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Wine Tasting in Paso Robles - 5 Excellent Stops Near Hwy 101 and Downtown

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately for advice on where to go wine tasting in Paso Robles. Paso Robles has been an up-and-coming wine region for a decade. Perhaps it has arrived.

Wine aficionados first saw Paso Robles as a source for excellent QPR (quality-price ratio). Bang for the buck. But, over the last several years, Paso Robles has emerged as a producer of world-class wines too. Wine Spectator magazine named a Paso Robles Rhone-blend, the 2007 Saxum James Berry Vineyard, their Wine of the Year for 2010. Rhone-varietal wines have gotten much of the attention, but Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Zinfandel routinely get high scores as well. Paso Robles wines have a reputation for being bold and fruit-driven, but there are many which show a gentler side, offering elegance and subtle complexity.

Paso Robles an excellent destination for wine tasting too. The town still has a genuine farming/ranching feel,but has added upscale shops and restaurants. Paso Robles attracts wine fans from both southern and northern California, but doesn’t get as crowded as Napa Valley during the high season. Andrew Knowlton of Bon Appetit magazine has said that Paso Robles “feels like Napa Valley 25 years ago.” Most of the wineries are still small, family-operated and unpretentious. Two-thirds of them make just 5,000 cases or less per year. Others, though, have elaborate facilities, luxurious on-site lodging and the ability to cater to high-rollers.

If you go to explore the wines and wineries of Paso Robles, it’s best to have a focus. The number of wineries in Paso Robles has grown from 35 to nearly 200 in the last 10 years. They aren’t lined up on one or two long, straight roads as so many are in Napa. Planning ahead will allow you to make the most of your time. I tend to focus on specific areas when visiting Paso Robles, but you might prefer to seek out top makers of a particular type of wine. Today, and for each of the next four Wednesdays, I’ll offer a different route with some of my top choices for tasting wine in Paso Robles.

Please note that the details below with regard to fees, tours, etc. apply to individuals and groups of up to 6 people. Larger groups should call the wineries in advance for availability and special opportunities. It's never a bad idea to call ahead to a winery you're planning to visit even if you're on your own. They can give you a heads up on special events , or perhaps a large tour group that is about to pull in, either of which might cause you to adjust your schedule slightly.

Tasting Wine in Paso Robles: Northeast and Downtown

You can taste great wines in Paso Robles just five minutes from Hwy 101. Maybe you’re looking for a quick stop to break up a San Francisco-to-SoCal road trip. Or you’ve rolled into Paso Robles for the weekend on a Friday afternoon and want to hit a couple of wineries before dinner. This is the route for you.

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Vina Robles
Vina Robles is located just a couple of miles east of Hwy 101, just off Hwy 46. They make a wide variety of very good wines that offer excellent value. Included are varietal and single-vineyard wines plus their innovative blends White4 (see review) and Red4. The latter two show how well non-traditional combinations can play together.

The Vina Robles hospitality center extremely spacious and includes more than just a tasting room. There is plenty of comfortable seating, an extensive gourmet foods shop and an art gallery. Deli food is available if you want to picnic or need a snack for the road. See my full profile of Vina Robles here.

NorCal Wine reviews of Vina Robles wines:
2009 Vina Robles Sauvignon Blanc Jardine Vineyard Paso Robles

2009 Vina Robles WHITE4 Heurhuero Paso Robles
2007 Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon HuerHuero Paso Robles

Address: 3700 Mill Road Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-4812
Open Hours: 10am - 6pm (5pm during winter, closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day)
Tasting Fee: $0 for three wines, $7 Estate tasting, $10 Reserve tasting
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: Yes
Picnic Area: Yes
See map and weather forecast

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Eberle Winery
Not every Paso Robles winery has sprung up in the last ten years. Gary Eberle has been in the wine business there for almost 40 years. He started out at Estrella River Winery which belonged to his family at the time. Eberle founded his eponymous winery in 1983. He is also a co-founder of the Paso Robles AVA which was established in 1980. [The Estrella River brand now belongs to Fred Franzia’s Bronco Wines Company. The winery itself was sold to Beringer in 1988 and renamed Meridian.] Eberle Winery is located on Hwy 46, almost directly across the highway from Vina Robles. (You'll need to drive, not walk, between the two though.)

