Wine Blogging Wednesday: Put a twist into your holiday! Or celebrate a twisted holiday?

The Wine Blogging Wednesday prompt for December comes from Twisted Oak Winery’s El Jefe–

who naturally adds a twist to it. The point, he says of this WBW, is to come up with your own holiday pairings, and to have fun:

Pick any winter holiday or observance EXCEPT Hanukkah, Christmas Day, Kwanzaa, or New Years Day or Eve, and choose a wine to celebrate it! For purposes of this WBW, the holiday date chosen must be between December 7, 2009 and January 7, 2010. You may also pair a food with your chosen holiday and wine, but that is optional. Here’s the complete Wine Blogging Wednesday #64 prompt on El Jefe’s blog.
So my holiday was a Winter Solstice Santacon which we celebrated on Sunday December 20 with a pre-Santacon brunch serving a BBQ ham. I wanted to serve a sparkling shiraz but it was easier for me to conjure up 25 men, women, and children in Santa suits on bikes than a sparkling shiraz at any price point. I did have a “Biker” zin that seemed appropriate, a Poema cava and a friend promised to bring some sparkling wine and orange juice. So I left it up to the potluck gods to see what came: a bottle of Zonin Proseco which we opened as well as the Poema Cava which ended up on the ride with us.

But what I was curious about, what I wanted to open but didn’t, was the Four Vines 2007 zinfandel “biker” from Paso Robles. Not only was the wine appropriately named for a Santacon Bike Ride, but I was curious how it would go with ham, and just plain curious about it. I’m a huge fan of zinfandel in general, and I love what Eberle does with the varietal so much that I was a member there for a while. (In fact, I have a bottle of 1999 Eberle zin I just found in the cellar; I imagine I need to drink it up soon!)

And there was the fact that Wine Spectator had talked about this wine back in February and tempted me, then in December it showed up on the WS 2009 Top 100 list and my local wine shop had it–so I bought a bottle.

So on Tuesday night, with Wine Blogging Wednesday looming, and only a Zonin Proseco and a Poema cava to brag about in my Santacon post, I broke open the bottle to enjoy with the last bit of Santacon ham, and to imagine how it might have been on Sunday with the Santacon.

Now, we don’t usually drink $20 wines on a week night. In fact, on our budget we don’t often drink $20 wines. But I knew this wine was not going to last long at The Ventura Wine Store and I’d just got an email saying they’d received a few more bottles. I wanted to go for it and buy a few more but figured I’d best taste this one first, you know, to be sure…

Well it was FABULOUS! From my first tentative swirl, sniff, and sip, I was telling the Big Monkey, wow, this stuff is really good! Lots of nice zinfandel character and color: a nice deep cherry red,  nicely balanced, some dusty blackberry charm, some cedar, a wonderfully long finish.

Best–it was AMAZING with the ham. The spice and fruit in the zin brought out the spice –especially the clove and sweet smoky flavors in the BBQ ham. It tasted decided different with this wine that it had before. And what an great difference. When they talk about the chemistry of wine and food interacting on your palate, it’s easy to roll your eyes. The Big Monkey didn’t plan to have any wine at all; we thought he’d have some on Weds or Thurs when he’d be off the next day.

But on my insistence, he tasted it. And loved it, even though he’s more of a cab or cab/syrah kind of guy. He liked it so much that when I ran off to hear Dottie Grossman and Michael Vlatkovixh perform with my pal Jeff Kaiser sitting in, he drank up most of the bottle that we’d intended to save!

This well-balanced baby had plenty of structure and tannin to put down for awhile (but how long?) so I left it with the cap on to see how it would hold up. The last half glass on Friday night indicated  that by Saturday night it would be  a bit too flat and blah.

So really, the bottom line is, this wine hits the spot. It really does. It’s absolutely wonderful for a holiday dinner dominated by ham (New Year’s anyone?) and it’s forgiving for most sides.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #64: Some Twisted Holiday Fun

Wine Blogging Wednesday #64 December 23rd, 2009: The month would not be the same without a Wine Blogging Wednesday post or two. For December, Wine Blogging Wednesday is hosted by El Jefe at Twisted Oak who naturally adds a twist to it and is, also, naturally, running some Twisted holiday specials which you can see for yourself here The point, he says of this WBW, is to come up with your own holiday pairings, and to have fun:

Pick any winter holiday or observance EXCEPT Hanukkah, Christmas Day, Kwanzaa, or New Years Day or Eve, and choose a wine to celebrate it! For purposes of this WBW, the holiday date chosen must be between December 7, 2009 and January 7, 2010. You may also pair a food with your chosen holiday and wine, but that is optional.
Read the complete Wine Blogging Wednesday #64 prompt. To participate: Send a link to your blog post to El Jefe. My “holiday”? How about a Winter Solstice Santacon?

