Taking my #wine kung fu to the next level: #WSET II & Napa Valley Wine Academy

406064_562298363799327_175257724_nI have been immersing myself in the study of #wine in a semi-systematic manner for much of the last 8 years.  Indeed, #Vinopanion‘s 8 year anniversary with @WineLog is approaching in the middle of this month. Yet I have slowly realized that something is lacking in my devotion to the knowledge of the vinous delights: focus, structure and external credibility. You’d think that a trained scientist would have recognized this long ago and I did notice these thoughts in the back of my mind a few years back.  But they were always battered back by “where’s the time?” and “I’m still receiving plenty of media travel & event invites,” along with “my wine consulting services continue to expand.” Then I reached last year and I started to recognize some clear patterns in my wine work. While I had plenty of media opportunities and my fellow wine colleagues were continuing to get work, I could see that the pace of my own trade offers beginning to slow down. It was then that I noticed that most of my colleagues began to sport letters after their names on their business cards: they were taking certified educational courses to formalize their wine training. I needed to set up my wine game. It was then that I contacted the good people at Napa Valley Wine Academy (FB, Tw): “help!”

Our-certification-menu-logoThe Napa Valley Wine Academy (NVWA) was founded in 2011 by longtime wine industry veterans, R. Christian Oggenfuss, D.W.S., F.W.S., I.W.P and Catherine Bugue, D.W.S., IWP. As residents of Northern California wine country, they both perceived a lack of true connection between the schools that offered wine and spirits training and the actual regions about which they taught…and thus a fine beverage academy in the Napa Valley was born!  Featuring industry educational luminaries including Master of Wines Peter Marks and Tim Hanni, as well as Master Sommelier Tim Gaiser; they are truly “one foot in the classroom and the other in the vineyards.” The NVWA has experienced tremendous industry support and strong early success, prompting them to expand to satellite locations around the US in Tampa, Florida and Santa Barbara, CA; as well as online. 

IMG_5975The NVWA instructors are spread across all of the major industry certifications, allowing the Academy to provide a full service range of official beverage certifications, including wine, spirits, saké, and beverage service, and region-specific courses. All courses and examinations are given by the academy itself, making it a one-stop educational experience, unlike many other piecemeal organizations. I have chosen to start my wine and beverage education in the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (FB, Tw, YT, NVWA) program, starting with the WSET II Award, courtesy of the NVWA.  More on those adventures later however, as I need to get studying for my first exam! ¡Salud!

Le Wine Buffs Take Manhattan

Le Wine Buff - Enjoy BordeauxEnjoy Bordeaux‘s Le Wine Buffs are back and we’re thirsty.

This time we’re taking on New York City and Manhattan is gonna stumble down in a vinous frenzy of affordable Bordeaux wine!  We’re the wine sponsor for this year’s TechEnology wine event held by Enjoy Bordeaux partner Snooth and tech media publishing titan Ziff Davis.  Held at the newly renovated General Assembly, the event will mix some of the icons of tech, publishing and the wine biz and look to do some serious vino mind melding.

I’m excited to be pouring and talking about these wines at the event because I think Bordeaux is coming into another renaissance of exposure for it’s thousands of high quality, affordable wines and their Chateaux, all across the greater appellation.  Much of this belief was built during our visit to Bordeaux last summer.  This event promises to be “a private, networking event recognizing the wine world’s most technologically forward people, business and practices”…and these are the peeps that need to know Bordeaux!

See you on the Right Coast vinopanions, and cheers!

As Le Wine Buff for EnjoyBordeaux.com, I am paid a nominal fee for most of my participation.  I also receive free wine samples and my participation on this trip is courtesy of the CIVB.

The Broke Wino Looks at Value Bordeaux

A new vinopanion of mine, Sam Klingberg, has been making waves in the vino writing webernets over the last year or so with his wine blog, The Broke Wino.  Sam contacted me recently to gather my thoughts on affordable Bordeaux wine.  As one of Le Wine Buff for Enjoy Bordeaux for the CIVB, I have been involved in a lot of great Bordeaux-centric wine activities over the last 1+ years, including a truly spectacular trip to Bordeaux this past summer.

The dichotomy between the high prices of First and Second Growth châteaux and the remaining thousands of much more affordable, yet still high quality wine producers and châteaux is a hot topic.  With the declaration of “vintages of the century” at least 3 times this decade alone combined with the increasing Asian markets, the prices of the high end Bordeaux have skyrocketed. Happily however, quality has also taken a great leap forward, all across the board.

I sent the thoughts in quotations below over to Sam and he combined some parts with some great recommendations from my fellow Buff, Megan Wiig for his own article on this topic.  Take a gander at my thoughts below and let me know your own thoughts in the comments.  Then jet over to The Broke Wino for Sam’s outstanding article, “Value Bordeaux is Not an Oxymoron.” Cheers!

