A season of wine conferences: Santa Rosa or Dallas anyone? Lisbon maybe?

Next Friday, July 24, 2009, the second edition of the Wine Bloggers Conference will get started at the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, California (again). Last year’s inaugural conference was a sold out event, with some 170 participants, and this year is sold out again, at an increased capacity of 250.

The conference program brings back the best stuff from last year (like the Live Wine Blogging) and adds to it, with the presentation of the American Wine Blog Awards, and a day in Napa Valley. Keynote speakers include Barry Schuler of AOL fame (and Meteor Vineyard) and Jim Gordon, editor of Wines & Vines, and after parties will feature wines from Russian River and Portugal. Wish I could attend, but late July is family vacation. I’ll wave hello from the shores of the Great Lakes.

Can’t make it to WBC and still looking forward to a wine conference? How about heading to Dallas, Texas, on August 15, for the first DrinkLocalWine.com conference? The goal of the one-day event is to showcase the evolution of the Texas wine industry, which now boasts some 177 wineries. One more proof that you really shouldn’t think of California wine and American wine as synonyms. I’ll miss that one too, but will try to follow the tweet-up/live blogging event featuring 40 of the Lone Star state’s best cuvées, which is set to conclude the event.

The one conference I’m still hoping I can make it too is the second European Wine Bloggers Conference, taking place in Lisbon, Portugal, October 30 to November 1. I certainly wouldn’t mind polishing up and updating my knowledge of Portuguese wines, and meeting with the very interesting, multinational group of bloggers who gather there (the word “European” refers to the location of the conference, but bloggers can come from anywhere). The program includes a visit to the cork forests, guided by natural cork producer Amorim, which in itself should be worth the trip for any wine geek.

And if I don’t make it to this one either, there will be other gatherings in the new year. TasteCamp should move to the Finger Lakes, while the American Wine Bloggers conference will be heading to Washington State. More opportunities to discover wine regions and their production. Last year, at the first Wine Bloggers Conference, I loved the opportunity to learn more about Sonoma Wines, and especially Dry Creek, where I had the chance, during and after the conference, to visit Preston and Quivira, two very solid producers of sunny, intense, well-defined wines. Just that made the trip worthwhile.

TasteCamp in Long Island: I AM drinking merlot

I can say one thing about last weekend’s TasteCamp East, organized by Lenn Thompson for a group of about 15 bloggers (see the whole list here, with very personal notes from Dale Cruse) who enthusiastically went around the vineyards of Long Island. I’ve never had so much merlot in so little time.

Actually, I can say two things about TasteCamp East: I’ve never had so much merlot, and never before had I enjoyed it that much.

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Bud break on a merlot vine at Shinn Estate Vineyards

It’s not that I’ve never had good merlot – or at least, good merlot-based blends. For instance, I’ve enjoyed many good and some great Pomerols or Saint-Émilions where merlot was playing a leading role. But I tend to find more to please me in the Médoc, with cabernet sauvignon in the forefront. And years of being disappointed again and again by flabby or imprecise or just undistinguished varietal bottlings from the likes of California and Chile just brought my enthusiasm for merlot very close to ground level. 

So what was I doing in Long Island, where merlot is king? (more…)

TasteCamp East: adventures in Long Island wines

Well, here I am at The Greenporter Hotel in Greenport, NY, on the Eastern end of Long Island, for a meeting of wine bloggers called TasteCamp East.

The event is organized by Lenn Thompson, one of the top wine bloggers and an expert on the wines of New York and, more specifically, Long Island, where he lives – and obviously, drinks. (more…)

When Robert Parker can’t get his facts (or his ethical guidelines) straight

I was appalled and incensed, Friday evening, when I read a post by Robert Parker himself on the eRobertParker forum. I don’t often agree with Mr Parker’s taste, but I do have respect for what he’s accomplished and for the energy he’s put into advocating wine.

I’ve lost a lot of that respect, now, after an attack he has made on wine bloggers and on the Wine Bloggers Conference and those who organized it. And it’s not a question of opinion. Even as he accuses wine bloggers of spreading falsehoods, Mr Parker has evidently not even bothered to check any facts on what he states in his forum post.

