A week in the life of Traveling Wine Chick

Pennsylvania Rainbow

Pennsylvania Rainbow

It’s been a month since I last posted. I’ve been working, traveling, attending chiropractic sessions, assisting a friend with her new business venture, oh, and surviving the Napa earthquake. I can’t believe it’s September already.

Regarding the earthquake, I was very fortunate to have not sustained any damage, just some stuff was moved, including large appliances, and I had to deal with a terrified cat who didn’t want to come out of his carrier. He’s also become a good indicator of aftershocks, as he will stand still with his ears back and his eyes wide open.

Anyway, I had the very good fortune to do some awesome things this past week and I wanted to share them with you!

Tasting at Galer

Tasting at Galer

Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery

Labor Day weekend Sunday, I had the honor of visiting two exemplary examples of Pennsylvania wineries with a friend of mine, a local wine columnist and blogger. The first stop was Galer Estate Vineyard and Winery. The winery’s philosophy, Blending Nature, Science, and Art, is the perfect descriptor of what I discovered. The winery is owned by Dr. Brad Galer, M.D., and his wife, artist Lele Galer, who purchased land for the winery in 2005 after considering a winery start in Sonoma, California. The winery has multiple vineyards, including the Galer Home Vineyard, Red Lion Vineyard, and Folly Hill Vineyard, and they also source grapes from within a 30-mile radius.

Side-by-side Galer Chardonnay tasting

Side-by-side Galer Chardonnay tasting

Over the past nine years, the winery has received more than 60 awards for their wines, which have included Albariño, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Riesling, Rosé, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc and Cabernet Franc Icebox Wines (ice wines), as well as some white and red blends. Former winemaker, Catrina North, produced the 2013 wines and earlier. Galer now has a new winemaker, Virginia Mitchell, who will begin a new legacy with her 2014 vintage. While there, my friend and I each chose different wines to taste so that we could taste eight wines instead of four. However, we were treated to additional barrel and bottle tastings, including a Viognier and different Cabernet Francs. We also were lucky enough to taste a wine that Virginia produced prior to her arrival at Galer, a rosé produced from Erie area grapes for her recent wedding.

Galer Albariño

Galer Albariño

What most impressed me about Galer was not just the quality of the wines, but the expression of terroir in every wine. I am sure that I could recognize it in a blind tasting, it was so remarkable. I was particularly enamored with the Albariño, which demonstrated a balanced expression of citrus, tropical fruits, and noticeable minerality, almost salty on my palate, and that is the wine I chose to take home with me.

Va La's Little Vineyard

Va La’s Little Vineyard

Va La Vineyards
The second winery we visited last Sunday was Va La Vineyards, a winery I had been wanting to visit for a while now because I had heard such good things. Winemaker and owner Anthony Vietri, The Farmer Va La, who once had a career in film production, also considered starting a winery in California before deciding upon returning to Avondale, Pennsylvania, the site of his family’s farm. Vietri produces only four wines from his aptly called little vineyard of 6.73 acres and he only produces enough wine to sell directly to the consumer at the winery. No shipping, no distribution, no middle man. Vietri has created a simple dream that sustains his family and provides to those of us who are lucky enough to visit some of the most gorgeous and unique wine blends I’ve ever tasted.

Silk and Castana

Silk and Castana

Both the tasting room design/décor and the vineyards are understated, but the tasting experience is amazing. Our visit was especially nice because Anthony joined us and told us his story and stories about his family. Guests taste the four wines paired with local cheeses and chocolate. The wines are elegant blends of white and black Northern Italian grape varieties. The blends vary based upon what nature offers each vintage. The wines are meticulously made for later consumption, except for one, but all can be consumed now with decanting. They include:

2011 La Prima Donna: A white blend comprised of Malvasia Bianco, Petit Mansang, Pinot Grigio, and Tocai (Friuliano). It is aged for 17 months sur lie. Should peak in years 4-8.

2011 Silk: A dry rosato produced from free-run juice and aged 12 months in barrel. Grapes include Corvina Veronese, Barbera, Carmine, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo. Drink now through 2018.

2013 Castana: A special summer red blend to be consumed young. Grapes include Barbera, Petit Verdot, Carmine, Lagrein, Sagrantino, and Teroldego.

2011 Mahogany: A red blend of Barbera, Malvasia Nero, Charbono, Petit Verdot, Carmine, Teroldego, Lagrein, and Sagrantino aged 27 months in barrel. Should peak in years 6-12. If consumed now, decant at least 4-12 hours.

