WBC11 Hits Virginia with Le Wine Buffs in Tow

2011 North American Wine Bloggers' ConferenceAt this point, my regular readers should know quite well about my participation in the cra cra known as the North American Wine Bloggers’ Conferences (Twitter, WineLog).  We’re coming up on the 4th in this great series, after the huge success in 2008, 2009 and 2010.  This year we’re invading Charlottesville, Virginia for our very first time plundering the wine life on the right coast (and East Coast wine bloggers rejoice).  The state of Virginia has been exceptionally supportive and I’m looking forward to learning a ton about 5th largest wine producing state in the Union.  Between the Keynote from Jancis Robinson (Twitter), the Virginia Wine (Twitter) Reception at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello for dinner on Friday, another Keynote from Eric Asimov (Twitter) and the annual Vineyard walks in the local wine country, #WBC11 looks to be just as stunning a time as years’ past.

Le Wine Buff - EnjoyBordeaux.comThis year my trip is courtesy of the CIVB’s Enjoy Bordeaux (Twitter, WineLog) campaign, as Le Wine Buff.  We’ll be pouring two phenomenal Bordeaux during my favorite sessions at the conference, the Live Blogging Reds & Whites.  Fellow ‘Buff Erin McGrath (Twitter, WineLog) and I will be pouring the 2009 Château Le Gay Bordeaux Festival Rosé and the 2007 Château Edmus Saint-Émilion Grand Cru (which I adore).  Oh, and we’ll definitely have some more tasty Bordeaux to try during the annual Unconference, of course.

You can find our wines listed again below, as well as a growing list of wines after the Sponsors that I’ve tried at the conference as I get them up there, tagged with “WBC11” so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  So come find us at the event if you’re lucky enough to attend or follow our adventures online as we invade Virginia!

Le Wine Buff wines at WBC11:

2009 Château Le Gay Bordeaux Festival Rosé

Color: Strawberry pink

Nose: Tons of fresh juicy strawberry here with some slight citrus.

Palate: Crisp and easy quaffer, this also has great strawberry and orange peel

on the light to medium palate.

 2007 Château Edmus Saint-Émilion Grand Cru

Color: Darker ruby core, medium ruby edges

Nose: Loam, char and fresh cigar box here with bigger fresh anise and further darker fruits underneath.  Flint on the edges adds to the dried roses. Good.

Palate: Medium to full, with great fresh tobacco and flint to start off, then digs deep into dark fruit and anise to complement the medium fine drier tannins and juicier acidity.  Heads into great earthiness and more tobacco and char towards the long, black, cardamon finish.  Very good: KeeperWK, OldWorldWK.

All wines tasted at WBC11 (growing in real-time):

[winelist query=”WBC11″ num=”150″]

5 Questions with Aron Ezra of MacroView Labs

MacroView LabsThere are many a wine app for iOS and (growing) on Android.  Wine+Tech wünderkinds VinTank, have done extensive research on iOS apps (iPhone) over the last few years with the most recent count at 450+, as of 04/14/2011.  Indeed, my own content is distributed on two mobile apps, Hello Vino and Wine by the Bar.  With that many apps out there for a very specific genre, you can imagine that there is a lot of noise and a lot of well, mediocre (at best) apps for wine.  So, it is a refreshingly rare circumstance when one comes across an app that kicks some serious vinous booty.  And the new app (iPhone, Android) from Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery (Twitter, WineLog) by MacroView Labs (Twitter) gets my vote for kickin’ that booty.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and WineryThe app, co-launched with the nearby Vintners Inn (Twitter) does so many things right for a focused topic like a single winery and inn: a great usable design that actually works with no bugs.  High-res imagery abounds, with fully integrated social channels, live location-based maps and all of the information found on the full website including in-app purchasing of wine, via a wrapped browser functionality.  MacroView Labs has created an app that is dynamic, full of complementary information such as unique wine pairings and recipes and  designed all of this with a highly intuitive and beautiful design.  The app was launched in May of 2011 and by the publish date of this article, had already reached 3,100 downloads. I was so impressed that I requested an interview with MacroView Labs CEO, Aron Ezra (Twitter) for my 5 Questions series…and included a bonus 6th question, to boot.  Enjoy!

1. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): First off, I’d just like the compliment the thoroughness of your app for Ferrari-Carano and the Vintners Inn, well played! When a new winery or wine website approaches you about a possible app, what is the single most important piece of information that you need to start the development process? Who are some of your more recent clients besides F-C and VI?

