Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Beer Flaw Education with Throwback Brewery in Hampton, NH

( Look at all the serious beer lovers working those flawed samples over! )

I recently attended a beer flaw seminar at Throwback Brewery in Hampton, NH. I hadn’t yet visited the brewery so the class became a two-fer for me, a first visit AND additional education about beer flaws.

The seminar was organized with a short social hour at the beginning over beers and pizza. I ran into several members of BFD, the brew club I belong to, and met several new craft beer fans, including members of the Throwback team. I enjoyed tastes of four different Throwback beers including, Minime, Campfire, Maple Wheat Porter and the Rhubarb Wit.

The Rhubarb Wit was my favorite, and I think the heat and humidity might have also had a part in that. The beer was crisp and refreshing with a hint of fruit. I found the Campfire a bit too smoky for my palate. The Maple Porter was familiar from my own maple beers in how the maple is really subtle and you have to focus to pick it up. Minime is a session IPA which is a pretty cool concept. It drank well, again most likely due to the weather, but it didn’t seem much like a true IPA as it was. 

All of that said, let me put my feedback into context. Experimentation is the lifeblood of a brewer so me being mixed on any beer is truly a personal assessment. With small production comes pretty frequent rotation at the taps so my recommendation is to visit Throwback with some frequency to check out the regular and specialty beers.

The seminar was assembled in two flights of four samples, with PBR used as the control beer and the base for the doctored samples.  

So what did I learn? PBR is a pretty neutral beer and for this type of application it works. I also learned that some flaws are easier to spot than others, mostly due to their prominent orthonasal (smell through the nostrils) identification, where some are a combination of orthonasal and retronasal features in concert with tastes.  Acetaldehyde (green apples), Diacetyl (buttery) and Trans-2nonenal (corked) are all dead give-aways from just the nose. DMS is still escaping me and combinations of flaws that have acetic, sour, buttery or sulfury aromas are hard to discern without more practice.

And practice we must. Both the positive and negative organoleptic properties of beers, wines, ciders and meads are learned; and continuous learning is the only way to keep your skills fresh and sharp. I wasn’t at all disappointed that I only picked out four of the eight flaws, and that was because the experience I gained in trying brought me farther along.

Thank you to Annette Lee and Nicole Carrier from ThrowbackBrewery for hosting this session. They were inspired by a similar session they participated at a recent homebrewers conference and clearly they knew the value of sharing it. 

Thanks also go out to Ryan and Sean of 2beerguys and Andrea Stanley from Valley Malt for providing technical descriptions of the flaws and where in the brewing process they might be expected to show up.

I also met Brian from the Seacoast Beverage Lab blog. If you are looking for a local beer blog to follow, head on over to Seacoast Beverage Lab.



Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thank You

( Thank you from Margot and I for all the support. We didn't do this, WE all did! )

I owe a lot of people thanks after my Relay For Life this weekend. And those of you who are receiving them, you know who you are, you are just going to have to sit back and take what is coming to you. I am nowhere near as awesome as the honors I have recently accepted might suggest, and I am certainly not even notable without acknowledging all the people who have helped me achieve them. This was always a team effort anyway.

The most urgent thanks go to my team members. Margot, Donna, Missi, Melissa, Jen, Derek, Shirley, Scott, Linda and Kathy, you guys rock. Past team members Bob, Tim, Abby, Alice, Celeste, Amy, Betsy, Ashley, Emillie, Geoff, Kevin, Caryn, Sam, Cyndi and Terri, this is for you as well. Family members of all of my teammates, thank you so much for allowing your loved ones to spend this time; it is worth more than you know. We all did this and we should be so proud of what our efforts have amounted to.

( Team Survivors Rule! with the planning committee post-closing. )

Team Survivors Rule! finished with its best year ever in terms of fundraising AND with an overall sense of joy with what we had done and the apparent example we have set.

The big milestone looming in 2012 was when we would reach the $100,000 mark. We started this mission in 2003 and with less than ten years behind us, we’ve done it. We knew we did it on Friday afternoon. There were happy dances and high fives all around. We are going to get a banner that says “The Next $100,000 Will Be Easier” to symbolize the sweat that went into putting that mark on the world.

