Category Archives: blogosphere

I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference

Somehow I’ve gone this far without telling many people that I’m speaking at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend in Santa Barbara County, CA, and I couldn’t be more excited! (And nervous!) I get to talk about my two favorite things, wine and WordPress. OK, I’ll mostly be talking about WordPress, but I’m sure to mix in a number of good wine-related allegories because that’s how much of a wine geek I am.

My talk is titled Supercharging Your Blogging With WordPress.com, and I’m scheduled for Sunday morning against a photography workshop and a writing workshop. So presumably anyone who comes to my session (other than my work-mates Derek and Rebecca) will be superlative writers and photographers who need to learn more about embedding images and video, managing spam, backups, security, and all the cool stuff that Jetpack lets you do on your self-hosted WordPress site. Oh, and people who didn’t stay up too late drinking on Saturday night. This seems like a good crowd for my inaugural workshop on blogging with WordPress, which will truly be a case study in the thought expressed here:

That being said, the thought of sharing the same “stage” (as it were) with speakers like Eric Asimov and Jancis Robinson is… a little intimidating. Could you tell? Just in case my presentation is less than thrilling, your consolation prize is a video of Jancis Robinson’s keynote from WBC 2011.

Live Wine Blogging to commence on Friday July 11

I’ll definitely be live-blogging my tastings at the Wine Bloggers Conference next weekend, using the WordPress iOS app. Unsubscribe if you don’t want to hear about all the cool juice I’ll be sampling in Santa Barbara County! :)

Guest Post: I’m a Wineaux Wannabe

Martha is a single work-at-home mom. She works as a social media strategist and consultant at Yellowfly Social Media. She also blogs over at Momsoap, where she writes about parenting and race-related issues, because her daughter, Annika, is biracial. Her blogging style is irreverent, which mostly means that she swears a lot. She likes wine, but she’s never quite sure if Shiraz is a brand or a type of wine.

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a wino when it comes to wine. But last week I realized something, since becoming a mom, I’m no longer a wino. I’m a wannabe wineaux. I wish, with just a hint of desperation, that I knew what good wine tasted like and how to tell a hit from a dud.

I like to imagine that I know what really good wine tastes like. I dated a guy once who proffered me French wine from menus without prices. I pretended to understand how delicious they were. To me, they all tasted like wine has always tasted. Some wine is delicious, and some just leaves my mouth feeling like someone mixed cardboard with grapes and bottled it with a vineyard label.

My first bout with wine was, I kid you not, Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill. I was not even legal drinking age yet. But I thought it was delicious. I drank the entire bottle while waiting for a friend to show up, who was supposed to be sharing it with me. I was shamelessly drunk and entirely happy with myself after that experience. For years, all wines paled in comparison to that enjoyable evening where I was mostly drunk on the delight of being drunk from a $3 bottle of wine.

My standards moved up when I started working at an Olive Garden, at the age of 19, and I learned that the choice of wine with your dinner depends on the color of your meat. It seems ridiculous to me now, but yes, people actually came into a place that serves endless baskets of bread and salad and expect the servers to know about wine.

I always had a good answer. My answer depended on the price of the bottle and the appearance of the customer. To my surprise, they always believed me. It’s amazing what a knowing look, slight bend at the waste and a flourishing touch as you wipe the lip of the bottle with a napkin can do to assure your customers that they have, indeed, made the best choice of wine to go with their pasta primavera.

And perhaps they did. Perhaps I was better at guessing than I gave myself credit for.

All I know for sure is that I’ve always felt like a fraud when it comes to wine. It seems like there should be some knowledge I could have picked up by now, after traveling around the world and drinking wines from varying restaurants.

Mostly, I just pick out the prettiest label for the best price. But I know there’s a better way. I just know it.

Behind the Curtain: Wine Chicks Guide

I’m always looking for new wine blogs.  There are plenty out there, and my favorites focus on easily-found, reasonably-priced wines.  I also particularly enjoy wine blogs written by women, partly because there aren’t as many out there as I’d like.  To find new blogs, I generally surf around other wine bloggers’ blogrolls…

That’s totally not how I found Wine Chicks Guide; I ended up meeting Kellie through Facebook, as one of my FB friends (who is completely not related to my wine life) also happened to be one of Kellie’s childhood friends.  This is your world, gentle readers; watch it shrink!

