Tag Archives: Ningxia Winemakers Challenge

And The Winner is…

I have just returned from the last trip to China as part of the second Ningxia Winemakers’ Challenge.  This final trip was so much fun because we were able to finally meet up with the other winemaker contestants, most of whom I had not seen since the first trip in September of 2015.  We spent a few days in Yinchuan, attending government events and the annual Wine Expo.  After that, we all flew to Beijing for the final judging and awards ceremony.


Going into the judging, I was happy with my wine.  It reflected the challenging aspect of the competition but also was a testament to perseverance that was needed to adapt to the “challenge” aspects.  These included a total language barrier, limited time (in my case) to attend to the wine, non-standard vineyard practices, as well as social and cultural isolation particularly during the first few weeks during harvest.  The 10 judges were all professionals, led by China Agricultural University professor Ma Huiqin and Master of Wine Andrew Caillard.

They announced the silver medal winners first and I was surprised to hear Lansai called first!  I was so excited to have won a medal for this even after all the hard work and dedication of both myself and the winery team.  There were 10 total silver medals awarded with many of my favorite people joining me on the stage.


After another course of dinner, we finally learned the gold medal winners.  They were Justin Corrans of South Africa,  Tony Kalleske of Australia, Brent Trela, a fellow American, Slavina Stefanova of Sweden, and Sarah Williams of the UK.  Each and everyone of these amazing people were a pleasure to get to know and totally deserving of the highest honors.  I was so excited for everyone and there was lots of hugging and congratulations all around.


We finished out the night at the hotel bar catching up and reminiscing over our time in Ningxia.  On Wednesday, many winemakers traveled to other cities within China for the competition road show while I spent a few leisure hours in Beijing with my winery owner, Ms Zheng prior to boarding my flight home.  We are in harvest already and I didn’t want to miss too much of it.


See the full coverage and complete list of judges and all the winners here.

 

 

Ningxia Winemaker Challenge: Part 2 – Post ML

It’s been a week since I returned from China after flying over to check on my wine there.  This trip was much faster than my previous trip and I packed quite a bit more into the 8 days that I spent there.  My first three days were spent in Beijing, where I taught a WSET Diploma Unit 5 class for Fongyee Walker’s Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting.  One of those days I took some time for myself and toured the sights of Beijing, including a trip to the fantastic Great Wall of China at Mu Tian Yu and the Summer Palace.

  
 

The Summer Palace

 
After my first few days in Beijing, I spent 4 days in Ningxia.  My first order of business upon landing in Ningxia was to find out how my wine looked.  Remember, last time I tried it only one tank was pressed off and the second tank was pressed on the day I flew back home.  I hadn’t tried it at all since Malolactic had finished and I had no idea how it was adapting to the barrels.  I didn’t even know what shape the used barrels were in when the wine was added to them.  I had left detailed instructions on how to soak the used barrels using a Potassium Metabisulfite and Citric acid solution and could only pray that everything would be ok.  Fortunately, everything looked very good.  The wine is taking to the new barrels quite well and to my surprise this is the treatment that appears to be helping the wine the most.  My DAMY barrels are showing beautifully!  Having never used DAMY in the past I was skeptical at first but I was able to taste some Ningxia wines from 2014 which were being aged in new DAMY barrels and this profile seems to help support the Ningxia terroir quite well.  The used barrels are all French and are helping the wine as well however they are old enough that very little oxygen transmission is taking place which is leaving the wine a little tight and reductive at this point.  Nothing a quick rack wouldn’t get rid of however.  The portion that I left in tank, to hedge my bets a bit just in case the barrels were a disaster, is clearly not as mature as the wine in barrels but it has retained its fresh, fruitiness which should add a nice component to the blend.  Overall, I’m quite happy with where the wine is at the moment.  When I come back in the summer, I’ll be able to get a clear picture of what I want to blend for the final competition.

  

Mr Wu, the winemaker of Lansai Chateau, gets barrel samples for us to taste


 The rose needed some work to be prepped for bottling.  All of the Ningxia wines tend to have quite seedy tannins, even if the wines had very little seed contact including the rose.  I did a fining trial and also bumped the SO2 a bit so that the winery could bottle it shortly.  I’m interested to see how it turns out and also how it sells since the Rose trend that has caught the rest of the world has yet to catch on in mainland China.  My friend, Jose Hernandez, was also in Ningxia at the same time so we were able to tour about a bit and go see some of the other wineries in the area including Chandon Ningxia, Jiabeilan, and a quick visit to Yuan Shi both for their lab services and tasting the 2015 vintage from barrel.  The visit to Jiabeilan was quite fun since I was able to meet the legendary Ningxia winemaker, Zhang Jing.  She was very open, answered questions, and allowed us to taste all of her wines including a very interesting Chardonnay that had the acid of a cool climate but slightly tropical fruit of a warmer climate.

