Wine Bloggers’ 5-Year Reunion: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Redux

Carlton Oregon WineryThoughts of attending a high school reunion lead to a barrage of emotional responses. From “I Can’t Wait!” to “Not just no; but Hell, No!” and plenty in-between, a reunion is different things to different people.

For one whom high school was the pinnacle of his existence, it is a chance to relive the memories and for a brief time forget that he is no longer the star quarterback, the debate team ace or she the head cheerleader or prom queen. For others, it is a chance to see old friends, and make new connections. Making the most of networking or after parties, it is a chance to move forward…or back to relive the past.

And I don’t want you and I don’t need you
Don’t bother to resist, or I’ll beat you
It’s not your fault that you’re always wrong
The weak ones are there to justify the strong

The beautiful people, the beautiful people
It’s all relative to the size of your steeple
You can’t see the forest for the trees
You can’t smell your own sh*t on your knees…

…The beautiful people, the beautiful people…
“The Beautiful People” – Marilyn Manson

The 2012 Wine Bloggers’ Conference, the fifth since it began in 2008, often resembles such a reunion. We have attended it every year; first in Santa Rosa, California in 2008 and again in 2009; with visits to Sonoma, and Sonoma and Napa wineries, respectively. We traveled to Walla Walla, Washington in 2010, beginning in Seattle and visiting wineries along the way, as part of the WBC-or-Bust winning wine writers tour. Last year, we braved the heat and humidity in Charlottesville, Virginia, where we tasted lots of Viognier and a few good, albeit iced-down bottles of Cabernet Franc.

For us this year, it was a chance to visit Portland, Oregon and to get to know the city we watch parodied in the IFC comedy Portlandia. It was opportunity to hang out with our wine blogger friends, and to tour Portland’s hottest eateries on a Double Decker Bus with Wines of Chile. To chat face-to-face again with Craig Camp of Cornerstone Cellars (a five-time WBC veteran himself), and to meet Cornerstone Oregon’s Winemaker Tony Rynders. To hang out with the fabulous PR representatives from Brand Action Team, Constance Chamberlain and Steve Raye; and the folks from Lush Life Productions, who hosted our Wines of France dinners in Houston in July, on their summer tour from Chicago to New Orleans.

Wines of Chile took us on a Tour of Portland which included some fabulous food trucks!

We also dined at BEAST, one of Portland’s hottest experiential restaurants. The six-course Prix Fixe meal and wine pairing was well worth sitting near the oven (it’s in the dining room) on an uncharacteristically scorching hot summer night in Portland.

We tasted a series of verticals from Italy, Spain and France, some exclusive Riesling from Alsace, and some wonderful new releases from Two Shepherds’ Rhone Ranger William Allen aka @SonomaWilliam in a private tasting.

But as I review our photographs from the visit, very few are from the actual conference. Most of the conference format is geared toward new bloggers…the underlying meme still not much different from the very first conference: “if you ever get to be published in print, you might just be a ‘real’ wine writer.”

To borrow a sports term, our OOC (Outside of Conference) experiences were over-the-top. We learned Portland’s reputation for incredible food was definitely well-deserved. The aforementioned BEAST, and Wines of Chile bus tour, along with lunch with the folks at Nomacorc at Pok Pok – left us sated and wishing we had faster metabolisms. Dinner at Ned Ludd with Alison Sokol Blosser has Joe describing the pork noodles to every foodie he meets.

Our post-WBC Blogger Weekend to Carlton, Oregon was filled with great food, gracious hosts, good wine and terrific lodging in a Winery Loft. Finally, our self-guided tour of Portland after the Carlton weekend gave us a taste of Portland craft beers, and a longing to move to a  city that loves its pedestrians. Over the next several months, we will be writing about each of these extracurricular excursions.

But since this post is more of an overview, let me concentrate on some observations about this WBC, itself.