The Eberle wines have been made by Ben Mayo since 2003. For the most part, the winery has specialized in Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. The Reserve Estate Cabernet is especially well regarded. Don’t miss the Eberle Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah. If you like something on the sweet side every now and then, try the Estate Muscat Canelli which is another Eberle flagship. If you notice a lot of Penn State references on the tasting room walls, that’s because Gary Eberle studied — and played football — there in the late 1960’s.

Address: 3810 Highway 46 East Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-9607
Open Hours: 10am - 6pm April-September, 10am - 5pm October - March
Tasting Fee: Complimentary tasting available, $25 VIP tasting by appointment
Tours Available: By appointment
Food Available: Yes
Picnic Area: Yes
See map and weather forecast

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Ortman Family Wines

Like Gary Eberle, the Ortmans have been in the wine business for decades. Patriarch Chuck Ortman, who Wine Spectator once called “Mr. Chardonnay,” worked at Heitz Cellars all the way back in 1968. In the 1970’s, he made wine for Spring Mountain and St. Clement. His 1973 Spring Mountain Chardonnay was one of the wines chosen to compete in the 1976 Judgement of Paris. Chuck Ortman founded his own label, Meridian, in 1984. It specialized in Eden Valley Chardonnay. In 1988, he was hired by Beringer to make the wines for their recently acquired Estrella River Winery in Paso Robles. Ortman sold the Meridian name to Beringer and that brand was then used for the Estrella wines.

Twenty year later, the Ortman’s are back to running a smallish, family-operated business. Chuck’s son, Matt Ortman, makes the wine and manages the business with his wife Lisa. The wines are very well made: restrained and true to the vineyards. Of course, Ortman Family offers Chardonnay in Chuck’s traditional style which is fruit-forward but balanced and showing a delicate hand with the oak. The Ortman Family Pinot Noir is also quite good, though the grapes don’t hail from Paso Robles.

The tasting room is located in downtown Paso Robles. Street parking is usually readily available. The downtown area has seen renovation in recent years and is a very nice place to wander around. City Park is just one block away and is a good spot for a picnic, but Ortman is also the only tasting room in downtown Paso Robles with a private patio for picnics and other gatherings.

Address: 1317 Park Street Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 237-9009
Open Hours: noon to 7pm Friday and Saturday all year, noon to 6PM Sunday - Thursday during Summer, noon to 5PM Winter
Tasting Fee: $10 for six wines, waived with purchase
Tours Available: No
Food Available: Restaurants and shops are nearby
Picnic area: Yes
See map and weather forecast

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Anglim Winery
Steve Anglim is part of a newer breed of Paso Robles proprietor/winemakers. As is the case for several others, his entry into the wine business represents a mid-life career change. Having made some wine at home with good results, he began to study wine and winemaking intently. After considerable study, including classes at UC Davis, and several more successful vintages, he quit his day job in finance to focus fully on wine. Anglim and his wife Steffanie thought Paso Robles provided the right mix of opportunity, quality, affordability and livability. They opened their winery in 2002.

Anglim Winery concentrates on Rhone varietal wines: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Roussanne and blends thereof. Anglim has gradually added other wines to the portfolio too, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel. Quality is very high throughout and I have recommended several of their wines in my coverage of Rhone Rangers tastings (2010, 2011). Overall production is low, about 4,000 cases per year. The Anglim tasting room is roughly one-quarter mile south of Paso Robles City Park in a historic old building that used to be the train station.

Address: 740 Pine Street Paso Robles, California  USA 93446
Phone: (805) 227-6813
Open Hours: Thursday - Monday 11am - 6pm and by appointment
Tasting Fee: $5 for six wines, waived with purchase
Tours Available: Barrel tasting at the winery near the airport by appointment
Food Available: By appointment
Picnic area: Yes
See map and weather forecast

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Villa Creek Restaurant

Villa Creek Cellars is too far into the hills for a quick trip. But you can taste Villa Creek wines, and get some delicious food, at their downtown restaurant. The wines, made by owner Cris Cherry, are almost entirely based on Rhone varietals. There is one white Chateauneuf du Pape blend and a rose´of Grenache and Mourvedre. The rest of the wines are bold reds, deeply-tinted with rich fruit, spice and savory notes. The lone exception to the Rhone-varietal theme is Mas de Maha, 60% of which is Tempranillo. The wines are very well-made and bursting with personality.

