English Sparkling -Balfour Extra Brut Rose

When I went to the European Winebloggers Conference in Rioja, I brought along an English rosè wine as my contribution to the event. I couldn’t have gotten more laughs if I’d brought along a comedian. The hoots and gibes I got. BUT once they got over their surprise, it garnered positive reviews. So with that in mind, I took along an English Sparkling Rosè with me to the US Winebloggers conference. I couldn’t have gotten a more different reception. As soon as I popped open the first cork, they were all over it. It seemed everyone had heard of English sparkling and were dying to try it out. No hoots of derisions or disbelief from my American compatriots. Everyone loved it. Michael Wangbickler of Cavemanwines commented on how well made it was and an enjoyable tipple. The fact that it was a hot, sunny afternoon by the pool probably helped nudge people along to a cool, refreshing sparkler. I had taken along the ’05 Balfour English Sparkling Brut Rosè. An award winning sparkler from the Hush Heath Estate in Kent. Made from the classic champagne blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier. According to Hush Heath, Balfour is the only UK vineyard dedicated to producing sparkling rosè.  Richard Balfour Lynn, the owner has stated his aim is to set out with “the vision of creating a uniquely memorable experience. Balfour is light, entertaining and fun, and more importantly, it knocks the socks off many French Champagnes.” Based on comments in California, it fulfilled all the above req’s. Light, lively, plenty of red fruits on the nose, strawberry, cherry, rapsberry, and the palate- fruity, crisp and dry. A lovely thirst quencher. Megan from wannabewino.com came back for more and Oenophilus was another fan looking for seconds. Unfortunately, the last bottle was a bit too cold and turned into a slushy in the fridge but enough people got a taste from the first two. A big success at the US Winebloggers Conference, English sparkling is definitely winning fans...

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California Dreamin’, the US Winebloggers Conference ’08

Just back from the US Winebloggers conference in Sonoma, CA and what a fabulous weekend. It was so nice to be in the California sunshine. Having attended both the European Winebloggers Conference and the US conference, I couldn’t say which was better. It’s like asking a mother to pick her favourite child, impossible. They were both fantastic in their own way. First off, both were in beautiful country but then again wine country just has to be beautiful. The US conf. started out with a hilltop lunch and tasting at Kick Ranch vineyards, where we had the opportunity to try wines made by various producers using both their own grapes and Kick Ranch grapes. There were quite a few events on the first day, not only did we have the hilltop tasting and lunch, immediately after we had a live blogging event, then a blind tasting challenge which I didn’t get a chance to attend because I had palate fatigue by then and I wanted to be ready for the NZ winetasting. I should have gone to the tasting challenge because I was disappointed by the NZ wines, especially since I know how good their wines can be (Vidal Wines post). We had two keynote speakers, Gary Vaynerchuck from Wine Library and Alice Feiring. Gary was an amazing keynote speaker, very motivational. After his talk, I wanted to go out and kick some ass!! Unfortunately, I wasn’t familiar with Alice’s work (but no one knew who Jancis Robinson  was so I didn’t feel too bad, not knowing my American cousins, so to speak) apparently she called out California on their big reds, something I totally agree with, but she was funny and gave a good speech. Dinner at Sebastiani Winery was good but really it was all about the social interaction. Before dinner we had a Sonoma wine tasting with some great stuff on offer. The last day was  the unconference, an opportunity for us to have roundtable discussions about whatever caught our fancy. I thought this was...

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’08 US Winebloggers Conference, Oct 24-26, Sonoma, CA

