Friday, September 14, 2012

Diary: Wine Bloggers Conference 2012 - Portland, Oregon

Welcome to Portland--Land of VooDoo

How it all unfolded at the 2012 Wine Blogger Conference in Portland, Oregon.

THURSDAY August 16 

12:00 PM
Arrive Santa Rosa Airport with a contingent of WBC people bound for Portland, Oregon including:
Taylor Eason @TaylorEason, Lisa Mattson @lisamattsonwine, Nick Solga @fermented, Sheri Housman @SLHousman, Anthony Burich @aburich, Robert Larsen @RSVineyards, and many more.

Talyor gets nabbed at security for carrying a dangerous corkscrew and is forced to relinquish it. Oh TSA, when we will ever again be able to travel without fear of corkscrews? Standing in line I notice many signs warning passengers that Marijuana is still an illegal drug and not allowed on the plane. And yet they take our corkscrews.

Arrive PDX and jump on the MAX train to the Doubletree. After a short pow-wow with the WBC organizers I’m off to taste some wine at last.

4:45PM--New releases from Two Shepherds with William Allen. You can read all about the tasting here in this post Flock it to Me.

5:54 PM
Reunion with wine and travel writing colleague Mattie Bamman of @ravenoustravelr whom I met on a press trip in Croatia. Mattie lives in PDX and this is his first WBC—it’s catch up time – so we head off to the Doug Fir Lounge for cocktails and tasty fare.

At Doug Fir Lounge with @ravenoustravelr

7:30 PM—Wine of Oregon Welcome Reception
This was a great overview of the wines of Oregon and I like that it was dedicated to just wines from the region. Since Mattie is a local he was my spirit guide through the selections. This was one of my favorite tasting events of the conference. 

11:30 PM After Party-Party Zone--
I stop in at a few parties, but I call it a night early because I have work to do. Impossible but true. I must do a final edit on the manuscript for my travel humor anthology—Leave the Lipstick, Take the Iguana-- that’s due back to the publisher in three days.

FRIDAY August 17th

10:00 AM
I work the tradeshow table for the Wine Tourism Conference and while I’m not able to leave to get any of the Argentina wine paring treats, I do get a few tasty samples thanks to Xandria of @brixchik_xan.  By the way, if you are a blogger and want to attend the Wine Tourism Conference in November you can register for a special rate here:

12:30 PM—Keynote with Randall Grahm
Grahm’s speech was loquacious and erudite, 100% unfiltered and with minimal manipulation delivering the message we should all live it up before the Grim Reaper takes our wine glass away. Well, actually that’s not what he said at all--that’s just my interpretation. I found his speech felt rather maudlin and Doom-trospective, but hey, we are all getting older. I loved the fact the speech had footnotes--how very DFW.

1:30PM—White & Rose Speed Tasting
Great showing of white’s and one very interesting shaped bottle from Fontanta Candida passed by our table. The rep from the winery described the bottle as “very sexy” and suggested we all touch it. I must admit...Feeling is believing. (see photo above in right hand corner)   

2:30PM—Winery Dinner Excursions--

Pick a bus any bus. Spin the big wheel--where you go nobody knows…or do they?

Picking the right bus is essential to a good WBC experience, so I don’t leave things to chance. Instead I employ the ancient method of dowsing to locate the correct bus. This method entails holding a corkscrew lightly in the hands and walking up and down the bus aisle. When the spiral, aka the worm, dips down it portends that bus is a great choice. I get on several buses and don’t feel the vibe, until finally my wine-witching-sixth-sense tells me BUS 8 is the ONE! My corkscrew dowsing method did not fail. I was on BUS 8 bound for the Carlton Extravaganza!!

While much has been tweeted about our ‘bus bust’ in Carlton you really had to be there to see the Academy Award worthy performance by Officer GoodBody, er, I mean Officer Martinez from the Carlton Police department. He definitely spooked some folks from California that rushed to the on board bathroom to dispense of their “medicine”. You Carlton folks better keep your eye on Office Martinez—Hollywood may come calling for him –Wine it does a body good!

Our first stop after the arrest was at Carlo and Julian a boutique winery making lovely Spanish inspired wines like AlbariƱo and Tempranillo. We tried the AlbariƱo with red tuna cervichi and edible nasturtiums. Afterwards we took a short walk through the vineyards and up to the tree of life for more wine and edibles. It was a magical setting despite the heat.

Next a geology lesson on the area and what makes the wine great with Ken Wright of Ken Wright Cellars. We tasted a vertical from the Sayovna vineyard, but it was a bit too hot to capture their true essence.

Then we took a short stroll down main street to The Horse Radish restaurant that had been transformed into a showcase of Carlton wine and food. A buffet style feast was served in one section of the space and the local winemakers set up along the perimeter of the room with their wines. We sat at long tables decorated with colorful planters down the center. 

We received a most hilarious program complete with Officer Goodbody on the cover that described the food and which wines to pair with each. The menu was so extensive including Chinook salmon, duck confit salad, pork loin, braised short ribs, grilled flank steak, and fabulous desserts that deserve their own post. 

The standout of the evening for me was the Chinook salmon prepared in the authentic Salish style baked over an open fire on alderwood racks. A new word needs to be invented to describe this type of taste sensation. Perhaps--Yumincredibleiousious. 