Taking the field (of battle if you will) we then had eyes on the $13,000 yearly goal we had set back in February. Could we hit that? Yes, yes we could. With final campaigning to people at Relay and beyond we eclipsed that mark in the early AM hours Saturday. Wow, the team-work and drive right to end was overwhelming!

I finished with a personal best, and my first year above $3000. To all my individual donors past and present, thank you so much for placing you hard earned dollars with me and the American Cancer Society. Those dollars are a direct pipeline to programs, services and research that is an “all-in” bet on hope. You are my hero and we are all heroes to so many people who will be helped by our efforts.

( Rituals like team sock and shoe changes at 1AM really bring people together! )

The weather at Relay was reasonable, we did have a T-Storm around 9pm, and the team put many miles in on the way to our 10am finish. Several of us eclipsed marathon distance (26.2) miles again, personally having done this (and then some) eight years running.  Five of us banded together to run a final lap as a more potent example that we are here and fighting. Man was I tired! A few small blisters and a gentle reminder to drop a few pounds were the only lasting scars.

( A few crazy team members before running a final lap! )

( Which Jen brought home with lots of track in front the rest of us! )

At the closing we clocked in at second place in both the team and the individual fundraising competitions. We’ve had firsts in both in the past, but this year there was another team that was hungry for the top spots and did the work needed to make it happen. Team Golden Brook and captain BJ Martin (in the pic on the right), you guys showed us all how it’s done!

At this point I was very much looking forward to heading home, showering and hitting the rack for a bit. I took a two our nap during Relay after realizing I was stumbling a bit on the track, but even so I was confident that nothing was going to feel as good as bed right about then. Or so I thought.

Special awards are also announced during the closing. I don’t generally consider my team in the running for these, the time commitment to be at all the meetings and network with so many fellow participants is challenging on my and my teammates’ schedules. Well maybe that’s not the whole story. Team Survivors Rule! was honored with the BJ Allgaier Spirit Award for 2012. This award is given to a team that exemplifies the spirit of Relay by setting a positive example, helping others and being an active part of the Relay community. 

I was asked to speak on behalf of the team and I could barely get the words out. I spoke about how coming to the Derry/Londonderry Relay was an accident, we changed locations due to a family wedding in year two, and that we never left because the community we found was so supportive of doing incredible things. I also said that we are an example of what is possible and that everyone should feel like they could be us, and better yet we would help! I thanked everyone assembled for what they had helped us do.

The award is profound for me. BJ Allgaier was a mentor to me early in my Relay volunteer experience. She helped me, challenged me and asked me what I was prepared to do for my world. Cancer took her from us before she had finished her work. I am so much better off for having known her. To win an award named for her and her spirit is a unique joy.

So thank you to everyone who has donated, walked, hosted events, helped setup and/or cheered us on since 2003. We set out to make a difference and by all accounts we have succeeded in defining a role for ourselves in that. No one of us on the team does even our own little part alone. We all have support. Thank you all so much.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Why I Relay

( Cancer survivors taking the first lap in the Relay tradition. )

Today is Relay day. This will be the 15th Relay I have participated in. I can’t tell you how many miles I have personally walked in all of those events, but if I had to guess I’d say it has been at least 300. For fundraising I have continued to increase my personal footprint each year, and will likely eclipse $3000 for the first time this year. As a team we’ve seen considerable fundraising success and each member is crossing their fingers that our efforts right up until we hit that track later today will have pushed us across the line for a $100,000 team lifetime total. (We were only $523 away at the time this was posted.) I joked to my wife yesterday morning that I want to get a banner that says “The next $100,000 is going to be easier!”

( This old pedometer has been retired. I have about 25-30 miles in me each year now. That's OK, right? )

So after nine years and all that has come with it, how in the world do I try to explain why I Relay? Hmmmm… The American Cancer Society has a slogan for the Relay For Life of: Celebrate. Remember. Fight Back. I think that will do nicely to frame my reasons to Relay.


Relay is a celebration, and what each of us celebrates is different. First and foremost I celebrate being here. I celebrate being able to spend time with my family and friends doing things we enjoy. I celebrate being able to tell you my story first hand. It’s hard to imagine a wounded widow or family trying to explain the value of their lost family member. It happens, but thankfully not to me; and that is worth celebrating.

