Sunday, May 31, 2009

A passion for wine and blogging

Josh, the Pinotblogger and the Capozzi Winery have laid a challenge in front of wine bloggers. The link to the post with more details can be found here. Below is my answer to the challenge, not because I am looking to win the prize (although, who says no to a prize?), but because it allows me to sit and reflect on what I do here on this blog.

The first question to answer is:
Why are you passionate about wine, and what motivates you to blog about
it?Read more:

I have found passions in interesting areas. When I was eleven years old I started fencing. Over the years I became good enough to win a few tournaments, travel and compete internationally, and meet hundreds of interesting people who are passionate about the sport. I continue to keep my hand in the fencing world by refereeing at various tournaments around the country and for as much as I complain about the horrors of air travel, I enjoy doing it. My favorite moments during my fencing career have been when one of my college teammates made an action that I told them would work against their opponent and that moment when they understood not only how the action was supposed to be made, but why I had told them to do it and how it had worked.

Starting in about seventh grade and continuing through today, I enjoy the art of writing. Some might say that my grammar has a long way to go and that my spelling is atrocious (I love you mom!), but there is nothing more cleansing for me than writing. I used to write a lot of poetry (most of it bad and juvenile). I still do some writing and those that I have accepted as friends on Facebook can find my writings in my notes. There are few pleasures better than having someone telling me that my writing touched them (however, that is not an invitation for praise).

Bear with me, I am working up to a point.

Wine has brought me to a place where I can enjoy each glass in three ways. There is the pleasure I get from a well made product, the same way I love a great piece of chocolate or an enjoyable book. I also get the chance to learn each time I open a bottle. One of the main reasons I started this blog was to have a conduit where I can compel myself to learn about each bottle I open and each winery I talk about.

The last way I enjoy a wine is by teaching someone else about what it is I am enjoying and finding out if they enjoy it in the same way.

That is what really bridges all of my passions together. I love seeing that 'aha!' moment. I love being the person that helped someone else connect the dots to a conclusion. I studied to become a teacher in college, but found myself going into communication instead (For those interested, my math grades stopped me from becoming a math teacher. For some reason my school required me to be able to understand incomprehensible maths in order to teach algebra... not that I am sorry how things worked out).

What made me passionate about wine started while I was in high school. At the dinner table I was always encouraged to try new things, perhaps an interesting culinary creation or something as simple as beer or wine. From there I moved into college and became one of the few people in my group of friends confident enough to look at a wine list and pick out a bottle of wine. I had no idea what I was doing, but I could fake it. I would also experiment with wine and tried many brands within my limited college student budget.

My first step to becoming truly geeky about wine started when I was hired at my first full-time job after I graduated. I was asked to work on Chilean wines and my exposure to the wine industry increased exponentially. From then through today it was all about tasting everything I could, learning everything I could hold onto, and always looking for that next new great wine experience.

From there, blogging became an obvious decision. I started blogging about wine to learn, not only about the wines but about blogging. Why do people blog? Why put in the time? What is the return?

You can really only understand by starting your own blog. Blogging enters you into a community of people all looking for that next experience and with the desire to share it with others. The time requirements are immense. I had no idea that I would need to set aside hours each week just to be able to put out one or two blog posts.

And the return is what you put into it. An insightful blog post will have people from all over the world coming to your blog to leave a comment or just to read what you have said. A hastily written blog posts gains nothing, because nothing is put into its creation.

Now I have spent too much time on the first part of Josh's challenge and will need to address the second part:
Is it appropriate for a wine reviewer to prescribe the ways in which a wine
should be made, or is their job chiefly to review what’s in the bottle? Use
examples from the wine you choose to illustrate your position.Read more:

I think this question is a lot trickier than it looks on the surface. The crux of the question (for me... likely not what Josh intended) revolves around the question "What is a wine reviewer?"

There are currently many wine reviewers in the world. Many work for credible publications, such as the Wine Advocate, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine & Spirits, International Wine Cellar, and Decanter.

And then there are hundreds, maybe thousands of blogs currently being written by wine enthusiasts. It would be wrong to say that the bloggers that write about wines are not wine reviewers, because no matter what, once an opinion is registered about the wine they are discussing they have 'reviewed' the wine.

It all comes down to who you trust to give you good advice. The publications have credibility because their writers have been reviewing wines for decades. However, there are plenty of publications that I would not trust because they have not proven to me that they know what they are talking about. The exact same criteria holds for bloggers.

That being established, I have strayed well off the topic that Josh intended when he put forth this challenge, so to bring it back I will talk about a wine I drank at home as an example for his intended question.

My mom enjoys her wine. When I was little my parents purchased several bottles to keep in their basement (do not call it a cellar) until the wine was ready to drink. They bought a case of Grand Puy Lacoste 1983 for my birthday year (and we should get to drinking it!). There were a few bottles of Cheval Blanc that I convinced my mom to open for Thanksgiving.

So, for my last trip home we opened a bottle of Ridge Jimsomare Zinfandel 1990, a wine that I can no longer find on the Internet. I thought the wine was excellent, rich with aged notes of leather, pepper, pipe tobacco, and yet still a good deal of fig and sweet blackberry. A great wine to share with one of the people I care most about in the world.

