WBC09: Live Wine Blogging!

It’s baaaaackkkkk!  Today on this first day at the 2nd Annual Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Santa Rosa, we’re revisiting one of the most popular events…live wine blogging or speed-dating for lushes!  20 wineries/wines/winemakers, 6 minutes, 20+ tables of thirsty wine bloggers…GO!!

’08 Fisheye California Pinot Grigio $7

(Premium 3L cask box as well $15)

C: Lightest yellow

N: Lighter lemon and tropical fruits on the nose, very bright

P: Offdry, with a fuller mouth from that RS, but god yellow apple and pineapple, particularly in the finish.  Good quaffer for spicy fish or Thai.

NV Pinot Evil Vin de Pays de l’ìle de Beaute Pinot Noir

3L, $20

C: Medium Ruby

N: Very candied, almost artificial sweet cherry scents, whoa.  Not my thing.

P: Very plasticy candied cherry and blueberry.  Not my thing.

’07 Cupcake Vineyard Central Coast Cabernet Sauvignon

Adam Richardson, Winemaker

C: dark ruby

N: Good plush black cherry with some earthiness underneath and cassis

P: Also good cherry here, but more juicy Bing cherry with a round tannin and easy good finish.

‘o5 Snows Lake Vineyard Red Hills Two

72% Cab Sauv, 28% Cab Franc, $45

C: Very dark, almost inky garnet

N: Very good here, with dusty red fruit of cherry and juicy raspberry, then also some mint, new leather and cardamon, quite good.

P: Full, very nicely balanced, with wonderful red/black fruit, some slight fresh earth and that good leather starting to come through in the finish.  Quite good, great round tannin and good acid.  Best so far!

’07 Line 39 Lake County Petite Sirah

$10, all wines from portfolio are $10, at BevMo 5c sale right now!

C:  Inky violet, violet edges

N: Good blue fruit here, also with some black underneath with a slight bramble and some lighter saddle soap

P: Good coating mouthfeel here, with more chalky feel on the backend, that same great blue and black fruit is here as well, with more of a black cherry finish.  Very good value and QPR!

’07 Cline Contra Costa County Ancient Vines Mourvèdre

25% new oak, $16, recipe from The Girl & The Fig on the peel-out back label!

C: Medium dark ruby

N: Some sulfur here, but blows off.  Then good black fruit, very dark, with some more savory herbs.

P: Coating, mouthfeel here too, with great pepper and some blue, almost more cobbler type finish that goes for quite some time and finishes with good acidity.  Nice.

’07 Tandem Medocino Ridge Manchester Ridge Vineyard Chardonnay

Winemaker/owner Greg La Follette from Flowers, etc

C: Medium golden yellow

N: Huge bouquet here of great lemon bar, great florals here as well, great tropical fruit of melon, pineapple and kiwi. Great.

P: Creamy, yet crisp mouthfeel here, showing a very tight balance between having an ML-driven, barrel-fermented styled Chard, yet still with great acid that makes this have tremendous complexity.  Good tropical fruit here with tons of pear and yellow apple.  Outstanding, long finish with a lemon twist.  Best white so far!

’07 Foggy Ridge San Francisco Bay Chardonnay

Farmed organic, certified, hopefully next year, 100% barrel-fermented, glass stopper instead of cork. $18

C: lighter yellow

N: Kiwi, melon here, with a bit of a sweeter cream, underneath

P: Big juicy pear here, with good acid, but creaminess is driving a bit more of the balance right now, finishing more of a yellow apple.

’06 Clif Family Napa Valley Gary’s Improv Syrah

300 cs, Sarah Gott winemaker, $35,

C: Inky violet

N: Blue/black fruit with some charr and rosemary here, as well as some flint, interestingly. More austere style.

P: Very cool black fruit here, continuing with some of that char here as well, followed by great fresh garden herbs of that rosemary and others and very long black fruited finish with some charred earth, continuing to be austere yet balanced here too.  Good!

