She Said/Hubs Said: “Live” White & Rosé Wine Blogging

As mentioned in a previous post about the Wine Bloggers Conference, one of the highlights for me was the “Live” Blogging sessions.  Lately when I drink wine, I’m usually in full exam mode, so I sit down with my trusty notebook and – slowly and methodically – take notes via the WSET “systematic approach to tasting” method.  In other words, I take time to analyze every element of the wine – structure, aromas, flavors, finish, quality, etc.  WSET Grid 1

In contrast, the “Live” Blogging sessions pushed me outside of my wine tasting comfort zone since we had, at most, five minutes to hear about the wine directly from the winemaker, taste it, and make notes of our impressions.  I keep putting “Live” in quotes because, while I tweeted the Red Wine session in real time, for the Whites & Rosés Hubs and I waited and compared our notes afterwards.  We read them aloud to each other over a beer(s) and, after I heard some of his comments, decided we had to put together a post.  I love his notes because they are so damn entertaining, honest and unpretentious.  Just like him. 🙂

So without further ado, here are the unedited She said / Hubs said tasting notes from the White & Rosé speed dating event” (his phrasing, not mine)….

1. Otis Kenyon 2017 Roussanne, Columbia Valley, WashingtonOtis Kenyon Roussanne

  • She Said: Med+ bodied, ripe yellow fruits – apple, pear, longer spicy finish (with a bit of heat). A perfect, richer fall/winter white wine. This might even sway some “I only drink red wine” people. I am such a fan of Rhône whites and wish more of these varieties were planted in WA!
  • Hubs Said: White.   Not very complex.  Citrusy lemon/zest.  It’s hard to give my opinion when the wine pouring people are talking about it – I just want to write what they are saying and pass it off as my own.   Amazing story behind this wine.   I like it but wouldn’t seek it out.   Again, really cool story (look it up).  I would drink on a hot summer day but that’s about it.  Nothing really unique – other than an awesome story. If stories sell wine, this one has an amazing story.   Love the matchsticks.  I would drink this wine just to tell the story.  Have I mentioned the story?

2. L’Ecole 2016 Semillon, Columbia Valley, Washington

  • She Said: 86% Semillon/14% Sauvignon Blanc. Lots of honeysuckle on the nose with some white flowers. Viscous, oily texture – reminds me a bit of Viognier. Glad they put some SB in here for some acidity – might be rather flabby without it. Another richer/fuller bodied white perfect for fall/winter drinking. And at $15 this is incredibly priced.
  • Hubs Said: White / Golden.   I’ve heard this story about the L’Ecole schoolhouse at least a hundred times.  I don’t know shit about Semillon.   I like it.  Why?   Some heat/spice on the mouth afterwards.   Again, not super excited about this one.   OK – not bad.

3. Peter Yealands 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand

  • She Said: I’m not usually a New Zealand Sauv Blanc fan, and this one is no different. Very herbal and grassy. Loads of tropical fruit on the palate. Med+ acidity, v. grassy palate. Intense aromas and flavor – it’s really just too much in your face/over the top. Some people love this stuff though. Maybe pairing with a salad or veggies would calm it down a bit for me, although – I don’t eat a lot of veggies.
  • Hubs Said: This is SUPER fragrant.  Gas?   Reminds me of the stuff my parents drank when I was a kid.  WOW!   Crazy fragrant.  Non-normal fruit.  Not sure what I mean.   Melon?   Super unique.   Higher acidity.   I would have to get used to this type of wine – not an everyday drinker but I could see pairing it with something fun.  It sticks with you forever.   Crazy flavors.

4. Desert Wind 2017 Chardonnay, Wahluke Slope, Washington

  • She Said: Definitely smells like Chardonnay – vanilla, oak, baking spices. Fuller bodied, creamy texture (full Mal-O).  Smells like a Madeline sugar cookie. Medium length finish and then . . . I’m left with the oak. I know I’m a boob when it comes to oaked Chardonnay. But to me, this is a little unbalanced because the oak dominates and overpowers the other flavors.
  • Hubs Said: Pretty color.   Tough to follow the Sauv Blanc – that aroma is still there.   Nothing wrong with it.   Maybe some vanilla and citrus?   Medium acidity.   Nothing particular exciting – it’s Chardonnay – not bad, just kind of there.

