Monday, September 24, 2012

Winesong 2012

 Recently I was fortunate enough to travel about 90 minutes north of Sonoma to cover the Winesong 2012 event, benefiting the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation. Katie and I headed out on Friday September 7th to begin the trek north. The first day of Winesong featured a celebration of Pinot Noir at the Little River Inn. Mendocino, although arguable the 3rd most known wine region in California has really made a name for itself in large part to Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley. A cooler climate area, it isn’t difficult to find old world style wines that allow the terroir to show. Although the event went from 1-4pm, we ran into some obstacles and didn’t arrive until 3:30pm. Determined to make the most of our 30 minutes, we grabbed our glasses and bellied up to a table. I stopped at the Toulouse Vineyards table at the recommendation of fellow writer Katherine Parker. They were pouring several options, some more terroir driven while others were more fruit forward. Whatever your individual palate for Pinot is, you will likely find something you like at Toulouse. We had some other quick stops at LonderVineyards and Philo Ridge Vineyards but 4:00pm came to quickly and we had to depart to our lodging.

Even though we don’t have “hotels” in our blog mantra, the Joshua Grindle Inn is totally worth talking about. I have stayed in bed & breakfasts before, or at least I thought I had. We pulled into the parking lot for the Joshua Grindle Inn and headed towards the picturesque Victorian Farmhouse. As we neared the door it opened, seemingly on its own. Normally I would turn and run at this point, thinking it was haunted, but it was just so cute I had to explore. Thankfully it wasn’t a ghost at all, it was Charles, one of the owners of the Inn who opened the door. We checked in, were given a tour of the property, and shown our room. We stayed in the Library Room, a charming room with fireplace that overlooked a garden. Waiting for us in our room was a small bottle of Mendocino county wine. Just outside our room was the Parlor where complimentary tea, cookies, and sherry were available each night. Now I said this was a bed and what about the food? Oh my goodness, I thought the institutionalized breakfasts at Hampton Inn’s were good, but they don’t stand a chance against this place. Our first morning breakfast included Belgian Waffles with candied ginger nectarines and the 2nd day was a mushroom crusted quiche with fresh fruit. We enjoyed our breakfast at the two person tables on the wrap-around porch each morning and couldn’t stop talking about the hospitality and warmth we felt from Charles’ wife Cindy. The Joshua Grindle Inn will be the first place I check for availability each time I go to Mendocino.
On Saturday we awoke to thick fog, which didn’t burn off until late afternoon. Thankfully it didn’t dampen the spirits of the 1000+ guests who strolled through the Mendocino Botanical Gardens, enjoying wine from all over the world. We visited a couple of the places we briefly stopped at on Friday but also some new folks like McFadden Vineyards. Drawn in by the liveliness of their staff, I appreciated that their Chardonnay was aged only in stainless steel and left out the butter and oak that can take California Chardonnay prisoner. Always on the lookout for earthiness in my wine, I was drawn back to Londer Vineyards and their 2007 Estate Pinot Noir. It was noticeable that the age in the bottle contributed to how smooth and elegant the wine was. With good flavors of earth and tobacco, I definitely may have asked for a 2nd taste.

 One thing I love about this event is the variety of music and entertainment throughout the gardens. From acoustic guitar to classic rock, there is plenty of music to listen to while enjoying your wine. This event has become one of my favorites to cover. With great wine, entertaining music, and substantial food offerings, Winesong has something for everyone. However, I am sad to say that my criticism remains the same as last year. First, there were no spit cups available. Thankfully there was a coffee vendor willing to give us two of their cups for that purpose. Second, it was difficult at times to know if this was a tasting event or a drinking event. Some wineries were clearly pouring small tastes while others were pouring near full glasses. Without spit cups, or discretion, many of the visitors were overindulging quite early into the event. While wine patrons will almost always over consume, I don’t think the wineries should enable it by pouring full glasses.

The walk-around event in the gardens all leads up to the charity auction, this year featuring lunch created by celebrity chef Bradley Ogden. The auction is my favorite part of the event because it is heartwarming to see the generosity of the attendees. The only downside is constantly having to watch Katie to make sure she isn’t grabbing the auction paddle and joining in on the fun. To see attendees bid thousands and thousands of dollars to benefit the Mendocino Coast Hospital Foundation is inspiring. Some of the highlights included a 7-night Tuscan vacation that went for $25,000 and the “Fund-a-Need” auction benefiting uninsured and underinsured cancer patients raised over $100,000 in a matter of minutes. At the end of the day, Winesong auction raised over $600,000 for the hospital foundation.

If you haven’t attended this event before it is definitely worth checking out. In 2013, the dates are already set for September 6 & 7 and I can tell you that I have already marked my calendar. Hope to see you there next year!



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