Annual Alsace Festival Draws an International Crowd

Print The annual International Alsace Varietals Festival in Anderson Valley draws an international crowd of wine lovers.

This year, an especially enticing educational seminars start with a feature tasting of the sparkling wines of the region, Cremant d’Alsace.  Master Sommelier, Catherine Fallis will lead a panel of my wine friends, Fred Swan (who has a fancy new WSET Diploma!), Deborah Parker Wong, also a DipWSET, and Master of Wine Dr. Liz Thach in a deep dive breakfast session on this delightful fizz.

Immediately following the tour of Cremants, David Strada, representing the Wines of New Zealand, will walk us though some beautiful food pairings with Alsatian varietals from the Kiwis.

Finally, before the Grand Tasting in the afternoon, a unique look at Michigan’s Dry Rieslings will explore this up and coming wine region.  I have only tasted a few wines from Michigan, and admittedly I am somewhat dubious, but this will be a great opportunity to learn more and step out of my comfort zone.

Image courtesy of Anderson Valley Winegrowers

Seminar tickets sell out fast!  Get yours today for $60

After a break to hydrate, the Grand Tasting begins at 1pm.  This extravaganza features wines from around the world, including California, France, and more!  Some of my favorite wineries that wll be pouring are Cartograph, Greenwood Ridge, Navarro, Toulouse, and of course, the Wines of Alsace and New Zealand Winegrowers.

Don’t worry, you won’t go hungry – pairing tastes include seven unique tasting stations featuring pork belly B-B-BACON, duck, handmade pizzas, assorted artisanal cheeses, and so much more.

Grand Tasting tickets are $90, and can be combined with the educational seminars for $135, which is a great deal! Designated drivers can eat all the food at the tasting stations for $60.

If you aren’t too full, I highly reccomend one of the very small Winemaker Dinners, at the Apple Farm, featuring Long Meadow Ranch and Balo Cellars, or the Scharffenberger Cellars Dinner, featuring six wineries including Scharffenberger, Navarro, and more.  Participating wineries include Scharffenberger Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Winegrowers of New Zealand, Lichen Estate, and  Husch Vineyards.

These very intimate dinners sell out early so be sure to book on ASAP!  Dinners are $150 and area almost sold out so hurry!

If you are planning a full weekend, be sure to book a room in nearby Cloverdale or Ukiah and enjoy the Open Houses on Sunday.  This is a very special opportunity to get up close and personal with the winemakers, pouring special selections and many offering food pairings and no additional tasting fees.

This annual event is not to be missed and always sells out so get your tickets early and head on up to the Anderson Valley!

Drinking for Charity: Support Pinot Noir, support The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma

 

Pinot on the River LogoIt’s that time of year again!  Fall arrived with a bang this morning, after a brief Indian Summer.  It’s also time to spotlight one of my favorite events:  Pinot on the River, on October 23rd.

This spectacular showcase of Pinot Noir is probably one of the best ways to taste all of what Sonoma County (and more) has to offer in terms of Pinot Noir, and is also a great way to support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma.

This year, Pinot on the River once again takes place on the square in Healdsburg.  With ample parking nearby, and a collection of tasting rooms surrounding the event, it is sure to be a bustling weekend.

A highlight of this event is the silent auction and raffle, with an instant wine cellar. 6 bottle lots from famous winemakers and much more available for your enjoyment.  There will also be a collection of artisan food vendors, so bring some cash and an appetite!

Among some of the wineries pouring, you can enjoy some of my favorites:

Balletto Vineyards.
Bucher Wines
Donum Estate

Ellipsis Wine Company
FEL Wines
Handley Cellars

J Cage Cellars
Kokomo Winery

La Pitchoune
LIOCO
Papapietro Perry
Peay Vineyards
Wine Guerrilla
Wrath

And even some that are new to me!

POTR

Apriori Cellar
Bailarin Cellars
Balverne Vineyards
Blue Farm Wines
Dunstan Wines
E16 Wine Company
Jigar Patel Wines INC
Lando Wines
Luli Wines
Occidental Road Cellars
Right Side, LLC
The Calling
Vaughn Duffy Wines

Tickets are $75 for General Admission, and $90 for early VIP entry but get yours early since they are sure to sell out! Support the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma, and come out and taste some fabu-luscious Pinot Noir with me! 

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Sonoma County provide much needed family services and activities for Sonoma County youth.  They couldn’t do it without your support, so if you live, work, or spend time in the County, please support this worthy cause by buying a ticket or donating today.

 

Hospice du Rhone: A great line up is announced!

The 2016 Hospice du Rhône event schedule has been released, and it’s going to be another epic one!  This annual gathering of producers and aficionados of the many delicious Rhône grapes begins on Friday, April 15th, in Paso Robles CA.

This year there are some new events to add to the grand tastings.  The seminar series this year is sure to be a knock out.  Discovering the Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape, to an in depth look at Washington State Rhônes, guests will be treated to a wine education second to none.

Prefer to deep dive in to the whites?  Check out Costières de Nîmes – A Southern Rhône Exception for Whites.  Prefer to stay close to home?  A Tale of Two Treasures:  Paso Robles and Santa Barbara will take you through the various AVAs that specialize in Syrah and Grenache, visiting four produces and digging in to the soils.