    Live Blogging
    Noelle writing her “she said” tasting notes.

5. Bouza 2017 Albariño, Uruguay

  • She Said: Citrus and salty sea spray aromas. Seems a little fuller bodied for an Albariño – maybe the 6 month lees aging is a factor? Riper apple and pear, and more salinity on the palate, crisp acidity. Would be perfect with seafood. Not bad for my first foray into Uruguayan wine.
  • Hubs Said: Uruguan wine.   Effervescent.  Zippy.   Lemon zest.   Low/Med. acidity.  Poolside wine.  Summer wine.   Well balanced (I’m not sure what the hell that means, I think equally acid and tannins).  Happy mouth.   Would be awesome w/ shellfish.   Could I find Uruguay on a map?  No.   Stays on the mouth/palate for a really long time.

6. Hard Row to Hoe 2017 Riesling, Lake Chelan, Washington

  • She Said: OMG – beautiful aromatics! Floral and stone fruit (peach, apricot). If I had this blind, I don’t think I would’ve guessed it was a Riesling. Smells more like a Viognier. I really like it, but it lacks the zip I expect from this variety.
  • Hubs Said: Eggs.  Weird.   Rocks.   Not traditional Riesling.   Great / fun story (note the flags on the label) – naughty.   But what do I think?  I would go with other Rieslings.

7. Rodney Strong 2016 ‘Chalk Hill’ Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California

  • She Said: Like wine #4, there is no mistaking this for Chardonnay.  This one seems more fruit driven though – baked apple, pear. Seriously – I am totally getting spiced apple pie on the palate. And this is on the back label – YAY ME! I think Hubs just rolled his eyes at me. Not my particular style, but I prefer it to the WA Chardonnay. This one is more balanced between fruit and oak aromas, plus it has more acidity and a longer finish.
  • Hubs Said: A little bit of fuel smell on it (or am I still smelling that crazy Sauv Blanc?).  On first taste I thought it was boring, but it really gets more interesting.  A little heat on it for a Chardonnay.  Not a huge fan but that’s because I think it has more to do with the varietal.   Noelle just said it tastes like “apple pie”.   Fuck that.  She’s going to kill me at this exercise.   Upshot:  It’s fine.  I just don’t like Chardonnay unless it’s a butter bomb.   Sidenote:  Where the hell are the Rosés???  We haven’t had a single Rosé yet.
Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay
“Apple and pie spice aromas”! 🙂

8. Cadaretta ‘SBS’ 2016, Columbia Valley, Washington

  • She Said: 67% Sauvignon Blanc, 33% Semillon. Stainless steel fermentation. Herbal nose, citrus (lime skin) jalapeños, tropical fruit. Med bodied, med+ acidity, med+ finish. Grassy notes on the finish. I MUCH prefer w/the Semillon then the stand alone New Zealand Sauv Blanc. This is so much better balanced, easier to drink and refreshing.
  • Hubs Said: Melon + Petrol.   What the hell is the fruit I smell on these Sauv Blancs???    Blog idea:  Wine words I misspell the most (bordo, Semillon, sauvignon).   I imagine that the Semillon calms down the Sauv Blanc.   It has such a unique smell.   We need to go to the glass house.

9. Frank Family Vineyards 2016 Chardonnay, Carneros, California

  • She Said: Much more subtle on the nose than the other Chardonnays.  Getting evidence of lees here too – yeasty, rounder mouthfeel.  MalO textures. Hint of oak – vanilla, spice along with some apple and pineapple.  Overall, aromas are pretty medium – I’m not getting a ton.  On the palate to me its more about the texture then the flavors. Vanilla crème.
  • Hubs Said: WHERE THE FUCK ARE THE ROSÉS?????  THE AGENDA SAID WHITE AND ROSÉS!!!!  Gotta say it’s really a beautiful color.  Unique smell for a chardonnay.   Way more butter on this one.  Maybe some vanilla and spices.  That’s a general statement.  This is what I want my chardonnay to taste like.  I want to eat a bowl of popcorn with this and not share it with Noelle.   The tasting may be getting to me at this point.  I really like this one and it would be interesting to compare it to other Chards.

