Thursday, October 30, 2008

WBC -- Russian River Valley Hike

One of the highlights of the WBC was the hike in Saralee’s vineyards in the Russian River Valley. The vines were kissed with gold and the sky was brilliant blue. Local winemaker Rod Berglund was an enthusiastic guide who not only could walk backwards uphill and talk at the same time, but had all the dirt, on, well, the dirt. From the powdery, tan soil beneath our feet, to the earth filled with cobbles (large river rocks) up yonder. I love hearing about geology, a topic I know little about but enjoy, especially as it relates to grape growing.
Our hike was arranged by Zephyr Adventures, a pretty cool outfit that arranges tours in some of the world’s most exciting locales, including Sonoma County as well as Europe and Asia. Speaking to Zephyr founder Allan Wright later at dinner at Sebastiani winery I was interested to hear that, despite the adventurous nature of his tours, he wants to accommodate everyone’s abilities. Our hike, which was slated as the second easiest of four, did include some quite steep inclines in vineyards with names like Rollercoaster! I’d expect Zephyr tours to neither take it completely easy on you physically, but also to be not too much—a pretty good combination, especially for us desk jockeys who need to stretch our legs and expand our horizons once in a while.
The reward for the hike well worth it—a stunning panorama of Sonoma County, with Mount St. Helena rising up, lavender and majestic, in the distance. At the top of the hill, a charming picnic lunch featuring peak-of-ripeness local produce. I fell hard for the fresh figs, which were juicy, lightly sweet, and incredibly delicious. We washed it down with the local wine—never a bad thing in California—including a crisp Joseph Swan Pinot Gris that was a refreshing treat on this warm October afternoon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Benefits Galore from Wine Bloggers Conference: Part I --Professional

I had an amazing time at the first ever North American Wine Bloggers Conference. The benefits were numerous—both professionally and personally.
I learned so much about what I should and shouldn’t be doing as a blogger to increase readership—and thanks to Alder Yarrow of Vinography--why that maybe doesn’t matter so much because we won’t make enough money to leave our day jobs so we should be doing it for love. Also, props to Tom Wark of Wark Communications and the blog Fermentation for giving us a great top ten list of driving traffic, which included really easy, yet overwhelmingly overlooked, techniques, such as sending an old-fashioned press release to our local paper. This idea crossed my mind in the past, but I never put it into action. Thanks to Tom’s prompting I will. His proactive philosophy also includes asking to be put on top blog’s blogrolls—a more assertive tactic than I’ve used, but perhaps I’ll get some gumption and give it a try.
We learned what to do to make Google like us, and heard different opinions about what it means to be an ethical blogger. Are bad reviews a no-no? Personally, I don’t see why we should be different than any other media with regard to voicing fair but informed opinions. I suppose the onus is on us to make sure we present a balanced view any time we delve into negative territory.
On the money side—there was a wide diversity of opinions here. I found our Friday night keynote Gary Vaynerchuk (JERSEY REPRESENT!) to be boyishly charming as well as charismatic. He exhorted us to go out and make $100,000 on our blogs! As previously noted, Alder and Tom were far more conservative with their assessments of a wine blog’s potential for generating revenue. However, Joel Vincent, our fearless OWC founder, presented the middle ground: starting with a blog and using it to launch a successful consulting business. Snooth founder Philip James showed us a detailed graph of ways to make money and juxtaposed the scale of readership with the complexity of the money-making ventures. Bascially as we get more readers we can make more ad money – o.k., I knew that, but I wasn’t aware of the really piddling CPM rate that Google ads pay, only $1 per thousand hits—yeesh, I’ll leave my blog uncluttered right now. However, Philip echoed Joel’s sentiments by discussing how we can parlay our blogs into other consulting-type ventures as well.
Even the most widely-read bloggers are only making the monetary equivalent of a really poorly paying part-time job strictly from their blogs—which begs the question, “Why do we do it?” Why do we blog and why do we shell out airfare, hotel, and conference expenses (admittedly these were quite low) to attend a bloggers conference? First of all, there is a passion among us which is palpable. Secondly, this feels like we are on the verge of something that is going to be big. I don’t know where my blogging will lead me. All I know is that it’s someplace I want to go. And at the Wine Blogger’s Conference in beautiful Sonoma County, CA, I was surrounded by 160 other people who, I’d venture to guess, feel exactly the same.

Friday, October 24, 2008

WBC Live Blogging: Reds are beating whites three to one

Our table's final wine of the live blogging session at WBC:
Estate Cab Sauv. - Clos LaChance
Hummingbirds there help with pollination and scares away the bigger birds that are vineyard pests. Biggggg tannins. Maybe it would mellow in a couple years. Lots of yummy black fruit. Really nice, I just think it could age a couple more.

WBC Live Blogging: Jerseyites stick together

Sitting next to me is one of only other people from NJ - Gabe at Gabesview

WBC Live Blogging: CRAzy pace continues

Don't spill on my laptop! Business cards, promotional CDs,and wine clutter our table tops. Next up on live blogging:
Bonterra Winery
The McNab
60 Merlot
26 Cab
14 Petite Sirah (old vine)original rootstock - it has phylloxera but it stays healthy - wow.
Hoke Harden describes his wine with a great booming voice
This is really terrific. My favorite so far. Second swig unloads the tannin. Rich, yummy, 2004. They have lavendar fields, lavendar honey, great place to visit

WBC Live Blogging--More live blogging

Green packaging on a Yellow +Blue = Green in a box
2007 Malbec from Argentina--Full, rich tannic Malbec - announcement
We get the 30 second warning - ROTATE!

