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European Wine Bloggers Conference – An Abbreviated Pictorial Recap

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 European Wine Bloggers Conference (EWBC) in Brescia, Italy.  This year’s conference was comprised of ~215 attendees from 35 countries — a diverse group of wine writers, winemakers, wine educators, enthusiastic students from the wine business program at Burgundy School of Business, along with a number other industry folks.

The number of different cultures represented at EWBC reminded me how important common passions like wine are in building bridges to bring people together.

General session room at San Salvatore (or Santa Giulia), a former monastery in Bresscia. Santa Giulia is now a museum.

Since ‘storytelling’ was the theme for this year’s EWBC, I’m still noodling on how best to tell the story of my experiences in Brescia and the people I met, in particular the people behind the wines of Franciacorta.  In the meantime, several other EWBC participants have shared their thoughts here, here, here, and here.

Until the Time Fairy sprinkles a little more-than-24-hours-in-a-day dust on me, I will share my EWBC story in pictures…

I spent the three weeks prior to EWBC working in the region, so I opted for a relaxing and scenic train ride from Switzerland to Brescia.  The five-hour journey provided a beautiful start to EWBC — framed by views of Lake Geneva and the terraced vineyards of the Vaud and Valais region, along with views of the Alps (and what appeared to be that big hill referred to as the Matterhorn, most of which was tucked neatly behind and above puffy white clouds).

Unfortunately, a moving train served as my base for these photos, so the quality is obviously poor.  I wish I had time to get off the train and snap a few photos, but, alas, I learned the hard way during a previous trip that trains make quick stops at these smaller rail stations and have no problem leaving without you.

My train arrived at the Brescia rail station from Switzerland, via Milan, early afternoon on Thursday, leaving a couple hours to walk the piazza and wander aimlessly through the cobblestone streets of Brescia prior to the BYOB dinner. Brescia, situated at the foot of the Alps in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, served as host city for EWBC11.

The BYOB dinner served as the official EWBC kick-off event for many attendees who arrived on Thursday.  With such a diverse group of attendees, the BYOB dinner provided the perfect setting to make new friends, get reacquainted with old friends, and share stories about the wines we each brought.

I planned to bring a bottle of Barboursville 2009 Viognier Reserve, to share the story of Virginia’s signature grape, Viognier.  Before Brescia and Switzerland, I had other duties in Belgium and the United Kingdom that required a considerable train travel — sadly the bottle Barboursville Viognier was inadvertently left behind in Manchester, UK.  Alas, no Virginia Viognier at the EWBC11 BYOB dinner.

Below is a photo collage of a few highlights of the BYOB tasting. Though all the bottles poured at the BYOB evening were special, one of my favorites was the Charles Heidsieck Brut 1989 courtesy of Christian Holthausen.

On Friday morning, I managed to snag a seat at the global sparkling wine tasting at the Santa Giulia Museum.  The small group tasted through a number of excellent sparkling wines, but two in particular stood out — the Lenz Cuvee and Chateau Frank Blanc de Blancs, both from New York, USA.  Seems comical that I had to travel 3,500 miles to taste these two gems, which are produced in New York, USA, less than 500 miles from my home in Virginia. I believe Lenn Thompson and keynote speaker, Evan Dawson, had something to do with making sure these two bottles were poured at the tasting.

As you can see from these photos, not a traditional thin champagne flute in sight in (thank you!) — all sparkling wines were enjoyed in large bowl stems (similar to Riedel Chardonnay stems).   Note to reader, based on author’s experience — if you happen to visit the Lombardy region of Italy, I suggest resisting the urge to ask winemakers why they do not use traditional flutes for tasting their sparkling wines.  This type of question will put you on the receiving end of a disappointed, eyes over-the-top-of-glasses, ‘duh, isn’t it obvious?’ stare.

Mid-day Friday was highlighted by a walk-around Franciacorta tasting, which I will cover in an upcoming post on the wines and people of Franciacorta.

The remainder of EWBC was filled with friends, wine, food and visiting vineyard properties.

A few of my new friends…

Me and George Taber, author, including 'Judgment of Paris' and 'To Cork or Not To Cork'

Motley looking bunch of winos from Finland, USA, Germany and Italy

Enjoying lunch at Ca' del Bosco with Wink Lorch, creator of Wine Travel Guides

Cellar time with the Wine Maestro, Brett Jones of London.

With Emanuelle Rabotti of Monte Rossa vineyards.

Wine, food and vineyards…  A memorable visit to storied Ca’ del Bosco, Erbusco, Brescia.

A villa among the vines.

First time I've encountered a Rhino on display at a winery. An interesting conversation piece for sure.

Receiving a disgorging lesson from Ca' del Bosco's Stefano Capelli.

Finishing a disgorgement lesson from the Ca' del Bosco resident pro.

Hallway of art leading to the tank room.

An amazing lunch at Ca’ del Bosco prepared by 3 star Michelin Chef – Da Vittorio…

A visit to Monte Rossa

A trip to Monte Rossa included a 10 year vertical of Cabochon.

Beautiful views from Monte Rossa

On the bus to Solive, that's a very steep hill on the right...

A much needed fire pit on a chilly evening.

Our group was treated to an excellent dinner, however, the author is unable to locate any of his photos from the dinner.

The Loggia, location of Saturday evening dinner.

Unfortunately these photos do not adequately capture the full 2011 European Wine Bloggers Conference experience.  I definitely plan to return next year.  The organizers – Ryan, Gabriella and Robert from Vrazon – did an excellent job of organizing and pulling off EWBC.  Very well done – see you in 2012!

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