A Tale of a Few Conferences: EWBC 09, NAWBC 08 & 09, plus tech tales from WordCamp SF 08, 09 & LA 09, MacWorld 09

I’m not sure whether Reno Walsh, one of the organizers for the Wine Bloggers Conferences, saw the video above yet where I talk about some of my experiences in a video by BKWine at the European Wine Bloggers Conference which I attended as a guest of Enoforum Wines, but he recently emailed me for feedback comparing the EWBC and the NAWBC. (You can also watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyp-TCJx7v)

As others might be interested in hearing some notes comparing and contrasting the various blogging and tech conferences I’ve attended in the past 18 months, I thought I’d expand a little, edit a little, and post those notes here–with an emphasis on the three Wine Bloggers Conferences I’ve attended of course.

Overall I suspect what’s MOST IMPORTANT to me and to many of my fellow tech oriented conference attendees is reliable wireless–being able to get on-line to tweet, blog, facebook, all that fun social media stuff when we want, are inspired or have the time.

The Wine Bloggers Conferences have failed on this three times now. Thankfully, at the EWBC, my host Enoforum Wines came through by providing Jo Diaz and I portable wireless devices which come with minutes. Jo used hers extensively; I had better luck getting on-line in my hotel rooms then she did–I admit I wasted way too much time on it, especially at the hotel where the EWBC was held. Too often I was trying to get on-line when I would have preferred attending the conference. I did end up paying for internet my last night in Lisbon: 12 hours for about $25 US.

At MacWorld in SF last January 2009 I found it was somewhat reliable around the Moscone conference center but my best bet was getting a press pass and getting online there–they knew enough to make sur ethat if anyone could get on-line it should be the press! I imagine they’ll ahve it dialed in for 2010–not sure yet if I’ll be there to see.

SF WordCamp 2008 and 2009 had PLENTY so we could all have as many windows open doing as much as we wanted all at the same time. Somehow they’ve been able to handle the needs of 700 tweeters blogging and bloggers tweeting; unfortunately, LA WordCamp did not quite have enough but the main problem was that we got kicked off if we didn’t upload anything after 10 minutes. I tracked down someone who could address that so the wireless worked much better in the afternoon.

IN DEPTH ED: At EWBC, I loved the day where we went on the cork forest tour with lunch and tastings followed by a visit to a cork plant. The day offered less drinking and tasting but lots of learning and camaraderie. This intensive, deep learning experience that really stuck with me, and others as well.

GRAND TASTING: As I mentioned in the video, I loved the grand hosted tasting Charles Metcalf did at EWBC. This should be a part of every WBC. Since the next WBC is in Walla Walla Washington, maybe they should have someone who really knows Washington and/or Oregon and/or Canadian wines. Or hey, why not Metcalf and Portuguese wines? Metcalf was fabulously entertaining…and I’d love to taste more Portuguese wines!

SESSIONS: At the EWBC 09, I admit I was very jetlagged Saturday morning and trying to get on-line in my hotel room,  and so I missed the first morning sessions Saturday. I missed Friday’s sessions completely as I arrived Friday evening for dinner (about 11pm). I feel like I got more out of the conference sessions themselves at the NAWBC. I think they were more sophisticated, but then again I could have been too jetlagged to get much. I learned more from the sessions in 2008 but then I was still very new to blogging, social media, and wine back then (I’m still new but not nearly!)

SESSIONS 2 I missed Wine Academy of Spain Esteban Cabeza’s sherry, port and madeira tasting on Friday at EWBC as I was enroute but he kindly gave me a brief tutorial. These wines blew my mind.  The NAWBC should definitely consider having him do his presentation at the NAWBC in WA as these wines are unknown and unappreciated by many in the US.  I am still puzzling over madeira and sherry. Maybe if they were more appreciated here, good ones could be found more easily. (I just found an excellent Solera 1847 oloroso sherry from a local Henry Wine Group distributer. He admitted I couldn’t even buy it around here–I was able to buy it via a tasting at a local restaurant). It’d be great to have some American examples as well–I’d love to try Twisted Oak’s Pig Stai with a Port from Portugal.