’07 Benovia Anderson Valley Savoy Vineyard Pinot Noir

$55, second vintage

C: Medium ruby

N: Outstanding nose here, of bright red fruit, but then a deep underlay of good fresh earth, a little bit of spice and mushroom quality

P: Fuller mouth than expected with a sweeter quality to the plush plush red and blue fruit, with that same good earth, but the fruit is sweeter than I like.

’07 El Molino High School Lions Pride Pinot Noir

Only HS in the world with a winery permit, in Forestville, 1ac planted by RRVW and guest winemakers come in such as Merry Edwards, Lee Martinelli, Bob Cabral WHOA! 100% of the proceeds go back to the HS. 100 cs. $35, obviously SingleVineyard.

C: light ruby, slightly cloudy

N: Good earthy red fruit here, with plenty of dust and good complexity.

P: Good tarter cherry and dusty, slightly sweeter rhubarb here as well, followed by baking spice.  Good.

’05 Rodney Strong Alexander Valley Rockaway Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

Allocation, $75, almost all gone, David Ramey

C: Very dark, inky garnet, dark ruby edges

N: Good menthol here and garden herbs of tarragon and black fruit, but the fruit here seems a bit overripe or even stewed on top.

P: Great mouthfeel, solid tannins, but while the menthol is here too, the stewed fruit comes out even stronger here.  Unfortunate.


C: Same inkiness

N: Much better chalky, dusty black and blue fruit here now, with that same menthol and tarragon.

P: Same good mouthfeel, but much darker more very ripe, but not overripe fruit with great balance of acid, big, round tannin.  Good.

WBC09: It's here! Well, the Twisted Pre-Party, Anyway!

WBC09 DesktopThe 2nd Annual North American Wine Bloggers’ Conference is almost here, starting tomorrow!  It is again at the Flamingo in Santa Rosa, CA, deep in the Sonoma Valley.  Last year’s inaugural conference exploded the reach and understanding of wine bloggers, wine & social media and their effect on the wine biz.  It also had a profound effect on myself and my own understanding of social media, blogs and wine.  Starting things off, however is a pre-party at Twisted Oak and downtown Murphy’s, courtesy of that crazy vinoman, El Jefe, Jeff Stai (Twitter)!

Twisted Oak WineryWe’re going to be touring the Twisted campus, tasting plenty of their wines as well as touring the main wine drag in Murphys, hitting many different winery tasting rooms that are plentiful.  That’s followed by a BBQ at Twisted Oak Tasting Room and a secret blending session to finish out the night.  Woot!

Look for plenty of crazy posting over the next four days, minimal editing as I’ll be posting on the fly, live and lots of really great wine adventures.  Enjoy!

5 Questions with Jake Lorenzo

Cold Surveillance by Jake LorenzoI solved a wine mystery recently, one that had been bothering me for years.  Around the time that The Lady and I bought our home in the Bay Area, I was allowed able to buy a decent wine fridge, my Danby 75/100 bottle.  Just as I was headed out the door from Wine Hardware with my affordable new wine storage, I spotted an interesting book on their shelves entitled, Cold Surveillance.  It was interesting not that it was a set of wine memoir columns (right up my alley), but that it was written by a Wine Country private eye…¿que?  I turned back to the counter and added the book to day’s purchases!

Further Suveillance by Jake LorenzoAfter safely storing my wine, I dived right into the book.  It was fantastic.  Great, seedy storytelling about the dark side of wine country folk, along with some crazy adventures with now-infamous sidekicks and good wine knowledge to mortar in the plotlines.  I finished the book pretty rapidly and then promptly lent it out to a good vinopanion of mine…and then he lost it and I lost the name of both the author and the book!!