Villa Creek Restaurant uses local ingredients to produce what they call “Ranch Mission cuisine.” It’s food made from fresh, local ingredients and prepared in style that is influenced by traditional dishes of Spain and Old Mexico. If you’re not looking for dinner, Villa Creek’s bar is also a very happening nightspot. Villa Creek is just a couple of blocks from the Ortman Family Wines tasting room.

Address: 1144 Pine Street Paso Robles, CA 93446
Phone: (805) 238-3000
Open Hours: Bar/Tapas open from 4PM, dinner service 5:30pm to 10pm, reservations are recommended
Tasting Fee: Yes, many options by the glass and bottle
Tours Available: No
Food Available: Yes

Wine Tasting in Other Parts of Paso Robles

This article is one in a five-part series on wine tasting in Paso Robles' different areas. Here are links to the other four articles:
5 Can't Miss Wineries in Northwest Paso Robles
My Top 4 Picks in Southwest Paso Robles
3 Top Stops on Anderson Road
3 Winning Wineries on Live Oak and Arbor Roads

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Banner from a map by Mike Bobbit & Associates for Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance. All rights reserved.

6 Excellent Reasons to Decant a White Wine

Decanting a red wine is almost automatic for some people. If it’s a young wine — and not something light such as Pinot Noir or Gamay — SPLASH, into a decanter it goes. And most people readily decant older red wines to separate the good juice from the unpleasant sediment. How often do you hear about white wine being decanted though?

Christopher Watkins of Ridge and I had a brief discussion about it recently when I asked if he’d decanted the excellent 2008 Ridge Monte Bello Chardonnay he’d poured for us on blogger day. (He hadn’t, the wine was fantabulous out of the bottle.) But, in his blog post yesterday, A Chardonnay Vertical? Oh, no you didn’t! Oh, yes I did!!!, Christopher touched on the topic of decanting white wines. He agreed that decanting can help some young Chardonnay blossom. There are other situations that call for decanting white wine too.

Here are 6 excellent reasons to decant a white wine:

  • The wine is too cold.
    When you’re in a rush, it’s easy to forget to pull wine out of the refrigerator soon enough. Almost all white wines should be served at less than room temperature. But, if the wine is too cold, many of the aromatics are hidden. Cold wine comes up to prime drinking temperature more quickly if you pour it into a room temperature decanter.

  • The wine is too warm.
    This may seem counter-intuitive based on the previous tip. However, the principle is the same. Wine bottles do a good job of insulating the wine they contain from external temperature changes. To get your wine to the right temperature quickly, you need to get it out of the bottle. By spreading the wine out over the broad but thin glass of a decanter, you can more easily change the wine’s temperature.


    To cool wine using a decanter, immerse the decanter in a bath of water and ice. Be careful not to let any water get into the decanter. Give the decanter a minute or two to chill and then pour in the wine. Leave it in the ice bath until it reaches the temperature you like.

  • The wine is “closed.”
    Most white wines, served at the proper temperature, having enticing aromas right out of the bottle. Some are shy though. This can be due to winemaking style, because the wine is very young or in an awkward phase, or just the nature of that grape variety. If you pour a white wine into your glass and it smells like... nothing, decant it. Believe it or not, some experts regularly decant Champagne for this very reason. Bubbles are pretty, but aroma and flavor are more important.

  • The wine evolves beautifully over time, but you don’t have time.
    Some wine has attractive aromas right out of the bottle, but they really blossom with time in your glass. A perfect example of this is Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc Reserve. Pour the wine and you’re greeted by lovely white peach, vanilla and gentle oak. But, over time, numerous more subtle notes of white flowers, spice, sweet herb and other fruits emerge.
 At a recent dinner party, I served that wine with one specific dish in a 6-course meal. I needed the wine to be at peak right away to optimize the guests’ experience and keep the dinner running on time. I decanted the wine and it blew people away.

