Above photo courtesy of Holly Shaw of Wine not WHINE.
Can we just go back to Lodi this weekend?
That’s what I was thinking a few days ago as I was going through all the pictures I took and the thinking about all the fun we had and the great people we met. Sigh, back to the real world and my life as a pixel pusher. I think I might slightly have Post Wine Bloggers Conference Syndrome (symptoms include sadness, low energy, crying episodes–SOBBING, anxiety, and irritability).
Of course I am kidding and I have some very exciting wine-centric things coming up in the next few weeks, so I am not sobbing at all. I am actually still buzzing with excitement about my first conference and wanted to use this blog post to tell you about one part of it in detail.
Wine Blogger Conference attendees get the VIP treatment throughout the conference, but they get even more special attention during the Friday evening excursions built in as part of the conference package. On the Friday afternoon of the 3-day conference, all writers were split into small groups and shuttled to secret locations for property tours and a hosted dinner. We chose our secret location during registration at a reception held the night before, only by a title to name the experience (not to describe where we were going, what was for dinner or what winery would host). There were names like “The Wine Abides”, “The Rolling Stones”, etc. I chose the excursion titled “Gone with the Wine” because I really love the movie “Gone with the Wind.”
It turns out our destination was Oak Farm Vineyards for a tasting, tour, and dinner. Of course Friday night is pretty early on in the conference, so I was hoping for a winery I knew a lot about already and I didn’t know a thing about Oak Farm (though I had tried some of their Cabernet at the opening reception and thought it was good). Andy and I are very local to Lodi, and are very fond of McCay, Michael David, M2, just to name a few, and I would have preferred any of those because I knew I would not be let down by the wine. It’s sad, because I get stuck in familiarity all too often, and many times it keeps me from discovering new and exciting things. My chagrin was only temporary, because my mind was about to be blown.
It was dry and hot and I was very thirsty when we arrived at Oak Farm, and we were all led into a reception area to be introduced to Keith (tasting room manager), Dan (one of the owners), and Chad (the winemaker). The introductions were paired with a crisp and cold glass of Albariño. Albariño happens to be one of my favorite white wines, so I was very pleased to be tasting it in Lodi, and also that it tasted so wonderful. I’ll also mention it scored 95 Points and won a (Gold) Best of Class of Region Award at the 2016 CA State Fair Commercial Wine Competition.
Soon, our little group (including Holly Shaw of Wine not WHINE, Eli Med of Fine Wine Poet, and Maia Parish of The Wine Suite LLC, Heather Atherton representing Sacramento International Airport, Rhett Moffatt of Gone with the Wine, Steve and Charlotte Ferree of Wine Prof Guy, Jamie Gall of Minnesota Girl in the World, Maureen Blum of Mo Wino) was directed outside for a tour of the property. We walked down a path towards the main house through a field of Cabernet Sauvignon as we sipped the Albariño and got to know each other a little better.
Other varietals grown on the Oak Farm property include: Chardonnay, Verdelho, Malbec, Zinfandel, Primitivo, Petite Sirah, Petite Verdot, Sangiovese and Barbera. The aformentioned Albariño is sourced from two relatively new vineyard sites not on the property, but also located in Lodi AVAs: Silvaspoons Vineyard and Wetmore Vineyard.
During the tour, tasting room manager Keith told us many stories on the history of the property, including tales of its original owner William DeVries, who purchased the property in 1860. DeVries simply loved trees, especially oak trees, which to this day are allowed to thrive on the land, hence the name of the property and the winery today. The home on the estate was built in 1876 (it looks a lot like the house in Gone with the Wind (Tara), which is probably why the excursion was named Gone with the Wine. Eventually William DeVries became a congressman, a judge, and a legal authority on wine regulations in the 1930’s. Which if you think about it, the latter helps immensely when you are already growing grapes and producing altar wine during the prohibition era. Something tells me I would really get along with this guy!
Oak Farm Vineyards is more than well equipped to host events big and small, and is the home of many weddings throughout the year. The winery actually happened to be set up for a wedding on the night we visited that would take place the next day. I can’t imagine what the to-do list at Oak Farm must have been like that weekend because of both its participation (and constant presence) at the Wine Bloggers Conference and holding a rehearsal dinner and a wedding simultaneously. To me, that makes our experience all the more impressive because I felt like the staff took their time with us and made us feel very welcome.
Of course, I have only talked about the glamorous side of Oak Farm Vineyards and the beauty of the property. However, the truth is that wine making is not at all glamorous, and actually quite messy. Above is a shot behind the scenes of one of the giant machines used to press the grapes.
Pictured above is winemaker Chad Joseph, who also makes wine for a few other labels in Lodi. Andy and I love his efforts at Oak Farm. I have to say that Lodi is so different than it was the last time I visited four years ago. It’s like they always made pretty good wine (as far as I knew having been in California and familiar to Lodi wine since 2004), but it is as if something good grew into something great in almost no time at all. We also had the pleasure of sitting with he and Keith during the dinner that evening which I am about to share with you!