Aron Ezra, CEO - MacroView Labs Aron Ezra (Twitter): Thank you for the kind words! When we start working with a new client, the most important step for them to take is to determine their goals and objectives in entering the mobile space. Some clients are most focused on improving the guest experience, others want to generate more revenue, others want to make their staff more efficient, and so on. Once the client decides what they want their mobile apps and mobile website to accomplish, we partner with them to build a mobile strategy that suits their needs, and we then begin developing the technology.

2. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): In line with the previous question, what are some things that a prospective wine app client can do to get things rolling pretty quickly after contacting MacroView?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): Once we settle on desired functionality and sign a contact, we can get started with working with a client immediately. We can launch the first version of the apps and the mobile site a few weeks later.

3. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): After the initial meeting, how is the development process taken forward for a new app?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): After our kickoff meeting, we work with the client to create the right structure for the app, the right aesthetic, and the right functionality. We use our content management system to accomplish this — this is the same system that our clients can use to make any changes they want. We meet with our new clients regularly to show them our progress and make any changes they suggest. After a few weeks, once everyone is happy, we submit the app to the app stores, and then focus on getting the word out about the solution and continually making enhancements to allow the apps to evolve and improve.

Ferrari-Carano Mobile App4. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): Also, do you tend to work with entirely new designs each time or do you have a store of app templates that clients can chose from to get their app up and running quickly?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): We provide our clients with a variety of options for creating an app structure. We can create entirely custom apps, or we have app template structures that clients can choose from. Either way, we can work with our clients to create the right design to fit their branding.

5. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): I see on your site that you also promise to follow the client after the app is launched, including help for promoting their app across their various social channels. What sorts of activities are included in this follow-on service?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): We provide ongoing strategic mobile consulting around setting business goals and identifying how best to use mobile to achieve those goals. We improve our client’s deployed mobile software every day to make sure it is helping them achieve their business goals. We also have a powerful proprietary data analytics engine that highlight things like: how customers are using the deployed mobile software, what features are generating revenue, and how we can improve the results.

For instance, if we notice that people in one part of the country tend to delete the app after viewing a specific page or feature, we change that page/feature. If we notice that a certain offer or social media feature tends to generate more interest or revenue, we expand upon that, often within hours of noticing the pattern.

We also help with generating positive buzz for the solutions through (1) internal training, (2) external promotions, and (3) word of mouth. First, we put together an app FAQ for internal staff to ensure all employees know about and can talk about the app to customers. Then, we work with our clients to make sure marketing collateral – from on-site signage, to employee email signatures, to direct marketing catalogues – mention the app. Finally, we help implement a public relations outreach alongside a social media push. We help create tools and campaigns to inspire the app users to tell their friends about it.

Ferrari-Carano App6. Ward (Twitter)/VinopanionWineLog (Twitter): You’ve made a large number of original, user-friendly and engaging apps over the life of the company. What’s next for MacroView Labs and how do you intend to continue to innovate?

Aron Ezra (Twitter): Our clients depend on us to keep them up-to-date and keep them profitable in the mobile world. Mobile moves incredibly fast, so we’ll be working hard to keep innovating on the countless new hardware and software releases on the horizon. In short, our focus will remain on delivering outstanding service and outstanding new features that generate bottom-line results.

Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery (Twitter, WineLog)

[winelist query=”Ferrari-Carano” num=”100″]

TasteLive! – Grillin' Some Chard(onnay)

TasteLive!Backyards and BBQ’s are known as tha bomb during the summer.  Indeed, there should some sort of official right of passage, whereby one has enjoyed a tasty, home-hosted BBQ by the time one comes of age.  And it becomes that much better when paired with wine. Trust me.  I mean, microbrews and certain import beers are cool and all, but BBQ beef with a great Rhone or Syrah and BBQ chicken (beer battered!) with a tasty Chardonnay pretty much makes my day…or my week, even.

[winebadge id=”59334″]

TasteLive! (Twitter, WineLog), the premiere social network for online, Twitter-based virtual wine tastings, is back at it again this week, with a great online tasting tomorrow night (07/12/11) at 6pm – 7pm PST.  Here we’ll try three Chardonnay from California that have the complexity, weight and fruit that can stand up to the awesome BBQ spread that you should have at your table some weekend this summer.  Two of these wineries had wines in the last great tasting in which I was able to participate, courtesy of my samples from the website.  If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from tasting the Pinot and Chardonnay from these four wineries, I’ve been most impressed by the still wines produced by Gloria Ferrer Winery (Twitter, WineLog).  Their wines not only show a high level of value and QPRWK, but they also plain put out the good stuff in wine: they’re sensual and balanced, with restrained power.

