Highlights and Wine Tastings from the 2010 Wine Bloggers Conference



By Kori ~ June 30th, 2010.

This past weekend, Dad (John), Colby, and I spent three jam-packed days in Walla Walla, Washington, for the third annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference. We were joined by over 300 fellow wine bloggers, wine industry participants, and media members for tastings, keynote addresses, breakout sessions, and visits to local vineyards and wineries. [See the bottom of this post for a recap of the wines that we tasted before, during, and after the WBC.]

As a judge for the WBC-or-BUST contest, I was invited to join the group of winners for a few of their pre-conference stops: a Woodinville Grand Tasting at Willows Lodge, Brunch and Unique AVA Wine Tasting at Cave B in Quincy, and the Walla Walla Vintners Pizza & Wine Social. These stops allowed me to visit with many winemakers and taste numerous wines before the conference was officially underway.

Things really kicked into high gear on Friday with the official start of the conference. We enjoyed a taco truck tasting for lunch followed by a keynote address by wine writer Steve Heimoff of Wine Enthusiast and SteveHeimoff.com on the future of wine writing. He made several points that really resonated with me: 1) Know who you are, find your voice, and then stretch it. 2) Transparency is key. Bloggers are forcing print critics to be more transparent. 3) To develop and expand your palate, it is important to read a lot, taste a lot, and write a lot. Alan Kropf of Mutineer Magazine then presented the 2010 Wine Blog Awards. Congratulations to all of the winners!

A portion of each day was devoted to breakout sessions on a variety of topics. I won’t bore you with the details, but we found most of the sessions very interesting and informative. We hope to incorporate some of the suggestions and ideas we formulated during these sessions to make Wine Peeps even better. The thread that ran through all of the sessions was the importance of remembering that we are all wine writers, no matter whether our platform is a blog, a newspaper, a magazine, or a book. And once again, there was an emphasis on social networking and interacting with our readers. (So if you aren’t already, please follow/like us on Twitter and Facebook.)

This year, we had two Live Wine Blogging segments (White Wines on Friday and Red Wines on Saturday) which featured wines poured for us by the winemakers themselves in a fast and furious “speed dating”-like format.

Ste. Michelle Wine Estates hosted dinner on Friday evening. Doug Gore, Senior Vice President of Winemaking and Vineyard Operations, introduced a number of their winemakers who were on hand pouring their wines. The highlight of the evening was when Domaine Ste. Michelle sparkling winemaker, Rick Casqueiro, demonstrated how to open a bottle of sparking wine with a saber. After dinner, we visited a number of tasting rooms in downtown Walla Walla who opened for an after-hours walkabout.

We got up bright and early the next morning for a fascinating presentation on the terroirs of the Walla Walla Valley by geologist Kevin Pogue. His talk was a perfect start to a day spent visiting vineyards and wineries in the Walla Walla Valley. We divided into groups of 15 and boarded buses, not knowing where we were headed until we got there. Our bus enjoyed visits to Cougar Hills Vineyard, a Syrah tasting and panel presentation at Skylite Cellars that also featured wines by Smasne Cellars and Riverhaven Cellars, and lunch at Pepper Bridge Winery.

The Washington Wine Commission hosted a grand tasting of Washington wines followed by a family-style dinner on Saturday evening with a Washington winemaker sitting at each table. Lettie Teague, wine columnist for The Wall Street Journal and author of Educating Peter, gave the keynote address on finding your voice.

One of my favorite sessions of the weekend was also the last, a Food and Wine Pairing seminar and lunch with chef Jeffrey Saad, the runner up on season 5 of The Next Food Network Star. The conference officially ended just after lunch on Sunday.

While I enjoyed all of the keynotes, sessions, events, and tastings, the best part of the conference was getting to meet so many of our fellow wine bloggers in person and see some friends we had made at previous conferences.

Many thanks to Allan Wright of Zephyr Wine Adventures and Joel Vincent of the OpenWine Consortium for organizing this wonderful conference and to all of the sponsors for your support in making it a reality.

We stayed in Walla Walla for a couple of extra days in order to visit a few more wineries. In the coming weeks, I will be posting in more detail about some of the conference topics and wineries we visited.

