Livermore Valley’s Taste Our Terroir Part 1

Appetizer Combo at First Street Alehouse

Appetizer Combo at First Street Alehouse

I recently participated in Livermore Valley’s Taste Our Terroir, courtesy of Visit Tri-Valley. I could not be more impressed by the quality of the sessions, the food, and the wines, as well as the hospitality provided to me by Visit Tri-Valley. I hope my schedule will allow me to visit the area again in the near future.

Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae at First Street Alehouse

Vanilla Ice Cream Sundae at First Street Alehouse

Lunch at First Street Alehouse
My host decided we should eat lunch here prior to the first event, which happened to be next door, so this could not have been planned more perfectly. First Street Alehouse is located in downtown Livermore, which with all of its restaurants, bars, and shops, merits future attention.

Altamont Beer Works Shelter IPA

Altamont Beer Works Shelter IPA

The alehouse was founded in 2000, is family owned and operated and “wants to be your home away from home.” It boasts 24 beers on tap and is “home to the largest publicly displayed beer can collection, housing over 6000 cans.” The food here is pub fare, so my host and I split an appetizer combo, shared a hamburger, and enjoyed a vanilla ice cream sundae for dessert. As a beverage, I always drink local wherever I am, so I chose Altamont Beer Works Shelter IPA (6.5% ABV, 60 IBU), described as,

A true “West Coast” IPA, which is hop flavor forward without the hop bitterness. Large amounts of hops are used at the whirlpool and dry hop additions, to bring you the unique flavors of the hop varietals…

It is named after the Rolling Stones’ song “Give Me Shelter.” The movie of the same name recounts the 1969 Altamont Speedway Free Festival.

Secrets of a Sommelier

Secrets of a Sommelier

Secrets of a Sommelier: The Art of Blind Tasting
After lunch, I headed next door to take part in my first event, Secrets of a Sommelier: The Art of Blind Tasting, at Double Barrel Wine Bar. The bar’s sommelier, Gerald Gilligan, lead the group in blind tasting six wines, two whites and four reds, using the Court of Master Sommelier’s Deductive Tasting Format and Tasting Grid. I am thrilled to share that I guessed all six wine varieties correctly as well as guessed both the wine and the producer for one of the samples we tasted. All of the wines sampled were from Livermore Valley producers. Below are my brief tasting notes.

Court of Master Sommeliers Deductive Tasting Format

Court of Master Sommeliers Deductive Tasting Format

2013 Page Mill Sauvignon Blanc: This wine was almost clear in color and dry. It was fermented in stainless steel. It had medium-plus acidity, alcohol, and finish, and aromas and flavors of green apple, lemon zest, melon, and pear.

2011 Retzlaff Chardonnay: This wine was pale gold and fermented in oak with some malolactic fermentation. Thus, it had a creamy mouthfeel and possessed aromas and flavors of melon, peach, pineapple, tropical fruits, and nuts.

2008 Wood Family Merlot: This was the most interesting wine of the tasting. After six years, this ageworthy wine still exhibited great structure and firm tannins. It was garnet in color with medium body. It displayed aromas and flavors of baking spices, cherry, plum, and vanilla.

Double Barrel Wine Bar

Double Barrel Wine Bar

2010 Nottingham Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon: This wine was purple-red in color with a full, viscous body, medium-plus tannins, and aromas and flavors of blackberry, blackcurrant, blueberry, spice, and vanilla.

2009 Concannon Petite Sirah: This is the wine whose grape and producer I guessed as soon as it was poured into my glass, my Bottle Shock bar moment, if you will. The wine was full bodied and robust, with fruity and funky aromas and flavors of black and bing cherry, blackberry, coffee, and plum. Concannon was the first United States winery to varietally label Petite Sirah with their 1961 vintage.

2012 3 Steves Zinfandel: This wine was purple-red in color, medium-to-full bodied, and revealed aromas and flavors of chocolate, dark and red berries, and a spicy finish.

Upon the conclusion of our tasting, we celebrated our blind tasting success and camaderie with glasses of bubbly. Shortly thereafter, I was on my way to my next event.

To be continued…

Cheers!
Beth

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2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference: My Thoughts

Véraison at Sanford Winery

Véraison at Sanford Winery

Santa Barbara County was my third Wine Bloggers’ Conference. I attended for the first time in 2011 in Virginia, just shortly after I created Traveling Wine Chick. My second conference was 2013 in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia with a pre-conference excursion to Lake Chelan, Washington. I am not really a rabble rouser, but more of a polite Southern Belle type (with the accent to match), so I won’t be ranting in this post. I am happy to have been able to attend this conference. Below are some of my thoughts.