Ward Kadel@drXeNoLe Wine Buff:

I think that one of the things for which Bordeaux has taken a lot of heat in the last few 10 years has been it’s seemingly regular pronouncements of the exceptional quality of each vintage since the truly great 2000s. The wolf has been shouting much to much this past decade and the wine writing field, wine social mediasphere and the general populace have all grown jaded with each new declaration. Looking at both sides, I think the Bordelaise have been very busy at tooting their own horn, yet I can’t deny that there has been a significantly large number of very good to great vintages in Bordeaux over the last decade than we’ve ever seen in modern winemaking history. Taste the wines for yourself…there are very few, broadly speaking, bad vintages in the “aughts.” But the arguments over whether these claims are hyperbole really don’t matter…it’s the wines that do, yo!

2000, 2005 and 2009 are deemed some of the best vintages in the last 110 years for Bordeaux. Whether the high end wines are good, great or epic doesn’t matter for the average consumer, but value or Quality to Price ratio does (QPR). When you’re strolling your favorite wine store or even down the vino section of your local supermarket, remember that these vintages don’t just mean that the $50-$500 wines are the shizzy…that quality extends all the way down to the $6 wines as well. This means that wine that would easily qualify for the first label of any given chateau is now relegated to their much cheaper second label; quality that can be had at a very affordable price.

Yet, regardless of vintage there are thousands of producers in the various AOC or sub-appellations of Bordeaux. The big classified Growths of Bordeaux get the press, but usually the true quality can be found in the smaller, unclassified producers that would be lovingly called family-run boutique wineries if they were here in the US.  Zingy and citrusy $8-$15 whites from Entre-Deux-Mers, minerally, balanced and complex reds from the Graves and juicier, fresh-tobacco driven red blends from the newer Pessac-Léognan AOC are all wines that throw down awesome QPR for any vintage, below $35 and usually less than $20. But honestly, this is just me talking, right? Go out and try some for yourself and see if you agree. Cheers!

Château Haut Guillebot, Bordeaux

As Le Wine Buff for EnjoyBordeaux.com, I am paid a nominal fee for most of my participation.  I also receive free wine samples and my participation on this trip is courtesy of the CIVB.

VinTank Deals Wines from the Vines

Deals from the Vines - Facebook Group - VinTankCrazy-smart wine biz innovators VinTank (Twitter), have successfully launched a new route on the Direct To Consumer (DTC) superhighway with their Deals from the Vines Facebook Group (DFTV). A relatively new feature on Facebook, closed Groups are an elegant yet simply powerful new component of the social media behemoth.  VinTank has seized upon this new feature to form their version of the popular flash sales site phenomena that has taken over the interwebs during this Great Recession.  While many of these sites have proven to be quite the boon to the budget-conscious wine consumer, they are not always so profit-friendly to the wineries, chateaux, Bodegas and Quintas that have participated in the various sales.  VinTank’s DFTV has already effectively smacked that paradigm with vigor, creating a sweet win-win for wino’s and wineries, alike.

While VinTank Chief Strategy Officer Paul Mabray (Twitter) has laid out the concept quite nicely on their blog, his Tumblr and even on the airwaves at Wine Biz Radio (Twitter) with DFTV moderator (and new VinTank alum) Peter Alig (Twitter), I will drop the simplest knowledge: wineries agree to sell an allotted amount of wine with super crazy dealness (1 cent shipping or 50-65% off, etc) and promise to ratchet up some seriously cool interaction within the group and in return, group members get to partake in the sales and chat directly with the winegrowers.  The wineries are charged no fees/percentages for their participation and VinTank takes no part in the transactions.  It’s really that simple.

A couple current and past deals are listed below.  Wanna join?  Friend me on Facebook (or find me on Twitter) and I’ll add you, straight away. Cheers and happy holidays!

Deals from the Vines wines “DVTV“:

“DEAL #16: 2006 Marita’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon Release Celebration.

2 cases offered only. 50% off wine and 50% off shipping. Expires when sold out.”

#WKBadges - NewWorldWKMarita’s Vineyard Napa Valley Select Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Color: Garnet/brick core with garnet edges

Nose: Savory herbs here with bright red fruit, dark black fruit lurking and baking spice and toast.

Palate: Bright and cool black fruit in the fore, with more baking spice, sweeter red cherry and fine tannins in the mid with good acid. Finishes juicy, with lurking toast and a sweetness to the red fruit.

SOMA Napa Valley Limited Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

“DEAL #7: 2006 Twisted Oak Winery Tempranillo.

Here are three bottles of our delicious 2006 Calaveras County Tempranillo for just $49.95 – that’s 30% off of the regular price and shipping is included!”

Twisted Oak Calaveras County Tempranillo 2006

“DEAL #4: 2005 James David Cellars Eagle Point Ranch Syrah.

As a Deals from the Vines member, enjoy 33% off the 2005 with shipping included on 6 or more bottles! Suggested retail: $24. You pay $16.”

James David Cellars Mendocino Eaglepoint Ranch Syrah 2005

Deals from the Vines - Facebook Group - VinTank

Clos LaChance, the PGA and the Frys.com Open

Clos LaChance at the PGA Tour Frys.com OpenSometimes wine can take to you places that are just plain cool. Well, cooler than the usual cool things that come with wine…or something.  In any case, last month I had one of those experiences where my interest in wine took me to something new: my first PGA Tour tournament, complete with a winery on site.  A golfer for the last few years, this understandably had me a bit fired up. Golf and wine!?  Heck yeah!  After graciously accepting a PGA Tour Media pass, the Lady, Steve and I headed into the Frys.com Open at CordeValle and Clos LaChance for a day of sunshine, wine, incredible golf and new vinopanion‘s, all along the cart path.