I have no idea how that got into the bottle.

By that I mean I am not a winemaker. I have not been educated on what strains of yeast to use, how long to cold soak the juice, what temperature a fermentation should begin at and when it should end.

I know how to use a corkscrew (oh, do I know how) and the best way to pour a wine into a glass without spilling all over the table (still working on perfecting that one). I have tasted hundreds of wines, but that still does not make me an expert, as those I would call expert have tasted hundreds of thousands of wines, if not more.

In giving my review of a wine all I know is what I like and what I taste. I know I liked the Ridge Jimsomare and I would consider it to be an enjoyable wine for anyone. If I knew for certain that the tastes presented on my palate were caused by the years it was aged, the use of an exact amount of oak, the precise moment the winemaker decided to started fermentation, then maybe I could make those statements. Maybe. If I was feeling ballsy that day.

So, my answer is I think a wine review should only review what is in the bottle. It is not up to a wine reviewer to determine the direction a winemaker goes in to make his wine. That decision should always reside at the winery, with the knowledge that there will be many people that will not like the wine being made, no matter what the wine tastes like. Once a winery accepts that, there should be no other decision other than to make the best wine possible.

I want to thank the Capozzi Winery and Josh for giving me the motivation to write this blog post. I think it is a great way to reach bloggers.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

TasteCamp - The Last Day

Three weeks and several blog posts later, I have finally come to the end of the story of TasteCamp. It was a lot of fun, we had a lot of laughs, we sipped, we spit, we slurped, and we... sorry, ran out of 's' words... we enjoyed ourselves.

On the last day we visited two wineries, Wolffer Estate Vineyards and Channing Daughters. Both of these wineries are located on the South Fork of Long Island, better known as the Hamptons. You may have heard of them.

To get there, Leah and I had the choice to drive down the North Fork to where the two forks merge and then dive back up the South Fork or to take a ferry over to Shelter Island and then another ferry to the South Fork. Being a water-going gal, Leah immediately opted for the ferry ride. We got primo parking on the ferry boat so that we could see the stretch of the water and the island we were approaching. While it was a grey day, it was still much nicer than watching highway...

I will not spend too much time talking about Wolffer, although not because I did not enjoy the visit. My company represents Wolffer and I feel it would be inappropriate for me to talk about the wines. What I will say is that I would love to go back and visit one a bright sunny day. Their tasting room was very nice and there was a porch that overlooked the vineyards that I would imagine to be stunning when the sun was shinning. As it was, the day was rainy and a little chilly.

After leaving Wolffer we went to Channing Daughters, which for me was one of the best visits of the trip. There were giant sculptures in each of the vineyards, which we later learned was one of the ways they marked each block and called them by the sculpture's name. All of the pieces of artwork are the creation of Owner/Sculptor Walter Channing. In the middle of the vineyards was an upside-down oak, which is the winery's logo.

The tasting room at Channing Daughters is small in comparison to many of the other wineries that we had visited over the weekend. We walked in, grabbed glasses, and walked back out onto a back porch. It was still raining and still chilly, but all of that evaporated as soon as we started talking with the Winemaker, Christopher Tracy and the General Manager, Allison Dubin.

You meet plenty of people in the wine industry who know the ins and outs of the world of wine. It is a rare that you meet someone that is so enthusiastic about teaching others about wine (especially when it is their own wine) that the enthusiasm rubs off on you. Chris was not only knowledgeable, but he was so pleased to be able to share his visions and thoughts about wine with others interested in listening. He was a joy to taste with and a double pleasure because his wines were fantastic.

Chris makes twenty-three wines at Channing Daughters, fourteen of which are white, three roses, and six reds. What was most impressed me was the consistency from one wine to the next. All were wines I would gladly drink again (in fact I bought six bottles while I was there).

And there was so much diversity! There was crisp Chardonnay, oak integrated Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Field Blends, Tokai Friulano, Pinot Grigio, Blends of each white varietal with different levels of malolactic fermentation, Merlot, Blaufrankish (dude! Blaufrankish in Long Island!), and a wine combining the ripasso method and the solera method. It was fresh! It was fun! And the wines were damn good!

The best moment was when Chris gave us a look like that of a wicked child that had a hidden stash of candy and asked us if we wanted to stick our nose in his Madeira. Of course we had to say yes! He lead us through what was probably the smallest winery room I have ever seen (probably smaller than my apartment!) and into the back of the winery where there were barrels sitting. Barrels full of wine! Exposed to the elements! He lead us to a barrel left on its own between several rows of stacked barrels and pulled the plug from the bunghole. When my turn came around, I stuck my snozz in and there was no doubt, it was Madeira! When asked what grape it was, he said Merlot.

Chris showed us that experimentation is alive and well on Long Island, and his wines are all the better for it. Even more impressive is that the wines were moderately price and, in my opinion, worth every penny.

