Archive for July, 2008

Update on Wine Bloggers Conference

In my previous post announcing the first Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma this fall, I mentioned an opportunity for wineries to have your wines tasted at a NY wine tasting as part of the conference. That NY-specific tasting is being put on hold for a future Wine Bloggers Conference, however there is an opportunity for sponsorship of the conference via a Winery Sponsorship for $250 that would include participation in the Live Wine Blogging segment of the conference in which one of your wines will be tasted, rated and blogged about by participants. The complete details of this and other sponsorship levels can be found here and more information on the Wine Bloggers Conference is also available.

At the time of my writing this post, there are only five of 12 total Winery Sponsorships still available. So here are the benefits as I see them for your winery:

  • An opportunity to showcase your signature or favorite wine to at least 50 wine bloggers from across the US who will be tasting, rating and live blogging to their readers about your wine. ( low-cost publicity)
  • If you choose to personally pour the wine for the bloggers, you can introduce yourself and create awareness of yourself and your wines to them. (personal connection)

If you’re intrigued and would like more information, feel free to contact the event organizers directly at info@winebloggersconference dot org. Also, you can contact me directly to discuss this opportunity because I’ll be attending the conference by emailing me at melissa dot dobson@avantguild dot com.

Let’s generate some buzz for our beloved NY wines!

“Big Business” Wines Are Proper and Have No Soul

I was recently inspired by the Sauvignon Blanc episode of Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course on DVD. During the lesson, Jancis traveled to the Loire Valley in France and spoke to its rebel winemaker, Didier Daugeneau “The Wild Man of Pouilly-Fume.”

The things that struck me so much about this interview were these key points that Didier made to Jancis:

Big business wines are proper and have no soul. They are technically correct and well-made, but have no heart, no terroir, no identity.

Wine is more than a drink, when you want pleasure, you drink wine. I make wine to give people pleasure. To me, wine is art and an expression of the artist.

Yes! One of the most attractive things about exploring new wines and regions of my favorite varietals is the excitement of experiencing the winemakers’ individual expressions of it. I am now beginning to understand that the corporate, accessible wines that were a majority of the wines I purchased in the past are drinkable in most cases, but lack the hand-crafted and loving individual elements that I am coming to appreciate and seek out now that I understand how much more soulful and gratifying these wines are.

Have you had a similar breakthrough in your wine appreciation?

PS-Thank you to wine educator Kathleen Lisson for the recommendation of Jancis Robinson’s Wine Course on her blog.

Looking For a Few New Wine Blogs?

These days it seems that there are more wine blogs out there than you could ever keep up with.  Here are a few links that will introduce you to
some of the top rated and most popular wine blogs so that you can decide which ones interest you most.

Ala Wine
http://alawine.com/wine-blog-rankings.html

Wine Alltop
http://wine.alltop.com/

Winecast’s Weekly Best Wine Blog Posts
http://winecast.net/category/weekly-blog-links/

Feel free to use the comments section to alert us to your favorites and what you like about them.

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Private Wine Tasting at Arbor Hill Winery in Naples, NY

I just had to commend the team at Arbor Hill Winery for doing it right.  I’m sure you’ve noticed how I tend to beat the drum about creating personal, memorable experiences for winery visitors and even for wine retail website visitors whenever possible. 

Here is a perfect example of such an event.  I am thoroughly impressed with Arbor Hill’s Private Wine Tasting for groups of 4-20 that provides personal contact with their wine master, John Brahm III.  The info page even provides customers with John’s private phone number!  Another nice, welcoming touch.  There’s a question and answer session, wine cellar tour, discussion of the history of the wines and a wine tasting that includes New York cheese.  After the tour, wine lovers are sure to come away with a connection to John and Arbor Hill’s wines.  

If you would like to get a group together with us, leave a comment below  :)

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Wine Tasting in Georgia


We got our first taste of Georgia wines at the largest winery in Georgia, Chateau Elan in Braselton. This 3,500 acre winery and resort produces 20,000-25,000 cases of 22 varietals annually from 75 acres of vineyards and has a sister winery in California.

Some of the wines designated as American in their names combine grapes from both the Georgia and California vineyards, while Founder’s Reserve Georgia wines are made exclusively from Georgia grapes. Of the wines that we tasted, the Scarlet 211 and American Port stood out most, in our opinion. Scarlet 211 is a big, bold red made from the Syrah grape and the American Port combines wine and brandy in this intense sweet dessert wine. My mother is a brandy lover and her clear favorite was the American Port, so we were sure to buy her a bottle, but made her promise to think of us when she pours herself a glass! (See picture)

It’s this type of context, memory, link of a happy experience that I feel lends to brand loyalty for wineries. It seems that a wine tastes “better” if you can reflect back on a fun get-together that included the wine, or in this case, of the gift of the wine from loved ones.

Now, how to bring those experiences to life via wine marketing to create raving enthusiasts and loyal customers, that is something I ‘ve been thinking long and hard about. Can you think of your favorite wine and is there a memory connected to it? Does it evoke emotions or bring a smile to your face? Cheers to that!

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Heading off to Georgia

My husband Rich and I will be flying down to Atlanta to visit my parents and spend a couple of days in Savannah.  We’re hoping to get into The Lady & Sons for my dad’s birthday dinner, so I’ll let you know what my impressions of the restaurant are if we are able to secure a reservation.