The Lows

The Wine Bloggers’ Conference began when a lady at the door of the Welcome Reception who, fancying herself a bouncer, asked a would-be entrant if she “was a winery person or ‘just a blogger.’ She then attempted to keep one of the organizers from entering the room five minutes early.

One of our favorite events, “Live Blogging,” ended with an over-zealous WBC staffer demanding bloggers and wine makers “take it outside,” as they talked afterwards about the wines just poured, or as bloggers attempted to pack up laptops and distributed materials, so that the room could be flipped for dinner.

The Grand Finale began with said staffer turning off the lights to a New Wines of Greece reception, telling participants to move to across the hall to the ballroom where dinner was being served. Dinner was, in fact, not scheduled for another 30 minutes. It was the presentation of the Wine Bloggers Awards that were to be unveiled prior to dinner in said ballroom. If one did not choose to attend the awards, or had alternate dinner plans, she was certainly not allowed to continue talking to folks who had traveled from Greece to pour their wines.

The Wine Blogger Awards

We lament the awards every year. Following four years of annual critique, we were asked to be secret judges.

WBC12 was top trend on TwitterJoe politely declined. I agreed, thinking I could finally find out what went on behind the curtain. But I didn’t learn much at all, since judging was in a bubble. Unknown to me was the number of judges per category, the identity of the other judges, and the weight of an individual judge’s scores. Despite the judge’s score counting for 50% of the total, as advertised, practically none of my favorites were finalists.

In full disclosure, we were also finalists for the 2011 Awards for Best Writing. Last year judges names were secret, and a judge did not vote in the category in which she was nominated. In fact a judge did not vote on all the other categories — but was selected to judge a particular category or two.

This year, I was on a committee appointed to re-vamp the awards to make them more transparent, more democratic, and more willing to recognize a wider group of talent than the same four or five blogs or bloggers selected as winners year after year. I also thought it was important to take away all the secrecy in the judging process. Saner minds prevailed, and judges’ identities were revealed prior to voting, and each was profiled.

A caveat: Our annual complaint is not “sour grapes,” or a whine that we have not won these particular awards. We have been recognized in more prestigious awards, as have others who have not made the WBA cut. Our chief complaint it is that by their design and outcomes the awards appear to be flawed, tainted and suspect. The result is that some very, very good blogs (often authored by women) are never finalists or winners. It taints the awards for those who do win.

For some reason judges always tend to be among the finalists. The reason always given is that there simply are not enough people (in the entire wine world it seems) who are willing or competent enough to be judges, and not have their blogs among the nominees.

Despite the number of ever-increasing wine blogs from under 100 to over 1000; judges’ blogs again were among the top 5 finalists in a number of categories, often the same bloggers appearing as finalists in several categories. Despite what I thought was the committee’s agreement that after three wins a blog was retired to a “Hall of Fame,” it was the same basic group among the winners again. When Joe, in his own acerbic way, noted many of this year’s finalists were judges and constant repeats, he was reminded by one of the committee, “Remember, Amy was IN that cabal.”

Joe said, and I felt that I had been a bit “co-opted.” That perhaps I was included in an attempt to tell us to STFU! stop our critique. In the court system, a judge should recuse himself if there is even a hint of impropriety — or he has even a hint of interest in the outcome.  I say “should” because Supreme Court judges of late tend to rule on cases in which they or their wives have a pecuniary interest (See Clarence Thomas and Citizens United.) So, perhaps the courts are no longer the best models.  But still, to many it simply looks bad to have a judge’s blog among the finalists or the winner. And that alone, should be enough to quash the practice.

Several winners are never in attendance. And some of the winners would not deign to call themselves “bloggers.” They are wine writers who write for major print publications, are authors of books, but just happen to publish their column on-line. Some were forced to turn to blogging because their newspaper stopped publishing a wine section.  Liken it to the High School Class who votes one of their most successful former classmates (who made good years earlier, never to return to his hometown) as Outstanding Alumni every year in hopes his celebrity might rub off on the reunion, the town, and the award presenters themselves. Or viewed another way, if local sports writers voted Drew Brees best quarterback in an awards program for the local college football league, hoping the Saints’ player would lend his stardom to their cause célèbre.

