#Vinopanion #wine Bits & Pieces

#Vinopanion has been a wild ride these past 8+ years (so hard to believe!).  Towards the end of last year, as life got exceedingly busy and I was unable to put my best efforts to my love of #wine writing and education, I pondered what step this blog would next take. I have always treated my wine life as a privilege and have felt grateful for every turn that it has taken.  Each little or big step was only partially planned/hoped for…most things like paid wine consulting, wine judging, being flown around the world for media trips, all have been joyous surprises, though they didn’t come without hard work (on the side).

I have missed my wine world these past ~4 months, but the introspection has been useful.  I’ve come up with new plans, reapplied old ones and have concocted new post formats, such as this new one: Bits & Pieces will cover multiple topics in short, 1-2 paragraph bites.  Prepare for more news in a more concise format. And so… ¡Vámonos mis Vinopanions!

CabFest Napa Valley Returns 3/4 – 3/6 (tickets)

cabfest_logo_color-01CabFest Napa Valley (WL, FB, Tw, IG) still ranks as one of my favorite wine festivals of all time.  The Lady and I attended the entire first incarnation weekend, back in 2014. The event hit on all cylinders right off the bat, with a fantastic opening night, all the way through 2 grand tastings, and multiple unique breakout tastings.

This year, the highlights again include a fantastic opening concert in the main hall, this year by Mat Kearney, followed by the infamous Cigars & Guitars VIP Party. Saturday features multiple 4hr tastings, including the San Francisco Magazine Grand Tasting and the Boutique Tasting, along with multiple breakout sessions and food & wine tastings, including Cab on the Couch with Karen MacNeil. Sunday features its own suite of tastings and VIP sessions, including the Sonoma Magazine Grand Tasting and a tremendous VIP Platinum Wrap Party, featuring cuisine by local legend Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc crew.

You can still buy tickets and can also see the full details at their website.  See you all there!

Bodegas Cepa 21 Virtual Tasting 3/9/16 6pm PT (#Cepa21VT)

sobre-nosotrosBodegas Emilio Moro is a legendary name in Ribera del Duero DO (WL) of Spain. Bodegas Cepa 21 (WL, FB, Tw) is a newer endeavor by the Moro brothers, striving to create a modern Tinto Fino (Tempranillo) wine inside their new, super sleek winery. The winemaking brother of the duo, José Moro, is visiting the US in March and he is kind of to sit down for a virtual tasting of his wines, from his temporary home in NYC.  I’ve had the fortune to try some of their wines in the past, so it will be enlightening to go through these new releases and to speak directly to José about his vinous products.  Follow along that night using #Cepa21VT. ¡Salud!

NVWA WSET II Endeavors Continue…

406064_562298363799327_175257724_nI continue my studies of the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Intermediate (WSET II) certification this year.Napa Valley Wine Academy (FB, Tw), already leaders in wine and spirits education, is leading my efforts.  Their unique position, situated in the heart of #Napa grants them special access for taking their teachings directly out into the field…and I do mean “field!”

Indeed, their WSET Ultimate Level 2+3 course two week immersive course will “take you directly into vineyards and working wineries“, all right nearby in Napa Valley.  I’m looking forward to getting more intensely into my studies!

HITS Napa Valley Triathlon: The Hometown Race 4/9 – 4/10

65760_789077141133939_416503315085470558_nI am also full steam back into my #triathlon training season, since the last week of December. This time I’ll finally be doing my hometown olympic distance triathlon at Lake Berryessa: HITS Napa Valley 2016. The HITS Triathlon Series (Tw, FB, YT) is a long-running, well-respected endurance race production company (HITS Endurance), particularly their multisport series.

Once again I’ll be taking on my awesome brother in-law in a race for the family.  This year, it should be particularly exciting, as we’ll be going off in waves within 3 minutes of each other.  I’m looking forward to chasing and passing his ass! 😛

hitslocation-headers_napavalley

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!

Man Falls in the Vines – #MFITV

I’m delirious to announce a new project that I’ve stumbled into, courtesy of my fantastic sabbatical, rather sabbradical, from my work at Genentech: I am working the 2011 wine harvest (#Harvest2001) at Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) in the Stags Leap District (WineLog) of Napa Valley, CA.  I will be the harvest intern and cellar worker of which I’ve always dreamed…and basically working my ass off helping to produce fine Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, rosé, (Fiano), and Meritage wines.

