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.


You Need This Wine

You haven’t tried wines from Bill Wertzberger? What are you waiting for, a personal invite? Don’t wait. Bill makes small lot wines from small lots of grapes that he buys from his million and one contacts in the Northern CA wine world. He’s also an accomplished artist (all his wine labels are his own artwork), a musician, and he works at Teldeschi as well. Look him up and tell him I sent you his way. In addition to all of the above, he’s a generally all around good guy and someone who is awesome to spend an afternoon with.  I suggest you do so, immediately.  The wine. We tried the 2010 Wertzberger Pedroni Vineyards Cabernet Franc with our roast the other night.  It has a real cork closure, clocks in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for $30 with 72 cases produced.

1.) I’m always impressed with the depth of the wines in Bill’s portfolio.

2.) Cab Franc is my (not so secret) wine love.

3.) Get lost in the nose of this wine.

4.) I buy a lot of wine from Bill, at least 4 cases a year. His Cab Franc is perennially one of my favorite wines.

On the nose I got spice, herbs, green pepper, chocolate, strawberry, raspberry, more herbs, red cherry, and flowers. In the mouth I found raspberry, black cherry, strawberry, spice, herbs, pepper, and chocolate. The fruit was more prominent on the palate than on the nose for me. The wine had excellent acidity and good tannins on the finish.



Titus: I love you

I shall count the ways. 1.) Beautiful vineyards. 2.) Excellent wines. 3.) Fabulous people. 4.) Olives.  And on and on and on.  We went to Titus on our latest CA visit this past spring, but I bought this wine some time ago.  Cabernet Franc is one of my favorites, so I’m unable to resist the Titus version. They don’t make terribly much of it, so we have joined their club in order to ensure our continued to access to the wine. Lifeblood. Wiiiiiiinnnnnnneeeeee. (Says Homer Simpson.) In this particular instance I’m talking about the 2009 Titus Cabernet Franc. It has a real cork closure, clocks in at 14.3% alcohol by volume, and I can’t recall what I paid for it.

Four takeways from this wine:

1.) Buy it. Now.

2.) Spend a day sitting at the picnic table at Titus Vineyards. You won’t regret a moment of that time.

3.) Drink more Cab Franc to encourage more (domestic) wineries to produce and distribute it.

4.) I think this would be awesome in the fall with beef stew.

On the nose I got chocolate, strawberries, raspberries, spices, herbs, sage, coffee, red currants, and cherries. This wine has that kind of nose I want to get lost in.  In the mouth I got black raspberry, black cherry, spices, herbs, chocolate, and earth.  I found it to be juicy with nice dark fruits and a long finish on the palate.  Drink up!




Love at First Sip

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

I’ve been digging on Cabernet Franc lately. Something about the fresh fruit notes and lovely spices and earthy bits is just really appealing to me. I happily plucked the 2007 Maryhill Cabernet Franc from the basement to sip on the other night. It has a real cork closure, clocks in at 14.4% alcohol by volume, and the current 2008 vintage retails for $18.

Four takeaways from this wine:

1.) $18 is a steal. Run, don’t walk, to scoop up this wine.

2.) The nose on the Cab Franc was pure deliciousness. Hit many of the classic Cab Franc notes.

3.) The flavors followed nicely to the palate with great acidity.

4.) I’ve really enjoyed everything I’ve tried from Maryhill Winery.

On the nose I got pepper, violets, black cherry, espresso, chocolate and spice.  In the mouth I found black cherry, spice, cedar, espresso, black plum, raspberry, and a mineral note.  Overall, the fruit was very fresh and it had great acidity carrying the finish.


I’ll Take Another Glass. Or 2.

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

Fall approaches. Not too long ago I was wishing for summer and dreaming of white wines. Now my thoughts are edging back to the red end of the spectrum again and I’m dabbling in some of the reds that have sat, neglected, in my basement all summer long. Cabernet Franc seemed like a good choice to get back into the red groove, so we opened up the 2007 Maryhill Proprietor’s Reserve Cabernet Franc. It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 14.2% alcohol by volume, and retails for $34.

Four takeaways from this wine:

1.) Cabernet Franc is quickly becoming my go-to red.

2.) This wine would be perfect with a marinated London broil on the grill.

3.) On the other hand, it was lovely on its own.

4.) Imagine a cedar chest, filled with chocolate, raspberries, black cherries, pepper, and smoke. Put it in a glass and add some herbs and you’ve got this wine.

On the nose I found herbs, pepper, white pepper, earth, chocolate, peppers, raspberry, black cherry, berry, cedar, and smoke. In the mouth I got black cherry, raspberry, herbs, smoke, pepper, and chocolate notes. Altogether this wine was deliciousness wrapped into a glass.

Drinking Local (Once Again)

With the 2011 Wine Blogger Conference just around the corner, and it being in my own back yard, I thought it high time I bring out some of the VA wines that I have in my cellar and get you all excited for what you have to look forward to out here on the East Coast! One of my favorite VA wineries is Rappahannock Cellars. They are doing excellent things with both Cabernet Franc and Viognier, two of the wines that VA does best in my humble opinion. Tonight we opened up the 2007 Rappahannock Cellars Cabernet Franc, a wine I purchased in Sept. 09 on my last visit out there. It clocked in at 13.8% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and I can’t recall what I paid, but it retailed for around $25 I believe.

On the nose I found strawberry, raspberry, earth, forest, chocolate, chocolate syrup notes, herbs, and spice. Yum. The nose certainly made me look forward to tasting the wine.  In the mouth I got raspberry, fresh strawberry, earth, and a good herbal note. The wine had great structure and acidity and is an excellent example of what VA can do with this grape.