Thanks go to Lenn Thompson of LENNDEVOURS for putting together such a great weekend and showing wineries that bloggers are a valuable advocate in today's wine market.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A musical Wine Blogging Wednesday

The next Wine Blogging Wednesday has been announced by Katie at Gonzo Gastonomy, and this time she puts forth an interesting theory.

Music has been a consistent source of emotional enjoyment, ever since one caveperson scraped a rock in rhythm against a cave floor (perhaps an exaggeration). Music has a strong power over our senses, the way a cymbal crash makes us excited or the way a violin pulls on our heart strings. The way a fiddle might make us want to tap our heels or the way a harp might put us to sleep.

Katie's challenge is to experience for ourselves how different genre's of music make us feel about a wine. If perhaps a song is on that is particularly grating against your nerves, do you then think less of the wine you are tasting?

The interesting part is I am not sure what wine to pick! Picking the music will be relatively easy (I have a very diverse library). But do I pick a wine I know I like? Do I ask for a recommendation of a wine someone I know likes?

I guess we'll see. The post is due on June 10th (that's like tomorrow!!). I missed the last one, hopefully I will get my act together for this one.

A nice sparkler from Alsace

I have been in somewhat of a celebratory mood, as I switch from one job to another. It is not that I feel particularly good about leaving the old job, but starting a new job is exciting.

Therefore, I feel that a little bit of bubbly is just what the doctor called for. I received a bottle of Domaine Albert Mann Cremant D'Alsace Brut NV (lot 34) a little while ago and now seemed to be the perfect time to open it.

A quick note about the term Cremant: Cremant is a label used for sparkling wines outside of the region of Champagne to denote a wine that was made using the Champagne method (methode champenoise/traditionnelle).

It is rare that I find myself really enjoying a sparkling wine. When I do find myself liking one, it usually turns out to be a Muscato D'Asti or other extremely sweet wine. I think I have been too affected by my upbringing through the Coca Cola culture.

Many of my female friends think I am crazy, as they all claim to love sparkling wines. Perhaps they do, or maybe they just like the prestige that a bottle with a cork that POPS brings to the table. At the last Wine Spectator California Wine Experience, I had the opportunity to wander around with one of my wine mentors (there have been quite a few) and he told me that it had taken him a while to get into bubblies as well. However, he had an epiphany that bubbly was just another wine and it changed his perspective.

All that said, I really enjoyed the Albert Mann. It balanced beautifully between the fruity sweetness I love and the drying acidity of the bubbles. It is definitely a wine made for food and I was lucky enough to have a pan fried chicken with broccoli and potato crisps on hand. The wine was very pleasantly accented with apple and lemon flavors. The bubbles brought a little bitterness which nicely balanced the fruit. There was a little tartness to it, but I think the food matched it to make me want to go from eating to drinking and back again.

A nice wine and for $22, I think it is worth checking out for the next time you need a good bubbly.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Today I start my NEW JOB!

And now... the announcement I am sure at least three of you have been waiting for...

Today is my first day starting at Gregory White PR.

I am very excited to be working with this company of a few reasons. The people are great and extremely enthusiastic about wine and spirits. The company is also very interested in what social media is and how it will impact (has been impacting...) the wine industry landscape, something I think is extremely important to understand.

And I also get to work with new wines! One of the reasons I started this blog was to force myself to better understand, research, and write about wine I am unfamiliar with and regions that I have little knowledge of. However, I do not think that there is any substitute for hands on learning. To be able to touch a bottle and understand a wine region, with the expectation that you are going to be required to explain everything you know to another person, is a priceless education.

For a list of the clients Gregory White PR represents, you can check here.

I will likely announce more information about the specific clients I will be working with at a later time. I would like a few days to get updated on the procedures that GWPR have (like what the access code for the bathroom is, are there regular after-work drink places... you know the IMPORTANT stuff!!). For now though, I would like to reiterate (as I have in previous posts) that I will never review a product that my company represents in any way.

I have also added another disclaimer to my profile information. It seems a little silly, but with the story about bloggers being put under FTC guidelines, I feel like it is well worth putting two sentences on the side of my blog...

Monday, May 25, 2009

TasteCamp – The BYO Dinner

Send an e-mail to all your friends right now and ask them what they are doing tomorrow night. If the answer is “nothing,” you should round them up at your place and tell them to each bring a bottle of wine. That is what Lenn did with all of the bloggers that were on the trip to Long Island and it was really interesting to see what people brought.

There was a really interesting Vidal from Canada, the Lapostolle Clos Apalta 2005 (Wine Spectator’s wine of the year), a Gevrey-Chambertin, a bottle of blackberry wine (eee-GADS that was sugary sweet), a bottle of Duckhorn, a few wines from Virginia, some Riesling from the finger lakes, a crazy good white Rioja from 1999, and all manner of other wines. There was even a silky Kentucky bourbon.

This is something that is easy to put together and the more people the more booze... I mean the more variety of wines you will have.

