February 19, 2009
Catching up from the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers

An extended break is about the only thing rarer than the 1937 Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon that I saw yesterday on display. But it's Thursday afternoon, and I've got two hours all to myself at Meadowood in St. Helena. So I'm decompressing in my room after another day of panels and sensory evaluation exercises at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. Oh, and there was a hearty lunch as well, with a variety of Napa cabernet sauvignons that stretched from the early 1990s until the present day, all ready for the tasting. My personal favorite was a 1995 Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon, even though most of my table - including Alder Yarrow of - thought the fruit had faded and were put off by the earthy nose. I thought this all rang of a tasty Bordeaux, and the subtleties of this wine were refreshing after a couple days of tasting young and ripe Napa wines that just might put hair on your chest. But I digress ... all I know is that I need to hit the gym in a big way when I get back to Sac.

Even though I could use a nap right now, the writer in me is feeling charged. Yesterday I practically pinched myself during lunch at the Culinary Institute of America, where we ate in the former Christian Brothers Winery barrel room that now hosts the Culinary Institute of America's Vintners Hall of Fame. Across the table was Ross Schwartz, screenwriter for "Bottle Shock," and dishing some behind-the-scenes stories about the making of this wine-related movie. And sitting next to me was Elin McCoy, author of "The Emperor of Wine: The Rise of Robert M. Parker, Jr.," who talked about Parker as an interview subject (great on the phone, not as open in person). And the historical display of California wine from the David and Judy Breitstein Collection really brought out my wine geek, especially looking at those pristine bottles of the Heitz Cellar 1966 Martha's Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, that Beringer from 1937 and a port wine produced in 1835. Hope I didn't leave any drool on the glass case ...

But for all the eating and wine sipping, it's been a blast to meet fellow wine scribes, share ideas and also talk about our collective anxieties during these wacky times for wine publishing. Tonight is the final dinner blowout, followed by more wine tasting and socializing. One of the writers here is a songwriter, and I hear he's going to bring a guitar to the final soiree. It'll be a full night ... and we've still got a 7:45 a.m. bus to catch Friday morning, where the symposium concludes with a morning program at the Culinary Institute of America.

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