Step on this Stone

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Cornerstone Cellars.

I adore this wine. I adored it last year when I tasted it before it was even bottled. I adored it when it came out in bottle for the 2007 vintage.  And the 2008 version is even more worthy of my adoration since it’s yummy.  The wine in question? The 2008 Cornerstone Cellars Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc.  It clocked in at 14.5% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and retails for $30. Sometimes Cabernet Franc can be a hard wine for me to love. However, as my wine tastes have evolved over the years, I find myself more and more drawn to its herbs and red fruit flavors.  I love the Stepping Stone Cab Franc for its ability to pull all the elements I like about Cab Franc into one wine while leaving out some of the ones I used to find off-putting.

I first have to note the lovely ruby color of this wine.  I don’t think my pictures do it any justice at all, but it is a stunning wine.  On the nose I got strawberry, herbs, earth, raspberry, mint, chocolate notes, red cherries, and violets.  To me, the fruit smelled as if it had been fresh picked and was still warm from the summer sun.  In the mouth I found cherries, raspberries, strawberries, and herbs.  The fruit showed bright, red, and tart, with good acidity and structure.  If I had more than two thumbs I’d give this wine more than two thumbs up.




A Tour of the States

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Macari Vineyards.

I drink a lot of California wine. It’s just a simple fact. I really cut my wine teeth on California wine and as such, I tend to drink more of it than anything else.  However, this past week you wouldn’t be able to tell….we had ORegon on Sunday, North Carolina on Monday, and today we have New York. I do love trying wines from lots of different places, so hitting a streak with a variety of wines is always a fun time. Today we tried the NV Macari Sette, a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet Franc from Long Island. It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume, and retails for $16.99.

On the nose I found strawberries, earth, herbs, plum, spice, leather, raspberry, and just a slightly green characteristic that I actually really love about Cab Francs (it’s a pleasant green thing, I promise!). In the mouth I got red berries, strawberries, plum, earth, dirt, raspberries, cranberries, black cherry, and herbs. The wine had great acidity and at $16.99 seemed to be a great bargain. I also really enjoyed the Macari Rosé I had earlier this year, they seem to be making some wines at a good price point with real character.

Baby Steps

*Disclaimer: I received this wine as a sample from Cornerstone Cellars.

I mentioned in a post last week that you should come back in a little while to see full reviews of some of Cornerstone’s new line, Stepping Stone, here on ye olde wine blog. Well, that day came sooner than I thought when I stepped into the basement and my eyes locked on the bottle of 2007 Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc. Although I had gone down to the basement to retrieve a Pinot Noir, the Cabernet Franc called my name. It had a real cork closure, clocked in at 14.9%alcohol by volume, and retails for $30.

The nose on this wine sang to me. No, really. The first thought that popped into my head upon sniffing was “strawberry fields forever.” I also found cranberry, earth, spice, loganberry, raspberry, red cherry, and dusty chocolate.  In the mouth, cherry, raspberry, pepper, cranberry, strawberry, and earth stood out.  I described the wine as “kicky” by which I mean the fruit showed as tart and fresh. I don’t drink a lot of Cabernet Franc in general and almost none of what I do comes from California, but the Stepping Stone definitely opened my eyes to what a Cab Franc from CA could be!

Tasting the Russian River

On the first night of the Wine Blogger Conference, the Russian River Valley Winegrowers hosted an “after” party. This was probably one of my favorite events of the conference this year. I’ve been really enjoying many of the wines I’ve been seeing coming out of the Russian River Valley recently, so I had hoped to try many different things at this tasting. Alas, it was late at night, palate fatigue eventually settled in, and I didn’t get to taste as much as I had intended. A good excuse to head back to CA, right? 😉 What I did taste was worth the effort, and many of the wineries had the owners and/or winemakers present to chat with us, which is always a fun time.

2006 Acorn Sangiovese: strawberry, bright fruit, pepper, spice, earth, leather, red fruit, raspberry, cherry, nice acidity, spice.

2006 Acorn Cabernet Franc: deep strawberry aroma, fresh raspberry, spice, bright, red fruit, pepper, blue fruit, tannins.

2006 Acorn Axiom Syrah: Red berries, fruit forward, cedar, spice, raspberry, creamy fruit, round, pepper, floral, roses, red fruit, strawberries, tannins.

2006 Acorn Heritage Zinfandel: Smoky, pepper, blackberry, spicy, chocolate, red berries, bright fruit, nice fruit.

2007 Freeman Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Leather, funk, eucalyptus, mint, herbal, raspberry, dirt, black currants.

2007 Freeman Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir: Dirt, earth, berries, red fruit, raspberries, little barnyard, tart red fruit.

2006 C. Donatiello Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Fantastic nose. Brown sugar, raspberry, black cherry cola, vanilla cream, herbs, slight milk chocolate, red fruit, nice structure.

2001 Joseph Swan Syrah: Perfumey, violets, very aromatic, roses, deep black plums, spicy, meaty, chewy, anise, pepper, plums, smooth, integrated.

2007 La Crema Russian River Valley Pinot Noir: Smoky, pepper, raspberry, cranberry, cola, floral, vanilla cream, bright red fruit, tart fruit.

I missed many of the wineries that poured at this event. However, it was markedly less crowded than the Sonoma Grand Tasting earlier in the day, which I would guess was related to it starting at 10pm. I stayed to the end, but I got caught up talking to folks so I didn’t work my way as diligently and rapidly through the offerings as I normally would have. All in all, a nice line up of wines and a good incentive for me to spend some more time in the Russian River Valley.