The Wine Bloggers Conference is located in a different wine region each year, giving attendees the chance to learn about new wines and the people, culture, and regional differences that contribute to their uniqueness. WBC pre and post-conference excursions extend the conference experience and take participants to locations not included in the regular conference agenda. The 2014 pre-conference excursion, arranged and sponsored by the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance , toured through the Paso Robles AVA for a day and a half prior to WBC14. The two post-conference excursions, arranged and sponsored by the 2014 regional host, the Santa Barbara County Vintners Association, and Visit Santa Barbara, extended the WBC14 experience to Bridlewood Estates Winery and then on to Santa Barbara.
Pre-Conference Tour through Paso Robles AVA
The first stop on the Paso Robles pre-tour took us to Niner Estate where six panelists (winemakers, vineyard owners, and winery principals) spoke on the history and terroir of the Paso Robles AVA. With wine, of course…one white blend featuring Italian varieties, Zinfandel, Cabernet, Grenache, and a Cabernet based blend. All speakers highlighted the camaraderie that envelops the 200+ wineries who call Paso Robles wine country home and emphasized the area’s ability to grow a number of different Bordelaise and Rhone-style varieties, including Paso’s heritage variety, Zinfandel.
TABLAS CREEK VINEYARD
Our Rhone varietal focused hosts at Tablas Creek Vineyard treated us to a hands-on rootstock grafting session and winery tasting stations with four other wineries from the area. The vineyard grounds are gorgeous at Tablas Creek and surrounded by the famed oaks for which Paso Robles is named after.
The evening soiree at Daou was stunning – in physical beauty (it sits high above the valley floor) as well as in terms of hospitality and exposure to members of the CAB Collective. We were treated to tastings with approximately 20 wineries whose focus is on Bordeaux varieties. Chris Taranto, Communications Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, intentionally timed dinner to coincide with sunset and the sweeping views that Daou Vineyards offers.
The Paso Robles wine region is contained within one AVA. There are 11 proposed sub-AVAs on the docket. Our trip to Vina Robles centered around a seated seminar and discussion of the 11 proposed Paso Robles AVAs and presented by five producers who produce wines from different locations throughout the current AVA. This informative, modern discussion provided up-to-date information for bloggers and surely was a catalyst for many stories about the Paso region!
The vineyard trip to Dusi Ranch was a delight. This iconic Zinfandel vineyard, owned by the Dusi family, is a heralded producer of Zin which the family uses for it’s own wine production as well as sells to other winemakers in the area. Five producers of Zinfandel (and other varieties) showcased their wines in a speed dating format (vineyard style!) – an awesome way to showcase the terroir (literally) of the Paso Robles AVA and hob nob with our wine hosts.
WILD HORSE WINERY & VINEYARDS
We got out of the afternoon heat and enjoyed lunch at Wild Horse Winery & Vineyards in the production room and cellar with the winemaker and her team. Their discussion on sustainability, the SIP Certification, and the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance was knowledgable and informative. The duck confit tacos were amazing and when paired with Wild Horse Pinot Noir? Even better…
* The full list of wines tasted on the Paso pre-conf tour (and contacts) is available. Give us a shout out and we will forward to you! *
Post-Conference Tour to Bridlewood Estate Winery and Santa Barbara
BRIDLEWOOD ESTATE WINERY
Perched on a high bench of ancient sea bed, the 105 acre Bridlewood Estate Winery beckons all visitors with it’s Spanish mission-style architecture and inviting grounds. We visited this Santa Ynez AVA winery on Sunday, after the Workshops ended. The Bridlewood “Wine Down” event was fantastic and the winery team outdid themselves with their hospitality and education. Blogger guests were treated to an apple basket lunch down by the winery pond and then really treated afterwards – the interactive seminar on artisan farming, moderated by Richard Martin of the Food Republic and featuring a local pig farmer, sea urchin diver, and organic farmer, was excellent. It’s focus on the sustainability of being a farmer over a lifetime was well received by the audience and many bloggers commented it was one of the best panels of the conference.
SANTA BARBARA’S FUNK ZONE
Santa Barbara wine country has it all: rural, agriculturally driven landscapes; warmer AVAs that focus on Zinfandel and Syrah production; cool-climate viticulture that produces world-class Pinot Noir; small towns where everyone knows your name. The second post-conference excursion, led by Santa Barbara County Vintners Association Executive Director, Morgen McLaughlin, took blogger guests through a part of Santa Barbara wine country not seen during the conference in Buellton: the city of Santa Barbara!
One should definitely put Santa Barbara on their list of “must visit” cities for a number of different reasons. Our wine-oriented visit was, of course, all about the wine and this excursion allowed us all to get to know quintessential Santa Barbara and just how cool wine can be. After a cheese and wine reception with a handful of winemakers at the Wine Cask, a restaurant and culinary hub in downtown SB, we were led by winemakers on a pedal-powered tour (4 person bikes!) through Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone. With winery tasting rooms that look more like breweries, über chill staff that thrive on pouring wine so folks can enjoy, and loads of people simply having a good time, sipping on wine in the sunshine, the Funk Zone tour was tops and offered a different take on the world of wine. Our tour ended at the Santa Barbara Winery where we savored the Santa Barbara moment with wine and flatbread pizza. An end to a great day of post-conference excursions.
WBC15 in #FLXWine country
The 2015 Wine Bloggers Conference location was announced at the Saturday WBC14 dinner. We are heading to the Finger Lakes wine region of New York! The Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism group is already planning for the 2015 conference – we will post details on any pre and/or post-conference excursions when the tours are solidified. The Finger Lakes region represents an enticing wine region that differs greatly from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. We look forward to getting to know the wines, terroir, and people of this awesome wine producing area August 13-16, 2015.