Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye

Wine Blogger’s Conference 2009

Last weekend, as in ending yesterday was the Wine Blogger’s Conference. It was held at the Flamingo Hotel, Spa and Resort in Santa Rosa, California. For the most part, the Flamingo did a pretty decent job, with the exception of the FUBAR internet connections. I had to leave two hours sooner than I would have because I couldn’t pull MLS listings in the morning on Sunday. If you’re going to invite bloggers, have internet. Simple stuff. Or not so much. Anyway, beyond that snafu, the facility was nice enough and the staff was helpful.

Friday night had some events that I missed because LSI is a bunch of asshats. I did arrive in time for the end of speed tasting, a reception, the grand tasting and dinner. I should have taken better notes. I did finally get some Murphy-Goode, those are the folks that brought us the “Really Goode Job” campaign.

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Hardy Wallace, the winner was at the conference.

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Inside Sonoma launched “A Fairly Decent Jobbe” campaign on Friday night.

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Actually the showing of that video might have been the highlight of Friday night. And now I know where Tim Bell went after leaving Freemark Abbey. I haven’t liked Kunde wines for like ever, but now that Tim’s there, I’m hopeful.

Saturday they loaded us all up and took us from Sonoma to Napa in short buses. It was appropriate. Unfortunately to get to Napa from Sonoma they had to take us over Mark West Springs Road. That’s right, a mountain road in a bus with 30 winos. At 9am. I was not the only one who was white as a sheet when we arrived. Our first stop was the Culinary Institute of America. They had laid out CIA tasty treats of which I had none because my stomach was churning. I just wanted 7-up. About an hour and a half into the presentation my stomach finally calmed down. By then the speaker was Barry Shuler, former CEO of AOL and lots of other projects. He’s also a premium wine producer. He tore it up. He was informative, up to date, and presented with humor. I pity the poor schmuck that followed his act.

Afterward, they loaded us up into the buses and took us to lunch. I got bumped from my original bus which turned out to be a boon. I spent the day hanging with Felicia from Sort This Out Cellars. Our first stop was Peju. I am always suspect of wineries located on Highway 29. Plenty of people have told me to stop at Peju, I never had. They laid out a beautiful picnic lunch and Mrs. Peju was our very involved hostess. What a delightful woman. After lunch, and some obligatory information about the wine, she offered to take some of us on a walking tour of the property. We visited the grapes, she showed us their solar equipment, they’ve very proud of reducing their carbon footprint, then she took us onto the grounds of their personal home. She picked mulberries from the tree, pointed up to the peaches to pick, took us back into another vineyard, mused about a machine that she didn’t know why it was where it was and showed us their original tasting room. As we walked she put her arm around my shoulder and pointed out things on the property that she thought I might find interesting. You just don’t get that sort of treatment in Napa normally. It was an awesome lunch stop.

Our next stop was Spring Mountain. There the Gods of the Valley were assembled to answer some questions on a panel. Jac Cole from Spring Mountain, Ted Edwards from Freemark Abbey, Jeffrey Stambor from Beaulieu Vineyards and Paula Kornell from Oakville Ranch.

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It was a dichotomy.  I was sad that we were late and they didn’t have more time to speak, but I wouldn’t have given up a moment of walking around the property with Mrs. Peju.  Each of them had two glasses of their best Cabernet Sauvignon laid out for us.  I’m not going to get all of the vintages right but there was roughly a 10 year difference in each glass.  So Spring Mountain had a 1995 and a 2004.  Freemark Abbey had a 1994 and a 2004 Bosché.  Beaulieu had a 1995 George LaTour and a pull from the 2008 barrel.  Oakville brought a 1995 and a 2005.  Jeffrey Stambor spoke of how Beaulieu had a recipe for the George LaTour when he arrived.  It was made like this, every single year.  Ted Edwards has been at Freemark Abbey for 30 years so he’s seen a lot of change in the valley.  I got an opportunity to tell him that I felt his Bosché was the Cabernet by which I measured all others.  I hope he understood that it was a compliment to the quality and consistency of the wine, coupled with spot on pricing.  Oakville Ranch’s wines were a little too new style for me.  I prefer an elegant cab, but if you like a big bold cab, they make a very good one.  Paula Cornell grew up in Napa, so her perspective of changes in the valley was very interesting.  She said the big difference was money.  Isn’t it always?  I also felt that all of these folks understood that great wine was not made in the cellar, it was made in the vineyard.  Great wines are a result of great farming practices.  Caymus was a farming family long before they started producing wine.  Great wines start in the field.

Our next stop was Quintessa for a grand tasting in their caves.  How grand?  Spottswoode, hello!  Ehlers, hello!  Stag’s Leap Cellars, hello!  (I mixed those guys up with Stag’s Leap…who knew?)  We did a ton of spitting there.  I would say there were at least 50 wineries in the cellars, way too many to list.  By this point, I was getting a little wined out and was picking my wines carefully.  They also had these awesome cheese plates laid out.  I was on to cheese by then.  I need to learn more about cheese so that I can remember it more than “it’s a stinky cheese and it’s pretty cool how they cut it”.

Our last stop was dinner at Conn Creek.  Conn Creek served us in their new AVA room.  In that room they have barrels from all of the different Napa Valley AVA’s and you can draw from them and make your own blend.  There was a lot of that going on.  There is 14 barrels from each of the AVA’s, all Cabernet Sauvignon.  They also have all five of the components to a Bordeaux blend on the other wall where you can pull you’re own Bordeaux.  Fascinating concept and I would love to go there when acid wasn’t starting to burn out my esophagus from two days straight of wine drinking.

Now, if we’re done in Napa, that can only mean it’s time to take our buses back over that crappy mountain.  I had been taking it easy, as had Thea of Luscious Lush since we’d both been murdered by the hill on the way to CIA.  At the last minute Thea was able to hitch a ride in a car over the hill.  It was me and a bunch of rowdy drunks in a bus.  Suck it up dog, you can do it.  Luckily, the sun was going down and it was dusk out.  I chose to close my eyes, put my dark glasses on over that and zone out over the hill.  My bus mates chose singing and absinthe.  Those guys know all and I do mean all the words to American Pie.  I was shocked.  They’re mostly the thirty something bracket.  I was impressed.  Hotel California didn’t fair as well.  Jeremiah was a bullfrog.  Several others that are just a haze and we were over the hill and my stomach was intact.  Joy to you and me.

2 Replies to “Them good old boys were drinking whiskey and rye”

  1. Oh no no no! You used the word “delightful” Bad form according to those expert wine writers. Means everything you say should be taken with a grain of salt. Speaking of salt, could be the cause of the headaches — I had them too til I flushed out my system from 10 lbs of water retention due to said high sodium-content WBC meals.

  2. The headache finally left on Friday morning. I think the salt content might have had something to do with it. I don’t normally eat like that. Falling face first into the cheese plate two days in a row probably didn’t help. I got a massage Thursday night and had been drinking stupid amounts of water all week. All better now.

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