  • The wine has some “bottle stink.”
    Okay, no reason to be embarrassed. We’ve all had moments when we weren’t as fresh as we’d like to be. That happens with wine too, but it doesn't mean the wine is bad. With young white wines bottle stink is most often due to excess sulphur (used by winemakers to kill bacteria) or a very tight seal, such as screwcap, that doesn’t allow any gases to escape from the bottle. If you pour that wine directly into a glass, some of the gases will go with it.  And other gases that were in-solution with the wine will gradually emerge in glass too. Splashing the wine into a decanter gives those (ob)noxious gases a chance to dissipate well away from your sensitive nose. Some  German Rieslings I own show a lot of sulphur on the nose when first opened. Decanting them really helps.

  • Two bottles of exactly the same wine are showing bottle variation.
    This isn’t a situation that will arise often for most people, but it is common for those who regularly lead large wine tastings or classes. With a large group, you need more than one bottle of each wine. Yet each glass of wine should taste and smell the same so everyone has a common frame of reference for discussion.
 If there is significant variation between bottles of the same wine, whether they are at slightly different stages of development or one bottle is a touch flawed, you can blend the bottles using a decanter. A magnum decanter easily holds two bottles. If you only have a one bottle decanter, you’ll need to pour just half of each bottle (or less if you have three or more bottles) in at a time.

 

Decanting white wine isn’t something you need to do every day. But it is something that can add to your enjoyment on occasion. Don’t let a wine’s color make you shy about decanting it if necessary.

 

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

California Chardonnay You’ll Want to Buy

There is a lot of angst in the media about California Chardonnay again. The controversy doesn’t seem to have affected sales much though. People still buy it by the gallon, sometimes literally. So, why all the hullabaloo?

There is plenty of good, expressive Chardonnay coming from California. However, you may have to search a bit for it. The best wines, which are not always expensive, may not be the ones on your local grocery store shelf. That is especially true if you don’t live in California. To help you find the good stuff, I’m providing a list of some of the ones I’ve enjoyed most over the last year. If you want to cut to the chase, or run to the store, just skip down to my recommendations at the end because the next few paragraphs will discuss some of the current controversy.

“Strong Victory for Organic Winemakers” is a Loss for Consumers and Common Sense

Let me be clear. I have no general issues with organic foods or wines made from organically- grown grapes. In fact, I believe many of the best wines made today are derived from either organic or biodynamic grapes. But "organic wine" has been, and will unfortunately continue to be, a very different product.

The "strong victory" quote in the title of this article is the headline of a press release from Frey Vineyards of Redwood Valley in Mendocino County. Sent on behalf of “a coalition of organic winemakers and distributors,” it announced that the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) had elected to maintain the current regulations for wines labeled as “organic wine.” This NOSB vote reversed a decision made by the USDA.

Roussanne-at-Tablas-Creek-VineyardsThe core issue is sulfites, specifically sulfur dioxide or SO2. The original, and now continuing, rule is that “organic wines” may not include any added sulfites. None. This is similar to regulations for other organic products which also ban the addition of sulfite. I, the USDA and many others — including committed organic and biodynamic growers — have two problems with this. First, sulfur dioxide is important in the process of making quality wine and in having that wine remain sound in bottle. Second, unlike virtually all other produce — organic or otherwise — grapes have naturally-generated sulfites on their skin. Thus, it is almost impossible for any wine to be sulfite free, even if sulfites are not added.

The organic winemakers claim maintaining current labeling laws will prevent consumer confusion. I believe it simply confuses them in a different way. It is true that other organic products are not allowed to add sulfites. But, based on that, the few — very few — people who are sensitive to sulfites buy organic products knowing them to be free of sulfites. Consumers cannot do that with wine. Even with this NOSB ruling, “organic wines” may contain sulfites.

Winery quotes within the press release show how easily consumers can be confused by this rule. “Organic wine has always been defined as preservative-free with no added sulfites,” says Phil La Rocca, founder of La Rocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, CA. That is true and a clear statement. However, Paul Frey, President of Frey Vineyards in Redwood Valley, CA states, “The preservative sulfite has never been allowed in any organic food that carries the USDA organic seal.” That is a confusing statement. It implies to consumers not well-versed in the law that “organic wine” does not include sulfites. The catch is the law states added sulfites are termed “a preservative.” Naturally occurring sulfites are not. Frey isn’t really saying there are no sulfites, just that there are no sulfites added.

