Monday, August 17, 2015

Farewell Finger Lakes!

Keuka Lake
If an award was given for the most shit done in 48 hours, I might win! Well, me and the 200 other bloggers who descended on the Finger Lakes wine region of New York this past weekend for the Annual Wine Bloggers Conference. I was only able to attend two full days of the event, due to another pre-planned trip that cut this trip short, but of the 48 hours I spent in the Finger Lakes, approximately 30 of those hours were spent tasting, engaging in wine education, enjoying food & wine pairings, and networking. I am flippin' exhausted as I sit on this flight from DTW (Detroit) to LAX (this is a bit delayed, as I flew home on Saturday night). I'm actually a bit WINEd out, dare I say. And consequently, I'm having a margarita in defiance!!

First things first, there was no hazing or getting jumped into the group as I predicted in my earlier post! I was "forced" to brand my body with a winery tattoo at an UNofficial after party, but that ain't no thang! was a temporary tattoo from Solena Estates. They were tasting some LOVELY wines in a private suite along with Hyland Estates. All kidding aside, I was welcomed with open arms by every single person I met. What a great group of people! It's ironic that as bloggers and social media mavens, we can all sit with our faces in our phones, iPads, and laptops MUCH of the time getting work done, taking notes, generating content, or engaging with our audiences, yet we are all able to look up and connect with the person sitting next to us and actually have some fun and engaging conversations. This is a STELLAR group of people, and I am honored to be in their company.
Solena Estates vino and tattoo!
We were in the Finger Lakes wine region, but Ground Zero for the conference was the Radisson in Corning, NY. Can I tell you something? Corning is one of the most adorable and quaint towns I have ever visited in the U.S. It is a modest town of 11,000 residents and they all welcomed us with open arms. The "main drag" in Corning is Market Street, which is about 5-6 blocks long. Pretty much anything one needs could be found on this street! I grabbed early morning coffee and breakfast at Soul Full Cup Coffee House, took home some local wines from the Bottles & Corks wine shop, and brought back an amazing coconut balsamic vinegar from the Crystal City Olive Oil. That stuff is going to be KILLER drizzled over grilled prawns and basmati rice! We also had a reception at the Rockwell Museum that showcased American art, while we simultaneously enjoyed a local folk band and sampled many different wines from New York State. It was a very well curated event. Shoutout to Emily at the museum, who I met and shared a bit with me about the Rockwell! I missed the two trips to the Corning Museum of Glass, which apparently is the highlight of the town! Did you know that most of the glass used for TVs and smart phones in the U.S. is from Corning?? Who knew!?!
Centerway Square in Corning, NY

I wanted to share with my readers this little taste of what my last couple of days have been about. Over the next week or so, I will organize my thoughts (and catch up on my sleep) in order to prepare a couple posts for the blog. I want to thoughtfully share with you my overall thoughts on the Finger Lakes as a wine region, and also share with you about our excursion to the wineries themselves and our visit to the actual lakes.

Before I go, let's acknowledge and thank rest of the sponsors of WBC15. In THIS pre-conference post I thanked the Elite and Grand sponsors. Below are the remaining sponsors. With their support, Citizen Bloggers like myself can afford to attend this conference.

Premier Sponsors-Jordan Winery, Keuka Lake Wine Trail, Villa Trasqua, Beverage Trade Network, Crunchmaster, Montefalco Consortium, Salton Winery, Wines of South Africa, The Tasting Panel, Coravin, Lodi Wine, I Love New York

Event Sponsors-Lieb Cellars, Wines of Ontario, Spirited Shipper, Wine Trail Adventures, nomacorc, Brix Chocolate

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Greetings from Finger Lakes!

Greetings from Corning, New York! After a long day of travel, I have arrived at the Wine Bloggers Conference. Now, I am a newbie as this is my first WBC and let's hope I don't need get jumped in or hazed! Since I landed, I will be busy busy busy in breakout sessions, wine tastings, keynote speeches, winemaker dinners, networking opportunities, etc. Below is a sneak peek into my schedule over the next 48 hours:

Thursday August 13

7pm-9pm Registration & Welcome Reception at the Riverfont Centennial Park (Keuka Lake Wine Trail tastes, small plates from local restaurants, and live music)

Here is a sneak peak at the beautiful sunset in Corning today.  This was my view as I walked to the opening reception.  Gorgeous.

