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This weekend I traveled out to the heart of California’s wine country to attend The Wine Bloggers Conference.

WBC09

Sounds weird, right — since “technically“, I’m not a wine blogger (details, details).

Last year, I missed the first ever Wine Bloggers Conference. This turned out to be extremely tragic and I vowed never again to miss such an event.

Although I am not a wine blogger, a significant portion of my “professional” experience has been wine-related. Wine is one of my greatest passions as well as subject in which I have devoted a SIGNIFICANT amount of time to studying.

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I love wine AND I am a total wine geek. (OKAY THERE, I said it. I’m out of the “wino closet”)

I have a pretty decent collection of wine books and for some time now I have been studying for sommelier and CSW certification. BUT, although I love me some geeky textbooks — when it comes to wine reviews, I trust wine bloggers more than wine writers from traditional media platforms.

social_media

The wine blogging community is a commnity of wine evagelists, wine geeks, wine enthusiasts and winemakers.

Some blogs are more relevant and interesting than others. Some blogs I follow purely for educational purposes. Some I follow purely for entertainment purposes. And some I follow for both educational and entertainment purposes.

My love for food, beer, wine and social media has given me a community of friends like none other I have ever known.

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Shana Ray, The Wench, Wannabe Wino & Wine Brat (SF)

So naturally, when I heard that a signifcantly large percentage of my Twitter friends were going to attend a conference centered around social media, food & wine — I could not resist attending the event.

Yeah yeah, it was the “Wine” Bloggers Conference … and I write about beer.

Blah blah. All I heard was “BIG PARTY out in California — where the wine flows like water.”

And except for one minor incident (which has been noted and need not be named), the wine did flow … and flow … and flow … and flow …

bus #4

The Wench, Rob Bralow, Shana Ray

No, seriously. We are talking breakfast, lunch and dinner — heck, even on the bus.

But aside from all the drinking, all the food, all the great people, great laughs and great memories — the 2009 Wine Bloggers Conference was, in fact, a very serious event.

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Shana Ray (@sharayray) & The Wench

Okay, maybe not THAT serious But, it was extremely educational, informative and valuable — REALLY.

Personally, I tasted over 200 wines. I’m sure that many of the hardcore wine bloggers (aka people who actually spit) tasted nearly twice as many. In addition to drinking and eating our way through wine country — we went on vineyard walks, winery tours and attended several wine & web themed seminars and keynotes.

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The overall experience was entirely too extensive to capture in merely one post. I was impressed by several wine bloggers, winemakers, wineries, wine something-or-others … and well WINES themselves. Lots of hits, lots of misses — but nonetheless, lots of laughs, lots of memories & lots of fun.

Lots of fun.

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Ward (Dr. Xeno) & The Wench

But, ahhhh screw it. As much as I would love to illustrate my experience through the use of witty metaphors and uber creative writing, I would rather just flaunt it through the use of a select series of photos … and one oh so memorable video (which I will make you anxiously wait to see until the end …)

I arrived in California one day before the start of WBC. Instead of twiddling my thumbs or mindlessly walking throughout the city of San Fransisco, I lived “dangerously” and hitch-hiked a ride to Murphys. And by hitch-hiked, I mean I was picked up from the SFO airport by a good friend from Twitter — Russ Beebe, the infamous Wine Hiker.

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The Winehiker & The Wench

Russ kidnapped me and forced me to eat a picnic of prosciutto, cheese, fresh peaches & fresh sourdough bread on the way to visit Twisted Oak Winery. The experience was utterly unbearable …

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The Wench & El Jefe

My visit to Twisted Oak was rather inspiring — and may deserve its own post (re: beer epiphanies). I met some AMAZING people (my long lost soul-mates from Twitter), toured the Twisted Oak Winery, visited several tasting rooms in downtown Murphys, tasted many great wines (especially from Twisted Oak and Newsom-Harlow), drank some “epiphany” beers, enjoyed a nice swim in Murphys Creek, chowed down on some ridiculous good BBQ (mmm steak …) and played master winemaker in a blending competition.

