Gathering at Jefferson Vineyards

One of our last events (unofficial) from the Wine Bloggers Conference was to attend a small gathering of bloggers at Jefferson Vineyards. Andy Reagan explained his reason for an after conference gathering on Frank Morgan’s Drink What You Like blog:

“One of the main reasons I hosted the post conference gathering was to get some real time with individual bloggers and try to get my message across, and talk about Jefferson wines, where they’re at, the foods they need to be paired with, etc. before there is an opinion written.”

We spent a few hours socializing with other bloggers, talking with Andy about his wines, and enjoying tastings of some of this wines. We were able to taste the 2007 Viognier, 2010 Vigonier, 2007 Chardonnay Reserve, 2010 Pinot Gris, 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Reserve Cabernet Franc, and the 2007 Meritage. This wasn’t a time for us to review the wines so we just enjoyed what we tasted and didn’t take any notes. I will say though, that I really enjoyed the 2010 Pinot Gris. It was a hot day and this wine helped ease the heat.

Here are some photos from the event. A big thanks to Andy for inviting us and sharing his food and wine with us that afternoon. It was a great way to end the conference.

Wine Blogger Conference Impressions Part II

So I’ll conclude my wrap up of the WBD 11 conference here with this shorter post that will focus on break-out sessions, presentations and the awards dinner.

Break Out Sessions:
A number of break out sessions were available for bloggers to attend. We attended the sessions on millenials and wine, drinking local, and the future of blogging. Of these, I found the drinking local conference most interesting and useful for our purposes. The session was moderated by Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like, and panelists included Lenn Thompson of New York Cork Report, Remy Charest, blogger at The Wine Case in Canada, and Washington Post critic Dave McIntyre. McIntyre defined drink local as “a story that is just beginning.” If this is the case, then bloggers do play a critical role in the whole drink local movement. When we began our own blog six years ago, we were one of a handful of blogs writing about Virginia wine. We opted for a drink local focus because, although we both enjoyed wines from around the world, Virginia wines seemed less likely to be featured in the wine media, traditional or online. As the other 46 states continue to develop their own wine industries, bloggers will continue to play a key role in the process. After all, there is little to indicate that the established industry resources will regularly feature non-traditional wine regions. Other topics included the issue of price and local wines with McIntyre noting that if a local wine earns the same accolades as a wine from France or California, then the matter of price should be a non-issue.

The session on millennials and wine was probably the session that least held my attention. A basic summary of this session seemed to be that millennials like to be engaged and entertained and are more likely tune out information they deem to be boring or useless. No tasting notes or references to terroir for them. And f-bombs are okay with them. I’m not so sure that I bought any of this, but then again I’m closer to 50 years of age than 25. I was once 20-something with a short attention span, so I understood the gist of what I heard. However, I did come away with a conclusion that the millennials are unencumbered by elitist attitudes toward wine and thus more likely that boomers to try wines from other regions. I do think that it is a more open-minded generation. And I don’t think dropping f-bombs is necessary to grab their attention.

Paul attended the future of blogging session on Sunday morning. I was able to sneak in a bit later after grabbing some breakfast. This session was blogger led and supposed to be about the Present and Future of wine blogging. The first part was a discussion about how Twitter is used and the roll of Facebook in wine blogging. There was technical talk but the discussion really revolved around basically three bloggers discussing how the wine blogging community could come together and help change things in the wine the use of certain enclosures. Before we knew it, the session was over. If it had continued, I’m sure we would have gotten to some more substantive topics. I actually think the conference should have more sessions like this one…more time for bloggers to talk about what is relevant to us. Either way, it was a good time to hear other bloggers talking about what they are so passionate about.

The Ignite presentations were given by bloggers, and these ranged from infomercial to entertaining to controversial. My favorite was given by who gave an excellent comparison of east coast wine regions to those on the American west coast and Bordeaux. The most controversial presentation was one that attempted to debunk the cork shortage issue and asserted that plastic or screw cap enclosures are actually rather harmful to both wine and drinker. From our own experiences with enclosures, we still prefer cork but do not mind the screw caps. The plastic enclosure? Not so much. If we have to dump a bad bottle of wine, it is usually one that had been sealed with a plastic cork.

Awards Dinner:
This event accomplished two things: 1) it showcased Virginia and its history as a wine producing region, and 2) it recognized bloggers for jobs well-done. Part of the showcasing included featuring locally grown food with locally produced wines, and I do have to admit that a couple of the food and wine pairings were a bit curious. For example, the corn chowder with Virginia rieslings were not as successful as the duck pate paired with the Horton Sparkling Viognier. I’m not sure how Virginia rieslings even made the menu, but I will acknowledge that the Lovingston Petit Manseng was the bright star in the lineup. The dessert pairings which featured local cheeses partnered with the Gray Ghost Adieu and the Rockbridge V d’or were quite solid.

Before the dinner, bloggers were awarded for excellent work. Nominees included Virginia’s own Swirl Sip Snark! Winners included the New York Cork Report, Fermentation, Enobytes, and Vinography. Congratulations to these outstanding writers.

Al and Cheryl Kellert from Gray Ghost Vineyards

Jen Breaux Blosser and Chris Blosser from Breaux Vineyards

All in all, this was a positive experience for us. This was our first blogger’s conference, and we came away with renewed energy to continue to support local wine. We met lots of bloggers from all over, and we learned that their experiences were likewise quite positive. The heat? Not much to do about it except deal with it. Conferences? We heard some complaints about lack of content at this event, and that might be worth revisiting for next year’s organizers. For example, with this year’s advice given by keynoters Jancis Robinson and Eric Asimov still fresh in our minds, a writers’ workshop might be useful. Wines? Overall, the feedback by those who actually tasted lots of Virginia wine was positive; this has been acknowledged by Virginia winemakers with whom we chatted during and after the conference. Were all of the wines excellent? No, but that has to be expected regardless of wherever the conferences are held. We concur with Frank Morgan at Drink What You Like who commented on one blog’s rather negative post—for those who left their hotel rooms and actually participated in the events with an open mind, there was much to learn and experience. Would we consider attending another blogger’s conference? Absolutely! And to close, another thank you to Annette, Amy and Mary Catherine of the Virginia Wine Board for a job well done!

The Virginia Wine Blogger Clique

Impressions On the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011

Paul and I attended the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference held in Charlottesville.  Wine bloggers, winemakers, and other industry people from around the world came to the conference to talk wine, pour wine, and appreciate wine.  Along the way, bloggers got the opportunity to hear words of advice from industry experts as well as from each other.  I will post a summary of the conference and my impressions of it in a two part post. Today’s post will feature keynote addresses and important events that allowed bloggers to interact with each other, with winemakers, and of course, wine

If there was an official start of the 2011 Wine Bloggers Conference, it was delivered on Friday by keynote speaker and wine industry legend, Jancis Robinson.  After an amusing recap of her storied three-decades long career in the wine writing business, Robinson offered advice to bloggers: 1) be more investigative; 2) be more creative; 3) fine tune the writing and use the Economist magazine as a stylistic model; 4) date what you write; 5) be accurate; 6) be authentic, and 7) try to write for a more international community.  Some of these tips seemed to concur with Saturday’s keynote address given by New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov who likewise encouraged bloggers to be more investigative and creative.  In fact, Asimov advised bloggers to eschew posts that present tasting notes other than to describe wines as either sweet or savory.  Like Robinson, Asimov offered accuracy and authenticity as critical assets to quality blogging.

We certainly internalized and reflected upon these critical pieces of advise from these renowned voices in the wine writing field.  It certainly is very easy to become too comfortable with a known formula for topics and blog posts especially with the hectic realities of day to day living (like jobs, for example)!  However, Paul and I used the days after the conference to brainstorm a list of topics that are outside of our usual focus on winery visits.  We may even plan to revive our Extra Pour feature that presented lengthier articles and required more investigation and research.  However, I’m not sure about abandoning tasting notes in our posts.  For us these notes present our sensory experience with wines and how they matched with food.  Why? When I read reviews of wines, either on blogs or traditional media, I like to read the tasting notes. How do these palates compare to mine? If the review features a wine that I’ve already tasted, did I get similar characteristics? Were my own taste buds off? What are other nuances that I should be able to detect?  In other words, I consider the tasting notes part of the educational experience both for my readers and myself.

Wine Tastings: In my opinion, these offered the best opportunities for bloggers to interact with each other, wine makers and other industry people about the one subject we all enjoy—wine.