Here’s a breakdown of the wines that we tasted before, during, and after the Wine Bloggers Conference, except those that we already rated during the Live Wine Blogging segments (White Wines on Friday and Red Wines on Saturday). 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)
2007 Fielding Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $38, QPR: 5
2007 Betz Père de Famille Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $60, QPR: 5
2006 Boudreaux Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State, $100, QPR: 5

2008 Betz La Côte Patriarche Syrah, Red Willow Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $55, QPR: 4

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)
2008 Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Eroica Riesling, Columbia Valley, $18, QPR: 5
2006 Rulo Syrah, Columbia Valley, $20, QPR: 5
2008 Walla Walla Vintners Sangiovese, Columbia Valley, $24, QPR: 5
2009 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Chardonnay, Puget Sound, $24, QPR: 5
2007 Gilbert Cellars Estate Syrah, Wahluke Slope, $24, QPR: 5
2007 Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $35, QPR: 5
2007 Rulo Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $40, QPR: 5

2009 Sparkman Cellars Pearl Sauvignon Blanc, Columbia Valley, $19, QPR: 4
2009 Syncline Grüner Veltliner, Underwood Mountain Vineyard, Columbia Gorge, $20, QPR: 4
2009 Dowsett Family Winery Gewurztraminer, Celilo Vineyard, Columbia Gorge, $20, QPR: 4
2007 Camaraderie Tempranillo, Yakima Valley, $25, QPR: 4
2008 Nefarious Rx-4 Red Wine (Rhone-style blend), Columbia Valley, $27, QPR: 4
2007 Barrister Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $27, QPR: 4
2005 Skylite Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley, $32, QPR: 4
2008 Dusted Valley Big Bad MOFO! Petite Sirah, Columbia Valley, $35, QPR: 4
2006 Rulo Silo Reserve Syrah, Wahluke Slope, $35, QPR: 4
2006 Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve Red Wine, Columbia Valley, $36, QPR: 4
2005 Otis Kenyon Reserve Merlot, Seven Hills Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, $40, QPR: 4
2007 Pepper Bridge Winery Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $55, QPR: 4
2008 William Church Malbec, Gamache Vineyards, Columbia Valley, $32, QPR: 3
2008 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Malbec, Wahluke Slope, $34, QPR: 3
2006 Cave B Cuvée de Soleil (Bordeaux-style red blend), Columbia Valley, $40, QPR: 3
2008 Buty Merlot and Cabernet Franc, Conner Lee & Champoux Vineyards, Columbia Valley, $40, QPR: 3
2007 Sparkman Cellars Ruby Leigh (Merlot-based blend), Columbia Valley, $42, QPR: 3
2007 Andrew Will Ciel du Cheval Vineyard Red Bordeaux Blend, Red Mountain, $45, QPR: 3
2006 Glencorrie Cuvée Marquis (Bordeaux-style blend), Columbia Valley, $45, QPR: 3
2007 Skylite Reserve (Malbec-based blend), Columbia Valley, $47, QPR: 3
2006 Alma Terra Syrah, Ciel du Cheval Vineyard, Red Mountain, $54, QPR: 2
2007 Buty Rediviva of the Stones (Syrah/Cab), Walla Walla Valley, $55, QPR: 2
2007 Pepper Bridge Winery Pepper Bridge Vineyard Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, $55, QPR: 2
2006 Col Solare (Cabernet-based blend), Columbia Valley, $75, QPR: 1

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)
2009 Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling, Columbia Valley, $9, QPR: 5
NV Domaine Ste. Michelle Blanc de Noirs, Columbia Valley, $12, QPR: 5
2006 Kiona Estate Lemberger, Red Mountain, $12, QPR: 5

2009 Nefarious Riesling, Stone’s Throw Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $18, QPR: 4
NV Barrister Rough Justice (Red blend), Columbia Valley, $20, QPR: 4
2008 Rulo Sundance Chardonnay, Wahluke Slope, $20, QPR: 4
NV Hard Row to Hoe Pinot Noir, Lake Chelan, $25, QPR: 4
2007 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $35, QPR: 4
2006 Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $35, QPR: 4
2006 Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $40, QPR: 4
2007 Glencorrie Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $40, QPR: 4
2006 Rulo Cabernet Sauvignon, Klipsun Vineyard, Red Mountain, $40, QPR: 4
2008 Cedergreen Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, $17, QPR: 3
2009 Cedergreen Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, $17, QPR: 3
2009 Tildio Viognier, Lake Chelan, $18, QPR: 3
2008 Cougar Crest Grenache Rosé, Walla Walla Valley, $18, QPR: 3
2008 Rulo Viognier, Walla Walla Valley, $18, QPR: 3
2008 Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Franc, Columbia Valley, $28, QPR: 3
2007 Dowsett Family Winery Devotion (Rhone-style red blend), Columbia Valley, $28, QPR: 3
2006 Skylite Cellars Syrah, Columbia Valley, $28, QPR: 3
2007 Skylite Cellars Syrah, Minnick Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $28, QPR: 3
2007 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Syrah, Red Mountain, $32, QPR: 3
2007 SYZYGY Syrah, Walla Walla Valley, $33, QPR: 3
2007 Sinclair Estate Syrah, Columbia Valley, $35, QPR: 3
2008 Buty Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $35, QPR: 3
2007 Woodward Canyon “Artist Series” Cabernet Sauvignon, Washington State, $49, QPR: 3
2007 Cooper Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $50, QPR: 3
2009 Amavi Semillon, Walla Walla Valley, $20, QPR: 2
2009 William Church Viognier, Conner Lee Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $21, QPR: 2
2009 Doyenne Rosé (Rhone-style blend), Yakima Valley, $23, QPR: 2
2009 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Roussanne, Horse Heaven Hills, $24, QPR: 2
2007 Camaraderie Malbec, Crawford Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $25, QPR: 2
2008 CAVU Malbec, Columbia Winery, $30, QPR: 2
2007 Cougar Crest Cabernet Franc, Walla Walla Valley, $36, QPR: 2
2007 Doyenne Syrah, Yakima Valley, $39, QPR: 2
2007 Pepper Bridge Winery Merlot, Walla Walla Valley, $50, QPR: 2
2007 Sparkman Cellars Stella Mae (Cabernet-based blend), Columbia Valley, $42, QPR: 1
2007 Sinclair Estate Vixen (Rhone-style red blend), Columbia Valley, $45, QPR: 1
2005 SYZYGY Saros (Tempranillo/Malbec/Cab), Columbia Valley, $45, QPR: 1
2007 Glencorrie Cuvée Marquis (Bordeaux-style blend), Columbia Valley, $45, QPR: 1
2007 Spring Valley Vineyard Frederick Cabernet Blend, Walla Walla Valley, $50, QPR: 1
2006 Alma Terra Syrah, Minnick Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $54, QPR: 1
2006 Pepper Bridge Winery Pepper Bridge Vineyard Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, $55, QPR: 1
2007 Pepper Bridge Winery Seven Hills Vineyard Red Wine, Walla Walla Valley, $55, QPR: 1

