…it’s hard when you don’t have a picture of yourself up around the web…I certainly know all your names/twitter handles, but I may have stared blankly at you on first glance because I didn’t recognize many faces!

I wish I had been able to meet and talk with everyone this year.  The smaller size last year certainly lent itself better to actually having personal conversations with more folks.  As did the fact that we had our anti-conference out at the pool on Saturday afternoon.  This year, we spent a good 4 hours on a bus on Saturday.  And our anti-conference got canceled due to a scheduling snafu with the speed tasting.

My favorite part of the conference this year? Sitting up to nearly 3 with some old and new friends in the lobby of the hotel, chilling, enjoying some fabulous wines, and just shooting the shit for hours.  Unstructured, unscripted, spontaneous gatherings always make for the best times.  Before and after the conference? I couldn’t pick a favorite if I wanted to…I had a blast blending wine, walking in the vineyards, and enjoying a leisurely meal or 4 with some really great folks.  Over the next few weeks, I have lots of wines, vineyards, and events to tell you about. Stay tuned for some excellent discoveries and revisiting of old friends!

All the winos!

All the winos!

The same as last year? The ease of meeting people and the free-flowing discussion.  Even if we’d never met in person before, the common love of wine seems to bring folks together and conversation is easy and natural.  I love putting real faces with the names behind the computer.  In general, I don’t know that you’ll ever meet a more congenial group of folks overall.  It’s been nearly 8 months since I had seen some people, yet we picked up our conversations as if it were just yesterday.

All in all, I had a blast.  Pouring at the speed tasting rocked, I loved being on the other side of the table. Literally.  Meeting new and old friends made the weekend what it is meant to be.  Even being disconnected from the internet at a blogger conference made it more likely that I’d strike up a conversation with my neighbor.  Next year, we’ll be meeting in Walla Walla, Washington. I don’t yet know if I will be able to pull that trip off, but I’ll try my best. The wine people are my type of folks.  We click well and I enjoy the company of all of them.

Sing a Song of Riesling

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from the PR folks for Wines of Germany.

Who loves Riesling? ::points at self:: That’d be me! I’ve been drinking my fair share this summer.  But I think I’d like some more. Like every night. Riesling makes a great before dinner sipper, and its nice acidity often marries well with food.  Tonight we dugthe 2007 Monchhof Riesling Kabinett out of the basement.  We drank it after dinner, where it went particularly well with the hot (but oddly dry) weather we’ve been having recently.  The wine had a screw cap, clocked in at 9% alcohol by volume, and retails for around $20.

Oh what a spicy nose! White pepper, black pepper, white peach, cardamom….I think….at least it’s something from the herb side of the spice rack….just the slighest sweet lemon, and white flowers.  In the mouth I found dried pineapple, delicious candied fruit, peach, some pear, spice, tropical notes, and a nice streak of minerality running through it.  The wine had fabulous acidity and a great long finish. I’d buy this in a heartbeat if I saw it on a shelf!

Give Me More!

*Disclaimer: I reeived this wine as a sample from St. Supery Vineyards so I could participate in the St. Supery Twitter Taste Live.

Cabernet. Yum. I’ve been really digging Cabernet Sauvignon lately. Really. Which is good, because on the Monday after the Wine Blogger Conference Thea and I will be filled with Cab after a visit to Hall, then Corison, then Cornerstone! It’s a day of Cab and I can’t wait!  But back to the wine at hand.  The 3rd wine for the St. Supery Twitter Taste Live was the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon.  I drank the remnants of this one over the next 3 nights and it tasted just as good the last night as it did the first night…the mark of a wine worth aging in my humble opinion.  The wine clocked in at 14.1% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and retails for $38.

On the nose I found black currants, fresh cracked pepper, black fruit, blackberry, back cherry, spicy, leather, and black plums. I wrote down I found the nose to be dark and brooding.  In the mouth I got nice black fruit, blackberry and black cherry were most prevalent, with spice, pepper, plum, chocolate, anise, leather, earth, red cherries, and red berries on the finish.  This wine had fabulous structure and generous tannins…and really, it held up over 4 days!!

