Pitars – a modern winery in an ancient town

Pitars

Pitars visitor Center

       Pitars Winery comes out of the low slung houses of the town of San Marino al Taliamento, nestled in the heart of the Friuli wine region of Italy.

The Pittaro family has been making wine in Friuli since 1880, with Roman origins going back to 1510.  The passion of this family for the Fruiliano wine culture is clear, and Pitars expresses this passion beautifully.

Pitars is both near the alps and the Adriatic sea, as well as the largest river in the region, giving a rich combination of stony and alluvial soil.  The closer you get to the sea, the more limestone is present in the soil, making it the perfect location to grow the white wines of Friuli.

As many wine lovers know, the poorer the soil, often the better the wine.  Being in such a rocky and stone filled area, it’s a difficult task to grow crops, but a wonderful place to grow grapes. Here in San Marino, there was a wine revolution in the 1960s, and now they are known world wide as a source for clonal development and vines.

Pitars has 140 hectares of vineyards, and is primarily estate bottled, but they do buy some fruit as well.  While they bottle 1/2 – 1/3 of their total production, much of the fruit is sold to large producers.  

A unique point about the winery and operation is that they are one of the greenest wineries in Friuli.  With solar power providing 90% of the electricity to the tasting room, this covers the energy bill for 9 months of the year.  Additionally, they are pursuing biodynamic and organic methods, using birds and insects, as well as other sustainable practices.

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After touring the property, we sat down to taste through the wines.  First off, we had a side by side of sparkling wines.  The Ribolla Gialla Spumante Blanc was bursting with green apple and bright citrus, and was a refreshing departure.  Comparatively, the classic Prosecco was light and crisp, with a touch of sweetness on the finish.  While I enjoyed them both,  I actually kept a glass of the sparkling Ribolla as a palate cleanser on hand as we sipped away the afternoon.

IMG_0379-2Next up, the Tureis IGT, is a blend of the classic Friulano, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.  Pitars names it’s flagship wines after stars, and Tureis is the Arabic name for a binary star system.  The symbol of the star system and a white blend is beautiful to me.  This wine was vinified separately, with the Chardonnay being barrel aged for 16 months.   The deep golden color had caramel and honeysuckle notes, with tropical fruit and a richness.  It was quite and interesting blend, and would be IMG_0396great with a richer fish dish.

IMG_0397Named after another star, the Naos is a brilliant ruby red blend, made of  Refosco, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.  (Did I say Cabernet Franc?  YUM!)  The process for this wine is unique in that the grapes are actually dried slightly before vilification, creating an intensity of flavor that you don’t normally expect.  This dark brooding wine had lots of espresso flavors followed by black pepper, dark plum, leather, and blackberry.  

As luck would have it, our gracious host also opened several other wines for us to try.  Most notably, the Cabernet Franc, which aside from being a personal favorite of mine was simply delicious.

IMG_0334Be sure to make time for a visit to Pitars if you are in the Friuli area, as you will not be disappointed!

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Bloggers are irrellevant? Really?

How did we get here AGAIN.  I feel like we’ve had this conversation every year, since the year I began blogging.  Initially, it was a question of bloggers, online writers, whatever you want to call us, being irrelevant because we were the unknown factor.  Then it was an issue of credibility.  Now, it would appear, that a few people have taken it to the opposite extreme, and make a leap to the assumption that we are irrelevant because no one is reading us due to overload.

While it may be true that people don’t read wine blogs the way they “used to”, it’s also true that there are a lot more of them out there.  Many of those are noise, and not as impactful as the handful of those who have been writing for more than a year and are a known entity in the blogosphere.

According to a post by The Hosemaster of Wine (take this with a grain of salt people, regardless of where it was published), no one reads wine blogs.  No one?  That’s a curious statistic given my analytics and inquiries from interested parties who clearly read my content and ask questions, inquire about engagement, or ask me for ideas or speaking proposals.  The industry is interested and reading wine blogs, because they are seeking ways on how to engage with bloggers; the proof of this is all around us:  at the International Wine Toursim Conference in 2011, I discussed engaging bloggers, and this year at the Wine Tourism Conference, I will again be discussing who wine bloggers are, and how to work with them.

I think the key takeaways here are that you need to ensure that your blog and posts are relevant, engaging, and frankly – interesting.  Clearly, people are tuning out copy cat tasting notes, badly done videos, and the like.

