Ok everyone, the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference is officially over so it’s time for our annual post-WBC Wine Blogger Mutual Admiration and Validation Circle.
Let’s all gather ‘round. Spread out a little. Form a nice big circle. Everyone face inward. Smile big and wave to the wine blogger standing across the circle from you. Look around, make sure all of our wine blogging friends are in the circle.
Who wants to go first?
Whoooa, lots of volunteers. One person at a time please.
You know the drill — first blogger step inside the circle and start running counter-clockwise around the inside of the circle. Please be sure to raise your right hand as you run around the circle so those of us forming the circle can give you a much deserved high five as you run by.
For those standing around to form the circle, please high five with your right hand and then quickly pat the runner (your fellow wine blogger) on the back with your left hand.
Don’t forget the most important component of a successful Wine Blogger Mutual Admiration and Validation Circle — Verbal Validation! This validation can come in the form of a verbal attaboy. Something like “right on, you told them!” or “OMG I totally agree with you I was outraged by the same thing” or get creative with your own attaboy.
To recap: 1. high five with right hand, 2. pat on back with left hand, 3. verbal attaboy.
Everyone of us will get a chance to run around theWine Blogger Mutual Admiration and Validation Circle to get our high fives, pats on the back and a healthy dose of admiration and validation.
Remember (bulleted list format used intentionally),
- If you throw stones at WBC panelists (especially those that graciously gave of their time to travel to Buellton to share their experiences);
- or, if you feign outrage because a panelist provided an insight/experience that you didn’t like or wasn’t tailored to you or your blog;
- or, if you take exception to a panel of older short white dudes*;
- or, if you were not at WBC but pile on with a post that criticizes the conference or aggregates grievances (oh nothing grabs readers like wine bloggers blogging about wine blogging);
- or, if you take the obligatory swipe at the conference organizers
then you get to run around the Wine Blogger Mutual Admiration and Validation Circle as much as you like.
*[For the record, it would have been awesome to have Elaine Brown or Dorothy Gaiter or Katherine Cole or Jancis Robinson or Wink Lorch as panelists in the professional wine writers session. Each are world-class wine writers with much writing wisdom to share.]
For those clever and awesome enough to include multiple items from the above list in your WBC post-mortem, then we navel-gazers will shower your blog with comments. The more items from above, the more comments.
However, as you may remember from past years, if you only write about the wines (gasp!) or winemakers or winery visits or friends that made WBC 2014 memorable for you, there will be fewer high fives, pats on the back, and much less comment validation.
Alas, wine bloggers blogging about wine does not seem to be as popular with wine bloggers as wine bloggers blogging about wine blogging. Sigh.
As my friend and fellow WBC attendee Marcy Gordon noted in her post-WBC ‘rant and solution,’ “the day you can’t rant on your blog is the day the Internet ends.”
I am ‘entitled’ to a rant even if it’s not about the professional wine writer panel, right? (Let’s not lose our enthusiasm for fun and criticism. Maybe we should embrace everyone that speaks their mind even if their view differs from ours.)
While I am of course attempting to be cheeky and absurd to highlight absurdity, I hope a few will read this post and accept it in the spirit in which it is intended…
Over 300 wine enthusiasts/bloggers gather in one of the most beautiful wine regions in North America, are provided access to hundreds of (literally) amazing wines and dozens of passionate winemakers and, the most talked about post-WBC articles (extrapolating based on number of comments) are those that swipe at the conference organizers and the three professional print writers who graciously shared their time and expertise with the group (and, by the way, seemed to provide the information that was asked of them prior to the conference).
And, no, I did not miss the point of any of the rants or posts — I got it, really.
That concludes my blogging about blogging and ‘my’ rant (remember, we all get our turn 🙂 ).
Now on the most important part of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference — the wines and people that made WBC 2014 memorable for me. Unfortunately it’s not practical to include every wine, person and moment that made this year’s conference great, but here are a few…
The 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference began for me on Wednesday morning with a 6am flight from Norfolk, VA to Chicago, then a delayed flight to Los Angeles, then a sprint to another terminal to barely make my last flight to SBA where Morgen McLaughlin (on Twitter: @SBCWineLady), Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Vintners Assoc., graciously picked me up, took me to the Marriott to check-in, then over to the Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room in Los Olivos. Thank you, Morgen — very much appreciated!
