If you’re a wine blogger, this post is for you. If you’re a wine blog reader, you might want to close this page – or you’ll be inclined to launch a blog, and that will quickly consume all your free time.
This past weekend, wine bloggers from across the world gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia for the 4th Annual Wine Bloggers’ Conference.
It wasn’t cheap. Registration cost $95, rooms at the host hotel were $169 per night, and most attendees had to fly in. I thought it was worth every penny — and I’d be shocked if any attendee went home regretting the expense.
The conference itself rocked.
On Friday, the day kicked off with a keynote address from Jancis Robinson, who talked about her career, the changing landscape of the media, and what it all means for wine writing. Jancis is a legend, so hearing her talk for an hour was thrilling.
The afternoon continued with a number of different panels. I attended two — “Millennials and Wine,” moderated by Joe Roberts, and “Wine Laws,” a conversation on the legislative and regulatory battles being fought by the team at WineAmerica.
On Saturday afternoon, New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov took to the stage. While Eric hasn’t been in the game as long as Jancis – he became the Times’ oficial wine critic in 2004 – his influence is second-to-none.
So hearing Eric argue that wine bloggers are, in fact, wine writers (and, as Tom Wark recently argued, members of the wine media) was inspiring. And his advice on how to keep wine writing interesting was enormously helpful. Too many wine “writers” simply catalogue tasting notes.
The wines, too, were incredible. Hundreds were poured.
Despite all this, the actual conference was the least valuable part of the weekend. I’d bet the bank that most attendees benefited most from the people they talked to (and learned from) and the relationships they developed.
Consider my mostly accidental social schedule.
On Thursday night, I was fortunate enough to attend a dinner arranged by Tom Wark, which included Angela Logomasini, William Allen, Lisa Mattson, Allan Wright, Craig Camp, Joel Vincent, Taylor Eason, Jeff Lefevere, Anthony Burich, and David Honig.
I can’t remember ever before sitting in a room with such a smart, interesting, and passionate bunch. (Plus, we drank some pretty incredible wines – including a 2009 Hirsch Chardonnay, a 2000 Dunn Howell Mountain, and a 1976 Balbach Niersteiner Klostergarten Optima Trockenbeerenauslese.)
On the drive over to Monticello on Friday night, I geeked out with Hardy Wallace, ate dinner with Jeff Lefevere and Tom Madrecki, and then talked tech and drank wine with the founders of crushd, a new iPod app, Paul Mabray of VinTank, Joe Roberts, and Pia Finkell, who does a kickass job at PR for the wines of Rioja.
On Saturday, I skipped the excursion to Virginia wine country and instead headed to a dive bar with Paul Mabray. Over some super unhealthy food and a couple of beers (a nice change of pace!), I got to know one of the smartest guys in wine, learned all about VinTank, and talked about the intersection of wine and technology. I ate dinner with Tom Natan, Russ Kane, and Amanda Maynard. Afterwards, I spent a couple of hours hanging out with Washington Post wine critic Dave McIntyre.
I’ve purposefully left off dozens and dozens of bloggers and PR flaks that I had an absolute blast with — Joe Herrig! Lenn Thompson! Constance Chamberlain! Brian Kraemer! The blogger I’m often confused with, Steven Washuta of Terroirists.net! – as I don’t want this post to get too boring to those who weren’t there.
If you’re thinking that this is yet more evidence that the wine blogosphere is incredibly insular, well, you’d be right. Too often (like now), we’re just writing for each other.
Fortunately, this was a topic discussed at length over the weekend. It’s critical for bloggers to write beyond the echo chamber.
Registration for the next year’s Wine Bloggers’ Conference — to be held August 17-19 in Portland – is now open. So if you’re a blogger and didn’t make it to this year’s event – or a wine geek thinking about launching a blog – register now! Wine bloggers are smart group. And they’re a whole bunch of fun.