End of an Era: Gary Vaynerchuk Retires from Wine Videos

By Cliff Rames

The day he announced it, the earth shook.

As it happened, I was home grilling fresh squid on a wood fire. Suddenly the ground shivered and rolled like a small ocean wave had just passed underfoot. I felt momentarily dizzy. Then it was over.

My lunch on the day of the big quake

At that moment I thought sun stroke had cause the vertigo, not a 5.8 magnitude earthquake that rattled much of the northeast United States. As I later discovered, other than some minor damage in Virginia and a famously tipped-over chair in Washington D.C., the east coast earthquake was no big deal – despite my panicked neighbors and the media hype.

Earthquake damage in Washington DC (photo courtesy of http://www.famousDC.com)

But what was a big deal was the news that I discovered as I surfed the earthquake coverage on the web. That same afternoon Gary Vaynerchuk aired Episode 89 of Daily Grape, the video blog that took the place of Wine Library TV. Under a headline that read “The Final Grape”, Gary announced that he was fully retiring from online wine video production.

The Final Grape

Talk about the earth shaking! As things like this often do, the news made me reminisce and think about Gary’s impact on the wine world and Croatia in particular.

As many of you know, during the five-year lifespan of Wine Library TV (WLTV) Gary produced two episodes devoted to Croatian wines, numbers 553 and 798.

Episode 553 aired on October 7, 2008, a time when few people knew that Croatia produced wine (Wines of Croatia was founded a few months later). As it turned out, the star of that episode was Zlatan Otok 2004 Plavac Mali Barrique, the wine that brought “thunder” to WLTV and Gary called “sensational”.

You can watch WLTV Episode 553, “A Croatian Wine Tasting”, here:

In late 2009 I happened to meet Gary at a wine tasting and told him about my work with Wines of Croatia. It was evident that he was very interested in Croatia, and he promptly invited me to be a guest on his show.

Episode 798, “Tasting Wines from Croatia”, aired on January 11, 2010. You can catch it here:

The response to my appearance on WLTV was overwhelming. I received dozens of emails of support and inquiry, and the number people following the Wines of Croatia page on Facebook doubled overnight. For this I am forever grateful to Gary. With that gracious invitation, he provided me a golden opportunity to share my love and passion for Croatian wines with a far wider audience than I was able to reach on my own.

Sadly, on March 14, 2011 Gary ended WLTV at Episode 1000, a milestone number and a respectable achievement. At the time he said that he was taking a break to work on new initiatives but that his regular appearances on WLTV were more or less over.

But then rumors of a new project surfaced, and on March 14, 2011 Daily Grape was launched. Suddenly all seemed well again in Garyland. The next chapter in a seemingly unstoppable quest to dominate wine-related social media content had begun.

Daily Grape

Over the course of 89 Daily Grape episodes, Gary introduced his viewers to an array of funky grape varieties and geeky wine regions. He paired wine with doughnuts.

He also initiated a new feature called “Behind the Grape” which included guest appearances by heavy-hitter wine gurus such as Andrea Robinson MS, Cameron Hughes, Dr. Stephane Vidal, Evan Dawson, Daniel Johnnes, and an excellent appearance by “The Juiceman” and Master Sommelier, Fred Dexheimer.

GaryVee & FredEx

But the highlight for me was the much-anticipated episode devoted to Plavac Mali, Croatia’s most-important native red grape. Although his review of the wines didn’t knock off any socks, the important message was that Plavac Mali has arrived and the wines are unique and people should pay attention.

Plavac Mali (photo by Cliff Rames)

You can see Daily Grape Episode 86, “Plavac Mali from Croatia”, for yourself HERE (sorry the embed function wasn’t available for this episode).

On August 23, 2011, after a few weeks’ vacation with his family, Gary returned to Daily Grape to announce – with little fanfare and obviously toned-down energy – that the end had arrived. Daily Grape Episode 89 would be his last.

As I watched Gary explain his decision, the ground of my perception of the wine world heaved and shook. Can this be? Who – if any one – can fill the void left behind by Gary’s absence from wine videos? Will he still be around to inspire? To provoke debate, ire, laughter? Will anyone ever again be able to get away with saying a wine smells like a “zebra”? Or dare to find out what wine pairs with Lucky Charms, Captain Crunch and Cinnamon Toast Crunch breakfast cereals?

