Impressions from the 2013 Wine Blogger Conference

Back from my 5th Wine Blogger Conference, held this year in Pentiction, BC, I find myself again inclined to ruminate on what I learned, saw, drank, ate, etc., while spending 4 days in a new-to-me wine region.  Simply because I am tired of repeating myself, please see, in particular, #s 4, 8, and 10 from last’s year’s retrospective on the conference.  Those items still stand for me as takeaways from this conference. And every other WBC I’ve attended.  Despite some of those complaints (and positives), I will be back to attend the 7th annual WBC in Santa Barbara next July.

1.) I no longer look like my picture. After 6 years, this is the first time not a soul made that comment to me. So either I’ve changed quite a bit (possible since I have brown curly hair now…) and I need to update my photo or I’m simply not as present on social media as I used to be. My best guess is a combination of the two. I vow to be better about both things, updating the photo and being more active on Twitter.

View from Summerhill Winery

2.) We could not have asked for a more picturesque place to hold the conference. The Okanagan Valley is simply stunning. Not to mention, the weather cooperated beautifully and the days were sunny, breezy and delightful. I stayed in two locations while in the area, Kelowna and Pentiction. While I can’t choose a favorite, each had its strengths. I’d highly recommend the Manteo Resort in Kelowna for families. I stayed in  a “villa” on the property (basically a townhouse) that had a full living area, separate full kitchen, laundry facilities, 2.5 baths, and 2 bedrooms. The resort offered water sports, pools, playgrounds, a fantastic restaurant, and proximity to many vineyards. At Penticton Lake Resort, I’d think singles or couples would find it more appealing. While still offering water sports, a pool, and proximity to vineyards, it had multiple restaurants, bars, a club, a casino, and more typical hotel style rooms. Both beautiful properties, I’d happily return to either.

3.) That said, a major bummer of the conference turned out to be the inability to bring wine home and being unable to get the wines in the States. You pretty much have to go to BC to taste and drink BC wines. I took home the legal number of bottles (without having to pay extra duty, that’s 2) so I’m pleased to have two (plus 2 others I paid duty on) of my favorites to taste with Mr. Wannabe Wino, I’m disappointed to not be able to get anything else I tasted.

Bee-keeping at Tantalus Vineyards

4.) If you make it to the area, check out Tantalus Vineyards. Hands down my favorite stop of the trip, both for the food, the wine, and the experience. I have a nifty video of the bee keeping demonstration we were treated to ready to post when I figure out how to do so. Two of the wines I brought home, I purchased at Tantalus, including an interesting sparkling brut riesling.

5.) The smaller nature of this year’s conference truly appealed to me. It reminded me more of the first 2 years of the conference. I had time to talk to people. We had many events together. It was more intimate. I made new friends this year. I fully understand the conference is a business, however, at the end of the day, it needs to remain appealing and useful to those who attend. When attendance is almost double what it was this year, that gets lost.

6.) Wines of Uruguay! Wines of Uruguay! Wines of Uruguay! Get them any way you can. Even if you have to mud wrestle an Uruguayan for them since they drink most of the wine they produce. Especially the Albariño from Bouza. Stunning wine.

7.) The conference was over-scheduled. Again, I understand that this is a money-making venture. I also understand that I am in no way obligated to attend every event. However, having scheduled events running until 11 pm every night is just too much. Some people actually want to go to bed earlier than that and may miss out on something they’d really like to attend simply by virtue of the fact that they don’t want to be exhausted for the next day of the conference. This particularly struck me on Friday, when we went on our excursion and then were bused immediately to an event over an hour from the hotel with no option to return to the hotel without attending, then had to await buses to take us back. I was wet (more on this later), exhausted, and wanted to leave, but didn’t end up being able to get on a bus home until 10:30 and didn’t arrive back to the hotel until almost midnight. The event the next morning started at 7:15. That’s not enough sleep.

8.) Since I’m recommending wines, here’s one from another region that caught my attention: the 2010 Kacaba Reserve Cabernet Franc.  If you ever get to the Niagra wine region, you should most definitely look Kacaba up. Worth it alone for the Cabernet Franc.

Brodo Kitchen’s chef makes us eggs in the park

9.) A small list of places to eat for sure if you make it to either Kelowna or Penticton: Waterfront Wines (holy cow can that man make a gourmet waffle and poach an egg), Smack Dab (the focus on local beers, with at least 15 on tap, totally won me over), Brodo Kitchen (in Penticton, no website, but they had fresh strawberry juice that rocked my socks), The Cupcake Lady Cafe (don’t be fooled by the name, the breakfast crepes were drool-worthy), The White Apron (fresh made ham and cheese croissants, think pain au chocolat but with ham and cheese), and Hooded Merganser (duck breast poutine, need I say more?).

10.) Go visit Craig Camp at Cornerstone Cellars. I know I’ve said it before, but he’s sincerely one of the nicest, most genuine people I’ve ever had the pleasure of associating with, and his wines are damn good.


Lobstah. It’s what’s for dinnah.

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from the winery for review.

I’m on a bit of an Albariño kick these days.  We traveled North for Christmas this year to see my parents for the holidays in CT. In CT, lobster is $4.99 a pound. In VA, it’s $8.99 a pound if you can find it. And, you can almost never (read: it’s happened ONCE in the decade I’ve lived here) find steamers.  We enjoyed this lobster and some steamers with the 2011 Bonny Doon Albariño. The wine clocks in at 13.2% alcohol by volume, has a screw cap closure, and retails for around $15.

