While struggling to recover from Le Wine Buff in Bordeaux last week, I’m already here in Walla Walla, WA for the third annual 2010 North American Wine Bloggers’ Conference, whew! I’m going to be trying to blog a completely different this year, different from WBC08 and WBC09…I’m going to be continuously adding to this post throughout the entire, nutsovino weekend! …we’ll see how it all turns out. Let’s get diving into the fun, as I’m happily surrounded by my many, MANY talented vinopanions. Follow along yourself by tracking the #WBC10 hashtag on Twitter and keep track of our busy busy agenda here at the Marcus Whitman. Cheers!
First off, we have had the opening comments from the tireless organizers, Allan Wright from Zephyr Adventures and Joel Vincent from Open Wine Consortium (THANK YOU, again fellas!). We also heard a bit about the many, very generous sponsors for this year’s event (and THANK YOU!!).
Steve Heimoff, editor/writer for Wine Enthusiast and an accomplished wine blogger himself, is now up on stage as the first Keynote speaker of the conference. An interesting early comment in his speech was that when he first became a wine writer, it seemed the only people that drank wine in the US were either supersnobs or skid row bums.
And now, possibly the most dramatic wine blogger presentation of all time has begun…Alan Kropf, Editor of Mutineer Magazine is presenting the 2010 Wine Blog Awards, with Ben Morrison on Skype, woot! And the winner for the best wine blog is Joe Roberts of 1WineDude!
LIVE SPEED BLOGGING! (Whites)….WOOT!
-3rd winery in Walla Walla, 89% Sem, 11% Sauv Blanc, Marty Clubb longtime winemaker. Harvested in mid-late September. Barrel ferment, but with mainly neutral oak.
c: Canary and golden yellow
N: Meyer lemon, good citrus blossom, and a crisp minerality that has a steeliness to the bright fruit
P: Great citrus here of Meyer lemon again and orange peel, with a little apricot mixed in. Underneath that crisp fruit is a fuller creamy mouthfeel that counterbalances the nice crispness. Minerality comes out in the juicy finish.
-Made at request of Whole Foods for their market. 41 Chenin, 30 Sauv Blanc, 12 Viognier Muscadelle $10.99 at Whole Foods
C: Very light yellow
N: Nice florals and fuller white pitted fruit here
P: Big florals and hops here as well, along with apricot and tangerine, slight offdry and finishing crisper than thought. Quaffer with some spicy summer food.
-Philosphy is good wine, good design and great service. Only 5 peeps in the whole winery. Third gen family farmers, lots besides grapes.
C: Lighter strawberry colored
N: Bright Bing cherry and juicy strawberry here, with some wonderful other red fruit, and some kiwi?
P: Whoa, huge watermelon here, very surprising! Great crispness here and more of a sweeter cherry, thought the wine appears mostly dry. Great Crisp finish of apricot and cherry.
07 Ortman Family Vineyards Edna Valley Chardonnay
C: Deeper golden color
N: Creamy lemon custard with some pear underneath and slight toast
P: Tons of juicy pear here, cut with an edge of lemon and then cream coats the bottom of the palate. Good balance here, but creamier than my choice. Definite wine for Moms.
C: Canary yellow
N: Big toasty, buttery aromas, some lemon underneath
P: Huge butter bomb here, with medium cream and some lemon custard after, almost no acid for balance. Totally not my style, but a solid value for “Napa Chard”.
C: Lighter golden with canary highlights
N: Heavier florals but then a lot of great citrus mix and pitted fruits and some baking spice.
P: Big florals here and juicy pitted fruits, pear, and some lemon spice finish. Good.
09 Poet’s Leap Columbia Valley Riesling
-$20 and brand new release. 1.3 g RS.
C: Lighter yellow
N: Fresh white fruit here, with some floral notes as well.
P: Very vibrant zesty acidity, with some florals, sweeter white fruit and lemon, then some peppery notes towards the finish, which ends with even more white flowers and lime.
