Sunday, July 29, 2012

2012 Wine Bloggers Conference Tips

With the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference fast approaching, I wanted take a moment to offer some advice to the many first-time attendees. This thoroughly un-comprehensive list has some suggestions and tips to ensure a great experience, but also comes from my perspective. In the coming weeks I'm sure others will be putting out their own blog posts with advice, and I urge you to read them as well.

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Back in 2010, I attended the WBC in Walla Walla and was fortunate to have several great bloggers to help me along. Wide-eyed and fresh-faced (well maybe not so much the latter), it was my first time to Washington's wine country, first time meeting so many other bloggers, first time at a conference like that, and first time representing myself as a brand, not just a person. Quite a lot of firsts, no?

The following list is going to meander somewhat, as I list various things I think will help attendees get the most out of Portland's turn at the Wine Blogger's Conference. In the comments section below, please feel free to add in any more tips for attendees.

1. Talk to everyone! - Be social! Remember how social media is an integral part of blogging? It carries over into real life. Have conversations, ask questions, make connections! You'll make lifelong friends and valuable connections.

2. Bring lots of business cards - Seriously I cannot emphasize this enough. Business cards are still vital to getting your brand out there in front of people. Use Moo Cards if you want to be unique. Pack hundreds and watch them disappear! I still have a huge stack from 2010's Conference that I refer to almost weekly.

3. Pack your camera - Whether to record the landscape, conference activities, bottles of wine, or anything else, a camera is truly better than your iPhone or Blackberry. Trust me on this.

4. Do your research - Learn about who you'll be visiting and what wines they produce. Research Portland's vibrant food and wine scene. Read about the history of the Oregon wine industry. Time spent on research will make this experience so much better.

5. Pre-plan! Pre-plan! Pre-plan! - Some things can't be planned, like off-conference pop-up parties. Other things can be and should be planned. Dinner with a group of blogger friends? Plan it. A winery visit? Plan it. What break-out sessions you want to attend? Plan it.

6. SPIT! - Don't be afraid to spit. You'll be around many wine professionals, and there's a reason we spit. Sure it's not the most glamorous or graceful thing, but you will be in front of hundreds of wines (and hundreds of fellow bloggers) so learning how to spit (practice at home with water) will make you look professional and classy. Getting sloppy drunk and passing out in the lobby will do the opposite and it'll harm your brand.

7. Get some rest (on Wednesday and Thursday) - The pace of the WBC is always pretty quick, especially if you're networking and going to outside activities, tastings, and parties. Wednesday and Thursday are good nights to get at least a decent eight hours of sleep if at all possible. Friday and Saturday are marathon days, but they're amazing.

8. Don't forget to eat - Food absorbs alcohol, keeps your energy levels up, keeps you healthy, and tastes damn good! I cannot emphasize enough the importance of exploring the food scene in Portland. From food carts to amazing restaurants like Noisette or Andina, EAT while you're here!

9. Use Twitter/Facebook/Instagram/Tumblr - Be social, document your experience! Use hashtags, including #WBC12 to get that tweet in front of everyone else using Twitter at the Conference. Take pictures of wineries, wines, people, parties, food, anything you want. Share with your attendees! Follow new people, add them on Facebook too!

10. Don't feel the need to blog DURING the conference - I noticed a lot of people trying to blog during Walla Walla's WBC and last year in Virginia, but the quality of most blog posts was lacking. Composing a thoughtful, coherent blog post takes time and focus, so instead of trying to find time and focus during a crazy-awesome four day event, take a lot of notes and compose those posts AFTER the conference.

11. Don't wear perfume/cologne/Old Spice/Axe/etc!! - My friend Pamela over at Enobytes Wine Blog pointed this one out and it couldn't be more true. Non-scented deodorant or ant-perspirant is fine, and we encourage that because no one wants to smell body odor. The problem is (and I experienced this at WBC 10) people who think it's ok to wear any kind of smelly perfume or cologne (men are equally guilty!) when a room full of people want to taste wine. DON'T DO IT!