Friday August 14
9:30am-10:30am Keynote Speaker (Karen MacNeil: author of The Wine Bible)
10:30am-11:30am Introduction to the Finger Lakes Wine Country panel
11:30am-1:30pm lunch and Expo
1:30pm-2:30pm Wine Discovery Session (Riesling-King of the Finger Lakes) & Tasting
2:45pm-3:45pm Wine Tasting with LIVE blogging and tweeting (it's like speed dating, but for wine! 10 winemakers have 5 minutes each to pour and tell us about their wine; we are expected to live tweet as we taste!)
4:15pm-9pm Finger Lakes Tasting Excursion (we'll be hopping on buses and spending 5 hours exploring the Finger Lakes Region)
9pm Wines of New York! Tasting and Reception at the Rockwell Museum (New York wines, sweet treats, live music, and art)
11pm Jordan Winery After Hours

Saturday August 15
9:15am-10:15am Breakout Session TBD
10:30am-11:30am Breakout Session TBD
11:30am-1pm Lunch with the Seneca Lake Winery Association
1:15pm-2:15pm Wine Discovery Session: Wines Across the Andes
2:30pm-3:30pm Panel with the 2015 Wine Blogger Award Winners
3:30pm-4:30pm Wine Tasting with LIVE Blogging and Tweeting
6pm flight back to LA!

LOTS of fun stuff...I'm exhausted just looking at it. And I know you're wondering how does one go about drinking so much wine in one day and not be totally drunk! When you are tasting this much wine, you're doing just that....tasting. No one in their right mind is going to actually swallow/drink the wine throughout the day. We'll be sipping the wines, swirling them in our mouths, and then spitting. I know to some, this is sacrilege, but 'tis the life of a somm!

Watch my social media feeds over the next 48 hours for sneak peeks into the conference, updates, and fun pictures. You can sign up to follow SOMMspirations on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest to the right! Upon my return to LA, stay tuned for a two-part recap of the conference. I'll have lots of fun information, tips, pictures, and tasting notes to share!

Before I go, let's acknowledge and thank some of the sponsors of WBC15. With their support, Citizen Bloggers like myself can afford to attend this conference.  Thank you!

Elite-Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, Corning Enterprises, and Elmira Corning Regional Airport 

Grand-Seneca Lake Winery Association, Cayuga Lake Wine Trail, The Corning Museum of Glass, Banfi Vinters, Montes Winery, Kaiken Winery, Ribera y Rueda,, Wines of Alsace, Corning's Gaffer District, The Rockwell Museum, New York's Finger Lakes Region, Bottlenotes, Ribera del Duero and Rueda, New York State, SCIDA.

Off to bed for the night!  It's well pass midnight here in Corning and I have a FULL day tomorrow.  As you already know!

Monday, August 10, 2015


Why does wine give me a headache? Why does my tongue tickle when I drink red wine? These are a couple of the questions that I hear over and over. When I used to work at a wine bar, I heard the “headache” question incessantly. I am lucky enough to not have these #WINEPROBLEMS, but I want to address them for those that do.

First of all, let’s be real, most “wine” headaches are really just alcohol headaches. As we all know, our body has to metabolize alcohol. We feel great when we drink in moderation, make sure that we consume enough water, and eat a full meal. There is nothing better than waking up after a night out and feeling great. You were smart….like a real adult...balanced your alcohol consumption with water and did not make the novice mistake of forgetting to eat. <high five!> I chuckle inside when I hear someone tell me that wine gives them a headache. I ask how much they drank and they’ll say something like “oh, I had 5 glasses, but I drank a lot of water”. Ok, so you drank an entire bottle of wine to yourself and you wonder why the hell you have a headache?? It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to come to the conclusion that you drank too much. I’d say the good majority of people who say “wine gives me a headache”, were really just drunk and have a hangover or an overhang (my term for the hangover before you even go to bed).

Aside from that, here are some other reasons why wine MIGHT make you feel crappy.

Wine is an allergen. An allergen is a substance that can cause allergic reactions. The big 8 in the food allergy world include: wheat, soy, nuts, shellfish, fish, peanuts, eggs, and milk. However, virtually any ingested substance is capable of giving someone an allergic reaction, and that includes wine. In conjunction with allergens, we discuss histamines. A histamine is a chemical found naturally in foods that can be released when you have an allergic reaction and can cause itching, sneezing, or wheezing. If you get an itchy throat or a tickle in your throat when you drink wine, this could be why. It (usually) doesn’t mean that you can’t drink wine at all, just that you need to consume in moderation. Also, pay attention to what type of wine gives you this reaction. It may be just red wines.

Another culprit for headaches from wine can be tannins. Tannins are found in the skin, seeds, and stalks of a grape as well as in the oak barrels used during fermentation and maturation. Tannins are what gives body and color to a red wine. Note that there are no tannins in white wines (unless they were aged in oak). A tannic wine gives you a drying sensation in your mouth. Another way to “feel” tannins is to do this fun experiment with tea. Brew a cup of black tea. Take the tea bag out of the cup and let it cool a bit. Insert the tea bag in your mouth and push down a bit and remove the bag. Your mouth should feel VERY dry as if the saliva was sucked out of it. THAT drying sensation that you feel are tannins. Brewed tea leaves are VERY high in tannins.