I brought a few bottles of Altair 2003, one of my favorite Chilean producers. The winery started in 2001 as a joint venture between Chateau Dassault and San Pedro Wine Group, but now I believe it is fully owned by San Pedro. Regardless, I really like these wines and have a few stashed away in my mother's basement (not so much room in NYC apartments, and if you don't believe me check out the Wine Enthusiast website... the "before" photo is of my kitchen area...) to see how they will taste in 10-15 years.

So, grab your friends, get together and see what people bring. I promise it will be interesting.


I was previously employed by RFBinder Partners and a member of the team in charge of the Wines of Chile account.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Eight Chilean winemakers walk into a bar...

Last night was the first Wines of Chile Online Blogger Tasting, and it was far from a joke. Michael Green, Wine & Spirits Consultant for Gourmet magazine held a discussion with eight of Chile's winemakers live via video conference.

And bloggers from all over the US got a chance to watch and taste the winemakers' creations.

If you would like to check out descriptions about the wines and the winemakers, you can read about them here.

I thought the tasting was everything a wine blogger could have wanted it to be. The winemakers were loose and dressed casually, Michael was informal and funny, and the wines were very good. Even a three minute break in the action, due to a technical problem, was easy to move past.

It was interesting to see how the bloggers were responding during the tasting. Many latched onto twitter to push out comments and notes as the tasting was happening. You can read the comments here. Already there are many blog posts about the tasting.

In today's online, instant information world, it is hard to say how influential wine bloggers are and how influential they are going to be. Besides my mother, a few friends, and a slew of other bloggers, I am not sure how influential my own blog is. Sure, I have numbers of how many people visit each time I put up a post, I have numbers of how many eyeballs read my words each month, and I know where in the country (or world... yes, my blog is read all over the place... although I think it might be just one person who flies around a lot) the people that read my blog are located. These numbers are tiny when compared to the reach of the wine trade publications. But that is not why I write, so what does it matter anyway?

The great power of blogs are when large groups all talk about the same subject at once. That is where I think marketing is going in the wine world and why events such as this tasting make sense to me.

I thought all of the winemakers did a great job explaining not only their wines but the philosophy of Chile as a major wine player in the world. I tasted the wines with several friends of mine and I do not think there was a wine that the group did not like. My personal favorite was the Errazuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere 2007. For me it was smooth and vibrant, like having rich and ripe blueberries in a glass.

I am going to now start reading the other bloggers' posts to see what they thought was the best. It is very interesting to see how tastes differed.


I really should listen to that persistent voice in the back of my head, the one that sounds like my mother. Yesterday I wrote that the Online Blogger Tasting was my idea. It was firmly pointed out to me that I might have been mistaken, as Michael Green made the suggestion to the CEO at RFBinder back in August, whereas I put forth the idea in October. I have absolutely no wish to take credit that is not mine and beg the pardon of Michael Green.

I was previously employed by RFBinder Partners and a member of the team in charge of the Wines of Chile account.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wines of Chile Online Blogger Tasting

In just a few minutes the first Wines of Chile Online Blogger Tasting will take place. If I do say so myself, I was a key person on the Wines of Chile Team in putting this together, and that is hardly tooting my own horn. From the creation of the idea, to most of its implementation, up until I left the company, this was my baby.

And now I can just hear my mother in the back of my head telling me that it is better to be humble than to list all the work I did.

In fact, I left with plenty of work to do and I know the Wines of Chile Team has done spectacularly. You never really know how much work something is going to be until you do it for the first time, and putting this event together has been no picnic, especially in the last week.

After having a lot of good feedback about whether or not I should write about Chilean wines I have decided it makes the most sense for me to write as much as I possibly can. Chile is making some amazing wines and it would be unfair of me to keep the knowledge to myself.

For instance, the wineries that we have lined up for this online blogger tasting are all very impressive:

The first wine in the line-up tonight will be the Emiliana Natura Sauvignon Blanc 2008. Chile has been making fabulous Sauvignon Blanc in the last couple years, especially in the cooler climate regions. In fact, it was a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc that turned me back on to white wine. This was 3 years ago when I was a year out of college and most of the white wine I had tasted came out of a box or a jug. The revelation was one I will never forget. The winemaker presenting from Emiliana will be Antonio Bravo. Emiliana is also one of the few completely organic wineries in Chile. Other wines I have enjoyed from Emiliana are Coyam 2005, GE (so far every vintage I have tasted), and Natura Carmenere 2005.

Second up to the plate will be the Cono Sur Vision Pinot Noir 2008, presented by winemaker Matais Rios. If there is anyone in Chile who is doing a great job creating quality Pinot Noir at a great price, it is Cono Sur. While not known for Pinot, Chile has been branching out and seeing what other grapes will do well in the climates in Chile. Pinot Noir has been growing steadily in Chile in the last few years and looks to continue its growth as more producers try their hand at growing the grape. I visited this winery last time I was in Chile and had the pleasure of meeting many of the winery managers. We also took a bicycle ride through the vineyards, which would have been fabulous, if only I knew how to ride a bike...

