Send a Wine Blogger to Wine Camp!

This year, the 5th iteration of the Wine Blogger Conference will occur in Portland, Oregon August 17-19. The Wine Blogger Conference helps wine bloggers hone their craft, connect with other bloggers and industry folk, and experience a wine region they may not have previously had the opportunity to visit up close and personal.

The darling Thea Dwelle, Chief Cat Herder Extraordinaire, Master of Bling, and all around nice person has once again organized the Wine Blogger Scholarship.  Conceived after the 2008 Conference when we realized that some of our fellow bloggers could not shoulder the cost of everything associated with the conference, Thea has been zealously pursuing donations for this year’s Conference.

Donations are made through Enobytes, a 501(c) non profit organization. Therefore, any donation may be tax deductible. (Please consult your tax professional for advice on charitable contributions and the associated rules governing them in the Internal Revenue Code to determine your eligibility to take a deduction.)

I’ve donated and am on this year’s Scholarship Committee. Please take a moment and consider making a donation: DONATE NOW!

Take Aways from the 2011 Wine Blogger Conference

1.) I look just like my picture. I started attending the Wine Blogger Conference during its very first year in Sonoma. I missed Walla Walla, but otherwise I have attended all other years. After 4 years, the most common thing people say to me upon meeting me for the first time is “You look just like your picture.” Next year I’ve decided I’ll wear a badge that says “Yes. I look just like my picture.”

2.) Virginia wine has come a long way since I moved here 8 years ago. However, I am still convinced that Viognier and Cabernet Franc are what VA does best, though my experience this weekend has started to sway me towards the belief that Petit Verdot has enormous possibilities here as well. I tasted an absolutely brilliant one (2005 Reserve) from Jefferson Vineyards, though with only 7 cases left, they aren’t selling it! Also, the just released 2010 Viognier from Breaux Vineyards is well worth your time to check out.

3.) Charlottesville is an adorable place that I need to return to when my life slows down a bit. I shared a lovely dinner at Tavola with Jason, Thea, and Craig and I would highly recommend it to anyone visiting Charlottesville. Also, check out Brookville Restaurant, where they have an appreciation for bacon, pork belly, and all other pig products that rang true with me!

4.) The conference, while always entertaining and a great place to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones, will never regain the magic that it held for me that first time at the Flamingo in Sonoma. Which brings me to…

5.) I missed the people who I was used to seeing at these conferences and it made a big difference for me. So Tim, Shana, Jeff, Randy, Russ, Patrick, Michael (too many others to mention)….I was thinking of you and missing you and wishing you were there with us.

6.) If the Pinot Noir I tasted during the speed tasting on day 2 from King Estate is any indication of the wines we will get to sample at the 2012 conference in Oregon, we are all in for a mighty treat.

7.) I have some thinking to do about what I want to do with my blog going forward. I’m certainly not the oldest wine blogger around, I believe that honor might belong to Alder over at Vinography, but I am going on 5 years here at Wannabe Wino. I’ve mostly settled into a format that works for me at this point, but I’m pondering the viability of the blog as it is. More on this another day when I’m not so sleep deprived.

8.) Wine people, regardless of the region, remain among some of the friendliest and most welcoming people I’ve ever had the pleasure to hold company with. Perhaps it’s simply all the wine we drink, but I’m fairly certain it’s more than that, to the core of the type of person that is drawn to the love of wine to the extent of becoming a part of the larger wine community.

9.) Jancis Robinson, was utterly charming and made some excellent points in her key note speech. I was honored that she accepted the invitation to come speak at the conference and would relish the opportunity to hear her again in the future.

10.) The nature of these events leaves little time for meaningful conversations and connections. But it is a start to what can become meaningful conversations and connections. So don’t let the pile of business cards you collected gather dust. Make sure to follow up with the folks you found particularly interesting and build on the fleeting moments you spent with the person at the conference. I’ve made some incredibly good and lasting friendships by doing so over the years.

Link up to WBC Round Ups.

Leaving on a

jet plane train boat, er, car that is. This year’s Wine Blogger Conference is actually in my backyard, in Charlottesville, VA, so I can take my own wheels! Does wonders for the cost of attending considering the last 3 years have found the bloggers migrating to the west coast. Which for me involves planes and car rentals and airport parking…

I’ll be trying to do a bit of a mix this year with some live reporting on the spot and take home posts as well. I’m hoping that the conference will help to show the wide world of wine bloggers what VA has to offer! With this heat though, bring on the Viognier!

I Dream of Pinot

Chris gets animated in the garden

Chris gets animated in the garden

After the Wine Blogger Conference, Thea, Ashley, & I did a whirlwind tour of Sonoma and Napa.  And I really do mean whirlwind….on one day we did both Sonoma and Napa in the same day and STILL managed to stop by to see Patrick and Genevieve and their adorable new son.  Our first stop after lunch was a must visit for me after I learned of this winery at last year’s WBC. Oh, and by the way, I still adore those glasses and am now the proud owner of my own pair…you might have seen them popping in pictures over the last 8 months or so! I’m talking about C. Donatiello Winery.  If you haven’t been here before, go! Not only are the wines great, but the grounds are worth a trip on their own.  I wrote last year all about the aroma garden, which we toured again this year. I found it interesting to see it 3 months earlier in the year since so many different things were in season….I even got to eat some fresh raspberries right off the bush.