Alas, I know we must go on. But today I feel that the broadband universe is a much lonelier place; the virtual wine world a tad less cool and sassy….

Say what you want about Gary (his style and personality have been the source of much divided debate), he undoubtedly made an impact on the wine industry. Over the years his internet broadcasts reached countless viewers in the U.S. and abroad (I can attest, Gary has near rock star status among many wine geeks in Croatia).

More important, he introduced a new generation of wine consumers, many of them from the coveted “Millennials” demographic, to the magic of vino and grape varieties with crazy names like Debit, Graševina, Malvasia Istriana, Plavac Mali and Teran. If it were not for Gary, many “Vayniacs” and others would still be in the dark about Croatia and its wines. For that he deserves credit and a huge note of thanks from everyone involved in producing, importing and promoting Croatian wines.

Gary Vee Drinking Happiness

Love him or hate him, one could not ignore Gary while at the same time claiming to be serious about understanding contemporary trends in social media and wine marketing and consumption. Whenever Gary “sniffy-sniffed” and described wine, tweeted, or posted a Facebook comment, online conversations erupted and debates simmered and sometime exploded.

And presumably somewhere along the way, a bottle of wine was sold. After all, Gary transformed Wine Library from a $4 million mom & pop wine shop into a $45 million internet sales-driven business, as well as a physical destination for Gary gawkers, Wine Library TV pilgrims, “Cinderella Wine” value hunters, and serious wine geeks.

After my January 2010 appearance on Wine Library TV, the wine that Gary most liked on the show – Clai 2007 Ottocento Crno – disappeared from the shelves of the Whole Foods store on the upper West Side of Manhattan. I know this because that is where I got the bottle that we tasted together. There had been about 10 bottles on the shelf when I purchased it. When I went back a couple days after the episode, the Clai was sold out.

(photo by Cliff Rames)

Today it is hard for me to conceive a world void of my regular fix of Gary Vee on TV. Yet in my disappointment and sadness, I sense that there is reason to be excited. Gary will surely explore new avenues for his intense ambition, energy and creativity. “It was never in the cards for me to spend my entire career for me to be a wine critic”, he said. “I love wine but I am an entrepreneur first. I am ready to do some new things.”

No matter what he decides to do next, it is clear that Gary Vaynerchuk has forged a stunning trajectory towards success. While he said that he hasn’t completely closed the door to doing occasional video blogs in the future – which would be great, it doesn’t matter. He had a great run, and we have many episodes in the WLTV and Daily Grape archives to revisit from time to time. What comes next is (for now) just happy fodder for the imagination.

And to Gary I say this: Thank you for all the fun, the passion, for keeping it real, and for leading us off the beaten path to mysterious wine lands, where much vino was shared among friends and strangers alike. I wish you nothing but happiness, continued success, good health, a lot of love, and of course many more bottles of Croatian wine!

I look forward to seeing you again somewhere out on the field of dreams.

Documenting History: The First Wines of Croatia Grand Tasting in NYC

(While this in fairly old news now, for the sake of posterity and future curious minds – and anyone who might have missed it all – here is a recap of the Wines of Croatia Grand Portfolio Tasting event in New York City back in June, along with two videos of the festivities.  It was a great day, one that we hope to repeat next year and on in other locations. Stay tuned – and enjoy this look back in time.)

On June 13, 2011, Wines of Croatia – in partnership with the Association of Winemakers at the Croatian Chamber of Economy (Hrvatska Gospodarska Komora) and the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in New York – held the first-ever Grand Portfolio Tasting of the country’s top wines.

The event, held at Hudson Terrace in New York City, was attended by 120 sommeliers, wine buyers, journalists, bloggers and other trade personnel.

Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.

At this historic invitation-only tasting, nearly a dozen producers from Croatia’s leading boutique wineries poured their terroir-specific wines from the continental and coastal regions of Croatia.

Guests of the Grand Tasting were treated to wines produced from an array of indigenous grape varieties, including Malvasia Istriana, Pošip, Teran, Plavac Mali, Graševina, Malvasia of Dubrovnik, Babić, Debit, Crljenak Kaštelanski, and Žlahtina, as well as international varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling.

Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.

