As 2010 nears its end, I have been spending time looking back at this past year, savoring some of my favorite memories and achievements. I have already provided three summary lists for 2010, my Top Ten Wines Under $15, Top Ten Wines Over $15 and Top Wines Over $50. And more lists are on the way.
Now it is time for a general summary of the past year, highlighting several key items and events. These are some of the most important food and wine items and events of the past year for me. Please note that I will be posting some more specific food, wine, sake and spirits lists in the near future.
Thursday Sips and Nibbles:
Back in June, I introduced a new feature on my blog: Thursday Sips & Nibbles. Each Thursday, I compile a post of brief and interesting food and wine items that I encountered recently. These items might include updates on previous posts, restaurant news, food/wine events, mini-reviews and more. These items generally are not long enough for their own post, so it was more useful to bundle them together. So, I now have three regular features on my blog, including Monday Rants and Sake Sundays. What new feature will I add for 2011? Any suggestions?
This summer, I attended John Gauntner's Saké Professional Course in San Francisco. Over the course of three intensive days, I expanded and reinforced my knowledge of sake, while tasting over 90 different sakes. At the end, I passed the course, becoming a Certified Sake Professional. It was a great class, and well worth taking if you love sake. John was an excellent instructor, ensuring the material was fun and informative. I am now teaching classes about sake, holding sake tastings, and consulting about sake-related matters. Please see my new site, Passionate Sake, for more information.
I am also currently studying for the Center of Wine Origins' Wine Location Specialist Certificate Exam. This course concentrates on Champagne and Port, giving an in-depth examination of these wines and I have found the study materials to be quite fascinating so far. The exam is in early January so I'll continue to study hard. For 2011, I would also like to become a Certified Sherry Educator.
This was a very busy, yet quite exciting, year for travel, including both domestic and international. As I have said before, travel to wine regions can be so educational, often giving you a much better understanding than what you can derive from any book or lecture. Such travel can expand and reinforce your knowledge, as well as be quite enjoyable. I strongly recommend that all my readers try to visit a wine region in 2011. I hope to continue my own travels next year.
1) I attended two wine conferences this year, both TasteCamp and the Wine Bloggers Conference. TasteCamp 2010 was held in the Finger Lakes, New York, and was slightly larger than the previous year. It was exciting to visit this wine region, and I tasted many very good wines, as well as some exceptional ones. It was great to see many bloggers again from the 2009 event, as well as to meet some new ones. TasteCamp is a more intimate event, and one whose primary purpose is to understanding a wine region. Three of the wines from this region ended up on my Top Wine lists this year, so that is impressive. For 2011, TasteCamp will be held in the Niagara region, both the Canadian and American sides, and I plan on attending.
I also attended my first Wine Bloggers Conference, which was held in Walla Walla, Washington, and it was quite an event. Far larger than TasteCamp, I met many bloggers I had previously known only online, or had not even known there. There were plenty of good wines and delicious food, as well as many activities. Numerous seminars were interesting and useful, and it was a great networking opportunity. In 2011, the conference will be held in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I plan on attending. I was glad to see that the conference would finally be held on the East Coast.
2) I journeyed to San Francisco to take the Sake Professional Course, and got to spend some time touring the area too. I have been to San Francisco before so my trip was a revisit to some favorite places, as well as an exploration of some new places. Excellent restaurants such as Incanto, Ozumo and the Slanted Door. True Sake, the first all-sake store in the U.S. Omnivore Books, a fascinating food/beverage book store. It is a fun city, and a place I would enjoy visiting again sometime.
3) Last spring, I attended a press trip to the Paso Robles region, and was intrigued by their food and wine. It is an unprentious area, one that is up and coming and deserving of exploration. They produce some excellent Rhône-style wines, whites and reds, and at all price points. There are also some delicious restaurants, many relying on local and sustainable ingredients. It is a scenic region, and a nice choice for a laid back vacation. Four wines from this region ended up on my Top Wine Lists.
4) Lovely Spain! It is always a pleasure to visit Spain and this past fall I got to visit the Sherry region, including the cities of Jerez, Sevilla, Cadiz, El Puerto de Santa María, and Sanlúcar de Barrameda, as part of a press trip. What a superb journey, with incredible food, wines and people. It was my favorite trip of the year, and I have so many find memories of the region. From the Arabic baths to flamenco dancing, from baby eels to sherry (lots of sherry). Plus, it was very educational, and my passion for sherry grew even greater. I highly recommend that you visit this region of Spain!
5) Earlier this month, I took another press trip, this time to the Collio DOC of the Friuli region of Italy. Though I have not yet written about my experiences, I can say that it was an excellent trip. Great food, wine, people, scenery, history and more. Lots of white wines, including Friuliano, Ribolla Gialla, and white blends. The weather cooperated, being sunny, though we could see the majesty of the snow-covered Alps. You can look forward to a number of posts about the Collio region in January 2011.
My Monday Rants are probably the most popular feature of my blog, and can sometimes generate some interesting discussions. But no other post this year generated as much controversy as Rant: Alton Brown, I Call You Out! In brief, I saw an Iron Chef America episode where it appeared that bluefin tuna was used as an ingredient. Knowing Alton Brown's stance against the use of bluefin, I questioned the apparent use of it on the show he hosts. Alton himself responded, as did numerous others. Plus, many others responded on their own message boards and forums about my post, often in a negative fashion.
Without delving into the specifics of the topic, I think this Rant was highly successful in generating discussion about a very important issue, the endangered bluefin tuna. Plus, it ensured that bluefin tuna was a banned ingredient on Iron Chef America. For unknown reasons, Iron Chef America does not post a list of the ingredients banned on the show, and my previous efforts to secure such a list from them have been unsuccessful. Iron Chef America should be proud to ban unsustainable seafood from their show, and should make a public declaration of such. Why they have not done so still puzzles me.
I hope my Rants in 2011 continue to generate discussion on some important issues.
When it comes to wines and other alcohol beverages, I am very adventurous, constantly seeking out the unusual, rare, exotic, uncommon, and underappreciated drinks. I love expanding my palate, tasting something new, trying to find something worthy. This year, it seems I have been more and more of a passionate advocate for niche wines and beverages, trying to encourage others to try them, to expand their own palates beyond the usual suspects, the common Cabernets, Chardonannys, Pinots and such. Sherry, Sake, Greek wines, Madeira, Texas wines, Finger Lake wines, and more. I grow weary of reading blogs about the usual suspects, wishing they would venture out into less familiar territory. There is so much excellent wine out there, just waiting to be discovered by an adventurous drinker.
Will any wine blogger make a vow for 2011 to be more adventurous with their palate?
I am once again very thankful for all of my readers this past year. My readership continues to grow and I have received more comments this year on my blog. I am glad for those people who have enjoyed and found my blog posts entertaining and informative. I hope to attract more readers in the new year, as well as to have more of a discussion with those readers I already possess. Please feel free to add your comments, so we can have a dialogue about the issues and items I write about. I want this blog be more than just my writings, but also to be a stepping stone to fascinating discussions.