Last week I had the privilege meeting Craig Becker the General Manager/Director of Winemaking and Viticulture for Somerston Wines. Craig is one of the founding members of Somerston and his education is in plant physiology, hydrologic science, enology, and viticulture. He oversees all aspects of the business from viticulture, winemaking, sales and marketing, and finance and business development (basically a very busy man and I feel privileged that he took time to meet with me). After speaking with him I could only imagine a beautiful winery with lush vineyards and exquisite lands that I wanted to visit.
To start off with, Somerston has over 1600+ acres of land and over 200 acres in vineyards. The fruit from Somerston has been purchased by some of Napa Valleys most renowned winemakers including David Ramey, Heidi Barrett, David Phinny, and etc.
Their winemaking facility has many high-tech attributes including new proven technologies like CO2 heat pumps, non-glycol based refrigerants, the first process waste anaerobic bio-filter in Napa County, that delivers clean, pH adjusted processed waster with over 90% BOD (biological oxygen demand) removed, and solar power. The carbon neutral cooling/ heating and hot water system is one of the first of its kind in use at a winery in the United States.
One thing that you can experience is the off-road vineyard experience. Your tour begins with a wine specialists that guides you through the vineyard property visiting the vineyard blocks where the estate wines are grown. After the tour, you will enjoy a tasting of limited production estate wines paired with artisan cheeses from the patio that overlooks the vineyards. (This is on my list of things to do this summer.)
STAY TUNED FOR MY NEXT BLOG WHEN I TALK ABOUT THEIR WINES…
I am so glad I went to this year’s Cincinnati International Wine Festival. It was fun, well worth the price, and I was able to try some amazing wines. Plus $35 of my ticket went to local charities. This year’s event featured more than 100 wineries offering tastings of 600 or so different wines.
I went to the Friday Evening Grand Tasting. For about the first 45 minutes or so it wasn’t very busy. I was able to move around with no problem and I didn’t wait in line to taste most of the samples I wanted to try. Even after the crowd picked up, it didn’t feel overly crowded to me. A couple of the booths had small clusters of people but nothing unmanageable.
There were plenty of food stations with delicious appetizers spread throughout the area – cheese and crackers, mini quiches, gourmet olives. I was even able to grab some coffee on my way out.
I took Michelle’s advice and wore FLAT boots. Might not have been as stylish as the ladies wearing the skinny-minnie high heels but I was comfy. I also downloaded the event program Friday afternoon and highlighted the wines I wanted to try. I made it a point to mostly choose ones that I don’t normally drink, which worked out pretty well. I also roamed around a bit and randomly selected some others to try.
The majority of the pourers were very helpful and chatty about their wines. It was a little difficult to take notes, hold my glass and eat, but I’ll do my best in sharing some of my favorites.
Vintner Select Imports of France: 2010 Labbe Abymes, Vin de Savoie A clean, dry white wine made from the Jacquère grape. Light and tangy with floral fruit flavors.
World Wine Headquarters: 2010 Altivo “Vineyard Selection” Malbec, Argentina Very smooth. Dark berry flavor. Lively tannins and firm acidity.
Somerston Wine Co.: 2010 Highflyer Granache Blanc, Napa Creamy consistency with citrusy-lime flavor and a little bit of spice. Crisp acidity.
Dr. Loosen: 2010 Villa Wolf Gewurztraminer (Gold Medal Winner) Floral aroma with some spice. Clean, light and fruity.
Oyster Bay: 2011 Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc Green pepper and grass notes with grapefruit and citrus flavors. Light and refreshing. Probably the best Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had. The pourer told me that its deliciousness comes from the fruit’s longer hang time on the vine due to the excellent climate in the Marlborough region.
Treasury Wine Estates: Colores Del Sol, Malbec, Reserva, Argentina Very smooth, full-bodied, bold and flavorful – full of raspberry and cherry.
Firelands: 2010 Firelands Ice Wine I don’t know that this was necessarily one of my favorites, but it was quite different. Very sweet and grapey. The grapes stay on the vine until December and then they are pressed while frozen, so there’s not much juice that comes from the fruit. Therefore it’s very concentrated.
What were some of your faves? Comment here and let me know.
I once again got the privilege to attend an industry preview of the wine festival and here are a few highlights. Please realize these are high level thoughts of what I enjoyed; your experience might be different:
Booth 2: Charles Smith/K Vintners – Eve Chardonnay was a nice well rounded example. Also learned that Kung Fu Girl (a must try for Riesling fans) has had production to support year round availability for the last two years and that should continue going forward.
