Thursday, July 24, 2014

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

Wine Bloggers Conference 2014
What can I say about the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference held in Buellton a few weeks ago? 
The purpose of the conference seemed to have been two-fold: 1) tips about wine blogging and 2) an opportunity to blog about wines. At this time of the year the wine events that I blog about are in full swing, so I didn’t have a burning desire to add to my backlog of blog posts. My main objective was to learn more about blogging in general and wine blogging in particular. It was also a good opportunity to network with wine bloggers and wine professionals, tweet a bunch, and of course… drink wine!
I attended some interesting sessions on blogging (the keynote speech), wine certifications, the bu$iness of blogging, photography & videography for wine bloggers, print wine writers, and how the pros taste wine. I listened to how successful bloggers sell ads on their blog sites, get sponsorships, experiment with their site styles, don’t review wines in detail if they aren’t certified, limit the amount of photos on their blog to just 6, reduce the amount of text and increase the amount of graphics/photos, leverage their character rather than their credentials, proactively market their blogs, and hang out with successful people. Well, at least I was hanging out with some of the successful people in the wine industry… and drinking wine.
Does the world need another wine review site?
Hell no, the world doesn’t need me to review wines. If anyone wants a competent wine review they can read the Wine Spectator, The Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast, or one of the many other credible publications! That’s why my blogging about tasting trips around California doesn’t focus on detailed wine reviews. I blog about the event instead: the wine, the food, the people, the venue, the music, and even the beer! I’d rather be out there getting the whole experience instead of describing each wine in terms of Sight, Aroma, Taste, Balance and Finish. Besides doing that for 50 - 60 wines isn’t feasible in 4 hours unless you’re a SuperSomm.

So maybe this thing isn’t a WINE BLOG! (And it certainly isn’t profitable.)
  • I have no certifications from the Court of Master Sommeliers (CMS), the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), or the Society of Wine Educators (SWE) as a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW). So there aren’t many detailed wine reviews. (I'd better leverage my character here since I'm short on these credentials.)
  • Just 6 pictures per blog? I typically shoot 300 - 500 pictures and some video at events. So even after I edit down to 40 - 60 good pictures there are still way too many for a typical blog.
  • Profitable? I have used Google Ads AdSense in the past, but despite over 34,000 pageviews the revenue is a big zero. Sponsorships are interesting, but I like to keep things independent when writing about wine and food events.
  • I should probably use more graphics, like the print wine writers recommended...

This conference made me wonder, so WHO is my audience?
I rarely get comments, only the odd promotion, so I don’t have many clues about who is actually viewing/reading my blog. Maybe it’s just other bloggers? Wineries? Or, it could just be regular people who like wine. Whoever they are most of them seem to be in the United States.
(See handy graphic above.)

I guess I'll just have to think about all of these points some more and fine tune my blog in the second half of this year. I think I'll still keep this a photo-centric blog though. It would be great to get some feedback, come up with an event better format, and monetize my posts while entertaining you. 
 
Cheers!
Are you one of those people who read my blog? Please let me know who you are and what you'd like to see more or less of...
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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

So Cal Vyds Harmata Family Wines

Southern California Vineyards 
&
Harmata Family Wines

I first met Tommy Booth at the Calabasas Malibu Wine Festival in 2012 where he had four wines available for tasting from three wineries: Bridle Trail Wines in Hidden Hills, Calabasas Vineyards, and Tenenbaum Estate Wines—Hidden Hills Vineyards. 
His Southern California Vineyards wine consultation business had been involved with the vineyards of these local wineries and they produced some very good, small production, red wines!
In recent years I’ve noticed more and more grapevines on the hillsides in Westlake Village, so I think an organic grapevine installation company for local homeowners and boutique wineries is a great idea! And after talking with him, it’s obvious to me that Tommy knows what he's doing in the vineyard and as a winemaker. 
I tasted his own 2011 vintage of backyard Cabernet Sauvignon that was grown in Calabasas at the 2013 Calabasas Malibu Wine Festival. No labels were on his bottles yet, but the Cabernet Sauvignon was excellent!

The more I talked with Tommy, the more I was intrigued about planting some grapes at my house, even if it was only one row of grapevines.  I had accumulated a random collection of them from wine festivals and wineries that were growing in pots in the backyard and I concluded that they needed to be organized and properly planted. When my wife and I made plans to re-landscape at the end of 2013 I called Tommy for his suggestions. 
I suppose my nano-vineyard of seven vines was probably the smallest project he’d ever taken on, but he approached it like any other size project and the results were great (just not very big). Now I am the owner the eclectic “Conejo Valley Vineyard.”  
During the spring of 2014 when Tommy worked on my small vineyard project I bought some of his Harmata Family Wines 2012 MemoryMaker Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon—and this vintage even had labels!
In keeping with the theme of making memories I tasted it after the new vineyard was planted. 
I had my first sip of the 2012 MemoryMaker while sitting on my front steps looking at the small line of newly planted grapevines. Even though my nano-vineyard is not intended for production, it’s fun to watch while enjoying a glass of wine and it’s a lot closer than any wine country destinations. 
The Cabernet Sauvignon had a nose of dark berries with blackberry on the palate and an overall richness that I enjoyed thoroughly. It was good in 2014 and I imagine it would improve during the next five years.
Memory Maker's back label with "This wine will always remind me of..." fill in the blank.
At the 2014 Calabasas Malibu Wine Festival I visited Harmata Family Wines again this year. Tommy poured 2012 Memory Maker Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon and 2012 Memory Maker Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Cabernet Sauvignon was still excellent since I’d tasted the bottle I bought in May and my wife said the Rosé Cabernet Sauvignon was very delicious! We’re buying some more of both soon. 
Imagine buying some of the first wines produced by a famous winemaker back when he was just starting out... I think we have, and that’s a real memory makerCheers!