09 Big House California White (Octovin 3L box)
C: Light yellow
N: Kind of an off nose, with wood? White pitted fruit and some florals.
P: Crisp, with more of those florals and a simpleness to the fruit, finishing with spicy lemon and some tannins.
C: lighter yellow
N: Toast here, with baked lemon, spice
P: Good acidity here with juicy lemon meringue and finishing toasty and slightly sweet.
08 Hogue Columbia Valley Genesis Chardonnay
C: Canary yellow
N: Lime and lemon here, slight florals and then a bit of toast underlay, very mineral
P: Good cream underlay, then that crisp lemon and lime edge comes in and finishes the wine with its steeliness, cut with a good minerality. Great QPR.
08 Buty Columbia Valley White
-69 Sem, 26 SB, 5 Musc
C: Medium canary yellow
N: Creamier citrus, with a muskiness of some toast or florals lurking in the distance
P: Crsip and almost zesty, this has a great citrus to the fruit and then finishes with a more mellower cream and crisp combo. Good.
C: Darker watermelon
N: Big watermelon and good strawberry
P: Crisp and huge watermelon here too, with a slight sweetness and then some acidity to round off the strawberry and watermelon.
Walla Walla Walkabout
Walla Walla is a very cool small town, filled with many laid back, yet well designed wine bars, eateries and coffeeshops. I took a stroll with my many other wine blogger friends around town, where I first ran into Muriel of Otis Kenyon (see more below at the Vineyard Tours!) and had a very favorable wine experience with the vintner from Pepper Bridge. He was pouring his ’06 Pepper Bridge Vineyard red blend. With its very good red-fruited nose and contrastingly deep black-fruited and anise-tinged palate, it ended up being one of my favorites of the weekend. His sister label Amavi Cellars had their ’07 Amavi Les Collines Vineyard Syrah out and about and man, this was yet another outstanding WA Syrah that I was lucky to taste over that weekend. It had a beauty of a nose featuring violets in the fore with a nose and palate that was mixed with blue and black fruit. It finished peppery with great length. Right on!
Local Vineyard and Winery Tours & Lunch
This is always another favorite portion of each wine bloggers’ conference in year’s past, the vineyard tours and lunches. Prior years, I was fortunate to have the opportunity to visit Quivira and Michel-Schlumberger. Now I have the best opportunity to really dig into the local wine scene and truly start to understand the unique climate, wines, land and people of the Walla Walla Valley appellation. We got on the buses, yet again not knowing where we were headed, but happy to board for new adventure. This year the infamous Bus 4(.2) reared it’s crazy head again and we promptly got lost heading to the first vineyard. After some calls and further local navigation, we were on our way, now knowing that we’d have a vineyard tour at Watermill Winery.
Their main estate vineyard was very beautiful and filled with natural cobblestone that had been dug up over the millennia by various periods of water interaction. It was very reminiscent of some of the vineyards that I had just seen in Bordeaux and indicative of good vineyard land with great drainage, minerality and good night time radiant temperature for the growing grapes. We were treated to great tour by Richard Funk, Leonard Brown and Nancy Kezele, along with some very good Malbec from the very vineyard in which we were standing. Both featured good balance, fine coating tannins, great blue and black fruit and some really great violet floral notes. Their 07 Cab Franc also showed that great balance along with a nice earthiness.
The next stop on the tour was at Forgeron Cellars, also featuring wines and the winemakers and family from Long Shadows and Otis Kenyon. Muriel Kenyon started us off with the awesome story about her great-grandfather and namesake for the winery and very cool wine label. Forgeron had their NV Walldette white and ’06 Zinfandel, both featuring great acidity and gobs of fruit. The ’07 Otis Kenyon Matchless Red was a fruity and toasty red blend, made for the more upscale weeknight dinner, but still with some good structure. My favorite wine of the panel tasting was the ’06 Long Shadows Chester Kidder red blend that showed exceptional balance, silky mouthfeel, outstanding structure and deep fruit complexity…quite a good red!
