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2 September, 2016

Most Memorable Wines from the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference: Part 1

Comments : 9 Posted in : Cider, Red Wine, Sparkling Wine, White Wine, Wine, Wine Bloggers Conference 2016 on by : The Gourmez

This was my third year attending the Wines Bloggers Conference (WBC), and I feel like I’m getting the hang of the endless wine sampling challenge that it is — three to four days full of it, if you add an excursion! I’m still forgetting hair ties to assist with the spitting, though. Maybe I need to chop it all off again?

That’s about as short as my hair gets.

That’s about as short as my hair gets.

With so many wines to consider in so little time, a lot of them blend together. It takes a special bottle to leave an impression. Two weeks later, I know these wines are unique if I’m still thinking about them! That doesn’t mean they were the best wines I had over the Wine Bloggers Conference weekend, but they are the ones I’m most likely to remember in the future. Give them a try and let me know if they take up permanent residence in your memory, too!

Obligatory disclaimer: Each product mentioned below was sampled either as part of my paid conference registration or at complimentary related or concurrent receptions.

Left Coast Cellars Queen Bee Bubbly 2015 – 4.5/5

(Purchase)

Left Coast Cellars

Made from estate-grown white pinot noir grapes in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, this sparkling wine blew my mind. It’s very distinctive, likely because Left Coast Cellars uses their estate honey during the second fermentation, and you can definitely taste that honey in your mouth. They also use encapsulated yeast, and I have no idea what that’s supposed to produce, but it sure looks fun in the bottle. Go ahead; zoom in on that bottle shot. You’re thinking of the ‘90s classic soda Orbitz, now, aren’t you? Well, don’t run screaming after that trip down memory lane, because this drink is delicious with full bubbles, donut peaches, and butterscotch that go down much drier than you’d expect.

Bokisch Terra Alta Vineyard Albarino 2015 – 4.5/5

(Purchase)

Bokisch Vineyard Albarino

Albarino was everywhere in our Lodi glasses, and I was more than happy to see it, as Spanish grapes are some of my favorites. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the one I thought best was from Bokisch Vineyards. It’s certainly not the oldest Lodi winery, producing its first vintage in 2001, but it is the first to focus on Spanish varietals. Markus Bokisch’s love of the grapes developed during his summers spent in Spain.

Even during the fast pace of speed tasting, I had to stop and linger over this albarino for a while, as its intense orange blossom nose demanded attention. It reminded me of a refreshing cider, and of the shock of being thrown into a pool with sun-hot skin, then giving in to the delicious chill.

Speaking of cider…

Palate Cleanser:  Pacific Coast Dry Apple Cider with Pinot Grigio

(Website)

Pacific Coast Apple Cider

Pic from the brand

I enjoyed getting to see the new Scotto Cellars tasting room in downtown Lodi during one of the after parties, and while it was fun to try the Masthead wine blended by my fellow WBC bloggers (Cindy of Grape Experiences, Melanie of Dallas Wine Chick, and Nancy and Peter of Pull That Cork), what I enjoyed most that evening was the Cider Brothers’ Dry Apple Cider with Pinot Grigio. It awakened my palate just when I’d given up hope on my poor little taste buds. The bubbles explode over the tongue, and the sharp apple taste and appealing acidity combine with pinot grigio’s sweetness to make a stellar refresher.

Seeing my excitement over the cider, Michael Scotto quickly set me up with a flight of their new William Tell selections. The Apple Mango Muscat, Strawberry, and Wild Cherry were all fun to taste, with the mango option surprisingly appealing (I have a history with muscat…a dark one)—

William Tell Ciders

—but that pinot grigio cider is the one that gets the credit for bringing my senses back to life and the one I’ll be seeking out soon.

Concannon Mother Vine Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 – 5/5

(Website)

Concannon mother view wine harvesting

Thaddaeus of the Minority Wine Report harvesting from the Concannon mother vine.

We heard a lot over the weekend about the old zinfandel vines that Lodi could boast of — I’m pretty sure every vineyard has the oldest one around! But the Concannon’s claim over in Livermore that they have the oldest cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay grapes in the state is possibly the most impressive, and we got to pluck grapes and press juice straight from those mother vines!

Grape juice at Concannon Vineyards

Over 80% of California’s cabernet sauvignon grapes are clones from Concannon Vineyards, and lucky for us, the family is still producing wines straight from those storied branches. The 2013 vintage floored me with an initial smokiness that deepened into candy worth savoring, the type purchased at the corner store on the walk home after school as a child. It went super well with the tri-tip on our dinner plates. Green bell pepper and dried iris and lavender came out as we lingered over the glass.

Dining at Concannon Vineyards sunset

Can you blame us for lingering here?

The Lucas Winery Chardonnay 2001 – 4/5

(Website)

Lucas winery chardonnay

The Lucas Winery knew how to stand out in a crowd, bringing their 2001 chardonnay to the speed tasting — yes, that means this bottle had been aged 15 years! The Lucas family believes that quality chardonnays age well, and they wanted to show off their stuff. The reactions online ranged greatly from taster to taster, but for me, this wine begged for cheese, either aged blue cheese or brie wrapped in bacon. I couldn’t imagine anything going better with those and this wine than simple table grapes. I would love to try one of their younger vintages to compare.

Here ends Part 1 of my most memorable wines from the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference. You may have noticed that I honed in on the white wines, which I think was as much the result of the heat of a Central Valley summer as it was the winemakers’ desire to show off what else they could do than zinfandel, the varietal Lodi is most known for.

brix tasting wine grapes ironstone

Staving off the heat under a tent, guessing grape sugar contents, at Teichart Ranch.

Still…I wish I had had more zinfandel! A contingent of bloggers got to experience the Lodi Native project firsthand, a celebration of zinfandel in the area, and I am so jealous. Here’s Joe of Wine Country Getaways great write-up on the experience.

Part 2 will be up early next week. I will also be writing about the Livermore Valley pre-excursion in a separate post, as well as the Wine Blogger Awards dinner, during which I got to dine with Barbara St. Amant Spencer, the original co-founder of St. Amant winery.

St. Amant Lodi Native Zinfandel

The St. Amant Lodi Native wine.

In the meantime, I have my memories of these wines to sustain me…

What Lodi and Livermore wines are forever ingrained in your brains?

These beverages were sampled August 10–14, 2016.

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