At the last three wine bloggers conferences, I lucked out both with amazing pre-conference excursions and great conference expeditions as well. In 2010, a small group of us traveled on a press trip Seattle to Walla Walla and back, tasting along the way. In 2012, on our pre-conference excursion we dined at King Estates then learned about pinot noir with Robin Pffeifer, then went by TRAIN from Eugene to Portland where I was on the infamous #cuffedincarlton bus.
We were up in Mammoth for a holiday weekend ski trip where I also had a twitter tasting with Steven Kent Wines and Jim Demetriades, owner of Rafters hosted me! And what a gracious host! I was able to use a beautiful side room for the tasting, sommelier Chip Irmish set me up with the correct glasses I’d need as well as a dump bucket, and an ice bucket. Staff brought water, and either Chef Kerry Mechler or various staff brought out the six dishes that chef had chosen to pair with the six wines.
How did I get from Idaho and Walla Walla back to California for the Petite Sirah Symposium? By way of some Oregon Pinot Noir of course!
Read on to get a taste and see where I went and what I did; more in depth blog posts to come about my stops in Willamette Valley AVAs including Barrel Fence in the Dundee Hills (pictured) and Coleman Vineyards in the McMinnville AVA (photos below).
When I last checked in from my road trip, I had arrived on the coast of Oregon following a few days in the Walla Walla AVA (American Viticultural Area) and around Boise (the Snake River AVA)… Read More
The. video above gives you a taste of what a Wine Bloggers Conference is like and why I am applying for a scholarship to attend this year’s conference in Walla Walla, Washington where the emphasis on tasting, tours, and education will be on Washington wines. As a Californian who lives near the Santa Barbara wine region, I have access to tasting and purchasing an abundance of excellent California wines. Being near LA, I am also invited to industry events and wine tastings and can learn about wines from other regions.
But there is nothing like a Wine Bloggers Conference to really get to know the wines of the region that is being showcased. In recent weeks, in order to learn more about Washington wines and to write about them in the hopes of winning a ride on the WBC-Or-Bust bus (see the badge on the side bar?), I’ve been trying to find and taste Washington wines and have come up woefully and surprisingly short. Trader Joe’s and Vons offer little in the way of Washington wines (they offer mostly the same ones!), and my favorite wine store, the Ventura Wine Company, carries mostly California wines with only a smattering of wines from other places, and very few from Washington. And I’m not one of those wine bloggers being bombarded with wine samples either!
Even a trip on my own to Washington wouldn’t provide me with anything close to what the Wine Bloggers Conference can do when it comes to tasting a large variety of Washington wines, getting to know the different regions and what they have to offer, meeting the wine makers, and touring the facilities.
Where should I go? Well, it wasn’t much of a question as I had limited time available. While I am fortunate to have Sideways wine country practically in my backyard, I simply contacted Michael Meagher, winemaker at Old Creek Ranch Winery, which is about 15 minutes away from my home near the beach and Michael invited me over last Friday for when his first load of grapes arrive–viognier!
To hint at what kind of experience I had: I came home happily covered in grape juice, tasted the delish grenache blanc about to be bottled with the winemaker, and brought home the recently bottled but not yet released and not even labeled yet 2008 viognier!!
A little background: Old Creek Ranch Winery, established in 1981, is up Highway 33 on the Old Creek Ranch between the towns of Ojai and Ventura, California on a historic winery site. On the left is a picture of what remains of that winery; in the foreground is the native food plant, narrow-leaf milkweed, for monarch butterfly larva.
According to the Old Creek Ranch website:
The Ranch is part of a Spanish 22,000 acre land grant awarded to Don Fernando Tico, dating back to the early history of California. In the late 1800’s Antonio Riva of northern Italy purchased the ranch. He was a chef in Paris, London and later in San Francisco. He built a winery on the ranch at that time.
Wines were made without electricity and utilized gravity as a means to move the wine in the processing. Riva produced wine until about 1942, including the prohibition years. Wine purchasers would leave an order and money on the clothesline and would return later to pickup a jug of red wine left at the base of an oak tree.
Murphys Calaveras County California: think wine, not beer!
So you didn’t know that Murphy’s California is a big name in wine? Check out this article from the Los Angeles Times Travel section for more!
Although the author didn’t mention my favorite Calaveras County winery, Twisted Oak, you can see why this is a fun town to visit! Last time I was there was in 2003 when I gave a featured poetry reading hosted by Nila NorthSun. No wine tasting for me on that trip however–I was 6 months pregnant! We just visited there between skiing Badger Pass and camping in Yosemite and skiing Bear Valley and camping at Calaveras State Park– and I tasted my way through town! More to come on that soon!
“You can literally sip wine from one end of town to the other,” says River Klass, who owns two restaurants on Main Street.
“I think Murphys is just a cool little walking, pedestrian-friendly town,” says Dorian Faught, owner of the Murphys Historic Hotel and Restaurant.
The hotel features nine rooms, each named after the famous guests who have stayed there, including Mark Twain, Ulysses S. Grant and Susan B. Anthony. A short walk from elm-lined Main Street is picturesque Murphys Community Park, which has a white gazebo (also with shamrocks on it) and bubbling Murphys Creek running through.
Day 5: On a mission to go fishin’ — Middle Fork San Joaquin River, Sierra
The Big Monkey wondered at first what we’d do for more than a day or two down here in Reds Meadow along the San Joaquin River near Devil’s Postpile National Monument. Now he never wants to leave!
Today we hiked from our campsite near the hot springs shower to the store and café to check it out. We’d heard from the PCTers and JMTers that the food in the café was good, especially the homemade pie! The boy wants to go fishing, so we need to get some tackle—maybe a pole, certainly some hooks and bait. Plus we need ice!
The trail to the store area leaves the campsite near the showers, climbs a little, traverses the hillside above the meadow, and crosses two small creeks before dropping to the small cabins and motel rooms available to rent. It’s an easy walk and offers views of the meadow, the granitic outcroppings, and lots of wildflowers beside, below, and above the trail including one of my favorites, leopard lilies, a striking orange spire against the green backdrop.