Posts Tagged ‘kopriva’
Seeing California Chardonnay in a New Light: #Chardonnay Day Greenhouse Tasting, Attendees Top Picks. Up Next – Aug 18 Pinot Day
May 26th was international #Chardonnay day, organized by wine social media entity Rick Bakas. I am a believer in the varietal focused Live tastings, so to support of this, I held a private tasting of selected, 12 distinct producers, showcasing a variety of regions.
Rick did an excellent job covering the results in his article recap. Some highlights:
- Reach was over 4 million people.
- 29 MILLION impressions
- 12,000 related tweets
So…as a chardonnay producer, why didn’t you take part?
Combating Chardonnay Backlash
As this event drew near, I was observing some murmurs of backlash. One wine writer/blogger whom I respect and consider more knowledgeable than myself, reacted on Twitter by saying “celebrating Chardonnay day was like celebrating McDonalds.” Wow, jaw dropping, how did we get here? Even if you took the opinion that California produces no good chardonnay (somehow out of the thousands of Vintners)….you are writing off this varietal and all of the amazing French, widely varying styles? The Grand Cru white Burgundies? Steely, minerally Chablis? Really?
If there is one thing I stand for as a wine writer, its pursuit of assisting others in their wine education by exposure, and ending some of the inane myths. Calfornia chardonnay has come a long way, as highlighted by Chronicle wine writer Jon Bonne’ in Chardonnay regains respect – now to maintain it.
It’s slightly ironic – a wine writer & evaluator who often expresses support for lesser known varietals, rushing to the aid of Chardonnay? The ‘Rhonehound’ himself battling against the ABC (anything but chardonnay) crowd? The United States Number One white varietal hardly needs my help, right? Don’t get me wrong, I can’t stand vineyards in Europe have ripped out traditional unique varieties to plant this chardonnay. I scratch my head at very hot regions growing chardonnay, when the vineyard would do so much better with whites intended for warm climates.
But, this reaction, and some of the feet dragging I was also getting from industry friends in supporting the tasting, made me all the more determined to provide some perpective. Much of the ‘ABC’ backlash, in my experience, comes from exposure to only the big California, oaky butter bombs, like the popular Rombeur chardonnay. This style has earned the term ‘cougar juice’ – its a valid style, and if you like it, great. But what a shame to write off one of the most diverse white wines there is, just because of one style.
Chardonnay is like a blank canvas, and responds, expresses well the many options available to a winemaker from fermentation vessels (new oak, neutral oak, concrete, stainless), aging vessels (same), primary and secondary fermentation options, climate, ripeness, clone selection and so many other variables. If you like a steely sauvignon blanc, or a modest Rhone white blend, odds are there are styles of Chardonnay you will like.
If you are one of those “real wine drinkers don’t drink white” or “I don’t drink white” …your journey of exploration and awareness has far to go. Once you truly open up the world to white wine and its hundreds of varieties and styles, globally, and its more subtle nuances, your world is forever changed. Never stop trying, tasting, or exploring.
The Producers I Gathered
At first, not knowing how many I would get for this tasting, I extended offers to friends and producers I liked. As word got out and the day got closer, last minute requests flooded in, and I had to say no to some, not because I didn’t like the wines, but I had space constraints, keeping the audience to around 80 people, wanted focus, and most importantly, diversity, by region and style. I had originally planned only six producers.
This is the great lineup I ended up:
- Rivino Winery from Mendocino poured their stainless/no ML chardonnay.
- kopriva – 2009 Carneros unoaked Chardonnay paired with Hog Island Oysters.
- Inspiration Vineyards – 2008 & 2009 Russian River for comparison
- VineCrowd (representing k. furtado & Hirsch) VineCrowd is a new site that provides wine drinkers with the opportunity to connect directly to a handfulof cutting edge, independent wineries through a user-friendly social web driven website. Poured the 2009 Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay and the k. furtado Bien Nacido Chardonnay.
- Donelan Wines poured their 2009 Donelan Nancie Chardonnay (also with Vinecrowd.)
- Gloria Ferrer – Started with a splash of Blanc de Blanc bubbles, then their new release 2008 Carneros Chardonnay.
- Old World Winery 2008 Chardonnay, Tweek Block.