10. J. Bookwalter Winery 2016 ‘Double Plot’ Chardonnay, Columbia Valley

JBookwalter Double Plot Chardonnay
Winner of the White Wine Blogging!
  • She Said: Medium aromas of white flowers, apple, and ripe lemon.  Hint of vanilla.  This smells (& tastes!) like an Oregon Chardonnay.  The oak is so restrained.  This might be my favorite of the lineup. Best balanced of the Chards – oak and fruit compliment each other and there’s a nice dose of acidity that was lacking in the others. Yay – ending on a high note from a hometown winery!
  • Hubs Said: Light color.  A little more acidity on this chard.   Butter w/ some stone(?).  Apple.  I seem to describe every chardonnay on the “butter scale”.  The more butter, the more I like it.   Otherwise, Chardonnay is a total commodity to me – it’s all the same.   I need to work on this.    Or maybe I don’t.  I just don’t like Chard, it’s so boring.

So there you have it.   In the light of day, what I really liked about having done this with Hubs is that it shows how wine means different things to different people.  While his “tasting notes” (and I use that term incredibly loosely) made me laugh out loud, they also reminded me that there are no absolutes –  no “right answers”.   Wine means to you what YOU taste and feel.  I think that’s what makes wine such an amazing pursuit.

Now….where the fuck are those Rosés?!  

 

 

#WBC18: Highlights from a Blogging Newbie

My head is spinning (and not just from all the wine I consumed) since returning to SoCal from my first ever Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington.

I signed up for WBC18 way back in February after I found out it was going to be held in my beloved Washington state.  And I can’t recall exactly how I managed to talk Hubs into going with me . . . I think I just said “Walla Walla” and “Wine” and he was in (he’s easy that way).  Nevertheless, he’ll be providing his own highlights and thoughts on the conference in an upcoming post – and has already given the world an incomplete overview of the host city.

While there were several enjoyable and informative parts to the conference, there were five that really stood out to me.  And, using some of the tools I learned about in Digital Firefly Marketing’s awesome seminar on Google Readability, here are my WBC18 highlights:

Force Majeure Excursion – Visit to Their (Future) Production Facility & Estate Vineyard

Coming in hot!!   What a way to start the conference – this half day tour was a wine geek’s dream!  So much so that I’ll post a more corkdorkily detailed post HERE for those readers interested in a deeper dive of this outing.

Upon boarding our bus bound for the Rocks District of Milton-Freewater (aka “The Rocks”), owner Paul McBride told us about the history of Force Majeure and the winery’s focus on single vineyard designated sites within the Red Mountain AVA.  His enthusiasm multiplied exponentially though as he turned the topic to Force Majeure’s future . . .

Force Majeure production facilityOur first stop was to check in on progress of the winery’s future production facility and tasting room in Milton-Freewater – both of which will (hopefully!) be operational by mid-March, 2019.  After this, we piled into several SUVs for a jaunt outside of town and up about 2,000 feet to see the site of Force Majeure’s future estate vineyard.  Located in an area referred to as the “North Fork” – geologist, Washington wine champion and AVA aficionado Dr. Kevin Pogue described this area as a “sweet spot” because it checked so many of the right boxes for vineyard site selection: elevation, rain levels, soils and aspect (more detail on this in an upcoming post!)  Plus, while I don’t believe this is a factor usually considered when deciding vineyard site, it’s absolutely fucking gorgeous.

