Last year at the 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference in Penticton, British Columbia, I began thinking about doing some video blogging or podcasting. This year, the intrigue continued. I finally made a short 4 minute video about how I stumbled upon wine. It’s nothing over-the-top, as I filmed it on my webcam. However, I hope you enjoy the story!
Another Wine Bloggers Conference came and went, and of course, none of it would have happened without the support of the sponsors.
This year, I was provided with a generous scholarship to the 2014 WBC in Santa Barbara, California, and I was (and still am) wholeheartedly thankful that I had the opportunity to learn and grow as a wine blogger, interact with such passionate and amazing professionals, and visit a fantastic wine region of the world!
I would first like to thank Zephyr Adventures for hosting this amazing conference. Your dedication to helping people “move…taste…learn” is why this conference is always such a success. There are veterans who attend the Wine Bloggers Con year after year because they seek out the types of adventures that you provide. I’m hooked, too. Thank you.
It was a most sincere pleasure speaking with Katie and Whitney of Nomacorc again this year at the conference. Nomacorc specializes in zero carbon footprint wine bottle closures. The science will astound you, in addition to making you wonder why this technology wasn’t around sooner. We’re talking closure options for winemakers who can “choose [their] optimal oxygen ingress [...] to accommodate bottle aging as the winemaker intended”. How amazing is that? Thank you.
Nothing is complete without chocolate. Stafford’s Famous Chocolates were on board during the opening reception to share their artistic goodies with us blogger folk. I’m hard pressed not to point out that their dark chocolate almond bark was to die for! I’m still wondering why Stafford’s Chocolates can’t be the next big food group. Hello!? Thank you.
Bevmo had also set-up shop during the opening reception. It was very cool to learn more about this liquor store whose focus is on wine, spirits, liquor, beer, microbrews, and other treats. This California-based corporation was educating us on their products and services, which range from assisting brides & grooms with their libation choices to offering case lot specials. Thank you.
Banfi, let me tell you, Joe Janish (Director of Public Relations) knows how to throw a great party. It was also great to share and learn more about the Banfi vision of “offering wines of superior quality, and fostering the appreciation of wine through education”. It was great to try your 2012 Centine, and well, I’ve always been a fan. (Just recently opened a 2008 Chianti Classico Riserva…*drool*) Thank you.
Aside from attending informative and engaging sessions on wine and wine blogging, I had the chance to talk with Kevin Byrne and Gabe Medeiros, who are involved with Beverage Grades – a recent project that focuses on “fingerprinting” wine and using its chemical DNA to help consumers decide on purchases or help them with health concerns like sugar or pesticide levels in a wine. I was flabberghasted; this stuff is pretty awesome. Thank you.
I can’t forget to mention Duckhorn Vineyards and Rutherford Hill’s wondeful contribution to the conference. Not only did they sponsor the conference, but they also put on an amazing Merlot tasting called “#Merlot Me”. You provided a great experience for a number of us bloggers to dig deeper into wines that are unanimously considered “good vino”. Thank you.
WordPress, oh WordPress, how could we be bloggers without you? I am a dedicated WordPress user, and I am so glad that writers like myself have this kind of high-quality platform to help share our visions. Thank you.
I’m starting this blog post with a confession. No, not the type of confession where I sit down with a mediator between heaven and earth, but a confession centred around “oh-my-why-didn’t-I-discover-these-food-and-wine-pairings-sooner”!
I was pleasantly surprised to discover how well Portugal’s bold libations paired with international cuisine on the level it did. I am not claiming that this was impossible, but that I wish I could have experienced these culinary adventures at least a decade ago. Now, when I cook spicy Indian or delicate Japanese, I will be considering choosing a wine from Portugal to pair with it. Win!
Portugal offers a variety of interesting wine flavor profiles as a result of vinifying their unique range of over 250 indigenous grapes
According to archaeologists, Portugal was introduced to their grape varietals as far back as the Bronze Age
Tradition around wine making is on blending than single variety wines
Portugal has 31 DOCs/DOPs (Controlled Denominations of Origin)
Let’s learn Portuguese!