Hospice du Rhône has become somewhat famous for it’s lunches, and this year, of course, includes the Rose Lunch, a fan favorite.  Sit back, relax, and drink pink from the attending producers.  It’s often quite warm this time of year, so a bit of chilled rose is the perfect refreshment before the afternoon seminars resume.

Ever been to a cowboy auction with wine?  Well you’ll love the Lunch and Live Auction on Saturday, April 16th.  This spirited affair will get everyone in the mood as rare lots are offered up in support of the 2018 HdR event.

The Farewell BBQ on Saturday night is always a bittersweet affair.  This year, the Hitching Post II is manning the pit, and the casino is open!

Of course, interspersed in all of this fun are the Tastings.  Sip wines from the 130+ producers of the 22 Rhône varietals in these interactive walk around tastings.

Have a hankering for an intimate dinner?  This year, the Rhône-Around Dinner Series takes guests to Paso Robles best dining hot spots, each with a different theme.  Saturday, you have 3 epic dinners to choose from:
CdP on Assignment, Rhône Valley Relocated, and the Rhône Exchange.

With such a selection to choose from, it will be difficult to manage which events to choose!  I can’t wait to make a return appearance, see some old friends, and make some new ones next month.

Tickets are available for each dinner, from $100-150.  Event tickets are available for the Opening & Closing Tastings, a la carte, or a full weekend pass, as well as the lunches and farewell BBQ.  But buy them early, this is sure to be a sell out!

From California to Alsace!

Spring has sprung, at least temporarily, in Northern California.  The trees are blooming, the mustard blankets the resting vineyards, and our gratefully recieve El Nino rains have made the hills green with life.

Every year, the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association shows off one of it’s two claims to fame:  Alsatian varietals.  These beautiful, nuanced, elegant, varied aromtaic white wines are a cetnerpirce of teh AVAs culture, and production.

Next weekend, the 2016 International Alsace Varietals Festival kicks off with educational seminars and grand tastings.  While many events are sold out (because I am late on the ball), there are still tickets available to many.  Even if you cannot make it this year, make a point of visiting Anderson Valley anytime, to taste the splendor of these delicious whites.

The Festival schedule is as follows:

Grand Tasting (Sold Out) – Saturday, Feb 20th 1-4pm

Taste Alsace style white wines from around the world with delicious bites to match.

 

Participating wineries include (my faves are in bold):
Balo Vineyards, Barra of Mendocino, Bink Wines, Brooks, Cartograph, Claiborne & Churchill, Copain Wines, Discover the East, Dry River Wines, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Goldeneye, Graziano Family Wines, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek, Long Meadow Ranch, Lula Cellars, Maidenstoen, Maritime Wines, Navarro Vineyards, New Zealand Winegrowers,  Panthea Winery & Vineyard, Pacific Rim Wines, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, REIN Winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Domaines Schlumberger, Stirm, Stony Hill Vineyard, Tatomer, Thomas Fogarty, and Toulouse Vineyards.

 

Winemaker Dinner at Scharffenberger Cellars – Feb 20, 6:30pm

Dine with one of 6 winemakers in the private dining room at Scharffenberger Cellars to learn why these aromatic whites are the darlings of the wine world.

Participating wineries include Scharffenberger Cellars, REIN Winery, Maidenstoen Wines, Philo Ridge Vineyards, Stirm Wine Company and Husch Vineyards.

 

Educational Session – Feb 20th, 8:30am (sold out)

Learn, engage, and interact with winemakers from around the globe as they discuss winemaking and grape growing specifically for Alsace varietals.

 

This year’s deep dive is all about Riesling.  Riesling  is the world’s seventh most-planted white wine grape variety and among the fastest growing over the past twenty years. It is a personal favorite of many sommeliers, chefs, and other food and wine professionals for its appealing aromatics, finesse, and minerality; for its uncanny ability to reflect terroir; and for its impressive versatility with cuisines of all types.

This discussion and panel tasting will look at the present state of dry Riesling on the west coast: where it is grown and made, what models and objectives vintners have in mind, and what parameters of grape growing and winemaking are essential when the goal is a delicious dry wine.

Panelists:
Chris Williams – Brooks Winery, Oregon
Nicolas Quille – Pacific Rim, Washington
Graham Tatomer – Tatomer Wines, Central Coast, CA
Alex Crangle –  Balo Vineyards, Anderson Valley, CA

10:00am    Food and Wine Pairing 
Speaker:    Francois de Melogue, Chef and Author
This session will explore pairing a selection of Alsace Varietals with food. Francois will serve delectable samples to showcase the effect of foods on the wines to be tasted.
11:00am    Grand Cru Grapes, Globally interpreted
Speaker:    Evan Goldstein, MS
Taking the cue from Alsace, Evan presents a look at the four noble grapes (Riesling, Pinot Gris, Gewürztraminer, and Muscat) with different unexpected duets per grape variety. A tasting panel will explore two different unexpected geographical interpretations of each along with the audience.