Know about any local wineries just starting out? Share your thoughts with me at ...
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Thursday, July 17, 2014

Santa Barbara Wine Fest 2014

Santa Barbara Wine Festival 2014
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
This year the festival wine glasses were moved indoors to the entryway of Fleischmann Auditorium and offered a fun photo op with this friendly-looking bear.




And the annual reminder bear was still on patrol at the entry.
Mission Creek is a nice backdrop to the festival, although I've never seen much water in it.

WINE
Part of the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History's tagline is "Inspiring a thirst for discovery..." and I interpreted that to be a thirst for discovery of new wines.  I wasn't disappointed again this year and enjoy this wine festival more than others in the area.
Avelina 2012 Pinot Grigio, Santa Barbara County (and sponsor of the friendly-looking bear by the wine glasses).
Mary Beth Vogelzang with Vogelzang Vineyard 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley.

 A fine line-up of reds and whites!
  • Vogelzang 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley
  • Vogelzang 2011 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Happy Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley
  • Vogelzang 2009 Pinot Noir,  Santa Rita Hills
  • Vogelzang 2011 Reserve Viognier, Happy Canyon, Santa Ynez Valley
Uncorking for the day...
Alexander & Wayne - Burgundy and Bordeaux varieties
Arthur Earl - Rhone, Italian, Spanish varieties

Beckman Vineyards ready to pour their Grenache Blanc, Cuvée Le Bec, Grenache and Syrah.

Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards with 2010 Syrah, 2010 Z Cuvée (54% Grenache, 34% Mourvèdre, 6% Syrah, 6% Cinsault), 2012 Viognier and 2011 Z Blanc (78% Roussanne, 17% Grenache Blanc, 5% Viognier).
Andrew Murray Vineyards poured a very nice 2013 Viognier, Santa Maria Valley, a 2012 Espérance, Central Coast (60% Grenache, 25% Syrah, 15% Mourvèdre) and a 2012 Syrah, Stolpman Vineyard, Ballard Canyon.  
I liked the 2013 Viognier, Santa Maria Valley and 2012 Syrah, Stolpman Vineyard, Ballard Canyon best.

Fiddlehead Cellars poured a white, a pink, and a red:
2011 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
2013 Pinot Noir Rosé
2010 Seven Twenty Eight Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Fiddlestix. And don't forget to drink 728 on 7/28 at the big party in the Lompoc Tasting Room or toast from home and send pictures.

Norm Yost of Flying Goat Cellars had a nice variety of wines, including their bubbly:
2010 Goat Bubbles, Blanc de Blancs, Santa Maria Valley, Sierra Madre Vineyard
2013 Pinot Gris, Santa Maria Valley, Sierra Madre Vineyard
2009 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, Rio Vista Vineyard
2011 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Dierberg Vineyard

Westerly Wines with a great selection of Santa Barbara County wines:
2012 Westerly Chardonnay, Santa Barbara County
2010 Westerly Cabernet Sauvignon, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara
2010 Westerly Fletcher’s Red, Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara (50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Merlot, 23% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc)

Kenneth Volk Vineyards, where Ken poured his version of American Beauty…
2011 Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley
2013 Albariño, River Bench Vineyard
2012 Malvasia Bianca, Monterey, San Bernabe Vineyard
2010 Mourvèdre, Lime Kiln Valley, Enz Vineyard
2010 Zinfandel, Lime Kiln Valley, Enz Vineyard
2009 Tempranillo, San Benito, John Smith Vineyard

Transcendence Wines 2012 Chardonnay, Zotovich Vineyard, Sta. Rita Hills poured by winemaker Joey Gummere (AKA Kenneth). Love the Zotovich fruit.
Larner Winery had a very nice selection of wines, including:
2011 Rosé, Ballard Canyon
2009 Syrah, Santa Ynez Valley
2009 Elemental GSM

Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard poured white, rosé, and red wines:
2013 Patelin de Tablas Blanc
2013 Dianthus (
Rosé of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Counoise)
2012 Patelin de Tablas

In a wooded corner by Mission Creek I found Grassini Family Vineyards and Rachael poured me their extremely popular Bordeaux blend, the 2011 Articondo, Happy Canyon Vineyard, which is sold out! She also had some chilled 2012 Sauvignon Blanc available.
Feliz Noche Cellars poured a red wine with a well-hidden label.
Kunin Wines poured a 2013 Viognier, Santa Ynez Valley, Camp Four Vineyard.  My favorite white wine!
Ken Brown, with a bottle of 2011 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, and Jarrod Bradley of Ken Brown Wines. They also poured these wines:
2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Santa Ynez Valley - a debut wine.
2011 Rita’s Crown Chardonnay, Sta. Rita Hills, Rita’s Crown Vineyard
2011 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley, Garey Vineyard
2010 Syrah, Santa Barbara County, “A” Cuvée
I especially enjoyed the red wines.

