What You Missed (Chardonnay Symposium 2013: A Recap)

As part of my official duties as Social Media Ambassador for the 2013 Chardonnay Symposium, I’m tasked with trying to provide a recap of the core events of the weekend.

The trouble is – and I’m really not trying to sound condescending here – I’m not sure that I can do it, because if you missed it, then chances are pretty good that my weekend over the course of July 19-21, 2013 was… well… it was just cooler than yours. But this is work, and I’m a professional, and so as tough as this is going to be for both of us, I’ve got to try, right?

That's me doing my thing at The Chardonnay Symposium

That’s me tweeting to you at The Chardonnay Symposium

Let’s start with the  Jim Clendenen tribute dinner, which was held outside at the historic Ontiveros Adobe, surrounded by the gorgeous Bien Nacido Vineyards. If you missed that dinner, you missed Jim jamming singing The Doors’ Roadhouse while being backed up by fellow winemakers, a wine writer, and a bona fide rock star (Scott Thurston, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers – you’ve heard of them). And honestly, if that isn’t enough to seal the deal for you on getting your butt to the 2014 Chardonnay Symposium, I’m not sure it’s worth reading the rest of this recap.

But just in case, I should tell you that you also missed touching speeches by Bob Lindquist of Qupe, The Hitching Post’s Chef Frank Ostini, and young hot-shot winemaker Gavin Chanin. Oh, yeah, and all this, including amazing food prepared by Rick Manson. If you’re a visual type, here’s a sample:

 Jim Clendenen tribute menu

Jim Clendenen tribute menu, 2013 Chardonnay Symposium

Food by Rick Manson

Food by Rick Manson, using just about everyone’s fave ingredient

Au Bon Climat 2010 Chardonnay

Wine of the hour, from the man of the hour

Please, stop drooling – you’re embarrassing yourself!

If you skipped out on the 2013 Chardonnay Symposium, you also missed well over one hundred years of collective California wine wisdom talking about the world’s most popular wine grape – its history, its importance, its quirks, its rapture-enducing qualities, its science, and its future:

Chardonnay Symposium 2013 panel lineup

The 2013 Chardonnay Symposium panel lineup (not too shabby, right?)

Finally, you would’ve missed the opportunity to taste Chardonnay in many of its most glorious forms at the event’s Grand Tasting at Byron Vineyard and Winery – oldest commercial vineyards in Santa Barbara County btw and off the charts winery not open to the public…another thing you missed. At first, I’d thought that tasting would have been the kind of thing to which only diehard Chardonnay lovers need apply; but after a few minutes of munching on great food supplied by the likes of the Santa Maria Inn and sampling some amazing wines (both old and new) along with them, I changed that tune entirely. There are actually two main reasons (apart from the food and wine, I mean) that wine lovers should be at that tasting:

1) As many multiple-year attendees told me during the walk-around tasting, this is one of the few opportunities you have to sample wines that are on par with some of the best in the world – the kind of Chardonnays that give some much more talked-about areas a run for their money – only it costs you less and you don’t have to deal with wine snobbery.

2) You can geek out over wines that aren’t “affected” – wines that are true to themselves, to their places of origin, and to the people that made them. That all sounds pretty Hallmark-greeting-card, but this is the kind of event that is pouring wines that can get even jaded wine pros excited, and get them to fall in love with Chardonnay all over again, and realize why the grape is so deservedly popular in the first place.

For you visual types, I provide what I hope are the deal-sealers:

ABC no longer stands for "Anything But Chardonnay"

ABC no longer stands for “Anything But Chardonnay”

Santa Maria Inn tartare

Hungry yet?

Bien Nacido shows its stuff

Bien Nacido shows its stuff

The Grand Tasting at Byron

The Grand Tasting at Byron

Vineyard view 2013

A hard place not to love

Aged Qupe Chardonnay

Geeks – get thee to the Chardonnay Symposium!

So… see you next year, right?