Wine Business Monthly, 08/15/08Fast-forward 5+ years later and I’m lying in bed on a Sunday, reading through one of the only wine print mags that I enjoy, Wine Business Monthly.  Appropriately for this time of year, I had picked the issue up after registering at the inaugural Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Santa Rosa (WBC09 drops next week, woot!!).  The last page featured a column that read with that same jaded, cynical view of a man who could only be a P.I. in the breadbasket of wine in Sonoma…yep, it was Jake Lorenzo!  As it turns out, Jake has been writing a column for WBM for the last few years and I was thrilled to finally rediscover one of my favorite wine writers.  I went online and purchased his first two books and re-read all of my favorite adventures of his, including “Freeway Painting” and the now infamous NVWT highjacking with Richard Branson aboard!

And with that, let’s move on to 5 Questions with the great Jake Lorenzo, head of Wine Patrol and defender of good, unpretentious Sonoma wine, burritos and creative mischief.  If you would like to purchase any of Jake’s books or videos, visit the Wine Patrol Press store and stock up!

Jake Lorenzo1. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’ve been fighting bad wine and greedy vermin for a number of years now.  What keeps a veteran private eye and wine writer going after a long, tough career?

Jake Lorenzo: Wine at lunch and dinner and late night tequila does wonders for my disposition.

2. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): When was the first time that it hit you..that wine was something important and should be a major (and better) part of your life rather than just chasing down scum?

Jake Lorenzo: It wasn’t so much discovering that wine was something important, it was more that wine was just part of my life. I no longer make a big deal about it. It’s just something that is always around like salt and pepper, except that wine gets you high. Given the stress and information overload of today’s daily grind, I find a little wine each day is good for my soul.

Wine Patrol3. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’ve had a number of crazy adventures in and around Sonoma over the years, alongside Chuy, Paraquat and various other wine compadres.  My favorite happens to be the “Freeway Painting.”  What are some your favorite escapades?

Jake Lorenzo: Hijacking the Napa Wine Train is the most famous thing we’ve done. We kidnapped Richard Branson and two busloads of European writers and took them to a Sonoma winery to cleanse their souls after they had been poisoned by spending a whole day in Napa. Anytime I’m in New Orleans is cause for celebration, and our most recent invention/sport is window diving. We run into the street in front of the Swiss Hotel Bar and dive in through open passenger side windows and introduce ourselves. Window diving requires at least 3 hours of heavy drinking before the first leap.

Become a Wine Pal Deputy!4. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You’re a fervent supporter of the smaller producer, the family producer and Sonoma producers, in general.  Do you have any producers out of state that taste great after a long night stalking some unsavory character?

Jake Lorenzo: There is great wine to be had from all over the world. Argentina has Altocedro Malbec and Tempus Alba Preludio Malbec. I’m really enjoying the 2007 Côtes du Rhône. Washington and Oregon have great wines. I’ve had decent Riesling from Michigan and passable red wine from New York. The key, given my current financial situation is that the wine be less than $15 per bottle.

5. Ward/WineLog (Twitter): You currently write a column for one of the few wine print mags that I actually enjoy, Wine Business Monthly.  Do you have any other books, writings or private eye gigs in the works?

Jake Lorenzo: My biggest success has been The Tequila Lover’s Guide to Mexico and Mezcal. After more than two years of being out of print I hope to have more copies available by August 1. Jake Lorenzo has Cold Surveillance and Further Surveillance available now. I hope to have a new collection called Continued Surveillance out by October.

Santa Lucia Highlands "Highlands' Fling!"

Santa Lucia Highlands "Highlands' Fling Gala"A few weeks back, I was treated to an enlightening appellation-specific tasting of Santa Lucia Highlands wines courtesy of the host, Hahn Family WinesSanta Lucia Highlands sit on the southeast facing slopes of the Santa Lucia mountain range, on one side of the plentiful Salinas Valley. I made the somewhat significant trek down there with my trusty vinopanions, the Brix ChicksLiza (Twitter) and Xandria (Twitter).  I hadn’t been down in the area since I was but a wee lad, noshing with me folks, so it was a treat to see the Valley again.  It was in all of its late Spring splendor and we enjoyed taking in the bountiful scents of the fruits and vegetables growing near the highway.