Sugar. We all remember being inexperienced drinkers when we were young and throwing back all those nasty sugary drinks in massive quantities. The combination of too much alcohol and sugar can definitely give you a headache. So maybe you’re new to drinking wines and only like sweet wines (i.e. a sweet Riesling, Moscato, or other dessert wines)? You can bet your bottom dollar that if you drink a lot of sweet wine, a headache is in your future. Also, very inexpensive table wines tend to have additional sugar and other additives added to the wine. This is both to please the “sweet” palate of many Americans and also to aid in fermentation if inferior grapes were used to begin with.  So if you find yourself drinking a lot of really, really cheap wines (i.e. Franzia boxed wine, jug wines, $5 and under wines, etc), chances are there is a decent amount of residual sugar (and other gross crappy additives) in those wines, which could be causing your headaches.

Lastly, I’d like to debunk the myth that sulfites can cause headaches. Yes, sulfites are an allergen (refer to the allergen paragraph above) and can cause a stuffy nose and allergic reactions, BUT, they don’t cause headaches. ALL wines contain sulfites, whether they are naturally occurring, added manually, or both. And for the record, a can of tuna or a package of dried fruit contains a lot more sulfites than are in a bottle of wine. If you are a severe asthmatic, then you need to be careful with sulfites, but for the rest of us, sulfites are rarely a problem.

Hopefully this post helped to answer some of your questions about #WINEPROBLEMS. Remember, drink in moderation and drink a glass of water in between every glass of wine. Yes, you’ll go to the bathroom a lot, but you’ll feel good and have no headache or hangover!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Up Your Wine Game: How do Bubbles Get in Bubbly?

Most people can wrap their heads around how alcohol is made. It’s a simple fermentation process. Yeast converts sugar (i.e. grape juice) into alcohol (i.e. wine). Bada-bing, bada-boom, you have yourself some vino. If we’re talking about spirits, a distillation process happens after the fermentation, but that’s a different blog entry!

I have always LOVED bubbly. All kinds of bubbly: serious champagnes, nutty Cavas, or fruit-forward Prosecco. Team bubbly all the way. As a novice wine drinker a few years back, I did always wonder how the hell the bubbles got into the bubbly and how the bottles literally didn’t explode from the pressure. Well, here are the steps to get bubbles in bubbly. What I’m going to explain to you is the “traditional method” or the “methode champenoise”. This style is used in Champagne, Cremants in France, and with Cavas from Spain.

Step 1: a still, dry base wine is made (usually in stainless steel tanks) as described above (fermentation: yeast converts sugar into alcohol). If you were just making regular non-sparkling wine, you’d be done. This is the basic process that is done day in and day out to make still wine.

Step 2: That wine is then bottled. After the wine is put in the bottle, additional sugar and yeast (i.e. the liquer de tirage) is added for a second fermentation to take place IN the bottle. A closure is added to the bottle. The 2nd fermentation creates carbon dioxide (CO2) inside the bottle as the yeast is eating the sugar. This CO2 has nowhere to go and essentially carbonates the wine and creates bubbles!

Step 3: During this time period yeast autolysis takes place. Yeast autolysis is when the dead yeast cells (i.e. lees) breakdown in the wine. These dead yeast cells impart what are called autolytic flavors. This is pretty much what makes Champagne taste like Champagne. The flavors include: yeastiness, toasty flavors, biscuit flavors, and doughiness. The length of time the wine is spent sur lie (i.e. resting on the lees) is determined by how much of these autolytic flavors the winemaker desires. It can be anywhere from a few weeks to a few years!

Step 4: next is the riddling of the wine. The bottle is slowly moved from a horizontal to a tilted vertical position. This moves the sediment to the top of the bottle. This process can be done manually or by machine.

The bottles have to be manually turned

Step 5: Disgorgement follows in which the neck of the bottle is submerged in cold brine to freeze it. The closure is removed and that frozen sediment piece pops out.

Frozen Sediment
Frozen Sediment post-disgorgement

Step 6: A dosage (or a liquer de expedition) is added back to the bottle. This is a small amount of base wine and sugar. The amount of dosage added determines the level of sweetness of the wine. The bottle is then sealed with a sparking wine closure (including the wire cage) so that the contents are under pressure until that cork is popped.

So the next time you're at a cocktail party and Champagne is served, you can share with everyone how bubbles get in bubbly.  Answer: it's due to the 2nd fermentation in which CO2 is generated in the bottle and cannot escape.  The result: bubbles.  Voila, you just upped your wine game!

Fun Fact: On a bottle of sparkling wine, how many times does the wire cage have to be turned you get it off?  Answer: Six…..always six turns.