- Jordan 2008 & 2009 Chardonnay.
- Vintage Wine Estates Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast Vineyards, and Windsor Vineyards RRV.
- Chamisal Vineyards from San Luis Obispo: -Chamisal Vineyards (Edna Valley) – 2010 Stainless Chardonnay and 2008 Estate Chardonnay-Pine Ridge Vineyards (Napa Valley) – 2008 Dijon Clones Chardonnay (Carneros)
You can view a more detailed 2 page spreadsheet that attendees received that have more notes on each wine, here on Google Docs.
Event Feedback – A Huge Success
I have been writing and discussing regularly that wine tasting events need to evolve to new formats. Based on feedback both from attendees and producers, and we may have hit on one here. Since the event was private and went to mostly friends, most of the crowd was very knowledgeable, with a heavy mix of industry.
Feedback was gushing next day. A PR wine veteran shared they had been reluctant to come and came away with a completely fresh perspective on California chardonnay. Many echoed similar. Producers expressed they were very happy with the very high level of enthusiasm and sincere interest. The greenhouse was abuzz with energy and excitement. It was one of the most lively tastings I had observed in some time. Most of the photos are courtesy of Damon Mattson Photography – you can see the whole Facebook album here.
We couldn’t have fit any more people inside. I had expected people to come in waves, but for the most part they clustered around the same time. Space got a bit tight, and noise a bit loud, but neither became unmanageable. To accommodate more people – additional space outside the greenhouse, and/or two different times would be needed. I am examining a number of tweaks for the next event.
The Top Picks By Attendees
With 12 producers and 17 wines, not everyone tasted through them all. (Self included.) There were several surprises for me, and some wines I really liked I had not had before. My personal favorite of the ones I tried was the Donelan 09 Nancie. Twenty four hours of skin contact gave great aromatics and texture, the wine maker Tyler exercises restraint with oak, and produced and elegant, unique expression of Chardonnay. I was pleasantly surprised with the new 2008 Gloria Ferrer. Their still wines are made for food pairings, and thus their Chardonnay is often more robust, but this year had greater balance than previous vintages, and I thought was an excellent value. The Rivino stainless, no malo chard was also a standout. Unoaked chard can sometimes be a bit too bright and austere, but this had excellent round fruit and weight.
I hope to do a review of all the wines, as I only got to about half, and had little time to really focus. Each producer donated a bottle to that effect.
Below is a chart of the attendee picks. I almost hate to publish top picks, as by design, these were all quite different, and feedback from attendees was that it was hard to pick.
For this ‘contest’ attendees picked their top 3. Not everyone voted, (only
about 35% did) and as mentioned, not everyone tasted through all 17 wines poured. I will streamline consumer feedback for the next event with improved handouts, and perhaps may use simple scores of 1-10.
The chart is simple: it shows the number of votes each wine received as an attendees’ #1, 2 or 3 vote. As you can see, the votes are very spread out, with all wines receiving some votes.
‘Total Score’ is the unweighted total number of votes. The ‘Winner’ was determined by the ‘Weighted Score;’ 3 points for a #1, 2 Points for #2, 1 point for #1. I also highlighted in gray, the top 3 in each ranking.
1. kopriva : No matter how you slice the data kopriva was the favorite of the day. (I have always been a big fan). This wine is a direct opposite of a California cougar juice. The kopriva team were also brilliant to pair it with Hog Island oysters, who’s briny minerality make it shine. Indeed, in bragging about to kopriva to a friend once, she thought it was decent, but a bit plain for her. We then paired it with some oysters, and she fell in love too.
kopriva garnished 22 percent of the #1 picks, as well as the highest #2. Weighted or unweighted, they had the top overall score – bravo!
2. Donelan 09 Nancie chardonnay: Their inaugural release, inched out a #2 choice. The 2nd highest weighted score.
3. Hirsch 09 : The Hirsch 2009 had the 3rd highest weighted score.
From here the numbers quickly clump, again reflect a wide like factor of all the wines. Pine Ridge, Chamisal, Rivino, and Gloria Ferrer also did well.
