Wine Bloggers Conference Portland 2012 & Pre-trip to Eugene

WBC12

WBC12

Finally!! The much anticipated and long awaited moment is here!! It’s been a long journey to get to Portland, and I am soooooo excited to have woken up to my first American Wine Bloggers Conference (WBC)!! I have attended 2 European Wine Bloggers Conferences and heard so very much about the American one that I feel very fortunate to actually be here!!

The story actually gets even better, as I am attending my first WBC thanks to a full scholarship!! Without this funding I would not be here right now so I would like to send a HUGE thank you to Thea Dwelle and her team, who are running the scholarship and have found the following amazing corporate sponsors Cornerstone Napa, Layer Cake, Mia Malm and Twisted Oak Winery as well as the countless private people who have donated to make my dream come through!!!

Old farm truck at Heidi Tunnel Catering

Old farm truck at Heidi Tunnel Catering

The conference started for a lot of us with a pre-trip, in my to Eugene, in the Willamette Valley. The Southern Willamette Valley is a very beautiful part of the country, very near the cascade coast, which I hope to visit one day. However this trip was focussed on sustainable farming and grape growing in the Willamette Valley and our 22 hours there were filled with delicious local food and sustainable wines. Our first stop was the rustic barn restaurant of the Heidi Tunnell Catering Company , run by the softly spoken Heidi Tunnell. Heidi aims to prepare a personalized and wholesome meal experience in a 19th century restored barn on her family farm. All the ingredients are fresh, most of the fruit and vegetables comes from her vegetable garden and the meat comes either from the family farm or was locally reared. She served us 3 original delicious yet simply prepared dishes which were paired with 3 local wines. My favourite pairing was the chick pea fritter with a zesty lemon yoghurt dressing and the Kandarian Wine Cellar Blue Eye Sauvignon Blanc 2011.

Royal views on King Estate

Royal views on King Estate

Next up was King Estate – the largest Pinot Gris producer in Oregon, as well as the largest sustainable and organic wine farm. I was pretty impressed by size of the solar panel and manure farm, loved the electrical car charging point and was amazed by the “wine on tap” used in the tasting room. Whilst kegs are a whole lot less sexy, at least in my opinion, it is a fact that the carbon foot print of a wine keg is significantly lower than that of a bottle and wine. King Estate produce around 250,000 cases of wine per year. Most of this is grown organically on their own farm, but they also purchase sustainably grown fruit from a few growers in the region and in Washington State. All the estate grown fruit is hand picked before carefully being vinified. All the different Pinot Noir blocks are vinified separately with minimal intervention, and aged in oak – mainly in barriques, but also a few neutral Oak larger casks – before being carefully blended.

The views from the restaurant terrace are amazing, and the food we enjoyed at night was awesome. My favourite pairing was the King Estate Pinot Gris 2011 with the Oregon Dungeness Crab Cakes.

Water garden at Pfeiffer Vineyards

Water garden at Pfeiffer Vineyards

More gorgeous views were enjoyed the next day at Pfeiffer Vineyards, whose water garden was bliss to relax in :-) Danuta and Robin were great hosts and their Pinot Clinic was a unique and fun experience which I can highly recommend.

We ended our blitz visit of Eugene with a cheese and wine tasting on the Amtrak Coast Starlight train which also brought us back to Portland in time for the pre-conference Oregon Wine reception.

The conference program looks pretty priomising and I feel that besides meeting a whole new group of people I will have learned heaps by Sunday!! A lot of people have told me the American conference is very different to the European conference, and secretly I am really happy about this. In fact I feel as excited as when I first attended the EWBC in Vienna 2 years ago – a conference which really changed my life!

Speaking of the EWBC, last year I was involved in setting up the EWBC scholarship fund and am really happy to say that we were able to sponsor 2 candidates. It would be great if this year the fund could sponsor even more people – so please spread the word and donate if you can here. Your donation can make a huge difference as it will help someone to fulfil their dream and become part of a wonderful community!!!

About Caroline

Caroline is a certified Sommelier (by the CMS) and WSET diploma student. In order to specialize in the wines of Champagne she moved to the region and currently works as a wine consultant, wine educator and wine writer. She is a member of the Circle of Wine Writers and writes for several international publications including Palate Press, Snooth, Wine-Searcher, Decanter and Vinogusto; further activities include teaching Champagne related courses at Reims Management School and organizing personalized tasting experiences at http://www.tastingswithatwist.wordpress.com as well as being a regular judge at international wine competitions.
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