SWE Conference – A Worldwind of Wine, Old & New Friends

It’s been almost one week since the end of the Society of Wine Educators 2009 conference in Sacramento. I think I have finally recovered and have gathered at least some of my thoughts on what I gleaned from three intense days of wine seminars with the incomparable Jancis Robinson as the keynote speaker.

This year I decided to volunteer to work at the conference. That meant staying largely in one room and attending the seminars in that room. While I did go to a few sessions in other rooms, including the highlight of the conference which I will write about another day, I mostly attended the ones in my room. This forced me to attend seminars that I might have overlooked, such as fabulous ones on the Villages of the Southern Rhone, aged Australian wines, Food Friendliness of the Douro (Portugal), Italian varieties in California, Spanish varieties in California, Wines from Texas, Single vineyard Sauvignon blancs from New Zealand, Finding Value in Bordeaux, and the wine regions of Sonoma County.

A second group of seminars that I attended treated issues in the wine business such as traditionalist vs. modernist approaches to wine making, Can terroir be tasted?, what makes a great wine list, and wine pricing.

Needless to say, it was an impressive and very interesting few days. It also added further to my utmost admiration for those who achieve the lofty degrees of Master of Wine (MW) and Master Sommelier (MS). There were a number of MWs and MSs in attendance and I must say their breadth and depth of knowledge was quite amazing.

In between all of these tastings, dinners and such, I did get to see some old friends which was lovely, Sunny Gandara and Zita Keeley were in attendance as were Tracy Kamens, Marisa D’Vari, Rodolphe Boulanger, Eileen LeMonda and of course, the Italian Wine Guy and to make some new ones.

I even met the “mission man” whom Bruce Springsteen talks about in Spirit of the Night...It’s hard to believe Bruce is going to be 60. I digress.

Back to wine, Alfonso’s seminar, done with Guy Stout, on Italians and their varietals in California was quite informative and Alfonso’s appealing manner of talking about his roots made it all the more personal and frankly touching. The wealth of information about their arrival and the impact that Italians had on the American wine business seems worthy of at least a book or two. I know the perfect person to write it… He also reminded me to buy the Flip, a fabulous tool for aspiring videographers.


  1. who was the mysterious “mission man”? my fav bruce record, btw…

    and don’t let iwg’s italian charm fool you! 😉

    you should come out for texsomm sometime…

  2. AC- Thanks for spending time and chatting. My Flip is already packed. Have fun.

    2B – AC’s a charmer alright but we knew that already. The mission man, Geoffrey, is one very cool individual who owned a wine shop in NJ until recently. He used to be in music and dated the Janey from the song…Thus he has met and partied with my hero BRUCE….He also was a civil rights’ activist driving south in 1965 for voter registration drives. Tanto di cappello.

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