As you can see, this is a list merely from one blogger's perspective. Call it a distillation of thought based upon both experiencing and observing conferences. It's entirely incomplete and biased towards certain points of view but I hope you find a few nuggets of valuable information to help you get the most out of this year's Wine Bloggers Conference.

Don't forget to find me and say hi!

Beau Carufel

Thursday, July 26, 2012

The Seeker, Wines From Around the World

Have you heard of the wine brand called "The Seeker"? I was sent samples of a few of their wines recently, and looked forward to evaluating them. This brand is seeming to grow in popularity with each month, and their Facebook and Twitter presence could certainly be emulated by others. Whomever manages the social media account does a good job engaging with the fan base, responding to comments, and creating discussion.

The Seeker, as far as I can gather, is another one of those made-up brands. Kobrand acts as negotiant, marketer, and distributor. They have sourced wine from all over the world to create five wines, with the featured three plus a sauvignon blanc and a pinot noir.

Each wine has a character to go along with it, and the story of each revolves around flying machines somewhere in the world. It's a bit cheesy, but still fun to read through each story. Therefore, we can't exactly say this brand has heritage or the authenticity that goes with heritage, but we can say some thought was put into the development. Ever the skeptic, I looked forward to tasting the wines but was wary of the "manufactured-brand effect", where someone comes along, starts a brand with a catchy, hip story, and tries to market the product (which may or may not be of good quality) to us Millennials. Keep reading to see if any thought was put into the actual wines.

2010 The Seeker Chardonnay California: Straightforward bouquet of citrus and tropical fruits along with a touch of butter (diacetyl). On the palate it's clean and smooth with balanced acidity that highlights flavors of lemon zest and tropical fruit. Some creamy, buttery notes are present as well, lending contrast to the acidity. The finish is nice and straightforward, gently tapering away after a few seconds. Serve chilled to enhance the acidity and citrus flavors, for as this wine warms up it becomes more buttery. 13.8% abv. $11 retail.

2009 The Seeker Malbec Mendoza Argentina: Lots of black and red fruit on the nose, also some peppery spice and a touch of alcoholic burn. Still, it's got more than your typical Argentine "blackberry/blueberry jam" nose, and that's to be commended. I liked the impressive tannic backbone which worked to keep the ripe fruit flavors in line, drying the palate out nicely. Also found were secondary flavors of char, black pepper, and earth. A medium length finish full of drying tannin and ripe black cherry flavors is the nice ending touch for this tasty malbec. Stainless steel tanks held the wine during fermentation before it spent a year in French barrels. 14.5% abv. $11 retail.

2010 The Seeker Cabernet Sauvignon Chile: Fruit is sourced from Colchagua and Maipo Valleys in Chile. The nose is typically Chilean, with some green pepper notes, plums, black pepper, and black currant. Soft and inviting on the palate, it showcases ripe blackberry and currant flavors surrounded by nicely integrated tannin. Secondary flavors of tar, tobacco leaf, and dark earth emerge after the wine gets some air. The finish is clean and simple, ending with drying tannin and dusty soil flavors. For an inexpensive cabernet, this is a solid bottle of wine. Aged in French and American barrels for five months. 13.5% abv. $11 retail.

Each of these wines, considering the price, is drinking very well. They certainly won't blow you away in terms of complexity and aren't worth aging, but for $11 a bottle you're getting wines that express a sense of place and varietal typicity. If I had bought them, I'd have no regrets whatsoever. My advice, buy a bottle of each, let the reds open up a bit and keep that chardonnay nice and cold. Serve them during the summer barbecues or casual nights with your buddies.

You fan find The Seeker Wines on Facebook, and follow them on Twitter.

These wines were media samples for review purposes.

