Thursday, July 9, 2009

2009 Wine Bloggers' Conference

I’m in San Francisco, California on an Airport Shuttle Express en route to Santa Rosa, CA, a.k.a. Napa and Sonoma Counties, to attend the 2009 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, scheduled for July 24-26, 2009.

I’m here as a representative for the company I work for, Brand Action Team, and as a newbie wine blogger for my blog Petite Terroir. This is the second annual WBC and over 250 people are participating, which represents a commendable 50% increase over last year's conference.

The 2009 WBC conference is partnering with Napa Valley Vintners, who are providing attendees with a full day in Napa Valley on Saturday. There are also three keynote speakers this year and two after-hours parties each night sponsored by the Russian River Valley Winegrowers and ViniPortugal.

The local hosts of the conference are Sonoma Vintners, Sonoma Winegrape Commission, Sonoma Tourism and Napa Valley Vintners. Thanks to all the hosts, sponsors, and organizers for making this conference feasible.

Unfortunately due to a long delay at Bradley Airport in Windsor Locks, CT on Friday morning I arrived an hour late at Washington-Dulles Airport and missed my connecting flight to San Francisco International Airport. My Connecticut flight was scheduled to leave at 6 am, but because of a problem with the airplane’s computers, it did not depart until 7:15 am. Needless to say I and many others missed connecting flights to our respective destinations. The scene at the United Airways customer service desk was not pretty.

United Airways put me on a 9:30 am flight to Los Angeles, which landed at 11:15 am and from there I took a 1:10 pm flight to San Francisco. We got in around 2:30 pm. Once in San Francisco I boarded an Airport Express Shuttle for a two-hour drive to Santa Rosa, which is where I’m writing from now.

In Santa Rosa I have to take a cab from a local Day’s Inn to the Flamingo Hotel and Resort, which is where I am staying and where the conference is being held, because this shuttle bus does not go to the Flamingo. I should check into the hotel by 6: 00 pm or so. Whew!

Since I’m arriving late to the conference I’m missing many of the day’s events, which included a lunch with Sonoma Vintners & Sonoma Winegrape Commission, a Welcome and Bloggers Conference Overview, Live Wine Blogging, the 2009 American Wine Blog Awards, and a grand tasting of Sonoma Wines.

I will however arrive fashionably late for a dinner with Sonoma County Tourism and Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers, which features a keynote address on Blogging: Past, Present, & Future by Chris Alden of Six Apart. I may also be able to catch the end of the grand tasting. Following dinner there is an after-hours party from 9 - 11 pm hosted by Russian River Valley Winegrowers.

So while I am disappointed to miss many of Friday’s events I am grateful to at least make the first night’s dinner and after-hours party, and arrive here safely and well.

I’m looking forward to meeting in person wine bloggers whose blogs I read regularly, like Joe Roberts of 1 Wine Dude and Jeff Lefevre of The Good Grape. This conference should be an educational and fun event, which I’ll be spending with some of the blog world's most noted wine bloggers.

Hey, we just drove over the Golden Gate Bridge! Awesome.

See you at the 2009 Wine Bloggers' Conference. More details to come so please check back.


Day 4: Austrian Wine Summit 2009

Our fabulous fourth day in Austria began with a sparkling wine reception at and a short visit to the Loisium Wine Museum, located at the start of the Kamptal Valley in the village of Langenlois, which is Lower Austria's largest wine growing community. The museum is amazing and provides visitors with highly unique ways to explore the world of wine. We enjoyed an eye-popping tour of the cellar, which displayed the past histories, present days, and future plans of Lower Austrian viniculture. It was a surprising departure from a traditional museum experience and more on the wavelength of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

The sparkling wine we drank during the reception was a Sauvignon Blanc from the family-run Weingut Steininger, also of Langenlois. The strength of this winery is Grüner Veltliner, but they are also well know for their tasty sparkling wines, which are produced according to the traditional bottle fermenting method.