The last stop of the day was our leisurely lunch in a just a beautiful little knoll within the Walla Walla Valley appellation. Waters Winery has their own glass of heaven in the valley, settled into a many-acre wide area of land, nestled in-between a few rolling hills that get some great sun exposure. We arrived a little early, but Christa Hilt (Twitter) improvised on the fly by pouring some ’09 Substance Wines Sauv Blanc, filled with great lime, grapefruit and zesty acidity to whet our palates for lunch.
We split into three groups for the tasty lunch that was catered by local food haven Olive: shaders, sunners and partial sunshiners. I chose to be a partial sunshiner with my vinopanions Joe (Twitter) and Amy Power (Twitter) of Another Wine Blog and (I think) Vinconceivable. About to head off to Santorini on a superad wine junket, we ate the delicious fare with a lucky lineup of Syrah in the form of a Waters Forgotten Hills single vineyard vertical, ’05 – ’07. The striking architecture of the winery, very contemporary yet fitting wonderfully with the natural landscape, was reflected within the Syrah: new world in their juicy and bright fruit that carried plenty of depth, yet harmoniously balanced with the good tannic structure, slate minerality and dark earthiness provided by the natural surroundings. As Joe Roberts (Twitter, Twitter2) of 1WineDude (in Santorini as well, like a bastard) also exclaimed after the trip, it gave me a very strong impression of Syrah in the W2 Valley appellation.
Live Speed Blogging (Reds)
07 Gordon Brothers Family Vineyards Columbia Valley Merlot
C: Darker garnet
N: Black cherry, sweeter oak with a darker cassis undernetah
P: Full and with bigger toast, black cherry here and good balance of round soft tannins and a juicy black fruited finish.
-$35, 45 M, 28 CF, 26 CS, 1 PV
C: Inky garnet, slight violet
N: Red, black and blue fruit with cocoa and good garden herbs
P: Firm tannins with some of that cocoa and marzipan from the nose, with good depth of dark fruit and good acidity for food. Finishes long with dark chocolate and black cherry
04 Spofford Station Walla Walla Valley Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
-Current release! Age for 6 years before release.
C: Medium garnet
N: Spiced red fruit with even a bit of white pepper and slight earthy toast underlay
P: Medium full, with bright red and black fruit and good pencil lead and earth.
07 Banfi Toscana Belnero
C: Garnet and ruby with ruby edges
N: Dried earth with juicier black cherry and brighter cherry with some wild blackberry
P: Great brightness of red and black fruit, toast is integrating and with firm but round tannins, great with food and good earth towards the end.
C: Med ruby
N: Decent red simpler red fruit, a little bit of toast.
P: Medium full with peppery red fruit and light tannins.
09 Doolhof Wellington Dark Lady of the Labyrinth Dark Delight Pinotage
C: ruby, ruby edges
N: Toast and all black fruit and warm damp earth
P: Huge toast here, gigantic. Savory meaty notes then with black fruit and dark chocolate, medium tannins, not really my style.
07 The Magnificent Wine Co. Columbia Valley House Wine
-$13, 32 CS 31 Sy 30 Me 3 Ma 2 Z 1 CF 1 PV
C: Ruby with ruby edges
N: Toast and very ripe red fruit with some anise as well
P: Tons of spice and pepper with a firm structure, cocoa and black and red fruit, charred earth.
08 Ortman Paso Robles 02 Series Sangiovese
-JUST bottled, about 3 days ago, 1 year old oak
C: Lighter ruby
N: Bright red fruit with a wildness to it, with a slight bit of toast and earth and marzipan
P: Toast here bright red fruit with great acidity and even some blue fruit towards the chocolaty finish.
-$125, 500 cases, prerelease
C: Darker ruby, ruby edges
N: Phenomenal nose here with wonderfully complex fresh savory herbs, great black and red fruit with extremely deep fruit.
P: Full and coating with the fine tannins, outstanding black and red fruit with good anise, toast is integrating nicely, just a very well balanced wine. Awesome.
