Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Ridge Master Class: Wine Blogger Tasting Series 2011

On Sunday September 25th  I joined a group of wine writers and bloggers for the 3rd edition of the 2011 Wine Blogger Tasting Series, one of the most sought after wine events hosted by Christopher Watkins of Ridge Vineyards at the Lytton Springs location in Dry Creek Valley.

I attended last year when we sat out on the crush pad and the temperature hovered around 90 degrees. This year the crush pad was in glorious use for harvest and we got to watch as the fruit came in and was hoisted into the de-stemmer. Then after tasting some carignane direct from the tap, we retreated to the barrel room where it was nice and cold.

The wines Christopher selected for the tasting were all small production library wines. Most came from stock with less than nine cases on hand. We tried wines from Monte Bello and Lytton Springs, some from vineyards I've never even heard of before.

I’m always amazed how well the Ridge wines hold up for years and years and years. I probably should not be surprised really since the age-ability of Ridge is it's common denominator. But I have very little discipline when it comes to cellaring wine and tend to drink things in the now rather then in the future.

Christopher reminds me of this crazy cool professor I knew in college who was obsessed with rare books, German literature and Swing music. His house was filled with shelves of classic and esoteric works of literature and old records.

He’d scan a shelf and pull a book out and say-- Oh have you read this? Do you know this work? Then he would read a passage aloud. Or he’d grab a record and say --You gotta hear this. He would play a piece of music and you would be so wowed by it. This professor was like a spirit guide to the volumes of written works that you just had to read. I'd leave his house with my mind slightly blown and a lengthy list of books I had to get my hands on. 

Ridge events to me are so similar, Christopher is our "spirit guide” scanning the library wines for just the right passage, just the few phrases that will jolt you, change you, make you rethink all other wines. It's a sybaritic journey of wine and poetry and the simple pleasure of letting go and dropping into what's in the glass. I love these events it like a master class for bloggers who want to be challenged and stretched in the most wonderful way. 

At some point in the day I always realize note taking is futile. I just put my pen or in this case phone down. Nothing I say will do it justice. So I just give in to the pleasure in the glass. I find it takes days to process it all. Ridge events are journeys that take you on a wild ride to the far corners of your palate and expectations. 
We also had a special treat courtesy of Richard Jennings @rjonwine who brought a mystery bottle that we tasted blind then were asked to guess the vintage, varietal and vineyard designation. I guessed 92 based on absolutely nothing but the color and was not far off, but struck out, way out, on guessing the varietal and vineyard. It turned out to be a 1990 Barbera from Rancho Pequeno. It was lovely and wonderful of Richard to bring it along to share. 

If you want a full account of the wines and tasting notes I suggest you check out the blogs of Richard Jennings @rjonwine or Fred Swan @norcalwine for full details. 

Thank you Christopher (and Brandy) for a great day at The Ridge Master Class! 


Links to other blog posts from the day:
Martin Redmond -- Great re-cap of the wines we had with tasting notes.
Christopher Watkins -- Thoughts from our "spirit guide" Christopher and a groovy video. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Grenache Day at the Allen Party Farm

I have been critical in the past of all these random Wine days like Chardonnay Day and Champagne Day and Cabernet Day. I fully expect to see 2% Milk Day at some point. We might as well just call them all Marketing Day, but they have some merit and I think the best events are ones like #PinotSmackDown where wine is tasted in person with the winemakers. Of course not everyone can organize or attend that type of tasting, but they are in my opinion a far more qualified way to promote a varietal.

Once again William Allen pressed the Greenhouse into service for an outstanding group of wines including Grenache and Grenache blends from Baiocchi, Quivira, Wind Gap, Mounts Family Winery, Sheldon, Stage Left Cellars, R2 Wine Company, Thumbprint, and Ridge Vineyards.

 I'm already a fan of most all of the wines, especially Mounts and Ridge, and I'm a member of the Quivira wine club. But there were several "new to me" wines including Baiocchi, Sheldon and Stage Left Cellars.