“Adega” – winery, cellar, or wine company
“Ano” – year
“Branco” – white
“Garrafa” – bottle
“Seco” – dry
“Tinto” – red
“Vinho” – wine
Setting: Santa Barbara. Friday, July 11, 2014. Wine Bloggers Conference’s Grandstand tent.
Setup: Head to a wine & food station, grab a pour, grab a plate, eat, taste, … and be transported into a cuisine chameleon’s world! No, they didn’t serve any cheese, but I just did.
Goal: “Discover Portugal: Influences Around the World – A Food & Wine Pairing Brunch” hosted by Wines of Portugal.
Pairing #1: Indian Masala Omelette with Quinta das Arcas – Arca Nova Alvarinho 2012
So, we all know how fun Alvarinho is, right?! Right!
This citrus-based beauty was youthful and classy. Hints of quince complemented the fine pear and yellow plum notes that drifted from the glass. The 2012 was bone-dry, with a light-bodied delicacy. On the palate, a slight prickle lifted the spirits, and brought out its green, herbaceous character.
The omelette had met its match, provided there was no spicy sauce on it. The topping on the egg pancake was made from potato flakes, tumeric, and coriander. Just enough gusto to give the tongue a run for its money!
The verdict: Can I have this for breakfast everyday?
Pairing #2: Portuguese Crostini & Grilled Halibut with Tomato Compote Alongside Casa de Santar Reserva Tinto 2009
The Casa de Santar was an evolving wine with clear-cut notes of crushed red berries, raspberry juice, grilled herbs, black cherry, and toasty oak. The palate was a bit smokey, with a touch of black pepper. It was velvety to boot.
This red wine and the crostini were a great pairing; the zucchini and corn flavor profiles were lit-up by the wine itself. As for the Halibut, well… I was not expecting them to match. I was under the impression that the wine booths were near the food stations that would provide the best pairings. Aluminum foil is not an attractive flavor to me. The tomato compote did nothing for me, either.
The verdict: Bring me more bread with veggies and more wine!
Pairing #3: Japanese Tamagoyaki and Okonomiyaki with Herdade do Esporão – Duas Castas Branco 2012
Probably the best pairing I tried during the entire lunch was this white wine with the graceful elegance of the Japanese dishes.
The wine itself was light and brilliantly citrus-based, with white peach, minute hints of creaminess, and grassy notes. It was simply refreshing.
The Tamagoyaki (rolled omelette with sour cream) was, as I wrote in my notes, “awesome”. An appropriate pairing considering the fluffiness and lightness of the egg alongside the light flavor of the sour cream. The Okonomiyaki was interesting, as I have never had “Japanese pancakes with syrup” before. I thought the syrup was too sweet for the wine, although it did help to show the bracing acidity in the vino. What’s the rule again? Oh right, your wine should always be sweeter than your food.
The verdict: I’d do it all over again regardless of the syrup.
Photo by George Rose
As it is creeping up on lunchtime for me, I am disliking the fact that I am staring at these food & wine pairings and reliving the savory memories of each. Gurgle.
Many thanks to the Wines of Portugal for hosting this luncheon for us; it truly was an amazing experience overall. I am a huge fan of experimentation and adventure, and this lunch opened the eyes of many to the fact that Portugal has more than just Port.
Another year has come and gone, and I am pleased to say that The Demystified Vine is still guiding people to love & understand wine more and unravel the mysteries behind this fascinating topic! Okay, I’m done. Mission accomplished.
In the Similkameen Vineyards, 2013
In the last two years, I have seen The Demystified Vine grow significantly. In its first year, it had approximately 4,000 views. During its second year, views more than doubled. I have been working hard to not only grow as a writer, but also provide better content to my readers.