In the power hitter spot is the Los Vascos Reserve 2006, presented by winemaker Marcelo Gallardo. I had the good fortune of visiting this winery last time I was in Chile and took a tour of the winery and vineyards. The land there is absolutely stunning. There is a small hill that we climbed up, which allowed the group of us to look at the entire valley at sunset. I also was able to meet Marcelo, and I am not sure the man ever stopped laughing while we were there. It was a great visit. Los Vascos is definitely one of the largest wineries in Chile and makes a VAST amount of wine, although they only make six wines. What most impresses me about the winery is that they consistently produce wine at a great value. It is also worth noting that Los Vascos is owned by Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite).

Next is the Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2007, new to the market and ready to be bought. The winemaker leading the discussion on this wine is Andres Caballero. While I am familiar with their wines, I must admit I know little about the Carolina Wine Brands. They are also responsible for the Vina Casablanca (which are all very tasty) and Ochegavia lines. In my tastings I have found that overall Santa Carolina produces solid wines. And value is definitely the theme through all of them. Seems to be the theme through this write-up as well, but it is hard to talk about Chilean wine without talking value.

The second Carmenere is the Errazuriz Single Vineyard Carmenere 2007, presented by winemaker Francisco Baettig. Carmenere, of course, is Chile's unique variety. No where else in the world is Carmenere being made, or at least being made in commercial quantities. I just did a tasting of Camenere not too long ago and it was my opinion that this wine is one of the best Carmenere's coming out of Chile today. I will not give you my notes now, but I am excited to see what the other bloggers say about this wine. Errazuriz is based in Aconcagua and makes great wine. Others from this winery that are noteworthy are the Eduardo Chadwick (easily the most expensive wine in Chile), Kai, and Don Maximiano. Errazuriz is also responsible for the Arboleda and Sena brands. Not sure what the exact connection is, it may be that Errazuriz is the parent company, but they are connected in some way.

Next up is the Undurraga T.H. Syrah 2007, being represented by winemaker Rafael Urrejola. Again, while I have tasted this wineries wines extensively, I could not say that I have a good grasp on the history. I know that T.H. stands for Terroir Hunter, however I am sure the winemaker will go into what that means for them. This wine is also interesting because it is from Limari. Most of the other wines we will be tasting are from Colchagua or Maipo.

Second to last is the Haras Character Cabernet/Carmenere 2006, presented by winemaker Cecilia Guzman. I do not know how there ended up being only one woman winemaker on this panel, but I know for certain there are MANY more in Chile. Haras is a winery that is all about the horses. What I mean is that on the property are tons of thoroughbred horses. The winery is in the shape of a horseshoe. In fact, the vineyards themselves are planted in the shape of a horseshoe. Some of the wines I have been a fan of from this winery are the Albis, Elegance, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Last, but certainly not least is the Veramonte Primus 2006, presented by winemaker Cristian Aliaga. Veramonte is another winery that has consistency and value down to a science. I believe they consider this wine, the Primus, to be their Icon wine. While most Icon wines from Chile range in the $50 - $60 range (with bottles heavy enough to break your back when carrying a case of them), this one settles quite nicely into the $20 range.

That is all for now. Tomorrow I will hopefully have my tasting notes written up and posted. I really am looking forward to this tasting, as I think it will become a new way to reach not only bloggers, but the populace at large.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Today is my last day at Wines of Chile

I have a new job!

I know this may come as a shock to many people, but today is my last day working at RFBinder Partners. They have been very good to me and have really allowed me to cut my teeth in the wine world. For the experience and the education, I am extremely thankful.

For RFBinder I have been working on their Wines of Chile business for the last 3 years. RFBinder also works with Wines of Germany and has done work for Wines of Israel as well.

While working for Wines of Chile I have been able to meet with winemakers, travel, and meet great people in the wine industry. I can say without fear of contradiction that I am well versed in what Chile has to offer. There are wines coming out of Chile that are absolutely delicious and I know that RFBinder will continue to do a great job representing them.

I will save where I am moving to for another blog announcement. What I can tell you is that I will be doing work for another well-known region that also makes delicious wine.

For now I have a question for the blogging ethical world: Is it ok for me to write about Chile?

I have always held the position on my blog that I will not write about any wine or region that is a current client of mine. I would like this blog to be a collection of my thoughts about the wine world and the wines I have tasted and I want to avoid all semblance of partisanship towards any particular region. I feel that if I work for the region or the winery it could be seen as promotion rather than discussion if I were to post an article reviewing them.

But here I come into a dilemma that I am unsure how to proceed through. There are wineries in Chile that I think are making amazing wines that people should hear about. I also am well aware of wineries that I believe are not making superior products. In the future, if I were to write about the wineries that I think deserve to be highlighted, would you (my readers) consider me to be a credible source?

I would love to hear what you have to say. Please leave a comment below.

And keep an eye out for my announcement regarding my new position!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

TasteCamp – Bedell Cellars and Lenz Winery

We last left our story at the end of the visit to Shinn Estates, where I had a great time meeting and listening to winemakers that were so in tune with the earth that they might have been able to tell me the exact moment the next pandemic would be (too soon?).

