Besides seeing friends, and learning about the host region, my favorite part of any Wine Bloggers Conference is the pop-up sessions or Rogue tastings that occur throughout the conference. Sometimes it's a few local wines that a participant brings to share. Other times it's marketing folks or owners of smaller wineries. I've already shared the An Intimate Tasting of Spanish Wine at #WBC15 with Finca Hispana & El Muro del Vino.
One of the savviest of these Rogue agents is Craig Camp who owns and operates Cornerstone Cellars Napa and Cornerstone Oregon. Craig is active on social media and blogs regularly about both these boutique wineries. During the ride to the conference from Seneca Lake I noticed that Craig was posting invitations to sample his wine before the Keuka Lake dinner. Both Cornerstone operations produce fabulous wines, so attendance was mandatory. The Napa wines were particularly stellar and are harvested from Oakville Station Vineyard (To Kalon), Kairos Vineyard in Oak Knoll, and Ink Grade Vineyard from Howell Mountain. The 2012 Napa Valley Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon always stands out being luscious, creamy, with an eternal finish. The 2012 Oakville Station Vineyard Merlot is quite the wine also.
Also through Twitter Constance Chamberlain (Wine & Co.) notified participants that she was pouring 25 years worth of Austrian Riesling from Wachau and Kamptal. What a great opportunity to witness the age-ability of Riesling. This was readily apparent with both the Domane Wachau Terrassen Thal Smaragd Riesling 1990 and the Hogl Wachau Smaragd Terrassengarten Loiben Riesling 1993. Both still retained a lively aroma, a creamy mineral center, and plenty of acidity. The Alzinger Wachau Smaragd Loibenberg Riesling 2003 was simply elegant. Moving towards the present the Buchegger Moosburgerin Erste Lage Riesling 2011 from the Kamptal region was delicious with equal parts texture and acids. Tasting these wines in the Finger Lakes Riesling country offered a great contrast between the more fruit forward New York version versus the mineral and creamy side from Austria. Thanks Constance.
Maria Frangieh traveled the farthest to WBC15 in order to represent Lebanon's Chateau Ksara. Their wines were poured during a unique popup of Lebanese, Vermont, Virginia, and Maryland wines. Chateau Ksara is the oldest and largest winery in Lebanon, founded over 155 years ago by Jesuit priests in 1857. It is particularly impressive that the winery not only survived during the last three decades (which included civil war and Syrian & Israeli invasions), but expanded production. Ksara’s vineyards are located in the central and western Bekaa Valley. This Mediterranean climate valley has an average altitude of 1,000 meters, enjoys hot dry summers with cool nights, and its own natural water table from melting snow from surrounding mountain ranges. At WBC15, Maria poured three red wines produced from Bordeaux varieties: the Château Ksara made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes and oak aged for 18 months; the Cuvée IIIème Millénaire Ksara’s flagship red; and the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. These were big and bold wines with structure and plenty of tannins. Looking forward to exploring more that Chateau Ksara and Lebanon have to offer.
During that same tasting session, other wines are stood out. A 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon from an extinct Maryland winery Frederick Cellars (via Catoctin Creek Vineyards) showed amazingly well. Just ask WineOrl. So did the Sangiovese based 2007 Festa di Bacco from Afton Mountain Vineyards.
As for the Vermont wines, the Marquette from Lincoln Peak Winery and Shelburne Vineyard were very tasty - for any wine, not just for a Marguette wine. It was also the first time for many of the participants to sample the fabulous wines from La Garagista. Todd Traskos also brought along several home made wines and various samples of La Crescent, a much under-appreciated grape.
Thanks to Elizabeth, the TravelWineChick, several of us were able to sample more excellent red hybrids courtesy of Hudson-Chatham Winery. Of course, this means Baco Noir, the offspring of Folle blanche and an unknown variety of Vitis riparia. I have a soft spot for their Old Vines Mason Place Vineyards Pultney Farms, produced from 60 + year old vines and possessing several levels of dark juicy cherries with a touch of spice. The Field Stone Baco Noir was the most interesting of the trio; and very difficult to create an accurate descriptor. There's both dark fruit and pepper, some vege, some minerals - but ending softly.
The final Rogue tasting to mention actually occurred the first night of WBC15 and was hosted by the most vivacious group at the conference, the #GoWBCCanada team pimping the Town Hall brands. There were several solid wines in this tasting particularly the Summerhill Pyramid Estate Winery Cipes Brut. This non vintage sparkling wine revealed both nuts and citrus and finished both creamy and acidic. The Sandhill Wines 2013 Viognier was also nice, hitting the appropriate notes of peaches and apricots with a soft velvety texture. If only British Columbia wasn't so far away.
Looking forward to what WBC16 and Lodi have to offer. Cheers.