Appetizers
February 18, 2009
Napa-stye wine immersion

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Greetings from the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers.

The trip to St. Helena was a soggy one, but it's Tuesday afternoon and I'm here at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers. Some 60 writers and panelists are here through Friday at Meadowood, a very cozy yet classy resort, where we'll discuss the finer points of wine writing, interviewing and other related matters. And yes, we'll be doing plenty of eating and drinking. 150 wineries from the Napa Valley donated bottles to our cause, and that grassy and citrus-y taste of the Stag's Leap Cellars sauvignon blanc was the perfect way to decompress after this rainy traveling. Whew ...

Some of my friends are ribbing me about this whole event, and guess I can't blame them. Four days of epic wine drinking and eating, and at this posh resort? Yeah, pinch me already. I certainly feel fortunate to be here. I was lucky to win a fellowship for this symposium based on some writing samples I'd sent in December. Had I not been selected, I'd be back in Sacramento wondering how this was all going. So yes, this affair sounds pretty hedonistic during such penny-pinching times. But for those of us in attendance, wine writing is a serious vocation. So many stories can spring from wine: the agri-business angle; profiles of the winemakers behind this multi-billion dollar industry; lifestyle and travel pieces; trends in how and what we drink. After all, wine culture stretches back thousands of years ... hey, even Jesus was a fan. So the purpose of this event is to nestle into the worlds of wine and writing and learn from some of the best, including Eric Asimov of the New York Times and "Wine Bible" author Karen MacNeil.

Right now we're all in that "getting to know you phase." The symposium kicked off with a reception and then into panel sessions on reporting skills, market research about current wine consumption and tips from past alumni. (Speaking of alumni, my pal and colleague Rick Kushman is a previous symposium fellow, though not here; he's the co-author of the wine book "A Moveable Thirst."). So I've got just a little more downtime before we formally introduce ourselves and then have dinner. Hold down the fort in Sacto., and I will be in touch soon with another dispatch. Salud!

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