Honey, I Shrunk the Value

Portland is a city known for its craft beer, restaurants and plethora of food trucks. If you did not do so on your own you did not experience much of Portland’s gastro-utopia.
Each year, the WBC’s bang-for-the-buck gets smaller: Nearly all seminars and break-out sessions are now led by fellow bloggers, who receive no compensation for their time (not even a rebate on attendance fees). Meals have been reduced to a few dinners and brunch with most meals limited to hotel catering. Lunch on Saturday was “on your own.” Wineries and PR agencies took advantage by hosting a number of lunches away from the hotel — which necessitated bloggers missing the afternoon breakout sessions, waiting for cabs to return to the hotel.

When I say “bang-for-the-buck” I am not talking about the modest entry fee of $95 per citizen (non-industry, non-paid) blogger. Cost to attend does not stop there. Round-trip flights to the venue are $300 – $500 per person. Hotel is usually around $175 per day after taxes are added to the negotiated room rate. Add in the cost to get to the hotel from the airport, and non-covered meals and we average about $2,000 for two of us to attend the three-day conference. If we have to rent a car to drive to a remote location, add $300. And we live in a major city where we have plenty of flight options. Imagine the cost for those who do not. Perhaps this is why less than 15 bloggers have attended all five conferences. It is a big chunk of change for those who write “for free” or those whose blogs are not sponsored by advertising, magazines or newspapers.

In addition, there is less appeal for bloggers who do not limit their blogs to just wine. Portland is a city known for its craft beer, restaurants and plethora of food trucks. But unless you went out on your own — you did not experience Portland’s gastro-utopia. Perhaps the organizers want to reserve food and beer experiences for other separate conferences in the making to increase their market share. It seems a shame that there is little WBC appeal to foodies who also enjoy wine. And perhaps tying the venue to a single hotel tends to limit what food can be offered. Thank goodness for the winery dinners, where other chefs can wow bloggers with their pairings. We think there should be more of those.

The Anti-Conference, a previously renegade event where some rowdy bloggers brought wine to share (usually by the pool) has been co-opted into a Night of Many Bottles — where bloggers’ wines are collected and placed in a Conference-sponsored room for en masse self-pour. This poses as a recipe for en masse over-indulgence, perhaps evidenced by late night video of break-dancing bloggers.

As in the past, there is little time for actual blogging unless you skip events or meals (never a good idea when you’re tasting wine) due to the jam-packed schedule. Sure there is plenty of time to tweet and post to Facebook, but wineries are looking for posts on blogs from a Wine Blogger Conference. Some built-in time for blogging, a media room with dedicated wifi and winery tech and specification sheets, as well as opportunities to interview wine makers, would be a great addition.

Pay to Play

Local wineries report that they are charged a steep price to participate in Live Blogging, or to host one of the Wine Blogger bus visits or dinner. Much like the ever-winnowing number of national distributors who often determine wine popularity based on distributor profit margin, smaller, family owned wineries can be left out. Often only large conglomerates, associations, or big name wineries have access to bloggers. Some wineries or associations get around this by securing suites to host “unofficial” events. Others are left to pour in private tastings set in a double-double room, the hotel bar, or off premises.

Access to the invite-only non-WBC events is often only granted to veteran bloggers — and rookie bloggers have little opportunity to attend. Many bloggers are not even aware of the special events. Which means a cadre of bloggers are invited to the same events, having to turn down late invitations. As a result wineries often ask, “Where are our blog posts?” during and immediately after the event; not realizing that the 20 or so popular, sought-after bloggers — whose time is often limited due to full-time jobs outside of blogging — just do not have time to write about every single experience during the conference, whether official or unofficial.