( Being able to have fun making a difference is a blessing. Manchester Relay 2005. )

I celebrate the work that my teammates and I do and by extension every other person who has jumped in on this fight. Did you know that 1 in 10 Americans participate in the Relay For Life? That is a lot of accomplishments to celebrate, but I try my best!

( Relay For Life 2011. )

I celebrate new team members, new fighters and new Relay friends. Choosing to set aside a day and night, and all the lead up effort, to make a difference is an act worthy of friendship and celebration.

I celebrate the advances that researchers and medical professionals are making in the battle against cancer. It may not look like we are winning, but we ain’t losing either; and for that we should all celebrate!


This is where it gets tough. I have plenty of people to remember. I have my own vivid cancer memories to recall and be reinvigorated by. Writing this section will have me retracing many of those memories AND the emotions that come with them.

At Relay we walk around a track all night which means you have a lot of time to meet your fellow participants. I’ve been involved with this same Relay since 2005 and the core of the repeat participants have become my Relay friends; some of them I see only at Relay despite not living far apart.

For some of us, and cancer survivors specifically, who only see each other annually at Relay there is considerable anxiety about whether we will see each other again; and it doesn’t get easier as each year passes. Sometimes you find each other at the survivor celebration and sometimes randomly while walking the track. Sometimes you don’t find the person you are looking for, no matter how hard you search.

( BJ Allgaier was the most passionate cancer fight you will ever meet. Cancer decided she
couldn't stay and for that I will never rest. She believed in me and challenged me to be 
more than I thought I could be in this fight. I'm sad not to have been able to thank her. )

I’ve had friends walk off that track never to walk another lap at Relay. I wish I could tell you that that was because they had moved or were involved in the fight in other ways. No, they are gone and all I have are the memories.

The loss of a loved one or friend is traumatic for everyone. Please don’t take my following statements to mean that I am creating a hierarchy of loss, no, I am merely sharing a particular context for when loss has added dimension.

Losing a Relay friend to the very disease you are working to fight is unfortunately familiar ground for people who participate in Relay. Cancer is our business. We want to save lives and extend the lives of those who live with cancer. We work to ensure those living with cancer live with dignity every day they get to enjoy. Too often we witness a lost fight. The loss initially hurts so much and then you get to thinking that somehow all your time and energy isn’t making enough difference; and you feel even worse. That last part isn’t true, but during your grief it is an unwanted and compounding element that is hard to shake. As you meet more and more people involved with Relay the frequency of this unfortunate experience only goes up. You get the point.

( Gerry, you always old me that my energy was inspiration and strength for you. That was a
two-way street. You battled for yourself and so many others. Walking the Relay as your friend
was a great honor and your friendship will never be lost. )

The only way to live through and beyond this challenge is to remember those who you have lost. Remember them from the best scenes of your time together. Remember them laughing and having fun, remember them pitching to make a difference alongside you. Imagine them giving you altitude as you cruise to new heights in your efforts to make their struggle and loss meaningful for others.

Fight Back

I Relay because I can. I do a lot of things since I was told I had cancer just because I can. Think about that for a minute. How purposefully do you live?

Thoreau said in Walden, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” I’ve loved Walden as a treatise on living with purpose since I first read it over 20 years ago. I’ve always been a cerebral person so quotes like that, and the ideas behind them, have always captured my imagination.

I got involved with the Relay For Life and the American Cancer Society because I wished to live with purpose, to learn more about the world I lived in, and not, when I came to die, discover I had squandered the second chance I had been given. So I fight back!

( After hours of walking and no sleep I still have the stones to run a few laps in defiance. )

I raise money, tell my story, walk around a track all night, advocate for legislative changes, share the facts and figures about cancer and its impact, tell people to do self-examinations and ask others to get involved as well. I also balance a healthy and active life with the craziness and convenience of the modern age, and advocate for others to try to do the same. We must try to live better, with more purpose, but we must also have fun!

I also Relay for HOPE. The hope that someday our civilization will have beat back cancer and nobody will ever have to be told they have cancer again. Can’t you just imagine how cool it will be to read the story of how and when humans cured cancer in the history books and think about how many people and resources it took to accomplish? Yeah the pyramids are pretty neat, but curing cancer will beat that hands down!

That is how I FIGHT BACK and why I Relay

If you would like to support me in the fight against cancer please click this link to visit my Relay page where you can make a donation. 



Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Donna’s Reasons to Relay

( Our first Relay in 2004. )

We are in the final days before the 2012 Relay For Life of Greater Derry and Londonderry. All Spring I have been using my blog to share information about the fight against cancer, the team of advocates I helped form and our efforts to raise funds and awareness in the fight against cancer. This week and last I have been sharing stories of team members and why they Relay. Today my mother shares her Reasons to Relay:

I started to Relay the year after my son Jason was diagnosed with cancer. I felt helpless and needed to do something to try to make sense of the fact that my child (my baby!) had been treated for cancer. Jason reminded me recently, that fund raising for cancer research was my idea.

When Jason was first diagnosed, I remember thinking that nothing good could come out of this. This is one time that I am glad I was wrong. There have been so many blessings. I would never have thought we could raise so much money (almost $100,000) and have so many supporters. Relay isn't just about the people on our team but about all the people that have so generously donated to Relay, opened their homes to our fund raisers and businesses that have chosen to be our corporate sponsors.

( The team after the finish of our 2010 Relay. We've accomplished so much... )

We all have stories of the friends and family that have had cancer. Some have lost their battle (we miss you Gerry), some are in remission and some battle cancer every day. My prayer is that someday, no one will hear the doctor say you have cancer. And someday, no mother will hear that her child has cancer.

Lace up your shoes and support Relay for Life!       

Thanks Mom! It was your idea and that just proves that kids do sometimes listen to their parents!

If you would like to support Donna in the fight against cancer please click this link to visit her Relay page where you can make a donation. 



Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Missi's Reasons to Relay

( She's a goofball, but she's our little goofball!!! )

Cancer has given me a lot of things in the bonus round as I like to call it. Today I'm sharing the story of the sister (sister and brother-in-arms if you will) cancer gave me. Missi has been with us as a team from very early on and she brought her own reasons and stories with her. We've shared good times and bad times, and have been there for each other no matter what. Whether it is raising money, helping set up, walking in the crap weather, celebrating, remembering, cheering other Relayers on or FIGHTING BACK, Missi does it all without so much as a word. 

Take it away Missi!

My personal relay story began just over eight years ago. My best friend Dawn lost her two-year battle with ovarian cancer at the age of 25.  I watched her fight and struggle to conquer the beast – but in the end cancer won.  The day of her funeral I received a call that my amazing Aunt Mary had breast cancer and it had already spread to her bones.  I knew that cancer was now taunting me and I would not stand idly by and watch it destroy those I love around me – it was time to kick its ass!

That year I joined Survivors Rule at Relay for Life.  It was an amazing emotional roller-coaster of a night. Rain, thunder, and tears could not stop us.  Since then I have walked every year (mostly in the rain) – raising money for the American Cancer Society; hoping that every dollar raised is one dollar closer to the cure.

( Soldiers. Look, we even have matching uniforms! )

Sadly my reasons to Relay just continue to increase every year.  In 2008 we lost the most amazing and loving woman, my mother-in-law Kathy.  Lung cancer stole her from her children and grandchildren far too early.  After an incredible, unselfish and heroic fight, we lost my Aunt Mary in 2010, and also my incredibly dear Grandfather.   

But not every battle is lost – there are success stories to be told too. Friends have celebrated many more birthdays because they fought against this demon and won! 

Relay for Life brings people together – people with a common mission in mind: Wiping out cancer for good – Finding the CURE. 

Cancer Sucks – We Must Fight Back!!

Thank you so much Missi for all you have done and continue to do. Crossing paths with you and your family has been a gift from my cancer experience and you know damn well that I'm not giving this up for anything!

If you would like to support Melissa in the fight against cancer please click this link to visit her Relay page where you can make a donation. 



Thursday, June 14, 2012

Margot’s Reasons to Relay

( Relay For Life 2008. )

Margot and I have been on the cancer journey together since 2003. This can be a difficult journey and having heard stories of people having to walk it alone I am thankful that Margot was there then and has stuck with me through it all.

Margot hates cancer as much as I do, and sadly has plenty of reasons why. Being threatened with the loss of loved ones is particularly motivating for some people, and Margot has clearly answered that call. Here are Margot’s reasons to Relay.

