Drink Local Wine Conference

More insight into drinking or not drinking local

Since the Drink Local Conference the other day, I have been thinking more about the 3rd session which discussed why many people focus on local food and not local wine.  I think it’s a much larger issue–not one of local vs. local but rather one of quality vs. quality.

Working in a retail wine shop that also sells cheese, wild caught seafood and local free range meat and poultry gives me a good perspective on how people view food and wine.  Throwing the idea of local wine out the door, lets just think of quality products. It amazes me when customers come in and spend a premium on either beef or seafood to buy local or wild caught, but then want me to pick out a wine that is $6. Obviously a disconnect between what they expect from food vs. wine (and what they are willing to spend).  They think, and I agree, that wild caught seafood is better for them and better tasting than farm raised.  They don’t hold the same opinion with wine, however. Paraphrasing this typical customer, “It’s $6, it tastes good and I probably wouldn’t know the difference between this and a $20 wine.”  I’m all about drinking what you like, that is what wine IS about, but why not require high quality for all things you ingest?

I think it comes down to how wine is talked about and again a disconnect. Tasting notes for wines usually never talk about how a wine is produced, and frankly for the 2500 wines we carry it’s hard to remember them all.  If people knew that the cost reflected in their wine was related to hand picked, double sorting, extended maceration and barrels versus wood chips they might think twice.  If consumers equated this the same way they do local, organic, free range, etc. you might see a different situation.  But again maybe not, it’s more than a 2 minute conversation explaining the difference between mass produced and artisinal wines.

As a retailer part of that responsibility is on me, educating people about the product they are buying. At the end of the chain though, a lot of times people are set on a fixed price range for vino and you don’t want to up sell them a whole heck of a lot.

Unfortunately my insight stops there as I don’t have a complete solution for local vs. local or quality vs. quality.  The discussion and education needs to continue through the entire “wine chain” if you will, as I am sure it already is in some situations.

Let me know your thoughts.

Cheers!

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Categories: Drink Local Wine Conference, wine industry issues | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Virginia Wine Twitter Smackdown

After the third and final session at the Drink Local Wine Conference we huddled into an adjacent conference room for the Virginia Wine Twitter Taste Off. With an InFocus projector displaying Twitter feeds from the #dlwva & dlwmd hash tags, Virginia and Maryland wineries were poised to present one white and one red wine in this fast paced Social Media showdown.  Well it wasn’t that fast paced, although I hadn’t finished all of the wines by the time we needed to submit our ballots for best red, white, media and consumer wines.  So I guess is better to say that it was fast paced but I wasn’t!

photo courtesy of Dezel Quillan, myvwinespot.com

A lot of my favorite players were in the room including Breaux Vineyards, Pollak Vineyards, King Family, Jefferson Vineyards, Corcoran, and Michael Shaps.  The goal of this was to taste through the wines, tweet about them as you go along and in the end vote for your best. Fun concept!

I started with Tarara Winery, one that I have never been to, but have heard a lot about from fellow bloggers.  Jordan Harris, winemaker at Tarara was on premise to pour his wines and I started with his ’08 Chardonnay. It admittedly wasn’t my style, a bit oak dominated on the nose and front of the palate, but luckily it had plenty of great fruit to go along with it. Next I tried Jordan’s Syrah, a variety that you don’t see too much in VA but is starting to pop up here and there. The Tarara Syrah is done in the Cote-Rotie style, co-fermented with Viognier, I can’t remember the the percentage.  I was very impressed, it was full bodied with lots of dark fruit, and meaty notes with hints of classic Syrah green olive. As much as I liked it I don’t know if I liked $50 worth. Although it was an excellent effort for a non-typical variety in Virginia, $50 is a pretty steep pricetag, in my opinion.

I bounced around the tables a bit, catching up with my friends in the VA wine industry and re-tasting through some of the wines I’ve sampled in recent months.  I made my way over to Breaux Vineyards to taste their ’02 Merlot Reserve and their ’08 Viognier. Trying the latter first, it was a classic VA Viognier with beautiful honeysuckle and apricot notes with a crisp dry finish. Not be a huge Merlot fan, I was impressed with the ’02 Reserve Merlot, and voted for it as the best red wine.  It was dominated with layers of black cherry, plum, leather and hints of mocha. For being 8 years old the structure was still there and presented lively yet smooth tannins.

A few Rose’s were poured but I think the best effort went to the ’09 version Boxwood Winery. Made from Cabernet Franc it reminded me of classic French styles of dry Rose, although made from different grapes. Beautifully clean and crisp with light notes of strawberry, watermelon and hints of minerality and a bone dry finish.

In addition to the Syrah from Tarara the other most interesting variety that was poured was the 2008 Albarino from Chrysalis Vineyards, yes an Albarino.  I thought it was a very nice wine, but stylistically was a bit off from classic versions for the Rias Baixas region of Spain.  Tasted a bit too rich, closer for me to another native Spanish grape, Godello, or even a light Viognier with hints of honey that I was picking up.  It was a good wine don’t get me wrong, and I’m happy to see different grape varieties being tried in Virginia. It was obviously a crowd favorite as it won for best white wine of the day.

