Day 1 of the 1st annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference started with a whirlwind of activities.Â I caught a ride to the conference with the very gracious founders of WineQ, Marshall (Twitter) and Brittany (Twitter).Â We arrived right on time at the conference hotel and center of activities, the Hotel Flamingo in Santa Rosa and made our way in a roundabout fashion to Registration.Â It was a very surreal and invigorating walk to say the least…just in the 100 yards it took to reach the registration room, I handed out 5 or 6 WineLog.net biz cards, three of those contacts being people that I had met through Twitter or their blog…whew!
Brittany, Marshall, myself and now 1WineDude himself, Joe Roberts (Twitter) all made our way through the sponsor tables, some of which I’ve already spoken of such as Cruvee and TetraPak, where I met Paul Carnazola of Trinchero Family Estates who own Three Thieves Wine, of which I have a soft spot…more on that in a later post! We then headed to the first activity of the day, the Kick Ranch Vineyard tasting and lunch at the vineyard itself.Â It was a beautiful affair, hosted by owner Dick Keenan, but one that left me wistful as we didn’t have *nearly* enough time to try all of the wines.Â This will also be covered in a future post, including an interview with Dick, himself.Â We then caught one of the last hay rides back to the car to prepare for the Live Wine Blogging portion of the conference.
The blur of the Live Wine blogging event was completed after I madly tried to touch up my hastily typed post that covered all of the wines we tried at Table 6.Â I briefly competed in the Blind Tasting Challenge (and got crushed by round 2), but I knew that I had no chance to go sip-to-sip with the more accomplished tasters attending the conference.Â The eventual winner was Doug (Twitter) of the innovative wine knowledge search site AbleGrape and with whom I had a great conversation during the tasty Sebastiani dinner in their Oak Room the following night.Â I decided to head to the first unofficial or “Anti-Conference” event of the weekend, the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley tasting held in in one of the suites that led to the central pool area of the hotel.
I quickly discovered one thing at the Dry Creek tasting that would serve as a warning to the rest of the weekend…that I’d be tasting a lot less wines than I normally would at a tasting featuring 10’s or hundreds of wines.Â I was just too busy mingling and meeting all of the great bloggers, winemakers and wine industry personnel that were at the various conference sessions!Â It was at this first self-paced tasting that I learned that lesson and I made the decision to focus on only a few wineries or winemakers at each tasting, if possible.Â I’m always more interested in learning about wine in a “depth,” as opposed to a “breadth” fashion…just take a look at any one of my posts.Â I love to learn the back story of wine and I think that is where the most interesting and lasting relationships occur in this vinous passion, whether they be with those that are involved in making the wine, or merely those few wineries that make such a singular product that you are compelled to share and drink their artistry at every special occasion in your life, year after year.Â There are thousands of very talented producers out there, but only a few will actually touch you, personally, with their wines AND their passion.
Some of the people that I met while cruising my way through some of the more interesting wines available from Dry Creek were Leslie Bramwell-Smith, the Director of Marketing for the WDCV association.Â She was kind of enough to introduce me to Nancy Bailey, the General Manager at Quivira Vineyards.Â Â Nancy and I had a wonderful conversation about the biodynamic practices that have been implemented at the winery and in the vineyard.Â After being certified biodynamic by Demeter in 2005, winemaker Steven Canter and the rest of the staff are taking those practices and ideals to the next level and beginning to restore much of the native habitats on the property, including the namesake waterway of one of their finest vineyards, Wine Creek Ranch.Â Of course, much of this work canâ€™t be done in isolation and thus Quivira is also reaching out to their bordering neighbors as well as others in the decidedly organic and biodynamic appellation of Dry Creek Valley (more on that later).Â It was this inspiring conversation that led me to take the Dry Creek Valley 2 Vineyard hike and tour at Quivira the next morning.
I also (literally) bumped into the General Manager and all-around good guy at Truett-Hurst Vineyards & Winery, Jim Morris.Â I caught a foot in the carpet and was basically forced to say hello, but serendipity is key at these events and it proved to be a very enlightening conversation. Jim and I proceeded to discuss how they started their winery and how theyâ€™re currently working much along the same lines as Quivira and starting their own biodynamic, land restoration adventure.Â He was also very keen to learn how to take advantage of the social wine media realm and interested in experimenting with different forms of outreach and direct interactions with the wine-drinking public.Â I said that he was off to a very good start!Â He had a great Zin at the WDCV tasting and I found it to be one of the best Zinâ€™s that I tasted the entire weekend.
I finally cruised over to the official tasting of the evening, the New Zealand Wine tasting, after bidding farewell to Jim.Â Unfortunately, I reached the NZ tasting with only 30 minutes to spare and true to form, I met even more people F2F!Â I was only able to taste 3 wines with any sense of time for assessment.Â I started off with the only kiwi bubbly that Iâ€™ve ever seen which was a mistake, unfortunately.Â It tasted and felt incredibly harsh and disjointed with a strange cherry candy aromas and flavors.Â It was not my thing.Â I hit success with my next choice, a fine, solid Pinot from Prophet’s Rock.Â Â It was during this tasting that I met the intriguing mind behind Vintwined, Erin McGrath (Twitter).Â She was later to direct me to one of the finest wines of the Grand Sonoma tasting the following day.
The last official event of the night was dinner in the largest ballroom at the hotel, with a number of speakers from the Dry Creek appellation (including a very entertaining speech by Canter whereby he declared that the “new revolution has begun…and its name is GRENACHE!), as well as a keynote speech by WineLibrary.tv persona, Gary Vaynerchuck. While I don’t watch WineLibrary.tv too much due to time considerations and the fact that his delivery can be too much for me, I do respect him for the explosive wine persona and following that he has built over the last two years.Â His speech, really more of a down to Earth Q&A, was very stimulating, sincere and interesting.Â I respected him even more after his talk, especially after a sequence whereby he professed that to succeed and succeed quickly in this social media wine business, you must basically sacrifice a lot of sleep, jokingly chastising Jim of Truett-Hurst for his “5-6 hours” of unnecessary sleep!
Following the dinner, I headed out on a somewhat raucaus ride with Pinotblogger and Capozzi Winery winemaker/owner Josh Hermsmeyer (Twitter) out to his gorgeous pad set in his vineyards for a true pan-US wine tasting, featuring blogger favorite wines from around the US.Â It was a phenomenal end to our first day at the conference!
Please see all of my reviews of the wines I tasted on this first day, listed below.Â If you would like to list all of them in your own WineLog, they are tagged with the one listed above that particular tasting and all of the WBC wines I tried are tagged with “WBC2008NA“.Â If you were also at the conference, leave a comment…I’d love to hear about your experience.Â Enjoy!
Wines tasted at the Winegrowers of Dry Creek Valley tasting, “WBC2008NA-DCV“:
Wines tasted at the New Zealand Wines tasting, “WBC2008NA-NZW“:
Wines that we had during dinner on Friday night, “WBC2008NA-FriDinner“:
Kumeu River Kumeu Estate Chardonnay 2006
Owen Roe Columbia Valley Rosa Mystica Cabernet Franc 2005
Alain Graillot Zenata Syrocco Syrah 2005
Kinkead Ridge Ohio River Valley Viognier/Roussane 2006
Kinkead Ridge Ohio River Valley Estate Cabernet Franc 2006