When thinking about why I Relay so many stories came to mind. Unfortunately each year there seems to be a different reason behind walking that track. At first it was because cancer came after my husband and that made me very, very angry. I wanted to do something to show cancer that it was messing with the wrong person, and furthermore it was messing with someone that I loved. That person was the one I had chosen to spend my life with, and that life was just starting!

A few years later I was Relaying for my friends Missi and Steve. They had just lost Steve's mother the month before Relay and it was devastating. The disease for Steve’s mother came quickly and worked ruthlessly as it often does. So that year I walked for her, and for the huge loss that my friends had suffered at the hands of this disease.

When my beloved Uncle Gerry was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer that became another reason to Relay. Cancer had come back again to touch someone that I loved. As I watched him fight his brave battle for 5 years I walked each year hoping that he would be there with me for a few more laps. Sadly we walked our last laps together last year as my sweet Uncle Gerry is no longer here.

( We'll miss you Gerry! )

Looking at all these stories it would appear that I have many reason to Relay, but I realized I only really have one: my reason for Relaying is so that there will be no more reasons to Relay. We must have hope that there will one day be cure. Until then, the walking continues...

Thanks Margot. I know people look up to you for the choices you’ve made in giving your time and resources to the fight against cancer. Having strong friends during hard times is essential to getting through this life and I know I and others have benefited greatly from your friendship on dark days.

If you would like to support Margot in the fight against cancer please click this link to visit her Relay page where you can make a donation. 



Wednesday, June 13, 2012

What I Learned Out On The Road

“Let me show what I learned out on the road…” This post is about the sights, people and delights from the road trip, and specifically the road trip for the WineMaker Magazine Annual Conference that my wife and I have taken three years running. The title comes from a Kid Rock song, and having been on the road with him and 2800 other fans recently, the tune has been stuck in my head. I won’t apologize for the song or the lyrics, I didn’t write them, and can only say to the squares who might be reading this; the song isn’t PC, is a tad raunchy and don’t say I didn’t warn you.

I didn’t shoot the video above, but I was at this show onboard the Carnival Destiny back in April. He also played this song two days later on the beach. What a great way to enjoy a road trip!

The WineMaker Magazine Conference was held for its fifth edition in Ithaca, NY in early June. The past two years my wife and I have attended and those trips have taken us to Stevenson, WA and Santa Barbara, CA. Margot and I make a mini-vacation out of the trip, and when the trip has ended we are typically well worn and feel like we’ve been gone from home for far too long.

If you haven't been, the best way to understand this trip is trough some of the photos we've brought home.

( This is us at the end of the 2010 awards dinner which was at the start of our trip! )

The trip has it all, new sights and sounds, friends and fans, late nights, hotel parties, all different kinds of people, an abundance of food and drink AND just enough excess to say you’ve lived.

The People

The people we meet at the WineMaker Magazine Conference come from all over the US, Canada and elsewhere in the world. They make all kinds of wines from all kinds of fruit (or sell stuff so somebody who can) and love hanging out talking about it. Our wine-making and wine-loving friends are always so much fun to be on the road with.

( We dine and socialize with new friends in Washington. 2010. )

( And on that same trip we meet up with friends who used to live in New England with us. )

( Friends from one year enjoying the revelry with us. Santa Barbara, 2011. )

( Return to celebrate again a year later. Finger Lakes, 2012. )

( Wine loving friends from home came out on the road with us this year! We broke them.
Finger Lakes, 2012. )

( New friends who honor us with their wonderful fruit wines made in Montana!
Finger Lakes, 2012.)

( Friends to geek out on wine with for a few days! Finger Lakes, 2012. )

The Sights

The sights on the trip are ripe for the taking. In 2010 we were blanked on getting pictures of Mt Hood, Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainer. We saw Rainer one evening with setting-sun colored clouds around it that totally killed it. Here are some of the sights from the trips.

( From the back of the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, WA. 2010. )

( Multonomah Falls in Oregon. 2010. )

( The Lan Su Chinese Garden in Portland, OR. 2010. )

( The opposition of the beach and the mountains in Santa Barbara really grabbed me. 2011. )

( Beautiful beach too. Santa Barbara, 2011. )

( The west side of Seneca Lake. Finger Lakes, 2012. )

( The Finger Lakes didn't disappoint! The west side of Seneca Lake. 2012. )

( The view from the room in transitional weather. Finger Lakes, 2012. )

The Food!

