The Date: December 10th, 2009
The Hosts: The California Wine Institute
The Background: On November 4th, I got this e-mail. Inviting me to a tasting of California wines. My direct response was, "As an American and a wine-lover, I would be proud to attend your event! Love the movie Bottle Shock too!"
And so it was that I found myself at The Hoxton with Denise and Sarah and Chris. If you know any of us, you will notice that three out of four are American. Which had me thinking, "Dude, I'm already sold on California. Where are the Europeans?"
Denise has a fantastic write-up of the evening over here. But let me tell you what we did. We tasted 12 wines. I think this is the perfect number for a tasting. It's manageable. Five whites, two roses, five reds.
But first…let's talk about California. If you go into your local, what do you see? Lots of E&J. Turning Leaf. (Also E&J.) Blossom Hill (Diageo). Fetzer. Echo Falls. Sutter Home. If you're lucky, maybe some KJ. (I have always had a particular fondness for Kendall Jackson Chardonnay. When I got my first raise ever at work, I "splashed out" on a $25 bottle of KJ Reserve.)
These are the big names. And I want to emphasize BIG. As in…lots of choice. Don't write them off because you think they're all £6.99 corner grocery wines. These guys are so huge that they make a huge range of wines. Including a lot of good stuff.
My good friend Tyson worked for Gallo for 10+ years. And he would tell me about all the different brands they ran. And I remember always thinking, "Wait, that's Gallo too?" See…you never really know anybody's–or any wine's–story.
There are 1,605 wineries in California, according to California Wines. And with 4,500 grape growers, California is the fourth largest wine producer in the world, behind Italy, France and Spain.
So let me get to the tasting…I had two favorites…
- Beringer Vineyards Founder's Estate Chardonnay 2007 (£8.99). You know I'm no expert, despite passing my Wine & Spirits exam earlier last year. But this to me was lots of vanilla, oak, and nutmeg. I like these sorts of Chardonnays.
- Bonterra Vineyards Viognier 2007 (£9.99). Vibrant and peachy and tropical. I cheekily asked if they had any extras and if I could bring any home. They obliged.
Some other thoughts about organizing events for bloggers…
- If you're doing a California wine tasting, invite guests who may not be familiar with California wines.
- Assume that only 60% of the people who have RSVP'd will actually show up and adjust your numbers accordingly. Better too many than too few.
- Do not force feed your guests. I like food. You know I do. But every time I turned around, someone was trying to make me eat. It was very unpleasant.
- Don't organize events in December. It's holiday party season. You're just asking for no-shows.
- Really make sure your venue has wireless. Or that we can use our Blackberries and iPhones. Seriously, there was no connectivity. Kinda defeats the purpose of an event with bloggers.
Really…despite my comments above, this was a lovely event. You should give California wines a shot. Just like when you walk into a French supermarket and it's all French wine, all the time, if you walk into an American grocery store, it's all American wine, all the time. There's a lot to be explored!
Let me leave you with the trailer for Bottleshock…enjoy!