Category Archives: Spicy and Smoky

Wine Bloggers Conference 2011; A Winemaker’s Perspective…

Last Friday I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011.  This was one of those events that really brought out why the wine industry is so amazing! So many people in one room that were all excited to learn about and discuss topics pertaining to wine.  Unfortunately I was only able to attend the Friday sessions but they were really amazing.  I always enjoy hearing Jancis Robinson speak as she’s played such a HUGE role in my own wine education through her books and website.  Her call for bloggers to see themselves as wine writers was thought provoking and reaffirmed my commitment to be a winemaker who blogs, not solely a blogger! 


The marketing to Millennials session was fun and informal with lots of good information.  As a Millennial myself, I wholeheartedly agreed with some of the generalizations but others I think can be applied to any generation.  I do agree that Millennials are more likely to use the internet and social media to find out what their friends are drinking and what might be new and interesting.  However, I don’t agree that only Millennials have a highly tuned BS radar.  I think that as a society we have become so over run with advertisements on TV, radio, in print, and now on the web that we have become desensitized to it.  I largely ignore and actively avoid advertisements in most traditional media and the internet and from a producer standpoint I understand how frustrating it must be for marketers to know that.  One point that was raised is that Millennials care about companies that care about them.  This is another thought that can probably transcend generations.  Most people care about other people or companies that care about them.  That’s why the bar in “Cheers” was so popular.  We all want to give our business to someone who “knows our names” or in other words…cares about us and our needs. 


For the speed blogging session I had the unique opportunity to blog from the winery prospective rather than the blogger’s prospective.  As the second breakout sessions were starting my husband, Brian, our Emma Pearl PR representative, Jenna, and I were checking bottles of wine for the tasting and making sure they were at the best possible temperature to be served.  The 09 Emma Pearl is best served between 48-55 degrees F where the floral aromas can really explode.  Served too cold and that element is severely diminished, too warm and well it’s just too warm on as hot and humid a day as last Friday was in Virginia.  The speed tasting was exciting and a bit of an adrenaline rush as we had 5 minutes to explain the wine, who I was, and answer any questions that anyone may have had.  I was a bit nervous at first because our table was completely empty up until the last few minutes before the tasting started.  After that it was a bit like being on a horse jumping out of the starting gate.  By the 4th or 5th table I was starting to forget what points I had covered with which table and probably ended up repeating my self more than one time but no one seemed to mind. The truly enjoying part of it for me was visiting 12 tables of between 3 and 8 bloggers, all of which seemed to genuinely like the wine.  It was a truly gratifying day as a winemaker. 


Finally the dinner at Monticello was amazing.  Just being at the home of the Father of American viticulture was very inspiring and it was very educational to taste more of Virginia’s wines.  This was one part of the trip that I was really looking forward to because, being from the East Coast, I really want to see the eastern wine regions come into their own.  Overall, I think Virginia still has a long way to go.  I tasted quite a few wines with elementary winemaking mistakes and others where I couldn’t tell if it was the winemaking to blame or the vineyard.  There was one bright spot in the Virginia wine tasting for me and it was an Italian gentleman named Gabriele Rausse.  We sampled two wines from him; Vin Gris de Pinot Noir and a Nebbiolo.  The Vin Gris (Zesty and Fruity) was a very pale salmon leaning towards orange with delicate aromas of red plum, wet stone, grapefruit, and violets.  It was balanced and crisp with a moderately complex finish.  However it was the Nebbiolo (Spicy and Smoky) that really got me excited.  This was the best new world Nebbiolo that I have tasted thus far and it was exciting that it was fromVirginia.  It had pale color and the traditional flavors of licorice and rose petals that you would find in a Piedmont Nebbiolo however with lower acid and softer tannins with a finish with hints of dark roasted coffee.  I asked about his cap management techniques (how he extracted the color and tannins) knowing that Nebbiolo can represent challenges in the winery to balance the tannin extraction with flavor and color.  He responded that he punches down the skins and tastes every day.  “It’s all tasting!” was his answer. The soft tannins and balanced body were quite nice and with a limited production of 136 cases I imagine that he has no trouble selling it each year. 


On a West coast note I’ve been running around vineyards this week and Veraison has started on the Central Coast Pinot Noir.  We’re about 4 weeks out down there and looking like a little more than 6 weeks on theNorthCoast.  Harvest is well on its way!

An Energizing Couple of Weeks!

 While I’m not doing so well in my New Year’s Resolution to write a blog post every week, I have had a busy January. I wanted to share a bit of what I’ve been up to the last few weeks. 

At the beginning of January I bottled the first vintage of my new wine Emma Pearl!  This is exciting because it’s a brand new wine label which I’ve had a hand in launching!  Right now it consists of a Chardonnay and Merlot, both from California’s Central Coast and it will be launching in the South east as well as some select cities out west in the next few months. 

In Mid-January I went to London for my WSET Diploma graduation.  It was my first ever visit to London and I really enjoyed it.  We did all the usual touristy things such as riding a double decked bus and visiting the sites.  One place I must mention for all you wine buffs was a little wine bar called 28-50 Wine Workshop & Kitchen ( at which we met up with a friend, fellow Treasury Wine Estates employee, and new MW, Justin Knock.  I must say this place was fantastic!  The atmosphere was cozy and the staff extremely courteous. Above all, the wines were wonderful and we were able to enjoy them with really excellent bar foods including Charcuterie, duck rillette, and a selection of cheeses.  Another plus was that the wines poured could be ordered by the tasting selection which I really enjoyed as I was able to try many different wines from an elegant Condrieu to a robust Rioja all in the same night without drinking a full glass of each.  The location plus the stimulating conversation covering all aspects of the wine world and beyond made for one great evening.  I highly recommend visiting this place if you’re a wine fan and you find yourself in need of a drink in London! 

