Winemaking. Life. The Dirt. Alison Crowe is a Winemaker Based in Napa.

Archives: Wine Blog Awards 2014

Alison Crowe’s GirlandtheGrape.com is “Best New Wine Blog”: Wine Blog Awards 2014

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Alison Crowe accepts the award for “Best New Wine Blog” in Santa Ynez Valley at the Wine Blogger’s Conference. 7/2/14

Girl and the Grape was thrilled to be voted “Best New Wine Blog” at the 2014 Wine Blog Awards this weekend in Buellton, CA at the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Given the excellence of the competition, being chosen for the award was an honor.  Accepting it in my home “stomping grounds” in Santa Barbara county, with many friends and colleagues in the audience, made it even more special.

I would like to give a big “Thank You” to the judges, the Conference organizers and to all the bloggers and wine writers who make this conference, and the wine blogosphere, a dynamic and exciting place to be. As a winemaker and a wine writer, I am indebted to Wilfred Wong and Randall Grahm, two wine professionals who also wield their pens with aplomb. I have had the privilege of working alongside both of these industry legends and have appreciated not only their friendship over the years but the lesson that winemaking and wine writing can go hand in hand. Grazie, gentlemen.

Girlandthegrape.com started as an idea I tossed about with friends on Facebook over a year ago and has now taken on a life of its own. I submit a hearty “Thank You” to Mike Meisner of Club Veritas who helped get me started on WordPress, to my many readers, and of course to my friends and family who have supported me throughout this journey. GirlandtheGrape.com would not be possible without my co-workers and colleagues in the California wine business who work so hard to grow grapes and make wine; this is not just my story but theirs too.

 

Alison Crowe is the Winemaker for Garnet Vineyards and other brands and lives in downtown Napa. Twitter: @alisoncrowewine

 

 

 

 

Scents of Place: Terroir Grows Beyond Grapes in Santa Barbara County

 

jasmineGrowing up in the sleepy little surf town of Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara , my first step on the path to becoming a winemaker had little to do with grapes, wine or my proximity to the now-famous “Sideways Country.”  It began with gardens.  I planted my first herb garden when I was about 11 years old because I was fascinated by the natural aromas that plants had:  how they got in there, how they developed and why they smelled so wonderful to my curious nose.

As I got older, I began smelling not just the lavender and jasmine in my mother’s seaside flower beds but also the glasses of Santa Barbara County wines my parents passed around the table while dining al fresco with friends.   As I learned about chemistry in high school I began to understand that some of the same exact components that create delicate aromas in a flower  or citrus zest can also be naturally present in grape skins.  When carefully tended by a skilled winemaker, these same perfumes can be captured and transferred from grapes into the finished wine.

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Photo: Frank Crowe

This weekend in Santa Barbara County, in Buellton to be exact, hundreds of wine bloggers will descend upon this quiet corner of the Central Coast and for three days will taste, tweet and network during the annual Wine Bloggers Conference.  Though wine will no doubt steal the aromatic show, via thousands of nose-in-glass selfies and group pictures with bottles, I would like to invite my fellow conference attendees to stop and smell something other than the Pinot.

The Central Coast has an amazing array of natural aromas to enjoy that, like its wines, are truly an expression of its “sense of place.”  Below are some of my favorites from growing up in Santa Barbara County.  From the hillside chaparral and the eucalyptus stands to the hedges of jasmine downtown or the salty-tar tang of the seaside, here is a collection of sensory souvenirs that can be just as intoxicating as the region’s fine wines.

 

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Citrus Blossoms

Oranges and lemons have long been grown in Santa Barbara County and citrus groves dot the hillsides up and down the coast along Highway 101.  If you can (safely) pull over on a back country lane or at a winery rancho, be sure to bury your nose in some of these zesty and unforgettable blossoms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eucalptus

Eucalyptus Groves

Not native to the Central Coast, eucalyptus trees were imported in the 1800’s primarily as windbreaks and as a source of wood.  They quickly took root and their minty herbal smell, whether wafting through the wind or released from leaves crushed underfoot, is a Santa Barbara county scent signature.

 

 

 

Beer

Hops and Malted Barley

Our home-grown beer isn’t as world-famous as our wine, but Firestone-Walker Brewing Company and Carpinteria’s own Island Brewing Company are starting to change that.  Interestingly, the Wine Bloggers Conference home base, the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott, is just steps away from the Firestone-Walker Brewery so this is one Santa Barbara scent that, depending upon the time of day and the batch brewing at the moment, my fellow bloggers should be able to enjoy.

 

 

 

 

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Oak Wood Fired BBQ

Dating back to the simple culinary days of the Spanish Californios and the Mexican rancheros, Central Coast (sometimes called “Santa Maria Style”) BBQ is unique in the United States. No sticky-sweet barbecue sauce is allowed.  The only fuel employed is local coastal live oak.  Salt, and sometimes pepper and garlic powder are the only seasonings.  Sound boring?  Smell for yourself.