Santa Lucia Highlands Wine ArtisansWhile grapes were grown here as far back as the 18th century by the incoming Spanish missionaries, the appellation began to take a more formal shape with the vineyard plantings in the 70’s.  These were led by Nicky Hahn of Smith & Hook and now also Hahn Family Wines, Paraiso, Estancia and the McFarland family with their Sleepy Hollow Vineyard.  The appellation is characterized by these sloping vineyards with varying elevation, good draining sandy loam soils and good early morning sunlight with a very significant maritime influence in the form of maritime fog and breezes.  All of these culminate in warm days and cool nights, allowing for the the fruit to take its time to reach full maturity, yet cooling off well enough at night to maintain food-friendly acidity…what does this sound like to you? Yep…Pinot & Chard!

The SLH appellation has been growing in notoriety as a Pinot-haven for most of the last decade.   Indeed, soon after being drawn up by Nicky Hahn and then approved as an appellation in 1995, the area exploded in popularity for its Burgundian varietals.  It was the year 1997, and Wine Spectator‘s Per-Henrik Mansson gave an extremely elite 100 point rating to the 1990 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay during a back-vintage tasting.  Now there are a number of famous vineyards that also include Garys’, Rosella’s, Pisoni and Mer Soleil (Caymus).  The SLHWA has an outstanding website that contains much of this information in many great, interactive settings including the map shown below…its’ a must-see and a good model for other appellations.

Santa Lucia Highlands Vineyards

From the moment that we pulled into the Hahn Estates front entrance, I knew that the Hahn and the SLHWA knew what they were doing.  We had multiple ushers guide us up the long driveway to an open parking space.  As soon as we got out, the final usher was very friendly and pointed us to where we would need to check in to the event.  Hahn Family WinesThe friendly ladies handling the guest list were also quite friendly and obviously happy to be helping out for the day.  The tasting event handbook while nicely small and not too much to hang onto all day, was packed full of very useful information and much more than I’ve ever seen at *any* wine event that I’ve attended.  The informative AVA map covered a full page and pointed out all of the member vineyards.  All and I mean *all* of the event’s wines were not only listed, but also gave their vintage and price, quite handy when you’re trying to rapidly type in as many tasting notes into your Centro as I usually am wont to do…no need to write out the whole name of the wine!  Lastly, all of the members of the appellation were also listed, with a good opening letter by the Board President, Dan Lee.  This was definitely the most organized larger tasting that I’ve ever attended.

Wrath WinesAfter all of that, it was finally time to try some wines!  I started out right near the entrance, with a very new wine label, Wrath Wines.  Coincidentally, this particular wine was tied for my favorite of the day.  The label was started a couple years back by the Thomas family, who purchased the venerable San Saba Vineyard in 2007.  With Brian Overhauser the accomplished house chef pouring that day from a decanter, the wine was doing phenomenal, despite being so young.  The ’07 Wrath SLH Doctor’s Syrah was quite good, showing the potential of the appellation for more good cool-climate Syrah to come out of this area.  It featured spicy blue fruit with cracked black pepper in the nose, followed by already silky tannins, good blue/black fruit in the mid-palate and a charred blue fruited finish.  This was right up my alley!

The SLH Tasting Tent, with The Brix Chicks!I continued to make my way around the busy tent during this hottest part of the day.  I swung by the Paraiso table to taste through their entire collection of wines, where we had stopped on the way to get directions from the helpful tasting room gal.  I found the ’05 Eagle’s Perch Chard to be quite good, along with their ’07 SLH appellation Estate Pinot, but the others were bigger and more powerfully styled Pinots than I prefer.  Two weeks later we would be back down in this area, however and I enjoyed a number of their other wines (to be continued…).

Lucienne Santa Lucia Highlands Lone Oak Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007I reconnected briefly with Liza and Xandria right around the time that I found the two Hahn tables, one for Hahn Estates SLH wines and one for their high end Lucienne wines.  I had the wonderful chance to taste the ’06 Lucienne Pinots at the 1st Bloggers’ Forum at Hahn earlier in the year and I was pretty excited to try the ’07s, that were yet to be released.  Both were also doing nicely, though definitely in a young stage, with still integrating, toasty oak.  The tannins and mouthfeel were just as silky, with the depth of fruit that I have now come to expect from this label.  Quite good!