Prior to the rooftop walk-around tasting, an educational seminar was conducted by Certified Sommelier and Wines of Croatia founder, Cliff Rames. Guest speakers at the seminar included Joe Campanale, sommelier and co-owner of Anfora Wine Bar in New York City, and winemaker Ivica Matošević.

The seminar, with Cliff Rames (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)
Joe Campanale (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)
Ivica Matosevic (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.

Here is a really cool video documenting the day’s events:

 

Winemakers in attendance included Boris Drenški of Bodren winery; Bruno Trapan of Trapan winery; Ernest Tolj of Saints Hills winery; Franjo Toljanić of Toljanic winery; Ivica Matošević of Matosevic winery; Ivan and Klemetina Juranić of Nada winery; Katharine Anderson Groethe of Korta Katarina winery; and Mladen Rožanić of Roxanich winery.

Mladen Rozanic (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)
Frano Toljanic (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)
Bruno Trapan (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)
Ernest Tolj (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)
Moreno Degrassi (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)
Boris Drenski (Bodren) (Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.)

Here is the full list of wineries represented at the Grand Tasting: Agrokor vina, Badel 1862, Bibich, Bodren, Bura-Mokalo, Cattunar, Coronica, Degrassi, Enjingi, Grgić, Antun Katunar, Ivan Katunar, Karaman, Katunar, Korta Katarina, Kozlović, Krajančić, Krauthaker, Matošević, Miloš, Nada, Pavlomir, Piližota, Piquentum, PZ Čara, PZ Dingač, PZ Gospoja, PZ Putnikovići, PZ Svirče, PZ Vrbnik, Roxanich, Saints Hills, Šipun, Terzolo, Tomić, Trapan, and Zlatan Otok.

Other exhibitors and special guests included Siniša Škaberna of Degrassi winery; Anthony Ritossa of Ritossa Olive Oil ; and Simon Kerr and Šime Gligora of Sirana Gligora (producer of Paški cheese), and representatives of Blue Danube Wine Company, Dalmata Import, Oenocentric, Tasty Wine Company, Vallis Aurea, and VinumUSA (importers).

Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.

Representatives of the Croatia Chamber of Economy included Davor Komerički, Morana Stinčić, Igor Barbarić, Ivona Grgan, and Božica Marković. Representing the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in New York and joining us as honorary guest was Consul General, Marijan Gubić.

Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.

To salute Croatia’s status as a truffle-producing nation, a noted truffle hunter from Tartufino was also on hand to discuss Croatia’s deep historic connection with truffles from the Istria region.

To showcase the versatility of Croatia’s wines, chefs from Veslo restaurant, Ditch Plains, and Luke’s Lobster prepared fresh delicacies and finger foods.

Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.

Here’s a link to one more (less refined) video from StyleMTV with extended play of the day’s action.

And here’s a couple more links to some coverage:

Croatian Chronicle: Wines of Croatia First Ever Grand Portfolio Tasting  

A Winestory: Wines of Croatia First Ever Grand Portfolio Tasting

The Wine Hub: The Croatian Wine Invasion

Beverage Media, August 2011 Issue, Page 72

A HUGE thank you to everyone who joined us on June 13. We look forward to doing it again and sharing more of these wines with you!

Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.

Hanna Lee Communications handled the event management and public relations for the Grand Tasting. A big thank you and BRAVO to Hanna and her team!

Davor Komericki, Marijan Gubic, Hanna Lee, Cliff Rames
Copyright All rights reserved by Hanna Lee Communications, Inc.

Croatia Scores with Feature Story in Wine Enthusiast Magazine

 

For the first-time ever, Croatia finds itself featured in a prominent mainstream U.S. wine magazine.

Wine Enthusiast, one of the leading wine journals in the English language, published three articles in the September 2011 print and online issues, all dedicated to Croatia and its wines, food culture, and appeal as a travel destination.

The September issue, which pronounces Croatia as “An Historic Wine Lovers Paradise” on the cover page, also includes reviews of 16 Croatian wines, as well as hotel, restaurant and winery recommendations by region.

Encompassing seven full-color pages (in the print edition), the lead story by Wine Enthusiast Contributing Editors, Lifestyle & Entertaining, Mike Desimone and Jeff Jenssen (AKA: World Wine Guys) is entitled “Croatia – In Living Color”.