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)
2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot, Columbia Valley, $13, QPR: 5
2007 DaMa Cowgirl Cab, Columbia Valley, $21, QPR: 5

2007 Rulo Syrca Red Wine (Syrah/Cab), Columbia Valley, $15, QPR: 4
2009 DaMa Rosé (Mourvedre/Syrah), Columbia Valley, $18, QPR: 4
2008 DaMa Syrah, Columbia Valley, $18, QPR: 4
2007 Gilbert Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, Wahluke Slope, $28, QPR: 4
2007 Riverhaven Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, River Rock Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, $34, QPR: 3
2006 SYZYGY Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $36, QPR: 3
2009 Shameless Hussy [Hard Row to Hoe] Sangiovese Dry Rosé, Lake Chelan, $15, QPR: 2
2009 Rulo Combine (Sauvignon Blanc/Muscat Ottonel), Evergreen Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $15, QPR: 2
2009 Rulo Rosé (Syrah/Cab), Walla Walla Valley, $15, QPR: 2
2007 Cedergreen Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Columbia Valley, $17, QPR: 2
2009 Cave B Saignée Rosé, Columbia Valley, $18, QPR: 2
2007 Tildio Merlot, Columbia Valley, $27, QPR: 2
2007 Des Voigne Cellars The Duke Red Wine (Zinfandel blend), Columbia Valley, $28, QPR: 2
2007 Riverhaven Estate Syrah, River Rock Vineyard, Walla Walla Valley, $28, QPR: 2
2007 Glencorrie Merlot, Stillwater Creek Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $28, QPR: 2
2009 Davenport Cellars Semillon, Columbia Valley, $19, QPR: 1
2007 Cougar Crest Viognier, Walla Walla Valley, $20, QPR: 1
2008 Tru Rosé (Syrah/Chard/Riesling), Washington State, $21, QPR: 1
2008 CAVU Barbera, Horse Heaven Hills, $30, QPR: 1
2008 Hollywood Hill Vineyards Cabernet Franc, Rattlesnake Hills, $32, QPR: 1
2007 Dusted Valley Malbec, Columbia Valley, $35, QPR: 1
2007 Camaraderie Elegance (Bordeaux-style red blend), Meek Family Vineyard, Yakima Valley, $35, QPR: 1
2007 Smasne Cellars Block 3 Syrah, Lawrence Vineyard, Columbia Valley, $35, QPR: 1

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)
2007 Sweet Valley Double Barrel Red, Walla Walla Valley, $20, QPR: NR
2008 Rulo Birch Creek Chardonnay, Walla Walla Valley, $20, QPR: NR
2009 DaMa Chardonnay, Columbia Valley, $21, QPR: NR
NV Tru Blanc de Blancs, Washington State, $40, QPR: NR
2007 Sinclair Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Walla Walla Valley, $45, QPR: NR

Quality: 2 stars (out of 5)
2007 Tru Gewurztraminer, Celilo Vineyard, Columbia Gorge, $21, QPR: NR


Filed under: American Wine, Barbera, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Five-Bangs For Your Buck Wines, Gewurztraminer, Grenache, Gruner Veltliner, Lesser Known Varietals, Malbec, Merlot, Petite Sirah, Pinot Noir, Red Wine, Riesling, Rose Wine, Roussanne, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Shiraz/Syrah, Sparkling Wine, Tempranillo, Vineyards, Viognier, Washington State Wine, White Wine, Wine Activities/Events, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $10, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25, Zinfandel

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