 

Grand Tasting – Feb 20th 1pm (sold out)
Meet the winemakers and taste Alsace style white wines from around the world. Enjoy foods perfectly suited for aromatic whites including prawns, pork belly, duck, handmade pizzas, assorted artisanal cheeses, and more – all included in your ticket price.

Participating wineries include (my favorites are in bold):
Balo Vineyards, Barra of Mendocino, Bink Wines, Brooks, Cartograph, Claiborne & Churchill, Copain Wines, Discover the East, Dry River Wines, Dutton-Goldfield Winery, Elke Vineyards, FEL Wines, Foris Vineyards, Goldeneye, Graziano Family Wines, Greenwood Ridge Vineyards, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek, Long Meadow Ranch, Lula Cellars, Maidenstoen, Maritime Wines, Navarro Vineyards, New Zealand Winegrowers,  Panthea Winery & Vineyard, Pacific Rim Wines, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge Vineyards, REIN Winery, Robert Sinskey Vineyards, Domaines Schlumberger, Stirm, Stony Hill Vineyard, Tatomer, Thomas Fogarty, and Toulouse Vineyards.

 

Open Houses – Feb 21st 11am  (no tickets required, come on up!)Meander through beautiful Anderson Valley tasting the bounty of Alsace varietals at participating wineries.  Each winery wil feature special wines as well as food pairings to tantalize your taste buds!

Participating wineries:

Balo Vineyards, Bink Wines, Elke Vineyards, Goldeneye, Greenwood Ridge, Handley Cellars, Husch Vineyards, Lazy Creek Vineyards, Lichen Estate, Lula Cellars, Navarro Vineyards, Phillips Hill Winery, Philo Ridge, Signal Ridge, Toulouse Vineyards.

I’m looking forward to some new favorites, old favorites, and delicious wines! I look forward to sharing my experience in the next few weeks.  Happy sipping!

She’s Back! Hospice du Rhone returns home

Sixteen years ago, Hospice du Rhône

was founded with a dedicated goal to education and celebrate Rhone varietals from around the world.  With 22 varieties, one gorgeous region of France, and many countries producing quality Rhône style wines, what’s not to love about a celebration of this magnitude?

After twenty years in Paso Robles, HdR migrated east to Blackberry Farm, to share the love of the grape with more Rhone lovers.  This year, however, I am ecstatic to celebrate the return of this event to California’s Paso Robles wine country.

The weekend of April 14-16, 2016, Hospice du Rhône makes a return appearance with star studded events at the Paso Robles event center.  The highlight of the weekend, for me, is the education seminar series, which dives deep in to different topics impacting producers.

This year, these seminars include a discussion of the Intricacies of Châteauneuf du Pape.   With so much diversity in a small area of southern France, I am truly excited to learn more.  Additional seminars are being developed but they are sure to be outstanding.

Throw in the always epic Rose Lunch and Grand Tasting, and that alone is worth the price of entry.  But have you ever been to a Rhône Cowboy BBQ?  Yeehaw!  Who says Rhone wines are for the dusty shelves of a wine cellar?  Come celebrate the diversity the 22 grapes have to offer.  From affordable pinks, to fun blends, to collectors loves, the Rhône are grown all over the world and produce amazingly unique, diverse and delicious wines.

Event passes for Hospice du Rhône are on sale now, and start at $100 for single events.

More details are to come, so stay tuned!

Annual Wine Bloggers Conference – Advice from the trenches

Yikes!  The 9th annual Wine Bloggers Conference is next week!  Somehow this year went by way too fast.

Harvest is in full swing here in Northern California, kids are going back to school, work is buzzing, and  – 250 wine writers, industry reps, PR plebes, and other will converge on Corning, NY next week.

As one of a handful of people that have been to every conference (shout out to Craig Camp, Janelle & Joe Becerra, Liza Swift and Jon Steinberg), I have learned a lot since the first conference in Santa Rosa in 2008.

What does this mean to you?  As newbies and experienced conference attenders alike, there are always some rules of engagement that you should remember, and some advice that us veterans have learned about how to approach the conference.

Some of my key observations and advice on how to best enjoy the conference are outlined below.  Obviously, to each their own but if you want to earn the respect of your fellow bloggers and industry attendees, these tips are essential – and common sense.