Dinner at Sanford Winery

Dinner at Sanford Winery

Thank You
Thank you so much to the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association, Zephyr Adventures, Vincent Group Consulting, the Marriott Santa Ynez Valley, the conference sponsors and partners, the wine producers, and everyone else who was involved in this conference. From this participant’s point of view, it appeared to go off without a hitch.

How the Pros Taste

How the Pros Taste

Most Interesting Session Surprise
Wine Discovery Hosted by Jackson Family Wines – How the Pros Taste included a panel comprised of professional wine writers and reviewers Steve Heimoff, Joe Roberts, and Patrick Comiskey. At first, I was a bit star struck to be tasting a selection of wines with these guys as the helm. However, none of the panelists guessed correctly the mystery wine we tasted, which was a wonderful reminder that we are all human and that our palates can be swayed not only by taste, but by a seed of perception planted in our minds.

Dinner View at Sanford Winery

Dinner View at Sanford Winery

My Excursion
I was fortunate to have gotten on the bus to Sanford Winery, where we enjoyed the story and journey of Sanford, a grand tasting of Sta. Rita Hills and other Santa Barbara County wines in the cellar, and a wonderful chef-prepared dinner outside accompanied by a beautiful vineyard setting and sunset. This excursion rivaled my excursion last year which culminated at Tinhorn Creek Winery with paella. Sanford went above and beyond to give my group a wonderful lasting impression of the Sta. Rita Hills area of Santa Barbara County and their wines.

The Jordan Wines

The Jordan Wines

My Favorite Official After Party
Jordan Winery and J Vineyards’ after party last year in Okanagan was so much fun, but this year it was better (translation: had space for more people) as they were able to secure a larger space at the hotel instead of a hotel room suite. There was something for everyone: sparkling, rosé, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and a stellar vertical of Cabernet Sauvignon, accompanied by hors d’oeuvres. The unexpected highlight was The Drunken Cyclist sabering a bottle of sparkling wine with a wine glass. True story.

Soléna Estate Pinots

Soléna Estate Pinots

Cool Rogue Events
There were a few off-the-schedule, unsanctioned (rogue) sessions in which I participated and was glad I made the choice to break the rules, so to speak. Soléna Estate outdid themselves hosting a hotel suite of Oregon Pinots to taste along with some wines from British Columbia. Shawn Burgert organized a wonderful, relaxed media meet and greet, Authentic Press, at Saarloos + Sons with some of Santa Barbara’s winemaker stars and small producers. These are the kinds of interactions that need to happen more often. Nothing beats establishing real-life connections among wine consumers, writers, and producers.

Evening at Saarloos + Sons

Evening at Saarloos + Sons

Suggestions for Next Year
I am already booked to attend the 2015 conference in New York’s Finger Lakes, one of my favorite wine destinations, so here are some suggestions for next year’s planners. I would love to see a track that runs throughout the conference for just the Finger Lakes, for those who want to delve in deeper into the region, its wines, its wineries, and its winemakers. Along that same theme, perhaps develop other tracks that might include tasting practice and evaluation, successful writing/blogging techniques, wine tourism, etc. I would also like to get out of the hotel more and see the Finger Lakes and its wineries. Perhaps we could have two excursions or enjoy a breakout session or two outside of a hotel conference room.

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Livermore Valley’s Taste Our Terroir

Taste Our Terroir Logo (https://www.lvwine.org/)

Taste Our Terroir Logo (https://www.lvwine.org/)

At last year’s Wine Tourism Conference in Portland, Oregon, I connected with the director of Visit Tri-Valley in an elevator at the host hotel, of all places, and she invited me to visit the area. Many months later, I am honored to be included as a media guest at Livermore Valley’s Taste Our Terroir this weekend. Taste Our Terroir begins Thursday, July 24 and goes through Sunday, July 27. Tickets for events with availability may be purchased through links on this webpage. My itinerary includes a lunch at First Street Alehouse, dinner and brewery hopping on Saturday night to be determined, and lunch and tasting at Garré Winery, as well as the following key wine events.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

SECRETS OF A SOMMELIER: THE ART OF BLIND TASTING 1:30PM – 3:30PM at Double Barrel Wine Bar
If you’ve always been a little mystified by how professionals describe and compare wines, you are not alone. Join sommelier Gerald Gilligan from Double Barrel Wine Bar, in this interactive introduction to blind tasting. You will take a step-by-step sensory journey through six world class grape varietals. Discover the clues that each wine holds to its true identity. By the end of the seminar you will have the confidence and the opportunity to compete in a blind tasting competition.

