By Kori ~ August 4th, 2009.
Our day in Napa Valley during the recent Wine Bloggers Conference was worth the price of the conference admission alone. It was the perfect mix of education, tastings, and fun.
We started the day at The Culinary Institute of America where we enjoyed two keynote addresses focusing on the future of blogging, social media, and wine writing.
Barry Schuler, former CEO of AOL and owner of Meteor Vineyard, was an absolute riot. He is a very knowledgeable guy in both technology and wine. His speech was filled with a lot of useful information and peppered with wisecracks that kept the audience engaged. According to Barry, the wine business has not had its Internet moment yet. However, blogging and social media have definitely disrupted traditional journalism. He concluded by saying that the current disaggregation is bound to consolidate in a new form and that every downturn leads to opportunity. Jim Gordon, editor of Wines & Vines, delivered the day’s second keynote address. His speech was mellower than Barry’s and focused more on specific wine industry story ideas for bloggers to consider covering.
After the keynote addresses, we split up and each bus went to its assigned winery for lunch followed by Napa Green presentations. Napa Green is a voluntary program developed by the Napa Valley Vintners that establishes comprehensive “best practices” in land-use and wine production. Our bus took us to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, famous for besting four French Bordeaux in the 1976 Judgment of Paris. Vineyard manager Kirk Grace took us on a vineyard tour and discussed how Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars handles various environmental issues. Come back next Monday for a spotlight on Stag’s Leap including a video of Kirk’s Napa Green presentation.
Our next stop was at Palmaz Vineyards for the vintner discussion panel focused on the topic, “Following in the Family Footstomps: An Industry in Transition”. The panel included Florencia Palmaz of Palmaz Vineyards, Alan Viader of Viader Vineyards, and Taylor Bartolucci of Madonna Estate. Each of them are second generation or later in their family’s winery. Ninety-five percent of Napa Valley wineries are family-owned. While the first generation focused more on getting the wineries established and producing quality wines, this generation is focusing more on marketing and sales by utilizing social media, events, and so forth.
The entire conference group came back together in the afternoon for a grand tasting of Napa wines at Quintessa Winery. About 50 Napa Valley wineries were pouring. There were some excellent wines for sure, but I must admit that I suffered from a bit of sticker shock. See the breakdown of wines we tasted below.
Following the tasting at Quintessa, we boarded the buses again and were taken to different wineries for dinner. Our group enjoyed an amazing dinner at Domaine Chandon including wines from Newton, O’Brien, Louis M. Martini, and Parry. Our dinner menu included sweet white corn soup, roasted beef tenderloin with summer legumes, chanterelle mushrooms and Umbrian black truffle, and was topped off with a Valrhona chocolate pate with summer berries. Each course was paired with one or more wines from the host wineries.
Many thanks to Napa Valley Vintners and the participating wineries for being such hospitable hosts. It was truly a day to remember.
Here’s a breakdown of the wines that we tasted in Napa Valley during the Wine Bloggers Conference. Under each Quality heading, the wine name and region will be listed along with price and QPR rating. Wines in bold type received a QPR rating of 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5).
Quality: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
2005 Rubicon Estate Cask Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, $75, QPR: 5
2005 Staglin Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, $175, QPR: 4
Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2007 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Karia Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $30, QPR: 5
2006 Faust Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $50, QPR: 5
2006 Domaine Chandon Pinot Noir La Riviere, Russian River Valley, $45, QPR: 4
2006 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $55, QPR: 4
2006 Palmaz Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $100, QPR: 3
2006 Quintessa Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford, $140, QPR: 1
Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2006 Domain Chandon Carneros Pinot Meunier, Carneros, $35, QPR: 4
NV Domaine Chandon étoile Brut, California, $65, QPR: 2
2008 Madonna Estate Pinot Grigio, Carneros, $26.50, QPR: 1
2007 Matthiasson White Wine, Napa Valley, $35, QPR: 1
2006 Peju Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley, $45, QPR: 1
2006 Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $60, QPR: 1
2005 TOR Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, $75, QPR: 1
2006 Oakville Estate Exposure Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, $100, QPR: 1
2005 Hall Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, $100, QPR: 1
2005 Louis M. Martini Lot No. 1 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $125, QPR: 1
2006 Spottswoode Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Helena, $130, QPR: 1
2006 Matthiasson Red Wine, Napa Valley, $NA, QPR: NA
Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2005 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $27, QPR: 4
2007 O’Brien Estate Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $30, QPR: 1
2006 O’Brien Estate Merlot, Napa Valley, $40, QPR: 1
2008 Quintessa Illumination Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley, $40, QPR: 1
2002 Parry Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $60, QPR: 1
2005 Ladera Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, $70, QPR: 1
2006 Viader Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $90, QPR: 1
2005 Matthiasson Red Wine, Napa Valley, $NA, QPR: NA
Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2005 Krupp Brothers Veraison Cabernet Sauvignon Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley, $60, QPR: NR
Filed under: American Wine, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California Wine, Chardonnay, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Lesser Known Varietals, Merlot, Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Sauvignon Blanc, Sparkling Wine, White Wine, Wine Activities/Events, Wine Travel, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25