2016 Oak Farm Blogger Dinner prepared by Chef Michael Midgley of Midgley’s Public House (Stockton, California)
August 12th, 2016
We felt particularly lucky to taste the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc which is currently sold out! The grapes were from the same clone (clone 1) that helped put New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the map. This one was more balanced than that with equal citrus and grass notes. It was a great pairing with the food, just strong enough to stand up to the cheese and the basil and the truffle in the dish.
This Barbera received a Silver – Best of Class of Region – 2016 CA State Fair Commercial Wine Competition Award. It also received a “two thumbs up, baby I’m down with that one” award from me. I’m not the only lady who loves it because it received Best of Show Red, Best of Class, Gold at the 2016 International Women’s Wine Competition. Ding!
Then there was the food course. Midge was killing me with those pork rinds. I loved scooping up the seafood cocktail in those crispy, salty, fried pieces of pork. It was tomato, seafood, crunchy, porky bliss!
OK I am dead. We can safely have my funeral right now (as long as everyone promises to drink Oak Farm wine at my service and watch a marathon of Robert Downey, Jr. movies in my honor). I mean, I’ll talk about the wine first, but seriously, look at the crust on that meat!! That’s the kind of crusty grubbin’ you dream about. The lobster mashed potatoes were a rich, decadent side dish. This course also brought us a glass of Oak Farm Zinfandel. It was recently rated 91 points in Wine Enthusiast magazine. Are you still in doubt about Lodi wines?? To think I didn’t even know about Oak Farm three hours before this dinner? Head still spinning.
Dessert brought along a peach cobbler, much of which went to my partner-in-wine, Andy, while I fully enjoyed the dessert wine, Fiano. I was kind of longing for something even more simple like roasted nuts, dried fruit, and cheese, but I know I am odd that way and everyone else loved the dessert and ice cream. Fiano is an actual varietal, and this one was sourced from Clarksburg. The wine was an admitted experiment of Chad and Dan’s, but I really enjoyed it and was happy they shared it with us.
Before we knew it, it was time to head back to our conference host hotels, and get ready for the next big day ahead! I snapped the picture below to show you how lovely the patio of the Oak Farm Vineyards tasting room looks like at night.
I am sending out a huge thanks to the staff at Oak Farm Vineyards for hosting such an incredible excursion and making every one of us feel like we were family. The next time I am in Lodi, Oak Farm will be one of the first stops I make because of the great memories I have there.
If you are local and have not yet visited, tasted, or experienced all that is Oak Farm, please put it on your immediate to-do list. If you are not local, but you are a true wine lover, please put Lodi on your destination list, and put Oak Farm Vineyards on your trip itinerary. I recommend the Historical Legacy Tour ($30) which lasts about an hour and includes a stroll of the grounds through the vineyard while learning about Lodi’s wine history, the estate’s history told as you stroll past the family home, cemetery, barn and outbuildings, a walk through the first tasting room and lesson about Oak Farm’s beginnings, a walk through the new tasting facilities and barrel rooms, and a tasting in the VIP room.
You can follow Oak Farm Vineyards on Twitter here and “like” them on Facebook here. The next Wine Bloggers Conference is November 9-12, 2017 and will be located at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek in Santa Rosa. Will I see you there?
Here’s a little press release from my friends at HALL! We can’t wait to attend the Kathryn Hall Cabernet release party in September! You can read about last year’s party here.
HALL’s Annual Harvest Party Celebrates Release of 97 pt 2012 Kathryn Hall Cabernet
In addition to the main event, a rare Vertical Tasting hosted by Steve Leveque will take place from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. in the historic Bergfeld building. The experience will include a tasting flight of Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon (vintages 2007 – 2012).
Country music entertainment will be provided and guests will be served farm-to-table bites, western style. Additionally, Kathryn Walt Hall will be available during the event to sign bottles. The Kathryn Hall Release Party takes place on The Great Lawn in St. Helena located at the base of the Mayacamas Mountains facing HALL’s Bergfeld Estate vineyard.
Think daytime. Think Texas BBQ. Think Kathryn Hall, Y’ALL. It’s going to be the ultimate harvest showdown with 800 friends set on the Great Lawn at HALL.
Ultimate Harvest Party Shindig: It’s Kathryn Hall Y’ALL
2012 Kathryn Hall Release Party
Saturday, September 12, 2015
10:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m (Vertical Tasting hosted by Steve Leveque)
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. PST (Main Event)
HALL St. Helena
401 St. Helena Hwy. South
St. Helena, CA 94574
Tickets can be purchased on Eventbrite at http://bit.ly/1LiII7v.
Prices for the Main Event are $75 for Early Bunny (purchased before Aug. 17) and $90 thereafter including at the door the day of the party. Ticket price for the Vertical Tasting is $200 and includes admission to the Main Event. For more information, please visit www.hallwines.com or follow their social channels on Twitter @hallwines and on Facebook here.