Kellie Dolan Stargaard’s blog is Wine Chicks Guide; she’s been blogging about wine since 2009, when she lost her job and decided to start writing about one of her passions.  I’ve been wanting to do some wine blogger interviews for a long time, and Kellie very kindly agreed to be first.  I really enjoyed her candor – I hope you do too!

What’s the first wine you ever drank?

Oh wow, I’m sure it was something really cheap and horrible back in high school. In college I progressed to Boone’s Farm, yes I have come a long way. Somewhere in my 20’s I discovered Blackstone Merlot. I think this is the first wine I can remember drinking that had any redeeming qualities. My love affair with wine grew from there.

What’s the most common reason you drink wine (stress relief/enjoyment/celebration/anesthesia/etc)?

All of the above! Seriously, I think I drink wine just for the enjoyment. When people find out I write a wine blog and receive wine samples they, think my husband and I are drunk all the time. I don’t drink wine because of the alcohol; I drink it because I enjoy the act of opening the bottle, pouring the glass and analyzing the flavors. There’s something about holding that glass and watching the wine swirl around the glass.

When did you start your wine blog, and why?

I started my blog in August of 2009. I’d lost my full-time status at the company I had worked for 10 years and was feeling a little lost. I found myself with extra time on my hands. So, I decided I liked wine and liked to share my experiences with wine, hence Wine Chicks Guide was born.

Has it taken you where you thought you’d go?

It’s taken me much further than I ever imagined it would. In October 2010 I was inducted into the Order of the Raven by Ravenswood founder, Joel Peterson. A group of 10 wine experts and journalists were flown out to Sonoma for a 3 day tour of the Ravenswood Single Vineyards. We spent everyday and evening with Joel and it truly was a remarkable event. I can truly say I never thought I would take a helicopter tour of Sonoma Valley.

How do you shop for the wines you review (every time you’re in the store/special trips to wine shops/online)?

I swing by the wine section in my local supermarket to see if they have any specials or anything new on the shelves. I also hit my local big box wine retailers once a month to stock up on new wines to include in my blog and inexpensive wines to just enjoy. Most of the wines I blog about now are between $8.99 and $20. Since I receive many of my wines from PR firms, they tend to be on the higher end but I do try to include some wines under $10.

What is the most rewarding thing about blogging, for you?

The people I meet, fellow bloggers, winemakers, public relations or just wine lovers. It’s opened new doors to connect with people who share in my passion for wine.

What is the most difficult aspect of blogging, for you?

Carving out the time in my day to actually write. I don’t want my blog to take time away from spending time with my husband or interfere with my paying job. I try to blog in the afternoons only and stay off the computer as much as I can once my husband is home. He’s very supportive of what I’m doing but I have to keep my priorities straight.

What aspect of the wine world do you wish you knew more about?

Funny you should ask, because I’ve wanted to take viticulture classes but unfortunately none are offered in my area. For now, I have to settle for reading books on wine.

What aspect of wine can people not shut you up about?

My passion for family owned wineries. So many of the big wineries have now been sold to conglomerates. I think it speaks volumes when a winery big or small is still family owned and run.

What are some blogs you read regularly?

TaylorEason.com and Vinography are the two I read most often. Taylor Eason is from Tampa and I’ve had the opportunity to meet her and I really look up to her.

What are some blogs you’ve just discovered?

That would have to be Wine Scamp. I’m so glad we were brought together through a mutual friend.

What should people know about you (that they probably don’t)?

I’m not a wine expert and I’m not a journalist. I’m just a wine lover trying to break down the wine walls that make wine intimidating to many people. Wine has a bad rap as being a bit of a snobbish and affluent drink. I can’t buy a bottle of Caymus just for everyday drinking and I don’t know many people who can. My goal is to convey to people you can find great wines at affordable prices and to give them a little background on the wine.

Thanks so much to Kellie for allowing herself to be interviewed! I really enjoyed learning more about her.

Tasting Schramsberg Brut Rose 2006 (with Deb Harkness at Wink)

Last night I went to Book People to see fellow wine blogger and NYT bestselling novelist Deb Harkness speak about her fantastic novel, A Discovery of Witches.  Go buy it.  Right now.  It’s OK, I’ll wait.