In the article the Wine Guys detail their “journey from north to south along the Adriatic coast”, which they describe as an “underexplored jewel by the sea” that “offers rich history, splendid scenery and epicurean delights—starting in Istria, and then down the Dalmatian Coast, with its 1,000 islands”.

The online version of the magazine offers two additional articles. The first is written by Desimone and Jenssen and is called “Exploring Croatia”.

The article provides detailed hotel, restaurant and winery recommendations based on Desimone’s and Jenssen’s experience while traveling in Croatia in October 2010, when they spent a week visiting Croatia’s capital city, Zagreb, as well as Istria and Dalmatia on the coast – regions they described as “a wine and food lover’s paradise”.

The online version of Wine Enthusiast contains a third article by Kristin Vuković with the mouth-watering title, “Consuming Croatia” highlighting some of the “gastronomical delights” one can experience in Croatia. Inside you’ll find two scrumptious recipes, one for Palačinke (Croatian crêpes) and one for Grilled Mediterranean Branzino with Blitva (Sea Bass with Chard).

Kristin’s yummy recipes are matched with wine pairing suggestions by Certified Sommelier and founder of Wines of Croatia, Cliff Rames.

Wine Enthusiast is a wine magazine, so let us not forget the best part: the wines! The September issue contains scores for 16 Croatian wines in its Buying Guide, including labels from Agrolaguna, Belje, BIBICh, Dingač Winery, Grgić, Iločki Podrumi, Istravino, Korta Katarina, Matošević, and Piližota. All wines were reviewed by Wine Enthusiast Tasting Coordinator, Anna Lee Iijima.

Six of the best-scoring wines are highlighted in the magazine under the headline, “Top Wines of Croatia”. Most notably, two wines were awarded 90-points: Grgić Vina 2009 Pošip and Korta Katarina 2006 Plavac Mali.

 

If you can, we strongly recommend that you pick-up a copy of the September issue and read all about it. Or check it out online (links embedded above). May we also suggest that when you open this historic issue of Wine Enthusiast, you raise your favorite glass of Croatian wine. It is certainly a time to celebrate!

They say that every journey begins with a single step. The publication of these three articles may have been one small step for Wine Enthusiast magazine, but it was a giant leap for the Croatian wine industry.

From this new height the stars on which so many dreams are planted today seem a little closer. To reach them will require much more hard work, a smart and effective marketing strategy, and new investment in people, ideas, tools and material. Beyond the star that is Wine Enthusiast magazine lie many more stars, solar systems and galaxies. Collectively they form the heavens.

Do we have what it takes to get there?

One additional note: We applaud Korta Katarina Winery for having the foresight and business savvy (and resources) to recognize an opportunity. The winery invested some serious cash to purchase a full-page color advertisement in the September issue for its 2010 Rosé. Readers of the magazine – who may feel compelled to seek out a Croatian wine or two – will in the preceding pages notice a very juicy ad for an excellent Croatian Rosé – one that just happens to be available in the U.S. and other export markets.

With that, Korta Katarina became the first Croatian winery to advertise in a mainstream American wine magazine. The bar has been raised; let us strive to leap higher still!

(photos by Cliff Rames)

A “TwitterView” with Cliff Rames of Wines of Croatia

On July 28, 2011, Eatingvine.com conducted an online interview with Wines of Croatia founder and Certified Sommelier, Cliff Rames.

Cliff Rames (photo by Jeff Tureaud)

Eating Vine is a “central online space for people who love to share what they eat and the wines they drink.” The main focus of Eating Vine is recipe sharing and wine pairing. It is the first food and wine website that pairs user recipes with wines in the individual’s price range.

The forum for the online interview was Twitter, which in social media-speak is called a “twitterview”.

For those of you who are new to Twitter, Wikipedia defines a “twitterview” as follows:

“A Twitterview is a combination of the terms Twitter, a popular microblogging platform, and interview. It is a type of interview for which the medium restricts the interviewer and interviewee to short-form responses. Twitter, from which the phrase was derived, limits users to 140 characters. The concise style of this form of interview encourages participants to be more direct with their statements. Unlike traditional interviews, a Twitterview allows the public to join in on the conversation and become participants themselves. It is typically conducted with a reliance on hashtags, marking the subject, so that online browsers may collectively search, view and track the ongoing dialogue.”

The “hashtag” (#) that was utilized for this particular twitterview was #TVwoc.

Here is the “twitterview” as it unfolded live on Twitter on July 28th. Other public participants who joined in are included as well. The questions asked are in BOLD.

In order to make it easier for you to follow along, we reversed the standard Twitter format that begins the tweet with the user name (@name) of the person receiving the tweet. In our reversed format the tweet begins with the speaker’s user name, indicated by the “@” tag.

Enjoy!

@EatingVine: What should American customers expect from Croatian wines?

@WinesofCroatia: They can expect yummy boutique wines of unique character with a distinct sense of place, made from native grapes!

@WinesofCroatia: What are some wines that have been showcased on @Eatingvine?

@EatingVine: Our users enjoy Krauthaker Riesling. We have also seen nice tasting notes Malvasia.

 

@EatingVine: How many different Croatian wines are now being imported to the US?

@WinesofCroatia: Currently there are around 50 labels available on the US market, mainly on east & west coasts & in Chicago.

@EatingVine: Wow! 50!! Thats great! Out of all those wines – what’s your favorite wine? Why?

@WinesofCroatia: Ah! My preferences change w/ my moods, what I’m eating, who I’m with. Wine should b about adventure & discovery!

@lovefoodloveme: Wanna know more about Croatian wines? Check out the sweet interview bt @Eatingvine and @WinesofCroatia #TVwoc

@WinesofCroatia: What encounters w/ Croatian wines has EatingVine had?

@EatingVine: They seem to be everywhere lately! These wines pair very nicely w/ everything from seafood to red meat!

@EatingVine: So Cliff, where can our American followers currently purchase these amazing Croatian wines?

@WinesofCroatia: In NYC, Chicago, LA, SanFran, NJ. @BlueDanubeWine & @VinumUSA offer nice selections & BDW ships.

@WinesofCroatia: In @EatingVine’s view, how do small country producers like Croatia reach mainstream US consumers?

@EatingVine: Add their tasting notes to #EatingVine, w/ a website link, so users can find out where the wines are being sold.

@EatingVine: We get this one all the time from our readers: What’s the difference between a Žlahtina and a Riesling?

@WinesofCroatia: Žlahtina grows on an island in the Adriatic Sea (Krk); Riesling grows on slate slopes in Germany. Deliciously different!

@WinesofCroatia: Žlahtina is a great seafood wine. An island wine! Toljanic, PZ Vrbnik & Katunar are main producers

@WinesofCroatia: How do you know about Žlahtina (“zhlah-tee-na”)?

@EatingVine: We LOOOVE drinkable wines & Žlahtina is a wonderful drinking wine due to its low alcohol percentage. It pairs wonderfully w/ seafood too!

@EatingVine: So Cliff, what are a few Croatian varietals that American consumers might not be aware of?

@WinesofCroatia: Croatia has over 65 native varieties. Crljenak, which we know as Zinfandel; Pošip, Grk, Debit, Babić – & Žlahtina!

@WinesofBalkans: @EatingVine @WinesofCroatia Yes, of course, together with Dobričić grapes 🙂 Cheers! Awesome to see this twitter action!

@WinesofCroatia: Does @EatingVine know the relationship between Plavac Mali & Zinfandel?

@EatingVine: Good question!! Isn’t Zinfandel one of the “father” grapes of Plavac Mali?

@WinesofCroatia: Yes! Zinfandel (Crljenak) cross bred w/ Dobričić (another red grape) and gave birth to Plavac Mali!

@EatingVine: Hooray! We got it right!

 

@EatingVine: Blumenthals #TheFatDuck @HestonFatDuck features a few Croatian wines. Any other top restaurant featuring these wines?

@WinesofCroatia: In NYC: Veslo; @anforanyc; Felidia; Marseille; Regis Royal; Del Posto; 10 Bells – to name a few!

@WinesofCroatia: In Chicago: Sixteen at Trump; Lockwood & Potters Lounge; Peninsula; Purple Pig: & Autre Monde.

@WinesofCroatia: In LA & SanFran: A.O.C.; Bar Tartine; Pourtal Wine Bar; Mignon; Bistro SF Grill. @bluedanubewine.