I like trees.

I like trees.

However, before touring the facilities (still the CLEANEST winery facilities I have ever, ever visited) we got to sit down for a private tasting with Chris Donatiello.  Chris is one of the most animated people I’ve ever seen when he’s talking about his wines.  It’s hard not to catch his enthusiasm as he talks about his winery and winemaking and everything else that goes on at the estate.  I think Thea and I may have been the only repeat visitors from last year’s blogger visit to C. Donatiello, but we were happy to spread the word to all our new friends and bring them along with us!

And grapes.

And grapes.

2008 Russian River Valley 809 Clone Chardonnay: $32. Lemon, pear, apple, fairly crisp, nice fruit, lemon, citrus, nice acidity, spice, stone, peach.

2006 Russian River Valley Chardonnay: $28. Spice, little bit of wood, cream, apple, golden apple, little chewy, nice fruit, round, spice.

And flowers.

And flowers. Which I swear smelled like chocolate.

2007 Orsi Vineyard Chardonnay: $38. Cream, much rounder, oak, tropical, green apple, tart pear.

2006 Russian River Pinot Noir: $48. Cherry, spice, herbs, raspberry, tart, cranberry, spice, tannins, little pepper.

Thea gets friendly with celebrity wino Hardy Wallace

Thea gets friendly with celebrity wino Hardy Wallace

2007 Maddie’s Vineyard Pinot Noir: $62. Strawberry, violets, tobacco leaf, raspberry, roses, tart red fruit, refined. I bought a bottle to add to my 2006 Maddie’s…I hope to amass a vertical and share them with some very lucky winos in about 5 years 🙂

2007 Floodgate Block 15 Pinot Noir: $55. Black cherry, pepper, spice, raspberry, fruit forward, spice, on the finish, red fruit, tannic.

Even Twitter celebrity Wine Dog made an appearance!

Even Twitter celebrity Wine Dog made an appearance!

I highly recommend a visit to C. Donatiello next time you are in the Russian River Valley area. Make sure you leave some extra time to enjoy the beautiful grounds, and don’t be afraid to taste and smell things from the aroma garden…that’s why it’s there!

Shana, Ashley, Thea, & I pose in the vines.

Shana, Ashley, Thea, & I pose in the vines.

Portuguese Wines!

In honor of my upcoming trip, here are some wines I tasted at the Wine Blogger Conference.  At the conference, Gabriella and Ryan brought tons of wines from Portugal courtesy of Wines of Portugal (I think that’s who sponsored it, the agenda seems to have been replaced by next year’s conference already!) and I went and tasted some…though it was very crowded and hard to get to to many different bottles!

2007 Marques de Borba Alentejo: Smoky, bright red fruit, spice, cedar, floral, tart red fruit, cranberries.

2004 Adegaborba Reserva: Black currants, spice, strawberry, red currants, red fruit, raspberry, tight red fruit.

2005 Adega Coop Reserva: Spice, red fruit, berries, simple.

2007 Aveleda Alvarinho Vinho Verde: Melon, grapefruit, flowers, really citrusy, lemon, refreshing.

2006 Twisted Douro Tinto: Smoke, black fruit, anise, tannic, dry, black fruit.

2005 Incógnito Cortes de Cima Red Wine: Raisins, red currants, spice, meat, espresso, dark fruit, tannic, very dry.

I’m looking forward to trying so many more Portuguese wines on my trip! I’ve only ever had a few in my life, and most have been Ports, so it should be great to try others from different regions and grapes!

Another Grand Tasting

On the second day of the Wine Blogger Conference, we attended a few sessions at various wineries including the one I told you about at Cuvaison. Mid-afternoon we headed to Quintessa for the Napa Grand Tasting. This event happened in the tank room at Quintessa, with wineries lining up between each row of tanks. I barely made it through the first row…I like to actually talk to people about the wines rather than a quick sip and spit and moved on.  I heard I missed lots of other good wines, but that’s ok, I enjoyed the ones I did taste and I liked talking to the people from the various wineries. I also didn’t really get any pictures….it was crowded and I already had a notebook, pen, informational materials, and my glass in my hands. I only have 4 hands at times it seems!

2007 Quintessa Illumination:nutty, lemon, melon, citrus, tart, herbs, grass, little green pepper, white pepper.

2006 Elizabeth Spencer Napa Cabernet Sauvignon: Black cherry, black plum, black berries, pepper, flowers, spice, tannins, vanilla, licorice.

2006 Ehlers Estate 1886 Cabernet Sauvignon: Black cherry tart, spice, leather, pepper, meaty, vanilla cream, black plums, blackberry, spice.