Off we went to Bedell Cellars, where we were met be Kip Bedell. Kip was at one time the owner of Bedell Cellars, but sold the winery to Michael Lynne, former Co-Chairman and Co-CEO of New Line Cinema (think Lord of the Rings). After the deal, Lynne asked Kip if he would stay on as part of the winemaking team for Bedell, in order to keep the wines as consistent as they had always been.

The cheese spread that greeted us was wonderful, with delicious bree, tasty blue cheese, and briny olives. As if we needed more to eat. The food plays a part a little later in the story…

The artwork for the wine labels caught my eye immediately. I collect labels (or at least I would if I would get around to peeling them off the bottles that are lying around my apartment) and these labels would be well worth putting into my collection. Unfortunately, most of the wines did not jive on my palate the same way the labels did with my visual spectrum. The best, in my opinion, was the Gewurztraminer 2007 from Corey Creek (a separate label under Bedell). It was classic lychee with rose pedals and a rich peach taste.

One note I want to make that I am rather sorry about is the Cabernet Franc 2007 from Bedell. I was told that it was very tasty, however I had chosen that exact moment to try the blue cheese. Worse decision ever, and one that I am sorry to say absolutely ruined the wine. Oh well, I’ll have to go back and taste it again.

Moving on from Bedell we went to what was another one of my favorite visits during the weekend. Lenz Winery was just a skip down the road from Bedell, and if the whole group of us that attended this trip were to skip down the road, it would be quite a sight to see.

Meeting Eric Fry, the winemaker at Lenz, was a singular experience. His mastery of his domain was unquestioned. Most important to him was that we taste without predisposition, taking away all marketing manipulation and influence and just focused on the wines. We saw no labels while we were there and we had no idea what we were tasting until we had given him our feedback. And all of the wines were delicious, even the dozen we tasted out of barrel. For me, this was one of the two wineries that had consistently good wines.

We started in the tasting room with the Cuvée Sparkling wine from 2002. It was all peaches and pears, with a little bit of honey. It was one of the few finished wines we tasted. We then moved outside to the equipment shed, where the steel tanks were set up. We first tasted a Gewurztraminer 2008, which was extremely refreshing, although not ready for bottling yet. Eric then brought out the 2005 version to show us where the wine was going and what he had planned for it. The 05 was peppery, with classic lychee and apricot.

The next wine that came out was white, with bright acidity and some beautiful floral notes. I could have sworn it was a Chardonnay or a bit of a fat Sauvignon Blanc. It turned out to be Pinot Noir and I felt like a moron. I could tell that Eric was pleased that he had tricked us. No manipulation indeed!

We then went through white after white, sipping, spitting into a drain (or in my case threatening to spit at Dale Cruse, one of the many photographers on the trip). Then we moved into the first barrel storage house where we tasted reds and had to be slightly more accurate with our spitting technique as our spittoon was a large bucket put into the middle of the group. We then moved to the second storage warehouse, where Eric kept his wines until they were ready for release. He said that since Americans had no concept of what it was to age a wine and that a bottle was lucky to be in a person’s possession long enough to make it from the store to their dinner table, it was his job as the winemaker to appropriately age the wines before releasing them. I can only agree with his assessment. Every aged wine that he brought out for us was delicious, and I applaud not only Eric but also the owner of the winery who has the money and the patience to keep wines back without pushing them onto the market simply to keep costs down and turn a faster profit.

Eric’s market sense and image for his wines absolutely propels his wines to the top of the Long Island wine industry. I personally picked up a bottle of his Old Vine Cabernet Sauvignon 2002 and I am looking forward to drinking it. Although perhaps I will let it age a little longer…

And the story continues ...

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wine Blogging Wednesday - Missed this one

So this month's edition of Wine Blogging Wednesday has come around and I completely missed the boat. There have been so many things going on in my life that I just could not get my act together.

May the blogger Gods forgive me.

I am sure there are many people who have posted today about their California Inspiration. I would suggest you check around the blogosphere and read about it.

For details on what this month's WBW is you can check it out here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

TasteCamp - Shinn Estates

Something wonderful happens to a person when they make the commitment to live and act in a way that best suits the environment. I noticed this phenomenon when I was in Chile last August at a seminar on organics. There was such camaraderie apparent among the winemakers. I thought that it was just a function of having the man that created the organic/biodynamic movement in Chile in the room with us, but perhaps it goes deeper than that. I wish I had been able to take the opportunity to meet Nicolas Jolie when he was in New York.

When we arrived at the Shinn Estates Vineyards the sky was grey and dark and it had been raining. We were greeted with a fantastic lunch spread, duck, fresh spring greens, and so much more. When I went up to get some food, Barbara Shinn, one of the proprietors at Shinn estates, and I chatted for a short time. When I mentioned the weather she looked outside and said that the sun would be out at 2:00 that afternoon. Whether she had a sixth sense about the weather or had simply looked at a weather report right before we arrived, I am not sure. However, the effect was very impressive.

The food was delicious and the wines that we tasted were equally impressive. My favorite wines from the lunch were the Shinn Sauvignon Blanc 2008, the Macari Rosé 2008, and a barrel sample of the Cabernet Franc 2007. The Cab Franc was awesome; I was almost upset that it was not a finished wine that I could buy there and then.