Problems with Getting Wine Home

Prior to this conference, organizers told bloggers an arrangement with the conference venue ensured they could ship wine home. All that was needed was for bloggers to pre-print shipping labels. Rumblings closer to the conference indicated that Oregon laws prohibited an individual shipping wine to himself. For us, we simply packed a case of wine as one of our checked bags — but some, we heard, were not so lucky. Familiarity with shipping laws in the host state is a must for future conferences. At the very least, the conference should provide shipping boxes to participants so that they can “check” wine safely on their flight home.

The Highs

As always, we love getting together with some of our favorite wine bloggers and meeting new ones. We enjoy seeing folks from wineries and other aficionados we have met over the past five years at previous Wine Blogger Conferences.

Officer Good BodyIt was great to see those who had to skip last year’s Charlottesville, Virginia meeting or the previous’ year’s Walla Walla, Washington event due to timing, location and expense to travel to rather remote locations. We were sad to miss some wineries and other folks who helped build the momentum of the WBC, only to be left at the altar in subsequent years.

A number of stateside wineries have expressed concern about next year’s event in Canada: “once we cross the border, we may be unable to pour,” say a few. We hope they will still attend, or that we can visit with them on a separate trip. But the choice for 2012 Portland was a fabulous venue — replete with good wines in the areas, a major airport hub, easy public transportation to the convention venue, with walking distance to food and shopping.

As always, we loved Live Blogging, visiting with Craig Camp of Cornerstone Cellars and George Athanas of New Wines of Greece. We’ve known Craig since WBC 2009 and we met George on a Wines of Santorini 2010 Media Tour on a grant from the European Union.

Outlaws and Renegades

Every year the WBC keynote speakers get better. Rather than the cadre of print-writers-now-on-the-internet, or markerters imploring us to monetize, we were entertained and encouraged by two renegades: Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard, and Rex Pickett, author of Sideways. These two, in my opinion, personify the blogger — those who approach wine with an irreverent passion, eschew what is “proper” and ordinary, and who challenge the status quo. Who mock the gatekeepers and king makers by creating their own way, and bring wine closer to the consumer who drinks it.

The Friday trip to the small town of Carlton, Oregon on the Bus 8 Winery visit was a foreshadowing of the over-the-top post-WBC Carton, Oregon stay that hosted us among a few of our blogger friends. We shall tell you all about that later as well.

The Verdict – It’s All in What you Make of It

While you cannot rely on the Wine Bloggers’ Conference to meet all your expectations, overall we had a fabulous trip to Portland. We probably would not have enjoyed such a wide variety of wineries and other varietals on a self-planned trip. Because Oregon is primarily known for Pinot Noir, we perhaps would not have been able to justify the time and expense of a week on our own to immerse ourselves in only one grape. This trip we tasted everything from Assyrtiko to Zinfandel, from all over the world.

The organizers quite often do a good job of giving bloggers access to a variety of wines, and wineries access to a number of great bloggers. As long as the venue is easy to get to, and there are a great number of restaurants and wineries in the area, the event can be a success. Choose a remote venue with few wineries, or one that requires traveling an hour or more from a major city or airport, it tends to be a much less valuable conference. Being unaware of shipping laws, or not providing attendees with the means to ship wine home is short-sighted. Choosing a hot, humid venue in the middle of summer keeps many from enjoying or even being able to discern much from the reds.

Having attended all five, I can tell you that the Wine Bloggers Conference is much more what you make of it. If you use it as an opportunity to see old friends and plan one-on-ones and smaller trips with wineries prior-to and after-the event, you will find that you have more than enough memories to take home with you, a good working knowledge of the region, and notebooks and notebooks full of information to fill your blog for weeks to come.

