Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Looking Back on a Year of Tasting

It’s time to look back on some favorite moments from this past year, most of them involving wine. Of course, one of my high points is starting this blog and sharing my limited (but expanding) wine knowledge with all of you!

Around the time I began Chicago Pinot, I received a wonderful opportunity to work in a wine department (which I refer to on this blog as The Night Thing), very near my South Side home. I want to personally thank Tracy Liang for giving me this chance, and I hope that every customer and potential customer I met in 2009 felt they received positive customer service from our wine team. We are planning a major expansion of our store this winter; so hopefully you’ll have a much broader wine inventory to choose from very soon!

In late October, I spent a weekend in Sonoma County with almost two hundred fellow bloggers for the first Wine Bloggers Conference organized by the online group Open Wine Consortium. In addition to meeting several of the writers who inspired me to start blogging, I learned strategies for promoting the blog, aesthetic and technical improvements I can make to it (working on that!) and how to maintain personal ethics when writing about such a glamorous subject.

Our two keynote speakers both provided inspiration, but in very different styles. Friday night, Wine Library TV ringmaster Gary Vaynerchuk gave us his usual YOU CAN DO IT! pep rally. Saturday night, along with a delicious dinner served at Sebastiani Winery (under new management now, sigh), author and blogger Alice Feiring gently reminded us not to sell out our values or convictions, and to never forget the history and majesty of wine. If Gary V. is the wine media’s Oprah, then Alice qualifies as its Dr. Laura; insisting (maybe a little stridently) on maintaining personal and professional integrity at all times.

We also took a tour of our choice of six different appellations within Sonoma valley (my choice, Russian River Valley, where Pinot Noir reigns). Oh and we drank wine. Lots of wine. All weekend. (Sorry I don’t have any pictures of that!)

I do have some pictures
of our hike, though!

When not working at The Day or The Night Thing, you probably saw me at one of the numerous tastings and classes taking place throughout Chicago. Some of the larger events I’ve attended, such as this one in Millennium Park, are starting to lose interest for me. Between the crowds, the lines, and the difficulty of truly concentrating on each individual tasting, these “wineapaloozas” are fun if you go with friends and just want to acquire a lingering buzz to start your weekend, but they don’t add too much to your wine vocabulary.

Much better were the single grape classes that Just Grapes conducted this past summer. I only attended one meeting (about Pinot Grigio), but I hope they repeat the series in 2009. This series focused on one varietal each night; and served six different examples of it. A group of no more than thirty of us swished, tasted, and discussed (and argued a little too), all in the name of getting a real clue to what flavors and textures a wine-producing grape or region can offer.

Rhone if you want to!

One of my favorite regions for vino is the Rhone Valley in France. In September, at one of those “mega-tastings” out in Rosemont, Megan Wiig, conducted a free-with-admission seminar about the Rhone, where power, juicy acidity and (potential) affordibility all combine.

I also have fond memories of the wine meetups I have attended. The greater Chicago area must have at least a dozen wine groups you can join through Meetup. Throughout the summer, Hertha Meyer's group met at Millennium Park for its series of free concerts. Everyone brought some food or wine, and many new friends were made. And one-woman dynamo Joelen Agram held monthly gatherings at her home where different varietals were studied throughout the year.

In 2009, I hope to expand my wine knowledge by attending more tastings, making new contacts in the industry and hopefully, conversing with many new readers of this blog (hopefully keeping this all within a realistic budget). I'll see you wherever a bottle is about to get poured!

No comments: