The second US Wine Blogger’s Conference began earlier today and I’m glad to in attendance once again. It’s a gathering of hundreds of wine bloggers like me, along with just many participants from within the wine industry.
We’ve already done our opening events (i.e. registration, meet the sponsors, lunch, welcome, etc.) and it’s time for our first “real event,” Live Wine Blogging. The event is something like speed dating between wine makers and wine bloggers. A producer comes to our table tells us about their wine and gives us a sample while we blog our thoughts about the wine, on the spot. And we only have about 5 minutes with each wine!
We did this event last year, and I took it all too seriously. I did my best to do a reasonable job taking notes and coming up with a rating for each wine. But it was a chaotic frenzy throughout the event. And to be honest, I can’t do justice to my reviews in that time frame. So, this year I’m taking a different approach. I’m enjoying the experience, blog about the experience, and I might mention a couple wines that catch my fancy. But I’m not going to review every one of them.
Here’s a glimpse of the conference, during lunch before the live tasting started. This is just a sliver of the crowd here. We’re getting more crowded since I took this shot, especially since a couple wineries are stuck in traffic and late for the live blogging… therefore we’re consolidating tasting groups at fewer tables.
Let’s bring on the tasting!!
Delay: We were on the cusp of starting this event and due to wireless Internet connectivity issues they changed the schedule on us. Live blogging will begin in 20 minutes or so. (posted 6:10 ET)
OK… finally, the live blogging is back on (6:33 ET)
Sounds like we’re starting with some Fish Eye. It get’s no cheaper than this, so we are on equity for CheapWineRatings, the suggested retail price is $6.99. And it’s a pretty straight-forward, cheap pinot grigio. Lime, mineral, a little pine tree aroma. Light, almost flavorless on the palate other than a slight sweetness. It’s not a bad wine, just very light… not much to it. Could be refreshing on a hot day.
On to our next wine and it’s Pinot Evil, pinot noir. It’s a boxed pinot noir and another bargain wine at $18.99 for a box with the equivalent of 4 bottles. It actually has an OK nose, unexpected from a boxed wine. It has a little licorice, a little tar, a little cherry. It’s a little sweet, but otherwise, not a bad pinot for the price.
Onto Cupcake Cabernet Sauvignon. I’m already taking it too seriously again. Time to just start having fun. This is a good Cabernet Sauvignon for $13.99. Solid structure, interesting nose. Nuff said.
Next up is a blend from Snows Lake. Blend of Cab Sauv and Cab Franc. It’s a fantastic wine. On a side note, Mrs. Cheap Wine Ratings has bailed on the live blogging to spend time poolside. As a result all the wine reps have decided that the open spot she left is the perfect place to stand while they tell us about the wines. So, I have to taste these wines with random stranger’s asses next to my face. Not fun. Wifey is in trouble for this one.
I’m scooting over so that I can taste the Line 39 2007 Petite Sirah without ass in my face. It’s a beautiful purple wine. The nose is a little tight, but it’s big and fruity on the palate with lingering dark fruit. You know, as short as most of my posts are, it usually takes me an hour and a half to taste, take pictures and write something up. This is fun. But not condusive to meaningful reviews.
Cline Cellars just walked up with a 2007 Ancient Vines Mourvedre. I thought they would have a Zinfandel, which I’ve already had, so I’m glad to see it’s a new variety. Dirty, dirty dirty on the nose with cassis and licorice. I just inhaled too quickly and made myself dizzy. This wine retails for about $16. The palate is fantastic… full of dark berries, black pepper, coffee and cocoa. Splendid.
After a number of reds, there’s nothing like shaking things up with a Chardonnay, and here comes the Tandem 2007 Chard. It has a powerful nose. This is one of the most floral chardonnays that I’ve tasted. It’s great. The winemaker, Greg La Follette, has a flute in his pocket… seriously.
Another wine rep is squeezing herself into the spot next to me, getting uncomfortably close. I don’t even know what wine this is. She’s not presenting it very well. All I know is that it’s white and it’s a 2007, that’s all I could hear, and I can’t read the bottle from this angle. There’s another rep across the table from me covering the label with her hand. I still have no idea what wine this is. I did just hear that it retails for $18. Finally, I see that it’s a chardonnay, but I could have told you that from the taste. I still don’t have the name. It’s Foggy something. She left.
On to the Clif Syrah. Presented much more effectively than the last rep. This one is a big syrah with tongue-coating berry flavors. Yadda, yadda. That tells you nothing, I know. Berry… how many friggin’ wines have that characteristic? I have no patience to try to do real tasting notes in this crowd. But it is a good wine and this second wine I’ve had from Clif that has impressed me. I just took a picture of the wine, but I felt like I was taking a picture of the reps chest. I’ll post it later.
Yet another uncomfortably close rep, leaning over me and speaking loudly about the wine. I can feel his breath on my head as he speaks. He just said terroir, the first one to use that word on me today. Anyway, the wine is a Pinot Noir from Benovia and it’s the best Pinot Noir I’ve had so far today. A bit of raspberry, a touch of pepper, a touch of mushroom (I guess that’s the terroir).
2007 Lion’s Pride Pinot Noir, for which the grapes are grown by students at the El Molino High School. A different winemaker makes the wine each year and part of the program is to teach the kids about growing grapes. It’s a good, spicy pinot noir. Not as good as the Benovia, but it’s tasty. Only 100 cases are produced, so it’s not a wine you’ll find in your local store, but you can buy it from their website. I grew up in farmland area in Illinois, so I understand agricultural programs in high schools. Good for them to get to do this.
It’s time for our last wine, and it’s Rockaway from Rodney Strong. YES!!! Great wine, but one I can’t get in my local shops. It’s only available through allocation (i.e. you need to be on a list to buy it – you can sign up on their website). It retails for $75. Nobody comes to this website to read about a bottle of wine that is that expensive. But so what? It’s an outstanding wine, but not worth $75 to me. That’s why I do this site. There is diminishing returns on spending more for wines. Yes, this is great… but you can find plenty of wines for under $20 that you would like nearly as much, just as much, possibly more. Nothing against this wine.
The live blogging is over, and I just sold some ads to Atkins Cuisine. I’ll be presenting here at the conference on Friday about monetizing wine blogs, so good timing on a sale to highlight during my talk.