The visually-dazzling Loisium Wine Museum

Another view of the superbly-designed Loisium Wine Museum

After our museum visit we took a trip to the winery Domäne Wachau located in Dürnstein in the heart of the Wachau Valley. It is the biggest winery in the Wachau, an area where wine has been cultivated for centures. The Wachau has also been named a World Cultural Heritage site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

Once at the winery we enjoyed a seminar and wine tasting entitled "Great Single Vineyards of the Wachau," presented by the winery's Managing Director, Roman Horvath. I especially enjoyed the sweet-tasting 2007 Grüner Veltliner Smaragd by Weingut F.X. Pichler, which per Roman sold-out immediately, and the green-apple-esque 2008 Riesling by Weingut Tegernseerhof.

In the Wachau, the wine categories of Steinfeder, Federspiel and Smaragd are used respectively for light, medium and full-bodied wines with natural alcohol.

I'm getting ready to taste a white wine

That's a bouquet of Steinfeder in bloom, with Roman Horvath in the background

After the seminar we split into two groups and I went with the group headed for a short walk through the single vineyard Singerriedel, which provided us with quite likely the best views of the entire trip. This vineyard is located on the steep side of a mountain. I imagine working in that environment is challenging, but the rewards are obviously great in terms of views and of course, the end-product of a good wine.

Vineyard views

Smiling at Austria's natural beauty as the Danube flows by quietly

After the vineyard walk we took a charming and picturesque boat ride along the Danube, from Spitz to Dürnstein. Along the way we tasted Federspiel wines from Weingut Sigl, Weingut Lagler, Weingut Knoll, and Weingut Jäger.

My favorite wine on the ride was the 2008 Riesling Loibenberg Federspiel by Weingut Knoll. It is light and delicious, with a cotton, velvet feel; a very fine, straight white wine.

One of the pretty views from the Danube

The wines tasted during the trip

After the boat ride many of us thought the trip couldn't get any better, but we were pleasantly proven wrong. We stopped for lunch at the Restaurant Jamek, of the Weingut Jamek, which is located in Joching. Lunch featured more delightful wines from the Wachau, with my number one pick being Weingut Jamek's own 2008 Gelber Muskateller Federspiel. Peaches, roses, images of elegant ladies decorated in lace. I love this wine and I love this grape! My table even tried to get our server to leave the bottle with us!

Wines tasted at Restaurant Jamek

Enjoying our lunch at Restaurant Jamek

Immediately after lunch, we took a group picture. I traveled with a great group of people.

After lunch we boarded the buses for our trip back to where it all began, Vienna. After checking into the Hotel Falkensteiner Palace we had about an hour to rest, then prepare and primp for the "Party in the Park - Baroque Meets Jazz" at the Schönbrunn Palace's Gloriette, which is a monument on the grounds of the palace. We arrived around 7 pm and left when the clock struck midnight.

The party featured food by Chef Karl Malafa, wines from the Danube regions & Burgenland, classic strings by "Wiener Melange Quartet" and live Jazz with Jazzklusiv. My personal highlights of the evening including dancing a Viennese Waltz in Vienna, the overall beauty and magnificance of the grounds, and singing Beatles songs with Willi Klinger of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, who surprised and delighted us all by entertaining us on piano.

The Gloriette

The palace as seen from the Gloriette

Willi Klinger, Piano Man

Day 5 of the Austrian Wine Summit 2009 was for me simply a long day of travel back to my hometown in Connecticut. It took no less than one subway, one train, one plane, another train, another subway, a bus, and a car to get home. Not that I'm complaining. This trip was well worth any exhaustion incurred.

I know some in the group we able to stay later on Sunday and enjoy a "Brunch in the Sky" at the Restaurant Ellipse in Kahlenberg. The picture below leads me to believe they had a lovely time there as well.

I would like to sincerely thank the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, which includes their entire staff, the participating wineries and facilities, and all those involved in Wine Summit 2009 for a truly spectacular, fun, and educational trip. You were all the best hosts any guest could ask for. You spoiled us rotten. Thank you, again.