However, the accusation that wine blogs have turned in to online diaries of what I ate this week is missing the mark.  Wine, in the context of a person’s life, is relevant when paired with life activities.   Which would you rather read?  This Cabernet was tasty.  I had it alone, while sitting at my desk.  Or, this cab went deliciously well with my steak Diane as it brought out the flavors of x, y, and z.

Clearly, people DO love a good story and are seeking that information on these blogs.  Which brings me to a great segway — this year at the Wine Bloggers Conference, one of the sessions will be focusing on creating compelling content.  This is a critical skill to have, and if you are finding yourself losing traffic, or not engaging your audience, then you need to be at this conference.

For me, I am all about engagement.  I speak at wine related conferences regarding engagement.  I tell people about engagement.  I will also be speaking at the Wine Bloggers Conference about Positioning Your Blog.  This is a great time to rethink what you are writing about and why, and think about how you might be tuning out your audience.  Do you even know who your audience is?

I engage with people every day as a part of my job.  They might be strangers, but I am required to network to be successful.  Blogging is no different.  I might not tell every winery that i visit that I am wine writer, but when I talk to people about wine, if the conversation comes up, yes I will mention it.  I am connecting with them, and they are engaging with me.  The vast majority of my readers are not wine bloggers.  Most of my readers are first time visitors, who were searching for specific information.

Yes, there is wine blog fatigue.  So don’t be boring!  Make the story take center stage.  Engage your audience in the story of the wine, and how you found the wine.  I say throw caution to the wind and talk about the weather that day, if you were in the Alps, or in Dry Creek Valley.  All of these factors contribute to the story, which is the central point of the blog.

Even those blogs that are purely tasting notes can still be engaging and interesting.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again.  Search.  Connect.  Engage.  Search for content that is meaningful to you and your target audience, in keeping with your blog’s theme or goals.  Connect with your audience, whether that is on social media or directly from your blog.  Engage with that audience by being an interactive part of their wine world.

 

 

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What exactly is this wine tourism thing?

As we leap in to 2013, I am gearing up for a year of possibilities; a year of trips; a year of experiences; a year of wine!  I am excited to be participating in the 2013 Internatinoal Wine Tourism Confernece, this year in Zagreb, Croatia.  As i prepare for that adventure, I am reflecting back on what I have learned about wine tourism over the past 2 years, since I was in Portuagal at the 2011 Wine Tourism Conference.

Wine tourism is an ever evolving thing.  At it’s core, it is the travel and tourism of people that are seeking destinations orbiting wine and food.  But, it is an evolving industry.  There is a boom in growth in wine culture, in the US, and internationally.

Those who define themselves as wine tourists tend to be more affluent, with a higher level of education and also tend to spread the word about their experiences when they return home.  With over 90% of wine tourism happening as an adjunct to visiting friends & family, there is an untapped market that is ripe for the picking.

Given that, in my small area, there are over 1000 wineries, with more than 2000 in the state of California, how do you stand out?  How do you identify your target audience, and attract them to your business?  As a wine tourist myself, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer number of offerings in a small wine region.  Selecting which establishments will benefit from my business is always a taxing exercise.  When I am alone, I target places I have never been.  However, how do I select destinations when I am in a group?  What makes you stand out?  Being unique and being intriguing is a key factor in this over saturated market.

As I plan my trip to Croatia, the state of wine tourism in the US and beyond is in the forefront of my mind.  After being piqued by the conversations that occurred at the 2012 Wine tourism Conference in Santa Rosa, I am excited to explore this topic more.  While I had already set my discussion topic (with my fellow blogger and co-presenter Liza Swift of BrixChicks) I am infinitely curious about what other people do to attract wine tourists to their regions.  I spontaneously broke in to lengthy (geek) discussions while in Portland recently about how their evolving urban wine scene is unique to the area, and different from the Willamette Valley (more on that later).

In California, there is so much more to wine tourism than the well known grape producing regions of Napa & Sonoma.  There is an entire culture of wine and food that is a large economic part of the state’s bottom line.  But, outside of those primary tourism destinations, and perhaps some of the regions made famous in Sideways or Bottle Shock, do you know about the smaller, alternative destinations?  Creating a brand identity for an international tourism audience is paramount to success.  You don’t want to be foreever known as the winery where Miles drank from the spit bucket, or one that produces (gasp!) Merlot, if you can’t express why your Merlot is out of this world.  This is true for any wine region that wishes to enhance their wine tourism audience.