On Wednesday afternoon, I was fortunate to spend 90-minutes talking with winemaker Paul Wilkins at the Alta Maria Vineyards (on Twitter: @AltaMariaWine) tasting room in Los Olivos. Paul shared some amazing wines from Alta Maria and his Autonom label during my visit. While I enjoyed each of the dozen wines I tasted, one of the coolest was the Alta Maria Carbonic Pinot. As a huge Cru Beaujolais fan, I appreciated this wine (and bought a few bottles to bring back with me to blind our tasting group). Thank you Paul, Stephanie, Liz, and team that took their time to organize the blogger afternoon and the interview.
After leaving Alta Maria, I decided to walk over to visit with Larry Schaffer at his Tercero Wines tasting room. About 100 feet from the Tercero tasting room, I ran in to Marcy Gordon (@MarcyGordon) and Liz Swift (@BrixCHick_Liza). As I was giving the customary southern hello hugs, two unidentified (at the time) voices coming from a car I did not recognize started yelling; “Frank Morgan get in the car… get in the car…!” As it turned out, it was Thea Dwelle (@Luscious_Lushes) and Melanie Ofenloch (@DallasWineChick) on their way to another tasting appointment.
Not one to resist a demand while walking down the street, and in need of a ride, I got in the car and joined them for an enjoyable afternoon tasting with Mikael Sigouin at Beckman Vineyards. Mikael also shared barrel samples from his own label, Kaena wines.
Thank you Melanie, Marcy, Liza and Thea for letting me join you for the afternoon and dinner! Thank you Mikael for sharing your time and wine with us!
Thursday was pretty awesome! I spent the day, along with a couple dozen other wine enthusiasts and WBC attendees, at Star Lane Dierberg Winery in Happy Canyon, immersed in the AVAs, wines, wineries, and winemakers of Santa Barbara County.
Thank you Fred Swan of NorCal Wine (@NorCalWine) and Master Sommelier David Glancy for organizing this educational and delicious day! Many thanks to each of the winemakers and winery staff that shared your time on Thursday. Very much appreciated. ( I will leave it at this for now since I have post about this day forthcoming.)
Thursday evening I attended the WBC opening wine reception, which provided the opportunity to reconnect with a number of friends including the passionate Rhone Ranger, Larry Schaffer (@TerceroWines). Larry gets it! The ‘it’ being the wine blogger/wineblogging dynamic and he’s a helluva winemaker to boot. Thank you Larry for sharing your time, insights and wine. Appreciate how engaged you are with us blogging folks.
Friday was a fast-paced day of tasting and absorbing wine information but the highlight was the evening excursions. Since we have no idea where our buses are going, I decided to stick close to those with the local expertise and insights — the awesome Sao Anash of Muse Wine Management and Fred Swan.
When our bus pulled in to the driveway leading to the Presqu’ile (pronounced press-KEEL) winery, I thought I hit the ‘random WBC bus to a winery’ lotto. Everything about Presqu’ile (@PresquileWine) is amazing — the people, the wines, the design of the winery building, the cave, and the views! Beautiful. Stunning. Memorable.
Presqu’ile winemaker, Dieter Cronje giving us a tour of the cave. Me and James Ontiveros. The beautiful views from the patio. Thank you to each winemaker that poured wine for our group. Very much appreciated.
Some highlights from Live Wine Blogging. Thank you to Lisa Mattson (@LisaMattsonWine) from Jordan Winery, Vicente Johnson (@vjohnsonu) from Chile, and Robert Larsen (@RSVineyards) of Rodney Strong (and all winemakers, winery staff or PR folks) for tolerating this hectic format to share your wines with us.
On Saturday afternoon I attended the Panel of Professional Print Wine Writers session, which included Mike Dunne (of The Sacramento Bee), Steve Heimoff (Director of Wine Communications at Jackson Family Wines and SteveHeimoff.com), and writer James Conaway. The information shared in this panel (and similar one on Sunday) and ‘the panelists’ is the basis for several of the most popular post-WBC articles.
While I do not agree with all of the advice Messrs. Dunne, Heimoff, and Conaway provided, I personally appreciated their experienced perspectives and feel they met the stated intent of the session theme. Thank you each for genuinely sharing your perspectives with what can be a tuff audience!
Somedays you’re the truck, somedays you’re the squirrel.
On Saturday evening I attended the Authentic Press event at Saarloos + Sons in Los Olivos on Saturday night. Great job Shawn Burget (@AWanderingWino) for organizing a great evening! Thank you to each of the winemakers that poured their wines for the evening! Pictures of the evening can be found here.