After London, I went to the Unifed Symposium in Sacramento where I thoroughly enjoyed my friend Leah Hennessy’s ( presentation on Marketing to Millenials from which my boss is still quoting!  If you weren’t among the privileged folks to be in the room during this I highly recommend trying to get a recording because not only was it great information that everyone in the wine industry today trying to sell wine should know, it was also a really entertaining talk complete with the best definition of the term Douche that I have ever heard! Hats off to Leah and her panel!

Next, I was off to the North American MW seminar before which I summed up my feelings in my last blog post Getting ready for the MW…Again (  I really didn’t know how I was going to improve my scores from the exam the year before however once I got into the seminar I really felt reenergized through the lectures, practice exams, and interactions with fellow students and of course the MW’s.  This seminar was truly exceptional with more global lectures including three fantastic and incredibly valuable tastings; One highlighting the different regions and wine styles of Australia and another focusing on wines of the Rhone valley in France and the third on the wines of Chile and Argentina. 

In the Australian tasting I reaffirmed the fact that I love Rieslings, especially Clare and Eden Valley Rieslings however I was fascinated by the Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon (see notes below).

Grosset Polish Hill 2010 Riesling, Clare Valley Australia

Zesty and Fruity

Pale lemon core with moderately intense aromas of lime zest, fresh citrus, and light hints of white flowers.  The palate is dry with high acid and moderate alcohol with refreshing flavors of limes, lemons, and jasmine with a long crisp finish.

Pewsey Vale 2005 The Contours Riesling, Eden Valley Australia

Zesty and Fruity

Medium lemon core with moderately intense aromas of Petrol, limes and white flowers.  Dry palate with high acid and moderate alcohol with complex flavors of petrol, gardinias, limes, honey, and citrus fruit zest complement a moderately long crisp finish.

Moss Wood 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia

Spicy and Smoky

Medium ruby core with moderately intense aromas of raspberries, dried herbs, cinnamon and cloves.  The palate is dry with medium + acid and alcohol around 14%.  Moderate dusty tannins with a Medium + body highlighted by flavors of oak toast, black currants, and baking spice flavors.  Medium finish.

All in all it was a wonderful seminar which I came home from energized, with a clear picture of what I need to work on over the next 4 months and positive that this year is my year with the MW exam.  I really can’t thank the MWs enough who gave their time freely to help us through the seminar this year, some of whom traveled from Australia, South Africa and London.  Now onward towards the next mile marker!!!

Christmas Wines at My House

Every year, I see a ton of people doing a “What to pair with your Holiday Meal” post.  Therefore my blog would not be complete without a similar post to finish off its first calendar year of existence.  However I’m just going to do a run down of what is being served at my house this Christmas and what I’m pairing with it. Perhaps you can glean some ideas from it. 


Assorted cheese including Humbolt Fog, Manchego, and Brie.

Stone ground wheat crackers

Veuve Clicquot N/V Champagne

 Light and Bubbly: I really love this Champagne.  It’s consistently a good value and widely available.  It is also a perfect intro to Champagne for people who don’t drink it on a regular basis as it focuses on pure fruit with hints of lemon curd and toasted brioche with a fine mousse and nicely balanced dosage. 

First Course

Pumpkin Bisque with holiday spices garnished with toasted pumpkin seeds

Souverain 2008 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay

Buttery Beauty: Now I helped blend this wine so just be aware that I have a personal interest in it however I really like pairing it with this soup because the wine has such great intense flavors and it complements the intensity and the thickness of the soup.  It has intense notes of tropical fruits, brown baking spices and is dry with a full body.  The wine finishes cleanly with spices and toasted walnuts lingering.

Main Course

Brown Sugar Glazed Baked Ham

Herb Roasted Turkey Breast

Sautéed Green Beans with Almonds and Caramelized White Onions

Roasted Garlic and Herb Mashed Potatoes

Stuffing with Onions, Herbs and Spices

Homemade Cranberry Sauce.

Robert Mondavi Winery 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve

Spicy and Smoky: I love the Mondavi Reserve Cabernets and have several vintages in my cellar.  The ’99 is drinking very nicely right now and I wanted to share it with my family.  The notes of black currants are highlighted by some lovely fig and date notes that are beginning to develop adding to the complexity of the wine.  The tannins are soft and plush and the spices on the palate it makes a nice complement to the holiday meal. 

Philippe Raimbault “Mosaique” Pouilly-Fume 2008

Fresh and Grassy: With that much herbs being thrown around in my kitchen I must have a Sauvignon Blanc somewhere.  We found this wine on our last trip to France and I really love how the flavors of dried herbs, limes, and chalk mix together to create an old world wine with hints of new world styles in it. 


Fresh Pumpkin Pie with Homemade Whipped Cream

Seasonal Yellow Pears with Salted Caramel Sauce

Beringer Nightingale 2006 Napa Valley

Sweet and Luscious: Again, in the interest of disclosure I work for the company that makes this wine however I have nothing to do with the production directly and I wasn’t working for them during this vintage.  I just really like it as a well balanced late-harvest wine that conveniently comes in a 375mL as there will not be enough people at my house to finish off a 750mL bottle of dessert wine. The grapes are affected by botrytis which gives the wine beautiful honey and sweet yellow pear aromas to complement the full, sweet body and lingering finish. 

As you can see it will be a busy weekend in the kitchen for me but I hope it will be an enjoyable meal for my family as we celebrate the Christmas Season.  For more information about how to pair wines with food see my earlier Blog post The Pirate’s Code of Wine and Food Pairings  (

Finally, Merry Christmas to you, my readers, and a wonderful and happy New Year’s as well.  Please drink responsibly and enjoy what you drink because life is too short not to drink great wines!