WBC 2014 and the Wine Blog Awards – Part 1

Before we begin…

Later in this post I mention that some of my fellow bloggers might be too genteel to express themselves the way that I tend to do. If I had to pick one person that I know to apply that word to, it would be my fellow Texas import, Melanie Ofenloch, otherwise known as DallasWineChick. As far as I know,  I’ve never done this before, but I would like to dedicate this post to her.

Start writing again, Dummy!
Start writing again, Dummy!

In conversation with her at the Wine Blogger Conference I mentioned that I was in a rut and had nothing much to say lately, especially with regards to this blog. It was actually worse than that, although I didn’t say so. I have been wondering a lot lately if I would ever regain interest in writing about food and wine again. So, she had no way of knowing that I was seriously thinking about hanging it up when I said, “I’m sure that I’ll start writing again some day.” To which she replied, “Please do, and soon, you’re way too good to not.” I’m sure other people will wish she had not spoken those words, but I am very grateful to her. Those words, from a peer, from a friend, were just the kick in the ass that I needed…and nearly caused my allergies to kick in. Thanks Melanie.

On to the WBC…

There is a difference between blogs and print publications. Of that there is no doubt. But is there a difference between print writers and bloggers? Not physiologically, at least not much. Talent-wise? None that I can tell. There are exceptionally talented people and complete hacks in both. Education? Accomplishment? Personal hygiene? Hmm, not in any overly apparent way. Attitude? Ah, perhaps we are getting somewhere now.

iraqi information minister
Mr. Power did not use an obscenity. What he actually said was, “Go duck yourself in the ice hole.”

A blogger should have a different attitude than a traditional writer. Otherwise, what’s the point? Most bloggers are their own editors, and we like it that way. Nearly all of the best bloggers I’ve met are the type writers that have style, they have a sharpness to them that an editor would likely try to blunt, and most importantly they have a point of view. Even if they borrow it, it is still filtered through them and they then own it. They are responsible for what they say, and can’t blame bad editing or have a company PR flak try to explain away something that they said that might be unpopular.

Another difference between the two groups is that bloggers, while typically don’t aspire to be traditional writers, tend to respect them. The inverse is true of print journalists. They have little respect for bloggers, but know that if they want to continue to write, they better aspire to be us.

This sometimes leads to some friction, if not outright animosity. It is warranted. One area of blogging that I look to as a harbinger that points to where we are moving as writers is in the area of sports. Anyone who doubts that the traditional media should fear bloggers should do a Google search of their favorite sports team, or click any sports related link at CNN. If my chosen profession was print journalism I’d hate the shit out of me.

So, what were the two most-hyped, not to mention ridiculed if you go by the comments of the snarky bastards and bastardettes that I was hanging around with, events at the recently concluded Wine Blogger Conference? One was a panel of print guys talking about, um being print guys. The other was a panel of print guys who, if you were lucky enough, would critique your work. Woo boy, we’re having some fun now! Now we know how the Ramones felt when Bachman Turner Overdrive showed up to give them some pointers.

It turns out that not only did someone think that those sessions of dinosaur judging were a good idea, but they also thought that all of us, as bloggers should have our work judged by them as well. The Wine Blog Awards creator, Tom Wark is all puffy proud of himself for letting print writers decide who should get a Wine Blogger Awark, oops Award (why does my spellchecker always do that?), this year. But more on the Awarks (dammit!) , Awards later.

Now some of what I have written may make it seem that I dislike traditional journalists, writers, or any of the other forms of media out there. Nothing could be farther from the truth. But I don’t need to be judged by them. I know exactly how good I am, and areas where I am weak, and I make no apology to anyone about it, and especially not to ANY print journalist. To whomever dreamed up this idea that we should be judged by a group that has exhibited very little but contempt for us; you, sir, are an idiot.

Another misconception that I would like to head off at the pass is that I didn’t enjoy WBC14, or that I think it was poorly done, or any other happy horseshit that might be inferred from my criticisms. It was, for me personally, one of the most enjoyable ones the organizers have done to date. Yeah, many of the sessions were bullshit or way too basic for a lot of attendees. Yeah, Allan is still in need of a little more time at Charm School so that he can stop addressing a crowd of paying adult attendees as if they were children. And yeah, the keynote speaker elicited responses ranging from “insulting” to “best one yet.” But even in those areas, some sessions were good, Allan always seems quite personable in one-on-one conversations, and keynotes tend to suck because they are either too broadly or narrowly focused.

But those are never the things that make the WBC an experience that should rarely be missed. Three things can make or break a WBC. The first is location. Second is my fellow bloggers, many of whom I now count as good friends because of the WBC. And third; the wine makers.

The latter is what made this a WBC for the record books this year. Whether or not it was intentional, or just a happy accident matters not even the slightest bit, but the region chosen provided a perfect synergy between the wine makers and the bloggers. In the same way that “real” writers will often look down on bloggers, or the way some “bloggers” who aspire to be considered as equals of print writers, the wine makers of the area visited are dismissed because, well frankly, if they were “real” wine makers, why aren’t they working in Napa or Sonoma? Some stuff just puts a chip on one’s shoulder, it’s all about how you carry it.

I think that the perfect synergy that mentioned is achieved due to many of the wine makers and many of the bloggers want to raise our middle fingers in the air and scream into the faces of the ignorant folks who try to judge us, “Fuck you, you can only dream of doing what I do!” Some of the wine makers and even some of the bloggers are too genteel or polite for that. I am not.

Some of the best wine makers working today are in the Santa Barbara area, and some of the best wine writers on the planet are bloggers. Disagree? Fuck you. Sorry if that’s a bit brutal, but so were the Ramones at times, and they changed the world. The bloggers and wine makers I was around this weekend may just do the same. BTO? They still suck.

RIP Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, and now Tommy.

the ramones

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