 

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Photo: Frank Crowe

Salty, Tarry Fog

Author Rex Pickett probably had booze rather than geography in mind when he came up with the book and movie title “Sideways,” but I’ve got my own more local explanation. Santa Barbara County’s coastline is unique in that it runs in an east-west direction as opposed to the traditional north-south orientation like the rest of the state.  This “sideways” effect creates east-west valleys that reach from the ocean into the warm interior, enabling cooling fogs to roll into the vineyards during the evenings.  Fortunately, for winemakers and wine lovers, this helps create ideal conditions for producing great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah and other fog-loving varietals.  Watch your step though;  The beaches of the Central Coast sometimes harbor bits of tar, products of a naturally occurring petroleum seepage just offshore.  If you’re at a winery close enough to the ocean sometimes this fog brings a little bit of a salty, tarry tang to the air with it….but I recommend actually getting to the beach if you can.  Luckily Gaviota State Beach is just a few miles down Highway 101 south of Buellton.

 

 

Though she lives in Napa today, Alison Crowe is a Napa-based consulting winemaker and a native of Santa Barbara County.  She is excited to attend her first Wine Bloggers Conference this weekend as a Wine Blog Awards finalist for “Best New Wine Blog” and to meet up with old friends and new.

 

Copyright Alison Crowe 2014

Garnet Vineyards:  @GarnetVineyards  www.garnetvineyards.com 

 

Wine Blog Awards: Four Reasons Why You Should Care- and Vote

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No, it’s not navel-gazing. The Wine Blog Awards promote diversity, creativity in the world of wine media. Vote now, polls close June 19 at midnight!

When I was a Viticulture & Enology student at UC Davis, I noticed what I’ll call a slightly unholy alliance between the place and a well-known winemaking AVA just about an hour to the north west of campus (hint:  it starts with an “N” and ends with an “apa”.)    All my fellow students seemed to want to work there.  All the wineries we got tasting samples from were based there.  And all of the free copies of the major national wine publications in the student lounge seemed only to profile wine from there.  And so my appreciation of the wine roads, and of wine communications media, less traveled began (maybe that’s why I stayed at Bonny Doon for so long?).

Like diversity?  Like democracy?  Like the weird, the wacky, the informative, the brilliant and creative? Heck, just like to waste some quality time bopping around online?   Then make sure your voice is heard in the 2014 Wine Blog Awards*.  Voting closes Thursday, June 19 at midnight.  Here are four reasons why you should care, and why you should vote:

The Wine Blog Awards……

-Encourage consumer choice in wine writing and review beyond the “Big 5″  publications

Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Food & Wine, Decanter, and Wine & Spirits have long dominated the arena of wine review, wine commentary and wine edutainment.  They are polished publications, each with their own angle, and each with a stable of talented writers and creatives.  They also each have stables of advertisers and marketers and as such must be recognized as the commercial concerns they are.   The Wine Blog Awards help break open this hegemony by encouraging new writers and communicators coming from many different places in the wine world to share their experiences.

-Encourage diversity in the world of wine media

Though the Wine Blog Award winners have historically been mostly male, this year provides the most gender, ethnically and nationality-mixed slate of finalists in all nine categories I’ve seen since the Wine Blog Awards’ inception in 2007.   This is a much better record than the largely white, male and middle aged editors and writers at most major wine publications.  Perhaps more importantly, it more accurately reflects the real world of wine consumers and the wine industry.

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Travel the world, laugh and learn with the 2014 Wine Blog Award finalists

-Provide a curated list of “who to follow” in the crowded wine media space

 

The Internet is a crowded and noisy place.  The Wine Blog Awards, and especially the larger list of finalists in all nine categories, really provide a nice one-stop-shop of likely folks to follow.  Whether you enjoy the lip-smacking snarkasm of  The Hosemaster of Wine,  love the gorgeous drawings at Hawk Wakawaka Wine Reviews or want to experience wine country when you’re not on vacation by visiting Lynmar Estate’s wine blog, there’s something for just about everyone.  Be sure to check out a list of historical award winners here to even further expand your wine education, commentary and experience universe.

-Provide recognition for those making strides in writing, photography and video in the wino-sphere.

We don’t have any James Beard Awards, Pulitzers or even 100 Point scores.  Heck, wine bloggers (especially those focusing on wine reviews) don’t really get much recognition beyond the occasional invitation from a wine region to come and cover them or a shout out on social media. Everyone pretty much has a day job and does it, especially at the start, for the love of wine and community.   Though don’t get me wrong, some of the Wine Blog Award finalists and winners are of course PR/Marketing products of their respective wineries, they should absolutely be applauded for what they’re doing. Rewarding “Excellence in New Media” is, after all, what the Wine Blog Awards are about.

I am thrilled when wineries (and other businesses, like Wine.com) see the power of investing in their storytelling and opening new avenues of communication.  I love it when a wine lover like Bill Eyer at Cuvee Corner starts up a page about their passion and as a result creates a larger community with their family, friends and the social media wine world.  Only by putting ourselves out there can we discover, and help others uncover, the “wine road less traveled” and break open a window into the wild, wacky and wonderful world that is wine.

*Disclosure:  Girlandthegrape.com is a finalist in the “Best New Wine Blog” category in the 2014 Wine Blog Awards.  Voting is open until Thursday, June 19 at midnight so vote now!

 

Alison Crowe is the Winemaker at Garnet Vineyards, makes wine from the North and Central Coasts and (gasp!) lives in downtown Napa with her husband and two small boys.  Come hang out for more of “Winemaking, Life and the Dirt,” the musings of a winemaker, unfined and unfiltered,  at www.facebook.com/GarnetVineyards.