Review of Events at Symposium for Professional Wine Writers 2010 at Meadowood

Journalists at Symposium for Professional Wine Writers

… so on my previous post I mentioned I have been coming here for years to catch up with fellow professionals throughout the world.  Even the most jaded journalist can always learn something new, and of course new associations can always be made.

This year Tuesday kicked off with optional visits to To Kalon or Cade vineyards …

napa field

yet our flight arrived too late for this, so arrived in time to hear Frances Mayes, author of "Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life" speak about her book.

Every Day in Tuscany

This segued into a talk called "Sense of Place" by Louise Kiernan, writing coach from the Chicago Tribune. In the interactive writing exercise, I remembered writing about one of my favorite Languedoc wines I enjoyed by an ancient Roman structure in the Coteries de Nimes, where gladiators fought over blood and sand. (Something about the Carignan grape and its corporal quality).

Wednesday’s events took place at the CIA in the famed Greystone building. Jeff Morgan, winemaker and author whom I interviewed many times, gave a fabulous brief on winemaking bore Karen MacNeil (author of The Wine Bible and now invited to the Hall of Fame from our Wine Media Guild) in New York and Eric Asimov, Wine Editor of the New York Times, gave a great presentation on tasting notes.

John Ash cooks lobster

Lobsters and Viognier were the theme of the day in the next presentation by John Ash, Chef, Author, and Instructor at the CIA and Antonia Allegra, founder of the Wine Symposium and creative writing expert, gave a talk on writing about food and wine pairing.

lobster dish

The highlight of this afternoon was a dynamic talk by Vic Motto, Chairman of Global Wine Partners, on the current recession and ideas of how the industry can dig its way out of a "recession mentality."

In the afternoon, Mark Krasnow, a post-doctoral candidate at the University of California at Davis, gave a talk on identifying flaws in red wine, followed by a "crash course" on red wine varietals in California Bordeaux style wine by Meadowood’s Director of Wine Education Gilles de Chambure and Cain 5 Winemaker Chris Howell offered an enlightening lecture. The vines for all varietals are planted all over Spring Mountain, with Howell revealing that it many be many decades until it is known which varietals perform best in which plot.

That night, a friend arranged us to have dinner at Bottega in Yountville, a Chiarello restaurant that is quite popular. Chiarello produces wines and we tried his Cabernet Sauvignon Eileen (2006) as well as a reasonably priced Puglia red. The food was quite authentic — appetizers and pastas are served family style which allowed guests to try various bites.


Thursday – today – was also very dynamic. Alder Yarrow was moderator of a social media panel, with the panel consisting of Doug Cook, Director of Search for Twitter, Steve Heimoff, California Editor for Wine Enthusiast, Joe Roberts,, and Patrick Comiskey, Wine & Spirits. The theme was what bloggers could do to build brand and buzz, with the audience very keen on probing questions. The takeaway point of the panel was for bloggers to educate themselves on search engine optimization. 

Alder Yarrow
Alder Yarrow by night … (without jacket)

The Wine Writers, Ethics, and Income Streams panel was also quite controversial – Steve Heimoff moderated a panel including the S.F. Chronicle’s Michael Bauer, Bon Appetite’s Heather John, and Thomas Ulrich, of the Journalism Department of California State University.

I thought Christian Miller’s report on "What Wine Drinkers are Reading" was fabulous. Miler is part of Full Glass Research and had some eye opening statistics. Following this was the The Luxury Media Panel revealed the "do’s" and "don’ts" of the trade.

So tonight the conference is over – tomorrow is all about Premiere Napa Valley as we gear up for the sold-out auction!  Stay tuned!


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