Michael Wangbickler on February 15th, 2012

Through the BungholeIf you follow this blog at all (and there isn’t much reason since I haven’t updated it in nearly a year), you’ll be wondering where I’ve been. Frankly, this blog just kept dropping on my priorities list. Family, friends, work, and teaching have all pulled my attention away from here. The bad news is that this situation has not changed. The good news is that you can still read updates from me at the new blog, Through the Bunghole. TTB is an insiders look at the wine business and includes writing from not only me, but Paul Wagner, Tim Gaiser, Tracy Kamens, and many more to come. It is a collaboration and has re-invigorated me to share my experiences as a wine publicist. So, you can go there to read my updates.

In the meantime, Caveman Wines will remain dormant until and if I find the time and desire to pick it up again.

Thanks for reading this blog and I hope you will check out Through the Bunghole.

Michael Wangbickler on March 17th, 2011

DLW 2011: Missouri will feature some of the top media names in Missouri and regional wine when it begins April 2 at the Doubletree Westport in suburban St. Louis.

National media heavyweights like Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post and Lisa Hall of Wine Business Monthly will attend. So will Doug Frost, the godfather of regional wine writing, and Eric V. Orange, the founder and CEO of LocalWineEvents.com. Todd Kliman, the author of The Wild Vine, the definitive book about norton, Missouri’s signature grape, will be on hand.

Also, leading cyber journalists Joe and Ann Pollack of St. Louis Eats and Drinks and Angela Ortmann, the St. Louis Wine Girl, as well as St. Louis’ top food and drink magazines — St. Louis, Sauce, and FEAST — and media from Kansas City and Columbia will participate. The complete list is at DrinkLocalWine.com.

For the second year in a row, Olivia Wilder, host of the top-rated Olivia Wilder Times, will do her radio show live from the Twitter Taste-off on the blogtalkradio.com network, interviewing the winemakers and wine personalities in attendance.

Some two dozen Missouri wineries will pour two wines each for the Twitter Taste-off on April 2, where participants will blog or Twitter about what they’ve tasted. We’ll give awards — best red, best white, Media’s Choice and People’s Choice — as voted by the taste-off participants (who must be 21 or older).

Ticket packages start at $35. That’s the price for the Twitter taste-off and a buffet reception with the winemakers and wine personalities at the conference. Or the price for three Missouri winery tours. Or to attend the Saturday morning seminars. Go to DrinkLocalWine.com for a complete schedule and to order tickets. For information, call (214) 727-1992.

DLW 2011 follows the success of the group’s first two conferences — in Dallas featuring Texas wine in 2009 and in Loudoun County featuring Virginia wine in 2010. DLW also holds an annual Regional Wine Week in October, in which more than 40 wine bloggers, writers and columnists from the U.S. and Canada write about their favorite regional wines, ranging from Ontario to New York to Florida to Texas to Colorado.

DrinkLocalWine.com’s goal is to spotlight wine made in the 47 states and Canada that aren’t California, Washington, and Oregon. It’s the brainchild of Washington Post wine columnist Dave McIntyre and wine blogger Jeff Siegel, the Wine Curmudgeon.

Conference sponsors are the Missouri Wine and Grape Board; LocalWineEvents.com; Annie Gunn’s; the Doubletree Westport; and the St. Charles County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Gizmo Group, Cabot Cheese, and St. James Winery.

Source: Press Release

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Michael Wangbickler on February 25th, 2011

Over the past two months, I’ve been teaching wine classes for the San Francisco-based wine school, Discover Wine & Spirits. The school offers classes for the very beginner to the advanced.

Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) – the school offers both the Level 2 Intermediate and Level 3 Advanced courses for the Wine and Spirits Education Trust. The WSET was founded in 1969 to provide high quality education and training in wines and spirits. Since then, WSET has grown into the foremost international body in the field of wines and spirits education, with a suite of sought-after qualifications. I will be teaching the Level 2 Intermediate course this weekend and again in April.

French Wine Program – The French Wine Program is designed for wine enthusiasts, the restaurant industry and members of the wine trade. The French Wine Program affiliates are Burgundy Wine Board (BIVB), Loire Valley Wine and Champagne Bureaus and materials supplied by: BIVB, Inter Beaujolais, Interrhone, Provence Wines, Champagne Bureau, CIVC and Loire Valley Wine Bureau. the next series of these classes will be held in April and May.

Italian Wine Series – The Italian Wine Series is a two-day intensive on the wines of this ancient region. It is intended for the more advanced student. The next offering of this course is in May.

Wine Enthusiast Series – The school offers several classes for the novice through the Wine Enthusiast Series. Classes include:

  • Learn How to Taste Like a Pro
  • Discover Pinot Noir!
  • Discover Sparkling Wine!
  • Old World vs. New World Classics
  • Up & Coming Wines
  • Discover Tuscany!
  • Syrah – The Grape of Legends

The school also offers classes on the wines of Argentina and Spain.

I will be teaching several of the courses over the upcoming months, as will my fellow instructors. If you are interested in signing up for any of these classes, feel free to email me at mike@cavemanwines.com or the proprietor/program coordinator Christina Mirabile at info@discoverwineandspirits.com.