Crossing Gooses

We had a busy day out hanging around Napa with Thea. We swung by GooseCross Cellars right after lunch at Judd’s Hill.  Thea hadn’t been in a while, I hadn’t been ever, but we chat with the GooseCross people on Twitter once in a while, so we decided it would be a good stop.  Sadly, it was SUPER crowded.  We didn’t stick around too long, just long enough to taste…the small tasting bar was 4 people deep, folks had strollers, it was very crowded.

2007 Sauvignon Blanc: $23. Grapefruit, meyer lemon, honeysuckle, gooseberry, lemon, lime, crisp, acidic, dry, New-Zealand like.  Unlike 1WineDude, I’ve been digging the Napa Sauvignon Blanc lately!

2007 Viognier: $29. Lychee, orange blossom, apricot, dry, peach, a bit sharp.

2006 Chardonnay Estate: $32. Apple, peach, vanilla, cream, spice, tropical notes, spicy.

2006 AmerItal Red: $40. Strawberry, earth, coffee, oak, cherry, raspberry, a little thin, herbs.

2006 Syrah: $34. Berry, red, chocolate, pepper, currants, plums, spice, licorice.

2004 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon: $69.  Black cherry, black currants, leather, chocolate, red fruit, raspberry, pepper, very tasty, licorice, juicy red fruit.

2007 Chenin Blanc: 4% residual sugar. Pineapple, tropical, honeysuckle, spice, orange, peach, apricot, a little sweet.

What Do You Spy?

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Spy Valley Winery.

Well, if you were sitting in my living room, it would be a bottle of the 2007 Spy Valley Gewurztraminer!  This is the 4th in a series of wines I’ve sampled from the Spy Valley line, which arrived here about 3 week ago.  Following along with the others, I also really enjoyed the Gewurztaminer.  We had it after dinner the other night, though I snuck outside to snap my photos as I couldn’t get the lighting in the house right to capture the label.  Too much flash! The Spy Valley Gewurztraminer had a screw cap closure, looks to retail for somewhere around $16, and clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume.

On the nose I found spice, lychee, mandarin oranges, lemon, flowers, honeysuckle, a touch of cracked pepper, and jasmine. This wine had the kind of nose you just want to keep sniffing forever.  In the mouth I got flavors of spicy pear, lemon, honey, yellow apple, and tangerine.  The mouthfeel seemed a touch oily, but the fruit showed as quite clean. We both enjoyed this bottle.

Ah, Rowdy Tourists

Beautiful Stained Glass in Pejus Tasting Room.

Beautiful Stained Glass in Peju's Tasting Room.

Maybe I’ve been to Sonoma on the wrong days or I go to places that rowdy tourists don’t frequent, but on my 3rd day ever spent in Napa, what struck me the most were the throngs of tourists. And the fact that they had clearly been tasting (drinking?) all day. Which made some of them pretty entertaining. Especially the bachelorette party.

Anyway. The most entertaining tourists we encountered were at Peju. We swung by to visit with Kimberly April, who was working that afternoon and kindly gave us a quick tour.  We also ran into a bachelorette party that provided many laughs with their questions…we particularly enjoyed when they asked to taste something again….but we hadn’t even tried it for a first time!  We had a nice walk around the grounds with Kimberly, checked out some koi, and then toured the barrel rooms.  Peju makes about 35K cases of wine per year, and we tasted through a TON of their offerings.

Thea and Kimberly

Thea and Kimberly

2008 Chardonnay: $28. Tropical, peach, slight malo, apple butter, baked apple pie, spice, orange.

2007 Carnival French Colombard: $16. Spritzy, prickly pear, floral, tropical, lychee, spice, peach, tropical notes, apricot.

2007 Rose of Syrah: $25. Watermelon, plum, cherry, dry, lime, chalk.

At this point, Kimberly handed us off to Alan, who was hosting the group with the entertaining bachelorette party.  Alan was quite the personality…he put on a show in addition to pouring the wines.  And I mean that literally. He yodeled. And told jokes.