Some Fond Memories
Reporting at the Black Hills Estate 14-year Vertical, 2013
The 2013-2014 blogging year was memorable. I was fortunate enough to spend some time in my BC vine-backyard (the Okanagan) and taste some amazing wines. In October 2013, I was asked by Natalie Maclean to represent her at the Black Hills Nota Bene 14-year Vertical Tasting. The following day, I attended a 6-year vertical tasting at Clos du Soleil Winery in the Similkameen Valley. What experiences! I was passionate about BC wines before I went into the interior that weekend, but post-trip, it deepened widely. I realized how lucky I am to live in such a quality wine region of the world. We DO have age-worthy wines here in BC.
The Riesling tasting leftovers
Spectacular line-up of Clos du Soleil whites!
In addition to attending the Vancouver International Wine Fest and numerous wine tastings around town, I was fortunate enough to record some podcasts with Wine Country BC (@winecountrybc). How could I not also remember talking with a number of winemakers and winery owners to bridge the gap between readers and wine? In June 2014, I attended the Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara, California. I’m still processing many of the new things I learned. There have been so many wonderful experiences, and I am wholeheartedly looking forward to having more…especially more Marechal Foch and Riesling tastings!
Changes are Coming to The Demystified Vine
The Demystified Vine is going to be going through some changes. I have decided that I am going to be refocusing my website, in order to develop more engaging content about wine and the industry.
Previously, my focus was on reviewing wines and doing write-ups about wineries. In between those publications, I slipped in some wine-related posts or had guest bloggers. (Who could forget Martin Knowles (@mkphotomedia) and I writing wine Christmas Carols about Robert Parker?)
In Venice: I love me some Valdobbiaddene DOCG!
I want to shift gears. My passion has steered me into examining a more theoretical side of wine. I want to engage in conversations about the philosophies behind wine, wine making, and examine why wine makes people tick. The Demystified Vine will still do some wine reviews and the like, but for a while, at least, I want to see what other perspectives can bring.
I hope that you will continue this journey with me, as I have appreciated you being here. Feel free to “Like” The Demystified Vine on Facebook, too! The Page is up and running!
Once again, thank you to my readers; I wouldn’t be here without you! Many blessings. Cheers!
Wine is art. There is no debate on that. I refuse to even entertain the idea that it is not.
First Let’s Talk Santa Barbara Wine Country
With the nickname The American Riviera, how could you not want to travel here? Santa Barbara County is a vigorously growing grape region. (See what I did there?) With almost 21,000 acres of wine grapes being grown, and more than 50 grape varietals being focused on, it is no wonder why the vitality of this region has some vivaciousness going on. (Leave me alone, I’m voraciously in an alliterative mood.)
Santa Barbara: The American Riviera
The top three grape varietals that are being produced here by over 200 wineries are all of the vitis vinifera type [groan]: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, & Syrah. With effective microclimates, Santa Barbara County is doing its thing, and doing it well. According to the Santa Barbara Vintner’s website:
The unique, transverse nature of the valleys of Santa Barbara Wine Country provides a patchwork quilt of microclimates and terrains, resulting in one of the most diverse grapegrowing regions in the country. The valleys in the Pacific coastline actually run east-west rather than north-south, and both the coastal Santa Ynez Mountain range and the more interior San Rafael range are transverse too. Because of this geologic oddity, the ocean breezes sweep eastward, channeled by the hills and mountains that ring the region. Heading east into the foothills, the temperatures are warm during the day and very cool during the night, whereas the vineyards that lie westward toward the ocean enjoy a mild and moderate climate. Coupled with soils that run the gamut from ancient beach and diatomaceous earth to chirt and limestone, there is a near-perfect place for a wide variety of winegrape varietals.
To my knowledge, nowhere else in California has such a keen focus on Rhone Valley varietals. This is one reason why I was drawn to tercero wines (yes, that proper noun should be in lowercase letters) on the day of the vintner’s luncheon.