Unfortunately it’s not practical to include a picture of every memorable wine or moment in this post so I will end with the comic highlight of the 2014 Wine Bloggers Conference — Jeff the Drunken Cyclist, attempting (and attempting and attempting) to saber a bottle of bubbly at Clos Pepe on Sunday night. The video of Jeff trying and trying and trying to saber this bottle is on the wine interwebs some where…
Though I was laughing and heckling along with a dozen other onlookers, I was pulling for you Jeff! Thank you!
As someone that is not offended that Zephyr (and WBC) is a for-profit enterprise, I would like to thank the entire team at Zephyr for providing a forum for bloggers to connect with so many winemakers and winery teams!
* WARNING: This blog, and in particular this post, may contain typos, grammatical errors, and egregious misuse of commas. <Applicable here too so I borrowed this disclaimer from Marcy Gordon’s post>
Love it! But honestly, despite the opening snark, this reads like an advertorial for attending next years WBC. So glowing and enthusiastic. Sounds like you had serious fun and you were spun by that Pied Piper of Wine Blog Conferences –Allan Wright. How much did Zephyr pay you to write this?
Heh heh…the queen of advertorial has spoken.
Marcy, thanks for stopping by to comment. Gah! I was so wrapped up in the snark (and trying to collage a few photos) that I totally forgot to mention WBC 2015 in the Finger Lakes. Ugh, I clearly need some work in the advertorial department.
And for the record, I appreciate all of your advertorials (we are considering BC for our next vaca because of your advocacy) 🙂 Cheers!
Great recap, Frank. High five!!! 😉
I second your comments on both the Presq’ile excursion and the Shawn’s Authentic Press gathering. Both were very special.
Thank you, Fred. Appreciate your comment. Although I did not include in this recap post (it’s way too long as it is), I thought the ‘Terroir of Santa Barbara County’ session on Saturday morning and the Ballard Canyon Syrah session that afternoon were great. Unfortunately, my photos from those sessions are MIA. I believe I accidentally deleted them when I transferred them from camera card to iPad (I think while I was in the car with you). Hope to catch up with you mid-September. Cheers!
Steve Heimoff said:
Thanks for a balanced treatment of WBC14!
Steve, thanks for stopping by to read and comment. While I consider this piece perfectly balanced because it’s ‘my’ opinion, it does run contrary to the blogger group think (there are of course some exceptions), which means many view this as ad advertisement for the conference organizers. Pffft. I have nothing to gain from the organizers.
I attend (and help organize one) several large conferences (not related to wine) each year and I hear the same general feedback — some attendees think it sucked (and will no matter what), some think it was ok, and others make the best of it and think the conference was great. Same seems to be true of WBC.
Truth is, no event/conference is perfect and there is always room for improvement (like scrapping the WBAs and changing the WBC dinner format – oy!). The one conference constant — the harshest/loudest critics receive the most attention.
The good news… Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, even the contrary, or balanced, opinions like mine. 😉
I don’t think the gestalt views it as an advetorial — unless people don’t know you in which case, you are, indeed, a schill.
However, you hit the nail on the head Frank: this is YOUR opinion. Just as every other blog post is that bloggers OPINION.
Therefore, every single post is balanced and fair. We are not writing hard hitting news here, we are writing what we feel, think, and react to. Plain and simple.
I appreciate your pointing out that there is room for improvement. I have always been the loudest cheerleader for WBC, and find it disappointing that we have a teeter tooter of good/great/ugly years, but thems the breaks I guess.
I think as a group, we need to focus on improving the conference and making sure we think it’s the wine BLOGGERS conference and not:
-a frat party
-a print writers retreat
-a junior high school field trip
-something “I would never even consider going to” (which has been mentioned by many a blogger
-boring, lame, sad, or a waste of time and money
the drunken cyclist said:
Very nice recap of the events. Reading through them, I could not help but realize how much I missed (even though the list of my experiences would be just as long). The organizers do deserve a lot of credit for putting on a great conference (and I have no qualms with them making a buck for doing it).
Looking forward to seeing you again in the Finger Lakes, if not sooner!
Thank you, Jeff. You are my favorite Drunken Cyclist, bro. I looked through the photos of several other attendees and thought the same thing — I seemed to miss a lot too. So much going on. Interesting and cool how dynamic a multi-day wine event like WBC is. Cheers!
It’s impossible NOT to miss something at WBC! I will say I miss the “track” aspect we had once upon a time. It made it easier to manage what we would probably like to attend in term of sessions.
-party party party (includes sabering demo)
would do nicely.
Nice job of recapping a wonderful extended weekend at #WBC14. It was truly a pleasure and honor meeting you and hanging out for a bit – though I WAS trumped by others that Wednesday afternoon! Oh well . . .