I was very taken with the Baiocchi Entre Nous 2009 a blend of 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah. This wine had a deep floral nose with a gorgeous earthy flavor, nice tannins and a lovely lingering finish.

I also really liked the Stage Left Cellars 2006 Grenache with 8% Mourvedre --a funky meaty blend of flavor with a nose that kept evolving each time I tried it.

From Grenache Day to Birthday

After the Grenache Day tasting it was time for the Main Event: William Allen's Birthday Bash, and it would not be his birthday unless the Fire Department was put on alert. Mr. Allen's affinity for all things wine and pyromania make for interesting events. Events that people talk about for days and weeks and months after they get released from the hospital.

Although there were no fire dancers this year, there was a bon fire large enough to cause locals to wonder if Burning Man had been extended and the Handcar Regatta was encamped on his back forty --the back 40 feet, not acres, as the Allen Party Farm is a marvel of compactness.

The resident sheep Rowdy and Hardy* did a little horn gnashing and a bromance love dance, but that was the extend of the provocative entertainment for the evening. The rest of it was good wine, good food, and great friends.  (*not sure if those were the exact names of the Allen Party Farm sheep but if not they should be renamed immediately)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Life on the Douro: Zev Robinson's Documentary Captures the Essence of Place

Although I have never met Zev Robinson, I feel as if I know him. We chat on twitter and always seem to be just one or two weeks behind each other in our travels. Many near misses, but I hope to see him soon at one of the screenings for his new documentary Life on the Douro.  Robinson's film traces 300 years of history of the Douro wine producing region in Portugal featuring interviews with many of the key figures working in the region today. Here is a preview below.

I supported Zev's IndieGoGo campaign to raise funds for the film and I recently got an advance copy of the film. I toured the Douro this past February and it was great to re-live my visit and reconnect through the film with the people I met including Adrian Bridge, George Sandeman and Oscar Quevedo--all of whom I have written about previously here in this blog.

If Oscar Quevedo is not elected Ambassador of Portugal Wine, I imagine no one ever will. It would be hard for anyone else to match his enthusiasm. His easy charm and infectious joy for the wines of Portugal is so genuine. We were on the same bus at the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference and after spending time with him and his then girlfriend Nadia, I vowed to visit the Douro and see his family's Quinta. I got very very close to that goal back in February but due to a scheduling sanfu, I missed the Quevedo winery by about 6 miles and 3 hours. Luckily Life on the Douro spends much quality time with the Quevedos and through the film I feel like I got to visit there after all.

I loved this film. It's a kiss on the lips to the Douro and the winemakers. If you have been to the Douro this film will deepen your experience, and if you have not yet been, this will be your tipping point to go and make your own discoveries.

The film premiered on September 6, 2011 as part of the Douro Film Harvest festival and plans are being made for screenings in North America and Europe over the next year including these dates in California.

Los Angeles -- November, 15th
San Francisco -- November, 17th  --More details here--
Paso Robles-- Novmber 19 or 20th - -

For more information visit:

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Clash of the Passions: Travel Writing & Wine

It’s great when you get to do the things you love and even better when you get the chance to share it. Although I have this nifty blog about wine, the majority of my writing is travel writing and thus the focus on wine tourism in my blog. This year I was very fortunate to be selected for inclusion in the Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011, and now my love of writing, wine, and travel will converge in a special event.

On September 15th at 6:30 pm, I’ll be reading my story “In Lardo We Trust” at the newly opened Garagiste tasting room in Healdsburg. The event will include readings by fellow contributors Laurie Weed and Laura Deutsch with an introduction by editor Lavinia Spalding.

So come early, grab a glass of wine and enjoy a fun and inspiring evening of travel storytelling. Bring your questions about travel and writing too, as we’ll have a Q&A afterwards. Books will be available for purchase on site and of course all the great Cartograph and Stark wines are available by the glass.

Date: Thursday, September 15th
Time: 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm
Location: Garagiste Tasting Room | Healdsburg | 439 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg CA
Contact: 707.431.8023


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...