May 282013
 
Kelowna Vineyards

Photo Credit: Kelowna.com

Well, as a matter of fact, Penticton is in Canada. More specifically, it basks on the shores of Okanagan Lake in the Okanagan Valley, which is in the province of British Columbia about 400 kilometers (250 miles) east of Vancouver. Okay, well, that’s all clear now. I’ll be there next week attending the Wine Bloggers Conference and exploring the wines of BC.

Indeed, they make wine in Canada. For the most part, the country is too far north and too cold to grow wine grapes. There are, however, pockets such as Okanagan Valley where special climatic conditions make it possible for viticulture. While there are over 60 different varieties grown there, the best wines tend to be made from grapes that thrive in cooler conditions. Notably, this includes Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc.

My exposure to the wines of Canada are limited. I’ve read for years that the wines from this region are impressive and have a lot of potential, but haven’t had much opportunity to try them for myself. I have a particular fondness for good dessert wines, and have had several notable Ice Wines from both Ontario and BC. I’ve tried a few Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs as well, but not to any great extent. That’s about it.

I am, therefore, looking forward to the opportunity of exploring the region, learning its history, and tasting its wines.

May 232013
 

WBC13The 2013 Wine Bloggers Conference will take place June 6-8 in Penticton, British Columbia. In it’s 6th year, the conference has become a gathering of veterans and newbies alike, who seek the company of like-minded writers and to discover new regions to explore.

This will be the fifth of these conferences I will attend and I am looking forward to it. It’s the first year that it will take place outside of the United States, so registrations are understandably down. The conference organizers promise, however, that it will be equal if not better than previous iterations. I’m going to hold them to that.

The conference has changed quite a bit since it’s inception. It started out small, with only 100 or so of us discovering this new realm of wine blogging. It was the first time that many of us took Twitter seriously, and Facebook wasn’t even on the radar as a legitimate social site (some may argue it still isn’t). Since then, the blush is off the rose for some, but others have thrived and made a name for themselves.

The question must be asked: is blogging still relevant? There are some who claim that blogging is dead. And to a certain extent, I won’t disagree with some of their arguments. But, I prefer to think of blogging as having evolved, rather than died. People are still blogging and creating great content. The evolution has come in the form of how these writers now interact with their readers. Once upon a time, a blog’s success could be measured by how many and the quality of the comments they incurred on certain posts. Some blogs still receive comments, but most don’t garner as much as they once did. Instead, readers are now interacting more on social sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. So, in a way, blogging has grown beyond the blog itself, in essence decentralizing the conversation.

I think that this is shown most markedly in the change in the types of breakout sessions we see at blogging conferences now. It’s no longer about HOW to blog, but rather how to blog well. Creating compelling content, differentiating your blog from others, and using tools like Google+ to engage readers are all sessions we can expect at this year’s Wine Bloggers Conference. I myself will be participating on a panel about creating compelling content.

So, is blogging dead? Over 200 attendees to WBC 2013 would say: no. As do I. Blogs are still relevant. We just need to make sure that people actually want to read them.

Oh yea, and we’ll be drinking a whole lot of great wine too…

May 222013
 

It was the best of times and then… well, you know. Originally a Roman wine region, Spain’s Priorat then became a lost land of outlaws and wolves.  The Carthusians came in the 12th century, replanted the vineyards, and built a massive monastery in the middle of the wilderness.  But in the early 1800’s, that was destroyed in the revolts against the church.  And once again, the region became a rural backwater—but this time without the wolves.

It wouldn’t be until the 1980’s that anyone outside of Catalunya even heard of Priorat. A group of young winemakers took a look around at the steep hills and realized, we can make great wines of the world here. And so they did.

These determined winemakers brought in modern equipment, French oak barrels and a vision of a new kind of wine from Priorat:  focused, intense and very high quality.  They appreciated the area’s special soils, called, llicorella, whose mica particles add a touch of glitter to the landscape. The soil retains heat and reflects it back off the precariously steep slopes on to the vines. This added warmth, along with wild herbs and flowers that cover this hillsides, give the region some very powerful and aromatic wines.

Today, wine enthusiasts are clamoring for the wines, willing to pay top dollar. These are some of the best expressions of garnacha and carinena in the world.

I just visited the region and give you a view of Priorat Through the Bunghole:

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May 212013
 

PrioratI just got back from Priorat last week. What I was not prepared for was the beauty of the region.  I knew it made great wines, but I didn’t know about the stunningly steep vineyards (some terraced, some not) and the explosion of wildflowers that covered the hills.

Poppies in PrioratOf course, this has been the wettest spring in recent memory, and as one of my hosts put it: “anything that grows is going to blossom this year.” But, the result is glorious:  poppies, lavender, thistles, sage, rosemary — the full Mediterranean spice rack.

You could almost hear Julie Andrews singing…

May 162013
 

HypocrisyI’m afraid I’m becoming just a bit skeptical about all the organic and bio-dynamic wineries in Europe.  Not that they are trying to farm in a more “natural” way, whatever that means.  Often it just means that they let the weeds (sorry–native vegetation) grow between the vines.  Fair enough.

But it seems that once the wine is ready to sell, all bets are off.  Ideally, the wine would arrive in the market in recycled paper cases, lightweight bottles, and easily recycled packaging.  More often it comes in slick packaging that includes those wonderfully heavy bottles that make no sense from any ecological direction.

Hmpph.