  • Bring business cards.  Yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item.  The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read other peoples information.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.  you never know when we’ll be hiking up a hill in a vineyard.
  • Wear comfortable business casual / wine country casual clothes with layers.  The Finger Lakes can be very warm and quite humid, but cools off at night.  Jeans, sweaters, t-shirts, something nice for dinner.  Currently the weather says mid 80s all week, but there is a high probability that there will be R A I N mid week, so bring an umbrella!  For us Californians, this wet stuff is exciting indeed.  Most of all,  be comfy!
  • Be professional.  While we’re there to have fun and learn, no one likes a party animal that gives bloggers a bad name.  We all remember some years where people were not responsible and made the local community dislike bloggers in general.  Please don’t’ be that person.
  • Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Friday at lunch at the Expo to to say hi and learn who made this conference possible. Be sure to stop by the WBC Scholarship table and learn about what we do and how you can help.
  • Mix and mingle – the first mingling event is Thursday night, at Riverfront Park.  Wines from Keuka Lake will be featured along with nibbles if you’re hungry.
  • Don’t be shy – reach out and touch someone.  Ok maybe not literally, but turn to the person sitting next to yourself and introduce yourself.  We don’t bite and we want to get to know you!  All of you introverts, use Twitter!  #wbc15 is your best friend.  Buy some badge bling from the Scholarship table and say hi to your fellow winos!
  • Attend the keynotes.  These sessions are great kick starters and will get you in to the groove.
  • Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed.  While content is king, if there is a session that isn’t’ interesting to you, use the time to blog, hang out with your fellow attendees, or just chill.  It’s important to take sanity breaks since these are three days of busy events.
  • Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly.
  • Don’t forget to sleep!  There are always many after hours events and parties.  While going to these is fun and a great way to meet people, don’t overdo it.  Sleep is critical during this busy weekend of events.
  • Don’t have any party invites?  Don’t worry!  Stay tuned to the #WBC15 twitter stream, talk to people, and mingle.  You’ll get plenty!
  • Have an open mind.  You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love!
  • Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality.  This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt.
  • Attend the break outs.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While You Need to choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, just to pull the meat out.

Here’s what I think I’ll be doing:

  • Keynote, of course!  I cannot underestimate the importance of these opening sessions, as they set the tone for the day and really give you a peek in to how other professionals, wine writers, and tech luminaries view blogging.  This year, Karen McNeil will be opening the conference
  • Intro to the Finger Lakes – a great way to get an overview of the region before we start tasting!
  • Live Wine Blogging: Red and White – Also known as Speed Tasting, Speed Dating, or Insanity, I get a kick of out fast first impression tastes and the twitter storm that occurs.  You can tweet or blog, or take notes to blog later.  I suggest tweeting, as it’s the fastest way to keep up with the tasting.  This year, all live blogging wines are from the Finger Lakes!
  • Friday evening excursions to wine country – this is one of the best experiences at WBC.  Small groups are sent on mystery buses to various area wineries, where you get a deep dive in to the wine, winemaking philosophy, styles, and terroir of several area wineries.  The fun is that you don’t know where you’re going tile you get there!  No cheating now 😉
  • Women in the Wine World – Several successful women in wine will talk about their success and struggles
  • The Spectrum of Dry Riesling – As the Finger Lakes is well known for this varietal, I’m looking forward to tasting a wide selection and learning more about each style.
  • Panel of Successful Wine Bloggers I am moderating this sessions which will dive in to conversations with several successful bloggers, and what success means to them.  Bring your questions and join the discussion!
  • After parties to be determined
  • who knows what else!

I will see you next week!

Experience America’s Heritage Grape!


It’s that time of year again, time for the annual Zinfandel Experience!  Attracting Zin lovers from around the world, Zinfandel Experience is celebrating its 24th anniversary with three days of wine tasting events with zins from all over California, as well as unique corners of the world!

A classically American wine, Zinfandel is one of the oldest grapes grown in California.  From the old school Italian field blends of the Central Valley to the bold expressions of Dry Creek, there is a zin for everyone!

January 29-31st the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers association presents 4 days of spectacular events showcasing zinfandel.

Epicuria – formerly known as Good Eats and Zin, you get the idea.  Each producers selected wine is paired with a fabulous restaurant for this information walk around wine & food pairing.  VIPs can sip in the special lounge where you can relax and chat about the delicious tidbits.
Some of the pairings you can look forward to:
  • Bella Vineyards and Presideo Social Club
  • Ravenswood with Central Market
  • Saddleback Cellars with Rosamunde Sausage Grill
Flights! Forums of Flavors – Friday, January 30th
Flights features a professional tasting seminar with a focus on highly allocated, limited production Zinfandels. Learn insights from the experts and experience the range, depth and character of the wines. ZAP will once again partner with the Historic Vineyard Society to present wines from exceptional old Zinfandel vineyards.

Presentaion of 3 Historic Regions, moderated by Joel Peterson, featuring Contra Costa County, Amador County, and Dry Creek Valley

 

 

Winemakers Reception, Dinner & Auction – Zin State of Mind – A Benefit with Taste, Friday January 30th

Go glamorous! Mad Men, the popular TV show, is our inspiration for this year’s dinner and auction. The stylish, sleek, and jazzy atmosphere will captivate you as the city lights of San Francisco dazzle. Our reception will feature winemakers ‘pouring it big’ with magnums and reserve offerings. You’ll experience an intimate dinner hosted by celebrities of the wine world and a customized menu that boasts the best in farm-to-table cuisine. The live and silent auctions will feature one-of-a-kind lots, rare bottles, winery experiences and so much more, with proceeds benefiting ZAP’s programming, education and Heritage Projects. It will be an evening full of personality—fashionable, yet slightly provocative—what else—a Zin state of mind!

The Tasting – Saturday, January 31st

The centerpiece of the 2015 Zinfandel Experience is The Tasting, where wine lovers engage in personal conversations with winemakers while exploring the flavors of Zinfandel blends, single vineyards and old vine Zinfandels or discover the distinctive dialects of Zinfandel growing regions. Experience Zinfandel from the perspective of sommeliers, with all due respect to terroir, at the complimentary Sommelier & Winemaker Terroir Workshops located at the Golden Gate Club.