Beau Carufel

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trile Wines from

After writing about two fun Italian red wines for a few months ago, they sent me some inexpensive Chilean wines to try as well. Since I started this blog, I've been fortunate to sample a fair amount of Chilean wine and am continually impressed with the quality levels available at such low prices.

Both are around $12 a bottle and made without the use of oak, something which I was very excited to find out. If you haven't yet tried a red wine that's made without oak barrels or pellets/chips, I urge you to find one and give it a go. There's a certain freshness to the wine, a lively character that's hard for me to describe, but the red wines can take on this refreshing character. A good place to start looking for un-wooded red wines is Beaujolais, another place being the Loire Valley. Usually the prices are low, the quality high, and the wines, while different than their oak-aged brethren, retain a fresh drinkability that's easy to fall in love with.

2010 Trile Sauvignon Blanc Valle Central Chile: I'm not sure what is going on with this wine. When I poured my glass and sniffed it, I smelled what can only be described as my old high school locker room. That kind of musty, gym-sock aroma that was very unpleasant. On the palate, all the flavors seemed muddled and masked. Tasting by a group of friends confirmed this, with everyone expressing dislike and confusion at what had happened. It's possible I got a bad bottle, with perhaps some bacterial contamination, so I won't post anything more on the matter. $35.00 on the website.

2010 Trile Cabernet Sauvignon Valle Central Chile: This pours a very pretty deep red, paling ever so slightly towards the rim of the glass. The primary aroma is green bell pepper, followed by an intriguing smokey, salted meat thing. I did get a hint of burning in my nostrils too, despite the listed alcohol being only 13%. On the palate it's pretty smooth cabernet, with green bell pepper flavors and more earthy, meaty flavors coming out. There may be some fruit lurking at the periphery but it was hard to find. This is a perfectly serviceable, simple cabernet to enjoy as that second or third bottle of the night. Drink now. $35.00 on the website.

**Editors Note: The pricing was recently changed on the Trile wines, from around $12 to $35. Apparently there was a pricing error from the people.**

The question is whether these wines furthered the trend of high quality, inexpensive wines from Chile. I think the answer is yes. I suspect the sauvignon blanc is very fun and refreshing to drink, and that I just got a bad bottle. As for the cabernet, at only $12, it's a great wine to have on hand for those casual occasions when you've got multiple bottles open and a backyard full of friends. It's a bit green, with those bell pepper aromas indicating under-ripe fruit, but with a slight chill on the bottle, its perfectly quaffable.

If you haven't checked out the site lately, you should! Residents of California can get free shipping on any purchase of four or more bottles, which is a pretty great deal! To see my earlier post on Italian wines from, click the link.

These wines were media samples.

Beau Carufel

Saturday, July 14, 2012

California Wine Club, Shipment Three

This is the final shipment I received during my review of the California Wine Club, this time with a distinct Rhone theme. Upon opening this latest shipment, I was thrilled to see these two bottles waiting for me. Over the past several years I've become increasingly excited at the potential of California's Rhone-style producers and the chance to try two new wines was very appealing.

The producer of the Trenza and Tangent wines is Niven Family Wine Estates, who also produce Baileyana and other California brands.

2009 Trenza Mourvedre Syrah Grenache: With fruit sourced from Santa Barbara County, I had high hopes for this domestic Rhone-style blend. The bouquet is nice, with cherry and leather notes at first, followed by more subtle garrigue and pepper. I think the grenache dominates to begin, showing as bright red fruit and pepper, before the syrah's earthy, black olive notes kick in. All of this is enclosed by the mourvedre's firm, chewy tannin. I wish for a little more fruit on the finish but it's still a nice wine, one that I would happily pair with barbecue all summer long. As the wine opened up, we all seemed to enjoy it more and more. 14.4% abv. $13.99 via the California Wine Club.

