Bicycle Built for Wine: What I want for Mom’s Day & Burning Man!

bikebarIn case you don’t have this leather wine rack for your bike, here’s the way to picnic in style on this bicycle built for two–to have a picnic! Complete with safe storage and travel options for your adult beverages of choice!

Wouldn’t this bicycle be perfect for Burning Man? Or for wheeling around the scenic country roads of wine country? Continue reading

Which wines to serve for a Happy Thanksgiving?

For weeks now, the wine bloggosphere has been dizzy with recommendations for wines to pair with Thanksgiving meals, especially how to find wines that will work with everything from appetizers to turkey to pecan pie!

The answer is: bring a bunch of different wines!

As you can imagine, I am the wine person in our gatherings. I usually bring Continue reading

Wine Blogging Wednesday #66 Meet Sugar High Fridays

This month’s Wine Blogging Wednesday host, Jennifer Hamilton of The Domestic Goddess offers a first dual event between WBW and Sugar High Friday which has been going almost as long as WBW: 66 months vs 62.

The Domestic Goddess suggests the following theme: Your Tenderest Twosome:

“Most meals end with dessert and coffee or a glass of liqueur. The focus on the meal is long since gone, as is the wine. Guests are getting sleepy, hosts are getting antsy about the clean-up ahead of them and no one is paying attention to what they’re eating or drinking anymore. I think this is shameful. Every once in a while, dessert deserves the attention given to a main course…

The proper pairing of a sugary confection with a good wine is a difficult thing to maneuver. I have seen it done a few times in restaurants, once or twice at dinner parties and maybe done it once myself – and I almost certainly managed it by accident. Do you go sweeter with the wine than the dessert or match it? Do you go red or white or ice? Do you try to harmonize regions or go completely off the map (so to speak) with your choice…?

Shf_logo You have the chance to decide all this and more for yourself this month with the first ever joint SHF-WBW Dessert-Wine Pairing Event! All bloggers (food, wine or otherwise) are welcome to participate. Post your entry on Wednesday, February 24.”

So what will I taste and write about? You know I love my ports…and I just received a bottle of Twisted Oak Pig Stai in a recent wine shipment. And then there’s that bottle of Kachina Port on the shelf that I got at the Wine Bloggers Conference. But I have a few other ideas up my sleeve…like a 2002 or a 2006 Lillypilly Noble Blend from AUS which I picked up at Grateful Palate Warehouse sales on the advice of owner Dan Phillips and would be a new wine and a new winery for me. Or I could go with a familiar and local winery, Old Creek Ranch Winery, and try their ice wine, a typed of wine I’ve never had before.

So what will I be in the mood for? Something familiar? or something brand new? Guess now I need to do some research in the dessert department to figure out what I want to pair with what!

Thanks, Jennifer, for offering us a challenge!

P.S. I Love You Presents “Dark & Delicious”

Tonight P.S. I Love You, a Petite Sirah advocacy group led by Jo Diaz, presents “Dark & Delicious” to Petite Sirah and foodie fans who can get to the SF Bay Area tonight,  Friday night February 19, 2010.

I am one of those Petite Sirah fans who thought she could get there. But alas, no. Life intervened–my husband had a major accident and that will curtail our travels and activities for the next three months.

And so instead of joining Petite Sirah fans up there to taste PS from 45 wineries, I will join them via cyber space, tasting and tweeting PS I Love You and a blog post too tomorrow. I pulled from my cellar a Twisted Oak PS 2006 from a recent Twisted Few shipment and winemaker Michael Meagher gave me 2007 Napa PS from Old Creek Ranch Winery for the occasion. (Hmmn, I know Twisted Oak is a member of PS I Love You and I bet El Jefe himself will be there tonight; I wonder if Old Creek Ranch Winery is a member yet?)

And instead of trying all those fabulous foods from the amazing restaurants represented at Dark & Delicious, well, since we can’t leave the house because of that injury to my spouse, the plan is to bring food home from Main Course and Prime Steakhouse.

Oh and if this post makes you want to attend, unless you already have tickets, you’ll have to go with me next year because it sold out a week ago.

A Tale of a Few Conferences: EWBC 09, NAWBC 08 & 09, plus tech tales from WordCamp SF 08, 09 & LA 09, MacWorld 09

I’m not sure whether Reno Walsh, one of the organizers for the Wine Bloggers Conferences, saw the video above yet where I talk about some of my experiences in a video by BKWine at the European Wine Bloggers Conference which I attended as a guest of Enoforum Wines, but he recently emailed me for feedback comparing the EWBC and the NAWBC. (You can also watch the video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyp-TCJx7v)

As others might be interested in hearing some notes comparing and contrasting the various blogging and tech conferences I’ve attended in the past 18 months, I thought I’d expand a little, edit a little, and post those notes here–with an emphasis on the three Wine Bloggers Conferences I’ve attended of course.