So much goodness under one roof – I felt like I was at a family wedding without all the annoying relatives. Just pure enjoyment. And I do believe that the Carlton dinner was hands down the best meal of the entire WBC. It was a sensory overload of the highest order. An incredible effort by the Carlton folks and it felt like they too were having a great time. I may just have to buy a second home there.  

Some of my fave wines of the night:
2010 Seven of Hearts GSM
2009 K&M Alchemy Cuvee Pinot Noir
2007 Cliff Creek Cellars Cab Franc
2005 SpofFord Station Estate Syrah
2010 Ghost Hill Pinot Noir Blanc
2011 Omero Pinot Gris
2010 Alexana Revana Vineyard Riesling

As we left the dinner we were handed gift bags with some swell swag including samples from Republic of Jam and truffles from Honest Chocolate.

9:30 PM—Night of Way Too Many Bottles
I loved the idea of Night of Many Bottles in concept and I bet it looked great on paper, but in reality this was waaaayyy too many bottles in a room much too small to accommodate it.

A pop-up Bubble Lounge near the lobby. This was great and unexpected pleasure.

Midnight and Beyond: After Parties
Oh did I mention I had work to do? …Yeah right….

After visiting several parties I call it a night. I get though 9 pages of the 280 page manuscript. At 2:30 AM I look at twitter and see things are still going strong, but I resist the urge to go back out and struggle to edit 10 more pages before crashing.  Final tally for the night in terms of attention span--
WBC: 1 Manuscript: 0

SATURDAY June 18th 

Notes from a Wine Blogger on the Edge
Best session of the day was Off the Beaten Path Varietals AKA the GPS of Wines. This was a great blind tasting of many grapes I’ve never heard of. Pictured above: the best ‘narrative’ tasting notes of the conference by Mattie Bamman. Oh the joy and despair of wine tasting.

11:45 AM
I meet with the Girls Gone Wild contingent from Okanagan to run though my slides for Sundays presentation.

3:45 PM— Rex Pickett
Well depending on who you ask, Rex was a screaming success, or an utter flop. Tough crowd for Rex. But word on twitter is that he will head to Chile soon to research and start working on Part III of the Sideways trilogy. Hmm, wonder if the Malbec board coaxed him there to work the same magic on Malbec as he did for Pinot? What do you think the third book will be called? After Sideways, there was Vertical. Now what? Possibly “Corked!” Or “Fermented?” We’ll just have to wait and see.

4:30 PM—Red Wine Live Blogging
Some one spilled wine all over my notes for this session, so missing the details. This is a dangerous event if you have a laptop on the table or any device that should not get wet. Luckily it was just my paper notebook.

5:30 PM—New Wines of Greece
Loved the wines of Greece and their unpronounceable names-- the phonetic signs were very helpful. How to you say crisp, fresh, and delicious in Greek?

7:00PM—King Estate Winery Dinner
There was tremendous buzz leading up to this event and maybe that set my expectations too high. I felt there were a few glitches in what could have been a spectacular dinner, but it’s an enormous undertaking to serve over 350 people at once. Hats off to them for the effort. But I wish I’d gone with Michael Wangbickler who was tweeting about the great time he was having out in greater PDX.

9:00 PM—International Wine Night
The Le Cognac cocktail table was doing a brisk trade, but I found the Languedoc wines, wines of Alsace, and wines of Italy had the best offerings. Although in all honesty I did not get to many tables as the room was so crowded. 

12:00 AM -- After Party Scene

The Jordan, Chehalem, and Dundee Hills suites were all rocking.

Memorable Moment:  Standing in the glass elevator with @Consciouswine @ravenoustravelr @SFDoug chatting away and waiting for the elevator to move. Then we realized one must actually push a button! Push the Button! How come the Chemical Brothers are never singing Galvanize when you really need them??

I tried to make it an early night since I had a rehearsal with our friends from Okanagan at 8:30 AM – {Note to self: Don’t agree to anything that early again.} I followed some of the party tweets on twitter before I turn out the lights.

When I finally fell asleep I dreamt someone slid a whole pizza under my door with olives and anchovies spelling out WBC. So weird. During the day I drank so much water I knocked my electrolytes out of whack. I think the dream was my subconscious telling me I needed salt. 

SUNDAY June 19th 
7:30 AM
Am I really up? I drag myself downstairs get some coffee and rehearse the WBC13 presentation.

10:30 AM 
Ignite presentations – these were surprisingly good. I congratulate those brave enough to participate in front of the oft fickle and sometimes ultra critical WBC audience. But all were well received.

11:15 AM—WBC13 Announcement OKANAGAN!!

Despite tripping up the stairs leading to the podium, I managed to deliver my Top Ten Reason You Should Go TO WBC13 presentation without a hitch.

1:00 PM --Over and Out
Just as quickly as it started WBC12 was over. There was a rush of hugs and goodbyes and then a small group of us were whisked on to the Blitz Bus and back to my new favorite place on the planet—Carlton!! #BlitzCarlton 

My next post will detail my stay in Carlton and all it’s wonders.

See you all in Okanagan for WBC13. I already registered! Have you? Better get your spot secured, because if you miss WBC13 in Okanagan… as I said in my presentation… you’re an idiot.  

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