Frys.com OpenBeing at the Frys and simultaneously sipping fine vino from Clos LaChance was a bit of a head-slapper.  I mean think about it, how many people love wine that golf and vice versa??  A lot.  Therefore it was truly a shock to discover that this is the only known professional golf tournament in the *world* that actually has a working (and long-time) winery on site, in this case sitting right next to the 15th green of CordeValle.  Playing the tournie that weekend were quite a few heavyweights including one of my favorites, Rocco Mediate. As luck would have it, Rocco was actually in contention that day, leading to a nice win the next day on Sunday courtesy of FOUR EAGLES including one hole in one! It was his first wine on the Tour since 2002.  One of those eagles came on the 15th as we were, you guessed it, enjoying some wine at Clos LaChance.

Clos LaChanceClos LaChance is an entirely family owned and operated winery by the Murphy family, sitting on 1 Hummingbird Lane in San Martin, CA.  It’s named for the French word for a closed in space (such as a vineyard, ‘Clos’) and Brenda Murphy’s maiden name (LaChance).  It grew out of a lifelong passion for wine by both Brenda and Bill Murphy, he a longtime executive for HP.  In 1992 they decided to take their skills public and that harvest became their first commercially released vintage.  They moved to their rather awesome current digs on the course in 2001, just in time for crush.  Clos LaChance produces three tiers of wines from the Central Coast and Santa Cruz Mountains appellations.  Our very cool and accommodating host for the day was Cheryl Murphy Durzy, the Murphys’ daughter and the Vice President for the winery.

The Murphys watching the Murphys on Golf ChannelOur wine portion of the day started off in one of the upper rooms of the tasting room and winery, watching the Frys.com open on the Golf Channel, as it was taking place just a few hundred feet away outside. Indeed, the channel did a segment on the winery and we were happy to be in the room as the entire family (and friends) all watched the segment air for the first time!  Bill, himself, had spent much of the previous night helping to edit the piece with the Golf Channel wonks.  While watching the day’s golf events unfold, we started with the very interesting 09 Clos LaChance Central Coast Estate Viognier.  It was nicely varietally correct, with nice floral and white fruit aromatics and a full, juicy bright palate.  The interest comes from the salty minerality that comes out the rather long finish.

Cheryl Murphy - Clos LaChanceAs we moved through the day, Cheryl had (amazingly) some free time to give us a tour of the gravity-flow winery, still in the full swing of harvest.  We tasted through a number of fermenting wines (spitting of course!), including the intriguing sparkling wine that they were fermenting for the very first time.  It had just come in and so it still had plenty of sugar on board (high brix), but the banana that was coming out of that chardonnay was almost shocking!  As per the norm, some splashing did occur, but Cheryl was kind enough to handle all of the pours out of each tank.

Clos LaChanceFollowing the tour, we continued to taste through the wines and watching the golf heroics. There were a few that were open that day, including the very tasty 2006 Clos LaChance Central Coast Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, coming from the vineyard just outside lining the 15th fairway (usually the 3rd hole).  Bill has a passion for the Old World wines of France, particularly Bordeaux.  Here in the ’06 Cab I found plenty of similarities from my time in Bordeaux previously during the summer, particularly those wines in the Right Bank, despite its main varietal.  This wine garnered an OldWorldWK badge from the WKBadges with its good dusty red fruit and anise in the nose and the medium-bodied palate and charred, dusty red and black fruit on the palate.  As darkness fell, the party broke out for real at the Clos, rockin’ with a Journey cover band, food, wine and the Giants playoffs on a huge plasma big screen out on the lawn.  Good times!

http://www.flickr.com/photos/drxeno/5176808535/in/set-72157625268119831/A big thank you goes out to Cheryl, Bill and Brenda for their hospitality during our time at Clos LaChance and also to Benson Marketing and the PGA Tour for my media access to the tournament, along with the Lady and Steve’s general admission to the tournament.

You can find all of the photos from our fine time at the PGA Tour Frys.com Open and Clos LaChance in the set on my Flickr and tagged with “CLC2010PGAFrysOpen“.  You can also find all of the wines below for your own WineLog, tagged with the same, “CLC2010PGAFrysOpen“. Cheers!

Clos LaChance Central Coast Estate Viognier 2009

Clos LaChance Santa Cruz Mountains Pinot Noir 2007

#WKBadges - OldWorldWKClos LaChance Central Coast Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Color: Medium garnet

Nose: Good dusty red fruit here, mixed with some darker black anise and blackberry.

Palate: Medium-bodied, with more of an old world style Right Bank wine, with fine, medium tannins, great acidity and good mix of dusty black and red fruit from the nose, followed by an anise and char finish. OldWorldWK

Clos LaChance Central Coast Lila’s Cuvee Estate Red Wine 2006

Us at Clos LaChance