Brewer-Clifton poured a very nice 2012 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills, other Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, plus  a 2013 Rosé of Pinot Noir, Kessler-Haak that was popular with the tasters below.

Karina and Larry Hogan of Sagebrush Annie's poured their red wines from Stone Pine Estate, Core, Barnwood and Laetitia vineyards. Great reds!
At Margerum Wine Company I tasted their 2012 M5, Santa Barbara County (43% Grenache, Alamo Creek, Camp 4, Rodney’s, and Black Oak vineyards, 41% Syrah, Colson Canyon, Black Oak, Great Oak, John Sebastiano, and Alondra de los Prados vineyards, 9% Mourvedre, Curtis and Zaca Mesa vineyard, 4% Cinsault, Camp 4 vineyard, 3% Counoise, Camp 4 vineyard) and a 2010 Syrah, Colson Canyon Vineyard, Santa Barbara County. Both were delicious!
They were also poured a 2012 Sybarite (Sauvignon Blanc), Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, and a 2011 Buoni Anni Bianco (34% Cent’Anni Estate Pinot Grigio, 32% Honea Vineyard Tocai Fruiliano, 34% Sierra Madre Vineyards Pinot Bianco), and 2009 Buoni Anni, Santa Barbara County (Sangiovese with a little Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot).

Richard Sanford poured his Alma Rosa 2012 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, La Encantada Vineyard & El Jabalí Vineyard.  Very good!

Chemayne Faulconer of Roblar Winery poured a 2012 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills.
Bob Wesley of The Winehound poured a Mirabelle 2012 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills
Daniel Gehrs Wines poured a 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (blended with Petit Verdot), Central Coast.
Koehler Winery poured two very good red wines: a 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Ynez Valley and a 2010 Sangiovese, Santa Ynez Valley.
Doug Timewell and Terrie Leivers of Toucan Wines poured their great reds and fortified wines: the 2010 & 2011 Carignane, the 2009 Zinfandel and the 2010 Estate Toucanet Port Style Dessert Wine. All were very good!
Larry Schaffer of Tercero Wines poured his artistic Rhône red and white wines, plus a special Erlenmeyer flask that made some people get a little excited!


FOOD
Marmalade Café served up some tasty treats, but the prop bottle of Veuve Clicquot Champagne was fun too.

The Berry Man, Inc., a wholesale produce distributor, always puts out a great display of fresh strawberries.
Whole Foods Market has a great selection of appetizers.
Renaud’s Patisserie put together an artistic arrangement.

Sweets from Mademoiselle Madeleine.

Brophy Bros. Clambar & Restaurant served some nice ceviche.

SBCC School of Culinary Arts made some country pork paté with mini pickle slices.
Via Maestra 42 was popular with their ceviche treats.
Tropical Ceviche with citrus marinated Mexican shrimp and baby scallops topped with tropical mango dressing.
Ceviche Verde with fresh Halibut ceviche in a special cilantro basil marinade with pineapple and red onion.

What wine would you pair with Rock Rose Smoked Chipotle Chili and Tangerine and Smoked Sea Salt Marmalade from Sweet Lady Cook Handmade Preserves?
Finch & Fork's Shuck & Swallow oysters were as easy as ONE...
TWO...
THREE!  (Thanks to this oyster volunteer for demonstrating, because I'm not an oyster fan.)
C’est Cheese served Three Chees Foccacia and Cucumber & Avocado Soup.

The Pickle People from the Pacific Pickle Works smile when they say, “Asparagusto!”
Sorriso Italiano served One Meatball and it was available next to  Kalyra Winery.
Chef Michael Hutchings of Michael's Catering served a Gruyere Cheese Souffflé--twice baked on a pool of cream.

Georgia's Smokehouse served a chicken sandwich and everyone was snapping them up.  The early ones might have looked better; I think I got there a little late.
Freezer Monkeys added some new Bon Bons to their line-up.  Great dessert on a warm day!

I thoroughly enjoyed the wine & food and talking with vendors, winemakers, and friends.  This festival always draws a good crowd, but it is still, somehow, laid back and you can taste at a relaxed pace. Of course you can't taste everything, as I try to do every year, but you can cover most of the wine and food. Maybe if I didn't take so many pictures I'd cover more ground, but that wouldn't be as much fun! 

Cheers!


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