The Farmer Va La and me

The Farmer Va La and me

Truth be told, I wanted to take every one of these wines home with me, but I ended up settling for La Prima Donna and Mahogany. Now I just have to figure out when to return to get my Va La fix.

Sunrise over the vineyard in Lake County

Sunrise over the vineyard in Lake County

My First Harvest
This week, my friend, winemaker and owner of Passaggio Wines, Cindy Cosco, texted me and asked if I could join six others to pick her 2014 Sauvignon Blanc at a vineyard in Lake County, California. I’ve always wanted to experience harvest, but at the same time, have been a bit afraid since I am allergic to bees, sunburn easily, and I am not really a “get dirty” kind of gal. All of these reasons are exactly why I said yes. The quote by Eleanor Roosevelt, Do one thing every day that scares you, has become one of my mantras.

Lake County Sauvignon Blanc

Lake County Sauvignon Blanc

I stayed overnight with the harvest team in Sonoma Friday night. We departed Saturday morning at 4:30 a.m., arrived in Lake County around 6:30 a.m., then began picking. The most important lesson was cut away from your hand, which served me well all day. I also dressed appropriately: old jeans, a thermal underwear T-shirt with a flannel shirt on top, old tennis shoes, sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. I never wear hats, but today I was thankful for that and being covered up from the elements, even when it got very warm towards the end of the five and a half hours. In that time, we picked around a ton of Sauvignon Blanc. I got my hands dirty, but got smart and put on a spare pair of gloves after having to rinse my hands about halfway through. Bees chased me and I ran. My hat protected me as I literally stuck my head into the vines to cut grape bunches. By the end, I was dirty, dusty, sweaty, and had terrible hat head. I did it. I conquered my fears and discovered a sense of pride within me.

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Travelingwinechick.com in Never Too Late!

Book Cover

Book Cover

I am thrilled to announce that this little blog of mine has been mentioned in a new book, Never Too Late: Your Roadmap to Reinvention (without getting lost along the way), by Claire Cook. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate book in which to be mentioned.

Claire Cook's autograph

Claire Cook’s autograph

What’s interesting is that I’m not sure Claire really knows how much reinvention I have experienced over the course of two years. I’ve started my life over from scratch, both personally and professionally, which is exciting, scary, and challenging all at the same time.

The mention!

The mention!

This is probably my five minutes of fame, so I wanted to share it with you in some way. The book is available via paperback, Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and Kobo. I am looking forward to reading it, because I never know when I might need to reinvent myself again.

Reinventors and Resources in order of appearance

Reinventors and Resources in order of appearance

Cheers to you, the followers and readers, for your love and support.

Love,
Beth

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Taste Our Terroir Part 3: McGrail Vineyards

McGrail Vineyards

McGrail Vineyards

During my second and final day of Livermore Valley’s Taste Our Terroir, sponsored by Visit Tri-Valley, I had the great honor of visiting McGrail Vineyards and experiencing From Vine to Glass: Through the Winemaker’s Eyes with winemaker Mark Clarin.

Time for class!

Time for class!

What made this visit so special is that Mark is passionate about Livermore Valley and winemaking. He is also a wine educator, whether he realizes it or not. However, since we received an academic-like handout to take with us, I think that seals the deal. I’ve visited many vineyards during the eight years I’ve enjoyed wine at a serious level, but this time, after having taken three Wine & Spirit Education Trust certification courses, everything clicked.

Vertical Shoot Positioning at McGrail Vineyards

Vertical Shoot Positioning at McGrail Vineyards

We started out in the vineyard where Mark discussed vineyard management – the impact of site choice, elevation, the Mediterranean climate, the rain shadow, and Livermore Valley’s East-West orientation – as well as the clones planted, soil type, vertical shoot position trellises, drip irrigation, and North-South row orientation. He made my inner wine geek come alive.

Cabernet Sauvignon Véraison at McGrail Vineyards

Cabernet Sauvignon Véraison at McGrail Vineyards

Although McGrail produces a variety of wines – Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon – we primarily focused on the estate-grown and produced Cabernet Sauvignon during our tasting experience in the barrel room of the winery. The best part of the visit was that we had the opportunity to taste Cabernet Sauvignon aged in Hungarian, American, and French oak to show the effect that various oak choices have on the wine. McGrail typically ages their Cabernet Sauvignons 30 months in oak.