It has been interesting noting the different perspectives taken with blog posts since the end of the Conference. Was everything ‘perfect’? Heck no – remember my PowerPoint snafu throughout the panel of Pioneering Winemakers that I moderated?!?!!? 🙂
Overall, the Conference met my expectations. Perhaps as a newbie, my expectations were radically different than those who had attended previous ones – I’m not sure. But reading through the program and looking at what was ‘offered’, I think the folks at Zephyr delivered what they set out to do.
In addition, I was fortunate enough to take part in ‘rogue’ events not open to all attendees. I was glad to do so on one hand, but on the other, wish that these were open to all, for most were wonderful and still would have been at a larger scale. Perhaps there could be a ‘sanctioned’ rogue events section of the program?!?!?
I did not attend the professional writers conference so I can’t comment directly on this, but I do find it interesting that some feel that it met what the organizers said it would, yet others felt it didn’t at all. Hmmmmm.
Moving ahead, I think it is important that the ‘core’ bloggers who have attended multiple Conferences step up and try to share their experiences and opinions in order to make the event as ‘fruitful’ as possible for everyone moving forward. It truly seems that the staff at Zephyr are approachable and want to deliver the best product possible for you, its consumers. It’s just now a matter of how to please everyone.
In another blog post, someone suggested perhaps not have professional print writers on a panel in the future, but instead, perhaps have either experienced wine bloggers, or, and this is my idea, get ‘professional’ bloggers from outside the wine biz – perhaps food or travel – that can share their insights and tips. This might prove to be more helpful.
One other thing to truly consider moving forward – it is expensive to put on an event such as this. It may not seem like it, but it is. And citizen bloggers pay very little to attend, especially knowing how much you ‘get’. Perhaps fees should be increased a bit more, allowing Zephyr not to pocket these, but to bring in different speakers and not depend upon as many ‘sponsored’ or ‘pay to play’ events? Just a thought.
Thanks again for sharing and hope to touch base once again shortly . . .
Allan Wright said:
Larry, thanks for all your comments. Just want to let you know that a) we have had many, many panels of experienced bloggers and thought the panel of print writers would be popular because it was different, b) we did bring in a non-wine blogger as the keynote and got a bunch of negative postings about that, and c) we do have a blogger advisory panel, as I think you know. My point is, simply, that with 367 attendees – most of whom like to share their opinions online – we have tried almost everything and nothing pleases everyone. So our strategy, as always, is not to listen to the loudest voices but to look at the stats that come in from the post-con surveys and the surveys we do in advance about potential content.
Frank, thanks for this post. I’ll send you the check in the mail. 🙂
You’re most welcome, Allan. Wheew, I was wondering how I should broach the subject of facilitating payments… haha… if someone enjoyed WBC2014 and writes as much, of course it must be because of some sinister reason with some type of resulting personal benefit. #BloggerSilliness 😉 See you in FLX next summer. Cheers!
Larry, was bummed I didn’t get a chance to swing back by to visit with you. Had a good time chatting with you at the opening event. Appreciate your time and hope to see you again soon. Thanks for your comments on WBC — I’ll defer to the Zephyr team for implementation.
“Sometimes you are the truck and sometimes you are the squirrel”
ahahaha. I love this!!!
Based on this article I think next conference you may be the squirrel and you definitely wont be invited to any of the special rogue events 🙂
AL thank you for chiming in here. That quote is one of my favorite. A truism. Well, I can not manage to muster the strength to care about getting invited to those special events next year. We’re all entitled to our opinions even if it’s contrary to blogger group think.
Wine Blogger High Five to you!
Sao Anash said:
Thank you for the kind shout out. Much appreciated. And, as a county, I hope all of us take time to thank the hard working Morgen McLaughlin, who, along with Taylor, worked tirelessly in the background on this event on a volunteer basis. She deserves a lot of credit for the success of this conference, so thank you for mentioning her, as well.
I was having lunch with Chris and Dayna Hammell out at Bien Nacido Vineyard the other day. We work together a lot on hosting visiting media, and we all agreed that we found the visiting bloggers, most of whom we had never met, to be enthusiastic, cordial, curious, polite and grateful to be in Santa Barbara County! You can hardly ask for more as a host.
There is a lot of chatter about what blogs actually mean and if they’re worth our trouble…and by “our” I mean, the supplier, in trade-speak. My company had the pleasure of hosting Tom Reily for a few days, following the bloggers conference, and found him to be a great media guest in every sense: Serious, curious, polite, attentive…I could go on.