BLENDING WITH WINEMAKERS STUDIO 4PM – 6PM at The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards
Uncork your inner winemaker at The Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards. In this session, you’ll taste, evaluate, and blend estate blocks of wine to create your very own bottle of wine. Imagine having the finest wines, finest barrels and all the tools you need to create an amazing wine you can keep to sip with a delicious dinner or give away as a special gift.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

FROM VINE TO GLASS: THROUGH THE WINEMAKER’S EYES 11AM – 1PM at McGrail Vineyards and Winery
Whether you are a wine enthusiast or an aspiring winemaker, join us to learn the winemaking process from the vine to your glass. Winemaker, Mark Clarin, will lead you on a tour from the estate vineyard to the crush pad and into the barrel room for an educational tour and tasting. Sip award-winning Cabernets and learn the process involved in creating these fine wines.

Hope to see you in Livermore Valley this weekend!

Cheers!
Beth

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Les Marchands Santa Barbara

Entrance to Les Marchands

Entrance to Les Marchands

Upon completion of the 2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, I wisely had decided to drive back to Santa Barbara to stay overnight before my departing flight the following morning. A friend was to have joined me for the conference, but ended up having to cancel. However, he’s a huge fan of the film SOMM and we had discussed a possible visit to Les Marchands. Therefore, in his honor, I decided to go anyway. This is for you, my friend.

The bar at Les Marchands

The bar at Les Marchands

Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant, located in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, is the brain child of SOMM co-star, Master Sommelier Brian McClintic, and Eric Railsback. Their goal: to prove that a world-class food and wine experience can exist in a relaxing atmosphere, free of intimidation.

Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc and my sandwich

Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc and my sandwich

I sat alone at the bar and was immediately welcomed and given a menu. I decided to order a glass of Lieu Dit Chenin Blanc. Lieu Dit is a winery founded by Les Marchands co-owner Eric Railsback and winemaker Justin Willett, which focuses on Loire grape varieties grown and produced in Santa Barbara County. I paired the wine with the ham and prosciutto sandwich, prepared à la française on a baguette with butter. If you’ve ever spent time in France, you know there’s nothing like butter on a ham sandwich. The grapes for the Chenin Blanc come from the Foxen Canyon district of Santa Ynez Valley. They are fermented in stainless steel, then transferred to neutral oak. The resulting wine has bright acid with floral, citrus, and herbaceous aromatics and flavors, yet has a softness to it thanks to the time spent in neutral oak. Here’s to that delectable fat, salt, and racy acidity pairing.

Julien Sunier Fleurie and Vallin Syrah

Julien Sunier Fleurie and Vallin Syrah

After my bar visit, I ventured over to the merchant section where I decided to purchase a bottle of 2012 Vallin Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley. The interconnection of the wines and Les Marchands continued, as Vallin was created by Les Marchands co-owners Eric Railsback and MS Brian McClintic, along with MS Dustin Wilson and winemaker Justin Willett, to produce Rhône grape wines in Santa Barbara County. See, there was a method to my madness. According to the website, The word “Vallin” pays homage to the original settlers of France’s Northern Rhone Valley — a people who first planted the Syrah grape and whose producers continue to keep our glasses full.

My taste of the Julien Sunier Fleurie

My taste of the Julien Sunier Fleurie

As I was about to leave, I caught a Morgon in my eye that I had tasted previously and really, really wanted to buy. Instead, the guys at Les Marchands talked me into a lovely Domaine Julien Sunier Fleurie instead by allowing me a taste it at the bar.

The fascinating ceiling and chandeliers at Les Marchands

The fascinating ceiling and chandeliers at Les Marchands

While Les Marchands serves and sells wines from around the world, I admit, that as a Francophile as well as a new California resident, the juxtaposition of these two pervasive themes during every aspect of my visit completely won me over. As to your goal above, Brian and Eric? Congratulations, guys. You have succeeded based on my first impressions and I look forward to a return visit. To my friend, next time it’s your turn.