What’s Next – Pinot Day, August 18th – Taking Applicants
As I did with Chardonnay, I will be seeking a certain profile of Pinot. There has been moderate wine press recently by Jon Bonne’, Jancis Robinson and others, discussing Pinot Noir starting to return to its more elegant form. Over the years Pinot has crept up in color and alcohol, over ripened and over extracted, chasing the new World Palate, and trying to lure less knowledgeable drinkers weened on Cabernet, who think there is something wrong with red wine that is light in color.
I am looking for Pinot that is more reflective of the vintage, terroir, and is balanced, with good acidity. If you are a Pinot producer that fits this, and would like to pour, or have someone represent you and pour, please contact me. If I am not familiar with your wine, I may request a sample prior to accepting. Right now we are focused on OR and CA, but I would love Pinot from any region and importer that fits the targeted intent.
I also intend to lead and organize a Rhone varietal tasting this fall, on behalf of the Rhone Rangers.
Next Event – Venue Tweaks
During the event, I thought there were a few glitches and areas of improvement:
Parking: Thanks to last minute unexpected rain, one side of the road was bad for parking, and despite warnings in the email update, AAA pulled out 4 cars! Winter tastings and parking will be a challenge in the winter I will need to address, as both sides of the road become unparkable in wet season.
Temperature: Luckily we had a normal Russian River summer evening and the weather cooled down. That is normally the case, but a summer heat spike out of the norm, could impact our Pinot day tasting.
Twitter Coverage: All in all things came out well, but there is always room for improvement. I had a lot to do to pull this off and get my place ready, and I ran out of time on a few things I had planned. Technical glitches prevented me from projecting the Twitterfeed. AT&T works poorly on the farm, so I had extended wifi coverage to reach the Greenhouse, but many people were not aware. One producer shared disappointment, they only saw their brand mentioned once. I was so busy, and I think people were so engaged, social media coverage became secondary to face to face interaction. Personally, I only had time to Tweet twice! There is also the challenge that people know the hashtag, secondary hashtag, and your Twitter handle. I will improve signage and communication next time, but people don’t often read details. More check-in help would also be useful.
Wine Sales: I’d like to explore permits so wineries could take orders. Again, the cost must be low. Wineries don’t want to pay table fees, and consumers don’t want to pay high entry fees; so keeping costs low is a part of this. Even just selling a small amount of wine, helps offset the ROI for the winery for the event. (Time, travel, wine.)
Crowd Breakdown: I’d like to perhaps divide the tasting into two times and groups, and perhaps start with a Trade (Retail, restaurant, distribution) and Media Tasting, and then an everyone else. Part of the problem is that despite all the events I host; I haven’t done a good job creating a trade list – something I will need to work on.
Thoughts and Feedback
I’d love any comments, ideas and suggestions. Also if you were one of the 80 attendees or 12 producers pouring, share your thoughts and comments.
There is a growing new phenomenon that combines wine tasting and social media – virtual tastings. There are numerous ways to do these, but the concept is consistent. People all over the state, country, even the world, participate in sharing wine. Sometimes its via the same producer, with samples sent to media, sometime its for a winery sales training or wine club, sometimes its recognition and celebration of a wine variety.
Generally someone takes the lead as organizer, sets the stage, and people join in, as co-hosts, or participants. The social media platform Twitter, is generally the platform used to share tasting notes, comments etc, especially by trade, media, bloggers, and passionate consumers. In my experience the stronger and social media adept the leader, the better the event. And vice versa. This one is led by Rick Bakas, one of the earliest leaders of wine social
media, and very adept at this venue.
Why Wineries Should Care – And Participate
Rick will share the final stats, but the pre-event mentions, views, and impressions are very impressive, already surpassing millions, and for much of the world the event hasn't kicked in yet. (It is drinking time in Australia.) Its a great way to promote your flagship varietal, release and brand, and be a part of the virtual community. AVA's and Growers should care too.
Or just sit on the sidelines and watch…this whole social media thing is a fad, right? Kinda like what they said about the Internet. Facebook doesn't really have 500 million users, 200 million mobile (excludes China) and is the number one website in world…really.
What the heck is the # In Front of Chardonnay?
Its Twitterspeak. It's called a Hashtag. Nothing to do with Amsterdam. Its basically a sorting mechanism. If you go to Twitter main page or to http://search.twitter.com/ and type in something with a the hashtag, you can see all the latest “Tweets' that have mentioned that hashtag.