Bur for me, the real “epiphany moment” came after I woke up from a remarkable nights sleep in the great outdoors underneath the infamous Twisted Oak tree …

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The Twisted Oak Tree

Russ (Winehiker) was kind enough to provide me a modest & ultra satisfying breakfast … served straight off the trailer of his truck.

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An amazing nights sleep under the stars — in combination with great company, a tasty breakfast and a beautiful crack-of-dawn view of Twisted Oak Winery — equated to absolute bliss.

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After what seemed like the perfect wine country experience in Murphys, we all headed on up to the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa for Day One of the WBC.

BUT …. this post is already entirely WAY too long. Which means, I am forced to reveal the photographic evidence (with some video footage) of the WBC in a series of consequetive posts.

Have no fear, kids. I will provide you with one little (but ultra compelling) sneak pea k …

CHEERS!

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The marks my first “official” post in Project No Man’s Land. The project will consist of a series of posts illustrating linear pairings between wine varietals and beer styles. Naturally, this project is entirely subjective and has absolutely no scientific foundation. Nonetheless, I have a lot of confidence in its purpose and I am tremendously excited about starting this venture – regardless of the results.

Perhaps after this project I will no longer be known as The Beer Wench, but as The Beer & Wine Yenta … (matchmaker matchmaker, make me a match … find me a find … catch me a catch). But I digress, let us move on to the first pairing.

SAUVIGNON BLANC & INDIA PALE ALE

Now there is some method in my madness in picking this as the first pairing. First off, the Sauvignon Blanc varietal is nostalgic for me. When I was 16 years old, I went to France. (Quand j’avais seize anees, je suis allee au France.) My first winery tour and wine tasting experience was in the Loire Valley, France. And consequently, my first “real” sip of wine was a Sauvignon Blanc.

loire

And this brings me to the India Pale Ale. Anyone who has ever interacted with me at some point, whether it be in real life or through the internet, knows that The Wench is an ale girl. Whereas I do experiment from time to time with different styles of lager, I prefer to stay where I am familiar -  in the land of ales. It is only natural for me to begin my project with an ale . But not just any ale, folks. We are skipping the foreplay and diving right into the “king of hops” – the IPA. And you will see why, soon enough.

Now let’s get to the nitty gritty.

THE VARIETAL: Sauvignon Blanc

Sauvignon_blanc

First, let us try to pronounce it: SOH-vihn-yohn BLAHNSOH-vee-nyawn BLAHNGK. Good job.

The Sauvignon Blanc varietal first originated in the Bordeaux region of France, but it is now grown in just about every major wine making region in the world. Wines made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc are typically fermented in stainless steel and almost never touch oak. Because of this factor, it was one of the first fine wines to be bottled with a screwcap in commercial quantities.

screw cap

Although its aroma and flavor profiles change with region and climate, the Sauvignon Blanc varietal is most commonly described as being dry, crisp, herbacious and acidic. Most Sauvignon Blancs are categorized as being either “herbaceous” (grassy) or “tropical” (citrusy). Other flavor and aroma descriptors include green & red peppers, flint, asparagus, gooseberry and even cat piss. These wines are typically light to medium in body, with moderate alcohol content.

citrus

Since it does not particularly benefit from aging, wine made from Sauvignon Blanc is usually consumed young. As with most things in life, though, there are “exceptions to the rule”. Oak-aged Sauvignon Blancs from the Pessac-Leognan and Graves regions in Bordeaux can be aged up to fifteen years.

Sauvignon Blancs pair very well with fresh seafood/shellfish/white fish/salmon (esp poached or lightly grilled), sushi, chevre (goat cheese), tart & herbacious cheeses, chicken (fried/roasted/sauteed), pork, curry, Thai food, Tex-mex food, salsa and vegetables (especially green and grilled).