@BlueDanubeWine: We’re very happy to be bi-coastal: Milos Plavac just landed @TerroirNY & @ACoteRestaurant in CA. This is a traditionally made Plavac.

@BlueDanubeWine: There are a few other restos in CA featuring Croatian wine: @LavandaFoodWine in Palo Alto has a full list.

@BlueDanubeWine: Not to forget @LouWineBar in LA. Lou is tops when it comes to taste leadership & flavor exploration. We’ve many Croatian wines there.

@WinesofCroatia: @BlueDanubeWine THX U to @louwinebar for your support . #sharingthelove

Grasevina (photo courtesy of Kazalic winery)

@EatingVine: Out of all these beautiful wines, what are some of the most popular Croatian varietals?

@WinesofCroatia: In terms of plantings, the Top 3 are: Graševina (white), Malvasia Istriana (white), and Plavac Mali (red).

@WinesofCroatia: Other favorites include Pošip (white), Babić (red), Teran (red), Debit (white), Grk (white), & Malvasia of Dubrovnik.

@EatingVine: OOhhh I hear Babic’s are lovely! So excited to try some!!

Babic (photo by Cliff Rames)

@WinesofCroatia: What kind of wines do you feature on @Eatingvine?

@EatingVine: Our users have added tasting notes for Grasevina, Malvasia and Riesling and growing!

@EatingVine: We have over 23,000 wines to choose from & users add wines that we don’t already have in the database.

@WinesofCroatia: Cool! We’ll have to work on getting more Croatian wine in your database!

@EatingVine: We would love to have ALL the Croatian wines in our database. Can’t wait!

 

@EatingVine: Who are some of the main producers to look for in stores? What price points to expect?

@WinesofCroatia: BIBICh, Bura, Clai, Coronica, PZ Dingač, Enjingi, Kozlović, Matosević, Saints Hills, Toljanić, Tomić. $14-$65.

@WinesofCroatia: Just want to add that the new issue (Sept) of @wineenthusiast magazine has an article about Croatian wines!

Wine Enthusiast magazine, September 2011 "Croatia - An Historic Wine Lovers Paradise" (photo by Cliff Rames)

@EatingVine: Well Cliff, I know u have to jet so we’ll sadly have to end this great Twitterview, lets do it again soon. So much to learn!

@WinesofCroatia: THANK YOU @EatingVine for this opportunity to #sharethelove for Croatian wines. Let’s do #TVwoc again sometime! 🙂

@WinesofCroatia: if anyone else has questions, please post w/ #TVwoc hashtag. We will answer throughout the evening!

#SharingtheLove at the 2011 North American Wine Bloggers Conference

by Cliff Rames

Two weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of attending – for the first time – the 2011 North American Wine Bloggers Conference (#wbc11), which was held July 22-24 in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Going mobile! Charlottesville Bound!

Coming along for the ride in the hope of finding love was a tote full of Croatian wines, some of which were samples kindly provided by importers (Blue Danube Wine Company, Vinum USA, and Oenocentric), and others from my personal collection. My hope was to share them at some point with my fellow bloggers and winos – or anyone else who wanted to learn about and taste them.

But where? When? I was just a conference attendee, not a sponsor or part of the official program, upon which I consciously did not want to intrude.

To make a long story short, on the last afternoon of the conference (Saturday) Fred Dexheimer MS and I hatched the idea to invite folks up to his room after the evening’s program of activities concluded for an “unofficial” Croatian wine tasting – or as it came to be known, the #afterafterparty.

At 3:45 pm the first tweet went out: “#wbc11 peeps – come join us tonight! Pouring Croatian wines with @FredDexMS…room 606 after 10. The Plavac calls! BYG.”

Then at 8:09 pm: “Native grape jamboree: Plavac! Crljenak! Malvasia Istriana! Posip! Babic! Teran. #Croatiacrawl tonight! After 10, rm 606. #wbc11”. Followed by: “The Donkey calls! Plavac Mali & friends! ##WBC11 peeps come say hi: rm 606 after 10. #Croatiacrawl”.

The rest we left to the mysterious ripples of Twitter and the magic of social networking….