Reserve and Barrel Tasting with VIP and All Day Ticket Purchase

Winemakers and principals will pour samples at their tables during this exclusive tasting for VIPs and all-day ticket holders. From 11am to 1pm, you will enjoy a “sneak peek” tasting of upcoming vintages and special Zinfandels that have earned the title of “Reserve.” This walk-around experience offers an special foray into the wineries most prized Zinfandel treasures.

Tickets are available HERE and be sure to get them early!  Events sell out!

Sonoma Wine Country Weekened!

The dust has mostly settled, and the clean up has begun.  If you have not yet heard, we had a fairly large earthquake in these parts on Saturday night / Sunday morning, and while there was no damage here in the city of San Francisco, there was significant building and property damage in Napa.

While most of us who grew up in the area are somewhat used to (if you can really get used to this) these moments in time where the ground buckles and groans, it is certainly a challenge to see it in person, and look at the pictures of the damage. Many wineries have suffered significant losses, in both tanks falling over, bottles broken, and barrels tossed; so I write this post with a bittersweet taste in my mouth.

I wish all of my friends, wineries, and colleagues the best of luck, cleaning up and getting on with the business of harvest and life.


Looking for something to do on Labor Day Weekend?  It’s an early one this year, but it is shaping up to be a lovely weekend.  The weather hasn’t been quite as hot as it can be, and it’s prime time for relaxing outside with some delicious Sonoma County wine! Sonoma Wine Country Weekend is the penultimate weekend of wine, food, and culinary adventures, showcasing the best that Sonoma County has to offer.

This year, local Sommelier Stars are bringing their discriminating palates to bat, immersing themselves, and you, in an educational experience like no other. Supporting the future of Sonoma County through a partnership with Sonoma valley Vintners & Growers Foundation and Sonoma County Vintners, Sonoma Wine Country Weekend includes three days of events, from dining under the stars at Francis Ford Coppola Winery, to the raucous Taste of Sonoma at iconic MacMurray Ranch, and ending with the Harvest Auction.  Winemaker lunches, dinners, barbeques, and more will be featured throughout the county, with deep dives in to the wines and foods of each region.

The highlight of the weekend for me is Saturday’s Taste of Sonoma, where guests can immerse themselves in wine & food with over 100 wineries and food purveyors.  This is the best opportunity to taste a bit of all of Sonoma County in one place, in the historic MacMurray Ranch property in the Russian River Valley.   Don’t miss the bubble lounge and the Steel Chef cooking challenge!

Tickets are on sale now, with special benefits for Visa Signature Cardholders! I look forward to seeing you there!

 

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ZAP goes on the road!

As summer winds down, or maybe just gets skipped over, the foggy nights and cool morning remind me of why I love Zinfandel so much.  Zinfandel is a wine that has as many flavors and styles as there are ways to make BBQ sauce.  Zinfandel is also the perfect summer party, and BBQ wine.

With that in mind, ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates & Producers) is hosting a showcase of Zinfandel at Ridge Lytton Springs, on Saturday, August 16th.  Here, over 40 producers will be pairing their Zinfandels with delicious foods from Pizza Politana!  Included with your ticket, you get all of your tastings and half a pizza.  My only problem is they all sound so good – Wild Mushroom, Smoked Mozzarella, Thyme & Truffle Oil; Black Mission Fig, Zoe’s Bacon, Gorgonzola & Creamy Leeks; Housemade Red Wine Sausage (not spicy), County Line Farm Mustard Greens, Tomato Sauce & Mozzarella.  How do I choose?  I suspect the bacon will have it.

Participating wineries include some personal favorite of D-Cubed, Elyse Winery, Fields Family Winery, Kokomo Winery, and Ridge – as well as many more!

Tickets are $60 per person ($45 for ZAP members) and include tasting and 1/2 a pizza w/salad.  Additional food is available for purchase as well as several other sampling opportunities.

Hope to see you there!

 

Tickets to this event were provided, however all yumtacular (thanks James!) opinions of said pizza, and sips of wine, are my own.

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WITS: On changing technology in wine

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend my first WITS – the Wine Industry Technology Symposium.  While i have often wanted to attend, my work obligations prevented it.  Until now.

Why was I so excited about this event?  Primarily because, and if you’ve been reading this blog for some time you know, at long last technology is successfully and measurably crashing in to wine industry.

WITS brings together industry professionals, technology leaders, social media gurus, and people that work with the tools and the people so mentioned.  As a career software professional, with an emphasis on CRM and CRM based ecosystems, I have always championed the use of technology to make you work faster, smarter and more successfully – with less human capital.

Gone (or perhaps while not gone, greatly reduced as people begin to deeply feel the pain of isolated databases) are the days when siloed solutions work for businesses; particularly in the wine industry, having databases of wine club members here, and then a database of DTC customers there, along with trade and media over yonder, is disjointed and confusing in the best of circumstances.  It presents challenges, and what is interesting is that while these challenges are not as unique as the industry would like to believe, many in the adult beverage industry have shied away from technology as a part of the solution to these problems.  Today, in 2014, with the number of technology companies that are customized specifically to the wine industry, this paradigm is shifting.  Small companies are no longer to able to function without a centralized data warehouse and streamlined system of record.

