Category Archives: Wine Bloggers Conference

Whirlwind Trip to the Central Coast

My head is still spinning! We are back in Dublin, getting back to our regular routine after having a whirlwind 5 day trip down to the Central Coast wine region. We left last Thursday morning and drove about 2 hours south and found our first winery in the Santa Lucia Highlands wine growing region of Monterey County. We stopped at Pessagno Winery in Gonzales just outside of Salinas. Then we drove about 10 minutes farther south to Hahn Estates in Soledad. Both of these tasting experiences will be written in a future blog. We stopped for lunch in Soledad and had a delicious Mexican meal.

We then hit the road for our destination of Buellton which is about 1/2 hour south of Santa Maria and about 45 minutes north of Santa Barbara, smack dab in the middle of the Santa Barbara Wine Country. We checked into the Marriott Courtyard and had just enough time to unpack and change into something nicer for our anniversary dinner we were about to venture on.

We went to Mirabelle Restaurant located at the Mirabelle Inn, just off the main highway in Solvang. Larry and I were celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary a couple days early due to the fact that we were going to be busy at the Wine Bloggers Conference on the actual day of our anniversary. We looked at the menu and decided to go with the Chef’s Tasting Menu with with the wine pairing. This turned out to be a very delicious meal, and however great the service was, it was a bit rushed and we found ourselves done with our 4-course meal in 1-1/2 hours!

It turned out to be alright since we still had quite the agenda ahead of us with registration and expo with wine tasting back at the hotel. We even had an excursion at 10:00 that evening to Standing Sun Wines where there was a wine tasting of that winery but also over a dozen other wineries were represented there from the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country Association. They had a beautiful display of desserts of which I passed on since we had just had dessert with our meal. After we sampled wines for awhile we then sat outside around their fire pit and enjoyed meeting fellow wine bloggers.

The next two days were filled with wine tastings, both from the U.S. and from around the world; food pairings, seminars, workshops, keynote speaker, excursions to wineries, blog awards, etc. When Sunday morning came around and we finished the last 2-hour workshops we were ready to start heading back north. We only had to go one hour as we were heading to San Luis Obispo. We were going to be staying right in town at a very nice boutique hotel, the Granada Hotel and Bistro. Our room was ready and they let us check in at 1pm! We ordered in room service to our room and watched the final game of the World Cup. We enjoyed this very much as we had been watching a great deal of the games throughout the world cup series. After the game was over we walked around town, did some shopping and found a nice restaurant, Luna Red, where we ordered happy hour snacks and sangrias.

The next morning we left to head back to Dublin with stops at 3 wineries in Paso Robles, lunch and a massage. The wineries we stopped at were Niner Wine Estates, Sculpterra Winery and Sculpture Garden and Derby Wine Estates. Each of these were very different from each other and we really enjoyed our experience at each of them. We had lunch at Berry Hill Bistro in the square. We left Paso Robles around 4pm strategically planned so we would miss most of the work traffic up in San Jose. We got home around 7pm. All the animals were good and very happy to see us. We brought in all the literature and business cards that we acquired over the long weekend and now need to decipher through it all. That will take some time. Keep posted as I will be writing more details about the specific wineries, restaurants and highlights from the Wine Bloggers Conference, #WBC14.



Wine Bloggers Conference 2014

We are getting ready for another road trip. This time we are heading down south to Buellton which is in Santa Barbara County. It’s about 1/2 hour north from Santa Barbara. We are heading there specifically to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference 2014, #wbc14. We went to the first and second wine bloggers conference when they were held up in Santa Rosa. The first year, 2009, they concentrated on the wines from Sonoma County and in 2010 they concentrated on the wines from Napa Valley. We had so much fun and met so many nice and interesting people. This year we are very much looking forward to learning more about the Santa Barbara County wines. We will be doing a lot of tasting wine, pairing wine with food, wine blogging, learning and networking with other wine bloggers.