The Chosen One
At the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference in Santa Barbara, California (July 10-13, 2014), I had the pleasure of meeting Larry Schaffer of tercero wines. Larry was just one of the many wine industry professionals pouring vino at the Santa Barbara Vintners Lunch on Saturday July 12th. Alongside those delicious pourings, savory salads of various kinds were being handed out. Leafy greens and wine? You had me at “lunch”.
Wine Friendly Summer Salads
Since I had had a solid breakfast that morning, I wasn’t ravenous. As a result, my focus was on the wine. Yes, I wanted those greens; by that point, I felt like a single carbohydrate molecule from all of the food I had chosen to eat during previous days while traveling. After I had found a spot to sit, I walked to the nearest salad station and immediately noted the colourful presentation before me. Southwestern Fried Chicken Salad, you say? You had me at fried. (I’m sensing a pattern here.)
At this lunch, I was inspired to turn my focus on one winery. The chosen one: tercero wines.
tercero wines: Visions of the Rhone Valley
I spoke with Larry Schaffer about his winery and libation inspirations. Not only is Larry an interesting fellow to chat with about our favorite subject, but he is also down-to-earth and entertaining. His personality is one reason I decided to focus on tercero wines that day; he exudes a noteworthy, energetic passion. Here is what Larry had to say on naming his winery and why he is focused on Rhone Valley-inspired wines:
The Demystified Vine: I’m forever fascinated with knowing why people name things the way they do. Why did you choose “tercero wines” as your winery name? Larry Schaffer: It is always somewhat daunting and challenging to name a ‘venture’. Much time was put into finding just the right name at the time the brand, tercero wines, was started. First of all, ‘tercero’ means ‘third’ in Spanish. I am a third child, have three children, was married to my ex-wife on the 3rd (but alas, I am NOT on my 3rd wife), and tercero is also the name of the dormitory complex that I lived in when I attended UC Davis. The number “three” seems to pop up a lot in my life.
The Demystified Vine: According to your website, you source your grapes from five different vineyards. What is your reasoning behind sourcing grapes from a variety of vineyards? Larry Schaffer: I actually work with about 10 different vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County. I make about a dozen different wines and strive for diversity in what I do; I will not release a wine if it is too similar to another that I am releasing. The vineyards I work with are all unique, and I try to be somewhat ‘transparent’ in my winemaking to allow a sense of ‘place’ to be noticeable in the final wine. I work with vineyards in both cooler and warmer climates; vineyards that have sandy soil and loamy soil; vineyards that see quite a bit of fog during the harvest period and others that see none. This allows me to have more ‘pieces’ to fit into my winemaking puzzle, if that makes any sense . . .
The Demystified Vine:If you were to attempt to use only 5 adjectives to describe the experience you want people to have while enjoying tercero wines, what would those 5 adjectives be? Larry Schaffer: That is actually tough! Limiting me to 5 words when I’m as loquacious as I am? I’ll try: honest, thought-provoking, food-friendly, enjoyable, unique.
The Demystified Vine:Santa Barbara County is quite focused on Pinot Noir. Why do you focus on Rhone varieties? Larry Schaffer: As I mentioned when I moderated the panel at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference on Pioneering Winemakers of Santa Barbara County, yes, there has been a real focus on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in our county. These two varieties are the most plentiful white and red varieties in our county and have been for quite some time. That said, this county is unique in that it has plenty of viticultural ‘nooks and crannies’ that allow for a plethora of other varieties not only to survive here, but to thrive and produce top notch wines from them.
Due to this variety of soil and climate, Rhone varieties thrive around here – in both warm and cooler climates. To me, Santa Barbara County is home to the most ‘balanced’ Rhone reds and whites in the state. I know that’s a strong statement, but I base this on tasting through hundreds of Rhone wines each year from throughout California. One other reason I love working with Rhones? The pricing on them tends to be much more ‘moderate’ than other varieties at the same quality level, and I prefer not to have my wines only in the ‘high rent district’ so to speak.