The white wine that I voted for was the ’09 Viognier from Pollak Vineyards, a wine that I’ve been following since it was a baby. I tasted this wine out of the tank not long after harvest last October and was as impressed then as I am now. Although still a young wine, it was showing classic flavors and aromas of honey, peach, Asian pear and apricot with the addition of floral notes. Lusciously rich with a refreshing backbone of acidity, the ’09 Viognier will be even better in 6 month to a year.

Here is a complete list of everyone who poured their wines for us…
• Boxwood Winery

• Breaux Vineyards

• Chrysalis Vineyards

• Corcoran Vineyards

• Fabbioli Cellars

• Pearmund Cellars

• Sunset Hills

• Tarara Winery

• Barboursville

• Jefferson Vineyards

• Keswick Vineyards

• King Family Winery

• Michael Shaps Wines

• Chatham Vineyards

• Ingleside Vineyards

• Williamsburg Winery

• Potomac Point (Eastern)

• Veramar Vineyard

• Lovingston

• White Hall

• Pollack

Thanks to the organizers of the events and to all the wineries that came out and poured for us.

Cheers!

Categories: Drink Local Wine Conference, virginia wine, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Drink Local Wine Conference 2010

The second Drink Local Wine Conference took place in Loudon County, Virginia this past weekend at the beautiful Landsdowne Resort. In attendance were bloggers, traditional print media writers, VA wine industry folks, consumers and other members of the wine trade. I had the interesting perspective of being four of the aforementioned attendee types. I as most people in the room am a consumer, I help run my in laws VA winery, I manage a wine shop and I write a wine blog.  The bulk of the conference was focused around three sessions on Sunday followed by a VA wine twitter taste off, aka speed tasting smack down!

The first session, titled Thomas Jefferson was right: The grapes that work best for Virginia was led by Moderator: Richard Leahy, Vineyard & Winery Management magazine. Panelists: Matthew Meyert, Williamsburg Winery; Jennifer McCloud, Chrysalis Vineyards; and Matthieu Finot, King Family Vineyards. I had the perception that the session would revolve around hybrid varieties that have shown to thrive in Virginia versus the typical Vinifera varieties. (some of which also thrive in Virginia) A few of us mentioned after the session that we found it odd that the Chambourcin grape was mentioned, not that it is one I typically enjoy but it is one that shows up in a lot of Virginia wineries.  Jenny McCloud’s passion for Norton was evident as she holds the largest planting of Norton in the world.  Jenny McCloud is also doing great things with typical Spanish varieties such as Albarino, of which hers won the best white wine at the Twitter Taste Off. Brief mentions were made of the grapes that are typically thought of Virginia’s “best”, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and a recent front runner Petite Verdot. There was a general consensus that blending is a key component of making great wine in Virginia (specifically reds) and that Virginia needs to keep exploring grapes that thrive in climates similar to that of Virginia, like Albarino.

The second session, titled Social media: How regional wineries can get the word out was led by Moderator: Michael Wangbicker DWS, CWE. Panelists: Lenn Thompson, New York Cork Report; Jennifer Breaux Blosser, Breaux Vineyards;  and Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon. This session was the highlight of the conference, I think because it had the most interaction with the audience. The key take away was social media is all about engagement versus promotion. Jen Breaux was revered by Lenn and others in the room for “doing it right”, keeping her tweeting about a conversation instead of PR promotion. Whether it is Twitter, Facebook, blogging, or Foursquare, social media is just another tool in the toolbox for the wine industry.

The third and final session titled If local food, why not local wine? was led by Moderator: Dave McIntyre,Washington Post. Panelists: Mary Watson-DeLauder, Lansdowne Resort; Andrew Stover, Chef Wino and Todd Kliman, Washingtonian magazine. This is one I was most looking forward to, but have to say was most disappointed by. Nothing against the speakers, but I felt that the discussion never really got to the heart of the session title. It danced around it and went off on a couple of tangents, maybe because there is no clear answer to the question “why not local wine?”.  The subject of pricepoint came up briefly and I think that is a large part of wine you don’t see more VA wines of wine lists of VA restaurants. The other reason is that a large selection of VA wineries thrive on the tourism part of their business and basically sell out of their wine from the tasting room. Why would you make less money if you didn’t have to, just to get your wine on a wine list.  The reason they should, is for more exposure! That loss in revenue can be chalked up to marketing in my opinion. As a retailer, my VA wine customer is very different from every other customer. People come in for a specific wine that they had a festival, or at the winery and if I don’t have it, they usually don’t want another one, VA or otherwise. It’s quite impressive, that their experience with that particular wine was so powerful.  A lot of times it’s not the fault of the retailer for not stocking it, but more times than not, the winery doesn’t distribute.  I still find it interesting that consumers go out of their way to buy local produce, meat or seafood but don’t extend that passion to their wine.  An interesting point was made after the session by Lenn Thompson I think, that local food portrays a level of quality and local wine hasn’t achieved that status yet.

The best part of the conference was seeing old wine friends and meeting new ones, all of which have a palpable passion for local wine.  The discussions between sessions, at lunch and at dinner were fantastic and were definitely one of the highlights for me.

Stay tuned for my wrap up of the Twitter Taste Off and the dinner Magnolia’s restaurant.

Categories: Drink Local Wine Conference, virginia wine, wine tasting | Tags: , , | 2 Comments