THE STYLE: India Pale Ale

HoppyBeer!

The origin of the IPA is greatly debated. But I am a story-teller by nature and, regardless of what the truth may be, the “creation myth” of the IPA is one of my favorite tales to tell.

IndiaBeer

Once upon a time, the crazy Brits decided that colonizing the country of India was an awesome idea. However, this was before planes, trains & automobiles. The fastest and most efficient way to get from England to India was to sail around the continent of Africa.

africa-map

Obviously, this was not a short trip. Africa is a pretty damn big continent. Many consumable goods (including beer) could not survive the long voyage. In order to prevent the beer from spoiling during the trip, the traditional Pale Ale recipe needed to be tweaked. Beer already naturally contains 2 different preservation agents – hops & alcohol. Increase these elements and you get a recipe for success.

BeerHop

As legend goes, Hogdson was the most popular brewer during this time and has been credited as the creator of the original IPA. In order to ensure his ale weathered the journey to India, Hogdson made three crucial changes in his brewing methods. Hogdson increased the hopping rate, exaggerated the level of alcohol and used an abundant dry hopping process.

hodgson

So I know what you are thinking – great story Wenchie, but what the heck does this have to do with the Sauvignon Blanc. And the answer is … absolutely nothing. I don’t even know if the story is accurate.  I just like to tell stories.

Time to get down to business. In my opinion, Sauvignon Blanc’s beer equivalent is the IPA. Why? Both are medium-bodied, dry, crisp, herbacious and acidic. As with Sauvignon Blanc, the IPA style changes based on where it is produced. English IPAs are like Old World Sauvignon Blancs – softer and more balanced. American IPAs are like New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs – sharp and grassy with heavy notes of citrus.

Just as the Sauvignon Blanc varietal has exceptions, so does the IPA. There are a few interpretations of the IPA style with a higher malt content, which makes them similar to the oaked versions of the Sauvignon Blanc (I hope this makes sense). BUT – for the most part, the Sauvignon Blanc varietal and the India Pale Ale style are BOTH primarily known for dominant grass and citrus characteristics.

green grass wallpapers

In addition to possesing very similar aroma and flavor profiles, India Pale Ales and Sauvignon Blancs pair well with many of the same foods. These include cheese, chicken, pork, salmon, seafood, curry, Thai food, Tex-Mex food, and salsa.

Since they can be sharp and astringent on the palate, both of these beverages tend be an “aquired taste”. I have an affinity for acidity, astringency and bitterness. As a result, the Sauvy B varietal and the IPA style happen to be two of my favorite beverages to drink. In my eyes, they possess similar qualities which make them almost interchangeable. I could easily drink an IPA under the same conditions as I would a Sauvignon Blanc. Hence my choice to make them a linear pairing.

whitewine

And what do you think?

Is this a hit or miss?

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It is official. I have decided to journey into territory that only a few have entered — and even fewer have survived.

NoMansLand

I am trespassing into NO MAN’S LAND. And instead of wearing camouflage and hiding in the bushes, I will be parading myself in bright neon colors and flashy sequins.

mamma-mia-1

Now. I know you must have some questions for me like … 1. Where is no man’s land 2. Why am I going there & 3. Why I am drawing so much attention to myself for doing so (the bright colors and flashy sequins thing)?

Depending on how long you have been following my blog and whether or not you know me as a person (in real life or on Twitter), you might be aware that in addition to being a beer connoisseur — I am also a wine geek. In fact, I am a professional of both. (Essentially, I am a slave of the restaurant industry — and my source of income greatly depends on my ability to sell wine, beer & food. Luckily, I am ridiculously passionate and very well educated about these topics.)

wine food

The truth is, my love for beer stemmed from my love for wine. And my love for wine stemmed from my love for food. Naturally, most people love food. Food is one of the most important things in life. Without food, life would cease to exist. Some people eat to sustain themselves and find virtually no passion in food. I pity these people. Food not only provides my body with the nourishment it needs, it feeds my mind, body and soul.

