Yesterday I talked about the pre-lunch part of the Drink Local Wine conference. Today I’ll fill you in on the final panel and the twitter taste off.
The third and final panel discussion of the day was, theoretically, about why those who promote eating locally are less concerned with drinking locally. Dave McIntyre served as moderator, and the panelists were Todd Kilman, from Washingtonian Magazine (no photos allowed to protect his identity), Andrew Stover, sommelier and local wine distributor (for non-VA wines), and Mary Watson-DeLauder, sommelier (now in charge of all Benchmark Properties). This panel felt unfocused and didn’t really grab my attention, so my notes here are weaker than for the other panels.
Local wine is just not in most restaurants. The general consensus was, however, that mid-level restaurants are the places to target to get local wine on the wine list since they are more willing to take a risk and try something new while traditional, formal, dining establishments are more about an exclusive experience and traditional wines. Mary suggested that wineries learn the menus at restaurants and walk in with specific recommendations for wines that would go well with the food that restaurant serves. It was also suggested that chefs and sommeliers be invited to visit a number of VA wineries to taste their wines and learn about the diversity of options available (even if Andrew didn’t seem to realize that VA wine country extends far beyond Loudoun County). The discussion then degenerated into a bashing of the 3 tier distribution system, which I’m hard pressed to believe anyone in the room supports.
I do think people should drink local, and I’m clearly able to do it in VA. I do not, however, often order wine in restaurants because I hate paying a 200% (or more) markup, as is often the case (forget asking for the local wine list – I don’t even ask for a wine list). I think a lot of local wine lovers are in the same boat. Many of us are younger and on tighter budgets. Many of us also know exactly how little we can buy that bottle for at the winery down the street (since we do so regularly) and are loathe to pay a much higher price in a restaurant when we likely have a bottle waiting for us on our shelves at home.
Regardless, I didn’t get a lot out of this panel and felt that it didn’t really have a clear focus or message in the same way the others did.
The final event of the day was the twitter taste off. Participating wineries were asked to bring two wines: 1 white (or rose) and 1 red. There were 27 participating wineries: 21 from VA and 6 from MD. It was fun, although the room was too hot (which really hurt the way the reds were able to show), and there was not nearly enough time to actually taste, think about the wine, tweet, and cast votes. In the end, we opted to do fast tasting with little reflection and no tweeting until it was all over.
My favorites were the ’09 viognier from Veritas and the ’02 merlot reserve from Breaux (with Veritas getting my vote for overall winner). Grape Envy Guy’s favorites were the ’09 viognier from Veritas and the ’05 Norton Locksley Reserve from Chrysalis (with the norton getting his vote for overall winner- what else). Other wines that I was thinking about after the tasting ended were the ’09 rosé from Boxwood (color me surprised), the ’07 meritage from Jefferson, the ’06 estate reserve from Lovingston, and the ’07 (?) meritage from Pollak. There were other nice wines as well, but good notes weren’t in the cards, so this is what you get.
The actual winners were the Breaux merlot for red, the Chrysalis albariño for white, the Michael Shaps viognier for public favorite (non-media types), and the Breaux Merlot for the media favorite.
I was, however, excited to try the MD wines that made the trip down since we’d never had any. I don’t think the MD wineries are quite where the VA wineries are, but a few did draw my notice. Black Ankle Vineyards and Serpent Ridge Vineyard both showed well. I also found it cool that Serpent Ridge is using zorks as their closure. I do have to say that I wonder why anyone would want to make a sparkling wine from vidal blanc… We’re not forsaking VA for MD anytime soon, but it’s good to know that more than one state was represented at this drink local celebration.
At the end of the day, I’m glad we decided to go. I wish it had cost less, and I wish this audience hadn’t been almost entirely people who already care a great deal about MD and VA wine (preach to the choir much). I wish there had been more outreach to the typical consumer of wine. I also wish it hadn’t had such a cliquish feel. We didn’t make the cool kids cut to get invited to receptions and dinners. While that would have been nice, I don’t really care. I do, think, however, that those events should not have been so prominently displayed in the program viewable online (that’s what email is for people), and announcements about how those in the exclusive dinner group would get wine on the bus while driving to dinner should not have been made in the room where everyone was doing the tasting. Conferences have kinks, and I hope that the DLW folks will get the kinks better worked out for next year.
Hands down, however, the best part of this was meeting other bloggers face to face (and even a few winery folks who’ve now figured out who we are). It was a wonderful, and too rare, experience to spend a day in the company of so many people who are so passionate about local wine.
The More Thinking About (and Drinking) VA Wine by Swirl, Sip, Snark, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.