Force Majeure North Fork vineyard
Future vineyard site in North Fork area of Walla Walla Valley

Introduction to the Walla Walla Valley Wine Region

This was a fantastic start to the seminar portion of the conference.  The panel was composed of  four dynamos in the local wine industry: Annette Bergevin, Nina Buty, Muriel Kenyon and Ashley Trout.  Although, this was not to be considered a “women in wine panel” per the moderator . . . these ladies just happen to kick ass at what they do.

The panel discussed several issues related to the Walla Walla wine region – from history (the Otis Kenyon background story has got to be one of the most scintillating tidbits!) to the future (how to market Walla Walla beyond Washington state).  There was an overall theme of community and comradery.  However, as with many wine growing regions, the ongoing labor shortage was also discussed.  And while there’s no definitive answer to this problem – Ashley Trout’s Vital Wines project that helps to provide healthcare to those in need, is an awesome start.

Speed Tasting (AKA the Exact Opposite of What I Do For My WSET Studies)

While this wouldn’t be my favorite way to taste wine on a regular basis, it was a hell of a lot of fun to try a couple of times.  At the end of both days, 25 winemakers poured into the conference room (pun possibly intended).  They each had five minutes to pour their wine for a table, give their “elevator speech”, answer questions, and then move on to the next table.  Interestingly enough (to me anyways), my favorite red and white were both from the same winery: J. Bookwalter.  Which just happens to be located in my hometown . . . so, I guess I might be guilty of a little local bias after all. 😉

Stay tuned for a “He Said/She Said” post where Hubs and I compare our tasting notes from one of these sessions.

Mystery Dinner Excursions

After Friday’s live blogging session, attendees were separated into groups based on the color of their “mystery winery” ticket.  Hubs and I piled into a van with the other bright green ticket holders and headed off into Walla Walla.  Now, this goes against one of Hubs and my hard and fast rules: Always Have an Exit Strategy.  (This rule might be why we’ve never gone on a cruise).  Thankfully – we didn’t need to worry about this rule since our bright green ticket led us to one of Walla Walla’s quintessential wineries – Dunham Cellars.

Dunham was one of the first wineries I ever visited in Walla Walla back in the early 2000s and has held a special place in my heart since.  We were served a delicious, waistband straining six-course meal paired with a variety of Dunham wines.  My favorite was the 2014 Dunham Cabernet Sauvignon XX while Hubs loved the 2016 Late Harvest Riesling.  It was an unforgettable evening with new friends, great food, and classic Walla Walla wines.

 

And Finally, Connecting with Other Wine Bloggers . . .  in Person.

While social media is a great way to meet other wine bloggers, nothing can compare to chatting face-to-face.  It was wonderful to finally be able to geek out with fellow wine enthusiast Amber (aka SpitBucket), see my former Northwest Wine Academy classmate Nancy with VinoSocial, talk WSET Diploma studies with Terry and Lindsay, and share some Pacific Northwest wine love with Pat the Wine Guy.

And, after a minor stumble (literally), I’m thrilled to have met one of the original members of the wine blogging world: Tom Wark.  He’s incredibly approachable if you get him talking about golf (just ask Hubs!) and passionate about consumer rights to access wines without being at the mercy of distributors.  As a recovering lawyer turned wine enthusiast, this is a cause I can definitely get behind.

 

Conference Survival Tips (by Hubs)

Room

With more than 20 years of conference going experience under my belt, I feel as though I’ve become a bit of an expert on this particular subject.  At various times over my career I’ve been an attendee, a speaker and even a chairman a time or two.  With the three day Wine Bloggers Conference just around the corner I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned over the years to help you successfully navigate your way around any conference and also avoid the many pitfalls that exist to the unwary.

Let me say at the outset that these survival tips apply only tangentially to the upcoming Wine Bloggers Conference.  My conference going experience to date has been almost exclusively dedicated to the tax arena which, as you may surmise, is about as far on the other side of the fun spectrum from wine blogging as exists in the time/space continuum.  That’s right friends, there are entire weeklong conferences dedicated to the subject of taxes, and you can bet that they are just as hot and sultry as you imagine them to be!    As close as I’ve ever been to the fun end of the conference spectrum was speaking at a craft brewers convention a few years ago at which they asked me to present with a pilsner at the lectern.  My presentation was at 9am.