Overall I suspect what’s MOST IMPORTANT to me and to many of my fellow tech oriented conference attendees is reliable wireless–being able to get on-line to tweet, blog, facebook, all that fun social media stuff when we want, are inspired or have the time.

The Wine Bloggers Conferences have failed on this three times now. Thankfully, at the EWBC, my host Enoforum Wines came through by providing Jo Diaz and I portable wireless devices which come with minutes. Jo used hers extensively; I had better luck getting on-line in my hotel rooms then she did–I admit I wasted way too much time on it, especially at the hotel where the EWBC was held. Too often I was trying to get on-line when I would have preferred attending the conference. I did end up paying for internet my last night in Lisbon: 12 hours for about $25 US.

At MacWorld in SF last January 2009 I found it was somewhat reliable around the Moscone conference center but my best bet was getting a press pass and getting online there–they knew enough to make sur ethat if anyone could get on-line it should be the press! I imagine they’ll ahve it dialed in for 2010–not sure yet if I’ll be there to see.

SF WordCamp 2008 and 2009 had PLENTY so we could all have as many windows open doing as much as we wanted all at the same time. Somehow they’ve been able to handle the needs of 700 tweeters blogging and bloggers tweeting; unfortunately, LA WordCamp did not quite have enough but the main problem was that we got kicked off if we didn’t upload anything after 10 minutes. I tracked down someone who could address that so the wireless worked much better in the afternoon.

IN DEPTH ED: At EWBC, I loved the day where we went on the cork forest tour with lunch and tastings followed by a visit to a cork plant. The day offered less drinking and tasting but lots of learning and camaraderie. This intensive, deep learning experience that really stuck with me, and others as well.

GRAND TASTING: As I mentioned in the video, I loved the grand hosted tasting Charles Metcalf did at EWBC. This should be a part of every WBC. Since the next WBC is in Walla Walla Washington, maybe they should have someone who really knows Washington and/or Oregon and/or Canadian wines. Or hey, why not Metcalf and Portuguese wines? Metcalf was fabulously entertaining…and I’d love to taste more Portuguese wines!

SESSIONS: At the EWBC 09, I admit I was very jetlagged Saturday morning and trying to get on-line in my hotel room,  and so I missed the first morning sessions Saturday. I missed Friday’s sessions completely as I arrived Friday evening for dinner (about 11pm). I feel like I got more out of the conference sessions themselves at the NAWBC. I think they were more sophisticated, but then again I could have been too jetlagged to get much. I learned more from the sessions in 2008 but then I was still very new to blogging, social media, and wine back then (I’m still new but not nearly!)

SESSIONS 2 I missed Wine Academy of Spain Esteban Cabeza’s sherry, port and madeira tasting on Friday at EWBC as I was enroute but he kindly gave me a brief tutorial. These wines blew my mind.  The NAWBC should definitely consider having him do his presentation at the NAWBC in WA as these wines are unknown and unappreciated by many in the US.  I am still puzzling over madeira and sherry. Maybe if they were more appreciated here, good ones could be found more easily. (I just found an excellent Solera 1847 oloroso sherry from a local Henry Wine Group distributer. He admitted I couldn’t even buy it around here–I was able to buy it via a tasting at a local restaurant). It’d be great to have some American examples as well–I’d love to try Twisted Oak’s Pig Stai with a Port from Portugal.

KEYNOTES I loved the NAWBC keynotes in 2008 (Alice Feiring and Gary Vaynerchuk) and 2009  I enjoyed having a lunchtime keynote or morning like in 2009–Barry Schuler was unexpectedly brilliant.

BEST? I appreciated in 2009 just relaxing and enjoying the incredible dinner and wine and more intimate gathering and company at Pine Ridge after a long stimulating day instead of having a keynote! The meal at Pine Ridge was one of the best I’ve had in my life.

GIFT BAGS The gift bags at EWBC were slim compared to NAWBC but a lot of the stuff in the NAWBC bag was just “stuff” that I basically recycled.

BRINGING IT HOME 1: Since I live in California and can drive there and back, I’ve been able to bring lots of wine home, open bottles to taste with more leisure and samples.  At EWBC I didn’t know how to get any of the wines and bring them back. I went to a grocery store and was overwhelmed and didn’t see much that I had tasted. While in Portugal, I tasted all these amazing wines that now I can’t find in my hometown in California!