The WineWonkette

Posted in Beer, Blogging, Education, Featured, Posts, Rant, Travel

Amy Corron Power View posts by Amy Corron Power

A licensed attorney, Amy is a wine-lover, foodie, photographer, political junkie and award-winning author who writes about Wine, Food, Beer & Spirits. As Managing Editor & Tasting Director for Another Wine Blog, she travels all over the world's wine regions to share her experiences with her readers and legions of twitter, Instagram and Facebook friends and fans. Amy holds certifications through the International Sommelier Guild, and is also certified, with honors, as a California Wine Appellation Specialist (CWAS). She is a member of the Guild of Sommeliers, The Wine & Food Foundation of Texas and regularly attends Houston Sommelier Association events. Amy is also a contributor to the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, and was most recently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Gratitude.
  • Pingback: Wine Bloggers’ 5-Year Reunion: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Redux | A blog about all things wine()

  • Pingback: Wine Bloggers’ 5-Year Reunion: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly Redux - "wine tasting tours in tuscany" | "wine tasting tours in tuscany"()

  •  Meh, the whole awards thing always puts me off. Especially when the judging is not transparent.
    like what you have to say about the event being what you make out of
    it. While the top dogs were occupied with patting each other on the
    back, I’m sure the more random folk found plenty of fun things to do..
    or trouble to get into :P

    • Yep, those of us rogues always have fun. Get a bunch of wine bloggers together who have known each other for years, add wine, you get FUN!

  • Cindy

    Great feedback and insight – thank you. It would be a slippery slope for the WBC organizers (me now being one) to ever say that we will try and be everything for everybody. That doesn’t mean that we don’t want to be everything for everybody. So both your critiques and highlights are very much noted. And I agree that that conference is largely what you make of it. I think that the WBC (as a two-time attendee) does a great job of providing a foundation of an experience. It’s up to the blogger to justify their reasons for attending the conference, the costs involved, and to round out their experience in a way that suits them. 
    A few notes: sponsorship costs are readily available on the site at the various levels. Live Wine Blogging costs $250 per session, and I can tell you as a LWB sponsor in 2010, my employer and I were amazed at the value we got out of that experience for its low cost. WBC goes to great lengths to ensure the conference is attainable for attendees and sponsors of all levels, and that small producers get just as much of an opportunity as large ones to showcase their wines. As part of the group that went to Carlton on Friday night, I only tasted small producers, and I focused on at least 2 dozen or so at Thursday night’s reception. 
    I sense your apprehension regarding next year’s conference venue in Penticton as not being convenient and logistically challenging. What it presents in challenges, we are certain it will make up in opportunity. Opportunity for a community of wine bloggers to experience a region they’ve likely not before, and opportunity for us to convene as a group in a beautiful setting and collaborate. We hope to see you for a 6th year!!

    • Cindy: You are correct in our apprehension about the #WBC13 Penticton, BC venue. We have additional concerns about content, significant increase in costs to attend, bringing wine to share and shipping wine home. As well as the fact additional requirements to attend a wine bloggers’ conference in Canada are not prominently displayed on the conference site and on the registration page.

      Content: From what I read about the conference, you have a conglomerate who has bought up and owns lots of mass-produced wines as one sponsor, some regional wineries, and some of Zephyrs’ standard non-WBC excursions as track options <-That part sounds promising, but does it mean you can choose only one option? 

      Costs to attend: Flights from Houston to Penticton are about $1,200 per person. Hotel ~ $700 for 4 nights. If we didn't have passports (which you must remind bloggers attending to have and apply for in advance) $165 each. So just to get there, before adding any extra meals, $3,500 for two to attend. Have you included the requirement for bloggers to have a current U.S. passport with them to be able to enter Canada on the registration page with a link to U.S. Passport page?

      Bringing Wine to Share: Have you provided information about bringing wine (to share) to WBC. Do people understand the limit for personal use?  Have you included information about import duties?