So with that in mind, here are a few lessons that I’ve learned over the past two decades of conference going to help you out…

Find the (better) restroom.  Rookie conference goers will use the restrooms Restroomimmediately outside of the main conference hall.  Don’t be fooled – no need to stand in line for ten minutes for the privilege of sharing the facilities with 200 of your closest friends.   These conference halls (either in a hotel or a dedicated facility) are labyrinths that are designed to host multiple conferences at the same time.  So just walk the hallway toward one of the other large conference rooms that isn’t currently in use and there you will find your very own restroom (just don’t tell anyone where it’s located). (Editor’s Note: spouses are exceptions to this “don’t tell anyone” rule).

Monitor your coffee and sugar intake.  This probably should have been listed as survival tip #1.  Either at the back of the main hall or in the exhibitors hall there will undoubtedly be a tanker sized vat of black coffee next to several trays of Costco chocolate chip cookies.  I know exactly what you’re thinking: “Awesome!”  No.  No it is very much not awesome.  Cookies and coffee are the opioids of the conference world and if you’re not careful you’ll be so hopped up on caffeine and sugar you’ll need a methadone clinic visit of your own to help you come down.  Allow yourself one of each in the morning and the same after lunch.  That’s it.  (Editor’s Note: as this is a wine blogging conference, avoid drinking coffee too close to any actual wine tasting to avoid completely screwing up your palate.  Same goes for brushing your teeth.)

Stretch.   Sitting all day is terrible for you so get up and walk around.  It’s ok to stand at the back of the room during an entire presentation.   You’re not being rude as long as you’re not the guy who shows off his yoga skills by doing a headstand in the main conference room.  FYI:  I actually witnessed a guy waiting at the departure gate at SeaTac Airport go into a full headstand right smack in the middle of everyone waiting for the plane.  I still hate that guy and that was like five years ago. (Editor’s Note: perhaps doing some yoga of your own my dear Hubs would help you with this anger that you’ve been holding onto for so many years.)

Hydrate.  Drink a ton of water – I’m not kidding.  Those conference rooms are where fresh air goes to die and you’ll otherwise dry out by the mid-morning break.  I’m talking Las-Vegas-casino-before-smoking-was-banned level of stale air, just without the lingering waft of desperation mixed with Drakkar Noir.  There’s typically a bunch of water bottles at the back of the room or in the exhibitors hall so load up accordingly.  (Editor’s Note: I completely agree with Hubs here – a rare occurrence.)

SpitbucketBe a good conference neighbor.  This should be self explanatory, but as with most things in life that fall into that category, it unfortunately is not.   Generally clean up your area, if you get a phone call take it outside (we get it, you’re a very busy and important person who owns a cell phone and we are all duly impressed with your station in life), don’t eat a bag and a half of Doritos so loud that we can’t hear the speaker, etc.  You know what, this goes beyond conference etiquette – just generally follow these simple rules in life. (Editor’s Note: another wine blogging conference specific: mind the spit buckets! Don’t go jostling the table too much or slamming your chair into the table behind you and putting your fellow conference goers at risk for dump bucket spillage.  Nobody wants to be Miles.)

Leave the cocktail reception early.  At the end of Day 1 there is always a cocktail reception for the attendees.  Go early and – here comes the really important part –  leave early.  Tomorrow is another full day of presentations and the last thing you need is to be sweating booze while wondering why the hell you decided to karaoke the entire soundtrack of Grease 2.  Also, if invited, politely decline attending the after party at a local bar with your newfound “conference buddies.”  Nothing good ever comes from attending a conference after party.  (Editor’s Note: Ahem… is there something you’d like to share with me?)

OK – that should be enough to get you through.   Godspeed my conference going friends.

Introducing Outwines’ First (and Possibly Last) Ever Guest Blogger . . .

