The 2014 Wine Bloggers’ Conference co-mingled about 150 citizen bloggers and 200-plus wine and related industry personnel with wine makers and producers from all over the world last week at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton, California.
This was the seventh year of the annual event started by Joel Vincent and Zephyr Adventures in 2008, and now run primarily by Zephyr with a small board of advisors. In addition to Buellton, the North American WBC conventioneers have invaded Santa Rosa, California (2008, 2009); Walla Walla, Washington (2010); Charlottesville, Virginia (2011); Portland, Oregon (2012) and Penticton, British Columbia (2013) to date.
Next year’s conference is set for August 13 – 16, 2015 in the town of Corning, New York. The 2015 conference will feature wineries of the Finger Lakes Region.
This year’s event allowed us to spend time with old friends discovering a variety of cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as well as a number of fabulous Rhone-style blends from wine makers who are as down-to-earth as they are passionate about making wine in the Central Coast’s Santa Ynez Valley AVA.
Some of the best experiences are often not part of the scheduled WBC program. Beginning with our pre-WBC San Francisco Wine School seminar on the region in Happy Canyon’s Star Lane Vineyards to tasting with some of our best buddies at the beautifully peaceful Refugio Ranch northern slope of the Santa Ynez Mountains followed by a great post-WBC “Speakeasy” party with wine makers hosted by Clos Pepe’s pizza oven king Wes Hagen and our brief visit with former Houstonians and master gardeners John and Christine at Hilliard Bruce winery and vineyards in Lompoc, we discovered some true gems that we cannot wait to tell you about!
During the conference we reconnected with some of our favorite industry folks as well. We partied with Robert Larsen and Rachel Vorhees to celebrate Rodney Strong‘s 25 years of family ownership. We reconnected with George Athanas to taste new vintages from New Wines of Greece. We tasted through Italy with Banfi’s Joe Janish; discovered new wines from Ed Thralls and tasted new releases from a Napa Valley favorite Cornerstone Cellars’ Craig Camp. Louise Hurren, a great lady we met in Montpellier, France during Millesime Bio in 2011 joined us at our table in White and Rose Speed Tasting.
Our WBC bus excursion to Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards and Andrew Murray Vineyards introduced us to Los Olivos wineries and let us get to know one of our new favorite wine makers Tercero’s Larry Schaffer. He and Joe hit it off instantly and shenanigans commenced. The fact that he makes a lusty set of Rhône Red & White Wines did not hurt!
We had a great time in Buellton, and wish we could have stayed longer! We came home to a Houston house without air conditioning, and certainly miss the “big diurnal shifts” and the cool nights of California’s Central Coast. While I’m going over my notes for lengthier stories, I wanted to post a quick Top 10 Things I Learned this Year at WBC. Here we go!
Number 10: 15 people in a room playing Cards Against Humanity after a night of “tasting” does not endear bloggers to non-WBC hotel guests.
Number 7: Despite blogger participant diversity, the WBC seminars and keynote speakers continue to feature grand-fatherly white male traditional print writers as the only “true experts” to whom we should aspire.
Number 6: Wes Hagen can properly explain anything if you just give him 10 more seconds.
Number 5: If your bus gets lost or breaks down, just look for Thea Dwelle to be among the passengers.
Number 4: Any man 35 or older now has more gray hair than he did at WBC 2008 (we women never gray … just ask our hair stylists.)
Number 3: The call for Blogger “Ethics” is situational: It is wrong when a Wine Blogger agrees to write a post in exchange for a $75 bottle of wine, but “respectfully requested” in exchange for attending the Wine Blogger Conference at the posted registration rate of $95.
Number 2: Some of the best wine in California is made by renegades and outlaws!
Number 1: Yeast!
And now for one of my favorite Late Night with David Letterman “Top 10” Lists … here’s Betty White!