Even though most of us think variety is the spice of life, varietal-based tasting events have great appeal as they bring people with the same flavor preferences to sample the subtleties of single varieties of grapes. For more than 20 years, Zinfandel Advocates & Producers (ZAP) has held its biggest tasting event in late January in San Francisco, Calif. The trade and the public taste hundreds of Zinfandel wines at a venue built to handle more than 7,000 visitors. Having a “trade-only tasting” two hours before the main crowd is critical to conducting business successfully and attracting media attention and coverage.
Anderson Valley is tucked away between the Pacific Ocean and Highway 101 north of Healdsburg. The Anderson Valley Alsace Festival took place Feb. 9, a sunny and cool day typical of the region and conducive to growing cool-climate varieties like Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, etc…The festival is an example of a smaller regional tasting event based on a specific variety or winegrowing region. All viticultural regions should consider creating such gatherings in the interest of education, epicurean fun and future sales, as they bring dedicated and very knowledgeable visitors.
Even the winery owners had Zins on their faces at the 2013 ZAP Grand Tasting.
Wines & Vines is a loyal sponsor of ZAP and ran out of magazines before the public arrived.
Texas Tasting Rooms
The Texas Wine Industry Annual Conference took place Feb. 14-16, south of Austin in San Marcos, Texas. With 204 wineries, Texas is meeting the local demands for the growing thirst of a recession-proof state. With 170 tasting rooms (83% of state wineries have one), the industry thrives on direct-to-consumer sales, and if the couple of wineries I visited are a representative sample, winery owners are keen to capitalize on weddings and special events to ensure economic success. With a huge tasting room, a separate restaurant next door and wedding facilities, the Duchman Family Winery is a perfect example.
Duchman Family Winery uses local stones in its "Texas-size" tasting room.
A new wine-by-the-glass system will be demonstrated at the Eastern Winery Exposition in Lancaster, Pa., on March 6 and 7. The device’s designer and inventor, Ivo Riemens from The Netherlands, will demonstrate at the Wine Appreciation Guild booth, No. 24. For more information visit winehardware.com/winebytheglass.aspx.
Three-hundred avid aficionados of Alsace varieties sample the food and wine.
When Jerry Lohr and Carol Waldorf Lohr come to your tasting, you know you're doing well!
Amador County Tasting Rooms
Pictures of the Gold Rush roam in my head as I arrive in Plymouth, Calif. There might not be a famous rock there, but the beautiful rolling hills are sprinkled with vineyards and wineries along the green winter landscape of the Sierra Nevada Foothills. Amador County has 49 wineries, and I could not go to all of them. Renwood is one site that has benefited from new owners with flair and money. The food and wine pairings are among the best I have ever seen (and tasted), thanks to Charly Childers and Stephen Harris (pictured below). The tasting room is huge, clean, sophisticated and has a very European feel that makes visitors feel comfortable. Please note the “light table” on the counter that allows guests to admire the color of a variety of Zins.
The food and wine professionals at the newly renovated Renwood Winery are friendly and talented.
Terre Rouge-Easton,“where the Rhone Valley meets the Sierra Nevada,” has a more traditional tasting room and is renown for its Syrah. Tasting room manager Doug Bellamy exemplified the proper way to assist to a visitor who announces, “I don’t like red wines.” Bellamy asked several questions about why the guest did not like reds and chose bottles that would agree with what she did like—or at least offer a thoughtful and custom experience. By the end of her visit the customer was having seconds of most of the Zinfandels and Syrahs she’d tried. Converting guests to reds is not easy to do when you have a crowd at the counter, but with a small group it was time was well spent, and Bellamy won over a new red wine fan.
Doug Bellamy successfully convinces a visitor to appreciate red wines at the Terre Rouge-Easton Winery.
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Jacques Brix is vice-president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.