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Michael Wangbickler on February 20th, 2011

On Friday, February 18th, my wife and I attended the 5th annual Dark and Delicious Wine & Food event at Rock Wall Wine Company in Alameda, California. Hosted by the Petite Sirah advocacy group, P.S. I Love You, and organized by the lovely Jo Diaz, the event was a dream for every lover of Durif (see my earlier post on Petite Sirah).

This is honestly one of the better wine and food events I’ve been to. Mostly for the simple fact that the food was quite good and there was plenty of it. All of the chefs, restaurateurs, and caterers brought their A-game and were serving up some pretty tasty grub. A lot of these events run short on food by the end of the night, but that was not the case here. Wine highlights of the night included Concannon, David Fulton, Robert Biale, and Twisted Oak.

Petite Sirah seems to be a polarizing wine, with people either falling into the camp of loving it or hating it. I, for instance, love it. My wife does not. It can be in-your-face, rustic, and sometimes a bit hard to love. But love it, I do.

If you missed the tasting, here is a video courtesy of P.S. I Love You that gives you a feel for the event:

Disclaimer: I had a client in attendance at the event, Don Sebastiani & Sons. In fact, my agency was instrumental in having them join P.S. I Love You and participating in this event. While I promised not to promote the wines of any of my clients on this blog, I have to make an exception in the case of their 2008 Aquinas Petite Sirah. It was one of the best at the tasting.

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Michael Wangbickler on February 10th, 2011

Reprinted from the St. Helena Star:

Image provided courtesy of ZAP by Wayde Carroll.

Zinfandel had its day in the spotlight as thousands converged on Fort Mason Center in San Francisco for the Zinfandel Advocates and Producers (ZAP) Grand Tasting on Saturday, Jan. 29.

For 20 years, zin fanatics from far and wide have made an annual pilgrimage to taste this archetypal California wine from hundreds of producers. It is quite unlike any other festival or tasting, in that it only focused on one variety: zinfandel.

Two massive pavilions, packed with people, all clamoring for a taste of something they love. When it takes an hour to find parking, and likely a very long walk afterward, you know you are a devoted fan. And in the end, if you don’t know what zinfandel tastes like after this experience, you weren’t trying at all.

Zinfandel is undoubtedly Californian. While its roots can be traced to Croatia by way of Italy, California winemakers have taken this obscure and hard-to-grow variety and made it their own. Ranging from briary and spicy to jammy and fruit-forward, zinfandel is truly unique among its peers.

Now, while most people may consider Sonoma County as the place where zinfandel best thrives, the Napa Valley should never be forgotten. Here and there, pockets of old and ancient vines dot the hillsides and produce wines of character and strength. Hidden gems abound from lesser-known producers, and these were on prominent display at the ZAP festival.

Napa mainstays such as Chateau Montelena, Frank Family Winery, Peju Provence Winery, and Rombauer Vineyards count zinfandel among their portfolio, all producing very respectable wines. A little more digging, however, will reveal small, family-run wineries that produce small lots from special vineyards.

One such producer is Brown Estate Vineyards. For 30 years, the Brown family has been growing grapes and making exceptional wines. They hung their hat on zinfandel early on, and it has been very successful for them. Most priced in excess of $50 per bottle, the wines sell out quickly every year. Their style is big, jammy, and concentrated and the Brown Estate 2009 Napa Valley Zinfandel ($36) and the Brown Estate 2009 Mickey’s Block Zinfandel deliver in spades.

In 1992, culinary entrepreneur Pat Kuleto purchased five parcels from cattle ranchers to create a 761-acre ranch east of Rutherford high in the hills above the Napa Valley. Their zinfandel vines are planted between 1,200 and 1,400 feet, producing some intense mountain fruit. The Kuleto Estate 2008 Zinfandel ($35) is massive, with concentrated aromas of black cherry and violets, exhibiting excellent balance and a long finish.

D-Cubed Cellars do one thing, and they do it well: zinfandel. The brainchild of Duane David Dappen (D-Cubed, get it?), who is one of the most well-respected zinfandel winemakers in Napa Valley, D-Cubed produces several vineyard-designated and blended wines. The D-Cubed Cellars 2007 Napa Valley Zinfandel ($27) shows jammy blackberry and cedar with good weight and refreshing acidity. The D-Cubed 2007 Korte Ranch Zinfandel ($32) is a more “classic” style with cigar-box, pepper, and baking spice with a snappy finish.

Sonoma-based Talty Vineyards and Winery produces small-lot, vineyard-designated zinfandels from both Dry Creek Valley and Napa Valley. Their small 2.5-acre head-pruned, dry-farmed Filice Connolly vineyard yields only about 2 tons per acre, which intensifies flavors. The Talty 2008 Folic Connolly Vineyard Zinfandel ($38) is very expressive with floral aromas, black currants and fresh strawberries, exhibiting a silky palate and lingering finish.

With so many raving fans, it’s hard to believe that zinfandel almost went the way of the dodo. We can thank white zinfandel for its rescue. Without white zin’s invention in the mid-1970s, the wonders of old-vine zinfandel may have been lost to us. Say what you will about the pink stuff, but the robust demand for it extended the commercial viability of old-vine zinfandel vineyards, which saved them from being ripped out. That, coupled with organizations such as ZAP, has made it possible for thousands of wine lovers to enjoy a glass of this unique California wine.

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