The Demystified Vine:Are you currently experimenting with any other varietals other than the Rhone varietals? Larry Schaffer: I currently make one non-Rhone variety, and I’ve been making a wine that I call “The Outlier” since 2008. It is a dryish Gewurztaminer, and it is truly a ‘purpose’ wine. I prefer dry white wines to off-dry ones, and Gewurztraminer is traditionally made in an off-dry manner domestically, with a few exceptions. Mine usually has between .75 – 1.25% residual sugar, but also has at least 7 grams of acid per liter and a very low pH. What therefore happens is that the wine has some apparent sweetness, but not too much. Why a ‘purpose wine’, you may ask? I love spicy Indian and Thai cuisine, and I make this wine to accompany those meals. I will also be making my first Albarino this harvest. I’m always drawn to aromatic whites that I can make in a ‘food friendly’ style. I really like Spanish and Mexican seafood dishes, and I hope my wine will pair well with them. I continue to have the opportunity to work with a lot of other red varieties, including Pinot Noir. I learned a long time ago to never say ‘never’, but I prefer to keep as much focus as I can on my offerings these days.
The Demystified Vine:What is the tercero philosophy with winemaking? Are you organic/biodynamic at all? If so, why? If not, why not? Larry Schaffer: The philosophy behind my winemaking is pragmatism. I’m not a fan of dogmatic practices in general, and really disdain them when it comes to winemaking. Most of the vineyards I work with practice sustainable farming practices, choosing to use things like pesticides only in ‘worst case scenario’ vintages. I work directly with the vineyard owners/viticultural managers to let them know what I am looking for in my grapes, but at the end of the day, I am not a viticulturist. I put myself in the hands of those who are and therefore know I lot more about it than I do. I therefore can rest easier that I do not have to micro-manage them, but instead, just interface with them to ensure I am getting what I’m looking for.
Once the grapes come to the cellar, the fun begins – and I don’t necessarily plan out in advance what I’m going to do with each lot that comes in. I have a pretty good idea with some, but with others, I’ll change things up fermentation-wise or stem-inclusion wise just because I can. Ultimately, I do not control the entire process, and I don’t act like I do. I don’t have all of the answers, but instead use instinct, experience, and ‘educated guesses’ to get me from point A to point B.
tercero wines: the line-up
The Tasting Experience
For the record, all of the wines paired quite well with my Southwestern Fried Chicken salad. I really had no complaints. Some fared better than others with the salad, but none of the four wines detracted from the savory salad.
The 2011 tercero Grenache Blanc was light and still youthful. Sliced nectarine, ripe peach, melon, and citrus notes fused together nicely. Good minerality was found on the palate, too. It was a fine partner for the Southwest Chicken salad, as the black olives, avocado, and roasted red pepper created a lovely flavorsome relationship.
Onto the 2012 tercero Roussanne I went! Larry pointed out while pouring this wine that he likes to serve it warmer than a white normally is. (Doing so with a white wine typically shows off its bouquet and flavors more so than if it were over-chilled.) My olfactory senses detected peaches & cream, lemon curd, cotton candy, and delicate white floral notes. I made a note that said, “something celebratory in the nose”. I guess I had turned poetic.
My personal palate does not tend to lean towards French-style rose, but I will always try a wine. Next up was the 2013 tercero Mouvedre Rose. Hello fast legs! An enthusiastic expression of an old world rose, this wine shone tenderly with cherry blossom, strawberry candy, unripe raspberry, and hints of rose petals. Softly aromatic, I felt like I should have been sipping it at a wine bar, leaning over the piano, listening to the handsome piano player move that ebony & ivory… [What? Oh, sorry...moving on!]
Lastly, I tried the 2010 tercero Syrah. A developing wine that I felt would peak in 2017, it was brimming with notes of not-overly-sweet jam made from red fruits and a backbone of pepper. The palate provided some additional red plum notes, and I noted that this wine was velvety. A definite cellar-worthy libation.
Thank you to the Santa Barbara Vintners for sponsoring such a great lunch, and thanks to Larry for taking the time out to engage in some wine chat with me!