By Kori ~ October 29th, 2008.
This past weekend, Dad (John) and I spent three action-packed days in the company of 170+ fellow wine bloggers, wine industry participants, and media at the first-ever North American Wine Bloggers Conference.
The event kicked off with a bang on Friday as we participated in the fast and furious Live Wine Blogging segment which many people likened to speed dating. There’s nothing like hitting the ground running. From there, we went straight into the Blind Tasting Challenge. During each round, we were asked to blind taste the wines and then either identify them by varietal or match them to a label description. Since all of the wines were from California, we were not sure how we would stack up against the other participants, many of whom are from California and have more experience tasting California wines than we do. Nevertheless, I am happy to report that both Dad and I made it to the 4th round, which was the equivalent of the quarterfinals. Six participants advanced from the 4th round to the semifinals and then two advanced on to the finals with Doug Cook of Able Grape taking the Top Taster award.
Later that evening, we enjoyed a self-paced New Zealand Wines tasting followed by dinner with Gary Vaynerchuk of Wine Library TV as the keynote speaker. As host of the very popular WLTV and a champion of social media and personal branding, Gary has become an internet celebrity. Even so, he considers himself one of us bloggers and gave a very enthusiastic, motivational keynote. It’s impossible to listen to Gary talk and not get pumped up.
On Saturday morning, we hopped into vans and buses to head for one of five offered vineyard walks. We chose the vineyard walk at Michel-Schlumberger in the Dry Creek Valley. It was a beautiful morning and the setting was breathtaking. We capped off our walk with a family style lunch on the lawn. We got back to the hotel just in time for the breakout sessions. I won’t bore you with the details but we found the sessions very informative. We hope to incorporate some of the suggestions and ideas we formulated during these sessions to make Wine Peeps even better.
After a brief break to freshen up for the evening, we returned to the conference room for a grand tasting of Sonoma Wines before boarding buses to Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery for dinner. The keynote speaker was Alice Feiring. While I personally do not share Alice’s taste in wine, I did appreciate her encouraging words and particularly noted that she referred to us as wine writers rather than simply wine bloggers. I think that is a telling commentary on the increasing importance of wine bloggers as a part of the larger wine media.
Sunday morning featured the Unconference. An Unconference is an event in which the topic of the sessions is determined by the participants during the event rather than by the organizers prior to the event. Having not previously heard of an Unconference, I was a bit skeptical. However, it turned out to be a very productive event in which we fleshed out some of the previous day’s breakout session topics as well as discussed some new topics as well. The final event of the conference was a Luxe Sonoma Lunch that featured some of Sonoma’s luxury and hard-to-find wines.
While I enjoyed all of the sessions, events, and tastings, the best part of the conference was getting to meet so many of our fellow wine bloggers in person. We had become friends with some of them “online” but it was even better to get to spend time with them “offline.”
Many thanks to Allan Wright of Zephyr Wine Adventures and Joel Vincent of the OpenWine Consortium for organizing this wonderful conference and to all of the sponsors for your support in making it a reality. We are already looking forward to next year!
In the coming weeks, I’ll be posting on our vineyard walk at Michel-Schlumberger as well as the tastings of New Zealand and Sonoma wines.
Filed under: Wine Activities/Events