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Mar 19

Somerston Wines Part One

By Angela

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.

 (How beautiful!)

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.)





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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Angela at 10:23 am in Meet the Winemaker, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (1)
Mar 14

Cincinnati Wine Festival: THE Place to Try Some Amazing Wines

By: Cresta

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.

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Cresta at 5:04 pm in Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments (3)
Mar 09

2012 Wine Festival Preview!

by Kevin

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!

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Copyright Creative Commons by-nc-nd My Wine Education.
Posted by Kevin at 5:09 pm in Special Events, Tastings, Wine Events, Wine Misc | Permalink | Comments ()
Mar 09

Navigating the Wine Festival

by Kevin

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:

What’s Next

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.

Line Hopping

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.

Trying Something New

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).

Round and Round We Go

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.

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Mar 07

Wine-Girl’s Annual Wine Festival Survival Guide

by Michelle

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:

  1. Decide when you want to go. The Friday Grand Tasting has always seemed more manageable to me, with slightly less people. The Saturday Grand Tasting is generally the biggest event, with what seems like an unending number of people. My favorite session is Saturday afternoon, as fewer people attend and I can get more face-time with the winemakers.
  2. Eat a big meal before hand. You’ll stay sober longer. You may want to follow your festival experience with a large meal afterwards. Either way, it’s a busy weekend downtown. Whenever you decide to eat, make reservations.
  3. Consider a designated driver, cab service, or even a hotel room. Last year we decided to succumb to an afternoon and evening of alcohol and we got a hotel room. The Wine Fest web site offers several hotel packages downtown, and we often find great last minute deals at The Cincinnatian. In past years, we’ve had good luck booking through Hotwire.
  4. Make a game plan. First, download the Tasting Guide ahead of time. In the guide, you can find the list of attending wineries, the corresponding floor plan, and the list of wines in the Special Tasting Room. Plan ahead. See what looks interesting. Accept that you can’t possibly try everything. You may want to decide to divide and conquer within your group of friends.
  5. Dress comfortably. Seriously, ladies, there is no need for high heels. You can still look cute and trendy and leave the stilettos at home. You will be walking a lot, standing even more, and jostling in and out of a lot of people. Expect it to be warm in the tasting hall. Lots of people and red wine can raise the temperature in a room.
  6. Since we’re talking about clothes, wear dark colors. I know it’s almost Spring, but don’t pull out your sundresses and pastels. Even if you manage to avoid spilling red wine on yourself, someone else might very well careen into you. Lots of people + lots of alcohol = lots of wine accidents. Dark colors are your best bet. On that note, carry a small bottle of Wine Away or a Tide Stain Stick. Even if you don’t need it, someone else might.
  7. Get there early. People start filtering in late and things get really crowded really fast. Enjoy being early.
  8. Start at the end. Most people will start at the beginning. Starting at the end (or back) will allow you to fight a smaller crowd – at least until you make it to the middle.
  9. Manage your route so that you visit the sparkling wine and champagne in between big wines. Sparklers are excellent palate cleansers and you’ll last longer if you try those in between the big reds.
  10. Save those dessert wines for last. One year I succumbed to temptation and had a chocolate port early on. As tasty as it was, my next ten wines still tasted like chocolate.
  11. Hold your glass up and don’t tilt it sideways. Think about it  – the wine will spill out. Holding it up higher makes it easier for the pourer to reach over all the bottles. Guys were better at this than gals last year, most likely because guys are just taller in general. Reach out with those glasses ladies!
  12. The pourers are not bartenders. Seriously, don’t bang on a bottle with your glass expecting service. (And no, I’m not kidding.) And while we’re on the topic, say please and thank you. Just because you’re thirsty for wine, doesn’t mean that all good manners get thrown out the window. Some of the pourers are just volunteers and aren’t being paid to be there and everyone has been working hard for at least two days; in the case of winemakers, they’ve been going non-stop for nearly a week.
  13. Move out of the way. I can’t stress this enough for the evening sessions. You don’t have to leave, but get your wine and move to the side. Don’t step back two steps, you’re still blocking the three people behind you and you’ll probably spill wine in the process.
  14. Try new things. Just because you haven’t heard of them doesn’t mean they’re bad. Truly, some of the booths have the name of the distributor, but they might be featuring three or four different wineries. This is a perfect opportunity to branch out and explore a little. Who knows what you’ll find? There might be something you really like, even if it’s not Merlot and Chardonnay. The two questions I heard while pouring last year were “Do you have any Merlot? Do you have any Chardonnay?”  The answer is not always yes, and there are some really exciting grapes out there that are not merlot or chard. If you see an Alicante Bouché for example, try it – you might be surprised. Chances are, the person behind the table can tell you a little bit about the grape as well, and if you don’t like it, then dump it.
  15. Spit or dump. A winemaker commented to me a few years ago that Cincinnati is strange because hardly anyone spits. Some thoughts on spitting:
    – Carry your own spit cup. Dixie cups work, as well as those Solo plastic cups. When a table is crowded, it’s hard to get to the bucket, nor do you want to be in someone else’s spit stream. Also, it’s easier to be discreet when you are quietly spitting into your own cup.
    – Dump instead of spit. I don’t spit at the Wine Festival. When I’m judging a wine competition, it doesn’t bother me to spit into a personal cup. But in our weird lack-of-spitting city, I get really self-conscious. So I take a small sip or two, try to really glean something out of it, and dump the rest of the wine into the bucket. It’s expected. You’re not wasting wine or hurting anyone’s feelings.
  16. Take breaks every 30 minutes or so to have some snacks and water, as well as to regroup.
  17. Hydrate, and wine doesn’t count. Bring water if they aren’t handing it out. But you’ll definitely want some handy.
  18. Rinse strategically. You see, rinsing your glass is necessary occasionally. But when you’re switching between white and red, ask for a wine rinse. No one will complain. If you’re switching between the reds at the same table, you don’t need to rinse your glass between every one. Not only do you waste water, but no one ever gets all the water out of their glass. You know what that leads to? Watery wine, and you certainly don’t want that.
  19. Don’t try to take detailed tasting notes. Sometimes I just rate things on my happy face scale; occasionally I’ll write a sentence. There will be no time for detailed information, nor will you really have free hands or space for writing.
  20. And finally, don’t expect your friendly wine blogger to get you free tickets. Even Kevin & I pay to get in to the evening events. It’s a charity function. In fact, I believe 50% of your ticket is a tax-deduction as a charitable donation. So don’t try to get in free and skimp on those charities, okay? Instead, just go and have a fantastic time!
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Posted by Michelle at 9:01 am in Special Events, Tastings, Wine Events | Permalink | Comments (2)

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