Four takeaways from this wine:

1.) I could drink this all day, every day with steamers. Add in the lobster and I’m in heaven.

2.) The Bonny Doon Albariño is a super value at sub-$20. It easily makes my list of best white wines I tasted in 2012.

3.) I sort of feel bad for lobsters, but they can rest easy knowing they were paired with such an excellent match.

4.) It appears the 2011 is nearly sold out (or sold out) but be sure to keep an eye out for the 2012.

On the nose I found honeysuckle, tangerine, candied pineapple, lemon, lemongrass, and orange.  The nose smelled tart and promised good things to come to help cut through the butter and rich lobster flavors.  In the mouth I got lemon, lime, tangerine, orange blossom notes, more lime, and pineapple. The promise of the nose held true with excellent acidity and tart fruit flavors.



Switching Gears

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample for review.

Jumping around a bit as we kick of this new year.  From CA to Spain and red to white.  Variety keeps the wine palate alive and kicking and for me, it’s what makes wine endlessly interesting, unique, and fun to drink. Tonight we tried out the 2010 Benito Santos Albariño.  The Albariño has a real cork closure, clocks in at 13% alcohol by volume, and retails for around $16.

Four takeaways from this wine:

1.)  Nice and racy on the palate, just like I enjoy in an Albariño.

2.) That said, as it warmed up, the fruit softened and became rounder.

3.) If you keep it nice and chill, this seems like a great wine for the dog days of summer. (Just around the corner, right?)

4.) I’d pair with a light white fish dish this summer.

On the nose I got tangerine, orange, spice, white peach, and white pepper. The aroma was quite nice.  In the mouth I found lime, tangerine, citrus fruit, white pepper, and white peach as it warmed.  Overall, when chilled the fruit was crisp, acidic, and tart. As it warmed, the fruit turned softer and rounder.




Pretending it’s Spring

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Gallo Family Wines.

Despite nearly all evidence to the contrary at the moment, spring is coming. Yes, I realize we currently have about 40 inches of snow on the ground, but it will melt. Eventually. And before it all fell I saw my Irises and Daffodils coming up! Poor flowers. I’m ignoring all the snow in my yard and drinking white wines. It helps to get me in a spring frame of mind. Or perhaps I’m just delusional, it could really go either way. We popped open the 2007 Martin Codax Albariño the other night. The wine had a plastic cork, clocked in at 13% alcohol by volume, and I see it available online for as low as $10.

On the nose I found sweet peach, apricot, pear, honey, apple, lemon, and other citrus. I also got an overall “tropical” sense from the wine.  In the mouth I found the citrus to be more pronounced along with the apple. Pear, peach, and a little spice rounded out the palate. I thought the wine was crisp and refreshing, but definitely one to be served very chilly.

Albariño Albariño Albariño

Say that 10 times fast! Here’s another grape I don’t drink much of unless I seek it out. And I should. I really like Albariños and find it makes a good mate for the light seafood dishes I enjoy so much in the warmer months. However, I always find myself gravitating towards Sauvignon Blanc. Anyway, I pulled out the 2007 Licia Albariño from the box my dad and I got at the Madison Wine Exchange. It had a real cork, clocked in at 12.5% alcohol by volume and I believe it ran us about $15.

On the nose I got flowers, peach, nectarine, honey, pear, and citrus notes. In the mouth I found lemon, white peach, pear, orange, more citrus, and stone fruits. The wine had nice acidity and I found it to be crisp. W drank this on its own, but as I said, it would be nice with some grilled white fish in the summer.


Albariño is Excellent!

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from WineQ because I am Beta Club member.

It’s been quite a while since I had an Albariño and that’s a shame, since it’s a great grape, and is wonderful as a substitute for situations in which I would normally choose a Sauvignon Blanc. WineQ helped get me back on the Albariño train, and I’m going to start trying to seek them out again. I chose the 2007 Bokisch Albariño Clement Hills Vineyard to go with our omelets! It clocked in at 14.1% alcohol by volume, hails from Lodi, and you can purchase it for $15.99 from WineQ. (I’m finding the Bokisch wines to be absolutely excellent values so far!)

On the nose I found pineapple, cream, tropical fruit, apple, and pear. I was surprised by how aromatic this wine was, the fruit just jumped out of the glass. In the mouth, I got apple, tropical fruit, apricot, and peach. I found the wine to be crisp, dry, and refreshing. It actually worked really well with our omelets, a surprise to me!

On a White Wine Kick

No particular reason, but I’m not feeling the cold weather reds right now. Could be the warm weather, but really, that just started this week. I just haven’t been a heavy red wine mood. I need to shake that as the reds are piling up alarmingly fast in my basement!

The bottle of the night was a Valminor 2006 Rias Bhixas Albarino. I picked it up at the Winery in Old Town Alexandria as part of a mixed case. It cost me $12.99 minus a 10% case discount, clocked in at 12.5% alcohol by volume, and had a screw cap.

The nose of the wine was perfumy, very aromatic. It showed tropical fruit, citrus, grapefruit, orange blossoms, and was quite floral. In the mouth I found grapefruit, citrus, and a nice sweet orange note. The wine was crisp in the mouth, but not too tart. Overall I found the wine to be intriguing and a great value for the price.