1) Speed Tastings: Two of these were conducted, and the first one was held on Friday evening before we all went out to Monticello for a tasting of Virginia wines.  The Friday session featured white wines from around the world including Virginia, and the second session was held on Saturday before the awards dinner.  The second session presented red wines.  The pace of these was certainly rapid with five minutes given for each winery to present its wine to tasters who than frantically tweeted their impressions.  Despite the pace, we were able to compare notes with other bloggers.  I don’t remember how many wines were tasted, but the whole thing lasted for almost an hour.  Needless to say, I did lots of spitting.  I do recall enjoying a bubbly from Gloria Ferrer and a Pinot Noir from King Estate in Oregon.  I allowed myself to swallow a sip of those before reluctantly hitting the dump bucket.

2) Monticello Dinner and Tasting: Mother Nature intruded on this Friday evening event and delivered a 100+ degree scorcher.  Heat and humidity was definitely an issue both for tasters and winemakers who had to present their wines in less than optimal conditions.  At least 30 Virginia winemakers were on hand to pour one white wine and one red wine for guests. Tasters seemed to be in the mood to try white wines, and in conversations with other bloggers who had never tried Virginia wines, Virginia Viogniers seemed to excel.  One blogger noted the aromatic nature of Virginia white wines; another applauded the array of Viognier styles with each seeming to be well-crafted.  We made the round of white wines first then enjoyed small portions of food that included cheese grits with shrimp, fried green tomatoes, and crab cakes.  The heat did make some sippers leery of trying red wines, but those who did commented on the solid Bordeaux-style wines; however, the most buzz was generated around the Pinot Noir from Ankida Ridge.  In fact, wine experts Richard Leahy and Dave McIntyre both gave me a thumbs up when I asked their opinions about it.  One blogger from Oregon did also mention this one as a favorite of the Virginia reds.  How did they all respond to the heat?  I’m from New Orleans, so I felt like a fish in water (literally), and I’m able to roll with this kind of weather.  I did ask one blogger from British Columbia how she fared in weather that had to be foreign to her, and she replied, “I just dealt with it.  I’m here to experience local wines and talk to other wine bloggers about wine.  I’m not sitting in the hotel room because it’s hot.”


3) The Other 46 tasting: I was surprised that more wineries from other states did not participate in this, and I was even more surprised that most bloggers did not attend.  With an increasing focus on drinking beyond West Coast and Western Europe, I expected this session to be heavily attended.  To be honest, this was conducted after the Monticello event, so some bloggers may have been heat fatigued.  However, the heat did not seem to dampen the enthusiasm for private parties that occurred at the same time.  For me, this was a chance to try wines from Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, and Maryland.  Several of us left with bottles of Missouri bubbly, Missouri Norton, and a very nice Missouri Vignole.  I was also surprised by a Texas Tempranillo and a dry Riesling from Ohio.  At the end of the session, a table of us Virginia bloggers were joined by a winemaker from Canada, a blogger from Vermont, a representative of Boordy Winery in Maryland, and Jen Breaux Blosser from Breaux Vineyards to chat about wine and the different varieties and styles offered by the various states.

4) Winery Visits: This was held on Saturday afternoon, and bloggers boarded different busses each destined for at least two Virginia wineries in the Charlottesville area.  Our particular bus (bus 4 rocked with DrinkWhatYouLike, Swirl Sip Snark, Cellar Blog, and Breaux Vineyards) headed for newly opened Pippin Hill Farm and Veritas Vineyard and Winery.  We were particularly impressed with Pippin Hill, and its gorgeous setting prompted more than one blogger to snap as many pictures as possible.  Wines included a Chardonnay, a Viognier, a Rose and a Blended Red.  I’ll spare the details about the wines for a future post, but I will say that the wines were all well received as I spotted bloggers leaving with bottles.  What may have helped to sell the wines were food pairings offered with each wine sample.  Winery chef Amalia Scattena prepared a plate of seared scallops, chicken salad wrapped in grape leaves, and a muffin topped with frosting and a drizzle of chambourcin.  I would have stayed longer just for more of the scallops and Chardonnay!  From Pippin Hill we then boarded the bus and headed to Veritas Vineyard and Winery where we were directed to the tank room.  It was deliciously cold down there too!  Here winemaker Emily Pelton and her father, Stephen, gave us a vertical of Veritas Cabernet Franc starting back to the 2002 vintage and Petit Verdot.  This session ended with a sneak sample of the upcoming Petit Manseng.  We were then offered lunch in the upstairs dining room with a complete tasting of current releases provided in a private tasting room.  Comments from the group?  The white wines seemed to earn the most accolades with one blogger from New York suggesting that Virginia had given her a new appreciation for Chardonnay (lest we all think that Virginia only makes Viognier, of course).  Petit Verdot seemed to trump Cabernet Franc, too.