As some of you may know, I attended the first annual European Winebloggers Conference (check out my September archive for posts on that ) in Rioja this past August. Well, it was so much fun and I had such a positive experience that as soon as I got back to London, I logged onto OpenWineConsortium and signed up for the US Winebloggers Conference in Sonoma Valley, CA. The US conference is going to be held at the Flamingo Resort and Spa in Santa Rosa, CA. I thought that the meeting in Rioja was chock-a-block, well the folks out in California have an even more jam-packed schedule for us. Starting things off right with a lunch on Friday at the Kick Ranch Vineyard where we will be sampling wines from the following wineries: Bedrock Wine Company,Carica Wines, Enkidu Wines, Loxton Cellars, Lynmar Winery, Pax Wines, Renard Wines, Rosenblum Cellars, Sangliere, Silent Morning Cellars, and Shane Wines. Later that afternoon there’s going to be a live wine blogging event where we get to try 14 wines from 14 different wineries and we have 1 minute to blog about it! The wineries participating: Boho Vineyards             Bonterra Clos LaChance James David Dark Horse Sean Minor Wines Kanzler Vineyards Capozzi (sponsored but not yet licensed to pour) Killer / Angel Juice        Lionheart Pinot Evil                      Twisted Oak Small Vines Wines Dr. Konstantin FrankWine Cellars Bink Wines Some of the other events scheduled over the weekend: A Blind Tasting Challenge A New Zealand tasting with over 100 NZ wines on show Grand Tasting of Sonoma wines – which should be really interesting as I’m woefully ignorant of the wine from my home state Blogger breakout sessions with a panel of experts and moderated discussions A Blogger Unconference where we bloggers control the content Dinner at the Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery on Saturday night A Luxe Sonoma Lunch which will feature “a collection of luxury and hard-to-find wines from Sonoma’s most renowned wineries” sponsored by the Sonoma County Vintners and Sonoma Winegrape...

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Miguel Merino Riojas ’99 and ’01, Unnum ’02

the town of Briones, Spain I know it seems like I will never stop talking about the EWBC but we really packed a lot into the 2 1/2 days we were in Rioja. I can only imagine what the US Winebloggers Conference is going to be like in Sonoma, CA – which I will be flying back to the West Coast to attend in Oct. The last day of the conference was devoted to visiting wineries, Marques de Risquel – which I will blog about later, Bodegas Bilbainas – where we had our last lunch, and Miguel Merino Bodegas, a small winery smack in the middle of Briones. winery courtyard Briones is a quaintly medieval town set up on a hilltop. Historically, the grapes from the area were sent to wineries in Haro to be used in the best reserva wines. Miguel Merino, along with a few other boutique wineries, decided to set up shop here and take advantage of the excellent viticultural conditions surrounding the town. Although the winery is one of the youngest and smallest in Rioja, what it lacks in size it more then makes up for in quality. Miguel Miguel himself is quite a character. He regaled us with a story about his sorting table – of all things! During the harvest the workers use a mechanical sorting table to pick out the best grapes as they pass by. There are baskets at the feet of the workers, one on each side, where they throw out the grapes deemed unworthy. One basket is called “purgatory” and the other “hell”. The “purgatory” grapes get made into wine for family and friends. The “hell” grapes get picked up by a local farmer each day who feeds them to his cows. Miguel says the cows are known locally for being particulary disagreeable, breaking out of their enclosures and causing general havoc, but he doesn’t think it has anything to do with his “hell” grapes. We sampled 3 of his wines, the ’99 Gran...

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Ch Minvielle 06 White Bordeux and 07 Gerard Metz Gewurz

By last Wednesday, I’d sufficiently recovered from the EWBC in Rioja to face a bottle or 3 again. Now it was time for some white wine. A new Korean joint, Cah Chi, has just opened up in my neighborhood and the best thing about it is that it’s BYOB, something of a rarity in London and the corkage fee is a very reasonable. I’d arranged to meet my friends, Ana and Nigel (both of whom are involved in the wine trade) for dinner. Conveniently enough, there are two off-licences nearby, The Wine Rack (ex-Threshers) next door (which would come in handy later in the evening) and across the street, a local independent, Wines of the World. I’ve popped into their shop in the past and they always have a rather eclectic, exciting selection to choose from, as well as dispensing great advice. We started off with a white Bordeaux, Chateau Minvielle ’06. A classic bordeaux blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon, this was a crisp little number with a lovely citrusy, white flower nose. We all agreed that it was medium-bodied and slightly waxy on the palate (due to the semillon) with citrus flavours dominating the palate along with hints of white pepper and a refreshing lemon peel finish. An excellent way to begin the evening while we were perusing the menu. Since we were having spicy Korean food, I’d chosen an ’07 Alsatian gewurztraminer from Gerard Metz, a small producer located in the heart of Alsace on the eastern slopes of the Vosges Mtns. This wine had the typically spicy nose associated with gewurz – chinese five spice prominently displayed with elderflower and a touch of honey and grapey-ness hanging around the edges. It was not too complex, fresh but medium-bodied. White flowers, jasmine, dried apricots and maple syrup were all competing for attention in my mouth. Once we started eating the spicy Korean BBQ, the tastes of rose petals and white peaches really jumped onto our tongues. They served watermelon as a...

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