food pyramid

I have been a nerd since birth. And I have always been driven to self-educate. My parents can attest to this fact. It has always been my personal goal to become an “expert” in anything and everything that interests me. True, this goal can be very daunting. Nonetheless, I suffer from what I call “Peter Pan” syndrome and truly believe that I can do anything I put my mind to (I can fly! I can fly! I can fly!) …

Peter Pan

After I graduated college, I became lost and confused. I didn’t know where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do with my life. I loved studying psychologoy and criminology, but I had no desire to go into professions in either field. Like most college graduates, I went through a BIG period of “soul-searching” and experimentation.

I also started cooking.

cooking

But not the type of cooking I had been doing since I was a kid … I started really cooking. And that’s when I started studying wine. I decided rather quickly that I wanted to receive Sommelier certification and the first book I picked up was “Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia.” My new found passion for food & wine led to a series of jobs in both wine retail and the restaurant industry.

sotheby's

The biggest break through for me was becoming a “Managing Partner” at a restaurant called The Northstar Cafe in Columbus, OH.

northstar

Although I had no prior restaurant management experience, the owners of the restaurant saw something in me that made them overlook this factor and take the gamble and hire me. I am forever indebted to them for this. (One of the owners, Kevin Malhame, is featured in the picture below).

kevin

After I completed management training (which included working every single position in the restaurant – from dishwasher to line cook to front of the house), I was given responsibility and control over all things beverage. This included beer – and not just any beer. The Northstar Cafe only sells craft beer. I knew very little about craft beer when I start, but like a good student I did my homework. And the rest is history. Well, sort of.

drink with the wench

I won’t go any further into the choices that I’ve made since then that have brought me to where I am today (we will save that for my book, eh?). The point of this blog is to illustrate my love and passion for as well as my knowledge and experience with both beer and wine. This way my audience will better understand what I am about to do with both.

Which brings us back to NO MAN’S LAND.

do-not-enter

My newest project is absolutely brilliant (in my opinion). The idea was inspired by a request I received from a friend in the wine industry to write an article for his blog recommending beers to wine drinkers. This got my thinking about the linear relationship between wine and beer. There are several commonalities between beer and wine — they are both described in terms of aroma, mouth-feel, body, taste, finish, etc.

he said beer

Whereas wine is most commonly classified by varietal (in the U.S.), beer is categorized by style. There are many similar parallels between both classification systems. The characteristics of a single varietal of grape can changed based upon the region and area in the world in which it is grown. Similarly, there are multiple interpretations of each style of beer depending on where its produced and the ingredients being used.

wine_and_beer

My goal is to use my knowledge and experience to connect these two types of alcoholic beverages. I want to create linear pairings between styles of beer and varietals of wine. (This is either pure brilliance or pure madness). Yes, I know that I am trekking into dangerous territory by taking on such a challenge. However, I have reached a stage in my studies that has alluded me into thinking that this goal is in fact achievable and that I am in fact the man (the wench) for the job.

Beer-Wench-Painting-400

There will be haters, naturally. But this does not scare me.

And so … project enter NO MAN’S LAND begins. There is no turning back now!

Cheers!!!

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Question: What happens when you get a phenomenal chef, a wine geek and a beer wench in the same house?

Answer:An endless waterfall of yummy booze and ridiculously delicious food.

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Question: What happens when the aforementioned trio are as equally obsessed with Social Media and Twitter as they are food, wine and beer?