My participation in the controlled chaos of crush at the Rock comes courtesy of Terlato Wine Group (WineLog), my best friend Jeff van de Pol, Assistant Winemaker; and Elizabeth Vianna (Twitter), Winemaker and General Manager.

Welcome to the craziest crush ever!  Elizabeth greeted with this smiling statement on my first day (10/17/11), at 6am.  Alongside fellow winery workers Cindy Cosco (Twitter, Winemaker, Passaggio Wines), Leo Almanza, Jorge Leon, Doris Garrido, and Rafa Alfaro, we crushed the annual tiny lot of Fiano, under the watchful eyes of Jeff, Elizabeth and Vineyard Manager Flavio Rodgriquez and Cellarmaster Eddie Lona.

Pressing Fiano - Chimney Rock Winery - #MFITV - photo by Elizabeth Vianna

Fiano is an ancient Italian white grape from Campania in the South, and makes a fairly powerful flavored wine, with drier grapey fruit flavors and interesting nutty and floral aromatics.  The winery team gets together to crush this small lot each year, helping to merge our efforts into one small, interesting lot of wine.  We used a small basket press to press out the little crush.

Rounding out our vino bonding session was Doug Fletcher, Vice President of Winemaking for Terlato Wine Group. Doug has been in the biz a long time and is an outstanding source for winemaking/growing knowledge, with fascinating stories from his many years as a winemaker at Martin Ray Winery, Steltzner Vineyards and Chimney Rock.  Good stuff.

 

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TsxP9RzHNOo[/youtube]

 

My job at the Rock has been and will be a bit of a wildcard, partly due to my experience in my day job at the lab bench.  As such, this first week has been an extremely lucky and wonderfully fulfilling amalgam of vineyard work (sampling pH, TA and grams of acid; fruit integrity, ripeness and health), enology lab work (fermentation monitoring, berry and cluster weight), cellar work (tank and barrel inoculations, pumpovers, and punchdowns) and bringing in fruit on the crushpad (crusher/destemmer work and pumping juice into the tanks) and cleaning, cleaning, CLEANING.  All of this…just in the first week!

Ripe Chimney Rock Cabernet Sauvignon - #MFITV

Elizabeth’s opening comment quite aptly described the 2011 grape harvest. We had late, big rains in June, regretfully well timed to cause some shatter and/or poor set (or pollination), on some of the grape clusters.  This means that the 2011 NorCal grape clusters look as though they are missing grapes, a result of these late rains.  Then we had a lot of cool weather, just like last year, making the harvest much later than the average, up to 5 weeks in some parts of the state.  Yet, we finally got some stable warm (not hot) weather later in the summer, which allowed for cool, even ripening and no hint of sunburn, dehydration, nor mold, as long as you cut back a lot of foliage to allow for this slow even ripening.  Further rains and cool weather in early October enhanced the fears for mold.  Fortunately,  Elizabeth foresaw these possible weather outcomes early in the season and ordered the proper amount of defoliation, with great execution by Flavio and Rios Vineyard Management. Now we’re bringing in excellent Estate fruit, despite the somewhat ominous misty and cool weather that we had much of last week.  All that said, the day I arrived, crush finally took off and I dived headfirst into a very compressed harvest.  Indeed, we brought in 150 tons of premium Estate fruit Thursday and Friday of last week, alone!

Follow all of my adventures during this crazy sabbradical, by keeping up to date here at Vinopanion and following the #MFITV hashtag on Twitter, and all of the content that I’m pushing to my Facebook.  The project also has it’s own photo albums on Facebook and Flickr.  Lastly, all of the videos will be posted to my YouTube channel.  Don’t be shy, I’ll add you to any profiles!

Below you will find a list of Chimney Rock wines on WineLog.  I have reviewed some of these before my #Harvest2011 antics began, but I cannot, of course, review any while I am working for the Rock.  Cheers!

Chimney Rock Winery (Twitter, Facebook, WineLog) wines on WineLog:

[winelist query=”Chimney%20Rock%20Winery&order=rating” num=”100″]

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″]

Kia Ora está en La Mar

Nobilo - Marlborough SoundsOK, so they don’t speak Spanish in New Zealand…they speak Kiwi English.  I know this, but based on my love of Spanish food and my experiences along the coasts of both Spain and Portugal (diff language, I know!) last Summer, they might as well speak that Romantic language, what with the bright, quality wine that they put out with each vintage.   Seafood is the phenom pairing for the vast majority of these wines and I’m happy to throw them together on the regular.