We are leaving Dublin on Thursday and stopping along the way at two wineries in the Central Coast region. More on those in a later post. We are going to be staying at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott and going out to dinner at Mirabelle Restaurant in Solvang. This restaurant was suggested highly to us by my brother-in-law. After 2-1/2 days at the conference we will end our stay in Buelleton by watching the final Wold Cup game. Once that game is over then we will be heading up to San Luis Obispo to the Granada Hotel. This is a small boutique hotel near the center of town. There we will be celebrating our 34th wedding anniversary. We will most likely have dinner in the bistro at the hotel. On Monday we will drive back up to Dublin stopping at one or two wineries along the way.



You’ve heard of Speed Dating but what about Speed Blogging?

There are 275 wine bloggers in one room here are the Flamingo Hotel.  We just finished lunch and are eagerly awaiting the “speed blogging” to commence.  How this works is that for 6 minutes we have a winemaker come to our table.  We taste the wines, learn about the wines and the winery and winemaker’s philosophy, then have a question and answer period.  I will try my hardest to write a little bit about each winery.  After 6 minutes are up they ring a bell and then the next winemaker comes to our table.  It got kind of crazy but somehow we had 13 different wineries most from Sonoma County come to our table to showcase their wines.

Speed blogging:

1.    Schramsberg, 2006 Blanc de Blancs.  Not huge champagne fans, but this is good.  Schramsberg was the first US made sparkling wine.  Light, refreshing, has bubbles; not much more to say.
2.    2007 Bella Zin with 8% petite sirah, 3% syrah.  Lily Hill Estate, in Dry Creek Valley, a good place for Zins.  $38 each for this.  Raspberries.  OK fruit, but not my style.  My brother-in-law has always liked Bella, but not for Larry and I.  
3.    Twisted Oak Winery, which is in Calaveras County, Sierra Foothills.  $35 per bottle.  Wine is called River of Skulls:  88% Mourvedre, 12% Syrah.  Nice blend, soft, drinkable now, except that it won’t be released for another 3 weeks.  Proprietor is El Jefe, or Jeff.  Go visit.  
4.    Northwest Wine Academy, 2007 Barbera.  No winery came by on this rotation, so Josh H opened this up.  
5.    Fish Eye, 2008 Pinot Grigio, Central Valley, $6.99 each.  Brand launched in 2005.  Good nose, tropical and grapefruit; OK taste.  Lightweight summer wine.  
6.    Line 39, 2007 Lake County Petite Sirah.  39 degrees used to be the name.  
7.    Pinot Evil, pinot in a box, eco-friendly, French.  NV.  3-liter box.  Cheap, but not so bad.  
8.    Cupcake Vineyards.  2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  Nick.  Soledad.  55% Monterey County, 45% Livermore; 85% Cab, plus Merlot, Petite Verdot.  $13.99.  Good value.  (They hired a local cupcake company and had chocolate and strawberry cupcakes for us with their wine inside the buttercream frosting).  YUMMY!
9.    Snows Lake Vineyard.  Think about mountains, clean air, 72% Cab Sauv. 28% Cab Franc.  2005.  Snows Lake “Two”.  Best wine so far, hands down.  Could lay down for a few years.  
10.      Cline Cellars, 2007 Ancient Vine Mourvedre.  Contra Costa County.  $16.  Plums, cherry.  Charlie, winemaker, poured for us.  Even better than the Snow!
11.      Tandem, Chardonnay, 2007.  Greg Lafollete.  Ex-Flowers.  Wife is the power, treats him like a horse, “puts blinders on”.  Partnership.  Manchester Ridge not tasting, clone Dijon 809.  Basket press.  
12.      Foggy Bridge 2007 Chard, organic, SF Bay appellation (Livermore).  Good acid, nice fruit, not a lot of oak, but sour finish that lingers.  100-acre vineyard in Livermore.  $18/ea.  
13.      Bacchus 2008 $35.  Napa.  Steve winemaker, Jill.  Sauvi, Semillon, Birbola fiola blend.  Good stuff, goes with Bouillabaisse.  Best white.  T-shirt:  what would Bacchus do WWBD?