It may be a common one like #fail or #followfriday or #nascar. Some are just made up and silly, others are created speficically for an event by the organizer. Since Tweets only allow 140 characters, and are suggested to stay at around 120 (except for Robert Parker, who can't stick to 140.) generally we keep them as short as possible. Wine Road Barrel Tasting = #WRBT. Rhone Rangers San Francisco Tasting= #RRSF. Sometimes the year is added like Taste Alexander Valley = #TAV11.
So I am not on Twitter, Does that Mean I Am excluded?
By no means. First of all I always encourage the SOCIAL in Social Media. Get the heck off your phone and PC and go interact with live human beings. There are many wineries offering tastings, gatherings and more. You can find information in several places including http://chardday.eventbrite.com/ as well as Meetup.com/Chardonnay.
Rick Bakas, wrote an excellent summary article: “Everyone is Invited to the Virtual Tasting Table.”
You can also follow just by using your web browser, regardless if you are on Twitter. Just go to Twitter.com and in the search field type #chardonnay or click here.
Look the Aussies are already at it!
Personal Event: Hosting 11 Special Producers for 80 Attendees – Greenhouse Tasting
As my own contribution, I have gathered 11 producers of many different styles, and areas: Russian River, Napa Valley, Central Coast, Mendocino, Sonoma Coast and styles; medium bodied California, unoaked/stainless 'naked', neutral oak French/Burgundian.
California Chardonnay fought for years with a bad reputation, and has finally earned a respectable position, by steering away from the heavy oak, Malolactic butter bombs, affectionately also known as 'coug
ar juice' in many circles. (If that needs more explaining, let me know in comments.)
The secondary hashtag for my event, in addition to #chardonnay is #NOCG (no cougar juice.)
I was one of those “ABC – Anything But Chardonnay” people for years until I discovered the incredible wide range both in California, and especially globally. Since no-one would fly in from France or Australia, we are sticking to California.
A Special Lot of Producers for the Greenhouse Tasting.
If I may say so myself, we are damn lucky to have such a range of producers, many small and hard to find, all of high quality. These include:
- Rivino Winery from Mendocino will pour their stainless/no ML chardonnay.
- kopriva – Pouring their Carneros unoaked Chardonnay paired with Hog Island Oysters.
- VineCrowd (representing k. furtado & Hirsch) VineCrowd is a new site that provides wine drinkers with the opportunity to connect directly to a handful of cutting edge, independent wineries through a user-friendly social web driven website. http://VineCrowd.com. Pouring the 2009 Hirsch Vineyards Chardonnay and the k. furtado Bien Nacido Chardonnay. They will also have producer Donelan Wines will be pouring their 2009 Donelan Nancie Chardonnay
- Gloria Ferrer – Start with a splash of bubbles, then taste their 2008 Carneros Chardonnay – New Release. Paired with mini quiche
- Vintage Wine Estates Will be pouring Chardonnay from Sonoma Coast Vineyards, and Windsor Vineyards RRV.
- Chamisal Vineyards from San Luis Obispo will be pouring:
-Chamisal Vineyards (Edna Valley) – 2010 Stainless Chardonnay and 2008 Estate Chardonnay-Pine Ridge Vineyards (Napa Valley) – 2008 Dijon Clones Chardonnay (Carneros)
Most tables will also have a simple food pairing to showcase their wine. $5 donation requested to offset costs.
We are also fortunate to have Rick Bakas, being based in Marin, to attend.
We had a few cancellations from attendees, and will also waitlist. Please RSVP on Eventbrite at http://greenhousetasting.eventbrite.com.
If we are at room capacity, and you have not RSVP, you may be turned away. Check in and name tags are also streamlined via RSVPs.
Based on enthusiasm both by producers and attendees I think I may be onto something. Look for an upcoming #Pinot day in conjunction with Ed Thralls, as well as a Rhone variety day, on behalf of the Rhone Rangers, and perhaps teamed up with another organization. Additionally I have held a few private wine maker tastings and look to more, as well as a few 'secret' dinners by guest chefs.
I have several other significant updates for readers and the industry, but those will have to wait until next week – until then, enjoy #chardonnay day, and cheers!