United States’ law requires all wines with sulfites in excess of 10mg/liter (10 parts per million) to display the text “Contains Sulfites” on the label. Wines with less than that amount, as determined by analysis, may omit the warning. Wines which, by analysis, show less than 1ppm may be labeled as “No Sulfites.” These are the phrases that people with sulfite sensitivity need to look for, “Contains Sulfites” or “No Sulfites.” An “Organic Wine” may well have more than 10ppm and therefore be required to bear the “Contains Sulfites” warning.

All the NOSB ruling really did was continue a labeling policy that consumers don’t understand in order to preserve the market share of a small number of companies which elect to not add sulfites. A change in the rule would not have forced them to add sulfites, nor would it have prevented them from omitting “Contains Sulfites” warnings on eligible products, or even using “No Sulfites” labeling. What it does do is prevent hundreds of other wineries from labeling their products “organic wine,” even though they are made solely from organically-grown grapes in certified-organic vineyards.

If the USDA-recommended change had been adopted, a wine could have contained up to 100ppm of sulfites and be labeled “organic wine,” assuming all other criteria for that designation were met. In reality, the average sulfite level in wines is less than 80ppm. Many individual wines are far lower. U.S. law prohibits any wine from having more than 350ppm or 350mg of sulfites. Note that the human body produces about 1000mg of sulfites per day on its own.

Some people do have a sensitivity to sulfites. Studies suggest such sensitivity is very rare and is essentially limited to 5% to 10% of those individuals who have asthma. In those people, exposure to large doses of sulfites can bring on asthmatic reactions, nasal irritation, hives, etc. But some medical studies have shown no reaction whatsoever from sulfite-sensitive individuals when drinking a glass of wine with sulfite concentrations of 150ppm — 50% higher than the proposed rule change would have allowed. There is no confirmed medical evidence that sulfites cause headaches either, though many people have that misperception.

SO2 is SO2. The press release, and the appeals of organic winemakers and their supporters to the NOSB, repeatedly refer to added sulfites as “a synthetic preservative.” SO2 isn’t a very complicated compound. Use of the word “synthetic” makes added SO2 sound sinister. But manufactured SO2 isn’t any different from that which occurs naturally.

According to Pat Henderson, senior winemaker at Kenwood Vineyards, sulfur dioxide is “without a doubt the most important additive that is used in winemaking.” Vineyard managers use sulfur dioxide as an antioxidase, sprinkling it on the picked grapes before they are taken to the winery. This preserves the freshness and bright flavors while preventing browning of the fruit and juice by acting on the enzymes which encourage oxidation. Winemakers also use it to prevent oxidation to prevent browning, formation of acetaldehyde and limit the actions of tyrosinase.

Sulfur dioxide is also an antimicrobial agent. By using just the right amount, winemakers can kill bad microbes without affecting good ones. For some winemakers, this includes ambient yeasts that can take fermentations in the wrong direction or result in off flavors. Winemakers also use SO2 to control malolactic fermentation and sanitize barrels, corks and equipment.

There are a number of bacteria and yeasts that cause wine to spoil. They include Acetobacter (vinegar bacteria), Brettanomyces (smells of barnyard), Lactobacillus (can smell like dirty socks), and Pediococcus. Sulfur dioxide is an important part of controlling them. I suspect you and I agree that wine which smells of vinegar or dirty socks is not appealing.

Failure to add SO2 in the vineyard or winery can allow oxidation and bacteria to run amok. White wines may brown early in their lives. The off aromas and flavors noted above may occur. In extreme cases, wine can even begin to ferment again in the bottle. These are the risks taken by winemakers wishing to qualify for an “organic wine” label. But, really, the risk is taken by those consumers who buy the wine.

Excessive use of sulfur dioxide isn’t good. It can result in excessive sulfite levels in the wine. It may also cause off aromas, including smells of burnt match or even rotten eggs. Winemakers use sulfur dioxide very carefully and, usually, in as small an amount as possible to achieve the desired results. They stop using sulfur several weeks before bottling to ensure that “free SO2” dissipates and doesn’t wind up in the bottle.