Answer:A crazy virtual beer vs. wine dinner … broad-casted live on the Internet … in a house full of Internet geeks, techies and Twitter-a-holics.

computer-wine-holder

This past weekend I traveled to Tampa, FL to tri-host a very interesting an unique event with 3 of my good friends from Twitter. The event was a Beer Vs. Wine “smack-down” Dinner - the first of its kind on Twitter Taste Live.

twitter-taste-live-1

The tasting menu was designed and orchestrated by the lovely Dolce Debbie, Executive Chef and Culinary Director for Savory Adventures as well as a Personal Chef and Personal Trainer. Dolce Debbie(@docledebbie on Twitter) currently resides in Tampa, FL – with her crazy, yet adorable, husband Barry (@barryfrangipane on Twitter). Debbie & Barry have toured Italy extensively and together they own Savory Adventures, a company that offers a unique and exciting way to explore Italy, its land, its people, its wine and its foods.

savory-adventures

Matt Scott(aka @mmWine on Twitter) provided the wines for the pairing. Based in West Palm Beach, Matt is the author of the wine blog “A Good Time With Wine.” He is also the co-founder of ZsaZsa and Company, an Internet based wine store that offers an elegant yet fun way to give gifts of wine (you can follow them on Twitter – @zsazsaandco).

zsazsa

Naturally, The Beer Wench brought the beers.

If you missed the live streaming of our event, you can check out a video clip of it below (Disclaimer: I say “um” and “like” entirely way too much. But ummm you will like have to ummm just deal with it.)

First Twitter Beer vs. Wine Dinner VIDEO CLIP

Here is the menu, both the beer and wine pairings for each dish … and the winners:

Appetizers – Fried Rice Ball w Shrimp, Bruschetta, Fried Zucchini Straws
Beer Pairing Lagunitas Czech Style Pilsner
Wine Pairing Bisson Prosseco 2007

WINNER = BEER

First Plate – Parmesan Risotto
Wine Pairing Bonci Verdicchio Carpaneto 2007
Beer Pairing Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale

WINNER = WINE

Second Plate – Pistachio encrusted Sea Bass
Wine Pairing Deforville Chardonnay 2007
Beer Pairing Jolly Pumpkin Brewery Calabaza Blanca

WINNER = TIE

Main dish – Grilled rack of lamb encrusted in Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs and rosemary.
Wine Pairing Pievano Sagratino Montefalco 2003
Beer Pairing Dogfish Head Raison E’Etre

WINNER = TIE

Dessert – Lemon Cake with strawberries marinated in Limoncello.

heisman

In the end, the real winner was the food.  Debbie worked her ass off in the kitchen all night, while Matt and I ate, drank and chatted with both the guests at the party as well as our viewers and twitter followers online.  She is the true star of the party as well as the gracious hostess who made it all happen!

Also want to send out a big THANK YOU to Barry Frangipane. He played the role of host, waiter, busboy and dish slave very very well. 

Of course, a final thank you to all participants – both in person, in the chat room and on Twitter. With out all of your support and interaction, this event would not have been so successful! Big kisses! XOXO!

CHEERS!!!

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I recently became “LinkedIn” with a lovely local wine entrepreneur named Liz Avera. She currently runs Vino 100 in Polaris. Liz and I have much in common. We have work experience in both marketing and wine as well as love to write. Her experience is more extensive than mine and I intend on absorbing much of her knowledge.
Since Liz is a writer as well it is only appropriate to let her tell the story (as I probably would not give her enough justice!) So without any further ado … allow me to introduce to you my new friend, Liz Avera:
THANK YOU for your generous offer of blogspace and inviting me to provide content regarding Vino 100. (It’s a copywriter/marketer’s dream come true!)

How this all came about is kindof a fluke. I had been a copywriter forever (almost 20 years), but I’m also a research geek (have a Masters degree in Library and Information Science — because I love finding and sharing information.) In August, 2006, I was at Ten United (now Engauge), working on an ad for one of our bank clients. The ad happened to be a profile of one of the bank’s small business customers — a beer and wine wholesaler — located in Traverse City, Michigan. So I’m doing some background research, looking through all these online articles in the beer and wine trade journals, when I stumble across a description of Vino 100 — a wine store franchise with a really unique concept.

