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Catching Our Breath: Reflecting on the 2015 Int’l Chardonnay Symposium

June 24, 2015

We’ve been working our tails off to launch several new clients and two major events, one of which was the inaugural International Chardonnay Symposium which descended on the beachfront communities of Pismo Beach and Avila Beach with seminars, dinners, and tastings that attracted the wine industry’s foremost winemakers, sommeliers, and journalists, as well as many devoted consumers.


“The Chardonnay Symposium was an amazing opportunity to experience the tremendous quality we are seeing in Chardonnay today both domestically and internationally,” said Winemaker Michael McNeill of Hanzell Vineyards in Sonoma. “After tasting through the wines over the course of the event, I saw that California Chardonnay is not what it was even five years ago. I saw an energy and vibrancy throughout the wines here that was uncommon a short time ago.”


Attendees to the Symposium were treated to panels moderated by top industry experts, including Master Sommelier Fred Dame, Master Sommelier Brian McClintic, Master Sommelier Bob Bath, cheese educator and author Laura Werlin, and VP of Sales and Marketing for The Thornhill Companies Nicholas Miller; covering such topics as “To Oak Or Not To Oak?,” pairing food with Chardonnay, and the fashion, evolution and diversity of the world’s favorite white wine grape. Panel discussions also featured the culinary talents of Chef Christopher Manning of Thomas Hill Organics in Paso Robles and Chef Vatche Moukhtarian of the Cracked Pepper Bistro in Fresno, California.


Two grand tastings featured hundreds of Chardonnays in multiple styles, from dozens of appellations from across the globe, in addition to two separate wine auctions benefitting Cal Poly University’s Wine & Viticulture and Recreation, Parks & Tourism Administration departments. The La Paulée dinner at Lido of Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa included vintners’ favorite library wines and cuisine by Chef Jacob Moss and Guest Chef Ari Kolender of Leon’s Oyster Shop and Saint Alban in South Carolina. And the “Taste Like A Somm” dinner at The Gardens of Avila at Sycamore Mineral Springs showcased the talents of Chef Gregg Wangard and Chef Michael Avila, whose cuisine was paired with several Chardonnays for a double-blind tasting.


The Symposium also focused on professional development, offering an all-day Vintners’ Tech Symposium in which 20 vintners from across California shared best practices, led by veteran Winemaker Larry Brooks of Tolosa Winery in Edna Valley; as well as The SOMM Journal’s “Sommelier Challenge” in which a dozen top sommeliers blind-tasted 32 Chardonnay wines and weighed-in with their favorites. The winners of the “Sommelier Challenge” were announced at the La Paulée Dinner as such:

  • Best Classic Style Chardonnay
    Talley Vineyards 2013 Chardonnay, Arroyo Grande Estate

  • Best No-Oak Chardonnay
    Presqu’ile 2013 Chardonnay, Santa Maria Valley

  • Best Old World-Style Chardonnay
    Cotière 2013 Murmur Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

  • Best New World-Style Chardonnay
    Capensis 2013, Western Cape, South Africa

  • Best of Show
    Mattina Fiore 2012 Murmur Vineyard, Santa Maria Valley

  • Somm’s Choice
    Dalrymple 2012 “Cave Block,” Piper’s River, Tasmania

Sponsors of the 2015 International Chardonnay Symposium include: Avila Beach Tourism Alliance, Pismo Beach Conference & Visitors Bureau, SLO County Tourism Business Improvement District, The SOMM Journal, The Tasting Panel Magazine, Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, Biddle Ranch Vineyard, Farm Credit West, Grape Encounters, The Krush 92.5, Riedel, Sustainability In Practice (SIP), TricorBraun, and Vivant Fine Cheese.


The 2016 International Chardonnay Symposium will be hosted in the beachfront communities of Pismo Beach and Avila Beach on May 12-14, 2016. For more information and to be added to the mailing list please email us at



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