Women for WineSense’s mission is education and networking, and this year’s Grand Event lived up to that promise – in spades!  The three-day spectacular featured a sparkling wine and chocolate reception (Friday night), a great way to meet a number of fellow wine-lovers at the beautiful Mumm Napa.

Saturday featured a full day of wine education, great food, awards and networking – capped off with an amazing wine tasting. If you’ve never been to the CIA (Actually I know it as the Greystone/CIA – Culinary Institute of America – the historic Christian Brothers Winery), it’s a must-experience.  The professional cooking demonstration classrooms, wine tasting facilities, dining hall and (of course!) comprehensive gadget, book, food and equipment store all created the perfect ambience for the events I attended:

•    Pinot in the morning – my fresh taste buds go wild!  I was honored to introduce Debbie Zachareas of the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant (and the Oxbow Wine Merchant) to lead us through “Unveiling Pinot Noirs Globally.”  PN is my favorite varietal, and Debbie offered us a good representation in two hours — sipping fabulous wines [including two NZ – one from Marlborough, the other Central Otago; Oregon represented by Monks Gate;  Russian River California was represented by Freestone; plus two French – Michel Gay, 2006 Beaune-Toussaints 1er Cru Vieilles Vignes and Patrice Rion, 2007 Nuit St Georges “Clos-Saint-Marc” Monopole 1er Cru], interesting sound bites – quick ways for us to identify the regional differences between pinots.
•    Honorary Chair Margaret Duckhorn eloquently introduced the luncheon “session” along with WWS national prez Karen Jess Lindsley and industry icon Margrit Mondavi…while the students of the CIA wowed our taste buds with a scrumptious luncheon, with such luscious entrees as baked eggplant (with prosciutto/parm/sun dried tomatoes), roast leg of lamb marinated (with garlic, rosemary) and sauteed sea bass (in a leek, fennel, tarragon and sauvignon blanc broth), and – our table’s favorite – a roasted potato-leek tortes, paired with wines from St. Supery and Tres Sabores.  Huh?  These wines are representative of Michaela Rodeno (former CEO of St. Supery) and Julie Johnson (Tres Sabores), the two “Hall of Fame” honorees – and, oh, the founders of Women for WineSense.  We loved the understated presentation of these two fab wines.  How do you follow that?  Bring on Ann Noble – who also presented after lunch (“Sensory Evaluation –The Sparklers”), and was our “Lifetime Achievement” award winner.  For the few wine lovers who haven’t had the pleasure to know Ann, she’s a charmer – and has a brilliant ability to help us all more fully appreciate wine with the invention of the Wine Aroma Wheel.  Congrats to all – including all of the Rising Stars – Anna Monticelli, Jennifer Williams, Lindsay Woodard and (our own pal) Donna Schlosser-Long from the Rochester chapter.
•    I still have the aroma sticks from Alexandre Schmitt’s ultra-informative “The Aromatic Universe” – a fabulous way to break down the scents one picks up in wine.  Rather than define the aromas detected as objects (dill, strawberry, vanilla), Alexandre takes you back to more basic scents – and makes it easier!  Take out the emotions and the knowns and start with sensations and perceptions like fresh, citrus, metallic, sweet, etc. – and move up the path from there to define what that fresh or citrus scent might be.  That insight, combined with Ann’s aroma wheel, has made life much simpler.
•    And, to top off a terrific day, we wander outside to a sunny warmth. A clear azure sky was complemented by a gentle breeze and the aromas of dozens of fine wines to sample on the patio. The third Women for WineSense Grand Event featured multiple wines from 32 wineries – including:

◦    N-S board member Rebecca Moore’s family winery, Monk’s Gate
◦    WWS co-founder Julie Johnson pouring her terrific Tres Sabores – “Porque No?”
◦    Past national president, Gabrielle Leonhard and her Gabrielle Collection
◦    Winemaker/Viticulture Roundtable (WWS) chair Linda Trotta and her family’s wine, Teresina
◦    And many more of our friends!  Email us for details – our Sommelier, Barbara Paige, can guide you!

And, finally, on Sunday, the 250+ Grand Event attendees had the delightful dilemma of choosing to go to one of ten wineries for a true insider’s tour.  Fellow board member Mary Beth Suther and I joined 20 others for a behind-the-scenes tour of the fabulous Palmaz Vineyards.  If you haven’t been, you must!  This gravity fed winery is the equivalent of an 18-story building…and the wines?  Divine!

Nine of our local board – including Dr. Liz Thach (Education), Thayne Cockrum (Communications), Lynae Anderson and Mary Beth Suther (Events), Sharae Gunn (Membership), Rebecca Moore (Secretary), Abigail Smyth (Student Rep), Leah McNally (Blogger) and I had the time of our (wine) life!

Christine Mueller
President, Napa-Sonoma Chapter