Now, I certainly had not been looking to open a retail business, and while I’ve always been into food and wine, I wouldn’t really call myself an “expert.” But after so much time in the advertising world, I knew a good, consumer-centric idea when I saw one. So I decided to check it out.

One protracted lease negotiation, lots of training, and many (15ish) months later, I, along with my husband and a friend of ours, opened the Vino 100 store at Polaris Parkway and Cleveland Avenue.

Our mission is basically to make good wine accessible to everyone, regardless of income, background, or level of wine knowledge. We carry 100 wines all priced at $25 or less, and each one has a “barometer” (point-of-sale tag) indicating its flavor (fruity to dry) and body (light to full). The store is arranged not by grape varietal or country, but rather by taste — all the reds on one wall, progressing from lighter to heavier bodied; all the whites on another wall, progressing from lighter to heavier bodied. Once you find a wine you like, you can use that flavor and body profile to find others that match your taste.

Speaking of tastes, we do winetasting every day (we have at least 8, and usually 12 different wines open) to orient customers to the barometer system and help them start to figure out their own palate. We also host instructional events, private events, even off-site events (“Wherever Winetastings”) — all to help people learn about wine and–most important–learn what they like.

Because I’ve always viewed wine drinking as a very social activity, I wanted Vino 100 Polaris to be a “gathering place.” We have seating for 24 (plus another 8 on barstools), and we serve wine by the glass, along with gourmet cheese plates and a Mediterranean plate (hummus, couscous, and eggplant). For the summer, we started offering 5 o’clock flights — every Monday from 5 till 8, we feature a flight based on a particular theme. So far, we’ve had the Tour de Blancs (Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand, Chile and the Loire), and Italian Oddities (a Nero d’Avola, a Rosso blend, and an Aglianico).

I would love to show you around the place — and have you taste some of our great wines. We have private events scheduled for June 3 and June 11, but other than that, Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually pretty slow. If there’s a certain day/time that’s convenient for you, I can make sure I’m around. (Our store manager, Jim, is there all the time. I’m sometimes off-site, trying to work on marketing and content for our events.) We’re open 11 – 8 Monday through Thursday, 11 – 9 Friday and Saturday. Closed Sunday.

By the way, if you have any books you’d like to get rid of — and want to pick up some good summer reading in return — we’re having a book swap at the store this Saturday. Details are on our website calendar.


Other contact info: phone: 614.895.VINO; email: info@vino100polaris.com

I’m also attaching a couple of photos of the store — in case you wanted to post them.

Looking forward to meeting you in person.

And thanks again — in advance — for spreading the word.

Cheers!
Liz Avera
Many of you know by now (from past posts) that The Beer Wench is a wino as well (I even coined my own term for a champagne lover … CHAMPAGNIAC). I worked in a wine boutique when I lived at home in NY and when I managed a local restaurant I was in charge of all things beverage. I’ve run a few wine tastings in my past and anticipate running more in the future. IN FACT, I propose that we do a Drink With The Wench wine themed event — possibly at Vino 100 Polaris (if they would be kind enough to host it).
Thanks again to Liz for her guest post! I look forward to tasting your wonderful collection of wines!!!

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Please pardon The Beer Wench while she does a little shameless self-promotion.I’m excited to announce that I’ve been asked to be a regular guest correspondent on the Columbus Foodcast blog. (Some may remember that this blog got a mention in Episode 5.)

My first official correspondence on the Columbus Foodcast has been released today. I encourage everyone to check out Episode 7: Food Parties on the Columbus Foodcast blog. Disclaimer: It is my very first podcast, so please excuse my stumbling. Practice makes perfect.

About Columbus Foodcast

Columbus Foodcast is the brain child of Zach, a tech savvy food enthusiast, and Jim, a local food blogger known as CMH Gourmand. Essentially, it is “a podcast about the great tastes in the Ice Cream Capital of the World.”

Zach and Jim have been extremely successful with the first 7 Episodes and I look forward to contributing to future success! Thanks guys! This is going to be a fun adventure!

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