So what to conclude from these interactions?  In regard to Virginia wine, the feedback that we received was largely favorable.  Another blogger from Ohio summed up her perceptions in this way,”Virginia wines are clean and well made.  I didn’t like everything that I tasted, but I liked a lot of what I tasted.”  Fair enough.  We also heard admiring comments about the extensive support offered by the state government and the well-organized efforts to promote Virginia wines.  Dedication of winemakers was also noted; if anything, the weekend’s hot weather gave many bloggers an appreciation for the area’s challenges in making quality wines.  

In regard to other bloggers, I was impressed with the number of folks who made an effort to participate in every program offered at the event.  They were not daunted by the heat or the sometimes hectic pacing.  I was also impressed with their open-mindedness toward Virginia wines; I must admit that I was a bit nervous as to how west coast palates would receive Virginia wines.  However, a San Diego blogger extolled the virtues of Virginia reds, especially the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon from Keswick Vineyards.  It was unfortunate, then, that a handful of bloggers who opted not to participate in these events complained about the lack of interaction between bloggers and winemakers, squawked about the heat as though anyone could do anything about it, and snubbed Virginia wines.  These complaints were usually tweeted from the comforts of their hotel room or the hotel lobby.  

For brevity’s sake, I will end this post here but conclude my impressions in another post.  Before I sign off, though, Paul and I cannot thank the Virginia Wine Board, headed by Annette Boyd, enough for planning this conference.  They did an amazing job pulling all of this together.  Until next time, happy sipping from Virginia Wine Time.

Day Three

One of the highlights from Day Three of the Wine Bloggers Conference was the bus trip to visit some wineries in the Charlottesville area. There were several buses visiting wineries but our bus went to Pippin Hill Farm and Veritas. We had not been to Pippin Hill Farm before so this added to our number of wineries visited. We are now up to 127 wineries. Here are some photos of our visit to Pippin Hill Farm. We will be posting more about our visit to Pippin Hill Farm in a separate post. Stay tuned for that! Enjoy the photos!

Evening Sippers

The evening before we left for the Wine Bloggers Conference we took advantage of Wine Wednesday. Our sipper for the evening was the 2009 Pinot Grigio from Gadino Cellars and our dinner wine was the 2009 Rose from Linden Vineyards. They were both lovely and went with our nibbles and meal very well.

We had the 2009 Gadino Cellars Pinot Grigio with cheese and crackers. First off we noticed the light straw color and the aromatic nose of twists of lemon, subtle peach, and minerality. On the tongue we noticed the refreshing minerality and nice acidity. We noted lemon and the crisp feel and finish. It accompanied our cheese and crackers rather well on a very warm afternoon.

Our dinner wine was the 2009 Rose from Linden Vineyards. As we’ve noted before, you can’t go wrong with anything from Linden. This rose had a pale pink color and a strawberry, grapefruit, and melon nose. On the tongue we noted strawberry, melon, citrus zest, and refreshing acidity. We wanted a lighter wine for our chicken and pasta and this one filled the bill perfectly. Of course this means I have one less bottle of Linden Rose on my rack!

If you visit Gadino Cellars or Linden Vineyards anytime soon, mention you read about their wines on Virginia Wine Time!

Day Two

The highlight of Day Two of the Wine Bloggers Conference was our trip to Monticello. Bloggers were able to meet winemakers and taste wines from 32 different Virginia Wineries. After a few speeches the wine tasting began. Here are some photos from the evening. It was VERY hot but the wines were cool.

Todd Haymore-Agriculture Secretary of Virginia

Keswick Vineyards

King Family Vineyards

Jefferson Vineyards

Gabriele Rausse

Glass House Winery

Cardinal Point

Annefield Veinyards

8 Chains North

Gadino Cellars

Catoctin Creek