A star rises in Amador County

 Bella Grace Vineyards

This past summer,

after the mayhem that is the Wine Bloggers Conference, I was delighted to be invited to visit Bella Grace Vineyards in Amador County.
Just under an hour from Lodi, the Bella Grace Vineyards tasting cave  is tucked away in a hidden cave on 20 acres of vines in Plymouth, with an additional tasting room in the small town of Sutter Creek.

Bella Grace Vineyards

Bella Grace’s Stephen Havill

Our driver, guide, host, and 2nd generation owner, Steven Havill, showed off his family’s property, planted with a wide variety of grapes, with a particular focus on Rhone varietals as well as the classic Amador offering, Zinfandel.

 

Sustainable Quality

With an emphasis on sustainability, it is particular important to the Havills that the highest quality grapes come out of their vineyard, establishing Bella Grace as a force to experience for yourself.

Perfect Pairings

On our visit, Robert Havill, prepared delicious food pairings with the wines.  What happens when you put 10 wine bloggers in a cave and make Frank Morgan get in the car?  Magic!

 

Cutom made t-shirts really throw the message home: Frank Morgan! GET IN THE CAR (if it’s going to Bella Grace)

Variety

Bella Grace has many wines to chose from, including a sparkling brut that is bottled at Anderson Valley’s Roederer Estate facility.   This kicked off the afternoon, as we tasting through the meandering menu of delicious nuggets.  While Zinfandel typically dominates in this region, the rolling foothills also offer some delicious Rhone inspired wines.  Additionally, the Havills source grapes to add variety to their portfolio.

 

 

Olive Oils

Bella Grace also produces a wide variety of olive oils, both natural and with essential flavor components.  I particularly enjoyed the grapefruit and lemon oils!

My wine picks

With so many to choose from, and a long after noon of tasting, it was hard to narrow it down, but my favorites were:

Bella Grace Vineyards

Vermintino – While there is some Vermitino in the 3 Graces Blanc, this is new release and is a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.  This Italian varietal does well in Lodi and the foothills, where the hot days yield to cooler evenings, giving this white it’s characteristic acid.

This Spring, Bella Grace is featured in the Wine Bloggers Conference scholarship Wine Club, which was founded by yours truly and Worlds Best Wine Clubs features some unique wineries as well as benefit the scholarship that I work so hard on.

Today, at 6pm, we are featuring the Vermintino from Bella Grace on a live tasting.  Curious in checking out the wine club?  Join us on Facebook Live and hear more about this wine and the club!

Grenache Blanc – one of my go to varietals, this is no exception.  A rich white with creamy acid shows golden delicious apples, lime zest, a hint of oily petrol, and crumbled shale minreatlity.

Grenache – another favorite varietal, which has a wide swatch of expression.  Here, the bold garnet red color shows it’s young nature, with rose petals and ripe cherries.  With earthy leather and tobacco buried in the mid-palate, it finishes with figs and chocolate.  Delicious!

3 Graces Noir – Bella Grace’s GSM blend shows off the Mourvedre base with cracked spices and forest notes.  The fruitiness of the Grenache softens the bones of the Mourvedre, while the Syrah rounds everything out and smooths over the cracks.

Reserve Barbera – Perhaps one of my faovirte domestic Barberas that I have tasted, this luscious and acid forward wine didn’t last the tasting!  This is the oen one I kept going back to with our food pairings.  Inky dark and rich but repleate with red fruit and bitter plum skin, I can’t wait to taste it again and see how more age has mellowed her out.

Melanie, the Dallas Wine Chick, is clearly enjoying her wine!

If you are visiting Amador wine country, it is approximately 2 hours from the San Francisco Bay Area.  Plymouth, where Bella Grace is located, is another 20 minutes on country roads which are a beautiful way to experience the region in good weather.  A second tasting room is located in the historic town of Sutter Creek.

 




The Wine'd ing up to the Wine Bloggers Conferene


As I unpack my bags from my adventures in Croatia & Italy at the International Wine Tourism Conference next week, I am often asked why do you do it? Why do you blog? And, more importantly, why do you go to this Wine Bloggers Conference, every year, in the odd locations and the cool, in less flush times and not?

Well, I’ll tell you. It started in 2008, at the “Flaming-O” (Flamingo) in Santa Rosa. That was the beginning of a core group of intensely dedicated and passionate wineaux that also loved to write. Back then, six years ago, (holy cripes!) it was a smaller group and the conference was just an experiment.

Who were these upstart wine bloggers? Why were we all getting together?  There were no end to the questions, but – we were overwhelmingly well received by the Sonoma County wine and tourism scene. So much so, that many connections I made that first year are now dear friends and colleagues. Several have gone on to more luminous careers in the wine industry.

The following year, I was so excited by my developing blog and writing style, and my blossoming friendships, that of course – I returned to the Flamingo or WBC09.  There, divided between Napa and Sonoma, we explored more wine, culture, and the being of a blogger.  Once again, despite Napkin-Gate (you know who you are), it was an educational, hilarious, convivial, liquid weekend of passion and education.