Blogs are here to stay, I believe, My criteria, as a publicist, for a blogger that is worth taking the time and resources (for they are high) to host is not necessarily how big their readership is (everyone has to start somewhere) or how deep their knowledge of wine is (again, we all start somewhere). I just ask that they be serious about their craft, respectful of the time of others, and truly curious about their new found vocation. Are they willing to open their minds to new experiences? They don’t have to like everything they taste, but are they willing to come into a situation with their own set of editorial and professional standards in place, and give a visit its proper due? I believe there are many bloggers out there that meet this criteria. And, it was reaffirming to meet a number of them at this year’s WBC.
You forgot to have us sing a round of kumbayah and pass the peace pipe! Thanks for your great post Frank. Now where is that video of the “drunken sabering?”
Amy! Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Argh, you’re right I did forget to mention the peace pipe (but, the after party I attended, we did sing a couple rounds of kumbayah 😉 ). Technically, this post wore me out, I saved over the finished version (somehow) with the first draft that I had saved. I did try to upload the video I took of the Drunken Cyclist’s attempted sabering at Clos Pepe (which was so awesome) but WordPress would not cooperate. Others have told me that a couple of the pictures in this post show as ‘broken links’ – I’m not sure why. I have deleted and reuploaded several of the pictures multiple times so uploading a video may break this wordpress blog thing (while highlighting my technological inadequacies). I will try to upload that video again because it is priceless. 🙂 Cheers!
THAT video is proprietary! But can be posted for further harassment of the Drunk Cyclist
Michelle Williams said:
I did not attend WBC14. I am registered for WBC15. Some of the posts I’ve read have scared me. Yours makes me feel better. Thank you!
Allan Wright said:
You should definitely feel fine, excited, and eager. Keep in mind we had 18 different content sessions, 108 different sponsors, and probably 1,000 different wines to try. Some people have chosen to focus on one content session they didn’t like, which is their choice, but that session and their opinions by no means defined the conference.
No reason to be scared. You need to take it at face value and from your own experience. One session does NOT define the conf, and you might not have even chosen that session.
However, most of the current conversation comes from repeat attenders, and not first time attendees, so it’s a different viewpoint.
Looking forward to seeing you in 2015!
The Vineyard Trail (@VineyardTrail) said:
I agree. I was a first time attendee and thought the event was wonderfully put together! There were a couple of sessions that I attended that I did not particularly enjoy, but I never expected to hit the jackpot 100% of the time. Perhaps I take a different perspective than others. In my daytime job I am a pharmacist and go to several conferences each year. I have learned that if I walk away from a conference with only 2 or 3 pieces of new valuable, usable knowledge then it was well worth the time and money invested. I feel the same is true of any professional conference. And this one surely was well worth every minute and dollar. I learned a ton, met a lot of new folks and tasted some amazing wine.
And what’s the big deal about Zephyr making a profit on this?! Maybe I’m missing something, being so new and all, but why shouldn’t they? As long as we aren’t paying an exorbitant amount (which we SURELY ARE NOT!) and as long as they deliver a quality program (which I believe they SURELY DID), let the profits be theirs!
Looking forward to next years Finger Lakes Conference. Wouldn’t miss it!
OH… And quite the comic you are, Frank! Very entertaining!
“This is the Life” Winer
Miki, hi. Thanks for stopping by to comment. Like you, I attend several professional conferences each year and these conferences are significantly more expensive than WBC (I just registered for one for $1,600, oy). Absolutely agree, if I can leave the conference with just a couple nuggets of new information, I consider the conference well worth it. And, each WBC, I leave having tasted many wines that I would not have otherwise tasted, met cool people that I would not have otherwise met, and learn a lot about the host region. This is why I too am looking forward to WBC 2015 in the Finger Lakes. All the best!
I love the point of how much wine bloggers write about wine blogging rather than wine. As I’m also a fiction writer, I’ve always thought it curious how many fiction writers spend most their time writing blogs on the craft versus actually doing the writing as well, and it was no surprise to find a similar vein in the wine blogging community. Nothing wrong with that, either–it’s just not what I’m as inclined to do.
While I didn’t find that particular, much-aligned panel beneficial, I also never thought I would as its content was clear from the panel description. Having more options at the same time probably would have made it less of a focal point for people dissatisfied with it. Didn’t detract from my first-timer experience!
Hi Rebecca! Thanks for commenting. The navel-gazing phenomenon seems particularly strong in ‘wine’ blogging. I don’t know enough about other topical blogging communities but I don’t see this with the foodie or fitness crowd as much (well, based on the food and fitness blogs that I read). Hope to meet at WBC 2015 in FLX. Cheers!
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