Let me quote him. (more…)

WBW 55 Trial Run: North vs South in Radio-Coteau pinots

Periodically, I’m grabbed by the urge to pull a bottle out of the cellar, unplanned and by itself, not for a meal or special occasion. That’s how I wound up pulling out a 2005 Savoy pinot noir by Radio-Coteau, Eric Sussman‘s winemaking operation in Forestville, California.

Sussman, who started Radio-Coteau in 2002, learned the trade in Washington State before heading to Bordeaux and especially to Burgundy in the mid-1990s. After four years at Dehlinger, he started collecting 90+ scores from just about every wine writer of influence. Descriptions got me so excited that I even ordered a case for myself all the way out to Quebec. A costly proposition, just counting the import taxes. But it was worth it, especially for the La Neblina, which remains one of the finest, most subtle and well-focused California  pinots I’ve had.

Beyond providing a satisfying drink, the Savoy, sourced from a vineyard in Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley, also provided a clear example of what I’m aiming for with the theme for Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South.

The Neblina and the Savoy I’ve had are two wines from the same vintage, same variety and the same producer, the only difference being vineyard location – and perhaps the farming practices in each vineyard – single vineyard for the Savoy, two different ones for the Neblina, one in Annapolis, and the other one along Gravenstein Highway, west of Sebastopol.

A quick look at a map (more…)

American Wine Blog Award winners – and other blogs you should read

The votes have been tallied, added to the jury’s vote (70% popular vote, 30% jury), and the results are now official. The winners for the 2009 American Wine Blog Awards have been announced.

Nice bunch of blogs in that list: Vinography (twice, and a winner for two yars in a row), Lenndevours, The Good Grape, The Wine Collector, Michel Schlumberger’s Benchland Blog, and Bigger Than Your Head, a blog I discovered as a finalist in the 2008 AWBA. 

Congratulations to all, and happy blogging for many years to come.

While I’m at it, though, (more…)

American Wine Blog Awards: still time to vote… and to argue

Folks, if you like wine blogs in general – and certain wine blogs in particular – you still have a little over a day to vote for the finalists of the American Wine Blog Awards, the main recognition offered to wine bloggers for their passionate efforts to present different points of view on their – and your – favorite drink.

I happen to think that, (more…)

Wine Blogging Wednesday 55: North vs South

I’m so stoked about hosting the 55th edition of the Wine Blogging Wednesday. It’s a nice number, too. A kind of symmetry, even, since I joined in on this collective tasting event for WBW 44.

As a Québécois frequently discussing wines with my American wine blogger friends, I thought that the perfect theme for “my” Wine Blogging Wednesday would be North vs South. 

But hey, it’s not a Civil War reenactment kind of theme, really. Nor a reminder of the victory of 1775, when Quebec City successfully repulsed an assault from American troops under Arnold and Montgomery.

Unless you want it to be. Wine-wise, I mean.

If this is what you want to do, (more…)

Published in: on February 23, 2009 at 9:13 am  Comments (56)  
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Breeding cabernet for the cold winters of North America

With all the great wine already made from grapes that are admirably adapted to their soil and climate, why would anyone want to invent a new kind of grape? Shouldn’t we just let nature be?

Fact is, having great pinot from Burgundy (okay, and Oregon, and Sonoma Coast…),  solid cabernets from Bordeaux (and California, and Chile, and…) or amazing sangiovese from Tuscany (and… that’s pretty much it), isn’t a natural thing. It’s the result of centuries of active work in the vineyard to pick the grape varieties that work best in a certain climate, on a certain soil, etc. A lot of nurture to get nature where humans want it to go.

Even more active, in that respect, (more…)

California wines for Obama’s inauguration – and thoughts about wine at the White House

I have to say that Americans sure know how to throw a big party. Case in point, Barack Obama’s inauguration, which is drawing an incredible line-up of artists over these few days, and millions of people in tow, to witness this historic occasion.

It may be presumed that, at some of these functions, wine will be served.

Actually, it is certain that wine will be served, including three California wines at the Inaugural Luncheon, served for the new president, the vice-president, their wives, and 200 other members of Washington’s who’s who, in the Hall of the Capitol.

In honor of the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, (more…)