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The Happening: Culinary Institute of America at Greystone


The Symposium for Professional Wine Writers packed off to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for the second day of activities. The morning was occupied by discussions of readable wine writing from Frank Prial, the pioneering wine writer at the New York Times and the impact of climate change on global wine styles. Lastly, a discussion of how great topics gestate. Corie Brown, who recently parachuted out of the sinking Los Angeles Times, said she never had a passion for The Great Wine Tasting Experience, but found stories at events such as auctions and the people who were there. She also reminded all present that they were not the story.

The biggest news out of the day’s activities was the unveiling of “A History of California Wine: The David and Judy Breitstein Collection”. The couple, who owned the Duke of Bourbon wine store in Southern California, donated a150-plus collection of bottles of California wines through the years. About 40 of the wines will be on display in the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintners Hall of Fame, which is housed in the original barrel room of what was first the Greystone Cellars and later was the Christian Brothers. One of the highlights of the display is a 1928 bottle of Angelica from the Concannon Vineyard, one of the first wines released after the repeal of Prohibition.

Surrounded by history, the afternoon was devoted to the future and what could best be described as a partially sighted tasting. Writers attended separate sessions on video production, finding breaking news, interviewing techniques and blogging (perhaps there will be a name change next year to the Symposium for Professional Wine Communicators? Stay tuned).

As for the partially sighted tasting, seven Napa wines were poured. Participants were only told that the predominant varietals in the wines were either Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon and they were from the same vintage. Most of the assembled missed at least half of the identifications. The consensus favorite wine was the 2005 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon, Stag’s Leap District, which was 14.8 percent abv and 85 percent Cab, 13 percent Merlot, 1 percent Malbec and 1 percent Petit Verdot. The final full day of events includes an interactive writing workshop, Eric Asimov on “The Tyranny of the Tasting Note” and a panel on partnering on books and articles. The Symposium concludes in time for the Premiere Napa Valley Auction this weekend.

Claudia Perry is a freelance writer who blogs at


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