#WBC14 Built for Speed (Tasting): Roses, White, Sparkling Wines

WBC14-Participation-BadgeOne of the events that people either love or hate at the Wine Bloggers Conference is the Speed Tasting. Similar to Speed Dating, bloggers are introduced to a wine and have five minutes to respond with questions and to make notes and take photos, maybe even get out a tweet too. Some people–well one person anyway, Christopher Watkins of Ridge–can even tweet their notes in haiku–that’s 17 syllables for those of you who may have forgotten your poetry 101.

This year, I didn’t get to sit next to Christopher (because he wasn’t there) but I did get to sit with Wilfred Wong, formerly of Bevmo, as well as some other fun folks as we tried our best during the Speed Tastings.

Before I get into my notes and tweets, a quick review: in an one hour long session, the first five minutes explains that each winery will have five minutes to pour and discuss their wines before moving the bell rings and they go on to the next table while bloggers spit and dump in preparation for the next wine. Repeat 10 times. There are about 30 tables of 4-8 bloggers in the room which means that not everyone tastes every one. When the final bell rings, everyone takes a deep breath, and often there’s a mad rush to taste wines that may have missed your table or to score bottles of wines you want to taste again.

After the first Wine Bloggers Conference in 2008 where the reds, white, roses, and sparkling wines were all mixed, but that was tough so they separated out the reds. In 2009, I tried to put up a blog post about each wine but was challenged by inconsistent wireless connectivity but you can read more  about speed tasting: whites in Walla Walla in 2010,  and reds in Walla Walla in 2010.

I skipped 2011 Virginia, but returned in 2012 where I live tweeted each wine but never made a blog post. Last year I decided to just do a blog post of using my tweets: whites in BC 2013 and reds in BC 2013 which is what I will do this year.

One criticism of the process is how much can you really get from a wine in five minutes? A lot –if you concentrate and are fed the info you need when you need it. It is an excellent exercise in tasting as well as listening for the interesting tweetable nugget and then composing in remembering the hashtag #WBC14 as well as including the winery’s twitter handle.

Some wineries make this process easy for bloggers by providing us with cheat sheets or tech sheets that includes the answers to our basic questions including cost of the wine, twitter handle, case production, varietal, who’s pouring and how they are connected to the winery, oak treatment, etc.

And some make it really hard…

Here’s the results of the white wine speed tasting from the wines that made it to my table; here’s a link to the list of all the wines poured. Note that the time stamp is not correct–I couldn’t post to twitter so I just posted my tweets to draft and sent them on their merry way after the speed tasting event was over. NOTE: On MOST of the tweets, if you click on the @followed by the winery name (or on a person), it should take you to their twitter page which should have a link to the winery itself (or the person’s blog or website).

This wine definitely tastes better than what you’d expect for $9 for a liter. One thing that I don’t like about tetra paks is that they don’t keep as well as wine in bag.

Laetitia is a well known name in the central coast for their bubbles and their Pinot noir too–and for good reason (because they taste great for the price point of around $20). I didn’t know that they were SIP certified and I want to get up to the winery one of these days to learn more.

While Jordan’s chardonnay is certainly delicious and well worth $30, it was their housemade crostinis that really got my attention and Lisa was generous enough to tweet me the link to their recipe. Next time I have buttermilk in the house, I am making some! PS Jordan hosted a great after party where they poured recent releases AND some library wines to show off how these babies will age if you give them the time in the cellar (or the dark recesses of your closet! Just don’t put them on your refigerator!)

My table mates for this tasting were really awesome, by the way. Among them: Jeff aka Drunken Cyclist, April aka Sacred Drop, Amy aka Wine4Me and Vine Sleuth, and Wilfred Wong aka WilliBoySF. It really makes a difference to have tablemates who are focused, who spit and dump, who ask great questions and yet are FUN!

Cheryl made it really easy for us to learn about and tweet about her wine by providing us with label cards with all the details we needed right there. I’ll post mroe about that later.

I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t vermentino. Fun to be taken by surprise and ask what is this is my glass again? In general, I have found Temecula wines to be uneven, however, this one really worked adn made me more interested in making the trek to Temecula to learn more.

Too often it seems like the men are on the panels, and the women are pouring the wine (or a woman is assisting a man by pouring the wine). To be honest, too often the women’s voices are too quiet or too high pitched and they get lost in the pandemonium of live wine blogging.  I have more I am tempted to say on this topic but I’ll move on to say 1.  After being surprised by the vermentino, I was less surprised by Scott’s malvasia. 2. Scott had a beautiful shirt. 3. Scott had a beautiful wine. 4.I want to go to Arizona and see his operation in person! Check out Aridus on the web.

After a speed tasting, the more social media astute wineries respond to tweets by favoriting, retweeting, or replying and engaging the blogger/tweeter in a conversation. Grassini followed up on my interest in conservation and sustainability with a conversation on twitter that will result in my heading over for a visit.

Last year, all of the wines in the speed tasting came from Canada, and it was great to taste with that focus. This year, any winery that ponied up $500 could pour, which meant we taste wines like this one from Chile.

Our final wine of the event was from Buttonwood–somewhere I have notes that I think says she makes five different ones! She chose this one to wake us up I bet and it sure did! Very minerally and acidic, it left a memorable impression. On Sunday as I was driving from an event at Bridlewood back to the hotel, I saw Buttonwood from Alamo Pintado between Los Olivos and Santa Ynez/Solvang and it was all I could do not to pull over. definitely a winery I want to return to visit; I liked this wine a lot but I really liked the natural style of the winemaker, and would love to do more stories that feature women wine makers too.

And there you have it–live white wine blogging from the Wine Bloggers Conference, Santa Barbara, 2014!

For another view/review, here’s Andrea Middleton’s report from a different table so different wines, too!

Watch for my red wine speed blog post! (Even better, subscribe!)

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