Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Wine Bloggers Conference Speed Tasting: Hits And Near Misses

WBC17 Speed Tasting (1)

The most popular, polarizing, frenzied and fun events at the Wine Bloggers Conference are certainly the live blogging sessions. Here we uncork some favorites from the Sonoma WBC event in November.

The Live Blogging Experience at #WBC17

Take 300 wine bloggers pack them in a room with 25 winemakers and winery reps. Ring a bell and chaos of the most delightful kind ensues. That was the case at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma in November.

I’ve been to eight Wine Bloggers Conferences (WBC) and the live blogging events are a highlight each year. The format could be considered speed dating with wine. Bloggers are stationed at round tables and winemakers or their representatives go from table to table pouring their wine, distributing fact sheets and answering questions. The time allotted for each wine is five minutes! The wine bloggers are busy snapping pictures, tweeting, posting to Facebook, sipping and taking notes.

This goes on for 10 or more rounds! It’s like riding the rapids on a raging river of wine -- harrowing at times, but exhilarating in the end.

My opinion of these live blogging sessions has gravitated this way and that over the years. The first few years it was – “this is the most awesome idea ever!” If you don’t approach it right (taking small sips and swirling and spitting as needed), though, it can be difficult to face the receptions or special wine dinners scheduled in the evening. I’ve also reflected that it might be nicer to spend an hour with a couple of glasses of wine from a really good bottle in a more relaxed setting.

Overall my judgment comes down this way. It’s a great way to get introduced to a wide variety of wines in a short period of time. If one grabs me, I can follow-up with the winery or locate a bottle elsewhere. I also want to support the sponsors whose coin helps make the WBC possible. This year WBC scheduled some time after the event to visit with some of the wineries that poured in order to review the wines with less time constraint. This is an excellent feature we hope to see continued.

And We’re Off!

Many thanks to the sponsors who participated in the live blogging sessions. Here are some of the bottles that shined during WBC17. Thanks to the Vino-Sphere tasting team (Green Dragon, Cabernetor and Glorious T) who also rode the wave of wine.

Breathless Brut Magnum, North Coast – This sparkling wine is 50% Pinot Noir, 46% Chardonnay and 4% Pinot Meunier and is vinted in the traditional method. Light, refreshing with apple and citrus notes. $79 SRP for a magnum.

Oh! 2015 Sangiovese, Columbia Valley – We’re not down with the “orgasmic” marketing for their wines, but this 100% Sangiovese is a tart beauty with strawberry and cherry flavors. SRP $70.

Papapietro Perry 2014 Peters Vineyard Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley – This winery specializes in Pinot Noir and produces 10 different ones! A lovely RRV Pinot priced at $58 with a blend of cherry and cola flavors with a bit of earth.

Vanderpump 2016 Rosé, Cotes de Provence – Television personality Lisa Vanderpump has created a rosé that is a refreshing blend of Cinsault, Grenache and Syrah. Priced at about $19, this is a dry and bright rosé that is an excellent example of the Provence style.

Stone Hill 2015 Norton, Missouri – The Stone Hill winery was founded in 1847 and at one time was the second largest winery in the US. Norton is a native American grape of the Vitis Aestivalis species. It is hearty and savory with a sweet toasty flavor that differs from Cab. We are fans. SRP $19.99.

Paradise Ridge 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Grandview Vineyard, Russian River Valley – The Wine Country Fires burned down the Paradise Ridge tasting room and production facility – but their estate vineyard survived. They will rebuild and we can’t wait. This is an outstanding single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc! SRP $22.

Gracianna 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir, Westside Reserve, Russian River Valley – Four carefully selected barrels created this limited run of 144 cases. Simply a knockout wine with notes of smoke, oak and red fruit. SRP $72. Our favorite of the red wine live blogging session.

Theopolis Vineyards 2015 Petite Sirah, Yorkville Highlands Mendocino County – Energetic and engaging winery owner Theodora Lee presented this bottle. This PS is velvet in a bottle with swirls of black cherry and cocoa. The finish is smooth as… well, you know! SRP is $38.

Pedroncelli 2015 Mother Clone Zinfandel, Dry Creek ValleyA classic Zin mashup of red berry flavors and spice notes. Most of the grapes come from clones of Zinfandel planted in 1904. Very satisfying at $19 SRP.

Anaba 2015 Turbine White, Sonoma County --  This is a Rhone blend of 31% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 26% Roussanne, 12% Marsanne and 1% Picpoul Blanc. In case you are wondering, Anaba was the first winery in Northern California to use wind power, hence the name. A complex glass of honey, citrus and herb. SRP $32.

So, you have a list of some of our hits. What about the near misses? In general, the wines we tasted ranged from good to excellent. There were a few bummers, but it is hard to tell whether the place in the lineup (10th wine versus the first) could impact our judgment or maybe the presentation (we love to have the wine presented by the owner or winemaker). So, we’ve focused our bandwidth on bottles you might want to uncork.

There were many more great wines that we haven’t covered here, and some that were offered but never made it to our table due to the nature of the event. You can find a full list of the wineries that participated here, along with other generous WBC17 sponsors.

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