BRINGING IT HOME 2 One of the best things a winery did in my three conferences: Michel-Schlumberger gave bloggers who went there on the wine hike a 50% discount; most people on the tour took them up on the offer. I’d encourage the wineries to go even deeper with discounts knowing that we’ll tweet, talk, taste, blog about the wines. So in the gift bags, maybe have a coupon code for deeply discounted wines. Not everyone is swimming in free samples (or wants to be).

BLENDING: This didn’t happen at EWBC or NAWBC but I’ve noticed a lot of interest in blending and blending activities on twitter. I know some WBC participants went to Twisted Oak to do some blending before the conference and that sounded like great fun. I think it would be a blast to do a blending activity/exercise/tasting as an official part of a WBC and EWBC too. I think I would learn a lot about wine/winemaking in the process and it would be fun. We could do it as teams–not self-selected teams but random so we’d meet new people–then we could try and rate the other team’s wine and figure out what was in it!! It would be even better if we could get a bottle of the blend to take home (for free or discounted). Maybe a few of the area wineries would be interested in hosting something like that.

I sent along some other ideas as well but I think 1200 words is enough on this subject!

Halloween Poem, Video, Wine: Scary Smelly Skeleton Pirates on a River of Skulls!

Last year I led some writing workshops in my son’s class. His group wrote a poem, “I am a Scary Smelly Skeleton Pirate” which my son and I turned into this YouTube video. Here’s the text to the poem and here’s two more Halloween oriented poems from that workshop.2halloween07

And here we are as un muy pequeno calavero with Art Predator aka Ms Frizzle of the Magic School Bus fame.

River of Skulls: the perfect wine for Halloween & Dia de los Muertos & more

Twisted Oak's "River of Skulls"Yep, Twisted Oak’s River of Skulls: This is the wine you need for Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and maybe for all the sinners on your list: Twisted Oak’s River of Skulls, a mourverde with a little syrah thrown in.
from Twisted Oak in Calaveras County CA

This is a special creature, this wine. Sorry to say that unless you have a trip planned to Calaveras county, you’re out of luck. You can get on the list now for next year! Sign up here.

While my favorite blend on Earth has to be GSM (grenache/syrah/mourvedre), seeking out a mourvedre– “the sinner” in all its wild gamey glory–seems perfect for this time of year. And for my money, I’m going for Twisted Oaks “River of Skulls” which conveniently arrived a few weeks ago in my “Twisted Few” allotment!

I had the amazing opportunity to taste this wine at last year’s Wine Blogging Conference 2008 and it wowed the socks off of me. (OK, I admit, I’m a sucker for mourvedre!) This year, El Jefe aka Jeff Stai served it up during the live blogging portion of the 2009 Wine Bloggers conference. This wine not only wowed us bloggers but in recent competition and tastings, it’s done well: they just got wordfrom Twisted Oak in Calaveras County CA from Wine Enthusiast magazine that the 2006 Spaniard will receive a score of 92 points, and the 2007 River of Skulls will receive a 90 point score, in their December issue. Congrats to Jeff and crew!

For more poetry, jump on the TRAIN! For more about wine, head over to Wine Predator! That’s where I plan to aggregate my wine posts and where I will post first from the European Wine Bloggers Conference and from the Enoforum Tour of the Alentejo region of Portugal. (Oh, you didn’t hear about that? You didn’t hear my joyous noise? Go here to learn more.)

There is some ghostly formatting going on here–just attribute it to the hi-jinx of los calaveras!

WBC 2009 Day 1: Live blogging & tasting, Wine Blogger Awards, Sonoma wines & more!

Art Predator ready to live blog at WBC 09I was up and at ‘em first thing Friday morning July 24 helping Zephyr Wine Adventures and Open Wine Consortium get registration going for all the excited participants of the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference.

The Flamingo Hotel lobby was hustle bustle with cases of wines rolling through for set-up in one banquet room for the sponsor reception, and lunch and more wine ready to go in another.

People recognizing each other from twitter and blog handles embraced like the old friends they’ve become via social media–even though many of them had never met in person. Others renewed friendships made at last year’s conference and all the while laptop keys were clicking and iPhones popping.

Art Predator Sports a Spicy Zin Tattoo; photo by John CorcoranAfter the first rush was registered, lunchtime was crazy in a different way: I was being pulled in so many directions!

Getting a Spice Zin tattoo from @insidesonoma…

Tasting Biodynamic wines from Bonny Doon and talking kids with winemaker and President for life Randall Grahm…

Telling the Bottle shock folks how much I enjoyed their movie and appreciated their fine cast…

Collecting a few vinfolio wine tasting books and suggesting they attach a pen to the ribbon bookmark…

Grabbing some mediocre lunch with some exceptional truffles from Sonoma County Winegrape Commission  (who needs lunch anyway when there’s truffles and so much wine to enjoy? ummm, me?)…

Checking back in to make sure registration continued to go smoothly…

Looking out for peoWBC 09 American Wine Blog Awards; Tom Wark presentingple who needed to get registered–and people crashing the party! (You know who you are! VinTank’s Asheley Bellville was certainly eyed with suspicion until we knew who she was!)