By building a better mousetrap, leveraging existing technology and tools, businesses can uncover more information and truths about their customer behavior that can lead to smarter sales.  But, Social CRM, Social Listening, and Digital marketing are augmentations to existing customer database tools.  And in this case, a customer is a customer – whether we are talking about DTC, trade, a distributor, or the media.  It’s how you handle each type of customer that matters.  It is impossible to build a successful social CRM (sCRM) program on top of a black hole of data; first – build the mousetrap.  Then, build it better.

CRM is, at the most basic level, the tool that you use, to manage the complete cycle of customer information.  This can include anything up to and including wine club orders, online orders, and email marketing tracking, but it doesn’t have to.  Those are all add-ons that augment your core information.

One of the most important factors in today’s market is social CRM (sCRM); as an adjunct to traditional CRM, sCRM allows you to find, track, and respond to what your customers or potential customers are saying about you.  Why?  You might be asking yourself.  Simply put, listening to what is being said about you allows you to be proactive; this can also be a marketing tool.  More importantly, sCRM allows you to engage with your customers are a personal level.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, engagement is king.  If you aren’t’ engaging, you might as well be dead.  How and where you engage can vary (more on that in a later post) but engage you must.

The good news is that today, with tools ranging from as simple as Google alerts and the free version of Hootsuite, to Hootsuite premium and Vintank, all the way up to Radiant6 and more advanced marketing automation platforms, businesses can make engagement easy.  But to do so, you need to be tracking, alerting, and responding to these touchstones.  Customers want you to engage with them and if you don’t – they will drop you like a bad box of wine.  Do you know what your customers are saying about you?  How do you respond?  Just take a look at some prime examples from Twitter and Facebook, in response to Comcast or Frontier Airlines.  Listening is key, but responding is king.

With the use of some tools and human expertise, you can find new paths in to in depth knowledge at your fingertips.  The benefit of a CRM solution in the cloud, or Software as a Service (SaaS) is that they are not one size fits all.  CRM solutions are flexible, customizable, collaborative and unique.  They allow you to integrate multiple tools in a single ecosystem.  The most successful examples combine CRM, marketing automation, digital marketing, and inventory management in a single solution network, but you can start small and build your way up as your business grows.

So ditch the Excel spreadsheets and join the revolution!  Social CRM doesn’t exist in a bubble, but it is the new methodology for businesses.  The tools available to you today can be inexpensive and easy to use (though inflexible), all the way to custom implementations, and all the way in between.  True CRM allows you to manage and build upon your relationships with your customers.  My personal belief is that you need several components that all work together to provide data analysis, tracking, and listening abilities.  What those solutions are, depend on your budget, needs and size.

The progression of CRM through the years, provided by Salesforce.com

For more of my thoughts on CRM in wine, please see:
Why Your Wine Business Needs CRM

CRM Is Not a 4 Letter Word

Still have questions?  Comment here or reach out!

East Bay Vintners Alliance – Urban Wine Xperience

Urban Wine ExperienceWhat are you up to this weekend?  If you’re in or around the San Francisco Bay Area, Saturday is your opportunity to check out the bustling East Bay urban wine scene at Jack London Square.

The East Bay Vintners Alliance hosts the 9th annual Urban Wine Xperience at Jack London Square Ferry Lawn, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 2nd.  Here, more than 20 East Bay urban wineries will pour their wares of red, white, rose and more – along with local food purveyors and live music.  Given the fabulous mid Summer weather, it should be a fantastic day!

The urban winery scene is hot hot hot right now, and Oakland & Alameda have more than 25 wineries, with several more labels being produced in the repurposed warehouses and old factories in the area.  Bringing grapes in from the best wine growing regions in the state, the East Bay Vintner’s Alliance supports local artisans, local restaurants, and local residents by providing a wine country experience ino ur backyards.

Current Alliance President Shauna Rosenblum of Rockwall Wine Company (yes, she’s one of those Rosenblums, and 100% fabulous) calls the Urban Xperience “the ultimate event to explore and discover the incredible array of high-quality and award-winning wines being produced right here in urban places in the East Bay, like Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda.”

Tickets are priced at $35 for wine club members of any participating winery, $45 for advance tickets and $60 at the door. Designated drivers receive discounted tickets at $15. Tickets can be purchased online atwww.brownpapertickets.com/event/667797.

Participating wineries include: Aubin Cellars, Campovida, Carica Wines, Cerruti Cellars, Chouinard Vineyard and Winery, Dashe Cellars, Ehrenberg Cellars, Eno Wines, Irish Monkey Cellars, JC Cellars, Lusu Cellars, Mead Kitchen, Paradox Wines, Periscope Cellars, R&B Cellars, Rock Wall Wine Company, Rosenblum Cellars, Stage Left Cellars, Stomping Girl Wines, Two Mile Wines, Urban Legend and Urbano Cellars. Urban Wine Xperience also provides visitors the chance to taste wines from wineries without tasting rooms or that are otherwise only accessible by appointment.

Enjoy!