Tasting Cabernet Sauvignon at McGrail Vineyards

Tasting Cabernet Sauvignon at McGrail Vineyards

Our first Cabernet Sauvignon was the 2010 A Jo Elet, which means The Good Life in Hungarian. This wine was big and bold, with lots of blackberry, plum, baking spices, and tannins. The second was the 2011 The Patriot, aged in American oak. It exhibited aromas and flavors of plum on the front of the palate, black cherry and vanilla mid-palate, and firm (but softer than the A Jo Elet) tannins on the finish. Next, we tasted the 2007 James Vincent, which Mark fondly called the shizzle. This wine was aged in French oak. It was smooth and supple, with great structure and tannins, and aromas and flavors of blackberry and plum. As Mark noted, wine is a living thing, and continues to develop in the bottle. Our final wine of the tasting was the 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in a blend of barrel types. I tasted red berries on the front of my palate, rich black fruit mid-palate, then substantial tannins on the finish.

Mark Clarin, kick-ass winemaker/educator

Mark Clarin, kick-ass winemaker/educator

This visit was by far the best vineyard tour and tasting I’ve experienced to date. Mark Clarin is a gifted winemaker and teacher. His passion for winemaking and his love of Livermore Valley make a tour and tasting at McGrail Vineyards an unforgettable experience.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I want to thank Visit Tri-Valley again for the opportunity to visit and the Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association for an outstanding slate of activities for this year’s Taste Our Terroir.

Cheers!
Beth

P.S. Mark, if you read this, that’s my water cup in your hand! This is the reason I was taking all the photos!

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Bolen Family Estates

August 1, 2009: My Bolen Merlot Moment!

August 1, 2009: My Bolen Merlot Moment!

On August 1, 2009, I was visiting Napa for the second time in my life. I was staying at a friend’s home and we were tasting lots of wines that afternoon. Among those wines on the table was a Merlot that none of us knew anything about. It was almost a collective exclamation of astonishment when we tasted it. The friend with whom I was staying turned to Eric Bolen and said, “This is YOUR Merlot?” It was amazing. I will always recall that tasting as my definitive Merlot Moment.

Bolen Family Estates Selections

Bolen Family Estates Selections

Over the course of the past five years, I have purchased every vintage of what has been fondly called The World’s Best Merlot and I have my own vertical, 2006-2010. I think the phrase originated with Bolen, but found its way into a blog post by my friend Josh Wade, owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA, publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine, owner of nectarMEDIA, and writer at drinknectar.com. I remember reading Josh’s post in 2010 and thinking to myself, “Hell, yeah!” The phrase seems to have stuck and remained a goal of Bolen Family Estates, who has relentlessly focused on crafting the Best Merlot in the World. The winery is a partnership between Eric Bolen, his father, Mike Bolen, and Patrick McEvoy. The grapes come from the well-known Beckstoffer Orchard Vineyard in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley.

Cave Tasting at Bolen Family Estates

Cave Tasting at Bolen Family Estates

Fast forward ahead to 2014 and finally, living in Napa, I was able to schedule a visit. Tastings at Bolen are always hosted by Eric or Mike, so they are only by appointment eight to ten times per month. Guests are vetted as buyers and collectors that are financially comfortable with the purchase prices of the wines, which start at $90 per bottle for the 2010 Merlot. The visit is personalized and intimate, taking place in their wine cave on property. All barrels used are French oak. Currently, the tasting includes:

Bottle:
2009 Merlot – 80% neutral oak, 20% new medium toast.

Barrel Samples:
Bolen keeps all wines in neutral oak for the first year. Then in the fall of each year, they do oak trials to make a decision regarding the toast levels and percentage of further oak aging.
2013 Merlot – This wine was still in neutral oak the day I visited.
2012 Merlot – 75% neutral oak, 15% new heavy toast, and 10% new medium toast.
2011 Merlot – 85% neutral oak, 15% new medium toast.
2010 Merlot – 85% neutral oak, 15% new medium toast.

Barrel Tasting with Eric Bolen at Bolen Family Estates

Barrel Tasting with Eric Bolen at Bolen Family Estates

When I was there, Eric allowed me to taste the wines in different oak barrels – neutral and different new oak toast levels – so I could experience the Merlot’s building blocks in various stages of aging. The Merlot is aged 36 months before release. For the 2010 and 2012 vintages, strong vintages for Napa Valley, Bolen held back some of the wine to spend 48 months in oak, and those wines will be referred to as their Long Barrel Reserve selections upon release.

The newest additions to my vertical: 2010 Bolen Family Estates Merlot!

The newest additions to my vertical: 2010 Bolen Family Estates Merlot!

All vintages of the Merlot are simply stellar. The grapes stay on the vine longer, resulting in lush, bold fruit aromas and flavors. Just the right amount of French oak at different toast levels gives the wines great spice, tannins, and structure. I hope that no one reading this is afraid of Merlot or thinks they dislike Merlot. However, if you are one of these people, I suggest trying Bolen Family Estates, as you may just be astounded at how incredible Merlot can be.