I’m also curious to try some Georgia wines, especially to compare them to the wines of New York.  It will be interesting to see how readily available they are at retailers and grocery stores.
Will be back in touch soon and enjoy your week!

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Meeting the Master: A Day with Kevin Zraly


My husband and I were lucky to discover that Kevin Zraly, renowned wine educator and author of “The Windows on the World Complete Wine Course”, would be attending the Rendezvous with Riesling and teaching a one-day Master Class at the New York Wine and Culinary Center in Canandaigua, NY recently.

We attended the Master Class and unanimously agreed that it was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences that we have had in a long time. I went into the day full of anticipation after pouring through Kevin’s book and admiring his work from afar for years.
We sat right up front in the Wine Spectator Educational Theater, a gorgeous amphitheater at the heart of the Center, and were very pleased that we did. We got to see Kevin in action, front and center, and had the opportunity to interact with him during his class.

I was particularly excited to find that Kevin is extremely personable, funny and a bit sarcastic, all of which delights his students and sets them at ease. I can tell you that he kept our attention for the entire day, no small feat for a nearly 7-hour course schedule. Kevin started out by going around the room and asking each student to introduce themselves and what their occupation is. Not surprisingly, there were several winery owners and winemakers among us. Also present were wine educators, members of wine associations and consumers. Quite a fun and interesting group!

Kevin then began his One-Hour Wine Expert segment in which he gave us an overview of the wine industry and highlighted key topics within “The Windows on the World Complete Wine Course.” Some of the really cool things that he shared with us included his description of white wine varieties. He compared Riesling to skim milk, Sauvignon Blanc to whole milk and Chardonnay to heavy cream in terms of body and style. And he named the best Rieslings as being from The Finger Lakes, Alsace and Germany, much to the delight of The Finger Lakes winery owners and winemakers among us. Kevin demonstrated how to fully appreciate and taste a wine by showing us his Sixty Second Wine Expert method of tasting and judging. He had us look at the color, swirl and sniff once then a second time and then swirl and cover the glass with one hand and then sniff, noticing the different and more pleasing smell that the wine emitted after lifting your hand off.

Then, Kevin instructed us to sip and drink the wine, taking notice of how it tasted during 0-15 seconds, 15-30 seconds, 30-45 seconds and 45-60 seconds. Was the acidity pleasant? Could you still taste the wine or did it rapidly lose its flavor? Did it spike at any point? Was the finish pleasing? Of course, this may not be ideal for every day wine drinking, but it sure lends to an increased understanding of the wine if you’re judging or opening a special bottle.

Our next segment was a 30-yr. Perspective in the Wine Industry in which Kevin discussed the key highlights of the emerging and developing wine industry from a historical perspective. One of the neat things that he shared was that originally wine consumers primarily consisted of men, at 90% and that now that percentage is equal to women at a 50/50 ratio of consumers. Another key fact about the industry that he mentioned was that 2007 was the 14th year of consecutive growth in the wine industry and that wine is now mainstream.

After lunch, Kevin concentrated heavily on the wines of New York, comparing NY Wines vs. The World and then concluding with A Tasting of NY Rieslings. We learned that New York wines tend to be lower in alcohol for the most part and that the Finger Lakes, Alsace and Germany produce balanced Rieslings and that 2006 was a particularly good year for Finger Lakes Rieslings. Our tasting of NY Rieslings was enlightening, I enjoyed each of the wines we tasted. The wines were the 2006 Dr. Frank Dry Riesling, 2006 Hermann J. Weimer Reserve Riesling, 2006 Chateau Lafayette Reneau Johannisberg Riesling, 2006 Pindar Vineyards Late Harvest Johannisberg Riesling and finally 2003 Heron Hill Riesling Ice Wine.

One of the most memorable parts of the day was when Kevin invited John Ingle, the owner of Heron Hill Winery, to describe the process of producing, picking and bottling his Ice Wine. He told us about how the winery staff has to time picking of ice wine grapes just right, that it needs to be 17 degrees Fahrenheit outside for several hours consistently, which is oftentimes in the middle of the night, and then the wine staff can pick and net the grapes. Wow, now that I heard that, I realized that a small bottle of ice wine that retails for nearly $100 is completely justified and the wine should be savored and appreciated even more.

Unlike many other classes that I have attended, no one bolted for the door at the conclusion of the Master Class. Quite the opposite, actually. The lines to see Kevin and speak with him one-on-one were long and he cheerily sat for pictures and signed his book. I can tell you that I will seek out more opportunities to see Kevin and participate in his classes if at all possible. Originally I feared that my husband, Rich would be bored after a few hours, but he wasn’t at all. He told me that he loved the class and Kevin and we both left the Center with a new understanding, appreciation and excitement for wine and those in the wine industry. Not to mention we are now raving fans of Kevin’s!

If you were among our class that day, I would love to get your input as well. Please feel free to comment on your experience and anything I may not have mentioned.

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The Winery Cat at Chateau Lafayette Reneau


The gang and I recently tasted at Chateau Lafayette Reneau on Seneca Lake. We were greeted by their mascot who was very happy and comfortable in the tasting room!

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