KEYNOTES I loved the NAWBC keynotes in 2008 (Alice Feiring and Gary Vaynerchuk) and 2009  I enjoyed having a lunchtime keynote or morning like in 2009–Barry Schuler was unexpectedly brilliant.

BEST? I appreciated in 2009 just relaxing and enjoying the incredible dinner and wine and more intimate gathering and company at Pine Ridge after a long stimulating day instead of having a keynote! The meal at Pine Ridge was one of the best I’ve had in my life.

GIFT BAGS The gift bags at EWBC were slim compared to NAWBC but a lot of the stuff in the NAWBC bag was just “stuff” that I basically recycled.

BRINGING IT HOME 1: Since I live in California and can drive there and back, I’ve been able to bring lots of wine home, open bottles to taste with more leisure and samples.  At EWBC I didn’t know how to get any of the wines and bring them back. I went to a grocery store and was overwhelmed and didn’t see much that I had tasted. While in Portugal, I tasted all these amazing wines that now I can’t find in my hometown in California!

BRINGING IT HOME 2 One of the best things a winery did in my three conferences: Michel-Schlumberger gave bloggers who went there on the wine hike a 50% discount; most people on the tour took them up on the offer. I’d encourage the wineries to go even deeper with discounts knowing that we’ll tweet, talk, taste, blog about the wines. So in the gift bags, maybe have a coupon code for deeply discounted wines. Not everyone is swimming in free samples (or wants to be).

BLENDING: This didn’t happen at EWBC or NAWBC but I’ve noticed a lot of interest in blending and blending activities on twitter. I know some WBC participants went to Twisted Oak to do some blending before the conference and that sounded like great fun. I think it would be a blast to do a blending activity/exercise/tasting as an official part of a WBC and EWBC too. I think I would learn a lot about wine/winemaking in the process and it would be fun. We could do it as teams–not self-selected teams but random so we’d meet new people–then we could try and rate the other team’s wine and figure out what was in it!! It would be even better if we could get a bottle of the blend to take home (for free or discounted). Maybe a few of the area wineries would be interested in hosting something like that.

I sent along some other ideas as well but I think 1200 words is enough on this subject!

2 Wine Events: Support VCCool, then taste & buy wines for yourself!

Two great wine events tonight December 10  on the West end of Main Street, Ventura: a wine tasting to celebrate  VCCool’s new 501c3 status from 6-7pm at J’s Tapas 204 E. Main and a wine tasting and buy extravaganza from 6:30-9pm at Jonathan’s at Peirano’s. The food is fabulous, the atmosphere cozy, and both are conveniently located right next to each other and across from the San Buenaventura Mission in downtown.

First up: As the eyes of the World turn towards Copenhagen, Denmark and how our Global Community will address Climate Change, VCCool invites you to share an evening with us here at home. As a non-profit in Ventura that specifically addresses the issue at a local level, VCCool needs your support.

Join in conversation about building a sustainable future together during a lovely evening of wine, food, and friendship. This gathering is a free event with the purpose of raising funds, and nurturing friends and supporters as VCCool celebrates acheiving its 501c3 non-profit status as well as an amazing history of local action. The event also offers a sneak-preview of some exciting plans for 2010 as well. Bring your checkbook and make a powerful stand for climate protection by supporting a  local organization that is working hard on  climate action almost every day of the year.

Climate change is a serious problem for many existing wine regions of the world. As the climate changes, so do the growing conditions in the vineyards. Some areas will no longer be able to grow wine while other regions will. This is such a serious problem that many wine advocacy and educational organizations such as Wine Academy of Spain are putting resources into tracking it. WSA recent Wine Futures event in Rioja (which I had to pass up, unfortunately) offered sessions to discuss the problem.

Next: Get amazing wines at amazing wholesale prices, at the Annual Taste and Buy Event, Thursday December 10th 6:30-9pm at Jonathan’s. Taste over 30 wines from many of the best regions for only $10. RSVP today by calling 805-648-4853!

If you come by, be sure to say hi–I’ll be the one passing out Santacon Ride flyers (12/20 at 12:30pm) and Tweed Ride flyers (2/5 at 5:30pm). If it’s not raining, this bikergo gal will ride there to cut down on carbon emissions and because it’s fun! Then you’ll be able to check out my pink bikergo locked up outside. Ask me and I’ll let you take it out for a spin! Remember, don’t drink and drive–even a bike!