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!

San Francisco Vintners Market 5 Comes Alive! (Big Discount!)

I attend a large number wine events.  That might even be an understatement, to which my fine readers can attest!  Thus, I feel that it’s saying something to describe an upcoming wine event as one of my favorite series of wine events, ever.  The San Francisco Vintners Market (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) wine tastings are those exact events: totally fun, onsite wine purchasing available, and of course, fantastic wines to taste in unlimited amounts.  And lucky readers, for round 5 (DING) of the #SFVM, I now have a fat discount so you cats can partake!

One reason, besides the many that I just poured out above, that I love these events so much is the number of new wineries that I discover each time we attend.  We always get the VIP tickets in order to get access to the Reserve Room, where we taste bottles of wine that most normal humans can never afford (without the event discounts to buy onsite, of course 😉 ). One great discovery that we’ve made has been the small family winery Sciandri Family Vineyards (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog), they of the newly formed Coombsville AVA in southern Napa Valley.  Big, but balanced Cabs come out of this producer, as does some big and warm, family hospitality.

All of this doesn’t even include the awesome gourmet bites and sponsors that you can also check out, while swirling some good stuff around in your keepsake logo glass.  Lastly, get your learn on and chat with some of the many winemakers that are actually in attendance and pouring their work, a rarity for events of this size.  So join us next month, at the next SF Vintners.  Enter the code “VINOPANION” for a nifty 50% off of your tickets, or just follow the links below.  Cheers!

What: San Francisco Vintners Market – Spring Time In The City
When: April 14th & 15th
Where: Fort Mason Center, Festival Pavilion, San Francisco, CA
Cost:
General Admission: $80.00 (Includes all wines except Reserve Room)
Reserve Admission: $100 (Includes Reserve Room access to wines priced at $50 per bottle or higher)

Times: Trade tasting 12pm – 1pm Saturday & Sunday (RETAIL WINE BUYERS AND MEDIA ONLY)
General Admission: 1pm – 4pm Saturday & Sunday
Reserve Room Access: 12pm – 4pm Saturday & Sunday

21 AND OLDER ONLY!
NO PETS OR CHILDREN!
NO TICKET REFUNDS!

Click below for tickets at a 50% discount:

VINOPANION

 

Wines tasted at SF Vintners Market (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) events:

[winelist query=”SFVintners” num=”100″]

Jet Bag Defeats AA at WBC11

I do a lot of traveling for wine.  Just the last 6 months has seen me pop up in New York twice and Charlottesville once.  Strangely enough, this means that I tend to accumulate a fair amount of wine during my travels (I know, cue the weeping and lamentations).  This does tend to present a Conundrum, however.  When one needs to fly these days, it tends to be very difficult to hide 750 mL of glass-encased liquid.

OK, but that’s fine, right?  I’ll just check my baggage with the bottle of red stashed inside…surrounded by all of my favorite clothes because I just went to NYC for the first time.  Hmm…not a recipe for success, especially as I watched the suplex being applied to my suitcase out on the tarmac.  Cue: the Jet Bag (Twitter).

I received a couple sample Jet Bags in the mail just under four months ago, from Spread the News PR.  I had planned to write a more extended article about this great product and was waiting for the perfect time to test out the Jet Bags.  Along comes procrastination WBC11 and I realize, bingo!  I always get a tons of vino at those awesome conferences, let’s bring them on the trip!  There’s nothing like a real life test scenario to well, realistically test things out.  Coming back, exhausted, from Virginia, I was subjected to American Airlines definition of flight-canceling weather at O’Hare in Chicago.  Never mind that no other airline appeared to be even delayed and my (slightly) discounted hotel for the few hours of no sleep night was mystified in regards to the supposed weather conditions (the Hyatt Regency O’Hare (Twitter) ROCKED, btw).  All this means is that my poor luggage was beat up much more than normal and most likely sweltering all night out in a non-temperature controlled warehouse somewhere.