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2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference: Live Red Wine Blogging

Live Wine Blogging (pic by George Rose with permission, http://www.georgerose.com/)

Live Wine Blogging (pic by George Rose with permission, http://www.georgerose.com/)

In my previous post, I shared a bit about the live wine blogging experience. There’s also a part two every year, live red wine blogging. This year, I tasted 11 wines in an hour, almost 12, but I ran out of time. I am not sure if a few of the producers shared some extra wines or what happened, but below is my wrap-up of this very intense tasting. What was really cool about this tasting is that there was more variety, including wines from Arizona, California, Georgia (the country), and Italy. In this post, the wines are ordered in reverse, from the last wine tasted to the first wine tasted. What can I say? It was easier to organize. Lesson learned from the last post.

Aridus Syrah

Aridus Syrah

#AZwine in the house again! @ariduswineco #Rhone-style #Syrah: gorgeous, dark fruit, earth. #wine #wbc14 #willcox pic.twitter.com/Zq24siQo96

Mariani Saperavi

Mariani Saperavi

#wine from @GeorgiaWineUSA (country), Mariani #saperavi: huge fruit and tannins, w/acidity on the finish. #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/ny8fqSV5bA

Centine Toscana

Centine Toscana

From @BanfiWines Centine for every day! #tuscan blend, $12: easy to drink, nice fruit & acid. #wbc14 #wine pic.twitter.com/KKRNl6ckXN

Punch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Punch Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

Punch California #springmountain #CabSauv: dark fruit, big tannins. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/z9AuccvtOQ

White Hart Pinot Noir

White Hart Pinot Noir

Pinot from White Hart, #santaluciahighlands, #sonoma: nice red fruit, good acid, firm tannins. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/uQsjX8m3xC

Cornerstone The Cornerstone Red Blend

Cornerstone The Cornerstone Red Blend

#napa! @CornerstoneNapa The Cornerstone Red: mouthwatering fruit and acid, integrated tannin. Nice. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/F3HAxrPmdj

Main & Geary Zinfandel

Main & Geary Zinfandel

Main & Geary, @BevMo‘s own label #zinfandel: jam on! #wine #wbc14 #drycreek #sonoma pic.twitter.com/7OO5P2nneX

Westerly Fletcher's Red

Westerly Fletcher’s Red

#sbcwine @WesterlyWines #happycanyon Fletcher’s Red: a balanced, gorgeous, #Bordeaux-style blend! #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/I0G4RkzO4Y

J Lohr Pinot Noir

J Lohr Pinot Noir

Up next, @JLohrWines 2012 Falcon’s Perch Pinot, #Monterey: floral aromatics, tart cherry & strawberry. #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/obQOs0VSkh

Davis Bynum Pinot Noir

Davis Bynum Pinot Noir

Dijon Clone 155 Pinot from @DavisBynumWines: lots of red berry and my kind of spicy finish. #wine #rrv #sonoma #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/nGE3IO3UNK

Alexander Valley Vineyards Sin Zin

Alexander Valley Vineyards Sin Zin

#Zintastic! Sin Zin from @avvwinery! Nice black fruit, spicy, peppery finish! #alexandervalley #sonoma #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/09kXVN4T9s

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Wine Bloggers’ Conference: Live Wine Blogging of Whites and Rosés

This is my third conference (2011, 2013, and 2014) and my third time participating in live wine blogging (10+ wines tasted in a hour) and I’ve never actually blogged during it. I am one of those who believes that the wines deserve a little more attention for a more thorough blog post. That being said, I do enjoy the camaraderie of the blogger participants and producers, and I also believe that what I do, which is tweet about the wine, including a photo, brief tasting notes, and some some key hashtags, at least gets the wines out there in front of a live, virtual audience.

With that explanation, below are my tweets for the 2014 live wine blogging of whites and rosés, including links to the Twitter accounts for the producers who participated. Thank you to them for allowing us to taste their wines. Next time, we will spend more than five or six minutes together, promise.