The food on the trip is all over the place. Margot and I go hunting for beer, cheese, local sandwiches & pizza, fine dining; and anything local that has some character of its own. And we like to eat! The conference food itself it generally good, and the Statler Hotel did an especially good job this year.

( The beers in Santa Barbara were outstanding! 2011. )

( And tripping into Los Olivos on Tri-tip Day for one of these monsters was pure luck. 
Santa Barbara, 2011. )

( Margot studies coffee at the WineMaker Conference. We all do the way we party! 2010. )

( Hanging at Pike Place Market in Seattle, 2010. )

( Post wine-tasting pizza in Woodinville, WA. 2010. )

( The beers at the Rogue's Harbor Inn in Lansing, NY were unknown to us and well made! 2012. )

( The breakfast spread put out by the Statler in Ithaca was full of options! 2012. )

( House spreads at Dano's Hueriger on Seneca Lake. 2012. )

( The charcuterie plate at Dano's Hueriger on Seneca Lake. 2012. )

( Hous-emade sausage at Dano's Hueriger on Seneca Lake. 2012. )

The Wineries & Winemakers

No WineMaker Magazine Conference trip is complete without some of the local wine. I likely take this to an extreme where I have sampled no fewer than 25 local wines from a handful of wineries the first year, to several hundred wines from a dozen or more producers just a few weeks ago. Nothing beats experience and while I won't pronounce anything about the wines, wineries and regions in general with mine, I do have lots of recommendations of wines to try and people to meet. 

( Post-conference tasting in Woodinville, WA. 2010. )

( Chateau Ste. Michelle. WA, 2010. )

( Santa Barbara, 2012. )

( Santa Barbara, 2012. )

( Santa Barbara area winemakers talking Pinot. 2011. )

( Not just a winery,but also a source for Finger Lakes grapes and juice. 2012. )

( The people behind Heart & Hands on Cayuga Lake were so good to finally meet!
Finger Lakes, 2012. )

( Finger Lakes, 2012. )

( Red Tail Ridge has a beautiful winery! Finger Lakes, 2012. )

( Oh yeah, I tried it all! Finger Lakes, 2012. )

( And I take lots of notes! Finger Lakes, 2012. )

Rock Star Moments

Part of the conference trip is the swap night and we finish the conference with the annual awards dinner. Both nights offer opportunities to share your craft, get recognized and show everyone how you do your thing! I've also been a speaker two years in a row which offers its own flavors to the trip.

( In 2010 I was stunned to win nine times, including four gold medals! )

( Speaker and Sponsor Night in Santa Barbara, 2011. )

( Margot picking up some hardware in 2011! )

( Sharing tips on making award winning red wines in 2011. )

( In 2012 we took down nine medals again, only two gold this time though! )

( We make fast fans of our wine and swap unopened bottles with peers. 2012. )

( We see unbelievable response to some wines, including to a gold medal winning 
spicy, dessert wine. 2012. )

( Margot loves to throw up the metal when she brings some home! 2012. )

Socializing & Partying

I bet you were wondering when we were going to get to the partying and carrying on. We get a lot of laughs in during the conference. And yes, winemakers do drink, and we typically drink the gambut; wine, beer, cider, mead, liquor and cocktails! When we get together we open more bottles than we expect to drink and try to sip slowly and responsibly so we can take it all in. Margot and I don't take many pictures during the parties, but not because they aren't photo worthy; it's just we want to have fun too!

( The magazine columnist comedy show. These folks really are funny! 2011. )

( Lunch in Santa Barabara. We are all sipping on some homemade wines. Pre-gaming... 2011. )

( The after-party. And we do it right! 2011. )

( We drove to NY this year, so we could bring this. 2012. )

( One of our spreads. We loved sharing so many of our fruit wines with friends! 2012. )
( Swap night in full swing. More open bottles from more places! 2012. )

( Don't ya just love it? 2012. )

Well, that's the WineMaker Magazine Conference road trip. I didn't talk about the seminars or the vendors, but not because they aren't important, but because those aren't topics where most people would expect the fun to be had. They are, but only for the cork dorks and wine geeks.