2006 Duckhorn Napa Merlot: Spicy, black pepper, black plums, tart cherry fruit, acidity, nice fruit.

2006 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon: Black fruit, earth, tight, leather, vanilla, spice, tart fruit.

1996 Cornerstone Cabernet Sauvignon: Brick red. Dirt, earth, spicy, anise, pepper, peppers, red fruit, raspberries, still nice structure with some tannins left.

2005 Conn Creek Anthology: Cabernet Sauvignon heavy blend with Merlot, Malbec, Petite Verdot, and Cabernet Franc rounding it out. Spicy black fruit, peppery, lots of pepper, peppers, chocolate, nice smooth integrated fruit, blackberry, black plum.

2005 Clark Claudon Estate Cabernet Sauvignon: Nice creamy black nose, black cherries, blackberries, spice, roses, flowers, licorice, really nice fruit.

2006 Charnu Cabernet Sauvignon: Spicy, coffee, blackberry, fruit, anise, dusty milk chocolate, herbs, really smooth and well integrated, chewy tannins on the finish with a hint of red berries.

2006 Diamond Terrace Cabernet Sauvignon: Lots of milk chocolate, black cherry, blackberries, espresso, black licorice, black currants, pepper, nice fruit.

2006 Gargiulo Cabernet Sauvignon: Pepper, dark chocolate, black fruit, violets, spice, tart, long finish, tight, brigh blackberry, red fruit on the finish, anise, herbs.

2006 Grigich Hills Chardonnay: Pear peach, stone fruit, spice, vanilla, spice, peach, tart fruit, nice finish.

2006 Quintessa Cabernet Blend Napa Valley Red Wine: spicy, red fruit, plum, red berries, tannins, smooth finish.

All in all, a nice tasting….I just needed another hour or two to even make a dent in the wines available. Ah well, just an excuse for me to go back to Napa and taste around a bit more. I only managed to get two tables into the second row of wineries, though I did get through the whole first row. Some folks seemed to jump around the room but it seemed less efficient to me to do that than to just move up and down the rows. Thanks to the Napa Valley Vintners for hosting us! It looked like there were some nice food displats too, but who has time to eat when there’s wine to be tasted? 🙂

Visiting Cuvaison

Prior to the Wine Blogger Conference, I had not heard of Cuvaison. That shouldn’t really come as a surprise as I’m not terribly familiar with many Napa wineries…I’m just dipping my toes into Napa in the last year.  After we boarded our bus from the Culinary Institute of America, we were told we were headed to Cuvaison for lunch. Unfortunately, a snafu with scheduling/directions/communications landed us at Cuvaison’s Calistoga tasting room when we were intended to be at the Carneros tasting room….40 some odd minutes away on the other side of Napa.  Which I unhappily discovered being the first to run into the tasting room searching for a rest room.  Now, happy go lucky wine bloggers that we are, we made the best of the delay and tried to quiet our rumbling tummies with wine and chatter and the occasional song.

We eventually arrived at Cuvaison’s Carneros facility, a new tasting room for them, set among sweeping views of their vineyards.  We were greeted with glasses of the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc as we stepped off the bus and quickly made our way to an upstairs meeting room where lunch awaited.  While we lunched, the Cuvaison folks gave a presentation about Cuvaison’s green efforts and the history of the vineyard. (Some folks noted it was amusing we got printed out handouts for the green presentation…) Cuvaison has been around for 40 years and produces about 60 thousand case of wine a year from the 280 acres they have under vine.  We tasted through some of the current line up as we enjoyed lunch, and were each treated to a bottle of wine as a parting gift. I chose the Pinot Noir so I’ll have a more in depth post about that wine in the coming months.

2008 Carneros Sauvignon Blanc: $20. Grapefruit, grass, hay, green pepper, white pepper, cantaloupe, tart, crisp, light. Perfect after getting off the bus!

2007 Carneros Chardonnay: $22. Lemon butter, lemon, apple, spice, pear, round, lemon, pear butter, wood.

Thea probably wont like this one.

Thea probably won't like this one.

2007 Carneros Pinot Noir: $32. Raspberry, strawberry, full red fruit, little earth, cedar, red currants, pepper, tart red fruit, great acidity, red berries, little cream on the nose.

2006 Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon: $45. Black cherry, pepper, green pepper, blackberry, spice, dark red berries, tannic, chewy, black finish, drying. Really young.

Carneros tasting room. Not Calistoga.

Carneros tasting room. Not Calistoga.

Overall, a solid line up. I was sad to have our time at Cuvaison cut short. I would have liked the full tour we were supposed to get, and I would have liked to have taken a few more notes on their practices, but I was extremely hungry and really needed to eat rather than put pen to pad.  However, many of Cuvaison’s practices are outlined on their website and blog, so I suggest you check that out.

Wine Bloggers mug for the camera

Wine Bloggers mug for the camera

*As you can probably tell, I’m finally getting around to my posts from my last trip to California. I try. Sorry for the delay.