07 Isenhower Columbia Valley Bachelor’s Button Cabernet Sauvignon
C: Darker garnet, ruby edges
N: Good spicy black and red fruit with some anise
P: Good red and black fruit here as well with a dustiness to it, cocoa powder and further spice in the finish. Good.
08 The Crusher Clarksburg Grower’s Selection Petite Sirah
C: Inky violet monster
N: Good floral violets, with black and blue fruit and the fruit has a coolness to it, slight dark chocolate
P: Big and yet still balanced with good blue and black fruit, spice and some new leather coming in on the finish.
-45 Me, 40 CS, CF, $20
C: Medium ruby
N: Red and black fruit medley with good wet earth and herbs
P: Medium full with bigger anise, good bright black fruit, baking
And that’s that! All speed blogging is done from the conference and wow, what another brilliant time. I love these sessions, while extremely crazy and very short (6 minutes per wine), they force you to focus directly on the wine and winemakers for that time with no distractions. This year it was split into whites and reds, which was brilliant. Tremendous fun!
Reininger Winery Renegade Midnight Tasting
If there’s one thing that I learned in Walla Walla, those wineries and winemakers know how to quickly and creatively come up with cool wine events. Thursday night, Justin Vajgert decided to throw a late night tasting party for any wine blogger brave enough to head off into the midnight air to the stylish Reininger Winery. By Saturday afternoon he had flyers on the ready and was passing them out to winebloggers looking for some late night sneaky wine. I decided to go…along with about 20 other vino fiends. We arrived after a ride from the renaissance winemaker Chuck Reininger kindly gave us a ride in his SUV. There we were treated to some yummy late night snacks and even tastier wines, many of which were still unreleased, all courtesy of what appeared to be their entire staff. I was most impressed with Chuck’s ’05 and prerelease ’08 Helix Sangiovese, both of which featured very bright, intensely flavored red berry fruit that was nicely supported by their good structure. After those two hours however, I was definitely ready to begin my wino dreams and happily accepted a ride back to the hotel from Chuck.
Last day and a very fun wine and food pairing presentation from chef Jeffrey Saad (loves the “culinary facial” that comes from absorbing the many aromas in a newly delivered plate of food, flipping through his mental flavor rolodex to break down the components).
Very good quick info about complementary and also opposite food and wine pairings. Then we head out to the open area for a very cool wine and food lunch pairing walkaround, courtesy of Marcus Whitman’s Marc Restaurant chef, Bear Ullman. Speaking of which, I can’t say enough about how awesome the Marcus Whitman hotel has been during this conference: totally on top of everything, amazing service and very friendly staff, nicely complemented by the great and richly historic facilities. Thanks Marcus Whitman!
Wine & Food Pairings from Chef Bear
09 Cousino Maipo Valley Macul Sauvignon Gris
Paired with with Chicken Skewer with White Balsamic Vanilla BBQ on Chayote Slaw with Micro Cilantro
C: Lightest yellow:
N: Very crisp and clean with zesty lime and steeliness
P: Great steel lime crispness here just pairs beautifully with the basalmic, cilantro and vanilla sweetness. Good!
09 High Note Uco Valley Malbec
with Cherry Scented Duck Confit Empanadas with Mole and Avocado.
C: Darker violet garnet
N: Black cherry and savory earth
P: Full and smooth with great rich red fruit, toast underlay that matches the savory in the empanadas and earthier notes.
08 Terranoble Colchagua Valley Grand Reserva Carménère
with Oven Dried San Marzano Tomato and Andouille Flat Bread
C: Dark violet and garnet
N: Rich red berry fruit with some Bing and Black cherry, slight herbs
P: Full and with that juicy berry red fruit, with good pepper and full-bodied medium tannins. The bright fruit pairs with the savory andouille, yep.
And now…closing remarks, thank yous and the announcement of the site for #WBC11, Charlottsville, VA! Thank you also, to the fine people at Meru Networks, without which we’d have had no way to broadcast the great wines of W2. Thanks Joel and Thomas!