2010 Tangent Voignier: The fruit in this viognier was sourced from vineyards in San Luis Obispo, with some coming from cooler sites and others from warmer sites. It's a pretty wine, with notes of stone fruit and white flowers, along with a hint of minerality. One thing I did notice though was how it smelled somewhat dilute, perhaps an indication of young vines or watering back of the juice. On the palate the pretty stone fruit flavors came through but again tasted somewhat muted and diluted. This is a very, very drinkable wine for the price, around $11to re-order it. I like that it isn't sweet and peach-syrup oriented like a lot of other low-priced viognier's can be. 14.1% abv

In the first two California Wine Club reviews, I was pleased with one wine and not so pleased with the other, however this time I'm pleased with both selections. The Trenza is a fantastic deal at $14, and I would happily buy multiple bottles for the summer grilling season. I liked the Tangent viognier as well, and feel that it would be best when paired with food. For the $11 Wine Club price, it's a bargain sipper that takes you off the beaten path, but not dangerously so.

So, the California Wine Club went 2 for 2 this time. After three shipments, I can see the appeal and popularity of this club, it's a great way to find unique producers. I do think they over-sell a bit, because when you put in producers like Fess Parker and Tobin James, both of which are widely distributed across the country, that dilutes the message (implied or otherwise) of "small, family owned wineries". Still, the wines were of reasonable quality and definitely crowd-pleasers. I'd happily give thePremier Club as a gift to friends or family whom I know enjoy reasonably priced wines multiple times each week.

You can find the California Wine Club on Twitter as @cawineclub and The Boring Wine Guy as @boringwineguy. Bruce Boring is one half of the founding team behind this club, the other being his wife Pam. The California Wine Club Facebook Page is also full of activity and a good place to talk about your experiences. The Boring Wine Guy is also on Facebook. If you use the code "beau12" at checkout, you will get four bottles instead of two. That might be the best deal of the whole club!

This sample pack was made possible by Mom Spark Media.

Beau Carufel

Friday, July 6, 2012

2010 Perez Cruz Côt (Malbec), Exploring Chile's Terroir

In an ongoing effort to explore the diverse soils and climates of Chile, I recently was sent a bottle of Côt (aka   malbec) by the Wines of Chile trade group. We'd been in contact since the most recent Wines of Chile Live Tasting that I blogged about, and I expressed interest in trying more Chilean red wines, especially those from unusual (to Chile) areas. They generously sent out a sample of the 2010 Perez Cruz Côt for me to try, and after waiting for about a month for it to settle down from shipping, I eagerly pulled the cork and dived in, so to speak.

2010 Perez Cruz Côt Limited Edition: While not 100% malbec,this is a blend of 93% Côt, 5% petit verdot, and 2% carmenere. Just goes to show you, Argentina isn't the only place outside of France for malbec anymore! The 2010 Perez Cruz pours a beautiful purple in the glass, that pales towards a nice ruby at the meniscus. The bouquet reveals itself after some vigorous swirls, offering notes of savory smoked meat, menthol, rosemary, and black fruit. I like this a lot better than the Argentine malbecs. On the palate it's offering flavors of leather, black cherry, more herbs, eucalyptus, and dark soil. The tannins are well integrated, holding the flavors together and creating a harmonious finish. 14.0% abv.

Based on the tasting notes, this isn't your typical jammy malbec from Mendoza, as you can tell. The Perez Cruz vineyards are located southeast of Santiago, right in the heart of Chile. From there, the warm, sunny days are mitigated by cool breezes which help rein in the sugar levels in the grapes while still allowing them to achieve phenolic ripeness. The region is called Maipo Alto.

At a suggested retail of $22, you get a very interesting malbec, with different characteristics from most New World examples. It's closer to a rustic Côt, from the Cahors region of France. For that alone, it's worth the purchase price. This would pair very nicely with steak, burgers, and Korean bbq. Look for savory foods to pair with this savory wine.

Here in the USA, it's imported and distributed by South American Wine Imports, so your local shop should be able to bring in a few bottles to try.