All that said, after I got home for work and could unpack, I discovered that my fantastic sample of 2005 Tabarrini Montefalco Colle Grimaldesco Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG (garnering an OldWorldWK badge) Italian red was perfectly safe and insulated.  Very impressive.  And it’s actually the simplicity of this wine product that allows me to finish this article in way under 500 words.

Open the bag, place the bottle inside the absorbent, insulated bag, close the Ziploc and place it in your luggage.  Done.

I couldn’t be more pleased and thrilled to say that they’re also reusable.  Starting at $15 for 3, they throw down some good value. A complete win!  Check out their video of a Jet Bag in action.  Cheers!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZt5_5PrYTY&feature=channel_video_title[/youtube]

 

Le Wine Buffs Survive Manhattan (and so does the city)

TechEnology - Snooth, Ziff Davis & Enjoy BordeauxSo as it turns out, New York is a pretty damn cool place!  My first time in NYC was filled with as much sightseeing, vino networking, shopping, eating and drinking as one could possibly fit into 3.5 days.  I was in the city for the first time on another adventure as Le Wine Buff for the Bordeaux Wine Council (CIVB)’s Enjoy Bordeaux campaign, on a fully paid business trip.  While the point of the trip was to attend the Snooth & Ziff Davis TechEnology event and talk about the full awesomeness of affordable Bordeaux wine alongside my LWB colleagues, I was determined to experience as much NYC as I could handle…and I succeeded.

TechEnology - Courtesy of Enjoy Bordeaux & CreativeFeedHeld at the new digital & design campus General Assembly, we walked to the space in Union Square from our hotel, the Martinique.  Rob Moshein, Erin McGrath (Twitter) and I hoofed it pretty quickly actually, as we were running a little late to scope out the wines and discuss them with the servers.  Once there we met up with our fellow LWB in arms, Mollie Battenhouse (Twitter), Rebecca Chapa (Twitter) and Megan Wiig.

The event was just an awesome mob of mainly younger wine and tek-oriented vino enthusiasts, with a distinct flair for networking.  I was hoping to spend more time sipping the wines as they got more air, but I was all wrapped up in interesting discussions about fascinating new intersections between wine and technology.  Indeed, the only people missing were the minds behind that digital wine ingenues at VinTank.

Tweetelier - CreativeFeedHighlights from the event for me included meeting Dr. Andrew Waterhouse, a luminary in viticulture and enology research at my alma mater, UC Dvais.  He is one of the pioneers for research around resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in wine and the subject of one of my articles for Mutineer Magazine.  Another biggie was the newly invented Tweetelier (Twitter) for that particular event, in fact!  Created by members of CreativeFeed, the creative minds behind Enjoy Bordeaux.  You attach the little transmitter to a bottle and setup the radio receiver along with the software and then BLAMMO, a unique tweet each time a bottle is poured during your event.  Simple, yet awesome.  Shopping in the Garment DistrictThe last highlight was the afterparty dinner at craft, Tom Colicchio‘s flagship restaurant, he of Top Chef fame.  It was another epic, 3+ hour long dinner, quite reminiscent of our meals while together in Bordeaux last summer. It was a tremendous meal and completely lived up to the hype. Yum!

The rest of my time in the big city was spent tearing around trying to see and taste as much of Manhattan as possible and to find the appropriate gift for the Lady.  This involved lots of coffee in small places, beautiful silence at the Public Library, oysters and bubbly with Rob at Grand Central Station, drinks in a oversized library and green-lit escalator and drizzly rain with mind-blowing lighting effects in Times Square.  Very good times and I left with a deep appreciation of the subway and taxi system of the Big Apple.

Very good times and I can’t wait to go back to judge the 2011 Today’s Bordeaux competition and select the new Top 100 Affordable Bordeaux in June.  Cheers!

Hudson New York Times Square

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.

