Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, California, Cellaring Wines, Finger Lakes, Icewine, Merlot, Napa, New York, Oregon, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling, rosé wine, Seneca Lake, sparkling wine, Willamette Valley, Women in Wine
Following a late night of wine tasting, and buoyed by plenty of coffee and a bacon-based breakfast, I was ready for the second full day of the Wine Bloggers Conference itinerary. The first morning breakout session that I chose was The Business of Wine, moderated by Marcy Gordon, and featuring Leeann Froese of Town Hall Brands, Zach Milne-Haverty of Beverage Trade Network and Monika Elling of Foundations Marketing Group. This focussed primarily on a few ways to better understand the current wine consumer market and how to get your brand noticed in a sea of wine brands. I had been hoping for a bit more insight on current market trends, but had some great takeaways from the session, particularly with the millennials:
Unlike my own generation, who grew up drinking nasty sweet plonk like Arbor Mist or Boone’s Farm, the millennials grew up drinking the quality wines of their parents. They have more sophisticated palates at a younger age. However, they want to separate themselves from their parents’ brands, and are willing to try almost any brand whose packaging/branding jumps out at them and to keep trying new wines. They are less likely to have brand loyalty, unlike their parents, so the key for wineries is to find a way to hang on to their millennial customers.
The second breakout session that I attended was Women In The Wine World, moderated by Amy Corron Power, and featuring Stevie Kim of Vinitaly, Meaghan Frank of Dr Konstantin Frank Cellars, and Karen MacNeil, author of The Wine Bible. Although women are becoming far better represented overall in the wine industry, and particularly in positions of power in the wine industry, there are still challenges that exist. Stevie Kim outlined the many events that she coordinates as the Managing Director of Vinitaly (which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2016). Not only is there the primary competition and exposition held every April in Verona, but there is OperaWine, Vinitaly International, Vino – A Taste of Italy at Expo in Milan, and the Vinitaly Wine Club. This is one very busy woman, along with her team. The Italian wine world is one very much dominated by men. At Cronache di Gusto, an online journal of food & wine, a Top 100 Power List is published of the Italian wine industry every year. The first woman doesn’t feature until #18 and, of the 10 women included on the list, one is American (Monica Larner) and one is British (Jancis Robinson).
Meaghan Frank was born into a local wine dynasty, being the great granddaughter of Dr Konstantin Frank who really began the commercial production of vinifera vines, and quality wine production in the Finger Lakes region. Despite holding a degree in Wine Business Management, she felt that she wasn’t being given credibility in the industry without an enology degree. She is now pursing that degree and is determined to become as educated as possible in order to have that credibility.
Karen MacNeil didn’t find that being a woman was a burden in the wine writing industry, as it allowed her to “fly under the radar” and to climb the ladder as quickly as possible. She believes that, in the past ten years, women are no longer suppressed in the wine industry; the door has been blasted open. She suggests we walk through that door, figure out how to do our best, and to be outstanding. She had a few comments on women and wine tasting. She has found that the people who get ahead are always trying things. One thing for women to keep in mind is that we metabolize alcohol more slowly than men. Therefore, in a large tasting setting we have half the number of tastes available to be able to take stock of the wine, even when spitting. If you’re serious about wine writing, get really serious, and that includes the way you taste. She feels that the biggest challenge that women have (and this is in business in general, not just in the wine business) is how to ask for money, how to figure out your worth. One great way is to have a mentor who is successful in business.
Lunch featured wines from the Seneca Lake Wineries Association. Three wines that stood out to me included the 2012 Sparkling Riesling from Wagner Vineyards, the 2014 Rosé from Fulkerson Estate, and my favourite of the day was the beautifully rich 2013 Gigliotti Vineyards Pinot Gris from Lakewood Vineyards.