WBC Live Blogging--Holy Overwhelmed Connection Batman

Santa, Rosa, CA...Wine Bloggers Conference...Live Blogging Session...4:16 Pacific time. 45 mins into the "live blogging" I'm on.
Lionheart Roussane -- a white crisp wine. Pale straw. Pleasing amount of fruit, Well balanced, nothing overwhelms. Sells for about $30. Clean fresh tart fruit on the nose. I would enjoy this, esp. in warm weather,
FourBears--85 Cab. A little merlot & petite verdot. Under $20. I'm getting some of that fuzzy feeling in my mouth. Gotta find out what that is. It's a nice, easy drinking Cab., there is something about the mouthfeel, though, I wonder if anyone else gets that? Something about the work of the tannins is funky. Good flavor, though, a reasonable price point.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

WBW #50: The Great Outdoors

I am late to post, but couldn’t resist participating in this theme, which is near and dear to my heart. From the very first time I went hiking and camping with the man in my life, we’ve always packed a couple of bottles of wine along with the tent. It’s got to be big, tannic, and red to ward off those chilly nights on the trail. We have even given the wines a name. They’re our “Camping Wines.”
Nothing beats sitting around a campfire, enjoying rustic red wine in plastic cups. It’s a pleasure I’ve enjoyed many times and it brings back great memories of relaxing weekends in the Connecticut wilderness. If I had the chance to go this fall, I’d probably reach for a Ravenswood Old Vines Zinfandel and see what Cotes du Rhone strikes my fancy. Sadly, a weekend away is not in the offing, but we can always make do in our own back sitting by firepit we dug, surround by our maples, which are turning golden this month. A toast -- to all things autumnal!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wine for Your Oktoberfest?

Even though I never saw anything but beer when I was in Munich (20 years ago to the month!) for Oktoberfest, since we are celebrating, why not pour some wine, too? The question posed to me from my girlfriend, Lori, was what German wine should she serve at her Oktoberfest party. Great question, and it got me thinking about the German and German-style wines I enjoy.
Here's a wine that is German-like even though it's made in Alsace, France. Trimbach is a reliable producer of Rieslings, and they are dry ones which I like. It's also fun to have Gewurtraminer, a really different white wine that is packed with rich, spicy flavor. I’d try either a French or German producer for the Gewurtz. If you do try to buy a German wine for a Riesling, look for the word Kabinett along with the word Trocken, which would mean it's a little dryer. Unless you're going for a sweet Riesling, in which case Halbtrocken. The sweetest Riesling dessert wines are pricey: Auslese, Spatlese, and Beerenauslese. If you check the alcohol content that will also clue you into the sweetness: around 12 shouldn't be very sweet, lower is sweeter. Prost!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Luscious Cocktails for the Well-Heeled

My very good friend James recently brought me to Olives, the ground-floor bar at the W Hotel near Union Square. Ws are hot stuff--chi-chi boutique hotels that have been springing up all over the world (23 at last count). They refer to themselves as a “global lifestyle brand.” At $500 a night for a double room, this certainly isn’t my lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stop in for a drink!
The slender cocktail menu has pages of delicious choices. I opt for the exotic Lychee Martini: Skyy Vodka, lychee nectar, and Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut Rosé. The drink is white and cloudy. Its flavor is rich; its texture pulpy. It’s like a pina colada that went to finishing school.
James has wisely chosen a Pomegranate Sour: Skyy Vodka, pomegranate molasses (!), and sour mix. I enjoy my drink, but after one sip of his tangy and sweet elixir I’m jealous.
The place is a scene. It’s barely 6 p.m on a Friday and already every chocolate leather banquet and pouf is taken. My mission is finding us seats—his is getting the drinks. After we both accomplish our goals, we are happily seated back-to-back with other imbibers on the stretch of banquet that runs the length of the floor to ceiling windows. We watch amused as the pedestrians tug on their umbrellas and get splashed by oncoming traffic. It’s good to be inside on this miserable night, drinking expensive cocktails.
We are sitting opposite two women who could be twins. Each one has perfectly highlighted blonde hair, black pants and sweaters, and—this is the kicker—identical square cut diamond rings that appear to be at least three carats each.
Women dripping logos like Chanel and Prada, men in beautifully cut suits, young business people checking their Ipones, it’s a well-off after work crowd mixed with hotel guests, all enjoying their drinks and the beautiful bar.
As I drain my drink, a lovely surprise: a glossy white lychee had been lying at the bottom of my glass. I pluck it out and bite into its succulent flesh. For a moment, I am transported back to the rainforest of Australia, where I ate a lychee straight from the tree.
Then I shake off the revelry and grab my coat. At $14 a pop, one round is all we will have tonight at Olives.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Women for Winesense at Passione

I just joined Women for Winesense and attended my first event last week, a four-course wine dinner at Passione in Montclair, NJ. I heard about this group previously but had a bit of trouble locating them until Manoavino posted their event. I was pleased (and a little surprised) to discover that this was a snob-free gathering of gregarious bon vivants. The dinner was held in a private room and we had several tables pushed together so we made a big rectangle of 17 wine lovers—lots of lovely ladies (and a few gents) of various ages and levels of wine knowledge.
The group is all about education, and that night we had full paragraph descriptions of all of the five wines we tried, as well as a little oral presentation on all of them. I appreciated that one wine was from a variety I’d never tried, the rolle grape.
Dinner was very nice, although I’d say the start--a rich squash bisque with pancetta--and the finish-- apple torte with praline ice cream--were the highlights. Best wine of the night? I really enjoyed the Bordeaux poured with our main course, Chateau Tour Marcillanet Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois. However, we also sipped a lovely Trimbach Gewurtraminer from Alsace, and the memory of its tangy, full bodied flavor remained with me the next day.
WWS gets together about once a month except for a summer break. You don’t have to be a member to attend. I’m looking forward to more lovely evenings in the company of fellow wine lovers. Salut!