We then listened to the winemakers talk about their wines and their vineyard practices. All of the winemakers were very well versed in their own practices as well as their neighbors. It was as if everyone was looking for the right way to make wine as naturally as possible and were willing to share their experiments with the world. It was so refreshing to listen to.

In the midst of talking about their growing practices, Barbara Shinn passed around a small planters pot. In the pot was a hunk of poop. Barbara said, “Most people think that wine comes from the grapes or the land. Great wine comes from a horse’s ass.” Probably the most quoted moment among the bloggers of the entire weekend.

After tasting and lunch we went out to look at the vines. This was classic wine country visit procedure, and I am glad we got a chance to do it. The vines were just ending their bud break cycle and had begun to sprout the shoots that will eventually become the vines the grapes hang from. The plot of vines was beautiful, with thousands of dandelions and billions of clovers.

After that we went into the barrel room of the winery and found ourselves faced with another wave of wine, with representatives from most of the other wineries that we were not going to be able to visit waiting for us with a few of their wines. While there I was able to taste Borghese, Bouké, Harbes, Lieb Cellars, The Old Field, Palmer, and Sparkling Point.

Of those I enjoyed:

Harbes Merlot Rosé 2008
Harbes Old Barn Merlot 2005
Lieb Cellars Pinot Blanc 2007
The Old Field Blanc de Noir 04
Sparkling Point Brut Seduction 2000 (although I might have been influenced by the VERY attractive pourer)

On our way out, the sun was shining, I had the Harbes Rosé still in my mind (second rose I have liked this trip!) and a delicious chocolate brownie in my hand. This was a great visit.

And the story continues…

Monday, May 11, 2009

Taste Camp – Roanoke Vineyards and Paumonok Vineyards

It has been a week since TasteCamp and I need to make sure I get everything down before I forget it all.

The Roanoke Vineyards were the first stop we made on a hectic Saturday of wine tasting. We got there at 10:00 in the morning, the perfect time to start tasting red wines.

We tasted their Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc as well as a few blends. To be honest, none of these wines really excited me, although I enjoyed the Cabernet Franc. I thought that this wine had some nice jammy qualities, with ripe strawberries and a little spicy white pepper.

Richard (Richie) Pisacano, our guide for the tasting, was great to listen to. He was a farmer, through and through, with a great sense of familiarity about the land around him. One of the blends that they made was named Marco Tulio, named after Richie's father-in-law, which I guess was better than calling it Blend 3. While we were there, Richie told us that there was one block of Cabernet Franc vines that were cared for by his father Gabby. Gabby's grapes were grown in a very traditional way and were compared to the other vines that had more modern technology overseeing the produce. Evidently Gabby's Cabernet Franc was one of the most flavorful wines at the winery, although we did not get to taste it.

From there we went on to Paumanok Vineyards, just up the road and across the width of the fork to the other highway (there are only two). This winery was also family owned and operated, with the son of the winemaker working as the vineyard manager, and the winemaker’s wife keeping everyone in line.

We tasted some Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and some Petit Verdot. The Chenin Blanc was not my style, but pleasantly fruity all the same. The other whites did not tickle my fancy. On the other hand, the White Label Merlot 2005 was absolutely delicious. It was classic merlot, with great deep red berries and structure.

We then did some barrel tasting. It is always fun to see what is still in the barrel and to see what the winemaker is thinking about doing with the wines before they put them into the bottle. However, morning barrel tastings of Petit Verdot can be a bit much.

We then went back up to taste through the Paumanok Rieslings. The one that stuck out to me was the Late Harvest Riesling. Only 70 cases of 375 mL bottles were made. It was very nice, rich and balanced with a little petrol and apricot.

TasteCamp East 2009 - to be continued...

Always a bad thing to be the one holding the spittoon...

I have spent years mastering how to completely ruin a good photo...

Friday, May 8, 2009

Want to win $1,000 for drinking a wine?

That’s right, $1k for popping a cork and guzzling the juice inside. That is what is being offered at Pinotblogger. The catch is that you have to then blog about the wine. Sound easy? Then step up to the plate!

In writing the post you need to complete the following critera:

1. Why are you passionate about wine, and what motivates you to blog about it?

2. Choose any wine, from any area or appellation and use your analysis of it as a springboard to answer the following question:

Is it appropriate for a wine reviewer to prescribe the ways in which a wine should be made, or is their job chiefly to review what’s in the bottle? Use examples from the wine you choose to illustrate your position.

Once you write your post link it to the Pinotblogger’s post or e-mail him at Josh (at)

Entries are due by May 23rd.

Last catch, half of the price money must be used towards your further education in the wine world. Read Josh’s blog post for all of the details.

I am excited to write my post. Will you?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

VinTank Publishes Social Media Report

I have not even begun to read it yet, but I will soon and will likely have an opinion and a review for the report. I am very interested to see not only what the report says, but how it is used. I think that this report has implications on how wineries, wine regions, and their representatives will interact with the wine blogging community.