I believe most people who seek “organic wines” are really looking for good wine made from organic fruit. Those people need to look for these phrases on the label: “Made from organically-grown grapes” or “biodynamic wine.” People legitimately sensitive to sulfites should seek wines that say “No Sulfites” or at least do not bear the “Contains Sulfites” warning. People who are curious or feeling lucky may want to try an “organic wine.”

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on FacebookAlso check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.

This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. All rights reserved.

Cats and Dogs Blogging Together

There are two species of wine bloggers. Within each species, there are many breeds—reporter, diarist, taster, storyteller, etc.—which have analogs in the other. But the two species are very different animals.

The Dogs BedFor one species, wine blogging is part of a career in or around the wine industry. Their involvement with wine may not pay all the bills yet, but they seriously intend to make that happen. For the other, wine blogging is, and always will be, a hobby. They might hope to cover some costs and receive wine samples, but their blogging is really a pastime, a creative outlet, a way of sharing their experiences.

I’m not saying one species of blogger is better than the other, just that they are distinct. Their goals, outlooks, interests and approaches to blogging contrast clearly. The Wine Bloggers’ Conference has always tried to serve both species. Each is addressed by certain activities within the programs. But the target audiences for seminars aren't overtly identified. Content doesn't give the impression of having been fine-tuned for either segment.

In retrospect, this is at the root of my frustrations with the conference and, I suspect, those of numerous "career bloggers" who have attended. We feel uncomfortable with multiple aspects of WBC that happen to have great appeal to hobbyists. And many careerists feel WBC doesn’t offer them enough unique value to justify their time and travel expense.

My favorite non-tasting seminar at this past conference was Michael Larner’s presentation on Terroir of Santa Barbara County. He was thorough, authoritative, focused and occasionally showed his dry humor. I found the session was very informative and time well spent. Unfortunately, there weren’t more than 25 bloggers in the tent.

Why, in a conference taking place in Santa Barbara County, were there not more people eager to learn about Santa Barbara County? First, the career group, which has much greater interest in the details of soil, climate and geological history, is, at best, 20% the size of the hobbyist camp. Second, Michael’s session was concurrent with two others, each having a title starting with “The Business of.” If you’re a career blogger, all three sessions have appeal. Which do you attend? If you’re a hobbyist, none are particularly exciting. Do you grudgingly attend one or do you sleep in?

My favorite tasting seminar of the conference was “Syrah Territory: Ballard Canyon.” It was instructive, allowed winemakers to address the audience directly and the wines were tremendous. The tasting seminar called “Dig In: Sta. Rita Hills” might have been even better. I’ll never know. These two core seminars on Santa Barbara wine were presented simultaneously.

Many people enjoyed the panel discussion entitled “How the Pros Taste.” I like and respect each of the panelists: Patrick Comiskey, Steve Heimoff and Joe Roberts. Much of the crowd enjoyed these gentlemen’s interplay, stories, enthusiasm for particular wines and occasional nuggets about their tasting habits. But I and a few careerists sitting around me, writhed in frustration, wondering when Steve, Joe and Patrick would tell us how they actually approach tasting: their process, how they characterize tannins, how they weigh various criteria to reach an overall quality assessment, etc. That never happened, but the majority of attendees—the hobbyists—were entertained and left happy.

And then there’s “live blogging.” I loathe it. I understand a winery’s desire for face-to-face time with many small sets of bloggers adn the benefit of having their brand trending on Twitter. I grok the revenue model for Zephyr. I can relate to the happiness and invigoration bloggers experience when learning and tasting so many new things in rapid-fire succession, and having to write/tweet about it under the pressure of 5-minute deadlines.

But I feel badly for the winemakers who can barely make themselves heard in a hall with hundreds of people talking at once. I wonder who, reading at home, can keep up with and benefit from the tidal wave of 80 character (plus multiple hashtags) “reviews.” I mourn for my palate which is required to first taste a fortified wine, then a delicate white, then a pungent Sauvignon Blanc, then a neutral white from a box. Thank Dionysus for the occasional palate-resetting bubbly!

In Tuesday’s article, I’ll offer ideas for restructuring the conference to better serve both hobbyist and career bloggers.

Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for wine news, information on events and more, or friend me on Facebook. This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2014. Photo: Wikimedia Commons: Petteri Sulonen. All rights reserved.

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