You can find all of the wines that we’re tasting tomorrow night for listing in your own WineLog, tagged with “TasteLive2011ChardGrill“.  All of the wines that I’ve tasted during TasteLive events over the years can be found tagged with “TasteLive“.  Even if you don’t have the wines handy, log on to Twitter and catch the #tl_wine stream and participate!

TasteLive2011ChardGrill:

QPRWK - WKBadges Gloria Ferrer Carneros Estate Chardonnay 2008

Color: Deeper yellow with green highlights and clear edges.

Nose: Very bright, happy pear juicy yellow apple with more subdued Meyer lemon and some interesting basil leaf and lightest cream.

Palate: Medium full, with great acidity that is brought out by the Meyer lemon here as well and a roundness that adds some smooth, slightly creamy complexity. Juicy bright pear and yellow apple here as well, finishing with riper pear and the lightest toast. Good.

Krutz Family Cellars Santa Lucia Highlands Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay 2008

Color: Deeper yellow gold, light gold edges.

Nose: A bit more toast here, with some tasty nectarine and pear skin followed by some cream strolling in and light pear.

Palate: Fuller and very round and super-smooth, with light green and yellow apple, medium cream but bright acidity with pineapple to balance out the cream and the medium toast out to the finish. Good.

Rodney Strong Vineyards Chalk Hill Estate Chardonnay 2009

Color: Deeper canary yellow with golden undertones, viscous.

Nose:  Butter and toast, with ripe, preserved pears underneath and lemon meringue.

Palate: Full and very buttery and toasty here as well, with tons of those pears from the nose along with yellow apple pie out to the buttery and toasty finish. A viscous, coating mouth with juiciness, but an imbalance is here, with the acidity unable to hold up to the toast and butter.

Newton Vineyard: A Mountain's Secret Garden

Newton VineyardI have the great fortune of being invited to a number of wine events each year.  All of these events have their merits and many are very cool.  It is the more rare event that completely rocks my vinous world, however.  The annual Garden Party at Newton Vineyard (Facebook, WineLog), 600 feet above St. Helena on Spring Mountain was one of those rare events.  Standing atop the mountain, with a 360 degree view of at least 65% of the entire Valley, with some glorious weather to complement the elegantly balanced Newton wines, paired with nibbles from étoile and the Lady by your side, it’s a bit hard to *not* have a brilliant time.  I decided to suck it up and a have a great time (tongue comfortably in cheek).

Newton VineyardProprietors Peter and his wife, Dr. Su Hua Newton founded the winery in 1977 after selling off their iconic Sterling Vineyard in the mid-70’s.  Their new 500+ Estate (~1 square mile) was instantly notable as a pioneering estate in what is now the Spring Mountain District, with it’s current 120 acres planted in 112 distinct blocks, at altitudes ranging from 500 to 1600 feet and slopes as sharp as 56 degrees.  Come harvest Newton harvesters will go through each block up to 5 times, all under the supervision of winemaker Chris Millard and Madrigal Vineyard Management.  Do the math and you can begin to understand the amount of care that goes into the vineyards leading up to each harvest!  These blocks are necessary, not only to take advantage of widely varying über-microclimates afforded by the differing altitudes and sun exposure that each block receives, but also due to the variou ssoil types that proliferate across the mountain.  While most of the soil is influenced by it’s volcanic beginnings, each block could be dominated by iron-rich, chalky or gravel-based soil types, making the proper pairing of grape variety crucial for each planted portion of the Estate.

Newton Vineyard Winemaker, Chris MillardThe Lady and I were very fortunate to have 30 minutes of Chris’ time for a tour of the winery before he headed out to greet the rest of the day’s guests.  Chris is tall, rangy man, with kind, bearded features that appear quite younger than his 40-something years.  He smiles often while he speaks and is very careful to put his guests at ease with his calm, considerate cadence of speech.  Newton Vineyard has always been concerned about maintaining their estate and gardens sustainably and that philosophy extends all the way to Chris’ winemaking.  80% of the winery is actually underground, in caves dug out of the mountainside in order to keep land above as green and untouched by structures as possible.  Chris makes the flagship wines of Newton unfiltered and unfined, indeed the Estate line of their wines are called Unfiltered.  The insane, fanatical care found in the vineyards of Newton is continued in Chris winery, where there is a very cool system of 8 inline galleries where their highly regarded Unfiltered Chardonnay can ferment at 8 completely separate, independent collections of lots, at their own temperature and humidity.  It’s really quite a marvel and something that I’ve never yet encountered during my vinous travels around the world.