  

Jose and Zhang Jing of Jiabeilan


 My partner winery in Ningxia, Lansai Chateau, is almost finished.  They have done quite a bit of work since I was there in the fall and it is easy to see how much of a destination they are planning it to be.  The guest rooms are almost finished as is the separate kitchen and the Chinese gardens.  Soon there will be tasting rooms and a restaurant available to allow people to visit and enjoy the wines where they were made.  The winery has been designed to be a showplace and I’m sure it will live up to that hope with every detail put in place.

The entryway of Lansai Chateau with Helan Mountains in the background

 

The garden of Lansai Chateau under construction

 
 After leaving Ningxia, I went back to Beijing to have dinner with our Constellation representative, Berny Yang, more sightseeing including the Temple of Heaven and the Pearl Market, and teach another class for Dragon Pheonix Wine Consulting, this time on Constellation and branding of the Robert Mondavi family of wines. Jose and I also got together with Grape Wall of China writer and Canadian expat, Jim Boyce, to go on a wine sales tour of Beijing.  We visited a general supermarket, specialty supermarket, high end wine shop, and casual wine shop to get a sense of what the market looked like in Beijing, how wines were being sold and what was trending.  See last week’s post on the China wine market for more information from that tour.

All in all it was a very successful trip and I look forward to my next trip during the summer.

 

Tiles on the Temple of Heaven

 
 

Getting Ready for the Wine Blogger Conference 2015

At the end of this week is the biggest yearly event in wine bloggingdom (Yes, I did just make that word up!); The Wine Blogger Conference 2015.  By the end of the week, Wine Bloggers from around the world will have descended on Corning, NY located in the Southern Tier of the state!  It is hosted by the Finger Lakes which are to the north about 45 minutes to an hour.  I have only previously attended this event once, back in 2011 in Charlottesville, VA.  At that point, I was still in CA, had only been blogging a year or so, and came as a representative of a wine brand I was making at the time called Emma Pearl, complete with PR rep.

This year, I am going as a blogger only.  I am not representing a brand and while I am and will always be a winemaker, this is the first event where I’m not attending solely for that purpose.  I’m looking forward to the conference content.  I will definitely be attending the opening night reception on Thursday and the Key note speech by Karen MacNeil. After lunch it will be a toss up between the Banfi sponsored Fizziology 101 or the Ribera del Duero and Rueda session.  Spain is the front runner at this point!  The break out sessions on Saturday morning are going to be a game day decision but many look good.  Particularly the photo and video on smart phone session, since I do all of my website photography on my iPhone and need to do a video for China (I’ll get to that a bit later).

For the wine discovery sessions that afternoon, the dry wines of Alsace tasting looks exciting.   I don’t remember the conference before having such a great representation of international wines to taste!  It’s very exciting.  The live wine blogging should be interesting since I’ve only ever been on the presentation side of the table.  It’s a bit like speed dating with wine tasting.  When I presented the Emma Pearl wines back in 2011, I found myself talked extremely fast and hoping that I was making some sense to the tables to which I was presenting.  This year I’m going to be one of the ones sitting at the tables trying to listen to the winemakers and winery representatives telling their stories. We then will all be wandering over to the Corning museum of glass for a live glass demonstration and the awards banquet for the best bloggers of the year! Congrats to all who have won awards.  This is a tough media we are in and it is challenging to come up with quality posts frequently.  Those who have won awards represent the best of the best for the previous year.  After the presentations, we will head off to the various after parties of course! We’ll see how late I stay up!

The last morning there are two slightly ambiguous sessions; The secret to blogging success and the secret to writing success.  After 5 years of blogging, I’m not really sure what I would call blogging success.  I’m just enjoying having a weekly medium of interaction with those who are interested in interacting with me!  I’d love more on post comments though!  Feel free to share your thoughts.  Anyway, I’ll see everyone later this week!!!

Finally, on a completely different topic, I found out this week that I have been selected to be a part of the Ningxia Winemaker Challenge in Ningxia, China.  Sixty Winemakers from around the globe have been selected to participate.  At this point, I am one of five from the US (All 60 have yet to be announced publicly).  Starting in September of this year, I will be in China working on a single red wine which will be judged in 2017.  The great thing about this challenge is that I don’t have to relocate to China to accomplish it but will be traveling there several times a year to oversee the wine making and blending. I’ve always wanted to work an international harvest and this gives me the opportunity to do that as well as learn more about the Chinese culture.  I also get to work on my language skills while I’m there.   I’m so grateful that my family and Constellation are allowing me to take this opportunity.  We’ll see what I can come up with!  Wish me luck!