A huge THANK YOU to everyone who heard the Donkey call, retweeted my tweets, spread the word, and showed-up for our little impromptu tasting. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect so many people. Room 606 was bursting at the seams! And the Croatian wine – as Fred tweeted at 11:09pm – “flowed like water”!

the Dingac Donkey

Unfortunately, my small allotment of bottles was quickly consumed by many a curious blogger. But not before I had the chance to meet some very special people, folks of all ages who appreciate wines that are perhaps a little different, a bit tongue-twisting to pronounce, sometimes a little funky, but always authentic and interesting.

An extra special thanks to Richard Jennings, who made a valiant effort (despite the growing crush of a crowd) to listen to my descriptions of each wine and record notes. You can read his excellent blog post about the #wbc11 conference HERE, which included these very sweet words: “I did see a Twitter invite, however, for a Croatian wine tasting happening upstairs in someone’s room, from Cliff Rames, who has retweeted my few blog posts about Croatian wines (attracting large numbers of viewers to those posts), so I decided to check that out before heading back to my hotel. I’m glad I did. I got to meet Cliff…and tasted there several of the most interesting wines I tried all weekend.”

Cliff and Richard (photo by Fred Dexheimer)

A special thanks also to Eric Asimov, Chief Wine Critic for the New York Times, who also stopped by and asked me to choose just two wines for him to taste. As it happened, at that moment I was pouring the Krajančić 2009 Pošip Intrada and Korta Katarina 2006 Plavac Mali, which were fine choices in any event.

As any true professional would, Mr. Asimov quietly tasted the two selections, politely thanked me, then wandered off to enjoy the company and energy of the Room 606 crowd.

Eric Asimov @ #wbc11 (photo by Cliff Rames)

OMG! He showed up! Perhaps out of curiosity, perhaps out of boredom, perhaps out of genuine interest….Only Eric knows. But let us hope that one day he wanders over again to taste a bit more and – just maybe – that important day will arrive when Croatian wines appear in The New York Times Wednesday wine column.

For those of you who came out to Room 606 that evening, and for those of you curious about the wines, here is the list of what was served:

Cliff & the Krajančić (photo courtesy of Richard Jennings)

1. Krajančić 2009 Pošip “Intrada” – Korčula island, Southern Dalmatia

2. Degrassi 2009 Malvasia Istriana “Selection” – Istria

3. Karaman 2008 Malvasia of Dubrovnik – Dubrovnik, Southern Dalmatia

4. Enjingi 2009 Graševina – Slavonia

5. Vinarija Dingač 2009 Plavac Mali “Pelješac” – Pelješac, Southern Dalmatia

6. Pilizota 2009 Babić – Šibenik, Northern Dalmatia

7. Piquentum 2008 Teran – Istria

8. Korta Katarina 2008 Plavac Mali – Pelješac, Southern Dalmatia

9. Zlatan Otok 2008 Crljenak Kaštelanski – Makarska, Southern Dalmatia (corked; removed from line-up)

10. Saints Hills 2008 Plavac Mali Dingač, Sv. Lucia Vineyard – Pelješac, Southern Dalmatia

Korta Katarina Plavac (photo courtesy of winery)

There may have been a few others, but at some point during the crush of the evening I lost track of the bottles and surrendered any illusion of a systematic tasting. As a dear experienced drinking friend of mine often says, “One tastes like two, two tastes like three, and after three, it’s away all boats.”

And so it was. Until around 1 am – when a nice security officer from the hotel asked us to move to the hotel lobby or break it up. We were too much for Room 606 and apparently for its neighbors too….

All-in-all, it was a wonderful conference – the highlight of which was (for me) the #afterafterparty in Room 606, where for just a little while Croatian wines were the center of attention, making new friends and (hopefully) a few happy memories for those of you who were so kind to come. Thank you again!

Outside Room 606 at the Omni

One last thanks goes to Fred Dexheimer MS, who is always a source of inspiration. I never cease to be amazed by the man’s energy. It was Fred who was the occupant of the now legendary Room 606 in the Omni Hotel, Charlottesville, and who generously offered the place for the first-ever (albeit unofficial) #croatiacrawl at #wbc11.

Thank you, Fred, for your ongoing support and encouragement. You rock, dude!

If anyone is interested in writing about Croatian wines for your blog, please feel free to contact me at crames@winesofcroatia.com.

“Živjeli!” (“Cheers!”, in Croatian). I hope to see you all again at next year’s conference in Portland, Oregon. #wbc12 – the best is yet to come!