The garden at Newton VineyardStrolling the garden, one had to believe that Peter Newton knows how to craft a beautiful life, albeit, with all of the hard work that goes along with a lifelong vision.  Peter is the gardener of the of the duo, as illustrated by the gorgeous, more royal British garden, mixed with an Eastern influence.  Meanwhile, Su Hua is the devoted oenophile and the winery is designed with a clearly beautiful Chinese Pagoda flair.  The staff was very warm and friendly, happily manning the tasty wine and food pairings, incredibly constructed by étoile chef, Perry Hoffman.  The pairing for the 2008 Newton Spring Mountain District The Puzzle was particularly successful.  Perry took fresh star anise atop lightly sweetened, high cocoa dark chocolate mousse tartlets to complement the fresh anise, dark fruits, fresh garden herbs and wet earth.  An absolutely superb combo, where neither the wine nor the chocolate overpowered each other, but instead held hands and made each other whole.  Further good fortune in food and drink took place during the Ritual Coffee demonstration kicked off by Chris, clearly a very avid fine coffee lover, as you can see in the video below.

[winebadge id=”59219″]

While this wasn’t my first time tasting wines from Newton, I had only had one other wine of theirs, a Cab, quite a few years back.  I was very interested to try their wines after hearing for so long how the winery was insistent upon making balanced wines with plenty of complexity and a happy lack of bombastic character.  All of the wines lived up to their billing, from the Merlot to the Chardonnay (we only tasted the Unfiltered line that day, along with The Puzzle).   They had acidity and fine, coating tannin structure that had anticipated, but they also had great restraint with their use of toasty oak and feature plenty of wonderful mineral notes.  Perhaps the most striking feature was their ageability, however.  We had a 13 year old Unfiltered Chardonnay that was showing beautiful dried apple and floral notes with a gorgeous dark yellow and green color.  Then the highlight of the day and the wine that completely rocked my world and spoiled me possibly, for tasting any aged red wine in the near future: the 1992 Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine was decanted from a 6L Imperial and showed amazingly deep garnet color for a 19 year old red wine.  The nose exhibited savory leather, earth and flint, alongside deep black cherry fruit, but it was the palate that took me in.  Great acidity and the finest tannins perfectly supported the mix of black and red fruit and savory mushroom and leather for the deliciously smooth mouthfeel.  It was a sensational wine to complete such a day and one that showed just how well these wines can age, as its own life was still far from complete.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WgD3wBaLhxM[/youtube]

A very happy thank you goes out to everyone at Newton and Gregory White PR for our day atop Spring Mountain.  All of these elegant, well-balanced wines that we tasted last weekend in the Garden are tagged with “Newton2011Garden,”so that you can list them in your own WineLog.  All of our photos and videos from atop the mountain can be found on my Flickr in their own set, and also tagged with “Newton2011Garden.”  Cheers!

Newton Vineyard (Facebook, WineLog):

Newton Napa County Unfiltered Chardonnay 2008

OldWorldWK - WKBadges Newton Napa County Unfiltered Chardonnay 1998

Color: Deep and darker yellow green.

Nose: Dried yellow apple and some dried chamomile, light apple pie near the rim.

Palate: Getting towards orange wine tastiness with its age, dried apple here as well, still juicier finish. Good, from a magnum: OldWorldWK.

Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Merlot 2008

Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

AwesomeWK - WKBadges Newton Napa Valley Unfiltered Cabernet Sauvignon 1992

Color: Medium ruby and light brick core, light ruby edges.

Nose: Gorgeous earth and leather nose, with deep black cherry fruit and some light flint minerality.

Palate: Also amazing here, with deeper medley still of black and red fruit, savory black olive, mushroom and leather here to balance that, with the finest tannins and acid for a perfect balance. One of the best wines that I’ve had all year: AwesomeWK.

KeeperWK - WKBadgesNewton Spring Mountain District The Puzzle 2007

Color: Darker garnet, ruby edges.

Nose: Very complex, with great savory garden herbs to balance the all dark fruit right now, with a hint anise at the rim.

Palate: Medium bodied, with juicy acidity for the all black fruit here as well and very smooth mouthfeel. Garden herbs here too, fresh, with hints of fresh wet earth in the juicier, structured finish: KeeperWK.