WBC

Hello wine world, Hubs here.   In less than a week I will be attending the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla, Washington together with Mrs. Outwines.  I mean, I’ll actually be attending the conference itself, like sitting in on lectures and stuff, not just hanging out in the bar at the Marcus Whitman watching college football while waiting for Noelle.  My attendance may seem a little strange due in part to the fact that I don’t know anything about wine and I don’t…well…you know….blog.  Despite these minor impediments, I am looking forward to a terrific weekend in EWA (shorthand for “Eastern Washington” – I married a local girl who also taught me about the nearby nuclear reactor and state penitentiary).  But believe me when I tell you that the wine from this part of the world is absolutely amazing.

When I first asked Noelle if I could “guest blog” on Outwines for the week of the conference she summarily rejected my offer.  I mean, she didn’t even give it a second of thought before “hell no” tumbled out.  What followed was a protracted negotiation between husband and wife that hammered out the most minute details that would ultimately allow me to rent space on Outwines so that I could actually participate as a wine blogger.  The final mutually agreed upon rules of the road – negotiated with such vigor that the Yalta Conference paled in comparison –  are as follows:

Her 5 Rules of the Road:

Rule #1:  Noelle has full editorial control.   This isn’t much of a derivation over our last 20+ years of marriage so I’m not particularly concerned about relenting on this one.  Plus, what the hell else was I going to do?  I don’t have a blog of my own so I had to relent.  That, dear reader, is called leverage.

Rule #2:  I can’t embarrass her or Outwines.  This one may be a bit more difficult as embarrassing Noelle is kinda my calling card.  If I’m a one trick pony, that’s my trick – and if I don’t my saying so, I’m otherworldly great at it.  Nonetheless, I will endeavor not to dilute her personal brand or bring shame upon the House of Outwines in any manner over the course of the next week.  After that, all bets are off.

Rule #3:  I have to be content appropriate.   I actually have to commit to blogging about wine, the craft of blogging, the conference, and our time in Walla Walla.   What she really means is that I can’t use this space to unleash my repressed stand-up comedian chops or provide you with my take on the current state of the world (we are all totally fucked).

CursingRule #4:  I can’t swear too much.   Late entry inserted after she read Rule #3 above.  Kindly disregard – won’t happen again (it totally will).

Rule #5:  I have to commit to learning about wine and blogging.    It is a wine bloggers conference, so this seems like a reasonable request.

His 5 Rules of the Road:

Rule #1:  No Emojis.   Hemingway didn’t use ’em so neither will I.   The fact that emojis didn’t exist during Papa’s time is totally irrelevant.
sun-also-rises

Rule #2:   Social Media Delivery.   Noelle is required to post on Outwines’ Instagram & Twitter accounts a link to my blog entries (including #WBC18 tags!).  I could see her conveniently “forgetting” to promote my spectacularly insightful content so this is a win for me now that she’s contractually obligated.

Rule #3:  No Outlines.   My wife kicked my ass in law school which I attribute primarily to two things: (i) she’s much smarter than me; and (ii) her unfailing ability to learn subject matter via the outlining format.  She has migrated this ability to the world of wine and this blog as she continues to outline her way through the WSET world.   I have neither the time nor the cerebral ability to do the same.

Rule #4:  I get to write in my voice from my perspective.  I’m an outsider to the worlds of wine and blogging – thus my perspective will be through those dual lenses.   I can (and most certainly will) ask stupid questions – so be it.

Rule #5:  I get to have a beer once in a while – and can even blog about it.  I’ve seen the agenda, tasting schedules, and field trips to various Walla Walla wineries – that’s a lot of wine.   I need to break it up with a Kölsch once in a while, and we’re conveniently staying close to Public House 124, so that shouldn’t be a problem.

Well, that just about puts a bow on my very first blog entry.   The rules have been clearly established and I’m ready for the conference.  Now let’s see if Noelle will let me borrow her laptop…

… Editors Note: Not fucking happening 😉