Monday, July 12, 2010

Random Thoughts and Tasting Notes: Wine Bloggers' Conference Field Trip!

All hail the power of Twitter and Hubby's new FourSquare addiction! In the week since we returned from the Pacific Northwest, the question has not been, "How was your trip?" but rather, "Sounds like y'all had a great trip!" It was, and this journey got off to a great start with the Wine Bloggers' Conference in Walla Walla.

One of the best parts of the conference was the excursion on Saturday morning. Hubby and I stayed a few blocks from the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, and as I walked down Second Avenue dodging sprinklers and watching the morning sunlight sparkle on the dewy grass, I couldn't help but be reminded of early mornings leaving for Band Camp (not nearly as exciting as portrayed in the movie American Pie). This feeling was only reinforced by reaching the Marcus Whitman parking lot and seeing a herd of… School buses!

Oh, wow. For a moment, I looked for the drum major coach (whom we called Torpedo Tits – don't ask) to jump out and ask why I didn't have my alto saxophone. Then I remembered where I was, and with a grin, walked inside to catch the second half of the talk on Walla Walla Terroir. It was fascinating. I wished I'd gotten my butt out of bed in time to hear the whole thing.

Only a limited number of people were allowed on each bus due to winery lunch capacity, so the bus wasn't even half full. Of course, there were the noisy kids/percussion section in back (the British Banfi crew from New York – yeah, I'm still confused about that), the overachievers/brass section in front (the Wine Talk Radio guys and Josh Wade of Nectar Wine blog), and the rest of us/woodwinds in the middle (those I can remember: Ben Simons of Vinotology, Kitri McGuire of Sokol Blosser Winery, Tamara Belgard of Sip With Me, and Randy the Wine Whore who is not whore-ish at all in real life). Oh, and Nicky Vallee, The Vino Chick, who was the only one to turn out a true performance (see below). I apologize if I'm forgetting someone or if I've put you in the wrong section. I'm doing this from memory two weeks later. Consider yourselves lucky – my original analogy was going to be Gilligan's Island.

Our first stop on this "mystery tour," as the papers handed out by our guide told us, would be the vineyards of Woodward Canyon. That meant our school bus had to go up a steep hill. I had flashbacks to bus stalls, but it made it up, and we had a breathtaking view:

At that point, we were given glasses and poured tastes of the 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. At 9:30 in the morning. I told myself it was after noon at home. It was great first wine of the day, very crisp. They then poured the 2007 Walla Walla Valley Cabernet Sauvignon (81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Syrah, and 8% Cabernet Franc) and 2006 Estate Red (42% Cabernet Franc, 35% Merlot, 14% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 9% Petit Verdot). Both reds were good, but I liked the 07 Cab better. I did end up spitting, although it felt so rude to do that in front of winemaker Rick Small as he talked about his passion. We even got to see baby Merlot grapes:

The next stop was Beresan Winery, which was showcased with Tertullia Cellars and Balboa Winery. We tried:

2008 Beresan Semillon, a nice, light white

2008 Beresan Cabernet: elegant with mint on the nose and tongue-coating fruit

2009 Tertullia Viognier: winemaker Quentin Mylet's first effort, this Viognier had great balance between fruit and floral as well as a great, crisp texture

Quentin Mylet with Beresan's Tom Waliser in the background joining us in a taste:

2007 Balboa Mith: a yummy Cab-Syrah blend

This was also where Drink Nectar's Josh Wade distinguished himself as an overachiever by being the one to jump out with the first guess as to what was in the Mith blend. He wasn't exactly right, but mad props to him for being the brave one! This group of wineries also sent us off with a great parting gift: freshly picked cherries! I challenged Randy the Wine Whore to a spitting contest, but he didn't take me up on it. As Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite responded when I tweeted about it, "Whores don't spit."

Band camp maturity level, anyone?

We finished up at Whitman Cellars for lunch and a tasting lineup from them and Walla Walla Vintners. I felt quite welcome at this winery. The sign:

Catered lunch of Southwestern chicken sandwich and salad in the barrel room:

We even got a treat with Nicky Vallee (@Vinochick75 on Twitter) giving us a rendition of one of my favorite songs, Landslide. See my thoughts on the Wine Bloggers' Conference post for a link to the YouTube video, but here's a picture:

I kind of wished at that point that I'd brought my alto sax.

The real stars, the wines:


2008 Viognier: aromatic with hints of apple and pear, floral finish

2005 Narcissa Red: some ripeness, food-friendly, a little "hot"

2005 "Silk Stocking" Cabernet Sauvignon: 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc – lives up to its name with nice, smooth fruit

Walla Walla Vintners:

2007 Sangiovese (blended with a little Malbec and Syrah): nicely rounded fruit

2008 Sangiovese: pretty much as one would expect for the grape

Cabernet Franc: a little cedar on the nose and good red fruit

Then it was back on the bus for our return to the Marcus Whitman. After that, I took advantage of time for one thing we never got in band camp: a nap!

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