It has been almost two weeks since the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference and I have yet to write about it. It didn’t help that I spent a week in-between in solitude in the mountains near Sun Valley, Idaho. One would think it would be the perfect opportunity to get caught up and write about my experience at WBC09 (as it is referred to in the Twitter world), but instead I took the week to relax, read, and drink some good wine with good friends instead. So here I am, finally getting back into the swing of things.
I also think so much was packed into the three days of the conference that I left feeling somewhat overwhelmed with information and experiences to share… so where to begin? After looking at my (over) 200 pictures from the weekend I have decided to share some of my experiences through pictures, then post individual posts about the wines and seminars as the stories evolve. So bare with me, there will be many posts about my experience at the conference.
DAY 1 Started with a welcome and “speed tasting” of about a dozen producers whom each got five minutes to share their selected wines with our table. I’d have to say my top three wines from that tasting were the following:
Rodney Strong, Rockaway Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005 Single Vineyard
Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
Smells like a candy bar, seriously. Vanilla, concentrated cherry, cassis, and blackberries, with caramel and chocolate. The wine was rich with strong tannins. Big Bold & Yummy!
Cornerstone Cellars, 2005 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon
Retail $100, 600 cases produced
Rich and lush with strong tannins, along with dark fruit, cassis, black berry, black cherry, olive, & spice. Dry and tannic with lovely fruit standing by.
2007 Russian River Valley Winegrowers Foundation
Or as it was referred to by many of the live bloggers as the “High School Wine”.
Each year celebrity winemaker takes turns making the wine while high school students harvest the grapes. According to their website:
The result? An amazing signature wine, Lion's Pride Pinot Noir. Under the guidance of Merry Edwards in 2004, Bob Cabral in 2005 and El Molino alumnus Lee Martinelli, Jr. in 2007, a very limited quantity of this wine is available each year.”
All proceeds from the wine go right back to the school's Agricultural program which goes back into the program and also scholarship funds for the students. Each year the wine is from the same land and same fruit (Pinot Noir).
We tried the: Lion’s Pride 2007 Russian River Pinot Noir
About 100 cases produced.
Vanilla, and lots of red fruit from cherry, raspberry, strawberry with a nice lingering spice.
In a time where more and more high school programs are being cut I think this is a fantastic organization! For more information about the foundation click here.
The evening concluded with a dinner a tasting hosted by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers. For me I used this evening as a chance to meet some of the participants of the conference and some of the producers showcasing their wines, not so much analyzing and critiquing all of the wines I was tasting. It was a nice opportunity to taste some lovely wines and meet some great people.
Day 2 was jam packed with events throughout Napa, beginning at The Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena with keynote speaker Barry Schuler, former CEO of AOL, who both entertained and inspired the group with his discussion on new technologies and how they apply to the business of wine.
From there the groups separated onto smaller buses and headed out to lunch at various wineries throughout the Napa Valley. Our bus had the pleasure of heading up to the beautiful property of The Hess Collection where we learned about their sustainable practices and the Napa Green Certification program while enjoying a lovely lunch and a tasting of three of their wines.
After lunch was probably one of my favorite events of the day; a discussion by four different Napa winemakers and tasting of two different vintages of each of their Cabernet Sauvignons along with a discussion of how Napa wines and winemaking practices have changed over the last few decades. The winemakers in attendance were:
Genevieve Janssens, Director of Winemaking at Robert Mondavi Winery
Cathy Corison, Winemaker at Corison Winery
Sean Sullivan - General Manager and CEO at Sullivan Vineyards
Robert Mondavi Winery 2005 & 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Corison Winery 2004 & 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon
Sullivan Vineyards 2005 & 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon
I have to say, this was a very cool experience to be sitting with these winemakers who represent decades of experience, taste their wines, and discuss with them how the wines have changed over the years. Out of all eight of the wines, the one that stood out the most to me was the 2005 Robert Mondavi Winery Cab Reserve. It was spicy, earthy with eucalyptus and olive, along with fruit notes of cassis, black cherry, blackberries, and topped off with vanilla and sage. It was definitely more fruit forward and young but balanced and bold with long living potential. I went back to that wine multiple times after trying the other seven and it stood out as a favorite for me.
Following the tasting at Honig, we were bussed to nearby Quintessa for the grand tasting of Napa wines (mostly Napa Cabs). This will have to be a whole other blog post on the wines I tasted at the grand tasting as I am still sorting through my many tasting notes for the wines I tried there.
Finally that evening we were transported to host wineries for dinner. Again, I feel very lucky to have been on the bus I was on for the day, as we dined on the incredible property at Antica.
There we were invited on a tour of their caves and dine on their lawn overlooking the incredible valley while tasting wines from both Antica and Judds Hill.
After experiencing all of these places I am inspired to go back and spend more time at each of them. Being surrounded by dozens of people, and in the case of the Napa grand tasting with over 200 people, it would be nice to back and experience the wines and wineries at my own pace.
As for the rest of the conference, I will continue to write about the final day of the conference, which included many breakout sessions and seminars along with a lovely vineyard walk and tour at Michel-Schlumberger.
Until then I will leave you with a final picture of the incredible scenery from Antica from Day 2.
… 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference reports to be continued.