Now clearly, I’ve always been a fan of NZ wines, so let’s just get that experiential bias right out in the open.  So when I heard that would soon be a winemaker dinner that not only paired some classic NZ winemakers alongside some fervent wine bloggers, but also some extremely tasty Peruvian seafood with said winemakers’ wines…I said [frak] yeah, I’ll come!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=saHYRAm0cEQ[/youtube]I attended this tasty dinner courtesy of Benson Marketing Group.  They teamed up with Constellation New Zealand to put together this US road show and I was happy to be a part.  The setting was La Mar Cebicheria, at Pier 1 1/2 in the San Francisco Embarcadero.  The food at this place is just nuts.  I’d been there a couple times before for both wine work and work work: it features a freshly prepared menu of seafood that I haven’t yet found an equal.  Damn good food, so I was pumped when I arrived.  I met two of the most friendly bear-men you’ll meet when I arrived, winemakers Dave Edmonds and Darryl Wooley of Nobilo Wines (as you can see in the video above, courtesy of Nobilo).  The third winemaker, Anthony Walkenhorst from Kim Crawford, was also extremely nice, but seemed more likely to kindly offer up a run through the forest than wrap you in an strong embrace (also a good thing).

[winebadge id=”58868″]

As we tasted through the wines, alongside some slammin’ cebiche chifa, we had a nice walking tour through the various sub-regions, climates and soils of the Marlborough appellation.  The well-known Marlborough appellation has a variety of sub-regions that are just now getting their own names out across the US.  From the warmer, drier and more alluvial soiled Wahopai, Wairau, and Rapura that help to contribute a more tropical fruit flavor to their wines, to the cooler Awatere Valley, where the wines can pick up those more herbal and citrus characteristics that have made NZ wines a star across much of the wine world these past two decades.  It was a fascinating lesson in climate and geology and one that I sorely needed, with my limited understanding of these sub-regions.

The patience of Dave and Darryl (and most likely Anthony if I was able to hear that end of the table) to answer my questions was exceedingly high and rivals only that of my first grade teacher, Mrs. Rogers.  This was made even more evident when Dave leaked the fact that he was desperately trying to find a ride to the North Bay (after the last ferry) in order to meet up with with a very old friend that he hadn’t seen in many years, the last time he was stateside.  And all of this was going on after I had already been told that these this kind troupe of winegrowers had gleaned only about 10 hours sleep in the last week, during their zip across the states for this vino trip.  For this patience, their wines, the education and the delicious food; I thank them!

You can find all of the wines that we tried that night to list in your own WineLog by searching the tag “KiaOra2010.”  What are your own experiences with Kiwi wine?  Cheers!

Drylands Wines (WineLog):

QPRWK - WKBadgesNewWorldWK - WKBadges Drylands Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Delving into golden tones, with clear edges

Nose: Slight savory herbs at first, then tropical fruits and some nice clean slate minerality.

Palate: Softer pink grapefruit in the fore, then that kicks into a zesty, almost spicy fruit composition out to the finish.  All of this is complemented by some tropical fruit lurking underneath.  Good: NewWorldWK, QPRWK.

Kim Crawford Wines (Twitter, WineLog):

Kim Crawford Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Kim Crawford Marlborough Spitfire Small Parcel Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Kim Crawford Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009

Monkey Bay Wines: (WineLog):

Monkey Bay Wines Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Nobilo Wines (WineLog):

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Medium canary core, clear edges

Nose: Clean, some minerality with medium tropical fruits and good grapefruit.

Palate: Salty, juicy grapefruit and bright zesty tropical fruit, with a long juicy finish featuring crisp acidity: NewWorldWK.

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Icon Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2010

Color: Medium canary clear edges

Nose: Distinct tomato vine here, Great juicy grapefruit as well and clean minerality.

Palate: More complex structure here, with a fuller mouthfeel and better balance with the crisp and clean citrus and that tomato vine finish.  Very good: NewWorldWK.

NewWorldWK - WKBadges Nobilo Marlborough Icon Pinot Noir 2009

Color: Lighter ruby

Nose: Good savory nose with toast, darker red fruit of rhubarb and then anise in this barrel sample.

Palate: Silky and medium full body, with good acidity showing bright cherry and cranberry fruit alongside that rhubarb and subtle anise.  The toast underlays all of this along with some white pepper towards the finish. Good: NewWorldWK.