This summer, on June 29th – July 1st, will be the third annual iteration of one of my favorite wine country events: the Chardonnay Symposium! The Chardonnay Symposium is one of my favorite events because it is entirely dedicated to exploring Chardonnay, from growing the grapes, to the winemaking process, to the incredible breadth of stylistic differences you can find based upon the winemaking techniques used and the regional characteristics of the place it is grown. The Chardonnay Symposium is the only event in the country that focuses entirely on Chardonnay, and as such, it is really worth attending if you, like me, are a Chardonnay lover! Whether your interest is in learning more about the details about growing and producing it, hearing from some of the most well-respected Chardonnay producers, or tasting Chardonnays from all around the country, there is something for anyone who wants to delve a little deeper into the Chardonnay varietal.
This year’s event will kick off with a BBQ on Friday, June 29th, at the beautiful Sierra Madre Vineyard in the Santa Maria Valley. Then, on Saturday morning, there will be my favorite part of the event: the educational panel discussion on Chardonnay, moderated by Steve Heimoff from the Wine Enthusiast! (For a look into why Steve is such a passionate supporter of the Chardonnay Symposium, check out the interview I conducted with him last year about why he wanted to participate). This year, Steve Heimoff will be discussing the impact that terroir has on Chardonnay, with a panel of Chardonnay experts. This year’s panel is another all-star line-up, with panelists representing AVAs from many different regions in the state of California:
STEVE HEIMOFF, Wine Enthusiast
JENNE LEE BONACCORSI, Bonaccorsi Wine Company – Santa Rita Hills
BOB CABRAL, Williams Selyem – Russian River Valley
DIETER CRONJE, Presqu’ile Winery – Santa Maria Valley
JAMES HALL, Patz & Hall – Carneros Valley
ERIC JOHNSON, Talley Vineyards – Arroyo Grande & Edna Valleys
HEIDI VON DER MEHDEN, Arrowood Vineyards & Winery – Sonoma Valley
BILL WATHAN, Foxen – Santa Maria Valley
GRAHAM WEERTS, Stonestreet – Alexander Valley
The panel is my favorite part of the event because it is fascinating to hear a group of such passionate, informed people discuss their views on wine. Which is not even to mention the fact that I get to taste some of the best Chardonnays produced side by side – always a great experience!
After the panel, lunch will be served during the Grand Chardonnay Tasting. This year, the Grand Tasting will be held at our neighbor Byron Winery, a gorgeous facility which is just down the street from our Cambria Winery. In addition to the fantastic food produced by some of the best local gourmet caterers, the tasting will feature over fifty different Chardonnay producers, serving wines produced in Washington, Oregon, Sonoma, the California Central Coast and, of course, the Santa Maria Valley.
And if you are still in town on Sunday morning and afternoon, you can finish your weekend on a sparkling note with a Sparkling Chardonnay Brunch at the beautiful Cottonwood Canyon Winery, featuring sparkling wines from Cottonwood Canyon and Riverbench Vineyard and Winery. Then, at 2:30 pm, you can relax and enjoy some music at Tres Hermanas Winery during “Pops in the Vineyard,” a concert put on by the Santa Maria Philharmonic Orchestra.
If you are planning to come this year, please check out the Chardonnay Symposium’s official website, ww.thechardonnaysymposium.com, for some tips on what to do while in the Santa Maria Valley area, as well as for more details on the event itself! And for updates on the event as it gets closer, be sure to check out the Chardonnay Symposium’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
And if you are interested, I hope you make it out this year – wherever you are coming from, it is absolutely worth the trip!