 

Hopping up to Hopland

Hopland PassportIt’s that time of year again!  The Easter Bunny is coming, hams will be baked and wines will be opened.  After the celebrations of food, wine, and family, why not spend a weekend away from the hustle and bustle in Mendocino’s hopping wine town of Hopland.

On Saturday and Sunday, May 3-4, 17 wineries in Hopland will open their doors to celebrate spring.  Hopland, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco, is the gateway to Mendocino County and offers both the atmosphere of a small town, but the fun and elegance of any wine destination.

From 11am to 5pm, these wineries will have their best wines open for tasting, including library wines, as well as live music, food pairings, and other fun things.  Even better, a shuttle service will take you from one end of of Hopland to the other, so you don’t have to worry about driving!

Some of my favorite stops on the list for this event are:

  • Campovida, with a stunning Rose that always sells out.  The Rhone style wines, located in the old Fetzer property are simply stunning.  Don’t miss this stop!
  • McFadden Vienyard, right in town, has budget friendly yet stunning wines from Pinot Gris and Riesling to Zinfandel.  Don’t miss the bubbly here!
  •  Saracina, a beautiful property north of town with fantastic Sauvignon Blanc
  • Seebass Family WInes, a new kid on the Passport trail, with delicious syrah

And more!

Tickets are $45 including the free shuttle service, and designated drivers are always free.  Collect all the stamps in your passport and enter to win a passport for next year!

Thank you to Destination Hopland for letting me attend, and saving me some yummy wines for Sunday!

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Passport to the best of Dry Creek Valley

It’s that time of year again – warm sunny days, cool rose, and wine events galore.  One of the best events in Dry Creek is Passport, which takes place April 26-27 in Dry Creek Valley, part of the Sonoma County region.
This year, the region celebrates 25 years of Passport to Dry Creek, where 50 wineries open thier doors and welcome wine lovers.

Saturday and Sunday, special vineyard tours are offered to give visitors an insider peek at the grape to glass experience.  This year, you can choose from Pasternick, specializing in Rhone style wines, Grey Palm Vineyard, who is home to the newest member winery – Cast Wines,  or on Sunday, head over to Palindrome Vineyard where you can dig in the red bench soils, or – finally  – Hawley Winery high up on Brandford Mountain.  These tours are a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a deep dive in to a particular area of Dry Creek, and worth the price of admission alone!

I love the themes, the music, and the fun atmosphere of this event.  I also love that there are many wineries that are not open to the public, and this is my best chance to taste the wines and visit the properties.

Check out some of my favorite wineries along Dry Creek Valley:

  • Frick is serving up Rhone style wines in a quiet secluded spot with gorgeous views
  • Kokomo Winery – with so many options, it’s hard to choose which is my favorite wine, but the pinot and the grenache rose are very special.  Take a taste of some fusion cuisine, and enjoy the new age bluegrass band
  • UNTI – always amazing, will be shucking oysters to pair with thier rose, as well as food from local fave Spinster Sisters, all to the tunes of the Healdsburg High School band
  • Ridge Lytton Springs will have southern confort food to go with their stunning zinfandels and rhone blends
  • Mounts Family Winery is a hidden gem on the west side, with a circus theme of magical elixirs to quench your thirst

With over 50 wineries participating, and musical, food, and winery experiences, why not spend the weekend in Dry Creek Valley!  Sunday only tickets are sold out but you can book your full weekend pass for $120 now Many of these wineries are not open to the public on a regular basis, so this is your to check them out!

I plan on visiting my favorites, but also a few new stops along the way.  I’ll be sure to report back after the event with some top stops along the wine road.

My passport is stamped and I’m ready to go!

My visit was provided by the Winegrowers of Dry Creek, but my picks and thougts are my own.  Follow along on Twitter for updates during the weekend at #DCVPassport and be sure to follow @DryCreekValley and @luscious_lushes on twitter!

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Cabernet all day!

Do you love Cabernet Sauvignon?  Are you curious about the different regional characteristics in the Napa Vallley that create dynamic, bold, and different wines?

Check out CabFestNV, from Feburary 28 through March 2nd in various venues in Napa.  This  inaugural three-day celebration of the king of Napa Valley wine varietals will featuring more than 100 of the biggest names in the wine industry.

And, in case you haven’t heard, there will be a celebrity guest star!  Yes that’s right, Jeff Bridges, movie star and rocker, will be performing in his band.  In addtion, keynote presentations by “The Wine Bible” author Karen MacNeil, and cult winemakers are sure to draw people in.

Here are some of the highlights:

Friday – CabFestNV Kickoff Winery Tasting Circuit at more than fifteen select, participating wineries from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for complimentary wine tastings. At 7:00 pm, famed Oscar-winning actor, singer and songwriter Jeff Bridgesand his country-rock band, The Abiders, take the stage at the Lincoln Theater for the CabFestNV Kickoff Concert, with Bridge’s talented daughter Jessie Bridges as the show opener. 

Following the Festival Kickoff Concert, the exclusive “Cigars & Guitars” afterparty (open to VIP All-Access Pass holders only), will feature an intimate post-concert, private performance by Jessie Bridges, Cigar Aficionado Magazine’s cigar-sampling tent (AJ Fernandez, Room 101 and Casa Magna Cigars), whiskey tasting (Redbreast by Pernod Ricard USA), a rare guitar exhibit (co-sponsored by the Napa Valley Museum and Gibson Guitars) and exceptional fortified wine and library Cabernet wines.