The Cabernet Gods looked upon St. Helena with a smile on their faces last Saturday. It was the setting of the Kathryn Hall Release Party, and the release of the Kathryn Hall 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. The ticketed party was mostly held on the great lawn at HALL Wines, featuring several stations to taste wine and food from Feast Catering.
It was an honor and privilege for Andy and I to be guests of the party and to experience it amongst true Cabernet lovers and fans of Kathryn Hall.
I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland in the Queen’s croquet garden, surrounded by the big red vinyl couches and the delights hidden behind the shrubs on the Great Lawn.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with a glass of 2013 Hall NV Sauvignon Blanc, and behind the first set of shrubs to the right of the entrance were these tuna and cucumber rolls with finger lime and wasabi in little wooden boats (pictured above). The next station we visited was even better, serving a chilled carrot soup with radish top pistou (pictured below). It was paired with a 2012 Walt “Dutton Ranch” Russian River Chardonnay. The soup was perfect for a very warm and sunny day and its flavor was amplified with a little curry and coconut. I was tempted to have a second. 😉 PS: Dutton Ranch is an excellent place of origin for a Chardonnay. Just google it and you’ll see what I mean. 🙂
Then the Bacon, Duck Fat, and Smoked Sea Salt popcorn happened! Actually, it happened just as Kathryn Hall herself officially announced the release of the 2011 Kathryn Hall Cabernet Sauvignon. Andy and I hustled to the nearest station pouring the newly christened cab to have a taste. AND THEN the fatty popcorn happened. 😉 It was made fresh in a large wok and served in little paper bags. I didn’t want to seem uncouth, so I took a small serving in a paper bag instead of taking the scoop and shoveling the delectable kernels directly into my mouth! 😉 Better than anything I had ever had at the movies!
Well, at least popcorn is gluten free… and for vegetarians, there was another flavor: A habanero, green onion, garlic, and chive concoction. And I think it paired a little better with the new Kathryn Hall Release because the Cabernet is still pretty young and stood up to the heat of the slightly spicy popcorn.
We also tried a different Cabernet: a 2011 “T Bar T Ranch” cab from Alexander Valley. I couldn’t say which is my favorite because I liked them for different reasons and asking me to pick a favorite is like asking someone to pick their favorite child, and I know you don’t want to do that to me. 😉
There was a DJ positioned just in front of the great lawn, and he kept patrons happy by playing some current tunes, but also many hits from the 80s. Thanks DJ Adam Bomb, you were great and loved by the crowd. Check out his website and his client list. Pretty impressive! 🙂
Then I visited the grape crushing station and contributed to the 2014 Cabernet. So, that’s a warning to all of you out there. My feet touched some of that juice. 😉 Watch and see! Here’s how you make great wine!
I was having a blast! 🙂 I still pinch myself sometimes because I think I am dreaming. This is the life I saw for myself 10 years ago. I wanted to be in the heart of wine country standing in the sun and sipping some of the best wine in the world!
Andy stayed out of the juice, and thank goodness…you don’t want to know where that guy’s feet have been. Just kidding. I think he just didn’t want to have sticky feet. 🙂 I am so happy I crushed those grapes. I will always remember how happy I was standing in that barrel! I think the only thing that would make me happier is being a judge at next year’s Cabernet Cookoff (also held at HALL Wines).
Man, all that grape crushing worked up my appetite… (ha, just kidding…) but we were looking for another little snack to try, so we headed into the workshop and dining area. It’s basically a full open kitchen with a dining area where patrons can see demonstrations of food being prepared. Today the culinary team were demonstrating how to make sopes.
They began by rolling out the dough (masa soaked in lime) into a ball and then flattening it into a disc with a little but of an impression in it. Then, post frying and draining the discs were filled with ancho chili rubbed carnitas with avocado tomatillo salsa, picked red onions & cotija cheese. They were muy delicioso!
The 2011 is available to wine club members in this allotment: 15 bottles (750ml), 1 Magnum (1.5L) and 1 Larger Format (3L or 6L). What an incentive to join the wine club! PS: You get an invite to this amazing release party!
We did a little bit more walking around the great lawn, and went back to hang out with a new friend we made that day! His name is Spencer and he’s straight out of Louisville, Kentucky! 🙂 Congrats on your position at HALL Wines, and what a great place to be so young in your life. Cheers!
I had a few of the meatballs, and they were spectacular just everything else I had tasted at the party. But, I had my limits, and was pretty full by this time. Andy and I decided to get one more taste of the new release before we left and we sat down at a table in the sun. This was his heartfelt thank you! 🙂
Along with Andy, I want to thank the PR team and social media folks at HALL Wines for making us feel like VIPs. We both had an incredible time. 🙂
Take a look at the fun other guests had by viewing the social media feed from the party here.