This was a sample from the Wines of Chile trade group.

Beau Carufel

Monday, July 2, 2012

Summer of Riesling and #Winechat, A Great Live Tasting

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For riesling fans, this is again the "Summer of Riesling", a month-long festival celebrating one of the world's great grape varieties. I take this as a charge to evangelize about riesling, to educate wine drinkers that it isn't always sweet, as well as to recommend examples that riesling newbies might like. I'm far from an authority though, my own exploration of riesling has been somewhat late in starting.

Most of us have a riesling horror story or two, I'm no different. There are terrible examples of sweet, syrupy, low-quality riesling you can buy from grocery stores, those do a disservice to the grape though. Such wines are how I thought riesling always was, until I tried some "real" examples from Germany several years ago.

I'm lucky to have some riesling-geek friends here in Oregon, most notably Dan and Chas of Wine Is Serious Business, who've introduced me to great wines and great riesling evangelists around Portland.

Last week, during the weekly Twitter chat #winechat, a large group of riesling lovers got together to talk about the Summer of Riesling and of course, about the wines. I was fortunate to get some samples sent, of riesling from Alsace in France, Rheingau in Germany, and Wagram, Austria. I present them from dry to sweet.

2011 Fritsch Riesling Wagram (Austria): Aromas of stone fruit, white pepper, flowers, and wet gravel all combine to create an expressive, fun bouquet. The acidity is high, this riesling screams out of the glass and across your palate. I was able to detect citrus, stone fruit, and more of the firm mineral touch. Out of the three rieslings in the #winechat flight, this seemed to have the most acid and least residual sugar. I loved the texture of this wine, and how it begs for spicy food like curry. The finish is clean and tapers off nicely, lasting for an impressive length of time. $18 srp. 12.5% abv.

2009 Gustave Lorentz Riesling Alsace (France): Compared to the Austrian riesling I tasted first, this is a different wine entirely. The bouquet is much more expressive, showing aromas of honey, white flower, ripe stone fruit, and hints of petrol. I would say that this bouquet is closer to what I expect from a German riesling, it's got some of those familiar notes. The acidity here is much more integrated and less dominating than in the Fritsch, creating a wonderful textural experience. Flavors of nectarine, apricot, grass, and lime all contribute to a wonderful palate experience. A classic pairing would be spicy Thai food or even tempura sushi rolls. $25 srp. 12% abv.

2011 Schloss Schonborn Riesling Rheingau (Germany): As I swirled and sniffed the last riesling of the flight, I felt most "at home", this is the style of riesling I'm most familiar with. The bouquet screams (to me) that it's German, with beautiful notes of slate, lemon zest, honeysuckle, and intriguing white pepper. It tastes simply outstanding, with a perfectly tipped balance between sweet and tart, a tribute to the residual sugar and acidity both. There are some primary flavors of Meyer lemon, white pepper, subtle tropical fruit, and what I imagine a slab of slate would taste like. After you swallow, the finish lasts a good 20 seconds before gently fading away. I'd love to pair this with deep-fried foods, Thai cuisine, or anything with some heat to it. $54 srp. 11% abv.

These three rieslings were excellent, and worth every penny. While $54 or even $25 is a lot to spend on a bottle of wine you may be unfamiliar with, that $18 Fritsch bottle is well worth a little splurge. One sip and any notions you have of a sweet, syrupy concoction will be obliterated in a rush of fresh, clean fruit flavors and vibrant acidity. I'd recommend it (or any Austrian riesling) to people just starting to explore the grape, but who do love crisp, aromatic white wines already.

For more information on the recent #winechat with the Summer of Riesling, here's a good blog from the Austrian Wine USA's Constance Chamberlain. You can tweet with Summer of Riesling @SummerRiesling, or for more detailed information about specific regions, tweet at @AustrianWineUSA or @drinkAlsace.

The wines in this article were kindly provided as media samples.

Beau Carufel