Live from the Wine Bloggers Conference

Well, this is certainly interesting. I’m in a room with a hundred and fifty other wine bloggers, at the opening session of the WBC. the air is filled with chatter, everyone’s blogging as fast as they can, and my glass is… …empty. Winemakers are supposed to be swapping tables every 5 minutes to pour and explain a different wine, but there appear to be more tables than winemakers. So we’ve started with the “gift” wine that came in our tchotchke bags, and we’re pouring it for ourselves.

Keep in mind that we have just minutes per wine, including listening to the winemaker, so these are hasty sketches and first impressions.

Wine 1

A French Rabbit Pinot Noir Vin de Pays d’Oc, in Tetra Pak. We poured this ourselves, to avoid being left out of the party. Medium+, developing, cooked vegetable nose, with a little stewed cherry, and a slight iron-mineral note. Medium-bodied, medium-alcohol, soft, ripe tannin, but very short and, well, not particularly pleasant. The finish comes across as slightly hot. As Rémy Charest, of The Wine Case, commented, “it can only go up from here.” I think Tetra-Pak has a lot of potential as an eco-friendly package, but this particular wine didn’t do it for me. [Editor's note: I spoke with the folks from Tetra Pak, who attended the WBC, and they say they have heard good things about this wine, and that there may have been a problem with this particular carton. I promise I will retry the wine and update this post if the second carton is different].

Wine 2

2004 “The McNab”, Bonterra: 60% Merlot, 16% CS, 14% old-vine PS. M+ youthful, toasty, overt oak; plum, red cherry, hint tar; full-bodied, M+ alc (14.1%), M+ ripe tannin, long, complex finish. Medium acidity is balanced w/fruit & alcohol. A nice effort, well-made, with the structure to age. Better in 5 years.

Wine 3

2005 Weir Vineyard Pinot, Bink, Yorkville Highlands. M+, youthful, vibrant red cherry, hint of RAID , vanilla, toasty oak. M+ body and M+ acid, the alcohol sticks out slightly, but the tannins and acidity balance things out. Exuberant and California-style, but with surprising balance, especially considering the warm appellation.

Wine 4

2005 Estate Cab, Clos LaChance. Deep purple-magenta. Pronounced, youthful nose of cassis, tar, blackberry, and charred wood. Full bodied, with medium-plus acid, high alcohol, and M+, slightly aggressive tannin. Finish is fairly long and complex. Good, but a little over-oaked for my tastes. Better in 3-5.

Wine 5

2006 Napa Valley Cab, 4 Bears. Winemaker Sean Minor. Medium ruby color. Medium, developing aroma of red cherry, hint of tar, vinous mouthfeel, but lacking a little in concentration (though my palate may have been overwhelmed by the previous wine).

Wine 6

2006 Central Coast Chardonnay, BOHO Vineyards. In Bag-in-Box.
Love bag-in-box as a package, both for environmental reasons and for convenience keeping wines. Problem is finding good wine. This one’s not bad, but not fantastic, but keep in mind the price ($24? for 3L?). Red apple, hint of orange peel, and sour milk (assuming that’s 100% malo). Medium acidity, medium body, pleasant and not over-the-top, but neither particularly long nor complex.

Wine 7

2007 (dry) Muscat, James David Cellars. Pronounced, vibrant, Muscat nose: orange blossom, grapey, tangerine, hint of lychee. Clean, vibrant flavors on the palate, balanced by medium-plus acidity (winemaker David Cole suppressed malolactic to keep the freshness). Fairly high alcohol (14.5%) sticks out just a little, but with the vivacious aroma and nice acidity, it still works, and very nicely at that. Yummy.

Wine 8

2006 Tempranillo/Graciano/Garnacha “The Spaniard,” Twisted Oak. Winemaker Jeff Stai apologized, saying “Doug, sorry this isn’t Italian…” Well, we all have our crosses to bear… First word that comes to mind is spicy. Lots of spicy oak, red cherry, M+ slightly hard (oak) tannin, hint of garrigue, mineral. Fairly high alcohol. A bit young at the moment… wish I had more time, I’d like to come back to this.

Wine 9

2006 Zinfandel, Dark Horse. Not giving out a whole lot, aroma-wise. Raspberry, hint of cocoa, M+A, alcohol is nicely contained — rare in a Zinfandel — but just not showing too well at the moment…

Wine 10

2006 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, Small Vines, 150 cases made, $65. M+ ruby color. M+, youthful, cherry, raspberry, violet, toasty oak, hint of fresh butter, truffle. M+ body, M+ acid; alcohol is not über-high (14.5 or so?) but sticks out slightly. Finish is long and complex. A big wine, but has the acid and a fair bit of tannic grip to balance things out. Nice now, but needs 2-3 years to integrate the oak, and will be better in 5-6.

Wine 11

2007 Central Coast Chardonnay, Cupcake (Underdog Wine Merchants). Simple, with reasonable acidity. A little funky and savory in the midpalate. Under $10, but not my cup… of cake?

Wine 12

2007 Pinot Noir, Kanzler Vineyards. M+, youthful, black cherry, RAID, cassis hints, orange peel, cocoa, toasty oak. M+ acid, high alcohol, full body. Not a big fan of the extra “hang time” espoused by this producer — I like my Pinot a little more lean & mean — but I must admit this wine “hangs” together fairly well, despite not being my particular style. Very rich, but long and silky.

Wine 13

2007 Roussanne, McGinley Vineyard, Lionheart Wines. M, youthful, peach, floral, hints of wax and lychee, and a creamy note (100% malo, says winemaker). Pretty nose. Full bodied, with medium-high acidity, medium-plus alcohol, creamy mouthfeel, and a pleasantly long, grapefruity finish. Dig this. The winemaker, Leon Glover, said he’s going for a “distinctive, bold” wine, and I’d say he succeeded.

Well that’s it, my humble, hastily-scrawled, real-time notes. I’ll come back later and add more links… enjoy.

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7 Responses to “Live from the Wine Bloggers Conference”


  1. 1 Cheryl Durzy October 25, 2008 at 4:04 am

    Thanks for the kinds words…sorry the oak was not your cup o’tea…..have fun this weekend. Nice meeting everyone. Cheers, Cheryl Durzy, Clos LaChance

  2. 2 ablegrape October 25, 2008 at 8:23 am

    Thanks, Cheryl, for taking the time to share the wines with us! Look forward to trying more of your wines in the future.

  3. 3 Diane Letulle October 27, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Doug, it was great meeting you this weekend. I enjoyed reading your tasting notes–I also thought the Clos LaChance needed to age. The Oak Room party was fantastic! Cheers, Diane

  4. 4 ablegrape October 28, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Hey Diane,

    Great to meet you, too, and hope you had a safe trip home. Nice blog! I just added it to Able Grape, it should show up within a few days…

  5. 5 Erika October 28, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Ohhh I can so tell those WSET notes when I read’em! Thanks for sharing your notes and those amazing wines Saturday night. Great to meet ya!

  6. 6 ablegrape October 28, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    Hey Erika, great to meet you too. Yep, I guess those years of Diploma tasting have made their mark (though I think I missed a lot of points on these ones) ;-)


  1. 1 The Grapevine » Blog Archive » Speed tasting at the Wine Bloggers Conference Trackback on October 25, 2008 at 5:34 pm

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