After lunch, we settled around tables for the Live Wine Blogging, but since most of us were having difficulties getting online, the American Wine Blogging Awards, organized by Tom Wark of Fermentation and sponsored by Mutineer Magazine, came first. Winners received as a trophy beautiful etched decanters by Reidel.

The winners were announced back in March so there were no surprises in who won trophies. Now who received the trophies and how they did it was a bit more fun and listening to them say a few words was well worthwhile–especially since Cellar Rat provided us with some of his stellar syrah to toast the winners with! (One of the best of the weekend, according to Ken Payton on Sunday.)

American Wine Blog Award Winners

Wineblogawards According to Tom Wark, on his blog Fermentation,

“The winners in the seven categories each had to be nominated first, then be chosen as finalists by a panel of judges, then be judged both by the public as well as by the same set of judges. There was most certainly some vetting going on.


Best Wine Writing On a Blog
VINOGRAPHY

Best Graphics or PresentationWBC 09 wineblogAwardsSM
THE GOOD GRAPE

Best Single Subject Blog
LENNDEVOURS

Best Business/Industry Blog
THE WINE COLLECTOR

Best Winery Blog
MICHEL-SCHLUMBERGER’S “BENCHLAND BLOG”

Best Wine Reviews
BIGGER THAN YOUR HEAD

Best Overall Blog
VINOGRAPHY

Alder Yarrow of Vinography acceptance speech came to us via a video due to show up on YouTube and which I will link to ASAP!

The sponsors of the American Wine Blog Awards are
RIEDEL CRYSTAL
MUTINEER MAGAZINE
OPENWINE CONSORTIUM

Next up: Live Wine Blogging. Unfortunately, the wifi continued to be a challenge for many, including me. In fact, getting online was a challenge on and off all weekend as many of us wanted to have several windows open at a time in order to blog, tweet, and who knows what all else. The upshot is I actually lost several live blog posts as well as tweets and finally resorted to taking notes in word. Others used old fashioned pen and paper, but somehow I didn’t have any nearby when I was in need!

For the Live Blogging event, the idea was that every five minutes a new wine and winery would come to the table and pour so we could taste, tweet, and blog while listening to the wine rep who was often the wine maker. Then, rotate! Next wine please! Continue reading

Twisted Oak’s River of Skulls Mourvedre for all the sinners on your list

River of Skulls: the perfect wine for Halloween & Dia de los Muertos & more

Twisted Oak's "River of Skulls"

Twisted Oak’s River of Skulls

This is the wine you need for Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, and maybe for all the sinners on your list: Twisted Oak’s River of Skulls, a mourverde with a little syrah thrown in.

Not just because the bottle itself is impressive. Which it is–the graphic was created by El Jefe’s son Andrew Stai  when he was 16, with all that intensity for which 16 year old boys are known. (Andrew, by the way, has made it to 20). The punt of the bottle is sensually curved and ribbed, asking you to run your finger around its rim. The shape of the bottle itself calls out to be held, grabbed, carressed, and slugged. Really. It is the perfect wine for a pirate and begs for a candle when it is downed and out.

I first tasted this wine with El Jefe at Doug Cook’s birthday celebration at the Wine Blogger’s Conference last weekend at Santa Rosa.  We were talking between pours and he pointed out the bottle which I’d been admiring for awhile, not even knowing it was his wine, or a mourverde (recall my fondness for Quivira’s? Or even better, the RBJ 2002 theologicum mataro? Now that’s a wild wine…)

So El Jefe opened it up lickety split and poured. Considering the powerful wines that had crossed my palate from Doug Cook’s cellar that night, it stood its ground (of course, mourverdre will do that for me!) There was a some left in the bottle so El Jefe let me take it home–lucky me!

It was the first red wine I enjoyed when I returned–with a dinner of cioppino and brown rice and a salad with blue cheese, walnut, and apple. Some lovely musky earth and spice balances the fresh lively raspberries. Certainly enough to wake the dead or to serve them on your altar. Saints and sinners will appreciate this offering.

from Twisted Oak in Calaveras County CA

from Twisted Oak in Calaveras County CA

This is a special creature, this wine. Sorry to say that unless you have a trip planned to Calaveras county, you’re out of luck. You can get on the list now for next year! Sign up here.