Thursday, December 30, 2010

2010 - My year in wine

2010 marked my fourth year as a wine blogger and it was filled with highlights of travel, friendships, and spectacular events.

In early 2010, I enjoyed the delicious abbondanza of Vino 2010, an elaborate Italian wine festa at the Waldorf Astoria, where I waded through rooms full of Italian wine producers and enjoyed not one, but two, talks, by Anthony Giglio and managed to waltz across to Cipriani’s for Luca Maroni’s SensofWine on the same day.

At the end of the month, I bade a fond farewell to Italy-bound, Vineyard Adventuress Robbin Gheesling, and, along with Rob Bralow and Matt Sitomer and a few others, helped her finish off about nine bottles of vinous wonderfulness from her well-filled wine refrigerator (which I later took off her hands).

With spring came wine festival season, and I made the acquaintance of George Wilson and the gang from the St. Michael’s Winefest. After numerous emails and cell phone conversations on the fly, I was standing on board the Patriot on a fine May evening, gliding onto the Chesapeake Bay as I presented five wines during a lovely wine and food pairing cruise.

Also in May, was TasteCamp 2010, the second such blogger get-together that serves as a foil to the larger North American Wine Blogger Conference. Organized by the indefatigable Lenn Thomson, this year’s Taste Camp brought a few dozen bloggers (including my dear friend Melissa Dobson) and their significant others to the lovely Finger Lakes region in upstate New York for austere Rieslings and some very good Pinot Noir. My favorite visit was our last, to the small and welcoming wine cave of Heart and Hands Winery: their Pinot Noirs offered delicate fruit and earthy flavors – a lovely treat for someone with an old-world-leaning palate such as myself.

In June, the spirit of adventure turned me towards Europe again. During an hour long phone call from Rome, Robbin and I hatched the plan that I should come visit her in Amalfi. I’ll never forget our first stroll up the promenade to her favorite bar for a Spritz, an aperitivo comprised of Aperol bitter orange liquor, club soda and white wine. Nibbling on a bowl of nuts and watching the sunset over a steel blue Mediterranean, I couldn’t have been more content.

After zipping up and down the Amalfi coast on scenic ferry rides and scary bus rides--visiting the Marisa Cuomo winery, Pompeii and Positano--I left Italia for France, where I had signed up with Vitivinitours for Le Weekend des Grands Amatuers in Bordeaux.

On my first evening, I had the pleasure of dining with Jane Anson, her husband Frank, and a few of their fellow British ex-pats. We ate fresh oysters and drank (of all things) Prosecco on a picnic bench with a view of the Garonne River. Another magical evening of wine and friendship.

The next night proved how very small the wine world is, when I ran into Gregory Dal Piaz, the editor at Snooth and a New York City friend. Proving “there are no coincidences,” he and I were booked on the same trip that evening, an enchanting jaunt to Chateau Guiraud for a multi course dinner of superb cuisine and Bordeaux wines, ending with the Chateau’s own spectacular Sauternes.

Later that month, I faced a sore disappointment when I missed my flight to the west coast for what would have been my third North American Wine Bloggers Conference. I consoled myself by drinking a cult Cabernet Sauvignon and following the action on Twitter.

The summer saw some lovely get-togethers with other wine bloggers including the talented chef, Eric Guido, and two lovely NYC-based women of wine, Sasha Smith and Susannah Gold – hope to see all of them soon. And at a swanky Sonoma in the City event, I had the pleasure of meeting Carlo Devito, a wine-loving writer, blogger, and editor. In September, I was honored to be one of the bloggers invited to cover the Saratoga Wine and Food and Fall Ferrari Festival, where I was happy to catch up with my former teacher, Kevin Zraly, a man whose wine knowledge and charisma know no bounds.

As the leaves began to turn on the East Coast, my thoughts turned to Europe again, this time for a trip to Austria for the European Wine Bloggers Conference in Vienna. My last few trips had been to Italy, France, and Spain, where the lilt of Romance languages filled my days. Now, I was bound for the eastern fringe of Western Europe's traditional boundaries, where the hard “g” and clipped, mutli-syllables of German hold sway. I had traveled solo to Austria in my 20s and was eager to return to this majestic world capital.

EWBC felt like coming home in a way, as dozens of the friends I had made in 2009 in Lisbon were on hand again, including the lovely and intensely energetic, Gabriella Opaz. I cannot begin to describe the comradery and joie de vivre we wine-loving compatriots share, especially my wickedly clever pals, Denise Medrano and Andrew Barrow. This year, I made more friends: the witty Alistair Bathgate, the enthusiastic Eamon FitzGerald, the earthy and wonderful Caroline Henry, the well-liked-by-all wine student Prateek Arora, , and the swarthy Spaniard who lent me his arm for a waltz, Esteban Cabezas. I was also happy to hang out with my favorite Portuguese winemaker Oscar Quevedo, and, naturally, to drink some of his family's delicious port.

From Austria, I took a memorable train ride with Luiz Alberto, who accompanied me on my first foray into Eastern Europe: Budapest. There I was hosted by the gracious couple Carolyn and Gabor Banfalvi, who opened their home to me and fellow EWBCers, including the always intriguing Sam Ockman and two more Budapest dwellers, the charming Molly Havorka and her dynamic husband Zoli Piroska.

After two whirlwind days in the enchanting land of Tokai, I finished my Hungarian trip with a private lesson at the Central European Wine Institute at the invitation of another new friend, Gabor Patko.

As the cold weather swept into New York City, I began my next adventure in the world of wine: enrolling in the International Wine Center, the New York City branch of the internationally-recognized Wine and Spirits Education Trust, where I am applying myself diligently to the study of wine.

Thanks to everyone who made 2010 such a wonderful year of exploring new wines, new lands, and new adventures. I raise my glass to you.


  1. what a year! if only I wasnt so sozzled for most of it I too could possibly remember such details.

    Austria was a blast; hope to catch up with you again. Happy New Year!

    PS What's your name again??

  2. Andrew, loved seeing you this fall. Looking forward to the next time!

  3. Diane: What beautiful post. Let's pick a date to share a bottle a little closer to home this year! Wishing you a wonderful, wine adventure filled 2011!


  4. WOw! reading your round up makes me feel like a slacker for not doing one of my own. We had great fun in Vienna, didn't we? Looking forward to WBC11. Yeah, probably gonna hop over the pond this year :)

  5. Sue, I would love to do that soon! Denise, would love to see you on either side of the Pond - Virginia in the summer should be great!

  6. Great post Diane!! II totally enjoyed meeting you at #EWBC and had a blast hanging out with you in NY!! Looking forward to catching up in 2011!! Happy New Year!

  7. Thank you, Caroline! Can't wait until next we meet :)

  8. Great review of the year! Will always have fond memories of the Minoetto Procsecco event where they taught us to Live Lively!!!

  9. Loved your post Diane! Was great to meet you in 2010 and looking forward to the 2011 meet-up already!

  10. James, that night was lots of fun! Loved having you along for Prosecco!

  11. Enthusiastic Eamon (Love your new nickname), thanks for reading & looking forward to seeing you again. Cheers!

  12. Diane, You've had a stellar wine year and I'm so happy to have been a part of it...only regret is not seeing you more. So happy to have you as my friend. Cheers to you and your family!!

  13. Thanks, Melissa, can't wait to see you at the next TasteCamp - and I won't miss WBC this time!