Nicky Hahn & Bill LeigonHere at the Lucienne table I was delighted to find a number of great Hahn folk, including Nicky Hahn, himself!  I had a chance to chat a little with him as he poured me some of his wine and also reconnect with Bill Leigon (Twitter), President of Hahn Family Wines.  I also met the newest member, Philip Woodrow (Twitter), the new Director of Marketing Communications.

Richard Alfaro of Martin Alfaro WinesI decided to mosey along a little more after finishing up with the Hahn peeps.  Near their area was the Martin Alfaro table, where Richard Alfaro was pouring through an outstanding lineup of Pinots.  I liked them all, for their medium-body, great acid and tannic structure and bright red fruit and earthiness.  Good stuff, the whole lot and quite an eye-opener as to this long-standing family producer’s quality.

The Salinas Valley from SLHI began to walk here and there, hitting a single wine at each table as I tried to continue to get a good feel for what this appellation can offer.  I had two great Chardonnays from Mer Soleil, the famous SLH single varietal producer, owned by Caymus.  The Silver was unoaked and just a racy, minerally, citrusy fruited wonder, while the barrel fermented Estate Chard showed juicy tropical fruit and more creamy undertones, but still retained a good edge of acid.

Highlands' Bagpipes!I also decided that it was time to finally have some food, after having not eaten for virtually the entire day.  We moved off towards the edge of the plateau upon which the tasting tent sat and enjoyed the afternoon breeze and incredible view.  As we ate some tasty cheese and other nibbles, one of my favorite wine peeps walked up, Andy Mitchell, Director of Vineyard Operations at Hahn.  We excitedly discussed the event that was coming up in two weeks and the topic of my next post, the first ever Bloggers’ Block Vineyard planting (more to come…)!  Around this time the event was winding down, but not without that integral part of the Highlands…bagpipes!

The Brix Chicks' Xandria & Liza!Unfortunately, it was time to heed the music and head off back to the Bay.  Liza, Xandria and I bid all of our new wine friends goodbye and tried to track down as many people as we could from Hahn and the SLHWA to deeply thank them for their outstanding hospitality and the chance to attend such a great wine event.  While I found many of the Pinots in more of a bigger and fuller style than I normally prefer, I found a great number of incredible wines and really enjoyed almost every single vinous drop.  I can’t wait to see how this appellation will continue to develop and mature, particularly the Syrahs.

Feel free to peruse the reviews below of all of the wines that I tried that hot, yet wonderfully breezy day above the stunning Salinas Valley.  All of these Santa Lucia Highlands appellation wines have been tagged with “SLH2009Fling” if you would like to list them in your own WineLog.  If you too, attended the tasting that day, please leave a comment and let me know about your own favorites of the day!


Wrath Santa Lucia Highlands Doctor’s Vineyard Syrah 2007

Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Eagle’s Perch Estate Chardonnay 2005

Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Pinot Noir 2007

Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands West Terrace Estate Pinot Noir 2006

Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Silver Unoaked Estate Chardonnay 2007

Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands Estate Chardonnay 2006

Lucienne Santa Lucia Highlands Doctor’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007

Martin Alfaro Santa Lucia Highlands Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay 2007

Martin Alfaro Santa Lucia Highlands Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007

Martin Alfaro Santa Lucia Highlands Garys’ Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007

Martin Alfaro Santa Lucia Highlands Vigna Monte Nero Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007

Lucienne Santa Lucia Highlands Lone Oak Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007

Roar Santa Lucia Highlands Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir 2007

Paraiso Santa Lucia Highlands Faîte Estate Pinot Noir 2006

Six Strings Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot 2006

Tantara Santa Lucia Highlands Garys’ Vineyard Syrah 2006

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