Cool.  Anyway, after the talking and the signing, Deb and I went to Wink for some wine and conversation, which were equally delicious.  I will comment at this point that, while Yelpers reference issues with attitude and portion size at Wink, our experience included an exceptionally warm, gregarious staff and what I considered reasonable portions.  But then, we just had wine, cheese and dessert, so I’m not sure my portion size wisdom is worth much.  I was very pleased with the host and our server, however – we had actually intended to just go to their wine bar, but when we stumbled in to the restaurant first, the host walked us over to the wine bar… and then offered us a table at the restaurant if we preferred.  We did, as the wine bar was packed.

When reviewing Wink’s list online, I had my eye on the Schramsberg Brut Rose 2006, as I (1) love sparking wine SO MUCH, (2) love Schramsberg SO MUCH and (3) thought it was really reasonably priced on their list at $60.  Seriously, it practically retails for that.  (Please don’t tell Wink.)

THEN, when Deb and discussed, I discovered that she had never tried Schramsberg’s vintage wine, which had me agog with horror (on their behalf, and hers), PLUS 2006 is when she started blogging, so it was… let’s be honest.  It was Wine Fate.  Sometimes Wine Fate takes hold of your life, and it’s senseless to struggle.  Just let go, and let wine.

Schramsberg was the first winery in California to make sparkling wine, let alone methode champenoise (meaning in the style of the Champagne region) sparkling, and I still think their vintage bubbly rivals great Champagne.  They’re a Napa house, though the 2006 Brut Rose contains grapes sourced from Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma.  The 2006 vintage was 68% Pinot Noir and 32% Chardonnay.

Dear, dear readers – it was SO GOOD.  This wine was a perfect, glittering jewel box of salmon pink, with pinpoint bubbles that never quit.  The nose was of the most flawless wild strawberry on Heidi’s mountain.  I confess I did not linger there because I so desperately wanted to taste… the palate was crystal clear and whistle-clean, yet simultaneously creamy and slightly spicy, with complex flavors of strawberry, apple and nectarine, and a finish that could go all night.  Sublime.

We ate “lightly,” ordering the Texas cheese plate (which included CKC Farms Baby Caprino, Sand Creek Gouda, Texas Gold Cheddar, and Bosque Blue), and then going on to dessert.  We had fun tasting the wine with the four cheeses, agreeing that the Baby Caprino was the best match for the wine, though the other cheeses were also very delicious.  The cheddar was beautifully nutty, and the blue was fabulously rich and pungent.

Based on our experience with the cheese, we were excited about pairing the wine with Wink’s chevre cheesecake, which sits on a shortbread crust with a riesling syrup reduction, little balls ‘o pear, and candied pecans.  We also got the Wink trio, which included their flourless chocolate cake, creme brulee and lemon merengue pie/confection.  But mostly I need to tell you about the cheesecake.

The chevre cheesecake was, on its own, resplendent in its perfection – and with the wine, it hit a superlative level that blew us away.  The tanginess of the chevre, balanced with the buttery shortbread and then mixed with the pear and the frosted nuts… THEN combining all THAT with the creamy yet crisp wine, with the pear coaxing out more of the Chardonnay than we had tasted before, transforming both the food and the bubbly… it was one of those alchemical pairing experiences, when 1 and 1 make 3, that all wine & food lovers treasure.

The other three desserts paled in comparison with the above, so I won’t bore you with it – but I will mention that the bubbly did a great job with the intense chocolate cake, gratifying me in my memory that Schramsberg Brut Rose is an awesome chocolate wine.

Deb and I talked of everything under the sun, including wine blogging, feminism, fiction, academia, Texas, motherhood, self-actualization and cowboy boots.  The whole evening was a blast, and I am so grateful for a world that has Deb Harkness in it, both for her whip-smart, generous self and her engaging, complex fiction.  Can’t wait until next time!

 

Tasting Domaine Ste Michelle Brut NV

It’s Oscar night.  Chez Scamp never watches the Oscars, but we’re breaking our custom… for what reason I have no idea.  We’re about 7:48 in right now, and I can’t say I’m really sold on the decision, but I’ve decided to pop a bottle of bubbly, so I’m likely to see it through.