IMG_1759In 2010, we were invited to Walla Walla, Washington to explore the eastern Washington terroir. Of course I went, off with anticipation and gusto. What is this W2 wine? How will it taste? Mind you, I first stopped in Portalnd, for the most memorable experience at any WBC to date; The Double Decker Donut Decadence Wine Tour! A select group of blogger

beel back

brethren hopped on PDX Double Decker, a converted London City Bus, and hit the road to the Willamette, fueled on sugar and caffeine. I will never forget that trip, and we had Part Deux in Carlton this past year.

Somewhere in the middle of all of this, before we meandered off to Virginia for WBC11, I had made fast friends with MaryDoug, Liza, Amy & Joe and more.  As a result, we created our own label of sparkling wine, an effort to embody the sparkling personality of ourselves, and our shared passions. I still have 4 bottles stashed away somehow. Can I smuggle one to Penticton?

In Virginia, I met East Coast  that I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet, and tasted some…interesting…wine in impossibly hot weather. Yes, there were great Cab Francs and lovely Chards. And then I got food poisoning. The most memorable tweet from that event must have been “Where’s Thea? She’s not tweeting! Is she dead?” To which I replied “No, but I wish I was” as I prayed to the porcelain god for 3 days.

Fully recovered and squealing with glee, we headed up to Portland last August for what is probably the largest gathering of wine writers, wine industry professionals, wine amateurs who wanted to party, and a smattering of Quixicotals and maybe Shriners. You’re probably wondering what happens when you mix these people together: the answer – nothing good. Though the Quixicotal wives really did like wine and were happy to take spare samples off our hands as way of apology for the loud crew taking over.

So why do I travel around the country (and the world) to blog? Why do I spend a great deal of tiem and money travelling for wine, drinking wine, learning about wine ? Simple, it’s my passion. Discovering new regions and experiencing the people and wine culture are an eye in to their lives. Learning from other writers helps me writer better. Every year, every conference, every bottle, hones my skill and helps me determine my best self in my best voice. Yes, that voice changes year to year, month to month. Passions change. Directions shift.

But it’s still me. And it’s still about the story. The story of the friendships I have made over 6 years of blogging and WBC events; the story of every bottle of wine; the story of the new winery that happens to be owned by someone I lived next door to when I was 8; the story of how wine tourism has evolved; the story of my personal adventures in wine tourism.

So, it is with great anticipation, and Veteran status ribbons, that I look forward to Penticton in June. It’s my birthday weekend, and it’s another region for me to explore and think about.

Why do you blog? Why do you drink wine? I write about wine because it’s my passion, and I attend these conferences and network with other writers for community.

Thank you to MyWineConcierge.com at TheWinedUp.Net for reminding me about the passion and the reason I do this, and providing us with an opportunity to stay at the Penticton Lakeside Resort for free!  And in case you were wondering, The Wined Up is donating $5 for every entry to the contest to the WBC Scholarship for every entry, so get on it!

Cheers!

Where's Waldo?

It’s true, I’ve been missing from this blog for a couple of weeks, but there is a good reason naturally.

As you may or may not know, in 2009, my blogging colleague Megan and I started the Wine bloggers Conference Scholarship Fund.   Four years later, we never dreamed that this pet project would be as big, and take as much work as it does today.  Since I am a staff of one, some things have to be put on the back burner, and alas, my personal blog is one of them.  For those who don’t know, this fund is dedicated to helping wine bloggers (and travel/food bloggers) with financial assistance in attending the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, a gathering of wine, food and travel bloggers as well as industry representatives.

This year, we will be gathering in Portland, OR in August. As we are in crunch time with profiles, arrangements, packing, etc., I’ve been steaming along over here.

But I’ll be back soon!  Look for reports from the field in the Willamette Valley stating August 12th!

Happy swirling!

It’s Bloggership Time!

Happy New Year!  Boy am I glad 2009 is over.  While there were some fabulous times last year, the last few months were pretty wretched for me.  Today is 1/02/2010 however, and as a palindrome, I’m thinking it’s good luck.

To kick this year off with a bang, I’m here to announce the 2010 Wine Bloggers Scholarship applications and donations are open!  This year, we are headed to Walla Walla in June to talk about wine, blogging and social media.  As with the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference, this 3 day symposium brings together professionals, bloggers, winemakers and more to discuss the impact of industry and citizens bloggers, social media, and the adult beverage industry.

We will spend 3 days in Walla Walla drinking great wine, learning the basics of wine blogging, blogging live while tasting, touring the Walla Walla wine scene, and also doing a whole lot of networking.  After the 2009 Conference in Sonoma, many connections were made, many bloggers blossomed, and several people got some killer careers going in wine.  What could YOU accomplish?

In an effort to support bloggers that wish to attend to learn more, perfect their craft, or see what it’s all about, the WBC Scholarship sets out to raise funds to assist citizen bloggers (those unaffiliated with a  winery or other professional organization) get to Walla Walla and participate in the event of the decade.  Ok well the first year of the decade anyway.

To find out more about the WBC Scholarship, please visit our site at http://wbcscholarship.wordpress.com/.  If you’re a citizen blogger and would like to apply for assistance, please see the Application page.

If you would like to donate, or you know someone who would be a good resource, you may do so directly at our Paypal page here:

If you prefer to send a check, or if you have any questions, please email us for details at wbcscholarship at gmail dot com.

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