      Shipping Wine Home – Have you made arrangements for bloggers to do so? Have you provided state-by-state requirements on how one might get wine through Customs back to the U.S.? Do people understand they will have to pay taxes and import fees on any wine they want to bring back, if their state even allows them to bring it in?  Or are people limited to 1 liter for personal use? Is WBC staff fully informed of all wine shipping laws from Canada to the U.S. and have provided this information prior to registration? 

      Fully-Informed Registration: From what I can tell, just the standard information one would need for a U.S. conference is provided. A responsible conference organizer should provide all of this information prominently so would-be participants are fully informed prior to registration. Because there are a number of additional considerations for a wine conference in Canada, this information should be noted in several places on your website, including the registration form. If it was not prior to providing registration, a full refund should be allowed to anyone who has registered before such information was provided.

  • Amy,
    Thank you for your very thoughtful piece. This is the most insightful report I’ve seen on this year’s WBC.

    I was particularly struck by your comments on the awards. I was also a judge this year, and I can very much identify with your statement that, “Despite the judges’ score counting for 50% of the total, as advertised, practically none of my favorites were finalists.”

    One of the categories I judged for was the one that ultimately had to be revoted on because they misrecorded my finalists (or something). None of the winners in the three categories I judged were the ones I recommended. This particularly surprised me in one category, as I feel no blog came close to deserving to win in that category other than the one I had listed first. I too feel like my involvement in the process was very much “in a bubble.” It took many hours for me to read and judge the nominated blogs and I was very disappointed with the ultimate results. This is not an experience I plan to repeat.

    As to the continued “pay to play” aspects of the conference, that’s a major part of what led me to avoid the conference this year. I think it’s probably inevitable given the for-profit nature of the conference’s organizers, but it’s such a palpable part of this particular conference (unlike the Euro WBC) that I, for one, just can’t stomach being part of it.

    Warm regards,

    • You know it is a strange thing; last year after the awards were announced a couple other folks revealed that they were judges and complained to us about the same thing–it’s just few people are willing to say so publicly. So thank you, Richard, for doing so. It’s hard to explain unless there is another “weighting” involved that isn’t in the advertised accounting method. Other awards have non-interested third-party certification of the results, which I have suggested to help guard against the problem of listing someone as a finalist whose points fell short of the top five and then having to re-vote on that category. And it would provide another layer of credibility to the results.

      I have heard lots of good things about the European WBC from a number of people – smaller, more congenial, and less cat herding.  
      The Opaz’ are top notch folks! I hope to be able to make that conference soon. And who knows, perhaps more U.S. conferences will spring up that might help market forces even out the playing field.

      Thanks for reading, and sharing your thoughts.

  • A great summary Amy, and  thanks for the kind mention of Two Shepherds. I enjoyed this years better than VA, for sure. The content continues to be mediocre and should rely less on Blogger generated content. The organizers need to be a bit more in touch with wine – or let someone else do intros to icons like Randall Grahm. Saying that his success over 30 years is attributed to his 380k Twitter followers was a faux pas when the Internet wasn’t even around when Randall started, just saying.

    I am done with speed tasting personally, but its perhaps a good experience for newbies. I’d love to see more panel led focus tastings.

    The bus thing – I am boycotting every year until they change. You lucked out and got a great bus, others didn’t. There are wineries I want to visit, and others I don’t. Until sign up lists start, I am not getting on, even if they cleverly made dinner a part this year.

    The play to pay thing is interesting….it excludes many of the small guys…but the sponsorship dollars are needed. Just don’t be offended if I don’t taste or participate. Dinner was a noble effort, better than the last two years, where I simply went out to eat once the meal was served, but I was sad to blow the night in one of the best food cities in the US for that, but my companions did not wish to leave.

    The awards make progress, but continue to not award some of the best out there. And people who disdain the term blogger, and never attend, shouldn’t be a awarded sorry.

    I am glad to see Cindy being brought on, and a knowledgeable voice.