Bolen is sold out of the 2006-2008 vintages of Merlot, but they still have some 2009 ($105/bottle) and the 2010 is their current release ($90/bottle).

2008 Bolen Family Estates Red Field Blend, Mt. Veeder

2008 Bolen Family Estates Red Field Blend, Mt. Veeder

Bolen also now offers a very small production Bordeaux-style red blend, whose grapes come from the estate vineyard in the Mt. Veeder District of Napa Valley. The 2012 Red Field Blend is 35% medium toast new French oak. The 2010 Red Field Blend is 50% new medium toast French oak. They still have some 2008 ($180/bottle) and the current release is the 2009 ($160/bottle).

Beginning with the 2014 vintage, Bolen will add a white wine to their offerings, a Bordeaux-style white blend, with the grapes coming from the Gamble Family Vineyard in Yountville.

To schedule your visit, please contact Mike Bolen at 707-294-7540 or visit@bolenwine.com.

If you are a true oenophile, collector, and buyer, and are in search of some quality, small-production wines to add to your table or cellar, I recommend Bolen Family Estates. After all, as they say on their website, Our Legacy is our wine!

Cheers!
Beth

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Livermore Valley’s Taste Our Terroir Part 2

Blending With Wente's Winemakers Studio

Blending With Wente’s Winemakers Studio

Blending With Winemakers Studio

When I last left everyone, I had departed Double Barrel Wine Bar and was on my way to Taste Our Terroir‘s next session, Blending With Winemakers Studio at Wente Vineyards. Thank you again to Visit Tri-Valley, who sponsored my attendance at this session.

Blending With Wente's Winemakers Studio

Blending With Wente’s Winemakers Studio

For those who may not know, Wente’s history dates back to 1883. The winery is still family owned and certified sustainable and the grapes are estate grown. Wente was the first winery in the United States to produce varietally-labeled Chardonnay (1936 vintage) and is known as California’s First Family of Chardonnay™. Karl D. Wente is Wente’s fifth-generation winemaker.

My blend

My blend

The winemakers blending session was nothing short of fabulous. There were six of us and our instructor in the session. Our instructor gave us an introduction to Livermore Valley’s climate, so that we understood the impact of its east-west orientation between the San Francisco Bay and Central Valley. We tasted through our building block red wines: four Cabernets from different vineyards ranging from cooler to warmer climates, Petite Sirah, Petit Verdot and Malbec. My favorite Cabernet was from the Smith Vineyard and yielded lots of red and black fruit and acid. My favorite non-Cabernet was the Petit Verdot. I was very tempted to make a 100% Petit Verdot, but the label said red blend, so I opted to the follow the rules. However, I was reminded why I love Petit Verdot: it’s a big wine with loads of dusty tannins and dark berry and chocolate flavors. I selected the Petite Sirah primarily for color and the Malbec as the wine that bridged the flavor gap between the cooler-climate Cabernet and the Petit Verdot. I played with three blends and finally decided to go rogue with 55% Petit Verdot, 25% Smith Vineyard Cabernet, 10% Malbec, and 10% Petite Sirah. We bottled our blends, then added the cork, foil, and label. It was my first attempt at blending, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out after the bottle shock wears off.

Photo op with Owner-Chef Eduardo Posada

Photo op with Owner-Chef Eduardo Posada

Dinner at Posada

My Visit Tri-Valley host, Emmy, picked me up for dinner that evening and had selected an off-the-beaten-path place to try. I probably would have never discovered Posada if it weren’t for her. Posada, the catering company and restaurant, was founded by Eduardo Posada, a man who followed his passion for cooking for the past 30+ years from his humble beginnings to where he is today:

Posada got his first taste of a culinary career in the early 1980s, making and selling breakfast burritos for $1.25 from a cart he attached to the back of his 1976 Ford LTD in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Fresh Tilapia Ceviche

Fresh Tilapia Ceviche

Posada offers innovative and fresh Southwestern cuisine paired with wines from Livermore Valley. My host and I enjoyed a selection of tapas, including BBQ Duck + Blue Corn Cakes + Red Cabbage Slaw and Duo of Mahi Mahi Tacos + Watermelon Salad. Emmy selected a local Chardonnay and I selected a local Grenache Rosé. For dessert, we had churros paired with Mexican hot chocolate.

Churros and fruit paired with Mexican hot chocolate

Churros and fruit paired with Mexican hot chocolate

What a delicious end to a fantastic day! Day 2, I head to McGrail Vineyards.

Stay tuned!

Cheers!
Beth

 

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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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