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.

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…)

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…)

Registration open for North American Wine Bloggers Conference 2009

2008 was the year the wine bloggers decided to come together. Literally. By meeting in not one, but two conferences: one in Europe (more precisely in the Rioja, in Spain), and one in California, at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa, at the Southern end of the Sonoma Valley (see a whole bunch of blog posts listed here).

Both conferences filled to capacity and were a great success, featuring winery visits, lots of great tastings and interesting keynote speakers – notably Gary Vaynerchuk and Alice Feiring, who roused the wine blogger community in Santa Rosa by stating that it should be nothing less than a force to change the wine world.  

Thanks to that initial success, the conferences are back for a second spin. Details for the European Wine Bloggers Conference remain to be made public, but the North Americain Wine Bloggers Conference is already open for registration. The event returns to The Flamingo, and will be able to welcome some 250 people, on July 24 to 26. Beyond Sonoma, which was already explored last year, a trip to Napa is part of the planning, to expand horizons a bit.

Obviously, the Sonoma conference is returning faster than one year after the first edition. Apparently, the wineries made the point that an October conference made their lives difficult (with the small matter of harvest, crush, and such), and so the dates were changed to the summer. Bummer for me, I won’t be able to make it. 

But a lot of people should make it. Apparently a few dozen people have already registered, in only a few days. If you’re planning on attending this professional (and very much fun) event, don’t wait too long to make up your mind.

Tasting Note: Dr Konstantin Frank 2006 Rkatsiteli, Finger Lakes

It’s kind of a tribute to the complicated nature of wine distribution in North America that I had to go to California to finally taste a wine from New York’s Finger Lakes, which are only a few hours drive from my home in Quebec.

How did that happen? Well, Lenn Thompson, the great defender of New York wines on the Lenndevours blog, along with his Finger Lakes correspondent Melissa Dobson, had conspired to bring one of New York’s most unique wines to the Wine Bloggers Conference, so that the dozens upon dozens of bloggers present at Santa Rosa’s one and only Flamingo Resort could discover the good stuff that’s produced out East.

It was certainly not the only wine that they had brought out. In fact, (more…)

California Wine all tastes the same? Says who?

Well, finally back to blogging. After an intense weekend at the Wine Bloggers Conference, followed by four full days of running around Sonoma and Napa – and Fairfield, and Berkeley and San Francisco – and then returning to a new position at the newspaper in Quebec City, and mulling over about twenty different potential post subjects, I finally managed to focus long enough on one subject. And here it is.

One of the things that truly struck me, throughout the tastings I attended at the Wine Bloggers Conference and in the days that followed, was the great diversity of wines I tasted. Yes, there were a good lot of big, fruity, oaky cabernet sauvignons and chardonnays, but there was also a great deal more, in terms of grape varieties, climate variations and winemaking styles. More than I had expected, certainly.

Over my week, I had everything from grassy sauvignon blanc to jammy zinfandels, rustic carignan to (more…)

A few tasting notes from the Wine Bloggers Conference

This morning, as I’m getting ready to head out to the vineyards of the Sonoma region, meeting people at Emeritus and Littorai, for starters, I’m still recovering a bit from the terrific weekend we’ve all had here at the very first North American Wine Bloggers Conference, which practically took over the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, CA over the weekend. Good sessions, great discussions with a host of fellow wine bloggers, a pretty successful unconference about issues that directly concerned the bloggers at hand (ethics, finding your niche, rating systems, negative reviews, etc.).

Now, since Saturday, through that busy schedule, I’ve been wondering (more…)

Blogging Live from Santa Rosa, CA

Well, here we are. A whole bunch of bloggers, usually glued to their screen, pretty much alone in their office (or kitchen, or television room), writing for people from often far away, are gathered for the weekend in Santa Rosa, at the heart of Sonoma. We’ll still be glued to our screens, but all together (and there are vineyard walks in the program, mind you…)

It’s time for the Wine Bloggers Conference, the first of its kind in North America, and only the second in the world, after the European Wine Bloggers Conference held late August in Spain. Both conferences have been exceeding expectations, if only in terms of attendance. Both got booked to capacity – and beyond.

Over 160 people are attending (more…)

Poetry in a bottle, and all the hard work that goes into it

Opening a bottle, pouring yourself a glass, sensing the complex aromas and flavors, the velvety texture: that’s the pleasure of wine.

But to get there, it’s good to remember just how much hard work has been put in by everyone that’s hard at work in the vineyards and cellars. As Wayne Young writes on the Bastianich Winery blog:

There’s  romantic misconception about the harvest… Grape Picking. Most people imagine lovely ladies in sun-dresses happily carrying their wicker baskets of beautiful fruit through the vineyards…

I would rather spend 8 hours in the cellar working with tanks and pumps and hoses, than 4 hours picking grapes. It’s messy, buggy, sticky, hot, nasty work.

Wayne has been doing a great job giving a sense of what harvest is all about, by describing everything from the equipment and how it’s used to fermentation, grape varieties, the method of drying grapes by appassimento, wasp attacks and the quick onset of a storm, just as fresh grapes are waiting to be brought into the winery. In other words, (more…)

The Wine Case at 100

As I was checking out my blog stats, this week, on the WordPress dashboard, a number caught my attention. A round number. 100, to be precise.

That’s the number of posts that have come online on The Wine Case blog since I put it online a little over a year ago – on July 10, 2007, to be precise. By an interesting coincidence, my French-language blog, À chacun sa bouteille, also reached the 100-post mark the same week, meaning I’ve posted 200 articles and notes on wine, in both languages, over the last year, at a steady clip of almost four a week . Since I have a full-time job and a family, it must mean I like doing this stuff pretty much.

Between all the tasting notes, news items, reports and reflections, I’ve had a great time discovering the online wine world, from the serious forums at the Open Wine Consortium to the fun of Twittering with fellow bloggers to the collective online tastings known as the Wine Blogging Wednesdays. And I’ll be glad to meet with some of the wine blogging community at the Wine Blogging Conference taking place in the Sonoma region in late October.

As I put up this 101st post, I’m feeling pretty good. Readership is growing at over 10% a month, on average, as dozens of visitors are turning into hundreds a week. Which means I’m not rambling on just to myself. Phew.

So cheers to everyone, on this fun little milestone. See you on the next post.