    I am not sure yet if will attend WBC13 yet, given the expense, but if I do, it will be for the same reason I went to WBC11 and WBC12 – to see some of the amazing people in the blogger community.

    • Thanks for sharing your wine with us William, and thanks for your comments.  A funny thing about the bus trip — if I had known before hand it was headed to Carlton I would have skipped it — because I was already GOING to Carlton post conference. However, I was glad that I didn’t because it ended up being a great visit and completely different in character than our post WBC excursion. The people of Carlton have some great wines and went all-out to showcase them.  

      While, I understand the need to make sure each winery/area that sponsors a bus has the same amount of bloggers, perhaps pre-event sign up, or ranking the trips would work better.  I know we did this for Carlton post WBC. And then allow some change-ups if possible. For Carlton, Joe got the winery I wanted and vise-versa, so they let us switch. It requires a lot of extra effort on the part of the organizers, though with that many people. We only had 15 for our Carlton adventure, and it was still a lot of effort to make sure bloggers got at least one of the options they had ranked top.

      Hint: One way to determine which trips are “perceived” to be the best are to watch which bus Joel or Allan gets on.  After 5 years of these things, it’s a pretty good indicator that it’s going to be an awesome winery visit. 

      And if Thea is on the bus, it’s going to get lost. Just ask the folks from Bus 4 in 2009 and Walla Walla in 2010. We still have fun, nonetheless. 

      About the conference content: I think maybe there should be some different tracks; like a tasting track, an industry information track, and blogger sharing, etc. Then we could choose.  It seems the first year the blogger panels were on Sunday, and lightly attended.  They have gradually taken over most of the event, probably saving lots of overhead capital. My favorite session was in Charlottesville, and included no wine at all. It was a panel discussion about shipping laws with guys from TTB on the panel.  It was very geeky and law related, so it was lightly attended.  But it is something that every blogger should probably know about.

  • I think it’s certainly impossible to perfect the formula for 350+ people, but I’d like to think there are enough options and experiences that folks can pick and choose.  If there was a block of time when none of the breakouts interested me, I would find like-minded bloggers and we would go out in Portland somewhere, talk about the industry, etc.  To me, it’s mostly about catching up old friends who happened to have been made via the blogosphere.

    I appreciate the candid feedback, as my wife is also one of the organizers.  Furthermore, Cindy is a great addition, having a good finger on the pulse of the response, and knowing what it’s like on the other side(s) of things.

    Oh, and it wasn’t break-dancing; more a move taken from “Saturday Night Fever”.  As I get older and less-limber, a little overindulgence is required for me to muster the courage to pull it off :)

    As always, nice to see you and Joe!

    • Thanks Joe3 ;)  I hope Cindy has fun with the conference.  Sometimes they are a nightmare to pull off — especially when you’re herding cats. 

      But I think if there was more professional content it might make more seasoned wine bloggers feel more like they are being taken seriously as “wine writers.” And it would attract a number of other on-line wine writers who feel the conference was worth their time and money.  It’s a good “introductory” conference, but really hasn’t grown much with its bloggers — it simply moves around.

      • I think you need a combination of both.  I hear folks complain about the “same” breakouts like monetization, etc.  However, the seasoned bloggers can forget that there are lots of new bloggers every year, and there’s definitely value in many of these breakouts for them.  For me, I’m most interested in wine education (like the Neuroscience of Wine Tasting) and the industry updates (as I’m in the shit, as it were).  While you can never nail it for everyone, maybe each time slot should have one blog/social media-related breakout, one wine appreciation breakout, and one industry/trends breakout.

        Otherwise, I take that hour and collaborate with other bloggers/industry folk over a beer or something.  

        My biggest improvement would be a way where we can pay ahead of time and then just drop off all our bottles off on Sunday and have them shipped back home.  Of course, shipping to Houston or Atlanta in the summer is risky :)

        • First, it has to be legal for an individual to actually ship wine home. A problem when you’re shipping FROM a state/country that is for all intents and purposes still in Prohibition, or live in a state that is, for all intents and purposes still in Prohibition.  Like TEXAS. We shipped from Walla Walla in 2010 on Sunday with no problem :)

  • This is a fantastic, candid overview. Thank you, Amy, for getting it all out there.