So, as I get ready to pack my bags, and investigate wine tourism around the world, I task you to think about these two things:
1.  If you are wine tourism business, what are you doing to create a unique message to attract visitors?

2.  If you are a wine tourist, what attracts you to a new (to you) business?  What keeps bringing you back to your favorites?
Happy wining!

Where can wine take YOU?

I’m sitting here in the lobby of the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, at the 2nd annual Wine Tourism Conference, in Santa Rosa, with fond memories of the Wine Bloggers Conferences of 2008 and 2009. The buzz is certainly different, with industry reps. tour operators, writers, and print media outlets, but the buss is here.

Spending a brief morning at the trade show, I saw many faces I knew, but I also saw many faces I didn’t.  Up and coming wine regions that you would not think of were represented, and I was looking forward to learning more about them.

All sorts of industry professionals were represented, including tour operators, wineries, tourism associations, PR firms, and of course – those pesky bloggers!  I was looking forward to both getting to know these great group of people ,but also learning what the challenges in the industry are, and how we, as new media representatives can help.

Of particular interest to me were the challenges that individual regions have attracting visitors to their wine destinations.  Both on a personal and semi professional level, the topic fascinates me.  Additionally, the age old question of how ot engage with social media and how to utilize new media.  I am a social media freak, and if you have known me since the first Wine Bloggers Conference, you know that I am also a twitterholic.  While some of this has waned in recent years due to professional and personal obligations, it is still a fiery passion.

In addition to my social meida addiction, I am passionate about finding out how I can help bring the wine business in to the 21st century uses the tgools of the trade.  These tools include CRM but also include business practices and methodologies that are universal across businesses.

So, where can wine take you?  Stay tuned this week and I give you some of my insights, ideas, eye opening moments, and observations from the Wine Tourism Conference.

Cheers!

 

We interrupt this train of thought…

Wine Tourism ConferenceI’m still catching up and formulating my thoughts about the Wine Bloggers Conference, but as I do so, I thought I’d share with you another conference that I’m excited about.  Ok actually two conferences!

First, in November, I will be attending the Second Annual Wine Tourism Conference, here on my home turf of Santa Rosa.  Last year, 200+ wine tourism professionals, bloggers, and media attended the first conference in Napa.    Due to popular demand the conference is now an annual event, run by our friends at Zephyr Adventures (the folks that brought us the WBC).

The Wine Tourism Conference (WineTC) was created, inspired (at least in my opinion and observation) by the International Wine Tourism Conference, to provide hard information about the important and growing industry of wine tourism in your region, as well as the region that conference is held in.  Spawned by the International Wine Tourism Conference (more on that below), the WineTC attracts wineries, wine tourism professionals, wine associations, tour operators, travel agencies, hotels, PR professionals and media who writes about wine and tourism.

Please follow on twitter using the hashtag #winetourismconference for all the lastest news!

The second upcoming conference that i will be participating in is the 2013 International Wine 

Tourism Conference.  This time,

the event will take me to Zagreb, Croatia!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to learn about the area and some of the wines of the region.  I look forward to spending a few extra days exploring the region; after all, Croatia is the birthplace of zinfandel.

You may remember that in 2011 I travelled to Porto, Portugal to speak at the IWINETC on topics of engaging bloggers (view my slides).  This time, I will be teaming up with my friend and fellow blogger Liza Swift of Brix Chicks to discuss new ways of attracting wine tourists to your hidden gem of a region.

The 2013 IWINETC will bring together wine and travel lovers and professionals from around the world to discuss, reflect on and develop their ideas on wine and culinary tourism.  With two days of interactive presentations, demonstartions, and talks, it will also give attendees the opportunity to taste wines fro all over the world, and foucs on the host region of Croatia.  With so many attendees from so many areas, there will be the opportunity to taste many different wines and foods.
Much like the WBC, the IWINETC has grown over the last 4 yeras.  In 2011, there wre 175 attendees; 2013 will bring 300+ attendees from over 30 countries.   It will be a unique experience to share, network, and discuss wine tourism and I look forward to sharing more as we get closer to the date!
Please follow along on twitter using the hashtag #iwinetc during the events!
Both events promise to provide an overview of local wine tourism s well as wine tourism as a while, while providing specific information that you can use, networking opportunities, and a sampling of local wine and food.
Stay tuned on more about Croatia and wine tourism in the coming weeks (and months)!