Matt contemplates the vines.

Matt contemplates the vines.

2006 Cabernet Franc: $45. Strawberry, mint, spice, cedar, red currant, red cherry, coffee, plum, tannic, young, earth, herbs.

2008 Sauvignon Blanc: $22. Peach, apricot, tropical, nice aroma, citrus, honey.

NV Provence: $22. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Colombard blend. Berries, floral, perfumey….odd.

2005 Estate Merlot: $35. Plum, blackberry, pepper, spice, dark, hot, smoke.

2005 Estate Syrah: $32. Plum, chocolate, red fruit, berries, smoky, campfire, red berries, red currants, licorice, tannins. Really liked this one.

Kimberly talks about fermentation.

Kimberly talks about fermentation.

2006 50/50: $85. Very bright fruit aroma, plum, black cherry, raspberries, huge, brown sugar, tannic.

2005 Estate Bottled Cabernet Cauvignon Reserve: $105. Big spice, pepper, earth, mint, eucalyptus, forest floor, plum, blackberry, chocolate.

2006 Estate Zinfandel: $28. Blackberry syrup, floral, vanilla spice, chocolate, red fruit, smooth, delicious.  We took home two or three of these, I can’t recall.

2005 Estate Cabernet Franc Reserve: $95. Cherry, vanilla, mint, brown sugar, strawberry, black fruit, red berries.

Excellent trip.  And I’m impressed that anyone pouring can maintain a straight face when girls wearing faux veils and tiaras ask if there are 4 or 6 bottles in a case of wine.

Matt, Thea, and Kimberly hang in the tasting room.

Matt, Thea, and Kimberly hang in the tasting room.

Virtú Virtue Virtuous

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from St. Supery Vineyards in order to participate in the St. Supery Twitter Taste Live.

I must say, I really enjoy participating in the Twitter Taste Live events. It’s a lot of fun to see what other folks think in real time about the same wine. We try to have people over to the house too to let them taste with us, like we did with this tasting. 15 people drained the St. Supery wines in a heartbeat! The second wine up for the night was the 2006 St. Supery Virtú.  It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for $28. I really liked this when we tasted it at the vineyard and we took home 3 bottles.

On the nose I found the wine to be really spicy. I also got cedar, oak, pepper, lemon, orange zest, mulled spices, candied pineapple, and lime. I must admit I was surprised…these notes are incredibly different from the notes I took at the winery. I’ll have to pop one of our bottles and see what the deal is.  In the mouth I got oak, pineapple, lime, lemon, spices, nuts, and a little cream on the back palate. I’m definitely going to break open one of my bottles to compare.

On the Road Again

Hello all. Today I take off on an extremely early flight to San Francisco. I’m heading out to the Wine Blogger Conference again this year, but have lots planned before and after as well!  My friend Russ, the Winehiker, is kindly fetching me from the airport and then he and I intend to take a 6 mile hike! Keep me in your thoughts as I’ll have left the East Coast around 5 to get to my flight…then a 5.5 hour flight before a 6 mile hike! I’ll be exhausted!

But I must conserve energy. Thea has a full night planned for us over at Crushpad, before she lets me crash at her place for the night! Then we head off bright and early to pick up Ryan and Gabriella from the airport to whisk them away to deebauchery at Murphys with El Jefe and lots of other wine blog folks! What could be better?

Well, how about 2.5 days in Santa Rosa, soaking up the sun (and the wine) and enjoying the company of many of my fellow wine blog authors?  We will taste through several hundred wines in that time as well as take a field trip to Napa!  And after that’s over, there’s still more!

We’ve got a full day planned on Sunday and Monday too! Pig roasts, Cabernet Sauvignon Verticals, aroma gardens, and more!  I’m sure Thea and I will be exhausted by the time this is over! I’m playing Jeeves for the week, as I have the rental car.  Be sure to watch the wine blog for posts about all the excitement!