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!
When I last talked about how vintage 2011 was going in the NorthCoast was in bloom and the weather was truly dismal indeed! Now after several weeks of beautiful, warm, sunny weather our outlook on the vintage is beginning to lift. The rain during bloom did impact the crop levels negatively. So far I’ve heard that Chardonnay and Pinot have been the hardest hit however it seems that it is highly dependant on site as I’ve also talked to growers who say that their Chardonnay has set normally. Our Malbec looks spotty at Asti but that’s not terribly unusual for Malbec here even during ideal weather. The rest of the red wine varieties seem to have set a normal sized crop however my seedless table grape set looks pretty shabby. As this is my first foray into table grape growing, I’m not sure if it’s normal or not. The warm weather is a good sign though because the smaller crop will ripen faster than a normal sized crop a sugar accumulates faster with less berries. If this weather continues we may have somewhat of a normal harvest season for the whites specifically. Already we’re warmer than we were at this point last year with several 100+ days under our belts on the North Coast. This is also a good sign as it gives the grapes time to acclimate to hot temperatures which will avoid the “blanched” problem that we saw last year from the 3 days of 110+ late last August. With all the rain early on the disease pressure has been high. Combined with the tricky European Grapevine Moth sprays which must be timed with the flight cycles of the moth, the growers have been kept on their toes keeping the problems at bay. As for the winery, spirits are high with the continued warm weather. We’re working on testing and cleaning all the harvest equipment and anticipate seeing the first grapes through the gate around mid to late August. Our sights are set on ordering yeasts, Malolactic bacteria, and oak. We are not, as we were this time last year, staring at the sky and scratching our heads. We are reveling in the bright light, warmth, and soft breezes that the grapes needed desperately. This is also the calm before the storm in the winemaking world so I’ve taken the time to reorganize my office, dust off my clipboards, and ready everything for the coming craziness. I’m also going to be attending the Wine Bloggers Conference 2011 in Charlottesville, VA next week. I’m super excited about this because it seems that this conference will be geared to what I am which is a wine centered blog! Several great speakers and promising break out sessions should put me in a good mood to enjoy some wine with my husband and fellow bloggers! If you’re also attending be sure to come by during the White wine tasting session as I’ll be pouring the Emma Pearl 2009 Central Coast Chardonnay since we’re sponsoring part of the conference as well!
Here’s to a great season!!
Apparently the world is going to end this evening so I figured I’d better get a post up before everything broke loose. I’ve been in Atlanta, GA this week promoting Emma Pearl as well as attending the women’s blogger conference BlogHer-Food. One of the seminars I’ve enjoyed the most was on using social media (i.e. Twitter and Facebook) to network. I do use both however I use Twitter for more business related topics and Facebook for its original use which is keeping up with friends. However the funniest revelation came towards the middle of the talk when everyone started talking about following metrics on their site traffic. These included how many visitors came to their sites, where they came from etc… I currently don’t use metrics and just as I was getting really worried that I was missing really critical data for my website all the speakers agreed that you could get too bogged down in reading the numbers and told all the people present to not look at them. This was because they all felt they wrote better posts before they had the numbers. Hmmm, perhaps being in the dark is good?
Anyway, I’ve been on a market blitz this week which entails going around to a ton of restaurants and small retailers to see if they’d be interested in selling my wines on their lists or in their stores. I’ve done this before in SC last month but this was a much busier week filled with events including a winemaker dinner and hand selling the wines in Whole Foods. I really enjoyed this part of it because I was able to connect with people who will be drinking the wines directly.
While I’ve been gone, back in Napa we’ve gotten close to another 2 inches of precipitation this week in the form of both rain and hail. So far this year is shaping up to be much like 2010; lots of rain and quite a bit of cool weather. I’m interested to see if more vines are blooming when I return on Sunday.
I’ve had some really nice wines this week including the 2009 Karl Kaspar Riesling Kabinett from Nahe Germany (Zesty and Fruity). This was a medium sweet wine filled with white peache and apricot flavors as well as some underlying flinty notes. I paired it with a Tuna Tartar with Asian inspired slaw which was fantastic!! Another notable wine this week was the 2008 Sancerre from Chateau de Sancerre (Stone and Chalk) which was very dry and refreshing with really intriguing flavors of wet river rock and dried herbs. As I look back over my notes I’ve noticed I’ve stuck with the white wines this week.
My thanks to all in Atlanta who’ve made this week so fantastic! This really is a great city and I’ve enjoyed every moment!