Guest Post: 4 Must-Have Wine Accessories

Wine Accessories

I’m debuting a new series of guest articles on Vinopanion today, starting with this fine wine accessory intro article by Zsa Zsa Bacaling of Grotto Cellars.  These free guest posts will provide a bit of a fresh voice every now and then for you devoted readers who, like my family, get tired of hearing me blather on and on about my vino obsession.  This first article by Zsa Zsa delivers some great advice for the newbie wine fanatic, something that I have somewhat neglected over the ~3 years of my Vinopanion writings.  Cheers!

Let the right accessories add to your wine appreciation experience

Can the right accessories really add to the wine lover’s experience? Definitely.

Whenever you shop for wines, don’t forget to include wonderful wine accessories. There are plenty of interesting accessories in the market today that can add style and spice to your wine cellar. From stemware to wall art, to aerators, charms and humidifying fountains, there’s no reason you can’t add some visual delight to the wine bottles you’re breaking open.

For every wine enthusiast, there’s always a creative contraption made to enhance your wine storing and pouring experience. We’ve seen some beautiful, custom made cellar doors, rolling wine cellar ladders, decorative flooring and ceilings, special lighting and tables and chairs for those wine tastings.

Did you know that several stores sell classy wine accessories without selling any wine at all? This simply shows that the demand for wine accessories is huge. Whether you’re buying for yourself or for someone you know, wine accessories also make fantastic gift ideas. Here are some of our highly recommended wine accessories that every wine lover must have in his/her wine cellar:

Wine glasses

A good wine glass is nearly as important as the wine itself. For the wine newbie, a good wineglass will help you appreciate the flavor, depth and aroma of your wine. There’s a glass for every occasion! Just make your wine glasses are not frosted, colored or cut, so you can see the wine clearly in all its beauty. Pick the right one for you, and if you plan to use the glasses for wine tasting rather than drinking, make sure that you have many identical glasses. To enjoy the full experience of wine consumption, drink to a glass partially filled and held by the stem. Cheers!

Wine decanters

Want the best from your wine? Then you get yourself a wine decanter. Contrary to the belief that decanting wines is not just for show, if you want to avoid an unsightly looking wine to the table, you need to decant your wine into a resplendent receptacle. Wines which have aged in bottle, typically reds rather than white, will generally throw a sediment by ten years of age or more. This sediment displeasing to the eye and can be quite unpleasant in the mouth, hence, the wine decanters. Decanters.com has some stylish wine decanters for your picking. Our tip? Look for a wide bottom and a narrow neck. You will be needing a decanting funnel too, so the wine will gently pour down the side of your decanter.

Wine racks

Display your good taste not only in wines but also in inner décor with great wine racks. Whether you’re looking for traditional wooden wine racks made from redwoods, mahogany or pines, or a wild new design in metal, a wine rack makes a great accessory while you are serving your guests. Add pizzazz to your wine cellar walls with a mounted wine rack or show off some of your best wines in stackable wine racks. They are a refreshing change from the basic racks exclusively intended for storage, and you add a little more artistry to your wine cellar with beautiful wine racks. Your choices are many, and you can even have them customized in a variety of creative and eye-catching ways!

Cork stoppers

Always trying to squeeze that cork back into your unfinished bottle of wine?  Wine stoppers are one of the top-selling wine accessories, and the choices are limitless. You can find everything from high end professional styles to the more traditional and to the novelty and contemporary types.  Depending on your taste, you can choose from various geometric shapes, hand-blown glass shapes, to funny little characters sitting on top of the cork. If you’re a wine enthusiast who’s environmentally conscious, choose natural cork stoppers. Remember though, that while stoppers can slow the spoiling process of the wine, they can’t really stop it. Our tip? Drink and consume your wine within two days of opening it.

Accessorizing is indeed an enjoyable experience, and because wine is personal, make your wine accessories selection a personal one too. Indulge in one of life’s greatest pleasures by stocking up some or all of these must-have wine accessories.

Author: Zsa Zsa Bacaling works with Grotto Cellars. Accessorize with custom made wine racks from Grotto Custom Wine Cellars and Cabinets. We create beautiful wine racks that can add style and flair to your wine cellar.