On June 26th, 2012 nearly 250 distributors, retailers, food & beverage directors, wine buyers and others invitees from the U.S. western region converged on the Montage hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. for the 2012 Wine Dialogues sponsored by E & J Gallo Winery. Attendees were treated to an insider glimpse of the wine business covering many different subjects such as: the red blend movement, wine in the California central coast, worldwide extreme viticulture, wine & food, digital marketing… All these subjects were supported by the live testimony of experts and the synchronized tasting of wine samples to further validate the matters at hand. The 2012 biennial Wine Dialogues was moderated by Doug Frost M.S. M.W. (Doug is one of only three people in the world to hold both titles).
The overall tone of this symposium was set early on by Doug’s great sense of humor combined with a modicum of modesty which allows him to keep the audience focused and interested which is not an easy feat considering that very few of the guest speakers are actually professional speakers but rather experts in their own field and shared their passion in their own words.
The day started with a meet & greet California style luncheon al fresco on the terrace of the Montage hotel. One of my early observations of the well represented Las Vegas, NV delegation was their comfortable acquaintance with the “wine bar” portion of the buffet!.?
After the obligatory introductions we were ushered into the ballroom of the hotel where we would spend the next 5 hours. Opening remarks came from Roger Nabedian, Senior VP & GM premium wine division E & J Gallo Winery. Mr. Nabedian joined Gallo in 1986 and today oversees 30 different international brands “…the goal is to create a dialogue in order to keep a moving flow of information…” The rest of the day would be broken down in mini seminars. As follow:
Seminar #1: California Central Coast…One common thread, countless variations.
Guest speakers: Josh Baker, Gina Gallo, David Hopkins
Supporting Wines: Edna Valley Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay, Gallo Signature Series 2010 Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir, Bridlewood Estate Winery 2010 Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon.
This was a very good insight of the diversity found in the Central Coast of California and the very many options and choices faced by the winemakers. Not sure why but I could feel the uneasiness of the 2 winemakers next to Gina Gallo. I’ll just chalk this one up to the fact they were the very first speakers… Surely it had nothing to do with Gina’s title: Senior Director of Winemaking…
Seminar #2: The red blend movement.
Guest speakers: Giovanni Nencini, Felipe Stahlschmidt, Michael Eddy
Supporting Wines: Da Vinci 2006 Brunello di Montalcino, Alamos 2010 Mendoza red blend, Ghost Pines 2010 Napa / Sonoma / San Joaquin red blend.
This seminar explored the different blending techniques available to winemakers ie: clonal selections Brunello Vs. Sangiovese, varietal selections or Geographical selections. The gist of this seminar was that blending allows for increased complexity in the final product. This was clearly exemplified by: William Hill Estate 2009 Benchmark red blend ( 85 Cabernet Sauvignon, 7 Petit verdot, 6 Merlot, 1 Malbec, 1 Cabernet Franc)
Guest speakers: Ernesto Bajda, Yolanda Diaz, Michael Martini.
Supporting Wines: Don Miguel Gascon 2010 Argentina Reserva Malbec, Las Rocas 2009 Calatayud Garnacha Viñas Viejas, Louis M. Martini 2008 Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon.
Not much of a surprise here, considering that grapevines tend to do their best under extreme conditions and stress. While Doug frost waxed poetically on the Las Rocas Garnacha I thought the 2008 Monte Rosso was an excellent wine.
Seminar #4: Bright wines & seafood
Guest speakers: Fabrizio Gatto, Katia Alvarez, Ralph Holdenried
Supporting Wines: La Marca Prosecco, Martín Códax 2010 Rías Baixas Albariño, Wiiliam Hill Estate Winery 2010 Napa Valley Chardonnay
Food & wine exercises are always interesting in the sense that here is no right or wrong because it is such a personal matter. On a daily basis I see situations that make me cringe (glass of Shafer Merlot with oysters on the half shell) but I quickly snap out of it and realize that my personal preference may very well be repulsive to someone else! Each attendee was given a small jar of raw chopped shrimp & scallops. A small tray of condiments featured: lemon juice, olive oil, chopped Marcona almonds, chopped basil, orange segments, Espelette pepper & sea salt. By tweaking the amount of each condiment that you added to the base “crudo” allowed for each supporting wine to pair (more or less) with the dish. I can clearly say that I was extremely successful with the exercise since nothing was left in my jar or my wine glasses!
Guest speakers: Michael Heintz, Curtis Hougland
Supporting Wines: Apothic red, Louis M. Martini Winery Napa Valley Lot 1 Cabernet sauvignon
I truly enjoyed this portion of the day more than any other. I am not sure what he contributing factor(s) is but I suspect that my interest and overall knowledge of the subject helped me to stay awake. As I glanced at the crowd around me I noticed heavy eyelids and yawns. Both guest speakers did their best to move briskly along the script. “…the advent of Geolocation has allowed the E & J Gallo Winery to better target and market locally their customer base…”
A deep pool of talent featuring international diversity. Impressive production overall. Solid brands with a broad market reach at many price points of the spectrum. Wines that the public can find & afford.
Looking forward to 2014, wink-wink.