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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.


(If you would like a ‘Wine Blogger Mutual Admiration & Validation Circle’ t-shirt, please email us your size.) 🙂

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.

Melanie O, Marcy, Liz and Thea

Melanie O, Marcy, Liza and Thea

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.)

Santa Barbara AVA Day at Star Lane.  Photo Credit: George Rose/georgerose.com

The generous people that made Santa Barbara AVA Day at Star Lane possible. Thank you! Photo Credit: George Rose/georgerose.com

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.

PresquileVisitCollage2Some 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. 


Organizer Shawn Burgert, me, Fred Swan, Jeff Kralik

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…

Screen Shot 2014-07-26 at 2.06.25 PM

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>