Wine Bloggers Conferenece Day 1 Recap!

Yesterday was the first day of the first ever American Wine Blogger’s Conference, held in Santa Rosa at the historic Flamingo Hotel. You can catch up on the action by using Twitter Search and the hashtag #wbc.

It started out so well, with a welcome lunch at Kick Ranch, a lovely piece of property just east of Santa Rosa, overlooking the valley.
While there, we were given the opportunity to taste several wines grown on the property. Yummy!

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel for the Live Blogging Session. Let me just say, madness ensued! One we got past the technical glitches, 14 wineries played round robin running from table to table. They had 5 minutes to talk, and we had a minute or so to respond via Twitter, our Blogs or some other method.Here is my rundown of the tasting:

  1. Bonterra Organic The McNab Menocino blend 60% Merlot, 26% cab, 14% petite. Dark fruit. Loganberry with chocolate on top! Dusy spice easy drinking.
  2. 2007 Lionheart Roussanne has a very carmellly characteristic. Creamy custard, lemon, tropical fruit…guava and peach
  3. Yellow + Blue = Green Malbec in a Tetrapak 1 liter container. Thin but a lot of spice. Leather dark blue frut.
  4. 2007 James David Dry Muscat honey floral melon with tangerine quite refreshing actually
  5. 2005 Clos LaChance Estate Cab quite a sweet note to the Clos La Chance Cab. This wine could use decanting. Cassis and spice. Only 1200 cases made! Classic cab. Rich velvety. A little dry, needs some time chocolate, coffee
  6. Four Bears Cabernetsmoke, tobacco, earth. A little merlot and Petite Verdot blended in. It has a lot of cedar, and menthol to it. but the price point is RIDICULOUS as in CHEAP for this level of quality.
  7. Small Vines Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is concentrated deliciousness. Very rich biodynamically farmed, with very limited production. It is concentrated smoky earth, with a healthy Dr. Pepper zing followed by pomegranate…leather…baking spices. Stands on it’s own. Lingering finish that i adore. So named Small Vines because most vineyards are planted 1000 vines per acre but Small Vines only has 250 vines per acre.
  8. Kanzler Estate Pinot Noiras the classic richness of RRV pure cherry cola – fizzes like a wild cherry pepsi! Kanzler Estate Pinot rich style, Russian River / Sebastapol Hills micro AVA.
  9. Cupcake Central Coast Chardonnay is so nice and not overly oaked. 50% new american oak gives it such a light crispness and well balanced acidity on the finish, very French in style.
  10. Dark Horse Zinfandel treborce Vineyardspicy rich raisens
  11. 2006 Twisted Oak The Spainard Smokey deliciousness! I cannot say enough great things about Twisted Oak. Not only am I twisted by nature, I am now addicted. Egads!
  12. Boho Central Coast Chardonnay Bag in Box funk on the nose creamy lemon not very oaky. LEMON.
  13. Bink Pinot Noir Weir Vineyard is not a shy wine. This is a BOLD wine not for the faint hearted. Spicy cinnamon, candied apple, strawberry. Yorkville highlands rich cheery and red fruit.

After the marathon live tasting, some of us went to the New Zealand tasting (not me) and some of us went ot a Dry Creek Zin tasting (me!). While I pretty much knew all of the zins being poured, it is always fun to get ot know the people of Dry Creek.

After the tasting sessions, dinner finally arrived. The Winegrowers of Dry Creek generously provided the wine being poured, and we slurped our way through a very nice Dry Creek Vineyards Sav Fume blanc, Quivera Grenance (mmmmmm), Truett-Hurst Red Rooster Zinfandel, and Michel-Schlumberger Cabernet. There was also a Pedroncelli port. Yowzer!

My only complaint of the entire day was that dinner was…less than satisfying. Dear Flamingo folks, when someone asks for a V-e-g-i-t-a-r-i-a-n option, that odes NOT mean bring them dry overcooked fish swimming in cream sauce! Grumble.

Special thanks to Gary Vay-ner-chuck for taking time out of his crazy schedule for coming to talk to us, FOR FREE. More to come from Day 2 ahead!

After such a full day, I neglected to get up in time for the Vineyard Walks so i am drinking gallons of coffee in preparation for this afternoons lively discussions and tonights tastings.

Cheers!

 

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