After lunch, I attended Cellaring Sense: The Ageability of Finger Lakes Wines. I am already familiar with what makes a good wine for ageability, but was very curious to taste some Finger Lakes wines with a bit of age on them, particularly Rieslings. I love aged Rieslings with those petrol/diesel notes. According to some research in the region, those petrol notes tend to appear earlier in fruit from drought-stressed vines, or from long hot growing seasons. The 2008 Dry Riesling from Hermann J Wiemer Vineyard was medium lemon in colour and had a hint of petrol on the nose, along with honey, lemon and stone fruit. It was dry, with high acid, light body and flavours of lemon, nectarine, honey and some mineral notes, with a medium finish. The 2008 Semi Dry Riesling from Dr Konstantin Frank Cellars was medium gold in colour with baked apple, apricot and honey on the nose. It was medium dry, with medium-plus acid, medium body and had flavours of dried apricot, honey, apple, minerality and a hint of petrol, with a medium-plus finish. The 2005 Cabernet Franc from Hazlitt 1852 Vineyards was a deep garnet in colour, with a paler rim. It had a rich fruitcake nose, was dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus tannins, medium-plus body and flavours of dried cherries, spice, some herbal notes and savoury complexity with a medium-plus finish. Finally, the 2005 Fiori Vidal Icewine from Casa Larga Vineyards was a medium amber in colour with an intensely aromatic nose with floral notes and caramel. It was lusciously sweet with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus body and flavours of lemon, apricot, peach, honey. It was complex and delicious with a long finish.
Following those delicious wines, I stepped out of the official program to do some tasting of Cornerstone Cellars wines with Craig Camp. I’ve become a fan of Cornerstone’s wines over the past few years as I’ve been able to sample them at Wine Bloggers Conferences and Wine Tourism Conferences. I just wish they were available closer to home. Oh darn, it will just mean that a road trip to Napa is in order. Craig had quite the lineup of Rosé and reds available and I tasted through them all. The 2014 Corallina is a Napa Syrah Rosé made specifically as a rosé, not an afterthought or a saignée, but whole cluster pressed. It has a ripe nose of red berries and a hint of spice. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity and medium body and flavours of red cherry, berries, citrus and spice with a long finish. Very refreshing. The 2012 Stepping Stone Willamette Valley Pinot Noir (Artist Series) has a ripe dark cherry nose, is dry with medium acidity and body, and medium-minus tannins. This approachable, fruit-forward wine has flavours of dark berry and cherry and a long finish. The 2012 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir has a more earthy nose. It is dry, with medium-plus acidity, medium body and tannins. It has flavours of dark berries and plum with a hint of spice. For the Cornerstone wines from Napa, there is a black label and a white label. The black label tends to be blends of different vineyards, with production at approximately 500 cases each. The white labels is for either single vineyard or reserve wines, and usually from older vines – 15 to 25 years old. The 2013 Napa Merlot (black label) has great fruit and structure, along with some smoke and spice. The 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (black label), with 5.5% Merlot and 2.5% Cabernet Franc, has great structure but with fine tannins. It has flavours of cassis, cherry, plum and some dried fruit. It is ripe yet elegant. The 2012 Cabernet Franc (black label) has aromas of dark fruit with some floral and herbal notes. It is dry with medium-plus acidity and body, medium-plus-plus tannins and flavours of cherry, raspberry and plum with a long finish. The 2012 Oakville Station Merlot (white label) comes from a single block of vines. It is a full-bodied wine that is very elegant with soft, fine tannins and flavours of plum and cherry – delicious. The 2012 Michael’s Cuvée (white label) is a blend of single vineyards (Oakville Station, Kairos & Ink Grade Vineyards), 91% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot. It is a full-bodied, rich wine with flavours of cassis, hints of eucalyptus and a long finish. The 2012 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon (white label) comes from a vineyard above 1400ft in elevation, above the fog line. It is a 28 year old vineyard with soil as fine as talcum powder. This wine has a savoury nose of chocolate, cherry, vanilla and spice. It is dry with medium-plus acidity, medium-plus-plus tannins and a full body. It has a complex palate with ripe flavours of dark fruit and spice and a beautiful minerality, with an extremely long finish. I would love to see this wine after some time in the cellar!
The day was not over yet, but I will save more for another blog post. Plenty of wine tasting, along with some glass-blowing to come.