    I agree with so many of your observations, even though this was only my 2nd WBC.

    I think your idea of a space set aside for blogging and interviewing winemakers is a BRILLIANT idea. What I want most from wineries is access for interviews and this would be the perfect time to do it.

    I’d like to add internet access to the list of desires at the next conference. You cannot expect a hotel’s regular wifi to handle to load of a 350 bloggers, and for the past two years, it has not. It is my sincere hope that the organizers begin to add supplemental wifi so we can all get our stories and tweets posted. As an AT&T customer in Oregon, even my HotSpot wasn’t much help.

    Thanks for sharing your viewpoint. And yes, it IS all what you make of it. :)

    • Thanks Amy!  The wifi has been a problem every year, especially in the rooms. We had HORRIBLE wifi in 2008 and 2009. Sometimes it’s good to join whichever hotels “frequent quest stay” program because you get a better wifi code. We found with wine travel (including domestic) it is much better to have an android-based “World Phone” set-up.  We might be charged a bit of digital roaming, but we nearly always have enough signal to tweet and blog – unless we’re trying to upload huge pictures.  

      But we so need an “internet cafe” (They had one of these at Millesime Bio in Montpellier, France in 2011) It really makes it easier to stop in, pick up whatever tech sheets you need, and get on a schedule to interview winemakers. They also had coffee and water set up in the room with both PCs and Macbooks for those who didn’t have their laptop with them.It requires a lot of advance WORK, and planning, and tear down, but is easily accomplished.  If you want bloggers to write about the wines and wineries rather than simply taste wine all weekend — it’s a necessary addition.

      Great to see you again at a WBC. See you around Houston! :)

  • Thanks for this comprehensive vision of the event.
    I’ve been very interested in participating since the first edition in 2008 but I didn´t make it for the birth of my second child.
    From there every year I see more and more difficult to participate, if the costs are that high for you as US resident imagine it for me, I´m in south america.
    With the cons I just read in this post I think I’ll start saying goodbye to participate in years to come, it’s a shame because part of the plan is to put a face on the blogs I’ve been reading over the years, including yours.
    All the best.

    • I wouldn’t write off attending conferences with Wine Bloggers totally. Those in major cities are easy and relatively affordable.  Some of our best friends are folks that we met at one of the previous Wine Blogger Conferences. There are a lot of other positives — we meet winemakers, we get to taste wine from different regions, and some of the side events (that might not necessarily be WBC-sponsored) are a really great way to get to know the bloggers better!  I would like to perhaps see a conference held South America though — a focus on Wines of Chile or Argentina would be amazing :)

    • frank

       There was a great wine bloggers conference WINE GIFT BASKET gives lots of information that are good quality wine products.

  • Thank you for this thoughtful piece on the ins and outs of the wine blogosphere. For what it’s worth, I think most of us who read a number of blogs with some frequency do so not because of the awards they have won or how many times they have been a finalist, but because of the quality of writing and the matching of critical sensibilities. Just like with art, theatre, and book critics, those of us who love wine have learned which critics share our sensibilities – and these are not always (or sometimes even usually!) those award-winners! Your observations on the judging process just reconfirms my suspicion that in the wild west of the blogosphere, we all have to do our due diligence to match up our love of wine with the right bloggers.

    It actually sounds like the WBC is a lot like academic conferences, with just as much intrigue and political rigamarole involved. Thanks for the thoughtful reportage!


  • Pingback: WBC 2014 and the Wine Blog Awards – Part 2 | Another Wine Blog()

  • Pingback: Nine Years of Wine, Travel and Friends | Another Wine Blog()

Scroll to top