Saturday:  Grand Tasting

Saturday, March 1, Grand Tasting (11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.):

  • All-day. “How Music Affects the Taste of Wine” a musical exploration of “tasting notes” by Symphony Napa Valley’s Orchestra Institute Fellows and guest artists;
  • “Napa Valley Rocks” film, presented by the Napa Valley Vintners;
  • Keynote Presentation by Karen MacNeil: “What Makes Great Cabernet Sauvignon Great” – Interactive keynote address, with a fun blind-tasting mission. (Wine tasting limited, first-come basis)
  • Napa Valley Vintners: “Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” The Paris Tasting of 1976 launched Napa Valley into the international spotlight, and Cabernet hasn’t been the same since. Includes a panel discussion and wine tasting with some of Napa Valley’s most renowned and iconic Cabernet Sauvignon producers.

Sunday:  Grand Tasting (11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)

  • All-day. “How Music Affects the Taste of Wine” a musical exploration of “tasting notes” by The Symphony Napa Valley Orchestra Institute Fellows and guest artists
  • Keynote Presentation by Karen MacNeil“Cab on the Couch,” a spontaneous conversation and uncensored observations featuring such well-known vintners as Charles Krug’s Marc Mondavi (aka the Water Witch); Food & Wine Magazine’s “Winemaker of the Year” Aaron Pott; wine auctioneer, musician and vintner Fritz Hatton; pioneering Napa Valley grape grower Andy BeckstofferBlake Gilbert, director of ultra-premium winery Bond, and other surprise stars.
  • 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. Take the “Last One Standing Challenge” presented by The Culinary Institute of America: A blind-tasting and knowledge challenge that will put everyone in the starting lineup as CIA Wine Instructor, Robert Bath, MS asks a series of progressively probing questions about Napa Valley Cabs. Someone will be the “Last One Standing.” Prizes and bragging rights will be rewarded!
  • To Blend or Not to Blend” featuring a star-studded lineup of Napa Valley winemakers moderated by Paula Kornell and including Heidi Peterson BarrettCelia WelchMartha McClellanAmy AikenSara Fowler and Dawnine Dyer. A panel discussion and tasting exploring the blending of Cabernet Sauvignon with master winemakers noted for their high-end Napa Valley wines.

Tickets are now available online at www.lincolntheater.org or by calling 707-944-9900:

  • CabFestNV VIP All-Access Ticket (Limited to 100 attendees, includes Friday night VIP “Cigars & Guitars” Party, preferred seating for both concerts, Grand Tastings, Private Tastings, VIP Lounge): $500
  • Grand Tastings Only: Two-Day Pass $225 & Single-Day Pass $125
  • Kickoff Concert (Jeff Bridges & the Abiders, Jessie Bridges): $100, $75*, $65*, $55*  (*discounts available with purchase of a Grand Tasting Pass, 20% off with a two-day pass and 10% off with a one-day pass)
  • Wine Industry Insiders “Meet-Up & Concert” (The Silverado Pickups): $10 (open to the public)

Hope to see you there!

Media passes were provided for consideration.

Be a Zinner in 2014!

Here were are, in another new year, looking forward to what is to come.  Every new year brings changes, lessons learned, and reminders of years past.  In the case of the annual Zinfandel Festival, 2014 brings a change in format, as well as venue.  Exciting things to come!

The 2014 Zinfandel Experience occurs January 23-25th at the Presidio, instead of the previous venues of The Concourse and Fort Mason, as well as the gala Evening with the Winemakers at the plush Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco.  This year, with the smaller, more intimate setting in the Presidio, guest can look forward to more conversation with the winemakers, more education and more Zin!

The all new Zinfandel Experiences highlights America’s Heritage Grape, with several events including the new Tasting Tracks on Saturday, which replaces the Grand Tasting.  This creative track format allows Zinfandel fans to choose their own adventure:  

  • The Sensory Tasting – stroll through 80 wineries and winemakers and discover what your favorite note is.
  • Reserve & Barrel Tasting  taste the future of Zin in the barrel, and a exclusive tasting of reserve wines from 44 wineries.
  • Terroir Tasting – focus on a particular region as you stroll through wine country locations like Napa, Lodi, Sonoma and Paso Robles, tasting the terroir of each location through wine.

Each of these Experiences runs in a concurrent format, in 2 hour blocks.  Do one, or do them all!

Additional events that are familiar to ZAP alumni will be Flights, a professional tasting seminar featuring limited production wines, Epicuria, where you can eat to your hearts delight delicious morsels paired with Zinfandels, and the swanky soiree Evening with the Winemakers, a benefit auction and dinner with famous Zin creators.

Tickets for Tasting Tracks start at $60 for a single track, with savings for multiple tracks, and individual events are priced differently.  For details, see the ticket page HERE.  My friends at VinVillage are giving away tickets to Epicuria and the Tasting Tracks, but enter soon!  Also, use discount code “VinVillage”!

I’m exciting to see this new format for the event, and I look forward to tasting some delicious wines January 23-25!

 

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