Danza del Sol Vermentino

Danza del Sol Vermentino

Speed tasting! Vermentino from @DanzaDelSolWine, $28: mouthwatering citrus, great acidity! #wbc14 #temecula #wine pic.twitter.com/0msschpgJB

Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc

Ferrari-Carano Fumé Blanc

One of my faves: @FerrariCarano 2013 Fumé Blanc: citrusy with a creamy mouthfeel, long finish. #sonoma #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/O0EHTF1Q3h

Grassini Sauvignon Blanc

Grassini Sauvignon Blanc

From @GrassiniWines: 2013 #SauvBlanc, nice balance of citrus and tropical fruits, racy acidity. #SBCWine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/8ye4pkkvz5

J Pinot Gris

J Pinot Gris

Another fave from @JWinery: 2013 Pinot Gris, $12-16. Bright tropical fruits, citrus, and melon. #sonoma #wine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/XtCmBIWLhA

Wente Chardonnay

Wente Chardonnay

A goody from @Wente, 1st family of #chardonnay, 2013 Arroyo Seco, #monterey. Juicy apple, vanilla, butter. #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/WUi8lMN8uC

J. Lohr Pinot Blanc

J. Lohr Pinot Blanc

Next @JLohrWines 40th Anniversary Pinot Blanc, Arroyo Seco, #monterey : floral, juicy, nice acidity. #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/dcO7cz8KmD

Treana White Blend

Treana White Blend

Treana Marsanne-Viognier @hopefamilywines: big mouthfeel of citrus, tropical fruits, melon. #centralcoastwine #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/65JpW4Q6PK

Main and Geary Chardonnay

Main and Geary Chardonnay

Fr @BevMo: Exclusive Main & Geary #sonoma #chardonnay. Sur lie, oak fermented. Cream, butter, vanilla, apple. #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/QF5Ob6RLUE

Cornerstone Sauvignon Blanc

Cornerstone Sauvignon Blanc

Oh yay! @CornerstoneNapa #SauvBlanc: Very bright, juicy, good acidity, ample mouthfeel. #organic #napa #wbc14 pic.twitter.com/YIHCwrnF3G

Aridus Viognier

Aridus Viognier

#azwine in the house: @ariduswineco #Viognier: melon, tropical and citrus fruits. Lush mouthfeel. #wine #wbc14  pic.twitter.com/z1UMgFGXmt

Soon to follow, the live wine blogging of red wines.

Cheers!
Beth

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#NZSAVVY with Villa Maria Estate

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

Unfortunately, I was unable to participate live in the Villa Maria Estate #NZSAVVY virtual tasting on Wednesday, June 18 due to a chiropractor’s appointment. Therefore, tonight, Friday, June 20, I decided to taste these wines. This is not the first time I have tried Villa Maria’s wines before. I reviewed samples in both 2012 and 2013 and was honored to taste these new vintages.

Villa Maria, founded in 1961 by George Fistonich, is known as New Zealand’s most awarded winery.

  • Named one of the World’s 50 Great Wine Producers (Wine Spectator)
  • Twice named as New Zealand Wine Producer of the Year(International Wine & Spirits Challenge UK)
  • George Fistonich named as one of the most prominent figures in the wine industry (Wine International Magazine UK)
  • George Fistonich awarded the title of Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merits, for his commitment to winemaking.
  • New World Winery of the Year (Wine Enthusiast Magazine)

(Source: http://www.smwe.com/estates/details/villa_maria_new_zealand)

2014 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Private Bin, Marlborough, New Zealand, SRP $14.99
I was excited to try my first 2014 vintage wine. This Sauvignon Blanc was light straw in color and light bodied, with loads of lime and grapefruit on the nose and palate, and good acidity with a medium finish. It was more herbaceous than the 2013 reviewed below. As it warmed up, the passionfruit flavor came to life. This wine was lively, zesty, and very easy to drink.

Specifications:
Vineyards: Awatere and Wairu Valleys
Variety: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol: 12.5%
pH: 3.20
Total Acidity: 7.4 g/l
Residual Sugar: 4.5 g/l

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc

2013 Villa Maria Sauvignon Blanc Cellar Selection, Marlborough, New Zealand, SRP $19.99
This wine was also light straw in color, but with a fuller body than the 2014. The first adjective that came to mind when I tasted this wine was tangy. Passionfruit and melon are much more dominant than citrus and the mouthfeel is richer due to time spent on lees after fermentation. The lingering acidity on the long finish was impressive. I found this wine to be very bright on the palate and very approachable.

Specifications:
Vineyards: Awatere and Wairu Valleys
Variety: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
Alcohol: 13%
pH: 3.25
Total Acidity: 7.4 g/l
Residual Sugar: 3.6 g/l

I am a big fan of Sauvignon Blanc, especially as a summer wine, and it’s that time of year in the Northern Hemisphere. Villa Maria is imported by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates so the wines should be fairly easy to find and they are affordable. You can begin your search here.

Cheers!
Beth

 

 

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