Booth 3/50: Rieslings and Grüet Bubbly are nice breaks in the middle of a large red run to help refresh the palate. All the Loosen offerings are good with the Dry Riesling being a different take on the standard offering.
Booth 15/22/68/98 – There are some nice high end red wines in the Grand Tasting Room. Expect a longer than usual line for Orin Swift, JAQK, Mollydooker, and Cinq Cepages. All were showing nicely in the afternoon and might be worth a slightly longer wait for red lovers.
New to me this year was Hoepler Estates out of Austria. Christof Höpler is in attendance to answer any questions you have about Austria, their national grape (Grüener Veltliner), or the other wines he brought. Overall I was impressed by his Pinot Noir in addition to the Gruner and Blaufränkisch.
Also, the Frederick Wildman, & Sons table (booth 118) was a “new-to-me” importer that was able to give me a few good examples of their portfolio. Tasting through their red offering was well worth the time. They’ve been attendees in the past, but this was the first year I spent time sampling their offerings.
A few favorites were also there: Veleta (booth 56), JAQK (booth 98), Terry Theise (Booth 12), Henke (booth 125), Burnet Ridge (booth 127), Firelands (booth 59), Moet Hennessy (Pinot Meunier booth 116), and Justin (booth177). Terry Theise has a Pinot Meunier driven bubbly; the Aubry Brut, which can be used as a nice comparison to the still version at Moet.
Overall. my impression is that the Wine Festival will be a great time for wine lovers looking for something to do this weekend. There is a nice mix of new and old favorites that should keep everyone expanding their palates. If you go this weekend, post any favorites in the comments below!
Once you have mastered surviving a festival, you can start to apply a few other techniques on navigating the amazing number of options you have. Here are a few different ways that I have approached large tasting events:
This is the basic system of picking an end and working your way around stopping at each booth along the way fully tasting options that appeal to you. The advantages are very little up front planning and it gives a large amount of time to socialize with your group. It does require you to switch from sweet to dry at every table and I remember the time I tried a heavy desert wine and stained the glass for the rest of the evening.
The two variations of this are stop at the shortest line or stop at the largest line. By stopping at a short line, you can get a little more personalized attention from whomever is working the booth. When this is a winemaker, winery rep, or distributor they can be very knowledgeable about what you are tasting. The additional information can give a better appreciation of the style and help to improve your overall knowledge. The long line theory is that this many people cannot be wrong. It’s a gamble that the wait will be worth it when you get to the front. Usually this line will make it more difficult to engage in conversation and learn about the wines.
This requires a glance through the program to see if there are any varietals or wineries that you have been wanting to try, but have not had the opportunity. It could be a desire to try something else from a place you have heard about, like Canadian Ice Wine (Booth 89), a new varietal like Blaufraenkisch (Booth 93), or a producer like Orin Swift (Booth 22). These are only a few examples. You could also visit local winery booths (along the left wall this year).
This is an additional layer of planning, but can be worth it. The goal of this is to try all wines of a certain type or color before moving on. Only whites, then rose, finishing with reds. This really helps when you like certain varietals or want to be able to compare the same type of wine from different regions and producers. The difficulty is remembering any place you want to return to on the next round.
The main goal of the wine festival is to have fun and enjoy yourself and the company you are with. These are a few suggestions on how to make the most of your time in the convention center this year. Anyone have other approaches? Did I miss an obvious way to navigate the large amount of choice? This year, I’m excited to revisit Pinot Meunier (Booth 116). This is the third grape used in most Champagne along with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Welcome to Wine-Girl’s Annual Wine Festival Survival Guide. Every year I poll a large group of wine bloggers and find out if there are any outstanding tips, which I add to my own. This year, I’ve added new tips based on my experience pouring wines for the last two years. I’m sad to say that I’m missing the Wine Festival for the first time in years. It makes me sad, but it snuck up on me and I’m currently in San Francisco. I’m leaving Festival reporting to the capable hands of Kevin, Cresta, and Angela.
Please realize that these tips are geared for people who are heading to the Festival to try new wines, learn new things, and not get generally hammered. If insanely drunk is your goal, well … get a cab and/or a hotel.
So in no particular order, here are my tips for surviving a festival with hundreds of wines and even more people:
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