Wine Blogging Weds #73: The Spark

Today, Wednesday, January 18 is the first installment in many, many months for Wine Blogging Wednesday, an online event started six years ago where wine bloggers virtually gather around a theme.  This time around the theme is “Spark”  which attempts to spark new interest and hopefully light a fire again for this formerly monthly wine blogging event that has fizzled and faltered over the past two years. The “Spark” theme urges wine bloggers to return to that which sparked their interest in wine blogging in the first place.

Host Corkdork  writes, “I know you’ve grown and your wine knowledge has expanded, but it’s time to revisit the kind of wines that sparked your desire to blog, retaste, and share. January’s challenge, “Spark”, is to re-visit the wine that first turned you on to the infinite wonder of the world of wine.”

If you want to participate, quick, post your “spark” story right away and let Corkdork know you’re got a spark to contribute to the fire.

When I think  about what sparked my interest in wine blogging, I come up with three stories and three wines.

First, I think of Ridge Zinfandel because in the early 80s, I worked at Ridge pouring wine during Saturday tastings up on Montebello Road. Hard to say which was a favorite–I loved them all and marveled at how different each one was. To this day, zin is possibly my favorite varietal; it goes so well with everything from turkey to ham to BBQ to grilled meats.

But that didn’t get me blogging.

Second, I think of all the wonderful Australian rhone blends Dan Phillips tasted and promoted through the Grateful Palate. It’s unfortunate that AUS shiraz has such a bad name these days due to unbalanced fruit bombs. The ones I bought with Dan’s personal guidance at my first warehouse sale as well as wines I selected with the help of his other employees were exceptional.

And it was Grateful Palate wines that got me blogging and led me to being a wine blogger.

More importantly to me as a wine blogger, because I was writing about Grateful Palate wines already and wanted to do more about them, I was recruited to work as a writer for them and given a case of wine to drink and write about. My first heady experience with samples! My June 2008 post about Chris Ringland’s 2006 Ebenezer Road Shiraz was one of my most popular and most read posts for years. Unfortunately, when the economy tanked, so did the job. But I was introduced to and encouraged to learn about wine blogging, which changed my world radically.

As a newly minted and unemployed wine blogger, I went to the first North American Wine Bloggers Conference in November 2008. There I discovered a whole world of wine blogging–and wine.

Which leads me to my next winery: Twisted Oak.

I met Jeff Stai at the first Wine Bloggers Conference and he generously opened up “The Spaniard” a Rioja style mostly tempranillo blend and his “River of Skulls” mourvedre. By that point in the conference, I had tasted a lot of wine but both of these stood out enough that I went to Calaveras County a year or so later to taste his wines–and I joined his wine club.

That’s how I ended up with the wine I opened tonight for this retrospective–a 2005 Twisted Oak Tempranillo from Calaveras County which I paired with a lamb chop stuffed with basil pesto, a baked potato, and cabbage. While the Spaniard will always be one of my favorite Twisted Oak wines, the Tempranillo is quite tasty and half the price ($24 instead of $49). The color is surprisingly deep, dark and dense for a medium bodied wine–it’s more black cherry than the deep purple of a petite sirah or a petite verdot. In the nose, at first it was quite closed but over the course of the meal and the evening, I found cigar box and spice, barn and leather, a little menthol, lavender, and vanilla. A very masculine wine, it’s rich and round, salt cured herbs of provence black olive briney and dark stone fruit of cherries and plums; plenty of acid and oak which was perfect to cut through and compliment the lamb chop.

Finally, I must mention the most life changing experience I have had as a wine blogger–attending the European Wine Bloggers Conference and traveling to Portugal as a guest of Enoforum Wines. If their wines were available in the US, that’s what I would have written about in this blog post. And since I’ve already written nearly 800 words for this blog post, I think I’ll leave it at that–plenty enough sparks to get me a blogging bonfire roaring!

More Wine & Music: KCRW iPhone ap & 6 Bottle Grateful Palate Grab Bag

Writes Grateful Palate’s Dan Phillips of his 6 Bottle Grab Bag for $50:

Six bottles of wine (my choice). Adult signature required for shipping. An additional fee of $4.25 will be added.

The combo that always causes hysteria! We choose the wines from our warehouse. You get six bottle of wine that The Grateful Palate imports. Some shockingly amazingly high quality wines seem to find their way into our Grab Bags – so don’t settle for just one. Note: adult signature required when you receive the shipment and we can only ship wines to States where it is permissible. Call us if you are unsure of your states laws.

Knowing the condition of Dan’s warehouse after several warehouse sales, I’d say this one’s a go for it steal of the day! I’m betting it will include some super close-out deals of wines that they no longer import or the tail end of a case that they don’t want to mess with anymore. My bet is he’s going to give you some great wines at a great price knowing you’ll come back for more!

And what soundtrack might you choose to enjoy with your Grateful Palate wine? The soundtrack to 15 years of my life in SoCal is KCRW–the public radio station out of Santa Monica City College that I’m obsessed with! And now that they have an iPhone ap, I never have to leave home without it–even when I’m traveling by bicycle or out of the station’s reach or away from an internet connection!

This KCRW iPhone ap is absolutely the best news I’ve had since the good times on the Santacon ride Friday! The only bad news is it’s not free–which it should be for us subscribers! Yep, it’s .99. Here are the details:

KCRW Listen to KCRW with our brand-new iPhone app. Listen Live, On Demand, and Be Tuned-In to events around town!

BTW, here’s the info on Today’s Top Tune: KCRW Today’s Top Tune is Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens with “Trouble in My Way.” Get the FREE song-a-day at