Domaine Ste Michelle is one of my favorite “mixer” bubblies, so I’m actually going to taste the wine on its own as well as made into a mimosa and a poinsetta – which is bubbly mixed with cranberry juice and triple sec; I meant to make poinsettas over Christmas sometime, and I will confess that the cranberry juice has been waiting in the very bottom and back of my fridge, unopened since December.

Let’s start with the wine unadulturated: color is a perfectly respectable straw yellow in the glass.  Perlage (that’s fancy wine talk for bubbles) is quite fine, which testifies to the stunning high quality-price-ratio that DMS delivers.

Yummy green apple and lemon on the nose – as well as a mild undertone of earthiness. Palate of self-same lemon and quince (which is an appley-pear taste, if you’ve never had a quince) with a crisp, refreshing acidity that bounces around your mouth and leaves you wanting another sip.  SUCH an incredible value for about $10.  Seriously.

Why is it that I adulturate this wine again?  I seem to consistently forget how good it is.  Don’t forget like I do, gentle reader!  Remember! Buy this wine!  Drink it every day!

Anyway, I’ve mixed the drinks – and the glass of straight wine is gone – so let’s move on to the mimosa.

Color is, well, obviously, orange.  OK, I’ll dispense with the traditional structure of a Scamp tasting, because if the nose on a mimosa doesn’t smell like orange then I don’t know what.

Oscar Sidenote: wow, Anne-Hathaway-Singing-At-The-Oscars-And-Doing-The-Wolverine-Thing? So unutterably hideous.  Upside, we then get to look at Dame Helen, who makes me want to dye my hair white.

Anyhow, DSM Brut makes a good mimosa – it brightens up the orange juice with all the lemon, and the sweetness of the orange makes the wine even more suck-down-able.

The poinsetta… is interesting.  Without the triple sec, the drink is painfully sour.  The triple sec takes the edge off, but there’s still a definite bitterness here.  I can definitely see this as a sharp contrast to a heavy holiday brunch, bracing after a night of caloric overindulgence.  As an independent cocktail, I can’t recommend it, and I like sour/bitter drinks (I’m famous in my family as the only one who can happily drink Campari).  If you’re planning your Boxing Day Brunch and wondering how to balance the homemade cinnamon rolls, cheesy egg & sausage strata, and leftover pumpkin pie, this might just be your ticket.  I’m not finishing it tonight, even though Anne and James Di are about as cloying as an entire pan of frosted baked goods.

The mimosa was gone in about as long it took for Cate Blanchette to lead us through the clips of makeup nominees.  Oh, Rick Baker.  I love effeminate straight men with pure white ponytails.

OK, Wine Scamp out – there’s some serious laundry yet to be folded up in here.  For true Oscar liveblogging and general awesomeness, check out Kari Anne Roy’s hilarious Haiku of the Day.  I aspire to her life on multiple levels.

Kegs and Kitchen

But enough about wine; let’s talk about me and my friends for a moment:  my husband is a home brewer and a bit of a hop-head, which means that despite the fact that he’s not very into wine, we can at least relate vis-a-vis our respective liquid fascinations. I’m way much totally more of a foodie than he is, and in that realm he just demonstrates the patience and enjoyment of my pleasure that makes him the only man I would ever be married to from now on. Plus, I have foodie friends with whom I can geek out about obscure cuisines and new cooking techniques.

Kegs and Kitchen is written by a good friend of ours who is my Main Man to tell about a neat way to cook beets or a new source for organic, local goat cheese. He does most/all of the cooking in his marriage, as do I, and his love for beer is fairly equivalent to my love for wine. There are two things I really enjoy about his blog, which for the record I would love whether I knew him or not: great writing and fascinating beer and food pairings.

How can you not love a blog in which a barley wine‘s texture is described as feeling “like I’m pouring wet cement in my mouth”? Or pairs caramelized apple crostini with a witbeer that tastes “like you got a smack upside the head from Granny Smith”? He gives you recipes for all the dishes he prepares, and he photographs them all just beautifully.

He’ll probably kill me for hyping him up, as he’s been having trouble getting the time to post much, but you should really scamper over to Kegs and Kitchen. The recipes are divine, the beer reviews are inspiring and the blog itself really extends the genre, as all good writing should do.