I have already made my stance well-known on the subject and am anxious (well, at least interested) to see if my own views match up to the results of the report and if my approach to wine bloggers is validated.

To find the report check here.

If you have any initial thoughts I would love to hear them.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Walking into the Tsunami - TasteCamp East 2009 Day One

Continuing on with my notes on TasteCamp East 2009…

I already wrote about how geeky this past weekend was. Gloriously geeky. Yesterday, Erika and I were chatting (tweeting?) and she mentioned that everyone was writing about the “whirlwind” of a weekend we just had. I had a better name for it.


The ebb of the tide started as we piled into vans to go to Raphael Winery. There was the naturally awkward moment of being in an enclosed space with people you do not really know, where you feel like you have to make conversation. Luckily enough, I consider myself to be a reasonably good talker in awkward situations. It also helped that the damn van driver did not shut up from the moment we entered the van until the moment we paid the fare. Driving for a taxi service in Long Island wine country must be lonely in the off-season, without the weekend warriors.

The wave really began to crest as we stood around the bar, talking, doing some light warm-up tasting with the Raphael Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé. There were plenty of people to meet, lots of schmoozing to do.

Then we really got into the mess. The Long Island Merlot Alliance had set up a walk around tasting of Merlot from five wineries: Clovis Point, Pelligrini Vineyards, Raphael, Sherwood House Vineyards, and Wölffer Estate Vineyards. Their stated goal is “the members of the Long Island Merlot Alliance believe that this place (Long Island) is one of the few in the world that provides the best opportunity for growing and producing great wines substantially comprised of the Merlot grape.” These guys really believed in their Merlot. I cannot blame their passion.

However, overall I could not say that I really believed in their Merlot the way they do. For my tastes the majority of the Merlot was astringent with fruit that dried up before any finish. When I stuck my nose in a few of the wines they reminded me of canned lima beans. Not something I really wanted to find in a Merlot or any wine.

That being said, I tasted some delicious Merlots. My favorites were the Pellegrini Vineyards Merlot 1997 and the Clovis Point Vintner’s Select Merlot 2004.

In addition, the Long Island Merlot Alliance members yearly pool two barrels of their wines to create Merlliance (mer – LEE – ans). I found these wines to be tasty! My favorite was the 2006, with a smoky nose with bright cherry and a taste that was smooth and balanced. I also liked the 2005 and the 2004.

After the tasting we sat down for a fantastic dinner, my compliments to Raphael Winery and their Chef.

And the story of the Tsunami continues…

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Absolutely and totally GEEKED OUT

This past weekend Leah and I went out to Long Island to participate in TasteCamp East 2009, organized by Lenn Thompson of LENNDEVOURS. It was a weekend specifically for bloggers to have a place for us east coasters to meet up as well as learn more about Long Island wines.

You know those kids that played D&D, that turned into teenagers that played magic cards, that then went back to playing D&D in college because it felt retro, who have now found D&D clubs in the towns where they now live?

Yeah, it was kinda like that. But… not as creepy.

Everyone was great, really friendly with a passion for wine. From the moment I arrived I knew that it was going to be a great weekend. Everyone wanted to learn about each other, what everyone does in real life. Some (like me) were part of the gears that keep the wine industry moving. There were a few retailers, a few PR people, and an importer who all let their professional lives spill over onto the Internet. The rest had strong tech backgrounds, from insurance through database management and on to information technology.

And by God, did everyone love to drink.

The knowledge level of everyone there was very good. It was obvious that everyone had a palate that they were comfortable with and were willing to express their own opinions and insights on the wines without making anyone who was not as knowledgeable (like Leah) feel like they were not up to the group’s standards. There was also a great camaraderie. I am not sure if some of that stemmed from the recent hoopla at DrVino, but there was an immediate comfortable atmosphere the moment we walked into the first winery for dinner. Perhaps it was the Sauvignon Blanc that awaited us. More on that to come.

One thing that was a little over the top was all the twitter that happened. People twittered (Twit? Tweeted? Twat?) all the time, during meals, during tastings, during the car ride between one winery and the next, tweeting, twittering, twating, twhatever. Too much twitter where there were other things going on. I certainly cannot blame people for writing blog posts during the weekend, but I have no idea when people had the time.

This was a marathon tasting weekend and I am very much looking forward to finding out who thought what about each winery we visited. There certainly were not as many wines as some of the tastings I have held for critics, for which I am very thankful, but there was more than enough wines for us all to geek out about.

Throughout the next two weeks I am going to be posting reviews of the weekend. I have so many tasting notes that there is no way I will be able to get them all together for another day or two. Stay tuned for more.

A huge thank you for Lenn Thompson who helped organize the weekend, Melissa Dobson who helped organize a taxi service for the even portions of the trip, and all of the wineries and winemakers that hosted us throughout the weekend.

If you would like to check out all of the bloggers that I hung out with, here is the list:

Becky -
Bryan -
Dale -
Debbie -
Diane -
Erika -
Joe -
John -
Lenn -
Lyle -
Melissa -
Michelle -
Nick -
Remy -
Rich -
Robbin -
Tom -

And Leah put up a post too!
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